Friday September 1st – Went to a Thai restaurant that just opened up in our neighborhood. Our friend Ricardo told us about it and said that he knows the owner. Since I’ve been complaining about the lack of ethnic restaurants in our area and the fact that it’s only a few blocks from our house we were thrilled to try it. The décor was very elegant with huge ornamental paper umbrellas hanging from the ceiling creating a wonderful sky of round shapes of various sizes and colors. We sat down and the young waiter offered us a glass of champagne while we decided on what to order, I like this tradition! He then explained that the food can be very spicy, we know that some Argentines aren’t used to spicy food so we assured him that we really like it that way. The menu had several pages of maps of Thailand and various travel articles, a very neat touch to learn about the country. We ordered lemon grass soup that came in a clay pot shaped like a chicken, above a bed of red hot coals. The waitress said she hates the thing, as it kind of wobbles about on it’s base. I thought it was very cool, but then again, I wasn’t the one trying to serve hot soup to others. The lemon grass soup was delicious with big chunks of fresh ginger in it. We also ordered two other dishes that were wonderful. The owner came over to introduce herself and check that everything was perfect, we told her how great everything was and complimented the chef, who she informed us was a family member. I asked her how business was doing and she said that even though she had only been open 2 weeks that the restaurant was doing well. I was glad to hear this as I’d hate for her to close the doors on this wonderful place. As we were leaving about 11:00 pm, the restaurant was filling up nicely. A quick stroll and we were back home, boy I love not getting in a car to go to dinner.
Saturday September 2nd – The days are getting longer and the huge Palo Barracho tree in the courtyard of our apartment is starting to get leaves on it again. It’s a wonderful tree and when it has leaves it’s filled with noisy chirping birds, a very nice thing to have in the city and the cats love to lay on the deck and watch them fly in and out.
Our friend Diego invited us to his house for his birthday party. Ron had started coming down with a spring cold a few days before and I was now coming down with it. I really wanted to stay home and go to bed, but also wanted to wish Diego a happy birthday. Like the previous dinner party he invited us to, he again had some wonderful dishes for dinner. Afterwards as a party game we were all given sheets of paper that we were told not to look at. He then turned out the lights and explained (all in rapid Spanish) that the piece of paper explained an action to perform when the lights were turned back on, you were then to find others that were performing the same action as yourself and form a group with them. I was supposed to act like a military soldier goose stepping in a parade, Ron was supposed to pound his chest and scream like Tarzan. I have no idea what the other group was doing as there was much confusion as people traveled about the room. After we formed into 3 separate groups he then explained that each group would get a sheet of paper with 10 questions on it and we would have one minute to answer as many as the questions as a group as we could, the question sheets would then rotate among the groups and we would get another sheet with 10 questions, this would happen once more until we had all answered 30 questions. I ended up being in a group with Ignacio and since there was a time limit he wasn’t able to translate the questions for me. It seemed that a lot of the questions were nursery rhymes where you had to complete the rhyme. Diego’s sister was in our group and since Diego had created the questions, she knew many of the same nursery rhymes and she was rattling off many of the answers. After all the questions were answered, one of the other guys in my group said to me, “Don’t feel bad, I’m an Argentine and I didn’t know a single answer!” We then exchanged our answers with another group so Diego could read the answers and we could correct another group’s answers. There was much hooting, hollering and laughing as each group made fun of the other groups answers, their incorrect assumptions, bad guesses, etc. My face was beginning to ache from laughing so much. I had no idea what was going on, I felt like I was in a Federico Fellini film. Our group ended up winning with the most correct answers and there was much chest pounding and boasting of our prowess.
Diego then explained the next part of the challenge, he was going to play a cassette tape that had some music recorded on it. The song would play a few bars, and then pause, and the group was supposed to start singing the missing words. Each group would rotate. Most of the songs were Spanish but a few were in English. This again was hilarious as people would sing, squawk and bellow their best imitation of the singer.
After the signing contest it was about 12:30 am and the party seemed like it was just getting going. However, with our colds and not feeling well, we wished Diego happy birthday and excused ourselves from the party and walked home. A very enjoyable evening.
Monday September 4th – Because our colds were now firmly settled in our congested noses and throbbing heads, Spanish class was agony. After class, we canceled classes for the rest of the week.
