Tag Archives: travel blog

Some Good Press

31 May

Yesterday Travel Guy (aka this blog) was named one of the Top 20 Travel Blogs in South America by South America Tourist. I’m honored to be considered among the list and would like to thank all of my supporters who read this blog and share the stories with their friends.

At the same time, a nice interview with Dan and Fer from BA Cast came out which you can find from the Expanish blog. We’re preparing for Season 2 as I said a few days ago, and this will hopefully get the word out a bit more!

A Taste of Peanut Butter and BA Cast

29 May

Here’s a little clip and outtake from a recent taping of BA Cast. That’s right! After a two month regrouping and vacation, we’re back at it and preparing an awesome Season 2. The tentative date for launch is July 7th, but this is Argentina, so who really knows. We’ll obviously keep you well posted if anything should change on the date of the first episode of Season 2. This short clip starts off with Dan and Fernando walking in the Microcentro of Buenos Aires and Fer gives a very interesting fact about the city. Later on, the guys experience Fer’s first taste of peanut butter, which is a typical American treat but almost unheard of in Argentina. Will he like it? Listen and find out!

One Off the Bucket List: Visiting the Teatro Colón

28 May

Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires

When I got to Buenos Aires I was told that one of the most famous opera houses in the world (apparently ranked as #5 on a world list), the Teatro Colón, or Colon Theater, was closed for reconstruction. “What a pity,” they’d say, “because it’s really beautiful and you should go see a show there if you ever get a chance. The theater wound up being closed for four years while they revamped it from top to bottom, reopening in time for the bicentennial in May last year. Yet even as an entire year has passed, I never made it down there for a show. For one thing, it’s hard to get tickets, which can be expensive unless you want standing room on the 7th level up. For another reason, the theater is used as a political tool and last season’s shows were drastically cut short when the performers went on strike. Imagine that, after four years they triumphantly returned and went on strike.

Only a couple of months or so ago the theater began to offer tours to the public, but I chose to wait until the colder weather set in so I wouldn’t waste a nice summer day inside. Last week I tried to go but though tours are offered seven days a week, it happened to be one of the few days in the year when an event was held and no one could enter. Thus, today I was back on the track for a tour of the Colon Theater. One of the girls from my tour in Bolivia, Erica, is ending her year around the world in Buenos Aires and on Wednesday we had dinner at La Cabrera, where we agreed to meet up today for the tour.

The famous stage

Tours in Spanish are offered pretty frequently from about 10 am to 3 pm, but English tours are only a few times throughout the day, and since Erica doesn’t fluently speak Spanish, we went for the 1 pm tour. However, once I got there I was told that the tour was already maxed out. Erica was there first and already bought her ticket, but she wouldn’t be able to change it for the 2 pm when there was space. So in traditional Argentine fashion I had to argue to get what I wanted, and like with everything here, it was a fight. I talked to one of the guides and explained that I worked for a travel agency and had been here two years without seeing the place, so she told me to tell the ticket guy that it was okay. Back to him I went where I made a stink, and even though it was breaking the rules, he sold me a ticket for the 11 am (which already passed) and told me to tell the girl at the door that it was okay.

He initially wanted to charge me the $60 ARS for foreigners and I said I’m Argentinian, so without any ID it was down to $20. I wouldn’t recommend trying to scam them on your own however, because 1. I have citizenship and wasn’t lying, 2. They could tell right away if you have a weird or foreigner accent, and 3. Fighting over something like that is such an Argentinian thing to do, it’s clear that I have at the very least been living here. In typical Argentinian fashion he had no change for a $100.

The tour took us to several chambers and rooms in the theater, getting an explanation from the friendly guide on the history and reconstruction. We were taken to sections influenced heavily from European architecture, just like so many other buildings in Buenos Aires. One room was compared to the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, though with no where near as many mirrors. Next we went to the President’s private box to get a view of the theater’s stage, and I was impressed by how close everything seemed to be. It didn’t seem like there was really a bad seat in the place, although there are 500 standing room spots on the 7th deck, which might be tough on the legs. We walked down to the stalls and then the tour ended on the steps and in front of the gift shop and cafe.

Pizzeria Guerrin, My Favorite in Buenos Aires

With the tour over, Erica and I went to my favorite pizzeria in Buenos Aires, Pizzeria Guerrin, found on Avenida Corrientes and Calle Talcahuano, just a couple of blocks from where I used to live. For $4.50 ARS (current price) you can get a slice of mozzarella thrown on a plate quickly and stand up at the counter to rub elbows with other hungry porteños. It’s a classic institution, and though there are several in the center which offer great pizza in this same style, in my opinion Guerrin is better and still cheaper. Guerrin was even featured by the New York Time’s Frugal Traveler, Seth Kugel.

This combination of Colon Theater and Pizzeria Guerrin isn’t such a bad idea if you’re looking for something to do in the center because the two are only a few blocks away and you’re still smack dab in the center of Buenos Aires’ mess. Give it a try sometime.

