Other Pages of Interest

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Earthquake Madness

A quick note of thanks to all of our friends and family that called and emailed asking about our safety after the disastrous 8.8 earthquake in Chile. Had we been awake, we may have felt the quake, even though it was over 800 miles away. We also were spared the effects of the slightly smaller 6.3 earthquake and it's aftershocks in Salta, Argentina (approx 800 miles away as well). Our thoughts are with the victims of these horrible events.

On a personal note, it just so happens that my brother Chris was finishing his vacation in Hawaii this weekend on his way back from Antarctica. He was woken up at 5:30am by his hotel staff to warn him of the dangers and give him this literature.
We are very lucky that the tsunami warnings ended up not being very serious and that Hawaii was spared from any damage. He is flying home today - and we are hoping for an uneventful, natural-disaster-free remainder of his trip.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Coldplay!

Coldplay's tour brought them to Buenos Aires last night - huge bonus for us! They played at the River soccer stadium in Palermo, an outdoor stadium that looks alot like RFK in Washington, DC. We got tickets with our friends Juan and Sole and planned to meet them for dinner before the concert. Unfortunately for us, our bus got stuck in the worst traffic ever and a 30 minute trip turned into a 1.5 hour marathon bus ride to their house. We skipped dinner and had to run to the concert. We missed all 3 opening bands and got to the concert just in time to swallow a plain hamburger before they started playing. The concert was amazing - we had such a great time! According to Chris Martin, Buenos Aires is their favorite place to play. And I believe him.

It rained for a few minutes at the beginning of the concert, but considering that we virtually ran 1.5 miles to the stadium, it was kind of nice to get cooled off.
Coldplay is awesome for many reasons, but I like them even more now because they gave our copies of a live album as we left the arena. It was like a little present at the end of the night - and I LOVE presents! After the concert we grabbed some much needed dinner at Marshall in Belgrano. We were dying of thirst and pretty hungry, so it was lucky for us the service was quick with regard to drinks. The food was good, I got a Caesar Salad (something that you don't find much around here) and Jon got beef milanesa with mashed potatoes. Overall it was a good meal, with a few hiccups in the service; forgotten dishes, incorrect orders and the waiter went MIA more than once. I would go back but earlier next time, by the time we left dinner it was 1:30am, so I'm thinking that our waiter just needed some sleep.

The adventurous part of the night came when we were trying to get a cab. Even though the concert let out at 11:15pm, the streets were still lined with people looking for rides home when we left dinner. The only empty cab that we could find had a moron driver that tried to rob us by charging over six times the fare that we should have been charged - we didn't take the bait. There have not been many times that we have missed owning a car here, but this night was one of those times. We are lucky enough to have amazing friends here and Juan drove us home at 2:30 am - he was our hero. A very fun, and very long, night - we slept like babies.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bariloche

This past weekend we took a little trip to an adorable little town called Bariloche. Bariloche is located approx. 2.5 hours southwest (by plane) of Buenos Aires. It's near Chile perfectly situated between the Andes Mountains and a long string of crystal clear lakes. Most of it's tourism comes in the winter (July-August) due to the ski resort, but we decided to go in the summer for a weekend of site-seeing, eating and relaxing.

We stayed at the Tunquelen Hotel which had simple rooms but a beautiful view. The main street in Bariloche stretches from the city center at kilometer 0.0 to the Llau Llau Hotel at km 25. The Tunquelen is located at km 24.5, putting it pretty much at the end of the circuit. (Side note: When researching this trip I was frustrated by the lack of addresses available, because most places are located on this circuit and have km. markers instead of addresses. Good to know for next time.) Here is the view from our balcony on the first (and only cloudy) day we arrived.
After checking into our hotel, we took the bus back to the city center to look around and grab a bite to eat. The downtown area is filled with chocolate shops and log cabin-style buildings. There are plenty of little shops selling handmade wool sweaters and leather items. We stopped at La Esquina (The Corner) for lunch where Jon was overjoyed to have Hungarian Goulash, a dish that his mom made growing up and he could probably eat everyday if given the chance. We had a really great lunch and spent the next couple of hours walking around the town, eating delicious chocolate and shopping. We stopped into two different chocolate shops that both handed out samples as we entered. I liked the second place, La Tourista, best because you could see the workers making each item right in front of you. It was a bit cold and windy that first day so after we had our share of fall weather, we headed back to our hotel for some afternoon coffee and a nap.

