4 feet 2 mouths

walking and eating our way around the world

Archive for the tag “Goodbyes”

My South America Favorites + Returning “Home” (by Carmen)

17th century map of South America

Our South America trip was better than I could have ever expected.  I loved practicing my Spanish, scouting out local cuisine, imbibing lots of caipirinhas and red wine, and observing the mix of old world and new world traditions.  One thing I hadn’t quite expected was the jaw dropping natural beauty, from jungles and beaches to arid, bushy plains; from huge cacti growing out of red rocks to stark Andean mountainscapes.  It was a collection of unforgettable experiences.

With that in mind, I thought I would get through some FAQs.  These generally begin with “what was your favorite…”.  So here are a selection of my favorites from my fifteen weeks down south.

Cafe Tortoni in Buenos Aires

Nathan grilling up some lomito

Sifones used to store soda water

Fútbol fanáticos

Favorite City: Buenos Aires.  The city has a special lived in elegance to it.  I enjoyed the cafe culture, the pretty parks, and the slightly rough around the edges feel to it.  And the Argentinian accent, which uses a lot of soft “j” sounds, was incredibly endearing.

Cafayate View

Last rays of sun in the Cafayate canyons

Favorite Town: Cafayate. Good wine, yummy empanadas, an alfajores factory, a spacious main plaza, beautiful scenery and wine flavored ice cream…Cafayate instantly welcomed us.

Pasta, wine, yum…at Pierinos

Quinoa salad at Market in Rio de Janeiro

Artemisia in Buenos Aires

Favorite Restaurant: Pierinos.  I love pasta.  This is the third time I’ve mentioned it in this blog but the slow cooked sauces Pierinos slathers on its homemade pasta steal my heart.  Other favorite eats include Artemesia‘s mostly vegetarian fare, the fresh salads and smoothies at Market, any buffet in Brazil, and fresh ceviche in Peru.

Delicious fried trucha

Chicharron sandwich stand in Arequipa

Favorite Hole in the Wall: Trucha stands on Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. So simple but so good with the fresh caught trout fried to perfection in garlic and oil. El Cuartito served my favorite pizza in Buenos Aires.  The lomito sandwich in cordoba wasn’t much to look at but was delicious and big enough for the both of us.  And then there was the chicharron sandwich Arequipa. Fried pork with spicy coleslaw is always a winner.

The spectacular Salar de Uyuni trip

Nathan and me enjoying Bolivian scenery

Nathan the mountaineer on Salkantay

Favorite Sight Salar de Uyuni and Salkantay Mountain. We saw so many beautiful sights but it is the people you share it with that make it even better.  Therefore it’s a tie between the non-stop excitement of the salar de uyuni trip and the first view of Salkantay with old friends from San Francisco. Oh and Iguazu Falls too!

Wine and Cheese in Tafí del Valle

Schwarzwald beer hall in Curitiba, Brazil – I loved the mini stein in the big stein!

Favorite Drinking Experience: Wine and cheese in Tafí del Valle.  We brought a wonderful Malbec from Mendoza, sliced up some local cheese and sat on the porch of the historic villa we stayed at. Heaven.  I also loved collecting mini beer steins at the convivial German beer hall Schwarzwald.  And the most delicious caipirinhas I tasted were made by a Peruvian at Pepe’s Bar in Foz de Iguazu.

Bossa Nova in Rio de Janeiro

Marching band in Copacabana

Favorite Live Music: Los Tabaleros performing at the hidden restaurant. The chef and his friends played the show at the secret restaurant my classmate’s roommates hosted.  I’m still happy I won the cd! Also enjoyed the classic bossa nova in Ipanema and the parade music at Copacabana’s festival.

Church roof in Potosí

Potato peddlers in Sucre

Best Place to Go If You’ve Only Got a Couple Weeks: Bolivia.  The variety of the sights here is incredible!  You can enjoy lush jungles or cold windy mountains.  The people are friendly and helpful.  They keep the traditional culture alive and well.  And, importanly, it’s inexpensive to get around.

