A Trip without a Plan Pt. 2: Puerto Varas to Valdivia

Let me first start by saying, I am now an active user of Booking.com and if you don’t have an account, I would highly suggest getting one (here’s my code if you want a discount!). We booked so many places the morning of and it was perfect. Not to mention they always have the “deal of the day” and when you book your first 5 stays through the website, you achieve ‘genius’ status which gives you an additional 10% off select hotels/places offered. It’s worth at least signing up for an account.

Back to the trip:

I woke up in Puerto Varas with an idea. I had done some late night googling and blog searching about good places to go in the Lake District of Chile and a city popped up that hadn’t been on our radar before: Valdivia. Looking at the map, we could have hopped right on Rut 5 and been in Valdivia in a few hours, but what fun is that when Lake Llanquihue, the lake Puerto Varas sits on, has two volcanos next to it?! We opted to go around the Lake until we ran into the Volcano and see what we could do from there.

On the way, we stopped by a town called Enseñada which had a river/rapid area where we ended up sitting in our rental car, overlooking the rapids, and picnicking 🙂 We were happy travelers. The strange thing about the water in the rapids was that it was crystal clear, almost reminiscent of the Caribbean with one major difference…it was freezing. Winter in Chile is cold, winter is southern Chile is colder. We were chilly in Chile…….HA. Anyways, the view was beautiful and luckily we had the car heater to keep us warm.

After following the lake route a little longer  we ran into the base of the Osorno, our first volcano encounter. While we had been driving, it was cloudy, windy and not that great of a view so we weren’t expecting much. We decided to put our rental car, a little white Mitsubishi, to the test and drive the volcano. Switch back after switch back we climbed higher and higher not really knowing what to expect. It was amazing how much the terrain changed from forest to bushes to volcanic rocks to snow. Once we got to a clearer area, the wind started to kick in. There weren’t any trees to protect us and you could feel the steering wheel turning as we were driving straight. We reached a point where we couldn’t see anything in front of us because the wind was pushing the snow almost horizontal, it was a good place to turn around. But before we did, we admired the fact that we were on the incline of a volcano at the height of the clouds.

After making it back down, we continued around the lake and headed into the actual town of Osorno. Running low on our cell phone data packages, we stopped by the mall which conveniently had a Dunkin’ Donuts. Amazingly, as soon as we got off the road, the rain started coming down hard. We took our time drinking our Dunkin’ coffees and falling in love with a grocery store called JUMBO. I would consider JUMBO equivalent to a South American Target, enough said.

If you didn’t know, I have a thing for grocery stores. I’m not much of a clothing shopper but you stick me in a grocery store and I can stay there for hours, I thank my mother for that. But luckily Mariana has the same love for grocery stores! No need for fancy dinners (unless it’s sushi), some avocados, tomatoes, onion, chips, and salt was all we needed to make a fantastic avocado mash and we were happy. Oh, and wine, you can NOT forget the amazing Chilean wine called Carménère which will have to have a post of its own.

After our shenanigans at the mall, we were off to Valdivia. We had booked our hostel that morning but it wasn’t your traditional hostel with 30 bunk beds in one room. We actually had our own apartment with a kitchen and our own bathroom.  The hostel was called Kapai Central Lodge and I would definitely recommend it! Sipping our wine, eating our snacks, FaceTiming our families and friends, planning where to rest our heads the following night was how we ended our first full day in the Lake District of Southern Chile. I was beginning to like this no planning thing…

xo,

B

 

Cataratas del Iguazú: The Argentinian Side

Declared one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature in the World by Mankind Natural Heritage (site), the Iguazu Cataratas (waterfalls) do not disappoint.

Imagine walking through Jurassic Park, not the theme park with plastic sculptures and specifically planted trees and vines, imagine what it would have been like if you were actually there. A picturesque scene of over 2,000 species of plants, 400 of birds and 70 mammals flying and crawling everywhere you look. Now imagine you turn on one of those white noise machines people use to fall asleep in the comfort of their own homes. Turn it to the “waterfall” setting and listen to the soothing sound of water washing over rock. Beautiful image right? Forget it because that doesn’t even come close describing how beautiful and utterly breath-taking this park was.

