Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Holy Cow. Literally.

The estancia was the best part of the trip.

Okay, maybe renting a car and then finally relaxing was the best part, but I associate these niceties with the Estancia El Ombú, so we'll go with that.

And I realize that several of my posts now have had nothing to do with this overall blog theme of not purchasing clothes, so let me make a sweeping segue or link or connection and say that if they had nothing to do with fashion, then I was not buying clothes at the time and therefore had to write about it. Because at this time last year, we can pretty much bet that I would have been buying clothes. At any given moment.

And actually, I ended up washing clothes in the sink and bathtub at the Ombú. We were gettin' a little gamey at that point, so I just got some soap, scrubbed 'em down, rinsed, and hung them to dry out by the pool.

I'm sure they would have washed them for us had we asked--they probably would have knitted us new clothes had we but mentioned our dirty wardrobe at all, they were that service-oriented--but I dunno...being in the countryside on a ranch just brought out that doityourselfedness that one needs to accomplish laundry via hotel bathtub. I felt proud.

Especially after riding horses all afternoon. Which, dear female audience, one should really really consider carefully when on a honeymoon trip. Just...think about it. Maybe you ought to stay behind and lounge in the chairs on the pretty lawn, take in the vista that way.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. We'd saved the estancia for our final night in Argentina. Brendon, being perhaps happiest when behind the wheel on a road trip, had arranged to rent a car at the airport in Buenos Aires.

Ha ha ha ha, the airport, ha ha ha ha! Ha ha. Ha.

We discovered that day upon returning from Montevideo that there were actually 3 airports in the city. The second, which we'd thought was the second of 2 airports, had been closed during our trip due to renovations. So when our plane deposited us at the military "airport" (a field in the suburbs) we were certainly surprised to have found airport #3!

We were also surprised to discover that the Europcar rental agency at Ezeiza (the main airport, a good, oh, hour drive away from our field-airport) was not, in fact, an agency, but rather a dude who wanders around with a sign. I guess he carries a bag of keys and a lint brush, too? Or perhaps just a helmet for the bicycle he loans out, who knows.

Needless to say, by the time we got to the main airport to collect our car, we were not thrilled to learn Europcar's mode of operation and chose to rent from dear ol' Alamo. At their kiosk, which was blessedly nailed to the floor of crowded Ezeiza. They let us rent a GPS, too, and then sweet sweetness--we were on the road!

Wow, to be in control of our own transportation. What a total thrill. For 2 hours we enjoyed greater Buenos Aires' highways into the lovely, rolling countryside. The roads were well kept, the signage easy to follow, and the GPS extremely helpful.  Brendon was appropriately aggressive with the other drivers and easily fit into the driving style all around us.  And we made it to El Ombú just after the afternoon asado.

Gloria introduced herself as we rolled up the little dirt road past fields of cows, goats, sheep, and llamas.  Could she show us our room, please let us allow her to take our luggage, and oh my goodness had we eaten?

We were ushered to our pretty, high-ceiling quarters in the building by the pool, allowed to freshen up, and then led to the little table by the lawn where we were served salad, empanadas, and a bottle of wine.

OMG. Gorgeous. Horses trotted in the pen nearby. A kitten meowed from the overgrown wisteria vines by the kitchen. Birds chirped. I kept waiting for a Disney character to start singing somewhere.

The cows in the pasture looked positively holy. Everything was perfect.

And that was all we were to do...just lounge, enjoy the scenery. Go for a walk if we wanted. Nap by the pool. I asked for a glass of wine later in the evening while I read a book on the lawn, and Gloria brought out a tray of alfajores and some Malbec.  The birds went crazy in that last hour before sunset, pecking all over the lawn for whatever little treats they were after.  The sun went down, and we did soon after as well.

We were definitely sad to go.  After such a whirlwind trip, it was perfect to get to wind down there. We both agreed that we could have enjoyed another day or so of just laying around by the pool. Plus we'd missed the asado, and while we probably don't need to eat beef again for several months, I'd kind of wanted to experience it in the proper Argentine setting.

So...next time. We'll stay several days next time we're in Argentina. Because we pretty much can't wait to go back.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Please tell me you've seen this video.

Sometimes B and I will make fun of ourselves for similarities. We eat hummus. We like baba ghanoush. I even feel a little weird and accidentally pretentious when we tell people we met in Mexico. Or when we explain that we went to Argentina for our honeymoon.

Luckily, we don't eat moussaka.

And now we've met folks who really do embody these characters so skillfully portrayed by Christopher Walken, Will Farrell, and Rachel Dratch. It turns out they live in Buenos Aires and they like to drink beer in abandoned buildings at 2 in the morning.

