After more than a week of vacation pictures and reviews, I suppose it is about time to get back to real life around here. Well, okay vacation is sort of real life in these parts, but, um, you know what I mean.
Anyway, just prior to leaving for Argentina, Eric made the comment that it would be our first "sightseeing" vacation. I hadn't thought of it that way, but it really was. Especially if you discount our long weekend getaways and whatnot that we've been enjoying since moving to Brasil. Previously, we have taken quite a few extended trips together, but they always involved work, going to see family that lived somewhere else, or travelling with other family members. There was our honeymoon, but we didn't do an abundance of sightseeing in Jamaica. Actually, we didn't do much of anything if it involved leaving the resort where we were staying. (After having just 4 months to plan a Georgia wedding while living in Iowa and an international move to prepare for in the coming month, I really wanted a week of not doing much. After having to put up with me only having 4 months to plan a Georgia wedding from Iowa, Eric needed a good relaxing break as well!)
So, when we ventured off to Argentina and Chile for 11 days with nothing scheduled other than flights and nights booked at B&B's, we were excited to see what our days would bring. Sure, I had read lots of articles, printed off maps, gotten recommendations from others, and made a list of "should see/should do" stuff, but our days were free to plan as we pleased.
Here comes what must be a difference in us and the typical Brasilian vacationer: We stayed busy. Really busy. While most days we avoided setting an alarm, we were up and moving at a decent hour each morning. We'd leave our room, set off on our mission for the day, undoubtedly end up walking a whole lotta miles, return to our room to shower after nightfall, and then head back out for our evening meal and plans. There was no sleeping until noon. There was no afternoon napping. There was no lounging around a pool or beach. We were busy. And when we returned to Belo Horizonte late Tuesday night, our doorman let us in our building, met us with a big smile, and asked if we were all rested up and relaxed now. Eric and I looked at each other as we walked towards the elevator and agreed that we were much more tired now than when we left over a week earlier. That's how you're supposed to come back from vacation, exhausted and tired, right? Apparently not so in Brasil. Over the course of the next few days everyone we ran into at work, in our building, etc. would ask us how our vacation was and if we got all rested up. Shoot, we were in new countries. There was stuff to see. There were new foods to be tried. There were mountains to be skied. There was . . . way too much to do to be resting. Resting could wait until we got back home.
We came across a few other revelations in our travels too that I feel I should share:
- As much as I feel like I stand out as a blonde living in Belo Horizonte, I really, really, really stand out as a blonde in Buenos Aires and even more so in Santiago. We could get on the subway, look back two or three cars and look forward two or three cars and, I'm telling you, there was not another blonde to be seen. Anywhere. I bet we saw, no kidding, like only eight other blondes the entire trip.
- And a 5'7" blonde stands out even more in Santiago. I bet I was taller than 85% of the population (men included.) At 5'9" Eric looked freakishly tall. Short of attending a convention for Little People or something, Hubby, bless his heart, doesn't get to look freakishly tall too very often.
- Thank goodness I'm a white blonde girl, otherwise I would have really screamed foreigner. I've never seen a less racially diverse population. Not even while living in Iowa. While Santiago did have more people of Native-Indian descent, most everyone else in both cities was white, white, white. I guess after living here in BH and being used to a really diverse population (we've got people of European, African, Asian, Native Indian-descent, and even more that are a mixture of it all living here), it was rather shocking to see everyone looking the same: light skin and dark hair. Of course, maybe it was just the areas we visited, but still.
- Nobody wants to claim poor Eric. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times he gets called Argentinian here in Brasil. But then, the whole time we were in Argentina, everyone assumed him to be Brasilian. Every time he tells people he's American, he gets the most shocked look which is occasionally followed by something along the lines of, "but you're so thin!" (Note to Those Who Need to Know It: Not all Americans are fat. We promise there are lots more just like us, and plenty even (oh gasp!) skinnier, back in the USA.)
- In touristy spots where everyone's rather aggressively soliciting business and able to speak Spanish and English, it is nice to be assumed to be Brasilian and/or be rather fluent in Portuguese. Every time someone approached us they would start speaking Spanish. We'd ignore them and keep walking. Then they'd try their English. At that point we'd stop, give them our best blank stare, and say something along the lines of "Desculpe, mas eu falo somente português. Fala português?" That'd stop 'em dead in their tracks pretty much every time!
- Santiago has the most awesome subway system. Clean, safe, quick, and with good coverage of the city. It really left us wishing BH had better public transportation! And, on top of that, they had what must be the world's cheapest (and abundant supply of) taxis! Seriously, getting around without a car was such a breeze!
- Both cities were awesome to visit. We could totally handle a trip back to Argentina any day. Chile was great too, but, since we can buy their wine outside of their country, the only reason we would ever want to go back is for the skiing. Buenos Aires had such a historical feel to it, and we both agreed we could spend a lot more time there. Santiago was fine, but we really saw all there was (or maybe all we cared to see) in the couple of days we stayed in the city.
- We like vacation a whole, whole lot. We really need about 3 months of paid vacation per year. (Would that have been negotiable in our contract here? Hey, you can't blame a girl for wishing big!)