That night we walked 5 minutes from our hotel to go to this quaint Italian restaurant called Il Gabbiano. It was adorable, had only 10 tables or so and the entire menu was on a chalkboard. We had a delicious dinner of salmon ravioli and lamb ragout and finished it off with an apple crumble dessert that was amazing. Good day 1.

Day 2: We took a chairlift to the top of a mountain that had some amazing views. It was a beautiful, warm, clear day, so a perfect time for me to get over my fear of heights and make the most of my camera. I'll spare you the details - but here are some pictures that capture the view.
You can tell how we got warmer with time, we each shed about 2 layers of clothing. And then we both got a little sunburnt.
We took the chairlift back down and walked up the street a bit to a cafe called Bread. We sat outside and had a really pretty view of one of the lakes. The name was completely fitting for this place because as it turned out, we had the normal starter basket of bread and then ordered cheese fondue which came with, of course, bread for dipping. It was a carb-filled afternoon. The carbs came in handy a little later when we were riding the bus home and I suggested that we get off at a sweater shop around km. 18. The shop was a bust, and instead of waiting 20 minutes for another bus, I suggested that we walk back to our hotel. Now, if we were set up for a hike, this would have been fine, but we were holding a large camera bag, 2 jackets, a sweatshirt and scarves, it was 75 degrees or so and the walk was all uphill. Oh yeah, and my conversion from km to mile was a little off, I was thinking that it would take 30 minutes to walk home. (6.5 km = 4.03 miles. It was going to take us a little longer than 30 minutes...) Not to mention that we were walking on the shoulder of this windy road, which completely freaked my Exxon-safety-obsessed husband out. It was with good reason, we ended up catching the bus after about 2.5 km, but we did get some great pictures (like the one below) on the way.
That night we ate at El Patacon and for US$65 we each had a drink, an appetizer, a salad, a filet and a venison tenderloin. Amazing. This restaurant was highly recommended by our hotel, which is why we went, although their high selling-point was that Bill Clinton had dined there. They had no idea that this was almost a deal breaker for the restaurant. We're glad we went, it was delicious.

We finished off the weekend with lunch at the Llao Llao Hotel for lunch. This hotel is the talk of the town in Bariloche and if we ever win the lottery we just may go back and stay there. I looked into it and it's somewhere in the ballpark of US$500 per night, so a little outside of our price range. Once we were there we could see why it is such a destination - the hotel is amazing. It has everything you can think of in a hotel including a rental car office in the parking lot. The views are amazing and the service is impeccable. We stopped by before our lunch reservation and the staff was happy to let us sit outside, have a drink and sit in their comfortable deck chairs enjoying the view before our reservation. My kind of place.

We had a nice lunch, the food and service were great. The best part was the view of "Thunder" the only mountain completely covered with snow that was visible from our table.

The whole weekend was relaxing and fun, we had a great time. Bariloche is a great stop if you are looking for a rejuvenating weekend filled with food and site-seeing. Muy bueno.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Che

Ave. Libertador 800 (Recoleta) - After going to a movie we stopped at this great little restaurant called Che. Che is a perfect landing spot for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Our first trip there was for a mid-afternoon snack with coffee. We had a couple empinadas, they were baked (much better than fried in my opinion) and they were all delicious. The service was friendly and prompt. This return trip for dinner was also delicious, we each got a steak, mine with mushroom wine sauce (pictured to the right) and Jon's with peppercorn sauce. I highly recommend getting the mashed potatoes as a side item, they really made the meal. One funny tidbit that we've noticed in our restaurant adventures, places here serve huge cuts of meat, but not a whole lot of side items to go along with it. Generally, you will not get a salad, side or sometimes even a sauce without ordering it specifically.

