Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Muy bien ;)

Ahora, nosotros aprendemos espanol en escuela. Nosotros conocemos mucho agente que es muy amable! Nuestro departamento es muy luminoso y cerca mucho restaurantes y cafes. Tenemos un poco frio por que es otono aca. Pero, nosotros estamos felices!! (Not sure if that's the greatest Spanish - but hey it's only been 2 weeks. Translation: Right now, we're learning Spanish in a school. We're meeting tons of nice people. Our apartment is really bright and close to a lot of restaurants and cafes. We're a little bit cold cause it's Fall/Autumn here. But, we're really happy!)

Haven't been too regular with the blogs cause we've been trying to explore the city and be good students...not so sure about the good part, but we have been trying to study! So far, I'm really really loving Buenos Aires, it's quickly become one of my favourite cities in the world. There's a vibrancy about it that is great and thoroughly enjoyable. Maybe it's cause we're meeting/have met amazing people and been having a great time, maybe it's because it really is a beautiful city that has so much to offer. There is something for everyone here. There's so many cute and quaint cafes, cool bars, thumping clubs, delicious restaurants, interesting museums, great architecture to be seen everywhere! We take the subway all the time and everyday is like a mini adventure. There's something wonderful about being part of the throng of Portenos (locals) that makes us feel like we're part of the city. Sometimes, musicians play beautiful music, which makes it even more fun. Other times, you're reminded that you're in a big city when everyone has there backpacks in front of them, women are clutching their purses and there are blind people selling gum in the trains. Oh, and am not a big fan of the packed sardine feeling I get when it's rush hour. Aside from that, every corner you turn is like a picture waiting to be taken. In fact, the pictures I'm adding are the sites that I see walking to school and the jogging route that I have. It's amazingly gorgeous.

Staying put for a little while, means that we get to experience the city like we're actually living here. We've had our new friends come over for a dinner we all cooked, we've gone to an Argentinian guy's birthday party, gone to see a movie in the theatre, eaten Chinese at China(town/street) know, things we'd actually do back home. However, when they say that BA is nocturnal - they were NOT kidding! Everything starts so late here I don't even understand how people do it. It's not just the going out, but they have dinner here at like 10pm! I mean I'm on vacation and I'm exhausted. That said, no complaints whatsoever! Life's good and BA helps make it better everyday!

The park I run at.

I particularly love Brujas and the Chickas Catolicos posters!

I walk by the Congreso building on my way to school.

We see little markets/fairs at every single plaza!

Making dinner with new friends at our apartment :)
(Guacamole anyone?)

The monument on the way to Yuko's school on the world's widest avenue.

This rose garden makes me want to run everyday!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Buenos Aires so far...

It's been a few weeks and life in Buenos Aires is coming along great! The first week was:
  • Spent with Jan, whom we miss terribly!
  • Figuring out that BA really is Europe in South America.
  • Finding a favorite coffee shop in San Telmo - this quaint, completely Italian joint with fantastic Americanos and Cappuccinos.
  • Doing the Tango thing - took a class, had a great 3 course dinner and watched a fantastically cheesy and awesome Tango show.
  • Discovering that Puerto Madero is like Yaletown.
  • Running the Ecological Reserve
  • Did the Pub Crawl (a couple of times thanks to Emily) and made lots of new friends!
  • Apartment hunting...we were hoping that it would be miraculously easier in BA than it would be back home, but I gotta tell you, trying to rent an apartment in Spanish is challenging to say the least. But good news - it was successful!
So now, an impressive week later, we're out of the hostel and in this wonderful apartment in Palermo (google it - it's a cool little area that's kinda like a combo of Robson, Kits and Commercial all rolled into one!). We're 2 blocks from the subway station, we're within walking distance to absolutely everything, we're right across from the Botanical Garden and the jogging and scenery is fantastic!! We're completely stoked! Doesn't matter that the sink leaks right now, or that the door gets jammed and there's a trick to opening it, or the fact that the elevator makes wierd noises...cause location, location, location and we are feeling pretty good about life! We'll be here for a month and use it as a base to do some weekend trips (send us an email if you want our Argentinian phone number!)

We've been pretty busy...We've signed up for Spanish classes and start on Monday. We've made some friends, checked out the National Art Gallery, watched a movie during the BA International Film Fest and have even had a girl's nite in. We've tried to go shopping (a couple of times, which is a feat considering we both hate it) and gotta say - not so impressed. But, it is fall here and we're definitely needing some more clothes rather than beach wear...

In any case, am trying to get caught up on blogging and emails. I'm finally putting up some much needed pics up on Facebook - give me another day or so since uploading is so much fun (yup, sarcasm intended). So if you want to have more of an idea what we've done and seen, check out my profile soon! PS - Am really starting to miss hearing from people. We want emails!!! Don't care if it's mundane or whatever, it would just be nice to touch base!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Foz De Iguazu/Puerto Iguazu/ Cataratas de Iguazu = The Most Amazing Waterfalls Ever.