Like all natural wonders that can’t be explained, there’s a legend that tells the tale. The legend of the waterfalls goes: A deity planned to marry a woman and a man but the woman fled down the Iguazu River in a canoe escaping the marriage. “In rage, the deity sliced the river, creating the waterfalls and condemning the lovers to an eternal fall” (site).

Planning our trip, I knew I wanted to see the falls from both the Argentinian side, the adventurous side, and the Brazilian side, the panoramic/scenic side. So we flew into Cataratas del Iguazú International Airport (IGR), got picked up by your Airbnb host, Erik, who was very knowledgeable about the town of Puerta Iguazu, the activities at the falls, other things to do in the town and good places to go eat. He was also more than willing to drive us anywhere we wanted to go at the same price as the buses or usual transit. Him and his brother have a ‘taxi service’ along with the Airbnb business which was very useful. We didn’t have to worry about where to find a bus or how much it would be, Erik calculated it all for us. One small caveat being that the power tends to go out for the whole town but usually comes back on quickly. It only went out on us twice and came back on in a matter of 10 mins…if the falls were to give power to the town, it would never go out! I don’t think they’re there yet…But if anyone is looking to go to Puerta Iguazu and wants to stay in an Airbnb, I would definitely suggest Erik.

We woke up relatively early to get to the park before the crowds. At the time of writing this blog post, the entry into the park is 330 ARG which is about $20 USD, not bad to see a new Natural Wonder of the World. There are three trails to hike and we wanted to do all of them. Erik told us the upper trail evolves the most sun so to do that in the morning would be a good idea. We waited in line for about 30 mins to get a tram that took us to the start of the upper trail, essentially a narrow two-way walking bridge over water that was about to plummet 2,000+ ft. down, we were on top of the falls. Walking on the tiny bridge, watching people trek back soaking wet with that feeling of pending doom ahead is when I truly felt like I was in Jurassic Park. At the end of the upper trail is Garganta del Diablo or The Devil’s Throat. It is a U-shaped waterfall 269 ft × 492 ft × 2,297 ft, which is absolutely massive. It’s by far the biggest and most powerful waterfall in the park and when you look over the edge and see water crashing down, you see where the name comes from. Standing on the ledge of the biggest waterfall in the world, we were soaked from the mist of tons of water crashing down into the invisible basin but we didn’t want to move. It was one of those places where you just have to stop and take it all in, there’s no way to describe it that would do it any justice. We were on top of the world, it was unreal.

After trekking back like soaked bunnies hoping to dry out in the sun, we began the hike to the middle trail. But before starting we ran into some not-so-friendly coatis. To preface this explanation of what coatis are, let me tell you the road signs we saw while driving to the park. Because the falls are the main attraction in the town of Puerta Iguazu, there’s only one way to get to them with one looong road. Along this road, like most roads around the world, there are warning signs of the different creatures to be aware of incase you come across them. The animal signs I’m used to are more often than not deer signs…but not in Puerta Iguazu, coati and puma signs. Yes I said puma but don’t worry, they had “don’t feed the puma” signs just in case people were really that stupid…The other warning signs were for animals called coatis which are one of the largest rodents in the world. The best way to describe them are raccoons with anteater noses and they are not afraid of you at all. We watched one climb onto a table and steal a woman’s pizza sitting on a plate right in front of her! They are vicious little animals with no hesitations about stealing anything from pizza to your camera. So along with the ‘don’t feed the puma’ signs, there were also ‘protect your belongs from coatis’ and ‘don’t pet or feed the coatis’ signs. Other than avoiding them, the middle trail was beautiful. We were essentially walking along the ledge of all of the other falls of the park.

Absolutely stunning views.

Finally we went through the lower route to finish out the park. Of course there were a ton of people everywhere we went but that’s part of being a tourist. You fight the crowds to get that one picture that ends of having someone else’s hand, elbow or head in it but you’re happy anyways because you know that’s probably the best you’re going to get. All in all, the Argentinian park was amazing, spending time there you start to realize how wonderfully untouched and beautiful nature can be.

