Day 18: Buenos Aires

Logistics at the Hotel Rochester
We finally used a morning to sleep in and set the alarm for a scandalous 9:40. I was awake about a half-hour before and used the quiet time to shower and get myself ready until time to wake the girls with a Stephen-wake-up, “Good mooooorning, ladies. Good morning! The time is 9:33. You have one entire day left in your vacation. There are no albatross, but there is a high probability of shopping today. The weather is hot and humid. Breakfast will be served for another twenty-seven minutes.”

We had breakfast in the hotel restaurant (named Resto and “Winnery”) and breakfast was a bit of muck since there didn’t seem to be any plates or silverware, and for the longest time no one seemed inclined to bring any. Argentinean time is a different one, but eventually if you patiently wait it out you can usually get what you need.

Anticipating our sleep-in, we arranged for a late check out; and anticipating a full day of hot, sweaty sightseeing we arranged for a temporary room to shower before leaving for our evening flights home. After much packing and moving of luggage in the teeny-tiny hotel elevators that fit a maximum of three people, we settled into the temporary room and set out for the day.

View from the hotel room

Me and Shannon squished into the teensy elevator

Walk To Recoleta
It had rained the night before and the sky looked rainy when we woke up, but it turned out to be a gorgeous day. None of us wanted our vacation to be over, so we decided to pretend as if we lived in Buenos Aires and were running errands / enjoying the city just as a normal Argentinean would.
“What do you want to do today?”
“I’d like to go to the market in Recoleta.”
“That’s a lovely idea. Why don’t we walk there on 9 de Julio?”

We strolled along the pedestrian walkways of one of the widest avenue in the world toward the lovely, upscale area of Recoleta.

9 de Julio Avenue

Pedestrian walkways with fat “pregnant” trees

Mindy demonstrating what she’d look like if she were a pregnant tree

Pretty flowers

Recoleta Market
In front of the cemetery was a large maze of booths containing a market of arts, crafts, and gifts. A last chance to buy pretty things – but with deference to our pesos shortage. See, my ATM card hadn’t worked since my first and last withdraw at the airport on day 1 so I had absolutely no cash. And Mindy and Shannon hadn’t gone to an ATM for a few days. We had a great process for paying for common expenses like taxis or dinners – basically, they paid the cash expenses and I charged whatever I could, and we kept track of all of it in a spreadsheet. But on this last day we had ensure there was enough cash for the few taxi rides around town and for the taxi to the airport, so we were careful what we spent…. And soon realized it wasn’t great fun strolling through a market when you couldn’t buy as much as you’d like.

Market Yummies

Shannon buying some adorable hand-painted gourds

We walked into a nearby building called something like “The Buenos Aires Design Center” – an upscale Ikea-ish store that had some of the coolest gadgets and gizmos so we enjoyed some more shopping time and wandered through the design mall for kicks.

Mindy at the design mall

Walking around and shopping

It was getting late (already 2:00 – our errand-running day was moving too quickly) so we caught a taxi to La Palermo.

Lunch at La Cabrera
La Cabrera is “one of Buenos Aires’ best parrillas tucked into the quiet corner of Thames and Cabrera”. Since it was known for its grilled goat cheese appetizer (read: chunk of hot, grilled, cheesy goodness) we of course began with that and splurged on a last meal of Argentinean meat. What we didn’t realize was that the meals at this restaurant were meant to be shared with multiple people, I think the waiter tried to warn us by pointing to the 1/2 sized portions but it all got lost in translation and the forgetfulness that prices for quality meals in BA really are that cheap. So we ended up with this:

That’s a lot of food

My lunch

The grocery store decor of La Cabrera

The day was stunning and we were stuffed, and we all know that there’s no workout like shopping. Though we questioned the intelligence of trying on clothes after each eating a side of beef, we strolled through the quaint boutiques of Palermo looking for things we absolutely had to have. An interesting store called Verbo beckoned us – each rack had a different unknown designer name with their designs, and the moment one of us picked something off the rack a young twenty-something was there to take it from us so we wouldn’t have to hold it. Or actually to steal it. Turns out the place was so “policed” that all bags had to be checked at the door and only a certain number of shoppers were let in at a time so a line began to form out the (now-locked) door.

Line out the door of Verbo
So odd. The place was designed as high-end and the prices were dirt cheap, but the process made it seem as though this were a brand name sample sale of gold. As soon as we took something off the rack it was whisked away by an employee until we stepped up to the dressing rooms. And then, if we decided to buy the item it was placed behind the register with a number until we were ready to buy. Maybe there was a dearth of shoplifters in the hood. Either way, we walked away with some cute inexpensive skirts.

Our errand-running day was unfortunately closing fast. The time was 4:45 and we had that darn room extension at the hotel and had to be checked out by 6:00. Darnit. We’d assumed we’d be hot and sweaty and would need to shower before leaving for the airport at 7:30, but instead it was a beautiful cool day and we had more shopping to do. So we got a taxi and raced to the hotel; three people showered in 30 minutes flat; checked out; and were back in Palermo SoHo by 5:45 and had each bought a pair of $10 sandals by 6:00. As we walked through the artists market in the center square Mindy quipped, “I feel like this is the last chance I’ll have to spend money ever again.” There was the other concern whether our already-bulging suitcases could handle more stuff, but we didn’t care.

Must. Shop. More.

Spanish Lesson Taxi Ride
At 6:45 we said a final good-bye to Palermo, our errand running, and our rapidly depleting pesos and took a taxi back to the hotel. Funny story about this trip: we’d constantly asked our taxi drivers – in Spanish – to take us to the corner of “Esmerelda y LaValle” (which we pronounced ‘ethermalda’ and ‘lavaye’) but no one ever understood what we were saying and each time we had to resort to giving them the hotel business card. It was the same with this last driver, except that once he saw the street address he realized what we’d meant to say and identified the root of our problem. In Spanish (because he didn’t speak english) and through a series of hand gestures and pronounciation attempts he explained that LaValle was actually pronounced “Lavesse”. Chileans, he said, pronounce it “LaVaye” but Argentineans say the ll as esse. We in the backseat had a simultaneous moment of “ah-hah!” which pleased our taxi driver quite a bit.

A half an hour later we’d changed into our airplane clothes and were sadly on the way to the airport. Nothing much to share here, except the airport was a convoluted mass of lines: one to check in; another for the airport taxes; another for the foreign tax reimbursement stamp; another for the reimbursement itself; and then the security through the gates. The lines didn’t surprise us (it’s Argentina, after all) but what surprised me is that after this trip of constant picture taking to capture every single moment, none of us thought to document the madness of the airport. So I have nothing to post here except the fact that two hours was barely enough time to get through all those queues and still have time to shop (of course) in duty free.

My flight left first at 10:10 that night so the girls walked me to my gate with my box of newly-purchased alfajores cookies and my airplane ticket. After two and a half weeks of being joined at the hip together, it was so sad to say goodbye. How am I supposed to order wine without them next to me, looking up on their cameras to see what our favorite labels are?

A wonderful trip. All around.