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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Vaca's Over...Back to Reality

Vaca's Over...Back to RealityThe good times had to end sometime. Our vacation is over, so I am back at home and back to work. I wrote this post on Sunday from the Mexico City airport, thanks to a handy table in the food court with electricity outlets and an especially nice retail employee who shared a wifi password. It's amazing how quickly an eight hour layover passes when you have Netflix at your fingertips. At the touch of my mouse, I have all the episodes of Parks and Rec and Archer that a man could ever ask for. We are truly a lucky people.

So, I wanted to write a quick trip summary, which I always feels a little odd about since, well, how interesting can my vacation seem to someone else? Is it just brazen bragging about where you've gone and the things you've seen? I never can tell if other people really want to hear about the places we've been, or if they are just good friends and are being polite. I'll take the safe route and keep it short.

Buenos Aires
 
The best bit: Walking the city. Buenos Aires is huge and beautiful and alive and surprisingly safe, to boot. The people we met were nice to us and, maybe this is just one of my personal quirks, but I really appreciated the level of service that waiters and retail employees gave us. We didn't see that in most of the other places we've visited in South America. We loved all the different neighborhoods of Buenos Aires we ventured into, although we did avoid La Boca altogether at the advice of some fellow travelers.

The worst bit: Not being able to switch Argentinean Pesos back into dollars. Due to the currency crisis and the obvious loophole that would exist if you were able to trade 1 dollar into 11 Argentinian Pesos, and then immediately turn those back into dollars at the official rate of 8:1, you're kind of stuck with any Argentinian currency you have left over at the end of your trip. We found a bit of a loophole at the duty free, which prices everything in dollars and then does let you pay at the official exchange rate of 8:1 (essentially giving you a 27% discount if you got your Pesos at the "blue" rate). So if Johnny Walker Black is your sort of souvenir...










Montevideo

The best bit:  Everyone walking around with a thermos under one arm, and a cup in their other hand, drinking mate tea out of a metal, filtered straw. It's strangely cool. It seems everyone in the city drinks tea all day long. Kind of a lame "best thing", but coming up with one was hard, as we didn't really love the city. Sorry, Montevideans. It has some really beautiful parts, of course, and I don't regret going. But I'd sum it up as a smaller, grittier Buenos Aires, with less exciting food and....

The worst bit:  Higher prices. Everything is much pricier here than in BA, and even more expensive than in the states.
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Colonia Del Sacramento

The best bit: For one, it's got to be the most scooter obsessed place I've ever seen. It's by far the most common means of transportation, with parents dropping off their kids at school on two wheels, with the baby riding up front and the toddler hanging on the back. Still, what I'll remember most is Media y Media, a blend of half white wine and half sparkling wine that makes a late outdoor lunch seem, you know, fancy. We couldn't find it back in Argentina, so it might be a local thing. And the city is so flipping beautiful that it makes you want to puke. Everywhere there are cobble stoned streets lined by old trees...it's kind of upsetting how pretty it is.


The worst bit: Um, leaving? I wish we'd tried to do Montevideo in just a couple days and spent some more time here. And speaking of leaving, don't try to save a few pesos and take the smaller ferry on Colonia Express like I did. The smaller boat got completely tossed by the waves for the hour ride, causing me to get the worst seasickness I've ever felt. It turns out I am not a boat guy. To top it all off, waves crashing into the boat caused one of the five-foot windows to break, sending glass everywhere and bringing the occasional wave inside. Not good times. Definitely spring for the bigger Buquebus ferry, unless you're the seafaring type.










The Budget (Over 2 weeks)

Flights: $1,445.08 (
$949.12 from Arizona and $495.96 from Peru)
Reciprocity Fees for Argentina: $360
Ferries and Buses: $243.08
Lodging: $224 (For 4 nights at AirBNBs. The rest of the nights were paid for with SPG points.)
Food, Wine, Taxis, Gifts and Everything Else: $727.85

Total: $3,000.01 

So that's our trip. The best part was, definitely, getting to spend time with Mrs. Done by Forty. We're on the two month countdown until we're back together again, and we sing a non-stop loop of "Reunited and it feels so good..."

Good luck getting that out of your head.

45 comments:

  1. So awesome. So jealous. Thanks for the heads up about Montevideo. I'll definitely be keeping that in mind. $3000 ain't bad for a 2-week trip for 2 in such beautiful places. Glad you had a blast, and hope you're reunited soon. Cheers!