We got back to our Airbnb early afternoon so the next thing on our list was the hummingbird park in town. If you don’t know this about me, I love hummingbirds. Whenever I get the chance to see one or be around them I’m all in favor. We found this tiny entrance to a small garden filled with brightly colored feeders, flowers, and a pond with a turtle. I have so many pictures but here are a few so you get the point:

After the garden, Cody and I walked to see Tres Borders which is the intersection between Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. In the picture below, we’re standing on Argentina, to the left is Paraguay and to the right is Brazil.

A day filled with hiking and walking always calls for good wine, apps, and a big ol’ pizza. We ate at a very good Italian place in town, walked home and got ready to wake up early to cross the border into Brazil!

The adventures continue…

xo,

B

Thanksgiving & El Tigre

On Tuesday night we had the chance to meet the two remaining members of Soda Stereo, Zeta and Charlie!! They wanted to have a look around and meet all of us! There’s a professional picture of it somewhere but it hasn’t come out yet, stay tuned.

THANKSGIVING! 

What a difference it is celebrating in a country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving with people who don’t know what Thanksgiving celebrates or what we even do for the holiday! Crazy! Thanksgiving is just one of those things that’s been engrained in our heads since we were younger, in elementary school we would make pilgrim hats or make Native American themed things out of paper. It’s such a part of American culture that you don’t realize, when you go to other countries, they have no idea what it is!

At the beginning of the week I had asked the manager if the catering could possibly do a Thanksgiving themed lunch or dinner on Thursday and he said he couldn’t guarantee anything but he would ask. The next day he said one of the chefs lived in New Orleans for 3 years and was going to give the ‘Thanksgiving lunch’ his best try! I was excited to have some comfort food 🙂

And sure enough, on Thursday he had a turkey with stuffing, a potato salad, chicken and beef for people who didn’t know it was even Thanksgiving, and an apple pecan crumble to top off dessert! It was incredibly cute and thoughtful of him to do all of that! Here he is with his turkey:

Later I was able to FaceTime with my family and play a few hands of Cards Against Humanity which has tradition in our house after Thanksgiving dinner.

Friday night, PopArt set us up with tickets to see Fuerza Bruta which is an acrobatic show that also tours around the world. They wanted us to experience a show in Argentina before our show premieres. During the show the audience was standing the whole time so there were ushers moving people constantly, water was being sprayed, a pool hovered above us and boxes of confetti burst over people’s heads! Definitely worth going to the show! I wouldn’t do it justice trying to describe everything. After the show a DJ played for a few hours so we stayed and danced! The show didn’t start until 11:30pm so by the time we were finished dancing it was around 1:30am-2am. A group of us decided to go to a shots bar call Chupitos down the street which was similar to the one we went to in Spain. It had a list of crazy shots you could order ranging in strength or sweetness. We stayed for about an hour and decided to go home around 3am feet swollen, still a little damp from the show and covered in confetti. Fun night!

Saturday was rainy and thunderstorms all day. Since I’m on the 34th floor I had a perfect view of the storm. Lighting filled the sky and the thunder was so loud and close it felt like it shook the building. With all the beautiful sunsets we’ve been having, the storm was a reminder that the prettiest sunsets come after the strongest storms. Cheesy I know but I had to say it. So I was snuggled in my room all day…all 4 episodes of the new Gilmore Girls and some napping might have also been involved.

Sunday I actually left my room and was out and about the entire day. I left at 9am to catch the metro to a stop a little outside the center of the city to meet up with Silvia and her husband Daniel! I was introduced to Silvia through a friend’s friend and she is a true porteño. Her and her husband have owned a house in El Tigre for 15 years and invited me to spend the day with them. El Tigre is a delta about an hour train ride (different from the metro) of the city of Buenos Aires. A delta is a place where 2 or more rivers join (there’s your geology lesson for the day) and there’s only 7 around the world. In this case, the rivers from Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet and over time have formed many islands that people have inhabited as either vacation homes or actual homes.

They picked me up from the metro station close and we drove to the boat yard, you can’t access the islands without a boat. This boatel was enormous! 10+ hangers of rows and columns of boats, it was so impressive watching the get boats down and back up into storage. We got the boat, loaded in and we were off.

