April 30, 2005

Steve's Last Week

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Steve and I took off for Necochea. While we crossed the Argentine pampas, Betty did a walking tour of the Abasto neighborhood. This is where the famous Tango singer Carlos Guardel lived and flourished. The Buenos Aires Tourist Bureau sponsor lots of guided tours in the city. Some are in English others are only in Spanish. The area has a lot of charm. One of the city's nicer shopping centers is nearby; it was built into a huge old farmer's market. But there is nothing old about that center. The barrio has long lived off its heritage as the home of Carlos Guardel. It has dozens of buildings painted in a uniquely Argentine style with bright colors of scrolling designs. One was even painted with the music of his most famous song, Volver.

It took Steven and me almost the whole day to get to Necochea. We only stopped once to visit the Fangio Museum in Balcarce. Juan Manuel Fangio is the most famous race car driver from Argentina. Argentina has a long proud history in auto racing. The museum displays race cars from the last 80 years. The stop was well worth the time. When we rolled into Necochea, I was very surprised to see that most of the places to stay were closed. It is fall here, but I never expected it to be so quiet. The only good thing about peacefulness was the price of rooms. We could share a room and get breakfast for as little as $11 a night. We opted for the $23 suite at Los Tres Reyes hotel. It turned cold that night and stayed cold for most of this past week. How cold? Well it was in the 50's and 60's all the time.

On Saturday, we dropped by Guille's mother's store. I wanted to say hello. We also got hold of her cousin Gabriella on the phone. We were hoping to do something with them, but - unfortunately - that was not to be. We drove by the Quequen beach. Not a soul, save us, was there. It was cold and the wind was blowing hard. Then we dropped by the Faro (the lighthouse) to visit the family of Carlos Marti, who is Carlito to his friends. I had brought them some pictures that Carlito wanted and two books for his son, Tomas. When we arrived they were eating lunch and they invited us to stay a bit. Carlito's wife - Monica - had prepared a bit of meat. We sat and talked a long time. Tomas was also at home as was his wife - Eugenia, and daughter - Carolina. It was a very nice visit. Carlito and Monica are wonderful hosts. They invited us back for a pig-roast in the evening. I could not have been happier with the invitation. Que suarte!

Press HERE to see a slideshow of photos covering this and three other entries.

The Faro's Quincho
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Steve and Pablo
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Miguel and Aero Club Member
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Susana and Amiga
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Carlito at the Guitar
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On-Duty Host
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Party Goer
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The Honored Guest
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We arrived a little after 9:00. It was a bit early. Soon the guests began to arrive. There were several fellows with their wives that belong to the Necochea Aero Club. There was the sailor on duty that night along with his wife and baby. Eventually, Eugenia's father -Pablo - and mother arrived. They had driven down from La Plata to give Eugenia a ride back for an important interview. There were some other navy personnel and their wives there too. Carlito and Monica's other children - Andres, Maria Elena and Alejandra - were not there. They had roasted some sausages, beef ribs and most importantly a beautiful little pig. We ate the best pork that I have had in Argentina - just fantastic! The food, the wine, the warm feeling and vibes of this crowd were wonderful. The fliers love to grill me about what conditions are like in the states, especially costs. I have to pretend to know a lot more than what I really do, but I try. Steve and Pablo really hit it off, telling each other jokes and taking about their lives. The conversations and drinking lasted long into the night. We were some of the first to leave at two in the morning.

I tried once more to arrange something with Gabriella, but it was a no go. We stopped by Miguel and Susana's house to get the email and phone number of their daughter - Julieta. She is in the states and will be returning soon. Their son - Leonardo - was home for the weekend and was returning to Mar del Plata in an hour or so. We offered him a ride into Mar del Plata with us. I wanted to drive along the coast, but it was storming much of the afternoon - and I could see that it was much worse along the shore. The rain was pelting the car so hard at times that Leonardo asked once if it was hailing.

We got to Mar del Plata in the late afternoon. We checked into a hotel and took it easy for a while. Then we walked a bit through the downtown. Along the way, we check out the casino, but did no gambling. We stopped for a light diner and some good music at pub. I haven't seen many real pubs or standup bars in Argentina, so this was a nice change. We ate burgers and drank beer. About nine we walked over to Leonardo's apartment. He was going to give us the name of some places to check out. We chatted and met one of his girl friends, a nice lass who spoke English. She was cooking the helpless man a meal. They recommended two places. After we left we head on foot to the one by the beach - only to find it empty. By then it was about eleven. We figured we weren't going to find a nice place to meet people - so we called it a night.

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Monday we saw the sites. We slowly drove through the Los Trunco neighborhood. The beautiful homes are always a pleasure to see. Then we headed for the fishermen's wharf. The area has a fish market, a colony of sea lions that feed off the fishermen's refuse, and a strip mall of sea food restaurants. We enjoyed all of it. It is very scenic, and yet it is not perfect. The air had the fragrance of fish emulsion. If you don't know what that is think of a strong rotten fish smell. The sea lions were great. We could get right up next to them. Except for one lonely lion, all the rest were behind a chain link fence, so it was safe to get up right next to them. I even saw one baby, although it didn't look all that healthy to me.