I think I mentioned that we went out a 2nd time with our Aussie buddies.  After our little trip to Iguazú, B and I returned to Buenos Aires to properly experience the famous nightlife there. Lucky for us, Johnny and Mary had arrived there as well and had plans to go out. We joined them for dinner.

At midnight.

I actually had an espresso shot at our hotel bar while we waited. We were so hungry, somehow still attached to our American time clocks and unable to take the appropriate nap from 6-10pm like the rest of the city's party-ers.

Some of our fellow hotel guests made it over to the bar and chatted us up while we waited for our late dinner. These 2 British dudes woke early from their nap (they blamed their hangovers for this) and provided us with ample entertainment via stories from their week in BA. I guess they are pub owners in the UK and have plenty of opinions about the restaurant fare in Argentina's lovely capital. Do you know the proper way to prepare cow's brains? Because they do.

A Canadian boy wandered up and also ordered a drink; he was on his way to South Africa to see his girlfriend. And then Johnny and Mary showed up with Ricky, Johnny's buddy currently residing in Buenos Aires. The world suddenly felt like a very cozy, familiar place with this mix of folks at the bar. Or maybe it was just because I was so warm and happy from midnight coffee.

 Several bottles of Malbec carried us through our super late dinner. Ricky explained to us how he had come to Buenos Aires, Johnny flirted with the waiter and lamented that our new Canadian friend was on a very straight mission to see his hetero partner in Cape Town, and Mary and I made plans to shop the next day. Things got a little fuzzy from there.

Ricky told us about the Party. Brendon was listening better than and I says it's where folks go in BA to hang out at night; the location changes to different abandoned buildings and you have to be in the know to, well, know.

All I know is that suddenly we were in such a place, and there was music playing and a couple of people standing around. Perhaps 2am was too early for The Party to really be a party yet. Brendon ordered some beers and passed them around, and that's when we met The Lovers.

Skinny with crazy hair, this girl wandered over to me and introduced her presumably better half. "This is Georgie, my lover, he's a hairdresser!"

Ohhh, that's nice. Your lover? Great to meet you, Georgie.

"He doesn't understand much English, so I have to translate for him. I met him when he did my hair!" Georgie smiled. Girl smiled. So I smiled. I was sure I was going to snort my beer for trying so hard not to laugh. Lover? Really? Do we say that?

She told some story about how she came to Buenos Aires--following her lover at the time, of course--and I kept picturing Christopher Walken in that SNL sketch. Don't be the jerk American, Shannon, listen with interest! Dammit, where was Brendon when I needed him? Someone needed to witness this!

After that, more people began to arrive, and I guess it was like the underground gay scene in Buenos Aires, because most of them were boys introducing their boyfriends to me.  Maybe it was because I was tired, or maybe because I was distracted by Lover Georgie's hair (it kinda defied gravity) but I felt like they were all waiting for my shocked reaction to their being gay. They seemed a bit miffed for not receiving some crazy response from me. Does the rest of the world think Americans are hugely judgemental of this?

I dunno, but I got pretty tired of it. The Party just wasn't doing it for me.  I found Brendon and a cab and we left the lovers to party without us. It was time for late night pizza and alfajores anyway.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Donga Dewballs

It became the code phrase for...any situation that felt a bit out of control.

Going through immigration in Buenos Aires (yes, we got groped).

Trying to find our rental car at the airport ("No, there is no desk for the rental car company...just a guy who walks around with a sign. You'll have to hope he passes you").

Discovering a hotel with a million ways to say "no" (service concepts are just different in countries that are not, well, Las Vegas).

It just helped us giggle when we were annoyed. We came across it by accident.

Snuggled up in our hotel in Buenos Aires (the Home hotel, which was not at all the previously mentioned "no" hotel ) during our lame night in, we found The Soup on tv. In English. Awesome.

Simple, humorous, and requiring little thought whatsoever, The Soup is a very guilty pleasure of ours.  We don't have a tv in the house, so we love it when we find it on whatever cable package a particular hotel is offering during our stay.

And this lady happened to be on Joel McHale's lineup of videos that night.  He presented us with folks behaving poorly due to alcoholic influence, and she just takes the cake (er, alfajor). She seems so happy as the officer tries to determine why she was wandering around marking her territory. I think her declaration of, "donga dewballs" was made even more eloquent by the Spanish subtitles in our hotel room. She states it with that big grin, somehow coming on to the cop, and then our tv spells it out for us as well.

