March 2008 Archives
Before I move to Lima posts, I want to share pictures of our San Telmo apartment. As hinted before, the Carlos Calvo apartment we stayed in for the 2nd week in BA was gorgeous. It really made the stay pleasurable because we could go out and do stuff, but also be completely happy staying at home. With a toddler, it was good to spend relaxed time at home so she could wind-down and nap. I could also cook food and feed Tesla at home to ensure she was eating a somewhat balanced diet. I think renting apartments vs. hotels is the way to go for sure.
The apartment in general was super well-equipped from nice towels, soaps, spices in the kitchen, all pots and pans you would ever need, tin foil & saran wrap (stuff you wouldn't think of but in a pinch you are glad to find), and even nice coffee table books. There was a washer and dryer that made my life easier. Downstairs lived Hector and Maria, and elderly, very loving couple who helped us out when our lock broke. Maria became Tesla's instant grandmother, and she kept telling us we were all angels who had fallen from the sky....
I'd give this place 5 stars!
The 2nd picture is of these funny cap covers most buses had in BA. At first I found buses charming with their polished decor; they had a certain attention to design. However, after learning how cars and buses have priority over pedestrians and feeling terrified of the buses, the charm wore off. Buses make a hissing sound from something too, so you can hear the monsters coming towards you from a block away. They barreled down narrow streets, high-speed even at night, sometimes with their lights off that they would flash on when passing...I'm sorry, that's just scary...
Keys. I LOVE the keys in BA. They are beautiful...although we had such bad luck with keys and locks (first losing keys, and then having to replace the entire lock when it later broke).
And the lovely old trees...I admired the trees constantly in BA which definitely made the dense city look nicer.
Other things to note both good and bad:
* Too much diesel and traffic. BA is not a walk-friendly city at all in my mind.
* Everyone really does love babies, and goes out of their way to wave or smile. On the other hand, although we found kiddie parks, they weren't toddler friendly. All were basic swings, one metal slide, and maybe something to climb on that was too dangerous for T to go wild on.
* No flashing neon signs. Makes the city more tasteful.
* Sidewalks suck - they are narrow which is not that big of a deal, but a lot were broken. Apparently, it's a lot better than before and will continue to get repaired, but for strollers and wheelchairs, it's a nightmare. They use tiles vs. paving over the thing. The tiles wobble, then break. I'm sure it's harder to replace the tiles. I'd go for practical paving in this case. The tiles weren't even that pretty...
* I dig the cafe culture. If you get coffee, it always comes with a little side cookie and a tiny glass of bubbly water. And they will not bring you the check until you ask, meaning you can stay for hours with one coffee (not that I had hours).
* People are very friendly. I couldn't help being the stupid American with no Spanish, but folks were patient and helpful. The only time I felt "corrected" for what I was doing was on the first day when I went to a store to get water. Being shy about my dismal verbal skills, I didn't say much other than pick out water and smile. The store person smiled back, but explained that one should always say, "Hola" and "Ciao." I was very appreciative of that, and he did it in a friendly way to introduce me to the basic courtesy that I could do even though I didn't speak Spanish. It is one of my warm memories from BA. [I could understand because of my French and picking up on body-language]
* Trees. I've said this, but it's worth another mention. They are so old and big that there are cafes under them.
We hosted a dinner for 7 at our apartment last night, and I had fun cooking! First, the kitchen here is very nice and fully equipped so it was a pleasure to cook. Second, I liked the challenge figuring out what to cook, where to shop, and how to compensate for things I couldn't find.
Initially I was nervous. Our neighborhood markets here are good but basic, and I am not familiar with a lot of things. I initially thought of a simple fish/vege dish based on what I could find. But Pablo told us about a Chinatown that had good fish and some Japanese ingredients, so I decided to try a few Japanese dishes to make the dinner special. A great decision by Dav was to hire a babysitter to care for and entertain Tesla while he worked and while I shopped and cooked so I could concentrate. That made things so easy, and thus I had a great time cooking.
