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Argentina

Mendoza: Argentinian wine country

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View Getting to know Chile on Rebecca Heller's travel map.

I took the overnight bus from Viña del Mar across the border back into Argentina to visit Mendoza. The border crossings are really quite something, they take a crazy amount of time, and it's unclear why, and this wasn't the most fun way to spend nearly two hours at 2am. However, we arrived in Mendoza early, at 5am!

I took a taxi to my hostel and was allowed to crash on the sofa there until breakfast time. I booked my wine tour for the next day, choosing the bike and wine tour.

I would never ordinarily condone drinking and driving but this had been recommended by a few people so sign up I did. They say you are going to ride 20km over the day; it might have been the wine, but I'm fairly sure we didn't go that far! They day consists of 5 wineries of various sizes and clout in the industry, and we cycled between them.

It was a hot day, and I was glad for the bike creating a breeze, wind through my hair and all that. The wines were all tasty, I wish I could remember some good wine facts, but we heard about and studied (a.k.a tasted) all kinds of wines - dry white, sweet white, sparkling white, dry red, fruitier red, sparkling rosé.

That was the main thing I did in Mendoza as it was really too hot in the city. It's a nice city, but February was the wrong time to visit as it's exceptionally warm, so it's somewhere to come back to another time!

Posted by Rebecca Heller 16:35 Archived in Argentina Tagged wine Comments (0)

Bariloche: chocolate in the Lake District

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View Getting to know Chile & Exploring Patagonia on Rebecca Heller's travel map.

After my adventures in Patagonia, I headed to Bariloche, a popular holiday destination in the Argentian Lake District.

This city is full of artisanal chocolate shops, most of which have gelaterias inside too. As you can imagine, I was in heaven since chocolate and ice cream are two of the best things in life, and I was still pretty tired after my southern adventures so this was a perfect way to unwind.

I stayed in Hostal Pudu, a small and super friendly hostel not far from the busy streets, with a view of one of the lakes. There I met two students from Santiago who were taking a short break there. I ended up spending the next day with them going to sunbathe on the lake beaches and wander around town.

The following day I agreed to go on a day hike up by Cerro Catedral (the main skiing spot in winter). I did not do my homework, so was unaware we were headed for a 24km day hike, but that we did, 12km up the mountain to the glacial lake, and another 12km down. Compared to the hikes I had just done it was very manageable; it was pretty, but not as stunning when compared to my views just days before.

I can imagine it feels very different in the winter when Bariloche is packed with skiers, perhaps it's somewhere to come back to in winter...

Posted by Rebecca Heller 04:44 Archived in Argentina Tagged lakes chocolate hike Comments (0)

Patagonia: Argentinian style


View Getting to know Chile & Exploring Patagonia on Rebecca Heller's travel map.

I had had it in my mind that I wanted to go to Patagonia as part of my trip. After looking into the buses, I realised I could fly from Buenos Aires to El Calafate for a similar price to the bus whilst saving myself a whole heap of time. It's not that it wouldn't be worth the bus down. To contrary, I think with all the time and money in the world it would be wonderful. That, however, is not my reality so fly I did.

The view of Lago Argentina as we flew into El Calafate was nothing short of magical. The water was turquoise in a way I've only ever seen on the telly or in an old Polly Pocket seaside toy I once had and the surface sparkled like the Eiffel Tower after dark.

The following day I went on the Alternative Tour to the Perito Moreno glacier that my hostel offered. Since I've never done one of those tours before, I'm not so sure what was so alternative, but that didn't really matter. For the record, you can go independent of a tour if you prefer but the price difference isn't very big and you get more for your money on a tour.

My guide book told me that the Perito Moreno Glacier is one of Argentina's greatest natural wonders, and it wasn't wrong. It is a pretty spectacular wall of brilliant white and bright blue ice that seems to go on forever. It's considered a stable glacier, meaning that on average it is not advancing or receding. However, I was lucky enough to witness it in an advanced state, where the ice blocks the river from the main body of water. Eventually, the pressure will builds, and the river water will force it's way through the ice. The rupture that will occur soon is said to be spectacular.

When I got back from Puerto Natales and the trek in the Torres del Paine national park in Chile (more on this in another post), I was pretty exhausted from the trek and had planned on a day of rest and laziness. However, I ended up meeting someone who'd been in the same hostel in Puerto Natales and we decided to visit the natural reserve and Laguna Argentina.

