Flights from Buenos Aires to Necochea?

Although there are extensive long-distance bus routes connecting points within the province of Buenos Aires, limited options exist for travelers wishing to reach destinations by air. According to an article [in Spanish] on Mensajeroweb, all of that may be about to change. The provincial government of Buenos Aires announced an initiative that makes subsidies available for new flights from the capital to locations around the province.

On November 17th, Sol Líneas Aéreas began operating flights from Aeroparque "Jorge Newbery" to Tandil. The airline also proposed additional routes to Necochea and Villa Gesell, subject to a government feasibility study.

A direct flight from Buenos Aires to Necochea would definitely appeal to my family members coming to visit from the States. Let's face it—after almost 11 hours on a plane, the prospect of a 5 1/2-hour car ride or up to eight hours on a bus just isn't that exciting.

[Update: Although Sol Líneas Aéreas did operate flights to Necochea for a brief period of time, service was suspended indefinitely in March 2009. Regional carrier LAER now offers flights between Buenos Aires and Necochea.]

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Thankful

"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures." – Thornton Wilder

Bounty

Sometimes when life gets hard, it's easy to see past the blessings we have right under our noses. On this day of Thanksgiving, I feel immensely grateful for all that I have: good health, the roof over my head and the food on the table, the promise of a future in Argentina, and most of all – the love of my family and friends.

May the spirit of peace and gratitude fill your hearts on this Thanksgiving Day.

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Can You Do Better Than Cristina Kirchner?

This just in! You've been elected to the Argentine presidency - forget about Cristina! Here's a little tongue-in-cheek humor from my favorite satirical news website, The Onion.



Now start brushing up on that tango, will you?! Read More......

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

First Snow by Cocoabiscuit on Flickr

Once I'm living in Necochea, I doubt I'll ever find myself pining for the stark and dreary winters of Philadelphia. I happily played the role of snowbird last year while I spent the entire northern hemisphere winter in Argentina. I rather enjoyed my endless summer, although admittedly I did miss one thing. Snow.

Tiny, white flakes are falling from the sky as I write this, blanketing the landscape and creating that special atmosphere that I hold so dear. There is nothing like peering through the window and watching the snowflakes swirl about.

Although it can be cold and rather blustery in Necochea during the winter, snowfall is an extremely rare occurrence for most cities in the province of Buenos Aires. In fact, snowfall in the capital last year made international headlines. Daniel has only seen snow a couple of times in his entire life, and with the reversal of seasons in the southern hemisphere, he doesn't equate icicles and the fluffy, white stuff with the holidays as I do.

Though it is very early in the season, I have already been treated to two instances of snow, and one well-respected meteorologist here in Philadelphia is predicting a cold and snowy winter for the region (25-35 inches of snow!). I guess Mother Nature wants to make sure my snow boots aren't relegated to the attic just yet.

Photo credit: Cocoabiscuit

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Hibernation

This afternoon as I pulled up in front of my dad's house, I saw a squirrel sitting on a tree branch with a large acorn clenched between his paws. He turned and eyed me up, and then he skittered down the tree trunk and into a burrow at the base of the tree. I imagined him in a few weeks, curled up tightly with his bushy little tail wrapped around him, sleeping away the cold, dreary winter without a care in the world.

Not a bad idea. Read More......

Letting Go

Let Go by deadmethods, originally on Flickr [Member no longer active]
"We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us." – Joseph Campbell

As I packed the last of my belongings into cardboard boxes this evening, my thoughts turned to the first day I walked through the barn-red front door of my 100-year-old home. Each footstep on the old, hardwood floors creaked and echoed through the empty house. As I climbed the stairs, I thought of all the hands that had run over the smooth wood of the banister. I surveyed my backyard through the large windows in my bedroom, marveling at the massive oak tree swaying ever so slightly in the wind. As I descended the staircase, my eyes fell upon boxes—identical to those I was now in the midst of filling—strewn about the living room, each laden with items awaiting their place in the new surroundings. I felt enormous pride that day; I had fulfilled a goal in the life I had planned for myself.

Now I stand in the threshold of a different doorway—a doorway that leads to a path that I had never imagined even in my wildest dreams. Tomorrow morning I will close the barn-red door one last time, and I will go to live in my father's home until it is time for me to move to Argentina. Tomorrow I take another step towards the life that awaits me.

P.S. A ladybug just landed on the floor next to me. She literally appeared out of nowhere! I'll take that as a good sign.

[Photo credit: deadmethods]

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Beachcombing for Sea Glass

Fragile hearts by Green Wellies on Flickr

A stroll along the beach is always a pleasant way to while away the time, but where do you cast your gaze as you wander along the water's edge? Toward the waves breaking along the shore? At a loved one by your side? Well, if you're a beachcomber hunting for sea glass, you're scanning the sand for a gleaming jewel among the pebbles, shells and seaweed washed ashore.

