Tag Archives: coffee

10, no make that 11 things I’ve learned living on a Chilean beach

OK so we’ve only been “living” here for three weeks.  Three weeks in no way makes me a   “living at the beach” expert. But here’s what I’ve gleaned so far: (just a disclaimer. Jeff is against this post. He thinks this sounds like  complaining.  I hope he’s wrong).

1. Chile takes tsunami’s very seriously.

We woke up yesterday to the horrifying photos and videos from Japan. Our hearts broke for the people affected there.  We spent the day following the news out of Japan and also the tsunami as it traveled across the Pacific towards Chile.  At 7:00 pm we were told to leave our apartment.  At 1:00am we watched on the news from a coffee shop as the waves barely hit the beach.   Luckily, Chile had no damage from the tsunami.  But, we still weren’t allowed back until 11:00am this morning.   16 hours of evacuation for waves that didn’t even go past the sand of the beach.

At 4:00am when I was trying to sleep in our rental car, I was pissed.  But, after all the devastation in Japan, and the earthquake and tsunami in Chile last year, I’d much rather be evacuated for a non-event tsunami than experience a fraction of what is happening in Japan.

2. Staring at the sea never gets old.

I wasn’t sure if I would get used to the view and stop noticing it, sort of like when you hang a picture on your wall and after awhile you don’t even notice it anymore.   That hasn’t happened yet. Although there are times when I get super focused on something on my computer and forget to look up at the view.

3. I can still wake up grumpy at the beach.

This one is  kind of sad and amazing isn’t it?  But, I guess a sea view can’t cure all your problems or moods. I think I’m more relaxed here, but can still get over hungry, have PMS and get frustrated.

4. You don’t need a gym when you live by the ocean.

I have always been a gym rat. I made a big deal when we came here that I had to live close to a gym, and we do, but I still haven’t gone there. I’ve been taking long walks on the beach instead. I’m not sure if I’m getting as good of a workout, but for the first time in my life I don’t care.

5. Cinnamon deters ants, Raid gets rid of them.

When ants invaded our bathroom we didn’t want to spray insect repellent. We feared it would get into the rest of our tiny apartment. So we went natural and sprinkled cinnamon on the floor. That got them to sort of detour around it, then we tried soft soap, That slowed them down and also killed a few. After several days with a bathroom floor covered in cinnamon, soft soap and ants, we went with Raid.  It worked wonders, didn’t even smell.

6. The sound of crashing waves can make me less angry.

You know those relaxation CD’s that have sounds of crashing waves? I think I’m going to get one.   When I am grumpy (see #3) I find if I can concentrate on the sound of the waves I’m instantly relaxed.  We’ve had a couple of nights with drunken, screaming neighbors. I laid in bed trying to remember the words for “Shut Up!!” in Spanish.   Then I tried to concentrate on the sound of the waves between the drunken cackles. And it worked, I actually was able to fall asleep without trying to call the Chilean police to complain.

7. Sunsets are amazing

The sun sets here at 8:15.  Every night at 7:55 we drop everything we’re doing, walk down to the water and watch the sunset.  Several days we’ve been lazy and thought, “should we bother?” but we always go down and are always glad we did.  I’m hoping to continue this even after we leave the beach. We don’t need to see the sun drop into the ocean to appreciate it. The sun does go down every single day. Even on cloudy days, the change from light to dark is pretty cool.   I hope to be able to take 15 minutes out of every day to appreciate it.

8. When you live near sand, you take it home with you.

Not sure why this is a surprise, but there is sand everywhere in our tiny apartment.   No matter how hard I try to clean off before coming in, sand comes with me.  No matter how much I sweep up every day, it is everywhere.  I honestly don’t know how any is left on the beach if everyone is tracking this much in with them.

9. Cloudy days are still beautiful – and make me miss Seattle

Most mornings we wake up to clouds.   The silvery water and fog covered mountains in the distance remind me of Seattle and the San Juan islands.   And it makes me miss it. And I think that is a good thing.

10. Sea mist is great unless you’re trying to dry clothes

I love that sea mist that blows off the ocean and cools everything down. But, it makes it really hard to dry anything. I have a laundry obsession. When we got here, I couldn’t relax until I had a way to dry clothes. Jeff had to go out buy rope and fashion a clothes line for me, just to get me to calm down.   The clothes line is very functional, but the sea air is not cooperating.

11. I could get used to this.

We’re leaving tomorrow  to go to Mendoza, Argentina. I am pretty sure Mendoza will be amazing, but at the same time, I’m going to miss the ocean.

Brew at Home Coffee crisis

When my Spanish teacher asked me what we did this past weekend I answered,   “Nosotros buscamos cafe en los supermarcados.”  Surely she misunderstood. We didn’t search for supermarket coffee ALL weekend, did we?

Well….um…yeah….kind of.

Jeff and I love to make coffee at home. We like going out for coffee too, but we need that first cup at home to wake up enough to go out to get more.   When we moved into this apartment in Salta the first thing we did was buy a coffee maker. The second thing we did was buy the 100% Arabica coffee beans.

