Rishi Sankar: Ah Trini Travelogue

  • Blog Stats

    • 20,614 hits

Archive for the ‘Argentina’ Category

All travel posts for locations in Argentina

Food, drinks and a great night in Mendoza, Argentina

Posted by Rishiray on March 19, 2014

On my Antarctic odyssey, we Mendoza is one of the best places to visit in the West of Argentina. It’s a vibrant city, renowned for its marvelous art, history and it’s almost impossible to not to have a great night in Mendoza. This land is the most important viticulturist center in south America and houses hundreds of wineries.

The city is centered around the Plaza Independencia , with a pedestrian street (Calle Sarmiento) running through the center.  The Plaza Independencia is a huge plaza in downtown Mendoza. It easily covers 3 – 4 large city blocks in a square. There are vendors selling their wares along one side, a beautiful massive water feature in the middle of the Plaza where you can rest on a warm Mendoza night enjoying the light spray from the water or listening to an impromptu speech or Fringe performance from actors. A safe great place to visit any time of day or night.

I love Argentina for the ease and relative safety of nightlife. … you can walk in the main areas at almost any time of night

Around the fountains is hub of activity (after midnight) for the city. Kids practicing parquet, gymnastics, families wondering around, stalls, afternoon snoozes etc. This place has it all.

I love the feeling at night … everything is so safe. I wish I could walk around Trinidad like this at night.

Light sculpture in the Square

After walking through Plaza Independencia, you could head over for dinner at the Hyatt Plaza Mendoza.With an impressive façade that resembles a European palace, the Park Hyatt is nestled the center of the city, adjacent to the Plaza Independencia. With white columns and marble floors, the grand lobby, though sporting a modern furniture, harkens back to days of old. Distant sounds of bells and whistles from the connected casino blend with soft piano music playing in the background.
My plan was to have a death causing amount of amazing steak, sausage and parilla. The concierge at the Sheraton told me that if I was hungry for cow, then the Hyatt would be the place. The quality of the meat was excellent and while pricey by Argentine standards … paying $40 for about 3 lbs of steak, sausage and other “amazingness” is a phenomenal value.

I didn’t hit the Casino … but this is definitely a swank hotel! It made the Sheraton presidential suit look like shits and giggles.

Dinner on the patio … probably is a good option unless you’re looking to eat 25lbs of meat in one sitting.

Who cares about salad? It’s the food that food eats.

I also tried the empanada, which was execution in excellence!

Now this is the type of grill that I need in my house.

Other friends ordered some excellent steak … and to be fair, it looked great.

I took this down like a champ … well I took down half of it

Roar!

The previous night I was sent for meat to an old school restaurant called Don Mario. I was told that it was one of the better ones in the city, but on my night there, I was completely unimpressed.

Even having heard from two people in Mendoza this is a traditional, GOOD place for meat, the reality is pretty far from the (questionable) fame it has. The restaurant’s ambiance is absolutely neutral, impersonal and unattractive. The service provided to the three of us was very, very poor and the food was well below an acceptable average.

This was just terribly done. I definitely wouldn’t recommend Don Mario

Nightlife in Argentina is well known worldwide and Mendoza is no exception. There were a lot of people drinking … in fact, there were a disproportionately high number of women outside drinking. It was almost like a fashion show in the center square.Mendoza produces 70% of Argentine wine and Argentina is the fifth biggest producer in the world. Thursday through Sunday are the biggest nights, when people get started around midnight.

Which floor should we go to?

Looking for a patio to sit down

Still searching …

Guess what we ended up drinking?

The locals are friendly for sure!

I think this sums up the night!

Advertisements

Posted in Argentina, South America | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Domaine Bousquet Winery Tour in Mendoza, Argentina

Posted by Rishiray on February 20, 2014

*Disclaimer … I don’t know anything about wine … I’m Trinidadian. If a Trini says they know anything about wine … they’re either lying, have a wife/husband/nennen not from Trinidad or did I mention lying?*

Now that we got that out of the way … the only thing to do in the day time in Mendoza, Argentina … is drink wine at wineries. Mendoza is a beautiful city located in the “hinterlands” of Western Argentina. For those from the Caribbean … it’s not close and you cannot really drive from Buenos Aires to Mendoza unless you have about 12 years to kill.
[mappress mapid=”110″]

The interesting thing is that wine-making talent and investment money have been streaming in from Europe and beyond, dramatically altering Argentina’s vinous landscape with hundreds of acres of new vineyards, several dozen new wineries, and entire categories of new wines. There are a lot of wineries in Mendoza … by a lot, I mean a LOT! Heading to Mendoza wine country will absolutely require a car, otherwise you’re going to pay a lot of money to be shuttled into some stock wineries. The prices that people will pay for even the “luxury” tours are ridiculous in my opinion.

winepricesHere’s my tips for getting the best wine tour:

  1. Know the wineries that you want to visit.
  2. Be specific and find the right tour or customize one that you want
  3. Rent a car
  4. Check the opening times and make reservations at your favorite winery
  5. If you are going to drop in, be forceful and demand that the guards let you in. You didn’t come all this way to be stopped by some guard making 5 pesos an hour.
  6. Ask tons of questions. People here respond to a personal touch.
  7. Friendliness and engagement go a long way here.

