10 countries, 50 cities,7 months, $24,430, 340,000 airline miles and 137,000 hotel points (17 nights) later: Our Final Budget Update

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By Rachel

I would definitely encourage everyone to travel for an extended period of time – it was a once in a lifetime experience, not only because we got to see some amazing places and met some amazing people, but also because we travelled in a completely different way then we normally would – on a pretty tight budget! And travelling as a couple was a great experience – we were both worried that it would be really difficult and may drive a wedge between us, especially since we were always long distance, but it definitely brought us together and it was amazing sharing all these new experiences with my best friend.

One of the main reasons people don’t do extended travel is because they think it would cost way too much – but if you watch your budget and go to some budget friendly areas, it is completely doable if you save!

When we were planning our trip, it was hard to find a lot of info on couples that travelled together – there were plenty of single backpacker budgets for the areas we were going to, but we knew that we wouldn’t be doing single dorm beds and because we were a few years older than the ‘typical’ backpacker, we knew we would want to do things just above what a backpacker would do. We would probably be considered ‘flashpackers’ a term that I think denotes people that have a slightly bigger budget (not much though) than a normal backpacker and probably a little older than the college backpacker crowd. It also meant that we went to places that weren’t on many of the typical backpacker trails because they were either a little more expensive or harder to get to (like Borneo, Indonesia or Uruguay).

We wrote a previous post on how we travelled in Thailand and what our spending preferences and styles were and for the most part, those habits and lessons remained true throughout our trip, so I won’t repeat it – the link to that post is here:

https://samirandrachel.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/travelling-on-a-budget/

All in all, here were our final numbers for two people travelling in India, Southeast Asia and South America for 206 days or about 7 months (not including our three weeks in the US). Important note – we used airline miles for travel from the United States to India and back as well as from the United States to South America and back – all other flights are included in this budget.  Also, we used hotel points for about 17 nights, but even though we saved on lodging, we found that especially in Asia, it turned out to be a wash in terms of expenses because the hotels had more expensive food, sometimes charged for internet and cost a lot more to get to and away from!

Here is a further breakdown:

That’s all folks! Can’t wait to do it again some day!

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Final Thoughts on South America

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By Rachel

So we’ve been back in the States for over a month now and are just now wrapping up our travel blog! Eesh! It all seems like such a blurry memory now, but there are definitely things that stand out about our time in South America.

First, I wish we had actually planned our trip to the region better. When we first started our trip in January, we had a vague idea of what countries we would go to in each of the countries but since we were going to Asia first, we did more research of how and where to go. By the time we got to planning South America, we were too engorged in the backpacker way of travel and figured we would just figure it out as we went along! Which of course was fun too.  But if I had to do it over again, I would have gone a different route. We started in Peru and flew into Uruguay and took the ferry over to Argentina. We basically just booked our flight to Peru and figured we would navigate our way once we got there (since we were still in Asia when we booked it and were busy figuring out Asia!). But we knew that we were also going to take Spanish classes in Buenos Aires so we should have probably gone there first! And then made our way over land northwest through Bolivia and Peru and possibly Ecuador. But we wanted to take our Spanish classes so we went straight from Peru to Uruguay / Argentina.  We did hear some great things about Bolivia and I wish we had gotten a chance to go!

A few things to note about South America vs. travel in Southeast Asia:

1)      South America is huge! It takes a LOT longer to travel between places in SA, though the buses in Peru and Argentina were perfectly comfortable (we heard Bolivia was not quite the same). We spent over two weeks in Peru and I felt like we saw maybe half of the places we wanted to see (mostly because we spent over a week in Cuzco / Machu Picchu) – we’ll have to go back one day and go through the Amazon part of Peru!  We really loved the country as well and look forward to going back one day. Same thing with Argentina – it took us a day between Buenos Aires an d Iguazu via bus and about the same from Iguazu to Salta. But we couldn’t go down South to Patagonia (too cold for us!) and will definitely have to do that some other time!

2)      Visas were a lot more expensive for US citizens (specifically, Argentina, Chile and Bolivia) – you can sometimes avoid these if you travel over land rather than coming in by air; however, Bolivia still charges the visa charge (over $100) if you travel over land.

3)      Costs are much higher than in SE Asia as expected; but Buenos Aires and Uruguay were especially expensive – pretty much like things would be in the US – not great when on a budget!

