This evening, I booked the last of my Argentina air travel!
Since the last time I wrote about my travel plans, things have changed a bit. Originally, our group was destined for stardom in Buenos Aires, Ushuaia, and then Iguazu. Due to the length of our trip, Ushuaia (and the “End of the World” passport stamp) has been cut out of the itinerary. This is a good thing! It will open up roughly one and a half additional days of travel time and save me about $600. And, most importantly in my mind, the trip won’t feel rushed/hectic.
The new itinerary includes a powerhouse weekend, plus three more days, in Buenos Aires, and two days in the tropics of Iguazu. To cap things off at the end of our trip, we’ll visit Washington D.C. for the day, and then head home to San Francisco. During the trip, we hope to have great Argentinian steak and wine, visit the mammoth Iguazu Falls via jungle 4x4 and zodiac, and party like it’s 2009 in Buenos Aires. Then, of course, we’ll soak up some American history.
I plan to bring my laptop to stay connected throughout my trip, blogging excitedly when I’m hooked up to free WiFi (think of that puppy you had that wet itself when it saw you after a long day alone). Stay tuned for more fun prior to, during, and after my first South American adventure! :)
Last weekend, Greg and I went to Los Angeles for a bit of rest and relaxation. The weekend capped my month of travel, and removed us from the normal Bay Area rhythm, to enjoy the pleasures of a different, larger urban jungle.
While I have never thought of LA as one of the most appealing vacation spots (I’d much rather be in NYC, Chicago, or Seattle), this trip really opened my eyes to the pleasures that can be had in the heart of Southern California. Note that we focused our time in LA, and did not venture very out of town.
- Southwest Airlines ($150/ea R/T): We had a row to ourselves; a good looking, funny flight crew; free booze with coupon; and peanuts galore. Even when our return flight was cancelled due to the torrential downpour, we were nicely reaccommodated. - Pinkberry Frozen Yogurt ($5): Yes, another frozen yogurt joint to support the craze; no, not like every other. The staff at Pinkberry was friendlier than I’ve ever experienced at other yogurt shops - they were excited about their product. Price-wise, it falls on the more expensive side, but the quality of yogurt and toppings (although limited) was excellent. Try a “swirl” of original & pomegranate yogurt with pomegranate, blueberry, and blackberry toppings. - Walk of the Stars (free): Spend a few minutes and you’ll see that so many famous actors, radio hosts, directors, and others have been given their own star. Celebrities old and young are memorialized in this plaques, and there’s fun to be had trying to figure out who the heck some of them are! - Grauman’s (Man’s) Chinese Theater (free): One would think we would’ve paid to go inside the most famous theater in the world, but no - we simply walked the front, looked at the variety of hand and footprints left in the concrete by stars since the 1920s until now. Of note: Mel Gibson has the largest hands and feet of them all! - Citadel Outlets (free + spending $): This is a small, outdoor outlet mall, with a fair number of recognizable stores (e.g. Banana Republic Outlet, United Colors of Benetton), and also a decent number of smaller chains to choose from. Enjoy a Auntie Anne’s pretzel while you grab an Ed Hardy t-shirt and some tennies from Puma! - Fountain Day Spa Thai Massage ($95/couple): If you’ve never had a Thai massage, and want to try one without the happy ending, Fountain Day Spa is the right venue for you. Tucked away in a seeming seedy strip mall, the day spa has private beds, a relaxing atmosphere, and credentialed masseuses. Request a 1-hour or 90-minute “combo” massage to experience the best of Swedish and Thai massages in the same session - Thai massage is more about healing and invigorating through bending and stretching, whereas your body probably aches for the recognizable kneading motions of the Swedish style. - Hollywood Hotel ($99/night): Currently part of the Ramada franchise, the owner touts the “world-famous” status of his Hollywood Hotel. Unfortunately, it comes up short - the saunas are “dry” saunas according to management, but the units themselves require water to operate optimally. Room 201 is smaller than a bedroom, and the power-outlets will trigger a breaker switch failure. The elevators are slow. And there is a night club in the basement that will surely vibrate you to sleep if you’re in bed by midnight on Friday night. Saving traits included the room upgrade, free of charge, to make us forget about room 201; free continental breakfast, and a convenient location near 101, West Hollywood, and downtown. - Hair Salon Plus ($12 + tip): Getting my haircut at a new place usually scares me as much as spiders do. Hair Salon Plus looks like a small shop from the outside, but when you step in, you are surprised by the size of the Chicano-run business, and delighted by the friendliness of the staff. Both Greg and I got our hair cut, and we both walked away