When we went back to the store 3 days later for more, the store was out — of all Arabica beans.   Now hardcore travelers would just switch to robusto or instant. Hardcore travelers wouldn’t even be drinking coffee, they’d be drinking yerba mate out of gourds.  But, we’re not hardcore.

Part of traveling is adapting. We’ve adapted to a different language, customs, weather, foods, and scenery.   But for some reason, we just can’t do it with the coffee.   We need good beans that we can brew at home.

We actually did try several emergency options.  We found an ancient jar of instant in the cabinet.

We tried robusto beans.

And then we pretty much freaked out. We were dead set on finding those beans. It put us on a 2 day, 4 mile, 5 supermarcado  brew at home odyssey to all the supermarcdos in Salta.

stop #1

Finally, at the last of the big supermarkets, we found them –  Arabica beans without sugar or cardamon added.   Was it worth it? (I’m taking a sip of coffee as I type) Yes.

We can go without peanut butter, chocolate chip cookies, Pop Chips, The Daily Show, Washington wine, cottage cheese, Kinetix bars, margaritas, Chinese food, all our family, all our friends, my income and the entire English lanugage, but 100% Arabica beans to brew at home? No way.

Staying in Salta

I’m relieved and happy to report that we really love the city of Salta and plan to stay for awhile. After dragging all our suitcases onto the wrong bus to Salta, I really don’t want to go anywhere else for awhile.

Here is my top ten list of what I love about Salta:

1. Beautiful City – there are colonial buildings, parks with palm trees and mountains in the distance.

2. Amazing apartment – I’m sure hardcore travelers/expats can live anywhere, but we’re not hardcore.  We need a nice place with the internet, a couch, and big bed.   We got so lucky with the apartment we’re renting. It has all those things and an amazing deck with a jacuzzi.

view from our apartment

3. Nice people – the people here are super friendly and patient with my lack of Spanish.   The cheek kiss is popular. I find myself cheek kissing 2-3 people a day. (not including Jeff).

4. Small city feel. There are 500,000 people here, but horse drawn carts still go down our street. This one unfortunately had a megaphone.

5. Empanadas (and other delicious foods)

Humita - tamale-like corn dish

6. Good cycling for Jeff -Jeff’s found a great group of guys to ride with.

7. Yerba Mate – we see the gourds everywhere and bags of it sold at the grocery stores. I bought some in tea bags to start.  Tastes good but leaves a nasty green ring in the cup.

8. Interesting cultural stuff – honestly, we haven’t done anything cultural yet.  But here’s a guy just hanging out in a full gaucho outfit talking to someone on a bike.  I’m sure he’s dressed up for a tourist activity, but you have to love the pants.

9. Wine – The town of Salta is in the province of Salta which is known for high altitude wine.  So far all the wine we’ve tried from this area has been good.  We’re hoping to do some trips out to the vineyards soon.

10. Three alfajores for a peso –  How can you not love a town where the bakery down the street sells 3 alfajores (two shortbread cookies with dulce de leche in between) for a peso, the equivalent of a quarter.  And, the nice older couple that own the store talk to me in Spanish every time I go in.

What I don’t like about Salta:

1. Rain – turns out January and February are the rainy season.  Seems like we left Seattle’s rainy winter to go to Salta’s rainy summer.  Ironic isn’t it?

2. Lack of Veggie Variety – this idea of eating what’s local is great until you actually are in a place where you can only get local vegetables.  I dream of  a produce aisle filled with vegetables shipped in from all over the world, carbon footprint be damned.

3. Lack of good coffee – there are lots of places to go out and get good coffee, very hard to buy good beans in the grocery stores.  Instant and robusto beans yes, Arabica not so much.

Luckily, the dislike list is short, and who knows, dislike #3 might just get us to switch to yerba mate full time.

Recoleta Cemetery – Evita’s tomb

not Evita's tomb

After almost a month in Buenos Aires we finally mastered the local bus system.  We caught the correct bus going the correct way and got to the Recoleta cemetery in 5 minutes.

This cemetery is as beautiful as the other one we visited. There are amazing tombs with incredible statues.   This one, however, is smack dab in the middle of the Recoleta neighborhood, so it’s surrounded by tall, modern buildings.

not Evita's tomb


The entire cemetery is interesting, but the most famous person buried there, at least for us American tourists, is Evita Peron.    We wandered around in the searing heat looking for her tomb.  I assumed it would be grand, with giant statues and overflowing with flowers and admirers.  Turns out her tomb is quite simple. Her family’s crypt is in the middle of a long row or other tombs.  The flowers and smattering of other tourists were the things that kept us from walking right by.

Eva Durante Peron's tomb

Afterward, we stopped for coffee and alfajores (sandwich cookie filled with dulce de leche).  While Evita’s tomb was smaller than I expected, the coffee and dulce de leche lived up to expectations.