Saturday June 1st, 2002 – Met our friends Felipe and Thomas for lunch at an Italian restaurant called La Parolaccia Trattoria, WOW! A trendy and nicely designed Italian restaurant with the best fried calamari I've ever had in Argentina. Along with the regular menu, they have a prix fix menu for lunch of $7.90 (pesos) for appetizer, entree and dessert. What a bargain! Not only is it cheap, the food was excellent and the tiramisu was heaven. I’m not a big dessert guy (that’s Ron’s job) but tiramisu is a dessert I really enjoy, when it’s great it’s great, however, when it’s bad, tiramisu can be a real disappointment. We also had a bottle of Terrazas Malbec 2001 that was out of this world (I sent Ron out to get more of it and it was $12.49 in the “Norte” supermarket that is right across the street from our apartment). Thomas said the restaurant is always full so reservations are needed. We'll be back.
We then went to an open modern art exhibit near the Abasto shopping center. http://www.baab.com.ar/ for the Bs.As. Art Bureau. There was a modern art gallery nearby that is one of many galleries hosting some kind of exhibit that is currently going on. They had a free hand out that was a supplement in the “La Nacion” newspaper listing all the different galleries, dates, times, etc. It was a hoot, I love modern art, and to top it all off there was a stage for performance artists. We watched for about 10 minutes as 3 lithe, young girls pulled each other's hair and clothes, have no idea what it was supposed to represent, but that's performance art for you. Ron just shook his head from side to side mumbling something about “This is art?!??!”, I loved it.
We then walked down to the Abasto shopping center. I have never been there before, it's in a refurbished beautiful building from 1920 that was originally a produce market. The building is huge, gothic and kind of scary looking. It's just a large mall, but the nice part is on the 3rd floor there is an artisan area with interesting stuff. One guy makes really cool mirrors, one does really cool lamps and shades, one makes beautiful wrought iron furniture, Phillipe bought the biggest bar of scented soap I've ever seen for $3.
Monday June 3rd, 2002 – After our wonderful, long trip to New Zealand, I’ve been getting antsy to get busy and start some kind of business. That was my original intent when we first moved here, to start a computer consulting business along with exporting goods from Argentina. I had previously emailed the relocation company that had moved our things down here from California to ask if they could also help small companies with exporting items from Argentina. They put me in touch with Frank, another American who is currently living in Argentina. Frank met his Argentine wife, Fabiana, in the USA and they had moved to Argentina a few years ago. Frank had previously worked for the relocation company but had since quit to pursue his own business. We had previously emailed each other back and forth in order to schedule a time to meet and today we were finally going to meet at “Un Gallo Para Esculapio”, a restaurant near where they live.
Frank showed up with his new 3 month old baby daughter. We made our introductions and proceeded into the restaurant to have lunch. We each exchanged our “How did we ever get to Argentina?” stories. His wife Fabiana showed up and we had a really nice lunch. The first thing Frank noticed when he moved here from the USA was the lack of different flavors of beer, in most restaurants here you’re lucky if you have a choice of more then 2 flavors of beer. In the US microbreweries have been popular for years offering all sorts of different flavors of beer and Frank’s idea was to contact some local microbreweries to make some flavored beers that he would then import into Buenos Aires, market and sell. We also talked about some exporting ideas and both Frank and Fabiana had some suggestions for me. Another thing that Frank noticed here was the differences in the flavors of desserts, something we also noticed. The desserts here are just very different from what we have come to enjoy in the US. Fabiana started a baking business to make American style desserts such as cheesecake, brownies and cookies and sell them to local restaurants. Frank brought us two pieces to try of their cheesecake. I’m not big on desserts, but I do love cheesecake and I have to admit I’m a big cheesecake snob. I told Frank I would let him know my opinion as soon as I tried it.
I commented to Frank about the restaurant, the lunch was very good and he said that this is one of his customers and that they serve some of their baked goods. The building’s architecture was very interesting with a huge loft area where they had a bookstore. He said the owners are literature lovers and they hold readings and discussion groups in the evening. He also mentioned that the name of the restaurant is a literature reference, supposedly Plato said, “Un gallo para Esculapio” (a chicken for Esculapio) on his death bed. No one has ever figured out who Esculapio was or why Plato owed him a chicken!