 

How to get there for the Domaine Bousquet Winery Tour:

Going wine touring in Mendoza means that you’ll have to get from Mendoza to Tupungato.
[mappress mapid=”111″]

Leaving the tree lined streets of Mendoza … you’re going to head down the highway

Follow the signs of your GPS

You’ll encounter lots of these trucks on the road… they’re used a lot to ferry grapes around

Until you get to Tupungato … you’ll also figure it out from all the vines

Just in case you didn’t know that you had hit wine country.

As a Trini … I have to admit, that I am not nor will I ever be a wine fan, but my wife and friends all like wine. Some of them really like wine and are very knowledgeable about wines and grapes so going to wineries are always part of the learning experience. The first winery that we visited was Domaine Bousquet. We would then go on to a couple others, but the vast majority of our day was spent at Domaine Bousquet.
This was my Russian buddy’s favorite winery and in true traveller style, we got there without any reservations. Of course, we found that the gate was locked and the guard wouldn’t let us in. This was a game changing problem! That being said, we did some negotiation with the guard and told him that we were wine journalists who had come to visit. He didn’t really believe us, but in the end, he relented and let us in, on the premise that we would only have lunch at the restaurant.
Once we got into the compound, we charmed our way into a tour with our lunch.

We ended up all having the Menu Grande Reserve, which was a 6 course menu and 6 wines. The price was 295 Argentine Pesos, which worked out to around 32$USD – which is a phenomenal price for us from North America.

  • Mise en Bouche
  • Two Starters
  • Entree
  • Cheese plate
  • Dessert
  • Wines:
    • One wine from the Premium line
    • Three wines from the Reserve line
    • Two wines form the Grande Reserve line

We were going to sample almost of all these on the rack!

Prior to heading for the tour, we got a chance to cool our heels. Who wouldn’t want to sip some wine, while under a shed like this.

Prior to lunch, we had our tour and I was surprised at the detailed knowledge we go from our hostess. Definitely exceeded my expectations as a non wine lover. I learned a lot of things that were absolutely new to me without having any restrictions due to my ignorance of the wine culture, and the wine experts got all the answers to their most difficult questions.

Heading into the production house

You could almost get drunk off all the fumes in here!

A great marriage of Oak and Steel

Wine having its long sleep.

More sleeping wine and crates of bottles ready for sale

Ready for sale

Sleeping in cellars

After a great and informative tour … it was on to lunch.

This was a dish of escovitched rabbit. It was definitely surprising to the palette. I was expecting something a bit more gamey, but this was cleansing to the taste and went well with the paired wine.

If you ever want to see a happy Russian … take him to his favorite winery in the world. I think he wanted to propose to the bottle. He might have done so in Russian.

Molten chocolate cake was paired with a dessert wine .. definitely something to hit your senses.

After a couple bottles of wine, a great lunch and some fantastic wine knowledge, we can definitely say that the Domaine Bousquet Winery Tour is a highly recommended addition to any ad hoc wine tour or “do it yourself” wine tour. If you happen to love their wines, then you’ll have an even better time.

Posted in Argentina, South America | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Doing the Martial Glacier Chairlift in Ushuaia, Argentina.

Posted by Rishiray on January 27, 2014

When you’re at the bottom of South America, there are actually many things to do, but you will absolutely need to rent a car, else you’re going to be priced out of many activities. For instance, I’ve written about the End of the World Train ride … which is a complete tourist trap, but still mandatory for anyone coming to this part of the world.
Hiking up the Martial Glacier is also another one of those activities that aren’t necessarily super high on the list, but comes as one of those “you might as well, since you’re here” activities. Regular readers of my blog will also remember that I love any type of aerial tide, as documented by my love of cable cars and funiculars.  Here’s a list of some my favorites :

  • Singapore … post
  • Matterhorn, Switzerland … post
  • Monserrat, Spain  … post
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil … post
  • Masada, Israel … post
  • Barcelona, Spain … post

As for the Aerosilla or Martial Glacier Chairlift …

I’m all for charging tourists extra … and in Latin American style … you’ll have to pay double the price. If you get a great exchange rate on the Argentine Blue Market, then you’re paying about $7.50USD

Here’s the route map that they offer you when you get your ticket. I didn’t have the greatest hiking shoes on this trip, so the Russian and the Thai made the hike up all the way to the top, I made it to the beginning of the Canadon Negro trails.

Once you get your ticket, then it’s a short walk outside and you head over to the boarding area. The actual chair lift ride is quite picturesque. Getting into the chair lift is a pretty standard procedure, but in North American, we’re conditioned to have completely safe rides, hence just having the safety bar could take getting used to.

The ride up the chair lift definitely offers some great vantage points of the mountain and the glacier. The pine trees along the way contribute to a refreshingly crisp ride with some great air. It’s funny how we can all notice great air now … it says something about the air quality in our cities. As for the chair ride … it’s about 9-10 minutes till you get to the end.
[box type=”info” ]Wear your winter gear, as it gets windier and colder as you climb the elevation. You definitely don’t want to be trekking through snow in your regular shoes. I saw many people slip on the ice because they didn’t have the right shoes![/box]

[box type=”info” ]Did you know that you don’t actually have to use the chair lift. You can actually hike the entire trail up. It’s free to hike all the way up. We had two military friends who hiked the trail. They only complained about not having enough water. I would be complaining about heart attacks![/box]

Now you’re at the top … what do you do?

Take in all the views of the Beagle Channel from the Panoramic Point and the glacial river views as you hike up.



