Sun, Aug 23, 2009
The entire city of Buenos Aires must have known it was my birthday because today was much better than the first two days. I’m almost certain that you can’t get on with your lives without knowing critical information such as my age … and if I remembered it, I would tell you. I think it’s between 26 and 28.
After a continental breakfast at the hotel, we took Subte A, the first subway line in South America, constructed almost 100 years ago. They still use the original wooden cars from back then too. Riding the subway car was like eating at a Claim Jumper for lunch without the deliciousness.
First stop was the Buenos Aires Zoo. We splurged and got the all access pass, which was only $5.50 American per person (the word “splurge” has different meaning down here). Most zoos limit your interaction with the animals (I guess they figure the animals might maul the guests). At the Buenos Aires Zoo, however, it’s a much more personal experience.
The violent animals are still relegated to cages, but oddly enough, you can feed them. There’s a wooden plank that enables you to slide food to animals such as bison and monkeys and gazelles, and you can even throw approved food into the wild cat cages.
If that isn’t a reminder of being in a third world country, this might suffice…
When we first walked in, we passed a lake filled with ducks and other water fowl. We saw a crowd of people hovering around an animal near the water’s edge and had to check it out. We got so excited when we saw the face of a beaver poking out of the water.
Jackie leaned over to get a closer look and the animal crawled up the rocky slope. Then we realized the beaver didn’t have a paddle for a tail.
Wait a second… that isn’t a beaver.
That looks like a freakin’ water rat! We had no clue what that thing was, but it had a rat’s tail and rat’s feet.
I honestly thought it was a massive sewer rat that made its way into zoo paradise. I mean, I had heard legends of people rescuing stray dogs only to find out they were giant rats. Like a chupucabra or something.
But we were later relieved to discover an exhibit featuring the water rats. They weren’t actually called water rats, but I forgot their scientific Spanish name. Anyway, the exhibit was empty. They must have all escaped. Somebody should notify the staff that they’re all walking aimlessly through the zoo.
As we walked through the zoo, Jackie kept saying, “I think these animals are either fake, dead or have lost the will to live.” She had a point. There were an inordinate amount of animals sleeping. We even saw zebras lying on the ground, and clearly we’re not zoological experts, but I thought zebras and other horses weren’t supposed to lie on the ground… unless they’re dead.
A few times, we waited around to see if we could see some breathing… an ear flinch… anything to let us know these creatures were still alive. Then, in the reptile exhibit, we saw a cage with a big lizard and two baby lizards crawling out of hatched eggs. They were fake. Hmm. Maybe the animals that weren’t moving WERE fake.
We arrived at the monkey exhibit shortly after some kind of altercation because one of the medium sized monkeys had this huge, deep gash on the side of its head that was dripping blood. I felt really bad so I tried throwing it some treats (that’s what I do when I feel bad for things), but the jerky, alpha male kept pushing the injured monkey out of the way and stealing the food.
Someone alerted a zoo staff member to the injured monkey and when he walked by the cage to check it out, the jerky, alpha male rushed the cage and stood up and puffed out his chest like he wanted a piece of the zoo worker. I can’t stress the word “jerky” enough. This dude had issues.
Another sight I didn’t have to see was a parental monkey checking out the hind quarters of a baby monkey. Baby monkey — cute. Ass inspection — not cute.
I felt a little weird petting a cow considering how much steak I had planned on eating in Argentina. So I fed the cow half a bucket of food from my hand. I still don’t think I’ve managed to clean off the sticky layer of saliva coating my hand like a slobbery glove.
The rest of the food went to some weird creature that was hybrid of a dog and a rabbit. It was lazy like a dog but skittish and fickle like a rabbit. It took some coaxing, but eventually some of the creatures came over and ate food out of our hands.
After the zoo we ate lunch at a popular restaurant in the fashionable Palermo district called Campo Bravo. Handsome, well-dressed people took up all the tables outside in a vain attempt to be seen, so we grabbed a table inside the empty restaurant. Argentine sausage, fried mozzarella, steak, risotto, flan and chocolate ice cream. All delicious. Again we had the same problem where we told our waitress we didn’t speak Spanish, yet she still insisted on speaking Spanish in a rushed fashion. We could only nod our heads and hope she got the order right. Thankfully she did.
Then we went to the Japanese Gardens. I’d like to get all cliché and say it was an oasis in the middle of a bustling city, but it wasn’t. The gardens were beautiful, but the persistent honking from the 5- and 8-lane streets bordering the gardens was noisy and distracting.