We had a wonderful long lunch but we had to run because we had an appointment to meet with our friend Ignacio. Ignacio had purchased an apartment from a friend who was leaving Buenos Aires, it’s a strange apartment with several rooms on the main floor around a central courtyard, then a staircase up to a second floor with more rooms around a central courtyard. Ignacio explained that the apartment was built so that you could have a business on the first floor, and then live on the second floor. Ignacio’s idea was to use the apartment to house university students, with a chaperone living there. He wanted us to invest with him. It seemed like a good idea, but would involve almost 20 people if we had the place filled and return about 12% on our investment. After running the numbers, and with the current state of the economy, this seemed like to many people to be involved in a business to consistently obtain the expected return. Considering the constant turn over in students, repairs, unpaid phone bills, etc. this just didn’t seem like something we want to get involved in.
Saturday June 8th, 2002 – Looked at more apartments to purchase with Olga, the search continues. It really is fun looking at apartments, there is so much variety in the architecture. We noticed that the first floor apartment was for sale in the building where we’re currently living. We really enjoy our building and it is definitely a possibility to buy within our building, unfortunately this apartment was on the front of the building and the street we live on is very noisy with buses and traffic. Luckily, our current apartment is in the rear of the building and is very quiet and we’ve become quite spoiled by our quiet apartment. We asked our doorman, Miguel, if he knew how much they wanted for it and it he had the keys, luckily he did and we toured the apartment. It was interesting, and since it’s on the 1st floor (really one floor up from the street) it was much larger and a different layout then our apartment. I imagine, although I can’t be sure, that the rest of the apartments in the building are identical in layout to ours which is a little smaller then what I want. The apartment had a courtyard area in the back, but since it’s on the 1st floor it was a little dark and being on the street it was pretty noisy. I mentioned the noise to Miguel and he said (in Spanish of course) “It’s very quiet with the windows shut!”, I tried to explain to him that I always have the windows open, so I opened the windows and he agreed it was pretty noisy with the windows opened.
Our Aussie friends Gary and Colleen asked us out to dinner and of course, when food is mentioned, we always say YES! Colleen suggested we come over to their house first for margaritas and of course when booze is mentioned, we always say YES! Gary had this nice bar built in their apartment (no wonder we like these people) and he also has a collection of puzzles that you can play if you’re in the mood for a challenge. On a previous visit he showed us a puzzle that his mother had bought him, and before she gave it to him she took the solution out of the box so he couldn’t cheat. The puzzle consists of 7 nails, you place one nail upright in a wooden base and then you are supposed to balance the remaining six nails on the up righted nail. His mother assured him there is no “cheating trick” to it, like leaning them together teepee style, or using tape or rubber bands, but that there is a real solution using just the nails. We had seen the puzzle on our trip to New Zealand and bought it in order to get the solution. We asked Gary if he wanted us to show him the solution and he emphatically said YES! We showed him the solution and Colleen snapped his picture to email to his mother to show that Gary had figured it out. She labeled the picture “Who’s a clever boy then?”
After a few of Gary’s wonderful margaritas we headed for “Katmandoos”, an Indian restaurant, and had a wonderful meal.
Sunday June 16th, 2002 – Ron and I celebrate 20 years of our relationship! Wow! Time flies when you’re having fun. Ron made a yucky yellow cake from a box mix to celebrate the occasion. We had drinks before going to “Las Lilas”, an expensive and trendy restaurant we went to when we first moved here two years ago.
The restaurant is in an area called Puerto Madero that has been revitalized into a trendy area with yuppie restaurants. “Las Lilas” is where President Clinton ate when he visited here awhile back. We enjoyed a wonderful steak dinner and with the current exchange rate, appetizers, wine, dinner, and dessert came to about $45 USA.
Our trip to a coastal town in Argentina
for our 20th anniversary!