Once you reach the first view point, there are tons of marked trails and maps that will help guide you along further … if you’re so inclined.

You can follow the peak map, with the view and figure out where you want to go.

I didn’t take this way …

If there is great weather, then you have some pretty decent shots.

Your views of the Beagle Channel will also get better as you climb higher!


Did you take any crappy video of the place?

Obviously … there is always a crappy video or two that I’ll take …
httpvh://youtu.be/1_1ta8pRLfY
httpvh://youtu.be/VJP8dxABL00

Posted in Argentina, South America | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Floreria Atlantico : Da’ Best Speakeasy Drinking in Buenos Aires

Posted by Rishiray on January 23, 2014

Buenos Aires is one of my very favorite cities in the world. I think I’ve documented my love affair for this city in the past, but everytime I’ve been there … I come away thinking …

Why don’t I live here … ???

Of course, that’s a completely over-romanticized notion, since Toronto is a pretty awesome city in it’s own right. That being said, Buenos Aires is truly the “Paris of Latin America”. This is a city that never stops going. It’s where you can be completely buttoned down while drinking a phenomenal bottle of Mendoza Malbec and mowing down half of cow that was purely grass fed with no hormones. AND …if you’re so inclined, heading over to a beach bar, having a few excellently made mojitos and watching the sunrise … all for less than $100.

I know what you Trinis are saying … well in Trinidad, you can fete all night, break away on some sexy somebody and then go out for doubles and burgers after! I’ll tell you, that it’s not the same thing … especially since you can’t walk anywhere in Trinidad! In Trinidad, we also couldn’t have a bar like Floreria Atlantico.

Doesn’t look like much of a bar does it?

Flowers and Postoles Gin?

Speakeasies are a throwback to a different time where Alcohol was prohibited and were “so called because of the practice of speaking quietly about such a place in public, or when inside it, so as not to alert the police or neighbors. In Buenos Aires, a lovely speakeasy opened in 2013 named “Floreria Atlantico”.

Don’t mind the shaky picture … the menu is a treasure!

I’ll start with a bit of perspective … I’m a drinker and I’ve been to many, many bars and drinking establishments across the planet, but I’ve never seen a speakeasy frontages with a floral shop and had to access cocktail bar via a chic designer-style florist/record/wine shop that sells its wares until 2am ….

through a freezer door!!!!

Yep .. that’s us with our host Javier going through the freezer door.

Even with the hardcore props to the freezer door and looking like a #worldtravelboss doing this, I also thought that it got bonus points for picking up some flowers, in case you drank too much … where else would get a last minute gift to appease your nearest and dearest back home but at your local speakeasy. *Apologies … my pictures from here … were on a BB10 … which is terrible”

Entering into stylish darkness ….

You can find the bar at the rear of the shop. It’s a long, narrow room filled with diners and drinkers of all ages and cultures – it’s like a party where everyone is welcome and no one wants to leave. I definitely loved the feel of the bar … it was a place to see and be seen … but in that relaxed, not desperate for attention way.

The drinks are superbly displayed and they make your drink, like they’re making chemical art!

While I was looking through the menu … each page on the menu featured drinks and alcohols that were very specific to countries. I can’t remember the last time I saw the following alcohols on a menu

  • Grappa and Cynar
  • Sherry and brandy
  • Calvados, Absinthe and St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
  • Postoles Gin, Earl Grey tea and Navy Grog.

In one night across three bars in Buenos Aires … I found that they truly respect the art of bartending and they respect proper alcohol and drinking. It’s an excellent way to go out, when you know that your bartender is a chemical artist.

The view with my friends Javier and Aisha in the foreground … concentrating on that drink!

Here’s the funny thing … it was only after I left the place and I googled it … that I found out that has been voted as one of the world’s top 50 bars… In fact, some have said it’s the best bar in South America. Personally, I would love to open up one of these in Trinidad … along with my Flair Martini Bar, but it would just be to dangerous to operate properly.

As for the crowd was mixed: generally wealthy clientele were made up of twenty-somethings on dates, thirty-somethings at after-work drinks, something-somethings and ‘ladies who lunch’. The atmosphere is lively and chatty, but you can still hear yourself talk as the well-chosen playlist murmurs in the background. This beacon of understated sophistication and design would sit well in Barcelona, Barbados or even in Maraval – it is a place that knows what it’s doing, but it is not at all complacent. If you’re in BsAs … you should go! #Boom!

Address: Arroyo 872, Buenos Aires, Argentina. (5411) 4313 6093.
Website: http://www.facebook.com/floreriaatlantico.
Open: Mon-Sat 10am-3am.

