Argentina was near the very beginning of my exploratory travels, at country number 11. Besides Brasil and Mexico, most of my traveling experience was made up of quick cruise stops with my family…pretty much jumping off the boat for a few hours with hoards of other tourists, to go on a pre-arranged “excursion,” and then, right back on the boat. I didn’t have much experience just “showing up” in a faraway country and exploring on foot; taking my time to roam. Buenos Aires would be one the first places I’d do this; the trip being instrumental in grooming me to one day be an intense globetrotter.
Busy, beautiful, vibrant and full of immense style and character, I’d soon find out why Buenos Aires is called the Paris of South America. I was very new and inexperienced at traveling at this point, but would partake in some of the best travel experiences of my life here. Part of it was that travel was still so new for me; I was just getting into it and Argentina snatched up my heart with a quickness.
So I was actually living in South America when I visited Argentina. I’d left everything behind to move to Recife, Brasil at 30. I figured since I was already “down South,” I might as well check out some of the other countries nearby. In hindsight, I should’ve taken the time to see every country in South America, since I was there already, but I hadn’t quite yet developed the obsessive travel addiction that I have now…the kind of lust for travel that propels me to do things like see fourteen countries in four continents in twenty days.
This particular trip started in the south of Brasil; in the southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul. I spent two nights in the capital, Porto Alegre, before heading to Montevideo, Uruguay for a night, and then on to Buenos Aires.
I had three nights in the wonderful city of Buenos Aires and it would be one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever taken. Unfortunately, for the sake of this website, some of the exact details and the order of activities are extremely blurry. This trip was back in 2009, and as I mentioned at the start of this article, this was at a time in my life when I was barely just dipping my toe into this travel thing. There weren’t even camera phones back in 2009, at least not good ones. It was just me, my Canon point-and-shoot, and a pocket full of pesos. I’ll do my best to recollect some of my favorite moments on this first trip to Buenos Aires. It’s obvious my photography skills hadn’t even begun to blossom back in 2009, but for some reason I did capture a ton of very rudimentary videos, shown below. Gosh, this seems like a century ago…shout out to my Marithé + François Girbaud t-shirt that really dates these videos!
This Little Piggy Went to Market
By far, the fondest memory I have of Argentina was experiencing San Telmo on a Sunday. For blocks and blocks and blocks, nothing but street vendors selling antiques, produce, arts and crafts, you name it. And it seemed to go on for miles. I’ve seen nothing like it in my life and it stirred all of my senses. I remember just thinking I was in heaven, strolling the cobblestone streets of San Telmo, hearing the accordions and violins play that sweet Tango music. I was so far away from the real world, and the furthest south I’d ever been. I was experiencing a whole different life!
Other Things and Stuff
Overall, my favorite part about Buenos Aires was just being able to walk and walk and walk…and get lost in the city. This was also one of my first solo trips, and I was really getting into the groove of exploring alone. I loved the old buildings, enjoyed riding the subway and had fun practicing my Spanish with strangers on the street. I’d been living in Brasil for a year, so my Spanish now had a Brasilian accent…people I met assumed I was Brasilian, and that was absolutely flattering! Oh, and I loved the Argentinian accent…such a sexy style of Spanish. Double Ls turned into Js: It wasn’t tor-tee-yuhs, it was tor-tee-jhas. Postage stamps weren’t say-yos (sellos), they were say-jhos. Que suave!
A few of my most memorable moments included trying mate, this crazy herb drink, which you drink out a weird cup, sucking through a metal straw…it just happens to be the national drink of Argentina. I loved trying a submarino for the first time: That’s a glass of warm milk with a stick of chocolate plopped right in. And I even did a very touristy thing and took in a real-live Tango show. They served dinner and featured all-you-can-drink wine, and why yes, I did end up overdoing it a little bit. I got pretty sauced. It was fun! Here are a few more random clips.
The Sequel Sucked!
The year was 2015, six years after my first trip to Argentina. I was hurriedly finishing up my quest to see all of North and South America before I turned 40, my first personal travel goal. I found myself in Asunción, the capital of Paraguay. It was only after I’d arrived, that I noticed that the border of Argentina was awfully close, and having such fond memories of Buenos Aires…well, the next thing you know I was inside a taxi headed for the border. The Paraguay taxi dropped me off, and I’d walk across the line to pick up a cab on the other side. I was so looking forward to reconnecting with the country I adored so much.
I’ll spare you the details, but this trip to Argentina was a disaster. First, it ended up being during a short period of time when foreigners needed a visa ahead of time to enter the country. There was no visa required last time I went, and none required the next time…but at this particular point in history, Argentina did indeed require a visa…and I didn’t have one. I let some locals “help” me get a visa at the government office there at the border, only to be shaken down by the two “helpers” when it was all said and done. I tipped the guy twenty bucks and he ended up demanding way more. By the time I was in my cab, he was running after me, pounding on the window. It was very uncomfortable and was about to get even more weird.