Awesome. Muy bien hecho, madame. And well done to whomever was writing those subtitles. Figuring out a good spelling for that phrase took a nuanced understanding of the English language for sure.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Yes, That Is a Fat Joke

Sometimes it's fun to shake things up a little. I enjoy doing so by cracking a joke.

I probably ought to be a little more sensitive to the fact that some people are not familiar with my particular sense of humor. (Or the very real possibility that my humor may not, in fact, be funny.)

Regardless, I still like to throw people off with this little one: Is that a fat joke?

This might need to be originally attributed to Weston, a high school buddy with a delightfully off-the-wall sense of what was funny.  A very fit guy, Weston made for a pretty hilarious site when he'd ask, straight faced, "Is that a fat joke?"

And although I'm not as fit as Weston was at the time, sometimes I do it now too. It just makes me giggle. It stops conversations in their tracks as everyone scrambles frantically for a politically correct way to exit the sudden awkwardness.

I know it's bad karma, but sometimes it's just a funny little way to make everyone lighten up. After they realize I'm not serious, of course.

Unfortunately, I was serious when we went shopping in shopping in Buenos Aires. I had taken full advantage of the freedom the spandex leggings offered just the night before and...well, let's just say there was comsumption of alfajores. At 2am. Stolen from the cake stand in the hotel bar.

Yes, stolen. By me. What else was I going to eat while Brendon had his 2am pizza? And I did ask first at the lobby desk if I could have one. Poor guy, he said there weren't any. He probably saw the tired, ravenous look on my face and thought, "Protect the desserts!"

Does anyone else out there make poor eating decisions when they have more than one drink? Am I alone in this? I wish I was a Drink & Dial person; Drink & Scarf is kinda embarassing.

Well, as we walked away and then past the bar, I SAW them there...before I knew it, we were in our crazy awesome room (thank you for the free upgrade, Home Hotel! You are truly the best), practically delirious from having eaten dinner so incredibly late and then going out afterwards (how do the porteños keep such hours, honestly?) and we were scarfing delicious pizza and alfajores like there was no tomorrow.
A room with a view...outside. Pay no attention to the spoils from the previous night!
But tomorrow came.

Stretchy pants again for the morning after
And yeah, I wasn't feeling super fit or lean while we went shopping. We had been excited to check out the fancy shops of this incredible city for so long, and at first it was exciting. Everything was just so fun to check out, the leather was fabulous, the spring fashion was beautiful, the shoes amazing.

But then we got tired. And then it wasn't so fun. Everything was pretty pricy. The store employees followed us around. It was hot. And everything was tiny. Sizes just didn't seem to be able to stand up to our generous American frames, especially after a late night pizza/alfajor indulgence.

Unfortunately, one shop attendent felt it necessary to tell me that he thought a shirt wouldn't fit. And that I couldn't understand him when he said so.

"We don't have that top in a bigger size," he told me. "That's the only one we have, and there aren't any bigger ones. Why don't you try this one instead?"


He repeated himself several times, and I had no difficulty with his Spanish. But then I don't think he misunderstood me either when I tossed the top on the floor, spun around, and called out to Brendon that we were leaving. No language barrier there.

It was definitely a fat joke.

I was fuming. And then, magically, once we were back in our hotel room, showered, and happily eating our dinner-salad, no wine (ahhh vegetables!)--it seemed quite funny. That poor, lanky, stylish man, trying to explain to a sweating, cranky, um "curvy" girl that he didn't want her to rip his inventory.

We laughed over our bean sprouts and marveled at the fact that we could not be brought to purchase anything while on our much-anticipated shopping excursion. Every time we saw anything we liked, we just kinda backed off. There just wasn't anything that either of us had to have.

And giggling together in those fluffy bathrobes while enjoying a vegetarian room service dinner at the American hour of 6pm, it just didn't matter.

Sorry, Buenos Aires, but turns out we just came for the experience. You can keep your tiny tops and pricey purses.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Still haven't seen a toucan. They are pervasive here when it comes to silly little knicknacks made of wood or plush toys or keychains. Not so much in the treetops of the jungle, making me doubt their existence around here.

But no matter. I'd say we got our consolation prize in terms of sights:

And I must say I am satisfied. The falls are more powerful than I ever imagined. Breathtaking, stunning, all that.

The weather was perfect--sunny, cool and breezy--and the park is beautifully organized and proudly maintained. We walked alone along some of the trails, then squeezed among crowds of folks speaking primarily Spanish and Portuguese. 

