Trip to Argentina - April 2017

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Porteńo, mountains and glaciers in Patagonia, the widest avenue in the world, Evita Peron and Casa Rosada, Andes mountains, rumors of tender steaks, huge wine areas, stray dogs and dog poop, amazing glaciers such as Perito Moreno, Malbec wine, home of the tango, people drinking mate with a straw, great football players like Lionel Messi and Diego Maradonna, gauchos hanging out on the vast pampas, the highest mountain outside Asia - Aconcagua, Islas Malvinas  – this is a trip report from Buenos Aires, El Calafate and Mendoza in Argentina!

Short summary
This trip report will focus on the trip that my wife, Nikki, and I took to Argentina in the period from April 6th to April 19th 2017. The trip report is split into sections: this first section that you are reading now covers the trip itself but on the next pages you will find:

  • Google maps of Buenos Aires, El Calafate and Mendoza to give you an idea where places mentioned in this trip report are located. Remember that you can zoom in and click on the markers!

  • More photos from our activities in Argentina

Please get in touch by e-mail if you have any questions or comments. All pictures are taken by Nikki and Gard with our cameras Panasonic Lumix, GoPro and iPhone.


If you have seen the other trip reports on you will notice that we have travelled quite a bit to Asia. Quite a lot of flight offers comes with good deals to Asia and Asia is interesting to visit. But we have been discussing for a while that we should visit other places and South America has been on the agenda for a while. So a while back we decided to check out Argentina during Easter of 2017. We booked tickets to Buenos Aires with British Airways and at the time we booked, we were not really sure what we would see or do in Argentina. The rest of the planning came later on when we realized that our trip was coming up soon! Over the last few years we have been fortunate enough to visit many countries around the world including Cambodia, South Africa, Italy, Malaysia, Korea, Philippines, Portugal, Myanmar, Iceland etc and if you want to get an idea of what kind of travelers we are, it might be a good idea to check out some of the other trip reports that we have made. I have also been to South America before. A few years back I had the pleasure of visiting Bolivia and Peru with some friends.


Planning the trip

After we had booked the tickets we started looking at what to see and do in Argentina. First revelation was that Argentina is a BIG country as you can see on the map on the left hand side! We quickly realized that we could maybe check out 2-3 places during out stay there and we decided to check out Buenos Aires as this was our entry point into Argentina, a bit of Patagonia in the south and the wine district around Mendoza in the east of the country. We would have loved to do the Iguazu waterfalls on the border to Brazil but we decided to skip this.


We booked hotels using as this is quite convenient. We also booked flights online from Buenos Aires to El Calafate we used Aerolinas Argentinas and from Buenos Aires to Mendoza we used Andes Líneas Aéreas. If you have lots of time on your hands, it is much cheaper to take the bus. We were also told that train might be an option but this alternative have a reputation for being delayed and unstable. Keep in mind that a bus trip from Buenos Aires to El Calafate can take about 40 hours!


We also bought a guidebook from DK Eyewitness Guides and used online forums to get some help.


Note: check if you need a visa to get into Argentina. With a Norwegian passport it was not necessary with a visa.
Map of Argentina. Map provided by


The trip beings
We took an afternoon flight out of Stavanger in Norway on April 6th 2017. A couple of days before the trip we had read a bit online that the Argentinean Pesos was not very useful do to a very high inflation and it was recommended to bring along US dollars. Due to this I had to make a last minute stop to my bank to get some USD Dollars! I never travel with cash so it felt weird having to do this. I’ll get back to the money situation in Argentina later on. We took a British Airways flight to London and after a few hours there, we took and evening flight with British Airways to Buenos Aires. The 777-200 aircraft took almost 14 hours to Buenos Aires so it is a loooooong flight indeed. On the flight we got a custom declaration form that was a bit strange. We had to fill out the usual “are you bringing lots of cash” etc. But we also had to answer if we were bringing in a cell phone and which brand and model it was. I’m not quite sure what is the point of this – especially when nobody asked for the form when going through customs in Buenos Aires.

Touchdown Buenos Aires

We landed at Buenos Aires airport about 8.30 in the morning of April 7th. It is always exciting flying into a new destination. I was seated by the window so I got a look of the surroundings as the sun came up and revealed the area around Buenos Aires. We landed at Ministro Pistarini International Airport which is also known as Ezeiza International Airport. Getting through passport control was pretty fast and it didn’t take us that long to get the luggage either.


Note: There are two airports in Buenos Aires: Ministro Pistarini International Airport (EZE) and Aeroparque Jorge Newbery (AEP). Keep this in mind if you book flights out of Buenos Aires!

Money talks
The money situation is (or has been) a bit unstable. I guess the local currency pesos has been under pressure as the inflation in Argentina was about 40% in 2016. Due to this a lot of people starting changing their pesos into USD to make sure their savings would not disappear overnight. But for some reason it seemed like there were two exchange rates – one official exchange rate that you got in the bank and one blue dollar exchange rate that you could get on the street. The blue dollar rate was much better for a while which meant that it was a lot better to exchange USD to pesos on the black-market compared to in banks/ATM’s/credit cards. It seems like they have made changes to this so when we were there, both rates were about 1 USD equals 15 pesos. This again means that there was not that much need to bring cash as the rates were pretty much the same everywhere as far as I could tell. But we did go to the bank (Banco Nación Argentina) at the airport upon arrival (located as you come out of the custom area) and exchanged some USD into pesos just as a start. We also used credit cards when we went out to dinner at night but cash is still king for taxis, shops etc. Remember to have some small bills to avoid having issues with e.g. taxi drivers.

Note: if you want to exchange foreign currency you should ask around to find out where there is an official dealer. We exchanged money at Recoleta Mall a couple of times and you have to bring your passport. We also exchanged money at a hotel a couple of times.


First impressions of Buenos Aires and Argentina
We went to an authorized taxi dealer outside the airport and got a taxi to our hotel for 680 pesos (about 44 USD). The taxi was smallish but we managed to squeeze in our two Samsonite suitcases somehow. The drive started in a good pace but we soon hit a traffic jam and the drive into Recoleta took us 1 1/2 hours! The driver explained that the traffic jam was caused by an accident and we got off the highway and drove through downtown Buenos Aires. We stayed at Urban Suites Recoleta next to the Recoleta cemetery and you can read my hotel review here. We choose to stay in Recoleta as it seemed to be centrally location in the city, it had restaurants and shops, was supposed to be pretty safe etc.