Saturday June 22nd, 2002 – Our trip to the coastal town of Villa Gesell, Argentina begins. This was a trip to celebrate 20 years of our relationship! We experienced the usual scurrying about in the morning as we tried to clean up the house a little bit before we left, pack some warm clothes and make sure the kitties were taken care of. Of course the moment the cats saw the luggage, they became a little more affectionate then usual. As soon as Ron put the suitcases on the bed the cats both jumped into them. Don’t know if this is because they wanted to join us, or that cats just like to sit in things like boxes, bags and suitcases. We finished getting ready and took a cab to the Retiro bus station. The buses they have for long distances are really nice, they’re like first class seats in an airplane, the seats are wide with lots of foot room and a foot stool and the seats fold almost flat for sleeping, they have free coffee on board, they usually show a movie and there’s a toilet on board. It’s also quite inexpensive and a great way to travel, let someone else do the driving.
We got to the station a ½ hour early and sat outside waiting for our bus. The buses are surprisingly punctual and our bus trip was for 3:35 pm. Usually the bus arrives about 10 minutes early and they always pull out on time. Ron wanted to sit outside and wait for the bus, even though it was a ½ hour wait. It’s winter now and it was kind of nippy sitting outside but I find it best just to do whatever Ron says when we’re traveling, he gets very anxious and nervous when we’re traveling, basically, a real pain in the ass, so I’ve found it best just to go along with whatever he recommends, much easier that way. I heard something over the PA system about Villa Gesell and “El Rapido Argentina” the bus line we were traveling with. I asked Ron to go into the ticket area and check on the bus as I didn’t understand the total message. He came back and it turned out that they said the bus was not functioning and they had to change us to another bus company that left at 5:30 pm. At first she said she’d have to reschedule our return trip also but then she corrected herself and said, “Oh no, I sold enough tickets for that bus, so it’s still on for that time!” This let it slip that if she doesn’t sell enough tickets to make it profitable that they cancel the bus.
We decided to go into the terminal and have lunch since we had another 2 hours to kill. We sat down in a nice café and ordered some lunch and a bottle of wine. The meal came and it was excellent, just another reason I like it here, you get a great meal, with great service EVEN in a bus station. We sat there enjoying our wine and people watching as we waited for our bus.
We arrived around 11pm and there was a taxi waiting for us, this was a nice surprise, we figured the hotel must have called him to be there but because our first bus was cancelled I was hoping he wasn’t sitting in his cold car for an extra hour waiting for us.
We checked in and the girl showed us the room which was very nice but didn’t have any view to speak of, she asked us if we wanted dinner from the restaurant but we weren’t hungry after our big lunch and the sandwich they gave us on the bus. I asked her about breakfast the next morning and she asked what time we wanted it, I didn’t expect room service but was pleased they offered and told her 9 am would be great.
Sunday June 23rd, 2002 – The breakfast of toast, media lunas and coffee and hot milk arrived promptly at 9 am. We then headed out to see the town. It was a beautiful day but still pretty cold, there were quite a few stores open for a Sunday morning and that seemed like a good sign. Every time we’ve previously been to the coast it’s been in the cold off season and almost everything has been closed, however, we actually prefer it this way just because it is more relaxed and we don’t have to deal with crowds. We walked quite a distance till the business district ran out and then headed over to see the ocean. Luckily the wind wasn’t strong so it was actually quite nice on the beach, of course Ron had on his Antarctic Parka and we both had our alpaca hats we bought in Chile.
Zipping up! The town is NOT deserted!
On the way home we stocked up on some groceries for the apartment and then headed off to find some lunch. Ron saw a German restaurant that had a sign in the window for goulash with spatzel, the perfect winter meal. We sat down and ordered lunch and a bottle of wine. It was so cold in the restaurant you could see your breath, I guess they need more then 2 customers before they turn on the heat. The goulash was wonderful and warmed our bones, and with a good bottle of cheap red wine you didn’t mind that you could see your breath! We went back to the apartment, read some, took a nap and then played cards while we munched on some peanuts. When dinner time came along we walked along the main street and there wasn’t a whole lot of places open. We really need to come to one of these little touristy towns at least once in summer just to see how many businesses are usually open.
Had found a nice parrilla restaurant to have dinner, I ordered parrilla grilled chicken and Ron ordered salmon, a dish the cook told us was the special of the day. Well, the salmon might have been special 3 days ago, but the fish tasted a little past it’s prime. Note to self: Don’t order salmon in the middle of winter in a restaurant that only has 2 customers for dinner. It wasn’t terrible, just not that fresh. My chicken on the other hand was outstanding. The chef came out to check on us and saw that our plates were empty and he said to Ron, “Would you like more salmon?” and Ron said, “Oh no, thank you, I’m quite full!” Guess the chef was trying to get rid of that 3 day old fish!
