Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires Tango

Plaster crumbling from colorful old buildings, rusty iron balconies, black and white tile all cracked and broken, tropical plants so big they might be monsters. These are some of the things you see when you look into the a hidden courtyard in Buenos Aires. These things transport you to another world, a time of the past, and give you a  glimpse at what Argentina might really be like: quiet, nostalgic, and somewhat falling apart.

El Obelisco

After our time in Patagonia, we headed up to Buenos Aires to enjoy the last few days of our vacation. On our first day there, we quickly discovered that the streets of Buenos Aires are quite different from these whispering courtyards. Instead the streets are bustling and modern, with black and yellow taxis zipping by and people, young and old, walking swiftly to unknown destinations. Perhaps they’re on their way to a corner cafe to have a coffee or to an afternoon meeting in the hectic micro-center.

Or maybe they’re just on an afternoon stroll through one of Buenos Aires’ beautiful neighborhoods, each with its own distinct character.

My favorite neighborhoods were San Telmo and Recoleta. San Telmo is located just south of the city center and has a sort of alternative flair, with lots of run down restaurants and antique shops. Peek into any storefront and you might see hundreds of crystal chandeliers dangling from the ceiling. The neighborhood is also the home of a huge the San Telmo market, which occupies an entire city block and is a great place to buy antiques of all kinds, as well as leather goods, fresh veggies, and delicious sandwiches.

La BocaGabino Coria Peñaloza

Nuestra Señora del Pilar

Recoleta, on the other hand is quite different from San Telmo. It’s a beautiful residential neighborhood famous for it’s Parisian-style architecture and many green spaces. We loved strolling through the heart of Recoleta, a series of central plazas full of people selling artisan crafts, street musicians, jugglers, and many residents and tourists relaxing on the grass for a picnic or a bit of yerba mate.

The trees in these plazas are especially amazing. Right when we stepped out of the cab we saw a beautiful group of rubber trees. We went over to take a look at it only to discover that it was one monstrous tree. I later learned that this famous tree, nicknamed Gran Gomero, has branches that span over 150 feet. Huge!

We also enjoyed strolling  through the Recoleta cemetery, which is big enough to get lost in, and were amazed at the size of the mausoleums, each one bigger than the next. Many were falling apart from years of neglect.

LettersLightening StormLa Casa RosadaJim in Cafe

It seems that every block of Buenos Aires has five cafes. We also appreciated that. We spent hours sipping coffees, trying new apperitivos, and people watching, as we tried to decipher what Buenos Aires is really about. We only spent three nights there, not enough to figure it out, but we were definitely enchanted, both by the busy streets and the mysterious courtyards within them.

Perhaps one day we’ll return to discover a little bit more about what Buenos Aires really is.

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Lake House Bliss

Rocks on IceThis past weekend seven friends and I journeyed northward for a weekend at a lake house that I imagine to be Wisconsin’s most adorable. With its massive stone fireplace, seriously kitschy kitchen, and yards and yards of wood paneling, how could any cabin be better?

Add to that an extremely comfortable leather couch big enough to seat all eight of us, and you’ve got the perfect place to spend a fun weekend with friends.

And it was fun. I laughed so hard I could barely breathe, several times because of repeated impersonations of the “Cheese Doodles Guy.”

Bird HouseShore

Said Cheese Doodles Guy was on a recent Radio Lab episode about the feeling of bliss. In the episode, Cheese Doodles Guy (his real name is Aleksander Gamme) explains that as part of his preparation for a solo trek across Antarctica, he buried caches of food for himself so that he can avoid carrying all his provisions across the continent.  Later, you get to hear Cheese Doodles Guy experience extreme–and I’m talking extreme–happiness when he locates one of the caches of food after months of trekking alone.

Basically he just screams and screams with joy and then, between many Norwegian words, he says the words “Cheese Doodles.”

It’s an amazing clip and since several of us had heard the same Radio Lab episode, we couldn’t help but impersonate his screams and shout “Cheese Doodles” at the top of our lungs. It was so funny.

You can watch a video of Cheese Doodles Guy’s extreme happiness here.