satisfied and ready for a night on the town. - Visiting Roxbury Dr., home to the stars (free + gas $): If you don’t want to pay the money to go on a 2-hour ride along through the starry neighborhoods, and you’re not that infatuated with catching Britney Spears in one of her show-all episodes, driving down Roxbury Dr. (3 blocks from Rodeo Dr. on Wilshire Blvd.) and the surrounding neighborhood is a good way to see some of the glamour associated with living in Beverly Hills. Or, stay home and watch new episodes of 90210! - Yoshinoya (Japanese fast food) ($8): Think Asian themed soul-food, cooked to perfection in a vat of reused chicken stock. Your sodium and cholesterol levels will probably scream through the weekend, but the chicken, beef, or veggie combos are a treat for at least one midnight run to grab food. - Axe’ Restaurant, Venice, CA ($80/two): Pronounced ‘Ah-shay’. A bit on the pricey side, Axe’ brought a new twist to dining out: it was all of the food with most of the flair, but none of the sauces and additives one is typically accustomed to.If you are into appreciating food in a more natural form - plucked directly from the ground & fried, or taken from a slab of beef and rubbed with chimichurri spices, then Axe’ is for you! For those who love ketchup and ranch as much as I do, Axe’ may not be the place to spend your week’s earnings. - Santa Monica Pier (free + ride $): A smaller cousin of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the pier has several rides and carnival games to occupy your time. If you go during the summer, you may see movie crews filming commercials or films, and you may find yourself with free tickets to a local taping of shows like “The Man Show”. Is that still around? - Santa Monica 3rd St. Promenade (free + shopping $): Like most other open-air shopping malls, the promenade is a shop-lined street where pedestrians rule. Great stores are complimented by awesome live music. Watch out for the Nicky Hiltons of Santa Monica! They may run you over as they dart between stores with their coffee and poodle! - Universal City Walk ($12 parking + shopping $): Parking and Starbucks were the only things we paid for on the rainy Monday afternoon when we visited, but typically the real fun happens at night, when Citywalk is transformed into a popular hangout for 20 and 30 somethings. Dance the night away, have some tasty drinks, and dodge the squirting fountain for an evening of fun!
Hopefully these tidbits will help you if you decide to make a low-budget trip down to LA one of these days! Viva Los Angeles!
Last night, I made my final trip home from Minneapolis, MN. I have spent 3 of the last four weeks in this snowy haven, starting at 40 degrees with a dusting of snow, ending at 15 degrees with streets covered in white. Tuesday, through the glass walls of the Skyway, I got to watch it snow.
Minneapolis is not like any other city I have visited. It is clean, with shop-lined streets just wide enough to fit a bus. Although I spend my days in the urban downtown, it’s quiet, and seemingly safer than other big cities. The infamous Skyway is a second-level tube that connects a majority of the downtown buildings within the busiest parts of the city. It is well-maintained, also lined with shops and outfits like employment agencies, and it’s open until 10pm. Last night, I ran into an old lady walking through the tube, alone, at around 9pm. She was as content as could be. On the opposite side of the Skyway, I was also content, daydreaming about the city, the snow, and the novelty of my walkable commute back to the hotel. My superstar month of travel was coming to an end.
Now back in the Bay Area, I want to highlight a few things that made my trip that much more enjoyable: - My co-worker Kylie’s company - The Mall of America - Moose Poop (chocolate covered peanuts) from I Love Minnesota - Dinner at Fogo de Chao, Mission, and The Bank - Banana Republic’s 1-day 40% off sale - Naked Juice (the red Superfood)
I’m happy to be home, but I’ll be back on a plane tomorrow for one last jaunt. Greg and I are heading to LA for a 3-day weekend of relaxation and quality time. Thank goodness for paid time off.
In January of 2009, I will be heading to Argentina with friends. Our plan to adventure this South American country will stop no sooner than the most southern location on Earth! On return, my passport will thankfully have a fancy stamp to show for it. As things start to come together, it looks like our itinerary will take us to:
- Buenos Aires, - Iguazu Falls, and - Tierra del Fuego (including Ushuaia).
We are still deciding what the best approach will be, travel and timing-wise, but these seem to be our key destinations. The trip will only last about 8 days, so this limited scope will hopefully yield a manageable number of excursions! As we get closer to the departure date of 01/29/09, I will post more details.
If you have any insight to share about Argentina, please shoot me an email, or comment here. I’ll be very happy to hear what you have to say (as long as it‘s not, “Don‘t go!”).
Argentinian Gauchos beware! A UCSB Gaucho will be painting your town red!