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Friday, December 28, 2012

El Burladero

Two of our favorite restaurants, Fervor and Sottovoce, are owned by the same company.  One of Jon's coworkers told him about a new concept to the same company, El Burladero, and we went to try it out 2 days later.

El Burladero (Uriburu 1488, between Peña & French, 4806-9247) is the newest theme for this restaurant group, and though it just opened in August of this year, it has received overwhelmingly great reviews in every outlet I have found.

We just barely got a reservation for the night we wanted to come in, the only time slot they had available was 10:30pm, and it was completely packed when we arrived AND when we left.

The restaurant is simply decorated, lots of framed pictures and Spanish artifacts lining the walls.  There are large chalkboards advertising signature dishes and a few seats at the bar for folks - like us - who need to wait until their table is ready.  As as perk of waiting, they offer you the choice between a glass of champagne or a small draft beer - the beer is nothing special but it is rare to find anything on draft in the city.

Once we were at a table, we were offered the same great selection of bread they have at Sottovoce and Fervor, and they have an appetizer list filled with tapas and seafood.

Each main course dish is large enough to share, though we decided to go against the waiter's suggestion and order three dishes for our group of 4 people.  As a result, we had enough food for 8 people, and the waiter gave us an "I told you so" look that was virtually caught on film.  This was him dishing out our paella, the smaller portion which was more than sufficient for 4 people.  There are a few different types of paella to choose from, we chose the seafood option, though there are at least 3 other varieties.

Many of the dishes can be ordered a la carte, you can choose the protein (fish, chicken, beef, seafood...) the side and the way you want it to be prepared.  We chose the fish of the day, served with grilled vegetables "Spanish style"and a chicken dish served with rice and a saffron sauce.

 All of the entrees were tasty, fresh and quite different from anywhere else we've eaten in the city.  The chicken dish was a little low on meat, but considering the amount of extra food we had, I'm not complaining.  This is a great addition to our eating out repertoire, we are happy campers!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cordoba, Dove Capital of the World

It has been recommended to us to visit Cordoba, a city in the middle of northern Argentina, because it's a beautiful place that has mountains, a bit of city life and is a nice reprieve from Buenos Aires.  We have considered going for some time, but only made the plunge when our travel buddies expressed an interest to go dove hunting.  We figured, the guys can go hunting for birds, the girls can hang out at the pool and enjoy some fresh air, what more is there to want in a weekend?  

So, we visited Sierra Brava this past weekend for a guys weekend of hunting, and a girls weekend of hanging out.  Sierra Brava is approximately 1 hour 15 minutes north of the airport in Cordoba, so if you are looking for a place to stay while visiting Cordoba, this is probably not the right place for you.  If you are interested in hunting birds, enjoying great food and relaxing for a weekend, Sierra Brava is just the spot.  

The website is deceiving, the lodge appears to be where a bunch of middle aged men go to hang out away from their families.  Perhaps this is some of their cliental, but we felt quite at home at the lodge with our almost 2-year old girls, and two wives who have no interest in hunting.  When we arrived to the lodge and they immediately offered us the two empty rooms for the girls to sleep in, we knew we were in for a nice weekend.  Literally, NO other location we've visited has offered to let us put our cribs in an unrented room they have - this was a sheer bonus - they sleep so much better in a room of their own!  

We were greeted at the entrance of the lodge with a line up of staff that made us feel like we were 20th century English royalty, and the service was impeccable from that moment on.  They noticed we were going to the pool - there were towels, robes, slippers and a cooler of drinks set out for us within minutes, the guys went out hunting in the heat - they had cold cloths to wash up with and the opportunity to schedule a post-hunt massage, the girls were bored with the pool - there were 1 month old kittens, cows, dogs and geese to keep them busy.  It was a wonderland of nature and the staff made sure that no one was uncared for.

We spent lots of girl time at the pool, even if it was a little chilly for the mamas, Talia and Gretchen had no issue with the temperature.

