FRom the granite peaks and the painted Andean desert to the delicate malbecs, torrontés, and syrahs, Argentina has both rugged caballeros and sophisticated sommeliers. Upon arrival to Buenos Aires we met Nathalia’s sister, Bianca. We wasted no time as the next morning we boarded the ferry to Uruguay. This was our first border crossing by boat; A small but exciting first nonetheless. We arrived at Colonia del Sacramento. Originally founded by the Portuguese more than 300 years ago, it served as the port to smuggle goods across the Rio de la Plata.

We visited South America’s oldest church and strolled the cobblestone streets stopping in at cafes and galleries as we saw fit. The narrow alleys, colonial era building facades, and classic cars all lent themselves to incredible photos.

We sampled the region’s bounty with a prolonged wine tasting and finally found some enjoyable coffee and sweets. We stumbled onto great food rich in flavor and texture and great wine to complement both the food and dinner talk.

Our next leg included a bus to Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo. There are less than 4 million people in the whole country and it shows. Once out of the city the landscape quickly changed to green pastures broken up by the occasional small town. In Montevideo we visited the stadium of the very first World Cup in 1930; One of only two World Cup trophies claimed by Uruguay.

Crazy cabbies mismatched the laid back feel of the coastal town. A staunchly Catholic city, downtown Montevideo felt almost like a ghost town on Sunday. Our driver explained, “There’s a new president to take office next month and no one is going to work until then. This is not the US, my friend.”

It took a little work and a lot of sweat under the blazing sun, but we found fine dining among the plethora of parillas (grills) with mediocre to bad online reviews. We were living the highlife with quality coffee and tasty sandwiches. For dinner, I had the equivalent of a seafood turducken and we all gorged on wine and various forms of dulce de leche desserts.

We took a nonstop ferry back to Buenos Aires and dove headfirst in the cultural history, but not before making rounds at the high end espresso houses. We strolled Florida street and visited the beautiful mall Galerías Pacífico on our way to the Plaza de Mayo to see the president’s home La Casa Rosada. We saw Buenos Aires’ iconic Obelisco; That weird flower sculpture that opens and closes throughout the day; And the Teatro Colón, built in 1908, it was the largest theater in the Southern Hemisphere until the Sydney Opera House. We normally don’t make special trips to cemeteries, but in Recoleta it was a must. There are towering mausoleums and elaborate subterranean crypts housing past generations of Argentina’s elite. Less visited, but older and perhaps more interesting the Basilica Nuestra Señora Del Pilar, a 300 year old church built by the monks of the Order of the Recoletos (Recollections).

We dedicated time to Palermo for more coffee at Lattente and Full City Cafe as well as delicious food at Bio Solo Organico. In the evening, we attended a Tango Show with dancing spectacular enough to distract us from the wretched food and wine they served.

We bid a fond farewell to Bianca, although she barely made it to airport when her “shuttle” broke down several times enroute. There was one silver lining as she caught a beautiful sunset on the way. Check out Bianca Elizabeth Photography for a more poetic visual documentary of our time together http://blog.biancaelizabeth.com/.

Despite Bianca’s roadside misfortune, I’d say – overall – Buenos Aires has the nicest cab drivers we’ve met. They still drive nuts, but pleasant folk nonetheless. And no matter how crazy the cabs are, the bus drivers are a hundredfold worse. It is said, “Ellos comen malhumor para desayunar,” or roughly translated, “They eat bad mood for breakfast.”

We had just one night between sending off Bianca and greeting Nathalia’s parents, Deb and Tyler. As chance would have it, friends would arrive in town that very evening on a honeymoon of their own. We met the Mindells for dinner and ate like the locals at the busiest Parrilla in Palermo. This was a comfortable respite from the constant traveling rigamarole as we discussed everything from current events back home to plans for the future. They had just visited Cuba and had lots to share about the truths contrary to the popular beliefs so heavily ingrained from television and movies of the long-time culturally isolated island.

Argentina operates on Castellano or Castilian Spanish. I was under the impression it was just an added lisp. To my dismay, there were nuances to pronunciation as difficult as French and slang terms no dictionary can accurately define. Lastly, I wish I’d paid closer attention to the ‘vosotros’ form in school. We survived nonetheless, and definitely with communication mishaps fewer and farther between than when we were in Asia.

Debra and Tyler Sciotto barely arrived due to Snowstorms in Atlanta. They were gracefully redirected through Houston and only lost a few hours. It was a miracle as well because we were on a tight schedule to see what else Argentina had to offer. But not before a great dinner of steaks and trout at El Mercado in Hotel Faena within the beautiful and newly developed barrio Puerto Madera.