We received our meals promptly (and I'm not even being sarcastic) at 11:15pm. The restaurant was almost empty when we got there and was just getting busy as we left around midnight. Midnight! We thought we were awesome for eating so late, who is leaving home to go out to dinner at midnight?! Lucky for us, when we got home our friends the Ely's were online and able to Skype with us for an hour or so, I mean really, who can go directly to bed after a meal like that??

**UPDATE** June 4, 2010: At some point this week, Che closed up shop. The restaurant has paper on all the windows and there are no signs or notifications posted. Potentially it's just remodeling, I'll update again if it reopens.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Valparaiso

Nicaragua 6078 (Palermo) - We went to Valparaiso with the expat group BAIN on a Tuesday night for dinner. This is a quaint, pleasant Chilean restaurant with lovely paintings on the walls and a small bar. From my years working in the restaurant business, I know how difficult it is to accommodate large groups for dinner, especially with a small kitchen. So I am understanding of a set menu, longer orders times, longer wait times, etc. This place was borderline ridiculous. We all paid upfront, $80 pesos per person (pretty high for a 3 course meal here), and we had 3 items to choose from for appetizer, entree and dessert. The simple act of paying in advance theoretically should save us at least 20 minutes at the end of the meal. Additionally, the reduced option menu should have also saved us some time during the order or delivery of food - but no.

As our appetizers, I ordered the ceviche mixto and Jon had the calamari. The calamari was fine, but the ceviche was a strange citric pile of unidentified seafood. We each ordered the beef option as our main dish and it was by far the worst cut of meat either of us have had since we moved. It was fatty, tough and tasteless and that combination is difficult to accomplish here in the land of beef. It also took no less than 20 minutes to get all of the food out to the table for each course, half of the time was spent auctioning each item out to find whoever ordered it. This was exceptionally frustrating since we only had 3 items to choose from - I remembered what everyone ordered more than the waiter who wrote it down did. Dessert was a single scoop of ice cream, which was fine, but pretty small. We did have one beverage included in the set price, but we also ordered water which was a steep $9 pesos.

Overall, not worth the price or the wait time for an unorganized and underwhelming meal.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lost in Translation - Movie Titles

To expand on my TV Show post, one of the first things that we realized when turning on TV was that Argentina loves movies. Whereas only some of the TV shows titles have been translated, nearly all of the movies titles have been. This now makes for hours of hilarity as we turn on the TV and use the guide to piece together the actors, year and what we can understand of the plot - then realize the movie's actual name. I have asked many of our friends here about their thoughts on translated movie titles and it seems as though most of them think it's just as funny as we do. Our friend Juan claims that the guy translating movie titles into Spanish thinks that everyone here must be simple-minded because of all of the obvious information that gets included in the Spanish title. For example, Cloverfield is translated as Cloverfield, The Monster. Anyone who has seen this movie realizes that there is some kind of monster or alien involved, does it really need to be reiterated in the title? Whatever your thoughts on how or why movie titles are translated, here are some that Jon and I find particularly amusing:

  • Que Paso Ayer (What Happened Yesterday): The Hangover
  • Secreto en la Montaña (Secret in the Mountain): Brokeback Mountain
  • Mi Novia Polly (My Girlfriend Polly): Along Came Polly
  • Viviendo Con Mi Ex (Living With My Ex): The Breakup
  • Expiación, Deseo y Pecado (Atonement, Desire and Sin): Atonement
  • Un Lugar Llamado Notting Hill (A Place Called Notting Hill): Notting Hill
  • Mi Mascota Es Un Monstruo (My Pet is a Monster): The Waterhorse - Legend of the Deep
  • Enamorándome De Mi Ex (I'm in Love With My Ex): It's Complicated
  • Amor Sin Escalas (Love Without Layover): Up in the Air
We have also gone to a number of movies in the theater, the theater closest to us is really nice, all of the seats are assigned. This is MUCH better than our normal routine at home which is generally to get in line at Tyson's Corner mall among every 14 year old roaming the food court hours before the movie starts, then as soon as the velvet ropes open we run to the theater and pray that someone isn't trying to save a row of seats for their 20 closest friends. The downside to movies in BA - no online ticket sales. You have to wait in a ticket counter line (which is ALWAYS longer than it should be) and then memorize the Spanish title of the movie you want to see. Last weekend we saw An Education (great acting but we wouldn't really recommend) which is called Ensenanza La Vida (Teaching Life). We could not remember these words to save our lives. Not to mention that Jon, the king of online ticket sales, cannot fathom why anyone would prefer the wait-in-line method to pre-purchasing online. The funniest part to me is that we tend to go to the movies "early" here, in the 8:00 - 10:00pm range, so we have been the youngest people in the entire theater by at least 30 years every time we've gone. Last weekend the movie actually started late because the crowd from the movie before ours took so long to leave the theater. The average age of the people we saw was easily 85. God love them for still getting out to the movies, but Jon had me in tears laughing at the pace of everyone leaving the theater, one was slower than the next.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Return From Antarctica


When we found out that we were moving in May 2009, we decided not to spread the news until we knew more details about the assignment, which turned out to be in mid-June. Little did I know that in the meantime my middle brother, Chris, would announce that he had accepted a job that was located in....wait for it.... Antarctica. This significantly decreased the shock value of our news, so I owe him a thank you for that. He said that he was planning to move to the McMurdo Airforce Base for six months to be a fireman. I think our friend Rick put it best when he said "If I think of one place on Earth that would have the least amount of fires, it would be Antarctica", which is the same thing that most of us were thinking. So since this weekend marks Chris's return to the US, I will dedicate this post to his reasons for going and why he wants to go back.

Many countries have built bases on Antarctica, the US, New Zealand, Argentina, Russia, India and Chile just to name a few. The United States owned McMurdo Station is located on Ross Island, south of New Zealand and with the ability to support over 1,200 residents, it is currently the largest community in Antarctica. It is a working Air Force base and requires the support of emergency fire and rescue crews to assist with the daily operations of the airfield and provide medical services support to the base and research facility. This is where Chris and his team come into play. They have done everything from "pave" the ice runways (with water to smooth out the cracks in the ice) to chasing penguins away so that planes could land. The latter is one of my favorite things that Chris has told us about. There were 4 Empire penguins on the runway that just stood there for multiple days. Eventually, a plane needed to land and they had to somehow get these 5 foot tall penguins off of the runway - I would not have wanted that job! Another great penguin story was when Chris and a couple other guys saw a huge herd (flock? gaggle? What is a group of penguins called?) of smaller penguins from a distance. They took a bunch of pictures of the herd, until they realized that 3 little guys were breaking away to come and check out the humans! They walked right up to Chris and the guys, they were only a few feet away - can you imagine?!

It wasn't all penguins and fun for him, they had emergencies where people were lost out in the cold, heart related health issues and yes, even a fire. The travel down to Antarctica was gruesome, he flew from DC to Denver (there he trained on the huge trucks and foam hoses for three weeks) to LA to Sydney to Christchurch, New Zealand to Antarctica. The last leg was a military C-17 where you had to sit looking into the middle of the plane for 5 hours. When he first arrived, they had an unexpected cold front move in and the base underwent unseasonable cold temperatures, the coldest Chris reported was -115 F. That's freakin cold. They have TV, internet and they can call out from the base (they cannot receive any phone calls). Chris said that the base has a 24 hour bar, a pool and rec room and there are plenty of hikes and photo opportunities. My family sent him care packages and Christmas presents and he was kind enough to send Christmas packages back to each one of us. He seems to have done an amazing job there and is now celebrating his completion of the 6-month position with a glorious vacation in Sydney and then a week in Hawaii.