Posted in Argentina, South America | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Driving from Santiago to Mendoza : The Andes Highlight

Posted by Rishiray on January 15, 2014

On all previous trips, I have entered Argentina by plane, but in planning to get from Santiago to Mendoza, I had to consider the three summer options (driving or busing in winter is quite risky):

  1. Fly from Santiago to Mendoza
    I considered this, but this proved to be very expensive and not that much of a time saving. I also considered that in addition to the cost of several hundred dollars, I would have missed some of the most beautiful landscapes outside of Patagonia.
  2. Take the bus from Santiago to Mendoza
    I personally hate taking the bus anywhere. When you’re travelling by bus, you have a reasonable price point, but you have no control over your time of arrival, and no control about your comfort and seatmate. When going by the bus, you also have no choice for photo stops like Aconcagua (6,960 m), South America’s tallest mountain.
  3. Renting a car and driving from Santiago to Mendoza
    This proved to be the best option, simply because it was 5 of us travelling together and we were able to use a friend’s car. After putting gas for the journey, we found that renting a car offered the most control, cheapest option per person and allowed us to stop where ever we wanted.
    [box type=”warning” ]First, you must have a notarized letter of permission from the car owner that says you’re legally able to take the car out of Chile. Next you have to have a special type of insurance for the entire time you’re in Argentina or else Chile won’t let you out and Argentina won’t let you in.
    You also have to carry proof of insurance with you at all times, especially at the border. If your insurance is expired when you try to come back to Chile, Argentina reserve the right to keep the car until you personally come back with valid insurance. Lastly, you have to have the customs form that lists when the car has gone out/in of Chile in the past.[/box]


I was really excited about the crossing of the Andes since it offers magnificent mountain scenery of outstanding natural beauty, a close view of Mount Aconcagua, “The Colossus of America” and bragging right of driving the longest mountain range in the world and the second tallest after the Himalayas. You also get to drive through the 28 hairpin turns on the Chile side – those turns are pretty awesome coming down, but not going up.
[box type=”info” ]The Andes Mountain Range extends nearly 7,000 kilometres from Central America to Cape Horn, traversing seven countries: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile.[/box]

Santiago_Mendoza_Map

The distance between the two cities is 179 km (as the crow flies), but extends for 364 kilometers including local roads and the winding road through the mountain passes.

The border between Chile and Argentina roughly follows the line along the highest peaks of the Andes. The “Los Libertadores” (Chile) or “Uspallata” (Argentina) crossing is one of the most important. The “Los Libertadores/Uspallata” Pass links Santiago de Chile and the city of Mendoza in Argentina.

In the vicinity of Los Libertadores is Mount Aconcagua (6,962 MASL; meters above sea level). Aconcagua is the highest mountain in both the Western and Southern Hemispheres.

I took many shaky videos of the drive from the front seat of the car  (I’m not known for my videography, but the you’ll definitely get a sense of all the colours and geological formations). The route is so pretty though, that I think it’s almost impossible to take a bad picture or even a terrible video and I am pretty great at taking terrible video – some of these videos might make you motion sick, but that’s ok … you can look at pictures.
httpvh://youtu.be/YPIk9QRx7uY
httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKZ3T87aPBs
httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdCi6Tz6ic4
httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnhpnZQFPgU
httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9XdYUJ0Nfw
httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXK_vmyM2zI

If you ever wondered if there could be a traffic jam along the Andes … I’m here to answer that question. There’s currently construction on the Chilean side of the border to make the road safer and the countries have agreed alternate traffic.  This creates a bit of a mess, since if you miss the driving window, you’ll have to wait at least 30 mins. Total driving time should be around 5 hours. In our case, it took us 7 hours of driving time because we had to wait in a huge line at the border. Here’s what you do while you’re waiting!

I also love the signs along the way

Who doesn’t love digging mountains with their junk

Who doesn’t love falling cars …

After one is done with all the traffic, then you’ll have to line up at the border. The cross over from the Chilean side to the Argentine side is actually not bad at all … compared to the crossing from the Argentine to the Chilean side.

They don’t like you taking pictures … but whatever .. I laugh in the face of police!

The drive is very picturesque and the changes in the terrain are quite dramatic.

As for further reading : If you’re looking for more information on Chile and adventures there  … I highly suggest Eileen’s blog at BeerShapedSphere.com

Posted in Argentina, Chile, South America | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

At the End of the World train in Ushuaia … #missioncurrypenguin

Posted by Rishiray on January 10, 2014

Ushuaia claims to be the most Southern city in the world and has also branded itself the “end of the world”. It also has the World’s cheesiest attraction in “The End of the World Train”.




As the southernmost railway in the world, The Prisoner’s Train recreates its historic journey and is definitely touted as something you would should do, but I thought it was bland and expensive. Even though the history of the traain and the prisoners was interesting, I thought that the views from the the train ride would be spectacular, especially given the ridiculous price points. The scenery was just pretty “meh”, and I felt that I could have used my time to actually get some more sleep, do some hiking or just have a good meal, if you’re not so inclined then I don’t think this is a “must do” for the Ushuaia area.

When you buy the ticket, you also have to buy the entrance to Tierra del Fuego National Park and the train ticket (same price for one way or round trip).

How much? What? Seriously?

This isn’t cheap at all … it’s more than 30USD with a good exchange rate

If you like sitting in trains or are a hardcore “train enthusiast”, listening to ridiculously cheesy music and an auto-guide tell you what you’re seeing, this train may be for you. The train really only makes sense in combination with a Tierra del Fuego park trip, since your park ticket is only valid for one day. By all means go for regular tickets, the premium tickets offer you champagne and food, but you can get better quality almost anywhere else in town and the ride is the same.

This was a rather nice brochure picture!

Now this would have been cool to sit in … although I suspect slightly uncomfortable

Steam Train powered by Oil … 😛

I was the last person off the train, hence no crowds

… The train itself is a diesel-powered, upholstered-seat modern and safe tourist-ferrying money maker.

VIP Trains

Even the views of the train weren’t that nice.

There were one or two good pictures that you could take though. I just found it too packed!