First impression of Buenos Aires (from now on only called BA) was that this was a city that looks a lot like London or Paris – just on a smaller scale. The traffic was intense going from the airport to the city but that was due to the accident. In the downtown area there are some fashionable buildings and there are both narrow one way streets and wide avenues etc. But you can also see that some places are a bit more worn down with tagging and graffiti on buildings and monuments. April in BA means that it is autumn/fall and the city is located south of the equator. The weather in BA was beautiful when we landed and we had about 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) and blue skies.

Time to explore

We were at the hotel before noon and our room at Urban Suites was not ready yet. Luckily there was a gym at the top of the hotel where we could change. The gym also had a balcony with a fantastic view of Recoleta Cemetery so make sure to check it out if you are staying at the hotel! We started with a quick snack at the historic Café La Biela located near the hotel. To give you an idea about the price level a double Americano was 60 pesos (about 4 USD) and a simple ham and cheese sandwich was 115 pesos ( 7 USD) – a Heineken bottle was 90 pesos (6 USD) (just for the record: I did not have a beer for breakfast ;-)


Note: The money in use in Argentina is Pesos (ARS). It is divided into 100 Centavos.


Quick history lesson

Before visiting Argentina you should read a bit about the history. But here is a very short summary: The Spanish came to Argentina in the early 1500’s and establish settlements near BA as this was a good place for a port. The Spanish expanded their territory to also include Uruguay, Paraguay and parts of Bolivia and used BA to ship out goods. In the early 1800’s the Napoleon wars raged in Europe and left Spain weaker. Argentina declared independence in July 1816. One of the key figures in the struggle for independence was José de San Martín. Together with Simón Bolívar they seem to have fought for independence for many of the countries of South America. In the end of the 1800’s a lot of immigrants came over from Spain and Italy which can explain why BA has a European feel to the city. Today Argentina is a huge country measuring some 3400 km (2000 miles) from north to south and with about 43 million living there.


Note: the language in Argentina is Spanish. It would have been useful to speak Spanish but we managed to get by with English – and some Google translate.


How to get around BA
We walked a lot around in the city and personally I think this is the best way to see a city. There are lots and lots of taxis around and they have a small "Libre" sign lighting up if they are free. There is a subway that you can use but Recoleta is not covered by this so we did not use this at all on this trip. There are bikes that are free to use called Ecobici. We try to figure out how to get this to work but we never got the registration to work (the explanation for tourist usage is explained here). Some of the bikes looked pretty worn down so pick your bike carefully if you do get this to work. If we had gotten the bikes to work it would have been a great way to get around the city.

Exploring the arts - and history

We started by wandering around the neighborhood of Recoleta in the beautiful weather after we changed at the hotel. The sun was shining from a blue sky and the temperature was very pleasant 22 degrees Celsius. People were sitting around on green lawns and people were playing in the parks. We started by walking over to Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (or National Museum of Fine Arts) and here we got a free walking tour with focus on Argentinean artists and linked to the history of Argentina. Our guide was an art student and it was a great way to get an introduction to the history of the country. The museum is big and you can easily spend a day there if you are really into arts. In the park across the street you will find Plaza de las Naciones Unidas with the beautiful monument Floralis Genérica. It is a huge metal flower where the petals open as a new day comes along and it closes when it gets dark. Being 23 meters high it really stands out in the park! I was also surprised to see the vegetation in the park. A lot of the bushes, trees and flowers seemed to be very similar to what I’m used to back home in Norway.


Recoleta cemetery
When I first started reading about BA, the Recoleta cemetery was mentioned as a place you should visit. As we stayed right next to it, we did stop by to have a look and it is an intriguing place. The cemetery contains the graves of important families and persons and it is made up of about 5000 vaults or mausoleums that are laid out like city blocks. I guess the wealthy wanted to have a small mansion to rest in when they died. There are lots of the mausoleums that are huge and beautifully decorated. Most of them were locked but it was possible to look into many of them and coffins are visible in many. A lot of them also seemed to have a staircase leading down to a basement and I do wonder what that is for as many of the mausoleums seem to have the coffins on the ground level. We also stopped by to check out Evita Peron’s tomb. Compared to the many other mausoleums in Recoleta, the family tomb of Evita Peron is quite anonymous. But trust me – her name will appear many many times during your visit to Buenos Aires and Argentina. Do check out Recoleta cemetery if you are in the neighborhood.


Note: it closes as night so be sure to check the opening times before you head to this place.

Walking tour - to learn more about BA and the history of Argentina
We left the cobb web at Recoleta cemetery and had a quick stop at our hotel Urban Suites right next door to freshen up a bit. Once we arrived we went online to find a walking tour and we found BA free tour and we walked over to San Martin Square (see the BA Google map to see the location of this) to catch the tour at 5 PM. We decided to walk as we wanted to see more of the city and it was only 2 km away (1.2 miles). Again I have to say that the city looks a lot like many other big European cities that I have been to. Walking through the streets of BA is a bit like walking in Paris or Milan in many ways. When we arrived at the square we could easily tell where the name came from. In the middle of the square you will find the monument “Monumento del Libertador Jose de San Martin”. The liberator San Martin was portrayed on a horse and our enthusiastic guide started by telling us about the birth of the nation Argentina, about the war for independence and how Buenos Aires turned into a wealthy city. Our guide was good at telling stories and informing us about events, people, history and buildings. We walked past Islas Malvinas war memorial and to start with I could not understand what this was all about. But it turns out that the Falkland islands is called Islas Malvinas in Argentina and the war against the UK in 1982 is still a sensitive subject. 649 Argentines soldier and 255 british soldiers died in the short war. The tour lasted from 5 pm to about 7 pm and we ended up outside of Recoleta Cemetery with the stories of how Evita Peron became such a popular figure in Argentina, how she died and how she eventually ended up at the Recoleta Cemetery. I found this walking tour to be a great introduction to Argentina and Buenos Aires and we tipped our guide 400 pesos (24 USD).

