Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

La Rural

cattle with big horns
On Sunday we went along to the Rural, which is a huge agricultural fair that has been held in BsAs annually since 1880. It is a major event here and although we have no real interest in all things farming, we thought we would take a look.

this was just one of the halls
As we got close to the entrance, we came across a huge queue of around 400+ people. To start with we thought it was the queue to get into to rural and we weren't keen, but in fact it was the queue for the previously mentioned (quite small) zoo. It may be that the zoo is always this popular, but I wonder if perhaps mums and their kids had just got bored while dads spent days looking at livestock and tractors.

happy humpy cattle

The event is held in a specially built location with a number of large halls and outside areas. The first area that we went into was a hall full of sheep and cattle. There were loads of them and they were so big! We had a look around the different breeds and to see which ones had won the prizes. Some of them seemed to have lots of rosettes, so presumably had won in a variety of categories. I guess that means they were safe from the dinner table! In fact I got the impression that the animals here were not generally for eating but for breeding. Some were for sale, but others had just been brought along to show off their animal and hopefully win a prize.

an asado - next to the cattle
What did seem slightly odd was having a fancy restaurant with a full size asado, a fire pit used to barbeque large cuts of meat, in the same hall as the live cattle.
a smiling pig

We gradually made our way around the pigs, horses and birds too.  We had expected to see the (very noisy) roosters, the chickens, turkeys and ducks but we hadn't expected to see peacocks too.  I know that peacocks were popular feasting food amongst the English gentry a few hundred years ago, so I wonder whether people do still eat them here. We haven't seen any sign of it on menus here so far, so maybe they are just bred to look pretty.

flambeed cheese on sticks
Duff beer
As well as the animals, they had indoor stalls selling all manner of craftwork, riding accessories and some very lethal looking knives.  We also spotted someone selling cheese on a stick which they were 'toasting' with a blowtorch

We also spotted the stall selling Homer Simpson's favourite Duff beer.

cheeses and sausages
Outside they were displaying huge pieces of farm equipment and 4x4 vehicles.  They were showing off the latter by taking visitors around a track with obstacles like a very steep wooden 'hill' and a see-saw.  I couldn't persuade Nic to queue up for that so we went and watched some showjumping instead.

aberdeen angus
Overall I can't say that this was the most fun we've had here, but it was interesting, partly to see the many different breeds of animals, and partly to see how much this event is a real family day out for everyone.  And as for the animals - my personal favourite had to be the Aberdeen Angus cattle.  They are quite pretty creatures and have really beautiful soft black furry hair and ......vegetarians or anyone with a particular fondness for cows may wish to stop reading now ....................  when they do end up on the table they taste great!

An evening at Los Cardones

On Saturday evening we went to a place called Los Cardones (the cactii).  We went then because the 'Rural' is on. The Rural is a huge agricultural fair that is held in BsAs every year and which I will post more about later.  People from the provinces come in for the fair and Los Cardones is one of the places that everyone heads for in the evening.  It is a bar that is based on the food and music of the northern part of Argentina and has bands playing traditional folk music.

Las Cardones
We were lucky to get in as it was booked solid, but they squeezed us on to a table.  They had good empanadas and the some decent lamb for a main course.  There was a mix up with the order and we only got the one main meal but as usual the portions were so large that we could share and still have enough - it seems that people often do share.  I can't see many places in the UK being too happy with the idea.

But the draw here isn't so much the food as the music.  They had a couple of acts on.  The first was a guy with his guitar and he was fairly decent - for as much as we know about the music - playing stuff that was quite traditional sounding.  The second act was a group, three guitars, drums and keyboards and a singer.  They still played traditional music but the style was often a bit more modern.  They were excellent and really got the crowd singing along.  Clearly we knew none of the songs, so singing was out, but we did the clapping bit along with everyone else.
Lots of waving and clapping

The bands packed up around 1:30am and then people decided to make their own entertainment.  There were four different groups of people with guitars and another pair playing the piano and a sax. They probably could have sounded fairly decent had they all joined up and played the same thing at the same time.  As it was we were sat closest to the ones that couldn't sing so we called it a night after a while.

