Back in the Cold

After a lovely few more days with Rachael and Julia, we are back in the COLD of New England. Winter hangs on tenaciously and I look at the photos and wish we had stayed there a bit longer. Our last day, we walked in the park to the giant metal flower by the law school that opens during the day and closes at night. When we returned to our apartment, we sat on the balcony and listened to a young man play a flute on the terrace across the street. He was playing for a young woman half hidden by palm trees and vines. They sat at a table in the shade of the building undoubtably having finished their lunch. Not quite a siesta, but a rest, an escape from the race in the city below. His tune was plantive and I hear it now in my dreams.

I will go back to Argentina and Chile someday.


San Antonio de Acero

Yesterday I decided the girls should get to see something more than just the city, so Julia and I looked up in the Lonely Planet to see what was they recommended for a country day trip. We found a description of a small gaucho town, “the loveliest in Argentina” with museums, silver shops and cobble stone streets. Perfect.

Did you know that the writers of travel books have not visited most of the towns they write about? That information is in the book “Confessions of a Travel Writer.” The bus ride took two hours in a very comfortable double decker bus that detoured to four crowded suburbs around BA. I saw a young man carrying a foil like a jeans wearing character who had escaped a Shakespeare drama, the Hotel Kiss Me where you pay by the hour, and at one point a man got on wearing a head set to announce that his son was ill and needed four thousand dollars to get a transfusion from China. It sounded improbable and the Argentinian gentleman next to us told the mendicant that the gentleman knew everyone in the town the beggar claimed to be from and he wasn’t from there. An auspicious start.

We arrived at 1:30[m after everything in San Antonio had closed. In reality it looked like it had never opened. We wandered the empty streets from the bus station wondering how we could be lost in such a small place. Finally we found the quiet town square where we stopped for a relatively expensive lunch. I had a salad of tomatoes, basil and cheese, Rachael had a sandwich of tomatoes, basil and cheese, Julia had a panini of tomato, basil and cheese and Tom had the club sandwich of…apparently the only foods in town. It kept us laughing as we stumbled from one closed museum to the next. When we asked three people in the square, they said things might open at 4pm or not, the woman who ran the silver museum lived next to the closed pharmacy but…

A motley collection of friendly dogs in the street chased cars, then padded quietly along beside us. One definitely wanted to follow us home. Julia took pictures. In the pond on the way to the gaucho museum we found some men who were catching good sized fish. A tiny lone duckling swam peeping incessantly searching for its mother. Two boys on the bank watched silently as it was carried away by the current. Above us green parrots had complicated nests in the trees.

The gaucho museum some distance from the square was open but disappointing, consisting mostly of family photographs of the important locals from the 1920s  who had set up the museum. We did find six cannon in the gardens so Tom was pleased. We had bought tickets for a 7pm return but we changed them for a 5:30 bus after we managed to see another small museum that consisted mostly of a high priced gift shop. A strangely unfriendly town for tourists but we enjoyed being out of the city for the day.

The Flea Market of San Telmo

Spent a day at the flea market, wow! Everything and street musicians for Tom. Had lots of fun, got great gifts, foiled a woman who tried to pickpocket me in a store just off the flea market. Go figure. Ate dinner at LesNivels again and was pleased once again. Judy, the young waiter remembered us and asked for you. The place was crowded but we got a table right away much to the chagrin of the five person party standing in front of us. Ate steak and ribs, drank Mal becThe pictures will tell all. Girls had a ball using “the bank of dad.”

Back in BA

We spent the first full day, Saturday, at Recoleta Cemetery, I know it sounds odd but it is a city within a city and utterly fascinating. A workman cleaning a tomb allowed us to climb down the narrow marble staircase into the depths to see. It smelled very odd. A few vaults reminded me of the death scene in Romeo and Juliet. Some of the statuary was impressive.

Then we went to lunch at the same little cafe where we ate with Judy. The girls and I shopped for gifts at the outdoor market then we walked the 20 blocks home, stopping at book stores along the way. Julia really does always know where we are going, even when we doubt her.

Dinner was outdoors again at my favorite pizza place. No, I can’t eat the crust but the local cheese is fabulous. After we hit the ice cream place.


Friday in Mendoza

Friday was a big day for us. On Thursday we booked our flight to the capital for 10pm in order to join a bicycle tour of local vineyards. The company picked us up at our hotel where we had stashed

our bags and drove us into the country. Our bikes were clunky, servicable and stable for riding on dirt, rocks, pavement, a few of the major roads had bike lanes protected by ten inch concrete barriers. The narrow country roads were more of a challenge with buses whizzing by, road crews doing major repairs and huge dump trucks lumbering past filled with grapes but we managed. I had a couple of places where our leader, an amusing Belgian named Luc, provided me with a push up a long hill.

The weather was perfect, sunny with a breeze. The three vineyards were small, boutique wineries with amazing Malbec, Syrah, Sauvignon. Of course, I sipped, but the roads and the bikes being what they were, I did not guzzle. It was so tempting but riding drunk on these roads would have been suicide. We were also tempted to buy bottles but this would have led to many problems. So I contented myself with photographing labels and hoping to find them in the States. Almost everything except the reserves is exported.

