Tag Archives: Argentina

That Time We Got Stuck in the Argentinean Salt Flats – Part Two

Check out part one to read the beginning of our salt flats saga.


After more than two hours and ten kilometres of walking, we arrived at some buildings that we’d been hoping might house some people. We were pretty disappointed to find that the buildings were just empty shells, but our spirits were lifted when we saw a guy riding towards us on his motorcycle. Finally, someone who might be able to help us! By using my stumbling Spanish and showing him a picture of the truck on Zevi’s phone, I managed to convey our situation to him. As I was trying to explain our plight he taught me the Spanish word for “stuck”, which would prove to be very useful later. He couldn’t drive us anywhere since he didn’t have any passenger seats, but he did lead us back to some buildings near to where he was staying in the hopes that we’d be able to get cell phone service. We were at a point where calling 911 seemed to be our best bet – we weren’t sure what the police would be able to do for us, but we felt like our situation was dire enough to warrant an emergency call. However, despite our new friend’s attempt to position first Zevi’s, then my, and then his phone at varying angles on a rock where he said there was usually cell service, none of us were having any luck getting through. Eventually we had to give up and figure out our next move.

Even though the guy who had been helping us told us that waiting by the virtually deserted highway in hopes of flagging down a car would be futile, there really wasn’t anything else for us to do. As we dragged our exhausted bodies towards the road, both Zevi and I glanced at a broken down shell of a building and wondered if that was going to have to be our shelter for the night. Neither of us said anything, but we were both really starting to worry that that huddling behind those ruined walls by the side of the road might be our fate that night.

Sleeping out in the wilderness might not have been such a concern if we had accounted for the fact that we might still be outside when the sun went down. We were in such a hurry to leave the truck, which at that time was roasting in the sizzling desert heat of the salt flats, that taking warm layers hadn’t crossed our mind. I was wearing a t-shirt and a thin skirt, and Zevi was wearing a lightweight long sleeved shirt and shorts. Standing by the side of the deserted highway as the sun began its slow slide down below the hills, we started to wish that the four water bottles in our backpack could be magically transformed in to warm coats. We found a couple of rocks by the side of the road that functioned as a makeshift seat, and I sat on Zevi’s lap as we tried to keep each other warm. The minutes wore on and on, and, just as our friend had predicted, no cars came. We were both trying to stay positive and be strong for each other, but as we sat there I felt so absolutely helpless and hopeless. This was the most dangerous situation that either of us had been in. I’d never felt more vulnerable, and I don’t mean that I felt like I was in a place where I could share my feelings, I mean that I seriously felt like we might not make it out of that windy, deserted Northern Argentinean countryside. It was incredibly scary, and even thinking back on it now makes my heart race a bit.

We’d been waiting for what seemed like forever, and we were both almost ready to break down. After coming up with a few ideas, all of which we ultimately decided weren’t going to help our cause, Zevi suddenly exclaimed that he thought he’d seen a vehicle moving towards us. When I looked and saw nothing we figured that the stress and exhaustion were making him see things that weren’t there, as much as he wanted them to be. A few minutes later, though, we discovered that he hadn’t been hallucinating, as a beat up orange truck came in to view and laboured towards us. We jumped up and down and frantically waved with every ounce of energy we had, hoping to convey our desperation to the driver of the truck. The relief we felt when he slowed to a stop is indescribable.

Our saviours were a farmer, his wife, and their numerous children, all crammed in to a single bench seat in their elderly truck as they made their way back home from an All Saints Day church service. I told the driver our story, and although his countryside Spanish was nearly impossible for me to understand, I managed to decipher his offer to stay with them in their house just up the road. Let me tell you, I was thanking my lucky stars that I’d decided to do that Spanish minor in university at this point. On top of this, he let me know that he thought he’d be able to recruit some friends and get our truck out in the morning. I couldn’t believe that we’d gone from utter to despair to incredible good fortune in a matter of minutes. Zevi and I couldn’t get the smiles off our faces as we settled in to the back of his truck. The respite from the wind was such a huge relief – we would have slept there all night with no complaints!
We bumped and jostled our way about five kilometers up a dirt road to the farmer and his family’s humble home, where, incredibly, they gave us a room to sleep in and fed us llama stew for dinner. They had no electricity or running water, but we certainly weren’t looking for luxury at that point. As we ate our dinner and drank our tea, the farmer’s wife came and told me about her children and their way of life. Although this was definitely a negative experience overall, the chance to chat with some true locals and see how they lived was the silver lining.