It was good fun though and nice to see people - old and young - enjoying something traditional.  I liked the fact that they were also bringing the style of it more up to date some of the time.  Whilst I think it is good to keep traditions going in their original form, I think the way to really keep them alive is to let them grow with the people who are enjoying them now too.  The acts this evening seemed to achieve a good mix of both - and were very popular for it.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

School's out

So we had our last Spanish lesson today. Are we fluent - no of course not - we only had four weeks of lessons. But whereas at the start I could just about manage hello, goodbye, and to ask for two beers please, I can now string together whole sentences in the present, future and three different past tenses.

OK so it takes me a while, I still make lots of mistakes and I seem to be incapable of pronouncing my 'j's properly, but actually I know that I now have the basics of a new language. We are both under orders from our teachers to keep practising, and we do intend to. Hopefully with time to consolidate what we've learnt, we will be able to speak basic Spanish more naturally, and then we can focus on picking up more vocabulary. But importantly we should now (with the aid of a dictionary) be able to speak enough to deal with any problems that we find ourselves with, and be able to have a conversation with people that we meet - even if it is a bit stilted and we sound like the policeman in the series 'allo allo'.

So in case they happen to read this, a big thank you to everyone at the Ayres de Español language school. Thanks in particular to our teachers Paula and Cecilia who made our lessons enjoyable and who both showed remarkable patience with us. We would certainly recommend either of them, or our stand in teachers Gladys and Mariana, to anyone thinking of learning Spanish in Buenos Aires.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Antiques and drums in San Telmo

a market stall selling all things gaucho
On Sunday we went to San Telmo. San Telmo is one of the older parts of town as it is close to the original fortress. It is compared by Time Out to Brooklyn in New York, in that it is being made over into something trendier and more salubrious than it was. Whilst it is next to one of the poorest and more dodgy areas of town (La Boca) we saw no sign of anything other than friendly people albeit that many were clearly catering to tourism. We went on the Sunday because that is when the flea market is on.
a street sign

Generally the stalls in markets like this are full of overpriced, mass reproduced and tacky items. But this was different. Yes I have no doubt that some of the prices were a little high - it is a tourist area - but most of the stalls had genuinely nice things to sell. Not all of it was old, but it was a pleasure to walk around.

Had I been on holiday and able to take things home, I probably would have bought quite a few pieces. As it was, I restrained myself to a single bracelet!

the bar in El Federal
After the temptation of the market, we made our way into a nearby cafe called El Federal. It is a cafe 'notable' because it dates from 1864. Given that the city only really got going from about 1840, that makes it a very early building. It's a nice place and is very well preserved.

Refreshed by our submarinos, we found an indoor market that was a bit less touristy than the main one outside.  The stuff here was less well presented and not quite so fancy, but still there were some nice pieces.

Watching the penalties
In this market we came across a cafe where they were showing the last throes of the Brazil - v - Paraguay match.  It had gathered quite a crowd.  Those of you that have been paying attention to earlier blogs will already know what happened, but it was interesting to see how pleased the locals were with the result. Those of you looking carefully may have spotted that Nic is one of those watching.

As we left the market we were drawn to the sound of drumming. When we got onto the streets we found a couple of bands playing. We stopped to listen to one for a while and they were pretty good. We gather they will have been practising for carnival - a task that goes on throughout the year.

We liked San Telmo and will doubtless be back - the only real question is whether I will be able to resist buying pretty bits of glass and such like!

Casa Rosada bicentennial museum

On Thursday we made it back into town and you will already know that we finally managed to find our sube!  But we had a new challenge as we had decided to have lunch in a cafe that we had seen in a little guide book.  It took us a while to work out that they had mixed up their numbers and we were looking for a cafe that was right at the other end of a very long road - so we tried the other one instead.  It was called the Palacio de Papas Fritas - or the Chip Palace; it is apparently famed for - you've guessed it - it's chips!  We therefore had to try some.  They were big puffy ones and were actually quite tasty.