One of the things I loved about South America is how different the cultures between countries was, even within country in the case of Argentina. Overall, people everywhere were pretty friendly and laid-back. There didn’t seem to be as much of an emphasis on material things and instead on social traditions and spending time with family and friends… something we can definitely learn from in the States! We learned in Spanish class that one of the reason parts of South America were similar to each other (like Argentina, Chile and Uruguay) but different from others (like Argentina vs. Peru) is that the Andes Mountains acted as a geographical barrier and therefore, the cultures East and West evolved somewhat in isolation. Even the Spanish was very different in the areas! We got by a lot easier in Peru where they spoke a lot slower and with a similar accent to what we’re used to with our Mexican version of Spanish. But the accents in Uruguay and Argentina were definitely different! Especially in their pronunciations and a lot of their words. We met a couple of ladies from the States who were working for Google in Buenos Aires and spoke Puerto Rican / Mexican Spanish and even they said they only understood 70 or 80% of what their coworkers said because of all the different words they use in BsAs! I didn’t feel so bad after that for understanding only half of what was being said! Lol.

Part of me wishes we had more time (and money!) to see other parts of South America especially since there is so much to see! But, at the same time, after almost eight months we were ready to go back home and already slightly extended on our budget. It’s okay though – we’ll just get to save those adventures for another time!

By Samir

It was fun but expensive!

Echoes of Cafayate

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By Samir

The day after our trip to the salt flats, we headed south to check out the wine-producing region of Cafayate. There was so much beautiful scenery along the way that we took nearly as much pictures on this day as we did of the Iguazu Falls. Many of the places we stopped were places where it looked like a vertical slice had been cut from the mountainside. We walked in, and they would open up into an area where you could continue climbing up into nooks and crannies, or into wide open spaces where you could hear echoes. Thinking back to Cafayate, we can still hear the echoes of the other giggling tourists. The two stops we remember were The Devil’s Throat (La Garganta del Diablo) and The Amphitheater (El Anfiteatro).

As with the trip to the salt flats, our time spent in an actual winery was not much compared to the time spent driving to and from, though it was a excellent way to see the scenery without having to do the driving directly, which took much of the day.

However, we did stop at one winery – Vasija Secreta. We got a tour of the production facilities. They had huge barrels, which were quite impressive. At one point during the tour, they pointed out a poem hanging on an overhead banner, which read:

“Cafayate es famoso porque por don de Dios posee uvas unicas en el mundo y por decision del hombre un especial respeto por los buenos vinos.”

Which roughly translates to:

Cafayate is famous by the grace of God because it holds grapes unique to the world and because of the decision of man to have special respect for great wines.

We didn’t enjoy the particular wines offered for the tasting as much, though we heard great things from other tourists about wines at nearby wineries in the region. (Perhaps another time…)

In the evening, we went to Paseo Balcarce, a five-block hip area of town with late-night clubs, restaurants, lights, shops, and street vendors. Though we waited over an hour for food, we had several drinks with a friend we’d met earlier in the day. Conversation flowed with the drinks, and we had a great time. Side Note: Argentinians eat dinner late, and go out to the pub/club late – we left the restaurant just before midnight, and the live band was just getting set-up for the night.

The next day, we relaxed at the hotel a bit and took some great shots of the city (our hotel was up on a hillside). And then, somewhat late in the day, decided to head to San Lorenzo to go horseback-riding. Not knowing the bus schedule, we took a taxi out, which dropped us off in the “main commercial area”, which was a strip mall with four shops in it. We had lunch and then started walking around. The town was beautiful. Very few vehicles, tree-lined two-lane roads, with leaves fluttering in the wind along the parkways (no sidewalks though). We found an adventure sports place, but we’d arrived too late, so we just kept walking. After a bit of uphill hiking, we ended up at the Quebrada – a stream running in the valley between mountains, with some picnic tables nearby. We enjoyed some quiet time, listening to the brook as it meandered its way over random rocks in the stream-bed. Gorgeous. We took a bus on the way back, which was substantially cheaper than the taxi had been, and took about the same amount of time.

In our free time around the city on our last day in town, we took some pictures at the monument to General Guemes, who is a national hero in Argentina. Everywhere we went seemed to have a major street named after him. It was in a big park on a hillside. We passed it a few times during our stay at the hotel, and noted that it was always packed with people in small groups, sitting on the steps, and in the plaza. It was encouraging to see people (many of whom were teenagers) hanging out at the park/plaza.