True to his promise, in the morning the farmer had rounded up a couple of neighbours and gotten all of the necessary supplies together in order to extract our truck from its salty, muddy trap. We drove on to the salt flats, and, although I’d warned him that we’d traveled a long way, I think our chauffeur was a little surprised as we journeyed further and further away from the road. When we finally had our truck in our sights, we parked a little ways back so that the farmer’s truck wouldn’t suffer a similar fate to ours. We carted shovels and boards and tarps to our truck and the farmer and his two friends got to work with a little help from Zevi. It took them an hour to extract each wheel from the mud’s powerful grip, using bottle jacks and planks to prop the wheels up little by little. As I watched them chew their coca leaves and drink their boxed red wine as they worked diligently in the hot sunshine, I wondered what poor soul they’d practiced this technique on in the past. They seemed to know exactly what to do.

When all of the wheels were out, Zevi and I were gripped by a new stress. What if this tactic hadn’t worked, and we were forced to abandon our truck in the salty desert? We tensely watched as one of the men slid into the drivers seat and gingerly eased his foot on to the gas pedal. Nothing happened. All our fears were coming true, and my heart sank. After some adjustments, he tried again, and this time we saw the sight we’d been dreaming of for the last twenty hours. The truck was free! We held our breath as he drove over to where the farmer’s truck was parked – getting stuck again would be devastating. Thankfully, he made it, and there were hugs and high fives all around.
It was hard to express our immense gratitude to the people that saved us, but we gave them almost all of the money we had as a small show of our appreciation. We held our breath as we drove across the rest of the salt flats, and didn’t really exhale until we got on to a paved highway. Zevi had been eager for adventurous drives, but we’d both had our fill of treacherous roadways for the foreseeable future. We’d also had our fill of salt flats for the foreseeable future, and possibly forever. It was a traumatizing experience, but for as much bad luck as we’d had, we got equally lucky when that farmer stopped to pick us up. We spend so much time avoiding strangers, especially in foreign countries, but you never know when one might save your life.

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That Time We Got Stuck in the Argentinian Salt Flats – Part One


When you get back from a long distance adventure, there’s generally one story that gets told over and over again. It’s the one that your closest family members and friends have heard numerous times, because every time you’re with someone who hasn’t heard it they insist that you tell it again. For us, the story that everyone has heard is about the time we got ourselves in a pretty bad situation during our road trip in Northern Argentina. Zevi does a pretty good job of telling it, but I’m going to give it a go myself, because no account of our trip would be complete without it.

We’d had a beautiful and adventurous day of driving a tiny rural highway that wound up and down high mountain passes, and after conquering that crazy road, we were feeling pretty relaxed about the rest of our day. The salt flats had been something we’d been excited about for a long time – they were one of the first things we’d pegged as a must-see in Northern Argentina. Since we knew that a lot of tourists visited them, we didn’t really think much about any risks that might be involved in checking them out. We figured that we’d drive out, take some cool photos, and be at our hotel in ample time to grab some dinner.

After driving about an hour and a half from the small town of San Antonio de los Cobres, we were super excited when we looked to our left and saw a white expanse of crusty salt glistening not too far in the distance. We were keen on securing ourselves a prime picture taking spot that wasn’t too packed with people, so we decided to take an unmarked side road towards the flats. As we bumped and rolled our way on to the salt, we were excited to see that we would have the entire area to ourselves. It was so beautifully secluded, which we thought was strange given that it was a well-known tourist attraction, but we were happy to be solo.

We really wanted to recreate those cool reflection photos that people take on salt flats that I’m sure many of you have seen, so we were excited when we saw a small blue lake on our GPS. We decided to drive towards it in hopes that we could get some amazing shots of our own. Between our excitement about being on the amazingly expansive salt flats, the promise of capturing some top notch photos, and the euphoric high from having conquered that risky mountain road, we weren’t even a little bit worried about the fact that we were driving kilometres upon kilometres further from civilization. The salt appeared to be solid, and it seemed unthinkable that we could run in to any sort of trouble.

