Argentina and Italy 2023/2024

December 2023 - April 2024
This year we're doing a rare follow-up visit to a place we visited less than a year ago. Argentina dug her way into our hearts in 2022 and we felt like we needed to do a deep dive into her capital city, Buenos Aires. Read more
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  • Day 2

    Back in B.A.

    December 8, 2023 in Argentina ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    Our seven-day stay in Buenos Aires last year was merely a quick dip of our toes into the vast ocean of experiences the city has to offer. Even before we left there last January, we had decided we would return this winter to dive right in to the city.

    Of course, little did we know that, in the interim, a new, far right-wing government would be elected; one promising to dismantle the central bank and dollarize the peso. It could make for interesting times. Viva la revolución!

    We left home at 10:00 AM on Thursday morning to arrive at YVR a couple of hours before flight time and we didn’t touch down in Buenos Aires until 3:00 PM on Friday. By the time we cleared customs and rode an Uber into the city, we arrived at our AirBnb at 4:30 PM. Even after accounting for the five-hour time difference, that’s still twenty-six hours of traveling.
    Air Canada did a good job on these flights.

    The trip went smoothly with decent food and drink, free Wi-Fi on the Canadian leg of the trip, free texting all the way to B.A. and, after flying us 11,250 kilometers, we arrived in Buenos Aires right on schedule.

    Our first day here was spent unpacking, getting our bearings, stocking our fridge and pantry and getting some much-needed rest. Oh, and rest I did, waking up Saturday morning at 11:10 AM!!!

    While we’re here, Brenda will be taking weekly cello lessons with an English-speaking instructor. Her new travel cello made it onto all our flights with no issues along with my Traveler guitar. Brenda’s focus will be on the Bach Cello Suite No.1 while my self-taught musical training will be on mastering playing slide guitar (The Allman Guitar Sweet). Thank heaven for YouTube.

    We’re staying in a nice little one-bedroom condo in the Palermo-Soho section of B.A. It’s a great area filled with restaurants, mom and pop fruit stands, supermarkets and beautiful green spaces. We’re close to a subway station for trips farther afield and near enough to downtown to walk there.
    The weather over the last couple of days is cooler than we expected, about 22°C, but we’re certain it’ll warm up as summer progresses. No complaints though.

    Experience tells us that we’ll be on a flight back to Vancouver seemingly within the blink of an eye, so we plan to make the most of our time here.

    Good food, good wine, good company and good weather, who could ask for more?
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  • Day 6

    Getting To Know You...

    December 12, 2023 in Argentina ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    Wow, we've already been here five days and the time has flown by. When we arrive in a new city for the winter, we always start by exploring the neighborhood, stocking the fridge and pantry and making our temporary home as comfortable as possible.

    Our first stop was to pick up the money we had wired to ourseves at Western Union. When we left here last January, the exchange rate was 250 pesos per Canadian dollar. On Thursday, the rate was 685 pesos per dollar! Of course, the prices in stores and restaurants are also much higher, but once one calculates the true cost at the new exchange rate, many items are less costly to us. Both Chandon and Mumm's have production facilities in Mendoza, and their bubblies are available for about $5.00 CDN. Insofar as the quality goes, it's just as good as the French version and, in the case of Mumm's, much better. We've been scouring the stores for our local favorite sparkler, Los Perdices Rosé, but we haven't found it anywhere. YET!

    Sunday was the inauguration of the new president, Javier Milei and we wisely decided to hang around Palermo, far away from the huge crowds and rabid supporters downtown. From what we saw on TV, it looked like things went pretty smoothly with less pomp and circumstance than the US inaugurations I've seen. I don't care for Milei's politics, but his whole campaign focused on getting the country's economy back on track. He's got a big hill to climb, but with 40 % of the population living in poverty, I wish him the best of luck.

    As usual, we're been putting quite a bit of mileage on our shoes the last few days and have come across some interesting local wildlife. On our morning walk around the park, we saw some cute little critters grazing on the grass in the botanical garden. I first took them to be Capybaras, but they were much too small and had long thin legs. Brenda said they looked like a cross between a bunny and a dog. BAD ROVER!!! In the end, Google identified them as Patagonian Maras. Huh?!?

