Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thanksgiving in Buenos Aires

Sorry for the lack of recent posts. We've been inundated with friends and family so it's been hard to get to a computer to upload pictures. As soon as we flew from Ushuaia up to Buenos Aires, my sister Miriam landed from NYC. And Gabe (and his father) were in as well. Then Deanna's best friend Randi showed up, followed by Deanna's sister Lauren and her best friend, Bari. So for a few days we were rolling 7 deep and having a blast together! We were all here in BsAs at the perfect time--the two weeks in spring when the purple trees are in bloom.

The four of us (Gabe, Miriam, Deanna and I) took the ferry over to Uruguay to spend the day in Colonia del Sacramento. A very cute town settled by the Portuguese (coming over from Brazil) with a tropical-feeling beach and some fun ruins. Below on the left you have Deanna trying (unsuccessfully) to hoist one of the very old drawbridges up and on the right is a pretty street, which also has the awesome purple trees.

On another day, just with Miriam and Deanna, we walked around through San Telmo (where we briefly ran into Gabe and Shanon and Jared) over to La Boca, the rough-neck neighborhood known best for it's brightly-colored row houses and it's soccer team, the Boca Juniors. After wandering around the wrong part of town, we eventually came upon the tourist section, with restored houses and people tangoing everywhere.

And since we're as cheesy as can be sometimes, below are two pictures that are obnoxiously cute--us in front of Rodin's The Kiss sculpture and us in a cardboard cut out of a couple dancing the tango.

Another highlight from last week was going to a professional tango show with Miriam. After some incredible dance and song, Deanna decided to show the dancers how tango really should be done. I have a video of her dancing with the guy and one of me dancing with the woman (who very politely leaned in to me and whispered "stop dancing in circles!"). Actually, I'm in the process of uploading a bunch of videos, so stay stuned for another post coming soon with penguins waddling and glaciers calving in.

The following day, for Gabe's birthday, Randi, Miriam, Gabe and I went to watch a soccer game--next door neighbor rivals Racing Club vs Independiente. What a crazy and fun experience! Songs, dance, chants, flares, flags, smoke, riot police, and oh yeah, 90 minutes of football. Enjoy the montage of pics below (and feel free to blame some random Irish guy for our very dark faces in the first one). Make sure you check out the 8 foot wide moat that ran around the entire soccer field, preventing fans from running on the pitch.

Check out
all the
smoke from
both sides'

We capped off the incredible first week in BsAs with Gabe's birthday dinner (and a belated Thanksgiving dinner) at one of the 18 amazing steak restaurants we've eaten at so far. Again, feel free to blame some random Porteña woman for the awful camera work... We've got a few more days with Randi, Lauren and Bari, and then Deanna and I fly up to Iguazu falls where my old roommate Rachel will meet us for a couple of days there and then a few more days in Paraguay. Can't wait!
Stay tuned for some videos coming soon...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Iceberg, right ahead!

Well we just got back to Ushuaia after our little road-trip. The drive up there was, well, hard--to say the least. God bless Argentina for paving its highways in Patagonia... once we got to the Chilean border (there were 4 border crossings during this excursion), the roads were bumpy, rocky and full of pebbles--not the ideal driving conditions for our little Silver Bullet, a 2-door Volkswagen Gol (stick shift, of course).

But after a ferry ride across the Strait of Magellan, a night stopover in Rio Gallegos (weird town, don't ever go there), a complete inability to move the car in reverse and about 45 stallouts trying to shift into first gear, we made it to El Calafate. Sweet, sweet success! The town was nestled right on a turquoise lake at the foothills of the Andes where the Patagonian steppe meets the forrests--just beautiful.

Lake Argentina, the county's biggest (and prettiest) lake runs right into Glacier National Park, so we headed there for a few days of boating around icebergs and glacier watching. To the right you have us in front of an iceberg the size of our apartment building. The ice itself is crystal clear (they served us whiskey on the boat with ice cubes chipped off from a berg), but every berg looks bright blue--some light refraction trick that we couldn't quite grasp in Spanish (see below, right)

After a while, we came to a bay where we hiked through a forrest to a lake bordered by 4 glaciers. Icebergs were floating all over this misty lake. One of the more surreal things we've ever seen. A picnic during a light sunshower made it a highlight of our trip. Pics below.