That is, until we did start to run in to trouble. We’d arrived at the area where the GPS told us that there would be water, but there was no water to be seen. All of a sudden we heard a splash, and felt the truck lurch downwards as it cracked through the salt in to the muddy water below. We had found the lake, but it was under the salt, rather than on top of it. This was the first moment when I realized that being so incredibly alone might not be such a great thing after all, and I told Zevi we needed to turn around and get out of that area ASAP. He was in complete agreement, but as he turned the truck around, we sank in again. At this point we were both starting to panic even as we popped out of the mud and continued on our way. Our fears were validated when we sunk in a third time. This time we didn’t pop out. We were seriously stuck.


I don’t think I realized the true gravity of the situation at first, or at least I wanted to remain optimistic. We had experience getting ourselves free from Calgary’s snow banks, so I figured we’d be able to maneuver ourselves out of there with a little a little rocking back and forth and pushing. Unfortunately, none of our tried and true techniques got us anywhere. In fact, we may have actually been making things worse. Finally we surrendered to the fact that there was absolutely no way we were getting ourselves out of there. Suddenly our solitude was a serious problem.

People always say that if you run in to trouble the thing to do is stay with your vehicle until help comes to you. We had driven so far out on to the flats, though, that no one was going to be coming our way any time soon, so we had no choice but to trek towards the road and try to flag down a passing car. It was a scorchingly hot day, so we made sure to slather on the sunscreen and bring all of the water we had for our walk to the gravel highway. Using his GPS app, Zevi figured that the walk would be about five or six kilometres, which we thought would still give us enough time to find help and get towed out that evening. That dream started to dwindle as we walked on and on, crunching our way through the seemingly never ending salt only to arrive at a muddy swamp where one false step would suck us in to our hiking boot tops (Zevi learned this the hard way). Every so often I’d exclaim to Zevi that I could see someone in the distance, but my hopes were dashed when I realized that the wild donkeys looked an awful lot like people when you looked at them from just the right angle. Honestly I think I could have tricked my mind into thinking that almost anything looked like a human at that point – I wanted so badly to find the saviour that would bail us out of this increasingly dire predicament. We walked on and on towards what we thought might be buildings, looking for any sign of civilization.

Stay tuned for part two where I’ll wrap up this story.

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Cafayate – Part 2

I know it’s been a while since our South America trip ended, but I want to write about the last part of our trip before I totally forget about it! So, from time to time I’m going to go back and revisit our big adventure. 

We’d had a great day of wine tasting in Cafayate, so the next day we decided that we wanted to do something a little bit different. The owner of our hostel had told us about a hike close to town that would take us to some beautiful waterfalls and give us the opportunity to swim in the Rio Colorado, which would be a welcome respite from the heat of Northern Argentina. Although most people who did the hike hired a guide from the local community, we were told that it was possible to do the trek without one. The only caveat was that the trail was not well marked, or marked at all, really, so we might have trouble finding our way on our own. Feeling like we wanted to save some money and be independent, we decided to give it a shot solo. The man who greeted us at the entrance to the parking lot was not happy with our decision and tried to tell us that we were obligated to hire a guide, but we stood firm and set out unaccompanied.

Rio Colorado Cafayate hikeRio Colorado hike

If you’re thinking about doing this hike, you should know that no one’s exaggerating when they say that the trail isn’t marked. The trek was basically a big guessing game, where we jumped from one side of the river, which was more of a stream in this blazingly hot and dry November, to the other attempting to navigate our way up the valley. There was a group with a guide just a bit ahead of us that we tried to sneakily follow for a while, but eventually we lost them and it was up to us to find our way again. We never felt like we were in danger, and in a way it was kind of fun to chart our own confusing course, but I do understand why they encourage you to hire someone who actually knows where they’re going.

Rio Colorado hikeRio Colorado Cafayate hike

After we’d been hiking for a couple of hours we became really unsure of where the trail went next, so we decided to stop. We were running low on water and the sun was unrelenting, so we really didn’t want to go much further anyways. Luckily we were stopped right by a little waterfall with a nice pool, so we got to go for a swim. The water was absolutely frigid but it felt great after hiking in the heat!