Chinatown was about a 40 minute taxi ride away, but worth it. I got a tonkatsu sauce, panko, hijiki, dashi, sake, mirin, and agedofu. I found a great fish market with 100s of fishes, but the salmon was to be delivered an hour after I got there. So I had coffee in a cafe and waited. When I got back, I was able to get a whole half of one salmon, freshly cut in front of me. It was beautiful...and cost 66 pesos!! I gleefully went home, and finished shopping for veges locally.
Dinner started with melted parmesan and roasted pears on toasties, and spicy deviled eggs. Both turned out a little weird as I didn't have the perfect pepper for the eggs, and the pears didn't caramelize. For the main courses, we had salmon marinated and baked in shoyu, ginger, sake, and pepper, croquettes (with a salmon paste that I had hoped was flaked salmon, and canned veges that were pretty awful - all hidden in mashed potatoes), hijiki salad that came out surprisingly well, and a salad with homemade dressing.
We told our guests around 9pm - a compromise for our early habits, and Argentine late dinners. Normally, folks would come in at 10 or even 11, but out of respect for us "Americans," everyone arrived on time. I was rather proud that we started eating the main course around 11 :) And folks stayed until 3am. Yay! We weren't too lame...
Paula, a guide Dav met last time he was here, the babysitter, Michaela, 2 friends of friends, and Pablo and his girlfriend and friend came. It was good to hear stories about life here. Most importantly, I'm very happy to have been able to do my favorite thing (host dinners at home) in Buenos Aires.
We bought a CD of these folks, and got a free ticket to their weekly Tango lessons. We arrived to a crowded room that made it difficult to understand what was going on, but we tried. We discovered we've got some work to do in terms of getting the leader/follower down. I stepped on Dav's feet a lot :) At the end, they showed some actual steps that we could memorize, and after sorta nailing that, we felt inspired. We're hoping to continue a bit back home via a DVD lesson, and if we get past the very beginner stage, we may try out actual lessons in the neighborhood.
Afterwards, the group played live music to which locals of all ages came into dance. We sensed this was no longer a touristy thing, but a genuine weekly celebration of Tango. Dav and I basically sat there for a few hours admiring everyone's moves. There was one old guy, possibly 80, who kept inviting ladies to dance with him. He had a hat and kerchief in his pocket; so dandy! He still demanded attention with his slow but confident moves (last picture).
I'm really glad we got to see that scene. There is something special about tango...a very different way of enjoying male/female energy in an understood and fun way. I can only imagine how nice it must be to go on a tango date. You don't have to talk, but you share a lot.
We rented bikes the other day to ride around with T on the back in the ecological reserve south of Puerto Madero. It would have been a nice ride in the marsh lands with the cityscape as the backdrop, but Tesla wouldn't have it. At first she liked her helmet and being behind daddy-o, but soon got bored. After much hollering, I finally gave her blankie which I kept away in fear she'd throw it on the ground. Once she had blankie, she sulked but quieted down. It wasn't exactly the ride we thought it'd be, but we managed to enjoy it.
Later we found a Mexican restaurant and couldn't resist. I guess we're looking forward to returning to CA food :)
On Tuesday, we went to Osaka, a Peruvian-Japanese restaurant (Soler 5608 y Fitz Roy). I was very curious, and excited. This place came highly recommended, and was the type of place you had to get reservations days in advance. I read about it in Time Out:
After hitting it big in Lima, the chain established residence in BA in 2005, and the expert kitchen staff has been winning porteno admirers ever since, with a fusion menu featuring truly eclectic creations like duck confit-stuffed samosas and deep-fried Peruvian-style fish in Japanese mushroom sauce. Fresh salmon and shrimp are rolled into sushi or smoked and stuffed into cripsy spring rolls. Culinary adventurers shouldn't miss sampling a few of Osaka's unusual South America-meets-Far East starters...
The decor was lovely, and the menu long and tempting. We ordered three starters that were indeed a fusion of Peruvian and Japanese: ceviche using fish cut in Japanese style with a Peruvian sauce, a flaming causas of shell fish in a butter sauce, and a spoon of tuna on top of some sort of potato mound. All were delicious and new to me.
