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Published: February 24th 2010
Dinner in BA
Sasu and Sam
Having spent the last several weeks in the middle of nowhere, it felt strange to be in Ushuaia, a huge bustling city of about 65,000 people. Well, it felt huge at the time. I nearly forgot what it's like to be around people and cars, noise and garbage, buildings and concrete. So getting to Buenos Aires, with a metropolitan population of about 13.5 million, was a huge shock to the system. Also, porteños (people from Buenos Aires) have a nearly incomprehensible accent, so that I feel like I'm hearing Portuguese rather than Spanish. Luckily I was prepared to hear posho instead of poyo (for the word pollo, or chicken), but I am still thrown off by some of the other "ll" words where I expect a "y" sound and hear a "sh" sound.
My dad and I were on separate flights from Ushuaia, but we arrived in Buenos Aires at about the same time, so we met at baggage claim and got a remis (pre-paid/fixed price taxi) from the airport to our hotel. Our driver clearly had no idea where he was taking us - he spent a while getting directions at the booking desk. He also didn't offer to carry a bag to the car, which I thought a bit strange. Then, he kept asking other cabbies on the way how to get to where we were going. Eventually he told us it was not only his first day as a taxi driver, but that we were his very first passengers. Actually, based on earlier observations, this was not a big surprise. But, everyone has to start somewhere, and at least he was friendly if not yet quite competent.
We arrived at our hotel, checked in, and were shown to our room. A cloud of cigarette smoke hung densely in the air. The porter told my dad that all the rooms were like that - which luckily, turned out to be untrue, as we were given a different, much less tobacco-ey room.
The hotel is located close to the Casa Rosada (the "Pink House"), which is essentially the equivalent of our own White House. After settling in, we took a walk down to San Telmo, where we did some souvenir shopping, stopping on the way over to grab some (tasty) empanadas and some world-famous Buenos Aires gelato (wow, just wow). After exploring a bit and getting in touch with Sam, we headed back to the hotel in a downpour, so we stopped at a Havanna coffee shop to have some coffee and alfajores.
An alfajor, for the unitiated, is a cookie sandwich with dulce de leche (literally "sweet milk," it's a type of caramel) in the center. Occasionally, as with the Havanna brand, they are then chocolate covered. Yes, they're very tasty. This is a crucial piece of knowledge - alfajores are served basically all over South America, and they're slightly different everywhere you go. So if you think you heard something about an "alfa whore," you've probably heard wrong. The conversation is about cookies, not prostitutes - get your mind out of the gutter. That said, there are no shortage of the latter - Sam had a cab driver who proceeded to list the 411 for various options without even prompting.
As in the rest of Chile and Argentina, Buenos Aires seems more or less closed during the day, with most restaurants not opening for dinner until at least 9:30pm. So my dad, Sam, and I had dinner at La Paila ("The Bucket"), a restaurant in the Palermo area of the city serving Northern Argentinian food - it was about time to change the pace from steaks and lamb. Also, they were having live music that night, with a band playing folksy-indigenous type music. So, when our dinners were about done and the music was in full swing, it was only natural that the whole restaurant would get up and start dancing. Buenos Aires is, after all, the town to tango. Recognizing that I was way out of my league on the dancing end of things, Sam decided that it would be funny to tell our waitress (who was dancing up a storm herself) that I wanted her to show me how. Fortunately, I didn't have to step all over myself trying to tango, since the crowd was beginning to form a big conga line and I was quickly pulled in.
With that done, we headed back to the hotel, dropped off my dad, and then walked around looking for a place to go out. We headed over to the hostel where Sam had been staying, and met up with some people there, but after waiting around for about an hour or so, it looked like we weren't any closer to getting the group out the door, so we decided to try the bar across the street. But there was a line, and I hate waiting in lines for bars (honestly, this is my biggest annoyance back in states, and especially LA - not the traffic, but standing in line for a more or less half-full bar just so that the place can give the appearance of being popular). So we walked around for a while, chatted with various people, and then ended up right where we started. Overall, this part of the night was a big "eh."
Yesterday, my dad and I had breakfast and then my dad packed up to go back home. Sam would take his place that night in our hotel, and between the time Sam was able to pack his things and meet up with me and the time my dad left, I walked around and bought a bathing suit (since I had left mine in Pucon after the hotsprings) on a pretty huge pedestrian shopping street (Florida St), where I counted I think 3 McDonalds' and a few Burger Kings, too.
At night, we met Sam's friend who was living in BA for a steak dinner at one of the nicer restaurants in town. I'm pretty sure almost all of the people eating there were foreigners, since I heard a lot of English. But it was quite good. Maybe not as good as the steak we had in Santiago, but maybe that's only because the novelty of incredibly good beef has worn off due to overindulgence. While we awaited a table we walked around to a bar to get a drink, since there was almost an hour wait. Feeling dehydrated myself, I stuck to water, though Sam's friend ordered a drink that was basically a lemonade with vermouth that looked tasty - not sure what it was called, though.
After dinner, we ended up going out in Palermo SoHo to a reggae bar (has anyone else picked up on this common theme, or is it just me?), with the intention of maybe going to a club for which Sam was able to get free admission tickets from his hostel. The catch? We had to be there before 3am, but nobody in BA shows up to a club that early. Seriously. Well, I ended up starting a conversation with a few girls (of whom, as it would happen, two were law students), and we missed our 3am deadline. So we stuck it out for a bit longer, and eventually called it a night. After all, Sam and I both have flights to catch today - for him, to Rio, and for me, to Puerto Iguazu to see the falls...
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