WaterDead LeafDespite all this tomfoolery about the Cheese Doodles Guy, I spent a lot of time over the weekend thinking about what bliss really is. In the Radio Lab episode, they talk about bliss being this supreme state of happiness, almost like a religious experience, where feelings of joy and peace come together to create some amazing moment.

I think I’ve had moments like this. For me, they often result from being in the water. Perhaps in that warmth you feel when you first put on your clothes after a late night swim or during a sit in a hot spring deep within some ancient forest. During experiences like these, I’ve felt deeply at peace and content.

Our HouseOn Sunday night, after our lovely weekend had come to an end, I started to think more about the fact that most of my blissful experiences have a very physical element because of their connection to water. What I’m trying to say is, I think that getting out of a freezing cold mountain lake or relaxing in the warmth of a beautiful  hot spring results in an actual physical change in my body, perhaps the release of endorphins or  serotonin, that allows me to feel a state of bliss.

Huh. I guess this makes me think that I need to start respecting all of my feelings of happiness equally. I need to stop relying on bodies of water for providing these magical moments and realize that if I’m purely happy, it should be good enough to be considered bliss. I shouldn’t need that physical element. That magic.

And so I return to my friends screaming their heads off and pretending to be Cheese Doodles Guy and to all the other deep belly laughs, basketball games, meandering walks, and long talks that we all shared over the past few days.

These experiences all came together to create an amazing weekend that made me truly happy. It was a weekend that I hope to remember as a time of bliss.

Rock on IceFor anyone reading this, please share your comments! Feel free to respond to any of the following questions:

  • What do you think bliss is?
  • Is there a difference between happiness and bliss? What is it?
  • What have been some of your moments of bliss?

Day 148: Motel and/or Hike

Motel

Indoor Pool from Outside

On Sunday, you could either say I made very little or a whole lot.

I took three pictures of our motel in Wisconsin (two of them are above), which isn’t much since usually when I do a series of photos I take between 20 and 100 photos. This would count as the “very little.”

On the other hand, I also took a 12.5 mile hike along the Ice Trail in Kettle Moraine South in scalding 95 degree heat. I’d like to call this the “a lot.” In a way, you could say I “made a hike” or “made progress toward becoming more fit” or even “made strides in finishing my 32 before 33 list, since hiking the entire length of the Ice Age Trail through Kettle Moraine South in Wisconsin is on my list. Sure, it’s kind of a stretch, but I feel like it’s a stretch worth taking since the hike almost killed me.

We got a late start for lots of reasons–we ate a slow breakfast, had trouble finding the trailhead, and are generally slow movers in the morning . We got on the trail at 11:15 a.m. and started with a leisurely pace. It was really nice. The scenery was beautiful with big pine trees and oaks on a deeply forested trail. There were also lots of hills to climb up, a welcome change for an Illinois girl.

Around 2:15 we got to a break in the trail with a parking lot and a trail map. That’s when we found out we still had 7.5 miles to go (and we had already gone 5 miles).  See, we knew the trail was long, but because the state park website is pretty bad, we were having trouble figuring out just how long the trail was. We thought it would be somewhere between 8 and 12 miles, but we didn’t figure out it was 12.5 miles until we got to that parking lot and were already feeling kind of tired.

In any case, we filled up our 32 ounce water bottles and got back on the trail, which started through a patch of forest with tons of raspberry bushes (if only they were ripe!). Unfortunately, the forest quickly faded away and we were suddenly hiking through a giant open savannah. In intense heat. With only 32 ounces of water.

We hiked that way for three more hours. By the end, my heart was pounding so hard, not because I was physically exhausted, but because I was getting dehydrated. But I pushed on. I dragged myself up over hills and through deceiving patches of trees that opened up back onto the vast prairie.

Until we finally reached our final destination…and a water spigot. I must say the water was amazing and my aching feet felt amazing when I ripped my shoes off. After almost five and half hours of hiking my dogs were tired, and I was even more tired.

It was worth it though. That 12.5 mile hike was my longest ever, and I am really proud. I’ve had problems with my knees over that past few years, and I feel like being able to walk that much shows that I am finally recovering and have been building strength in my knees again.

I also feel like I proved something to myself that goes beyond my knee problems–I’m still fit, strong, and up for a challenge!