A Travellerspoint blog

Lakes of Argentina

Mmmm... chocolate!

sunny 30 °C
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San Martin de los Andes

As we mentioned we spent Christmas day in San Martin, Argentina, a smart resort favoured almost entirely by Argentinians (and us). We treated ourselves to a day of sitting on the beach, very quickly dipping into the lake (melted snow is not for the faint hearted) and of course, the usual overindulgences of food and wine.

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In South America, they call the festive bird of choice 'Peru meat', which we initially laughed at but then reflected that was a bit rich given it is called the equally nonsensical 'turkey' in English.

Before we left we popped into the ubiquitous Irish bar and found a cocktail list with English names. The ones which particularly caught our eye were, "Shit on the grass" (Creme de menthe with Baileys on top) and... "Irish car bomb" (Guiness, Jamesons and Baileys). Impressively tasteless!

Bariloche

Since then we've been in Bariloche, Argentina's major lakeside resort. Here we learned that it is very easy to eat 1/4 kilo of chocolate per day when every street has chocolate shops the size of supermarkets. Given the Germanic/Eastern influence in the town, we've feasted on fondue, goulash and sauerkraut and must have gained 5 kilos each in three days. But hey, that's what Christmas is for!

Beyond eating, we also took in the view over the lakes and went for a swim in a couple of the local lakes (still very cold but we've hardened to it!). We attemped to go on a hike to start working off our bloated bellies but we were attacked by the world's most determined horse flies so had to turn back after 2 kms as the locals thought we were ill, owing to our ferocious swiping at the air and cursing.

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On our last day in Bariloche, the volcano which has so blighted their tourist industry made itself felt and we awoke to a haze of ash. Whilst it is easy enough to breathe it does leave a noticeable coating on the skin and carries a slightly sweet, rotten smell in the air. The morning after when we headed off we noticed ashen sand covering the pavements and roads and pondered that it must be a real pain for those who live there.

Now, after yet another 2.5 hour border crossing (we have now thorougly debated Schengen from every angle), we find ourselves in Chile again and hopefully on the verge of seeing some penguins... but more on that next time. We leave you with a panoramic picture of the rather beautiful lakes around Bariloche - and wish everyone a very happy new year!

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Posted by jamesandanita 17:22 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Merry Christmas!

Xmas in summer...


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First things first: a very merry Christmas to all our avid readers! Hope you're all having a great time with family/friends and enjoying the festive cheer. We're about to sit down to a nice home-cooked Christmas lunch in the Argentinian Andes - confusingly it's summer and bright sunshine with Christmas trees everywhere; very strange.

Mendoza part 2

Anyway, back to the previous week. We were last in Mendoza and had just finished a hard day of wine-tasting and cycling. The following day was pretty much a write-off, where we just relaxed and had a casual stroll around town - not a huge amount to write home about in Mendoza itself, though it was pleasant enough.

The following day we were ready for action again, and went up into the mountains for some downhill mountain-biking followed by a spot of white-water rafting. Sadly Anita was yet again hit by the recurrence of food-poisoning and had to sit out the afternoon rafting - turns out steak tartare is best avoided in South America if you have a delicate constitution; who knew? James enjoyed his first rafting experience and despite only being a class 3 rapid it was surprisingly fun.

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Santiago

After Mendoza it was on to Santiago de Chile. First though was a short-ish bus ride and an incredibly tedious 3-hour border crossing. How they can be so disorganised that it takes 3 hours to cross a border I don't know, but such is life.

Despite only staying there a day and a half we had a good time in Santiago thanks to some great restaurant/bar recommendations from Belinda (a Chilean friend of ours) - thanks again! Our first impression of Chilean food was definitely a cut above what we'd had so far in Argentina. We also had a great hotel with a rooftop swimming pool with views over the city and surrounding Andes. Sadly that view is rather obscured by Santiago's constant smog/haze but ho-hum.

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Pucon

From Santiago we headed south to Pucon, in the Chilean lake district (just north of Patagonia proper). This was to be our last overnight bus journey and as we settled into a deep sleep the bus broke down. Nonetheless, we made it eventually to the pretty little town, dominated by a snow capped active volcano.