This time we actually made it into a tourist sight - the museum behind the Casa Rosada.  It was opened last year to celebrate Argentina's bicentenary.  Coming from the UK, where there is such a long history, it seems strange to be in a city that in 1840 was only covered about 40x20 blocks.  The museum set out the history through the 200 years and we saw lots of overthrown regimes and dictatorships the like of which are long past in the UK. But this is such a comparatively young country, that it hasn't yet settled into the 'shades of grey' politics that we have. Whilst no doubt the UK can do without the violent uprisings, assassinations, and the radical policy changes that come with a change of government here, at a basic level there is something rather inviting about having political parties that genuinely have different policies and beliefs.  Would I want to see the UK have the kind of political instability that Argentina has had? Probably not, but a bit of true and honest differentiation wouldn't be a bad thing would it?

Casa Rosada - lit up in pink neon at night in case it wasn't pink enough!

We did feel quite pleased with ourselves by the end of the visit as the museum exhibits and films were all only in spanish and we were able to understand a lot of it.  Not all of the words of course, but we got a lot of them  and understood the gist of what we were reading or hearing.  We may not be ready to leap into conversation with strangers yet, but we do feel like we have got somewhere with the language now.

A bus, a zoo and Evita

Now the zoo may not be everyone's port of call but it us something of a tradition for us, so on the Wednesday of our week off, off we went.

The Hand of God!
  On our way, we passed a bus with very ornate carvings all around the top of it showing various people and events important to Argentina or South America.  We have no idea what the bus was for or why it was there, and we didn't recognise many though we spotted Che Guevare and some other political figures.  However the depiction that most caught our eye was the one of Diego Maradona in his 'Hand of God' moment!

Leaving the bus behind, we made it to the zoo.  It is only a little zoo and some of the enclosures were a bit small, but the animals generally seemed happy and cared for which was good. We were accosted early on by some cute rat type things that were roaming freely, so we bought some food and fed them and the agoutis (also free) as well as some of the other animals. There were lemurs for Nic, and big cats for me, but the star had to be one of the red pandas. These little animals are generally asleep and usually out of sight wherever we have (not) seen them before. One of those here was asleep but was at least in view, and we thought we were doing well just with that, until we spotted the second. That one had got up and was wandering all around the enclosure in full view.

Others that captured the attention were the big brown bear that we assumed had been rescued from 'performing' somewhere, because it stood on it's hind legs and waved until people threw it food, and the elephant that very carefully got done onto it's knees to reach the food that had dropped into the ditch around it's enclosure.

We are always fascinated watching the animals, but in due course we moved on to the Evita museum.

I kind of half knew about Eva Peron as I guess a lot of people do, but I have never really understood what made her both so loved and so hated. This museum was in my view quite one sided, very pro-Evita. Seeing the work that she did to improve the lot of women, children and the poor in general, I can see why many loved her. The scenes of her funeral were like those of Princess Diana, though on an even bigger scale. But the exhibits didn't really show why she also was so hated.  Of course everyone has their detractors - and there were issues with Evita about her involvement in politics when she was not an elected politician, particularly with those who felt their status and wealth being threatened by her work for the poor.  But does that alone explain why she was so absolutely hated by some that people broke into her grave and mutilated her body

It is a shame I think, as I believe that a museum can only really be properly respected if it gives the full story; if the people behind it are convinced that Evita was the good person they portray, they should be able to show the other side of the argument with sufficient certainty that people reading it without prejudice will be equally impressed. I understand that emotions still run strong, and that politics here is still divided on the Peronist or not issue, but a museum must surely rely more on facts than on viewpoints. It did a good job of what it did show, and I certainly knew more about her when I left than when I arrived. It is just a shame that I still don't feel qualified to have an opinion on the woman who divided the opinion of others so emphatically.

