Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Antarctica Journal 3.4.09

Buenos Aires and the Antarctica Marathon Reception!

After talking late into the night (Heather made the innocent mistake of asking me about chocolate), it was a shock when the alarm went off. We reset it for another half hour of sleep, then I dragged myself out of bed and got ready for the day. Breakfast was a buffet in the hotel with tables for 8 scattered around the room. Inevitably, the conversation centered on marathons – when, where, how bad, how good, etc.

The city tour started at 9:30, but it was pouring rain, so we only got out of the bus at two stops: the Metropolitan Cathedral and Caminito Street in La Boca, where the tango dancers danced and took pictures with us for donations. The guide was good, though, and told us some interesting tidbits about BA and its people.*

Back at the hotel, I cashed in the free gift coupon the guide gave us to use at H. Stern for a nice silver pendant and learned about the Inca Rose (rodocrosita), the national stone of Argentina. The clerk told me that the stone is only found in Argentina, but my own research doesn’t bear that out.

I called Daniel and we arranged to meet at 3, so I went to a local café for lunch on the recommendation of a fellow marathoner and ordered the lomo, which is, supposedly, a specialty cut in BA. The food came and I realized that I hadn’t told the waiter that I wanted it well-done. I was afraid to send it back, though, so I asked for some lemon. The fries were delicious and Spanish-style and I doused them with lemon, too. After lunch, I wandered around Plaza San Martin and took pictures of the Buddy Bear exhibit, General San Martin’s monument and the amazing ombu tree in the center of the park.

Daniel picked me up at 3 and we retraced part of the morning’s tour, giving me a chance to see it without the rain and also giving more information about various points of interest that hadn’t been mentioned on the tour. We also stopped at a couple of chocolate shops. Vasalissa was a beautiful shop, but the truffle we had was old. El Viejo Oso wasn’t as impressive to look at, but the chocolates were much better, although the alcohol truffles were very strong. We stopped for ice-cream (for me) at a Freddo shop, too. It was very good, but the dulce de leche was a bit much after a couple of bites.

On the way back to the hotel, Daniel stopped at the Barbie store for me, but they didn’t have anything that said Buenos Aires, so I just took pictures. By then, I was late for the marathon reception, so we hurried back, with plans for me to meet him at 1 the next day.

At the hotel, the reception was in full swing, so I went in and picked up my bib. I talked to some people here and there as I made my way over to the race memorabilia table, where I succumbed and bought a t-shirt and 2 patches (1 for me and 1 for ShakeAway). I went back up to the room to drop off my stuff and when I got back, the dining room doors had been opened. Heather had saved a seat for me and we all traded names and info. Lisa started a round of “what was your scariest moment” (mine was the moment I was talking on the phone in college and saw that my doorknob was slowly turning back and forth as some man tried to get in) which was an interesting conversation starter. Dinner started with chicken Caesar salad (real anchovies in the dressing) and the main course was salmon with some sort of mashed vegetables. As dessert was being served, Thom gave his presentation, explaining all of the difficulties he’d encountered setting up this year’s race, breaking down the race day logistics and a slide show of photos from previous year’s races (including a trilogy which culminated in a seal eating a penguin). Dessert was a passable chocolate cake, but they hadn’t heated it so the ganache filling was solid, rather than liquid. I left the raspberry ice-cream melting on the plate.

Chocolates were served with the coffee and tea and I was able to correctly identify them as El Viejo Oso chocolates from my earlier visit to their store. After the banquet, Heather and I stayed up late again, talking until 1 am. Heather was planning to go for a run outside, but I wanted so skip the heat and humidity and run on the treadmill, so we made plans to meet at breakfast after her run.

Pictures from these days are available here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/7411850@N04/sets/72157615705164660/

*My notes from the tour:
• The British Tower was renamed Torre Monumental after the Falkland Islands War. The Falkland Islands War Memorial was installed directly opposite the Tower.

• Retiro Station – more people travel by bus than by train to save time, e.g., the 19-hour bus trip to Iguasu Falls takes 40 hours by train

• Floralis Generica – a huge flower sculpture that opens in the morning and closes at dusk

• Eva Peron’s remains were moved 3 times – there was an offer to move her a fourth time, but the Duarte family declined

• Very green – lots of parks, sculptures and monuments

• In the late 19th century, there was a yellow fever epidemic – 500 people died each day. The rich moved to summer houses in the north

• Café Tortoni – oldest in the city

• La Bombonera – soccer stadium

• La Boca - founded by immigrants, colorful houses, Caminito Street, tango

• Tram - US$50,000,000 – 15 blocks, no connections, always empty – we counted the people in the one that went past us and there were only 5, including 2 crew members

• Puerto Madero – used to be the main port of the city, but is now full of nice restaurants and places to shop

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