Argentina & Uruguay

So I’m posting this at least a little earlier than the month mark…progress! Mostly its just because all of the photos in this post are from my phone, so I didn’t have to take the time to download and go through all the photos on my camera, but that means these photos will probably be much lower quality. Oh well..

So Thursday after breakfast at the hostel in Buenos Aires we decided to explore the neighborhood around our hostel. It was called San Telmo and was supposed to be one of the prettier neighborhoods with a lot of old charm. It was quite pretty with little plazas and cobblestone streets lined with antique shops and boutiques.

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We went in a few of the stores and boutiques and then stopped by the market along the main street. For the most part all of the shops in the market were more antique shops and a couple fruit stands and then we found a shop that made their own cheese and fennel salami and was selling fresh baguette sandwiches with their cheese and salami for only about a dollar (and I call myself a vegetarian..hah). So we bought 3 of them and ate them while we continued wandering.

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Eventually we made our way to an irish pub to watch the opening ceremony of the World Cup, which was quite weird and not entirely worth watching in my opinion. Then while waiting for the first game to start I ran back to the market and bought 3 more salami sandwiches to hold us over. The game was quite exciting and there were some super enthusiastic brazilian fans in the bar which made it even more fun.

Friday I didn’t feel like doing anything because I was still pretty exhausted from all of our prior travels, but our hostel had comfy couches facing a big TV so I sat there all day watching the world cup, including the game where the netherlands sadly destroyed spain. I love when underdogs win, but that game was just sad. Then at night we went to the Buenos Aires branch of the coffee shop we frequented in Puerto Iguazu to redeem the coupons for free coffee that they gave us. Then we took our coffee and pastries over to the main plaza, Plaza de Mayo, and saw the Casa Rosada which is essentially the white house of Argentina where the presidency is based out of, although he supposedly lives elsewhere.

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There was a political march in the plaza, which is supposedly quite common because of the political significance of the plaza and surrounding buildings, but I couldn’t understand exactly what they were protesting. Still it was cool to see people being politically active.

Saturday we took the subway to palermo soho, an area thats supposedly the place to be for young Porteños (people from Buenos Aires) and young tourists. It was quite hip. A bunch of streets were closed off and there was a big arts and crafts market and then all of the fancy clubs surrounding the plaza let up and coming designers create little boutiques inside of them so its these big spaces filled all sorts of little mini clothing and accessory boutiques. It was really cool. After wandering around all of palermos shops and markets we went back to our hostel to watch the Italy versus England game. It was a tense game, but I was quite pleased with the outcome (Italy winning). Then we quickly got dressed in nicer clothes and met up with one of the girls from my Ecuador program whos living in Buenos Aires for the summer and working nights at the Buenos Aires Pub Crawl. She got us a discount on the pub crawl so we decided to try it out. It was pretty fun, but by a bit past 3 in the morning I was ready to head back, even though Porteños stay out until sunrise.

Sunday we slept in and then walked only a couple streets away to the San Telmo Sunday Market where they close the whole length of the main cobblestone street in the neighborhood and tons of artists sell stuff they make and antique shops set up booths outside with their best items. We tried to walk the whole length of it but got tired and couldn’t look at another handicraft or antique so we got pan relleno which is really good homemade dough-y bread filled with cheese, tomatoes, olive oil, and basil and sat for a while outside of a pretty old basilica snacking away.

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Then we headed over to the same bar we watched the opening match at and watched Argentina’s first world cup game. They won, so the atmosphere of the bar was super crazy and fun.

Monday we relaxed at the hostel for most of the day and then in the evening headed to palermo to an American bar to watch the US’s first world cup match against Ghana. They had really good American food, we got spicy buffalo chicken wings, and the bar was PACKED with extremely patriotic americans. There was tons of chanting and singing and screaming the whole game and when we won, everyone was going crazy. I’m not uber patriotic and definitely not the type to scream and chant, but it was still fun to watch everyone else go crazy and I was still quite happy about the US win. Honestly, people say Argentinian and Brazilian fans are crazy, but the Americans we saw were crazier than any Argentines!

