Monday, June 6, 2016

What's New, Buenos Aires?

Once upon a time, I was on Facebook reading scholarly articles and came across one that said that the Honduran and Argentinian soccer teams would be playing a friendly match against each other on May 27 in Buenos Aires. Which just so happened to be during one of our long weekends (shout out Corpus Christi) and flights just so happened to be less than $300. So we looked for a flight, looked for a hostel, and less than an hour later, we had booked both.

Kenny, Kelly, and I stayed at America del Sur Hostel located in the neighborhood of San Telmo. I'm not a hostel connoisseur or anything, but I have stayed at a number of them within the past year or so. America del Sur definitely wasn't the fanciest hostel that I've ever stayed at, nor did it have the most amenities, but it was, by far, the hostel with the best environment. The hostel had a great staff and a great common area, as well as daily activities such as tours and excursions, that was really conducive to hanging out with the other hostel guests. We did a handful of tours, but we also spent a large portion of our time hanging out with other hostel guests, both inside the hostel and around Buenos Aires. 

Our first 24 hours in Buenos Aires were nuts. We arrived in BA at 1:00am, stood in line for way too long to convert reais into pesos, and didn't arrive at our hostel until almost 3:00am. At which time we fell face first into our bunk beds and were dead to the world until morning. We went on a walking tour of Recoleta which is one of the historical and affluent neighborhoods of BA. We wandered the aisles (rows?) of the Recoleta Cemetery which is unlike any cemetery you've ever seen in your life. Seriously, it's like art and mausoleums and tombs, all rolled into one. To top it all off, you can see where Eva Perón is buried. I'll be honest, I didn't know anything about Eva (AKA, Evita) before going to Buenos Aires, but I left basically an expert. 

Once our walking tour was over, we decided to become our own tour guides and went in search of the Floralis Genérica, AKA, the giant metal flower. Apparently at one time the flower was mechanical and opened during the day and closed at night. I think it's broken now though, but that's okay because we were saw it during the day anyways. Our self-led tour made a little pit stop for some lunch (oh hey, empanadas) and then we continued onwards to walk down the widest avenue in the world in search of the obelisk. We were successful in all endeavors which basically means we're all prepared to be tour guides, am I right?
Clouds for days.
I wear my sunglasses at night. Or in the rain.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was when we went to see the Casa Rosada, which is Argentina's verison of the White House. Minus the fact that the president doesn't actually live there. A fact that I know because I asked some of the guards. Uneducated North American much? Anyways, the Casa Rosada in located in front of the Plaza de Mayo. It's in the Plaza de Mayo where a group of mothers, called the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, gather every Thursday. Why? Because in the 70's, their children "disappeared" under the military dictatorship during the Dirty War. During this time, there were also babies that were stolen and given up for adoption illegally when their mothers were killed in the Dirty War. Originally the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo were getting together to get answers and to find their loved ones. Today they are still fighting for human, political, and civil rights throughout the world. 

When I was in Spanish 3, we watched a film called La Historia Oficial which was all about the Dirty War. I highly recommend watching it. Even though it's been ten years since I saw the film, I have never forgotten about it and when I realized that I would be heading to Buenos Aires, where La Historia Oficial was filmed, I knew that I had to see the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. And I did. It was like history coming to life. It was heart-breaking, but it was real. 

Since we didn't cram enough stuff in the first day, we decided to go to a tango dinner show that evening. And we ended up sitting front row. For about $95 dollars, we were treated to a tango show (obviously), unlimited wine and non-alcoholic beverages, four choices of appetizers/ main course/ and dessert, andddd transportation. It may have been the best $95 that I have ever spent. If you ever find yourself in Buenos Aires, head on over to Café dos los Angelitos, you won't regret it at all. 

Front row to the dinner show.
Apps: Crisy Philo with Duxelles of mushrooms and sautéed vegetables in curry carrot coulis
Main Dish: Angus beef with rustic style potatoes and caramelized onions
Dessert: Cointreau's chocolate mousse, strawberry coulis and chocolate, dried fruit praline
Seriously. Who knew that I would even food with names like that? But I did. And I loved it. 

We did another walking tour on our second day which took us to the neighborhood of La Boca. From what I recall, La Boca is where people who used to work in the port lived, so they took left over materials and paint from the port to make their homes. So it's the beautiful, colorful hodgepodge of buildings. It's also home to this cross-eyed statue of Messi who just so happened to be playing against La H the day that I saw it. Photo ops all around. 

We took a break from walking tours, but not a break from walking, on our last day in Buenos Aires and went out in search of El Ateno. It's an old theatre that has been changed into a bookstore and it's freakin' beautiful. In all honestly, it's just like a fancy Barnes and Nobles. The books aren't fancy or anything that I couldn't find at any other bookstore, but the theatre part was incredible.

Argentina, that's a wrap.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

All You Need Is A Dose of Vitamin Sea

There are some pretty bangin' beaches just a few hours east of Rio de Janeiro. Don't get me wrong, Copacabana and Ipanema are pretty great, but sometimes you just want to get away and see something new. Last semester we spent a weekend in Cabo Frio and none of us could stop talking about how lovely it was, but every person here in Rio told me that Arraial do Cabo is even more beautiful. So as soon as we realized that, with a carefully planned schedule, we could rent a car and drive to Arraial do Cabo for the weekend, we knew where we were headed. 

We stayed in an AirBnB located in Pontal do Atalaia. Sometimes choosing an AirBnB (or hotel or hostel) can be a little touch and go because you don't know where the "hip" part of town is and you don't know if public transportation is reliable. Honestly, staying in Pontal do Atalaia would have sucked a little bit if we hadn't had a rented car. It wasn't within walking distance to any restaurants or beaches and we waited a solid minutes for a taxi when we were going out to dinner oner night. Luckily, we had a car, so being in Pontal do Atalaia was no problem for us this time around, but I wouldn't choose it if I were to go by bus. 

We spent the our first day laying on the Prainhas do Pontal do Atalaia. The Cariocas were right-- Arraial do Cabo has some beautiful freakin' beaches. Our schedule consisted of swimming, sunning, and snacking. All. Day.

Prainha do Pontal do Atalaia

On our second day, we took a boat tour all around Arraial do Cabo. I really, really, really wanted to see the Gruta Azul, so I specifically looked for a tour that took us there. Imagine my disappointment when I realized that the tours only took us past Gruta Azul and no one actually stopped there. Which I guess I could have figured out if I had actually looked through Google Images more carefully, but I hadn't. 

Our tour did take us to many other lovely places and we were even lucky enough to see some sea turtles. Yassss. We also did some beach gymnastics which earned us many stares, and laughs, from those on the beach-- as if that doesn't happen enough. 

After our tour was over, we had to race back to our car in order to make it back to Rio in time to return the car without incurring any late fees. We returned the car one minute early-- how is that for planning?

So, do the gringos agree with the cariocas? Is Arraial do Cabo actually more beautiful than Cabo Frio? I can't speak for all of Cabo Frio because I only saw one small part. But I can compare what I experienced. I would have to say yes, this gringa does agree. Arraial do Cabo gets my stamp of approval, hands down, and bragging rights that it is more beautiful than Cabo Frio.