Chandelier in Argentina’s congress building

All the places we went and sights we saw, and there is still more to see.  I was sad to leave South America when there is so much more to explore. On the other hand, adventures in other parts of the world beckoned.

Dewy rose in Tafí del Valle

From Peru we returned “home” to California but that’s a tricky word for me.  If home is where the heart is, mine is rather split up. Immediate family in Southern California, close friends in San Francisco, extended family in Chicago.  And then there’s the part of my heart passionate about travel, which creates an itch to make a home in new places.

So the final and most popular FAQ, “What’s next?” Should we travel for the entire year? You’ll have to read the next post to find out.

Where oh where will we go from here?

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Northern Migration (by Nathan)

Recoleta Cemetary

In January I began my southern migration. I escaped the constant 60 degrees of San Francisco for the sun and summertime of South America. I was excited to begin work on improving my Spanish and I was ready to live and travel through countries and cultures of which I had only a cursory knowledge.  The plan was to roam from city to city with an open mind, a loose pocket book and a constant curiosity to explore and enjoy the differences in these countries.  After four months of adventure, Carmen and I would return to California ready to embark on another journey.

Fugazza and Faina Pizza

Açai breakfast

Our trip began in Buenos Aires with food, activities and cultures that stood up to any great city. The fugazza pizza was deliciously unique with thick doughy crust, creamy cheese and heaps of oven caramelized onions.  El Cuartito was the best, and I think Rick agreed. I would return for the pizza and empanadas and all the beautiful streets that BsAs has to offer.

Sunset on Ipanema Beach, Rio

Carmen and the sands of Rio

We traveled through Uruguay and into Brazil. Rio de Janiero was everything that I love in a travel destination. Beaches stretched endlessly with the urban landscape pressed right up against the sand.  The culture is vibrant with dance, music and tropical foods.  The açai and fresh fruit drinks stand out as an epitome of fresh summertime delights. The country is a mix of indigenous, Europeans, Africans and Asians, a familiar mix to the United States so we felt welcomed as foreigners.  We could swim, climb a mountain and go dancing all in one day.  I enjoyed gaining a better understanding of the favelas as well as peering down into the city from the many vistas.

Fun at Lapa steps

Iguazú Waterfalls

We worked our way through Brazil’s vast landscape.  We visited the breathtaking waterfalls in Iguazú that roared unbelievably over the cliffs edge. We baked in in the sun on Ihla do Mel on coastal Brazil and we jointed friends in Santiago Chile.  We bussed our way over the Andes into Mendoza for a day or two (or three) of wineries, biking and empanadas. We explored German settled villages and the bigger cities of Córdoba and Salta. It was the canyons that really captured my heart.

Fun light fixture at our hostel

El castillo en Quebrada de Cafayate

Another one of my favorite cities was the charming Cafayate in Argentina.  We sipped wine at several walk able bodegas. We hiked through beautiful canyons and cliff formations.  And most often, we enjoyed strolling through the cozy town.  With a simple town square and food market our time here was relaxing and satisfying.

Jumping off rocks at valle de rocas

Fun on the salt flats

Another bus brought us into Bolivia. The country is poor with struggle, but thriving with cheap delicious food, unforgettable sights and nice helpful people.  One of my favorite experiences of the entire trip was the four day trek into the Salar De Uyuni.We visited brightly colored lagoons, spectacular volcanic rocks and salt flats that made us act silly with our new friends. The home-cooked Bolivian food was excellent and every day I wanted to take the little woman home with me to teach me everything she knows in the kitchen.

Painted desert in Bolivia

Salt harvesting

We continued high into the mountains. The cities of Potosí and Sucre were wonderful places to learn about Bolivia, South America and the indigenous people that lived here for thousands of years.  La Paz contained the best market that we experienced in South America.  This was because the stalls could not be contained by any building and instead flowed out on the streets in every direction.  It was mayhem and delight simultaneously. I loved it!

