Peru has it all — modern cities, rich history, ancient ruins, beautiful topography, geographic wonders, diverse ecosystems, and renown gastronomy. It boasts ocean beaches, desert, mountains, lush valleys, and a piece of the Amazon jungle. My first visit in 2008 was for a business conference and much too brief. This time I stayed an entire month, able fully enjoy the city and go on some awe-inspiring excursions.
February, the second month of my adventure, was l-o-n-g. To say our accommodations were lacking would be diplomatic and kind. Decrepit and malfunctioning would be more like it. Pangea196 really messed up on this one. My room-mate and I just bucked up and made the best of it with grit, determination, and a sense of humor. Despite the daily difficulties, I managed to have some fun and interesting experiences.
Chile was the second destination on my digital nomad tour, and Valparaíso (Valpo) was the intended city. Everything I read about it peaked my interest — words like bohemian, artsy, colorful, and poetic appealed to me. I was looking forward to more street art, more museums, and the iconic elevators that you can ride up the hills.
But that’s not where we stayed. Our program had some housing issues that I never completely understood and my room-mate and I wound up about 6 miles away from the rest of our group in a small rustic cabin in a working-class neighborhood in Viña del Mar.
And, so starts the tale of two cities
Viña flower clock
I admit I had a slow acclimation to Buenos Aires. It was not love at first sight, sort of grew on me slowly. Surprisingly, at the end, I felt sad and reluctant to leave. One month was not enough. There was still so much I did not see or do, so much yet to explore. My take-aways — the things that will stay with me, what I enjoyed the most — were the friendly people and the continual visual experience.
In the 1980s, Wendy’s famous ad campaign asked “Where’s the beef?” In Argentina, they have plenty of beef, lots and lots of beef, as well as pork and lamb. The question to ask instead is “Where’s the veggies?”
When eating out in Buenos Aires, finding a vegetable other than salad (arugula, shredded carrots, avocado, and tomatoes) was a real challenge. A typical menu would have several types of grilled carne (beef): Bife de Chorizo, Ojo de Bife, Bife Angosto, Bife de Costilla. I never did get them straight. If you didn’t specify jugoso (juicy), it was always done medium-well. Most portions are generous, big enough to share. It’s a matter of national pride. You’d often see the big parrillas (grills) with men cooking large amounts of meat showcased on the street or in an open window. Their local rock stars!
On my last Saturday in Buenos Aires, I took a cab to La Boca, the old city port, and went on a walking tour of this historic and colorful area. Afterward, I entered the PROA museum to see an Ai Weiwei exhibit and passed into a totally different visual world….from a kaleidoscope to tranquility.
Wow! This city is an assortment of wonders, full of green spaces and teeming with life. Whether on an official tour or just walking from one place to another, there is so much to discover. In my first two weeks with Pangea196, I found things can change quickly — from upscale, to funky, to downright gritty. Busy streets with police cars always flashing their blue lights, yellow and black Radio Taxis, motorcycles, cars, and huge buses. Sidewalks crowded with businessmen in dress shirts, young mothers nursing babies without embarrassment, tattooed hipsters, older people using walkers or canes. Everyone (even men) hugging and kissing when they meet. It plays like Argentinian cinéma vérité. Continue reading