Salta was a beautiful city both during the daytime and at night. It never felt like a 500,000 person large city – we always felt like it was a small city of maybe 50,000 people. Just very laid-back, and relaxed. It was a great way to end our vacation. Well, before getting on another 20+ hour bus ride back to Buenos Aires.

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Salta La Linda!

By Rachel

Argentina is full of beautiful and amazing surprises and scenery – the kind that make you know that somewhere out there, there is something greater than humankind. After Iguazu, we made our way to Salta, in the Northwest part of Argentina.

Side note: We bought our tickets from Puerto Iguazu to Salta while we were in Salta. There is no direct bus from Iguazu to Salta but it’s easy enough to go to the bus station and buy the bus tickets via a change in a city along the way (we stopped at Resistancia). The bus ride was about 24 hours and cost about 557 pesos (or $102) each ticket, one way. Again, the buses were comfortable and more than adequate, even for that long a ride!

We originally went to Salta to see the salt flats since we didn’t get a chance to go to Bolivia. And we had heard that the Northwest of Argentina was gorgeous. In fact, Salta is well deserving of its nickname, “Salta La Linda” (Salta the Beautiful). We didn’t get to travel around Salta the town itself too much as I had bronchitis (treated in Salta by a medic that came to the hostel, gave me a steroid and a prescription all for 60 pesos or $12 – and the hostel picked up the tab because it was their policy to pay for if a doctor came to the hostel!). However, we did go on the cable car ride (incidentally, our fourth on our trip thus far) that went up San Bernardo Hill where we got an gorgeous view of the town. Salta is a quaint city with colonial Spanish architecture – I loved seeing the rooftops from the top of the hill. And to top it off, the city has the beautiful foothills of the Andes mountains around it. The park on top of the hill was quite nice as well – it even had an outdoor stage, workout area with equipment and little waterfalls.

The highlights of the trip to Salta however were the two tours that we took – one to Salinas Grandes (the salt flats) and one to El Cafayate (a wine producing region known for its sweet white wine).

The drive from Salta to Jujuy where the salt flats was located was probably one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever been on. Our tour guide told us that we were going through four different types of terrain in the mountains – selva (forests), valle (valley), quebrada (gorges) and desiertos (deserts) – though I can’t remember the order! It was so interesting to see how the landscape outside changed as we went through the different landscapes. My two favorite parts of the drive were seeing all the cacti that were growing on the sides of the mountains – some way bigger than us! And the second was probably one of my top five views on our trip – the Cerro de Siete Colores (Foothills of Seven Colors) – I was so amused at the different colors of the rock formations and what their sources were – like the blue color came from rock that had cobalt in it – I now understand where the color Cobalt blue that I see on my acrylic paints comes from!

Salinas Grandes was about 140 miles from Salta – we stopped at a couple places along the way but finally made it to Salinas Grandes. The tour operator told us we only had 30 minutes there because of the potential damage to our eyes and skin from the salt and the sun shining on it. This was a bit anticlimactic at first since we spent about 3 hours getting there – but 30 minutes was plenty of time. The salt flats were basically a vast white flat of salt with the mountains in the background. It was interesting to see these formations – but more fun to take silly pictures! Our tour operator took some typical pics of us jumping and other shots that utilize perspective.

The entire trip took the whole day – from 7 to 7 almost for 30 minutes at the salt falts (cost was 395 pesos per person for both Salinas Grandes and El Cafayate over two days) – however, the beauty of the drive is what made it for me. I still love the pictures of the cacti and 7 colores! Plus, the weather was beautiful! If I had to do it again and wasn’t on a budget, I’d prefer to rent a car and do the drive on my own so we could stop at more places along the way and possibly stay somewhere near Jujuy for a night.

