Monday, May 21, 2012

London calling...

Packing up for the next adventure: London, Firenze and Berlin. Fascinator carefully placed in suitcase. Everything else is negligible.

Monday, November 1, 2010

"The best meal I've ever had"

That was Jordo's reaction after we had dinner at Cava de Cano restaurant outside of Mendoza. And let me tell you: It was fabulous. If you're on Facebook, check out Jordo's photos to get an idea why.

We had a private room all to ourselves. We walked in to find a table covered -- literally every corner of it -- with a variety of appetizers. There were meats and cheeses and pickled vegetables and wine-cooked rice and five different kinds of beans and quinoa and roasted vegetables and bread and an unending flow of wine. That was the starting course, one they left on the table throughout the meal so you could pick as wanted. I can't even tell you how disappointed I am in us for not making nearly enough progress with the starters. You would have thought we were amateurs.

Then came four small courses set by the restaurant. The first was a beef stew with carrots, onions and potatos that had us soaking up the juices with bread. Then a pasta bolognese course, which was just meh, followed by a squash soup that was so delicious we cleaned our bowls. Dessert was ice cream with dolce de leche sauce served with a glass of Champagne.

Oh my God, it was awesome. We were there for more than 2 1/2 hours and we could have lingered even longer. Total cost: Something like $70.

Other Mendoza news: We went on what was billed as a winery tour but was actually a pretty lame excuse for one. We saw one bottling plant and one small winery. (Plus an olive oil factory and a candy/liqueur making place as bonuses.) The one thing that made things bearable while also making them unbearable? The woman from Atlanta who had to ask questions about EVERYTHING. Her questions were so random and out there that we'd just wait for the guide to stop talking so she could interject. We also started making up our own stupid questions for her: If zombies invaded your winery, do you think they'd go for the Malbec first or go straight for brains? How do you feel Obama's health care initiative has impacted Argentine wine sales?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Asado is another word for "delicious."

Thanks to a friend, we were invited to a traditional Argentine cook out yesterday afternoon and it did not disappoint.

We had to hire a driver to take us the almost two hour trip into the country. Danny was funny and friendly, filling us in on all the Argentine news as we zoomed down near empty streets. (Not only was it the Census but also the President's husband, himself a former president, had died suddenly.) We stopped at a small, family-owned winery on the way out, one of the only things that was open. We got a personal tour of the vineyards and the wine making operation and then a tasting. Surprise, surprise, we ended up buying a few bottles of wine.

Then on the asado, hosted by the folks at the Vines of Mendoza, an operation that sells vineyards to people. They were entertaining one of their owner couples and a potential owner couple. What did these people do to be able to afford vineyards? Oh, this and that, "I invest in new technology companies," you know how it goes. I asked one of the women at the lunch if she'd fulfilled my dream: Seeing all seven continents. Many times over, she said. I guess I should have figured that since she's been to Antarctica three times alone.

So at the asado, you sit around a big family style table and as things come off the grill, they're brought around to you and you can either take some or not. And the food just kept coming: Steaks and chicken and sausages and on the table there were grilled vegetables and salads. And, because this is a wine making organization, there was wine galore. We ate, had interesting conversations with our hosts, and just spent a wonderful afternoon of slow eating and drinking. It ranks as one of my favorite days here.

(In a twist of odd, one of the guys there knew a friend of ours. It was a day of weird coincidences, as you'll see later.)

On the way back to the city, we took another route so we could go through the Andes. The skies had cleared and we could actually see the peaks, even the snow on some of them.

In short, it was just an amazing ride and an amazing day.

In the evening, we had a strange encounter with a couple who back in Philadelphia live about six blocks from us. (We didn't know them until we sat next to them at a restaurant.) More on that later as I must prepare for dinner in a cave.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hotel Lobby

After the expanse of our apartment in Buenos Aires, the smallness (what's the nice real estate term? cozy?) of our hotel is a big shock. Perhaps bigger, we are now forced to decamp from our tiny room to use the wifi or the computer downstairs. The manager is very sweet, has already helped us line up at some crazy winery (thanks megan for the tip!) and already warned us about the upcoming census.

The departure this morning from BA was a little weird, as the contact guy was supposed to come by at 8 but got there fifteen minutes early, which was about ten minutes after we woke up. A fair amount of scurrying around to get out on time but I think we got everything (we found our house keys in the bottom of a roller I must have thrown them into in a haste). The flight was pretty quick and we are pretty much settled in.

Sorry, I got nothing to write about. Will try and get more tomorrow.


Safe in Mendoza, within yelling distance of the Andes. We could see them as we were flying in. I was taken with how pretty they looked --- and then I thought of the movie ¨Alive.¨

Mendoza is much smaller than Buenos Aires but with wider sidewalks and more of a cafe feel to it. Almost college town-like, as Jordo noted. It´s a town where the siesta is very much alive and well -- everything closes between 1 and 4 pm. And if we were getting hungry in Bs As, we´re in trouble here because no one in Mendoza eats before 9 p.m.

Our accomodations here are not as lux as they were in Bs As. We´re staying at a place called Le Petit Hotel and let me tell you that it lives up to its name. Our room has a bed and that´s about all that it can fit. Very NYC apartment. Still, the people are nice and we don´t require much beyond the bed.

Tomorrow should be interesting: apparently, it´s Census day here in Argentina and everything is closed. We were advised to buy food tonight for tomorrow as restaurants will be closed until late evening. We´ve hired a driver to take us into the country to an old fashioned asado, so we should be ok. I almost wish we were still in Bs As so we could see what it was like when it was all shut down.

