This is the voice of Hannah Bruce; David’s interjections are in bold.
This is only part 1 of our vacation. There is more to come. But here are all of the photos. Sorry about the Ken Burns effect. I know its super annoying.
I land at 730AM a little disoriented after flying overnight. Argentine customs was a breeze, since I remembered (was reminded over and over) to pay my reciprocity fee (a bribe to let gringos like me [You are exceptionally gringo. No one is like you] into the country). I grab my bag, clear customs and head out to find the car that’s meant to take me to meet David, whose just made it back from Ushyia [Ushuaia. Way to sound it out, though], the southernmost part of the continent. There was some worry he wouldn’t make it in time to meet me, so ever the planner, our father booked us a room for one night at the Intercontinental as a Christmas gift/contingency plan. [This information embarrasses me] I walk into the arrivals area in a daze [A daze? This is how to best describe it—imagine Mike Tyson’s pet tiger, for the sake of the story we will call him Leonard. Leonard has been fed filet mignon and Häagen Dazs every day for meals. But one day, an animal rights group breaks in, dodges Mike’s punches, captures Leonard and releases him into the wilderness for the first time ever. Can you imagine how scared he must have been? The fear in Hannah’s eyes was about a 1/10 of that. I was standing right there with a big grin on my face, and she walked right past me, blinded by intimidation] when I hear my name shouted through the crowd. There is David to surprise me. I almost don’t recognize him. His hair is the longest I’ve ever seen it, and he’s got a thick beard. He seems older [#foreveryoung], more mature as a result of traveling on his own for the past 5 months. We drop bags at hotel and go to exchange dollars to pesos. Quite the experience, but I’ll tell you the story in person rather than put it out on the internet [you’re fine, you’ve left the country, I’m the one who will be kidnapped]. We return to the hotel with a large roll of money [I’d call it a stack]. I quickly learn that in Argentina cash will get you twice as far as charging a credit card. With our rolls of 50 peso bills [5 USD] locked in the hotel safe, we venture out. David’s Spanish is great, although he doesn’t think so. He’s able to engage people in conversation, ask for things he needs and is able to order from a café or restaurant. I was impressed. I have my first empanada of the trip, a food that will soon become a staple in my diet for the duration of the trip. [oink] We walk from hotel to San Telmo, one of Buenos Aires’ many neighborhoods. We browse antique markets and fruit stands. We pop into a few shops to find me a hat – the summer sun is strong and I desperately want to avoid sunburn. From San Telmo, we head to La Boca, a bohemian part of the city. Restaurants and bars line the cobbled streets where tango dancers trying to make tips put on shows for tourists. All of a sudden I am tired and we take bus back to hotel for a little siesta. I’ve always loved a good nap. We eat dinner at Francesco, a fancy Peruvian restaurant (ironic, I know) with David’s friends Luchu, Maria and Paddy. [Maria and Luchu dressed up like they were going to meet the first lady. Way to be an intimidating big sister Hannabee!] We trust Luchu [She manages the daily schedule of the Argentine minister of health, so she can order food for a couple of Bruces] to order for us and all eat family style. We feast on ceviche, salmon, grouper and steak fried rice. David chooses a wine from Salta, in the NW part of the country and where we are headed on the 25th. After dinner, we cram into Patty’s VW Golf [He gave us a sweet rundown of the city. As always, it’s awesome to ride around windows down on a warm summer night, packed with music, friends and family. It was good, really good]. and grab a drink at an underground bar, Atlantic Flower Shop (Floreria Atlantico). You walk into a flower shop, tell the woman behind the register that you’d like a drink and she points you to a large refrigerator door concealing a set of stairs down to the bar. Well worth the trip if you’re ever in Buenos Aires.