Choo-choo!

Even Felipe our trip mascot didn’t want to look at the view

Slow-moving and crammed full of tourists, the park views offered from the train’s windows are nice but you can see much more on foot (and be able to stop when you want). I guess for those that have never seen a “steam train” or “tree cemetaries”, you could like it too but only prior to a hike in Tierra del Fuego park.



If you are so inclined even after my description, here are the timings of the train

  • Low Season (From May 1st to August 31st)
    • 10:00 hs. from the End of the World Station
    • 11:15 hs. from the National Park Station
    • 12:00 hs. from the End of the World Station (CONDITIONAL minimum 8 passengers)
    • 15:00 hs. from the End of the World Station
  • High Season (From September 1st to April 30th)
    • 09:30 hs. from the End of the World Station
    • 10:40 hs. from the National Park Station
    • 12:00 hs. from the End of the World Station (CONDITIONAL minimum 8 passengers)
    • 15:00 hs. from the End of the World Station
    • 16:10 hs. from the National Park Station

My conclusion was that while some of the scenery was good, I would’ve preferred to walk the route. I was told that the train was the only way to access the north side of the part but I saw many people walking the trails while I was on the train ride. The train ride was nothing too special and everyone was crammed into cars like sardines unless you paid double the rate to be in a first class car. A little bit of interesting history, but really not much. Would definitely recommend skipping the train and just touring the park on foot or with a guide.

Posted in Antarctica, Argentina, Overrated, South America | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Wednesday Photo Nights #15 : Lujan, Argentina

Posted by Rishiray on June 5, 2013

This morning I was stumbling around the net and I saw this story about the World’s most “dangerous” zoo, where you can ride lions and feed bears with your mouth. I’m not a rabid animal right advocate, but there is something inherently wrong with a person can ride a full grown lion. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time, before someone is hurt badly or worse. Anyway, my memories of Lujan aren’t big lions or crazy people petting bears but rather the town itself. Getting to Lujan from Buenos Aires, is very simple … take the Transporte Atlántica bus – Line 57 from Plaza Italia – it’s about a 90 min bus ride and it cost me 30 pesos. I assume that it should be a similar price now. Don’t forget to get a street dog … “Super Pancho” time … I love it!





Once you’re there, here is a high level list of things and places you can visit while you’re there.

  1. National Basilica Nuestra Señora de Luján
  2. Downtown Historical Area
  3. Devotional Museum of the Virgin
  4. Provincial Historical and Transport Museum (Museum Complex “Enrique Udaondo”)
  5. Paleontological Museum “House of Ameghino”
  6. Río Luján Riverside
  7. Religious images and objects Street Market

As a photographer, I was mainly interested in the Basilica and riverside areas … but everything else is right the corner. It’s a small town.












Posted in Argentina, South America, Wednesday Photo Nights | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Escalators, trains and cans of Olive Oil at Christ the Redeemer

Posted by Rishiray on November 29, 2009

We live in an age of convenience and instant gratification. More is done with less and efficiency is one of the prime tenets of a successful business venture. However, when one goes to a world famous tourist attraction but is then greeted by a train, then an elevator and then two escalators, you have to wonder about the romance of tourism being almost dead.

Christ the Redeemer, is the most famous feature in Rio de Janeiro, maybe perhaps in South America and is as iconic as the Eiffel Tower or the CN Tower.

In my travels, I have seen some pretty amazing things, but I think the escalators at Cristo Redentor epitomize the slow death of romantic travel. I’ve known about these escalators for a while, having read the wikis and the guidebooks, but I find this scene a bit surreal. There are the people who will say that this is wonderful, and makes a  tourist attraction accessible for those who are unable to climb a mountain. Really? Then why not put an escalator to the top of Everest or a cable car right to the top of K2?

Of course, the view from the top of Corcovado is completely worth the 36 Reais (22.5$ CDN) to get to the top.  Getting to Corcovado was easy as pie. All one has to do is grab a taxi from downtown or Ipanema and ask to get out at the Corcovado Cogwheel Train Station.

Once you get into the train station, you pay your fare and head on to the train. There is a nice little area with the flags of the world and the train musuem at the back. Naturally, I looked for the “Trini” flag… but I was surprised to actually see it hanging there

Anyway, although this is tourist trap supreme, it is an absolute must do, simply because it is a truly iconic symbol of a magnetic city and like the Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building and others, it offer a vantage point that is breathtaking.

 It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t capture the view in all its wonder as it was a bit overcast with high winds and fog.

 

So after the viewing and going up and down the mountain, then it was  back to the hotel and gear up for dinner. A curious occurence at dinner though, whereever one goes in the world, it is funny that misunderstandings happen because of an expectation that events should follow a script. For instance, if one asks for bread, then you expect some butter with your bread. If one asks for Olive Oil to dip your bread in, you expect a little bottle or vial of Olive Oil…. one does not expect this…

[smugmug url=”http://www.rishisankar.com/hack/feed.mg?Type=gallery&Data=10480316_q9xzZ&format=rss200″ title=”First%20day%20in%20Rio%20″ imagecount=”100″ start=”1″ num=”5″ thumbsize=”Th” link=”smugmug” captions=”false” sort=”false” window=”true” smugmug=”true” size=”M”]

Posted in Argentina, Brazil, South America | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Going to Colonia or Montevideo from Buenos Aires … here are a couple tips!