Tuesday morning we switched hostels to another hostel nearby that was slightly cheaper just to get a bit of a change of scenery. It was super comfortable and they had a foosball table so we spent most of the day just lazing around the new hostel. I challenged Joe to a foosball match which ended up being pretty endless and beat him 15 to 3… makes me proud of myself 🙂 Then at night we subwayed over to the palermo district where we had gone shopping a few days earlier to try out a restaurant we had heard about. It was an asian fusion type restaurant, very mod and very hip. We got 3 separate rounds of some really amazing pork dumplings, a round of pork belly taiwanese buns (bao), and a big bowl of chicken ramen. It was all soo tasty, but honestly I may as well just give up on calling myself a vegetarian..

Wednesday after breakfast we rented bikes from our hostel to go visit an ecological reserve along the river delta nearby. The bikes were great, a bit confusing because they were fixies so it took me a second to figure out that I needed to pedal back to brake instead of handbraking, but the seats were super comfortable and they were very smooth. Biking through the city to get to the reserve was a bit terrifying because its such a huge city with very few bike lanes so our choices were either to bike down super busy streets with speedy cars or ride on the sidewalk which was jammed with people. But once we got to the port area that the reserve bordered it lightened up and was very nice and relaxing. Then we got inside the reserve and it was so excellent. There were birds everywhere and there were tons of these little rodent things that looked exactly like wild guinea pigs grazing on the grass along the bike paths in the way that bunnies do, but in the end they were some other type of animal, not wild guinea pigs. On the inner trails you were looking across a marsh at sparkling skyscrapers and on the outer trail you were looking at the river delta which really looks quite like an ocean, so either direction was really beautiful.

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We biked around the entire thing and then found a chorizo stand where we got choripan for less than 2 bucks. Basically each choripan is a huge chorizo (sausage) in toasted bread and then you cover it in toppings.

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It was incredibly tasty (and again not at all vegetarian…) and we ate them while watching some people tango on the boardwalk for a film or advertisement or something. It was really lovely. Then we biked back (a less crowded way) and relaxed at the hostel for the evening.

We decided Thursday to book our hostel for another night because they had great breakfast, internet, and an incredibly fun and friendly staff. So then instead of checking out we wandered over to a nearby cafe and got really good sandwiches inside of pita bread and homestyle potato chips. Then we went to the Modern Art Museum, which at first was a little bit odd. The first big room was just very unsettling and weird feeling and there was another room with weird wall art that I found slightly boring but uncomfortable at the same time. But then they had this huge exhibit of how latin american artists view psychedelic experiences and all of the art was really beautiful and interesting and was one of my favorite art exhibits I’ve seen in awhile.

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Then later they had an exhibit of what constitutes graphic design versus art and how they can overlap, and I really love graphic design so that was also quite visually appealing. After that we debated going to the Contemporary Art Museum but decided we’d had enough art for one day and wandered back to the hostel, but not before stopping for a McFlurry (how truly Argentinean..) on the way!

Friday was a bit of a disastrous and exhausting day. We had to check out of our second hostel by 11 am, but by that point we still hadn’t gotten replies from 2 of the hostels I had emailed about room availability and the only one I had gotten a response from only had availability in the dorms for part of the time we had requested and we didn’t want to have to switch around hostels during our last few days. So we sat in the common room of the hostel using wifi for a couple hours waiting to see if one of the other hostels would respond. Eventually we just gave up and decided to just head that way and stop by the hostels and ask them if they had space. First we stopped by Avenida Florida again and successfully changed our final dollars into pesos at an even better rate. Then we subwayed over to Palermo and headed out to our first choice hostel. Upon arriving we couldn’t find it and when we finally found the address, it appeared to not exist as a hostel anymore, so that was strike 1. Next we hiked over to our next choice, passing a pretty little sight as we crossed the train tracks on the way.

