An afternoon in Colonia, Uruguay

During another trip to Buenos Aires during Easter Week, my friends and I decided that we should make the hop over to Uruguay and see what we were missing in Colonia del Sacramento.

Turns out, not a WHOLE lot. But it was still worth a visit.

We took the Buquebus over, and made a few mistakes that I hope someone else can learn from.

TIPS FOR TAKING THE BUQUEBUS:

  1. One does not simply arrive, buy a ticket, and get on the boat within a half hour. You need to buy tickets online in advance (if you can – the website was not working when we were trying to buy them online the day before), which you can do here: http://www.buquebus.com/BQBWebV2/web/ListadoDayTours. If you don’t, you must go into the terminal in Puerto Madero and find the Buquebus Turismo (travel) agency.
  2. You also can’t book a ticket for any departure within a half hour or so. So, either show up way earlier than you intend to leave, or buy them in advance online or at the terminal.
  3. You’ll need to go through immigration and pre-clear it and customs in Argentina, so be aware.
Look at me, I’m a bullring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second mistake we made was that we booked the city tour sightseeing bus that takes you on a tour of Colonia. It’s a) too long, b) not in English as promised, c) boring and d) time poorly spent. The only things we saw that were of note were the bullring and the old town.  You can actually get to the bullring by taxi or by renting a golf cart in town, and I recommend doing it that way if you really must see it. It was cool, but I’m not sure it was worth the hour or so it took to get there and back on the tour bus, when we could have spent that hour or so walking around and shopping or eating.

Pretty streets in the old town.

And the old town is where you get dropped off from the bus that you get from the ferry terminal.

COLONIA, URUGUAY PROTIP: Don’t waste your money and time on the “tour bus” and just walk the old town for the day. We wished we had more time to spend there, and unfortunately, the bus tour was so long that we didn’t have much time to explore the best part of the city.

Just a tort waiting to happen.

The city’s cobblestone streets are lined with trees and cafes, of laid-back Uruguayans drinking mate and wine and watching passersby stroll along the boulevards in search of often-overpriced “authentic” tchotchkes to gather dust in their curio cabinets for years to come.

We, however, were on another mission. We were starving. And when you’re not in Mendoza, you eat seafood. As much seafood as humanly possible.

Gates of the old town. If there’s anything I like,  it’s a good smattering of plaques.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Through all of my foodie research (including scouring TripAdvisor frantically on my iPhone while walking through said picturesque streets), we decided to try to eat at a pizza place called La Bodeguita. It looked adorable. And delicious. And we arrived 5 minutes past lunch time!!! Total bummer.As we entered the gates of the old city walls, we were immediately transported. I have no other words for the place but “cute” and “awwww”.  You just feel the history, but it’s still quaint and a happy place. There are a ton of little restaurants serving mainly the same things, but the people are happy and there’s a vibrance to the place that I just can’t describe. It almost felt like home, in a weird way.

We ended up eating at a plaza cafe called La Pulperia de Los Faroles. We had fried calamari, several pitchers of sangria and the “seafood pots”, which was like a paella. My friend got adventurous and tried these vegetarian spinach fritters, which were actually REALLY tasty. It wasn’t our first choice of a place to go, and the staff was less than attentive, but the setting was wonderful. A few groups of Candombe drummers performed nearby and we relaxed under the Uruguayan sun, spending some much-needed downtime enjoying the sights and sounds.

We had to head back to the bus terminal, after our short day of exploration and relaxation. The line was enormous (as you have to go through customs & immigration again, if I remember correctly – before you board the boat). We were all exhausted.

If I ever go back to Colonia, I will make sure that I have more than a few hours to see the old town and really get to enjoy it. There’s not much there; there are a few museums, and from what I understand, great gastronomy and nightlife. However, I’d like to go back again and see for myself. This time, I’ll do it right.

Adorable little streets full of restaurants.

 

Restaurant Review – Aramburu

L and I went to two of the best meals we’ve ever had, within 3 days in Buenos Aires during our trip.

Thanks to recommendations from friends, we checked out both Astrid & Gastón and Aramburu. (Update: Astrid & Gastón was TERRIBLE the second time we went, months later, and has since closed!)

We ate at Aramburu second but I want to write about it first, because I’m lazy and who knows if I’ll ever get around to writing about Astrid & Gastón?

First off, it’s on a little street in San Telmo with no sign on the outside, with shutters or blinds concealing most of the windows, and very low lighting. Our cab drove right past it on the way to the place. We then proceeded to back up down the one-way street and find it.

The interior is beautiful. Exposed Continue reading

Buenos Aires: Wandering La Boca

Ok, I promised I’d write a little bit about my second trip to Buenos Aires and wandering La Boca. Here it is. See? I deliver.

Part of why I was excited to go back to BA was that I never got to see the Boca stadium, or La Boca in general.

Boca Juniors play here. They took their colors from the Swedish Flag.

This time I took Kim’s advice (who commented on a prior post) and checked out Caminito in La Boca. I have to say, it was a pretty cool place. And funny. And super obnoxious. Every two feet, someone would approach us and ask us to eat in their cafe, or go to their tango show, or buy something. It got old, real fast.

Ah, Caminito. And Havanna, which is basically the Starbucks of Argentina. And possibly as obnoxious.

However, the highlight was a 20-something dreadlocked rasta who came right up and said, “Hey guys, want to get really f*cking drunk in my awesome restaurant?”  I couldn’t have asked it better myself.

We declined, however. We were on the search for some good knockoff Argentina jerseys and scarves. And trying to take photos of the streets, because, well, they are pretty amazing.

Creepy mannequins are watching you.

