Being followed like thieves.

So, shopping in Mendoza is kind of like being a teenager in a record store again. The second you go in, the staff follows you around, making sure you’re not going to steal something and run out of the store on a moment’s notice. Because, goddammit, you need those fake snakeskin leggings, and you’re not going to pay for them!

At first it’s kind of funny or amusing. And then you realize that they really think you might steal something. I don’t understand how this is the case when they hear me or my friends speaking English and see that our style isn’t exactly like the 1990’s floral prints are our “thing”. Or that maybe we don’t want a cropped t-shirt with a random chick printed on it.  Or pants that I couldn’t even fit my arm into.

We’re dressed nicely and are barely even touching the clothes as we browse the racks.  But somehow, we’re there to steal. Either that, or we’re there for them to stare at and give dirty looks to, because we’re the only people in the store, and how dare we interrupt them from loafing around doing nothing and they MAY have to work?

Needless to say, on principle I refused to buy anything at any shop where I was treated this way. I’m not a criminal. I’m actually a lawyer in my late twenties with fashion sense (as in I know that the 90’s belong in the 90’s, not 2011) and no criminal history. I’m not a Mendocino teen with a mullet and a drug habit. So thanks, I’ll go buy a studded pleather vest someplace else.

Jerks.  Ah, the perks of living someplace where petty crime is all the rage.

Kato Cafe, submarinos, shopping and fun

I met up with a friend yesterday at Kato Cafe on Civit and had a lovely afternoon of lounging around on their couches, drinking tea (Patagonia Bee by Inti Zen (Click here for more info)- which is a delicious vanilla, honey, and cacao blend), eating snacks and finishing with my first submarino.  A submarino is an Argentine hot chocolate; it’s made with hot milk and a chocolate bar that slowly melts into the milk and makes this not-too-sweet-but-oh-so-delectable hot cocoa that is perfect for the current onset of winter here in Mendoza.  With reasonable prices and a great ambience, I think Kato will be a new favorite haunt of mine.

We then embarked on a journey to buy clothes/scarves/boots/coats in the boutiques that line Avenida Arístedes Villanueva (or, simply, Arístedes). Found a great little boutique with a French flair called Cosset, which is attached to another really cute cafe called Clementine. The shopgirl was sweet and attentive, and very helpful. I ended up buying a sweater-dress and my friend bought a few other things. From there, we continued down the street hitting other boutiques along the way. I’ll do a post about this experience in a separate entry, for the sake of brevity here.

After working up a thirst buying things we didn’t need, we ended up at Antares, which I’ll post about in a separate post as well.

Last, but not least, I ended up going to see a friend’s band play at the Liverpool Pub in centro. It was great, but there were some problems with logistics and other things, and I ended up going alone and nobody met up with me there. Woe is me. At least they played some Oasis and U2 covers, and I was pleased. 

All in all, a good day.

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: Recoleta, Cafe San Juan & San Telmo

So late nights in Argentina usually mean late mornings. It took us a while to get ourselves up and out of the apartment, and into a cab on the way to Recoleta. Our first order of the day was to head to the cemetery and find Evita’s grave. Except before this, we needed coffee.

We got some coffees (cafe cortados, to be exact) to go from Havanna, (yes that’s 2 n’s ) which does coffees to go, in the strip of cafes and shops across from the cemetary. There’s also a random pair of red phonebooths from England.

Phone Booths in Recoleta, Buenos Aires

The cemetery at Recoleta is seriously one of the most interesting places I’ve been. It really is a small city of mausoleums that seems to go on forever.

Entrance to Recoleta Cemetery

Entrance to Recoleta Cemetery

The mausoleums range from beautiful to ordinary, to downright disturbing. Evita’s grave is somewhat austere compared to the others, specifically that of newspaper baron Paz.

 

 

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Grave of newspaper mogul Paz

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Evita’s Grave

After Recoleta, we headed to San Telmo to do some shopping and get lunch at 3pm at Café San Juan. I’d been told by many people how great it was, so I made sure to make a reservation earlier that morning for our late lunch. Thank goodness we did, because there were people waiting for an open table who didn’t have reservations, and even we had to wait 15 minutes for our table, although we had reserved.