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When we finally found hostel number 2, they were entirely full, zero availability in all room types, for the next week, and wouldn’t even buzz us in to tell us where another hostel was, so that was strike 2. At this point we felt kindof screwed since we didn’t have any other hostel choices. We collapsed on an abandoned looking stoop and I happened to pick up a random wifi signal. I emailed the guy at the hostel that had responded to our email and asked if they had any availability at all that night in any room type, but he took a while to respond so I looked up another hostel nearby (it had terrible tripadvisor reviews, but at least maybe a room?). We hauled ourselves over to that supposed hostel and lo-and-behold SPELLING??? it was another hostel that no longer existed and was under complete construction. Strike 3.

At this point my phone died, but we had thankfully memorized the address of the hostel I had been emailing, so even though it was a long walk away we picked up our bags and headed over. Upon arriving there, we were informed that they no longer had any space for that night or any of the nights we needed space. Strike 4. The guy was incredibly sweet though and called the last hostel in the neighborhood (another with terrible tripadvisor reviews), but they only had a single space and we were 2 people. Strike 5.

At this point I called it quits on Palermo, and we got in a cab and headed to Recoleta, another central neighborhood.. the one we had been to for the fine arts museum. Thankfully, the cab was cheap and then we quickly found a hostel with 2 available beds for the days we wanted. Unfortunately, first impressions on the hostel weren’t thrilling as it took hours until the wifi decided to work for us and even then it was pretty much non existent in our room, our room faced the bar/patio which was incredibly loud with limited privacy at all hours, the number of people in the hostel to the size of the rooms ratio was a bit out of whack, and there were only 2 functional bathrooms in the whole place and none of them had toilet paper. However, beggars can’t be choosers, so I held my tongue and in the end it all ended up being alright. They even had a cute kitty that took a liking to Joe, like all the other cats we’ve had run ins with. He seems to be quite the cat charmer.

Saturday I woke up pretty tired because I didn’t sleep terribly well with all the noise and whatnot, and then breakfast left something to be desired… it literally consisted of one bread roll and a cup of black tea. But then we set out to explore Recoleta. First we went to La Recoleta Cemetery, which is quite a famous cemetery and is where Eva Perón is buried among lots of other famous Argentines, and is rated one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. And it was indeed quite beautiful. All of tombs are aboveground and most are very elaborate mausoleums. Some of them were completely dilapidated with broken glass or doors and being overgrown by various plants, others were very well kept. We wandered around the the alleys and paths between the mausoleums for a while, being kept company by some cemetery kitties.

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Then we went to the plaza right out front of the cemetery and there was a big artisan craft market with lots of little food stands. We got chorizo, a fruit smoothie, and a veggie Pan-relleno, the same calzone type thing we got at the san telmo market the previous weekend. Then we walked amongst the craft stands for a while. There was a lot of really nice and interesting stuff for sale which gave me little bits of inspiration for future craft projects. Then we headed back towards our hostel and stopped at this bookstore called El Ateneo that I had recently seen in a list of 10 bookstores in the world that you need to see. It was really beautiful. Basically it was once a really beautiful decadent old theatre that has now been restored and turned into a very classy bookstore. Unfortunately there were zero books in English, so we found the animal and plant section and sat and looked through pictures in bird and evolution encyclopedias for a little while.

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Then it was back to the hostel to begin planning our next move. We ended up falling asleep pretty early and quickly despite all the noise, so that was nice.

Sunday we slept in and then headed over to a restaurant that was supposed to have really good typical Argentinian food for lunch. It was good, but it took about an hour to get our food which was frustrating. Then we wandered over to the san telmo market for a bit before going to palermo to watch the US’s second world cup match. It was too stressful for me, and I was extremely unsatisfied with the outcome of the match, tied with Portugal.

Monday we slept in again and then wandered around the neighborhood right by our hostel. I had to do my laundry before we left Argentina (where laundry has been the cheapest yet) and buy groceries (also cheapest and best selection) and then we hung around the hostel for a bit. We had a super nice dinner at the same nice restaurant we had lunch at the previous day. This time it was even tastier and way faster service and we got an incredibly delicious maracuya (passionfruit) mousse that had shaved almonds on it for dessert, which was our way of using up our final argentinian pesos.

