Tag Archives: Toursist vs traveler

Mendoza – happiness is a new dish towel

We’ve made it to  Mendoza, Argentina. Mendoza is know for it’s amazing wine, good food and being close to the Andes.    But, forget sight seeing, wine tasting, white water rafting, horse back riding, the only thing I want to do right now is find a dish towel.

this paper towel is not that absorbent.

Our Mendoza “home” is a furnished tourist apartment, the 5th one on our stay so far.   We’ll be staying here for a week to two months depending on

  1. How much we like Mendoza.
  2. How much we like the apartment.
  3. When and if we can buy a dish towel.

Except for several nights, we’ve stayed almost entirely in furnished temporary rental apartments. These apartments are set up for tourists and can usually be rented by the day, week or month.  They’re perfect for us because they’re big enough for all our stuff and have kitchens so we can cook. They also have the internet because we make sure to only stay in ones that do.  There are some beautiful ones out there and some not-so-nice ones.  We stay at the best ones we can afford on our travel budget. Depending on the city, that can sometimes be great and sometimes worse than the worst college apartment you ever lived in.

We’ve got the move in routine down pat.

Prior to move – secure apartment online. Marvel at beauty of apartment in photos.  Dream of our new temporary home.

Arrive in town by bus or plane – race to a ATM, withdraw rent money.  Stuff bills into our money belts.  Look like we’re doing something very weird in ATM booth with hands down our pants.

Taxi Stand – use spacial reasoning to access which taxi can fit Jeff’s bike suitcase.  Fit rest of our luggage around it, sit in back  on top of suitcase with luggage piled to car ceiling if necessary.

Schlep luggage from taxi to new apartment, pity new landlord – our new landlord is always waiting for us at our new apartment. He quickly  hides his look of horror as we pull up with our luggage. They all paste on pretend smiles as they help us drag it all in.

Frantic apartment once over – Jeff distracts landlord with idle chatter as I race around behind the scenes and check out – are there towels, sheets,  hot water, pots, pans, working toilet?

I should have asked what the knobs are for. The flusher is on the top.

internet password confusion – as Jeff runs out of small talk, I boot up my IPOD and check wifi.  Ask landlord for password, try, retry, ask again, have him write it down, have landlord call friend to reconfirm it’s correct, try again. Try one more time.

rent payment – hands back down pants to get money out of our money belts.  Careful sorting, unfolding and counting of rent money. Detailed receipt issued by landlord.

key handover – landlord hands over keys which look like they last unlocked a 15th century monastery.   Wonder how these will ever fit in our pocket.

landlord goodbye kiss -sometimes kiss, sometimes shake hands, sometimes kiss by accident.

moment of panic – we sink into stained couch, broken dining room chair, cracked lawn chair, or sagging bed and try not to cry.  This looks nothing like the photos.

moment of acceptance – And then we pull it together. We’re in Argentina for God sakes, it’s not so bad, in fact, it’s awesome.  Who needs daylight, an oven, towels, working toilet.  What’s a few bugs, so what if it smells so bad you have a migraine, the bed sags so much you won’t be able to sleep. The pots and pans are rusty? We’ve had our tetanus shots.  Who needs to sit on that couch, we can dry off with an old sock.  We can fashion window screens from mosquito netting, we can build our own desk out of wood.

moment of thankfulness that we carry a small kitchen with us – dish towels, cutting boards, sharp knives, cheese grater, skillet, salt and pepper shakers, spices, spatula, wine opener, measuring cups, can opener.

things from home
things we've bought and take with us from apartment to apartment

moment of sadness – when realize we’ve left half those items  behind.  That beautiful dish towel, shiny cookie sheet, the green pasta strainer, all left behind in the last rental apartment.

scavenger hunt begins -all we need are a few things to make this livable – dish towel, soap dish, bath mat, towel hooks, utensil holder. That can’t be hard, I’ll run out and get them.

city map in hand, ready to find that dish towel

Then the hunt begins.  Time to go buy a new dish towel.  Where would they sell such a thing? Yesterday I looked at a big supermarket (where I bought the last 2 in other cities), street market, bathroom towel store, and kitchen store.  None of them had dish towels.   But today is a new day.  Somewhere out there between the wineries, vineyards,  fancy restaurants and the Andes is a dish towel just waiting to be purchased.

Finally serene in La Serena…

…but it took awhile.   We spent so much energy and focus on how to get us and all our luggage to La Serena, we didn’t spend any time figuring out what to do when we got here.

La Serena is a beach resort town with miles of beautiful beach and lots and lots of tourist apartments.

one of these places must be available during the busy season, dirt cheap and wired for internet right?

We bounced into town assuming that a perfect apartment would fall into our laps. We rented a hotel, got on the internet and started looking.    We learned several things quite quickly.

1. February is prime vacation month in Chile.  The tourist apartments are full.

2. Few tourist apartments have the internet.

3. Tourist apartments in a beautiful resort town are quite expensive.

4. The section of town with the expensive, non-internet tourist apartments is not close to the section of town with supermarkets.

This sucks. What? There’s a beach behind me?  Who cares.

It was like showing up in Daytona Beach, Florida during spring break and trying to rent a cheap apartment.

Worse of all, our hotel only had instant coffee!!!  Since we were spending all our money on the hotel, we couldn’t even go out for real coffee.

You expect me to drink instant? But were from Seattle.

Between freaking out about how much money we were spending in hotels, choking down instant coffee, and searching for apartments, we barely even glanced at the beach.

We knew we had to do something drastic.  So, we went to McDonalds.This was the first McDonalds we’ve been to on the entire trip, not because we’re only eating local food, more because McDonalds was weirdly expensive in Argentina.

That Big Mac and fries did wonders to reset my travel barometer.   A little culinary visit to the USA and I was ready.  Not only was it delicous, it left me a little sick and ready to get back to really “being” in Chile.

After that magical trip to McDonalds things really did start to fall into place.   Jeff found one last Via packet (Starbucks “ready brew” coffee) hidden in his suitcase.

We found an apartment that was almost affordable, we rented a car, bought groceries, and most importantly, bought a French press.

thank God
breakfast in our new apartment

And then we finally noticed the beach.   It’s funny how easy we get caught up in the details and “problems” of traveling.  When I emailed my friend Dan complaining about the high cost of apartments here I said, “The problem, is we’re in a Chilean beach resort.”  His reply was  “I wouldn’t define being in a Chilean beach resort as a problem.”    And he was right.   It’s so easy to get bogged down on what isgoing wrong we look right past what’s going right.

Tango Show in Buenos Aires- so not our thing

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.