Asados y Amigos

In uniform
In uniform

Although we lost a bit of momentum from two very strong weeks, we have continued forging forward through what we hope will be the last months of winter. The kids were generally in good spirits and have become really adept at our morning ritual.  We went to a terrific Asado at the home of Michele’s friend Sharilyn.   Although no other kids showed up, we loved the guitar players, the fried empanadas with lemon squeezed inside and the lamb and pork slow cooked on the grill.  Our planned journey to El Campo (the farm) was rained out by some flooding but luckily the weather was nice for the weekend. Jake had an actual basketball game against another club that he enjoyed.

We love school
We love school
Great Asado with music
Great Asado with music

We went to an Asado at our friends the Costas’ home out near Nordelta which had buena onda.  On Sunday we had a nice 2+ hour lunch at Cafe Olvietti with a glass of wine and then headed to the park for some roller skating.

The gals charlando
The gals charlando
Rollers
Rollers

Monday was the holiday to commemorate San Martin and so we celebrated in proper Argentine style at Keri and Mateo’s asado. So while we missed a trip to the campo, we made the most of it.

A favorite statute near Tres Febrero.
A favorite statute near Tres Febrero.
Proper Sunday lunch
Proper Sunday lunch
Amigos
Amigos
Big Asado for a long weekend
Big Asado for a long weekend

The following week we had a big Wednesday night when we went to a movie at 8 and THEN went out to dinner at 10 pm!  Who are we?  We have gone totally native.  We also came to the conclusion that while spending time with our kids has been one of the best things about our journey, it’s also possible to spend too much time with the kids.  That at least seemed like a logical conclusion as we had dinner and drinks, well mostly drinks at Gran Bar Drzaon.

The following weekend Jake and I went for a  bit of a tour of city center while Kate and Michele ran some errands back at the ranch.  It was fun to see all these majestic buildings in the city center but a bit sad.  These buildings were once magnificent and while they retain some of their natural beauty they have slipped into a state of disrepair.  It’s a bit emblematic of the country which has such incredibly natural beauty but hasn’t grown meaningfully in a long while.

Palacio de Corrientes a faded gem
Palacio de Corrientes a faded gem
Jake and Congress
Jake and Congress
The weathered Congress
The weathered Congress

The Beatles Museum

Subway Art
Subway Art

We also had some fun stops on the subway and the Beatles “museum” which is really just a large connection of Beatles paraphernalia but fun none the less.  The night we went our with our friend Fer and Belen first to 878 and then to see WarPaint, a US band playing at the Voterix theater.  Dinner proved to be an interesting cultural challenge as I wanted to finish in time to see the show start but had to balance that with the fact that it is considered quite rude to rush through a meal.  I think we made it through with all cultural sensitivities in tact..  After a big night we had a relaxed day of kids sports and then watching Boca play.

Warpaint
Warpaint
Vamos Boca
Vamos Boca

Not everything was so rosy this week.  Kate really misses her friends from home and is having a hard time adapting to a new culture at school where the environment is not as inclusive and supportive as that at home.

Kate’s view is that it’s tough sledding but she knows this is a good experience for her and she is bound and determined to get through it. I really couldn’t be prouder.

Flujo (Flow)

Kate's riding has really improved
Kate’s riding has really improved
Carniceria!
Carniceria!
Don Julio eases the pain
Don Julio eases the pain

We seem to be in a good state of flow where our days are full but we feel sufficiently in control.  Michele and I have developed a good routine of Spanish classes, tennis lessons, nights out to dinner and travel planning (and of course, for me, work).   Kate’s overall happier at school and her riding has improved markedly. Jake is beginning to speak Spanish more often and seems more comfortable in school and at home.

As for our adventures, we discovered a terrific new place La Carniceria that we really loved.  It’s a modern style parilla with great service.  The night we were there, the New York Times had reporters there writing the “36 hours in Buenos Aires” article, but sadly it didn’t make the cut.

The big news was that Michele’s parents had planned to visit us and, due to a number of mishaps, they had to cancel their trip.  We were understandably disappointed (Jake broke down and wept uncontrollably when he heard the news) but we managed to dull the pain by going Don Julio without them. Michele continued to be a warrior scheduler by booking a last second trip to Estancia Los Patos.  The experience was really great and the wonderful owners made us feel right at home.  No, literally, they ate every meal with us and took the kids out to play croquet. It was like renting grandparents for the weekend.  Our host even gave us a little guitar serenade. A great mini-adventure.

El campo
El campo
Kids resting
Kids resting
Loving the horses
Loving the horses
Entertaining owners
Entertaining owners
Dogs and horses, what else can a kid want?
Dogs and horses, what else can a kid want?

The following Monday was Labor Day which means nothing in Argentina so the kids had school, but I had the day off. Michele and I took advantage of some alone time by taking our Spanish class, enjoying a healthy lunch (for a change) and going on a little shopping tour.  My favorite shop was La Restinga which is conveniently located in an apartment buried in a residential apartment building; just another part of the experience.  The next evening we had dinner (at 9:15!) with our friends the Shaws at El Burlado, a local Spanish restaurant.  We think it’s cool that the Shaws send their kids to a half Spanish/ half Italian school but neither of them speak Spanish.  It was a fun night and we can tell you that it’s not easy getting up after dining until midnight.

