A Travellerspoint blog

Salud from Mendoza

sunny 32 °C

The Andes loom over the city of Mendoza like a giant umbrella and shelter it from all but the most persistent rains. The city and its surroundings should be as dry as a bone in the mountains' shadow yet its boulevards and parks are just brimming with century old trees...
large_0c428cd0-231a-11e8-bd94-63e36b4b6fee.JPG
Mendoza is hot, with mid-summer temperatures reaching into the 40s, but its ultra-wide boulevards, traffic free zones and living canopy make it a great place for pedestrians. Restaurants, cafes and bars,flow onto the shady sidewalks and allow residents to escape the searing sun during the afternoon siesta until the stores and offices re-open at 6pm.
large_0b8de2d0-231a-11e8-954a-85f20267065f.JPG
The restaurants don't re-open until 8.30 or 9 but that gives us plenty of time for a pre-dinner drink and, as Mendoza is the wine capital of Argentina, drinking is both easy and cheap. This pleasant little local Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve cost about three Canadian dollars...
09da3f60-231a-11e8-954a-85f20267065f.JPG
The Mendoza region is blessed with dozens of major wineries. Many Spanish vintners set up shop here after the rapacious phylloxera aphids spread from North America to Europe and wiped out their Old World vineyards in the late 1800s. With good soil and plenty of sun the missing ingredient was water in Mendoza. However, the meltwater from the snow capped peaks and glaciers of the nearby Andes was easily chanelled and the city and the desert soon bloomed...
large_Channel.JPG
The Lopez winery was founded in 1898 on the outskirts of Mendoza and is still a family business producing 20 million bottles a year and our 'private' tour of the winery was one of the most informative we have ever enjoyed. (It was private because no other English speakers showed up for the free 2 hour visit and wine tasting). Our guide, Nicolas, gave us the works from the 30,000 litre French oak barrels...
large_0baf9ba0-231a-11e8-85bd-b1a5db6c0af0.JPG
To the glittering stainless settling and filtering tanks...
0b141ef0-231a-11e8-954a-85f20267065f.JPG
And this ancient British steam powered fire engine in the museum...
0af3ecc0-231a-11e8-954a-85f20267065f.JPG
And then, the best bit, where we had an in-depth lesson on wine tasting and even got to try several very generous glasses of their wine including some of their most expensive...
Nicolas.JPG
Sad to say, but we actually preferred the plonk. However, we now consider ourselves experts. Unfortunately the Lopez wines are not sold in Canada, (in fact few of the 20 million bottles are sold outside of Argentina). However, Nicolas suggested that we should take at least one bottle home with us – and James chose this one...
large_0ac51490-231a-11e8-954a-85f20267065f.JPG
It may seem a romantic notion but the next time you are enjoying a glass of Argentinian wine from Mendoza pause to reflect on the fact that every drop of grape juice squeezed into the bottle began life high in the Andes as a glacier.

Posted by Hawkson 13:56 Archived in Argentina Comments (4)