Iguazu Falls: The Argentina Side

By Samir

It was interesting seeing the same waterfalls from two different sides, from within two different national parks covering essentially the same area. The Brazilian side had a long pathway that ran alongside the river, a bit further away from the falls, which allowed for breathtaking views of the entire width of the falls. The Argentinian side had a long pathway that ran alongside some of the falls directly, allowing for up-close views (and photos). We were definitely impressed by both sides of the falls, though my personal favorite was the broader view on the Brazilian side. The entrance fee on the Argentine side was 130 Argentine pesos each (in August 2012). The Argentine park had a train service rather than the bus service that the Brazil park had, which added a more natural/rustic touch, though the train service was a bit slower. We walked most of the paths in the park in about 4 hours.

long pathway directly to the “Devil’s Throat”

right on top of the Devil’s Throat

the sheer force of the falls sent a massive spray into the air, which appeared like a fog

Orange! mushrooms nearby

pointing to a rainbow

nearly underneath the falls (and getting wet from the spray)

Iguazu Falls: The Brasil Side

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By Rachel

One of the highlights of our trip to South America – seeing Iguazu Falls. Iguazu is over 1.67 miles long and consists of approximately 275 falls together. We explored the falls from both the Brasil side and the Argentina side. The Brasil side is known for being the best place to view the falls and Argentina the best side to experience the falls.

We stayed on the Argentina side in Puerto Iguazu (a 20 hour bus ride from Buenos Aires – comfortable buses though!). US citizens generally require a visa to go to the Brasil; however, there is an implicit understanding that people in Iguazu are just crossing over to see the falls and then returning to Argentina. So we were able to take a tour bus from the Puerto Iguazu bus stand to the Brasil side of Iguazu for 50 pesos each. We stopped at Argentina immigration and got stamped out and on the way back, we stopped at Argentina immigration and got stamped back in (thus also renewing our visas as well!). We passed a building for Brasilian immigration but didn’t stop (I think because we were on the tourist bus) either way.

We walked into the park (were able to pay in Argentine pesos – August 2012 this was 137 pesos each) and took the park bus (free) to the major walking trail to the falls. We walked up to the beginning of the path and were mesmerized by how beautiful it was! And we didn’t even realize it at the time, but that was just the beginning of this stunning wonder. As we walked down the trail (about 1.2 miles), the falls just got more and more beautiful until we reached the end and could just feel the power of the falls. And we briefly saw a gorgeous rainbow! At the end of the trail, there is a bridge where you can walk out and experience the falls some more but get seriously sprayed by the falls at the same time! The falls remind you how splendid nature can be – absolutely one of my top ten highlights of our honeymoon! I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves!

We were able to see the falls on the Brasil side in one afternoon (about 3 hours), though I think the view is supposed to be better in the morning. They also offer boat rides from both sides of the falls where you can go into the river and get a lot closer to the falls. These were definitely expensive though and you would get drenched which would have been fun! Unfortunately, I was sick with bronchitis and didn’t want to get worse! The Brasil side definitely got us re-energized and ready to see the Argentina side!

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Up All Night…

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By Samir and Rachel

Entertainment is a huge part of traveling and there is definitely no shortage of entertainment and nightlife in Buenos Aires, especially in Palermo, the area we were in. The schedule is Argentina took some getting used to. People here don’t eat dinner until about 10 or 11pm (they have a merienda, or snack, around 5 or 6pm) and then some go out after that. We went to a couple boliches, or nightclubs, and both times we went, we got there around 1:30am or 2am and were part of the early crowd! We left after 4:30am both times and there was still a line outside to get in! Craziness!

We tried the Buenos Aires pub crawl (www.buenosairespubcrawl.com) one Friday in Palermo. While the crawl went to some fun places in Palermo, we were definitely the oldest ones there! The age range was probably 17-23 – eesh!  But we ended up at a fun boliche with a nice buzz J But the place only served mixed drinks with Speed (like Red Bull). It was a huge place with the roof and walls covered with TVs and fun dance music.

Boliche in San Telmo with a huge screen on the ceiling – have no idea what the place was called though!

One of our major sources of entertainment was Spanglish (see our post on learning Spanish in BA). We would meet people at the event and inevitably hang out there or somewhere else. Another bar I liked in the Palermo area was Sugar Bar – fun place, cheap drinks and good music. Our first night of Spanglish, we were sitting at Funes y Maga where the event was held and talking to some other folks at the event. At about 2am, a group of ladies in their 50s or 60s comes in and orders a round of drinks! We were so amused – never would you see that in the US, especially so late! Another night, Rachel met some girls at the event and we tagged along with them to Kika, another super nightclub. The place got packed around 3am and was HUGE! We had a blast with our new friends and had a great time dancing the night away! Side note: the cover at Kika was 50 pesos for ladies and 100 pesos for men! But if you signed up on the guest list on Facebook or got some password from FB, ladies were free before 2 – this seemed to be a recurring theme with the boliches – always some list or group or marketing gimmick you could take advantage of if you planned ahead!