Town centre shopping and Puerto Madero

Casa Rosada
On Tuesday last week we went into the centre of BsAs. We tried out the subte (underground) for the first time and planned to get a sube card and find the tourist information office before seeing some sights. I already posted about the sube, so you know the trouble we had there, but we couldn't find tourist information either! We did walk around Plaza de Mayo, with the Casa Rosada, which is the pink equivalent of the White House and featured in the film Evita, but you can't go in during the week.

We then got told off for taking photographs of another government building. We were only interested in the stonework, but as it turned out to be the intelligence service building, I guess they were never going to be too keen!

On our search for the tourist info, we happened to find ourselves outside of Galeria Pacificas, which is a large shopping mall.  It seemed rude not to go in, especially as it has a very impressive painted domed ceiling. [Did you fall for that??] But in fact it turned out to be quite fortunate as I managed to pick up the thermals and waterproof trousers that I still needed for our onward journey; not very exciting I know, but definitely necessary! We had a quick lunch in the food court, where we were fascinated to see that despite having plastic plates and cutlery, those having the parilla still got one of the typical mini grill plates with their meat on. Clearly having the meat served up on a plastic plate would be a step too far!

Mujeres Bridge at Puerto Madero
 After our shopping we headed off to look around Puerta Madero, which is the newly developed and rather expensive, docks area. You can see that the area right on the river would be quite nice in the summer when everyone is eating outside, but really the whole area is just too new and soulless. The mujeres (womens') bridge is quite impressive.  The central section rotates 90 degrees to allow ships to pass through.

We had hoped to visit the Sarmiento Frigate, a frigate ship dating from around 1890, which now is a museum, but were too late to get on.  Another time then!

We decided to treat ourselves to dinner at one of the expensive restaurants on the riverside, as it was supposed to have especially good steaks. And certainly I was not disappointed - it has gone straight to the top of the steak rankings for me.

the pool at Hotel Faena
The taps in the loos at Hotel Faena
We also had a cocktail in Hotel Faena, a very upmarket hotel designed by Philippe Stark. It was very elaborate, but I quite liked most of it. The toilets had impressive swan taps and were the first place we've seen double ply toilet paper - so it must be posh! However the 'crowning glory' had to be the pool, with a huge crown sat in the middle of it - fun, but unbelievably camp!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A japanese garden

Japanese Garden
So am trying to catch up with some postings to let you know what we got up to last week when we took some time out from the spanish lessons to have a look around BsAs.  On the Monday we took a while to sort out a few practical bits and pieces so just went for a wander around Palermo and visited the japanese garden.  The garden itself was OK, and had a number of good elements like the lake with koi carp, the bridge, the maple trees, etc, but there was one problem that made it impossible for it to work.  My understanding of a japanese garden is that is a place for quiet contemplation.  Unfortunately this one has major roads on two sides and a flight path overhead.  It really didn't work.  So we went to the shops instead, but we were good and resisted buying anything.

In the evening we suddenly remembered that the next Argentina match in Copa America was on so we dived into the nearest restaurant where we could both get seats facing the screen.  I won't talk about the football as I posted on that already, but it was a good choice of place as the meal had an oriental slant to it, was very good and made a welcome change from all of the steak - hard to believe I can say that given my general ability to eat steak until it comes out of my ears, but even I appreciate a change sometimes!

El dia de los amigos

As we walked to our Spanish lesson today we were surprised by the number of people sat in cafes that are often fairly quiet at that time. One our teachers explained that today is 'friends day' in Argentina, when people meet up with lots of their friends. Apparently it originates from someone spotting that on the day of the first lunar landing, people around the world gathered to watch it, and they liked the idea of everyone coming together. The aim was to have a day of friendship that was celebrated across the world, but it only ever took hold in Argentina. I like the idea in principle, but it seems like a logistical nightmare to try to arrange to meet up with your different groups of friends on one day, when they are also trying to arrange multiple events with other people.

But in recognition of el dia de los amigos we thought we would take a moment to say hello to our friends reading our blog, before we head out to try and find a restaurant we can actually get into!