Crossing over the steep arched bridge in the middle of the garden was fun, but traversing the thin zigzag bridge hovering over the koi pond was a little frightening. Every time the wooden planks bent and squeaked, I feared plummeting into the water and squashing a koi fish. I hear they kill people who mess with koi fish in Japan. By making them go on a Japanese game show. A game show to hell.
I don’t know what it is about koi fish, but every time I see one, all I think about is Jello. They just look like gelatin molded into fish form. Maybe the Japanese eat every other fish except koi because they’re really just giant globs of fatty, gelatinous matter.
After the Japanese Gardens we walked down to the Evita Museum. I never saw the movie starring Madonna, so I didn’t know much about her. And after leaving the museum, I still don’t know much about her.
Each room is dedicated to a stage in her life, but the transitions between those stages were what interested us the most and they were surprisingly absent. One room briefly mentioned how she met her future husband (and future President) Juan Domingo Peron, then in the next room they’re already married and she’s suddenly first lady and has all this responsibility. The disjointed time line was harder to follow because some rooms didn’t feature English translations.
We took a break and met two nice ladies who were also visiting from the states. It was relieving to have a full conversation with someone in English. Up until this point, we’ve felt like we were the only tourists in the city. It seemed like I was the only person taking pictures for the first two days. But today was a relieving reminder that there are in fact other visitors in the city.
After a brief break back at the hotel we went to a popular restaurant for dinner called La Cabrera. This place had awesome reviews online and it was ranked #1 on Tripadvisor, so we had to check it out.
It lived up to its lofty reputation.
The restaurant was more English-friendly than other establishments, but our waiter happened to the one who didn’t speak much English. However, he was really kind and helpful; he spoke slowly and used a lot of gestures so we were able to get the gist of what he was saying. He was a really attentive, friendly guy. If I could adopt nice old men as my grandpa, he would be tops on my list.
Jackie told him it was my birthday (in Spanish) and he brought me a chocolate lava cake with a sparkling candle. At least, I think it was a sparkling candle. It looked more like a small rocket crashed landed in my dessert.
Yesterday I said we’d be going to the Buenos Aires pub crawl tonight. And we really wanted to. But La Cabrera had this awesome deal where you buy a bottle of wine and you get another free bottle to take home with you. After a bottle of red wine, a couple glasses of complimentary champagne and a hefty meal, we really weren’t in the mood to drink any more, so we abandoned the idea. It seemed like a lot of fun, but for some reason the effects of wine kick in fast and I was moderately tipsy leaving the restaurant. I don’t think we could handle more alcohol. Come on, I’m 27 now! I’m becoming a lightweight. Damn, I just revealed my true age. You read nothing!
Some quick notes before I hit the sack:
–Today’s stray dog count: 3, including one lying on the ground next to the entrance to the zoo.
–We saw three McDonald’s restaurants on one block today. THREE. Really? Is that necessary? Have you ever walked by a McDonald’s, regretted not getting anything, then walked like 20 feet up the street and thought, “You know, I was too lazy to turn back, but thank goodness I have another chance to get a burger”?
–You’re familiar with the painted lane lines on the road, right? Well, down here, those are just a suggestion. The highways in Buenos Aires are huge and they’re clearly marked by 7 or 8 lanes. But the cab drivers are like rebellious kids who refuse to stay in the lines. They literally drive ON the line in an effort to find the fastest lane. And they don’t use turn signals. Car companies can save serious dough by not including turn signals on their cars in the future. They’re useless. Unlike the main streets, the side streets are only supposed to be one lane, but somehow the cab drivers manage to turn them into 2 or even 3 lanes. Surprisingly, we’ve only seen one accident occur so far.
–Our hotel room has a bidet. I’ve never used a bidet before. Without getting too graphic, I had a substantial download today. And an entire roll of toilet paper wasn’t adequate. So I went with the bidet. At first I turned it on too high and the water shot me in the face. Finally I got down to an adequate level, but it was freezing. So I turned down the cold real low and I put the hot real high. Two minutes later, it’s barely lukewarm. So I blast the heat and give it another minute. Again, it doesn’t feel that hot, but it’s a little warmer than last time. Well, somehow, in the time it took to get off the toilet and onto the bidet, the water temperature skyrocketed — without my knowledge — and I sat on a scalding stream of water that most certainly singed my butt hair and probably caused some significant internal damage. I’m sorry, I said I wouldn’t get graphic, but you really have to understand my pain. The pulsating fury of burning pain on my rear end has subsided, but I’m too afraid to inspect the damage. Now I know what it feels like to be seared. Speaking of searing, I can’t wait for another steak tomorrow!