Our Bolivian friend Mike – celebrating our last weekend in town!

with Maria, Valerie and Celeste at Kika!

Mi miel y yo!

Other than the bars and clubs, we wanted to experience other types of entertainment, like going to the movies. So we headed to the Cinemark in Palermo twice to see a movie – once to see “Brave” in 3D, and second to see “Batman, The Dark Knight Rises”. We thought it was particularly interesting that the Batman showing had a 10-minute interval in the middle of the movie for patrons to refresh on snacks or use the bathroom. And we liked that they had assigned seating.

We also decided to be a bit more upscale, so we saw a performance by the Contemporary Ballet at the Teatro San Martin. There were three acts – two of which were really ‘modern’ dancy – we liked the middle performance the best. Though we were trying to read the program to see what each was about and realized our Spanish was definitely more conversational and not so helpful with reading deep explanations of the ballet!

One of the ballet acts – the other performers left their hoop skirts on the stage and walked off – the skirts were then raised as the center ballerinas danced

This one was weirder – a guy is having a nightmare or something if I remember correctly

 

We also decided to test our Spanish skills and see a show at the theater, Estado de Ira or State of Wrath. We had an idea of what the show was about and were able to understand about 50-60% of the dialogue but figured out mostly what was going on, including most of the jokes! The show was about a theater company that are trying to put on the play Hedda Gabler but lose their main actress at the last minute and have to show a new actress how to play the role. A lot of subtle but funny comedy, especially physical comedy.

Our first Spanish show!

Theaters on Calle Cordoba

Theaters on Calle Cordoba

Our last source of entertainment was probably my (Rachel) favorite – TANGO! Tango is such a beautiful and sensual dance – I love it! And the music is so distinctive as well. Tango has its roots from the Africans that were in Argentina hundreds of years ago – kind of like how American jazz developed. Perhaps that’s why I liked it so much!

We took two private tango lessons in Palermo – I really liked how much we learned in just two classes. We learned some basic steps and some fancy looking stuff but was pretty easy to do J  http://www.tangopiola.com/

We also saw a lovely tango show – though we just saw the show and didn’t do dinner. We went to the show at La Ventana – it wasn’t as flashy some of the other tango shows which I liked because I wanted a more authentic tango. The original producer of the show was a tango musician himself – and funnily enough, we were dancing to his music during our private tango lessons. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures or video during the show. Boo.  http://www.laventanaweb.com

The only pic we quickly snapped at La Ventana

Tango is danced all over the city in places called milongas (also a style of dancing). We went to La Viruta, a milonga where we could both take tango lessons as well as practice dancing with everyone else after our lessons. They also did two dance numbers before our group lessons – amazing! I think the group lessons were okay – the private lessons were definitely better and we learned a lot more in two lessons. But the group lessons were a slightly different basic step and what everyone at that milonga danced to. www.lavirutatango.com

Performance at La Viruta

Teachers doing tango

Tango performance by the teachers at La Viruta

Doing the basic tango step outside La Viruta

The basic tango step

Practicing at La Viruta

Overall, the nightlife was one of the best things about BsAs and I’m glad we got to enjoy it together!

Getting around Buenos Aires

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By Rachel

Note: 5.4 pesos = $1

BsAs is a great city for walking and traveling via public transportation. Parking in town in expensive and traffic is a mess so many people use colectivos (public buses), the Subte (Subway system) or trains if coming from the burbs. Of course, walking is also prevalent – I loved walking around the city – it was a very independent feeling! And most hostels or an information center will have maps (our apartment rental agency, ByT, provided a map of the city as well). Though sometimes, I’ll admit, I did miss the convenience of a car 🙂

The most convenient way to get around for us was to walk, use the Subte or take a colectivo. We used this website to tell us what the best route was – it was excellent and generally accurate and provided a map – it even lets you search by landmark it some cases.

http://mapa.buenosaires.gob.ar/#tab-comollegar

Go to “Como Llego” (How do I arrive) and you can put a from and to location and it will give you the route by colectivo, subte or train.