RAMBLIN’ TIP:Be very weary of any random strangers attempting to offer “help” or “services.” Sad but true, many times it’s just a means to shake you down for ridiculous amounts of money afterwards. For example, there’s a scam in India, where suddenly poop appears on your shoe. An unsuspecting stranger then takes you over to a shoe cleaner, so conveniently located just feet away. The man cleans your shoe, then demands $35!!! There are hundreds of these scams. Bottom line, stay in your bubble and be very suspicious of anyone approaching you to help…with anything!
Grand Theft Auto
The taxi situation was a nightmare. The border crossing between Paraguay and Argentina was nothing like I expected. No little stores, no churro vendors, and most surprising, not even a line of taxis. There was literally one guy, driving a broken down brown Peugeot. The hooptie looked like it was from 1978 and felt like it was missing an entire wheel. The drive into town was probably a mile and a half, and when the driver stopped to let us out, he demanded $100! $100 for a four-minute ride! After telling him to kiss my ass and arguing for a few minutes, I actually caved and paid him. Under normal circumstances, I would never, ever do this, but these are a few of the reasons I gave in: 1) This town looked super shady; the kind of small (and dangerous town) you see in a movie, where you are the only outsider and everyone has their eye on you. 2) The cabbie started telling me that he worked for the mob and would get killed if I didn’t pay him. He seemed really serious. And three, most importantly, this was a one-horse town…I knew if I had just bailed, he’d come looking for me later, or send someone for me. Clorinda was not the type of town you could just get lost in. I felt like a chump, but I forked over the money, just so he’d leave and I could rest easy. It’s really hard to explain, but I felt it was my only option. I’ve traveled to through some rough places, but I just got a bad feeling about Clorinda…the whole town.
I found lodging at the one decent hotel in Clorinda, grabbed some food and made it an early night. The whole time I remained uneasy. I thought people were watching me. At one point a man started following me down an alley, on the way to the hotel. It could’ve all been in my head, but man…I’ve been to Somalia, Iraq, Libya, etc…and I’ve never felt as uneasy as I did in Clorinda.
Gettin’ the Heck Outta Dodge
Luckily, I was able to sleep through the night without the door being kicked in and being drug out by kidnappers. I couldn’t wait to bail. I took a different route home; the trip back was actually fun. To get back, I took a lancha (ferry) across the Paraguay River back over to Asunción. The boat was wooden, noisy, and beat up, but those are the best experiences, right? I felt an odd sense of calm and safety as we cruised into Puerto Ita Enramada. I never wanna see Clorinda again.
By the way, if you find yourself in Asunción and you insist on crossing over to Clorinda, you can get the full details of the ferry situation HERE.
Three Times Dope!
My third trip to Argentina brought me back to Buenos Aires and was kind of a dream come true: a first-class, luxury adventure, that just happen to be on the company dime! The only drawback: it was only 48-hours long.
I work for a radio station in San Diego, California that executes the world’s grandest contest: #Epic48Hours. It’s a promotion where two winners are selected and basically kidnapped and taken on a 48-hour adventure of a lifetime including non-stop, money-can’t-buy celebrity experiences along with the luxury accommodations, travel and excursions that only the ultra-rich would ever have a chance to partake in. The best part is–and the whole idea of the contest–the winners have no idea where they are going and what they’ll be doing. Minute by minute, the promotion unfolds with our guests having no clue what’s about to happen next. It’s really a 48 hours that is beyond anyone’s dreams. This time, #Epic48Hours brought our winners (and me) to Buenos Aires!
Our lodging was just absolutely bananas: a seven-story, 12,000 foot, hundred-year-old mansion, smack-dab in the middle of Buenos Aires’s Recoleta district. The house was absolutely insane, with multiple kitchens, its own massage room, a rooftop garden, private pool, maid’s quarters and more bedrooms than we could even count! The place was enormous and had so many amazing features, we could’ve easily just stayed in the entire time and had a blast. I still couldn’t believe we had it all to ourselves.
An Epic 48 Hours
Where do I even start? Our two days in Buenos Aires were filled with non-stop activities, from Tango lessons by award-winning dancers, to meals at the most well-known and in-demand restaurants. We visited museums, art districts, and of course returned to one of my favorite spots in the world, San Telmo. It was go-go-go, with every second filled with something wonderful.
I remember trying convince the host of the contest, Rick Morton, that going to San Telmo was going to be a cool experience for our winners.
“What’s ‘Epic’ about a flea market?” Rick questioned. (We set the bar very high for any and every activity on #Epic48Hours).
It’s safe to say once we got there he understood. As expected, it was indeed Epic.
We wrapped up our #Epic48Hours with one of the most phenomenal meals I’ve ever experienced, comprised of delectable cuts of steak prepared by private chefs at our Recoleta mansion, which, not surprisingly, housed an industrial-grade kitchen, complete with those giant-meat-cooker-thingies. Our winners were even given some quick cooking lessons by our master chefs before the kitchen really got humming. The finest wines and cheeses were served, while our winners (and staff) were served their meal in the grand dining room as the storm outside rumbled. What a treat!
Rated E for Epic
Since you’ve gotten this far, you will be rewarded. Below is the video recap of this amazing weekend. Please enjoy #Epic48Hours, The MOVIE:
Pretty Epic, right? You can see all FIVE our #Epic48Hours adventures, HERE.
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