Sabbatical 2012 [Day 12] Buenos Aires – Level Up

Thanks to Pluna – we really didn’t have many options for flying out of Montevideo to get to Rio de Janeiro. So, we had to return by boat to Buenos Aires. This was not by any means a bad thing, as Buenos Aires was an awesome city. We were also excited to stay at a different part of the city – Palermo.

The ferry ride from Montevideo is quite a bit longer than Buenos Aires to Colonia, as it is basically at the opposite end of the bay. The ferry is also a lot smaller than the Colonia ferry, but also quite fast. Rest assured, despite its smaller size, it too has a duty-free store and also smells like perfume. It also has a small cafe where I discovered that you can buy the most disgusting tortilla (as in Tortilla Española) with spinach and about 1 cup of salt, pre-packaged in a plastic container left to sit in its sulfery awfulness. Two bites of that and I threw it away.

We get back to Buenos Aires. Ah, so familiar. Cab it to Palermo… wait. What is this place? Its completely different from Recoleta, and any of the parts we had walked through. Really, it is like we just arrived at a new city.

Palermo, unlike its above-ground-cemetery and walking-zombie-lady neighboring borough, has much shorter buildings that seem to be kept in very good shape. The streets are much more quaint, and have lots of interesting little cafes and restaurants – which is of course expected at this point from Buenos Aires. But they’re just a bit more chic – a bit more quaint, and the clientel is a LOT more attractive. Money and beauty may be synonymous in some places. But, maybe Palermo just attracts a different kind of person than Recoleta – like the kind of person who… doesn’t like living by a huge creepy cemetery.

Our hotel, “Five Cool Rooms” – which sounds less like a hotel and more like a sequel to a Tarantino film – was substantially nicer than the Ayres Recoleta in every regard. It was hard to spot from the street because its only facade was a door and a small sign. Once inside, it opened up to a nice, chic glass-enclosed courtyard, with no street-facing rooms. It was quiet. It smelled amazing. The beds were the most comfortable we’ve had yet on the trip. Shame, really, that we didn’t stay there to begin with. They did outright lie to us about the hot tub working, though.

Not having good food on the boat, we were both quite hungry and grabbed some food at a cool café.

Palermo even has bars in their stores. Now that is how to shop!

We walked around Palermo, realized that we needed more money from an ATM, and thought we’d go find a bank for an ATM. Simple, right? We’re in a major, well-off part of town. No, not simple. We walk to the main drag, and there are no banks. Turn around and walk further down, no banks. It was baffling. I don’t even remember when we found a bank, but it took us nearly 30 minutes of walking to find a bank, and another 10 to find one which would accept foreign cards.

Time to spend that money on drinks. On a terrace. With a nice view of a square. Complete with obnoxiously slow service that we’d come to expect at this point.

Lesson learned. Next time, stay in Palermo. A nice way to end our 2nd visit to Argentina. But bring money.

Don’t cry for me, Argentina, we’ll be back in Iguazu in just a few days after hitting up Rio de Janeiro.

Sabbatical 2012 [Day 9] Colonia de Sacramento de Fotografía

After several days in large cities, it was time to do something a bit slower paced. Why not head to another small UNESCO town in Uruguay?

Travel

Colonia de Sacramento is located along the southern Uruguayan shore, about 2 hours across the bay from Buenos Aires. There is a high-speed ferry that gets you there in about an hour. The ferry station in Buenos Aires was immaculate and modern – and featured all of the luxuries of an airport, including baggage checking and duty-free shops. Unlike an airport, there is one major difference – customs and immaculate are taken care of before you even board the boat. I actually much prefer this method because usually the last thing you want to do when you first arrive in a new country is deal with their bureaucracy and paperwork.

The ferry was fast, comfortable, clean, and featured its own large and quite popular duty free shop. The ferry thus smelled like a perfume store. We got some hot beverages and Dulce De Leche chocolate snacks.

We arrive. We get a cab to take us the whopping 4-5 blocks down the street which had recently been renamed from “Florida” to 15-something-syllables-too-many of a person’s name. It was definitely a change for the worse. We got to our Bed & Breakfast, El Viajero. The staff was very friendly, the location was super quaint and inviting. This is exactly where to go to catch a break if you’ve been staying in cities where you can’t see the horizon.

Photogenics

I’ve come to realize that “UNESCO Heritage Location” really just translates to “photographer’s dream-town”. It is virtually impossible to take a bad photo in one of these cities. Even the cliché photographs such as staring down at your feet are totally acceptible, because you know what? Underneath those feet are 600 year-old cobblestone roads. Look at the texture!

How many photos can we take of windows offset to the side with a nice dooorway in a semi-colorful stucco-walled home? The answer is lots. How about some photos of the lighthouse? From the lighthouse? Oh look, some dogs sleeping and rolling around in the sun! An old fisherman on the pier with the sun setting behind him over the bay. A cat hiding in the breakwall. An old trailer. A trailer being loaded with chopped wood to fuel a parilla grill in a restaurant. Finally, its dark, and now foggy. Look how the light streaks across the plaza? A loose horse that is roaming around the park next to the shore.

Every 30 seconds brings a moment begging you to click the shutter. And you do. Colonia is like a drug that takes over your body and controls your eyes. Combined with a camera, it is a dangerous place. It almost felt scripted, as if a photographer or director had set everything up just right for the ultimate visuals and timing.

Editing photos and selecting the best ones becomes the biggest challenge.

We wandered around at night to find a place to eat, and it was much like wandering around Burton at midnight, except that people were actually out – sort of. Restaurants were packed and lively, but the streets were desolate and silent. The air smelled like burning wood, and reminded me of Christmas time in Burton. It was eerie after coming from Buenos Aires – where people were constantly walking the streets. It was a welcome change, though, and we were greatful to be able to take a breather and catch up on sleep before heading off to the largest city in Uruguay the following day – Montevideo.