We all missed Chris like crazy while he was gone. I can't wait to hear all of the stories that he has to tell. The experience was overwhelmingly positive and he seems to have met some really great guys. If nothing else, he has a resume builder that very few others can compete with. It has gone from what we all thought was crazy to something that we are all very proud of. Welcome Home Chris!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Don't Cry for Me - Museo Evita

I can't believe that it's been close to 14 years ago since I went with my friend Denise's family to see Evita in the theater. Her mom was the driving force behind us going and I had just moved to Illinois so any time I was invited anywhere I said yes. It was one of two times in my life that can remember where I: 1) Had no idea that the movie was based on a true story, and 2) Had to quickly cover up my ignorance while discussing the movie afterward. (The other time was when I saw A Beautiful Mind. I was so sure that Russell Crowe was a secret government decoder...) I loved the music from the show and until today that movie has been the complete source of my knowledge of Eva Peron/Evita. The most repeated part of the museum tour was that the musical has very little factual information about Evita, so I had lots to learn.

Jon and I are not really museum people, so guided tours are really the best thing for both of us. Unfortunately for him, the tours are usually during the day so he doesn't get to join in on the fun. Today I went with BAIN (the expat group I joined) to an English guided tour of Museo Evita (The Evita Museum), Lafinur 2988, Palermo, that was really great. The museum "contribution fee" is $14 pesos or $22 pesos with a guided tour. They charged us $25 pesos today, maybe because it was in English, maybe because it was with a large private group - either way to me it was worth the US$6.50. Located in a beautiful area of the city, the museum itself has a colorful history. It is an old Carabassa family mansion that the Eva Peron Foundation bought and restored in 1948 and then opened it as a shelter for women and children. After Juan Peron was overthrown in 1955, the shelter was seized by the government (as was everything created or owned by the Perons) and sat abandoned for close to 50 years. To mark the 50th anniversary of Evita's death on July 26, 2002, her grandniece reopened the house as a museum showcasing Eva's legacy, influence and (of course) her clothing.

There are strong feelings in Argentina regarding Juan and Eva Peron, strong love and strong hate. To avoid the controversy, I will not focus on their politics or methods, but rather on something that is not a source of controversy, her sense of fashion. This woman had to be the most well dressed person to ever live. The dresses they had on display were uniquely designed for her and came complete with shoes, hats, scarves, purses, etc. that were all stunning. My favorite examples:


The museum also has a nice Restaurant & Bar in the lower level that is a great post-museum stop. We stopped for lunch at 1pm and the place was 100% full by 1:30. The menu is small, but they had some nice options; chicken ceasar salad, grilled fish, chicken or beef with vegetables or homemade pasta to name a few. If you used their set price option you get a beverage (beer, wine, soda or water), entre and dessert or coffee for $33 to $36 pesos (US$8.50 - $9.50). A pretty good deal. The restaurant has an air conditioned indoor seating area and a large, pleasant patio. Their hours are 9am - 12am everyday and advertise breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner and wine tastings. I would recommend a reservation if you are planning a trip, 4800 1599 or resto@museoevita.org.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

