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Updated Nov 19, 2006......................................................................................

Argentina

11/6/06— Santiago to Buenos Aires

We had no problems getting through the airport in Santiago—we just played the waiting game all day. The flight was only two hours so we arrived around 3:30 pm. We ended up making reservations to stay in a hotel in Buenos Aires for the next couple of nights. I tried to arrange a stay at an estancia, or something else outside of the city, but I couldn’t pull anything together. I also tried to find an efficiency apartment but I couldn’t. At least the hotel has a mini fridge, microwave and internet access, and it’s much cheaper than anywhere else, so it may work.

11/7/06— Buenos Aires—Day 1

The hotel clerk was really helpful and friendly, so we followed his recommendations and set up a tour of the city tomorrow, and he’ll arrange other things that we’d like to do for the rest of the time. If we can arrange everything from here, we’ll stay here for the full time.

We took a walk down to the main avenue in the morning. For a city, it’s actually really nice. The streets are wider and the buildings are shorter than in New York, so the sun actually reaches you and you feel like you’re just enjoying a stroll, except for all the noise from car horns and construction. We found a park and then got some sandwiches for lunch and a few groceries that could work for us in our tiny fridge and microwave. At no time did we feel like we were in any danger or risk or theft, even if we’d been wearing Rolexes. Of course, I know there are bad areas which we’ll avoid hopefully, but some of the security stuff really makes you think it’s much worse.

BA street

11/8/06— Buenos Aires—Day 2

We took a tour bus tour of the city today. I don’t like tour bus tours, but it was nice to get an overview of the whole city—it’s huge and there are so many distinct neighborhoods. I also discovered several more things that look fun to do with the kids, so we’ve extended our stay at the hotel for the full two weeks. I really don’t enjoy being in cities, but Buenos Aires is one of the nicest ones I’ve been in so far—there are so many green open spaces, and the people are incredibly friendly, especially with the kids. We had dinner at one of the local Italian restaurants, and one of the “regulars” spoke to us for about 15 minutes, recommending places to go with the girls. We told him that we couldn’t understand much, but that didn’t stop him from talking. Everyone seems to be very proud of their city and eager to share it.

We were able to extend our reservations so we’ll stay in the hotel for the full two weeks. The staff is incredibly friendly and they’re great with the kids. It’s a small hotel with only 75 rooms and 30 staff, so all the staff (including the owner) knows us because of the “pretty blond girls”. It’s also in a great location—safe and only a block away from the main shopping street.

11/9/06— Buenos Aires—Day 3

Today we tried to go to an amusement park which has folk music and tango dancing, but after taking the 20 minute taxi ride to the train station, where we would have caught the train to the park, we discovered that the amusement park is currently only open on weekends. At least we discovered that before we also took the train. So, we took another taxi back into town and got dropped off at Florida Avenue, which is the main pedestrian shopping area. We wandered around, stopped to get steak for lunch, and then headed back to the hotel.

11/10/06— Buenos Aires—Day 4

We took a tour of an estancia today. I knew that we would be going to a place a couple of hours away from Buenos Aires which catered to the tour bus day crowd, so I was expecting dozens of people. However, I thought we could bare it since it was the easiest way for us to see an estancia without arranging our own transportation and a stay at an estancia away from the tour buses. However, it was worse than the low expectations that I’d set for it.

We spent 1.5 hours driving around the city picking up tourists from all the other hotels before we even left town. When we arrived at the estancia, there were about a dozen tour buses bringing a couple hundred people. The “horse ride” was a ten minute loop around the field with 50 other people. In fact, after waiting about twenty minutes to get on the horse, we finally got to the front of the line and they wouldn’t let Dominique ride by herself since she wasn’t old enough. However, they let ladies in high-heeled shoes who clearly had never sat on a horse go riding, and they had no control over the horse. Fortunately Darren came to take pictures of us just in time, so Dominique rode with him.