September 7th – Ron did a load of laundry. Our little office area has a window into the servicio area where the washing machine is. We were both sitting at our computers when the machine changed cycles and you could tell from the way it sounded that something was wrong. Ron went over to the machine and tried to get the lid open, but it had locked shut because of the spin cycle. I was worried something was caught in the belt and the motor was going to burn up. Ron tried a few things and we decided something was broken and gave Ignacio a call to ask him if he had a service repair company to come take a look at it. He said he didn’t and Ron told him that he would open up the washing machine and see if he could fix it ourselves before we called someone. I was thinking that this was going a little beyond the call of duty as a good renter to try and fix the washing machine ourselves, but then I figured, what could it hurt? Ron would open up the back and not be able to fix it, so then we’d call someone. He pulled the machine away from the wall and did a good job cleaning up the floor and all the cat fur balls that had rolled underneath it. I walked by and noticed some of the buttons on the front of the machine and some of them said “FAST” and “SLOW”. I asked Ron if he had just pressed the “SLOW” button by mistake and he gave me this big, “HOW DUMB DO YOU THINK I AM?”, look.
I then went back into the office and started working on my computer. I noticed Ron pushed the washing machine back and started another load of clothes going.
“You fixed it?”, I asked incredulously.
“Of course I did!”, he said.
“What did you do?”
“I’m just sooooooooo good at fixing things, I AM SO GOOD!”
“Admit it, you just pressed the “FAST” button back in didn’t you?”, I said. We both cracked up over this one.
Ron bought some empanadas for lunch and put them in a glass baking dish to heat up in the oven. He took the glass dish out of the oven and put it on the marble countertop. He then remembered that cooks use marble countertops to make fudge on because it draws the heat of the chocolate so quickly, the fudge hardens. Before he could react the sides of the baking dish shattered first, almost exploding outward. He then tried to scoop out the empanadas as the glass bottom continued to pop and crack like popcorn. Hopefully he’ll never rest a hot dish on the marble countertop again.
Monday September 10th – – At our Spanish class I asked my teacher about a “Pregunta del Día” I clipped out of a local paper. It was one of those “Man on the street questions”. It was asking if people thought there would be a return to “carpa blanca”. I got out the dictionary and translated that “carpa” is a “tent”, so I was wondering what the “white tent” signified as I couldn’t figure it out from the 3 responses. Turned out the “carpa blanca” was a demonstration a few years ago by some school teachers who camped out in a big white tent in front of the congress building when they lowered their salaries. They went on a fast to protest the action. With the current economic situation the government has again been lowering salaries, typically the salaries of the lowest paid. Of course, they wouldn’t touch the salaries of the high paid politicians.
Ron went to pay for our airplane tickets to Ushuaia, at the tip of South America, for our Antarctic cruise. It’s exciting to think about the coming cruise. He also asked the travel agent about tickets to New Zealand and it seems like the airfare is going to be cheaper then going to the USA.
That night we were listening to a music CD as I made dinner. It’s a recording of a live concert in Paris and several times after a song the singer called out “Merci Bo Coup” as the audience claps. Ron walked in just after she said that and he said, “Did she just say ‘I gotta poop?’” Now, whenever Ron heads for the bathroom, I say, “Merci Bo Coup”
Tuesday September 11th - An Argentine friend called us around 11:30 am. I heard panic in Ron’s voice as he said, "Turn on CNN, he said that the World Trade Center has collapsed" I said, "Ron, you must have misunderstood him, how could that possibly happen?" Of course, we, like the rest of the world, spent the rest of the day in horror and disbelief. Many countries have experienced horrible terrorism, but this is so BIG. I'm really worried about the repercussions. Later that evening when Kabul started getting bombed, I told Ron, I NEED A DRINK! How can the acts of a few affect the entire world like this?
Wednesday September 12th – I woke up and turned on CNN. It was not a bad dream (as I hoped). Bush said this morning, "This is an act of war". Other people have been saying it, but this is the first time the president had said it. I continue to watch CNN.
After a few hours of watching the news, I had to do something normal. I washed the windows and cleaned the bathtub. Ron asked me, "What are you doing?" And I replied, "Something that I know how to do." For a few minutes, only a few, I was in control of my world.
Thursday September 13th – I continue watching CNN. A deep depression is setting in, I tell Ron I wanted to go to the gym. I felt the need to get outside and away from the news. In the gym there is a big bank of televisions that broadcast the CNN sports channel. They occasionally interrupt the sports to show pictures of the terrorist act. I groan uncontrollably.
I hope tomorrow I can begin some closure on these terrible events.
