Our South American Adventures

Well hello there and Happy Holidays to everyone!

First of all, thanks so much for all of your wonderful comments and feedback on my last post.  I was genuinely worried about getting some hate thrown my way because a portion of the post was somewhat political in nature, and everyone is so very passionate about the tumultuous state of our present world.  However, what really surprised me and caught me off guard was that despite the fact that although we do have some fundamental ideological differences of opinion, we all universally want what’s best for our children…or currently in-the-womb-children…or little bitty tadpole spermies that one day might get lucky and be the Michael Phelps of the bunch and become our children.  I’ll change it up a bit in the future and write more serious pieces like last week’s post.  But for now, back to the mindless drivel!

Secondly, I decided I would use this post to recap our amazing trip to South America and tell you about the adventures we had along the way!  Additionally, I’ll let you know how nugget and I held up through all that travel, and how we managed food, drink and exercise along the way.

Our basic itinerary was as follows:

November 20-21: Fly LAX to Buenos Aires, Argentina (about 20 total hours of travel)

November 21-24: 3 nights in Buenos Aires, Argentina

November 24: Take the ferry from Buenos Aires to Montevideo, Uruguay (about 2.5 hours)

November 24-27: 3 nights in Montevideo, Uruguay

November 27: Fly Montevideo to Santiago, Chile (2.5 hours)

November 27-30: 3 nights in Santiago, Chile

November 30: Fly Santiago, Chile to LAX (about 19 total hours of travel)

Buenos Aires, Argentina

What an incredible, lively, and eclectic city!  You can see a LOT of the European influence (Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and even a little British) in the architecture, food, drink, customs, and fashion.  We arrived in BA around 7:30PM the night of the 21st, and by the time we went through customs, got our luggage, were transported to our hotel (which we LOVED by the way!), freshened up and headed out, it was almost 11PM!  Good thing in BA, the evenings don’t start till 11PM.  Seriously, we found a nice restaurant/nightlife district within walking distance of our hotel and every place was packed!

BA First Night

After a yummy dinner, we were both pretty beat, so we walked back to the hotel and went straight to bed.

The next day, we were on our own to walk around and explore the city.  The cool thing about that day was that is was Argentina’s presidential election day, which, like ours, occurs once every 4 years.  We spoke with some of the locals and learned from them that despite the fact that we were in a different country (albeit also a democracy), the citizens still get pretty fired up about the same issues as we do.  We walked around a LOT and used the subway system to visit various historical sites, had some amazing pizza and helado (ice cream) and did some shopping.

BA Panoramic

Panoramic of Avenue 9 de Julio and it’s famous obelisk at the center.

BA Empty Streets

Because of the presidential elections, the normally jam-packed streets were nearly completely devoid of any traffic (cars or people) whatsoever.

BA Graffiti.JPG

Fun fact: Graffiti is technically illegal in Buenos Aires, but it is still very prevalent and, for the most part, overlooked by the authorities in order to preserve the artistic freedom enjoyed by the city residents.  There is absolutely gorgeous (and some not so gorgeous) graffiti literally covering the city…walls, buildings, businesses, homes.

That night, we had a traditional Argentinian dinner of empanadas, carne and vino (agua for me!) and then we saw an Argentinian Tango Show!  OK, it’s pretty touristy, but this is definitely a must-see if you are ever in Argentina!  The men and women on stage put Dancing with the Stars to shame with their talent.  The music, the singing, the dancing…it was all breathtaking.  We saw the show at El Viejo Almacen, but there are a few other well-known shows held throughout BA.

BA Tango

We clean up nice.

The next day we had a formal historical tour of the city with our own private, English-speaking tour guide.  We visited The Metropolitan Cathedral, the famous cemetary at Recoleta (where Evita is buried), The Government House, and La Boca, a colorful and artistic neighborhood.

BA Lucky Dog.JPG

This cemetary in Recoleta is so well-known because the tombs are so large, ornate and beautiful.  Legend has it on this particular grave site, it’s good luck to pet the pup’s nose.  So why not?  When in Rome…

BA Evita

The front of Eva Peron’s grave.  Remember Evita…Don’t Cry for Me Argentina…Madonna…ring a bell?  Yea…her.  She’s pretty famous here.

BA Presidential Palace.JPG

In front of the Presidential Palace – on Election Day!  Pretty cool, huh?

BA La Boca

The colorful buildings in La Boca, an artsy type of neighborhood (in case you weren’t getting that vibe from the pic).

After our tour, we explored the city a bit more on our own and did some shopping.  We had an early dinner that night (and when I say early, I mean Buenos Aires early…so 9:30ish) and went to bed early because we had a 6:30AM pickup for our ferry ride to Montevideo, Uruguay the next morning.

