Click the above photo to play the video by Tucker.
CARMEN- While we were in Buenos Aires, we took a cooking class. We learned how to make empanadas with chimichurri dressing, Guiso de lentejas (a typical stew), and Alfajores de dulce de leche (Cookies). The empanadas were sooooo fun to make, and super tasty, and the stew was delicious. My favorite by far was definitely the alfajores with dulce de leche, they were the most fun to make, and they were super delicious! Apparently since my aunt and cousin got back home, my aunt has made empanadas many times. After eating the food we prepared, we were able to try mate.
Mate is a traditional Argentinian drink, that the locals have all the time, in the car, in their homes, and at work. The drink is apparently extremely caffeinated, but to me it just tastes like extra earthy tea. On the other hand, Tucker says it tastes like “hay, and caffeine, with a little bit of water.” Over all the class was super fun, and the rest of Argentina was really fun, and whoever goes should definitely go to “Norma’s Argentine cooking class.”
TUCKER-Argentina was really fun. We got to see so much of the beautiful city of Buenos Aires. One of my personal favorite things was this awesome market called the San Telmo Market. This market is really long and it stretches for almost an entire mile. There are so many things being sold in this market. They have items from wood carvings to orange juice. In the market there is a small side street that leads to a smoothie bar. In this side street there is a stage for band players and singers to perform at. This is where we met Jhonny. Jhonny is a local musician and also a really nice person. We sat down in the alley while he was playing and he made small talk with the audience. He asked where we were from and was happy to get to know us. Sadly we had to leave the market and go home. However, that night in the city we saw Johnny and his friend Miguel sitting outside Miguel’s shop. We walked up to him and he immediately recognized so we sat down and talked and sang and had a great time. We saw them again and they sang to Carmen and I on the night of our birthday!
DAN- Buenos Aires has its fair share of formal museums, but the streets are the living museum with music and art nearly everywhere you look. It feels at once both raw and accessible. A musician we met at a market, Jhonny Vernákulo, ended up becoming a friend who we were able to spend time with sharing songs and stories. He and his friend Miguel who runs the kiosk down the street are both from Venezuela. The people here call themselves Porteños, or people of the port, a good indication of just how international this city is. In another sign of how accessible the art world is here, on a street art tour I became enamored with the work of one of the city’s best street artists, Diego Roa. That night we were eating in a restaurant in our neighborhood where they had a print of his work. By the end of the meal the owner gave me the artists number and we were able to spend time at his place discussing his work. Amazing.
Many of the countries we have traveled to have an uneasy relationship with their currencies. The United States dollar has near global domination, despite our current efforts to dismantle it. By pure accident, we traveled durning a period in which the dollar was, on average, about 30% stronger against all other currencies than had we traveled during our original, covid destroyed timeline beginning two years earlier. Places like Tokyo were suddenly affordable, London and Paris didn’t seem so bad, etc. Of course there was Vietnam (1 USD to 23,000 Dong) and Zimbabwe where they would not even accept their own currency and the kids bought a 500,000,000 Zimbabwean Dollar note for fun.
That said, Argentina has the most bizarre relationship to its currency I have seen.
The Argentinian Peso, once pegged one to one with the USD, declined from 365 to more than 400 to one USD just during the time we were in the country. It has been averaging 100% deflation annually. Many Porteños will tell you that they once could afford to travel abroad but no longer have that option.
While sad, this is unfortunately not that strange a story internationally. What is weird is that there are two active values for Argentinian Peso (ARS) at any given time, the government rate and the “blue market” rate. The difference is 2x!
Another strange thing is that they have not printed bigger notes. The 1000 Peso is the largest note and often a five hundred note is the biggest available if you are lucky enough to get it. That means if you want to take out $1,000 in USD because you don’t want to wait in line (like the one pictured here) for another 3 hours you are going to receive a stack of 800 notes to carry away with you. I once saw a tiny, elderly lady walk out of the Western Union trying to cover up stacks of bills falling out of her tiny purse. I had found this Western Union after being turned away from 6 other Western Unions because they were out of cash. While waiting in this three hour line I also saw a fit 20 something guy, who was standing behind me, pass out. I don’t mean he got light headed. He was out cold.