Talia is fearless in the water.  This little one is not even 2 years old and she can jump on in, then swim to the stairs on her own.  She is a great match for Gretchen, who is a little more apprehensive - but loves to throw items in the pool for Talia to retrieve.
Little Fish!
Gretchen was much more interested in watering the plants.  Then watering the lawn chairs.  Then watering all of the shoes, feet, hands and legs of all of the adults.  She was having a blast with that little watering can!

There's something else I should put water on...
For these city-dwelling little girls, being up close and personal with nature is a novelty.  Gretchen loves "meow, meows" when they are in pictures or on Skype...she was a little more nervous about them in person.  Even if they were teeny tiny.

She did, however, include the Meow, Meows in her nightly "good night" ritual.  "Night, night Daddy, Night, night Mommy, Night, night Meow Meows..." They won a special place in her heart. 

It was a great place for these little ones to run around and play in the grass.  A bit different from last year's December trip when they wanted nothing to do with grass...
December 2012
December 2011

For those interested in Sierra Brava's original intent, the dove hunting is the best in the world.  The world record holder for doves hunted in a day (12,115) set this record while staying at this lodge.  This was Jon's first time hunting anything and he shot just short of 250 birds.  In comparison, Jeff said that his last time dove hunting he was out for multiple hours, took 4 shots and hit zero birds - this time Jeff hit over 600.  I'm not a huge hunting-activist or anything, but seeing how over populated the birds are in this region (not unlike the deer population in Virginia), I have no problem with the activity.

 The one full day that we were at Sierra Brava, Saturday, the guys hunted in the morning and then a bus brought us out to meet them for lunch in the field.  The chef, Nacho, can do some amazing things with a grill and the lunch was outstanding.

 Something tells me that this is not the kind of comfort that hunters always enjoy.  They even had a bathroom set up for us:

And I've never heard my family members mentioning their little ones watching Minnie videos on the iPad while eating lunch....

 It was a great weekend, with lots of time spent together and a little bit of something for everyone.  Thank you Sierra Brava!!

Friday, December 7, 2012

When it Rains, It Pours

A cute saying that explains that when bad things happen, they tend to happen all at once.  Alternatively, it means that when it rains outside, the sky opens up and an ungodly amount of water falls to the earth all at the same time.  We have experienced the latter more times that we can count during the 3 years that we've been in Argentina.

Some sort of mixture of the incredible storms that happen in South America, and the horribly poor drainage infrastructure that BsAs has as a city, creates these Noah's Ark-style floods more often than I'm comfortable with in the summer. You know it's bad when people describe the flooding as, "Remember that time the city flooded really bad.  No, not that one, this was sometime in November.  No, not that one, this was on a Tuesday.  Oh yeah!  That flood was really bad, but not the one I was thinking of....", so yeah, the city floods here kind of frequently.

Yesterday was no exception, it rained all.day.long.  We had plans to have friends over in the afternoon to help release some little-people energy, but the rain was to heavy to even walk out the door.

This was the street in front of our apartment around 4:00pm in the afternoon.  This is also one of the main roads in Buenos Aires, and you can barely tell, but in the far side of the street there is a 2-lane access road that was completely covered with water.

Ironically, if you have to be outside in this kind of rain, the best place to be is on a bus, they are taller, more stable, and can generally cut through the standing water.  The downside is that you have to wait for the bus like these poor saps:

And though it is a nice city, the streets are infamous for being filthy.  I know I don't want to be knee deep in that street-soup.

Is that umbrella really helping??

As for us, we staying indoors and enjoyed some of Gretchen's favorite activities, like reading this book called "Words".  She loves it.  She climbed into this chair to read it on her own, then looked at me and said "Mama, no mas!" - she was tired of me taking pictures of the flood.

 Combining two of her favorite things, socks and "putting things in things", we spent time filling her rain boots with pairs of socks.

We did not take the open top bus tour of the city.  Apparently, no one did:

However, we did fill this cabinet with books:

She was a very busy girl...

No book was spared...

I love the tip-toes in this one, she was attempting to get a whole set of books in a the same time.  Notice the completely empty book shelf next to her, she was a dedicated little worker.

Spending time inside with my girl is a highlight for me.  She's fun, she's playful, she has creative ideas on what to do - and the rain is a good reminder that you don't have to be busy all the time. Filling boots and cabinets with items is a great way to spend the afternoon!