It was 100% worth it. An amazing lunch awaited us: chorizo in red wine and 2 types of crostini/bruschetta for appetizers…

Bruschetta with Brie at Cafe San Juan
Bruschetta at Cafe San Juan

then three entrees between 4 of us: octopus, ribeye, and linguine. They were fantastic. We had no room for dessert, unfortunately, and even had to take a bunch of food home, even though we had 3 entrees between the 4 of us.

Pulpo at Cafe San Juan

After lunch, we shopped the antique markets and street vendors in San Telmo, bustling with activity and full of great deals for haggling enthusiasts.

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It was a Saturday, and so the big market was the next day, but it was still worth a visit no matter what.

(not so) Lazy Weekend

Yesterday I tried in vain to find a pair of cute sandals. This is mainly motivated by the fact that I realized I only have my purple Havaianas here with me, which are my only summer footwear. The women here wear the cutest sandals, so I thought to myself “Hey, let’s get me a pair of those.”

Turns out, it’s not that easy. First of all, shoe stores here are seriously intimidating. I realize it was Saturday, but all the stores along Av. Las Heras were packed (although that’s not really the place to be looking for shoes), but so were the stores along Av. San Martin and the Pietonal (pedestrianized shopping street w/ cafes). But the crowd wasn’t really the problem. The problem is that you LOOK IN THE STORE WINDOW TO PICK OUT YOUR SHOES.  Like, you need to know what you want before you even go into the store to ask for your size. Do you even realize how difficult that is for someone who barely speaks Spanish? I can basically say “The black ones” or “the brown ones”, or even “the white sandals”, but that’s as far as it goes. Forget people asking me if I needed help. I just froze and mumbled and walked away.

Shoe shopping fail. After walking and searching in vain for 4 miles, I gave up.

Note to self: Do NOT drink entire 1L bottle of Andes beer with lunch by myself. If so, siesta is necessary.

However, last night I went to the Casino at the Park Hyatt. FINALLY, something I could do without speaking Spanish! Even the slot machines were in English – especially my ol’ reliable Star Trek machine. Don’t act like you don’t know the one. I ended up playing various games for around 4 hours before I headed home 350 pesos poorer, which is about, oh, US$85. This is after hours of blackjack, roulette, and slots. I had a good time by myself, so I think it was worth it.

This morning I took a nice stroll (and by stroll I mean a long walk that probably covered a couple miles) down to what I thought would be a nice little breakfast in an Irish pub on Av. Colon. However, said pub was not open when I finally arrived there 30 minutes later. Le sigh. So I made the best of it and went to the nearby Plaza Espana, took some photos and enjoyed the scenery. It’s this amazing little plaza with tons of painted tiles everywhere, and Spain-themed, of course. I’ve heard that there used to be tons of artists who sold their wares and did their art-ing in the Plaza, but they’ve since relocated.

Ended up eating breakfast, or as they call it here ironically “Brunch” at a little corner cafe called La Belle Epoque. The Brunch #3 was coffee, orange juice, 4 pieces of toast with cream cheese and preserves. To my happy surprise, the orange juice was fresh-squeezed, probably on-site. The cream cheese was freshly made, and the preserves were ah-mazing. Plus, the coffee was really espresso with milk. All this for US $4.

A few random comments:
I really need to learn how to use this Argentine cell phone. I seriously think I just texted Egypt.
Dreadlock mullets are sort of an epidemic here. They are everywhere. And they are just as gross as you can imagine.
They give out free samples of mixed cocktails at the supermarket. I was in Carrefour earlier today, doing a little Sunday grocery shopping, and there was a temporary stand set up where this nice young man was mixing Gancia cocktails and handing them out like candy. 
Gancia cocktail: Gancia (an italian liqueur, I believe) and Sprite. Tastes like just Sprite. 
Directions: Enjoy while shopping.