Saturday, February 27, 2010

Viajando

I haven’t been gone long, though it already feels like forever.

I left late Sunday, early Monday after having my friends and family gather at a brew pub in downtown Denver for one last hurrah. My parents met my boyfriend’s parents for the first time and I think it went rather well.

Once I arrived in Atlanta, the baggage people thankfully agreed to store my giant backpack for the day and I set out into the great city that hosted the 2000 Olympic Games. The public transportation was simple, cheap and fast. I was pleased.

Having no watch and having relinquished my cell phone in Denver, I knew only that it was early when I disembarked the MARTA train at the CNN center. I walked through the darkened center, where people sat quietly eating Chic-Fill-A breakfasts in a massive food court, watching a massive TV in one of the most confused building interiors I’ve ever seen. Hotel rooms from the Omni hotel gazed down on the food court filled with Burger Kings, McDonalds and Starbucks while newsrooms and CNN office spaces were labeled in big neon lighting. I knew TV news was commercial, but it seemed disconcerting to see all that together.

I walked into the city center in dreary fog and found a bazaar diner with multiple levels and a mix of night club and 50s diner d├ęcor. Since it seemed certain it would rain, I decided early on to forego the Segway tour. I figured I’d go to the puppetry museum after my CNN tour.

I shared my tour with a gigantic group of fifth graders, which has its benefits and downfalls. Fifth graders are a curious bunch and they ask a lot of interesting questions that I enjoyed hearing our guide, AJ, answer. However, fifth graders are a curious bunch and they ask a lot of questions.

During the tour, AJ, pointed out that there were no dividers between the desks in the newsroom.

“Back when newspapers were big, that’s how they did it,” he told our group. “They did it that way so people could talk to each other in the newsroom. That was before IM and facebook were big; people don’t really need to talk so much anymore.”
Not joking. CNN’s newsroom is organized in homage to its ancestor, the newspaper. It’s sort of like how humans were made in the image of Apes, you know?

We also got to take a look at the Headline News offices. It’s now going by the nickname HLN, AJ explained. I imagined a tour in a few years where the guide asks a group of fifth graders what HLN stands for and no one knows. “Headlines,” the guide will explain were what people called the title of an article in a newspaper. An article is like a story on the TV news, but written. So the headline told people in a few words what the story was about.”

Anyway. It was an interesting tour. I like CNN. I wish I could have come away from there feeling like they actually cared about news.

It probably didn’t help that I was so tired I just wanted to lean my head against the window of the newsroom and take a nap. By the end, I could hardly hold my head up and decided I had to go back to the airport and look for a place to sleep. I checked in six hours early for my flight and found an empty section of waiting area with two chairs connected by a table where there were no armrests, curled up and slept for almost three hours.

It was almost as early when I got to my hostel in Buenos Aires. I left my clothes, took a shower and wondered the city until I couldn’t stand it anymore. The sun was out, the weather was warm. It was a great day. I had a Napolitano pizza. I swear. I’ve had pizza in Italy and I’ve had pizza in Argentina and I’m not really sure which is better. The pizza here is so amazing and so ubiquitous. It’s on every single corner. Probably more popular than Starbucks in California or New York. The Napolitano has thick layers of fresh Mozzarella with fresh slices of tomato, visible chopped garlic, oozing olive oil and a couple green olives just for color. Yummm. I’ve had a few already.

Then I took a four-hour nap and sat around trying to decide what I, as a traveler, was supposed to do that night. I wandered up to the rooftop deck hoping to make a quick friend. I hung out with a couple Australian guys and more and more people joined us until we were playing drinking games and planning a big night out at the clubs.

The alcohol seemed to have a dulled effect on me, thanks, I’m sure, to coming from altitude. I was definitely glad later that night/morning when my bunk mates wandered into the room at about 6 a.m. after a night at the club and I’d been cozy in bed for hours.

I walked around town the next day and visited the famous Reccoletta Cemetery where Evita Peron is “buried.” I didn’t get to see her tomb. There was funeral in progress that day and I suspect the services were near where she is. But I know I’ll have plenty of chances to go back.

I went to a fancy dinner with Miah, my new Israeli friend, one of the Australian guys from the night before and an audacious American Army guy. They drank and wrestled after dinner while planning for a big night out. I chatted with a Dutch computer genius and convinced him to answer an online personal ad.

Deciding that I don’t quite have my travel legs yet and need a little time on my own before exposing myself to hardened backpackers with alcoholic tendencies, I asked the travel guide at our hostel for a tranquil beach recommendation. She suggested Miramar, which is not in my Lonely Planet guide.

I was almost the only person on the bus and nearly got off in Mar del Plata, a bigger and more popular destination, out of fear that there wouldn’t be a place to stay or that it would all be too expensive or dodgy. But I decided that if it was no good I would still have time to get a bus back to Mar del Plata. And if I didn’t go to Miramar, I could be missing out on not only a great experience, but the experience I was actually seeking.

I found a nice female taxi driver who put me at ease immediately and told her I was looking for cheap hotel near the beach. She said she knew one. The first place was absolutely charming, but they had no rooms. We stopped at two others, one with no vacancies and one that cost $50 a night. Then we stopped at a place called the Hotel Hispania. It’s not the nicest hotel in the world. It costs about $23 a night. I have my own bathroom. Breakfast is included and the older gentlemen who run it are wonderful.

I burned myself on the beach today and found the cutest downtown ever this afternoon. I will stay one more day. This hotel is a bit rich for my blood. I’m trying to spend no more than $30 a day. But I’m so grateful to the travel agent for recommending Miramar. I’m not sure I’ve been any place that wasn’t in a guidebook except for San Simeon in Mexico. And there I had my own personal guide.

Here, I am a rarity. Nearly everyone is a tourist. But I am the only foreigner I’ve seen and I get a lot of glances because I suspect I’m the only woman traveling by herself that most people have seen around here.

That’s all for now. Hasta luego