As we leave Argentina there are so many things we are thankful to have been able to experience and that we know we are going to miss.
dulce de leche
Most of all we’ll miss the Argentinian people who were always friendly, patient with my bad Spanish, helpful, and welcoming. We’ll miss Argentina, but I know we’ll be back.
Next stop is Chicago to visit friends, family and attend our nephew Matt and his fiance Melissa’s wedding. I’ve also challenged Jeff to a White Castle slider eating contest. I’m pretty sure I know who’s going to win.
After three months in Argentina and less than two weeks in Chile I’m not exactly an expert on either country. But, I’m going to pretend I am and tell you all the differences I’ve seen so far.
Wine – the wine is good and cheap in both places. Argentina was all about malbec. Chile is all about cabernet sauvignon. Luckily, we like both…a lot.
Cheek kiss – In Argentina they cheek kissed all the time, everyone men and women. Jeff was never completely comfortable cheek kissing other men, but after three months he got used to it. He did it enough that it became automatic.
On our second night in Chile we ran into our taxi driver from the day before in a gas station. He kissed me hello, chatted and he cheek kissed me goodbye. Then a week later we were signing our lease in La Serena. As he was leaving Claudio, our rental agent cheek kissed me. He shook Jeff’s hand and Jeff automatically cheek kissed him. It was totally normal, our Argentinian landlord was constantly cheek kissing Jeff.
Claudio pulled back, laughed and quickly explained to Jeff that in Chile men only cheek kiss women, not other men. Jeff was embarrassed, Claudio amused and I almost died laughing.
Stop signs and lights – Chile has them, Argentina doesn’t. After three months I still never knew how to cross the streets in the big city of Buenos Aires to the smallest little town, I just sort of waited for traffic to clear, said a little prayer and ran across. In Chile there are actual stop signs and lights, and even walk signs.
Butter – Both countries eat a lot of bread. In Argentina they do not eat it with butter, at least not in restaurants. They serve it with different kinds of saucy spreads which are good. But, if I’m going to ruin my diet with a bunch of carbs, I like to include fat grams as well.
Money – you need it in both countries. In Chile you need more of it. Chile is much more expensive than Argentina, at least as a tourist. But even more crazy is the exchange rate. Argentinian pescos are 4 to one US dollar. That got a little confusing, but even I was able to figure that out without a calculator. Chilean pesos are 480 to one US dollar. That is something I can’t do in my head. I can barely do it on a calculator.
Peanut butter and granola bars – You can get a surprising amount of US type things in Argentina and Chile – oatmeal, cereal, granola, potato chips, etc. But some things you just couldn’t get in Argentina. Peanut butter was one. US style granola bars were another. This brand has an entire display in the grocery store with all kinds of US type products.
Empanadas – They have them in both countries, but they are very large in Chile. The first time we had them in Chile we ordered 5, the normal amount we used to order in Salta. The waitress must have been laughing her ass off when she prepared them. Five empanadas is enough for a family of 4. They are huge.
Meat and seafood – This is obvious, but the meat in Argentina is amazing. The sea food and fish in Chile is amazing.
They still have weird looking mannequins like in Argentina.
This I think was a one off. I haven’t seen this anywhere else in Chile or Argentina.
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.
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)
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.
There are several ways for tourists to see tango in Buenos Aires.
1. on the street in San Telmo and La Boca – We did this and it left us wanting more.
2. Milongas – the real deal tango bars – We didn’t go to one of these and so wish we had.
3. Tourist tango shows – We went to one of these and kind of wish we hadn’t.
The one we choose was highly recommended by the guidebooks and on Trip Advisor. We got there, were seated and immediately brought bottled water, an emapanada and red wine. The tickets were expensive by Buenos Aires standards, but with these extra it seemed like a great deal.
The show started. The dancing and singing were good, but it reminded me of the Donny and Marie show with singers, lavish dance numbers, and a Carlos Gardel impersonator. It lacked the passion and intensity you can see on Dancing with the Stars.
We weren’t allowed to videotape but could take photos without the flash.
The show was boring except for one sexy really good dance. Unfortunately, it was at this moment they brought us the bill. Turns out the water, wine and empanada weren’t free . Jeff signed the bill as quickly as he could. He would have signed anything to get them to leave and let him watch the one good dance of the night.
The people next to Jeff were singing along to every song, so I think it was a good show, just not our thing. When it was over and the lights came on, I chugged ever last drop of wine and stuffed Jeff’s left over empanada into my mouth. Since we had paid for it, I wasn’t about to let them go to waste.
So it turns out even someone that loves all things touristy, doesn’t really like tourist tango shows. But, you can’t love everything. Although I did absolutely love the street named after Carlos Gardel and the statue.
Next time we’re in Buenos Aires we’ll try a milonga.
Now that we’ve settled in and seen our neighborhood (Palermo), we have been venturing out. First stop, downtown (also called the Microcenter) We took the subway which worked quite well. Paid our fare, got on at a designated stop, got off downtown, saw the sites, crossed the widest street in the world, ate empanadas.