Tag: Argentina

Argentina Day 4: Learning to bake alfajores and exploring Recoleta Cemetery

Amir asked me this morning why I love Eva Perón so much… I had to stop and think… and correct him. Love isn’t the right word – it’s more that she fascinates me.

Eva Perón grew up a poor, illegitimate child and moved to Buenos Aires at age 15 to pursue a career in acting and television. She struggled for years until she met then Secretary of Labour, Juan Perón. They married a year later. He became president of Argentina in 1946.

“Evita” as the country would come to call her, was dichotomous in every sense. Elegant and underprivileged. Benevolent and self-promoting. Divisive and unifying. As a woman, she pushed her way (and coaxed people into inviting her) into social spheres and roles no other First Lady had. She even ran for Vice President. She was adored and despised. She was far from perfect but never claimed to be. Maybe I identify with her.

Today we visited her family grave at Cementario Recoleta. But first, let’s talk about our milanesas lunch and the delicious cookies we made.

Milanesa Patagónica
Milanesa Napolitana

Milanesa is a traditional Argentinian dish which borrows from Italian roots. They take a variety of meats – veal, pork, chicken – pound it thin and bread it. This particular restaurant, La Casa de la Milanesa, treated the milanesa like a pizza crust, offering a selection of toppings with a side of fries. Delicious.

Andra Bakery, Recoleta, Buenos Aires

Our next stop was at Andra Bakery to take a “clase de pastelería,” or a pastry class. We’ve come to enjoy the “experiences” you can find on AirBnB, so when we saw the chance to bake our own traditional alfajores, we jumped.

Aspirational models

For $40 per person, you get very personal instruction from the owner. She limits each class to three people, so your lesson is essentially private.

Over two hours, you make three different cookies, each with a slight variation on the traditional alfajores.

You weigh your bowl as you add ingredients, taking care to tare the scale along the way. You mix the dough with your bare hands, then chill it in the refrigerator while mixing the next batch. The cook time is short, and the ROI high. We walked out with two whole boxes of cookies, new knowledge and the joy of a unique experience.

After cookies at Andra Bakery, we walked two blocks to enter El Cementario de la Recoleta. I never knew there was a list of Top 10 Cemeteries in the world, but Recoleta is on it.

Many famous Argentinians are buried here including Eva Perón, the founder of the Argentinian Navy and numerous past presidents.

While for most of its existence it’s been restricted to the notable and wealthy in society, for a few short years Recoleta was open to public burials. As a result you’ll find some very common people resting next to Argentinian greats.

Eva Perón is buried here, despite a huge push for her to be returned to the small humble village where she was raised.

Tomb for the Duarte Family and Eva Perón

Sadly Eva Perón died at the age of 33 from what most believe was cervical cancer. Her untimely death makes her rise to fame so much more interesting to me as I’m left wondering what she could have accomplished with more years.

Inside one of the neglected tombs

After Recoleta and a brief siesta back at the apartment, we took an Uber to La Estancia, a meat lovers paradise. It’s akin to the Brazilian steakhouse, but is much more personalized and less mass market.

We started with a caprese salad, beef empañadas and some fresh bread.

For our main course, we ordered a mixed barbecue of lamb, pork ribs, sausage, suckling pig and beef.

It arrived steaming, snapping and crackling on a bed of hot coals. Our experienced waiter had covered my bag in the chair beside me with a yellow linen. When our dish arrived, it was then that I understood why.

We’re packing up tonight for our flight to Bariloche tomorrow. Bariloche is in the Patagonia region and from photos most resembles Switzerland meets Breckinridge. We’ll see if the photos hold true.

-Steph

Argentina Day 3: But she won’t remember any of it

“Why don’t you save your money and travel when she’ll actually remember it?”

“Wouldn’t you rather have a romantic kid-free vacation?”

“Can’t you separate from your kid?”

We’ve heard and been asked them all. I want to give a little backstory on why we travel, and why we travel with #1Toddler on what can seem like daunting adventures.