    The next day, on our way to lunch, four parakeets flew overhead and perched on the electric wires above us. These little guys were making such a racket, I couldn't resist filming them. Of course, the minute I hit record they shut up. Thankfully, they gave another brief serenade before flying off.

    And so now that we have all our shopping done and errands run, we can get down to the serious business of getting into our daily routine and fully enjoying this fascinating city.
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  • Day 8

    I Say Tomato and You Say Tomaté

    December 14, 2023 in Argentina ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    On my way to the gym today, one of the local restaurants was receiving case after case of heirloom tomatoes and had set up tables at a couple of different points along the sidewalks. They were also decorating the walls of the restaurant with the different coloured fruit and handing out complimentary bags of tomatoes to passers-by. There was a harp player, a singer and some dancers performing at the restaurant entrance and waiters were passing through the gathered crowd with trays of tomato chunks perfectly seasoned with a sprinkle of olive oil, balsamic and salt. Mmm-mmm good.

    It turns out the restaurant, and its sister restaurant a couple of blocks away, were having "una fiesta de tomates". We couldn't quite figure out what prompted the unadvertised event, but we sure were glad to have stumbled upon it.

    Brenda and I each got a bag of tomatoes to go. Both bags were genererously filled with a variety of perfectly ripe, delicious fruit (Brenda's more generously filled than mine due to her using her charm and beauty on the chef).

    We went back to our apartment and had our own little impromptu tomato feast and still have more leftover for another meal.

    Thank you Don Julio restaurant!
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  • Day 12

    Boom Boom! Out Go The Lights

    December 18, 2023 in Argentina ⋅ 🌧 21 °C

    Saturday was a steamy, hot day in Buenos Aires. Temperatures were in the low thirties and humidity in the high eighties. Storm alerts started popping up on my my phone in the late afternoon. Weather like this is usually seen in mid-January, not December.

    The condo we're in doesn't face the street, but looks onto a "courtyard" and a concrete wall. Essentially, we can see a small patch of sky, can tell if it's day or night, and whether it's raining or sunny. There is no breeze.

    Saturday night and early Sunday morning, we knew it was thundering and raining heavily, but we had no idea of the violent winds that were buffeting the city outside our walls. It was only when we turned on the news Sunday morning that we learned of the damage caused.

    Trees were down all over the city, more than half a million people were without electricity, hundreds of cars were damaged, and at least thirteen people were killed.

    When the rain stopped yesterday afternoon, Brenda and I went out for a walk and saw several branches downed and work crews out cleaning up. This morning, Brenda went for her morning walk in the park and REALLY got to see how bad things are. She had to add a little distance to her walk as she weaved her way through what she described as an obstacle course.

    Still don't believe in climate change?
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  • Day 12

    Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

    December 18, 2023 in Argentina ⋅ ☁️ 19 °C

    One of the highlights of our seven day visit to Buenos Aires last year was the guided tour of the spectacular Teatro Colon. Our only disappointment was that the few performances remaining before the end of the season were all sold out.

    Just before we left Vancouver this year, Brenda learned that a performance of Handel's Messiah was scheduled for December 18! We immediately jumped on line and managed to find a pair of seats in the orchestra, only thirteen rows from the stage. We decided to go all out and spend the 32,000 pesos for the pair (under $50 CDN). I'd hate to think what they would have cost back home (in a far inferior venue).

    The only music I knew from this oratorio was the Hallelujah chorus, so I streamed a live YouTube concert from Sydney, Australia to get a better feel for what to expect. It turned out I was a little underwhelmed and feared I might embarrass Brenda by dozing off and snoring during the performance.

    Last night, we made our way to the theater and were ushered to our seats, which, by the way, were worth every last peso. The sheer beauty of the venue electrified us, and when the musicians, soloists, chorus, and conductor took to the stage, we were all in, and I knew right then that there would be no nodding off until I got home.

    The Messiah is performed in English, although it's hard to tell at times. Some words are sung in a volley of rapid fire scales and stretched over several bars. We both would glance up at the Spanish translation that was displayed on the curtain behind the chorus in an attempt to better understand the lyrics. That being said, the performances of all four soloists were outstanding. However, we both would have preferred that the parts sung in falsetto by the countertenor had been sung by a mezzo-soprano in full voice.

    The musicianship, under the guidance of the very passionate conductor, Ruben Dubrovsky, was faultless. The occasional appearance of a harpsichord, a trumpet, and timpanies just added to the surprises.