Ron ordered some ice cream for dessert and I had a café cortado (an espresso coffee “cut” with hot milk). The chef came out once again and offered us a free whiskey for an after dinner drink to which we enthusiastically agreed. This was a great way to finish off the meal and just before we left another 2 customers came in at about 11:30 pm for dinner, crazy Argentines! Hope they didn’t order the salmon!
Monday June 24th, 2002 – We went to find the museum of the founder of Villa Gesell that the hotel manager had told us about, but unfortunately it was closed on Sundays and Mondays. It was in a nice park so we strolled around, there was a honey factory and also an artist’s workshop, but they were also closed. There was some cool artwork on the outside of the building and few sculptures around the workshop grounds.
We took another long walk around a different part of town to explore and see what the architecture was like, we have visited the city of Pinamar twice which is about 30 kilometers north of here, although Villa Gesell has nice homes in it, I think Pinamar has nicer homes.
A little cloudy today!
People let their dogs run free, the dogs love to have someone to follow
We saw a pizza restaurant that was open and that sounded like a good idea for lunch so we stopped in. Luckily today was a little warmer so we couldn’t see our breaths in the restaurant. We decided on their “Michelangelo Suprema” pizza which seemed to have everything and the kitchen sink on it, so we ordered that with a big bottle of beer to share.
After lunch we headed back to the room to read and then later play cards with a gin and toro. We headed out for dinner and found a nice restaurant, again, we were the only customers. I guess the city survives on the summer tourist months to sustain it throughout the year. The dinner was very nice and instead of a blaring TV, the owner had some nice music playing. One CD was just exceptional so I asked who the artist was, he showed me the CD and it was by Mercedes Sosa. The CD he was playing was a special free CD that was included with some magazine, so he told us that we wouldn’t be able to find that anywhere, but he put another album on called “Al Despertar” which was also very good. I haven’t bought many CDs since we moved here, so it’s fun when you find an Argentine artist or someone you’ve never heard before. Turns out Mercedes Sosa is VERY popular and has many recordings. Gives me something to look for when I’m out shopping.
Tuesday June 25th, 2002 – We kind of slept in a little, then headed for the Villa Gesell museum. There was a sign on the door that they were in another building so we headed off that way. A very nice woman showed us around the home of Carlos Idaho Gesell, the man who founded the town.
The second home he built The founder of the town, Mr. Gesell
A view from the bedrooms, you can see the ocean.
She then escorted us over to the museum where she introduced herself as Monica. On the way over she was asking us questions and explaining that her English wasn’t very good, of course it was fine, but I responded back to her in Spanish answering her questions on why we’re here, how long we’d be in Argentina, and what school we’re learning Spanish at. She was very nice and once in the museum she started telling us the story of Carlos Gesell in English, she lapsed into Spanish before I realized it, but she was speaking very clearly and slowly so we both understood most of what she was telling us.
It was quite a fascinating story, Carlos Gesell was of German descent, a grade school drop out genius who was a fervent inventor. In the 1920s he had a prosperous business in Buenos Aires making baby buggies and accessories for children out of wood. He came to this area of the coast and it was a sand desert of dunes and nothing else. For some reason which no one can understand, he thought this would be a good place to plant trees that he could use in the manufacturing of his buggies. Why he thought he could grow timber trees in sand dunes is something no one is quite sure about, everyone thought he was crazy. He invented, cross bread, and grafted many types of trees trying to find ones that could live in the sandy soil. He built a house for his family and there was a picture of it on the wall, totally surrounded by sand. They said he had to build a door on each different directional exposure of the house because during some days, an entire side of the house could be piled up with sand making exit impossible on that side of the house.
One of the wooden baby buggies See the house in the upper right hand picture?
That's what it looked like when he first built it with no trees.
A heated iron that you light
After 20 years of this, he was able to get forests to grow and that’s when the city started becoming populated. Of course today it is covered in forests, but the sand persists and many of the streets are still sand streets. Monica was great and was telling us many stories of the founder, it was quite a treat. She told us that she was going to visit Buenos Aires in the springtime and we gave her our business card for her to give us a call when she’s in town.
