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Archive for October, 2009

We Heart Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is considered by some to be the ‘Paris of South America’ and reminded us a lot of Barcelona and even New York. Sidewalk cafes, museums galore, amazing architecture, and bustling nightlife…whichever city you want to compare it to, Kelly and I absolutely loved our time here.

We crammed in a lot during our twelve days in Buenos Aires and attended the obligatory tango show, visited the MALBA art museum, Recoleta Cemetery and La Boca, strolled through the Japanese gardens, shopped at the San Telmo Feria, and had coffee and churros at the infamous Cafe Tortoni, all while gorging ourselves on steak, red wine, and pasta. The funny thing is that we barely scratched the surface and hope to make it back one day to see even more of this fantastic city.

Tango 101

Tango Show. The pics aren't the best because we couldn't use the flash.

Musicians at the Tango Show

Musicians at the Tango Show

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Cafe Tortoni

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Us at 1880, our favorite parilla

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Booth at the San Telmo Feria

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Enjoying a beer in Plaza Dorrego

More than anything though, Buenos was a nice opportunity to stay put in once place and feel like we were at ‘home’.  It felt good to unpack our things and be able to cook dinner and watch movies while drinking wine and lounging on the sofa.  We’ll miss our little apartment in San Telmo and having our own bedroom (despite the uncomfortable bed), our own kitchen, and our own bathroom, but we’re excited to move on and explore more of Argentina…

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Argentina is not for vegetarians

One of the things that Kelly and I love about Argentina is all of the red meat and how amazingly cheap and tasty it is.  Our typical meal includes the following:

-1 juicy, perfectly cooked steak as big as your head (Kelly and I share it and we still don’t even finish the whole thing)

-Salad/Veggies

-Mashed potatoes or fries

-Bread basket with dips

-1 Bottle of fantastic wine

All of this for $30…TOTAL, for both of us.  Back home you would spend $30 on the bottle of wine alone!

Steak

More Steak

Let’s hope Kelly and I don’t gain 500 pounds while we’re here. 

 

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It’s so great when the stars align and things just work out.  Staci, a wonderful girl that I met in my study abroad program in Barcelona in 2003, just happened to be in Buenos Aires for two days on her way to Chile.  She and her friend Gulzar would be visting a few companies through their MBA program.  We hadn’t seen each other since my going away party the second time I went to Spain over 4 years ago.  She had left Austin to pursue her career in DC and currently lives in Dallas while going to school. So random and crazy, but what a perfect opportunity to reconnect!
 
They arrived Wednesday afternoon and we made plans to meet up for dinner.  A friend of hers suggested The Standard, a restaurant that he comes to every time he visits.  Thanks Mike!  The empanadas, lamb and dessert were amazing, but the Rutini Sauvingon Blanc was the best white wine I’ve ever had!  Thanks to the recommendation from our cute waiter, Sabastian. 
Staci and Me

Staci and Me

We then headed out for a drunken night of debauchery at Congo, a nice quaint little bar in Palermo Hollywood.  We met some great guys that treated us to many cocktails and then headed home around 4am.  Kim was such a trooper! 
At the bar with a tasty mojito

At the bar with a tasty mojito

The next night they girls went to see a show at Hotel Faena in Puerto Madero.  Holy crap.  This hotel was the nicest hotel Kim and I had ever been in. It was absolutely beautiful!  Even the bathrooms were amazing!  And there was also this lovely little unicorn bar that Kim was freaking out about.  She was obsessed with unicorns as a child.  We met up with the girls after the show for a few drinks and then headed to a great little bar, Milian, in Recoleta.  We had such a great time!  Yet again, another late night.  Love you Kim!
 

Pretty Ladies

Pretty Ladies

Unicorn bar!  Can you see their heads mounted on the walls?

Unicorn bar! Can you see their heads mounted on the walls?

Lobby entrance.  This hotel was incredible.

Lobby entrance. This hotel was incredible.

We couldn't decide which camera to look at

We couldn't decide which camera to look at

The next day, the girls treated us to lunch before they left for Santiago.  We ate at Miranda, an awesome place in Palermo Soho.  Pumpkin ravioli, gnocchi….mmmm! Thanks ladies! 
Delicious gnocchi

Delicious gnocchi

It was so wonderful to be able to meet up with great, familiar people in a foreign place.  You just can’t recreate those kind of memories.  Staci…Gulzar, thank you so much and we can’t wait to reunite in Texas!!! 
the girls

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Kelly and I decided the best way to familiarize ourselves with Buenos Aires was to take a ‘hop on, hop off’ bus tour that stopped at various points of interest around the city. Aside from the bus being thirty minutes late at each stop, it was a great way to see the town.

