Monday, October 27, 2008

Day 8 - Salvador

We spent most of the day travelling, arriving in Salvador at about 6 pm. Aerolineas Argentinas had decided to strike two days prior so I was nearly having a heart attack about whether the plane would take off and we'd be able to catch our connection to Salvador.

We are staying at a fantastic hotel named Casa do Amarelindo. This is a small hotel with about 10 rooms that has received rave reviews on Trip Advisor. The hotel owner Gilles picked us up from the airport. We were absolutely wowed by the hotel. Gorgeous. There's a restaurant that opens to a little garden with a bar right there. Then if you go up an outdoor staircase you're at the pool. There's also a rooftop deck and bar. Our room is beautiful with the absolutely largest bed I've ever seen. We have a tiny balcony that looks out over the bay. The bathroom has the most heavenly bathtub with jets.

We went for dinner at the hotel's restaurant. The husband had a caipirinha and I had a
passionfruit caipiroska. Then for appetizers I had gazpacho and The Husband had a tomato and mozzarella carpaccio. Unfortunately from there it was all downhill because The Husband started feeling sick. By the time the entrees came he needed to go upstairs and I had only a few bites before wrapping up the bill. The Husband never gets sick so I'm a bit worried about him. He also thinks he's dying since I jokingly told him he had dengue fever.


Huge bathtub

The largest bed I've ever slept in. It was fantastic.

View of pool from our balcony

Dining room

View from our table on the dining patio

View of bar from our table

Caipivodka maracuja (passionfruit)


Tomato and mozzarella carpaccio


The Husband's pasta

My pasta

Day 7 - Buenos Aires

I was still feeling a little sick so we spent the morning sleeping in then ordered room service for lunch. We took a taxi to Recoleta to check out the cemetary. Fortunately our taxi deposited us right outside a store selling handbags which I wandered into while The Husband was paying for the taxi. I found a beautiful light brown leather handbag for about 160 dollars. This bag would be closer to 400 dollars in the US. And with this purchase I am officially done shopping in Buenos Aires.

There was an antique car show going on outside the cemetary. We were very surprised when we entered the cemetary. I thought it would be green and grassy with the occasional mausoleum. Instead it was endless rows of mausoleums, each more ornate than the next. Not a single patch of green in sight. It was very impressive. After the cemetary we walked around the market in the park next door. The market was huge. The husband bought some tango photographs to hang in our house. Maybe those will get framed sooner than the painting we bought in Italy 2 years ago.

We had dinner at Cabana Las Lilas, a very famous steak restaurant in Buenos Aires. Yet another meat orgy. The steaks were so huge I decided to order something else since I knew I'd make myself sick trying to eat all that beef. The Husband had tenderloin in a wood sauce with almond mashed potatos. The steak was so tender you could cut it with a fork. I decided on the Patagonian spider crab which was excellent. A little different than the crab we're used to in North America. Plus anything from Patagonia sounds so exotic and fun.

After dinner we strolled along the water. The restaurant is located in Puerto Madero along the old docks. This part of the city is so modern and brand new, a huge contrast with the rest of the city. We also got to walk over Santiago Calatrava's Puente de La Mujer (Bridge of Woman). All the streets in Puerto Madero are named after women, the only major city in the world to do so. Then we headed to Cafe Tortoni, a very famous Argentinean cafe for a drink. They had a tango show going in the basement which we skipped since we'd already seen one. Then off to bed early again for another early flight.

Antique car show

Church of Recoleta Cemetary

Market in Recoleta

Crazy lady who danced outside of the cemetary for hours

Mausoleums in the cemetary

Angels atop a mausoleum

There were wild cats everywhere in the cemetary

Eva Peron's (Evita's) grave

Plaque for Evita

Very large mausoleum

Wood-grilled tenderloin and almond mashed potatoes

Patagonian crab

Our little cow friend
Along the docks of Puerto Madero
Calatrava's Bridge of Woman

With the Bridge of Woman in the background

With a large cow in front of a restaurant

Cafe Tortoni
Thoughts on our hotel: We stayed at the Intercontinental because we had hotel points. It was a very nice hotel, good service, nice rooms, especially nice bathrooms. However it wouldn't be my first choice. First we prefer our hotels a little more modern and this was a little too frou frou and traditional. Secondly, the hotel is located close to the business area. It was nice for walking around to see nearly all of the tourist attractions, but it's a bit deserted at night and supposedly can be dangerous to walk around at night. Next visit I would prefer to stay in Recoleta or Palermo, closer to shopping and nice restaurants.
Thoughts on the city of Buenos Aires: Buenos Aires is a beautiful city and full of character. It just didn't pull me in the way Rio did though. Now that I've been there once I don't think I'd go back again. Economically, Argentina isn't in a good place. The average income in Buenos Aires is closer to 12k or 15k whereas in the US it is 30k or 40k. What I loved most about Buenos Aires was all the old architecture. The area of Puerto Madero is up and coming though with cranes everywhere and a lot of modern buildings. Buenos Aires doesn't have a singular tourist attraction that pulls in the tourists per se besides the tango, just a lot of historical sights. I do wish we'd had more time for nightlife such as tango clubs and the nice restaurants which seems to be a huge attraction in the city.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Day 6 - Buenos Aires

A much needed morning of sleeping in, then we headed down to the San Telmo neighborhood to eat and explore. San Telmo is the neighborhood most think of when they think of Buenos Aires. It's very romantic and associated with the tango. We ate lunch at Bar El Federal. Bar El Federal is known as a bar notable - these are historic bars that must be preserved by law, nothing can be changed. I had a sandwich with prosiutto and the largest piece of roquefort cheese ever and a strawberry smoothie. The husband had a ham and cheese sandwich. And we managed to use strictly spanish to get through the meal.