 

Other highlights were the fat Argentine man who takes photo ops as Maradona, the famous (?) Maradona graffiti, and the tango dancers in the streets. And the restaurant hustler who kept trying to guess where I was from. When I told him “Texas, USA”, after he guessed Australia, Canada, Russia (?), and then things like Iowa (!) …he replied, “But you are so white!”

Thanks, dude.

 

What’s in a name?

As Shakespeare said “That which we call a rose; by any other name would smell as sweet…”. Except when your name is ridiculous and the Argentine government wants to protect children from lifelong ridicule because of stupid parents.

That’s right. There’s a baby name registry here in Argentina, and if your chosen baby name is not on there – too bad. Little Guava Queso Inspección better be born somewhere else.

This list is published by province. To consult the list for BA to see if your name is too ridiculous for the porteños, click here.

Personally, I don’t think this is such a bad thing. The government makes exceptions for names that are passed down through families, and you can appeal to the authorities if your name is rejected. But, the general rules are: it can’t be ridiculous, it can’t be sexually ambiguous, the same name as a living sibling, something too foreign, or have more than three first names. So, George Foreman would be totally screwed.

An interesting anecdote told to me by a friend: Frustrated parents who couldn’t name their daughter an unapproved name finally got their way years later, when they named their vineyard that name instead. And the wine is pretty great, too. Well done.

Buenos Aires Day 3: The bus tour

BA is a giant city. A cab from Palermo to San Telmo is about $20 pesos each way. This is fine when there are more than one of you, but if you’re traveling solo, it can get really expensive. Which is why on Day 3, my first full day alone, I decided to play tourist and buy a ticket on the Buenos Aires Bus. For 24 or 48 hours, I could then hop on and off the bus as much as I wanted, and it goes to pretty much every are of the city you’d want to see if you’re visiting, all in less than 3 hours.

Unfortunately for us, there was a Boca Junior game going on in the afternoon, and therefore no tour buses were going to the neighborhood of La Boca. I’m not sure if it’s because it was going to be too crowded, or because it was going to be too dangerous. Either way, I sadly didn’t get to go to La Boca and take photos of the colorful houses and figures on Caminito.

Grabbing the bus from the stop nearest the zoo, we went from there to the last stop which was right by the Casa Rosada. This area was beautiful, and it’s a good thing, too, because we were forced to get off the bus and wait for the next tour to start in 45 minutes or so. At least that’s what I think they were telling us when we were forced to get off. Either way, I capitalized on the opportunity and walked to the square to take photos of the Casa Rosada and surrounding buildings. It was beautiful.

After an hour or so of tooling around, I got on the next bus headed around the route and we cruised through the city on the way to San Telmo.  On Sunday afternoons, San Telmo is full of people buying and selling antiques (or crap, depending on your tastes), as well as hand-made crafts and other things that make good gifts for people back home. There are tango shows on the street and street performers here and there doing everything from playing classical guitar to posing as statues.  I wandered around the San Telmo market on calle Defensa and Plaza Dorrego for a few hours, then made my way back to the bus stop to pick up the rest of the tour.

Seriously, if you’re ever in BA on a Sunday – go to San Telmo!

We passed by buses of Boca fans who were singing and chanting and making rude gestures to just about anyone who would look at them, so I’m pretty happy that although I’m a big soccer fan, that I was NOT going to the game.

We drove through the modern barrio of Puerto Madeiro, which just feels like you’re somewhere in the US, and around the city up to Chinatown and the barrio of Belgrano before we looped around and I got off the bus near my apartment. It was freezing outside at this point (in the late afternoon) and being on an open-top bus was no longer enjoyable.

Pretty forgettable take-out Chinese for dinner, and some American movies on the tv, and I was a happy camper.

Buenos Aires Day 2: Dinner at Fabrica del Taco

I’ve been bitching that I haven’t had Mexican food much here, so I must report on this experience.

Thanks to Gringo in Buenos Aires‘ post concerning Mexican food in BA, I was able to find Fabrica Del Taco, a Mexican food joint in Palermo SoHo within walking distance from where I was staying.

I was starving and in major need of something resembling beans, possibly rice, and things that come on a tortilla. Upon arriving at Fabrica Del Taco, it was clear that I was about to be in heaven.

The décor is cheesy fantastic Mexican luchadores masks throughout, and the staff was really nice. I was flying solo and the place was busy, but they invited me to sit at the bar counter. I opted to sit against the outer bar wall with a ledge/countertop all to myself.  I got the menu and my eyes nearly jumped out of my head when I saw they had micheladas on the menu.

I was SO pleased. The michelada was really good, and made with Corona. So, 1 point for YOU, my dear new friends. Then, the waiter asked if I liked spicy things, to which I replied that yes, I live in Texas, and he brought me some serious hot sauce and chopped onions with cilantro to go with my food. 2 points.

I opted for 2 tacos: one was carne asado on a fried corn tortilla (note: They aren’t quite sure what to call things correctly here – we’d just call it a tostada) with guacamole.  The guac was more saucy than dippy, but it wasn’t bad. The problem I had was the consistency of the meat. It wasn’t ground beef, and wasn’t quite what you’d picture carne asado to be, either. It was kind of in between, and a bit tough. However, it was good enough for me to eat all of it, being deprived of my neighbor of the South’s specialties for so long.

The second taco was much better, which featured pork and beef. I forget what it was called, but it was good (better than just the beef). I ordered a side of refried beans (everything is pretty much a la carte, as far as I could tell) and they brought a basket of tortilla chips. The chips were pretty good, or at least the best I’ve had in Argentina.

All in all, it wasn’t mind-blowing but considering where it is and what the alternatives are, it definitely hit the spot. Bravo, Fabrica del Taco. Bravo.