Puppy in the window CafayateEl porvenir Cafayate

After finding our way back to our car and going back to our hostel to change (and seeing a very cute doggy in the window!), we headed out to do some more wine tasting. We had some bad luck with the first few places we went to being closed so we almost gave up, but we ended up going to some great tasting rooms in town. We really loved how casual the Cafayate wine tasting scene was. Unlike much of Napa and Mendoza, most places had no problem with drop ins, and prices were extremely reasonable.

Cafayate steakChef at Cafayate parilla

We’d eaten dinner the previous two nights at the beautiful wine bar attached to our hostel, but on our last night in Cafayate we wanted to try out something different. I think there’s a rule that you can only go so many days in Argentina without having a steak, so we decided to check out the parilla that our hostel recommended. Cafayate is a pretty small and not particularly touristy place, but we definitely felt like we were off the beaten path when we finally arrived at this hole in the wall restaurant. We sat down at a plastic table on the sidewalk and proceeded to have a parilla experience that was lightyears away from any of the places we’d eaten at in Buenos Aires. There was no menu, so I walked up to the sweatpants-clad chef and asked him to bring him whatever he thought was good. As you can see in the picture above, his grill was built in to the side of the restaurant, so this was street meat at its finest. When our entrees arrived at our table, we both took one bite and confidently proclaimed that this was by far the best steak we’d ever had. Instead of our usual sirloin or rib eye, we’d been given bonier cuts, and the meat was so incredibly tender and flavourful that I was rendered speechless. My only regret was that we’d waited until our last night to go, so we wouldn’t be able to return. The whole experience just reaffirmed something I already knew about eating out. As much as I love eating at fancy, high end restaurants, sometimes the most amazing food comes from some guy slinging meat on the side of the road, or from a little nondescript hole in the wall.

Cafayate still stands out to me as one my favourite stops on our trip, and one of the places I’d most like to return to. With great wine, delicious steak, beautiful natural surroundings, and a laid back atmosphere, how could we not fall in love with this little town?

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Cafayate – Part one

Domingo Molina

Cafayate was pretty far off my radar when we were planning out our time in Argentina. When we started doing research for our road trip, I started to realize that it might be somewhere we’d want to spend a bit of extra time. As it turned out, the city had even more to offer than we’d expected, and we ended up spending a lot more time there than we thought we would.

One of the reasons we had such a great experience in Cafayate was the excellent advice we got at the hostel we stayed in. As soon as we walked in the door, one of the owners sat us down and gave us a full overview of the activities she recommended in and around town. She also showed us a book they’d created that had instructions and maps detailing everything she’d explained to us and how to get to each place she’d suggested. This was SO helpful, and more hostels should really adopt this practice. After her fifteen minute explanation we felt totally prepared to plan out our days in Cafayate. Many of her suggestions involved wine, food, and being outdoors, which was just perfect for us.

Cabras de Cafayate Goats at Cabras de Cafayate Baby goats

Road to Cabras de Cafayate

After we’d dropped our things off in our room and gotten settled at the hostel, we decided to check one of the suggested activities off our list and go for a tour of a local cheese farm. Located a couple of kilometres outside of town, Cabras de Cafayate offers tours every hour on the hour, with a mid day break for lunch. We were lucky enough to be the only people there for the 5:00 tour, so we got our own private visit! They only offer tours in Spanish, so I asked our guide to speak slowly and let me translate for Zevi as we went along and he was happy to oblige. We visited the goats, and even got to see some little babies as it was birthing season. Unfortunately they were a little bit camera shy but just trust me when I say that they were painfully adorable. After learning about the process from milking to transportation to processing to the shaping of the cheese, we got to sample some of the goat and cow cheese that is produced in the farm. It was all delicious, and if we’d been closer to home we definitely would have taken a few different varieties home with us.

