Buenos Aires: A wild and crazy ride

“Wild, wonderful, West Virginia” – this is one of my favorite license plate slogans in the US. I like to apply it to Buenos Aires as well; it can definitely be both of those things! I realized today I have not blogged a single time in September, the first month in two years without any blog posts, so I need to change that. And the reason is pretty simple – there’s just so much going on! I have been here five months now, and it has, indeed, been a fun ride. I came because of a very cool job offer (which I have not blogged about yet) but then all sorts of other things started happening as well. I am very conscious of the fact that life in Argentina is not easy for most people, that the economy is a mess, and that the political situation is rather depressing. However, as a privileged foreigners I have things happen here that I can’t see happening anywhere else that I have lived, especially not in Norway.

Example: over the course of the last week, I have both been practicing to sing back-up (a very small piece on one song, but still!) on a recording, to take place in a week, and acted as a hand-model in a photo/video production for a purse. How funny!! I am not a fantastic singer, and I don’t have amazing hands, but both are great experiences and things that make me think that every day is adventure here. I have been interviewed on the radio, I have played polo with great players, I have sailed the Paraná river, I have danced lots, I have done some very interesting things professionally… I go running in beautiful parks, yesterday I biked for two hours on great bike paths – in the rain, which means most people here doesn’t go out, so we could go as fast as we wanted. I sometimes sell my baked goods, which I think is hilarious. I sing more than I have in a long time. I study languages. I go the movies and to theater. I have met interesting and crazy people. And the polo season has started, which means free matches at the Campo de Polo in Palermo. And in a month or so, the jacarandas will be blooming! I am so lucky!!

One part of my Buenos Aires honeymoon is over, though: I loved the fact that my apartment was really quiet, even though it is close to a big avenue. However, that all changed two weeks ago: I have construction on one side, and demolition on the other. And they start EARLY… BsAs is a noisy city, no doubt about it. And it doesn’t go great with my home office… Oh well!

I have some trips and things to blog about, so I will probably backdate those to make it look like I wrote more than one blog post in September. :)

Posted in Buenos Aires, Norsk i Argentina, Noruega en Argentina, Personal | 2 Comments

Luján, Buenos Aires Province – Or, Lots of Travel for Three Pesos

IMG_20140718_152335About a month ago, I visited Lujan, which is a small town about 70km from Buenos Aires. It is known mainly for its basilica, as Wikipedia tells us:

Luján is best known for its large neo-gothic Basilica, built in honor of the Virgin of Luján, the patron saint of Argentina. Every year, more than six million people make pilgrimages to the Basilica,[1] many walking there from Buenos Aires. The city is known as La Capital de la Fe (Capital of the Faith). It is popular day-trip for non-believers too, with abundant grill restaurants (like most places in Argentina) and souvenir shops with kitsch religious memorabilia.

But the main reason that I went to Lujan, was that some friends and I had talked about places to go on the train. The trains coming in from the towns around Buenos Aires are pretty shabby, but also extremely cheap, starting at AR$1.10 (around 9 cents of a dollar), which is a third of what the cheapest bus ticket in the city costs… So we thought it would be fun to take advantage of this to see some places in the Province of Buenos Aires. Of course this limited our possible destinations, since there are not trains everywhere, but we figured Lujan was a good choice.

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We met up at Once train station and got on the 8 o’clock train to Moreno, where we would change to another train. This particular line, the Sarmiento, is sadly known for the large accident two years ago that killed 55 people, and is very run-down and not very nice, although they were getting new trains just days after our trip. We got on one train, then we had to move to another, and we took off half hour late. This meant that we missed the connection in Moreno, and had to wait another hour there. In total, it took us 3 hours 40 minutes! If it wasn’t for the waiting, it would have been a lot faster of course. The first train was quite the experience; people were smoking a lot of cigarettes, and a lot of pot… That was a surprise! All the windows were open, which was good for the smoke but also made it freezing cold. I felt a lot of compassion for the people who take this trip every day! The second train was more comfortable. Still cold, but no pot. It was also more expensive, a whooping 1.75…

IMG_20140718_163857Once in Lujan, things were good: We visited the basilica, had a nice lunch, went to the transport museum, and drank mate along the river. In the summer, there is lots of activity on the river front, but it was very calm now. The transport museum was fantastic, one of those small town museums with a really dedicated guy who took us around and told us all sorts of fascinating anecdotes. Their collection includes things like an old Buenos Aires street car, the “pony express” wagons that was the precursor to the train, the Popemobil from John Paul II’s visit in the 1980s, and two horses that were used to ride to New York in 1925… A very eclectic place.

On the way back we opted for the combi, i.e. nice express bus, but with traffic and whatnot it took us 2 hours 20 minutes, and cost 31 pesos, more than ten times what we paid for the train… All in all, a very fun day and quite different!

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Posted in Buenos Aires, Travel | 1 Comment

Algaia – Beautiful Vegetarian Food in Colegiales

P1150952I am slowly trying more and more vegetarian places here in Buenos Aires, and one I will definitely be going back to is Algaia in Colegiales. Algaia is a restaurant, a place for cooking classes, and a provider of ready made meals (viandas in Spanish) that you can put in the freezer and pull out for a quick yet health and nutritious dinner. The owner, Nicolás, is a chef from France, trained in the French classic culinary tradition, who ended up cutting out animal products and alcohol. Upon arrival in Buenos Aires he worked at famous San Juan Café, and then later started Algaia.

