Sunday, April 6, 2008

Extremo Sur

It's only been a couple weeks since our last post -- not an unusual stretch of time to go without updating the blog -- but we have a lot to catch up on. Unfortunately the internet connection is really poor at the moment, so I'll post as much as I can while it lasts.

Right now we're in a small town called El Calafate in Patagonia. Look it up on a map... we're almost as far south as you can get without being in Antarctica. We went from Buenos Aires to Puerto Madryn for a few days, then as far south as Rio Gallegos, before deciding on El Calafate over Ushuaia (the southernmost city in the world).

But before we get into all that, let's go back to La Boca. We need to talk about this so-called derivative of farinata, faina.

And there it is. Pretty innocent looking. To be honest, it wasn't terrible, just extremely bland. I had to blanket it with salt to make it edible. Of course, the portenos use faina as an accessory to pizza, soaking up the grease (and therefore flavor) before consuming it.

So why didn't we order pizza, you ask? Ah, but we did! This was at a restaurant called Banchero in La Boca. The place has been around for a long time, and claims to serve Italian-style pizza and "faina a la Genovese." Don't be fooled. File this under the "most disappointing meal ever."

We ordered the faina and pizza a la piedra (thin crust) with spinach and white sauce. I guess I was thinking the "white sauce" would be cheese, but it wasn't. It was bechamel sauce... a thick mush with the consistency of mashed potatoes and the taste of... well... not much. And the spinach... let me tell you about the spinach. We should have realized it would be terrible, because this wasn't the first time we tried spinach in Buenos Aires. For what it's worth, I love spinach back home... sauteed, in salads, whatever... it's one of my favorite vegetables. Here, it tastes like dirt. We made a salad with spinach one night in our apartment. I washed the stuff furiously beforehand and it still tasted like dirt. But I guess the lesson, "spinach tastes like dirt in Argentina," hadn't fully registered in my brain, so here we were with a dirt-flavored pizza topped with disgusting bechamel sauce. Blech. I couldn't even finish a slice.

On to happier topics. Here are some pictures from our afternoon in La Boca. Side note: I've spoken with my parents on the phone since our last post and got some clarification about our family history. Most of our Italian relatives in the States are on my grandmother's side of the family and are from Varazze, which is a small coastal town near Genoa. But it turns out that my grandfather's mother was actually born in Buenos Aires! Her family was from Italy, and they must have moved to Buenos Aires with many of the other xeneize immigrants. But at some point they moved back, or at least my grandfather's mother did, because he was born in Italy.

This is the Caminito, the most famous part of La Boca, and usually the only part visited by tourists. The wild colors and corrugated metal date back to when the area's poorer residents would salvage shipping containers and paint from the docks to build their homes.

These days the caminito is extremely touristy and the colors are exaggerated for show, but it's still a neat place.

Back to San Telmo and the rest of Buenos Aires. Liz has a few more pictures of the neighborhood and the ecological reserve that she wanted to share.

Super modern pedestrian bridge, the "Puente de la Mujer."

Viva Robusto: The greatest collection of pictures of wheat and flowers on the internet since 2007!

This kind of stuff pretty much never fails to amuse me.

My parents don't need any additional convincing to come visit Buenos Aires, but just in case, here are some of the scary dolls available at the flea market in San Telmo. Enjoy, mom!

Our friend Kara. She spent 4 or 5 days with us in BsAs, then we all headed to Puerto Madryn together. She should be arriving back in Portland any hour now after about 40 hours of travel.

Praying Mantis at Pride Cafe. Do we have these in Portland? I haven't seen any, if we have.

Another shot at Pride Cafe. In addition to praying mantii, they have great coffee, friendly staff and awesome panini and pasta for around $5.

Bonus feature at Pride Cafe: There's a crazy lady that patrols the intersection just outside. She yells at cars, directs pedestrians and basically acts like it's her job. We're pretty sure she's just insane.

Botanical gardens in Palermo Viejo. There are a lot of these Lupa statues in Buenos Aires, but this is the first one I've seen that actually has a little Romulus and Remus suckling at the teats.

