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Friday, December 02, 2005

I'm a ham and cheese whore named Evita...

I am 100% convinced that, in my past life, I WAS Evita Peron....

Buenos Aires. Love it. I'm easily obsessed with this country, more so now that I'm in Buenos Aires.
The 20 hour bus ride was uneventful, 3 meals guessed it....ham and cheese sandwiches in some incarnation.
Breakfast: ham and cheese with a crossaint and coffee.
Lunch: "Lunchable" type ham and cheese white bread with the crusts cut off packages sandwiches.
Dinner: Ham and cheese with melba toast, olive oil and bread to, yeah...sandwiches. But, I'm into it. Forget turkey on seven grain with tomato and honey mustard. I'm ALL about jamon y queso. Any way you want to give it to me, I'm all over it. (Cher, I know I've always given you shit about your pork chop fetish. Yeah, well...I take it back. B/c I'm SO blue-collar-in-a-lunchbox ham and cheese, it's SCARY.)

Anyway....I'm in BA now. And love it. LOVE IT. If Bariloche was great, this is super fantastic.
How can I explain Buenos Aires?
A little bit of Paris (a million plazas and parks and open spaces, an obsession with fashion and being posh), a little bit of NYC (the restaurants, the shopping, the fast-paced atmosphere, the cityness of it, the clubs and lounges) and a little bit of Barcelona (the ports, the water, the bar/restaurant area that is always happening right on the port) and a little bit of South America thrown in for good measure. That's about right, but not exactly. You have to come here to experience it. And, I highly advise it. It's my favorite place, so far. Buenos Aires is full of life, energy, passion. Buenos Aires is full of itself. Buenos Aires is an eclectic mix of people, cultures, politics and classes. It's heaven on earth. I've been here for 3 full days, and I can't imagine EVER wanting to leave.

My friend Leslie, from Harper was here with her husband, Josh for the last few days. And it was SOOO nice to see them. They are the first Americans I've seen yet! Do you believe that? THE FIRST. And it was bliss. Of course, after getting here on Wednesday, I set out to conquer Recoleta, where many of the tourists stay (including me), full of fancy shops (Fendi, YSL, Louis Vuitton), hotels (Four Seasons, Sofitel, Alvaer), etc.... The city is peppered with plazas of grass, interspersed with shops, always teeming with people. That night, Leslie and Josh took me to Palermo, another neighborhood, north of Recoleta that is divided into Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood. The easiest way to explain it is -- East and West Villages. Young, hip types live here, lots of restaurants and boutique shopping. I think, initially, when Josh and Leslie got to my hotel and I pounced on Leslie, Josh might've been a little taken aback. While I LOVE every minute of my time, meeting was SO nice NOT to have to talk about why I decided to take this trip, where I'm going, where my boyfriend is, what my old job used to be, how old I am, etc.. etc.. etc... BLISS. We went to Casa Cruz, a wonderful trendy restaurant in Palermo Hollywood that reeked 'of-the-moment' and I embraced every ounce of it wholeheartedly. When I saw tuna tartar on the menu (though I didn't order it) I knew Leslie loved me a lot and knew JUST WHAT I needed a dose of. A great meal, I probably talked too much, but didn't care and was happy to be with them.

Day two brought more exploring. I headed out to the Casa Rosado, or as you all know it, the palace from which Evita sings "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" and man, did I channel her, standing there. In my head, I was all Madonna-ing my ass off, one hand raised to my general public, the other holding my laced, veiled hat in place. An imaginary moment on the Plaza Mayor. All mine. Savored. Then, reality hit, and I was back in $30 Urban Outfitter gaucho pants and a wife beater, holding a camera and a backpack and returning to my very comfortable state of traveling schlub. Mmmmm..... Anyway, I went through a good amount of the city, seeing the sites which are all amazing. There's a million balconies here, mixed with Gaudi architechture and a touch of modernity. It's eye-candy to walk around. And, I may be travel Marie here on this little adventure, but my heart belongs to AmEx. And in 24 hours, I managed to buy 3 bags (aaaah, the leather here), 3 pairs of shoes, 5 shirts, 1 skirt, a belt, numerous tchotchkes for the home and other crap....HAPPILY. I've been "browsing" for just the right leather jacket, bargain-shopping it out, if you will. I also have discovered antiquing. I found this unbelievable Jaeger couture clock from 1920 which is being "transported" to me via a commercial pilot who flies from Argentina to NY in the next month. You pay him cash on arrival because customs denies many of the $$ items that stores try to ship to the States b/c of the exchange rate. So, I am working on blackmarket shopping now. More to come on that front when an Argentinian pilot rings my bell for cash one day soon in NY......and hands me a clock. My doorman will deny him, after ALL of that. Watch....