First encounter with Argentinian steaks!
It had been a looong first day for us in Buenos Aires. We had landed early in the morning but got a crash introduction to the city and history through walking around on our own and the walking tour. We were excited about our first dinner in Argentina as we had heard so much about the steaks and we booked a table at Novecento. We had heard that people eat late in Argentina but as it had been a long day we thought 9 pm was late enough. There were not that many when we got there but it filled up fast at about 10 pm. The restaurant was a bit weird compared to what I’m used to. With big TV screens it was also a bit of a sports bar. But the menu was extensive in terms of food and wine. The national pride of Argentinean wine is Malbec and the price range on the menu was from 175 pesos (10 USD) to 1300 pesos (75 USD). I decided to go for a classical starter: grilled provolone cheese and a rib eye as the main. It only took 10 minutes from we got the menus until we had the starter on the table which was good as we were both a bit tired and hungry. The grilled provolone (provoleta) was great as I Iove my cheese. It was basically just grilled provolone cheese with oregano. The portion was HUGE and this was the case at many restaurants. The rib eye that I had ordered on the other hand was a huge disappointment. The meat was cooked just right and it had a great taste – but it was not tender at all and it had major gristles. It was actually so bad that I was not able to chew some of the parts. I was really disappointed by this as all the stories that I had read about Argentina included the legendary tender steaks. Dinner for 2 with starter and mains was 1500 Pesos (90 USD) excluding tips and drinks.

Note: there are cover charge on some restaurants. On Novecento this was about 40 Pesos (2 USD) per person.

The hunt for Pesos - and another walking tour
We started the next day by finding a place to exchange US dollars to Pesos. Luckily there was an official money changer near our hotel at Recoleta Mall . Remember to bring your passport as they register the money changing somehow. As the free walking tour on the first day was a success, we decided to go for another walking tour to cover the downtown area of the city. This time we had to meet up at Congreso de la Nación Argentina and again we just walked over there to join the tour at 11 am. Our guide this morning was Victoria and it was a big group that had turned up for the city tour. Even if it is a free walking tour, she still started by telling what a guide tour would normally cost so you get an idea of what is expected in terms of tipping.

Note: there is a lot of dog poo around so do keep an eye out if you want to avoid ruining your shoes.

Again it was a nice morning with pleasant weather and Victoria guided us through the city streets in English and in Spanish as there were both tourists from South America and US/Europe. Victoria seemed to know the city quite well as she was a porteńa. This means a person from a port city but these days it seems to mean a person from Buenos Aires. The port term has its origin from the fact that the city of Buenos Aires started around the port of the La Boca area.  Walking around the streets of Buenos Aires also showed that there are quite a lot of police on the streets. There seems to be different versions of the police but in general they were quite prepared with guns, body armor and truncheons. I’m not used to seeing that much police on the streets in Norway and when I do see them they are normally not in battle attire. Our guide said that BA has a strong European influence and many call it the “Paris of South America”. As they have pride in their city she preferred to call Paris “Buenos Aires of Europe”. But there is clearly a French/Spanish/Italian influence as a lot people moved from Europe when BA and Argentina had its golden days. Some of the buildings are even built with material from Europe – that must have cost a pretty penny at the time.

We walked Avenue de Mayo and crossed Avenue 9 de Julio (named after the independence date). Some say that this is the widest street in the world with a width of about 120 meters (about 400 ft). The city center of BA is more or less a grid system like on Manhattan and streets change names around Avenue Rivadavia. Most of the streets in the downtown area are one way streets. Most blocks seems to be typically 100-120 meters and this means that it is quite easy to calculate the distance if you are told that a place is 10 blocks away. But back to 9th of July Avenue: the street is wide with lots of lanes for cars and buses. But there is pedestrian crossing and getting across it was not a problem. We continued on Avenue de Mayo and ended up at Plaza de Mayo with a view to the pink Casa Rosada. Plaza de Mayo is an important square as this is where protests and demonstrations takes place. It is e.g. where Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo) started marching in 1977 to find out what had happened to their children. Many children disappeared during the years of military dictatorship in the 1970’s. Casa Rosada is the office of the President of Argentina and a museum but the buildings/structures around the square dates back to colonials Spanish times in Buenos Aires. We ended our tour by Obelisco de Buenos Aires built in 1936 and it is a landmark on the middle of 9th of July Avenue. Victoria ended the tour by giving us a quick lesson of various gestures – ranging from ordering coffee to being rude to people - you can find a guide here. Again we tipped the guide with 400 Pesos and I can again recommend the tour. With 2 1/2 hours we got to see a lot of the downtown area and got to learn a lot. Wear good shoes as you will be walking about 3 km (about 2 miles).

Difference in food and prices
In the area around the obelisk there are pedestrian streets where supposedly you should keep an eye on your valuables as it is quite crowded and you might run into pickpockets. We tried to find a place to have empanadas on Florida street but the place we were looking for were closed. Florida street contains a lot of shops and restaurants but there were also areas with a lot of tagging and graffiti. We sat down at a random place to check out the lunch option but we soon found out that prices in the main streets are quite high (one glass of beer was 5 USD). Instead we walked into a side street and found a local parilla called Parrilla Mi Buenos Aires (parilla is the term for a steakhouse). In this place you could get a sandwich for 50 Pesos (3 USD) and a bottle of wine as low as 70 Pesos (4 USD). No, the food at Parilla Mi Buenos Aires was not epic but it shows that you can get a cheap meal in BA. We stopped by the obelisk after lunch and the area seems to attract crowds. You get a good view of the July 9th Avenue, the big Evita artwork on one of the buildings and also a huge BA bush where you can take a selfie and document that you have been to Buenos Aires.

Note: do have an adapter for the sockets in Argentina. In most places they have a three – prong flat type of socket.


In search of grand architecture: Teatro Colón

We had read about the theater Teatro Colón in the guidebooks and online and it seemed like the guided tour was worth a visit. We found the entrance for the guided tours eventually (no, it is not in the front). When we came in they did have guided tours in English coming up but due to a technical issue the main did not have any lighting at all! We figured it was best to stop by another day in order to actually see some of the grand theater. Instead we walked over to the shopping arcade Galerías Pacífico. This is an old school beaux arts type shopping arcade which reminds me a bit of the beautiful Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan and in the center there was a beautiful decorated low dome with arts that looked like frescos. The mall contains lots of international stores but when we were there the prices were ridiculous -at least for international brands. I guess the currency fluctuation makes the prices higher.