Tuesday we woke up super early to get to the boat dock by 7 am to go through immigrations and get on a boat to Uruguay. Immigrations and the boat ride went smoothly and we got into the Uruguayan town of Colonia del Sacramento by 9. We dropped our luggage in a luggage deposit at the bus station and found a map on the ground and spent the whole day exploring the small, but very cute and beautiful little town. It is a very old town that still has the entire old section of the town conserved with beautiful cobblestones and a mixture of old spanish and portuguese architecture.

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The town is right on the delta across from Buenos Aires so we wandered along the edge of the water for a bit which was really pretty despite being quite chilly.

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Then we went up the lighthouse, which is built right into an old convent that was destroyed in the early 1700’s. From the lighthouse we got really nice views of the whole old part of the town and the delta and little islets in the delta.

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Then we wandered past the old Basilica and onto the main street of the town where we ate late lunch. Right after lunch, Uruguay won the match against Italy that sent them to the next round of the World Cup, and the celebrations were crazy. Pretty much everyone in the town got in their cars and motorcycles and drove up and down the main street honking their horns and yelling and waving Uruguayan flags. This went on for over an hour and everyone was just so excited and so happy and there were just so many people everywhere, I couldn’t help but smile even though I had secretly been rooting for Italy, as they were probably my second favorite team in the Cup…but oh well, its just a game. And theres nothing like crazy national pride to make you realize that you’re in another new country. Eventually we made our way back to the bus station and hopped on a bus to Montevideo, and then making our way to our hostel in downtown Montevideo.

Our hostel there had really excellent internet so we began our marathon of watching all of the Harry Potter movies in order, one per night, since I had only seen the 1st, 3rd, and 6th. I have to say they’re actually pretty good movies, I always had some sort of mental block against them but I think I’ve gotten past that now.

Our first day in Montevideo we woke up pretty early and spent the whole day wandering through the city seeing pretty much everything there was to see in Montevideo. We walked way down the main street stopping at all of the pretty little plazas until we got to the Port Market, where we wandered past a ton of people trying to persuade us to eat at their restaurant, and then we walked all the way down the boardwalk until we got back to a street that connected with our hostel. It was a really lovely walk but it was incredibly cold, even colder than Buenos Aires and there was a lot more icy wind off of the water than in BA.

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At night we cooked food in the hostel and continued our Harry Potter marathon.

Our second day in Montevideo we slept in a lot (particularly since the provided breakfast was literally just bread…not worth waking up for) and then watched the US vs Germany match simultaneously with the Portugal/Ghana match where we found out that the US would be moving on to the next round, which I got prettty excited about. In the afternoon we wandered the opposite direction from our hostel for a little while but then turned around after a little while because it was so unbelievably cold.

Our final full day in Montevideo, we didn’t really do much of anything. We wanted to go to an art museum but both of the ones we were interested in were closed until the beginning of July while they changed the exhibits around. It was really nice to just not do anything though, particularly because I was starting to get a bit of a scratchy throat again. We continued our Harry Potter marathon in the evening and cooked another tasty little meal.

Saturday morning we woke up and packed our stuff and walked the gazillion blocks to the bus station where we got on a bus to Punta del Este, a city on the Uruguayan coast that is comparable to a mini-Miami in high season with crazy dancing and huge crowds of people partying on the beach. However, we’re currently traveling in low season… which meant that besides the hostels which still fill up, the entire town feels a bit ghost-town like, but it still has the asthetics of a small Florida beach town..just a kindof abandoned one. Still quite pretty though! Unfortunately our hostel in Punta del Este had TERRIBLE wifi connection and even when sitting right next to the modem thing, only came through at 2 little wimpy reception bars.

Sunday we walked around the town of Punta del Este. We started out by picking up some savory egg tart things and heading down to the beach to eat them.

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Then we headed to the part of the beach where the famous hand coming out of the sand sculpture is. We took some pictures there and Joe climbed around on the concrete fingers for a bit.

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After that we walked around the downtown area of Punta del Este, but it was so freezing and so windy that eventually we had to head back because I just couldn’t handle the coldness anymore. So we sat in our cozy hostel for a bit and played with their adorable little kitty.

Then today we checked out of our hostel and got on a bus back to Montevideo to our same hostel. Tomorrow we head back into Brazil and then we’re in Brazil for the rest of our trip!

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