1) Subte – the Subte goes from various parts of the city into town. We took line D from Palermo (Scallibrini Ortiz stop) into town. It was only 2.50 pesos to ride one way, regardless of where you were going or how far you were going. It was easy enough to get around and use the Subte map (found at http://www.subte.com.ar/contenido/home.asp). In the mornings on the way to school, the Subte would be PACKED – sometimes so you couldn’t even get on. There were times where I felt like I was literally being held up by all the people around me. The Subte was kind of jerky and older and so at the stops I’d stumble a bit if I wasn’t holding on to something – not a problem in the mornings! Definitely get over any personal space issues when riding on the Subte! The only negative about the Subte is it stops running between 10 and 11 pm, depending where you are on the route.

There’s even fun grafiti on the Subte (subway)!

2) Colectivos – BsAs has an extensive bus system, called colectivos. They are a little difficult to ride and it helps if you know some Spanish so you can confirm you are on the right one. The link above helps tell you where to find the colectivo you need and what bus number to take. Luckily, the stops are usually pretty well labeled with the bus numbers that stop there. The problem is sometimes the same bus number takes different routes. So it’s good to confirm with the driver your stop (which you say when you get on anyway to pay). The other complication is that you either have to have a colectivo card or coins (monedas) to pay for the bus. When we were there, they raised the non-card rate from 1.2 pesos to 2 pesos. The fare is also dependent on how far you go. Anyway, you get on the bus, tell the driver your stop and then there is a machine behind the driver to insert your coins (the amount to pay is displayed on it). But then, that’s where the fun starts. The link above also shows the route the bus will take. After a couple botched attempts at riding the bus, we started jotting down notes on the route the bus was supposed to take. That helped us figure out when and where we were supposed to get off. To get off, you just move towards the exit (generally exit on the back side of the bus unless it’s too crowded) and press the button (sometimes this isn’t even necessary – the bus driver usually sees people waiting at the exit anyway and will stop at the next stop on the route). I think knowing the route the bus you’re on is supposed to take is really important – it’ll also help you figure out if you’re not on the right path of the bus – there was at least one time where we told the driver where we were going but he didn’t understand or didn’t care because that bus didn’t go there (another bus with the same number went to our destination).

3) Train – we only used the train to go to Tigre – it was pretty easy to figure out. We took the train from the Belgrano station instead of going back to the Retiro station to get the train. The train is also super cheap to ride – one way ticket to Tigre was less than 2 pesos!

4) Taxi – on occasion, we would take a taxi. The base rate was about 9 pesos and then .60 pesos for every 10th of  mile I think. From San Telmo to Palermo, we paid about 40 pesos or $8 – about 5km. Taxis were pretty cheap in BsAs – you could usually get around for $5-$10. Always take an official taxi – if it’s available, the “Libre” sign on the passenger side will be lit up.

5) Omnibuses – we used Omnibuses to go to Puerto Iguazu from BsAs. The bus station at Retiro is a bit confusing (it’s about two blocks right of the train station) – it’s good to know what buses go to your destination before you get there because there’s over 100 bus companies selling tickets at the terminal. We used this site to see what bus companies serviced our route and then went to Retiro to buy our tickets. When we got our Iguazu tickets, the bus agent offered us a discount without even asking so it’s worth going there and talking to the various companies and asking if they have any promotions going.

http://www.omnilineas.com/

6) Transportation to EZE airport – Taxis from the city (we were looking from Retiro) are around 200 pesos. We took a private charter bus company called Manuel Tienda Leon (http://www.tiendaleon.com.ar/home/home.asp) for about 70 pesos each from near the Retiro terminal (about 3 blocks) to EZE airport – 45 minutes at night. They also let us leave our luggage there for 15 pesos (a lot cheaper than at Retiro – we paid 80 pesos there!).

Los Barrios de Buenos Aires

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By Rachel

Buenos Aires is a huge metropolis comprised of several neighborhoods, or barrios. We didn’t go through all the barrios, but we went through quite a few. Each of the barrios has a different feel and atmosphere to it. A brief description:

1)      Centro – where the economic activity and downtown is. The obelisco on Avenida 9 de Julio and the base of the Subte lines are in this area, as was our Spanish school, Ibero.