There were determined hikers decked out in perfect, zipper-covered Patagonia gear, and sweet giggling teens in flip-flops and jean skirts. Grandmas in all-terrain wheel chairs and babies in strollers.

Everyone can come and see this spectacular sight. Cool.

In fact, other than the falls, I'd say the most spectacular thing I witnessed was the plastic-covered baby. On our way out, a mommy was pushing a stroller that had been draped and wrapped in makeshift ponchos...giving baby an appearance of some sort of bubble-boy situation.  She could clearly breathe, but it was hilarious to see her so well protected against any sort of errant spray. Mom looked pretty proud of herself, satisfied that baby wouldn't melt. What a great national park.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Spandex: a traveler's dream

Leggings are my new best friends.

The workout tights were already going to come with, but 2 more pairs of leggings (thank you, Anthro gifts cards) came in the suitcase.  Along with some delightfully loose shirts.

This combination of stretch and looseness have allowed for plenty of Argentinian beef and, of course, my old friends the alfajores.

They've also apparently helped us slide into the landscape as not so foreign-looking, because many folks have approached us and asked us for the time, directions, and general information one would hope to glean from regios.

Maybe it's Brendon's cool hat.  Maybe it's the casual way he chills by the graffiti which only truly bilingual people such as ourselves would be able to translate.

Dunno what exactly, but surely am thrilled to be traveling comfortably and helping others with the proper "subte" exchange directions!

Loin to the Pepper

"Aussie aussie aussie! Oi oi oi!"

Not too many of the locals seemed to know that one.  But that didn't stop our table from cheering this very Australian bar cry it at this local restuarant. And it seemed to be mostly "locals" there that night, if locals here at Iguazu are Argentinians and out-of-towners are anyone who isn't from this country.

(This is Brendon's shirt, which I've made to look a bit more local at this point.)
We'd met a lovely Australian couple while having some drinks by the pool, and somehow the night ended up going much longer than anticipated. We'd meant to just share a drink. How did we end up packed in a cab, giggling and driving around greater Puerto Iguazu searching for alfajores in the middle of the night?

We'd laughed about the menu translations (what is "Loin to the Pepper" exactly?) shared some fun stories (aparrently George Michael is actually a very cool guy in person) and managed to have a very interesting conversation with a sweet, young cab driver.

What a good sport. He was very much intrigued by our group--a married couple from the US, a very cool gay dude, and a very pretty señorita.

He actually asked if she was really a señorita, so of course we said yes. Are you really allowed to ask such a thing? It might have been me, though; I may have begun only very loosely translating the conversation at this point. She said from the back of the cab something about the thrill of getting to claim that again, and then Johnny demanded to return to his once purer state as well and be called a señorito, and...silliness pretty much ensued. 

Brendon and I awoke in a crusty haze of memories--how many bottles of wine came to our table last night?--and stumbled down to breakfast.  There were Maria and Johnny, and we had to have a giggle again as we pieced together our amusing dinner.

Brendon: Maria, did you ever get that guy's number last night? You know, the one with the hair?

Maria: Um...no, you got him in a bear hug back at the hotel before I could get to him, remember?

Breakfast helped us feel better (and remember things...good, we did remember to both pay and go home with our credit card). 

Then Johnny and I wandered over to the hotel spa. He'd told me I just needed to poke my head in and see how beautifully zen it was.  Mmm, it smelled marvelous!  I told the lady at the counter that it did. She replied in Spanish:

"That's the smell of lemon.  It's the smell of harmony." I made sure Johnny understood exactly what she'd said, because I wouldn't want him not to know this important tidbit of olefactory information.  He was mightily impressed.

Once we'd had our fill of beautiful fruit and the yummiest pastries we'd ever seen (I'm on alfajor #4 at this point in the trip) we parted ways with our new friends and returned to the very important business of being responsible travellers.

Thank you, Johnny, for posing in our picture next to the unfortunately-shaped buoys.

We were determined to be proper tourists and go see the falls.  And we really actually made a valiant effort.  We didn't decide to return to our rooms to nurse our headaches until we actually got inside the park and sat in the car under the driving rain for a good 5 minutes.

But the fact that we'd booked this leg of the trip for a 3-day stay in the event of inclimate weather was just staring us in the face, and we retreated.  It was back to the hotel to take a soothing dip in their ridiculous pool, drink some agua gaseosa, and prepare for a real hike the next day.

And now this morning I've awoken to the sounds of the jungle's birds and the lovely sight of its instensely green foliage not bending under the weight of a monsoon.  We went to bed early last night and are now prepared to see everything the falls have to offer!