Friday September 14th – I read wonderful tributes being sent via email from friends and loved ones. Our friend in California, Dana, emailed us that some idiot just tried to obtain access to the SF Airport runways from a small boat on the Bay. There had been bomb scares every hour for every public place, the Golden Gate Bridge will remain closed (has been since...) through Sunday, SFO remains on high alert; they've opened, closed, opened, closed, opened the airport as various problems arise and are controlled. Last night two more possible hijackings were thwarted, closing JFK and La Guardia again after they had reopened.
I was hoping such things wouldn’t happen. How can kooks can do such things?... I was even outraged when some idiots with cell phones glued to their heads were waving and smiling at the cameras when someone was being detained for questioning at the hotel in Boston. I hoped their mothers, wives or girlfriends slapped them upside the head out of disrespect when they got home.
That night we lit some candles on our balcony at 8pm (our time) for the candle vigil. I looked at the other balconies, I didn't see any other candles, but someone was standing outside on their balcony and they waved at me. I totally lost it, such a simple thing, lighting a candle, but it sure helped release the emotions that were bottled up inside me. It was the first time I cried since this happened and it was a duuzy (wonder if that word will be in spell checker!).
I started feeling physically ill when hearing the words from the Taliban leader, that Afghanistan thinks Osama bin Laden isn't to blame and that America is looking for an excuse to attack them. I was really hoping that Mullah Muhammad Omar would turn him over for trail (if he's the one found responsible), but it doesn't look that way. I'm afraid we are in store for a long, drawn out exercise in futility and more destruction. How can the words "holy" and "war" not only be in the same sentence, but used right next to each other?
That night we went to dinner. It was a glorious walk in a beautiful city. It was at this place called "Grant's", as in General Grant’s. Have no idea why they have a chain called that.... It's one of those buffet places, I've never liked buffet places, I always eat too much and warm food sits too long in steam trays. However, as far as buffets go, this place is good. It's big, noisy and filled with people. I wanted to get lost in a crowd. Since it's popular, the food is very fresh and funny enough they have a big section of Chinese and Japanese food. So when you're really craving Chinese or Japanese food, it's a good place to get your "fix". We ordered the most expensive bottle of wine they had, $18. I felt like we needed to celebrate life and going out to dinner. Such simple things, it all seemed so normal. I got a big plate of nigiri sushi, a big plop of wasabi and proceeded to get major head rushes from the wasabi. We walked home and I looked at the beautiful buildings, all lit up. Life is such a glorious gift, such a wonderful thing, like a dandelion seed bloom to a child, you hold it up, marvel at its beauty, its perfection, its symmetry, and then you blow it all away, throw the stem away, and then go skipping through the forest, laughing. I hope we can all go through skipping through the forest soon, laughing, smelling the scent of pine and splash in some puddles.
Wednesday September 19th – Ron wanted to matte and frame some pictures he took. This new store opened up by us that carries paper and art supplies and it looks fantastic on the inside. There are these beautiful old oak dressers with ornamental brass handles that they have the paper and cardboard stored in. Ron went in and asked them for a sheet of matte board approximately 3 x 4 feet and they said it was $28. After I picked Ron up off the floor from his near fainting over hearing the price, he decided to just get some sheets of heavy stock paper to do the framing. The sheets were only 35 cents a piece which Ron thought more reasonable then $28, however, I calculated that a full 250 sheet ream of the cardstock would cost $87.50, I guess it’s all relative. Ron took the cardstock and glued several different colors together to make a multi colored frame, it was very impressive. Unfortunately, when the wet glue dried it puckered and buckled the paper and the frame looked terrible. Back to the drawing board. Ron then designed a business card for us on the computer and printed it out on one of the colored cardboard stock sheets, he did a great job and it looked great. However, everyone we give it to can’t read it because Ron tried to cram so much information on the card he must have used a 6 pt font.
Ignacio invited us to dinner at Diego’s house to get together and support each other over the tragic terrorist events. I felt a little guilty because this will make the 3rd time we’ve been over to Diego’s house and we haven’t invited him over to our place once yet. We’ve been so busy and then we caught a spring cold that put a damper on things for a week. Ignacio asked Diego if we could have the dinner at his house because Ignacio shares an apartment with his mother and she had the gas turned off in their apartment because they no longer cook at home. Diego also invited another American friend Tom, who previously took us to the “Feria de Mataderos”. Diego made another wonderful dinner which included a salad with chopped olives, garlic and dried tomatoes followed by a Jewish goulash over risotto pasta instead of noodles. Dessert was ice cream with a wonderful compote of different red berries. As Diego brought out the ice cream with the berry sauce spooned over the top of the ice cream, Tom said, “I saw that HUGE saucepan of berry sauce on the stove when I came in, I’m going to need MUCH MORE then that!” Diego obliged by bringing out the saucepan and heaping some more of the wonderful sauce on Tom’s ice cream. We started talking about the tragic events, how each of us found out about it, how we felt, etc. I was glad no one suggested a moment of silence or other type of prayer as I probably would have been again overpowered with emotions and broke out in sobs at the table. It was good to talk about it and how we each felt about it, all part of the healing process.