South American TV Recap

When Jon first arrived, we weren't sure what the TV situation would be. We had no idea what to expect, and as self-proclaimed TV-addicts, we were really nervous to see what BA TV had in store. Jon's biggest concern was watching live sporting events, my biggest concern was quitting my job and having only Telemundo to fill up my days. We did as much preparation as possible to be prepared for the worst (For this entire post I will use the word "we" liberally. Clearly Jon did all of the preparations, I have no clue when it comes to this sort of thing) we setup a SlingBox at Jon's parents house, bought a laptop-to-television cord to watch shows online but have them broadcast on the TV, bought a serious transformer that would convert the 220v power to the 110v that we have in the US, and got a DVD player with a USB port so that we could download shows online and watch them through the DVD player. All of our preparations have come in handy, but we have been pleasantly surprised at the amount of familiar shows that broadcast here.
  • Sports - We have ESPN and Fox Sports, but soccer is the main attraction. During the regular football season we got most Monday night games and most of the playoffs. The SuperBowl was on here, but we did not get any of the US commercials (much to my dismay).
  • News/Entertainment News - We have CNNesp, (CNN in espanol) and 4-5 local networks. We get the main award shows like the Grammys, Emmys, and the Golden Globes.
  • Sitcoms - Argentina loves sitcoms. The funny thing is that we get lots of sitcoms in English, but they are normally years old. Felicity is on everyday, Will & Grace, Fraiser, Mad About You, Simpsons (the early, funny seasons), original 90210 episodes and, of course, Seinfeld. Some of the other shows that I don't normally watch that are on: According to Jim, The Big Bang Theory, The New Adventures of Old Christine and Everybody Loves Raymond.
  • Dramas - These shows seem to be on a few weeks after they air in the US. Lost (thank goodness!), Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, Rescue Me, Nurse Jackie to name a few.
  • Reality TV - All of these shows are airing really early seasons compared to the US. Project Runway, Top Model and Real Housewives are a few that I've noticed. I'm definitely missing my Bravo! fix - I love the marathon weekends where you can see the whole season of a show in one day. I'm a sucker for crappy reality TV.
Lucky for us, the shows that originated in the US are aired in English with Spanish subtitles. Here are a few other shows that for some reason the titles have been "translated" into Spanish while the rest of the show stays in English. The hilarious thing is that only some shows are translated and most of them are a reiteration of what you already know:

El Senor Monk (The Man Monk) = Monk
Dr. House = House
La Lay y El Orden (The Law and the Order) = Law and Order
La Lay y El Orden, U.V.E. = Law and Order SVU
E.R. Emergencias = ER
Padre de Familia (Father of Family) = Family Guy
Bob esponja (Bob Sponge) = SpongeBob Squarepants

That's all for now. I'll add to this list if I can think of more. Stay tuned for the hilarity of movie translated titles.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Puerto Madero


Puerto Madero is one of my favorite places to go to walk around on a sunny day. It is roughly a 30 minute walk from our apartment, or a US$5.00 cab ride. The history goes that it was a working port in the late 1800s until newer ship designs made it difficult to access. That and a newer port (creatively named "Puerto Nuevo") was built a few miles north in the 1920s, so Puerto Madero was left vacant for approximately 50 years. Starting in the 1990s, the area began to rebuild and now it is a hot spot for bars, cafes, nightclubs, high end restaurants and as of today, Jon's new office (check out the great view from his desk!). This area is probably best known for it's interesting pedestrian bridge, the Puente de la Mujer (Bridge of the Woman). I think of it as the Georgetown of Buenos Aires.

The first time I went to Puerto Madero, it was after we attended a going away party for a coworker of Jon. This was my first true experience with "Argentine Time". Argentine Time refers to the fact that everything takes longer, lasts longer and starts later here. For example, every restaurant that we have gone to has been empty at 8pm - sometimes not even open yet. Generally places start to get busy for dinner around 10:30 and it's not unusual for restaurants to be on a significant wait at 11:30 or midnight. Anyways, the party started at 10:30pm, we mingled and ate and had a great time. At 1:45am, the host announced that he was sad to leave, thanked everyone for coming and said that it was time to leave his apartment. What we didn't realize was that he wasn't talking abou the night being over - just that the apartment party was over. He ushered everyone downstairs where a number of taxis were waiting to take us to Asia de Cuba in Puerto Madero. When we got there, the bar was almost completely empty, apparently 2am is really early to arrive at a bar. Jon and I stuck it out for another 2 hours, until I was virtually falling asleep standing up. At 4:00am we were the first people from the party to leave the bar. Yikes. These people know how to party.

Since then, we've gone a few other times to walk around and stop for coffee. I took my friend Lauren when she was in town and we had a great bottle of wine at one of the restaurants lining the port. It's a great spot to people watch, take pictures or just go for a walk. There is also a nature preserve a little farther towards the water that has jogging and bike trails. If you are in the mood for meat, right after Jon moved here he went to a great restaurant called Siga La Vaca (literally - Follow The Cow) which is a great parrilla place.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Eating Out

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