Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fernet & Coke

A brief, uplifting note about an Argentine tradition that I've come to enjoy over these past few months: Fernet con Coca Cola.

Fernet Branca is an herbacious digestif made in Italy by Distillerie Fratelli Branca. However, Argentina is the only other place in the world that they make it outside of Italy.  Fernet became popular in Argentina with the Italian immigrants at the turn of the last century (as in 1900) and then just spread like wildfire throughout the country. On its own, it is disgusting. It's bitter, it's really hard to describe the taste, and the recipe is a secret.  Its Wikipedia entry describes it as "myrrh, rhubarb, chamomile, cardamom, aloe, and especially saffron, with a base of grape distilled spirits, and coloured with caramel colouring. Ingredients rumored to be in fernet include codeine, mushrooms, fermented beets, coca leaf, gentian, rhubarb, wormwood, zedoary, cinchona, bay leaves, absinthe, orange peel, calumba, echinacea, quinine, ginseng, St. John's wort, sage, and peppermint oil."

Fernet is an acquired taste. The first time I tried it, I hated it. I asked my friends how they could possible drink something so terrible. They assured me that I'd come to like it. I was a nonbeliever.

There are a couple ways to order Fernet in a bar here. You can either get it normally (fernet con coke), or you can get it "para preparar", when the bar gives you 1 glass with ice and fernet, another glass with just ice, and a bottle of Coke to mix your own according to how you like it.  This is probably the best way to go and the best value - and you can make it more suave at first (mostly Coke) and then move on to higher potency combinations later in the evening.

Then one day I enjoyed it. It was after a few adult beverages, of course. But for some reason, I began to like it. And now I know I'm going to crave it when I get back to Texas. Hmph.

A very sad week

On Wednesday night, my 27-year-old coworker passed away unexpectedly. It's been a tough week.  I am still keeping this blog publicly anonymous, so I will not mention his name. But he was an amazing person and he will be missed immensely.

I didn't want to have to go to a wake or funeral while I was here, and I never even contemplated it. Yesterday I went to the wake. It was tough, and it all happened so fast that I'm not sure any of us have processed what happened.  It's not the same as at home, where there are 2 or 3 days between the passing and burial at minimum. I feel like they buried him too quickly for any of us to really understand what was going on.

But that's life. And it has to go on.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Buenos Aires Day 3: The bus tour

BA is a giant city. A cab from Palermo to San Telmo is about $20 pesos each way. This is fine when there are more than one of you, but if you're traveling solo, it can get really expensive. Which is why on Day 3, my first full day alone, I decided to play tourist and buy a ticket on the Buenos Aires Bus. For 24 or 48 hours, I could then hop on and off the bus as much as I wanted, and it goes to pretty much every are of the city you'd want to see if you're visiting, all in less than 3 hours.

Unfortunately for us, there was a Boca Junior game going on in the afternoon, and therefore no tour buses were going to the neighborhood of La Boca. I'm not sure if it's because it was going to be too crowded, or because it was going to be too dangerous. Either way, I sadly didn't get to go to La Boca and take photos of the colorful houses and figures on Caminito.

Grabbing the bus from the stop nearest the zoo, we went from there to the last stop which was right by the Casa Rosada. This area was beautiful, and it's a good thing, too, because we were forced to get off the bus and wait for the next tour to start in 45 minutes or so. At least that's what I think they were telling us when we were forced to get off. Either way, I capitalized on the opportunity and walked to the square to take photos of the Casa Rosada and surrounding buildings. It was beautiful.

After an hour or so of tooling around, I got on the next bus headed around the route and we cruised through the city on the way to San Telmo.  On Sunday afternoons, San Telmo is full of people buying and selling antiques (or crap, depending on your tastes), as well as hand-made crafts and other things that make good gifts for people back home. There are tango shows on the street and street performers here and there doing everything from playing classical guitar to posing as statues.  I wandered around the San Telmo market on calle Defensa and Plaza Dorrego for a few hours, then made my way back to the bus stop to pick up the rest of the tour.
Seriously, if you're ever in BA on a Sunday - go to San Telmo!
We passed by buses of Boca fans who were singing and chanting and making rude gestures to just about anyone who would look at them, so I'm pretty happy that although I'm a big soccer fan, that I was NOT going to the game.

We drove through the modern barrio of Puerto Madeiro, which just feels like you're somewhere in the US, and around the city up to Chinatown and the barrio of Belgrano before we looped around and I got off the bus near my apartment. It was freezing outside at this point (in the late afternoon) and being on an open-top bus was no longer enjoyable.

Pretty forgettable take-out Chinese for dinner, and some American movies on the tv, and I was a happy camper.