Note: in convenience stores a Coke would cost 15 Pesos (about 90 US Cents).


Time for Italian – Cucina Paradiso
It had been 25 C (77 F) and cloudy all day but in the afternoon, it started raining – a lot! We booked a table at a place called Cucina Paradiso in the Palermo area. It is usually not a problem getting a taxi in BA as there are lots and lots of them around and you can see them easily. Most of the taxis we had was quite tiny but it never seemed to be an issue to get them to use the meter. We got a taxi this evening right outside the Recoleta Mall and we got in as another taxi customer left the car. Our driver was babbling away in Spanish and we did not understand anything. Eventually we figured out that he was waiting for something and we thought that he was waiting for the last passenger to get cash to pay or something like that. The mystery was solved after a couple of minutes – the previous taxi customer came back with an ice cream for the driver! The drive to the Palermo area takes about 15 minutes and costs about 100 Pesos (6 USD).


Note: do have smaller notes available. As always taxi drivers never seem to have change when you need it.


We had a table at 8 PM and when we got there the place was empty. The place was not that big and not really that cozy as it was both a restaurant and a place where you could buy various products including pasta, cheese etc. We got some great fresh bread to start with and had a grilled goat cheese as a starter that was absolutely lovely and we also had the more standard bruschetta and I was not totally convinced by the huge arancini. My risotto Lombardo was very runny but this pumpkin risotto had a great taste. I rounded of the meal with a ristretto and a tiramisu and I also got to taste a beautiful liqueur from south Italy called Vecchio Amaro del Capo! I really enjoyed the taste of this drink and I did buy a bottle when I went to Italy later on. Cucina Paradiso is not a fine dining restaurant – both the service, presentation and facilities are a bit rough on the edges. But the food was great and it is worth a visit if you want to enjoy some Italian food. The meal was 1500 Pesos (90 USD) (excluding wine/liqueur).


Sunday April 9th – rainy weather and cancellations
The following morning the weather was still greyish with a few rain drops in the air. We are used to this kind of weather so we didn’t mind – after all it was still a comfortable 25 degrees C outside (77 F). Our main goal for the morning was to join a free walking tour organized by BA Turismo. As we had time we walked across town again (about 3 km). We made it to the Puerto Madero Tourist Assistance Centre at about 11 am but we were told that the walking tour had been cancelled due to the light rain. I was quite surprised as I can’t understand the logic in cancelling a walking tour due to very light rain – but the guide looked at me in disbelief when I asked why it was cancelled. This is the Puerto Madero walking tour that we tried to join.


We decided to walk around the Puerto Madero on our own and it is a beautiful area. Built to be a port for Buenos Aires it became more or less obsolete before it opened as the ships had gotten bigger. It seemed like the area became quite a dodgy area for years but now there has been lots of development and when we visited this neighborhood it appeared to be quite a posh area. The old cranes are still standing but the old warehouses have been turned into shops, galleries, restaurants and new bridges and apartment buildings have been made. On a Sunday it was also a quiet area and people were out for a walk, for walking the dogs are jogging around the port docks.


Pizza and ice cream – the Italian link
As many Italians immigrated to Argentina it is not a surprised that they influenced the cuisine – especially in the Buenos Aires area. Around BA you will see lots and lots of ice cream shops (chains like Freddo, Persicco, Volta etc are everywhere) serving ice cream that is just as good as Italian gelato. It is also possible to find lots of pizza restaurant but it seems like the pizzas have developed over the years. The Italian style pizza is usually thin with a bit of topping (less is more) but some of the Argentinean pizzas were over the top. We tried the Fugazetta pizza at Gran Pizzeria Los Talentos in the San Telmo area and this pizza is drowning in a combination of melted cheese and onion. I love my cheese so I enjoyed it but it is very, very filling. One slice of pizza cost between 25 and 50 Pesos (1.5 to 3 USD). To finish of the meal, we tried some ice cream as well and there are some flavors that are typical for South America. I have e.g. not seen dulce de leche flavor at gelato stores in Italy. Ice cream was from 60 to 85 Pesos (3.5 to 5 USD).


Note: Dulche the leche is something that you will run into all the time in Argentina. It is sweetened milk boiled into a thicker and sweeter liquid. It can be found at breakfast and as a topping for ice etc. Fun fact for you guys: Norway also had a dulche the leche version when I grew up and it was known as HaPĺ.


Tango in the streets and a short visit to La Boca
The San Telmo area was quite crowded as there is a market here every Sunday. The markets include Plaza Dorrego flea market but also a fruit and vegetable market, old memorabilia, clothing, art etc. There were also cafes and restaurants and there were tango shows in the street. We did consider going to a proper tango show but we found the prices of this to be quite high so we never got around to that. They are not quite sure but they claim that the tango dance has its origin in the lower-class districts of Buenos Aires but I think that also Uruguay claims that the dance originates there. We jumped into a taxi and went from San Telmo to the barrio of La Boca. La Boca is one of the original neighborhoods of BA and it is recommended to visit. It still seems to be a working class neighborhood and it is most famous for housing La Bombonera, the home stadium of Boca Juniors (Diego Maradonna anyone?). We got out of the taxi right on the harbor and were met by the colorful facades of the houses in the area. We were there to do a biking tour but there was still a bit of rain in the air so that was cancelled. To get some shelter from the rain we just rushed to the first best option: La Vieja Rotisería. I wish I had been online at the time to check the rating for this place as it soon became apparent that this was a tourist trap. We decided to skip food and decided to have drinks. One large beer was about 200 Pesos (12 USD) and same for half a bottle of bad red wine. The wine was 230 Pesos by the time we got the check. There was a sort of tango show at the place but they spent more time walking around asking for tip than dancing. I guess I was getting a bit fed up due to the weather causing cancellations and maybe this is influencing my view of the neighborhood. When we walked around we were approached by lots of women dressed in tango outfits that wanted to pose with us for a photo and charge money for it. When we decided to leave I got a taxi and a local guy intervened and asked me where I was going. I told him and then he told the driver and then he asked for a donation. Well, it was not as much of a question really. As you can tell I was not really blown away by this neighborhood. Yes, it is one of the original parts of BA, the colorful houses are charming and all that. But for us the area just seemed like a tourist trap with expensive food/drinks and lots of street hustlers. Maybe we would have gotten a better impression of we had gotten the guided tour of the area. We were happy to get into the taxi and had back to our neighborhood Recoleta.