When Amir and I were dating and having one of those talks where you feel the other person out for what’s important to them, what they want in life… travel, and more specifically international travel, surfaced over and over again.

Amir, half Egyptian, half English, was born in England. Thanks to his flight attendant mother with a worldly perspective and a degree in early childhood development, she placed a huge emphasis on ensuring Amir and his three brothers experienced all the world and its rainbow of people, history and cuisine had to offer. He grew up traveling and expected the same for his married life and future family.

I experienced my first international adventure at age 8 when my parents took my sister (7 years my senior) and me to Interlaken, Switzerland for a ski trip. Was I old enough to appreciate the full extent of the cultural experience – no… but that trip did involve my sister and I, while our parents were back at the ski lodge, getting lost in a snowy village and managing to find a doctor to stitch me up after a “J bar” ski lift went rogue and conked me in the head. Plus I’ll never forget the endless chocolate, tv commercials in a strange language and toys we didn’t have back in the US. After that trip, international travel became a big part of who I am, culminating with living in Madrid, Spain for 6 months back in 2002.

Amir and I agreed to escape the borders of the US at least twice a year. We take her with us because although she might not remember everything – or even anything – she lights up with new textures, colors, foods and smells. She understands the differences in languages, tempo of music and cadence of a big city vs back home. Even if she won’t remember it, her neurons are making connections – she enjoys it in the moment, and that brings us joy.

Today we walked East to see La Casa Rosada, “The Pink House,” which serves as the executive mansion for Argentina’s president. Built in the late 1800s, it’s seen many leaders, revolutions and renovations. It’s also where Eva Perón gave her famous speech on October 17, 1951. If you’ve seen Evita, then you likely know it.

La Casa Rosada, Buenos Aires

If you want to tour the inside, you’ll need to come on a Saturday as the building houses government functions during the week and is only open to tourists one day. Book in advance if you can as slots reportedly fill quickly. We were here on a Thursday, so we settled for an exterior appreciation.

There is a small, free museum behind La Casa Rosada which features artifacts from prior presidents and details of an “Orient Express” type luxury train which used to be the preferred mode of travel for dignitaries.

Museo de la Casa Rosada

Next we walked a half mile East to the canals in search of lunch. There were old ships and newer yachts, a mix of old and new that seems to match the rest of Argentina.

Naval sailing ship now converted to a restaurant
New juxtaposed with old

After lunch we hopped on the Subte, the metro of Buenos Aires, in search of the local Children’s Museum. Like most big city metros, you buy a card you can preload with trips then just swipe at the entrance.

Holding on tight on the Subte

Our destination was recommended by some well-travelled moms in an online forum I frequent. Museo de Niños is a 4 story kids museum located inside a gigantic shopping mall. Yes, we found a real life shopping mall filled with TONS of people.

Museo de Niños, Abasta

They have some of the usual activities like grocery shopping and a tv station, but also some unique displays like the gigantic climbing toilet.

“Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen…”
How do you even caption this?

#1Toddler enjoyed the outdoor playground and making new friends with some “big girls” on the twirly ride.

Twirling with the big girls
Seeing ourselves on camera at the TV studio

After the kids museum, we stopped for what might have been our second ice cream of the day. I’ve never seen such an amazing display of popsicles. There was no way to walk past without getting one. Or two.

I had the “King Blanco” and she had the “Frutilla”
Gelato rivaling Florence, Italy

All the walking and climbing up and down to the metro sucked the energy from everyone. We had grand plans for a big Argentinian steak dinner tonight, but my pregnant back is aching and #1Toddler went down for the count early. Amir went down the block to Mostaza for burgers and fries. I have to say I was pretty psyched about our Plan B.

Tomorrow we have reservations at a small bakery where we’ll learn to make traditional Argentinian alfajores, little dulce de leche sandwich cookies. After that, we plan to explore Recoleta Cemetery which houses the tomb of Eva Perón.