Anyway, the most important was that the food was great! I had “meatballs” made of celery and oats, I think, and they were amazing. Tasty, fresh, delicious. For dessert, a very healthy brownie. Looking forward to going there again! We went on a weekday, when they have a shorter menu, so I am excited to go back on a weekday when there is more variety.

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Posted in Buenos Aires, Restaurants, Veggies | 5 Comments

My Inner Martha Stewart

IMG_1777For the newest students of Norwegian, I channeled my inner Martha Stewart: I made sugar cookies, decorated them with red, white and blue sprinkles, and put them in tiny individual cardboard boxes. On each box I glued a white card that said “My name is” in Norwegian and then the student’s name, and a small Norwegian flag. I may not be a great teacher but my cookies are pretty good! (I am a teaching twice a week at the Instituto Sueco Argentino – it is a nice way to help out the Norwegian community and those who are interested in it. Although I think I am a pretty bad teacher; I love learning languages myself but find it pretty hard to teach!)

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Posted in Buenos Aires, Comunidad noruega, Noruega en Argentina | 3 Comments

Precios cuidados

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Precios cuidados is a government program where certain products are supposed to be made available at a cheaper price and not go up as quickly as inflation. Oh the irony – the government, which has caused the 40% inflation the country is experiencing, then tries to freeze prices… Anyway, this caused me a chuckle: even Coca Cola (only regular, not Light or Zero!) and Fernet, the Argentineans’ drink of choice, is under the program! Is Coca Cola really where we should be concerned to keep prices affordable…?

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Posted in Buenos Aires, Politics | 4 Comments

Hierbabuena – Vegetarian dining

Photo from GuiaOleo

Photo from GuiaOleo

Today I tried a new-to-me restaurant in San Telmo, Hierbabuena. I had read good things about it as an almost-vegetarian, and very vegan-friendly, restaurant, and decided to try it out with some vegetarian friends. In the end, it was a somewhat mixed experience. The place is adorable, they have done a great job with the decorations and it feels cozy and inviting. I was also impressed with their flexibility in letting us order from the dinner menu even though it was before 20:30 – other places might have said no. But all in all I wasn’t thrilled with Hierbabunea. The bread they put out was delicious – whole grain bread with a really nice spread – but our waitress was very, very clumsy! As soon as I sat down she broke a glass basically on me, with glass shattering everywhere. We saw her drop other things through the evening! Also, the order of service wasn’t very good: We ordered drinks, and some of them were very much aperitivi, but she brought out the soup right away anyway – I would have enjoyed my Aperol spritz more on its own than together with the soup. (A small bowl of butternut squash soup was included – good but nothing extraordinary.)

For my main course, I had ordered a falafel salad. The salad had WAY too much oil, and the falafel wasn’t crunchy at all; it felt like balls of mashed potatoes. I can understand not wanting to fry them, but they could at least have baked them until crunchy? My friends both had the mushroom burger – the burger itself was good but it didn’t have a bun and while the potatoes were delicious, there was only half of a small potato…

As I said, the place was very cute and inviting, and the menu looked great. But all in all it was way too expensive for what it was. For instance, they had a 28 peso service charge, which seemed crazy at a place like that. 96 pesos for a salad was also way too much… We discussed leaving after seeing the menu, but decided to give it a try – in the end I wish we hadn’t.

Posted in Buenos Aires, Personal, Restaurants, Veggies | 2 Comments

NOLA Gastropub is open!

I am still not a “real” vegetarian, because I do eat a little bit of fish (however, very rarely) – AND because I yesterday broke a six-month veggie stretch with a delicious crispy chicken sandwich at NOLA Buenos Aires!! I have written about NOLA before, when chef Liza came to Puesto Viejo, and I had the pleasure of visiting her closed-door restaurant in January. (That would have been a good blog post – especially the fact that we were several hours late! The highway was cut off because of protesters and Liza and Ticol still received us warmly.) Liza and beer-making boyfriend Ticol then took their closed-door restaurant to the next level and opened the gastropub NOLA on July 18th. They have quickly become a neighborhood favorite and half of Buenos Aires’ food blogs are filled with photos of people devouring Cajun-style fried chicken.

I stopped by for a drink on opening night, sort of to show my support, even though it wasn’t really necessary, they were already full! – and then had the pleasure of trying the famous sandwich last night. I also had a delicious cocktail made of Cynar and grapefruit. Yum! And a steal at 35 pesos – it is hard to get a cocktail anywhere in BsAs for that price. The sandwich totally lived up to its expectation: the bread (baked by Liza) is tender and soft, and the chicken is a perfection of crunchy goodness with nice flavors. There are sauces with different spice levels (awesome!) and while I haven’t tried the other offerings, they look delicious as well. (Actually, I did try the gumbo back in January.)

I will leave you with a photo I have borrowed from the NOLA website, and encourage you to check it out! (Gorriti 4389, esquina con Julián Alvarez. Closed Tuesdays. Great happy hour deals!)

Photo courtesy of NOLA (www.nolachef.net)

Photo courtesy of NOLA (www.nolachef.net)

Posted in Buenos Aires, Personal, Restaurants, Travel, Veggies | 6 Comments