Don’t cry for me, Argentina
The truth is, I didn’t really want to leave you. That may not be apparent by my lack of posts, but don’t take it personally – I’ve just been lazy (and mildly busy). This is going to be a long one!
Part One: Iguazu Falls – Argentina side (August 18)
As I previously mentioned, Argentina is considered the “best” side of the Falls because it provides the most panoramic views. After a mediocre breakfast of delicious coffee with plain bread and super sweet jams (the worst part of the Secret Garden B&B), the 6 of us piled into 1 tiny cab and drove to the park entrance. Our plan for the day consisted of walking the “lower path” (panoramic views), boat ride under the falls (mostly just for shits & giggles), train ride up to and walk around the Devil’s Throat (you can’t miss it!!! but some people do because they don’t know the train stops going up there at 4pm), and then walking the “upper path” before heading back to the Inn. The boat ride was essentially useless, but did provide some chilly reprieve from the sun as well as the hilarity of watching my parents get totally drenched in their jeans (which I told them not to wear). We all dried out by the end of the day, and none of us regret doing the ride, but I would say it wasn’t really worth the money for just a ~20minute cold shower. Maid of the Mist at Niagara is a much more enjoyable overall experience. The paths and trails are very well maintained and despite being pretty packed, we had ample opportunity to walk slowly, stand&stare, and take pictures. There were a few little cafes but the food offerings weren’t fantastic – I’d recommend bringing your own lunch if you can (esp. if you don’t like empanadas). It is definitely a pretty exhausting day – lots of walking and standing – so be prepared and wear good sneakers!
Enough about logistics – the Falls are a MUST SEE in your lifetime. They do, in fact, live up to the hype, and no picture you’ve ever seen does them justice (even Tyler’s). The juxtaposition of anger and calm, power and peace, terror and beauty – it’s unlike anything else I’ve seen. I’m especially thrilled I shared the experience with my family – we were all in blissful awe of the perfect day and beautiful surroundings and were finally together again for the first time in 9 months. Incredible.
Restaurant recs for Puerto Iguazu, Argentina: Aqva – delicious meat!! and La Vaca Enamorada – hilarious owner and really delicious pastas
Part Two: Buenos Aires (August 19-25)
We flew to BA via the “cheap” Aerolineas Argentinas, which was anything but, and also delayed. After finally making it to BA, we cabbed over to our apartment/B&B for the week in Palermo Soho. I found the Jacaranda Suite on TripAdvisor and after A LOT of research and emailing to a variety of rental properties, settled on it because of its location and super reasonable price. My parents stayed in the “garden studio” downstairs, and J, K, T, & I shared the upstairs “suite” with 2 bedrooms and 1 bath. Palermo Soho is an awesome neighborhood with some of the best restaurants and bars in all of BA. It also felt safe walking around, even late at night. Had we decided to take buses or use the train, it was a little inconvenient (have to walk quite a bit to access the main routes), but cabs weren’t expensive and since the fam was on vacation and not budget-traveling, we opted for the easy method.
Buenos Aires is the most European city outside of Europe. I know I haven’t been everywhere in the world, but I can say that confidently. The wide avenues, the multitude of parks and museums and statues, the ridiculous number of coffee shops, the hipster attire, the absurdly late dinner time, the afternoon siesta, the horrendous traffic at all times , the diversity of people and food –> all of it reminded me so much of Paris, though the major exception was the friendliness and kindess of the Argentines (Parisians aren’t exactly the most helpful to tourists). It is a beautiful city, and despite the weather being cold and dreary, we enjoyed wandering around for 4 days. There are certainly “must-sees” but I think it’s the type of city best explored without a guide book – follow your nose, follow other people, and let your feet decide where to take you next (even if it’s back to the apt. for a nap). The museums are not on the same level as Europe or even the US, but some are worth visiting (I actually most enjoyed the Eva Peron museum), and the beauty of the parks is maybe in the eye of the beholder. For example, our apartment owner RAVED about the Japanese botanical gardens so we ventured there with perhaps too-high expectations – it was not something I’d ever recommend to anyone, and J & T had an especially difficult time trying not to laugh the entire time we were there.
That said, we LOVED many of the activities we did in BA including wandering around San Telmo neighborhood and going through the antique shops, watching a tango show, taking a tour of the Teatro Colon – the most beautiful opera house I’ve ever seen, and of course, watching the Boca Juniors soccer team tie Independiente at Bombonera stadium.
The Boca Juniors are world famous, not necessarily because of their soccer playing (though Maradona did play for them back in the day), but because their fans are INSANE mafia-associated hooligans. They literally shoot people from other team “gangs” as well as each other (happened 3 days after the game we attended) because of control over tickets/money/etc. At the games, they sing and dance and jump around for the absolute ENTIRE game regardless of how well the team is actually playing. The entire sporting experience is rated one of the best in the world, and all of us definitely felt it was well worth the cost and slight fear. You have to go if you visit BA, just make sure you do not wear the other teams colors (Boca is blue and yellow – after Sweden’s national flag, actually, even though the team was started by Italians), and DO NOT accidentally cheer or yell or even move if the other team scores. And maybe leave your wallet at home. And don’t walk around the neighborhood at all. But seriously – it’s worth it!
Restaurant recs for Buenos Aires, Argentina: La Cabrera – amazing and delicious steakhouse, tasty sides, free champagne if you have to wait for a table, fheap delicious wine options. Persicco- ice cream. Cumana – brick oven deliciousness.
From BA, we took a day trip on Thursday to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. We woke up early and took the ferry/boat (~1.5 hours) to Uruguay so we could explore the town for the day. It was the warmest and sunniest day of the week, so walking around was very comfortable and enjoyable. It has great examples of Portuguese and Spanish colonial architecture, but the town is definitely tiny and we finished seeing the sights (lighthouse, convent, church, bull fighting stadium) with hours to kill before our ferry back to BA. Luckily, J & T love having free time to make up games, so we bought a crappy soccer ball, found some sticks, and started playing four square. We had an audience in 2 young kids and their 2 stray dogs. The dogs kept getting in the way, and the kids desperately wanted to learn how to play. In our ridiculous Spanish, we tried to explain the rules of the game. One of the boys played with us for a bit while his friend valiantly tried to keep the dogs away from our stick-court. When it was time to go, we gave the kids our ball and hoped they’d be able to figure out how to play our gringo game. We watched the sunset from a tiny cafe and enjoyed some local beer and mate tea (super bitter but definitely gives you a bit of a buzz). It was a fun family day, and we were all exhausted on the boat ride back to BA.
Restaurant rec for Colonia, Uruguay: El Porton – more delicious meat, esp. the chorizo and steak. but also good salads and chicken and fries.
I was extremely sad to see my family go – it’s hard knowing I won’t see them again until February at the earliest. We all had such a fantastic time together, and they said (and I hope is true) that they had a great vacation. I know we will likely not have any more visitors on our trip, so I really relish the time we had together and their efforts to make it all happen. After they hopped in a cab to the airport on Saturday evening, we took our own cab to the bus terminal to catch an overnight bus to Mendoza – wine country.