Monday, July 18, 2011

And it's goodbye to Brazil

Firstly. I promise all my posts won't be about football, but for all those who have suffered watching England go out on penalties, you may take some solace in Brazil going out on penalties to Paraguay by missing all four taken! They never even got to try a fifth. Interestingly though the people watching in San Telmo Market were very pleased with the result.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Do we not like penalties.....

So having managed to up their game just enough to reach the next round of Copa America, Argentina drew Uraguay for their match tonight. It was a good match with both sides having a goal, a disallowed goal and a player sent off by the end of normal time. Neither managed a goal in extra time so it went to penalties. It made a nice change to watch penalties in a match not involving England, but it is not an experience Argentina will have enjoyed. Teves took their third fairly poorly and it was saved; with all of the others going in, Argentina are out of the tournament. So not a good result for the hosts. On a happier note I am pleased to report that, after my earlier disappointment, the crowd in the pub made a proper amount of noise at all times. So my faith in Argentine fans is restored, though their faith in their team may be shaken.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Small victories are sometimes the best

After many unsuccessful attempts, having received plenty of duff advice, we have finally managed to get hold of a sube pass (a card to preload with credit to use on the underground and buses). This is a very minor achievement but after so much frustration at the failed attempts it did make us feel good. If you are going to be in BsAs then see our tips page to avoid the same problem.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Having trouble following or leaving a comment?

Some people have said that they would like to be able to sign up to 'follow' the blog but have not been able to. Also some of you have said you can't post comments. Not being at all familiar with all of this stuff I'm not sure I can help much but I'll tell you what I do know. And perhaps if any of those who are signed up have any other advice then they could post it in a comment?

So I can't see followers if I sign in on an internet explorer browser, but if sign in on google chrome or safari then I can see the followers and the box that allows you to follow. There may be a way of seeing it from Internet explorer but google chrome and safari do work. I know that you can just load the chrome software for free and you don't have to use it as your normal browser - I just use it for the blog.

I have set up the blog so that you have to be signed up to comment in order to avoid getting a load of spam or dubious comments. As far as I can tell you need to set up a google mail account - again free and you don't have to actually use for mail if you don't want to. With that you should be able to leave comments.

Hope that helps but if you know any easier options please do share.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Shopping like a local

Am currently out in the centre of town. We were supposed to be doing the tourist stuff but ended up in a shopping centre and I have just got a store loyalty card. So now I feel like I live here!!

Sent from my iPod

A quick football update

We watched the Argentina -v- Costa Rica match tonight in a restaurant and am pleased to say that a proper level of noise was achieved.  It may be because Argentina were rather more on their game tonight, or perhaps the fact that they were facing going out of the championship if they didn't win, but whatever the reason, it was good to see those around us getting involved.  And Argentina won 3-0 so qualify automatically for the next round.

Farmers markets, TV interviews and ice cream

So I said on my last post that we were due to meet Cecilia and Sol again at a local produce market at midday on Saturday.  Having only got to bed at 5am ourselves and knowing that they would have been even later, we figured midday was optimistic, so we got there at about 1pm.  They hadn't arrived yet.

The market was indoors and had about 40 stands where local producers were selling their organically produced foods, drinks, wools, clothes, jewellery and pottery etc.  In London such a place would be pretty busy, but there were relatively few people around, and most of them seemed to be regulars.  There was a film crew interviewing people which we declined as we didn't fancy putting our still rather dubious spanish on display on national TV.  However shortly afterwards they asked us if we would be prepared to be interviewed in English and they would add subtitles.  They were doing a documentary trying to encourage people to support these markets (I think) and liked the idea of showing that foreigners would support it too.  So we agreed.  Now just have to hope the subtitles they put on don't translate what we said into something really stupid!

Shortly after, the others arrived, Cecilia being somewhat more tired than we were, and we had some of the one of the local specialities being sold - locra.  It is a stew with meat and beans mostly and was nice enough, although you did have to take care to avoid the bones.  It turned out that the cook was Sol's dad so just as well we'd said we liked it! We also tried out his pastelitas - light pastries filled with a quince paste and fried; they were really nice.