A Cold Day in Hell, I Mean Buenos Aires

23 May

It’s cold today, and the forecast shows that it’s going to stay this way and get worse from here on out. Compared to other places in the world, Boston for example, this is not cold. In fact, friends back home would say I’ve gone soft, and the truth is, I have. After three years out of a Boston winter, the slightest bit of weather change gets me sick and if it’s not over 70 Fahrenheit, I consider it chilly. What can I say? I was born in July and am a warm weather baby. I need to be in shorts and a t-shirt to truly be happy. I don’t mind sweating when it’s hot out (in small doses), but freezing cold while already bundled up is no way to live.

This is kind of a concern because now as it gets colder, my will to run is diminishing quickly. Rather than being outside cold and sweating at the same time, which only makes me think of how it’s going to get me sick, I’d rather be indoors warm and resting up, hibernating like a bear. But alas, I still have my running team and have resigned myself to at the very least continue on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Where I once yearned to run at least four days a week, I’m now struggling to put in the bare minimum two. Last Thursday they gave us new long sleeve shirts, so maybe that will help a bit.

On Wednesday Argentina will celebrate the 25 de Mayo festivals, and though I said the FILA race was going to be my last one in April, I was roped into running this 10k early in the morning in the cold. There seem to be more and more races now, and I say yet again, this will be the last one I do until getting back to warm weather. I just don’t run well in the cold and don’t enjoy the sport as much when I’m too cold to feel my nose.

Speaking of cold, hell must have frozen over because today I actually got some help from an Argentine government office. Ironically, it’s located in the United States. You see, way back when I started all of my paperwork to get citizenship in Argentina, we called upon the Argentine Consulate of New York to begin the process. The consular officer there was awfully helpful and friendly with my mom, and I’ve since enlisted her help on a couple of other occasions. This time, I called to see if anything could be done about my DNI. If you’ll remember, the Registro de las Personas has been holding it up due to my mother’s maiden name. I spoke to two consular officers and both were very sympathetic and understanding, and agreed that the workers at the Registros here are idiots.

The consular officer who has helped us all along then called the Registro de las Personas in Buenos Aires on my behalf and explained the situation, that she personally inscribed me in their consulate, and that I am a citizen of Argentina. That information will be given to a judiciary committee, where my paperwork is currently held up for a closer review. Hopefully, her good word will be enough, and if not she said she would mail a letter from the consulate on my behalf. If that still doesn’t do the trick, and they wind up rejecting my paperwork again, she said the consulate will take care of it for me in New York when I return in July.

It would be a big waste of time, of course, and it’s not ideal, but at least we know that the whole process won’t have failed and been for nothing. If I need to do it in New York it will take another 4-5 months or so, and the officer told me how ironic it is, that after all this time, if I’d just done it there with them I would have had it so long ago. Live and learn, I suppose. It’s just nice to see that finally someone in the Argentine government is working to help me out, even if they aren’t even in the country,

La Albahaca Hostel, Your Place to Stay in Tilcara

13 May

Rarely do you get to stay in a place where you feel so welcomed and at home that you have trouble leaving. There will always be the 5-star resort that is so luxurious that you need to be clawed away from the king size bed, or the friend’s apartment that you wish you could stay in longer just to be with people you know. Yet it’s much less common to find a hostel and feel so at peace that you want to stay around just to be there. In my short time in Tilcara, I was fortunate to find one of those places.

My friend Leo recommended La Albahaca Hostel, a short walk from the bus terminal in the small village. Walking towards the center you take the first right on Padilla and walk uphill (go at an easy pace if you’re not acclimated to the high altitude) and on your right you eventually come to the friendliest lodging in town. There you’ll be met by either Dani or Pablo, both transplants who didn’t grow up in the village, but came a long time ago and wound up staying.

For $30 ARS a night you get Internet, breakfast, a clean bed and terrace to take in the view, but also the buena onda, or good vibes in the place. As I walked in the door it felt like I was watching old friends talk, but the same thing could happen to you after spending a night there. Immediately I was pulled into the conversation and offered a round of mate, the first I had been offered on my trip, making me feel right at ease. The hostel is small and simple—don’t expect spa treatment. Yet the treatment you receive from the staff and most likely from the other friendly travelers who are passing through is more than compensation.

Tilcara is the kind of place you go to in order to relax, forget about work and troubles, and just enjoy nature. You can head up to the terrace where you get a magnificent view of the Jujeño mountains, or walk up to Pucará, a reconstructed Inca fortress. Another option is climbing up to the Garganta del Diablo and checking out the waterfalls. The nice thing about the village is that it’s in the middle of many attractions in the area, like Purmamarca and Iruya.

Dani and Pablo are quick to offer advice and give you their recommendations on the best peña in town or a cheap place to eat. The kitchen is small, but you can also cook your own meals there and eat in the dining room or lounge area, enjoyed in company by the staff. Music is usually on the in background, and since many Argentinians frequent the place, you can usually see mate being passed around and join in a conversation about soccer, politics, movies, whatever.

I can honestly say that I was seriously contemplating spending another night in Tilcara, simply because I was so comfortable in La Albahaca and with the guys. As I left the hostel to head further south, Dani and Pablo gave me a hug and kiss on the cheek (customary between men in Argentina) and it genuinely looked like Dani was sad to see me go. That was a first for me.

If you’re visiting Tilcara and want a place to say, I highly recommend La Albahaca, and guarantee that you’ll have as rewarding of an experience as I did.

info@albahacahostel.com.ar

(0054) 0388-15-5855994