Lunch at Piatelli

Chicken at PiatelliPastel de choclo at PiatelliHeather and Zevi in front of PIatelli Wine barrels at Piatelli

The next day it was time to truly get down to business and check out a couple of wineries. The first winery recommended by our hostel was Piatelli. We weren’t surprised to learn that this vineyard had been started by a Californian, as its grand buildings and architecturally impressive grounds reminded us of the wineries we’d visited in Napa a few years ago. Piatelli’s restaurant is touted as one of the best places to eat in the area, so we sat down to grab a bite to eat before taking a tour. We were not disappointed, as Zevi’s chicken was perfectly cooked, my corn pie was full of balanced sweet and savoury flavour, and our bottle of torrontes was crisp and refreshing on the sunny spring afternoon. The beautiful views didn’t hurt either!

When it came time to take a tour, we got lucky again. The next tour was supposed to be in Spanish, but since we were the only ones there at that time our guide agreed to do the explaining in English, which meant that I could leave behind my role as translator for the time being. Though it’s always interesting to learn about each winery’s unique wine making process, we’re always in it mostly for the tasting, so we were excited to sample the wines produced at Piatelli’s Cafayate location at the end of the tour (they also have a location in Mendoza). We were already fans of the Torrontes, but the reds were equally good. I really enjoyed the Cabernet, while Zevi was a fan of the Malbec.

Domingo Molina Vineyards at Domingo Molina

White wines at Domingo Molina

Our second stop that day was at Domingo Molina, a smaller and more unassuming winery than Piatelli. The wines here were some of our favourites of the entire trip, and the entire tasting experience was a highlight for both of us. We were the only ones there that afternoon, and as we sat in the sun overlooking vineyards that stretched to the majestic mountains, sipping wine and munching on cheese and crackers, it seemed that life couldn’t get much better. Although we really enjoyed all of the wines we tasted, the Finca Domingo Torrontes and Cabernet Sauvignon were standouts, and we bought a bottle of each for an astoundingly cheap $14 Canadian. This price included the tasting, which made us feel like we’d really come away with a steal!

We were only planning to stay in Cafayate for two nights, but we loved it so much that we decided to extend our stay for another day! I’ll wrap up our time there in a second post.

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Road Tripping in Northern Argentina

After spending twelve wonderful days in Buenos Aires, we were off to see a completely different side of Argentina. We headed up north to Salta, and from there we rented a truck and headed off on one of the craziest and most memorable road trips I’ve ever been on.
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Graffiti in Buenos Aires

So many of the cities we’ve visited so far on this trip have had a wealth of amazing street art, and Buenos Aires is no different. To get some more insight into the art we were seeing as we explored the city and learn more about the culture surrounding it, we signed up for a tour through graffitimundo. We did the North City tour, which started in Colegiales and ended in Palermo.
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Ten Things You Should Know Before Going to Argentina

We spent a month in Argentina, and I still have so much more to say about most of the places we visited there (how am I ever going to get to Chile??). I would highly recommend visiting this beautiful country, and I hope that all of you get a chance to experience it! Before you go, here are a few things that you should know.

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Buenos Aires: The City That Defies Description

I have so many great memories of our time in Buenos Aires, yet I’m struggling to figure out how to do our time there justice. As I try to put together my thoughts about our day to day in Argentina’s capital, I’m having trouble figuring out where to start, or how to start. There were no epic hikes or picture perfect views, or even much in the way of beautiful architecture. Our time there was pretty lacking in picture worthy moments – outside of some phone photos and a lot of graveyard shots we have less snaps from our twelve days there than we’ve taken in one day in other places. And yet, despite the lack of big moments and once-in-a-lifetime happenings, Buenos Aires holds the spot as my favourite city on the trip so far.


Maybe that seems counterintuitive, but I guess it’s a testament to the way I like to travel. Since we had such a long stay in the city, we were able to take off our tourist hats for a while and just live. We went to some cool shows, went for coffee every morning, and searched out fun restaurants to check out most every night. We went grocery shopping and cooked ourselves breakfast in our rented apartment and did laundry upstairs and pretended for a little while that we were Porteños going about our daily business. We began to understand the rhythm of the city and grew accustomed to late breakfasts and even later dinners. While previously steak after midnight had seemed pretty ridiculous, when the rest of the city’s doing it, you join in.