The following Saturday we took the bus to the ecological reserve in Puerto Madero where we cycled around, or more accurately Kate and Michele cycled around while Jake and I had a “bonding” experience around bicycle instruction.  On Sunday, we went to Las Talas, a very simple parilla style restaurant just outside the city limits.  Our host Martin told us that this restaurant began as a street vendor, but it has grown into a MASSIVE place, with about 60 picnic tables inside and a line around the block for carryout.  Speaking of massive, the portions were simply outrageously large.  We had some delicious sausage, matambrito, ribs and lomo; enough food for 40.  Perhaps the most fun thing was our waiter (whom we forgot to photograph) who gave us a full theatric performance alongside our food, including suggesting that my mouth was stuck to the wine bottle the way a horseshoe was stuck to a horse.  Fantastic banter and a great experience.  Particular thanks to Martin and Lucila, his vegetarian girlfriend, for accompanying us. Also it was the first time in my life when I ate so much for lunch that I was unable to eat dinner.  Quite a landmark.  I did, however, wake up from my post feast nap in time to watch another heartbreaking loss by Boca to the Pope’s team, San Lorenzo, when the normally steady Betancur left an errant cross right in front of his goal in the waning minutes of the game.

Puerto Madero reserve
Puerto Madero reserve
The gang at Las Talas
The gang at Las Talas
Yummy
Yummy
Un monton de comida
Un monton de comida
Hell ya
Hell ya

A good week of school followed.  We considered moving Kate up a grade, now that her Spanish is up to speed, but were dissuaded by the thoughtful folks at her school.  The kids had the day off Friday and Michele took them to a cooking class at Tierra Negra where they made empandas and alfahores. Get ready friends in the States to partake in some Argentine delights. Saturday we started the day off with regular tennis and basketball and then jumped on a short one hour ferry ride to Colonia, Uruguay.  We spent the day at the lovely Rio Ancho a tiny little place right outside of town.  Great spot for kayaking and a sunset on the beach.  We spent the next day wandering around Colonia which is a quaint little town and then headed acrross the Rio Platte back to Buenos Aires.

Chef Jake
Chef Jake
With their creation
With their creation
Magical sunset in Uraguay
Magical sunset in Uraguay
Up on the viewing tower
Up on the viewing tower
The view from the Lighthouse
The view from the Lighthouse
Our place in Colonia from above
Our place in Colonia from above
Michele's motto
Michele’s motto
Goofing off
Goofing off

We then drove up to Tigre to spend Rosh Hashanah with our friends the Benzaquens, where they had invited their parents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  It was quite a strange experience because it seemed as if my family had been magically transported to Tiger and learned to speak Spanish.  The resemblance were just eerie, right down to the different role that different family members play (the talker, the quite one who makes every get along, the sweet one, the observant one).

Consultation
Consultation
Amigos
Amigos
My Argentine family
My Argentine family

It was a long weekend for the kids and they didn’t get home until late Sunday night.  When Monday morning came, I expected a rocky morning, but, much to my delight, while the kids were a little grumpy when the alarm went off, the got dressed and went to school without much of a fuss.  Ironically, that moment brought me as much pleasure as all of the travel and other experiences.

Spring Break! Brazil

For the kid’s spring break, we headed off to Brazil for a few days of sun and fun.  Rio is a short 3 hour flight from BsAs, but culturally it is miles apart.  The first shock was trying to navigate Portuguese. Our Argentine friends said that they could pretty much understand and be understood in “Portuñol” the Spanish/Portuguese combination.  Well, let’s just say when the español is weak, the portuñol is non existent.

The vibe is quite different in Rio.  Most obviously it’s a city on the beach, like LA or Sydney, and the beach feeling is very strong.  Also, the atmosphere is distinctly more tropical (as is the weather which was a healthy 10-15 degrees warmer).  The population in Rio is far more diverse, with a mix of natives and people of African ancestry both of which are far less prominent in Buenos Aires.  Also, it just feels like a big party.  Perhaps it was because we stayed so close to the beach, but we certainly got the feeling that the people were having a good time.  Interesting that the beaches are full of little food/drink stands that can create an instant fiesta.

For the first two days, we stayed in Leblon, which is like the Manhattan Beach of Rio.  Lots of sport on the beach and folks running (as well as the aforementioned beer/food kiosks).  The beach was packed like the Jersey Shore, but everyone was just drinking beers openly instead of surreptitiously sipping them.   En route to the beach, we encountered a new food call Bolinhos, which are effectively fried dough with some type of filling.  Don’t know why those things don’t get more press.

Always a party on the Beach in Rio
Always a party on the Beach in Rio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our first full day in Rio we had a tourist program.  Our first stop was the Maracaña futbol stadium.  Interestingly this is where all of the local teams in Rio play their games (unlike in Argentina where each team has their own stadium) as well as the site of the World Cup and other international events.  We then headed up to  Corcovado, the mountain upon which the giant statute of Christ the Redeemer sits peering over the city.   The statute and the views are well worth the journey.   We then headed off to Sugar Loaf, another prominent mountain perched in the bay that overlooks all of Rio.  We accessed Sugar Loaf via cable car, though we saw some brave souls scaling it.  Sort of like visiting Mount Rushmore in that it’s a truly amazing place, but really only worth a short visit.

Two amazing restaurants we discovered in Rio.  The first is Zuka where we brought the kids and the next was ZaZa which Michele and I both rate as one of our favorites, ever.  We went twice.