I LOVE BA, did I say that already? After all the shopping, I went to the Four Seasons to do what was MOST necessary. Mani, pedi, etc.... 1 month, no pampering.....what's a girl to do? Check into the spa at the Four Seasons... duh! And, it was only $65. Are they on CRACK? Wonderful. Wonderful. Wonderful. Meanwhile, the funny thing is, or maybe not funny, but interesting is that, I'll meet many other travelers and love hanging out with them bc those are the best nights I have. Just easy, fun, down-to-earth nights. No pretense, no bullshit. But, I'll bust out the antique silver bracelets I bought that afternoon, with my little Gucci clutch and return to my "hotel, not hostel" and sleep in my king size bed. And, on other nights, I'll go to some fantastic restaurant, and meet a doctor, and have lovely drinks at the Ritz, but the night before I was in a Patagonia fleece tied around my waist listening to a band at the local pub with people who don't own razors and think growing facial hair is an international contest. It's a fine line to walk, and I take a lot of shit for it. And I'm aware that I'm always walking it, but it's ... if nothing else, lends contrast to the whole experience, and keeps me ME. Just a random thought ... especially here. B/c I like being fancy here, but the more interesting people ARE NOT the people you find in the Four Seasons. (Except Josh and Leslie, obv....)

Anyway . . . we went to see a Tango Show, night two. But, it's a tourist trap. A woman who looked like Michele Hanft with black hair sang the whole damn time. It should've been called the Michele Hanft look-a-like show, instead of the Tango Show at the Cafe Tortoni. The best tango can be found on the streets, in the plazas, in places you don't expect. NOT the shows. Today, in La Boca (another neighborhood, characterized by the buildings painted bright bright colors which you'll see in the pix I'm about to send), I tango-ed myself a ditty or two. Might've even been decent at it. CERTAINLY better than the Aussie couple that were doing their best to 1-2 to the beat, but might as well have been saying 1-5 in their heads. Very fun....

And tonight, went to another Hanft recc called Cabana de Las Lilas for steak and FEASTED b/c my NZ and Aussie backpacker friends went to like Chinese take out and ... nah. Met them after, at 4 AM!!! What???? I eat like a 250 lb linebacker here in S America. A Brit at the next table was like -- have you eaten in a year, you're a little girl and you ordered a ribeye, potatoes, an antipasto plate to start AND dessert. Yeah, so what of it, mate?!?!?!?! I can't get enough.

Yeah, welcome to Buenos Aires. Don't cry for me, kids....I'm doing JUST FINE.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Claudio, the Argentinian Stalker...

So, I'm totally over my last blog angst, and Thanksgiving I'm in Argentina.
Aaaaah, Argentina. I think I've already fallen in love with Argentina!!!

The "Cruces del Lagos" or Chilean Lake Crossing was absolutely amazing. The sun came out for me, shining the whole day, as we made our way from bus to boat to bus to boat to bus to boat to bus to Bariloche, Argentina. 4 buses, 3 boats, 12 hours. A very long, but absolutely breathtaking day. The water of the lakes is a turquoise blue/green that I've never seen before. It's so clear and crisp, you just want to dive into it and/or drink it. The lakes are calm, set in between mountains as far as the eye can see, lush and green at their bases, white with snow at their pinnacles. Waterfalls streaming down the mountains into the lakes. I mean, it's just the most naturally beautiful setting I've ever seen. I don't think many people get to see settings like this in their lifetimes and I felt to lucky to be getting such an opportunity. Amazing.....

On the last boat, which takes you right to the port on the Llao Llao peninsula (where Llao Llao hotel sits perfectly atop the mountain), I met Claudio, a very nice (and cute) sailor on the ship (Kim - he kinda looked like Chad in a weird, Argentinian way) who told me that everyone in town goes to Wilkenny Bar at night and I should go there. Ok...maybe. I hadn't gone out out in a while, so maybe. Exhausted, happy to be in Argentina, the bus drives down Avenue Bustillo from Llao Llao, dropping people off along the way. I am still stunned by the view, at this point, the sun is setting, giving off hues of pink and orange that bounce off the mountains and reflected back off the water. I couldn't take my eyes away from it. Really, it's one of the most unbelievable places I've ever seen. I had wanted to stay at Llao Llao, but on my arrival night, they were booked, so I booked a few days later with them, and opted for a cabana (they're everywhere here, it's a ski town, and there's cottages everywhere for rent) instead, closer to town, for half the price. It looked really nice online, was recc'd by the guidebooks and having a little cottage to spread out in might not be so bad, right?