The hunt for the perfect steak continues
We decided to head out to the Palermo area again at night. First we stopped by a place called JA (or Lo de Joaquin Alberdi) as we thought it was a wine bar. It turned out to be a wine shop /tasting room but we got to try a couple of wines and we stopped by later on to buy a few bottles to bring home. They have a great selection and can pack it for shipping. Our main destination for this evening was La Cabrera as we had not given up on finding the perfect steak. We had booked a table which was good as the place was packed and we got a small table. The many tables with red and white tablecloths didn’t leave much space for the waiters to move around and there were lots of decorations hanging on the walls and from the ceiling. I ordered a Bife de Chorizo (no, it is not a sausage but a sirloin steak) and Nikki decided to go for lomo con marinada – a marinated tenderloin. We first got some bread with various sauces and toppings and we also had a salad before the meat. The meat was served on a big wooden/metal tray with some sides (including chimichurri) and both steaks had a great taste but once again my meat was not very tender. Again the portions are huge so if you are not a big eater there is no need to go for a starter and you can even opt to share a main meal. I decided to go all in and also taste the local flan but that was not that great in my opinion. This meal with a starter to share, a dessert to share and the meat cost 1400 Pesos 83 USD (excluding drinks/tax). Note that there is a 59 Pesos (3,5 USD) per person cover charge that comes on top of this and as the restaurant has become more popular amongst tourists, there was also a stamp on the bill saying “Tips are not included”. All in all we were quite happy with the meal at La Cabrera – but the hunt for the perfect steak continued.


Note: Many of the restaurants and cafes offers free wifi. You just have to ask for the password.


Time to go south - to Patagonia
On Monday April 10th we checked out of our hotel in BA and took a taxi to the airport. This time we went to Aeroparque Internacional Jorge Newbery which is located just a 15 minute drive from Recoleta and the taxi only cost 120 Pesos (7 USD). Again the taxi was small but we managed to squeeze in our big Samsonite suitcases. We had booked flights in advance and this morning we were taking an Aerolíneas Argentinas flight to El Calafate in Patagonia in the south of Argentina. In many places around the world you can now get quite cheap air tickets due to various low cost airlines but this is not the case at the moment in Argentina. To El Calafate we choose AA as they had a direct flight in the morning and that cost 540 USD per person. It is a bit country and the flight took close to three hours. And a short flight is better than spending close to two days in a bus!


The check in was a bit chaotic but nothing that we couldn’t handle and security was not much of an issue. The waiting area by the gates had some coffee shops and souvenir shops but prices were steep. I bought a jar of dulche de leche in La Boca for 90 Pesos (5 USD) and at the airport is was being sold for 160 Pesos (9.5 USD). So make sure to do your shopping before you get to the airport. They also sold postcards at the airport but according to signs a stamp was 50 Pesos. That means 3 USD to send a postcard! Our flight was delayed a couple of hours but there was information in Spanish and English. The flight was comfortable enough in a new 737-800 and we even got some snack on the flight. To start with the landscape was green and lush but it soon turned drier and more barren.

Touchdown in Patagonia and El Calafate
On the approach to the small El Calafate airport (also known as Aeropuerto Internacional Comandante Armando Tola) we got a view to the dry and barren landscape but we also got a view to very blue greenish lake Lago Argentino which is the lake that many of the glaciers in the area end up in and I guess the minerals that the glaciers drag along, influences the color in the lake. It took a while to get the luggage even if the airport is tiny. The airport is located about 20 km (13 miles) outside the town of El Calafate and it takes 20-25 minutes to drive into town. We decided to go for the airport shuttle bus that takes a few passengers and drives each and everyone to the various hotels – due to this the ride to your hotel can take longer than indicated above. We had lots of stop on the way and I think our hotel (Hotel El Mirador del Lago was one of the last stops on the route. The bus was 240 Pesos (14 USD) for a round trip from/to the airport per person.


Note: the luggage will be scanned before you leave the airport as it is not allowed to import fruit/meat/vegetable. Due to this there was a looooong line to get out of the airport so line up early to beat the crowds.


The drive from the airport to El Calafate was on a road with more or less no traffic. On the one side we had a view to the beautiful Lago Argentina and in the distance we could see mountain tops with snow. The landscape was dry with small bushes and lots of rocks – it reminded me a bit about Iceland as the landscape around Keflavik airport is also quite dry and without much vegetation. In the town of El Calafate there were more vegetation of both trees and huge lavender bushes. It is a bit funny to arrive to this area as it seems like it is on the outskirts of the world. It is located at 50 degrees south which is not that far south. My hometown Stavanger is located at about 60 degrees north and appears more lush and green. In El Calafate we stayed at Hotel El Mirador del Lago and you can read my review of the hotel here.


First impressions of El Calafate
As usually we just dumped our luggage at the hotel and decided to go for a walk and check out the town. El Calafate has about 25.000 citizens and most of the shops and restaurants are located around the main street Avenida del Libertador General San Martín. The weather was great when we landed with sun shining from a blue sky. But it was a lot cooler than in Buenos Aires of course and it is good to dress in layers to avoid getting cold. The town reminded me a bit of a mountain village that you will find in e.g the Alps with lots of wood being used for the various houses and building. There were lots of old horse carriages located around town and apperetly they are on display to show that El Calafate was once a transportation hub! The name El Calafate comes from a small bush with blue berries on it. We even got to try calafate jam at the hotel breakfast.