The best market streets is in La Paz

We biked down mountains in La Paz and hiked islands of Lake Titicaca. A festival in Copacabana engaged our feet and sent us running for cover from fireworks.  Bolivia has a rustic, untamed, and raw quality to it that flaunts colorful traditions with people that are genuine and kind.

Street in Arequipa

When we had finally made our way into Peru our bellies began being stuffed to the brim with constant feasts of amazing food.  Arequipa was the best food city we went to in South America.  There was ceviche, alpaca, rocoto rellenos, chicharrones and fresh fruit smoothies. We found something delicious everywhere we went.  The city had beautiful architecture and the nearby Colca Canyon was great for hiking.

Arequipa food market

Our history lesson continued when we finally arrived in Cusco.  The city is packed with nearby ruins and a brutal history where the mighty Incas were decimated by the Spanish. One downfall of Cusco and Peru is that very few sights have accessible tourist information.  There are an abundance of guides, that costs, entry fees are high and there are many sights to see which makes Peru a challenge for tourists on a budget.  But with friends it is all worth it.

Machu Picchu

On our Machu Picchu trek we went all out with excellent cooks, porters, equipment and a guide.  I think I liked the walking and hiking just as much as the ruins.  We walked for six days climbing snow covered passes, jungles and high altitude wetlands.  We stuffed ourselves on Peruvian favorites and we laughed until we hurt playing card games into the night.  We wondered around countless ruins out doing one another in jumping photos and we caravanned up and down the mountainsides. Machu Picchu in itself is a spectacular piece of history and archeology.  We combined it with Salkantay, the Inca Trail and friends for an unforgettable adventure.

Carmen patiently waiting for me to finish the photo

Our final city in Peru was LimaThe time spent there was brief, but the amounts of ceviche consumed copious.  Ponte de Azul ceviche stands out as one of my favorite meals.  The fish was firm and fresh and the juice sour and spicy.  In the blink of an eye Lima was over and we were boarding a plane saying goodbye to this Lima, Peru and South America.

Every vacation involves exploring new places, having adventures and creating memories.  The challenge and fun of any vacation for Carmen and me is that we leave with a longer list of places to see and immerse ourselves into next time.  Our next trip to South America would focus on exploring the natural side of this continent.  Patagonia tops our list of “must sees.”  We did not want to lug around our carpas and sacos de dormir (tents and sleeping bags) this trip.  So next time we plan on several weeks of hiking and back-country camping.  We want to see the coasts of Peru and Colombia known for beautiful beaches.  And finally we want to see more of Brazil- Belem is supposedly vibrant and bountiful with Amazonian foods and culture.  In no way did we calm our enjoyment of Brazilian rhythms and dance; we want more samba!

Outside the airport, our last minutes in Peru

There are so many places to visit; each city or village opens new possibilities of adventure.  We walk everywhere and we eat everything; that is what 4feet2mouths is all about.  Our love for travel has taken us to the other side of the world.  And as fall sets on South America we land in Los Angeles ready for new adventures, more exotic countries, more tiring hikes and street food that will leave our mouths searing and tingling.  Traveling is too much fun to stop now.  Do you want to join us?

One of my favorite photos: Congresso reflection, BsAs

Southern Migration (by Nathan)

The Andes between Santiago and Buenos Aires

Finally this day has come- the day where my feet leave the ground in California and touch down on the other side of the world.  Today I am in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It has been a migratory event in some sense, a need down through my core to get out of town and see the world. Not just the travel itch, but a gnawing at my inner being to grab a hold of some culture and consume it, devour it until I was satisfied.  This must be what birds feel too, a calling and a deep need to fly south, a need to voraciously flap their wings for weeks straight to be there to consume the ripest fruit.  This year the world would not ripen without me being there to eat it. 

I was quite lucky that Carmen felt this too.  No wings, but this year you will find us walking and eating our way around the world. Not physically walking around the world, but our 4 feet and 2 mouths will travel to destinations that our inner being wants us to explore.