The first stop on our Buenos Aires Bus tour was the barrio of La Boca, a working class neighborhood and old port district with brightly painted buildings. It is also home of the soccer team La Boca Juniors, a team that the locals are incredibly passionate about. Artists and tango dancers line the ‘Caminito’ (a pedestrian street), selling their work and showing off their moves. Kelly and I spent the morning strolling down the Caminito, popping our heads into the various souvenir shops and had a lunch of chorizo and empanadas at an outdoor parilla. Oh, and Kelly got hit on by a police officer.

The Colorful Buildings of La Boca

The Colorful Buildings of La Boca

Me on the Caminito

Me on the Caminito

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Us Waiting for the Bus

Us Waiting for the Bus

We then set out to the swanky neighborhood of Recoleta to explore the infamous Recoleta cemetery, where many of Argentina‘s most prestigious citizens are buried, including Eva Peron. Much like in New Orleans, all of the graves are above ground and are ornately decorated, each more extravagant than the next. Kelly and I meandered through the alleys of graves, trying to find Evita’s…it didn’t take long to spot once we decided to follow the other tourists that were flocking to one particular marker.

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Evita's Grave

Evita's Grave

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After our long day of sight-seeing, Kelly and I headed back to San Telmo for a chill night at the apartment. We had to save up our energy for the nights of drunken debauchery that would take place when Kelly’s friend Staci was in town…

 

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Buenos Aires! Kim and I arrived bright and early at 4am Friday morning after 10 hours of travel.  We grabbed a cab and headed to Milhouse Hostel located in the downtown Monserrat barrio.  Check in at the hostel wasn’t until 1pm, but luckily the nice guy in reception let us get into to our room early. 
  
The hostels are MUCH different in bigger cities than in Costa Rica. This one was in a large, old refurbished home, and it slept well over 150 people. The common area was nice and big and always had people hanging around.  We ended up meeting Vic, a guy from NYC that invited us to join him and group of others for dinner.  After a nice walk around Plaza de Mayo, we headed out with our new friends for a Peruvian dinner in the Congreso barrio.  MMMM ceviche! 
Us at Dinner

Us at Dinner

Yummy Ceviche

Yummy Ceviche

We then headed back to the hostel were we had a few drinks.  Kim stayed and I went with the guys to Palermo, another barrio known for its nightlife, for some clubbin.  I loved that area! After a few too many drinks and a few hours on the dance floor, Vic and I headed home.
 
Sure enough, I woke up hungover as hell and had to pack everything up to check out by 11am.  Kim and I had some delicious empanadas and coffee and went to Plaza de Mayo for a nap in the grass, which is the political hub of Buenos Aires.  La Casa Rosada (the Presidential Palace) is located here and is the venue for many political protests.  This is where Eva Peron and her husband made all their famous speaches to the portneos back in the day. ..you know, ‘Don’t cry for me Argentina!!!!’  Nice.  We also stumbled upon some Bolivian parade that was going on in the streets.  Everyone was dancing around in unison in some crazy ass costumes, singing and yelling…it was great!  One of the guys looked like an old 70’s pimp dancing around with his ladies. Ha! 
Plaza de Mayo

Plaza de Mayo

 Plaza de Mayo...you can see La Casa Rosada in the background
Bolivian Parade

Bolivian Parade

Nice Outfit

Nice Outfit

We arrived at our apartment and couldn’t be happier.  It was so much bigger than it looked on the web!  Cute little kitchen, nice size living area and bedroom.  It was perfect for me and Kim .  We took a walk around to get our bearings and headed to the store for some groceries. 
Our very own kitchen

Our very own kitchen

Loungin' in the living room

Loungin' in the living room

Our landlord provided us with an excellent reading selection

Our landlord provided us with an excellent reading selection

The Bedroom

The Bedroom

The next day was the famous San Telmo ‘feria’, an antique market that takes place every Sunday in San Telmo.  We were very excited to check it out and even more excited that it was in our neighborhood!  For some reason, Kim and I were having a hard time reading the map of the area, so we asked a few locals where the “feria” was located.  After we wondered around for a while, we stumbled upon a park with some tents set up.  We took a look around at a bunch of what we thought was pretty much…well, junk.  We were both a little confused and had expected a bit more from what we had heard about this market.  After about 2 or 3 hours, Kim suddenly realized we were in the wrong place!  We were at the park located right near our apartment that also has somewhat of a “feria” on Sundays. So after a few more locals’ directions, we found the REAL market.  It was awesome! There were tons of vendors, people, artists and musicians in the streets, along with quaint little restaurants and cafes. We both felt quite stupid for spending so much time in the wrong market earlier that day and plan to spend much more time here later in the week.   
 