2)      La Boca – this is not known as a safe neighborhood and supposedly you shouldn’t really walk around La Boca after evening hours. But, La Boca is well known for El Caminito – a road of colorful houses that are remnants of the old immigrant style of multi-family housing. While the houses are interesting and beautiful, the area has become completely commercialized and no one actually lives in the houses anymore. Also, there is a museum at the outside of El Caminito called La Proa that had displays of modern art. Some that I liked, some that were just too ‘modern art’ for me. But I really liked the space and the small museum steps away from both El Caminito and the water.

El Caminito

El Caminito

Environmentally friendly artwork at the Proa Museum

Artwork at the Proa Museum

3)      San Telmo – this was one of our favorite neighborhoods. The old, historic buildings along cobblestoned roads… each of the buildings had its own bit of character. And of course, there is the beautiful street art (graffiti) covering almost all the walls. There were cute little restaurants, pubs and bars that lined the streets. There was a restaurant we really liked the atmosphere of (La Poesia) – it reminded me of a bohemian coffee shop / restaurant where great minds meet to discuss and debate. The food was okay, but we had our first bottle of Malbec there! San Telmo is known for its Sunday Feria (market) where shopkeepers sell their wares from colorful glass bottles to textiles to crafts.

Our first Argentine Malbec 🙂

Cute street in San Telmo

Street corner in San Telmo

Leather masks at the San Telmo Feria – we bought a couple for our budding mask collection!

Magician at the San Telmo Feria

Bottles at the San Telmo Feria

4)      Puerto Madero – This is where many businesses and corporations have their offices. It’s the newest area of BsAs, but it’s kind of cold feeling. It feels like a huge business district, but supposedly they have some good (expensive) restaurants in the area and is also a popular hangout for expats. I thought it was also interesting that many of the streets are named after famous women instead of men and that there is a beautiful modern bridge, Puente de La Mujer, dedicated to women as well. Also, Puerto Madero is the access point for the ecological reserve in the area (see the post “Los Espacios Verdes”).

Puerto Madero

Puerto Madero boardwalk

Construction in Puerto Madero

5)      Recoleta – another kind of ritzy area but more affordable than Puerto Madero. Recoleta is also a newer area that developed when people were trying to escape the diseases in central Buenos Aires. There are some cute restaurants and bars in this area as well, but my favorite attraction in Recoleta is Recoleta Cemetary. We spent a couple hours just going around the different gravesites, looking and reading the elaborate tombstones. Many famous Argentine politicians and influential people are buried there, including past Presidents and revolutionaries. Eva Peron, or Evita, is buried there under her maiden name, though I was surprised at how simple her tombstone was. The cemetery is just incredible – I’ve never been to one like it – I feel like it’s one of those things you only see in movies.

 

So beautiful and peaceful

Plaque dedicated to Evita

Memorial plaques for former President Sarmiento

Recoleta cemetery

6)      Barrio Chino – while the “Chinatown” in Buenos Aires is small (in the broader neighborhood of Belgrano) – about 4-5 blocks – it’s worth a mention because the food there was pretty good. We found the food in BsAs to be good but lacking spiciness! Portenos are not a fan of spicy food at all! We couldn’t even find fresh peppers at our local grocery store – we had to go to a special market for them! Chinatown had a few restaurants, and I ordered Kung Pao chicken at one of them. The waiter asked if I wanted it normal spicy or extra spicy so I asked for extra spicy – it had a little kick to it but definitely not “extra” spicy for me! But it was delicious and definitely satiated a craving I had for something different than the normal Argentine food we’d been eating.

Gate at the front of Barrio Chino – a gift from the city

We were amused by what looks like a soccer ball in the statue

One of the restaurant fronts in Barrio Chino

7)      Palermo – Palermo is the largest barrio in Buenos Aires. Two of the main sub-neighborhoods are Palermo Hollywood (because of the large number of studios that used to be there) and Palermo Soho because of the shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. We lived in Palermo Soho and I enjoyed just walking around the streets and discovering new cafes and restaurants. Unfortunately, I wasn’t really in the market for new clothes (so little room!) so I didn’t do any shopping – though I heard it was either the same or more expensive than in the States!

Everyday on our way home from the Subte, we would see this homeless guy – he had a TV and two dogs and a little bed.

