29 September 2013

Day 4--A bit of a break!

After a very long day to Uruguay, and three pretty intense days overall, it was time for a break, so we turned off the alarm and slept in a bit, which was extra easy to do as moderate rains moved in to Buenos Aires overnight, and along with some much cooler temperatures.  Knowing there was a popular coffeehouse next door, we ventured out mid-morning to find clearing skies but temperatures still only in the upper 40s.

In general, Argentinians eat fairly light breakfasts, but they are pretty tasty.  A typical setup for breakfast will include a nice cup of Cafe con Leche (which here means 50% coffee, 40% milk and 10% foam), along with some sort of pastry, either Medialunas (slightly sweet mini-croissants), or Tostadas (toasted bread) with various spreads, like cream cheese, marmalade, dulce de leche or butter, and typically this is always accompanied by a large thimble full of freshly-squeezed orange juice.

The breakfast menu is typically available in the mornings, and then again between about 3pm and 7pm for the bonus meal here, called Meriendas, where an Argentinian might have the exact same thing that they had earlier in the day for breakfast to tide them over until they get to dinner around 10pm or so that night.

We then scrounged up enough coins to get back on the bus to take us to the upscale neighborhood of Recoleta, home to a very popular weekend craft market.  When we got there, the rains had totally subsided, but not all of the vendors had quite set up, but those who had displayed a wide variety of jewelry, carvings, leather goods, and the special cups and straws for drinking mate.  We mostly did window shopping, as our upcoming flights in Argentina have strict luggage weight restrictions, so much of our shopping will have to wait for the end of the trip.

Next to the Craft Market is a shopping mall that focuses solely on home decoration and furniture...no food, clothes, music or gadgets.  Just store after store of bathroom fixtures, modern furniture, eye-catching wallpapers, art, kitchen and bathroom customizers, and mostly all Argentinian in nature.  I quickly had to concede that while I could have purchased a house worth of furniture, it was useless to pine over much since I couldn't easily transport much of anything.

Next to the mall was the local cultural center, which happened to be hosting an Architectural Exhibition, so I was drawn in, and got to see posters and models of dozens of new projects, mostly in South America, but also showcasing some modern and forward-thinking designs from around the world; it was interesting, but quickly strained my language skills.

The afternoon was free for reading and blogging and attempting to watch some TV, especially shows airing in English with subtitles, which is a good way to learn slang and pick up some vocabulary along the way.  We tried to get a bus back, but it is nearly impossible to acquire coins, and while I did score a government-issued electronic transportation card, they couldn't put any credit on it, and the only place that could on a Sunday was an ironic bus ride away.

We skipped lunch (but do own up to visiting one of Buenos Aires' 70+ popular Starbucks for a delicious Dulce de Leche Latte and free Wi-Fi) so that we could be prepared for dinner at an all-you-can-eat Parilla (grill), called Siga La Vaca ("Follow the Cow"), and follow the cow we did.  The setup is not unlike a Golden Corral, where we paid about US$19 each for the entrance fee, and in addition to a bottle of barely passable Chardonnay and a bottle of water, we could sample many different cuts of Beef, Pork, Chicken, Sausages and et ceteras (et ceteras being the unmentionable parts of the cow that are eaten regularly here).  We stuck to cuts we knew (or at least could look up on Google Translate) and really enjoyed getting to just sample the different items.  Our unexpected favorite of the evening was a plump little sausage called Chorizo, which is nothing like any other chorizo I had tasted before.  Chorizo here is a rough pork sausage flavored with paprika, garlic and wine, and none of the spiciness of a Mexican or Spanish Chorizo.  It was grilled until the casing was crispy, and it was rich and delicious, and we were glad they were small.

Tomorrow is our last day in the big city before we head up North, so we'll see how the weather is, but hopefully make it to the Botanical Gardens if the rain holds off.