We left the museum and it was lunch time so we found a nice place for lunch. They have something here called “Milanesa Suprema” which is chicken that is pounded flat, then breaded and fried, it’s delicious, I don’t know how they fry it where it’s not greasy, I heard they basically submerge it in oil, but it’s delicious and never greasy. I asked for it but the waiter ended up bringing me just a “Milanesa” which is similarly prepared, but it’s beef instead of chicken. It was delicious but it still didn’t satiated my craving for a “Milanesa Suprema”, oh well, maybe tomorrow. We enjoyed a nice bottle of wine with lunch, such a decadent treat when you’re on vacation to have wine with lunch. But when it’s cold outside, it’s nice to sit in a nice warm restaurant, sipping good red wine, munching on salad, papa fritas and a nice beef “Milanesa” as the world (or the local residents of Villa Gesell) walk by. We were stuffed so we skipped dessert, but we still enjoyed a nice café cortado to warm ourselves before heading out into the chilly afternoon.
Ron wanted to go to the post office to get some stamps but it was closed. We then thought it might be easier to get a frozen dinner for dinner that night, since we had a big lunch, however, when we got to the supermarket it was also closed for siesta and wouldn’t open for another 1.5 hours. We decided to go back to the room and do some more reading and writing of postcards. We’ve been so lazy, but that’s the fun of being on a little vacation in the winter by the ocean. It’s just nice to walk by the sea and enjoy the ocean, then head for home and have some tea while we read and relax.
By the time dinner time rolled around we still weren’t very hungry from our big lunch earlier so we decided to skip dinner.
Wednesday June 26th, 2002 – Ron and I had seen a store that had really nice long sleeve shirts for $10 pesos (about $2.70 USA). The sign in the window said that they were only open on Wednesdays so we went over to see if we could buy some. The store still wasn’t open though, so we weren’t sure if it would be open some other time of the day, Ron grumped, “Boy, these people sure don’t know the meaning of service!” It’s hard to complain, if I had a store I probably wouldn’t be open with so few people walking around the streets.
We had a craving for a hamberguesa for lunch, we walked into one café but the young kid behind the counter said that this time of year, they only offer sandwiches. We thanked him and set off to find another place. We found another café and asked if they had hamberguesas, which they did, but no papa fritas, only papa fritas (the term is used for both French fries and potato chips, he explained that he only had potato chips). We sat down, ordered a big bottle of beer and had lunch. A crusty old local came in, ordered a Campari and soda and was talking very animated to the man behind the counter as we ate our hamberguesas.
Afterwards I wanted to take a walk along the beach as it was a beautiful day. We walked down the main street to get to the beach and we passed by a bank that was on the corner that had a nice wide porch. Two dogs were laying in the sun and when they saw us walk by they both perked up and decided to follow us, we gave them no indication or encouragement, they just saw us and probably thought that we looked like good traveling companions. We walked to an old building that Monica at the museum had told us of the previous day, she said it was the first building built to house tourists and they even know the name of the first tourist. The dogs looked bored and trotted ahead of us. We were walking down the street and this woman was tending her garden and her dog came out to sniff butts with our traveling companions. There was a slight skirmish and high pitched barks, nothing that could draw blood, but the woman came out to make sure her dog was ok. I told her, “Ellos no son mios!” We headed out to the beach and the dogs seemed to take on a new enthusiasm as they raced out on the sand.
The dogs followed us the whole time
Ron collected his usual assortment of seashells off the beach even though I told him about a nuclear disaster that caused all the sea shells in this part of the world to be contaminated with radio activity. No matter, he still stuffed his pockets full of sandy treasures. We walked for quite awhile and then came across a bunch of fishermen surfing for fish off the beach. As we walked along the dogs kept putting their noses into the fisherman’s bait bags looking for something interesting. I just hoped the fishermen didn’t think these crazy dogs belonged to us.
A fisherman pulling in his nets
Crazy dogs were dodging in between us chasing each other the whole time
They'd charge ahead and then wait for us to catch up
We looped back into town to pick up some groceries at the “Disco” (the name of the grocery store chain, not a music disco) and when we came out our dog friends were waiting for us.