You can't hardly turn the corner without running into some sort of classical sculpture.

More shots from the botanical gardens.

Liz keeps giving me a hard time about all the pictures of steak I'm posting, but I just can't help myself. Okay, this will be the last one. Probably. This is the bife de chorizo at Des Nivel. Dang, I miss it already.

Probably the best ice cream in the world. Super dulce de leche at Dylan in San Telmo. Think regular dulce de leche with extra thick swirls of caramel and chunks of chocolate. I'm not even that into ice cream and this stuff blew my mind.

Steps at Parque Lezama, San Telmo.

Night out near the Microcenter. This was a "fancy" bar inside an old mansion. You could still get a bottle of wine for under $10 US.

And now I present the Official Tango Containment portion of Viva Robusto. In other words, here are all the rest of our pictures of Tango dancing.

Another night in Plaza Dorrego.

Liz and Kara saw this character strolling around the neighborhood one afternoon.

Apparently he had some serious crimefighting to attend to, hence the readied crouch.

In case the Portland jazz scene dries up, Dave could find work down here.

Near the Recoleta Cemetary. Too weird not to post.

One morning we woke up to find a new kitten in our courtyard. It was a gift from Josefina's daughter... she found it wandering in the park.

There are so many dogs in Buenos Aires. We tried to photograph as many as possible, in case you hadn't noticed already.

A few more shots from the courtyard, looking into our apartment on our last day in Buenos Aires.

So long (for now), San Telmo.

After Buenos Aires, our first stop was Puerto Madryn to check out Peninsula Valdes, home to all kinds of wildlife, including sea lions, sea elephants, orcas, armadillos, llamas and, of course, pinquinos.

Checking out the waterfront.

Come on ladies, can't we all just get along?

That's better.


Apparently so.

The first full day after we arrived, we set out on a 34 kilometer bike ride. Here's a panoramic shot of the ride that won't fit in our blog.

Click for photo

And here are some more regular sized shots. It was a beautiful ride right along the sea with some spectacular views... but really difficult thanks to the piles of gravel and sand everywhere.

The next day we rented a car and drove to the peninsula. Quick stop for Tango in the observation tower.

Then we hit Puerto Piramides for low tide.

The boat was filled with sardines!

I'm pretty sure this is one of the locations on "Lost."

Our first look at some sea lions. I was expecting to see maybe one or two, but there were hundreds... laying out in the sun, swimming, playing... and making really loud burping sounds.

The other side of the sea lion habitat near Puerto Piramides.

Next stop, pinguinos. I was skeptical we'd actually see any penguins, despite this sign.

Nevertheless, there they were, thousands of them. Right at the edge of the desert, lined up along the water. So weird.


A shot through the binoculars at Punta Norte. This is a different set of sea lions, in other words.

And here are some sea elephants.

These little guys were equal parts cute and creepy. They had no fear... they'd come right up to your feet.

Wild horses (we presume).

So far we'd seen llamas, foxes, sheep, armadillos, sea lions, sea elephants, penguins and lizards. But the real prize is seeing killer whales at Punta Norte. During high tide they hunt the sea lion cubs and occasionally come halfway up on the beach in pursuit. We weren't there for high tide, but we were extremely lucky to see a couple dozen orcas swimming and jumping in the distance. They were waiting for the water to get deep enough to start hunting.

Unfortunately our camera is really limited. It was pretty spectacular in real life, but the 3x zoom just wasn't cutting it for this kind of photography. We were lucky to even get these shots.

What would a Viva Robusto update be without a disgusting picture of a spider? This one had just caught the bee... it was still buzzing.

On the (extremely long) drive back to Puerto Madryn, we had one of the most amazing panoramic sunsets ever. The photos really don't do it justice.

We'll leave you with this moment of absurdity we witnessed in Puerto Madryn. Hopefully we won't get so behind before the next update... we'll be checking out the glaciers in the next few days so we should get some spectacular photos. Until then....

1 comment:

Seth said...

That beer bottle is half the size of Kara!