December 24th – David and I have a Christmas Eve breakfast feast at intercontinental #thanksdad [I had a buffet with five courses I think #bellyache]. We almost leave all of our pesos in the hotel safe. [But someone brilliant remembered before it was too late] Not a good start. [Could have been much worse] Christmas Eve is a quiet day in BA. [good rhyme Eminem] Xmas Eve is a day for people to be with the families and isn’t the large commercial ordeal that starts at Halloween, which I am grateful for. It’s 90 degrees out, so it’s hard to remember that it actually is Christmas. Museums and stores are closed, but David and I set out to walk around the Recoleta neighborhood [Hannah’s impressions of neighborhoods: In La Boca, “this is nice, I like it!” San Telmo, “Ohhh! This is my new favorite!!” Recoleta, “I think this is where I would live” and I said, “yes, of course you would, this is the nicest, wealthiest, safest neighborhood in Buenos Aires”] and the Cemetery. The Cemetery is [an] incredible [waste of space]– a small village of intricate and ornate mausoleums and graves. I had to snag a look at Eva Perons grave. I’m such a tourist. Many of the tombs are very intricate complete with stone and marble cravings and detailed wrought iron gates. David’s favorite is one made of wood with a corrugated tin roof. It doesn’t fit in at all among the splendor, but it is clearly meaningful to the owner of the plot. [or could just be the landscaper’s shed] Sweaty [speak for yourself, please] and tired, David and I caved and sat on a shaded patio at a Starbucks [this is so embarrassing] to cool off. David was thrilled about the chance to indulge in an iced coffee after a month of travelling in Patagonia [trudat]. Feeling recovered, we continued to walk towards the Japanese Gardens, which were closed for the holiday. Tired of walking and disappointed the gardens weren’t open we hopped in a cab and headed to the Palermo barrio, the soho of Argentina. Cute boutiques, restaurants and cafés line tree-shaded streets. We find a place for lunch – gazpacho and split a salad. On the way home, we stop to pick up a pint of ice cream from Freddo, David’s [Argentina’s] favorite ice cream shop, and a popular chain in Buneos Aires. We drop the pint in the freezer of the apartment one of David’s friends has let us crash in while he’s home in the States. Thanks Misha! [Thanks buddy!] Since everything is closed, we decided to cook dinner at home. We rush over to the Disco, the local grocery store before it closed to get food to make our Christmas Eve feast. [I didn’t check the expiration date of any of the food I got. Rookie move.] We (David) spent the evening cooking, planning our adventures in Salta, looking at photos from David’s month in Patagonia (newly added to my bucket list of places to see) and enjoying some wine. David cooks chicken, grilled eggplant and large bell peppers with egg inside. David has brought back glacial melt water to drink, which of course I’m skeptical of #citykid. [she looked at it as if there was a cockroach giving birth inside] We open some stocking presents from our parents and watch Despicable Me 2. It’s bad [But the minions crushed it] so we give up half way. I’m happy to be with David over Christmas. [heart warming] I would have hated for him to be alone over the holidays. And this wasn’t exactly a sacrifice on my part to be away from home. We both head to bed feeling quite ill. [My stomach was performing the opera] Food poisoning had to happen at some point. Argentine eggs aren’t refrigerated at the store, but we ate them anyway. Or maybe it was the chicken… [Benjamin Bruce and I were chatting via Face Time when the food poisoning made itself known—a bonding moment for all!]
December 25th – Off to Salta! After little sleep we are up early to catch our flight. We down some coffee and a bite of granola, lock up the apartment and we are on our way backpacks in tow. Argentine airports are like bus stations. Security is lackadaisical at best. You don’t need to remove liquids from your bags or your shoes. [What liquids were you carrying in your shoes, Bee?] No one checks your ID. The flight is delayed. Typical. We post up for a nap on the floor. The flight gets delayed again. We grab a bottle of wine from a Cafeteria by the gate and indulge in some snacks the ‘rents sent over from the States. Thanks for the beef jerky, mom. We play cards to pass the time. David is [so good he seems like] a cheater! [#cantlose] The gate attendant admits the airline he works for is crap. I appreciated the honesty, but not sure his airline would. [I started chatting with the agent responsible for our flight, and share my story about my 26-hour delay two days ago. He laughs about the lack of organization of Aerolineas, suggesting that a toddler could run the airline more effectively then assures me his dimwitted airline will get us to Salta at some point today]. It’s 1:30PM and our flight is finally ready to leave. It’s a two-hour flight and I sleep [‘sleep’ also known as ‘fear-filled body shutdown’] for most of it. The plane comes down for a landing with mountains on either side. It’s a beautiful view of the Andes, but of course all I can think about it the plane going down in the mountains and David and I will never be seen again. Irrational. We share a cab into Salta with two Canadians. Rule #1: always look for backpacks when traveling in a foreign country. It usually signals people on a budget, who are happy to help make life cheaper for you. We arrive in central Salta and find the hostel. David has booked a place he heard about from people he met in Patagonia. We are sharing a quad with two young French men. Co-ed hostel accommodations are new to me, but I try to take it all in stride. At $7/ night, [$6] who can complain? I came to Argentina to experience how David has been travelling, and while I would love to be in a nice hotel [#bratty], it would completely defeat the purpose of my trip. David and I drop our bags and walked to Plaza 9 de Julio. It’s Christmas Day so very little is open and no one is around. We grab a beer and some lunch on the square. We try a local beer, Salta Negra, that quickly becomes a favorite. [Riquísimo!] We also share a milonesa, a thin slice of steak that’s breaded with cheese and ham on top. Can’t go wrong. We continue to walk around and explore town. We visit a few of the local churches and then walk back to the hostel to read and nap. At 9 we venture out for dinner – Argentineans eat late. Salta has come back to life by now and stores, bars and restaurants are opening. We sit down for dinner at a spot clearly designed to entice tourists. Music is playing and a couple dances around the tables in traditional dress. David and I share empanadas humanitas and tamales. We stop for some soft serve on the way back to the hostel. I’m embarrassed to admit it was from McDonalds. [Never! They serve soft serve dulche de leche ice cream. I’d eat it for breakfast it’s so good.]