The next day, we took on the subway system, which is pretty user friendly, and headed to the botanical gardens in Plaza Italia.  Besides all the crazy stray cats biting little kids, it was really nice.  We plan to do some more sight-seeing the next few days and meet up with a friend of mine, Stacie, that will be here for 3 days on her way to Chile.  We studied abroad in Spain together and I haven’t seen her in 5 years!  Should be good times!  Kim will be writing again soon! Stay tuned…
At the Botanical Gardens

At the Botanical Gardens

Sculpture at the Botanical Garden

Sculpture at the Botanical Garden

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Costa Rica Wrap Up

Kelly and I loved Costa Rica and hope to make it back someday to explore more of the towns in Guanacaste, Nicoya, and the Caribbean side. These are our final thoughts before we head off to our next destination.

The Landscape and Weather:

Tropical rainforests with a ton of wildlife, palm trees, golden sand beaches, rolling hills and mountains…you get the idea. Kelly and I came during rainy/low season, and we’re so glad we did. Sure, we sat through some heavy rains, but we had sunshine most of the time and we didn’t have to deal with hordes of other tourists. Most of the beach towns are pretty hot, between 85 and 100 degrees, while in Monteverde and San Jose, you needed a cardigan or a fleece at night.

The People:

All of the Ticos we encountered were friendly and helpful. There were a couple of sleazy guys and some cat-calls, but we have those kind of jerks in Texas too. Also, there are a lot of dudes with sweet mullets and rattails.

As far as other travelers are concerned, we met a lot of Americans here, and made friends with people from Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and Spain.

Kelly and I with Conrad and Alex, the owners of Vista Serena

Kelly and I with Conrad and Alex, the owners of Vista Serena

Good Times with Good People

Good Times with Good People - Erin and Josh (The Aussies)

The Food:

I had been told not to have high expectations of the food in Costa Rica, but Kelly and I were pleasantly surprised. We ate mostly at local sodas (small restaurants) and the food was fresh, tasty, and CHEAP. Our favorite dishes were gallo pinto, casados (a plate consisting of rice, beans, salad, and a meat such as fish or chicken), fresh fruit (a whole pineapple cost around 75 cents!), fried plantains, and ceviche.

Gallo Pinto, Eggs, and Toast

Gallo Pinto, Eggs, and Toast

The Booze:

We sucked down many local Imperial and Pilsen beers, but our favorite of all was the boxed wine, Clos. I’ve always been kind of a wine snob and have refused boxed wine in the past, but when you’re on a budget, exceptions are made. The determining factor was that Clos cost around $4.50 a liter, which was enough for Kelly and me to drink on for an evening. Kelly even invented a new term – instead of getting ‘tossed’ each night, we got ‘Clossed’. Hilarious. They also have a beer here called ‘Rock Ice’, which I didn’t try based on the name alone.

Kelly Getting Clossed

Kelly Getting Clossed

Jimmy and Rock Ice...Who Knew They Made Crack in a Can?

Jimmy and Rock Ice...Who Knew They Made Crack in a Can?

Costs:

Hostels and local sodas are cheap for lodging and food, but everything else is a lot pricier than we anticipated. Zip-lining, canyoning, hot springs, white water rafting, horseback riding, snorkeling expeditions, surfing lessons…all of these cost anywhere from $25 – $75 a pop per person. Be ready to spend some $$ if you like adventure activities.

Local buses are very inexpensive, but the roads are crap here and getting from Point A to Point B isn’t easy (or safe) and takes hours longer than if you are in a car. Getting a rental car was out of our budget and private shuttles range anywhere from $30 – $50 per person, depending on the destination. We took the public bus most places, but were lucky enough to become friends with some people that had cars and we were able to hitch a couple of rides.

Erin driving us to San Jose

Erin driving us to San Jose

Also, the cost of sunscreen is outrageous…$15 – $25 for one normal sized bottle.

Other Random Thoughts:

If you think you feel something crawling on you, there is definitely an insect of some sort crawling on you. We had to be extra diligent in shaking out all of our clothes and towels to get all of the critters out. Between the two of us, Kelly and I have over a hundred mosquito and ant bites all over! It seriously looks like I have chicken pox.

My red Reef flip flops died. It was a sad day when I had to chunk them. I’ve worn those things for years, through rain, mud, rivers, and beaches and have never had any issues. I don’t know why, but one day in La Fortuna they started smelling like a dead animal and there was nothing I could do to bring them back.. Goodbye old friends!

You can check out all of our Costa Rica pics under our ‘Photos’ tab.

And with that, adios Costa Rica!

Peace Out

Peace Out

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Dominical Days

Please note that Kelly is the author of this post, even though it is posted under Kim’s name.  Internet access DRAMA!