Thursday September 20th – Ron went with me to look at 3 apartments that Olga had lined up for us. Two of them I had previously seen alone with Olga and I wanted Ron to see them. Ron hated them all! The apartments were bigger then what the two of us need, but I still thought they had possibilities. Of course with larger apartments come larger expenses and one of the apartments we looked at had a monthly homeowners association fee of almost $800, OUCH!
If you haven’t noticed in the pictures in the “Diary”, I’ve been trying to grow my hair longer. I figure I’ve worn it short for the last 18 years, I’m due for a change. I don’t think I’ve had a haircut since February and I was getting totally fed up with it because my hair looked like a big football helmet on my head. I kept telling Ron that I looked like Donna Reed and he assured me that I looked much more like Mary Tyler Moore. I was NOT amused!
Mary Tyler Moore
I finally got fed up with my helmet hair and went to a hair salon (peluquería), I wanted to go somewhere where they might be able to style it a little instead of just a regular barber. I used my standard “¿Hablá inglés?” I was a little worried when they said, “No”, because I knew I was going to have a hard time explaining how I wanted my hair cut. Luckily this girl was sitting next to me getting her hair done and she offered to translate, I was very thankful for this but they had put some weird plastic skull cap on her head and as we talked the hair dresser was reaching through the skull cap with a hooked needle and pulling out strains of hair through this colander thing on her head. It was VERY disconcerting. I didn’t know whether to grimace or laugh, so I tried to lock eyes with her and ignore what strange ritual was being done to her head. Federíco did a good job and I was very relieved to have less of a helmet on my head.
The night before Diego had told us about a friend who opened a restaurant and we were dying to try it. Tom mentioned that he had plans to meet with our friend Dee and Stephanie and asked if we wanted to join him. Hmmmm, let me think for a second, a good restaurant with good food?????? OF COURSE WE’LL GO!! The restaurant is called Restó and is in the rear of the lobby of the Architecture Association building. When we showed up I was glad Diego told us about this place as being located in the rear of a building lobby, I would have never found it on my own. We had an excellent meal.
Friday September 21st – Frances, one of the members of the expatriate email community I belong to organized a dinner at a co-op called “Manos de la Tierra” (Hands of the Earth). She buys goat cheese from them and the purpose of “Manos” is to promote regional produce and arts. They've started a catering service and sent her some information and a menu which she sent to the email list and asked if there was any interest in attending.
They agreed to do an event for a group of 10 or more in an old house in the San Telmo area. San Telmo is where all the tango clubs are and the neighborhood has some wonderful old buildings. Ron and I took a taxi there and were planning on walking home, probably a 25 minute walk but I thought it would be good to walk off the dinner. The home was incredible with huge 15 foot ceilings of arched brick. There were 4 servers who served wine and appetizers while everyone showed up. It was great to reacquaint with some and meet new people. To save on the cost of the evening, they had narrowed the courses to 2 choices each (except for the appetizers) and it was WONDERFUL. I had the salad with caramelized sweetbreads and for dinner I had the risotto with mushrooms. Ron had the salmon pate and the lamb. We both ordered the dessert with dulce de leche (the ever present carmel that Argentines put on EVERYTHING) but it was way too sweet for me and I gave mine to Ron who merrily ate it all up. For those Spanish readers, here was what they served to us that night.
Menú de la Tierra
Focaccias con pasta de queso de cabra, tomates secos, guacamole y tapenade de aceitunas negras, alcaparras y anchoas.
Mesa de panes caseros, de campo, integral y bollitos.
Grisínes de romero y parmesano.
Endibias con pasta de queso.
Pollo al curry agridulce con manzana.
Pasta de garbanzo, ají y limón, acompañado de pan rústico de nuez.
Fresco de salmón ahumado.
Ensalada verde con mollejas laqueadas.
Cordero patagónico al vino tinto con papas doradas y tomates quemados.
Risotto de hongos mendocinos.
Flan de dulce de leche.
Sopa de frutas rojas con helado.
Colleen and Gary offered to give us a ride home, normally I would have enjoyed the walk home but we still hadn’t even packed for our trip to Bariloche the next day so we took them up on their offer of a ride home. A great evening.