8)      Tigre – Tigre is actually a city outside of Buenos Aires. It’s where many people go on weekends to get out of the bustle of the city. Tigre offers a small town on the delta (river), though the river is a bit dirty. There is also a huge market there and we saw plenty of locals shopping there in bulk or buying other things and taking them back in their cars or on the train. Tigre was about an hour from Palermo by train. We were really amused that the train from Palermo was less than 2 pesos (about 40 cents) – that’s more than the local subway and buses! In Tigre, we took a boat cruise (about 40 pesos) and saw all the little vacation homes or homes by the rivers. After the cruise, we walked around the market and gawked at all the stuff they sold there – and we bought our own mate gourd and bombilla! There is also an amusement park with rides there, but I started to get a headache so we decided to skip it. Overall, Tigre was a good getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city and I can see why locals go there as an escape, but as a tourist, it wouldn’t have been a big deal if we had missed it.

Tigre boat cruise

Tigre boat cruise

Beautiful house on the Tigre boat cruise

Tigre boat cruise

The house is named after me! Raquel! There was a Raquel II right next to it!

Ferris wheel at the amusement park in Tigre

Finally, one of things I like about most of the barrios of Buenos Aires is all the cool looking street art – they were all so unique and different!

One of my faves

Grafitti in San Telmo

More cool grafitti

Lil weird but still diggin it

Cool grafiti

Beautiful street art by El Caminito in Boca

 

 

 

 

Old Pastimes

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By Samir

Finding and restoring long-forgotten history, betting on horses, and buying prized livestock. Old pastimes in another world – you read about other people doing them, but seldom, if ever, do it yourself. We met a Wisconsin couple at a bar one Saturday night, who told us these three things were their favorite things in Buenos Aires. So we decided to see for ourselves.

First up was the annual livestock show, La Rural, which coincidentally was close to our apartment. On the way in, Rachel got cotton candy. I love how her face always lights up every time she sees cotton candy. We’ve gotten it in nearly every country we’ve been in this year.

There was so much that she couldn’t finish it. First time, I’ve ever seen her not finish cotton candy.There was so much that she couldn’t finish it. First time, I’ve ever seen her not finish cotton candy.

I’ve seen spotted cows before, but never where there is a gray outline between the black and white colors, directly on the cow’s skin.

Prized llamas! Not your Texas rodeo!

Such massive Angus bulls

Rachel could sit in the rim of this tractor – the tire size was: 900/60R32.

Insert by Rachel:

There was also three tracks with obstacle courses for SUVs and pick-up trucks to show off their skills. We watched as the trucks and SUVs from Ford, Toyota and VW pulled farm equipment, went over rugged terrain… I was really impressed by the trucks going over a steep track shaped like a hill and then reversing back over it!

the truck went halfway down and then reversed back up!

going thru water

Back to Samir:

Second, we went to a mansion that had been restored. A wealthy owner had purchased a run-down row-house in the 1980’s to build a restaurant. But, during excavation, an underground tunnel was discovered, which led to an archaeological investigation. Artifacts surfaced, the plans for the restaurant were nixed, and instead a historical museum was created. Millions of dollars in restoration spanning multiple decades led to the beautiful Zanjon Mansion on Defensa Street, near the port. The tunnel underground? There were two tributaries that joined near the mansion, which created a place for standing water. There was a problem with mosquitoes and a plague, so they covered the tributaries inside tunnels. During excavation, they found arches of hallways indicating a level of the city under the current street level. And guess what? They found two more sets of arches beneath those, showing that the current “ground” level of the city is 30+ feet above where it once was. What an interesting bit of history.

Hallway at current ground level

An underground water cistern, estimated to be over 150 years old, capable of holding thousands of gallons of rainwater

Restored and rebuilt portion of the underground tunnels, which run several blocks

And finally, on one of our last days in town, I headed to the horse track. They had a casino underground, under the tracks with probably 10,000 slot machines. I walked and walked, but couldn’t find the end of the slot machines. I asked for tables – I was referred to one small private room (which was also the only smoking lounge in the entire casino) with computerized tables for roulette and black-jack (no dealer). I was particularly interested in the fact that I could get pretty close to the track, only separated by a fence and a row of bushes. And bets could be made for as little as 1 Argentine peso (about $0.20 US). Races were every 30 minutes, but since I went alone on a windy Friday afternoon, there were few other people, and I headed back home after a few races (I lost all my bets).

a panoramic image I took of the tracks

The horses racing