Sea glass, also known as beach glass or mermaids' tears, is man's trash turned to treasure by the action of the waves. The ocean transforms glass that was carelessly discarded into its waters many years ago into a thing of beauty. The sharp edges of the glass are worn smooth, and the shard often takes on a frosted and slightly pitted appearance. And for the record, that razor-sharp piece of glass from a busted bottle of Quilmes that washed up along the bank of the Río de la Plata does not qualify as beach glass.

As greater concern for the environment has curtailed practices such as off-shore dumping and fewer and fewer products are packaged in glass, the search for sea glass becomes all the more challenging. Smithsonian Magazine recently published an article discussing the increasing rarity of sea glass and the lengths that collectors and artisans will go to in order to find the most desirable pieces.

Some of the best places to find sea glass are beaches located near shipping lanes (sailors of yore weren't the most environmentally conscious lot), so it's no wonder that Daniel and I have had success along the beaches of Necochea. Daniel seems to have a particularly sharp eye, and he discovered several fragments of beach glass on our last visit to Punta Negra. Now that his great talent has been revealed, Daniel is under strict orders from my stepdad and grandmother to collect as much sea glass as possible. My grandmother has a fascination with sea glass, and she proudly displays her collection at the family's beach house in New Jersey.

Indeed, she is not alone – interest in collecting has risen and there is now a North American Sea Glass Association. While I enjoy scouring the beach for interesting shells, stones and sea glass, I don't think my interest even comes close to that of the participants in the "Shard of the Year" contest. If you're looking to round up an entry or two for next year's contest, here are some tips for finding sea glass.

[Photo credit: Green Wellies]

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Material Girl

"Love is a force more formidable than any other. It cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment, and offer you more joy than any material possession could." - Barbara De Angelis

When I made the decision to move to Argentina, I did so for the love of a man, not for the love of my shoe collection, my iPod or my library of books. As I prepare to leave for Necochea, I am slowly divesting myself of most of my belongings. I have sold virtually all of my furniture through craigslist, and last week I wheeled and dealed with buyers to sell a tableful of trinkets at a friend's garage sale.

I have gradually whittled away ten years of accumulated possessions to a few boxes' worth of items. In some ways it has been cathartic to rid myself of excess baggage, but despite that inner voice that says, "It's just stuff," at times it has been hard to part with my material possessions. Aside from the emotional attachment that some items hold, it has been a little difficult to separate myself from the notion that the amount of stuff we have is an indicator of our success in life and who we are. I suppose that feeling is natural though, considering the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses attitude and the messages of materialism that are pervasive in American society. Above all, getting rid of most of my possessions brings home the fact that I really am starting anew, and that fact is a little scary. But hey, who ever said self-reflection was easy?

My new home in Argentina might be a bit more spartan than I'm accustomed to, but my heart is fuller than it has been in a long time.

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The Morning After

In the days leading up to the presidential election, a few acquaintances had the nerve to ask me, "Are you going to vote? Why bother if you're moving to Argentina?"

I balked at the preposterous and rather offensive notion that I would stop caring about the direction and leadership of my country just because I'll live outside its borders. I also found it hard to believe that someone would think that policy decisions made in the U.S. would have no repercussions for me living abroad. No matter where life takes me, no matter where I rest my head at night, I'll always be American. I'll always have a stake in the fate of this country.

While on vacation in Argentina, I was floored by the number of Argentines who wanted to discuss the election and who I was voting for. In Argentina, voting is compulsory, and though not mandated by law here in the U.S., I felt obligated to make the effort to participate in a decision that has so much impact. If Argentines take that much interest in our election, shouldn't I, as an American?

And now here we are, the morning after. The votes have been tallied, and a winner has been proclaimed. Today is a proud day, a special day, because our country succeeded in doing something I wasn't sure we could do: we, as a people, elected a black man to lead us. Fellow blogger Jackson Bliss writes poignantly about this turning point in our nation's history. But beyond the issue of race, we voted for change, for a new direction for the United States. Only time will tell if President-Elect Obama is prepared to face the weighty challenges ahead. Without question, he is inheriting a broken country, and I pray that he has the leadership and know-how to fix it.

I'll be watching from afar, Mr. Obama, and I won't be the only one. The global community wants to believe in us again, as discussed in The New York Times article "The Promise - For Many Abroad, an Ideal Renewed." People across the globe are counting on you to restore honor, dignity and true diplomacy to the White House after your predecessor just about stomped those ideals into oblivion. Please don't let us down.

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Six Random Things About Yours Truly

Six Random Things About Me My new friend in the blogosphere over at Still Life in Buenos Aires authored a "Six Random Things About Me" post last week and issued an open invitation to interested readers. I have answered the call!

So, now I present to you six random things about yours truly:

  1. I played loosehead prop for the women's rugby club in college, and I even won the Most Improved Player award my first year on the team. Did I mention my best friend was the team's hooker? [Please read up on rugby positions if you think this is something dirty.]

  2. I detest eggs. I'm not allergic to them nor do I mind them when they are thoroughly disguised by other ingredients, say, in a cake; however, you will never catch me eating an omelette or, heaven forbid, a poached egg. My distaste for eggs runs so deep that at age 12 I made a bet with my dad about whether I'd eat eggs by the time I turned 30 (he was banking on the hope that my tastes would change over time). Needless to say, I easily collected my debt this past October 5th.