Thereafter though, I made some bad choices and unknowingly ended up with 2 deep-fried dishes that were not my style. One had cream cheese in it, and totally ruined the delicate shellfish aftertaste I was enjoying. I ordered a last dish of grilled fish with a Peruvian spice sauce, but was too full to have more than one bite.
If we lived here and needed a break from the mostly Italian or cafe menus, I'm sure I'd pine to eat here more often. However, I realized we are super spoiled coming from San Francisco where we are used to amazing food all the time, and somehow Osaka didn't wow me. The first 3 starters did, so I think it was my bad on menu choices. We skipped any kind of sushi because, well, we can eat that all the time at home.
So overall, it was worth it, but better menu choices would have helped as well as feeling like we hadn't had creative fish dishes in a long time.
It's a dense city here, for sure. There are mostly apartments, and mostly in tall apartment buildings. I took a 2 hour walk yesterday and no matter what road I tried, it was busy with cars. What I do appreciate is how folks make a nice effort to add greenery from their balconies, and since most everyone does it, buildings have a mini-vertical forest thing going on.
I will take pics of this gorgeous apartment we're in, but for now, here's one of the kitchen sinks that I designated as T's bathtub. I couldn't find the plug to the main bathtub, and T is not a big fan of showers although she'll tolerate it. The size of the sink is perfect for her, and the height is perfect for me. We like bath time now : )
When I took Tesla to the park, I had to do a diaper change and could only find a narrow bench. I put her down, and as I got out all the stuff I needed, she rolled off and scraped her face on the dirt. She recovered quickly since she was excited to get to the swings, but there is a mark.
In my attempt to get one picture of the aftermath, I took all of these. What I noticed is that more and more, she has Dav's eyes. : )
Anytime I'm in a new city, I love taking public transportation to get a feel of it. It tells a lot about how much the city invests in its people and infrastructure, and also it's fun to see different folks using it. We've been taking taxis everywhere since we have Tesla (and there are tons of taxis so it's very easy; I can't imagine why one would bother owning a car in this city).
But one day, we went to the city outskirts to meet Pablo at his mom's house, so we took the subway. We rode the blue line, then switched to the green line. The tile deco was a bit old and needed cleaning, but beautiful nonetheless. Check out the blue line's cutting when the wall angled down.
We had quite an amazing dinner at a place just 2 blocks from our apartment. It's called La Vineria de Gualterio Bolivar (Bolivar 865 entre Independencia y Estados Unidos), and had this description from Time Out:
Among the endless parrillas and pizzerias of San Telmo is a completely new culinary prospect, not just for the area but also for the whole city ...head chef Alejandro Digilio ... is the third chef in the city to earn their wings at what is generally considered the best restaurant in the world [Ferran Adria's Madrid restaurant El Bulli which is at the forefront of the molecular gastronomy movement].
We were excited to try this out, and very pleased. Each course was small, but we went through 20 dishes or so; by the end we were stuffed. The waiter was exceptional, and we were very lucky that he spoke excellent English to explain what the dishes were. We loved being able to sample so many different tastes and textures throughout the meal. It was a fun meal in the sense that some dishes required us to assemble it as we ate, or there was some surprise discovery element.
By the end of dinner, we lost count of how many dishes had come, and kept saying to each other, "I hope this is the last because I'm really full" but then some other tiny dish would be presented. Overall, a really great experience. With a bottle of wine and local port at the end, the full-blown dinner was just a little over US$100, which is phenomenal. It would cost triple in the US, I think.
We have a reservation at famous Japanese-Peruvian place on Tuesday. With prices low, we're taking advantage of trying out high-end places. But with dinners so late, I'm definitely gaining a few : )
We stayed for the 1st week in Buenos Aires at Casa del Sol in San Telmo. I didn't take many pictures other than these:
* Me trying to get a picture of the new bag and sweater I got with a high horizontal mirror. What you see above me is the steel frame for the upstairs landing.
* Evening light dinner for us.
* Jumble of cables for phone and internet that was all dead.
* Nice shadow.