As it had been a long day we decided to go for dinner right by the hotel at a place called Pura Vida. The restaurant had some weird and interesting comments in some food blogs that we found so we were excited when we walked over. The restaurant is in a weirdly shaped and colorful house and it was quite easy to find. We didn’t have any reservation when we walked in but there were lots of tables available and we got the menus fast. We got a fresh warm bread to start with and as a bread lover I do appreciate that. We decided to share empanadas to start with and they were very good. I then had a lamb stew pie as a main dish and once again it was very good and the portion was generous. This restaurant also had a cover charge of 25 Pesos per person. The final check was 635 Pesos (36 USD) excluding drinks and tips.


Note: a beer at the local grocery store was about 45 Pesos (2,5 USD).


We asked if we could drink the water from the tap at the hotel and they guy in the reception gave us a weird answer. First he said “Yes of course” – but when we started walking he added “…but I wouldn’t recommend it”. I would guess you can.

Tuesday April 11th – first exploration and stray dogs
When we first planned the trip, we decided to just have a few days in El Calafate as we wanted to check out the Perito Moreno glacier. As this glacier walk was on the following day, we had a day to explore El Calafate and the area. We got up early and indulged in some bad instant coffee at the hotel breakfast before we walked over to the Tourism Bureau of the Province of Santa Cruz as we had read that the first bus to the glacier museum was at 8.30 am. The town was barely awake at this hour and the only company we had was from two stray dogs. The dogs looked well fed but they were scruffy looking. When we came to the tourist bureau everything seemed closed as there were no people around, no cars and certainly not a shuttle bus. It turned out that there was a girl at work at the tourist bureau and with a bit of body language and scribbling we understood that the first bus was at 11 am. I guess April is not the main tourist season in El Calafate.


Exploring Laguna Nimez
As the bus to the glacier museum was not happening we had to improvise. We walked over to Laguna Nimez instead as this is often mentioned in the guidebooks and visitor maps. One of the stray dogs walked with us and I guess he was hoping for a snack as he walked with us all the way to Laguna Nimez. It was about 1 km to walk so it took is 20-30 minutes. The weather was great and there were lovely autumn colors as trees were turning yellow and leaves were starting to drop. Our stray dog Fido would bark at dogs behind fences along the way but he kept quiet when the other dogs were not behind bars – probably a good thing as Fido was small. Laguna Nimez is a marsh land area where a walking path has been laid out around the laguna and you can spot lots of birds. We walked into the hut at the entrance and they had just gotten the wooden oven started and it was nice to warm up a bit. We had to pay 150 Pesos (8 USD) per person to get into the laguna and the walk around took about an hour. A long the way you can see lots and lots of bird including flamingos, ducks etc. This place is great if you have an interest in birds, have a pair of binoculars and enjoy bird watching in general. It got quite cold as there was a draft coming in from the lake so make sure to have enough clothes on if you go there during fall or spring.


When we got out of the laguna, Fido was still waiting for us! I guess he didn’t have anything better to do so he continued walking with us over to “Museo - Centro de interpretacion historica” We paid 160 Pesos (9 USD) per person to get into the museum. The building was a bit weird to start off with as it seemed like it had just been randomly put together. Inside there were some information about dinosaurs with fossils/skeletons on display. There were also information about development of larger mammals in South America, how humans developed in the area and generally about the development of indigenous people. All in all, I don’t think there was enough in the museum to justify the entrance fee. But at least we got to try mate before we left the museum.


Note: mate is a tea like drink that is enjoyed in many parts of South America. It seems to be a social thing where you make a cup of mate and share it with others. It is made with putting leaves into a cup and then adding warm/hot water. You drink it with a straw with a filter. I guess it is an acquired taste – it reminded me a bit of green tea but just a lot stronger. We did not purchase a cup or mate to bring back home.


As it was only 700-800 meters back to the main street we just decided to walk back from the museum – not that there were that many options. But we soon came to a street where it was blocked by a pack of stray dogs and Nikki is not really that fond of dogs. So she took action – before I knew what was happening she had stopped a local guy driving in this tiny wreck of a car and asked if we could hitchhike back to the main street. He looked just as surprised as me and I guess he had to say yes as we were basically in the car before he could say anything.


Glacier museum
Back in town we just made the free bus to go to the glacier museum. The museum is located on the way to the Perito Moreno glacier and it is about 6 km (4 miles) out of El Calafate town. It is in what I would call “the middle of nowhere” but I guess that makes it even more striking. The building itself is a jagged white building made to resemble a glacier I assume and it is quite a contrast to the naked planes around it. Located on a hill it also has an amazing view of the lake Lago Argentino and the mountains in the distance. The museum was 300 Pesos (17 USD) per person and it is a modern museum with lots of information about glaciers, movement, history etc. There are models, movies, displays so all in all it is a very informative museum. We did try the 3D movie theater but it didn’t really rock our world. There is also a small café in the museum and they even have an ice bar! I’m not sure that the bar was open when we were there – first of all it was in the middle of the day and there were only a handful of people in the museum. Be sure to check it out if you are in El Calafate! Check out more information on the museum homepage.


Trying to be spontaneous and renting a car
Back in town we had a lunch at “9405 Restaurant Paragonico” that is not worth a lot of mentioning. The pizza was horrible and by the end of the meal we were also told that we had to pay in cash. I guess it was during this late lunch we got the bright idea to rent a car. The weather had turned out to be quite good and we thought it would be a great idea to rent a car and go to the Perito Moreno glacier and see the sunset there. Brilliant plan according to us – but the plan turned out to be quite difficult to make it happen. We went to Avis, Dubrovnik, Nunatuk Car Rental etc and the only place that had a car was Dollar. Dollar had a small car that we could rent for 1300 Pesos (70 USD) but when we said that we had to return it at night at 8-9 or the next morning at 6 am, they said no. They didn’t have any return option outside office hours and hence the plan when down the drain. The sunset over Lago Argentino was beautiful this evening and afterwards we enjoy a quick dinner at Restaurante La Cocina. The spinach ravioli with ragu was not bad at all and we also got bruschetta with lots of ham. The main dishes was about 250 Pesos to give you an idea about the cost and our meal was 700 Pesos (40 USD) excluding drinks.