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    1. I was pretty happy with the budget, considering we didn't travel hack anything besides those hotel points.

      Next year, we'll do better. :)

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  2. Oh my goodness, how hilarious is Archer? Archer is funny, but Pam is for sure my favorite character. Thank you so much for sharing your pictures and thoughts - I always like reading about others' vacations, to get ideas or inspirations, so I loved hearing your thoughts on the places you went! Great job on the budget, as well - that's the way to do it!

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    1. Yay! Another Archer fan. That show is just the right amount of dirty for me. And, yeah, Pam KILLS me. I want to hang out with her in real life and get super drunk.

      Thanks for the encouragement about the travel posts. I'll keep writing them.

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  3. I do actually like reading these recaps in case I ever decide to go I'm much more informed, or know who to direct my questions to. I wonder if there were more scooters than the ones they use in Rome and Florence, because man that place is so loud with scooter noise. But I know gas prices are super expensive in other places of the world. Glad you only have to wait two more months!!

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    1. Hey Tonya! I haven't been, but I bet there are way more scooters over there in Italy just by the sheer volume of the people. Colonia's a little place.

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  4. Sounds like an awesome couple of weeks away with Mrs DB40. It's always a little tough readjusting to reality, and especially having to be separated for another couple of months, but hopefully knowing you have lots of readers here waiting to hear from you helps a tiny bit :)

    And nicely summarised - I'm a big fan of sharing highlights of the trip. I do like hearing holiday stories, but I can never really fully appreciate hearing lots of details about somewhere I haven't been. Also great work on the costs - always a nice feeling to come home without a major post-holiday spending hangover!

    Parks and rec is one of the very few shows I watch these days, and absolutely love it! Definitely a great way to make a few hours pass quickly!!

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    1. Hi Jason. The community here at the blog definitely helps! I need people.

      I'm glad you're a Parks & Rec fan, too. I knew you were a smart guy. :)

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  5. Great pics...sounds like you guys had a great time. Also cool that you were able to spend some time with Mrs. DB40. Would love to travel to South American some day. So how's your Spanish now? =)

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    1. Mi espagnol es todavia muy malo....

      I can work my way around ordering food at a restaurant, but have trouble with real conversations. But I'm planning on practicing still by putting Spanish subtitles on with tv I watch...

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  6. See, I actually now have the song "Back to Life, Back to Reality, Back to the Here and Now Yeah..." stuck in my head instead of the one you were intending. =)

    Glad you guys had a great trip - I absolutely love the Le Petit Prince street art.

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    1. Ha! I'm glad someone got something stuck in their head.

      And I loved that Little Prince picture too! I was so pumped to see that.

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  7. I very much enjoy your travelogues. I only wish you gave a bit more detail, such as labeling each picture. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I really should do that, Bryce, but my laziness, it is great...:)

      Maybe I'll go back and put some captions in.

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  8. South America is definitely on our list of places to visit. We had family that lived years ago in Peru and I've always wanted to visit Machu Picchu.

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    1. Hey Brian! Definitely visit Peru if you get a chance. It's a pretty affordable ticket to Peru, too, if you hunt around a bit.

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  9. DB40,

    Sounds like an amazing trip. Seems like you guys are big fans of Buenos Aires. Looks like a beautiful city, so can't blame you. :)

    And glad you got to spend some time with Mrs. DB40. Those are memories you two will have forever!

    Best wishes.

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    1. We love, love, love Buenos Aires, Jason. Want to move there like, yesterday. We're using it as motivation to ramp up our early retirement plans.

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  10. I love reading trip recaps! I'm not sure I could pass an 8 hour layover very quickly unless it involved sleeping, but I don't travel much. I get bored watching TV =). It looks like you had beautiful weather while you were there! I'm sorry to hear you got seasick, though. I will have to look into Colonia Del Sacramento - cobblestones and tree-lined streets are my favorite. I totally want that pink scooter, too. I hope the next two months fly by for you!

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    1. I hear you on 8 hours of tv, but it beats sitting in an airport and staring at nothing. I did that on my first 8 hour layover on the way down...

      Definitely check out Colonia if you're in Buenos Aires. Worth the trip!

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  11. DBF,
    Looks like a nice trip, always better with the Mrs. Travel hacking opens up the world, to a fast two months

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    1. Thanks, Charles. We're just starting with travel hacking but are already seeing how even a little can help the costs.