We went to the Palermo area in search of a green park for Tesla, and to check it out. According to Time Out, this area is:
Away from the high rises, open spaces and views of the river, Palermo Viejo (Old Palermo) clusters ... Run down and romantic until the early 1990s, Palermo Viejo has since been thoroughly brightened up by restuarants - serving cuisines from all corners of the globe - and fashion and design outlets marking up smelly candles, oversized cushions and art books.
We stumbled across Limbo (Armenia 1820 entre Costa Rica y Nicaragua), a sleek, modern cafe with cushy outdoor seating. We were delighted to find light salads, and a tuna carpachio (with grilled corn, mustard, and arugula). With a crispy bottle of white wine, we spent a few leisurely hours (along with running after Tesla and keeping her entertained).
When walking home, we discovered a super original knit shop called Ora Orum, a mother and daughter run shop where they make all their stuff right there. A beautiful long sweater/jacket in the window caught our eyes, which we bought in addition to another sweater and a cute fluffy handbag the woman had just finished making an hour ago.
As with most travels, there are always a few glitches here and there to be expected. We've had our share this trip. Each time, we found a solution, but it sure was a pain in the neck. We just got over our last one, and realized that the number of things we've had to deal with is actually comical, like we're in some movie making a joke about travel mishaps.
This is what's happened so far:
- First day in Lima, Peru, Dav got cash from the ATM and forgot his card. We went back the next day, and thebank kindly kept his card, but canceled it so it's useless.
- I realized I didn't 't have a PIN number with my credit card since I ordered a new copy a few months ago and the usual number wasn't linked to it. So no cash from that card.
- My ATM card is on some weird "Star" system that the majority of ATMs here don't accept. It's ridiculous how hard it is to access our money, not because of Buenos Aires, but because our of our card situation.
- Our Buenos Aires apartment is supposed to have full internet and phone access, but we found all the hardware is non-functioning. We think it's because of a big lightening storm that occurred just before we arrived. The owners of the apartment called a repair guy, but we've yet to see him. We currently hobble onto local wifi that is rather finicky.
- Tesla threw our rented cell phone off the balcony, but I was out dropping off laundry and had the key that is required to get out of the apartment so Dav couldn't 't leave to get the phone. A homeless man picked it up. Later, somehow a man brought the homeless guy back and we paid 50 pesos as a "finder's fee." The display screen on the phone is broken though.
- We went out last night and somehow lost the one set of keys we have. Remember you need keys not just to get in, but to open the door to go out. We had a babysitter who busted open the door so we could get in, but then we weren't able to properly shut it. Luckily, Dav figured out how to get a locksmith in the morning who took care of everything for 70 pesos.
It's all good now, but can you believe it? We just have to laugh...now that we have cash, a semi-working phone, and new keys. Plus, we're moving to a swankier apartment tomorrow so the internet should be working there.
And one of the merry-go-rounds that Tesla is fond of. She doesn't quite know what to make of it all, but she knows she wants to be on it.
Overall, I'm enjoying this city after taking time getting things settled here. Tesla is happy going along with whatever we do, which is a big deal since babies/toddlers do better with regular schedules. We take care for naptime and bedtime, but still; so far each day has been different. We're exploring new neighborhoods and discovering where the kiddie parks are - T LOVES merry-go-rounds now. This is a wonderful context for this time off, but most important to me is simply having the time together as a family.
Nice! Cosmopolitan and full of life! Very European-like!
And our apartment is sweet. Totally reminds me of the cute "appartements" in Paris. We have grand old window doors that open onto traditional balconies. The rooms are a lovely yellow and the furniture is nice (super comfy bed). Location-wise, we are smack in the middle of San Telmo, which is like Greenwich Village of NYC. Lots of antique & art stores, cafes, and a giant street market on Sunday. Still, much to discover since we explore slowly with Tesla and naptimes.
Just wanted to say that I have a great feeling about this city. : )
The sunsets were beautiful. This was from the Barranco neighborhood. Tesla loved running around, getting covered in dirt eventually. We opened a bottle of wine to share, and Tesla ran off with the opener.