Oh Dominical.  What a great little beach town!  We said goodbye to our  friends at Vista Serena to head south to Dominical.   After a pretty painless hour and a half bus ride, we reached the Antorchas hostel, our home for the next 5 days where we waited for Yesenia and Andres.   She is friends with the owners and helped us get a hell of a deal…our room was $8/pp/night with a private bath.   Other than the thick stench of mold in the room, it was a pretty good set up since we only showered and slept in there so the smell wasn’t too big of a deal.  Plus, the beach was literally 75 yards from our door.   Awesome.

Outside of Antorchas

Outside of Antorchas

Playa Dominical is 25 km of open, amazing beach that is ideal for experienced surfers.   The water is crystal blue and the waves are huge!   It’s absolutely beautiful.   I’d also like to mention that we are so happy to be traveling in the low season.   There are so few people around, it’s really nice. The town itself is two streets; one lining the beach with a few sodas, bars and restaurants  and supermarkets on the other.   There are no more than 200 or so people living here.  Yeah…

The streets of Dominical...sorry, this one got cut off.

The streets of Dominical...sorry, this one got cut off.

Dominical beach around sunset

Dominical beach around sunset

Kim on the beach

Kim on the beach

We ended up running into a couple from Spain (Viva Espana!), Alan and Silvia, that we had met in Monteverde.  They stayed at Antorches too and we all spent the evening hanging out at the hostel in the great little seating area equipped with hammocks, TV, tables and chairs.  Christian, the crazy DJ/artist from Ibiza joined us as well.

The next morning, Kim and I went for a long walk on the beach.   The beach is so incredible in the morning.   Wow.   We then spent the day with Yesenia and Andres in Uvita, another beach town, even tinier than Dominical and about 15 minutes south.   We went to the marine park, Marina Ballenas, and enjoyed the empty beach.   Literally, other than one other family, we were the only ones on there.

On the beach in Marina Ballenas

On the beach in Marina Ballenas

Kelly and Yesenia

Kelly and Yesenia

I watched our things while Yesenia took Kim down a spot where two beaches collide and the waves break up against each other.  From a plane view, it looks just like a whale’s tail.   When the tide is low, you can walk down the length of the tail.   So cool!  We then went back to the hostel that night for some dinner and wine.

The next day, we all went back to the marine park for a whale watching tour for around $20, which included an hour or so of snorkeling, and another 2 hours of riding around and looking at whales, huge sea turtles and all the deserted beaches with rocks and caves.  They also gave us yummy pineapple, watermelon, and fresh coconut!   It was a fantastic day.

Us and Andres enjoying our fresh coconut on the boat

Us and Andres enjoying our fresh coconut on the boat

Sea Turtles!!

Sea Turtles!!

The following day, it poured rain and we just hung around at the hostel.  I spent some time with my new friend, Roberto, a local Tico that works as a tour guide in Corcovado National Park on the southern coast.   He knew so much about wildlife, surfing and everything Costa Rican.   Good times.

Roberto!

Roberto!

The day after was perfect for heading out to see a waterfall that everyone kept telling us about.  What an adventure…heh.   Again, the directions to anywhere in Costa Rica are crazy.   So after passing the waterfall by about 2 miles on a tiny gravel road uphill, Alan and Silvia got their rental car stuck in a small ditch!   Luckily we were near a house where a guy from New York was staying with his nice big Four Runner.   He had got stuck the day before and was more than happy to help us out.

Stuck Car

Stuck Car

After a few tries of some necessary pulling and pushing on our part, the car was out with no damage.   He then took us back to the house for some water, a great view of the ocean and then proceeded to take us down to the where the waterfall was.   All in all, it was worth the trouble.   The waterfall was beautiful.   After some climbing and swimming and my failed attempt at the rope swing, we headed back home for lunch and a relaxing evening.

Our reward after the car fiasco

Our reward after the car fiasco

At the waterfall

At the waterfall

Kim busted it on the rocks a couple of times, but finally got there...

Kim busted it on the rocks a couple of times, but finally got there...

Kim and I both really loved Dominical.   The morning walks, the numerous trips to the beach to watch the surfers, the sunset and the waves…it was perfect.  After some yoga on the beach for me and a quick dip for Kim, we decided to go ahead and make our way back to San Jose.   We could have spent a few more days there, but our Spanish friends had to leave.   They offered us a ride in their car (Woohoo! No bus ride!) back up to Manuel Antonio to crash at Vista Serena for a couple more days before we headed back to Yesenia’s.   We got to see a few of our friends from the previous week and also met an Australian couple who were 6 months into their around the world trip.   We’ll be hanging with them in our  upgraded private room. So nice!   Alex was going to have to split us up to make room for others, but instead he set us up for the same price in a two room “suite” with living room, TV, kitchen and private balcony with the Aussies.  Can we say good karma?

Sunset in Dominical

Sunset in Dominical

We fly out of San Jose on Thursday, the 15th to our next stop, Buenos Aires, ARGENTINA! Stay tuned for a Costa Rica wrap up! PURA VIDA!

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