Even though by June I had traversed a good chunk of the Northern hemisphere this year, I was really looking forward to crossing down south to Argentina. My friends, this trip had been in the works – at least conceptually – for well over a year. I was crashing John’s family’s vacation down to Buenos Aires and Calafate.
This trip was exciting for three reasons more than usual. First of all, I was finally going to be able to use some Spanish, a language I have been neglecting for several years now. Second, I would be meeting some of my dad’s first cousins and relatives who emigrated from Italy to Buenos Aires and of whom we have only met one, once. Finally, because I would be traveling with 10 others: a mix of John and his cousins/siblings/aunts/uncles. I wouldn’t trade my family for any other but what they say is true: once you have gone to college and started living on your own, it’s very hard to come back and just be at home. Besides, a trip of 11 is always going to be a little extra exciting.
My first impression of Buenos Aires was that it was much colder than expected. We went straight from the airport to the house of a friend of family and a brief meander around her neighborhood left me a wee bit colder than I wanted to be. That didn’t bode well for our trip down to Calafate; I brought layers and not an actual winter coat, and Calafate has glaciers. However her apartment – and the people inside it – was very warm and welcoming. Add to that the spectacular hotel we stayed in right by la Casa Rosada (Instead of the White House like the US, Argentina has the Pink House!), and I was already digging Buenos Aires. That evening gave me an even wider image of the city. An awesome friend from Georgetown was in Buenos Aires for the month, and she brought us to the Palacio Barolo, which has a gorgeous view at the top of its 22 stories. Palacio Barolo was interesting for another reason though. It is suspected and has been extrapolated that the owner and architect designed the building to reflect Dante’s Divine Comedy. While neither directly spoke on the topic, Barolo was an Italian immigrant and the building is full of symbols and decoration that can be interpreted to that effect. The floors are split up into inferno, purgatorio, and paradiso, and the very top is a sort of lighthouse, providing a guiding light for porteños and Christians alike. There’s even a thesis written on the topic! Regardless of how much veracity the story holds, the view alone was worth it and the theme was fascinating to think about.
My initial impression of Buenos Aires remained just that, because 24 hours after we arrived to the city, we left for Calafate. Calafate is a city in the south of Patagonia and home to Argentina’s largest glacier – the Perrito Moreno. The Perrito Moreno is not only significant because of its size, but also because it’s one of two non-receding glaciers in the world. Needless to say, Argentinians are proud of this marvel. In fact, they named it for one of their favorite explorers: the guy who went down south and discovered it. John’s aunt (big shout out to her for organizing the trip) managed to get us on a boat tour to see the glacier up close, and then we strolled along the lake watching and waiting for it to crack. It’s amazing to hear the gun-shot boom when a hunk of ice cracks, but it’s even crazier to hear the sound and then see it happen a split second after.
The next day, we saw a marvel of the human nature: cave paintings left (probably) 4,000 years ago. They seemed to depict life, from birth and pregnancy to death. Found on an estancia not too far from Calafate, this little detour gave us something to ponder while we took in more views of the lake. Not to mention that the tour ended with a delicious on site lunch: pumpkin soup followed by stew in a homemade bread bowl followed by chocolate mousse served in a mason jar, because even those eating in a cave deserve to be trendy.
Unfortunately, we did have some bumps on the trip. Our flight back to Buenos Aires, scheduled forThursday afternoon, ended up being cancelled when fog descended on the airport at the last minute. We stayed another day and just ended up hanging out for most of the time – especially because we were in the airport for more hours when our second flight got seriously delayed. But we did eventually make it back to Buenos Aires late Friday night and checked into the biggest AirBnB/apartment I have ever seen.
From there the trip took a turn from the touristy to the family-oriented. We hosted some of John’s relatives and family friends in our AirBnb, and then I met my cousins on Monday and lunched with them on Tuesday – another highlight. We did get to do some shopping at the ferias – markets with, unfortunately, non-negotiable prices – and we walked a good amount of the city, from our apartment on Avenida Libertador to downtown, seeing the Congress and Teatro Colòn. Buenos Aires is definitely a city I’ll have to return to; I feel like I still have barely seen any of it, even though I do think I ate through enough of it.
And, with that, I am caught up on my 2017 travels thus far. Now, get ready for the full scoop on my time here with Dilasa.