We Made it Back!

Asa and I made it safely back to the states on wednesday night. Our journey was fairly uneventful, just the way we like it!

We managed to utilize a wide variety of transportation types during our journey. Our transportation consisted of taxi, plane, plane, bus, train, and car in that order. Our flights were both a little late, but it didn’t really matter because we had a long layover in Miami and a long time between arriving at LAX and when our train left from union station. The train, Amtrak’s Surfliner, was actually on time, which was surprising considering their horrible track record for delays.

The requisite “end” photo taken in the same place as our “beginning” photo.

We are very glad to be back in the states and are enjoying the warm weather and clear skies and spending time with family. All the animals are very happy to see us and haven’t let us out of their sight yet.

Buenos Aires Public Transportation

This past weekend we found ourselves in Buenos Aires again. There was a small ultimate tournament there that Matt and Asa both played in. Asa and I booked a hotel in the downtown area of Buenos Aires because we didn’t know the field location until two days before the tournament. Luckily for us, the public transportation in Buenos Aires is very extensive and includes buses, subways, and trains.

Buenos Aires is full of buses and anyone can take them for a small fee of about $0.25 US, and they go everywhere in the city. The following are a couple of problems with taking the bus.

1. Figuring out which bus to take. There are more than 100 different bus routes throughout the city. Luckily there is a nice website that can be used to find the correct route, that is, once you figure out how to use the website!

2. Finding change. There is a coin shortage in Argentina and the buses only take change. Stores will ask repeatedly if you have correct change and will sneer at you when you don’t. There are several card payment systems that have been installed in all realms of public transport in the last 5 years. On our last visit we obtained a SUBE card which helped us on our way.

3. If you’re in a hurry, forget it. Take a taxi! Traffic can be really bad in the city and the buses take forever.

The subway in Buenos Aires is fairly easy to take, but it is sometimes very crowded, only goes to certain locations, and can be a mecca for thieves who work together to target tourists. When my parents visited us in Buenos Aires their camera got stolen on the subway, despite being very vigilant.

Knowing these things, we decided that we would investigate train options this time around. We took the train the last time we were in the city and thought it was nice. Upon investigation, we discovered that there are not one, but three different train lines servicing parts of the city. Only one of these lines is included in the website (above) that shows the bus routes. We found the line that stopped near our destination and could get there and back for about $0.30 US each. Trains left every 15 minutes all day long and we could arrive at our destination in 11 minutes. The equivalent bus ride would have taken upwards of 45 minutes.

The train station at our destination

The three train stations are next to each other. Lining the streets outside the stations are vendors selling everything from donuts to alarm clocks to shoes. Beyond the vendors, in the street, is one of the most extensive bus stops I have ever seen. There were more than 5 lanes that buses could enter, which each had approximately 20 stops arranged adjacent to each other. It took up almost two whole blocks.

Only a small portion of the bus stop. Each covered area is the stop for a different bus line.

Here’s to public transportation making our lives easier and relatively hassle free!

 

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Our Journey to Monetvideo

The day started off exactly as planned; with the alarm ringing at 5:15 AM. All of us, grandma included, piled into the prius with all our stuff and drove to the train station where we took the obligatory picture of us with all our stuff. I’m sure it’ll make the holiday card next year.

The "before" picture

The train was on time, as it should be at the start of the route, but is hardly ever true for the rest of the stops. We said our goodbyes and waved and blew kisses (well I did) from the train window and we were off. After collapsing into an early morning nap for about an hour, we woke up to the ocean and dolphins. The Pacific Surfliner is definitely best when experienced from the west side of the train, as it hugs the coastline between Lompoc and Oxnard. The train ride was uneventful just as we had hoped and we even arrived at Union Station in Los Angeles on time. We managed to find the baggage claim. “Past the Subway sign” the Amtrak worker told us. We were really confused until we saw the sandwich shop.

This brought us to the part where I (along with many others) broke Asa’s bag (see his previous post). The baggage claim at Union Station happens to be at one end of the station and the FlyAway Bus (to LAX) at the other. The Station isn’t big but has a very European feel to it and it was big enough for us to just miss the FlyAway bus. Luckily they run every 30 min. Neat, efficient, and cheap (only $7) system they have. Would recommend it to anyone traveling from Union Station to LAX. Out of curiosity, we estimated their profit before overhead to be somewhere in the ballpark of $7000 a day just for their Union Station location.

We made it to LAX after an uneventful ride on the FlyAway bus. We found our way to the departures and the hotel shuttles. Hotels in the LAX area have banded together in an effort to reduce pollution and now shuttles service multiple hotels. Super idea! We found ourselves at the hotel and checked into our room by 2 PM. We grabbed some food and went to find Asa a new suitcase. Fun!

The next day, Jan 31 was our big travel day. LAX to Miami to Montevideo and about 18 hours of travel time. I think we set a new record that morning by making it from our hotel room to our gate at the airport in under 30 min. We had planned on giving ourselves some time in case it was busy, so we ended up sitting at the gate for a long time. Better than the alternative.

The flights were generally uneventful. We walked the entire length of the Miami airport during our 3 hour layover and saw some interesting oceanic sculptures.

Cool fish sculptures at the airport in Miami.

After a 9 hour flight we arrived at the airport in Montevideo. We spent almost an hour getting through customs. All flights coming into the airport are international and there isn’t a separate line for Uruguayan nationals. Everyone has to wait. So we waited. When we got to the customs desk the woman said “hola” and went right on bobbing her head and dancing to the radio she had. She ran our passports and said “adios”. She didn’t ask us any questions all all. We’ll go find the immigration office later to extend our visitor’s visas another 90 days.

We met Asa’s friend Nacho and his brother-in-law Sebastian in the airport. Sebastian owns a car. A special car; a bright orange hatch-back with fold down front seats as entry into the back. The shocks were shot, the radio was pulled out and the gas gauge was on perpetual empty. So we hopped in and had to put some of the bags on our lap because they wouldn’t fit in the trunk. After some confusion about how to get out of the parking lot (one too many “salida” or “exit” signs) we were on our way. Lane lines in Uruguay are just a suggestion which I’m sure will have it’s own post in the future. We took the Ramblas (the street that runs along the water) most of the way. We passed what looked to be nice beaches, but we’ll find out in the future I’m sure.

We got to our house and knocked on the door. A little boy answered and we asked for Raul Locatelli, our host. The boy didn’t speak english and got his older brother (maybe?) who spoke some english. He had never heard of a Raul Locatelli and no he did not live at that address. Well, had he heard of Maria, the other person in the housing complex? Well yeah. Maria owned the building and no she wasn’t there, but we could call her. Luckily Nacho took care of this phone call for us. He also tried calling the number we had for Raul Locatelli without any success. Maria has never heard of a Raul Locatelli and she only has a house full of Uruguayan students and does not cater to U.S. people. She says to try the hostel down the street.

Well Shit! Yep, Shit hit the fan… a really high fan!

Again, thank goodness Nacho and Sebastian were with us. We were able to call AirBNB (the company we rented through) and they got a hold of Raul Locatelli on his cell phone (we later learned that the number we had was his house phone) and connected us. Yes he did exist and just down the street a couple blocks from where we were. The address was just wrong on the website.

So we drove to the new address and sure enough, there was Raul Locatelli standing in the street waiting for us!