Well, to say that I'm living in a PALACE here in Bariloche, is an understatment. Forget Llao Llao. Wisemans, you think we had a nice house in Tahoe? Yeah, not so much compared to my little villa here in South America. So, it's huge. It has a kitchen, living room, dining room with seating for 8. A fireplace, 2 bathrooms. My bedroom with walk in closet. Jacuzzi, BBQ, terrace. I mean.... I didn't want to leave. I loved it so much.... But, Wilkenny bar beckoned. I had to go out, and be social. And cute Claudio invited me. Why not?

Wilkenny Bar was an Irish pub that seemed tame when I got there. After settling into a meal of pumpkin soup and a salad, I struck up a conversation with two girls at the table next to me. Turns out, they're both traveling alone too. Sarah, from Sydney, is a hilarious redhead. Anneke (pronounced Anika) is from South Africa, and is a striking, refined blond. They met in Bolivia and have been traveling together ever since. Turns out, Sarah will be arriving in Vietnam the same day as I am! What are the chances!?!??! Anyway, it was such a great night....GIRLTALK! It felt terrific. If there's one thing I miss here, it's that, GIRLTALK. So, you all best be prepared for me to burning up your phone lines when I get home. Anyway...they were on a boat crossing earlier in the day and met a "guide named Claudio" who told them to come to Wilkenny too! This Claudio has his act down with the ladies, seemingly . . . Sarah's hooked on capirhinas since Brazil, so we're getting wasted on them with the Argentinian rugby team, who are in town for the championship game, can only speak phrases "I may not speak much English, but I feel a connection with you" and "I love rugby but I think I can love you more." YEAH. Next thing you know, Claudio shows up. Whispering sweet nothings in my ear. To say the men here are touchy feely. I mean, the caresses, the intensity of the eye contact. It's VERY overwhelming. Asking to come home with me. Anneke is being slobbered over by one of the rugby players who cannot even do the cheesy phrases in English and Sarah is working the bar, capirinha by capirinha. At 5 AM, I finally looked at my watch, then around the PACKED bar and decided fun as it was, it was time to go.... After turning Claudio down on the offer to accompany me home, he made me promise to go to dinner with him the next night. Fine, fine, whatever...just let me go to sleep!!!

Yesterday, we did it all over again. After a rainy day of shopping (where I bumped into my sister/jordan's friend on her honeymoon....I mean, only me, right? who knows people in bariloche??), planning my next moves, etc... I got a call in my room (which I didn't take) from Claudio, and headed out to meet Anneke and Sarah. All of a sudden, Sarah busts thru the door of the pub and goes -- Claudio is outside, he's looking for you! I walk outside where Claudio is waiting, telling me that he's been to every pub in Bariloche after I wasn't at my hotel. He WENT to my hotel and knocked on all of the doors of the cabanas (!!!!!!!) and then proceeded to tell me how mine was laid out, where in the room my computer was, my backpack, my sweater that I wore on the Lake Crossing b/c he was peering in the windows. WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?!?!?!?! Claudio was the nice boat guy who was so sweet last night. And now, I'm looking into the eyes of my stalker, Claudio, who is no longer so cute.... He then, without being asked, joins us for an amazing dinner at a parillada (or grill, where you pick out a cut of meat and they grill it for you -- huge portions of steak, cooked exactly right for $7 -- amazing meal). Professing his love to me all the while. I can't.....

Back to Wilkenny after dinner, where Claudio proceeds to tell me that he's a realist and he understands that I'm only in town for a few days, but I'm not showing him any "carino" or affection and that he's trying so hard to get me to like him, and it's obvious to him that I don't. At this point, I'm having a "talk" with a guy I met yesterday. Finally, as I'm talking to someone else, he comes over and very angrily tells me he's leaving, I'm not paying him any mind and balls me out to Sarah and Anneke and leaves Wilkenny and my life forever.... Unless he comes a-peering later. Sarah, Anneke and I accompany the rugby team to Rocket, one of the many clubs here. We left to go to Rocket at, gulp, 5 AM. Anneke and I left at 7. Sarah stayed. When we walked outside, it was light out. I flashed back to Cancun, senior year of Michigan, spring break, laughed and crawled into bed. Spent again.


More soon....