Lunch was decent, but not impressive. It can’t be when you have to serve 200 people. The tango dancing and folk music was difficult to see and it only lasted a couple of songs. The gaucho show was just some men riding on horse catching rings. There was nothing at all that was authentic. Still it seems like the rest of the tourists enjoyed the show—probably because of the free-flowing beer and wine. Even with that, we certainly didn’t get $50 per person worth of enjoyment. Overall, I’m glad we did it since you can’t come to Argentina and not go to an estancia, but I don’t consider this an authentic experience, so we’ll have to come back and do it right some time.

gaucho game

11/11/06— Buenos Aires—Day 5

We decided to check out the Recoleta craft stalls on the plaza today. We read that there would be some music but we couldn’t find any. We were probably too early—the stalls were just opening at noon—everything runs so late around here. Still, the girls had fun wandering around and playing at the playground in the middle of the plaza. It’s been nice to walk everywhere—the plaza was about 10 blocks away, so we’re getting some exercise.

11/12/06— Buenos Aires—Day 6

We went to the San Telmo antique market today. We read that it was a good place to see some tango dancing so I thought the girls would like to see it. I was thinking of taking them to a tango show, but the night shows start at 8:00 pm and later—some of them start after midnight—so I wanted to make sure they’d really like it. The girls weren’t too impressed so I’m glad we tried it. The market was like any other craft market, although it was neat to see some of the antiques that were also for sale. There were also a lot of street entertainers which were fun for the kids to watch. It’s really cool that this happens every Sunday.

Tango show
street performer

11/13/06— Buenos Aires—Day 7

We had such a nice day today. The owner of the hotel, Gary, invited us out to dinner this evening to meet his girlfriend and her kids. Since it was going to be a late night for us (nice restaurants don’t start serving dinner until after 8:00 pm), we took it easy and wandered around town to see the stores. I’m really enjoying the wandering. The slower you go, the more you see. You can really find anything if you look carefully. We found stores that specialize in wigs, safes, prosthetics, fancy cake-baking—it’s great. Within a block of the hotel, there is also a baker, butcher, grocer, Laundromat, gym, hospital and even a theatre. I bet you could live here all your life and never walk much more than a block if you wanted. I’m really loving it!

Dinner with Gary and crew was really nice. The food was great and it was nice to get to know them a little. The kids (ages 10 and 11), were really smart, mature and polite, so they were a pleasure to talk to. They could already speak both Spanish and English since their lessons at school are in Spanish in the morning and English in the afternoon. The kids’ education is so much better than in the U.S. and it really shows. I’d love for our kids to have such a good education.

11/14/06— Buenos Aires—Day 8

Gary gave us a tour of the major renovations that he’s doing to the hotel since he purchased it. He’s putting in a gym, spa, sauna and game room in the basement, and he had to dig an elevator shaft to allow the elevator to go down to that level. On the roof, he’s adding a pool, sun deck, bar and apartment. He’s already renovated the rooms, added air conditioning, and added larger computerized elevators. The logics on doing all of this while running the business are amazing. Still, he’s very down-to-earth and relaxed, and has time to talk to his guests. He doesn’t have any managers since his philosophy (in a hotel of this size) is to get good employees and empower them—that must be why their so happy and helpful. He’s great.

The girls and I decided to get our haircut this morning. Before we arrived in South America I was dreading getting our hair cut hear because of the language barrier, but it really wasn’t an issue. I just had to show them that I wanted only a little bit cut, and they gave us perfect trims—and the best thing of all was that it was only $10 for all three of us. I love Argentina! It was so much nicer than our experience in Sydney, and a fraction of the cost.

In the afternoon Dominique and I wandered around town and we got a couple more coloring books and pencils. The prices of everything are so low compared to everywhere that we’ve been beside Thailand.

In the evening, we went out to one of the local restaurant that’s become a favorite place for us. The food is great. We have great steak dinners and the total bill for all four of us comes to $20. I love this place!

11/15/06— Buenos Aires—Day 9

We decided to go to the Children’s Museum today. We walked about eight blocks to the Museum and discovered that it didn’t open until 1:00 pm—things run so late here. Fortunately, close-by there was a large arcade in which the kids (and Darren) could play, so the girls didn’t mind.

We went back to our favorite restaurant for dinner. I hate being so predictable, but it’s tough to beat. The food is great, the prices are amazing ($2 for a great big salad), and the service is very good. Even the “regulars” in the restaurant are beginning to acknowledge us.

