Buenos Aires, Too – The Stranding

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We had planned to spend Easter Week/Fall Break in Mendoza, ended up booking two nights in Buenos Aires as, well, we loved the city and there were no reasonably priced flights available from Asuncion to Mendoza without a 17 hour layover in BA anyways.

So the gameplan was Saturday night through Monday in Buenos Aires, and an early flight to Mendoza for four days of adventoury stuff mixed with copious amounts of Malbec. That was the plan, though Argentina had different ideas.

We wanted to stay with the host of our Thanksgiving trip the prior November, but he was booked. Amusingly while attempting to book the same neighborhood of Palermo Soho we quite unintentionally ended up in the same building. Well, at least we knew the neighborhood.

After checking in we headed over to Antares Brewing, who make the best IPA I’ve had in South America to date. We sat towards the back thanks to open tables. I beer-geeked out over all the Odell Brewing schwag they had on the back wall… (I love Odell, and the longer I stay in SA, the more likely any “What would you do for a Klondike Bar?” Odell IPA spin off I’d be involved in will be either NC-17 or involve commission of a felony.) Anyways, one of the staff saw this and we chatted briefly in my horrible Spanish and his better English, and treated me to a sample size portion of their Black IPA before it was tapped and available to the rest of the place. Was mighty tasty and I was honored for being offered the sneak preview.

Sunday, after scoring some Starbucks, we opted to check out San Telmo. Metro’d our way over there (love the metro), and after meandering aimlessly we stumbled into the never ending street fair. First we found the indoor antiques market, saw a lot of interesting stuff and passed tempting little nooks to eat before spilling out into the streets lined for kilometers peddling wares. From crafts to fake Ray Bans. We spent a couple hours walking, taking it in before returning to Palermo for some late afternoon Quilmes (the Argentinian watery lager) to check out the wares that artisans were selling in a kiosks in the park on Malabia/Costa Rica a stone’s throw from our place.

We enjoyed dinner at Minga, on Costa Rica, just two doors down from where we had our Quilmes break in the afternoon. Good steak and salad. Our place had only one or two channels in English, and somehow The Big Lebowski happened to be on. Nice nightcap.

Come Monday

After breakfast at the little café located at the base of our apartment, we tried to book a trip to Tigre, a town outside Buenos Aires, at the Parana Delta. Trips were booked up, leaving us initially frustrated until Katie found a site that mapped out a “DIY” trip there, providing step by step guide of “go here, book this train, get off here.” So with basic knowledge in hand we made our way to the chaos of Retiro – a hectic part of town which serves as the end stop to one metro line, the train station, as well as the bus station. We bought our tix, about $1 US each, hopped on the train and took in the sites. Upon arrival in Tigre we were able to book an hour boat trip through the delta to see the house.

The boat trip was pretty cool. It was very intriguing to see all these houses – from particularly nice homes of the clear well-to-do to smaller places with disintegrating docks. Hearing about weekly trash pick-up boats and how residents either have a massive propane tanks or small 5g ones they need to boat into town weekly to refill.

Enjoyed the day, and doing it ourselves we spent maybe 30% what we would have been charged for an organized tour. Hooray.

We returned to bad news.

Hooray, National Strike!

A National Strike was scheduled for Tuesday, so our flight to Mendoza, and pretty much every flight within Argentina was cancelled. Buses were also off, so no chance to book an overnight bus ride. Katie spent three hours on the phone with TAM airlines, who basically shrugged, told us “Well, it’s a national strike so if we cannot fly you because our workers don’t show up for their job, too bad so sad. We’ll put you on a later flight in a couple days but don’t expect as much as an extra toffee from us because, well, we don’t care about you.”

We would be “stuck” in Buenos Aires until an afternoon flight on Thursday. Fortunately our airBNB host said the place was open through then, so we just forked over another $160 or so for another two night. And our trip to Mendoza, originally scheduled to be 4 days, was reduced to a mere 40 hours. Probably 38 once you remove airport time from the equation.

So on strike day we made plans to see historic Plaza de Mayo, the famous plaza right in front of the house of Government, walk further out from the city to Puerto Madero, a large chunk of “reclaimed” land that had a swell walk with restaurants, cafes, home to high rise apartments, and an ecological reserve. Finally, head back in to the city, check out Café Tortoni, the oldest in BA, before taking the green line back home.

Big mistake.