As we walked down the street the dogs would run ahead of us, then chase a car down the street barking, then come back and find us. I stopped while Ron went into the post office and I was standing outside waiting for him behind a sign, I saw one of the dogs chase after a motor cycle, then trotted back turning his head from side to side looking for us, then he saw me and I swear his eyebrows went up in recognition and he came trotting over to me. Crazy dogs!
They both took off after a car just as we came upon the street we needed to turn down for our hotel, we turned and then turned again down another side street. I was kind of glad the dogs never found us, I’d hate to get to our hotel and think of them waiting outside for us.
Thursday June 27th, 2002 – We awoke to news of the disturbance in Buenos Aires on the news. We always seem to be gone from Bs.As. when something critical happens, don't know if it was broadcasted widely but they had another demonstration here in Bs.As. that turned violent and 2 people were killed. It’s always hard to judge the true extent of things when you see it reported on TV. The news always shows the sensational, not that 99.9% of things that are relatively “normal” for the average citizen. We watched the Argentine station called "Crónica" on TV to try and see what was going on. "Crónica" was pretty fun to watch, pretty low budget, but they had these great intros to their news stories with a red background with HUGE letters saying some byline and a blaring military march, as an announcer would shout out the headline, kind of like those old NewsTone movie reels. They had a continuing story on some cow mutilations that they think is caused from OVNI's (UFOs) The president is probably doing the mutilations to take attention away from what is going on in the government. We watched the news while we had our coffee and media lunas, but then started getting depressed over the situation so we decided to shower and cruise around town.
It was rainy today so we didn’t feel like exploring far, so our major excursion for the day was finding a good place for lunch. We enjoyed a nice lunch then walked down to find a locutorio for internet access. I wanted to check email and send my mom a note just to let her know we’re ok, you know how mothers worry.
The store with the long sleeve Tshirts we wanted was finally open so we went in to pick up some for $10 pesos. The shirt was more of a sweatshirt, but that seemed even better considering how chilly it’s been. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any larges so Ron wasn’t able to get one and he wasn’t to happy about that!
Friday June 28th, 2002 – We took a bus to "Pinamar" a town that is about a 1/2 hour's bus ride north of Villa Gesell. We've been to Pinamar twice before and they have our favorite German restaurant there called "Tante". The owner is very sweet and she also has another restaurant in the neighboring seaside town of Cariló. She makes this pasta dish with pungent mushrooms in a light cream sauce that is to die for.
Waiting for the bus
I was worried that “Tante” wouldn’t be open because it was a little late in the afternoon, we walked in and asked if they were still open for lunch and luckily they were. I ordered the same pasta dish I’ve had before, I’ll probably never order anything else there. To accompany the meal we ordered a nice bottle of red wine. A woman sat behind us and overheard us speaking English and started talking with us. She’s a teacher of English and we had a real nice conversation as her little hellion of a boy clanked dishes and interrupted every other word. Why, oh why, do children have to scream, “Mommy??? Mommy???” every 2 seconds when they can see their parent is trying to have a conversation?
After lunch we had some time to kill before the next bus back to our hotel so we stopped in a café we’ve eaten in before to get an Irish Coffee to warm our bones and kill some time. The waiter skillfully made us coffees, always from scratch from the espresso machine, never from a coffee pot, and they were delicious.
As we waited for the bus to go back to Villa Gesell, Ron noticed a “Havana” store across the street. “Havana” is a premium chocolate maker here in Argentina, excellent chocolates. Ron said, “We have a few minutes before the bus, I’m going to run over and get us a treat!” I don’t think he even waited for a reply from me before he darted off across the street. Never get between Ron and chocolate unless you want boot marks on your chest.
Ron's got his goodies!
Saturday June 29th, 2002 – Our week at Villa Gesell came quickly to an end and we took a taxi to the bus station. On the way home we went right through the intersection where the demonstrations had all happened the previous Wednesday, kind of gave me the willies to see the broken bank windows and the intersection that I saw on TV with the rioters, but in a way it's also exciting to see where it happened, history in the making. I checked www.nytimes.com when we got home but there was only 2 stories on the incident.