Touristas!
Touristas!
Looking down
Looking down
I've seen the light
I’ve seen the light
The View from Above
The View from Above
From the trolley heading up Sugar Loaf
From the trolley heading up Sugar Loaf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kate was a bit under the weather the next day, so Jake and I ventured out to Parque de Catacumba. They have ziplines and canopies and such and we had a good time. Also a nice little hike to get another elevated view of the city. We then moved to the incredible Hotel Fasano. Designed by Phillip Stark, this is one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever seen. Also, because there was the “Rock in Rio” music festival, there were all sorts of “fans” waiting outside since apparently some of the performers were staying there. Interesting people watching.

The Hotel was located on Ipanema beach (like “Girl from Ipanema”).  This beach is a even more crowded than Leblon with a bit more of an urban feeling.  It was a BIG party and had a little taste of danger, particularly when Jake and I decided to climb around some rock outcroppings jutting into the water.  I also took the kids skateboarding in a park right next to the beach.  They rode beautifully and we had a great time playing in the sun.

We earned this view!
We earned this view!
Hotel Fasano
Hotel Fasano
Skate rats in Rio
Skate rats in Rio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Rio we headed north to the beach resort area of Buzios. Buzios is a peninsula that juts out between the bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The area is dotted with different beaches to visit each of which has different degrees of wind and surf depending on the location.  We stayed at the fantastic Casa Branca, a beautiful european style hotel with the most magical sunset view imaginable.  It’s not like a US style resort with a big beach/pool, but the views are spectacular and Sebastian, their concierge, helped us navigate all of the various beaches and local restaurants. We particularly enjoyed Restaurant David although all of Sebastian’s suggestions were great.

Buzios was a great adventure.  We went snorkling, did stand up paddle, rented a buggy to cruise around town, surfed on the Atlantic coast and then ended the trip with a boat tour of the area.  All the beaches have on site vendors of food, drink as well as other trinkets.  They offer beach chairs for their customers so it is a great freemium system.

Sunset in Buzios
Sunset in Buzios
Sunset from Casa Branca
Sunset from Casa Branca
Surfin' Buzeos
Surfin’ Buzeos
Surf's Up
Surf’s Up
The Buggy
The Buggy
Our Little Buddy
Our Little Buddy
Woohoo!
Woohoo!

Overall an excellent trip. I’m not sure we’d have been able to enjoy it as much before our time in Argentina. What I mean is that we had to contend inconveniences to which we were not previously accustomed: slightly dangerous areas, navigating the system of vendors on the beach ( in Portuñol), glacial service. I think our time in Argentina has made us more adaptable and also more comfortable with uncertainty. That realization made the trip even more enjoyable.

Peak Argentina

The week after returning from Brazil was our best Argentina. Kids were feeling good about school. Michele and I were in our groove with a new routine including a terrific new Spanish teach (Mondays and Thursdays in Palermo) our tennis lesson (Wednesday) and, I’ll admit it, our weekly massage (Friday).

The Bar at the
The Bar at the “Flower Shop”

On Wednesday night, we walked the ~2.2 miles across Palermo to Uco where we enjoyed an excellent meal.  Walking across the city is our new favorite early evening activity as it gives us a chance to see the town and feel like we got some exercise before indulging.  Friday we went to see The Martian at the Recoleta Theater, which is our favorite moviehouse. Interestingly, the seating at the movies in BsAs is assigned like at a baseball game in the states.  The seats at this theater are really spacious and, oh, did I mention that they serve beer at the theater?  Afterwards we headed off to the super hip Floreria Atlantico.  I don’t want to name names, but certain people (Michele) were skeptical about my choice for dinner (at 10:00 pm), particularly because the restaurant was underneath a flowershop, but it turned out to be a great evening.

Saturday, began like any other weekend with a trip to the club for basketball and tennis for the kids and then KATY PERRY CONCERT. OMG!!! Jake and I weren’t brave enough, but Michele took the cab up to the Hippodrome and went with Kate. The concert was spectacular. Crowd was super into it and Katy put on a great show going through all her hits. She wore approximately 100 different outfits, including her trademark wigs, and her backup dancers were terrific.  Our Kate didn’t stop screaming once, only outdone by the gentlemen standing behind her and Michele.  A special evening.

The party girls
The party girls
I think she's enjoying it
I think she’s enjoying it

Sunday Jake took center stage, playing in his first basketball tournament (el mundalito) at the Club de Amigos. Le Reyes de Basquet gave a spirited performance and it was amazing to me to see how far Jake has come. When we started at Club de Amgios I had to literally push him on to the court to get him to play and now he pesters me to be sure we arrive on time and, as soon as we arrive, he darts off to join his teammates. I couldn’t be happier.

Homage to Dr. J
Homage to Dr. J
Los Reyes de Basquetbol
Los Reyes de Basquetbol

Following Jake’s tournament, we headed to La Bombanera, the home of the Boca Jrs. futbol club. The spirit in the stadium was truly astounding. There are sections where they sing and wave flags during the entire game (not sitting for a second). The security was actually much better than I expected and we felt entirely safe once we arrived. There is, however, barbed wire atop the fence that separates the reserved seats from the “publico” section. Also, it is most dangerous outside the stadium so I recommend going with a tour company or someone who knows the area. It was amazing to watch Carlos Tevez play in person. He is truly at a different level than the other players and operates as a coach on the field, telling the others where to go. Boca won 1-0 on a goal by Tevez which he actually deflected off one of the defenders. It wasn’t a beautiful game, but it was a terrific experience.