Of course there were plenty of touristy moments sprinkled throughout our visit to the city, but they were just that – a sprinkling, rather than our every day. In Buenos Aires it was easy to feel like we were just part of the crowd, and even the most tourist-oriented attractions that we visited didn’t feel overrun by outsiders. Whether on bikes, on one of our long neighbourhood-spanning walks, or on the subway, it felt like we were able to navigate the city from the inside, rather than just scratching the surface as we often had in other spots. Buenos Aires has a way of keeping you guessing, though, and just when we thought we had a handle on things we’d discover a new neighbourhood with a totally different flair. That’s part of the thrill and intrigue of the place. It’s a city that charms you with a new facade at every turn.

So many of the places we’ve been on this trip have been incredibly memorable, and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. So far, though, Buenos Aires is the only place I could see myself happily staying for a long time. While many of the things we’ve done have been true once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, I can see myself going back to BA for more midnight steak, delicious choripans, amazing coffee, fascinating cultural events, and all of the nooks and crannies and quirks of this crazy city. Here’s hoping I get back there before too long.

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Buenos Aires: The Coffee Diaries

As I’ve mentioned on a few different occasions, we’ve suffered from a serious lack of good coffee on this trip. The coffee in Peru was pretty terrible across the board, and, minus a few exceptions, Colombia’s wasn’t much better. One reason I was excited to get to Argentina’s biggest city was that I knew there would be a chance that our coffee fortunes would turn around, at least temporarily. Buenos Aires is a modern metropolis filled with hip neighborhoods, and trendy areas usually bring with them people who like a good cup of joe. I’m not sure why, but that just seems to go hand in hand. We tried three of the top rated cafes in Buenos Aires, and here’s what I thought.
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The Dreaded Sunday

You’re fresh off the airplane, ready to explore a new city. As your taxi winds through the one way streets and shop-lined thoroughfares, you notice that most stores have their shutters pulled. Maybe this is just a quiet part of town, you think to yourself.

You check in to your hotel or hostel or apartment and drop off your mammoth bag. This routine is nothing new. The leaving and arriving and rediscovering has been played out so many times over your trip that you’ve lost count. That’s not to say you’re sick of it, it’s just a part of the game that is long distance and long duration travelling. You actually relish the chance to walk out your door to a sight that you’ve never seen before. Yes, you’ve read the TripAdvisor reviews and the Lonely Planet tips and heard about THE BEST cafe in town from your newest, and now former, best hostel friend, but discovering a city is so personal that you don’t know what you’ll think of it until you get out there yourself. As tempted as you are to maybe just stay in the comfort of your room, the one place where you don’t have to attempt to navigate a foreign language and wave off sticker sellers and tour hawkers, for a few more minutes, you know it’s time. It’s time to get out there and find out what the city has to offer. It’s time to discover your version of the latest stop on your travels.

As you walk out the hostel door, you’re confused. All of the reviews on HostelWorld said that this place was in the heart of the tourist district, that there were a ton of things to do just steps from your door, and that THIS was the place to be if you really wanted to have a good time in your temporary hometown. So why is there no one walking the street? The main square is so deserted that you could probably hear a two peso coin drop. The snack sellers and vegetable vendors have left their stalls deserted. The only restaurants open have ten page long menus and are clearly only geared towards the desperate tourist. It turns out that that’s you right now, and suddenly you figure out why. It’s Sunday.

When you don’t have the five day work week and two day weekend rhythm dictating your life, losing track of the days is a regular occurrence. Friday’s no longer your holy grail, and there’s no reason to wait for Saturday night to party when you could just as easily live it up on Tuesday. You don’t fear Monday morning unless it involves trying to dig your truck out of the Argentinian salt flats. Sunday, though… Sunday is the worst day to be a traveller. Yes, there may be an antiques fair here or a market in the park there, but that’s no consolation for the fact that your first eight restaurant choices are closed, and every shop except for a couple of corner stores has its doors barred. If you want to turn the most bustling downtown into a ghost town, just tell everyone it’s Sunday.

You walk back to your apartment and remind yourself that tomorrow is Monday, and tomorrow the streets will come back to life. Tomorrow is a better day to form your first impression of this place. It’s a good thing you’ll still be here tomorrow, because today is Sunday, and the city is asleep.

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