And sitting here smelling the breakfast they're making downstairs makes me think that I ought to debate the lady in the spa. It's not lemon, it's bacon that actually smells like harmony. Loin to the pepper.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

BA, man. BA.

I can't remember which of my friends used to say that to me.  But if something were badass enough to label it as such, this person would inevitably pronounce it as such: BA, man. BA.

Well said. Muy bien dicho. We'll call this the badassiest of all places then, the BA itself. Finally. Six years together and saying we'd go to Buenos Aires one day and we finally got out of a cab, looked around, and high-fived one another (romantic, no? ah, honemooners!)

It's better than we'd hoped. Folks are friendlier. Streets are prettier. Wine is winier.

And it was hotter than we'd imagined.

By the time we'd been wandering through the Sunday afternoon antique fair for about an hour, we were pretty sweaty and confused.  An overnight flight and severe lack of proper hygiene routines put us in a pretty raw place.  The Givency magazine sample Brendon had rubbed on himself mid-flight had worn off, and the Big Mac-sized alfajor I had indulged in earlier in the park was weighing me down.

We managed to make it back to the hotel for proper check-in, a good refreshing, and then we went to dinner in the cool, breezy comfort of evening.  Thank you, steak and wine, for making us whole again.

The next morning we welcomed the stormy, tumultuous weather as a sign that it was okay to leave. We won't be gone long--just a few days at Iguazu falls and then we'll return to get to know the city a little more.  BA man, BA.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Braveheart Cut My Hair

Actually, Francesca provided the haircut. And while not in costume, she did have blue hair. 

Braveheart swept up the pieces and brought me wine and massaged my hands.  Frankenberry attended to the shampoo.

I freakin' love Austin on Halloween.

A Peeping Tom ran the front desk.  She was wearing a plaid shirt, had a little moustache, and held up a big cardboard window to her face.  Awesome.

What a fun town.  I forgive our office now for not getting into the spirit of things, because the Aveda salon on Burnet more than made up for it.  And not just by wearing costumes.

They really did just a bang-up job of making me feel relaxed and, well, pretty.  It struck me again as they refused my tip (Aveda salon practices, I had forgotten) that I could really keep on not spending money on clothes and instead occassionally splurge on things like a really sweet haircut.  Especially when the Scottish clans(wo)man, kind face painted blue and white under that crazy wig, asks if I want red wine for my second complimentary beverage. While she gives me a complimentary hand massage.  And tells me I have nice hair. 

What is it about going to the salon?  Does everybody have this experience?  They not only transform your whole look with a few snips and a great shampoo, but they shower you with compliments so you float out of there feeling like a million bucks. 

I think that's the feeling I used to get sometimes with a new outfit, so maybe I'm cheating by finding my fix through other means.  You know, like alcoholics getting into cough syrup or something.

I've been thinking a lot about why shopping and buying clothes is so desireable, and I think I'm narrowing it down.  I know I miss the variety for sure, but I think it's a little bit of the promise of getting to be new and fresh.  Like the feeling of a new haircut.

Example: I've been wanting leggings for awhile now, and then yesterday just wore my workout tights under a skirt and boots. There. Leggings. Warm, comfy, and just a little bit fun all day long because...it was a new look. Not new clothes, but still gave me the new clothes feeling.

Like a new haircut, or a Halloween costume, it's almost a little taste of getting to play out a fantasy. Weren't we all a princess at some point when we were kids?  I announced to my mom once that my new name was Wonder Woman...or was it She-Ra, Princess of Power? Evidently it didn't stick.

I guess I feel really introspective about this because I can see the end of this experiment now and feel like I ought to have a whole lot of wisdom to offer for it.  Or at least an Oprah book deal. And definitely a plan for what's next.

But the truth is I'm not really sure yet, and I don't feel like I'm super wise or very much better of a person for all of this. Eh. Two more months to go, so I'll think on it a little more!

So barring some sort of great sweeping statement here, I'll just say that I'm very thankful for Francesca's work.  And for Braveheart's sweet pampering, and for the Peeping Tom being so kind about my trying to tip them. I'll say that I really appreciate all the adorable kids on our street and their excited, beaming faces from under their masks, hats, and other costume paraphanalia.

And I'm a little nervous. Brendon and I leave for our honeymoon today, and this could be the biggest challenge in the whole experiment. How does one go to Argentina/Brazil/Uruguay and not buy? Yeah, I have the new haircut feeling, I'm lucky to have the amazing Brendon at my side, I'm so thankful to take this trip.

I acknowledge all of that as a mature, poised woman.

But do you hear the siren call of the leather goods?

I do. Ruh roh.