Well, I had a bout of an unaccustomed bug entering my system. Who knows for sure where exactly it came from since we've been careful about what and where we eat. Ironically, I'm convinced it was that lunch from the super modern mall. Dav and I have shared all meals, and shortly after lunch, he said his tummy felt funny, but it passed. Another hour later once we got home, I started feeling knots, then intense, ugly nausea. I must have thrown up 20+ times over the next 4 hours. At night, I was finally able to keep Gatorade down, which relieved me because I could feel dehydration kicking in. Once I peaked and knew I'd be better by morning, I felt deep exhaustion. I could barely stand up.
Poor Dav. Instead of a romantic sunset stroll with our baby together, he took Tesla out by himself since she was getting stir-crazy. Then when he wanted to shop for food and drinks, I made him take Tesla too because I had no energy to entertain her by myself. He fed her, put her to bed, and then slept on the 2nd bed that had all our clothes all over it so that I could rest better. So sweet.
Babycakes, I owe you one! I feel weak, but much better. Alright...now, on to Buenos Aires!
I would have posted earlier but kept running into problems. First, I downloaded new pictures to my laptop, but for some reason, my laptop won't connect to the wifi even though it sees it, and Dav's Mac connects fine. I've been to the local internet cafe to use their cable, but even that proved difficult, and Dav had do to tech support for about 20 minutes so I could connect. I'm maintaining some of my work duties, and I was so happy to get caught up with work that I forgot to post my pictures before disconnecting the delicate set-up I had.
Then, I decided to update directly from Dav's Mac sans pictures, but oddly my saved post wouldn't appear. This morning, finally, I'm posting from Dav's Mac successfully. Pictures will have to wait. We're on vacation after all, so I'm not stressing. : )
Update-wise, after snoozing the first afternoon recovering from the trip here, we're feeling fine. Traveling with a toddler is a big effort indeed, but we made it, and Tesla is happy. We have shopped at the local supermarket, had amazing ceviche for brunch, and have walked around a little. We're happy that we have 5 days here again after Buenos Aires because we want to visit the beach, museums, and ruins, which we won't get to this time since we are leaving tomorrow. This has been the perfect pit-stop to break the long trip to Buenos Aires. I'm mentally slowly unwinding, and am now very excited and very ready to be in Buenos Aires tomorrow!
For now, we're just chilling, and I love that we have 100% time for Tesla. Some notes so far:
* Drivers are crazy. They won't stop for you, so be careful. Everyone honks for seemingly no good reason; this makes street life quite colorful.
* Meals are later than what we're used to. We arrive in restaurants before anyone else which is great so Tesla can run around without bothering anyone.
* I wish I spoke at least a little Spanish. I'm pretty pathetic here...I use French words out of desperation.
* Now that I'm caught up with work, and won't have much each day, I'm finally realizing, "holy cow, I'm in Lima, Peru!!!" Never thought I'd be here. I relish seeing new places.
* Amenities work fine in our apartment, but we're in a nice area in a nice place. There is a lady who guards the entrance way even though there is a locked gate. I've seen guards at several nice-looking houses too.
* We're not in a first-world country for sure, but I love that. It's good to see outside our usual bubble.
* It's humid here. I forgot how puffy/curly my hair gets with humidity. We've discovered that Tesla must have my hair since she's got some curls going too. Pictures will follow.
* There are beautiful sunsets here.
* Last night we discovered on the first floor of our apartment building a nice restaurant where we had a wonderful dinner while 3 ladies entertained Tesla. Perfect.
We just got back from a walk to a neighboring section of the city, and had lunch at a super modern mall that reminded us of La Jolla, San Diego. It targets tourists since we got menus in English. It's built in the cliffs that overlook the ocean so you can walk around with the ocean breeze. Quite spectacular. And all along the coast line as we walked were sleek ocean-front apartment buildings that looked like they belonged in Miami. I didn't expect to see such a fancy neighborhood.
We are about to leave for Peru and Argentina to visit/live. We'll be back at the end of March. We've been a bit busy in preparing, especially since we jammed in the Tahoe trip just before. I'm looking forward to luxurious family time, new experiences, and seeing how a month off feels. We'll have wifi so I'll be posting :)
During our Sunday night dinner at Tahoe, Dav realized we had enough folks to do this. It was fun to do although hard for Dav to herd everyone after a large meal and lots of wine. Some folks added their unique interpretation :)
It is part of Dav's 52 Things project.