Outside the temple
Outside the temple

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After the big weekend, we didn’t even pause to catch a breath. Monday night I went out with my new friends from Dharmatec to see La Bobma Tiempo, an band composed of 25 or so different drummers, play their Monday night show at the Konex. The band was smoking good and the scene was spectacular. This band plays every Monday and it’s usually the best thing happening on a Monday night in BsAs and so there was a really fun crowd and vibes were really strong. Of course, we finished the evening with drinks and dinner at 11 pm.

Tuesday I returned to Floreria to have drinks with my good friend Sebastian Sanson Lopez. We had a great talk and, for the first time, he actually spoke with me in Spanish. Michele also went out Tuesday night with her friend Keri to 878, one of our favorite haunts. I’m really pleased that we both have developed some genuine friendships here in BsAs and I’m glad for people like Sebas who are willing to make room in their lives to befriend foreigners like us. After a brief night off for work on Wednesday, Thursday evening, Michele and I went to Crizia, one of our favorite spots in BsAs.  When we first came in, we said we’d like to sit at the bar and the hostess walked us past the best seats (at the lower bar in front of the kitchen) and seated us at the main bar.  As soon as Pedro, the barman, saw us, he immediately moved us to the best seats in the house, which he told us were reserved for his best customers.  Peak Argentina, indeed.

Peninsula Valdes

The old saying that a picture is worth 1,000 words has never been more true than with respect to our incredible trip to Peninsula Valdes.  A tiny peninsula jutting into the Atlantic Ocean from Patagonia, Peninsula Valdes is a true gem and an experience our family will never forget. We stayed as the only guests at Loreto Lodge where we treated like family.  This estancia is located directly on the peninsula and so immediate access to all of the many sights is quick and easy which enables long days of adventure.

I can’t possibly recommend this trip highly enough.  Our visit began with an amazing hordeback ride riding among maras, guanacos and, of course, sheep up to the beach where you can both see and hear the whales.

First day riding
First day riding
Nice view
Nice view
View from the beach
View from the beach
Up on the cliffs
Up on the cliffs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day began with a hike across the ranch.  We then drove across the peninsula for a morning boat ride where the kids got to snorkel with a colony of sea-lions.  We passed a number of whales nursing their calves and then we settled into a cove for a little fishing contest.  Once we caught our lunch, we headed back to the ranch for an Asado.

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Home sweet home
Home on the range
Home on the range
Ready to go
Ready to go
The minnow
The minnow
Who's there?
Who’s there?
Our friends
Our friends
Whales
Whales
Lunch
Lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After lunch we headed across the penisula to see the penguins nesting.  A huge advantage of staying on the peninsula itself is that the penguins nest on private land, which Loreto has access to.  So instead of having a lot of people crowing into an area with a few wlidllife, we were very few people strolling through a ton of wildlife.  Naturally we conducted ourselves in a manner so that we wouldn’t disrupt them, but the penguins were fairly non-plussed by our arrival.  The elephant seals couldn’t have cared less.

Penguins!
Penguins!
Out for a walk
Out for a walk
Making new friends
Making new friends
Hello!
Hello!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a delicious dinner of local shrimp and scallops, we collapsed into bed. The next day we began the day by kayaking amongst the whales along a beautiful and totally empty beach. We had to be careful not to run directly into the whales. The sound of them breathing could be heard all the way from the beach and to hear it up close was totally magic. Ernesto (aka Ernestcito) and Ale took the kids out by themselves while Michele and I enjoyed a magical hike along the beach and up the dunes. We then took the kayaks while the kids enjoyed a bit more snorkeling along the beach.

Kayaks
Kayaks
Kayak man
Kayak man
Snorkelers
Snorkelers
Whale watching
Whale watching

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After eating the salmon we caught for lunch, Michele stayed in to inspect her eyelids while I took the kids to Ale’s father’s sheep farm to watch a sheep shearing in the traditional way. We then clambered down to the beach where we climbed the immense dunes and watched the sunset, bringing an end to another spectacular day.

Someone's not happy
Someone’s not happy
P1180033
Wooly bully
Sunset Mate
Sunset Mate
Señorcito Gaucho
Señorcito Gaucho
Yeeha!
Yeeha!
Airborn!
Cowabunga!

Sunday began with a quick morning horseback ride and then tearful hugs goodbye. A really special place to which I hope to return some day soon.

Lleno (Full)

Life in Buenos Aires resumed in full swing when we returned from Peninsula Valdes. We went to the amazing Teatro Colon to see the Balet of Romeo and Juliet. The theater is a real marvel of Buenos Aires. It’s like a trip back in time to an era of elegant sophistication.

My ladies
My ladies
Spectacular Colon.
Spectacular Colon.
Colon!
Colon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following day Kate had her “sports day” for her school, which is like a big track meet. Although her house only came in 3 of 4, she seemed to relish participating and being part of a big team. I particularly enjoyed the singing during the final races.