The Good, Bad and Ugly of Buenos Aires

sunny 31 °C

Buenos Aires is a beautiful city with majestic buildings, elegant boulevards and numerous parks and gardens bursting with sub-tropical plants and blossoming trees...
large_c0f73060-2147-11e8-8bd3-adaabbe0e1b7.JPG
This is the famous Palacio Barolo built in 1890 and supposedly reflecting Dante's Divine Comedy. The basement is hell and the top 8 floors are heaven...
large_bfe7bc30-2147-11e8-be24-97cffa1f1d51.JPG
Buenos Aires also has many areas of derelict sites and decaying buildings...
c0f5a9c0-2147-11e8-8cf1-d5fd4e72a99a.JPG
The city was the home of the present Pope, Francis, and not far from the cathedral where he worshipped as a young man is the most famous of all of the city's coffee houses – Cafe Tortoni. The cafe was opened by a French emigre who modelled it after the Grand Tortoni Cafe in Paris and it was remodelled into its present form at the end of the 19th century. It is rated as one of the ten most beautiful cafes in the world. Celebrities and aristocrats from around the world have been meeting here since 1858 and now it is our turn...
c08b7640-2147-11e8-ba28-7fab0a7f0859.JPG
All restaurant meals in Argentina are enormous and the prices are reasonable for us, but rampant inflation and stagnant wages over the past few years have put them beyond the means of many Argentinians. As in many poorer countries much of the commerce in Argentina is done under the counter with cash. To combat this the government requires businesses to accept bank cards, but it is no coincidence that many of the card readers seem to malfunction whenever we try to use a credit card. Public service workers can't avoid paying tax and today we witnessed a peaceful, though noisy, demonstration by a hundred thousand teachers and professors who are on strike in an effort to raise their wages from a measly six thousand dollars a year...
large_c0f386e0-2147-11e8-9bc3-37686795046c.JPG
The depression of recent years has taken a toll on public works and, while improvements are being made to some roads and parks, there are plenty of pavements and public buildings that need a facelift. These are the doors of the Ministry of Modernisation... No kidding...
Doorway.JPG
However, there are plenty of glittering spires in the recently developed port area...
large_bfac60e0-2147-11e8-be24-97cffa1f1d51.JPG
The markets are one way that entrepreneurs, artisans and musicians can scrape a living and there are many held every weekend – especially during the summer when the city is bustling with cruise passengers. The Recoleta market has hundreds of venders and entertainers winding along the pathways and under the shade trees outside of Recoleta Cemetary. We loved the trad jazz – but never saw the tango...
c0f35fd0-2147-11e8-aa2a-154625b7f40d.JPG
Despite the financial woes Argentina seems laid back today, but it has had a stormy past. In the 1970s the American CIA fomented right-wing military coups both here and in most Central and South American countries as part of an anti-communist purge. It was codenamed Operation Condor and is a chilling reminder of how far the Americans will go to get their own way, (as if we need a chilling reminder today). This is the Casa Rosado (the Pink House) which is the rather austere presidential palace overlooking the Plaza de Mayo...
large_c0bce680-2147-11e8-84ca-1dfeb6b59b86.JPG
Between 1976 and 1983 some 60,000 dissidents, unionists and academics, were tortured and murdered by the military dictators. The children of those who 'disappeared' were either killed or adopted by junta insiders and the grandmothers of those children still demonstrate in front of the presidential palace in the Plazo de Mayo in the hope of getting them back. The women are known as the “Grandmothers of the Plazo de Mayo.” ( Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo).

Our time on the coast in Buenos Aires is now at end and we are heading back to the Andes to Mendoza – capital of Argentina's wine region. (We will write in few days - if we are sufficiently sober!)

Posted by Hawkson 06:15 Archived in Argentina Comments (3)

Buenos Aires

sunny 32 °C

Our geographical confusion deepens as we head north to Buenos Aires where it is more than 30 degrees in the shade, but, just like Chile's Santiago, there is plenty of shade...
large_1564fbe0-1fc8-11e8-a3f8-9565f67f49e5.JPG
But our confusion has more to do with the architecture than the unseasonable weather – unseasonable for us but not for the locals who are used to the clear skies and the soaring temperatures. However, despite the fact that Argentina has a Spanish heritage, most of the buildings here are distinctly French...
large_15826ef0-1fc8-11e8-874b-cd13415831a0.JPG
In the 1930s Buenos Aires was known as the Paris of South America and there is still much today that reminds us of the French capital – especially the dogs...
157d8cf0-1fc8-11e8-b71a-a5181fae20fb.JPG
It is estimated that a quarter of households in Buenos Aires own dogs and, as virtually all residents live in apartments, licensed dog-walking is a profession that pays better than being a vet. Dog-walking is governed by strict laws that apparently no one complies with, and each walker is supposedly restricted to 8 dogs. The walkers choose their charges based on size and temperament and all seem to be very well behaved - both dogs and walkers - apart from their toilet habits.

