Rosario, Rosario!

The City of Rosario, Argentina. February 28, 2012.

(Photos to come later, words now!)

Part One: A stroll through the park and the Flag Monument

The night before we arrived to Rosario via a very slow train. A massive, tropical storm greeted us and we scampered to our hotel, in a scene much more traumatic than what I´ve described. The storm subsided the next morning to leave the streets washed and clean and a wonderful fresh breeze sweeping through the city. The storm cooled everything down, and we enjoyed sunny days around 85 degrees F for our stay.

For our first day we visited the park and the National Flag monument.

The Flag Monument is by far the most impressive monument, building or work of public art I´ve seen in Argentina so far. It was built to honor their flag (which compared to the US, I have not seen very many publically flown flags in this country). It is a massive building, comparable to monuments in D.C. and has three parts: the Propylaeum, the Courtyard and the Tower.

Dotted around each section are romanesque statues with eccentric faces. The statue that stood out the most was of a king-triton like man wrestling two fish with his eyes bulging and his mane and beard blazing.

No, these weren´t the dainty and softly sculpted statues of the Romans but what they lacked in subtleties they made up for in character.

Independence park was the second visit for the day. This is another park designed by Carlos Thays, a french-turned-argentine landscape artist of the turn of the century. The park was refreshingly clean and free of the homeless population.

The most impressive part of the park was the calendar garden. Here, they wrote out the day, date, month and year in planted flowers, and they changed it EVERY DAY.

Part Two: An Argentine shopping mall

So, with the tragic loss of my chacos I needed a pair of sandals. Shoes, are just too hot for this climate, especially when walking around all day. We got a recommendation for the local mall, so we decided to give it a try.

And I have to admit, Rosario´s mall is way cooler than any American mall I´ve been too. The building was very interesting, it was a train station at one point, which they converted to a modern mall, leaving up much of the old brickwork and the central courtyard. The stores were bright, clean and well presented.

The prices, well, just about the same as you would expect at an American mall (after doing the exchange rate conversions).

But, like with any consumer-mega-station anywhere in the world, I got overwhelmed, and resorted to a pair of flip flops.

Part Three: Adventures in a Silo.

On the last day in Rosario we visited the MACRo, which is a modern art museum. The building itself is a work of art: they had transformed an abandoned silo into an art gallery, painted the outside in bright stripes and added a great elevator with a wonderful view of the Parana Delta.

How can you resist a museum in a silo?

The exhibits themselves were 50/50. Some were just downright obnoxious, like the junk-yard piece built of an old jungle gym and every piece of nick nack you can think of, all motorized to bang and clang and spin around together. But if you view pieces like this as a mockery of modern art, then they work out just fine. Something tells me though that they were in all seriousness.

There were some really cool pieces, like the suspended globes of hand-made tiny plastic scenes. The scenes were like a model train set, but depicting a sort of surreal modern life in the country. One even seemed to mock the excessive beef consumption in the country, which my belly over fed with beef seemed to agree with at the time.

The highlight of the museum was at the last floor, where the artist used white and blue plastic water bottles to create a huge overhead cloud. You felt like you were floating through a sky of fluffy water bottles. Something we all wish would happen to our plastic waste, but know that it´s far from the truth.

Rosario, with it´s nice breeze, clean streets, beautiful buildings and super-relaxed people has been my favorite city so far.

Cordoba is next, but just for one night, because by the end of February we will be at the farm!

No photos in this post, because the computer at the hostel does not have a USB portal. The Panorama was put together by my brother, Don. Thank´s Don!

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Buenos Aires; Round One.

Day One and Two

From Montevideo Ben and I took the ferry. By boat is a lovely way to travel into the city.

On our first afternoon in the city, we visited the MALBA, a modern art museum. The museum’s collection on the first couple floors were a hap hazard collection of modern art from various artists and it didn’t really have an organization scheme.

There were some cool pieces, but the real treat occurred on the third floor, with Carlos Cruz Diez. You can’t really explain his art. They’re not paintings, yet they hang on a wall and fit in a traditional frame. They’re not sculptures, yet they vary depending on the angle you look at them. They’re not holograms, yet they seem to be holographic.