Overall thoughts on Argentina: Loved it loved it loved it!  We will definitely be coming back here in the future with Nugget.  I feel like there was so much to see and do, all these little nooks and crannies to the city (like a NYC!) and we just didn’t have enough time to fit it all in.  The people were incredibly friendly, the architecture was beautiful, the fashion was ridiculous, and the art scene was unparalleled.  Transportation was a breeze – we were able to take the subway and walk everywhere (or cab it if we really got stuck) and for the most part the city is safe.  Just don’t be a stupid tourist and wear your $1000 SLR camera around your neck.  We would 100% recommend our hotel, and the area we stayed in.  It totally reminded me of the Meatpacking District in NYC with it’s narrow, tree-lined streets and fun little shops and restaurants.

A few travel tips for this magical city: 1) Go in knowing at least a little bit of Spanish.  Yes, many people here speak English, but many don’t.  Neither Danon nor I are fluent, but we each know a bit, and Spanglish worked just fine. 2) Bring cash.  And by cash I mean actual paper US dollars.  The exchange rate is by far the best this way – the US dollar is extremely valuable here – way better than credit or bank cards.  Oh yea and ATMs that will actually take your bank card here are few and far between.  3) The coffee sucks here.  Actually the coffee sucks in every city we visited. All the good coffee is in Northern South America and Central America.  The coffee in Southern South America has the taste and consistency of motor oil…so you think “OK it tastes like shit but at least I’m gonna get a good buzz”…but NO!  It’s a LIE!  There is no caffeine in this coffee!  When we finally found a Starbucks in Santiago we acted like a couple of cracked out kids on Christmas who just got a new puppy.  4) Not all Argentinian food is created equal and despite all the fuss, not all the carne is good carne.  Utilize TripAdvisor when picking restaurants.  Just trust me here.

Montevideo, Uruguay

We took a 2.5 hour ferry ride from BA to Montevideo for the next leg of our adventure.  We were picked up at the ferry dock in The Port of Montevideo and taken to our hotel, which was right around the corner from the ports.  The hotel itself was just so-so.  The location kinda sucked – although it was right on the water, we had to walk through a few blocks of a rough neighborhood to get to the nicer parts of the downtown area.  And the rooms and facilities were just meh.  Adequate…but meh.

For our first day in Montevideo, we had a half day city tour.  We visited Constitution Square, a couple parks, some statues…are you getting the vibe that there isn’t much to do in Montevideo?…because there really isn’t much to do in Montevideo.  The city tour was pretty short, but here are a few pics.

MV Independence Square

In front of some really cool building in Independence Square.   Sorry, I forget which one this is.

MV Sign.JPG

Danon makes a pretty great “i”.

The next day we boarded a bus for a 2 hour ride to Punta del Este, a coastal town, with a few stops along the way, including a stop  at Museo – Taller de Casapueblo, where we took these amazing pics:

MV Jesus over Ocean

MV Bumpin

The views here were absolutely breathtaking.

Punta del Este was absolutely gorgeous, but it was sooooo windy when we got there (and I had been served some extremely questionable sausage at lunch) that we didn’t take many pics.  We were basically running from one indoor location to another to try and get out of the wind.

The next day we had an excursion to Colonia del Sacramento, one of the oldest towns in Uruguay renowned for its historic quarter.  The buildings were a combination of Portuguese and Spanish architecture, and all of the streets are cobblestone.

MV Colonia Danon

Danon doing the artsy/casual lean against the old colorful building.  Me apparently unable to hold a camera straight.

  MV Lighthouse

Danon made the climb all the way to the top of this lighthouse.  I, in my giant whale-like state, tapped out at the halfway point.

MV Cobblestone.JPG

Just thought this one was a pretty cool pic.

I was pretty exhausted by the time we were dropped back off at our hotel, so we just grabbed a bite to eat and went to bed early since we had an early flight to Santiago, Chile the next day.

Overall thoughts on Montevideo: To be honest, I could have done with 1-2 days here and more days in Santiago and Buenos Aires.  There just wasn’t a lot to do here without driving 2-3 hours out of the city.  And they do have a gorgeous coastline with some beaches, but it was just a little to cold there to do a beach day.

Travel tips for Montevideo:  1) A few the same as BA: go in knowing some Spanish, bring US dollars, the coffee is terrible, and use TripAdvisor to find restaurants.  2) If we could have done it differently, we would have taken 2 days in Uruguay, but skipped the day in Montevideo, and gone straight to either Punta del Este or Colonia and just stayed in a hotel there. 3) Pot is totally legal here so blaze up kids!  Unless you’re knocked up.

Santiago, Chile

And finally, I bring you to the last leg of our South American Adventures, to Santiago, Chile.  We had a 2.5 hour flight from Montevideo to Santiago, and from the airport, we were transported to our incredible hotel in the center of this bustling city.

Danon and I spent our first day here exploring the area around our hotel, walking around, and taking in the sights.  Our first impression of Santiago was that the city was so much like New York City in that it was so alive! The buildings were tall, and the streets were narrow and lined with vendors, shops, restaurants, and tons of people.  There were dozens of cool alleyways to weave in and out of, and then all of a sudden these alleys would open up into a large square with a park surrounded by large government buildings, cathedrals, or museums.

And when we looked out of the window of our hotel room, we were met with an incredible view of the snow-capped Andes mountains and glaciers.