    The biggest surprise of all, however, came during the encore when, before leading the orchestra in a reprise of the Hallelujah Chorus, maestro Dubrovsky, a native Argentine, ripped off his tuxedo jacket and shirt to reveal a number 10 Argentina Football Club jersey. The crowd ate it up.

    I bet you didn't think this electric blues guitarist would have made it through a two hour and twenty minute spectacle like this, did ya? Yeah, well I fooled you, didn't I? I loved it!
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  • Day 16

    Happy Friday!

    December 22, 2023 in Argentina ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    A tradition that Brenda and I have maintained since retiring is our end-of-the-week happy hour, which, at home, is usually a dram of good single malt. Here in Argentina, however, Scotch is very, very expensive. Fortunately, this wine producing nation offers mind-blowing Malbec at bargain basement prices and, as an added bonus, excellent sparkling wine produced using the Champagne method. So good is the Argentine terroir that Champagne powerhouses Chandon and Mumm have production facilities here. And so, today's happy hour libation is Mumm's Brut Rose that I picked up on sale at the local supermarket for 2080 pesos, about $2.89 CDN!
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  • Day 18

    I'm Dreaming Of A White Christmas (NOT)

    December 24, 2023 in Argentina ⋅ ☁️ 27 °C

    I've always been a sucker for classic Christmas carols at this time of year, so while I was doing a little kitchen prep, I fired up a Spotify playlist.

    And then it struck me just how bizarre Christmas is to a Canadian in Buenos Aires. It's 25 degrees Celsius outside, the trees are all green, and I'm living in shorts and sandals.

    "White Christmas" is only a dream to the locals, and nothing is really beginning to look a lot, or even a little bit, like Christmas.

    Christmas here is pretty low-key despite it being a Christian country. We barely see more Xmas decorations here than we see in Thailand, where it's predominantly Buddhist. This is also not a country that has a lot to offer vegans in terms of special holiday meals. Even though we have a kitchen at our Airbnb, we've decided to forego any elaborate cooking and concentrate on bubbles and desserts to celebrate the holidays.

    Chandon and Mumm's both have wineries in Argentina, and there are incredible wine sales at all the big supermarkets at the moment. A nice bottle of bubbles costs as little as $3.55 CAD, so we bought 4 bottles, some old favorites, and some new ones to try. We also have a bottle of Bailey's since it's our tradition to have Bailey's coffee on Christmas Eve.

    The pastries are absolutely amazing in Argentina. Roch is a huge fan of panettone, and there is no shortage of them here. We have a family-size pan dulce (though I think it was meant for more than a family of two!), a dozen of the country's "Best Alfajores", eight conitos de dulce de leche and an apple crumble tarte as well.

    Well, our Christmas may not be white, but it sure will be sweet, effervescent and very happy.
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  • Day 20

    A Night At The Opera....House

    December 26, 2023 in Argentina ⋅ 🌙 21 °C

    Tonight we made our second visit to Teatro Colon, not for an opera, but to see a ballet. Frankly, I'm not the most cultured person when it comes to this stuff, but back in July, I bought tickets for La Bayadera, a ballet I'd never heard of. The important thing was being able to see a production, any production in BA's spectacular opera house.

    Well, it was a good thing I didn't have my heart set on that ballet because a couple of months later, the program was changed to El Corsario, another ballet unknown to me.

    Based on Lord Byron's poem, The Corsair, the three act performance features a sailing ship, lots of pirates, slave girls, swashbuckling, betrayal, and love at first sight.

    And the production put on by Teatro Colon was absolutely world-class, breathtaking, and mesmerizing. With music provided by the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, a cast of probably a hundred dancers, and beautiful set design, Brenda and I were treated to a spectacle we won't soon forget.

    The dancers, particularly the main characters, floated across the stage, performing gravity-defying leaps and lifts, dizzying pirouettes, and seemingly effortless en pointe steps.

    Brenda and I were both captivated by the spectacle and were a little disappointed when the final curtain came down, ending the performance on a happy note with the two lovers in each other's arms.

