ARGENTINA: Puerto Iguazu (see BRAZIL for Iguazu Falls), Buenos Aires, Bariloche, Villa la Angostura
URUGUAY: Montevideo, Punta del Este, Colonia
Pssst! Want to go
Before we arrived, we knew only a little about Argentina: that it's almost the size of India, raises a lot of beef, borders five countries (Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia and Chile) and went to war with Great Britain over the Falklands Islands. And lost.
O.K. That's an exaggeration. We also knew about the "Dirty War" of 1975-83 in which some 30,000 people "disappeared" (i.e., they were grabbed out of their homes, tortured and killed.) We knew that Evita Peron lived here, because we saw Madonna in the film version of her life (a film which Argentineans dislike because it collapses fifty years of history and uses Che Guevara - who lived later than Evita - as a storyteller.) We also knew it as the country of Jorge Luis Borges, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and of "bad-boy" soccer player Diego Maradona. We already knew about good Argentinean wine. And we once tried to tango. And lost.
We think more
travelers should come down here to visit. Why? There's something in it for
everyone. Here's our sales pitch.
You'll like Buenos Aires....
You'll like Buenos Aires....
- IF YOU LIKE STROLLING THROUGH BEAUTIFUL CITIES
It's a big city (13 million) but the downtown Microcentre is compact and contains most of the interesting sights - making for fascinating walking. There's also a good subway system. The weather is delightful in spring (October/November) and autumn (March/April.) You can walk along wide tree-lined boulevards such as 22-lane Avenida 9 de Julio, quaint alleys in San Telmo, and the artsy sidewalks of Boca with colorful buildings and balcony sculptures.
You can walk to restaurants, bars, boutiques, museums, antique shops, Freddo's ice cream shops and lush green parks where you can drop for a nap after eating an ice cream cone. One of our favorite buildings was Teatro Colon - a 19th century
candy-box concert hall of gilt and velvet with fantastic acoustics. Another was El Alteno Bookstore - a magnificently restored legitimate theater now selling CDs, books and afternoon tea (below.)
Everywhere there's grand architecture
in the European style - featuring cupolas and graceful balconies.
- IF YOU'RE A SERIOUS CARNIVORE
starve down here, but they could. About 80% of the restaurants in
favorite meal was a leisurely lunch at Cabana Las Lilas, an up-scale
restaurant facing the Puerto Madera canal. The cover charge includes a huge appetizer platter
(smoked salmon, prosciutto, grilled tomatoes and zucchini, blue cheese
spread, salsas, imported olives, lavash and an endless supply of warm
popovers.) We split a fabulous rib-eye steak, papas souffles
(potatoes, not fathers) and an arugula/watercress salad. The bottle
of wine was a Mendoza Malbec; dessert was tiramisu with coffee ice cream,
plus espresso. THEN they brought out a selection of tiny chocolate
truffles! This was our finest meal in
- IF YOU'RE MUSICALLY-INCLINED
We went to a concert at Teatro Colon to see world-famous Argentine pianist Martha Argerich www.argerich.org/
backed by a 75-piece orchestra. Incredible! We perched in "chicken seats" of the sixth balcony, moving down to empty second balcony seats when the lights dimmed. www.bsasliteraria.com.ar/teatro.htm
more... Top-level jazz musicians Brad Mehldau and Dave Holland appeared in the
city - unfortunately just after we left. We did get to see a
wonderful performance by the Argentine Ballet featuring Twyla Tharp
choreography set to nine songs by Frank Sinatra. And you can't avoid seeing
tango performances everywhere - in the streets, parks, restaurants and nightclubs.
(Does the male tango dancer below look familiar?)
(Does the male tango dancer below look familiar?)
- IF YOU'RE A SPORTS FAN
We took a subway,
train and bus to the outskirts of the city to watch a rugby game in which the
"scrum" of 16 hulking players scuttled back and forth across the field like a
large demented crab; we also saw two (free) polo matches in which the (very)
rich polo players charged furiously around a huge field swinging mallets and
changing "ponies" (gorgeous thoroughbred horses) every few minutes.