After a tremendously long and uncomfortable bus trip, we finally made it to Argentina. I got to tell you, after taking buses after buses, time and distance all blurs into one big haze. Our first day was a bit of a write off - apparently there was a strike which meant people couldn't go to the falls so it was filled with having our first Malbec and Argentitian steak with the British boys and of course a few games of Shithead. Day 2 - after transfering hostels and following Jan for city number 5 I think - we ended up at the Hostel Inn aka Holiday Inn. I love, absolutely love hostels that like look resorts. I fell completely in like with that place and the people there. There was so much to like about this place - the gigantic pool = ground zero, the amazing people we met, the bar... cons - um, we had the noisest room in the whole place. Imagine what it would be like to be at the room closest to the mega speakers off the little disco they had. This began day 1 of 9 days were I averaged 2-4 hours of sleep per night...also why I held off on writing, cause apparently, you do lose coherency with that little sleep. But I digress...

You have the option of seeing the falls from the Argentinian and Brazilian side. We had every intention of doing both but this is actually how it panned out:
Day 1 - Argentina. Let's see, it could have been the tremendous hang over I had after the 3rd bottle of Malbec (you know who you are...) or the fact that it was the busiest day of the year (ugh Easter) or the intense and almost unbearable heat but we basically stood in lines and just barely saw the Garganta de Diablo - beautiful but overshadowed by the thousands of others that were there. It was like the Disney land of natural wonders...
Day 2 - Argentina again. Thankfully an amazing day that made up for all the wrongs of the day before. We got there early, took our time, trekked through the Lower Trails and took lots of pictures of the amazing butterflies that inhabit the area. They came in all colours and sizes - I think we have enough butterfly pics to actually have its own folder (so beautiful that for a split second I almost understood why so many people have butterfly tattoos). We took the speed boat to falls, where I swear, they break every single safety violation - cause really, you just can't get that close to millions of gushing gallons of water and be that safe can you?? Either way, it was amazing and awesome and the best shower ever!! Then there's the upper trails where you view the water crashing down over the rocks. I looove waterfalls. What is it about water flowing over rocks that makes you speechless? Maybe it's the unstoppable force of the water, so strong that it forms clouds on impact or multiple rainbows. Maybe it's because it's so calming and emotional all at once just to see the sheer magnitude of those falls. Either way, it was spectacular.
Day 3. It was suppose to be Brazil. Thanks to our roomie at the dorm, we had this wonderful chance to see it from above. Instead, we flew over the falls on a private 4 seater Cesna!! For those keeping track, we saw the falls by land, water and air!!! Unless you've been there, it's really difficult to describe how awe inspiring these falls are. Imagine Niagra Falls exponentially until you are really really impressed and you've just had a glimpse of Iguazu!

I could go on for a while trying to recapture our experiences there, I'm not really sure I'll ever be able to encapsulate our experience there but here are some pics...they pretty much speak for itself!!

Finally Pics of Rio

Ok, so it's been a few weeks - but we're finally in our rented apartment in Buenos Aires!! It took us only about 4 days to find this gem on the top floor, that has a supposed doorman (who we've yet to meet), is a mere 2 blocks away from a subway line and across from the Botanical Garden. Tonight as we were walking dowto our apartment with had this completely awesomely cool feeling walking down Avenida Santa Fe which groceries - most importantly the bottles of Malbec, wine and baguette - towards our apartment! But I don't want to digress cause there is still pics of Rio and then of course the awe inspiring Foz de Iguazu that needs to come first.

Please note my big bike and Yuko's little one... ;)
Pao de Azucar
Yup, they actually recommend different SPFs depending on your skin tone!
The view on the way up Pao de Azucar. That's Rio baby!

We stayed in both places!

This was the Favella Funk Party...

We watched an awesome football match. Go Vasco go!

We biked all of Copacabana and Ipanema beaches.

Sunset at Ipanema

Monday, April 5, 2010

Pics of Ilha Grande

Had to get this pics in because we're heading from Puerto Iguazu/Cataratas (Iguazu Falls) to Buenos Aires today and we have great great awesome pics from here. So if I don't do this now it's just going to be overshadowed by the pics of the waterfalls- which we did by land, water and air!!

We were going to write "Let's Get to Work" but opted for Ilha Grande. Yes, mandatory cheesy beach picture - check

We had sooo much fun snorkeling and seeing cute kissing fishies and turtles

Gorgeous snorkeling views from our booze cruise

Don't know why anyone would ever let us that close to a ship's steering wheel

Friends enjoying Mega Bombas and strong Caipirinhas (unseen participants = mosquitoes)

Apparently Rio pics won't be loaded til we get to Buenos Aires something about internal uploading errors. Oh well. Till next time...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The end of Brazil...onto Argentina!

After getting a computer virus (damn you anti Norton and your ineffective scans) and not having wifi in Ilha Grande - this is another big update...

Attack of the Mosquitos Part 1.