As it was the independence day holiday, they had a few people playing the guitar, singing and Sol and a partner dancing.  They also dragged up Cecilia, who only realised afterwards that the whole things was also being filmed by the TV crew.  It was a really good way to spend a few hours, and gave a glimpse into how the porteños spend some of their time.  We left there with some cheese, chutney and a couple of bottles of beer.

After that the two of us wandered around the area a little and found a fantastic cake shop where we couldn't resist buying a little selection of their various tiny alfajores [we ate these on Sunday and they were very tasty too!].  When we stopped off for a drink they were showing the Brazil -v- Paraguay match and most other customers were Brazilian.  In case you read my early blog and are wondering, yes they were fairly noisy.  Though not sure they were too impressed with it ending in a 2-2- draw.

We were still fairly stuffed from the locra, so figured a light meal in a bar was the best option followed by an early night.  However we happened to be very close to an heladaria - an ice cream bar - so we succumbed for the first time since we've been here.  Given Nic's general liking for ice cream it is a miracle it's taken this long, so we didn't feel too bad about having two scoops each.  And it was very good.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


On Friday night we had our first taste of milonga. Well I say Friday night, but as we didn't arrive until 11pm and left at about 4.30am, I guess Saturday morning would be more accurate!

Milonga is where people of all ages go to dance the tango and the milonga (similar steps but a bit faster). There is an important etiquette to finding a partner. Women who want to dance stay seated but look interested, while the men walk the room. The man will try to catch the eye of the woman he wants to dance with and gesture to her. If she is not interested then she will avoid eye contact and look away, but if she wants to she will nod and then they will both make their way to meet at the dance floor. Much of this is very subtle, so if you are a none dancer like me you have to be careful not to look anyone in the eye if you want to avoid an embarrassing encounter! Generally you will dance with many different partners throughout the evening irrespective of whether you are there with someone. The dances are in sets of four and you keep the partner for the whole set. You don't speak during the dance but there is time for have a brief chat in between and you do see the odd couple having a very awkward silence while waiting for the right point of the music to start dancing again.  It amused us that  when the music ends the dancers stop abruptly and freeze for a moment before releasing - it reminded us of a game of musical statues!

We went because one of our Spanish teachers , Cecilia, was kind enough to invite us to go with her and her friends. They are regular milongistas so frequently took to the floor whilst we just watched, but it was still good fun. It was intriguing to watch the invitation and acceptance to dance and fascinating to see the way they all negotiated their way around the packed dance floor with very few collisions.  At about 2am two experts, in this case the teacher of one person in our group, did three very impressive show dances.

There is a tradition at milonga that if one of the regulars has a birthday then they get the floor to themselves and various of their friends cut in to dance with them.  We happened to be there for a special occasion as it was the birthday of the oldest regular.  He is about 89 and works as a chauffeur during the day and then goes to milonga every night.  He is still pretty decent on his feet and everyone is always happy to dance with him so there was quite a queue for his birthday tango.

And as we were now firmly into Saturday, we had hit 9 July, which is the anniversary of Argentina getting independence from Spain, so after the birthday dance they played the national anthem.  We had heard a fairly lousy rendition of it before the football, with most people having no idea of most of the words, but the milonga crowd did an excellent job of it, knowing all the words and singing in time and in tune.  Typically, as probably the only non-Argentine people in the room, we had to be sat right in front of the piano that they played it on and that everybody looked to as they stood and sang.  So we did stand, but felt fairly conspicuous being practically the only people not singing.

As the night carried on the better dancers hit the floor and even to us the improvement in standard was noticeable, though there was still no room for the kicks and flourishes.  Cecilia and Sol left at about 4am to go to another milonga and then have breakfast, before getting to bed at about 7am.  We stuck around to about 4.30am as the dancing was drawing to a close and got to bed comparatively early at about 5am.  Just as well as we were supposed to be meeting Cecilia and Sol again at midday.  But that is for another posting.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


I don't pretend to be an authority on football, but when I go to the pub to watch England play in a major championship I can guarantee that the crowd will be vocal.  Obviously the crowd cheers loudest for a goal, but a fair amount of noise is made for any decent attempt by either side, if there is a bad miss, or someone fouls one of our players. Whether England is doing well or not, you can hear how the game is going through the reactions in the bar.

