Saturday, November 17, 2012

Peru/Brazil/Argentina Day 28: Cafe Tortoni and Packing up

May 30, 2012
Argentina Day 28: Cafe Tortoni and Packing up

Aww, last day of the trip.

What an AMAZING adventure though. Crazy times. This was an awesome length for the trip - it has been an epic adventure but we're all ready to go home and have a real shower and look at our photos. :) We started with a quick coffee in the morning and then headed out to go see Cafe Tortoni.

This is a famous cafe in Buenos Aires which some awesome people frequented in the past (Albert Einstein, included!) and it was great. I got a "Submarino", a hot milk with a chocolate submarine that you mix into it! Also I had a queso medialuna (cheese croissant) and it was fantastic. I saw water siphon bottles and asked for one for our table, but they couldn't do it for some reason... maybe they just serve out of them at the counter into glasses for you. The mugs/espresso cups were so awesome at Cafe Tortoni.

Cafe Tortoni
Submarino! A chocolate that you drop into hot milk, and it was shaped like a Submarine!
Tasty egg/cheese croissant
Argentinian Churros
This rocked
Hahaha, the craziest expression ever
We walked to the Pink House (Argentinean "White House"). "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" was playing on some speakers near the Pink House. How fitting.

The "Pink House", where Eva Peron addressed the crowds of Argentinians
From there we wandered markets and some churches, wandered some shops, and found some last-minute gift requirements or things we'd been meaning to purchase but hadn't yet.

Awesome Church
I found a cool mate gourd store and bought 2 more. :) I kept thinking about those awesome espresso cups at Cafe Tortoni, so I walked back there and got 2 cappuccino cups with saucers and a milk pourer. I found the closest Havanna store (the place that sells packaged Alfajores, cookies with Dulce de Leche in them) to our apartment, and got a couple of boxes to take home for friends. I didn't go crazy like Frank and Jess, who bought like 12 boxes :)

Back to the apartment and now it was time to clean up and get ready to go. Pack, chuck out garbage, etc. The duffel bag worked out super well, an idea Jess had to take a folded duffel in my backpack on the way there, and then check it as a 2nd bag on the way back. Good call, Jess. :) Raquel came to check us out and that was fantastic, she was so nice. She stayed while Frank and I literally ran across back to Havanna to buy tons of cookies for them to take home as gifts. Frank spent most of the deposit we got back on cookies!! :)

Frank packing up
The cool room I stayed in
Our lounge from the past week
A view of glorious Buenos Aires
Back to the apartment, and our taxi car was already waiting for us. We loaded up our bazillion things, and headed out of the city, sortof "collectivo-style" - in the style of insane South American driving that scared the crap out of us back in Peru. :) "This guy could turn this thing on a Centavo!" He was driving on the shoulder for a while, which was awkward and reminded us why traffic laws are necessary. Lanes in general were totally ignored, and we said to each other, "Instead of traffic laws and lanes, they have car horns!"

So the driving was crazy and Argentinean-y which was a little nuts, but fine. As we got out of the city though things got more, uh, "interesting", I guess.

We were juuuuust getting out of the city and onto the highway and the toll booth arrows mostly were green but turned to red "X's' as we approached. Then they ALL turned to red X's. So you couldn't enter the highway. Uh? Everyone on the major 12-lane highway then starting doing U-turns and turning around to go the other way. Uhh??! We had no idea what was going on. Our driver sighed and seemed annoyed that the highway had just suddenly closed, but, as I mentioned, he could turn that thing on a dime (and he did).

We drove through a few dodgy neighbourhoods, our driver ocassionally winding his window up. Uhh?? He was hauling ass on this tiny side streets, it was both impressive and terribly insane, and we were wondering if leaving only 2.5 hours before our flight was good enough. There was a CRAZY amount of local traffic, totally backed up, everyone ignoring street signs and crosswalks and so on, using their horns like crazy, all because we had all been re-routed from the highway. Always keen to arrive very early for international flights, I was mentally calming myself and preparing mentally for us to arrive at the airport at 7:00 for our 7:55pm flight...

Jess announced after many turns in local windy roads and tons of traffic, sitting in car fumes, "This air... SUCKS!" We burst out laughing... at both the hilariousness of her comment and comedic timing, but also at the sheer helplessness of being in another country and being forced to go with the flow. Oh well. After about 40 min of spinning at insane speeds around tiny neighbourhoods and honking his horn at maybe every single old person in Buenos Aires that crossed the street during that time... we FINALLY got out of the scenic route and back onto the highway. Sweet glory!