Posted by Rishiray on November 16, 2009

One would assume that trying to book a ferry trip from Buenos Aires to Colonia or Montevideo should be a fairly simple process. You look online, find your ticket, purchase and then show up at the Ferry terminal and take your ferry. This is a “Western” assumption on how processes should work. This assumption is highly erroneous in the Latin American context!

Trying to book the right fare online from the Buquebus website is an exercise in utter futility, since the website currently times out, invokes errors and cannot properly process any credit card transactions. In North America, we assume that we can now buy anything online and that the websites will just work magically with out errors. Of course, this requires proper application testing. I assume that Buquebus got a pack of wild monkeys from Indonesia to test their application, because the site performance is terrible. So the lesson here is don’t even try the website for booking, but there are some good packages that are offered on the site.

Of course, since you are going between countries, to take the ferry, you will need your passport and the tourist card you received when you originally entered Argentina. When you leave Uruguay you will have to pay a departure tax. The departure tax was $17 USD as of Nov 2009. Very conveniently, the Uruguayan and Argentinean immigration are placed in the Buquebus departing hall; thus you get both stamps on the same spot.

  • The trip between Buenos Aires and Colonia takes 3 hours on the regular ferry or just 1 hour on the fast ferry. I highly recommend the faster ferry if you are traveling on a day trip. Colonia is very small and can easily be seen in its entirety in one full day; some would even say less.
  • The trip to Montevideo takes 3 hours on the fast ferry.

So a couple tips for using the Buquebus

  • Do not buy your ticket the same day you want to leave Buenos Aires, this can result in frustration and disappointment, unless you show up at the terminal about 4 hours earlier.
  • Tickets for day trips do actually sell out – buy in advance
  • Have your passport ready and ensure that you can actually get to Uruguay legally. The assumption is that the same rules, your country had for Argentina, will apply for Uruguay
  • The first class option is a nicer option as you are guaranteed a better seat on the higher level, complimentary bubbly and a private snack bar. It’s not that much more than “Turista fare”, if you book in advance.
  • Expect tons of traffic into the terminal, if you are taking a taxi. It’s better to get off two streets prior and walk.

Another option would be to use Colonia Express. If you book far enough ahead of time you can get some of the cheapest ferry rates. Which is nothing to scoff at, when during high season you might pay as much as AR$400 for a ticket to Montevideo or Punta del Este. 20 days in advance qualifies you for the lower price. I have heard good things about the service, so there is an alternative to the Buquebus madness.

Posted in Argentina, South America | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Sunny days in Lujan

Posted by Rishiray on November 15, 2009

The City of Lujan is located 68 Km away from the City of Buenos Aires, and it is characterized by the hospitality offered to travelers. In Lujan we will be able to find the Neo Gothic temple that worships the Virgin of Lujan. This majestic basilica with its two towers can be seen on arrival to the city from the highway leading to Lujan.

Photolog link : http://www.rishisankar.com/Travel/Argentin/Lujan-2009-14th-November-2009/10317916_b6S6Y

 

Posted in Argentina, South America | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Milanesas at Kentucky Pizza? Clam bombs on Pizza and Choripan at Retiro train station…

Posted by Rishiray on November 14, 2009

Gotta love the food here! After  a couple day here, I am starting to figure out that BA is a town of many things but the place called Kentucky Pizza is by far a porteno thing. It seems that everyone has a Kentucky Pizza story, it’s like a Rol San story in Toronto, everyone has been there and everyone has an opinion on the place.

The funny thing is that Kentucky and Pizza are not the two words that should every go together in food, unless you are looking for some serious gut rot!

Well they had a gazillion types of pizza, of which none I could have! So instead I ended up with the “Kentucky Special Milanesa”.

This lovely piece of death was basically a fried egg, with fried beef flank in batter, with fried ham and tomatoes and lettuce – who needs a triple Baconator when I have this to eat.

After ingesting said gutbomb, I felt the years drain away from life, like a Harry Potter Death Eater was on me. Was it really good? Well let’s say I won’t have it again, but if I had some alcohol in me again, I also wouldn’t say no to it either.

Later on for dinner prior to meeting Chris and BsAs pub crawl crew, dinner was at this other small restaurant Filo, right around the hotel and the pizza was something out of a Sci-fi convention but so ridiculously good. It was a half Fruitta de mare (Seafood pizza with Claim, shrimp, tomato sauce and garlic) and half Pepperoni pizza.

How awesome is that pizza. The chef basically treated the whole affair like an afterthought. Why bother taking the meat out of the shell, when he could just drop the shells right on to the pizza.

So after the night of drinking with Chris in the Buenos Aires Pub Crawl crew,

then it was off to Retiro train station for early morning Choripan with tons of Chimi. The guys at the train station love me after seeing me wolf down 4 odd of these thing…while they looked in horror and amazement.

Sigh… I will miss this place and the food, ahhhh the lovely food.

Posted in Argentina, South America | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Nightshooting in Buenos Aires

Posted by Rishiray on November 13, 2009

Floralis Generica is a beautiful sculpture located in United Nations Park in Buenos Aires.  This Park is right next to the Recoleta district (actually across the street from the Recoleta flea market on weekends) and is next to the Law School.