From what I had heard about the importance of football in Argentina, and the intensity of the rivalry between the supporters of the local BsAs teams, I expected the Argentinians to be even noiser than the English. So when we went to a bar to watch Argentina play Colombia in COPA America (the South American equivalent of the European Championship), I expected it to be loud. But it wasn't. In fact the Argentinians were remarkably quiet throughout most of the match. There was the occasional shout from one or two people, but mostly they were very subdued. Now in fairness Argentina's performance wasn't great and it ended 0-0 against a team they should have beaten, but then the same is true of many England games and that doesn't stop us.

I was also a bit surprised to see a small group of Colombians in the same bar.  And the Columbian fans were louder than the English.  They did get a few dirty looks when they cheered an Argentine miss or a foul on an Argentine player, but there was no trouble.

When we mentioned the football to one of our Spanish teachers it was clear that the Argentinians were unimpressed with their team's performance and felt let down by players like Messi.  She was surprised when we said Colombians were in the same bar and thought there may have been trouble had a goal been scored.  So I'm quite glad there wasn't a goal as we were next to the Colombians and I don't fancy being in the middle of warring South American football fans!

Anyway, having already drawn 1-1 against Bolivia, Argentina have to beat Costa Rica or they won't qualify automatically and risk being out of the tournament at the first stage.  So it will be interesting to see if the fans are more animated for that match.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Cafe culture

La Biela
One of the things that BsAs (Buenos Aires) is known for is its many cafes. There is a strong culture of artists, authors, protesters and revolutionaries sitting in cafes talking about politics.  And the tradition continues today. One of our Spanish teachers tells us that people can spend up to five hours setting the world to rights over a single cup of coffee!  You'd be thrown out of any cafe in the England long before that.

We've been sampling a few of the many nearby cafes in the hour break between our Spanish lessons. So far the two best ones are Crack-up and La Salamandra. Crack-up is a few tables in a little old bookshop that has quite a laid back, studenty feel to it, a friendly guy serving and tasty pancakes with dulce de leche. For those unfamiliar, dulce de leche is a very sweet caramelised milk, much like the filling of a banoffee pie.

A plate of cakes in La Salamandra
La Salamandra is Nic's favourite so far. It's run by a company that produces dulce de leche and mozzarella and has a much more modern feel. But the best bit is the cakes. They have a great selection of little canapé sized cakes and they are all look beautiful and taste lovely, especially the Alfajoritas (dulce de leche between two shortbread rounds). I'm sure it won't surprise you to hear that between us we have tried them all!  Of course this indulgence will have to stop as is isn't helping our plans to get fitter before we head off on the truck!

For drinks we have been working through beers, wines, tea and coffee, but my favourite is the hot chocolate - or 'submarino' - where you get a glass of hot milk and a small bar of chocolate to submerge into it.  I especially liked the one where the chocolate was actually shaped like a submarine.

La Biela
But the best cafes are the big old ones; touristy perhaps, but they still show a real picture of traditional Argentina.  We found one in Recoleta yesterday.  We had walked around the craft stalls by the cemetery where Eva Peron is buried, and hadn't yet had lunch, when we spotted La Biela.  It dates back to 1850, but really got popular in the 1950s as a regular for motor racing drivers.  It has a slightly art deco style, which I rather liked, and was relaxed and friendly.  It's a very touristy area, but the people inside seemed to be locals out with family or friends, maybe a benefit of us coming here in the winter. We opted for sharing one each of their two afternoon teas, expecting a nice snack to keep us going until dinner.  Of course we had reckoned without the huge Argentinian portion sizes and ended up sharing three rounds of toasted sandwiches, two croissants and five cakes.

We thought La Biela was great, and will be trying out other cafes during our stay here, but we skipped dinner last night!