The tree-lined boulevards, the elegant mansions, the litter-strewn streets and the piles of dog pooh, all have a Parisian feel as do many of the cafes and restaurants. In the centre of Buenos Aires, across the park from La Recoleta Cemetery, is the most famous cafe of all – La Biela....
40a2ee20-1fc8-11e8-90e8-8fd84d14fdb3.JPG
This cafe, (the Connecting Rod in English), is where the rich and famous, (and tourists like us), go to meet over a coffee and a snack. Juan Fangio, Argentina's most successful F1 racing driver, was a regular here in the 1950s as were many other drivers like Emerson Fittipaldi and Jackie Stewart. We sat inside the cafe but many others pay extra to sit outside under a two hundred year old rubber tree whose enormous branches shade more than 18,000 square feet. It is so enormous that many of the giant boughs have to be supported...
large_15810f60-1fc8-11e8-b938-d973874fdd26.JPG
However, it is the nearby Recoleta Cemetary that attracts most attention from visitors. This is the church of Nuestra Senora del Pinar which is the last stop for those finally on their way into the cemetary...
large_Church.JPG
Temporary visitors like us go through the main gates and once inside we joined the thousands who flock from around the world to get a glimpse of just one tomb – that of Eva Peron...
158d4460-1fc8-11e8-9833-a3f46a11e58d.JPG
Buenos Aires seems to be all about Eva Peron – Evita to her supporters. Although she was only the first lady for a few years in the early 1940s., and has been dead for 66 years, she is still idolised by many as the person who empowered the women and the poor of Argentina. However, she is apparently still vilified by others as a gold-digging model who climbed the social ladder when she jumped into bed with the future president, (a man twice her age).

There is so much to see and do in Buenos Aires. For example the excellent museum of Bellas Artas in Recoleto District is bursting with genuine works by French impressionists such as Pissaro, Monet and Manet, and an incredible set of sculptures by Rodin. No photos allowed but, just like the British museums and galleries, the museum has free entry for all. But art is everywhere in the city and almost every boulevard and park has a statue of some sort – some ancient...
14ca6990-1fc8-11e8-8364-65c7e7aa9736.JPG
...and some modern like this 18 ton stainless steel flower - the Floralis Generica - that opens and closes with the sun. It was erected in 2002 in the park next to the Bellas Artes museum...
large_149e2970-1fc8-11e8-8364-65c7e7aa9736.JPG

More of Buenos Aires on the next installment of Blissful Adventures.

Posted by Hawkson 08:33 Archived in Argentina Comments (6)

Where in the World Are We?

semi-overcast 20 °C

It seems as if the whole world has been turned on its head. Where on earth could we be when the grass is green and the gardens are blooming with roses, hydrangeas and hollyhocks?
large_Hollyhocks.JPG
Could we be in England? Maybe. There is certainly a very English teashop selling English pudding – known here as Budin...
3d9dad30-1c82-11e8-9f43-81ad17b868aa.JPG
But then there are the lavenders, the roses and the excellent restaurants offering such French delicacies as jugged hare and lamb's sweetbreads – maybe we are in Picardy or Provence...
large_Roses.JPG
But there again there are the many log cabins and A-frame houses just like those of rural Canada...
3d72f3b0-1c82-11e8-9f43-81ad17b868aa.JPG
And then there's the weather. The warm sunny days stretch late into the evening and we imagine ourselves strolling alongside an alpine lake in Northern Italy as we stop for an ice-cream at a gelataria. Could this be Lake Lugano or Lake Como in July?...
large_3aa72980-1c82-11e8-a19e-ed3f870dc7e1.JPG
And the wood-fired pizzas are as good as any we've ever enjoyed in Tuscany...
Pizza.JPG
The small city of El Calafate may be in southern Patagonia but almost nothing here is particularly unusual to us - in fact it is all very familiar. The 'world' has come to this remote valley at the bottom of the Andes in recent times to witness one of nature's wonders and has brought with it all the trappings of international tourism: German bakeries, French restaurants, Italian pizzarias, and shop after shop filled with tourist trinkets and expensive jewelry on a main street that could be almost anywhere.