Saturday September 22nd - We left for a weeks vacation in Bariloche. Bariloche is Argentina’s premier ski resort area and is nestled in the foot of the Andes. While waiting for our plane at the airport a woman came up to us and asked if we had a ride from the airport to our hotel. She said that for $20 they could have a driver waiting for us at the gate with our name on a card to take us to our hotel. She said it was a 35 kilometer trip and although we figured $20 was overpriced, it sounded like a convenient way to find a ride in an unfamiliar airport. We had a “slight” problem finding where we should pick up our ride when we went to Chile, so this sounded like a good idea.
Airport security had been tightened up even though this was a domestic flight all within Argentina. They don’t have electronic check in to verify who was getting on the plane, so they put all the luggage on the tarmac and you had to go pick up your luggage and hand it back to the man to put back on the cart to put into the plane. Kind of a crazy way to do it, but no one was complaining about the extra security and I was glad to see it. However, during the flight they still had the cockpit door open through much of the flight and people were taking little children up to "see" the pilots. Ugh! I didn't feel to good about that. Argentines appear supportive of the US, but the government has taken a neutral stance on any military action. That is not unusual, Argentina has been neutral in all wars, that's one of the reasons why the country was so rich in the early part of the 20th century, they were selling beef to war torn Europe during the world wars.
As promised, our driver, Jan, was waiting for us as we exited the baggage claim area. He spoke very good English and pointed out things as we drove through the countryside and then through Bariloche. We were actually staying in a neighboring ski resort at the base of a mountain called “Catadral”. Jan offered his services as a driver if we wanted to take a tour of the area. He said it would be more expensive then the tour buses, but that he gives extra stops and detail the other tour doesn’t. We took his business card and told him we’d call him if we needed a driver.
Our hotel in Bariloche at "Cerro Catadral"!
The hotel's lobby, look at the view out the windows!
At the hotel we met Christina who appeared to be the hotel’s activity director. She could speak pretty good English and pointed out a man who was sitting at the bar who was from Tucson, Arizona, named Richard. We chatted with him for awhile and asked him about his opinions of Argentina so far. He had been in Buenos Aires before this and was commenting on how thin and in-shape most people appear to be. I agreed with him that people really take care of their figures here, I don’t know how they do it with eating so much beef and eating at 11 o’clock at night, but somehow they do it. He was particularly mesmerized by Christina who was a very attractive, thin woman in her mid 40s. We wanted to see a little bit of the ski resort area, it’s not really a town, but had about 30 buildings with various businesses. It was pretty chilly and started to rain so we stopped at a nice cozy restaurant called “El Manú” to have a beer.
There was a nice fireplace in the back of the room with some sofas around it. A woman was holding a small baby and there were a few other people in the restaurant having a beer. The server came over and he was a young guy and started chatting with us. Turns out he is the owner of the place and the woman and baby by the fire was his wife and first born. He brought us some locally brewed dark beer, which was very good, and some homemade bread and cheese to munch on. It was great! We had another beer while we waited for the rain to stop.
That night we decided to eat in the hotel restaurant, a pleasant, but not very memorable meal.
Sunday September 23rd – After breakfast we saw Richard in the lobby and he said he was taking a Remis into Bariloche and asked if we would like to share the taxi and split the bill. Sounded great to us. We walked around town looking in the store windows, as like most touristy towns everywhere there were plenty of T-Shirt shops and stores selling touristy tacky crap.
As we were approaching a corner, there was a guy in a full body chicken suit who handed me a flyer for their restaurant and jabbered something in Spanish to me, flapping his “wings”, clucking and pointing down the street to the restaurant. You cannot help but smile at a guy in a chicken suit. We walked more around town and decided to have some lunch, I thought it appropriate that we should go to the restaurant the guy in the chicken suit was advertising. He was no longer standing on the corner, but I did see him inside the restaurant. I smiled and waved at him. We had a nice lunch of blue cheese empanadas, some sangria made with local wine and a pizza with olives. We were stuffed!
Richard told us that they had a bus that goes from Bariloche back to “Catadral” where we were staying. It was only $2.40 per person, much better then taking a $10 Remis. Since we had a big lunch I didn’t really want a large dinner so we decided to go back to “Manú” the place where we got the good beer, homemade bread and cheese the day before. The owner came over and we started talking with him as he explained some of the dishes. They had some wonderful sounding goulash dishes and we ordered two of them and a bottle of red wine. With the fire going in the fireplace this is a VERY homey place. I noticed when I went to use the restroom that they have multiple sleeping rooms with bunk beds, it appears that it’s also a hostel kind of place for people on a budget. As we were eating young people would come in and share a pizza, obviously watching their pennies. They’d nurse a beer for 2 hours. I wanted to buy them a round of beers but didn’t want to insult anyone, although I highly doubt anyone would turn down a free beer.