Time to see the amazing Perioto Moreno glacier!
On the morning of Wednesday April 12th we got up early as we had arranged a trip to Perito Moreno glacier. We had booked this in advance using Hielo & Aventura and we decided to do the Big Ice tour which is a trek on the glacier itself. It is also possible to do a shorter tour but we decided to go all in! I was a bit surprised that this was quite expensive when we booked it as we had to pay 4000 Pesos (225 USD) per person – and by the time I’m writing this I think it has gone up even more. It did not seem like there are any other operators that are offering this kind of tour and I guess with no competition they can charge whatever they want.


Note: even if you pay quite a lot for the tour you still must bring money for the park entrance – when we were there it was 500 Pesos (28 USD) per person. Lunch was not included in the tour.


We got picked up by a big bus at about 7.30 in the morning and it was still dark when we started driving towards the glacier. The glacier is about 80 km (50 miles) from El Calafate so it takes a bit more than an hour to get there. Most people used the early morning to sleep a bit more but soon we got distracted by a stunning red sunrise! We got to the park entrance where the park rangers came on board the bus to sell us tickets for entering the national park. I of course wanted to get out of the bus to take some photos of the stunning sunrise but we all had to stay on the bus. We continued driving for a few more minutes after the park entrance and we made a stop at a resting place and we were informed that this was the last proper toilet for a while (there is no toilet by the viewing platform). We continued driving on the winding road and all of a sudden we got a view to the glacier front! We made a stop at a resting stop again and this place had a stunning view to the glacier and mountains surrounding it. Just a few more minutes more and we reached the viewing area of the glacier front.


The viewing area is quite massive with various viewing platforms in different levels and they were connected with staircases. As we walked down to the lowest viewing platform we got a better and better look at the incredible glacier front which has lots of different shades of blue and white. It is really a picture perfect glacier front and it was just stunning. From time to time pieces of ice fell of the front with a thundering sound. We only witness smaller chunks falling off, I can just imagine the sound if bigger chunks of the glacier falls off. As this was quite early in the morning and late in the season, our bus was the only group there and hence we had the place all to ourselves for about 40 minutes.


Note: the glacier moves quite a lot. From time to time it will glide all the way over to the viewing point area and it will block Lago Argentino. This can cause the water levels to be different on each side and eventually the water digs in and causes the glacier front to collapse. It looks like a spectacular event to witness!


We got back on the bus and we drove back about 10 minutes to Puerto Bajo Las Sombras and here there was a boat ready for us. The boat took us over Lago Argentino and again we got stunning views to the glacier. The glacier glides into the Lago Argentino with a width of about 5 km (about 3 miles) and the front is a 70-80 meters (230-260 ft) high ice wall! I’m sure you can understand my enthusiasm and fascination when you look at the photos of this beautiful glacier! I have been to a couple of glaciers before – both in Norway and in Iceland. On the other side of Lago Argentino, Hielo & Aventura had a camp set up with a couple of cabins. We geared up and were soon on our way and the first part of the trek was on wooden walkways and then in the terrain next to the glacier. We were split in two groups (English speaking and Spanish speaking) and we had 2-3 guides with us at all times. One took the lead and one was always at the back to make sure that we didn’t loose anyone on the way. We also got a short briefing before we got started and we were reminded to bring the essentials such as lunch, gloves, sun glasses etc.


Note: you don’t have to carry a lot of water. There are waterfalls and streams along the way so the most important thing is to have a bottle that you can fill up.


The hike was about 3 km to start with and I didn’t find it very challenging but then again I’m pretty used to walking in terrain in Norway. It was maybe 5-10 degrees Celsius to start with and having the right clothing was a bit challenging as there was a cold wind but also a warm sun. In the end I was wearing synthetic long sleeved top and my Norrřna shell jacket. We reached a small camp site and here we got our shoes “inspected” to see which crampons would fit on the shoes. As usually I had gone overboard with the equipment and I was equipped with very sturdy mountain boots. But it didn’t seem like they have much of criteria for shoes but it is more comfortable if you have hiking boots with a stiff sole. The crampons were not very modern and not very good – but they did the job. At this campsite it was the last chance to go to the toilet – well, I’m not sure that toilet is the right word as it was more of a privy. From the camp, it was just a few minutes’ walk down to the actual glacier and here we got help from the guides to put on the crampons. The lead guy was a serious fellow and he started giving us instructions on how to behave on the glacier, how to step with the crampons on etc. He got a bit annoyed when a Japanese lady (with the longest hair and the pinkest makeup I have ever seen) started wandering off without listening. At first I thought he was just grumpy but he was actually just taking his job quite seriously: his mission was to keep us safe on the glacier.


Note: to give you an idea about the entire hike I can say the in total it was 10 km (6 miles), we started at 220 meters and highest point was 360 meters so only a 140 meter climb.


We had a 4 km hike on the actual glacier and the weather was just beautiful. The sun was shining but there was a cold wind. We walked in a line but we were not tied together (like we were at Folgefonna and this has something to do with the glacier structure I guess. The views are just incredible on the glacier. There are all sorts of colors of blue and white from the ice and snow. There are small crack in the ice that is sometimes filled with water but it is so clear that it is hard to tell if there is water or not. The glacier stretches for miles and miles into the mountains and the ice looks like Italian merengue topping on a cake (yes, I like my sweet stuff). On the way the guide would tell us about the glacier, about movement in the ice, the history etc.


Note: remember sunscreen and sunglasses. I was wearing SPF 50 and even with this I was feeling a bit fried after the hike.


We had lunch in a small hollow and that gave us some shelter from the wind. There was also a small ice cave here and the guide went in there to see if it was safe and allowed us to come into the cave in pairs. It is incredible to see how the shades of blue gets darker as you get deeper and deeper into the ice cave! Eventually it was time to head back and we walked back to the same point where we had gotten onto the glacier. It was nice to take off the crampons as they do add some weight to your legs and you have to walk a bit different with them on. Walking back in always a bit boring but the 3 km back to the “base camp” went fast. On the boat, we got whiskey served on the rocks – with ice taken from the glacier itself! As you can tell from this extensive summary of the hike, I was impressed by the glacier. This glacier is just awesome as it is picture perfect in the front and it is beautiful to hike on it. Yes, it costs quite a lot to do this hike but if you have the money for it – do not hesitate.