We spent the afternoon shopping along Calle Florida up to Gallerias Pacifico. There The Husband throws a fit that I'd been in every shoe store in the city but hadn't yet bought any shoes and I had to like at least one of the pairs. So I finally found a pair of pink leather flats I liked. And that started my shopping spree. I ended up with shoes, a dress, and a scarf from the Gallerias Pacifico.

For dinner that night we had reservations at Bar d'Uriarte. After a ridiculous cab ride where the cab driver got lost twice and finally the cab broke down and then we had to walk several blocks, we finally found the restaurant. We had the large cheese plate and bruschetta with brie, sun-dried tomatoes, and prosciutto to start. Both were delicious. For dinner we shared the skirt steak which wasn't that impressive for being from the land of beef. Then The Husband had a piece of cake for dessert. Total price for dinner was about 70 dollars. In the US the meal would have been closer to 200 or 250. I love argentina! We were hoping to go out to a bar recommended by my friend Ashley but I was starting to feel sick and it was already midnight so we just headed back to the hotel.

Bar El Federal

Calle Florida

Gallerias Pacifico
Bar d'Uriarte

My new shoes

Cheese platter and bruschetta

Skirt steak


View from our hotel room at night

View from our hotel

Friday, October 24, 2008

Day 5 - Buenos Aires

We woke up at 4 am to catch our plane with a beef hangover from the night before. If I never have to see a piece of meat again in my life I will be happy. The beach kiosk across the street was still open and we could see people there. They were getting their coconut delivery too. Luckily our flight got off the ground okay. Aerolineas Argentinas is known for striking and not having enough planes for the amount of flights they schedule so I'd been a little apprehensive.
We are staying at the Hotel Intercontinental which is the nicest hotel I've ever stayed at. The guy at the curb wears tails, a top hat, and white gloves. I wish I would have gotten a picture. We went off for lunch and ate at the Gran Victoria Cafe. The first not so good meal of our trip.

We spent the afternoon shopping in the market and exploring the Plaza de Mayo area including the Casa Rosada, which is famous for the balcony Evita was on. It's also where the Argentine president works although she doesn't live there. We went back to the hotel to take a nap and had a message from our tour guide that he would be downstairs at 3 and oops it was 3:15. He'd sent an email saying we'd be meeting on Friday (today was Thursday) but with Thursday's date which I didn't catch and I'd thought we'd be meeting on Friday.
So we raced downstairs to meet him. We found him through a recommendation on trip advisor. Joaquin is a Cicerones which is an organization that provides free tour guides for Buenos Aires, intended to promote tourism for the city. Many cities have these type of organizations such as London, NYC, and Chicago. Definitely look into something like this if you're visiting a major city. We'd requested a guide to tell us about the history and architecture of the city. You can request different things such as if you were interested in a specific neighborhood or tango or football. He was a fantastic guide, telling us about the history and then going on an architecture walk of the city. He really knew his stuff and was passionate about it. What I found interesting is that most people from Buenos Aires are from European descent because of a lenient immigration policy. Our guide was Polish. There are a lot of Italians. This makes the city very different from other South American cities. Most of the city was rebuilt in the early 20th century in anticipation of their centenial celebration. The buildings are very old (most are 100 years old) and the city looks very much like Paris. I thought it showed how well lasting the building techniques were from when they were built and I loved how intricately detailed everything was.

For dinner that night we were doing a tango show. Beforehand there was a free tango lesson. That's right, I dragged The Husband to dance class. The tango show itself was rather touristy but that's what we wanted - a flashy Vegas style show. I thought it was hilarious how the dancers outfits got skimpier and skimpier as the night went on. The best part of the show was when the dancers plucked The Husband out of the audience and made him participate. They were all dancing with members of the audience then they pulled him backstage in a fake scuffle. He came out with a fedora on his head dancing with the lead female. I was almost peeing my pants during this I thought it was so funny. I'm not sure if I'll ever be forgiven for this, especially as I told him the show had no crowd participation.

Our fancy bathtub

Our hotel room

View from our hotel room

Old city hall

Church in Plaza de Mayo

Casa Rosada

Subway station

Intricate detailing

Old buildings

Original wooden subway car that still runs

More old buildings

Intricately detailed door

Tango show

Tango show

Tango show

The Husband dancing

The Husband and his fedora