And so the adventure begins!
Wow! That about sums up everything of the last month and especially the last few days! In fact, wow is a gross understatement. It’s been quite the whirlwind, beyond any normal volcano/tornado I have had before leaving on any other trip. I guess I could call it a supervolcano! I knew it would be crazy before leaving on this trip, as I am sure many of you could imagine. I just didn’t think it would be as crazy as it was. In the end, we didn’t get everything done. We still have to make copies of our passports and identifications for example, and a few other odds and ends type stuff. And I left my poor roomate and dear friend with much to clean up in the apartment (sorry Jo). It wasn’t all work though. My roomate had a great surprise, farewell party for me at a really cool Russian bar where so many of my friends had gathered. And the day before I left, I got to spend a few more short but fun hours with my beautiful niece and nephew. Saying goodbyes was very difficult and sad but it was so beautiful to see receive all the support and love from friends and family.
So the lists are behind us now. The hourglass sand has run out. And here I am sitting on a terrace of a mansion, staring at palm trees and flowers in beautiful Tigre, Argentina. Our flight was amazing. We flew TAM airlines, who knew how awesome they were?! Comfortable seats (that’s right people, in economy no less!) that reclined back for miles, TV’s stocked with good movies (the wizard of oz and Casablanca!!), full length mirrors in the bathrooms, warm towels for your hands and lots of free booze. What could be better?! We arrived to Buenos Aires airport at 1:35 am, after a 2 hours stopover in Brazil and about 17 hours of total travel time. I was a complete zombie. As predicted, we slept in the airport. I could have slept on the street standing up.
During our stopover in Brazil, we got to try our first food of South America. Before leaving on our trip, I sold my car to a kind Brazilian man who gave us many tips for our travels when we will be in Brazil. When we told him we were interested in food he became excited and told us about a very popular (and delicious) snack in Brazil called Pão-de-queijo. It’s essentially a small, baked cheese puff. Cheesy goodness, might I add. If any of you are familiar with french cooking, it’s similar to the gougères but more sticky than airy. This is because it is made with a special flour, cassava flour made from the cassava root. It is very different from the all pupose flour we use. When he came to pick up the car, he brought me some of the cassava flour that is essential to make this snack. I planned to make it before we left but time sadly ticked right out on us.
We arrived to Sao Paulo airport in Brazil for our layover very weary and groggy. Also slightly hungry and thirsty. We weaved among the bright concession stands looking for something palatable. And there it was! A picture of pao de queijo alongside a cup of espresso at an otherwise plain looking cafeteria. So with our terrible Portugese accent, we stumbled through and ordered one. I remember the guy telling me that the ones in the airport are quite good. I questioned him slightly in my mind because if you have ever been to any airports in the USA, almost all the food is very terrible. So here it was in my hand, a little unassuming ball, quite light in color and warm. I bit down and was instantly greeted with warm, cheesy comfort. The dough is slightly sticky but in a completely delicious way. The cassava flour combined with the cheese, gives it an intense cheese flavor that made my insides smile. I cannot wait to try other ones when we will be in Brazil. You can find the recipe here. And getting cassava flour is not as hard as you could imagine if you live near any latin american groceries.
The second part of the flight that brought us to Buenos Aires was a blur. I was a little nervous getting through customs because we did not have a return ticket. But the customs guy was so friendly, he thought Laurent looked like Nicolas Cage! He only asked us how long we stayed (we told him around 90 days) and he asked where we were staying to which we had no clue and Laurent made something up on the spot. The guy didn’t even question it. They were happy to accept my $160 US dollars for a visa. Well, at least I won’t have to pay for another 10 years.
Now we looked like real gringos with our backpacks and after a weird sleep in the airport, we took a bus to Buenos Aires at around 7 am. It takes about 4o minutes to get downtown from the airport and a great company to take is Manuel Tienda León. We were greeted at the bus station by our couchsurfer who will host us this upcoming week. It was great to see a friendly face and he greeted us warmly and gave us some good tips. He also brought us breakfast, some things from a local bakery and some alfajores (a delicious cookie). One of the things from the bakery was a fried dough ball filled with dulce de leche. I have to find out the proper name for this and so I will report back. It was heavenly. You find dulce de leche everywhere here. We had ice cream last night and there was about 10 flavors just devoted to variations on this! If you don’t know, dulce de leche is kind of like caramel but so much more!! It’s like caramel to the 10th power. Yum.
From Buenos Aires we took the train to Tigre, which is about 17 miles north of the city. And we will stay here just relaxing and enjoying the views from the river until Saturday when we’ll return to Buenos Aires. It’s a good beginning.