Only the green line was down. At first we thought it our nearest station was out (had been one day on our prior visit), but walking up to the next one, it was also out.

Aha. Damned strike. No metro, either. And no local buses. So we hopped a cab and ask him to take us to Plaza de Mayo. He dropped us off 10 minutes and 60 pesos (about $5) later, right at the same corner as the end of the green metro line. He joked we could have made it there for 10 pesos, faster… I laughed, and thanked him for actually working that day, giving him a slightly larger tip than usual.

Plaza de Mayo is where protests and gatherings often occur. In retrospect perhaps not a wise choice given the strike. Well, not to worry. The police had barricades up and were out in force. Even had the armored vehicle with the water cannon in case things got really out of hand. The strikers? Those “angry” workers upset by whatever, no-showed. Stayed at home and watched CSI and CSI: Miami reruns on AXN. Yeeeeahhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Was a nice walk to Puerto Madera, passed by the military HQ, where I posed in a tank with some rather crazed notions of firing up and just driving to Mendoza. The PM was fancy-ish, modern compared to the rest of the city, with some nice looking restaurants. Only a few were open at this point in the day, so we stopped in for some Mexican food. Was SA okay… which means enjoyable, but wouldn’t likely last 60 days in Tucson. Stomachs full of fajitas, a burrito, some chips & salsa, as well as a liter of beer, we decided to head back for coffee at Café Tortoni, then cab back to our apartment.

Craig attempting to commandeer new transport to Mendoza

Thus began The Hike.

For starters, after hiking over to it, Café Tortoni was, naturally, closed. Their signs out front indicated it was Tango Lesson time. But they were closed. National Strike strikes again.

It was about 3:30, which apparently was quitting time for those who did go to work. Suddenly there were 30-40 people in eyesight all trying, uselessly, to flag down cabs. No cabs were empty. Not a one. We started angling back to our apartment, all heavily congested streets with locals and turistas. No open cabs.

We ended up hiking the entire way back to our apartment. Per Google maps, from Puerto Madera to our apartment was just a shade over 10km as the googlecrow flies. Now 10km walks aren’t at all horrible. We usually log 6-8km a day when traveling, easy. But this wasn’t a 10km hike day in the mountains on the way to Machu Picchu (next year!) , this was unexpected, 10km at 4pm 84+ heat, humidity, a Sun that enjoys searing my pasty white skin (Katie thinks I am part vampire), across a city with crappy sidewalks that will trip up the unwary, cars belching exhaust during rush hour. After already logging 4-5km+, and loading up on the aforementioned comida Mexicana and Quilmes.

It wasn’t the Bataan Death March or anything, but it wasn’t the most fun way to spend the afternoon.

When we got closer to Palermo and our apartment we finally saw an open cab, but just shrugged. I was hellbent on finishing the hike at this point. We were rewarded, as I found a sports shop that sold the Argentina shirt (I’m picking up the football kit/shirt for each country we visit), and, almost miraculously Jerome Beer Republic, a craft brewery down the street from us which had been closed both times we passed it our prior visit AND earlier on this… during the day of strike… was OPEN. We sampled some of their 9+% Belgian style beers (and a few more at Antares), headed home and called it a day.

(Strikes aren’t fun. On a regular day, I imagine they are easy enough to work around. Just don’t do what we did. Stick to your neighborhood or sites & sights nearby. If on a scheduled travel day – like us – with all deference to Dean Martin, are a real kick in the head.)

We finished up our last extra bonus day in Buenos Aires checking out some nearby parks. BA loves parks and has a lot of them up near the coast of the Atlantic. We rented a paddle boat, navigated a small pond and survived an encounter with a flotilla of ducks. (Note: the paddle boats marked the first time either of us have piloted a vehicle of any shape or form down here…)

Had an enjoyable lunch in Palermo Hollywood. She got a grilled chicken with salad, I ordered a massive parilla of grilled veggies. (I needed veg at this point, Argentina = steak, steak, steak, steak… ) We split and enjoyed.

We capped the day off with Tango lessons, even if we were both stiff, partially robotronic, and had issues where we couldn’t “feel” one another and dance as we both had to mentally process which steps came next. We applaud our coaches for doing their best. After 90 minutes we could at least do the 8 step.

Finally, the following morning, we packed up and some fifty odd hours after we should have arrived, we left for Mendoza.


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