-Steph

Argentina Day 2: Playgrounds, Pizza and Paella, hitting all the essential “P”s

I never really went to sleep from last night. We checked into our “better than in the pictures” AirBnB around 7am (5am Eastern). #1Toddler didn’t want to sleep as I had hoped, but that was forgivable considering how good she was on the plane.

Relaxing in the living room
Can we talk about this ceiling please

Masks guard the front door

We strategically picked an AirBnB right next to a large park with a playground. We’ve found we always need to intersperse some runaround time with some sightseeing if we want to make everyone happy.

We went to parks three separate times today. Fortunately Buenos Aires has plentiful public green space and has made a notable effort to preserve large trees to help cool the urban environment.

We ate lunch at Güerrin Pizza, established in 1932, it’s a hopping local spot for Argentinian pizza and empañanas that came highly recommended by some of the travel videos we watched ahead of our trip.

It’s cash only, so prepare for that, but there are about 200 specialty pizzas on the menu ranging from prosciutto with hearts of palm and tarter sauce to fresh mozzarella with strawberries. We opted for the Suprema Pizza with added anchovies. Highly recommend it.

Eclectic mix of locals dining solo
Güerrin Suprema, add anchovies

For dinner at 9pm (which was early as most people eat around 10pm), we stopped at Ávila, a Spanish tapas place with no menu, just a special of the day which to our luck was paella. Before the paella, we were treated to fresh bread with whipped garlic butter, a cheese and olives plate, and a traditional “torta española” which is a sort of potato and egg pancake.

Seafood Paella at Ávila

Tomorrow we have a big day planned doing what I call the “Evita pilgrimage,” to visit La Casa Rosada and other historic sites. And I’m sure we’ll stop at a park or two.

The den in our AirBnB
Hand painted plates line the tiny stairwell

Argentina Day 1: Getting there is half the fun (when it involves travel perks)

You may recall that the last time we flew to Denmark, we came back on a first class upgrade. I knew that was going to be trouble. Once you experience it, especially with a toddler, it’s hard to go back.

Amir had a solution for this. Back in the states a week, he’d sorted out which credit cards and flier clubs we needed to join to ensure an elevated travel experience from here on out. If you want details, ask him, but in short it involved the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card with Priority Pass as a start.

British Airways lounge in Terminal B

The other way this trip is already different for us is that I am traveling while 20 weeks pregnant. No major alterations to our usually pretrip prep – except I scheduled a special visit to the Infectious Disease travel clinic to ensure my vaccinations were all up to date, and to learn about any exposure or other safety considerations for this trip. Turns out Zika is still a thing, but there are just as many cases in the US as Argentina. Fortunately most of my immunizations from traveling to Rwanda are still valid.

“Get some insect repellant with <30% DEET and don’t forget your sunscreen.” Easy. Check. Plus 2 “just in case” doses of azithromycin for any GI bugs.

“And any red meat has to be cooked well done.” Hrumph. We are only going to the red wine and red meat capital of the world. I’ve decided to order decadent seafood and chocolate wherever and whenever possible.

Static cling letters and animals are great for window seat entertainment

As I always say, the key to surviving 5+ hour flights with an infant or toddler is preparation. Small toys without parts that are easily lost are key. This trip we added static cling window cutouts since #1Toddler is big into her ABCs these days. We also brought two magnetic puzzles that help limit lost pieces.

If you can swing it, lay flat seats guarantee a solid nap

All our flights arrived on time. We flew Avianca for the first time and were quite pleased. We arrived at the airport in Buenos Aires and easily summoned an Uber to take us to our AirBnB.

Raphael met us in the lobby of our AirBnB to ensure a smooth checkin. We’ve had some great luck with AirBnB wins the last few years and were delighted with an artful apartment in a historic building with breezy balconies and more square footage than anyone would reasonably expect for an urban setting like this.

Of course now we are all three thrown off on time. Amir and I want to nap, but #1Toddler is requesting a trip to the park and sliced apples. Here’s to hoping for a second wind.