Million Ways to Live: Chile & Argentina
As expected, there have been plenty of ups and downs during our trip thus far, a beautiful combination of hook-ups and rip-offs that have a way of balancing each other out. As a group, we try not to dwell too long on the rip-offs or get too high on the hook-ups.
But some things are worth celebrating. So when I find a hidden gem during our travels—one of those places no one knows about but certainly needs to—I make a mental note of it to share with the world.
So far, we’ve had a small handful of hidden gems that are worth sharing with the Jetset Extra world:
Cri’s Burger Factory
Even though Claire has already written about our time in Ecuador, she didn’t mention a little hole-in-the-wall (and I really mean hole-in-the-wall) burger joint on San Cristobal Island of the Galapagos Islands. And this place deserves some notoriety.
On our last night on the islands, we stumbled upon a street full of restaurants built within a series of shipping containers and storage units. After walking passed Cri’s Burger Factory initially—we thought eating a burger in Ecuador wasn’t the best way to experience local food culture—we explored the whole area. Eventually, the prices of the burgers (about $5 to $7 per burger) were just too good to resist. We decided to give it a go and see what happened.
Though the pictures and descriptions of the burgers looked good, that doesn’t always mean much and our expectations weren’t high since we regularly ate the best burgers in Los Angeles whenever we could. It was our thing to find good burgers around town. So when the burgers finally arrived at our outdoor plastic table, we tried to clear our memory banks of our past hamburger memories.
The flavor combinations were nothing short of epic. After devouring three burgers between us we ordered two more, just to explore the menu options further. You know when you usually order a second round of food and it’s not as good as the first? Well that did not happen. Even on the second round we were shocked at how amazing these burgers tasted. If you ever find yourself on the Galapagos Islands, get yourself over to Cri’s. It’s worth the $100 entrance fee onto the island.
Let’s start by stating the obvious: South Americans love ice cream. In Argentina, it may be a nationwide cultural addiction. Pastries, sweets, and ice cream shops are around every corner. But the hidden gem we found was in Vina del Mar, Chile. We decided to venture off to the coast of Chile after successfully completing our 15th episode in Santiago, where we met an amazing local contemporary artist, Fusa Deyas, who gave us some incredible insights about life and happiness.
Gelateria Mo had a line that stretched around the street corner and into the next street. It was worth the wait. The chocolate gelato was full of brownie chunks and lined with dulce de leche. Yum!
Discovering Knutsen Housing & Hostel was nothing short of serendipity. We were trying to find a place to stay for our final days in Santiago and none of the typical websites helped us find something we thought was right. Deciding to give it one more earnest try, we searched Hostelworld and found Knutsen Housing & Hostel. The rates and description seemed too good to be true (the lowest rates on private rooms in Santiago), and we questioned why this place hadn’t popped up during previous searches. We were skeptical, but we went out on a limb and booked.
When we arrived, our fears were set aside as Knut, the owner, welcomed us warmly to his no-frills, no-BS establishment. It turned out he had listed his hostel on Hostelworld just hours before our final search. We were glad it worked out because not only did we find a high-value, low-cost place to stay, but also the owner, staff, and guests were open, down-to-earth, and authentic.
One of the guests, Nathan Haley, is worth mentioning. He has been riding around in South America on his bike for four years. Why? Because he’s trying to learn what it means to be free. Here’s what he told us:
“Context is king. Freedom is completely subjective. My definition of freedom is having no wife, kids, or house and few material possessions. It’s the freedom to go wherever, whenever I choose. That’s why I ride my bike. But I’ve met many people during my travels and I’ll tell you that the Mexican farmer I met with 10 kids and land-locked to his farm is more free in his mind than I am in my own. Freedom is an individual journey, one that has to be figured out by the self.”
Finally, while doing some intra-island traveling in the Galapagos on some of the bumpiest waters I’ve experienced, we met an Argentine couple, Patricio and his wife. Somehow, despite my shortcomings in Spanish (I’m getting better and can proudly say I’ve been a key translator during our time here in South America), we talked about our project and mentioned that Buenos Aires was our next stop.
He spoke rapidly, but I gathered that he wanted to help us during our time in Buenos Aires. He sent me an email that night and offered his apartment to our entire group for our stay. We humbly accepted, as it is people and opportunities like these that don’t come along everyday and will surely help to make this trip possible.
In this case the hidden gem isn’t an establishment or a business, it is any local you feel inclined to speak to and connect with. Doors fly open when you put down your guard and go with the flow. We spent our time in Buenos Aires in his beautiful apartment; he even drove down from his home and cooked us some authentic Argentine parrilla (barbecue). Twice. Check out the spread from the second night:
With our appetites and taste buds satisfied, we let our creative energy flow and made an amazing episode for our show about Claudia Cortes Labarca, a tango teacher and performer in Buenos Aires. After watching this episode, you’ll be booking your first lesson:
Next up: Brazil!!!!