  3. I am a bit of a perfectionist. I've learned that this can be both a blessing and a curse in life.

  4. I have always enjoyed reading, but this seemingly safe and intellectual activity turned out to have serious consequences when I was a kid. One time at the age of seven, I mysteriously awoke with a black eye. My mom determined that I must have poked my eye on the corner of one of the 10 or so books I surrounded myself with in bed each night. A few years later, I accidentally set my tooth fairy pillow on fire after pressing my gooseneck lamp down into it to dim the light enough so that I could continue reading past my bedtime and avoid detection by my parents. Unfortunately the smell of burning cotton batting sort of clued them in.

  5. I go gaga over an Australian accent.

  6. My favorite Girl Scout Cookies are Samoas, with Peanut Butter Patties and Thin Mints a respectable second and third. Plus, I used to be one of those cute little Girl Scouts, and I still have the vest and badges to prove it.

So, now it's my turn to tag others; however, I’m going to be a copycat and follow Still Life's example. Those of you who read this post and find the idea interesting are welcome to participate. Give us all some insight into the collection of facts, interests and experiences that makes you, you! Here are the rules:

  • Link to the person who tagged you.
  • Post the rules on the blog.
  • Write six random things about yourself.
  • Tag six people at the end of your post.
  • Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
  • Let the tagger know when your entry is up.
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Walking Tour of Buenos Aires

Sometimes it takes a special person to point out the charms of a city and make its history come alive so it doesn't just seem like a pile of concrete and bricks with a few trees thrown in for good measure. I can say without hesitation that Alan Patrick of Buenos Tours is one such individual.

During the initial planning of my most recent trip to Argentina, I decided that an English-speaking guide for Buenos Aires would be essential to not only my parents' enjoyment of the tour but my own. While vacationing in Bariloche earlier this year with Daniel, I served as an impromptu interpreter for a pair of English-speaking travelers on a Spanish-language tour of Isla Victoria. Though happy to be of service to them, I found my own enjoyment of the tour was diminished to a certain extent because, well, I was working (and for free, no less)! I vowed not to repeat that mistake, and I began my search for a guide in earnest.

I discovered Buenos Tours through Alan's excellent website. Alan is an English expat who has called Buenos Aires home for about three years, and apart from an obvious love of the city, this man has done his homework. I booked a private, full-day walking tour with him, and Alan absolutely delivered! He engaged all of us with a highly informative and well-planned tour. Alan's pleasant, easy-going style mixed with a touch of classic British wit resulted in an outing that was truly memorable. My parents raved about the tour and are already planning to use Alan's services on future trips to Buenos Aires.

Alright, so where exactly did our intrepid guide lead us? We started off in the barrio of San Telmo, one of Buenos Aires' most celebrated neighborhoods. We slipped inside the lovely courtyards of outwardly unassuming conventillos, stood in the center of the famed Plaza Dorrego, and surveyed with curiosity the endless stream of antiques that we encountered at practically every turn, all while Alan wove a tale about the down-and-dirty beginnings of Argentina's beloved tango right there in the heart of San Telmo.

Conventillo, San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina by katiemetz, on Flickr

Next, we made our way over to the barrio of Monserrat where we took a quick café break at the historic La Puerto Rico. We then continued exploring some hidden gems such as Farmacia de la Estrella, an old-time pharmacy featuring a fantastic painted ceiling and intricate woodwork, as well as a couple of beautiful yet crumbling churches before heading over to the Plaza de Mayo, home to some of Buenos Aires' most important landmarks.

European Flavor by katiemetz, on Flickr

Afterwards we zipped along on Línea A of the subte with its original wooden cars before transferring to one of the more modern subway lines, and we picked up the tour at Plaza San Martín in the barrio of Retiro. As we wandered through Barrio Norte, we passed by some of the most posh areas of the city, filled with grand monuments and works of sheer architectural genius. We broke for lunch at a small neighborhood restaurant, Rodi Bar, which served up a tasty meal at reasonable prices.

Iglesia de San Ignacio - Manzana de las Luces by katiemetz, on Flickr Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores | Ministry of Foreign Affairs by katiemetz, on Flickr

The very last stop on the tour was Cementerio de la Recoleta [Recoleta Cemetery] where Alan recounted the tales of some of the cemetery's most famous residents. Many groups rush in merely to visit Evita's grave, bypassing so many other worthwhile spots, but Alan's approach differed considerably.

Querubín | Cherub by katiemetz, on Flickr

In my opinion, the cemetery is not to be missed, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the culture and history of Argentina through the figures buried there. At ten minutes to 6 the bell at the entrance gate rang out in a series of near-deafening peals, announcing that it was time for the living to depart the city of the dead.

After exiting the cemetery we bade a fond farewell to Alan, our feet a bit sore but our minds chock-full of fascinating information to mull over and submit to further exploration.

Check out additional photos in my Buenos Aires set on Flickr.

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