Kate leads the warm ups
Kate leads the warm ups
The race is on
The race is on
Field day
Field day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That evening we hosted our own version of Iron Chef, pitting 3 teams of kids against each other. The kids all did great and I had a hard time picking a winner, but the scrabmled egg dish eventually took the cake. We shut the party down at the sensible hour of 1:30 am since we have now gone totally native.

After the competition
After the competition
Iron Chef
Iron Chef

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day we welcomed our first guest in a while, my partner Jay Pomerantz. It was wonderful sharing our city with Jay and it gave me a great opportunity to revisit some of our favorite haunts including 878, La Bomba de Tiempo, Sotto Vocce and Crizia. Also, it was great seeing the city with someone who was experiencing it for the first time, since it reminded me of the magical quality of Buenos Aires.

With our guest
With our guest
Saturday in the park
Saturday in the park
Touristas!
Touristas!
Con mis amigos
Con mis amigos
En mi ciudad
En mi ciudad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michele also kept her plate full while I was showing Jay the town. Her friend Natalia had a beautiful new baby girl. She also visited Kate’s class on parent’s visiting day (which Kate grudgingly permitted). Not wanting to leave all the nightlife to me, she also had a couple of girls’ nights out including one at the Duhai and an extra late night at the Pony Lounge.

Nueva amiga
Nueva amiga
Amigas de Michele
Amigas de Michele
She seems pleased that we are visiting
She seems pleased that we are visiting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michele and I also had a vacation without kids for the first time since we arrived. We ventured off to the wine region of Mendoza. The area is just massive, comprised of a few different wine zones that are each 40 minutes apart. We stayed at the Vines of Mendoza in the Uc0 Valley which is absolutely amazing. It has a restaurant on site opened by famous chef Francis Mallman along with beautiful rooms and a host of activities. The main business of the Vines is actually selling small plots of land for people who wish to create their own wine. It’s a brilliant business and seems to be really thriving. We met one of the early landowners and I must admit, his Caprice Malbec was truly spectacular. We also did a tasting at Ruca Malen where they have the brilliant strategy of pairing the entire tasting with a meal. What a great way to experience the wine! Obviously, a nap was required immediately thereafter. We didn’t have the best weather, but we didn’t let that stop us from taking a great hike into the foothills of the nearby Andes. Our guide regaled us with great mountain fables. Since they were all in Spanish I’m not sure if the moral of the story was that happiness lies within you or there is parmesan cheese in the air conditioner, but we enjoyed it nevertheless.

Nice view!
Nice view!
El Gaucho (it was cold)
El Gaucho (it was cold)
Kids managed to have fun without us.
Kids managed to have fun without us.
The Andes from the vineyard.
The Andes from the vineyard.
Wine tasting with lunch. Genius!
Wine tasting with lunch. Genius!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So we are now entering the homestretch of our journey and trying to savor every last minute of it. Our lives are full of friendship and adventure and we are delighted.

Vivo! (Alive)

The pace of life has continued to quicken as we find ourselves running from one activity to the next, trying to squeeze every last drop out of our journey. We started off the weekened by attending  the incredible Fuerza Bruta show at the Cultural Center in Recoleta with our friends the Costas.   We followed the show with a lovely dinner at the civilized hour of 10pm.  Particularly interesting to me was Gonzalo’s confession that he doesn’t think he’s been a good friend to us because he’s only invited us out say 5 times.  Quite different than the way we would see things in the U.S. when a stranger moves to town.

The next day was Halloween/Michele’s Birthday.  Since Halloween is not really celebrated here in Argentina, I would have thought Michele would have taken the opportunity to claim the day for herself for the only time in her life, but, the wonderful mother that she is, she made it about the children as usual.  We did celebrate  Michele with gifts and cards and by giving Mom some alone time to work out and get her coffee.  Kate then went over to visit her friend whose dog just had 5 puppies.  Luckily none of them came home with her.

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Happy Birthday!
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Puppies!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next it was on to Halloween   Michele has befriended a group of ex-pats who do a big block party for Halloween.  We had a friend who is a make up artist for Teatro Colon come over to do our make up and the results were, well, frightening.

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Boo!
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Argentine Vampire
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Scary Crew

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michele and I ran the bobbing for apples stand (Buscar por los manzanos) and it was really fun watching all the locals try it out.  Meanwhile our kids went trick or treating around the block with their friends which was terrific.  I also had to confront my own personal demon, a guy who had previously refused to speak to me because of my lousy Spanish.  I came to his house with a bottle of wine, which he grudgingly approved of, and we had a brief conversation in which he let me know that fishing for dorado (his hobby) is superior to trout fishing (mine), but I held my own.   Afterwards we went out to dinner while dressed which really confounded the locals.  One little fun detail was that the local Murga (which is sort of a dancing marching band) performed at the block party, adding a nice Argentine flavor to this American event.

The following week my brother Tom arrived and I was thrilled to be able to share the city with him.  Our first day was devoted almost entirely to eating as we tackled both Sotto Vocce and Don Julio in a single day.  The following day, we upped our level of culture covering the Cemetery, the Belle Artes Museum and the Malba, along with enjoying the beautiful parks between our apartment and Recoleta.  The next day we had a nice walk around San Telmo after first attacking  huge steaks at La Brigada.  That evening we headed  out to Luna Park, the big indoor concert arena, with a couple of friends to catch some local music.  The band, Empire of the Sun, was absolutely abominable and we left after only 4 horrendous songs, but we turned the evening around by heading out to a local pub to sample the local Argentine bar food. One good thing to come out of that night was the idea to walk from Congresso to Casa Rosado the next day.  It was a great way to see the historical part of the city and we got some great pictures.  We also visited Piegari for yet another feast, but we ended up calling it a night quite early on Friday so that we would be well rested for Saturday’s big event.