Mar del Plata Docks
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And Fishermen's Wharf
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A Friendly Soul
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Resting Sea Lions
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After leaving the port area, we drove along the coast. Stopped to enjoy the view and take some pictures. Then we drove around the city some, getting a better sense of it. In the evening, we went to a really great pub. It is called Antares and it's on about the 3000 block of Cordoba. It is a true pub with a great bar. They had the most amazing selections of beers and ales that I have seen in Argentina. The stout was really excellent. We ate here too. The fare was wonderful. I ordered some German style sausages that were served with potatoes and sourkraut. Now, I love kraut. So for me it was one of the nicest meals that I have had in months. This still was not the height of the evening. An American - John Cummins - made his way past us, and asked what we were doing there. We explained and he explained that he had moved to Argentina a dozen years earlier to get away from the hectic American rat race. About eleven his band began to play some great country and blues tunes. I cannot say that John is the greatest of singers, but he is a hell-of-a guitar player. We stayed until well after midnight - enjoying the scene.

The next day, we head off toward Tandil. The guide book made it sound great, and maybe it was - but I didn't see it. We did drive through the town. It has some nice parks and plazas. There is a lake on the south end of town. It has a nice look and feel to it, but more than that I cannot say. We had thought that we might spend the night, but decide not to act on that plan. Instead we drove on to Buenos Aires, arriving about 7:00 at night. We told Betty that we were hungry and she picked a Mexican restaurant in Belgrano to eat at. It was ok, but not great. Good Mexican food is hard to find outside of Mexico and the USA.

Marisol, Steven and Maria
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When I checked my email on Tuesday, I saw that there was a message from Maria Ines Palermo. She is Marisol Barnada's friend that John and Matt met at my favorite tango club. She wanted us to come over on Wednesday evening for diner. I sent an immediate reply. She has a lovely apartment on Santa Fe in the Palermo neighborhood. Her son, Nicolas, was there. He spoke wonderful English. Marisol came over too. It was a lovely evening. We so love visiting the home of someone we know. It was a special evening for all of us. We hope to see them all again soon.

The next night was Steve's last night in town. Betty and I had made plans to get together with Ullie. She is in the English club. While she is German, she lived for many years in Denmark - and that is where her parents live. We met her at Sullivan's in the Palermo neighborhood. Then we walked to a nearby restaurant for Spanish style tapas. We had a great talk. She spent the last eight months working with poor women in the shanty towns. Next she is headed for a doctorate program in Scotland. It was fun. She invited us to her going away party on Saturday, which is today.

Friday was a quite day. Betty and I did the grocery shopping. Then, at about four in the afternoon we drove Steve out to the airport. He was headed back to California after nearly two months in Argentina. He took his time, but he got to see about half the country. He really enjoyed himself. He called today. All went well on his return trip. We hope to see him in November, when we go back to the states.

Posted by bill at 10:36 PM | Comments (2)

April 19, 2005

More Fun

Press HERE to see a slideshow of
photos covering this and three other entries.

Santeri, Carla, Steve, Bill, guy, Esteban, Ullie, & Päivi
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There has not been much going on in the past two weeks. Steve took off for Cordoba. I guess he had a great time. Betty wasn't up to the trip, so I hung with her. We had a good week. I took Guille and Javier out to the airport, so that they could take a week or so in Brazil. On the weekend, we saw an American film, Hitch.

Steven came back on Sunday. We went to the house warming of Päivi and Santeri. They got a nice flat near Belgrano. The place has a pool and sauna, which is up to Finnish standards. They barbecued chicken and pork and used a spicy South African sauce that I loved. A good number people from the English group were there. I drank much more than I usually do. You could say that I was drunk. I climbed in the sauna. The temperature was just below the boiling point. Santeri and I jumped in the pool to cool off, just perfection! Unfortunately, we upset some of the other residents in the condominium. How they even noticed our nude bodies flying into the pool in the two seconds we were in the open is beyond me, especially since none of them were anywhere around. Steve and I both got a chance to talk to Laura Battaglia. I had not seen her before but she does occasionally go to the English club. She is a translator and will be visiting the USA later this year. I mention her in particular, because she was good enough to supply me with the photos posted in this BLOG entry. Anyway it was a great time.

Steve and I will probably head out for parts unknown in the next couple of days. He just has ten days left before flying back to the states

Bill, Daniel, Guilad and Monica
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Party Goers
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Posted by bill at 03:20 PM | Comments (1)

April 08, 2005

It's a Party

Steve, John and Matt took off for the outer regions. We thought they were headed for Iguaz˙, but they actually went to Salta. They explored this part of Argentina and then went to Iguaz˙. After ten days of exploring, they returned to Buenos Aires last Thursday. I cannot say entirely what they were up to, but John has promised to write an account that I can post later on this BLOG. Press HERE to see a slideshow of photos covering this and three other entries.