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Anita had been reminiscing over her younger years camping in the hills so we bought a tent to be close to nature. This made for three long, cold nights (Santiago was oven hot, Pucon was bone chilling). Never has James grouched so much. He put Anita's classic rants well into the shade with one long and entertaining three day moan. As we head further south, there's plenty more of that to look forward to as some of the national parks leave no option but camping!

In Pucon, James also went white water rafting whilst Anita decided sitting by a roaring fire reading a book was more tempting than being soaked in glacial melt water. However, we both enjoyed sampling some tasty cuisine together. Not only did we find a restaurant to serve us good old fondue, we also tried Antarctic krill ravioli with pea and Camembert sauce - very tasty indeed and you can't find it in Islington. We also went to a Mapuche museum, which had some Hannibal Lecter style masks.

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San Martin de los Andes

We have now crossed the border (and the Andes) back into the wonderfully scenic San Martin where we are enjoying a swanky apartment as a Christmas treat. Not only do we have glorious sunshine but we also have a heated jacuzzi. On that note, we will bid you all a Merry Christmas and sign off!

Posted by jamesandanita 08:13 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Bikes and wine in Argentina

Free Tiramisu

sunny 30 °C
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Buenos Aires

After saying goodbye to Frank and Bernadette, we headed down to Buenos Aires on a refreshingly pleasant flight. Anita was recovering from her fourth bout of food poisoning (wedding diet going well!), so largely stayed in and cursed the lack of a proper internet connection, but James was fit and able so was sent out to explore Buenos Aires and bring back some good photos for the blog! As it happened, we were in town for the Presidential inauguration (of Christina Kirchner), so James watched the celebrations on the square and took photos of some of the landmark buildings in town.

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We also both took a stroll around Recoleta cemetery, the place where anyone who was anyone got buried until some Puritanical spoil sport decided that spending colossal sums on ginormous statues of angels, soldiers, etc, was a touch tasteless and not all that likely to win a place in heaven after all. Eva Peron's family tomb is of course within the grounds, and is actually rather understated in the context of the others.

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The upmarket Recoleta district is very reminiscent of Paris (well, the nice bits of Paris in the middle), so other than visit the cemetary we had a nice afternoon strolling about looking at design shops and drinking coffee.

Rosario

Leaving BA, we stopped en route to Mendoza in Rosario, about which there is not much to report other than it was very hot and a fashion desert. Three hours of endless trawling through shops yielded but one purchase. Both the wardrobe teams for Pretty Woman or Little House on the Prarie would have done well to send assistants to Rosario to source costumes. That minor grumble aside, we found the people to be very friendly and accommodating in Rosario and enjoyed the first of hopefully many steaks.

Mendoza

Now we find ourselves in Mendoza. On the first night we got sloshed at a wine tasting; they serve pretty generous tasting samples here.

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Then we spent yesterday cycling around vineyards (someone's gotta do it!), which was thirsty work in 30 degrees of strong sunshine. We visited a few bodegas (wineries) and enjoyed a long lunch of lamb soaked in Malbec. Oh yeah!

Unbelievably they throw out the juicy bits from the grapes and only keep the skins. Some poor bugger has to pinch one grape at a time by hand for a living. I asked him why and he said that's how they do it for the premium wines. I asked why again and he just said that was the premium way. I also asked whether they sell the juicy bits to a fruit juice company as there must be a lot of grape juice to be had there and the guy just looked at me like I was crazy. And then they wonder why vineyards aren't profitable. Too much snobbery, not enough savvy. Pah.

One other thing which is very weird about Argentina so far is that no restaurant will accept a credit card (we reckon they're all on the fiddle). So when you politely grumble about this being inconvenient, they bring you a free tiramasu! How weird is that? James thinks its a bribe; they avoid tax and pay us off with dessert. Turns out we are bought that easily.

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Posted by jamesandanita 03:11 Archived in Argentina Comments (2)

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