Floralis Generic is a giant, 23 meter sculpture made of steel and aluminum (its weight is 18 tons). The structure of the flower is made of steel and the shiny panels in the petals are made of aluminum.  The sculpture moves, closing its petals at night and opening them during the day.  It has some lighting for special ocassions too

The law school at night is quite a stunning building

Walking around Recoleta park and walkways around, there are many graffiti style piece of public art all around.

Randomly seeing the nocturnal activity

More memorials….

Posted in Argentina, South America | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Taking taxis in Buenos Aires – a general guide.

Posted by Rishiray on November 13, 2009

This should be easy right? You just hold up your hand and a taxi stops. You jump in, taxi takes you to your destination and you pay. End of process and go on with your day.

If you came to Buenos Aires and you believe this, then I have an island to sell you.

Know when to grab a taxi:

If it is raining or it’s the rush hour, forget about that and go out into the street to hail a cab instead. Whilst Buenos Aires is relatively safe by Latin American standards, it is important to remember some basic safety precautions. Wearing flashy jewelry, camcorders etc will get attention anywhere you go, but in neighborhoods like the Once bus station or San Telmo, you’re asking for trouble. Also never take a taxi straight after getting out out an ATM, bank or the like. It’s all about being discreet and not drawing undue attention to yourself.

Remember what I said about rain; well any place where the drainage is suspect or not cleaned regularly, will flood. For instance, today in Buenos Aires, 5cm of rain fell and parts of Avenida Santa Fe and Avenida Alevear flooded! This are posh streets here and yet they flooded, never mind taking the bus in a thunderstorm.

Be smart not paranoid:

99% of the time, your gut will steer you right. If you don’t feel right about a taxi, then polite decline, make an excuse or run back into the shop. That being sad, everyone is not out to rob you or pass you fake money. It is all about being aware and looking the part. Most taxi drivers in Buenos Aires will engage you in a bit of conversation, they will at least ask where you’re from (every taxi I took by myself, invariable ended up with those questions, with the pleased reaction when I say “Trinidad y Tobago”), but of course even if you speak spanish, you probably won’t speak porteno spanish, so they will immediately know that you are a foreigner. I never think it is wise to lie about this, even if you think they will take you around. My experience after many countries of travelling has been to be honest and expect honesty – don’t let the paranoid stories make you afraid of everyone.  The key here is be smart…..

Meter makes it better:

When in doubt do call a radio taxi!  Radio taxi’s are registered taxis and the securest type of taxi in the city. Make sure that the meter is off when you get in and that he resets the meter when you start your journey and make sure that the driver is charging you with the meter (cheaper than a quoted price), unless you are going to the EZE or Aeropuerto or a destination similar whereas then you should have a quote from the person on the phone reserving the taxi.

Taxis in Buenos Aires are cheap:

No matter where you are in Buenos Aires, if you start seeing a taxi ride going above more than 20 pesos, ask him where he is going or confirm with him that he knows where you are going. A couple times here, the taxi driver did not understand “Marriott Plaza” or “Recoleta” or “MALBA” and started either on the wrong route or the bill got a bit much. My approach in every case was to restate where I was going, point to the meter and make the confused face … every single time the taxi driver reduced the rate to something reasonable or expected.

More baggage or pants means more waiting:

Portenos cab drivers are notorious for ignoring guys, foreigners or people with lots of bag or trolleys. I thought it was a joke, until it happened to me over and over and over. Of course, being a big guy with a backpack is not baggage, but why would they pick me instead of the pretty blonde in the short pants. I’m over it now, I just wait extra and move on. I do curse in mind, but I understand, it is what it is 🙂

Grey power rocks in Buenos Aires:

The best taxi drivers in the city are the one who have been doing it for all their life. The drivers are insane in Buenos Aires and you will see something in cabs that are out of NASCAR or F1. Porteno taxi driver can do any of the following

  • Deliberately cut across other taxi drive
  • Make lane signals with only a hand movement
  • Invent completely new lanes in a two lane road or 8 lane autopista
  • Swear in spanish and english at anything else moving on the road
  • Weave in and out of pedestrian flow
  • Ignore zebra stripes on the road and maneuver themselves through the other traffic
  • Think that taxis can crush trucks

Thankfully, the old taxi drivers, will do all of this but you will feel confident that he knows what he is doing. This is the key, if a taxi driver makes it in Buenos Aires till he has grey hair, this guy will be an awesome taxi driver.

Coming in late at night in the airport :

Book a taxi with the guys inside the airport. Nuff said. You wouldn’t take an unlicensed cab in London, Mumbai, New York or Port of Spain, why would you do in Latin America???? If in doubt, please re-read the post.

Note these are tips not specific to Buenos Aires, but really tips that apply anywhere else in the world, but that I have applied for my time here in Buenos Aires.

Posted in Argentina, South America | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What to do in Puerto Iguazu at night??

Posted by Rishiray on November 13, 2009

Someone just asked me what does one do at night in Puerto Iguazu? Like most places that is situated close to the jungle, there isn’t a ton of things to do? Pffffffttt yeah right!! I was amazed at the fact that on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday night there were bars that were open to 5 or 6am. It really makes Toronto look damn shameful, well in fact most North American cities are pretty shameful in this respect, with all our liquor laws and zoning regulations. Of course, one can argue that with the insurance rates, drunk driving, alcohol abuse etc blah blah, that we should have all these laws to keep us safe. Of course, the whole safety thing is just an illusion anyway, closing bars at 2am doesn’t stop drunk driving, it encourages binge drinking .. take a look at the UK for examples on binge drinking. I digress, this is a travel post, not a political waste of time.