It sure beats being this lady:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Easter Island: The Sights, Part 2

Gretchen is very serious about the Moai
To round out our trip to Easter Island, I'll cover the rest of the sights that we visited over the course of the week.

We had a day or two of cooler weather with clouds so we stayed close to the hotel - but never fear, there were resurrected Moai to be seen within walking distance of the Hanga Roa Hotel.  These statues seemed to be in worse shape than some of the other that have been restored.  The sea was a bit more aggressive on this part of the island, maybe they have been through a tsunami?  Maybe caught in tribal warfare?  No one in our group knew...
They certainly make for a great photo opportunity.  It was amazing to watch the girls running around on the grass in front of the statues - they had no concept of how remote/sacred/unique this place was to visit.  It was just another fun place to roam for them - and I guess, in a way, it's the same for the adults...

There was also a vibrant, well cared-for cemetery between our hotel and the Moai platform.  It was quiet when we passed by the first time, but we returned again a few days later and the place was buzzing with people.  There were very few faux flowers, all of the pretty plants were real and growing in the cemetery.

Having additional days to spend on this type of vacation allowed us to kick back and spend time just watching the waves and being with friends.  Sometimes the best way to spend a day is to share a strawberry with your best friend.

The island is a prime place for fishing as well, so one morning, Daddy and Uncle Jeff went off, risking their lives with the local fishermen.  They spent the morning fishing with nothing but a hook, a piece of raw chicken, a fishing line and a rock and were more successful than they thought possible.  

We spent the morning with Play-Doh, which (to my delight) was also more successful than the Moms thought was possible.  Play-Doh kept these two busy for a solid 30 minutes - it was nothing short of a miracle!

The second day that we decided to rent a car, we drove to the other big tourist draw on the island, the Rano Kau volcano. This volcano is thought to be the first, originating, volcano of the island.  Basically, this is where it all began.  There are 3 volcanos in total that make up the island, but Rano Kau is widely regarded as the most beautiful.
Now that the volcano is extinct, it serves as the largest location of fresh water on the island.  This is also the most important part of the island to one of the more recent civilizations, the Birdman Cult.  The Birdman Cult people took over after the statue-building civilization, though the exact timeframe is unclear (somewhere around the 1550s).  The name of this civilization is based off of the way in which the people chose their leaders - previously through a heredity system - which was now done through a yearly competition.  Each year, boys of a certain age competed to collect the first egg laid by a certain species of migratory bird, the sooty tern.  The sooty tern arrived once a year to breed on a small island off the coast of where the Rano Kau volcano is located.  The competitors scaled the far side of the volcano, down 340 meters, into the ocean where they swam across shark infested waters to arrive on a very small islet and awaited the birds to begin laying eggs.  The first to arrive back on the island with an egg was the new "royalty" of the civilization.

Luckily, we didn't need to do all that, we're all friends here:

We also visited one of the many cave sites on the island - Las Dos Ventanas.  It was very cool, and very dark, and a bit scary (both the ride and trying to navigate the cave in the pitch black).  The only lights we had were a cell phone, and the flash of my camera. It is named "The Two Windows" based on the 2-way view you have of the ocean from the inside of the cave.

One Ventana
Dos Ventanas
We had lots to eat at our hotel, but we ventured to the Haka Honu restaurant twice on our trip, and both meals were incredible.  The drinks were fresh (they had fresh fruit juices like papaya, mango, strawberry, etc for the girls) and the seafood was to die for.  This was the best ceviche we had on the trip, and possibly the best seafood I have had ever.

And then, even though it was cloudy at the hotel, we ventured to the beach once again on the other side of the island.  We were in luck!  The beach was beautiful, clear and sunny!
Daddy and Gretchen enjoying the waves
A little cool, but too pretty not to get in!

Gretchen and Talia's baby pool
And some Moai to watch over us at the beach...
What an amazing trip.  One of the places that we will almost certainly never visit again - but recommend to anyone that is interested in history, mysterious cultures, remote locations or beautiful beaches.  We are so lucky to be able to travel to these fantastic locations - Easter Island was pure joy.