Monday September 24th – After breakfast we went to sign up for something called a “circuit tour” because it takes you in a loop around the area. Unfortunately, we got there a little late and we couldn’t go on that day’s tour. I remembered that the driver that picked us up at the airport said he would give us a personalized circuit tour but that it would be more then the scheduled tours. The scheduled tours were only $13 a person and I thought he said he could give us the tour for $15, I assumed that was per person. We called Jan up and he said he could be there at noon. I purposely took a million pictures on this vacation, saying to myself, “I’ll just pick the best pictures and delete the rest”. Well…. I’m a terrible editor and you’re about to see a lot of pictures that look the same, but I couldn’t bear not to include them.
Jan gave us a great tour and at one of our stops pointed out some bamboo that was growing everywhere. He said that every 40 years the bamboo gets a flower around it’s stalk and that the mice eat the flowers, they then get very thirsty and go to the lake to drink. These flowers have a strange property that they expand 10 fold when they get wet and the poor mice explode after drinking some water. He said it’s one way to get rid of the rats every 40 years. Jan stopped the car next at a beautiful cliff face and showed us a hikers cemetery. Apparently this is a world known place for rock climbers and those that have died there have been buried at the base of the mountain. Ron and I hiked to the base of the mountain to see the graves. I think they’re buried there because they didn’t want to carry the bodies off the mountain!
When we returned to the car Jan pointed out 7 condors that were flying high above us. Some of the mountains are over 1,800 meters above sea level and you could see the condors flying around the peaks. Even from that distance you could tell the birds were huge.
Jan also pointed out Bariloche’s highest mountain, Cerro Tronador, “Thunder mountain”, so named for the sound of the glaciers and avalanches at it’s peak. We made another stop along a vista view and there were some people selling home made liqueurs, one was made with honey and Ron had to buy a bottle of it. We next stopped at Bariloche’s most famous hotel, the Llao Llao. This hotel is beautiful but way at the outskirts of the city. A taxi costs $20 to get there from town, a 25 – 30 minute ride. Jan said that if you we wanted to visit the lobby the hotel asks that you buy a café or soft drink in the restaurant which sounded like an OK proposition. After being seated in the magnificent dining area we decided to order a Manhattan with a lemon twist (to hell with having a soft drink!). It was WONDERFUL!
The Llao Llao hotel!
Manhattans in the dining room!
When Jan drove us back to our hotel we found out that I misunderstood his saying the tour would be $15 to be really $50. Ouch! His tour last almost 4 hours and was actually worth $50, but when you’re expecting $30 and the price is $50, it was a slight surprise.
There is a really elegant hotel a short distant from our hotel and we decided to have dinner there that night. It was VERY fancy and delicious, with a matching expensive price.
Tuesday September 25th – We took a boat trip to Isla Victoria y Bosque de Arrayanes (Victoria Island and the Arrayanes Forest). The young kid at the tourist booth in our hotel said a taxi to the port where the catamarans leave would be $10. We were a little put out when we arrived at the port and the driver said it was $20. Ron tried to explain that the hotel said it would only be $10 and the driver radioed and verified the price was really $20. He asked if wanted to be picked up after the trip and Ron laughed and said, “Not for $20!”.
The trip on the lake was beautiful and the weather was very nice. It is said that Walt Disney visited Bosque de Arrayanes and got the inspiration for Bambi from the forest.
When we returned Ron said that we would take the bus back into town. We walked out to the bus stop and it was very cold and windy and I was cursing Ron for being so damn cheap, luckily, we only waited about 15 minutes before the bus showed up and took us into town.
Christina called us down to the lobby to have a drink and talk about discounts we could receive at local restaurants. We ordered a glass of red wine and she proceeded to show us a list of restaurants that would give us a discount on a meal. She then, ever so slyly, led into the timeshare discussion. SHE SELLS TIMESHARES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ugh, you can’t get away from this scourge even in a beautiful, quiet setting like this. We told her we already have a few timeshares and aren’t interested in any others.
The hotel had a huge hot tub almost the size of a swimming pool. Luckily we brought swim suits and tried out the tub. Two thirds of the tub is outside and the other third is inside the building, you kind of “swim” under a partition to get from one side to the other. It was wonderful to look up at the stars in the cold night air, nestled down low to keep warm. It started to rain, which I thought added to the effect, but Ron didn’t like the cold drops falling on his head so he swam inside. I stayed a little while longer, looking up at the clouds, the moon and what stars I could see through the clouds, steam rising all around me.