- Natalie

Monday, October 25, 2010

Farewell (almost) to Bs. As.

Tomorrow we take off for Mendoza in the north. Seriously wine and steak country. Some thought, though, before we go

1) We notice we're not blogging as much this trip. In part, I think , it's because we have the Internet in our rented apartment so we have it all the time and we're like, "Eh, we'll just blog later." Then we go sit out on our deck and drink wine and read. In Vietnam and Thailand, blogging had to be a special thing, where we'd go to an Internet cafe for a few hours amongst the kids playing their video games

Also, we're doing and seeing a lot of things, but similar things. Historic sites, neighborhoods, etc. Like there's only so many street fairs I can describe. We've basically gone to a street fair a day since we've been here, on average. There are just so many and they're great -- but they don't make good copy. (They do make for some nice new jewelry, though. I'm going to need some extra fingers for all these rings.)

2) Our aforementioned deck is awesome and worth the cost of the apartment rental. It's covered in trees and flowers, giving it a private feel, and it has the comfiest chairs. We've loved renting an apartment. We've had a ritual most mornings: Wake up. I'll scramble some eggs or something while Jordo goes to the store for fresh bread. Breakfast on the deck. Lounging with coffee and Coca Light.

Then we figure out what one thing we want to make sure to do that day. One day it was going to La Boca, the tourist-heavy section of town where scantily-clad tango dancers kept coming up to Jordo and saying, "hooooolaa." (They want you to pay to pose for pictures with them. As one of our new buds here pointed out, "Like I want my souvenir of Argentina to be my husband with another woman.) Another day, it was going to the Slaughterhouse Festival, which was a really cool thing and we got to ride the bus like locals. (Which meant getting smooshed, like locals.) There was native dancing at the S'house Fest and some danged good slaughtered goods, which we happily indulged in.

3) In terms of indulging, it's true: We've been to more vegetarian restaurants than Parrilla -- tradition steak --- ones. But trust me, the one night we did have steak, we made up for not having it earlier. We were both left with serious cases of "beef belly" and had to walk home to try to settle our stomachs. We expect that Mendoza will force us into having more steak, too. We're already invited to a traditional asado, or barbecue, while we're up there, thanks to a connection here.

4) We've met some really nice people throughout the trip, tourists and locals. Shout out to Randy and Natalie of Reno, NV, who hosted us for appetizers and drinks one boozy night this week. Also to the ladies from San Diego, Kristy and Anna, who recommended we try the Thames restaurant. Good call. And to Ian, our local connection.

5) The 80s are alive and well in Argentina. I haven't heard so much Wang Chung and Corey Hart and Duran Duran since 1985. Also, the women here love, love ,love the droopy crotched pants that I had a few pairs of in middle school, the one shouldered t-shirt, and the messy up-do a la Madonna. Members Only jackets? Also in style. Ian, who lives here, said he sometimes thinks of Bs. As. as America in the late 1970s, with all the smoking and people not picking up after their dogs and the fashion choices. Other popular looks: Skin tight jeans that make you look like a blow-up doll and skirts so short you look like you're about to have a gyno exam.

6) And the PDA here? OOC. (Out of control.) Today, I saw this couple going at it like one of them was going off to war. Turns out, they weren't even parting company. They were just having a post lunch make out session in front of the restaurant where Jordo and I were dining before they started to walk down the street with their arms around each other. On the bus the other day, this woman, who was sitting, was examining the belly button of her boyfriend, who was standing, as if she'd discovered some new life form.

Maybe it's just that they're open about sex here. We've noticed condom machines in every restaurant bathroom, no matter how small the place. We were also told that for AIDS awareness month a few years ago, they put a big pink condom on the obelisk (the local Washington monument). That I would have loved to see. Imagine that in D.C.


Slaugherthouse Fest

Well it turns out that we were off by a day on the Slaughterhouse Festival, it 's Sunday not Saturday. Unfortunately we didn't learn that until we had already taken the 45 minute bus ride out there and learned the sad truth. Luckily we made it out the next day.

The bus system here is pretty amazing. They are running on what seems like almost every street, with stops not just on the corners but in the middle or the start of a block. About 300 lines, all of which weave back and forth through areas. The system, as chaotic as it seems, works pretty well. Fares are tiered depending on how far you travel (with the max being 1.75 pesos, or about 45 cents). If you want to find out how to get from point A to point B, you can call a number, tell them your address and where you want to get and they will direct you there. The only tough part are the drivers, which like all other drivers in Buenos Aires like to speed, turn fast and break hard. We survived.

The slaughterhouse festival was interesting. More random argentineans going to a market on the weekend than tourists and most of the stuff for sale was either leather or cowboy themed (the half spoke wheel wine holder was probably the most impressive item for sale). Most As far as food it certainly lived up to its billing, with a grill pit that was probably 12 feet by 12 feet full or various cuts of steak, sausage and chicken. Most of the meat was served on slightly warm bread. It was pretty amazing.

Despite ten days here we only ended up having one big steak meal, a platter combo at one of the more popular places, La Dorita. We thought it was about the most beef one could order for dinner until we saw some old couple having some platter twice the size. For lunch.

Clearly we are soft in our carnivore status. We have ended up eating at more vegetarian restaurants than steakhouses. Let's hope we fix that in Mendoza.