Patagonia has been a total surprise to us - maybe we are light-headed from walking around upside down – but anyone expecting wild, rustic and bracing could be disappointed. There's nothing here to frighten the horses: and there are horses. (and sheep and cattle), but no sign of llamas, guanacas or any other wildlife. But then there is the glacier...
large_359b8170-1c82-11e8-a19e-ed3f870dc7e1.JPG
This is Perito Moreno – this is what El Calafate is all about...
large_3653d4f0-1c82-11e8-a19e-ed3f870dc7e1.JPG
The glacier of Perito Moreno straddles the border between Chile and Argentina and is nearly twenty miles long. The face of the glacier is 250 feet high and is a Youtube star because of the spectacular way that huge chunks regularly break off and crash into the lake...
large_Glacier.JPG
The Perito Moreno has to be seen to be believed. Photos simply cannot convey the enormity of this glacier or the power of nature that drives this gigantic river of ice. Unlike most of the world's glaciers, Perito Moreno is not significantly receding at present, but who knows what will happen in the future. This is one for the bucket list.
Now our week in Patagonia is at an end and we are heading back to summer and sophistication in Buenos Aires.

Posted by Hawkson 04:28 Archived in Argentina Comments (4)

The Lighthouse at the End of the World...

sunny 20 °C

As the Andean mountains sink slowly into the Southern Ocean at the toe of Argentina our trip to the end of the world has come to an end. For the next 5 weeks our journey will be all uphill as we wend our way home through Argentina, Uraguay, Brazil and Cuba. But we didn't come all this way just to get our photo taken in the most southerly city in the world...
large_9c2f7670-1a67-11e8-abd1-fbefef3fd996.JPG
We came to see the penguins of Antarctica...
large_96bf8e50-1a67-11e8-b144-fb2c04b4d558.JPG
This gentu penguin was looking a little lost and perplexed when we spotted him on an island beach in the Beagle Channel which separates Chile and Argentina. But more of the penguins later. First a quick look at the city of Ushuaia – a city that today is booming beause of the number of ships ferrying passengers across the 1,000 kilometres stretch of ocean to the nearest point of Antarctica. We chose not to take a cruise but found ourselves surrounded by coach loads of cruise passengers at every turn when we visited the Tierra del Fuego National park.
Fortunately we managed to get some quiet time and some great views of the lakes and snow covered peaks...
large_8f38fb30-1a67-11e8-abd1-fbefef3fd996.JPG
Our next stop took us by small boat to visit the sea-lions and the cormorant colonies on various islands...
large_96c4be70-1a67-11e8-abd1-fbefef3fd996.JPG
Cormarants.JPG
You might be forgiven for thinking these cormorants are penguins – but this lot can fly - as can the numerous seabirds that we saw on our trip including thousands of gulls, geese and ibis...
Ibis.JPG
And then we came to the lighthouse at the end of the world...
large_Lighthouse.JPG
But back to our lone penguin. Maybe he was perplexed by the sun and the 20 degree weather because, like us, he was expecting it to be chilly and rainy. The Patagonian archipelago of Tierra del Fuego is the closest land to Antarctica and it has a reputation for some of the foulest weather in the world. The sea temperature never rises above 8 degrees and the westerly winds of the Southern Ocean circumnavigate the globe uninterrupted for 12,000 miles. The constant wind whips up waves more than 120 feet high and rounding Cape Horn is one of the most dangerous undertakings for ships of any size. Thousands of vessels have foundered off the coast here over the centuries. But not today. With a warm breeze and blue skies we got to enjoy the sight of thousands of penguins at close quarters. These are Magellanic penguins...
large_95a19b30-1a67-11e8-b144-fb2c04b4d558.JPG
Some were incredibly curious and totally unafraid...
large_9ef1cac0-1a67-11e8-abd1-fbefef3fd996.JPG
However, this handsome big guy was the star of the show and he knew it...
large_a0236cf0-1a67-11e8-81e6-a7e8415852f4.JPG
This king penguin had strayed from his colony on South Georgia Island and was taking a breather along with his smaller cousins on Martillo Island...

So, that was our day with the penguins. We have now flown north to El Calafate. No penguins here just lots of ice.

Posted by Hawkson 12:14 Archived in Argentina Comments (4)

(Entries 36 - 40 of 589) « Page .. 3 4 5 6 7 [8] 9 10 11 12 13 .. »