SA Cool building

SA Bumpin.jpg

SA Danon Solo.jpg

The next day, we had a formal, guided half-day city tour.  Because Danon and I had been out and about the day prior, we had already seen a lot of the sights that our tour guide was showing us; however, the highlight of the tour was when our guide took us to a neighborhood known for having the best views of Santiago.

SA View.JPG

Afterwards, we had our tour bus drop us off in another part of Santiago called “Manhattan” because…you guessed it…of its resemblance to Manhattan, in terms of the abundance of skyscrapers dotting the skyline.  After being dropped off, we took an elevator to the top of the Costanera Center, which is the tallest building in South America at 64 stories high.

SA Costanera View.jpg

Danon took this panoramic from the top of the Costanera Center.  Not the greatest quality, but you get the gist.  Check out the Andes Mountains in the background!

The next day (our last full day in South America) we hopped on a tour bus and headed off to Valaparaiso, Chile.  Valaparaiso has a pretty impressive landscape – it was a booming seaport pre-Panama Canal days, then fell into a bit of an economic funk, and has seen a rebirth over the past 10-15 or so years due to an influx of an enthusiastic artistic community, thus transforming the city into this crazy, hilly, colorful, bohemian landscape.

VA Colorful Buildings.JPG

VA Colorful Buildings 2

Looks just like Irvine, huh SoCal people?

VA Street art.JPG

VA Street art 2

The street art here was absolutely insane.  Just gorgeous.  Sides of entire buildings were covered with these incredible murals, and this was the norm all over the city.  We really needed a few days to just walk the streets of Valaparaiso and check out the graffiti.

After our tour of Valaparaiso, the bus took us back to our hotel and Danon and I headed out for our final night in Santiago, Chile and in South America.  We had an incredible dinner, saw some street performers, bough some souvenirs, and called it a night.

Overall thoughts on Santiago, Chile: As with Buenos Aires, Danon and I both absolutely loved this city, wanted to spend more time here, and will absolutely be visiting with Nugget in the future.  We felt like there was so much left to see and do not only in Santiago, but we were kind of bummed we didn’t have the time or the means to include Patagonia on this trip.  Our hotel was perfect in terms of location and amenities, and the city was extremely safe.

Travel tips if you ever have the opportunity to visit this amazing city: 1) Unlike BA and Montevideo, we were able to get by with credit cards here, as the exchange rate was about 1 USD to 700 Chilean pesos, and they had more banks with ATMs that took our bank cards.  2) Most of the cabs here will totally rip you off here and take you for a ride, and being tourists with not only a limited knowledge of the city but also a limited knowledge of Spanish, they basically had us by the short hairs.  The only consolation was that the cab rides were soooo cheap to begin with – so when your cab ride that should have been $4 turned into a $9 ride because your driver took you via the extremely scenic route, you weren’t super pissed. 3) As with BA and Montevideo, use TripAdvisor to find the good restaurants and by all means splurge!  Remember that exchange rate I mentioned earlier? A $$$$ rating in Orange County, CA is not equivalent to a $$$$ rating  in Santiago, Chile.

So how did you do traveling with the nugget on the way?

Honestly, it wasn’t too bad.  I was at 24/25 weeks along on the trip.  There were definitely some uncomfortable moments, but nothing catastrophic.  Overall, the vibe of the trip was obviously a lot different than previous trips that Danon and I have taken – clearly the booze, late nights and debauchery that normally accompanies our excursions were all conspicuously absent during this trip.  And I felt badly at times because there were some moments when I would just need to stop and rest, or where I would just have a narcoleptic moment and fall asleep on a tour bus.  But it happens I guess.

The flying wasn’t terrible.  I was not uncomfortable at all during any of the flights, but I made a mistake and forgot to put on my compression socks during the flight from LAX to Buenos Aires (2 hour stopover in Lima, Peru).  And holy cankles, did I pay for that omission!  The second day we were in Argentina my ankles swelled up to the point they looked like squishy tree trunks, but I wore my compression socks all night that night and we were back to (kinda) normal the next day.  I had to deal with some additional swelling throughout the trip but it was nothing a soak in the bath tub and the compression socks couldn’t mitigate.

I didn’t have any major tummy issues with food or beverage while I was there, which was a nice relief.

I only worked out a couple times while I was there.  We were so busy sightseeing, eating and exploring that it was hard to fit in a workout.  But I managed a few miles on the ‘mill and some light resistance training at our hotel gyms, just to keep all the pieces in the right places.

Also, something really cool about South America is that pregnancy is treated as a disability…so what does that mean?  Preferred access everywhere baby!  This means moving to the front of the line at customs at the airport, and also to board planes (and ferries).  People gave up their seats for me on public transportation (by law they have to), and everyone wants to touch your belly (which is more socially acceptable there than it is here…luckily it really doesn’t bother me regardless).

So there you have it!  I hope you enjoyed the recap – there are more pics on Danon’s facebook page if you would like to check them out.  And I hope every one of you has a wonderful holiday season!  Danon and I are peacing out to Buffalo for a few days, so I’ll return after the holidays with more running, fitness and nugget updates as we near the home stretch!

Frosty.jpg

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