December 26th – We grab coffee con leche [fine spanglish] and medialunas, like croissants, but better, for breakfast and walk to the town square to pick up a rental car from Hertz. It’s manual. David has driven manual before, but is by no means a pro. We drive around a few city blocks while he gets the hang if it. I don’t think I took a breath for about 15 minutes. [Her tension made me tense, it was like she became Jean Grey from Xmen and controlled my thoughts and feelings]. After a couple stall outs and some wrong gearshifts, we hit the road. Our destination is Cafayate, a small town south of Salta. Words can’t do justice to the drive, so you’ll have to check out the pictures. We stop along the route for pictures. Most of the road is paved, but it’s slow going. Lots of sharp curves. We stop at la gargantua del diablo, and natural cave built into the rock. It looks just like you’re staring down someone’s [el Diablo is probably a little ticked off you refer to him as just ‘someone.’] throat. About 100ft high. Maybe more. It’s very hot. There is no refuge from the desert sun. [Except the air-conditioned car.] We arrive in Cafayate. The town is small, built around a central square. Some roads are paved. Others aren’t. Beautiful church on the plaza, which is dotted with cafés, bars and artesian markets. We find a hostel to stay at – not knowing where I’m sleeping at night is new to me, but I trust David. We find a hostel a block away from the plaza, leave our backpacks and head out to walk around town. It’s about 4 and the town is quiet. Siesta. Not much is open, so we decide to get back on the car and check out some of the surrounding vineyards. [We had hoped to rent bikes and cycle around to the vineyards, but all the bikes in the town had already been checked out, unfortunately]. This is Argentina’s wine country. [The beginning of it. Wine country stretches all the way down through the epicenter in Mendoza to then its southernmost region is around Bariloche. Cafayate is pretty far north, but it’s high altitude makes up for its latitude.] The desert climate is perfect for growing grapes and rainwater coming down from the Andes is enough to keep the vineyards hydrated without having to pump in water. 3 varietals are grown in the regions torrentes (white) Malbec and cabernet sauvignon. My first wine tasting. We learn to first check color then smell. Wine should smell different after you swirl it if it’s good. The vineyard is stunning. Sits on top of a hill overlooking Cafayate. [My favorite part was the cactus-lined driveway. The cactuses in this region got huge, up to 20 feet or more! Senior year, I had a cactus named Neil. Apparently he’s getting super big at home. This definitely made me miss him.] We get a tour and learn how to make wine. [You know how to make wine after that? This lady is spectacular!] It’s almost 5 and the vineyards are closing. We head back into town and walk around artisanal markets. Pick up two mini bottles of Malbec [One was called ‘Don David’] and go sit on the hostel’s roof to drink and read. Treat ourselves to a nice dinner on the square. Restaurant is called Turrantes [Amazing you remember this stuff] and came recommended by someone at the vineyard. We dine on empanadas, steak, and raviolis and indulge in a bottle of organically grown Malbec. We sit next to two Canadians at dinner – an elderly couple who are spending a month in Argentina. That’s the life. No obligations – can just pick up and travel. Back to hostel for a good nights sleep. Off to Cachi tomorrow