Monday, July 18, 2011

Colonia y San Telmo

This weekend was packed with activities and outings with the girls from my Spanish class.  Thursday we went on our final class-organized outing, to the movies.  Despite the sketchiness of the neighborhood where the theater was, we had a really good time.  The movie was called "Un cuento chino" and one of the main themes was the language barrier, so we all sort of related.  After the movie we went to a little restaurant near Katie's host family's house and, as usual, shared a pizza and a bottle of wine.  As usual, it was incredibly delicious.  I wish I knew the secret to this pizza.  I want to bring it back to the States with me.  (The secret, not the pizza.  I don't think that would keep very well.)  Friday night, Tania moved into her new apartment in San Telmo, so we all went over to celebrate.  After going out for an excellent tapas platter, we headed back to Tania's to share some wine, chat, and enjoy her new place.  It's really a cute apartment.  Very tiny, though.  We stayed late that night; I think it was around 2:00a.m. that we ambled hungrily around the streets, looking for a kiosco to get some snacks, and it couldn't have been earlier than 3:30 that we headed back to the Resi.  Saturday night we had plans yet again.

See, Katie and Brittany, two of the girls from the class, are only here for that one class.  They're leaving this week, after the class ends with our final tomorrow.  So Katie planned a ton of activities for her final weekend in Argentina.  Saturday our original plan was to head to Cafe Tortoni for dinner and a tango show.  Cafe Tortoni is the famous cafe where great writers like Borges used to hang out, so, needless to say, I was psyched at the prospect.  As it turns out, though, Cafe Tortoni has become somewhat of a tourist trap, with hiked-up prices and unimpressive service.  Luckily, in a student travel guide, Tania found the name of a place right in San Telmo where we could see a tango show for free.  Although that particular restaurant (El Balcón) didn't have a show that night, the place right next door (Todo Mundo) did, so we went there.

It's a tiny little bar on the corner next to Plaza Dorrego, with TVs off to the right, where everyone was watching Argentina vs. Uruguay, and off to the left there was a small stage.  We got a table right in front of the stage so we would be able to see the shows.  The waitress told us there was a tango show starting immediately and a flamenco show at 10:30.  The tango show was nice and all, but it was clearly a warmup to the awesomeness that was the flamenco band.  There was a singer, two guys on these box drum things, a bassist and two guitarists, as well as a flamenco dancer.  They had such chemistry and energy; I loved it.  To make the night even better, I ate one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten in my life.  It was a hot steak sandwich: very simple, just lomito con queso, but it's Argentinean steak, so it's absolutely unparalleled as far as flavor goes.  And it was all warm and cheesy on this soft bread, with such good fries...mmm.

We didn't stay out quite as late that night, because we had to get up early to get the Buquebus ferry to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay the next morning.  In spite of the fact that I woke up half an hour late (at 7:30, which should never be considered all), we made it there by a little after 8:00 and proceeded to stand in line for nearly an hour to get our boarding passes and get through Immigration.  The ferry was cool, though.  It had a duty-free shop on the first level, next to the first-class room, then on the second level was the seating for everyone else (set up sort of like airplane seating) and a little cafeteria, and you could go up to the next level to stand out on the deck.  We grabbed a table by the window and, after some breakfast, spent the three-hour trip alternating between homework and naps. 

Finally we arrived at Colonia del Sacramento.  We each got a map and started walking toward the Historical District.  We strolled through the cobblestone streets, wandered through small shops, went up in the lighthouse, and ate outside, looking out on the water.  My clothes from that day still smell like parrilla, the grill.  In our travels we encountered some interesting characters.  There was an 82-year-old man in one of the shops who told us not only about his own family's immigration to Uruguay from Italy, but about the strength of the country's culture.  He spoke with this immense pride about his tiny, beloved country: "Somos chiquitos, pero la cultura..."  He explained that the country is one of "viejos," or older people, as the youth tend to immigrate to every corner of the world. 

We met some of the youth that remained in Uruguay when we went to the heladería to get some homemade ice cream.  There were two young guys serving us who were endlessly amused by the fact that we didn't speak Spanish.  I get the impression that they thought we understood even less than we did, and also that they were making fun of us.  But one of them shared mate with Tania, which was nice, and the encounter solidified my belief that the people on this continent are on a completely different level as far as looks go.  A higher level.

Maria and I leave in three days for Iguazu.  We finally got our bus tickets and booked a few nights at a hostel, but after Saturday night we have no concrete plans.  We're both a little nervous about that, but it's also pretty exciting.  We plan to set aside Friday (once we arrive, at 1:30 p.m.), Saturday, and part of Sunday for the falls and the park, then head to San Ignacio Sunday night.  There we'll see the Jesuit ruins, and I believe the mines of Wanda are right there, too.  It'll probably be Tuesday before we leave for Rosario and re-acclimate ourselves to city life before heading back to Buenos Aires by the weekend.  Our classes start the following Monday, so we plan to get back by Saturday night in order to have Sunday to relax, unwind, and prepare for the semester to begin. 

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