Location: Ilha Grande, an island of the coast of Rio
Setting: Beautiful waters, Green and Blue Lagoons, Sandy Beaches
Characters: Me, Yuko, Jan, other friends and the Mosquitos
Honourable Mentions: Bugs and other biting things.
Result = Numerous new bites and scars

There were so many wonderful things about Ilha Grande and unfortunately, most of it was overshadowed by the fact that the mosquitos had a free for all frenzy on us. Yuko has like the main course, but I, well, I was the all you can eat dessert buffet. I'm like, as wonderful as it was, I'm in sooo much pain. Today, I'm rocking the look of 50 bites of my left shoulder and my new perfume is now Citronella. If that doesn't work I'll be playing chemist with natural oils...I'll discover the next best Off. I'll keep you posted.

Awesome things we did on the Island:
* Booze cruise - I know it's a bit of a cliche but it was really quite awesome. The boat takes you to 3 different snorkeling spots, all you can drink Caipirinhas, a barbeque and one of the 3 local bands (we saw all 3, 3 times) played live music on the boat.
* Snorkelling - I've still got my snorkelling mojo. Yuko saw beautiful yellow fish and I saw 2 turtles kissing and different types of fish I've never seen. One of my faves was an unasumming brown fish but then it spread it's wing like fins it was a vibrant blue that reminds you to never underestimate the hidden beauty in what look like drab simple things. The Lagoa Verde and Azul were beautiful. Didn't get out for a dive but the waters were clear and beautiful.
* Hiking - Ok, I hiked and Yuko went surfing. The island makes you work hard for everything! It takes about 2-3 hours to get anywhere but the great thing is that there is always an amazing payoff at the end of it!
- Dios Rios - Once you finished climbing the mountain, you get to this beautifully secluded beach that is surrounded by 2 rivers that hug either side of the ocean. You have the option of swimming in salt or doce (sweet) water. It's absolutely amazing.
- Cachoeira - The waterfall wasn't nearly as impressive as climbing (yup again) through a secret trail that brought you to the top of the falls which leads to hidden natural slides. Thanks Cris.
- Lopez Mendez - This one Yuko got to know pretty well since she went surfing a couple of times. After our first 2.5 hour hike, it was decided that we take taxi boats to get there...weightloss in Ihla Grande 2.5 lbs. ;)

After getting attacked way too much, we needed some healing time and went to Rio!

Rio De Janiero:

Initially we weren't feeling the big city. After spending so much time in quiet beach towns, the massive scale of Rio seemed daunting. We stayed a couple of nights in Copacabana and then a few more in Ipanema. It was sweltering but it was a fun vibrant city. We ended up staying at this cute hostel called Bonita - famed for the guy who wrote the Girl from Ipanema - that song was the running soundtrack in my head for about a week.

HL -
* Sugarloaf - watching the sunset and seeing the lights of Rio at night was beautiful. The city is massive and hugged by gorgeous beaches everywhere.
* Biking along the beach. We rented bikes and saw every single beach that lines Copacabana and Ipanema. The beach is divided in 12 areas - each one attracting different crowds depending on your interest. It's like the ultimate seawall. I ran there a couple of times so I got to know it. Can't miss the gay one with it's flags, that's number 8. The shiny beautiful people were on 9. The jocks and volleyball peeps were on 10. It's like highschool but segrated along the beach.
* Football at the Maracana. Not that Yuko and I are football/soccer fans by any means, it was completely worth it to go and watch a live match. The stadium wasn't full to it's 100,000 capacity but the energy was thunderous. Thankfully we sat on the winning teams side, Vasco, so it was easy to get swept up in the whole thing.
* Favella Funk Party - Favellas are meant to be the most dangerous areas in Rio, of course, now they've made tours. Don't worry, we went on an organized tour in one of the biggest favellas in Rio that isn't run by druglords, rather by military or ex-cops. It was an interesting experience. Essentially it was clubbing in a massive warehouse with about a 1000 people and a bad DJ. It was all experience all in all.
* Lapa street party - we headed out to the famed area where most of the good times happen. It's the dancing area of town where all the samba bars are. There's people partying in the streets and you can go into the clubs to watch live bands playing. It was a particularly great night of dancing for Yuko.

* Talk about the heat! Weather site says 32 - feels like 50! The humidity clung in the air and stiffled you.
* Missing the Christ the Redeemer statue. The whole thing was covered in scaffolding. That's what we get for being a non practicing Catholic and a Buddhist. So, now photo ops with one of the most famous statues in the world. Just seemed like a waste of time to go and see metal. I guess they clean it once every 20 years and since it's right before Easter...
* Rio is really expensive! Everything there pretty much costs double than anywhere else we've been too.
* We felt like we had a good taste of Rio but there was so much else we could have seen...

After close to 2 months, we're finally heading to the Foz de Iguazu. In fact, this entry is being written on the tail end of a long 23 hour straight bus ride that takes us to the Argentinian side of the Falls. So we bid Brazil Ciao and Hello Argentina!