The Two Faces of Buenos Aires

I would describe Buenos Aires in the same way that you might describe an unalluring woman that you are trying to set your friend up with: She’s got a great personality. I’m not saying that Buenos Aires is ugly—there are parts that are quite attractive. However, the charm of the city doesn’t come so much from its exterior as it does from its vibe.

The apartment that we rented here is right outside of Plaza Dorrego in the district of San Telmo—a happening place. Every day the plaza is full of people frequenting the many outdoor cafes and buying trinkets from the numerous vendors stationed around the square. At night, especially as the weekend nears, the plaza fills with musicians and tango dancers and crowds taking in the spectacle. Several times we have gone out to the plaza to have dinner under the stars and sip sangria while we are entertained by a flamenco show or a blues performance.

Continue reading “The Two Faces of Buenos Aires”

Trying to Say Just What I Mean

“That is not what I meant at all./That is not it, at all.””

It is impossible to say just what I mean!”

– T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

I’m looking for Q-tips in the grocery store in Buenos Aires, but I’m not finding them. What in the world do they call Q-tips here? How do you say “cotton swab”? If I say “cotton swab” will they know what I’m talking about? I know that if I really want to find the Q-tips, its time to play my least favorite game—the riddle game. It works much like the old 100,000 Pyramid show and goes like this: I describe the item in as much detail as possible without actually saying the name of the thing. The person at the store/restaurant/other service facility guesses what it is that I’m describing. Admittedly this game is difficult because most of the time I don’t know when the person has guessed correctly. I win the game if I succeed in actually obtaining the item and I lose if the person just gives up and says that they don’t carry such a thing. Continue reading “Trying to Say Just What I Mean”

No Hablo Espanol

Flashback: My sister and I are sitting with our parents at a table in a restaurant in Mexico. The waiter comes up to take our order and even though he can tell that we are a table full of gringos, he asks, “Hablan Espanol?”

Our parents point to me and my sister and say, “They do.”

I glare at them and exhale heavily.  I DO NOT speak Spanish. I never have and I still don’t. I’m not sure if I ever will. But the waiter has to see for himself. He says something that we only half comprehend. We try to construct a coherent sentence and fail. The waiter gives up and asks us for our order in English. Continue reading “No Hablo Espanol”

Adios Europa

The least stressful way for us to get from Toulon to Barcelona was to take a train to Montpellier and spend the night so that we could catch the early train to Barcelona. Since our train to Montpellier left around lunchtime, I thought I would go to the store, pick up some goodies, and we could eat on the train. Unfortunately, after Adam had specifically asked not to be put in a compartment, we found ourselves seated across from two older ladies in…a compartment. It is rather uncomfortable to sit directly across from someone you don’t know for three hours. Inevitably your eyes will wander over to that person and she will catch you looking at her and you will have to pretend that your eyes were simply on the way to another nearby destination. Eating is uncomfortable since the compartment is deathly silent and every crunch from a cracker echoes loudly throughout the cramped space. Accidental games of footsie are common. Continue reading “Adios Europa”

The French Riviera on a Budget

Sitting in our apartment in Florence, we were desperately trying to figure out where we were going to go next. We only had another hour of internet and we hadn’t the faintest idea. Venice? Still a little on the pricey side. Turin? What does one do in Turin? Genoa? Ditto. Milan? I don’t think so. Monaco? Cannes? Riiiight. Nice? Still a bit pricey. Fine. Let’s just go to Toulon. I don’t know why, let’s just do it. Continue reading “The French Riviera on a Budget”

From Jesus to Gelato


Since I had just read a book on the Medici family, I was especially thrilled to visit Florence again. It’s always more interesting to visit a city when you know some quirky little intricacies that you can impress people with. And unless there is something seriously wrong with you, you have to love Florence. Each time I visit this gem of a city my love for it escalates. If you have even the slightest interest in the arts, Florence oozes culture from every side street and piazza. You can’t help but feel the presence of past greatness from the minute you arrive. And if you have the time (and some money), you can see more great works of art in Florence than you can probably handle at once. (In fact, one should be careful of contracting Stendhal Syndrome which according to Wikipedia is “a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion, and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art, usually when the art is particularly beautiful or a large amount of art is in a single place.”) I believe I’ve had something akin to this feeling in the Vatican. If I see one more painting of Jesus… Continue reading “From Jesus to Gelato”