It was a gorgeous sunny day and we ended up spending over 4 hours there. I think it helped that Ofir is a bird watching enthusiast. I was planning to visit and mooch round quickly but enthusiasm is contagious and very soon I was excited when I spotted various species through the binoculars we hired. It seems enthusiasm may be not be good for memory as I can no longer tell you which birds I saw.

We were also befriended by a dog. It's often tricky to know if dogs are stray in this part of the world as they don't wear tags and this particular dog looked clean and well fed. However, Alexa, as we named her, stayed with us for hours and no one seemed to be looking for her so it's fairly safe to assume she's a stray. I'd describe myself as dog shy so it took me a while to bcomfortable having her bound about around us, but I warmed up to her eventually. Had we not needed to go to the supermarket, Ofir may just have tried to adopt her as his new travelling companion, and whilst it's probably for the best he didn't, he was very sad at the loss of his new best friend.

I didn't spend long in El Calafate, but I have great memories from my visit (apart from the names of the birds I saw...) and would highly recommend a visit.

Posted by Rebecca Heller 20:04 Archived in Argentina Tagged lakes glacier patagonia Comments (0)

Bueno Buenos Aires

Kosher meat and the best ice cream I've ever had (not straight afterwards of course!)

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View Exploring Patagonia & Into Argentina & A week in Bolivia on Rebecca Heller's travel map.

Buenos Aires is a big city and there are many things that I like to think I'll remember about my trip, but in case I don't, I'll try and cover here, the things that I will now associated with Buenos Aires.

Architecture
They call Buenos Aires the Paris of Latin America because the aristocracy that built the city we see today modelled their buildings on classical architectural styles. For this reason I think it felt like the most familiar place I had visited so far, which turned out to be a nice way to mark 3 months of travelling.

Kosher meat
Once we had finally navigated the train and metro systems to get to our hostel, the main item on the agenda was to visit the Kosher restaurants to get some Kosher steak. I had not eaten meat in 3 months, and whilst I could have happily continued without it, I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to indulge (which we did!).

The first night we went to Al Galope in the Recoleta district. At first, the style and atmosphere reminded me of Blooms (an old family favourite restaurant in Golders Green) but the service distinctly less hasty than Blooms, and the waiters we extremely helpful. In fact, we got so overexcited that our waiter actually suggested we stopped ordering food and if we still felt hungry, we could order more! It was sound advice as we were both royally stuffed and extremely grateful for the fairly lengthy stroll back to the hostel. It was so tasty that we went back there a few days later.

We also visited the Kosher McDonalds. Now I was in two minds about this one at first. I didn't go to the one in Israel, so why would I in Buenos Aires? But eventually the idea grew on me and we made the special metro trip to the shopping centre that houses the Kosher McDonalds.

Once we had established it was on the top floor we really had no trouble spotting it. Firstly it says KOSHER underneath the logo, but secondly, we recognised the clientele as Kosher meat eating folk. Not being familiar with McDonalds ordering we ordered double burgers, which I can safely say was too much. The cashier reminded us that the burger would come without cheese, and just wanted to check we were OK with that. It seems unlikely that you would stumble across the Kosher one by mistake so I can't imagine too many people get upset that there's no cheese in their burger...

Seeing the city
We decided to go on the free walking tour of Recoleta, including a visit to the Recoleta Cemetery, where Evita is buried. The tour was excellent - very informative, funny guide, lots to see. I generally find the free tours best as the guides really work hard for their money. We also did a lot of walking in general. Buenos Aires is much bigger than it looks, with 6 blocks on a map, taking considerably longer than it looks like it should.

Best ice cream ever
I have had plenty of ice cream in my time, so I don't say this lightly. In Buenos Aires we had the best ice cream I've ever had.

We tried several vendors, as is only right, and we were impressed. Due to high Italian immigration, there are plenty of top quality gelaterias but at Cadore we shared a combination of coffee, dulce de leche, and dark chocolate, which was the best chocolate ice cream I've ever had! Like I said, I don't say that lightly; that's some serious praise.

Posted by Rebecca Heller 11:37 Archived in Argentina Tagged walking city meat icecream Comments (0)

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