It was about a 20 min ride through the canals to their house and it was such a breath of fresh air. You don’t realize how much pure oxygen is out there until you get out of the city. There was so much nature everywhere, it was hard not to embrace it all. We pulled up to their house and their neighbors were having a birthday party for their two kids so it wasn’t quite the ‘quiet day’ Silvia thought we were going to have but it was filled with laughter and splashes.

Silvia and I took a long walk down the canal to a neighbor who sells honey and jam. We continued past the house to “Lover’s Bridge” as Silvia calls it; her son would come here with girls when he was younger so she nicknamed it Lover’s Bridge. The view was really beautiful but it made me wonder if anyone ever maintained the bridges or if my foot was going to fall through…luckily it didn’t. Walking back, we saw so many different styles of houses that were painted bright blue, red or yellow. The houses were corky and fun, each with their own style.

Not long after we got back Silvia handed me a glass of wine and told me to go relax for a bit. I didn’t refuse, it was wonderful.

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Meanwhile, Silvia and Daniel had started on lunch and guess what we were having?? Argentinian meat! My first asado! An asado is an Argentinian bbq with meat, meat and more meat. Silvia speaks very good English because she was a translator but her husband Daniel only knows a few words in English so it was a chance for me to practice Spanish! You’d be surprised how much you can communicate with animal sounds and gestures. When he was grilling I told him I was taking a picture to show my dad 🙂

These types of grills are found literally everywhere around Argentina because meat is so essential to their lifestyle and when it tastes that delicious, I don’t blame them! Daniel cooked lomo, chorizo, and blood sausage and let me tell you, my plate was clean! The lomo was the thick cut, juicy, tender, traditional steak-looking cut that melted in my mouth. The chorizo was a spicy sausage and the blood sausage was almost all black but I enjoyed it! Frist time trying it and they were surprised I liked it! The typical salad to have with your meal is called ‘ensalada mixta’ which is just lettuce, tomato and onion and we had some carrot shaving on top. I knew I wasn’t going to be hungry for the rest of the day, everything was beyond delicious!

After lunch, there was a boat that came down the canal, essentially a floating grocery store. You don’t even have to leave your own pier, it comes right to you! It had all the essentials, beer and wine included, and you just wave your hand to flag them down! It comes everyday once a day at the same time so people know when to expect it.

After relaxing a little more in the sun, letting all of that meat digest, I was off back to the main land to check out the El Tigre market before heading back into BA. It was a holiday on Monday so Silvia and Daniel were going to stay at the house. Silvia walked me to the “bus stop” where a boat bus usually picks people up to bring them “to continent”. She was sending me off on my next adventure…making it home.

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Water shuttle

Silvia had given me directions to the Puerta de Frutas market because at one point, fruit is all they sold. Now you can only find maybe one fruit stand, the rest is a big market with everything imaginable. It was about a 10 min walk from where we docked and I got to spend an hour there before things started closing. I didn’t even make it to a quarter of the market, it was massive! I definitely have plans to go back!

You can buy matte cups everywhere! It’s really more of a lifestyle then an activity, I’ll have to dedicate a whole post to ‘The Matte Life’.

I walked back to the train station to ride back into the city. What a successful day!

I could not be more thankful to Silvia and Daniel for inviting me to their home. Not many travelers get to have an experience like that! They’ve already claimed me as a daughter, I feel like I have another home away from home 🙂

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So fun & so thankful!

It’s NOT starting to feel a lot like Christmas here considering it’s 80 degrees and sunny but I’m not complaining 🙂

xo,

B

Apple. Bubble. Saddle. Elbow. Carpet.

Well last week fell short of expectations on the training end of things but sometimes you need a reality check to keep you on the straight and narrow.

On Monday I seemed to hit my head a little harder than expected. I finished practice and felt fine the rest of the day. I even went up to the roof to look at the b-e-a-utiful view of the super moon! But sleeping that night was a little difficult due to the fact that my head was pounding. It felt ok-ish in the morning so I went into practice, started warming up on the stationary bike and the headache got worse…I knew what it was. I’ve had a concussion before which was part of the reason exercise was stopped immediately. So Tuesday I was sent home to get some rest. I went back to my apartment, closed all the shades and rested for the rest of the day. I ended up going to the hospital to see a doctor (part of protocol) and get a CT scan to make sure everything was alright…the doc said I’ll live. There’s nothing like a good little hit on the head to knock some sense into you. Be more careful. Note taken.

