I’ve been attempting to spend the last two weeks reliving our honeymoon in Argentina, though between the frigid cold, having to do that work thing every day, Manhattan apartment hunting (more on that later), and my charming fellow New Yorkers, it hasn’t been easy. But I shall persevere, no matter how tenuous my relationship with reality becomes.
The title of this post should give you all a sense of how well I was able to communicate in Spanish. It’s not that I didn’t try — I really did. In fact, I get outraged when I hear Americans hollering in English in foreign countries. (A favorite cringe-worthy moment was in a Buenos Aires restaurant when I overheard a very audibly Midwestern woman at a table nearby shout at her waiter of her leftovers, “Will you bring this home to your PERRO?”). So I really did want to try and speak the native language. It’s just that it’s hard enough to remember the French I spent 12 years studying, and somehow every time I made an attempt at Spanish, it wound up coming out as some unintelligible Franco-Spanglish hybrid. Occasionally, I’d be able to ask a one-word question of a taxi driver or bartender and then realize that I’d cornered myself into a lengthy response during which I’d nod enthusiastically and smile big until they noticed that I was a complete doofus. Then they’d do their best to repeat it in English, or they’d just give up on me entirely. And somehow this never deterred me from attempting with the next person I’d encounter. Matt, on the other hand, took an entirely different approach which involved saying nothing at all for fear of saying the wrong thing, or asking a question, then pretending to understand the answer and refusing to admit to the speaker that no, in fact, we have absolutely no idea what you just offered to do and are clueless as to how to properly receive whatever it is we just paid you for. Needless to say, it took us a few days to hit our stride.
Luckily, you don't need to speak Spanish to find yourself a glass of wine in BA.
Traveling abroad together revealed another significant difference in our personalities (not that we really need much help there). I guess this isn’t particularly surprising, but as it turns out Matt and I have extremely disparate reactions to luxury. It became immediately apparent when we checked into our first stop, the Four Seasons in Buenos Aires.
You know that scene in Annie when Little Orphan Annie arrives at Daddy Warbucks’s mansion? She’s disheveled, filthy and disoriented, but the instant she steps out of that limousine, she’s swept off her little orphan feet by an army of butlers, window washers, gardeners, chefs, waiters, handmaidens, court jesters, swamis and sommeliers. They dance and sing and scrub her all pretty, feed her and tuck her into 1,000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. One soft-shoe through the cool marble foyer and all memories of Miss Hannigan and the orphanage are gone in the cloud of dust that shakes out of her threadbare smock.
That’s pretty much exactly what it’s like to arrive at the Four Seasons Hotel, except that we, the weary travelers, were the orphans, and Miss Hannigan is that nasty flight attendant who was definitely whacking my elbow on purpose. From the moment we entered, I became acutely aware that every single need I’d ever had would be fulfilled as long as I never left. For god sakes, they organized my toiletries and lined my shoes up in the closet! The walk-in closet! I was awash in feelings of peace, relaxation, and thorough entitlement. It just felt right. Like I was finally home. Bring on the champagne and strawberries! Yes, I DO deserve a massage and some complementary alfajores. Now, where’s my next present? Of course I’d like to take advantage of the personal concierge services. Keep it coming, those rose petals aren’t going to scatter themselves! Matt, naturally, was immediately and immensely uncomfortable. For the first 36 hours, he refused every offer to carry our luggage or open a door. He took guilty bites of our complementary petits fours as I giddily tucked in with abandon. He efficiently ate a restrained bowl of cereal each morning, as I was up and down at the buffet attempting to find every conceivable application for dulce de leche. He would have turned down the guest services manager’s offer of a drink and some restaurant advice had I not bullied…er, talked…him into it. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a brat. But it took me about six seconds to embrace the idea that this is how these people do their jobs, and to refuse them is pointless at best and insulting at worst. Don’t worry, they wore him down with my help, and before long he was as ready to move in as I.
Bring it on, baby.
Excessive pampering aside, we really enjoyed our time in Buenos Aires. We ate wonderfully, for starters. La Brigada, a classic steakhouse that’s actually equally popular with locals as with tourists, served us a 16-inch thick steak that was practically still bleating. The waiter literally cut it with a spoon. We were introduced to provoleta, which is an ingenious dish that consists of a big chunk of grilled provolone cheese and is best served hot and bubbling with a fat, juicy piece of chorizo. I tried authentic empanadas and seven different kinds of alfajores, the popular dulce de leche-filled cookie. We discovered that the trendy restaurants there all seem to subscribe to the theory that diners both love and deserve multiple surprise amuse-bouche. They are correct.
Alfajores numbers four and five. Note I was tackling this challenge alone. I feel all the more accomplished and empowered having succeeded.
I've got a secret, and it involves a forkful of chorizo and melted cheese.
We spent most of our days hoofing it around the city, checking out the neighborhoods and taking in the scenery. I was obliged to purchase TWO pairs of emergency relief shoes. It was really, really, effing hot. The people make Manhattanites look like a bunch of fat losers. We took an overnight trip to the beach at La Barra in Uruguay, where the Brazillionaires roam free and I found myself glaring enviously and mumbling “slut” at the kids who, at twelve or thirteen, are tanner, thinner, and hotter than I can ever hope to look in my life.
An interesting phenomenon in La Barra: EVERYTHING is sponsored. Try and guess what this establishment actually is. I'll give you a hint. It is neither a bar nor a Honda dealership, nor a tanning salon.
Another funny La Barra fact: the shoreline is littered with giant, dead beetles. We took to calling it the Omaha Beach for bugs.
On our return to BA from Uruguay, we arrived at our hotel to find the driveway gated shut. The first bellhop we asked told us that a rock group was staying there, and he couldn’t reveal their name but said with a wink that “they are very METALLIC.” We stared at him blankly. “It’s Metallica,” he said, grinning. I felt my jaw clench. I have held a grudge against Lars Ulrich ever since he led the charge against Napster and cut off my college supply of endlessly streaming free songs. Not to mention I’ve never been a particular fan of his personal brand of music. But now he was tangentially in my life again, and I knew that nothing good could come of it. Sure enough, for the rest of our stay there was an ever-present group of metalheads loitering around the entrance, and the gates created a backlog at the taxi line each night. Our last evening, I was forced to walk — WALK! — to dinner in my high heels up hilly, cracked sidewalks in some seriously frizzy weather. “Lars!” I shouted ruefully, my fist swiping the air. I fantasized about running into him at breakfast so I could air my grievances. Lucky for him, we never met (though we did encounter several of his extremely intimidating-looking roadies), but I know our paths shall cross again. And when they do, I’ll be ready.
On that creepy note, I’ll wrap up here. Clearly I can’t fit our entire two-week honeymoon into one post, especially when I find it important to recount stories like the one above. In our next installment, we’ll visit Bariloche, where you’ll hear of our close encounters with death-by-stick-shift and our new stray dog, Kevin. Until then, I wish you a lovely jamon y queso.