The first thing about hanging out in Puerto Iguazu at night, is to never stay at the Sheraton! It is a great hotel, and wonderful if you want to see the falls and have all the conveniences of a modern hotel in the jungle. That being said, the food is decent but nothing comparable to the quality of the food that you will have in the town. The Sheraton’s cuisine is catered for the baseline affluent white tourist – of course absolutely nothing is wrong with this. One pays for consistency across the world and the Sheraton delivers consistently! That being said, the prices of food are stupendous in comparison for food in town. Bife de Chorizo is Bife de Chorizo regardless of whether it is at the Sheraton or at La Mujerda or Color Parilla Pizza, and paying 40USD for a steak vs 9 USD for a steak of similar quality is a bit of a rip off, especially in Argentina.

However, if you want to eat fantastic meals at night, with music and good wine for ridiculously cut rate prices, then I would recommend that one stay in Puerto Iguazu. There are a number of great hostels and medium range hotels in town itself. If I did this trip again, and I didn’t have the hotel points from work, then I would surely stay in town.

Places to eat .. well I can only recommend Color Parilla Pizza and La Mujerda, which are decent places by any standard. The food quality and service at these places is definitely high end.

The train station is also a place to grab food in evening, the pastas are all cheap ($5 CDN) for a plate of Spaghetti Bolognese sin Manteca 🙂 and a soda. So a great deal there, or one could go to any nearby empanada place and grab a fist full of empanadas @ 2 pesos each (.60 cents CDN) … for me, 7 plus a soda was a bellyful, regular people should be fine with 3 🙂

After eating at one of the local joints, you can have two options for nightlife… you can go drinking in the local bars which are all open till dawn or hit the casinos 🙂

Posted in Argentina, South America | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

I finally figured out the secret to staying thin in Buenos Aires…

Posted by Rishiray on November 12, 2009

Since the beginning of this trip, I have been trying to figure out the secret to how the Portenos stay so slim and in shape while eating some of the richest food around. After walking Buenos Aires all day and all night, it was obvious to see – they are all runners and play soccer in the evenings. Yesterday, my friend Raj and I walked and talked from noon till midnight yesterday, and everywhere it was evident that people were milling about their own affairs but once it got dark (7pm or so), then the streets and the parks were filled with portenos of all ages, runnings on the streets, playing pick up soccer or doing some type of physical fitness activity.

The weather, broad promenades and ample green space combine to create a very fitness positive space where people can indulge themselves. Well, I figure they have to, since everyone got dressed up after 9.30 pm to go have a late dinner. As usual, after all the walking, touring and photographing, I had an excellent dinner at a nice little Peruvian restaurant called Chan Chan. This place was picked at random from the book with no reservations accepted, so we were a bit worried when we got there a little after 9.30, and we should have been. The place was full and loud, with a couple large tables formed by shoving smaller tables together. From my perspective, this is a good sign: Folks show up in groups, wanting reasonable prices and an atmosphere conducive to multiple conversations and cross-talk. Chan Chan is basically just a simple, medium-sized room, with white-tiled walls and a multi-colored mosaic over the kitchen. Open and unpretentious, except for maybe the cache of plaster saints that presides over the dining area.

The food however was again cheap and spectacular. Raj and I ordered the Ceviche Sample which consisted for 4 types of Ceviche, 3 of which I have tried before at other Peruvian places across my travels:

  • Tiradito Ceviche : This is newer cousin of traditional ceviche, somewhat like Sashimi, in that it was thin, slightly longer strips of marinated raw fish but with no onions. It came garnished with slices of boiled corn, and boiled root veggies.Thankfully, the waitress saw me inhale the salsa picante and she asked me in English, whether I liked it hot… of course my response was for them to kill it with pepper and they did 🙂
  • Ceviche Mixto : This is a bit more traditional ceviche, with a mix of seafood (clams, oysters, octopus) and raw fish diced in 2cm cubes and marinated in lime juice and ajíes (hot peppers), served with raw onions, sweet potato and corn. The volume of onions was ridiculous but so fantastically good and of course this one was also awesomely hot as every bit was infused with chunks of scotch bonnet peppers
  • Ceviche de Lenguado: This is tradtional ceviche, just the raw fish, onions, lime, cilantro, and tons of pepper. Crisp, clean and refreshing
  • Ceviche in Rocoto Cream sauce : Obviously a newer type of ceviche, but anything creamy I wont touch. Raj was the taster for this one, and she didn’t fancy the whole deal, so this one was left till last and in the end, she couldn’t finish it.

I also had a traditional rice and peas with stewed beef, and it tasted exactly like traditional west indian stewed beef except it wasn’t as sweet or hot, but the cut of beef was ridiculously soft and well done.

Again overall cost of the meal, plus drinks and wine = 100 pesos (28$ CDN). Another fantastic value for the money, as the exact same meal in Toronto, San Francisco or New York, would have cost double or triple that price and surely not as good.

Prior to the Peruvian dinner experience, it was hours and hours of walking through the parks and all across Buenos Aires. From the craft markets in Recoleta to Carlos Gardel Musuem street in Abasto and all along hustle and bustle of Avenida Santa Fe and rich little houses and shops in Avenida Alvare.

Posted in Argentina, South America | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »