Sunday, August 30, 2009

Day Trip to Colonia, Uruguay and More

With my friend Kristine visiting Buenos Aires, I've been spending long days bouncing from interviews and sight seeing in the capitol. But with the weekend we have found more opportunity to simply tour without the added stress of worrying about finding a job, though that thought is always there with me. After an interview on Friday we checked out Puerto Madero, which is continuing to be built up and reminded us both of the seaport by Baltimore. We wound up doing so much walking that I was quickly exhausted, especially after a long week, so after getting Kristine settled into a hostel and getting a steak dinner with some wine, we called it a night.

Our plan for Saturday was to take a day trip to Colonia, Uruguay, a small beach town that is accessible from Buenos Aires by ferry, either taking 1 hour or 3 hours, depending on how much you pay. We elected to take 3 hours going and 1 hour back, giving us the most time there. At the hostel Kristine was sharing a room with a Spanish girl named Iris, and she decided to join us for the day. As it would later turn out, Iris was from Sevilla, where I studied abroad, went to the same university as me at the same time, and worked at the Internet cafe across from my old house that I went to all the time. I probably saw a lot of her, but never knew it. We even knew some of the same people.

I woke up at 6:15 am Saturday, and after showering and dressing headed over to the hostel to meet the girls. Getting to the bus which took us to Puerto Madero, we went with BuqueBus, a company that runs ferry service. We hadn't reserved our tickets, but in higher season it's probably smart to do so. The terminal was like an airport, and we had to go through customs and those with bags had to check them. The trip was relaxed as we laid out on the top deck, taking in all the sun in a day without clouds. It has been hot in the last week, and despite that it's still winter and rain is on the way tonight to bring back the cold, it reached over 80* a few times this week. As it would happen, I got burned yesterday, continuing my tradition of getting burned no matter where I go or when I go.

Between the napping and discussing things the time went by and we soon saw Uruguay in the distance. This was going to be my second time in the small country, but visiting a new town. After arriving in Colonia, we oriented ourselves and found it to be a very small but peaceful beach town. With sleepy streets lined with trees, you got the feel of a small town where everyone knows each other. It's listed as a suburb of Buenos Aires even though it's in the country over, split by the Rio de la Plata. It was now past noon and we were hungry, so we changed $50 Argentinian pesos to $250 Uruguayan pesos and wound up spending it all on a big lunch which we all split.

Well fed, we spent the next few hours walking around the town, taking pictures, and in my case burning. As usual, I lacked sun block and a hat. One thing we noticed were the antique cars. Colonia has (apparently) almost as many antique cars as Havana, Cuba, and many people can be driven around in them. Other tourists rented scooters or golf carts to see the town. But with such small ground to cover, it's really unnecessary unless you just don't like walking.

Later on we tried to figure out how it was possible to view the sunset on the water, obviously going directly west, when we were on the Atlantic. Arguing about it for a while, we finally found a map and saw that the Rio de la Plata is huge, and it wasn't the Atlantic after all, but rather just the river which spread all the way to the horizon and beyond. Again back on the ferry to Buenos Aires, we met back up for a very late dinner, not even getting to the restaurant until midnight, yet it was still packed. Argentinians eat late.

Every 29th of the month is a day for eating ñioci, an Italian potato dish. All restaurants and cafes will offer it for a cheaper price. The story goes that it dates back to maids and employees from the government, who wouldn't be paid until the first of the month. By the last day of the month they would have no money left and would eat the cheapest thing, that being ñioci. Now it's something you can order once a month. We went to the same restaurant as the night before and got a big dish for $10 pesos. Keep in mind that at the moment, $1 US Dollar equals about $3.85 Argentinian pesos.

Kristine and I were exhausted, but Iris insisted we go out for a drink, so we agreed and went out to a plaza in San Telmo, packed with young people and old folks alike. There we sat talking with Argentinians and French students until 4 am when we could take no more. The touring has taken a toll on me, and I need to take it easy, but there's still so much to see. So today we got a very late start, checked out the antique market in San Telmo, where everything in expensive. I was wearing a Boca Juniors soccer jersey and got a lot of attention for it. Mostly positive, but one man told me that I was white and looked rich, so I should be from Palermo (a neighborhood here) and not be a fan of Boca. Apparently Boca is the working class team and he thought I shouldn't be a fan. That was news to me, if he represents the general feeling. Anyway, I live in Boca, so my options are limited.

It was too hot and we had to change out of pants into short, taking up another hour, so we finally headed to the center to tour Recoleta, a fancy neighborhood. Exploring the cemetery with Evita Peron's grave, I was ready to collapse. Kristine and I spent some time sitting at a cafe, where she had her first taste of Mate tea. The plan tomorrow is to check out some of Boca and then Palermo before an interview in the late afternoon. On Tuesday night we are taking a long bus to Mendoza, where we'll tour wine country for a couple of days, then head to Córdoba. I'll probably head back to Buenos Aires at the end of the weekend, though Kristine might continue to tour some of the country on her own. It's a huge country with much to see.

Above: Images from Colonia, Uruguay: Antique car, Sunset on the Rio de la Plata, Downtown Colonia

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