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El Touristo
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Two flowers
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Don Julio
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Teo el Touristo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lest you think that the boys were having all the fun, Michele managed to find time to go out with her friends to a fashion show at the Spanish embassy with her crew of chicas. Que lindissima!

 

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Las Chicas

Which brings us to the main attraction of Tom’s visit, the incredible Pearl Jam concert in La Plata. Tom and I began the big day early, heading down to the home of our friend Martin Ponce for an Asado. It was a typically absurd Argentine spread, with enough food to feed an army and the best mollejas I’ve ever had. Tom paid Martin the ultimate complement by telling him it was the best food he’d had in all of Argentina, which is no small complement given the places we’d eaten. Martin also introduced me to Martin Fiero, the classic Argentine gaucho poem, which contains the following bit of wisdom

Los hermanos sean unidos
Porque esa es la ley primera –
Tengan unión verdadera
En cualquier tiempo que sea –
Porque si entre ellos pelean
Los devoran los de afuera.

Roughly

The brothers must be united
because this is the first law-
that they have a true union
it should be so in all cases
because if between them they fight
the outsiders will devour them.

Very moving for me and I hope I can live up to those wise words.

Having eaten more than our fill we headed off to the concert. We stationed ourselves on the floor as close as possible without getting caught in the rough and tumble of the first few rows. Michele finagled a ride with the friends and family of the band and we managed to meet her on the floor through our advanced logistical planning.

The show was simply epic.  3:45 minutes long without a real break.  33 songs of which 14 were played in two incredible encores.  The setlist was superb, spanning all of the bands albums and including covers of “Imagine” and “Baba O’Reilly.”  The crowd was absolutely bananas, dancing and clapping like mad, singing soccer chants back and generally channeling enthusiasm toward the band.  The band was clearly energized by all this and commented on it numerous times.  One of my Argentine friends told me that he doesn’t like seeing concerts outside of Argentina because he is so accustomed to the energy generated by an Argentine crowd.

The star of the show, however, was  Eddie Vedder.  He poured his heart out during the entire concert.  There were one or two moments at the beginning where I thought he might have  slowed down a bit, but he appeared to gain strength as the night went on, forcefully delivering powerful lyrics and matching the crowd’s energy with his own.  A number of times he even challenged the crowd, asking if people wanted to go home (Michele and I secretly did) and then ramping up to give another full throated version of one of his classic numbers.

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Asado for 4!
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Team Pearl Jam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the night’s final songs was the classic Alive.  I’ve read that when Vedder wrote the song’s classic chorus “I’m still alive,” it was a statement about his pain, because had to endure the burden of existence with a dead father and an abusive step father.   As time went by, however, the meaning for Vedder evolved to become  a statement of joy and defiance, that he was not just living but thriving.  As I listened to him belting out those powerful lyrics, it occurred to me that we too had turned things around.  We have handled everything that this year has thrown at us, crying children, broken arms, lice, foreign languages, strange schools, new customs, maddening systems, social isolation and the like.  Not only did we make it through, but we found a way to prosper. This gave us a final burst of energy as we danced and sang along with the band.

Estero (Swamp)

After a few days of catching up on work (and listening non-stop to Pearl Jam) we headed out to the province of Corrientes for another adventure. In the middle of the province sits the massive Estero del Iberá, about 6k square miles in size.  American businessman turned philanthropist Douglas Tompkins has managed to get state park protection for this area and is working on turning into a national park.  In the meanwhile, he owns and operates a small hotel on the banks called Rincon del Sicorro.  We opted to skip the 6 hour bone jarring drive from Posadas and instead took two small prop planes directly to the Estancia.

 

The hotel itself is quite isolated, set right on the edge of the swamp with nothing around it for miles.  Our first outing was a hike around the property.  Any thought of keeping ourselves remotely dry was immediately discarded as we trudged through knee deep water.  The animals were amazing.  Thousands of capybara and ostrich cousin nandu roaming the property along with broadest collection of birdlife I’ve ever seen.  The kids were delighted by the fact that they  were permitted, nee encouraged, to get soaking wet.  After our walk Kate and Jake met a couple of the local kids who ran wild around the place (their father is the resident biologist) and played with the parakeets that the kids had rescued from a fallen nest.

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Swamp deer
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Lots of capybara
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Making friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Herons

After a huge night of electrical storms, which woke me up but the kids and Michele slept right through, we began the following day with a morning horseback ride through the wetlands, with an emphasis on the word wet.

Not only did we ride knee deep in water (that is our knees, the horses were up to their necks) but we had a little “incident” where Michele’s horse decided it was too damn hot too cary a person around began to cool himself down by rolling over.  Luckily Michele had the good sense to jump off before the horse rolled over on her.  Unfortunately, the meant that Michele too was neck deep in swamp water.  Michele showed a lot of grit by wading through the muck and jumping right back on the horse without a word of complaining.  If only I had it on film… Despite our little incident it was an incredible outing.  After a nice lunch and shower, we took a different (drier) route via truck through the wetlands and got some spectacular vistas and some birdwatching.  We then had a little drink and snack while the sun set so that we could do a bit of a night safari, using a spotlight to ferret out a fox and a large cat.

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Kate emerges unscathed
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Poking head out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Beautiful vista
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Capybarapalooza!

After a lovely Asadado with our new found friend Jorge, we got a great night sleep and then headed off to the laguna for a boat tour of the swamp.  The main attraction of the trip were the caimans, the South American alligators.  There were also a spectacular collection of bird life, including cardinals with only red heads and white bodies, cormorants, herons, thrushes and more.  We had a brief walk after the boat tour, followed by a lunch and a “tour” of the town.  Although our outings were super high quality, we were slightly disappointed in the length and breadth of them, particularly when compared to Atacama. We’d advise visitors to work to create agendas before arrival to maximize the trip.  On the bright side, we did get a chance to really relax and that was nice.

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Hola Amigos
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Caiman!
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Bird
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Heron’s at Sunset

We ended our trip with a morning ride through a drier patch of the wetlands.  A couple of great photos and then we hopped on the plane home.

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Nests
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At the swamp’s edge

We arrived safely home in time to catch up on tasks from the prior week and ready ourselves for our final 6 weeks in country and reflect back on an unforgettable part of an unforgettable trip.

Invitados (Guests!)

After mucking around in the swamps, we were happy to return to Buenos Aires.  We fell back into our normal routine without much of a hiccup.  My good friend Steve Polsky surprised me with a visit as he had to dash into town for a business trip.  We met up at La Brigada for a typical Argentine meat feast.  His business partner,Gabriel ,told me stories about being sent to boarding school in the US from his home in Venezuela when he was only 8 and unable to speak a word of English.  Lends a new perspective to what we consider difficult.  After dinner we had a quick trip to be the ugliest bar in the entire city of Buenos Aires before calling it a night.

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Good times!

Unfortunately our meal at La Brigada didn’t stay with my long as I came down with a nasty stomach bug that flattened me for a couple of days.  This caused me to miss my scheduled fishing trip with Mateo and his friends, which I was viewing as my final exam in Spanish.  On the positive side, it gave me an opportunity to rest up for our visit from our dear friends Aileen Lee and Jason Stinson (the Stinlees) and their kids Lexi, Livie and Cowboy.

My kids were so excited when they arrived!    It is generally difficult  making friends in a new place, and  doing so in a new language and with big cultural differences has been particularly tough.  Our kids have done a great job, but to have some friends from California was a real treat.

Perhaps too much of a treat

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Things got a bit weird

We were similarly thrilled to have our dear friends visiting us.  While we’ve made many new amigos during our adventure, it’s a unique pleasure to enjoy the well-worn comfort of an old friendship. Of course, we had many things to show our guests and the first day included a walk through the wonders of the Recoleta cemetery, a pleasant bit of downtime in the Alvear Plaza in Recoleta and feasting on empanadas and wine poured from a penguin at San Juanino.

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The following day, November 22, was a historic day for Argentina as Mauricio Macri was elected president of Argentina ending 12 years of Peronist rule.  This has created much hope in Argentina as Macri is a strong pro-business candidate.  We hope that he will be able to help create a more just and fair government for all Argentinians and that he can help this great country reach its full potential.

Meanwhile, the Wangs and Stinlees spent the day waltzing through the San Telmo Market, lunching at Cantina Cafe San Juan and then feasting at Sotto Vocce.  Interestingly, it is unlawful to serve alcohol on election day in Argentina so we had a wine-less lunch.  Thankfully the polls closed in time for our dinner.  On Monday evening, the grownups went out for a fun night of the drum band La Bomba de Tiempo followed by dinner (at 10:30!) at  Floreria Atlantico while the kids had a sleepover. At the beginning of the show, the ladies were nice enough to go on a mission to get for their not-so-better halves beers.  As Jason enjoyed the music, we reflected on the fact that we were watching music while these two amazing people were actually fetching us beers.  Who’s got it better than us?  Nobody.

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Grownups night out

The next two days we covered much ground in the city, including a bit of shopping in Palermo Soho, my first time in the Japanese gardens (which I can see out of the window of the apartment), an alleged tour of Avenida de Mayo, and an extraordinarily long walk to old school pizzeria Cafe Immortales .  The Stinlees got to experience the joy of an Argentine protest firsthand and had to walk about 2 miles back to their hotel because the streets were closed.  We  then wrapped up the Buenos Aires part of the trip with a visit to our favorite spot Crizia, where we finally determined that sitting at the bar with Juan the Barman is the key to that place.

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The Thinkers with Congress in the background

After so much urban activity, it was time to enjoy some of the great outdoors, so headed off to Patagonia.  After my two prior failed attempts to fly to Bariloche, it was nice to finally arrive at the promised land.  We travelled on Thanksgiving and substituted the traditional turkey meal with a big Argentine asado.

 

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Happy Thanksgiving

We flew to San Carlos de Bariloche and took the famous Ruta de Siete Lagos (Seven Lakes Route) to San Martin de Los Andes. I believe it is the most scenic drive I’ve ever been on in my life, winding its way through a myriad of beautiful blue lakes that were literally shimmering on the surface.