So, your options are;
Pay with a credit card = 200 ARS to 1 USD
Pay with USD in stores = 200 ARS to 1 USD
Trade USD for ARS on the “blue market”, think back alley cash-for-cash trades with the added bonus of fake bills being sprinkled in = 400 ARS to 1 USD
And that’s how you end up sending yourself money at a Western Union so that after you find one with cash you can stand in line for three hours building relationships with people who might pass out after which you are given 8 large brinks of money that you and the lady in front of you can cover up while trying to act naturally walking out of a bright yellow store where everyone around knows you just loaded up with cash = 400 ARS to 1 USD
P.S. I’d love for someone to leave a comment with an argument for this system.
AVA-While Buenos Aires was lots of fun, our day trip to Uruguay was extra special. We (Angie, Graham, and the family) boarded the boat to Uruguay, which was only an hour and a half. We ate lots of Mentos to combat the sea sickness. When we arrived we walked into town and were greeted by a friendly stray dog who we named “Perro”. After some helpful information at the tourist desk we walked inside the city walls to find a square with charming shops and restaurants around it. It was boiling hot, so we needed to get some smoothies fast. 😉 We went into some tourists shops and got totally upsold on some souvenirs, truly living up to the expectations of tourists.
After a lovely lunch we were waiting for mom and dad to get back from the “bank” and then they pulled up with two golf carts! YAY! The golf carts were a total blast to ride in throughout the day! After some much enjoyed time at the beach we rode around some more, looked at the beautiful buildings, and played in a pool for a bit. Right before dinner we met up with Perro again and had to say goodbye to the golf carts. For dinner I ate the most chocolatey pancake of my life (while Graham had some incredible avocado toast) and then it was time to board the boat back to Argentina. It was so much fun to get to spend the day with Angie and Graham in Uruguay, and be with them in Argentina overall.
TERESA- There is so much to love about Buenos Aires and Argentina. However, our biggest highlight was the visitors we welcomed: my sister Angie and my nephew, Graham. Being away from family and friends has been the difficult part of our trip. So, knowing they were coming was amazing. When they arrived, we had a line-up of our favorite activities and some new ones planned. The weather had different plans as we found ourselves in the middle of an unprecedented and oppressive heat wave. Nevertheless, we soldiered on, usually dripping with sweat and needing a siesta in the afternoon. Luckily, our Airbnb in Palermo Hollywood had great AC and we did not get caught in the rolling blackout.
We enjoyed a street art tour the first day they arrived, learning about the history of street art and some local artist. Later we were able to connect with one of those artists, Diego Roa, to purchase his art. Other fun activities included taking a ferry to Uruguay for the day to enjoy their beaches. We didn’t make it far enough north to find a nice beach but had fun rolling around the city in golf carts and using a hotel pool. Throughout their stay, we had photo contests with each other that Graham tended to win.
My favorite activity was the Cooking Class with Norma. Our crew learned the art of making empanadas, alfajor cookies, and stew. Additionally, she taught us about the Argentinian traditional drink, mate. None of us have turned into big mate drinkers as I believe it is an acquired taste.
There was so much to do in the city: The Eco Parque, Recoleta Cemetery, street markets most days, riding the Sube, Casa Rosada, Steve McCurry photography exhibit at La Rural, Frida Khalo at the MALBA, and eating out. Most of all, it was fun to do it with family…even in the extreme heat! Towards the end of their time in BA, we went to a tango dinner show at La Ventana. This was a stage show with more than 30 artists including singers, 4 tango dancing couples to live music, and one guy who tap danced while swinging long cords with wooden balls. It was amazing and I only wish we had a video of “the balls guy.” I think we were too entranced with the show and the food to bother with too many pictures or videos.
The tango was beautiful and impressive and we all had a fun time! We were sad to see them go but knowing we would be together again in a few months eased the pain. This was one of the more challenging places we traveled due to the weather, transportation and the crazy money situation in the country so we were quite impressed with them lacing up their travel shoes for this part of the adventure!
A Few More Favorites:
Adorado Bar Nicaragua adoradobar.com
Ya Cabron – Ángel Justiniano Carranza 1946, C1431 CABA, Argentina
Here is the information about the class: Come and learn how to prepare some typical specialties of the Argentine cuisine in an authentic porteña kitchen. It is an excellent way to experience the local culture. The class is given in English. After we cook, we´ll have lunch with the fruits of our labor. Hands-on cooking, eating and fun!
*We prepare one Menu that includes 3 dishes: Empanadas with chimichurri dressing, Guiso de lentejas (a typical stew) and Alfajores de dulce de leche (Cookies). After lunch, we will taste and learn all the secrets of the national beverage of Argentina, the delicious Mate tea. Menu can be vegetarian on request.
La Ventana Tango Show: laventanaweb.com