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Posts tagged ‘argentina’

DO cry for Argentina ;)

We are jumping continents again… back to finish my South America adventures…

Argentina was the first country I visited in South America.  The trip had an unusual origin.  I invited a friend who had just come back from a five month sabbatical in South America to a wine dinner with some Aussie friends.  They asked him his favourite country and he replied Argentina.  At that point I had never been to South America.  It was my missing continent so when my Australian friend decided we should go, I was in.  She was married so we only had 10 days since she was leaving her husband at home in Canada.

That’s when I discovered Argentina is the eighth largest country in the world!  So we wouldn’t be seeing all of it in 10 days… I decided we could spend some time in Buenos Aires, drink wine in Mendoza and check out Iguazu Falls.  It was a magical trip.  What was most amazing is that the logistics mostly worked.  We never got to the Brazilian side of the falls (despite paying a hefty fee and enduring insane archaic bureaucracy to get a visa so we could spend a day in Brazil) because there was a strike…  There were also strikes and protests that meant we never got to eat steak as the strikers were blocking its delivery to restaurants.

part of the culture

Welcome to Argentina!  You should absolutely go!  Just recognize that it is the kind of place for which the term banana republic was created.  It’s a gorgeous country full of natural resources and some of the world’s most beautiful people.  Part of the reason Danny was so keen on Argentina was how many attractive people he met there.  I’m not sure what they put in the water but he was right 😉  While strikes and protests can mar your travel plans, there are lots of lovely people in Argentina.  You feel so sorry that their country is such a mess as they don’t deserve it.

My first trip was back in 2008 when the economy was only starting to recover from the most recent economic catastrophe so there were a lot of cynical Argentinians jealous of Chile.  Buenos Aires was once the Paris of South America and it was the 10th wealthiest nation per capita in 1913.  They did elect Macri and there is finally some hope.

That’s the Argentina that I visited the second time.  When you take the Australis ship you can do a return trip or you can go in one direction.  It’s very expensive and I didn’t get the sense I would see a lot more returning to Chile so chose the Punta Arenas – Ushuaia route.  Ushuaia bills itself as “The End of the World” as there is no population settlement further south anywhere in the world.  It’s where you go if you want to check out Antarctica (so I will likely be back at some point ;).

You likely want to spend the extra to get a transfer to your hotel when you leave the ship.  I was cheap and did not… it all looked easy on the map 🙂  It wasn’t very many blocks to drag my suitcase but what I hadn’t realized was that the entire journey would be on a steep incline with questionable infrastructure like sidewalks… I made it without succumbing to a taxi and the reward at the end of the journey made it very worthwhile.  I would highly recommend the Alto Andino Hotel.  It’s quite small, the staff are very friendly, there is a good breakfast and – the biggest treat – there are sweeping views of the mountains and the Beagle Channel from the top floor. On top of all that, I also had a Jacuzzi bath in my room.  Ushuaia is a small frontier town so it’s an easy walk (without a suitcase!) to find souvenirs, food or drink.  I did have an incredibly difficult time finding water, though. so you may want to pack some.

beautiful breakfast

Just to make sure I knew I wasn’t in Chile any longer, there was a giant protest!  Welcome to Argentina…  Didn’t do anything especially memorable in Ushuaia.  It’s really a transit hub – but it is in a gorgeous location so worth a day if you end up there on your way to somewhere else.

Getting back to Santiago was challenging.  There are only a couple of flights a day from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires so I spent hours at the airport.  It was one of the most abysmal airport experiences of my life.  I had far more fun drinking beer at the outdoor café in Arusha watching the tourist groups come and go and local Tanzanians hang out.  The food and entertainment options were extremely limited and the pizza I finally decided to try tasted like cardboard!  They made it fresh so I was hopeful but maybe they forgot the yeast… At least I didn’t have to switch airports!  LAN Argentina changed my flight several times and I had to call them to finally sort everything out to make sure I could connect to Santiago and what airport I needed.

Argentina is like a telenovela star.  Gorgeous –  but temperamental and difficult at times.  She drives you crazy but she is so seductive you can’t resist… The people of Argentina need your pesos.  Go and meet them.  You’ll fall in love…


drinking like a pro ;)

If I didn’t like boys so much, I would know nothing about wine 🙂  One of my mother’s favourite stories is her recounting of my first day at school.  She was hoping I was there to learn something but when asked about my first impressions, I just listed the cute boys – in order.  The analytical skills obviously kick in early…

It was an Australian boy who said he would teach me about wine if I would date him.  It seemed a pretty decent exchange since at the time I knew approximately two wines and neither was especially memorable.  The wine education went well and I ended up in Oz circa 1990.

For wine aficionados there are few better places to stumble upon.  In those days, Monty Python made fun of Australian wine (they were WRONG!), the wineries were not owned by corporations and they made one of each and people made fun of you when you spent more than $7 on a 750 ml bottle of wine.

There are a lot of negative aspects to getting old but one of the sweet spots is taunting young Aussie wine drinkers with my introductory experience.  I would rock up to a winery and they would just pour me one of each… we started with Riesling and ended with Cabernet Sauvignon – or sometimes even Port.  It took me years to not pronounce Gewurtstraminer like an Aussie (i.e. wrong :)) because that was how I first heard the word.

When I moved back to Canada in 1992 with my 100 bottles of incredibly cheap Aussie wine (including my favourite, which was actually from New Zealand – the most expensive, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc for $11 a bottle because I found it before Wine Spectator did :), I couldn’t find any decent Australian wine in the market place so decided to explore Chile, starting at A…

This year Chile was the feature country at the Playhouse Wine Festival so it was a wonderful visit to my past.  Because I have been working so much in the past few months, I had no time to make a plan for my tasting so decided to just chill and revisit lots of old favourites, try a few new things and spend lots of time talking to the people pouring the wine.

It really helped me remember why we should all drink wine.  Long ago I went to this same event with a work colleague, back when I knew very little, and discovered he had worked in a wine shop to pay for university so I flitted around the room with him trying to absorb it all.

But the part I remember the most is his favourite wine – chosen for memories of those he had shared it with, not its terroir.  That is what I really love about wine.  Drinking it with friends.  The memories.  The stories.  Pros do not drink alone.  Wine geeks love my story about finishing a bottle of Catena Zapata Nicolas out of plastic cups in the Mendoza airport – but for me it’s really a story about travelling to Argentina with my friend Kerry shortly after my dad died.  There are so many bottles of wine that have been part of the narrative of my life.  Open a bottle and make a toast to someone important to you…

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