 

We stayed at the Tipiluke Lodge in San Martin de Los Andes and I can’t recommend it strongly enough.  The owners were incredibly welcoming and every detail of the place was excellent: great food, beautiful rooms, fantastic facility.  Most importantly, however, is the incredible location.  The lodge is just a few short minutes from many excellent fishing spots, all of which are private, as well great hunting, horseback and hiking.

The fishing was spectacular, but what really made it so was the sheer beauty of the place.

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View from above
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Tipiluke

We also had some beautiful horse rides in Tipiluke.  Cowboy Stinson got to be a real cowboy and everyone else enjoyed the incredible beauty of the region.

One particularly great thing about the lodge is that it is so conveniently located, that we were able to have a full morning, come back for a nice lunch and then enjoy a long afternoon/evening out of doors.

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Roughing it in Patagonia

An amazing part of our journey.   On the way home, we  bumped into Wences Casares in the airport.   Before we moved to Argentina, he was the only Argentine person that we knew. He has helped us with our journey in many ways, including being one of the most enthusiastic supporters our our plan, which incidentally pales in comparison to the journey his family made when they sailed around the world.

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With El Gaucho, Wences.

We feel so fortunate that our friends the Stinlees  would travel to the end of the world (literally) to take part in our journey. It was our great pleasure to share with them all the we have uncovered and we are looking forward to spending more time with them, albeit in the comfort of our backyards in Palo Alto.

With November coming to a close we can now see the harbor where ship will dock at the end of the voyage.  We are excited for our final few weeks as Porteños and already nostalgic for what we are leaving behind.

Despedidas (Farewells)

Before we arrived, I wrote down a list of goals, first among which was that we make some Argentine friends.  My thinking, at the time, was that we could not really understand the country unless we truly got to know the people.  Looking back, I now see that building relationships with locals did enable us to better understand the country (even its looney politics), however, the greater reward were the friendships themselves.  So, as we wind down our team here in Buenos Aires, it was time to say adios to our new friends.

Our first farewell was to our Spanish teacher Graciela.  We  have had numerous teachers during our stay here, but we felt as if Graciela was the best and we are grateful to have met her.

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After our final Spanish class together, Michele returned to the states for her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, which left me alone with the monsters.  Friday we had a terrific viewing of “The Empire Strikes Back” which was followed our normal Saturday morning routine of tennis (Kate) and basketball (Jake).  We then went to watch polo for the first time.  The speed and control that the riders have of their ponies is truly amazing.  It’s also an interesting scene to take in watching the super elite prance around in their fineries.

Saturday night I was able to join my friends the Shelburnes for an evening out.  They had arrived a few days earlier and had developed an interesting impression  of the city.  To them Buenos Aires was a beautiful, interesting and cosmopolitan place, but not an easy city, particularly for non-Spanish speakers.  We discussed this and many other things over a a lovely dinner at La Brigada, which has now won my heart as my favorite parilla.   As we were leaving the restaurant, I heard some music playing nearby.  We wandered in that direction and came across a murga, which is a sort of Argentine marching band with dancers.  For the next hour our so, we followed the murga dancing with the band and having a grand old time.

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To me, the Shelburnes’ experience is emblematic of our time in Buenos Aires.  It is a difficult city in which you really have to work to get the things that you want or need.  At the same, it presents wonderful surprises that you can just stumble into; quite a paradox.

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When we first started taking him to basketball, he would insist that he didn’t want to go and then cry as we coaxed/dragged him to practice.  Once there, Jake would insist that I  sit nearby on the sidelines and translate the coaches instructions for him.   What a difference a year makes! Now, as soon as we get into the club, he runs off to the court and pals around with his buddies before practice starts, while I sit and watch from the nearby benches.  I’m so proud of Jake’s development, but also very thankful to all the coaches who worked very hard to make Jake comfortable.

To thank the coaches, we got them shirts with the logos of the (World Champion) Golden State Warriors.  After practice, I presented the coaches with the shirts and thanked them for all their help with Jake.  Much to my surprise, the coaches began tearing up and thanked me and Jake for being a part of their class, telling me what a special player Jake is and how much passion he has for the sport.  It was an incredibly emotional goodbye and I was quite touched as was Jake.

That afternoon we made the trip out to Tigre to the home of Fer and Belen Bolognini.  They have been terrific friends to Michele and I, particularly in their willingness to converse with us in our third grade level Spanish.  Fer made a great asado and we enjoyed the day eating, drinking wine and playing futbol with the kids.  The following day was a holiday in Argentina, so we had a morning of tennis, followed out to another trip to Tigre to the home Rodrigo and Shamilla Benzaquen.  They have also been terrific friends to us, inviting us over to their home on numerous occasions and bringing us into their already full lives.

The following day we were excited to welcome Michele back to start the next to last week of school and celebrate Hanukkah in Buenos Aires.

 

We then had yet another going away dinner with Mateo and Keri who have also been amazing friends to us, hosting us at numerous asados and bringing Michele into Keri’s circle of close friends.  It’s impossible to say how much these friendships have meant to us and how much they enhanced our time in Argentina.

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We were, however able to leave these folks with a small gift to remember us by: a Sonos player decorated with American flag stickers!  We hope that it will be a reminder of our times together.

The friends we made in Argentina made all the difference in our experience.  We are so grateful to the people who took the time to welcome us and share part of their lives with us.  As we finish our rounds of going away visits, we are determined that we are not saying “goodbye,” but simply “see you later.”