Sunday, March 1, 2009

Romance, Adventure, and the 4 Essential Food Groups

Being on vacation with Robert in Buenos Aires has been a lot of fun. As I suspected, it’s been great showing him some of my favorite places and discovering new favorites together. We’ve spent some good time walking around the city, hanging out at the house, and of course eating a well balanced diet. Robert is very keen on eating well during our vacation here. Most meals are presented with the 4 essential food groups: chicken, pig, cow, and mayonnaise. This may well be the reason that despite all the walking and sweating in the summer sun, my pants still fit very snuggly.

As I was on the way to the airport to find Robbie, I was on pins and needles. The inexpensive public bus takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to get to the airport. It’s not as though the airport is tremendously far from the city center, but the bus takes a comically meandering route. At one point, I saw a sign that said we were 3 km from the airport and then the bus started heading the opposite direction for more stops. Ah, Argentine efficiency at its finest. Finally, finally, finally, there he was, walking out of customs and we were hugging. By the way, this was quite a modest display of public affection as most people are eager to gratuitously make out and suck face. Anytime. Anywhere.

Robert didn’t forget to bring presents from Seattle. Not only did I receive a belated Valentine’s Day box of See’s chocolates, but I also received (as did the rest of Buenos Aires) a hearty dose of Seattle style rain on the day Robert arrived. It rained heartily his first three days and was relatively cool outside.

We spent our first night together at a small bar near my apartment. There was an open mic for tango singers, and we ate a light meal as we listened to the singers. Some were immensely talented. The walls of the bar were decorated with paintings of tango dancers, cityscapes, and photos of famous singers and dancers. Our waitress had strict attention to detail, and although our meal consisted of a small salad and a few empanadas, it was delivered with perfection. All in all, with the music, food, atmosphere, and easy-going crowd of locals, it was a very romantic evening.

Following those first rainy days, we headed north to Iguazu. The bus ride was just under 20 hours, but the buses here strive for luxury. The seats were wide and reclined deeply. There were also movies and food service -- about on par with airplane quality. We arrived in Puerto Iguazu and got settled in our hostel.

The next day, we prepared for waterfall mania! The entrance fee to the national park was pretty steep for non-Argentineans, but for such a carefully planned and maintained park, it was worth the expense. The trails were gorgeous, and short “train” rides connected the more remote parts of the park. The waterfalls themselves were abundant, strong, and varied! The largest waterfall goes by the moniker: Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo) and is a huge cascade of water surrounded by smaller waterfalls, lush plant life, and rocky cliffs. Throughout the rest of the park, we explored the trails circling around the smaller waterfalls. Again, they were well-planned trails that led to impressive viewpoints and were maintained well enough so that nearly the whole park could be wheelchair accessible. On our second day in the park, we splurged and got on a motorboat that drove right into some of the falls. We were soaked, through and through for the rest of the day. The water was strong and blindingly white. Quite the experience!

There was also the wildlife that kept us entertained for a large portion of our time in the park. (well, maybe I was more entertained than Robert) The coati reminded me of friendly raccoons who were eager for a bite of your sandwich, though sometimes a little too eager. Robert saw one jump on a table and steal someone’s sandwich. I always knew when we were coming close to a restaurant area by the sharp increase in coatis meandering around. Also, we both went a little crazy for all the brilliantly colored butterflies and tried our best for close-up photos. On the last day as we were heading out of the park, we stumbled upon a whole mess of monkeys in the trees. They were incredibly difficult to photograph, and most of my attempts look like this:

But they were a lot of fun to watch and a great memory for this animal lover!

We spent two days admiring the waterfalls, flora and fauna, and even that didn’t seem like enough.





In the evenings, we headed into Puerto Iguazu for food and souvenir browsing. We ordered a steak every night. One night we stumbled upon a sort of buffet. They offered 8 salad samples and all the barbequed meat you could eat. The meat comes hot off the large grill, served on your own personal grill to keep it piping hot and fresh. The salads were OK, but three of them were meat based (pork rolls, beef tongue, and fried rice) and most of the rest were covered in mayonnaise (remember the 4 essential food groups?) The beef tongue had an interesting texture and taste, I actually tried it before knowing what it was and had to ask the waitress when I couldn’t figure it out. My favorite that evening were the pork ribs grilled to perfection.

I think due to the heavy, meat-based diet with large portions, I got a little sick during this leg of the trip. Also, we always woke up early to get the most out of our days at the park. I’m still feeling a little worn out and lethargic from all the excitement of the past week.

So, this morning Robert got up early to buy tickets to a soccer game tonight and I went to a café for coffee-fortification so I could publish this blog. Right outside the café was a large political gathering. Buses unloaded crowds of people banging drums and holding up signs. I asked a few people what the occasion was, but struggled to understand exactly what was happening. Something about the president, the workers’ party, and congress. I was impressed by the turn out on a usually quiet Sunday morning. This city is always ready with energy and surprises!

3 comments:

  1. Yay! you made it to the Foz! They look smaller from that side, guess I will have to go check it out myself ;) My abuelo used to have Coati for pets, and monkies, and pigs but all long before I came around.

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  2. I'm not sure how I'd react if I saw those wild coons out and about taking my food. You take nice pics =)

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  3. Raccoons creep me out so I'm pretty sure those buggers would get me screaming in no time flat. Ick.

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