Wednesday September 26th – One of the places that offered a discount from the hotel was a restaurant called “Familia Weiss”. Apparently the Weiss family was one of the original Swiss families to settle in Bariloche and they are now famous for their ahumados or smoked delicacies. We ordered smoked appetizers of trout, wild boar and deer. Lunch was wonderful except for a little child who was a hellion and totally unsupervised by his parents. I guess they long ago gave up with trying to tame the little bastard. He proceeded to scream, yell and break dishes at regular intervals. I felt sorry for the waiter who kept cleaning everything up, I didn’t see the parents offer any kind of apologies or acknowledgements to him. If I was him, I would have picked up the kid and thrown him into the adobe brick oven they had prominently displayed in the kitchen.
We walked to the Paleontología Museum we saw in our initial drive into town but it was closed.
As we were waiting to take the bus back into Catadral a taxi driver stopped and got out of his cab. He was dressed as a gaucho with leather pants, vest, hat, the works. There were 4 of us waiting and he said he would take us all to Catadral for the price of the bus. Although we didn’t know each other, we all agreed that was a good deal and jumped in his cab. He immediately turned on his meter which I thought was strange because we agreed on the cost of the fare ahead of time. He was being very friendly and chatting us all up as I watched the meter quickly tick past the $10 marker that he said he was going to charge us. I was thinking he was going to pull something on us and say, “Oh, I thought it would be “close” to $10 but I couldn’t be sure!”. I was thinking that I wasn’t going to say anything till we got our bags out of the trunk, then just give him $5 and leave no matter what he said. The fare kept ticking away, up to $16 before we arrived. We got out of the cab, got our bags, and handed him $5. He thanked us and went on his way. Ron wondered why he bothered to turn on the meter if he was only going to charge us a set price and I thought maybe he turned on the meter in case a policeman stopped him, since he was basically stealing customers from the bus stop.
At the hotel Christina called us and said that there was going to be music in the lobby at night, hmmmm, another plot to sell us a timeshare I thought? Our lunch was huge so we decided to skipp dinner but we did go down to the lobby and listen to the singers that night.
Thursday September 27th – There was a tram cable car that goes to the top of the mountain Catadral and we decided to take it today. I was really waiting for the weather to be clear but it had been cloudy all week and we didn’t want to miss it. Ron and I like to cross country ski but since it’s spring there is no snow at the lower elevations. We got up to the top of the mountain and it was beautiful. Although it was pretty much socked in with clouds, it was still fun to see the skiers and snow boarders swooshing all around us. We watched until we got cold and then snuck inside the restaurant for a $4 cup of hot chocolate. Although outrageously priced, the hot chocolate was made from scratch and delicious.
We took the bus into town and went into a local museum, on the first floor was stuffed local indigenous animals. There was a “flock” of small children, probably only 4 or 5 who were noisily sprawled all over the floor. Being the youngest of 6 children in my family, I’ve never had to deal with youngsters and I’m with W.C. Fields in finding them highly irritable and annoying. I waited for the teacher to finally clear them out in order that I could see the exhibits better. We moved onto the 2nd floor which included artifacts from Argentine history and explorers. Again, much to my chagrin, there were lots of school students, but at least these were around 12 or so and more well behaved. They must have heard us talking English as they all started following us around, staring at us and basically making me feel like a fly under a microscope. Of course I’m not a total grouch and I’m not made of stone, it was kind of cute that they were interested in us because we were from the USA. I saw a flock of about 8 girls circle Ron and start asking him questions. Before something similar could happen to me, I made a beeline for the next room not wanting to get cornered. Sure enough, a group of about 6 boys followed me and said, “Hi” to me and asked what my name was. I told them my name and then asked what their names were and they then proceeded to run off and tell their friends my name was “Peter”.
Two huge stuffed Condors.
We walked across the street and there was this really cool store that I just had to go into. I saw some candle holders that I thought were just TOO COOL, they were very unusual but pretty expensive.
We headed over the dollhouse sized Paleontología Museum. As we entered there was a box asking for a dollar donation. The curator (or a part time student) ran over and turned on the lights in the “museum”. It was really a garage about 20 feet long. Although small, the museum was very well organized and extremely interesting, a great bargain! Walking around the museum I kept thinking of those damn candle holders I saw in the store.