The best way to describe these works of art is how you experience them. Ben and I found the best way was to walk briskly, or run by them at about a foot distance and watch the colors and shapes pleasantly surprise you.

Our second day we attempted the north of downtown, called the Retiro. We thought this would provide a lot to see, and was easy access from the train station. However, we encountered a run down park, a slightly less run down park (see photo with palm and rubber trees), then a white avenue filled with tourist shops. From fur jackets to crystal unicorns they had all that was glitz and glam.

Tourist traps? Not exactly our crowd. 

To add to our frustration, it was hot. I mean, REALLY hot. Clothes sticking to your skin with sweat and humidity hot. We visited a neat catholic church, and tried a museum to get out of the heat. They were closed until later.

We ducked into a cafe, got some coffee and collected our dehydrated thoughts. We decided our little local neighborhood where we were staying in Florida was way better than what this neighborhood. So we went back and ate a great meal at the local diner.

Day Three

We decided to then take our new friends’ offer up to go kayaking in Tigre. Tigre is a town just north of Buenos Aires. Even though about 20 miles separate them, they pretty much merge together. We took the train there for 2 pesos, or about fifty cents US. There we met another traveller, Fred from Switzerland. We all bought some cuts of beef, wine and bread for a barbecue that we would have later.

A motorboat took us into the delta. The delta is the place where the river flattens out and the ocean’s cycles start to affect it. It creates a maze of islands, canals and streams. The Argentinians have decided to keep this area vehicle free, and you can only access it by boat.

We boated to the island that held the kayak rentals. AreMar had an excellent facility with a large collection of kayaks and the nicest bathrooms we’ve encountered yet (see photo). Unfortunately, and probably for good reason I’ll admit, no one can rent a single kayak except for guides. So, myself, Ben and Fred all hopped into a triple kayak. This was my first experience in a triple, and it was not easy to give up the control I like of a single kayak. We managed though.

The delta was a much needed escape from the city: cooler, quieter and filled with green. It was a bit of a surreal experience, paddling through low hanging trees and past numerous vacation homes.

Yes, that’s right, vacation homes. The delta’s islands are filled with very nice homes. Each with well manicured lawns and a little dock. All access was still by boat, but we were in a neighborhood with boats instead of cars and waterways instead of streets. It was really wonderful. There were even convenient stores on the islands!

We paddled about 8 miles to our destination, and took a couple swim and nap breaks along the way. Our destination was our guides’ friend’s place (boy I hope I got that punctuation right). His friend had built his own house out of material he found on the island. The walls were made of mud with a wooden frame. It was a very nice place and we had a barbecue in the yard.

Then we all took another nap. What a day!

This day would have been perfect if it wasn’t for the loss of my chacos. These were my first pair, and had lasted me through three river seasons. I had set them under the bungies on the top of the boat, and while I wasn’t looking, a wake from another boat swept them overboard. With a water visibility of about one inch (there’s a lot of silt in the delta water) and ravenous mosquitoes attacking me, there wasn’t any hope of finding them.

So, now I’m on the hunt for a new pair of sandals.

Day Four

This day was dedicated to trying to find tickets for the train to Rosario. However, the ticket office was closed and would be closed for Sunday as well. We then headed over to the city center and visited the Pink House, Argentina’s equivalent of the White House. They were celebrating their bicentennial, and we got to learn about some important figures from 200 years ago who helped liberate South America from Europe.

We then browsed some antique shops, walked along the streets of the San Telmo neighborhood and finished our day off with a glass of cold white wine in a bar (which cost 6 pesos total, or fifty cents each).

Day Five

Day five was a Sunday, and we started later because we now know that the entire continent of South America shuts down on this day. We started with coffee and empanadas at our favorite Florida coffee shop, then headed down to the antique and crafts fair in San Telemo.

I apologise, I don’t have any photos from day four or five. I decided that taking my camera into the crowded downtown was not a risk I wanted to take.

But I wish I had photos of the amazing leather work, silver work and jewelry that these artists produced! It was spectacular, like going to the renaissance fair every day!