Berkeley was an amazing place to live.  There were so many aspects to Berkeley that touched my core values in architecture, food and the outdoors. The Bay Area allowed me to design amazing buildings, hike in beautiful mountains and enjoy farm-to-table meals everyday and all year.  But…in many ways the lacking public transit and small ethnic neighborhoods were not enough.  There are only so many times that a Bart ride to the Mission or Chinatown would satisfy my desires to travel.  And there were those times that while eating dim sum at Dol Ho where I experienced the crazy cart-driven yelling that I enjoyed so much in Hong Kong.  If I liked it so much then why not go back to Hong Kong?

And friends! I have some truly amazing friends in the Bay Area.  I have friends that like me, think a perfect day is a farmer’s market, shared bottle of wine and a Cheeseboard pizza. I have friends that time and time again feed me, educate me, entertain me (sometimes a little to much), and even nurse me back to health.  I drool thinking of our dinner parties– potlucks to an unprecedented gourmet level.  I will miss all of these friends and they know that they are always welcome to visit and stay with us at our home.  That is, when we finally get a home somewhere.

That’s right, we are homeless.  Carmen and I gave up 70% of our stuff and moved out of Berkeley.  It is a crazy feeling purging everything you own to the last morsels of what you think is important.  The sentiment is the worst for me- both getting rid of things that emotionally tug at me and the things that I think have some actual value.  The end result: I sold a few things on Craigslist, gave away a lot of stuff and trashed quite a bit too.  No turning back now, I’m glad I did it.  I’m still impressed that I fit all that 30% in my little Nissan truck.

BA Architecture

Stepping onto the Buenos Aires streets created such a fantastic sensation throughout my body.  It was as if my soul was tingling- reminding me that this is happening, this is really happening.  No job, no apartment, no bills, just Carmen and I, a camera and our backpacks and four months to explore South America.  The rest of the year we’re traveling too. Where should we go?

Goodbye to Berkeley (by Carmen)

Berkeley_View

The lovely view from our Berkeley apartment.

I hate goodbyes in any form.  I dislike finishing a good book because I have to bid farewell to the characters I met.  I dislike ending jobs because I have to leave the co-workers I’ve spent so much time with.  The worst goodbyes are when you don’t know if you’ll ever see a person or place again.

Now I must say goodbye to the Bay Area, where I’ve lived for the better part of 9 years.  There are many things I will miss.  The view from my apartment, for instance.  I absolutely love the view.  The bright blue sky contrasts with the tree leaves.  The branch that curves in such a way to give me privacy from neighbors (at least when there are leaves in spring). The squirrels that scurry along the telephone wires.  I’ve been a grad student for the past few years and like to work at home. The beautiful view has kept me company through many hard months and for that I am grateful.

My view, however, is not the thing I will miss most.  My wonderful, amazing and irreplaceable friends top that list.  You guys rock. I will also long for the fresh and delicious produce available year round,  the proximity to wine country in the north and mountains to the east, the great selection of restaurants, the ease of visiting family in Southern California.

I will miss Berkeley itself, to an extent.  As an urbanist, I form relationships with cities.  I guess you could say I have theoretical conversations with them.  For example with San Francisco it’s something like, “I like you, I really do.  Great food, lots of parks.  You’d be even better if dropped that car habit of yours.  Look, I can see why so many people leave their hearts with you.  It’s just I don’t feel that spark between us, you know. Let’s just be friends.” My favorite city, London, on the other hand, “It’s never a dull moment with you. You really have it all – history, great culture, and the Underground.  Oh how I love the Underground.  That  6 month fling we had was magical.  Do we really have to stay apart just because your prime minister is anti-immigrant?”  Hong Kong, “You’re so intriguing.  I love your style – mixing old with new, east with west.  Let’s get to know each other better over dim sum.”

I’ve known Berkeley intimately for so many years.  I’ve been to most of it’s restaurants, bars, cafes, farmers markets, theaters, stores.  I met Nathan here.  It has been a good city to me, even if a bit quiet for my tastes.  But now this era comes to an end…time to say goodbye…I’ll keep it simple.

“Goodbye, Berkeley.  It’s been great but we always knew it wouldn’t be forever.  I’ll see you around sometime.”

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