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  12. Looks beautiful! Hope you had fun!

    The Starwood 30K offer is back- time to sign up for another one and do it all again! =)

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    1. Can we just sign up again, if we already signed up for the bonus previously? If so, there's our next churn!

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  13. It's great that you got to spend time with the Mrs. And looks like you had fun. I actually enjoy hearing about trips, especially places l haven't been. I knew Montevideo was super expensive ;0) from past research and chose to skip it! Yeah.. I've got that song stuck in my head now!!!!

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    1. Ha ha! Another "Reunited" victim....evil laugh!

      I really should've checked around on Montevideo before going, but was still glad we went. The free hotel made the trip a little less costly.

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  14. Carrying a thermos with tea, I like that. American equivalent is carrying around a fresh mocha lattee carmel soy espresso easy cream starbucks drink.

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    1. Ha, yeah, but like a huge ass thermos of it. These folks are serious about their tea.

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  15. I'm so glad you got to spend some much-needed time with the missus! I'm always so impressed with how people make it through extended stints of long-distance and keep their relationship strong. I'm sure it takes a lot of work! My best friend spent many years long distance and they had "rules" that they had to tell each other about the "mundane" things rather than just the highlights because time is limited with phone call updates.

    That's a pretty sweet price tag for a two person trip. Great job on the travel hacking as well. :)

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    1. Thank you, Alicia! The long distance is hard but, and I'm always reminded of this, humans can adapt to almost anything. It's the silver lining of hedonic adaptation: we get used to the bad stuff, too.

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  16. Welcome back! Glad you enjoyed your time with Mrs DB40 - hopefully you are both reunited and feeling great soon! I was really surprised at how expensive Brazil was when I was there, apparently, it's partially because of the World Cup - but I spent 7 hours in the Sao Paulo airport - and there's *nothing* to do in the new international terminal - it's still not finished!

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    1. I'd heard that they were getting down to the wire with all the construction related to the World Cup. Sorry your long layover didn't have wifi!

      Brazil is on our list, but I think we're going to take a break from Central & South America for a while, and head elsewhere for the next few years. Europe is up next.

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  17. Thinking I may never make it to those places, I enjoyed your recap! Never say never, I guess, but it's nice to know you can live virtually through generous and thrifty bloggers like you. (I can't believe I just used generous and thrifty in the same sentence!)

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    1. Thank you for those words, Debt Debs! If you were willing to do some travel hacking on flights, you could certainly do that same Buenos Aires trip that we did for even less money.

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  18. Great recap. It makes me want to go on vacation all the more. It seems that work really gets in the way of a lot of things.

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    1. It does! I'll hopefully be solving that problem permanently in the next 7 years or so.

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  19. I love your quippy trip recaps. I'm so jealous. I ache to travel to a good currency exchange locale, but we've plucked down our current income chips on our primary home for the time being.

    Not too shabby to come in right at $3K for all of that as well! Love the AirBNB-style lodging hacks that the internet has made available to us frugal folks. There's a yurt in Southeast Utah on AirBNB that we are eyeing - that will be as far as we will get, but I might be able to barter a bit with the rural residents of Monticello.

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    1. But what a home, right? Why travel abroad when you have a slice of heaven carved out of a log cabin here at home? And the yurt is maybe the coolest tiny home out there...would love to hear about your experience if you make that happen.

      AirBNB is our favorite discovery of the last year. Somehow I'd never tried it until last fall, and now I'm hooked.

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  20. I have always wanted to rent a little scooter and spend a week of vacation riding it around.

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    1. We didn't end up renting a scooter this time around. But I agree it would be a great vacation splurge!

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  21. Awesome pics and sounds like it was an awesome vacation. I really want to travel around South America sometime.

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    1. I definitely recommend it, David. Brad from Richmond Savers has helped us plan out our next trip at a much reduced cost.

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  22. I absolutely love hearing about your vacations, DB40. Traveling out of the country is something we've never done, and you are so great at describing all of these places. Thanks for including the pics too - absolutely gorgeous. :-)

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    1. Thanks, Laurie! We feel blessed to be able to see other parts of the world. So much to see...

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  23. I seriously hope you have that song playing on a loop when she walks in the door. It would be awesome and hilarious at the same time. Two months!!! Exciting!!!!

    You make me want to see South America. Is Le Petit Prince popular there in Colonia del Sacramento? The deepest kids' book ever...especially in its original French.

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