We stopped at an “Irish” pub I had seen the day before with a Guinness Beer sign hanging outside. Horrors of horrors, they didn’t have Guinness on tap but only in a can. We asked what local dark beer they had and ordered a pint of that. As we were sitting enjoying our beer, I asked Ron what the girls had asked him in the museum and he said that they asked him his name and then how old he was, this cracked me up! You could tell the children didn’t know a lot of English words, so this was probably regurgitated from phrases they learned. I was looking around the busily decorated pub, there were signs and placards everywhere, they even had a huge framed picture of George from the “Jerry Seinfeld” show where he posed in his underwear for Kramer because he thought the girl in the photo developing shop was looking at his photos. I saw a funny advertisement for beer that showed a wolf sitting at a bar with a big glass of dark beer surrounded by lambs also enjoying a dark beer with a quote that said, “No sigas al rebaño”. I thought it was a funny poster but didn’t know what that meant so I wrote it down.
Drinking the beers I made a decision that I wanted those damn candle holders so we walked across the street and asked the girl to wrap them up for me and I’ll be back the next day to pay for them.
Once I got back to our room, I tried to translate the sign with the wolf drinking the beers with the lambs and to the best of my translation it means “You do not follow the flock”.
Ron and I spent some time sitting in the hotels beautiful lobby while Ron did Spanish homework and I read my book.
Friday September 28th – We took another boat trip to Puerto Blest and Lago Frias. They say this area is a rainforest and is the wettest spot in Argentina and that it rains 280 days a year here. Turned out this was the clearest day of our vacation. It was beautiful.
We took the ferry to Puerto Blest and then there was a short bus ride and another boat trip across Lago Frias (Cold lake). Some people were taking a longer excursion to Chile but we just took the boat ride across the lake and back.
Once we got back to Puerto Blest we had a nice lunch in an old hotel and then continued on to another stop where there was a 700 step staircase up to a waterfall. People were naturally congregating at the first vista lookout and I said to Ron, “Let’s continue on to the top and get a view all by ourselves before they get there.” We huffed and puffed our way up the stairs, the falls loudly splashing along on our left. The falls were very pretty but what was really fantastic was at the top there was a lake that fed the waterfall, surrounded by huge mountains on all sides. It was truly beautiful and oh so very quiet, I would have loved to take a canoe out onto the lake. We stood, in silence, hearing only our breathing from the long walk up the mountain, smelling the air, gazing at the scenery, WOW! You really felt like the only people on the planet.
As we returned we asked the guide on the ferry if there was any room on any of the shuttles back into town and she said she didn’t think so but would check for us. I wasn’t really looking forward to standing in the cold waiting for another bus that stops every 100 yards to pick up more people. We were marching out of the parking lot when luckily the woman called us over and said there was room on one of the shuttles, so we got a free, quick ride back into Bariloche.
We stopped to buy my candle holders and the girl in the store was very nice. As she wrapped them we talked about Argentina and the economy, she, like all Argentines, were very skeptical about us moving from the USA to here to start a business. They all think we are crazy. As she wrapped them she apologized for not having them ready, but she said, “In these times you should see what you’re buying and it’s better to see me wrap them up then get home and find you have a box full of bricks instead of what you paid for!”
We got to the bus stop about 30 minutes before the next bus. Having left all our warm clothing in storage in California, we wanted to buy some cheap sweaters for our trip to Antarctica this December. We went into a store and bought 2 mixed wool and acrylic sweaters for $15 a piece and 4 Bariloche T-Shirts for the gym for $5 a piece. Ron ran into one of the chocolate stores and bought another box of chocolates, “You don’t want to run out do you??”, he said.
We returned to the bus stop with 10 minutes to go. The same cabbie from the other day dressed as a gaucho stopped again and offered to take us back to the hotel. When I said there were only 2 of us he said that he would take the two of us for $9, I told him “¡No gracias, nosotros es muy economical!”, “Yes……, muy economical” he grumbled as he got back into his cab and drove off. We took the bus home for $4.80.
Saturday September 29th – We got up and packed our suitcases for the return trip home. Somehow, no matter how hard you try, you always pack too much and our bags were bursting from the seams. I again said, “If this suitcase makes it home without exploding, I’m going to write Samsonite and thank them for a great product!”.
At the airport we had some beers while waiting for our flight. There was this couple next to us who had a young child running around. I turned to look at them and noticed that in their baby stroller was the girl’s doll. It was hairless, with one eye gouged out and a chunk taken out of it’s head. It truly looked the bride of “Chuckie” from that horror film where a doll comes to life and starts killing people. That thing would give me nightmares if it was mine.