The following day we took a bus to another side of the park to see the Perito Moreno glacier. Not as big as a few of the ones we saw the day before, but this one has a tendency to calve in daily. We got as close to this glacier as the park would permit--about 300 meters away in a boat. To give you some idea of the massive size of this thing--the north face is about the height of a 40-story building (see below left for boat/glacier contrast). Seeing huge chunks fall into the water left us speechless. I caught one of the calvings on video and will post it when we get to a faster connection.

That night back in the hostel, we met two American girls traveling through South America. One was from Dallas and the other was from Park Slope, Brooklyn. The craziest thing was that I had met her last summer on the beach in Ecuador... it really is a small world after all. The drive back to Ushuaia was a lot easier--we did it in one day. About an hour before arriving, we were hit with a snow storm. It felt like driving through a black and white movie from the 40s... I hope the picture at the right captures it.

We're uploading two albums of pictures--the rest of Chile and thus far of Argentina. Should be ready in a dew days, so check back soon.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

It's the end of the world as we know it (and we love it)

We're in Ushuaia right now--the sourthenmost city in the world. Argentina's Tierra del Fuego is a gorgeous island that reminds me a lot of Alaska. Absurdly breathtaking. We're so isolated that if you went due south from here, passing through the south pole and then back up north again, you wouldn't reach land until Indonesia. But let's back up a bit... We left off when we were headed into Argentina.

Our bus from Valparaiso took us winding through the Andes at the base of Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Western hemisphere. We made it to Mendoza in the late afternoon and explored the town (which we expected to look like Napa or Santa Barbara, not a bustling, spread out industrial town with 800,000 residents).

We spent a few days touring vineyards and tasting the best malbecs in the world but our first attempt at locating a top notch winery was doomed from the begining. We were given 5 sets of different directions to the same vineyards...

We chose the one that sounded the most reliable and rode a bus for 45 minutes, which eventually dropped us off in the middle of grape vines and nothing else. Long story short, we flagged down a lower-end vineyard pickup truck and had him drive us back into town. Travel tip: when in Mendoza, hire a car and driver to take you through the vineyards.

Afterwards, we settled on a standard mini-tour of two vineyards. Above on the left is me drinking from the biggest barrel in the region (I would be willing to bet a bottle of wine that our whole apartment back in NYC would fit inside the barrel--see picture above).

On our last day, we went to Ruca Mallen, which had the most amazing five-course lunch with divine wine pairings. We met the lovely couple above on the right, Cliff and Phyllis. Originally from Boston, they have retired to Florida and spend a great deal traveling the world. We shared a few glasses of wine and some great conversation, and they invited us to go to the next winery with them on their tour (Carmelo Patti, above holding the bottle of wine--note: his Cabernet Sauvignon is Deanna's new all-time favorite wine). Little did we know, they also arranged to pick up our tab for lunch. How generous! We can't wait to return the favor.

We took an overnight bus to Buenos Aires and spent a low-key day getting a feel for the town in preparation for our two week stint there starting on the 17th. From there we caught an early morning flight to Ushuaia (after a mini-debacle of going to the wrong airport at 4am, luckily we eventually made our flight 30 seconds before they closed the gate) where we currently are.

Our first excursion was to a penguin colony. Only 15 people are allowed on the tiny island at a time (and 45 total per day), so we were really lucky to spend a few hours with 20,000 penguins. To the left is Deanna doing her best penguin waddle impression. Below are a bunch of pictures we took there--we hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoyed the penguins! (Yes, that's a rainbow above the pengiuns in the third picture...)

Then we celebrated Deanna's birthday with a very relaxing day at a spa overlooking the Beagle Channel. Afterwards, we went to an amazing dinner at (according to 2005 survey) the best restaurant in Argentina, Kaupé. Thanks for that gift, Mom and Dad! Tomorrow we rent a car to drive through Patagonia up to El Calafate to the National Glacier Park there.