The next morning we left for El Calafate, the launching point to discover the Patagonian steppe. We drove the epic Ruta 40 – equivalent to our Route 66 – to El Chalten and settled into our quaint and comfy lodge style bed and breakfast. Blessed with good weather we hiked to Lago de Los Tres and caught incredible views from the base of Fitz Roy. We got our money’s worth with gusts of wind strong enough to blow you over and rain on our way back. Nathalia drew circles around the many caterpillars with her trekking pole to help other hikers avoid smushing them along the trail.

Exhausted and sore the next day, the wind was stronger and rain heavier so we braved the weather just long enough to walk from shop to cafe, and to the next shop and cafe.
We filled the day with waffles, empanadas, microbrews, ice cream and shopping. Locro (Lamb Stew), trout, and steak each night was always good and accompanied by great wines. Mayonnaise accompanies the bread and is usually flavored – sometimes with unusual ingredients. Each meal began with a game of Guess-the-Mayo.

We found the best gnocchi that exists outside of the Sciotto residence at El Cucharon in the town of El Calafate. We drove to Perito Moreno, the most accessible glacier I’ve ever seen for viewing. The next day we laced up the crampons and set out on a glacier trek. We toasted local whiskey chilled by 350 year old glacial ice and finished the day with more great food and wine at the quaint Mi Rancho restaurant.

Next, we booked passage across the Chilean border to visit Torres del Paine. This short leg of our journey was not without its troubles. Just an hour-and-a-half into our ride the engine started knocking and smoke began to trail us. Luckily, we made it to the only rest stop along the scheduled 5 hour trip. It was only a small milagro (miracle), but at least we could sit inside instead of on the side of the long, barren, desolate road. After a couple hours a relief van picked us up to continue our crossing. Approaching the Chilean border the paved roads disintegrate to gravel and the ride gets a little rougher. Our driver was determined to make up lost time, and in his haste, broke the rear window just behind our heads. We arrived at the Chilean border, but as luck would have it, one of the two vans to complete our journey broke down and we were left to wait once again. This gave us plenty of time to pick the glass from our hair and try the local rabbit sandwiches.

When we finally arrived, we realized it was all worth the work when we saw the spectacular views and vast surrounding expanse from Hotel las Torres. Patagonia is big and beautiful in every direction. Sometimes it looks a little barren with scrub brush and exposed sandy washes. The running joke was its similarity to Nevada. That is, except for the llama-shaped guanacos and the monstrous granite spires in the distance. From our bedroom window we saw horses, half a dozen species of birds, and a family of foxes just minutes apart.

The next day we explored the grounds with a short day hike under light rain. The food was good but the views were great, and we drew out dinners tasting wines and unhurried conversations. We closed down the dining hall each night as we were in no rush to get to bed.

With a clear day ahead we hiked the steady climb to approach Torres del Paine. It reminded us slightly of trekking through Nepal as we passed backpackers and horse trains. We climbed along the lush green valley until we crossed the tree line and basked in the glory of the triumphant spires.

Our last leg of Argentina took us to the North. A top five destination of South America, we couldn’t miss Iguaçu Falls. We were fortunate enough to stay in the National Park at the Sheraton and benefitted from the easy access and breathtaking views of the falls. A light rail and an elaborate boardwalk system both above and below the falls provides optimal viewing and an added boat ride gives you the full experience of the Iguaçu baptism.

We took a taxi to Puerto Iguaçu and saw the Tres Fronteras – Borders of Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina separated by the rivers Paraná and Iguaçu. There wasn’t much to the town, but we found delicious fish, local beers, and more conversations I will never forget. Six months ago the Sciottos hosted the best wedding we could ever have imagined. To have them with us in Argentina and on our honeymoon has been just as special.

image image image image image image

IMG_2437

IMG_2439

IMG_2438

IMG_2442

IMG_2441

IMG_2443

IMG_2440

IMG_2445

IMG_2447

IMG_2448

IMG_8117

IMG_8212

IMG_8168

IMG_8105

IMG_8094

IMG_8081

IMG_8227

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO

IMG_2451

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

IMG_8309

IMG_8492

IMG_8306

IMG_8430

IMG_8454

IMG_8377

IMG_8360

IMG_8438

IMG_8388

IMG_8368

DCIM100GOPRO

IMG_8629

IMG_8620

IMG_8572

IMG_8605

IMG_8643

Advertisements