    Sorry, no pictures from this one. Grouch, Harpo and Chico will have to do.
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  • Day 29


    January 4 in Argentina ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    Argentina is well known for the abundance and quality of their beef. According to Wikipedia, Argentine annual consumption of beef has averaged 100 kg per capita, and approached 180 kg per capita during the 19th century! Pass the Lipitor, please. But it's not all about the steaks. This carnivorous nation has a love affair with anything meat related, from milanesas (pork veal or chicken cutlets) to chorizo, beef ribs, and lamb.

    However, the humble hamburger is probably one of the most popular go-to meals around. All the major fast food chains are present, along with an endless array of local burger joints of all calibers. There are even a couple of very good vegan burger joints here in B.A.

    We were in a supermarket yesterday that had 2/3 of a 15 meter long freezer aisle dedicated to an endless variety of burgers. The other third was for chicken nuggets. Oh, and across the aisle was another 7.5 meters of freezer filled with vegan burger options.

    Anyone for a nice green salad?
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  • Day 32

    The Michelin Man

    January 7 in Argentina ⋅ ☁️ 27 °C

    Aside from the sunny warm weather and wonderful people, one of the nicest things about Argentina is how affordable everything is for tourists. Despite having elected a new president who promised to get the economy back on track, inflation continues to soar and the peso's value keeps dropping.

    The peso, as I write this, is trading at just under 800 to the Canadian dollar, which allows Brenda and me to partake in luxuries that we wouldn't back home.

    For my birthday, Brenda invited me to Sacro, a Michelin Guide restaurant that has great reviews, and serves an entirely plant based menu. The ambience and decor was incredible, service was impeccable and the food was art on a plate.

    The entire menu is designed to be shared, and for starters, we chose three dishes. First was the seasonal cheese plate that consisted of Camembert and Blue spirulina and was served with kimchi, a creamy dill and lime sauce, sweet crackers and pickles. Then came the activated charcoal empanada, a pitch black pastry stuffed with mushrooms, and served with harissa on the side. Last, but not least was the Avocado Masala, a breaded half avocado served on a pool of curried yogurt with grilled potato flatbread. Needless to say, all were scrumptious.

    Then we moved on to the main courses. By this time, we were already getting full, but we soldiered on. First up was a bowl of sweet potato ravioli bathed in soubise (an onion based bechamel), and topped with grilled oyster mushrooms and funghi caviar. Next up was a peruvian inspired dish: Lion's Mane mushroom steak anticuchero style (marinated in vinegar and spices then grilled) served with Huancaino potatoes ( boiled potatoes in a spicy, creamy sauce made of queso fresco and grilled yellow pepper, red onion and garlic.

    You'd think that was enough, but NOOOOO! I had to have dessert, so we split a lovely individual Avocado lime pie made with condensed coconut milk and accompanied by candied pistachios. Mmmmm...

    Rather than stick with one wine for all these diverse flavors, we went with four different wines by the glass.

    This was probably the best dining experience of my life. Everything was incredibly creative, flavorful and pretty much perfect. There may be a return trip there before we leave Argentina.

    I'd hate to think what a meal like that would have cost in Vancouver, but including tip, Brenda spent $117.00 CDN to celebrate with me!

    Only four days later, we went for lunch at another Michelin Guide restaurant, Chui. The atmosphere there is much more casual than Sacro as it's located in a semi-open-air converted warehouse with brick walls, an open-air garden section and an open kitchen. The menu reflects the setting, serving more common dishes like tacos, sandwiches and pizza, all plant-based, of course.

    We started with a plate of wonderful grilled sourdough toast and a mixed mushroom paté, which although delicious, was very poorly presented. The first thing that came to my mind was one of the many stepped-in piles of doggy-doo we see on sidewalks here in BA. Please folks, put it in a ramekin next time.

    Next was a trio of Birria style tacos, cauliflower, cabbage, anticuchera sauce and avocado. They were quite delicious, if a little on the salty side.
    Finally, we had pizza, cooked in a wood oven and topped with sweet potato, pickled oyster mushrooms, basil pesto and cashew. This too, I found to be overly salty, but otherwise enjoyable. The crust was fantastic. Brenda didn't care for the flavor combinations, and, IF we return, we wouldn't order it again.

    I had a couple of Stella Artois to wash it all down and the bill was $36.00 CDN including tip.

    And so, four days, two Michelin Guide restaurants, and who knows how many calories later, I believe I may start looking like the Michelin Man himself!
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