The rest of the week I was on the ‘coming-back-from-a-concussion protocol’ which involves memorizing 5 words a day until I can recite them back to the athletic trainer without missing any which isn’t easy when your given the words but immediately asked to answer 30 more questions about reciting numbers and months backwards and then asked to give the completely random 5 words back. Guess what the first day’s 5 words were…apple. bubble. saddle. elbow. carpet…I won’t forget them now! Thanks Mariana 🙂 I will be back to train next week!

Anyways, here was my view of the super moon from South America! (because you haven’t seen enough pictures).

Thursday was an eventful day! At practice we had the pleasure of meeting the President of Argentina and the Prime Minister of Canada! A few of us ended up on the President’s snapchat account!

That night, a group of us went to a Traveler’s Dinner which is a closed-door dinner event unless you have an invitation/reservation. The owner of the place brings in a chef from different countries to cook a fantastic meal for travelers in the area. The idea is to bring travelers together, share stories, and learn about the world. Thursday night’s theme was a Russian dinner, yes I am in Argentina having a Russian dinner with a few Russian, French, Danish, Canadian and Argentinian cast members! I’d like to think I’m becoming more “worldly”. The dinner was definitely something different and fun to try. We started with wine/beer, pirozhki (rolls stuffed with sautéed cabbage slaw), river fish (tasted like herring) with onions on toast, and a shot of vodka. Moved onto borsch (a type of veggie soup that was very good), potato peirogis and neoplian tart with another shot of vodka for dessert, Zdorov’ya! People are starting to realize I take pictures of everything…

Here’s a little fun fact that got us excited: at the table we were naming of all of the touring shows in Cirque so I went on the Cirque webpage and look what I found 🙂

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Saturday was a relatively sunny day so I decided to walk to the Japanese Gardens (Jardín Japonés) which is about an hour walk from the apartment building. Since I couldn’t work out all week, I decide it was going to be a much-needed walk. But not before being surprised by some friends outside of my window…

It’s spring time here so all of the trees and flowers are just starting to pop up. The city is turning beautiful shades of green and purple! The purple trees/flowers are called Jacaranda and they line the major avenues, plazas and city streets. It’s an unexpected pop of color and life when you’re walking around the bustling city.

I made it the Jardíns in just under an hour being the speed walker that I am (it’s not ‘arrival time’ it’s ‘time to beat’) and learned they are biggest Japanese gardens outside of Japan. It was $70 ARG to enter which is about $5 USD.

An hour is plenty of time to spend walking around enjoying the view. There’s a very nice restaurant inside the jardíns if you are in the mood for a classier lunch/dinner.

Sunday was a recharge day, getting ready for the week to come because it’s going to be a long one. In the afternoon, a group of us walked to El Ateneo Grand Splendid which is a famous book store in BA. There are a few of them in the city but this one in particular is well-known, it was a theater turned bookstore and it’s beautiful! There’s a cafe where the stage initially was where you can sit and enjoy your new purchases. I would have bought a book but my Spanish isn’t quite good enough to be able to read and enjoy Spanish literature but was a perfect Sunday stroll destination. We ended up sitting in the cafe talking for a few hours.

Heading home, there was no getting around it, we stopped for ice cream. It was on our way back, it would’ve been a crime to just pass by. Since Buenos Aires has a huge italian influence (I’m talking pizza and pasta that will transport you to Italy or so I’ve been told, I haven’t tried it yet), the ice cream, or gelato I should say, is just a little too tasty.

xo,

B

 

VIPs for the Night

Thankful. Grateful. Blessed. Honored. Happy. Appreciative.

These are the words that come to mind when I get to look out my balcony at this view 🙂

This past weekend we were invited to a PopArtMusic concert, the same company that will be touring our show! It’s one of the biggest concerts in BA with some of the most popular South American bands. We were picked up from our hotel in shuttles and taken to the back entrance of the concert. They gave us wrist bands and guided us into the VIP lounge where they had a wall of Soda Stereo album covers that people could look at and take pictures in front of and there were drinks, apps, and our own personal entrance into the concert!