This time we learned again how to drink properly with a heavy emphasis on swirling the wine in the glass to aerate it and holding the glass by that thin stem, the French way. It doees make a difference. After a visit to the gardens of a artisan beer maker, we lunched on the balcony of the last winery with views of the Andes. The other couple from Seattle were the only other people on the tour, the young man couldn’t eat wheat either so the two of us had Italian style chicken and French fries. Then on to an olive grove that processes oil and served us fancy liquors.

We arrived back in the city eight hours later, hot and happy, caught our plane to BA, and found our new apt. But at midnight things went a little pear shaped. At the apartment Tom had rented on line one answered our rings, the street was dark with some rowdy students. Rachael and Julia slumped against the wall with the bags and we waited. Tom had told our landlord 12:30. Four French ladies appeared and refused to allow us into the lighted vestibule. A couple of students obliged and the girls and I took the bags inside. The door clanked shut and Tom was still on the street, no way to open the door. Front doors in this city need a key for either side (not too safe in an earthquake prone country.)

Our landlord, Maurice, did appear and we were in, but the student parties continued into the early morning. Otherwise our apt is nice with a full kitchen, two tvs, a long balcony, dining and living space that become two pull out beds. Tom and I have a bedroom. Not as much maintenance needed as in the apt before and a lot cheaper.

Over the Andes and…

All the squiggles are switch backs

All the squiggles are switch backs

Out of Chile and into Argentina at the top of the world.

Out of Chile and into Argentina at the top of the world.

Sights coming down

Sights coming down

Spanish Plaza, Mendoza

Spanish Plaza, Mendoza

Fruity drink at lunch

Fruity drink at lunch

Yesterday we crossed the Andes, very exciting and equally scary with s-turns, switch backs, tunnels to prevent avalanche problems, NO guard rails, speeds in excess of 100 kil an hour (55mph in the ANDES) at 13,000 feet where you can’t breath in a moving bus AND you are too frightened looking down 3000 feet at fragments of smashed vehicles, a blue fender from a Chevy, the red hood of a major pickup truck.

The same bad B movies were playing, a sci-fi and “Meet the Millers”  (I thought I recognized poor Jennifer Aniston…) I took a lot of views from the bus, Julia was sick even with a motion sickness patch behind her ear, Rachael chilled and Tom wished he could play Words With Friends. Dinner at a great place, steak and wine, at a  table on the sidewalk called La Palenque.

In Mendoza our apt hotel is nice, with a pool. This morning we explored the city, changed money, bought airlines tickets to BA (it’s a 17 hour drive) and signed up for bicycling through vineyards. The first was definitely most impressive. All sort of people gave us all sorts of addresses for Change Places. One man said it was better to ask a man on the street who would “lead” us to an office. So when I spotted two nice looking, well-dressed, middle-aged businessmen on the sidewalk downtown I asked them. One said, “follow me.” Tom and I followed him, leaving the girls in an enclosed alley with shops. The man buzzed us into an office marked “technical engineering,” then another office, both were all gray and hi tec looking, then a second middle aged man took us in hand, demanding of us ‘how we knew this place?’ “Were we friends of Jorge’s?” I answered, “Of course, we’re friends of Jorge’s.” I almost added that I was his sister-in-law but I am never sure whether I am saying sister-in-law or mother-in-law and I don’t look that old. Doors clanked shut behind us, bolted, and we were ushered down a narrow spiral staircase into another locked office where there is a younger man behind a bullet proof glass window who cheerfully changed our money and gave us a better rate than the other man had quoted us.

Meanwhile Julia had a harrowing story of her won where a nice janitor lady keypadded her into a ladies room in the same complex. The poor janitor was yelled at by the “suits” who then had to unlock two doors for Julia to get out of the bathroom that had another keypad on the INSIDE of the bathroom door. It was as Julia reported a Mission Impossible Control Room bathroom. These people have got to be Argentinian Mafia. It was an experience!

The Airlines tickets was a piece of cake. At the bicycle tour of the vineyards place I asked the tour guide, a 40 year old Frenchman if it was safe to cycle on the roads here. He said, “This is Argentina, of course not.” But he assured me that the Brits and Aussies have more trouble because after a few glasses of wine he has a devil of a time keeping them on the right side of the road. And, he also mentioned that there is a support vehicle for those too drunk to cycle. For all those of you who know how I handle my wine, this is a seriously good thing!

Tonight is a big dinner night at Anna Bistro. Tomorrow we cycle, we drink and then we fly….Julia says, “we ar one happening family.”

Exploring Santiago with Girls

After a comfortable night and a good breakfast, we followed Julia’s lead downtown to see the Plaza de Armas (closed for repair), the Central Market where Julia bought a hot dog with cheese and avocado. Then we sat down for a fish lunch and then walked back home through the park that runs all along the river from downtown home to Providencia.