We joined the highway just after the blockage was clear, and there was NO ONE behind us. It was weird. We were tearing up the road after getting onto the highway. The posted speed limit was 130 km/h, and I was surprised and somewhat overjoyed to notice that our driver was actually driving at the posted speed limit. That may have been the biggest surprise of the evening. :)

After mentally preparing to arrive at the airport at 7:00, we actually got there at 6:22pm. WOW. What an amazing driver. We tipped the heck outta him for getting us there in one piece. He should stop driving a cab and become a Formula 1 Racer instead.

We checked in and I got my duffel bag wrapped up. Checkin, security and customs was fast, which was nice after that crazy ride. I asked the lady at the desk what happened on the highway, and she said sometimes the toll collectors decide to go on random strikes because they want higher wages, and this is possibly what happened. She seemed quite annoyed by it, implying that the educated people in Argentina work hard, and these toll jobs are well-paid enough for what they are, she implied. She thought it was crazy that they would strike like this, but I asked her how often it happens and she said reasonably often. Pretty crazy! After all this, a Coca Light was in order!

I tried to change money in the airport and they said to do it inside the checkin. In there, they asked me if I had a receipt, as in, did I have the receipt from when I originally changed money at the airport. I didn't, I just got this money from an ATM. Weird. He said because of that he "couldn't change my money for me"?!??!?! Super weird. Time to go home :) I'll try to spend it in Lima on some Duty Free Pisco :) (As it turned out, I read later that the Argentinean government is really cracking down on money exchange in Argentina because there is a "black market" for the currency, where the rate against the US dollar is much less (or more?) and having tight control on currency exchange at the airport is one way they are trying to curb this currency black market... very strange.)

The plane was awesome, nice seats, inflight entertainment, great food. The ride to Lima was 5 hrs or so, but was maybe faster, say 4:25. We got back to Lima and had a couple hours before out next flight. We were happy to be going directly home to San Francisco instead of via Miami like on the way in. It will be nice to be home and start going through all my photos!! What an awesome trip.

I started thinking about all of the best experiences of the trip on the way home.

The Best Food:
  • Chi Cha in Arequipa, Peru. That was AMAZING.
  • Steak at La Cabrera on my 30th Birthday in Buenos Aires
  • Volta's Maracuya y Naranja ice cream
  • Cebiche in that random place in Arequipa on the town square
  • Food on the Peru Treks Inca Trail hike
  • Crazy fruits and juices at the Otorongo Lodge in the Amazon
The Best Events:
  • Day 3 of the Inca Trail: it was mostly downhill, day 2 was done (thank goodness!), and it was a good vibe of friendship between all the fellow travelers, we all know each other pretty well by then and were really comfortable.
  • Buenos Aires city stuff: shopping, Jewish tours, Kosher McDonalds, just general architecture and stuff to do
  • My Travel Buddies: what a great group!!!
This trip worked out SO well. In the past I've often traveled on my own, making my own plan and my own choices along the way, and just meeting up with interesting friends (or making friends) at hostels along the way. This time, it was so nice to go with people that have such similar travel interests/vibe to me, and it worked out SO well. I knew it would. It's tough to pick a group of friends that will mesh well together on a trip, and we just rocked it. No dramas! Frank and Jess are a heck of a great combo to be with! This was an excited, involved, adventurous group of people to be with... totally into trying new things and adventure, but not into stupid risks or unsafe things. A perfect combo!

Lima was good, I got a Chicha Morada and Cebiche at the airport, it was very good!!! We got onto the plane and it was a nice one again. They gave us LAN branded yellow earplugs and a purple sleep mask, nice. I was asleep almost right away, and I totally missed the dinner on the plane. When I woke up, they gave it to me anyway :) I was so exhausted, I got about 5 hrs of sleep which was great.

Back we got to SF, and everything was super smooth, and people at customs were friendly which was really nice after such a long flight. Nice and quick, 1 hr SuperShuttle and back home!! Frank drove me back to my apartment so I could put down my stuff and change.

Tea, Shower... and then right to WORK. Yep :)

I used all my vacation days (and then some), so I went straight into the office, ready to catch up with people and clean up my Inbox. :) It's usually "work hard, play hard" - but after a whole month of playing super hard, it was time to get back to work.

What an adventure. And what an amazing and wonderful group of friends that I got to share it with.


koe61831 said...

I'm very glad that the trip was a success

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