- IF YOU'RE A HISTORY BUFF
afternoon at 3:30 elderly women in white kerchiefs parade around Plaza
de Mayo in front of Casa Rosada, the pink presidential palace. (Evita
Peron spoke to the masses
from one of its balconies.) "The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo" are
protesting - as they have every Friday for twenty years - the disappearance of
their sons, daughters and grandchildren. The day after seeing the parade, we
read in the paper that one of the founding mothers had just found her
granddaughter who had disappeared as a baby in 1978. The woman, now
27 and living in
demonstrations are a continual reminder of
- IF YOU'RE A TIGHTWAD
Here is your chance to look like a big spender without being one. The economy still suffers from the latest financial meltdown of 2002 when the government defaulted on $100 billion in debt and devalued the peso. That's why, though times are hard for Argentineans, everything here is inexpensive for Americans and Europeans. Our comfortable room in Hotel Marbella, with private bath and French doors opening onto Avenida de Mayo, cost only $20/night, including breakfast. After Joan ordered a made-to-measure, sleek black lambskin jacket at Poppy onAv Florida, Lou insisted she also buy a bright red one he calls her chica (loosely translated as red hot momma) jacket - which we found in another store. And Lou got a rugged black jacket of cowskin for himself. (Joan calls it his macho jacket.) Leather clothing is beautiful, reasonable (all those steaks mean lots of leather) and can be made-to-order in a day or two. Leather briefcases, purses, boots, shoes, belts, wallets, desk accessories, whips (for polo, silly) - you name it, they've got it in leather. (That's Joan on the balcony of our Marbella Hotel room - wearing her new red leather jacket and pretending to give an Evita speech.)
- IF YOU WANT TO MEET THE LOCALS
We went twice to a
cafe to meet for several hours with a friendly group of English-speaking porteņos (residents of
- IF YOU LIKE COMFORT, SECURITY, FAMILIARITY
Not to worry if you don't speak Spanish. Nearly all hotel receptionists and waiters know at least a little English. Menus are printed in both Spanish and English; you can read the daily English-language Buenos Aires Herald newspaper; any hotel room costing more than $15 a day will have cable television with either CNN or BBC in English - and first-run American films are shown in theaters in their original English, with Spanish subtitles. But if you do learn a little Spanish you'll enjoy yourself even more.
- AND IF YOU'VE HAD ENOUGH OF THE BUENOS AIRES....
URUGUAY: It's easy to visit another country on a day-trip from Buenos Aires, because Uruguay is just an hour's ferry ride away! However, three or four days would be a better amount of time to spend here, as two charming cities are within easy reach of the ferry by bus. The capital, Montevideo, is a wonderful city, with beautiful architecture (photo below), good food and interesting sights. We were fortunate to stay here for two nights with a hospitable young couple of graphic designers. We'd met Flora on a long-distance bus in Turkey in 2001 and had stayed in touch via e-mail. Here she is with boyfriend Nico and father Felipe.
We also spent two nights with Sam (the friend of a friend), an ex-pat American who now lives in Punta del Este - a resort area frequented by international rock stars and models. We were there before the summer season began, and its huddle of high-rise condominium buildings seemed rather dreary and its beaches weren't very impressive compared to those in Hawaii. However, we were impressed by Colonia - a charming town by the ferry port. We stayed here two nights, and wandered around the narrow lanes to gaze at the elegant colonial architecture, check out the boutiques, eat in excellent cafes and visit an old port museum.
BARILOCHE: Take a side trip from
One day we took a city bus to the foot of Cerro Lopez, and hiked for four hours up a trail (the last hour in snow) to pink Refugio Lopez - a trekking "hut" maintained by a local mountaineering society. We were the lone guests in the 85-bed refugio (that has only one toilet!), so ate our meals in the woodstove-warmed kitchen with the cook - the shy, hermit-like caretaker. The photo below was taken through the kitchen window.
VILLA LA ANGOSTURA : At the
other end of the lake from
There are several excellent restaurants mixed in with the inevitable gift shops.
From town, you can walk trails to scenic overlooks and waterfalls, or
: At the other end of the lake fromBariloche, this stone-and-timber resort
There are several excellent restaurants mixed in with the inevitable gift shops. From town, you can walk trails to scenic overlooks and waterfalls, orwalk the length of a beautiful island and catch a cruise boat back to town.
PATAGONIA: The vast southern part of Argentina, with its magnificent pampas, mountains, trekking huts and glaciers, is a fabulous destination in its own right. See PATAGONIA
DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS
Buenos Aires travel article: www.departures.com/tr/tr_0598_buenosairesindex.html
GUIDEBOOKS: South America;
South America on a Shoestring,
Trekking in the Patagonian Andes
Trekking in the Patagonian Andes(all by Lonely Planet);
BACKGROUND READING: The Motorcycle Diaries: A Latin American Journey by Ernesto Che Guevara, Cintio Vitier & Aleida Guevara; Chasing Che: A Motorcycle Journey in Search of the Guevara Legend by Patrick Symmes
FILMS: The Official Story; Evita; Motorcycle Diaries; Kiss of the Spider Woman
BUENOS AIRES: Hotel Marbella: Av de Mayo 1261 English spoken. www.hotelmarbella.com.ar
Joan and Lou Rose firstname.lastname@example.org