Here is the group chilling and preparing the dinner that got us in the mood for the shot:
We've had hints that Tesla is starting to test us...which is weird since I still see her as a baby happy simply being cared by us.
In Tahoe, there was a dog and lots of activity, so of course Tesla resisted bedtime. However, we have learned that keeping bedtime is a very good idea even if, as in Tahoe, she loves being the center of the party and shows no hint of tiredness. We've found that as soon as we remove her from the activity, she realizes she's ready for bed.
So one night, Dav took her into our room with the pac-n-play to put her down, but came out saying, "you gotta go in; she's calling mama." I went in to comfort her, and within seconds, she started wailing, "daaaaaddddyyyyy!!!" which made me think, "wait a minute...you're playing us to stay up!"
This was confirmed when I firmly said, "ne ne" (which means sleepy time) - implying that I would not call daddy and this was it; it was bedtime. Then she did a grand show of crying...finally yelping out, "poopoo!!!!!" which she has learned will make us change her diaper. When I still didn't buy it, she cried, "peeepeee!!" I pretty much burst out laughing at how cute of a desperate attempt she was making to stay up. Poopoo and peepee? Poor girl really didn't want to miss out.
Standing firm was key though. I sat with her until she got sleepy, but since I didn't take her out of her pac-n-play, she gave up and focused on bedtime pretty quickly :)
That sledding idea didn't work out. First, I got out of the house late, around 3pm after T's nap. I drove with her to rent a little pull-sled for T, and planned to go to a hill and play around for a bit. But a minute away from the renting place, I spotted an actual sledding place that had nice looking set-up hills for easy sledding. So I turned back and returned the pull-sled, and headed to the sled place. It was cash only though, and I had ONE DOLLAR on me! The market next door had an ATM, but it was out of order. So I bought a drink with my ATM card for cash back, but somehow it automatically charged with no choice of cash back. Next, I carried T and walked to the neighboring gas station, finally getting some cash from an ATM. Having the drink I didn't want to have while sledding, I carried T back to the car to drop it off. By the time I got to the sledding ticket store, I was tired, and T wasn't too thrilled either. The last straw was when the lady said none of their sleds had pulling strings, meaning I'd have to carry both T and the sled up the hill to go down it. I passed.
I had T walk around in the snow a bit and gave her a snow ball. She wasn't too impressed so I think sledding next year instead of this year will be fine.
We're staying in South Lake Tahoe, but everyone is skiing or boarding at Kirkwood, about 30 minutes away. Yesterday I drove with Dav to Kirkwood to see him off, and had lunch with Tesla, just the two of us. This year, I'm hanging with Tesla and not skiing. I don't want to be too tired for the big packing we have to do as soon as we get back from Tahoe. Plus, I'm quite happy hanging around this nice house. But today, I'm going to rent a sled, and T and I will some mini runs on a hill close by.
We are at Tahoe at a gorgeous house we rented with a bunch of friends. There's a pool table...and Tesla showed us her way of playing. The basic rule is put all balls in one pocket, and immediately take them all out. We're not sure about the details, but how quick you are in taking the balls out seems key.
Elida's friend, Yann, is visiting from France. I met him a little over a year ago when he last visited, and he remembered our discussion about cheese and how much I love stinky cheese.
Incredibly, for this current visit, he snuck in 3 kinds of cheese and a bottle of wine for me. He came over a few nights ago to indulge me in an amazing cheese spread fresh from France. He brought Comte (a giant brick of it), Cancoillote (a super creamy luxurious spread), and Mont D'Or. Yann put the Mont D'Or in the oven to melt it up, then cut an opening into it, and poured in the white wine. All so delicious!!!
Thank you, Yann. He is joining us for our Tahoe trip :)
hmmn: musings from the far east(erwood)
Big in Japan
Ed the Cat
Anil, the Nigritude Ultramarine
A Full Belly
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