Then came the frustrating part of the day. We decided to check out another fair that was happening across town. The guide book recommended this fair, which they said happened on Sundays. We took the bus, which the guide book failed to mention was a 30 minute ride, and arrived at a small local outdoor vendor fair, but nothing on the scale of what the guide book described. We searched the neighborhood, and found the location where the fair usually takes place, but the fair wasn’t there.

Hot, disappointed and frustrated with the guide book, we made our way back to the train, and got pizza at our favorite Florida neighborhood cafe.

Today we go to Rosario, but we are looking forward to visiting Buenos Aires again in April. Then, it will be cooler, with less tourists and cheaper.

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Montevideo in Photos

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Hola, South America!

Well, 30 hours of plane flights is rough. 30 hours of flying on a budget is even rougher.

I won´t bore you with the details. We had to make a lot of connections, and one of them was in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Our bags were checked through until this point, where we were suppose to go through customs, get our bags and re check them in.

However the customs wouldn´t let us through without a travel visa.

So we were forced to just take the flight with out checking our bags. We arrived in Montevideo, tired, bagless and hungry. Ben got a sandwich from a McCafe. We put in our lost baggagae request and waited for the sun to rise.

We took the first bus into Montevideo. The walk to our hotel was a little less than two miles, but we decided to make it to kill some time. Our first impression of the city was not a good one. It looked a bit College Hill at WSU after a game weekend with all the post-party litter in the streets and yards. It was like the whole city partied until 5 am and we were walking through the aftermath that Sunday.

Actually, that is exactly what happened. And on Sundays, the whole city shuts down. This posed a problem when the hotel´s check in time wasn´t until noon. We finally found a place to eat though, a little italian cafe. Ben had milanesa, what is best described as a breakfast burger: Fried steak, lettuce, tomato and a fried egg between a bun. It´s not actually a breakfast burger, it´s just what we had for breakfast. I had Ravioli, which was the cheapest thing on the menu. Neither were anywhere near great, but filled our bellies.

When we finally got to check into the hotel, we immediately passed out. Four hours later, a miracle: the telephone rang. Ben answered and spoke for a bit in Spanish. ¨Our bags are here!¨ He said.

“In the Airport? Great!” I said.

“No, they´re in the lobby of the hotel waiting to be picked up!”

Wow, what a great stroke of luck, to have the bags sent to our hotel the next day. With that off our minds, we went back to sleep off the jet lag.

The next day, Monday, we went out to see the city. Montevideo is not a tourist city, which has its ups and downs. The up: it´s not touristy. The down: it isn´t very tourist friendly. We soon found out that there were three main attractions to the city.

Old Town and the Market. Old town is the Western part of the city on a small ´cape´ like land feature . It features some cool old colonial style buildings, street shops and the most incredable central market barbecue.  Called parillas these are open-pit wood stoves on which they grill every kind of beef and chicken imaginable. There´s a whole dictionary of Spanish words for each cut of meat on the cow´s body. I will most likely learn them soon.

Rambla. This is the walk that goes around the coastal areas of the city. It´s pretty nice, featuring a wide walkway that looks over the mouth of the Plata River and the Atlantic. Because of the river, the ocean tides aren´t really prominent and the water is a bit silty.

Tomorrow we head to Buenos Aires via bus and ferry.

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Departure day

… and it still hasn’t sunk in yet.

Been doing a lot of last minute preparation. After the Wilderness First Responder Re-certification Course I was shuttled to Ellensburg via the Mom express. Ben picked me up, and since arriving in Seattle we’ve been busy shopping for little stuff and packing.

Last minute preparation doesn’t just include logistics and miniature panics. It includes all the ‘lasts in the USA.’ Yes, these are all just as equally important as making sure our passports are photocopied. Things like our last dinner (amazing Indian food), last good beer (Jolly Rodger and Inversion), last awesome sandwich, and last night out (playing Mario Kart on the N64). And yes, I won.

So, with all these important ‘lasts’ out of the way, we can finally get on with the trip. Mid-flight panic, here I come.