11/16/06— Buenos Aires—Day 10

The kids were a little difficult this morning so we decided to split up and go on a surprise gift hunt. Annette and I went to find a gift for Darren and Dominique, and Darren and Dominique went to get something for us. Annette and I got Barbie make-up for Dominique and grooming scissors for Darren—we didn’t bring any with us and after nine months on the road, he needs it. Dominique and Darren got Annette some new Barbie “clippie-cloppy” shoes since her old ones fell apart in Tahiti, and they got me an Uno game. Annette loved her shows but by dinner, she’d broken them—it’s so hard to find things beautiful princess shoes that don’t break! Dominique loved her Barbie make-up, but after several “touch-ups” I was thinking of ways to “lose” the kit.

In the afternoon, I took the girls to the Children’s Museum. This place was amazing. It was three floors set up as common activities so that the kids could participate. There was a grocery store with real carts, food on shelves and a cash machine and conveyor belt that all worked, so the kids could shop, hand over fake money, and play cashier. There was a TV station where the kids could be the TV anchor, or the camera person, or the control board person. A number of the play areas had corporate sponsors. There was a hospital, dentist, bank, construction site, gas station, factory (sponsored by Nestle), McDonalds… there was so much for the kids to do. They literally ran from station to station for 2.5 hours and I had to drag them away. It was bigger and better than any kid’s play museum that I’ve ever been to.

The kids had such a good time preparing burgers and being cashiers at McDonalds. They love that place, even though Darren and I do everything to divert their attention to more healthy places. McDonalds does such an amazing job marketing themselves to kids. They always have great locations, great play areas, and the most popular new toys—who cares about the food? Once, I even tried to divert their attention to Burger King since I think the burgers are better, but they didn’t want to go and kept forgetting the name, calling it “McDonalds King”—they could remember they got crowns there, but only second-rate toys. Just recently, Annette drew her first “M” and I asked her if it was “M” for “Mom”. “No” she said in a surprised voice. “It’s “M” for McDonalds”. At least they’re teaching her how to write.

dentist
Dr. Dom
gas station
McDonalds
TV station

11/17/06— Buenos Aires—Day 11

We explored more of the town today and checked out a steak place that was mentioned in Lonely Planet. The steak place was in the main tourist section, so the prices were twice as high compared to our favorite restaurant—and Lonely Planet (who finds $2 hostel rooms) said it was moderately priced. At least they cooked the meat around the fire the traditional gaucho way, so we got a picture of it. Anyway, we skipped the over-priced restaurant—we’ll stay with our favorite place and keep it a secret (it’s La Alhambra, one block away from the Best Western, but don’t tell anyone).

Darren took the girls back to the Children’s Museum this afternoon. I wandered around town to see if I could find some clothes and shoes for work since I’ll be dressing up again soon. I remembered very quickly that I just don’t enjoy shopping, no matter how great the prices or how big the selection, so I went back to the hotel and did some reading.

gaucho BBQ

11/18/06— Buenos Aires—Day 12

Darren took the girls to the park in the morning to give me a chance to relax a bit since I’ve picked up Annette’s cold. The girls and I spent the afternoon doing arts and crafts—we’re getting pretty creative now.

In the evening, we went back to our favorite restaurant. At the end of the meal, the waiter told us that they will be closed tomorrow, so we said our goodbyes. The waiter shook our hands and kissed the girls and the “regulars” shouted “goodbye” to us. We felt so sad to leave. They really made us feel welcome there.

11/19/06— Buenos Aires—Day 13

We did arts and crafts in the morning to leave pictures for some of the hotel staff. In the afternoon, we went back to the San Telmo antique market to see the street performers. It was actually kind of weird seeing all the same performers in the same spots doing the same thing. There were also far more English-speaking tourists this weekend, so it seemed more touristy—we’re leaving just before peak tourist season. We had dinner in an alternate restaurant because our favorite one was closed. The bill was ninety pesos for the exact same thing that we got at our favorite restaurant for fifty-five—that’s $30 versus $18, which is still a good price for four people, but it was almost double the cost, and certainly no better.


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