We went to the English club on Friday night. We were planning for Saturday , so we invited them to the party. We wanted our visitors to get to know our friends in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, many of the club members had already made plans for Saturday night. Still we invited those who could come to our party. I had also sent an invitation to a couple of Toasmasters that I had met at their last meeting, and they relayed the invitation to all of their fellow club members.

We spent much of Saturday preparing for our guests. Beyond the house cleaning, we spent a lot of time preparing food. Betty made her famous potato salad, candied sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie. I took care of the BBQ chicken and pork ribs. We had plenty of wine, beer and liquor.

People began to arrive about nine. Javier and Guille were the first to arrive. Slowly but surely people continued to arrive until there were some twenty or so guests. We were sadly disappointed that only a few came from the English club. The Carla Kirshenbaum one brought a girl friend, Claudia Prado. Päivi & Santeri, a Finish couple, came that had come to the English club for the first time the night before. Like us, they will be living in Buenos Aires for an extended period of time. They are living on their savings, earned from the technological boom of the past decade. Two Toastmasters came, Miguel and Chris. Miguel brought his wife. Chris is an American that is working for a British company that produces and sells electrical parts for hardware stores. Two wonderful ladies, Marisol and Maria, came. John and Matt had met at the tango club, La Viruta.

Marisol, John and Maria
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Guille and Javier
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Steve at the Grill
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Carla and Bill
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Claudia with Betty
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Santeri and Päivi
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Bill with the Finns
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The Lovely Claudia
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Migel's Wife, Maria, Marisol and Gille
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Maria, Marisol, Guille and Chris
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Matt and Miguel on the Left
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Table Talk
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At the Bar
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A Toast to Friends
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John in Recoleta
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Sunday must have been a haze. I cannot remember anything about it, except sleeping late. Oh yes - now it comes back to me. I took John, Matt and Steve to Recoleta to see the cemetery and to do some shopping for John's grandchildren. I also had hoped to get something for Betty's birthday. In the evening Betty, John, Matt and I went to La Viruta for a dance lesson and to meet some friends. We met Susana Suárez and Marisol at the club. Betty and I had a great time dancing and socializing with Susana and Marisol. We had not met Susana before. She was had met John and Matt a few days before. She was another of the charming ladies that John and Matt seemed to attract.

Monday was quite memorable. We took a drive in the afternoon that took us along the river in the northern suburbs. It is a beautiful area of large homes and yacht clubs. Eventually we arrived in Tigre. I thought that John and Matt might buy a cowhide there. They only cost $100 and they are beautiful. We did pick up a few items. On a Monday the Fruit Market is not so crowded, but there are a lot of shops that were closed. Still it was very nice.
We capped our journey off by stopping at Susana Suárez's home in San Martin. For me such visits are always very special. It is always an honor to be invited into someone's home. We actually gathered in her mother's apartment, which is the same building. Her mother, Sara A. Phipps, is a wonderful 87 year-old lady. We sat and talked about our lives, our children and Argentina. All of us were warmed by the visit. Betty and I hope to see more of Susana.

In Susana's Home
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Sara and Susana
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Sara and Betty
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Sara and Bill
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A Tango Lesson
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On Tuesday, all was quite. In the evening Steve, Matt and John went to a tango show at Complejo Tango. The reports we go was that the show was great as was the dance lesson and the food. They said that it would be good show for any visitors that might come would enjoy.

On Wednesday evening we all went to Marisol's home on Corrientes in the Once neighborhood. Her good friend Maria Ines Palermo was there as was her son, Arturo. Arturo is good-looking young man about 20 years old. Later Marisol's sister, Isabel, and her niece, Lucy, arrived. Lucy is 16 and in high school. We talked and ate and talked drank and talked some more. It was an utterly enjoyable evening.

Yesterday, I brought John to the airport about 5:30 in the morning. When we got back I went back to bed and Betty rested a bit before heading off for her Spanish lesson. We got things put back together in the house. John and Matt had been staying in the Quicho, so we brought the futon in and re-arranged the living room furniture. Matt went with me to the gym. He said that he travels better when he is all tired out. I took Matt to the airport at about 6:00 PM. I was sorry to see my visitors leave. They both said that they enjoyed themselves a lot.
Instead of going right home, I went to a Toastmasters meeting and joined. They needed another speaker, I gave my Icebreaker speech. I hope to help them grow and I hope to help them start another club. A city of this size should have a hundred clubs instead of just one.

Marisol
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Marisol wtih John
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Matt and Arturo
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Betty, Maria, Isabel, Marisol and Arturo
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Maria, Isabel and Bill
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Steve, Marisol and John
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Today is Betty's birday
Happy Birthday, lover!

Posted by bill at 04:47 PM | Comments (0)