 

It was a little intimidating walking into the concert area. We walked down this big open pathway with people crammed against the fences on both sides. They had been there all day waiting for the good bands to come on and trying to get as close to the front as they could while we had all the space we wanted…we were those people 🙂 Once we were in the area we had an amazing view of the stage, lights, and monitors. The music was not just loud, it was that type of loud where you could feel it in your whole body but it was also the type of music you wanted to dance to even though we knew none of the words! And we got to see the bass player, Zeta, from Soda Stereo play!

After the concert we went to a food truck festival happening in the same place as the meat festival, at the horse race stadium. There were so many food trucks it was hard to choose what to eat! I ended up getting wine (obviously), an onion sausage frittata, and nitrogen ice cream! The ice cream was made right in front of us in a kitchen aid mixer that made tons of fog when everything was mixed, and then all the sudden, your cone of ice cream would appear. It was magic. Cool process and the ice cream was phenomenal! Dulce de leche flavored of course 🙂

Fun night with fun people!

xo,

B

Welcome to Buenos Aires

It’s official! I have left the US of A on an adventure with the circus! First stop, Buenos Aires, Argentina! I’ve been fortunate enough throughout my life to have been able to go to a lot major cities around the States and some of Europe but none compare to the massiveness of Buenos Aires, 15.3 million people work and live in the city. I look out the window of my apartment and see an endless horizon of skyscrapers, buildings, and houses, it’s a beautiful city. It reminds me a little of Baltimore with the “port style” city but then a little of Ocean City, MD because of the way most of the taller buildings have balconies, it has its own vibe.

The first few days have been a whirlwind! So many new people, so much information, new country, new language, new currency, new apartment, new everything! Which is very exciting but some what nerve-racking at times. The first day I went to the ATM to try to get cash out and didn’t know what the machine was telling me because it’s all in Spanish…I will learn Spanish very quickly whether I like it or not. I have started my Rosetta Stone again and Duolingo to try to learn as quickly as I can. Just from being here for a week now, a lot of my high school Spanish has come back to me which is helpful. You never know what information your brain stores until you need it.

We are so fortunate to have a very nice apartment building in the city. I have my own room with a bathroom, small kitchenette and a bed, all the essentials! Although, I have come to the conclusion I have brought WAYYY too much stuff. 4 suitcases is too many but I’m the type of person that would rather have more than less to start so I will be sending definitely one full suitcase home, hopefully two.

After a few days of settling in, we had our first group meeting so we could meet everyone and get to know the people who we will be on tour with for the next year and a half! So far there are 2 other people from the States but other than that we are a very international cast which is really cool! Everyone has their own story of how they came to be in this crazy circus of ours.

I don’t know if anyone else uses the “save” option on Google Maps but I use it all the time, I love it. You put in a place you want to go and you save it so you can go back to it without searching. Well my google maps looks like Buenos Aires is a galaxy. I have so many places stared to visit and I’ve even checked a  few of them off! Here are a few of my wanderings so far (If you run your mouse over the photo or click on it, it should have a caption):

That’s all for now!

xo,

B

Paris: The City of Love

Day 5 

We will take a Eurostar train under the English channel to Paris and then we have some free night life time right away! Which would you do:


Day 6 

Scheduled sightseeing bus tour of Paris with the local guide going down the Champs-Elysees, see the Arc de Triomphe, and go to the Eiffel Tower! Can’t wait to take a typically tourist picture with the Tower 🙂
Then we have our next excursion to Versailles which I was skeptical about in the beginning when we were first thinking about which optional excursions to go on but now I’m really excited we decided to go. I’ve heard more and more about how beautiful it is and how it is definitely not something to miss.
Day 7
And our final day in Paris we have the Introduction to Paris… seems a little backwards but we’ll go with it. The plans are to walk around with our EF tour director and go through the Latin Quarter which is an area packed with French college students where we will then make your way along the Seine and check out les bouquinistes, which sounds like a little market. On to the Louvre Museum to see the Mona Lisa (another touristy stop I’m excited for)!! Then to Notre Dame Cathedral (the Hunchback of Notre Dame was definitely a favorite childhood movie) and an evening Seine cruise and another chance to check out the Eiffel Tower.
All in all, Paris sounds like it’s going to be an awesome stop!