I was dressed in Goretex shell jacket and hiking pants (both with lots of ventilation options), synthetic underwear and I also had a down jacket with me for keeping me warm when we sat down. In the bag I had the lunch, water bottle, camera equipment and change of clothing (if you sweat and get cold). Do bring gloves, sunglasses, sunscreen and a beanie. We were back at the hotel at 6 PM and it was great with a hot shower and an ice cold beer.


Last dinner in El Calafate
On the main street we had walked past a place called MAKO Fuegos y Vinos and they had whole sides of lamb over open fire! But we were disappointed when we walked there this evening as it was closed. Instead we went for alternative B: Mi Rancho and here we shared a wonderful empanada and I had lovely ribs of lamb with a great risotto (and I’m picky when it comes to my risotto). The meal was about 50 USD without drinks and tips. We only had a few nights in El Calafate and Patagonia and it might be crazy to fly south – all the way to the end of the world, to see just a glacier. It would have been great to have a couple of weeks (or months) to see more of Patagonia. There are lots of mountains, glaciers and hikes to explore if you have the time and money. Check out keywords like The Circuit in Torres del Paine and Fitz Roy.


Time to head to Mendoza and the wine region!
When we first planned the trip to Argentina we realized that with such a big country we could only cover 2-3 places in a two week period. We did evaluate Salta and Iguazu falls but in the end we decided to check out the wine region of Mendoza. On Thursday April 13th we were picked up by the airport shuttle bus at our hotel at 9.30 AM. We picked up some more people on the way to the airport and check in was straight forward. As there didn’t seem to be any direct routes we flew with Aerolinas Argentinas (XXX) again to Buenos Aires. Once we were back in BA we took out the luggage and checked in again – this time with Andes Líneas Aéreas. This seems to be a new airlines and they have lower prices but a limited network. We had a 3-4 hour wait at Aeroparque Internacional Jorge Newbery and it is not a very exciting airport. But at around 7 PM we departed from BA in an older MD-80 plane and we landed in Mendoza (or Aeropuerto Internacional "El Plumerillo" Gobernador Francisco Gabrielli if you like) at about 9 PM. I was a bit afraid that it would be a hassle to get a taxi at night but this was quite organized. As we got out of the airport there were a few taxis waiting there and we jumped into one. The taxi was tiny (as most taxis in Mendoza) and tired. It was so small that we couldn’t even fit one of our suitcases into the trunk of it. But we managed to squeeze in both Samsonites somehow and the ride to Mendoza only took about 15-20 minutes and it cost us 135 Pesos (7 USD). In Mendoza we stayed at Hulentala hotel and you can read my review of the hotel here. The hotel is located in the downtown area and it is only a 5 minute walk to Plaza Independencia.


Exploring Mendoza – on Good Friday
When we arrived to the hotel it was quite late and we didn’t really get an impression of the area and city. So coming out of the hotel in the morning was exciting as it was a chance to see a new city! The city was quite deserted and I assume that is due to Good Friday being a public holiday. Stores were closed and there were not that many people out and about. There are about 115.000 people in the town of Mendoza but a million in the metropolitan area. As most places were closed we decided to join a walking tour again and at 11 am we met up at Pellegrini Square to take a tour of the new city with Vivi MZA. Our guide was great and we got a great intro to the city history, about the layout of the city, about the irrigation system, about the extreme weather that they can experience. We walked to the various squares (Plaza Espańa, Plaza de la Independencia, Plaza San Martín) and it seems like the square were made when they built up this new part of town after an earthquake in 1861. Ironically it seems like Mendoza has about 350 sunny days in the year and hence they have planted a lot of trees to give some shade in the street – and hence they have built irrigation canals to the trees in the streets as it is a pretty dry area. What is the ironic you say? Well, we had rain while we were in Mendoza. Talking about weather – they do have some extreme weather in this part of Argentina. In the summers they can get extremely hot winds and they can also get bad hail storms. Only a couple of weeks before we were there, a hail storm hit with hail the size of golf balls and it can ruin cars and even more important: it can ruin the grapevine.


We ended up our tour at a rooftop restaurant called Decimo. After all the talk about earthquakes it didn’t feel right to spend too much time there but the view was great. We paid out guide 200 Pesos per person (11 USD) and I can highly recommend to join the tour.
We enjoyed the rest of the day with lunch with Malbec wine, wine tasting at Park Hyatt and dinner at Anna Bistro – with Malbec wine. Hey, we were after all in the wine region of Mendoza! When we got to Anna Bistro it was quite empty – just like we had experienced before even if it was like 9 PM. I had a good provolone cheese starter and my chicken caprese roll was also good. We were actually a bit full after the late lunch and hence we got full pretty fast during dinner. Well, when I think about it, it didn’t stop me from also having a crčme brulee for dessert. The dinner was about 900 Pesos (53 USD) excluding drinks and tips.


Tour of wine areas and wine tasting
After a quick breakfast we were picked up at 9 am by a small bus. We had organized a wine tour the day before by getting in touch with a company called Wine & Trout. In our group we had 4 American girls working for an auditing company back in the US, a couple from the Pittsburg area and a guy from Chile. Our guide was very enthusiastic and he was thrilled when he heard that Nikki is from South Africa as he had been there recently for a wine field trip. We had to pay cash in the van and that was a bit awkward. We had been told that it would cost 175 USD per person while the 4 girls from the US told the guide that they had been told that it would cost 460 USD for the group. That means that they got it for 115 USD – I guess they are good at bargaining a good deal! We drove off to the wine areas in light rain – so much for the city that “never” sees any rain. The main wine producing areas in Mendoza are Luján de Cuyo, Uco Valley and Maipú. On our way out of Mendoza we didn’t get much of a view but on clear days they say you get a good view to the Andes mountains. The highest mountain outside Asia is located in the neighborhood and it is called Aconcagua. The mountain It is 6,961 metres high (22,838 feet) but it is supposed to be an easy mountain to summit on – but I guess we will give that a go another time. For now we just have to dream back to Kilimanjaro.


But back to the wine tour: we drove out of Mendoza on the highway while our guide gave us information and funfacts about wine making and wine industry in Argentina. We headed for Luján de Cuyo and it is about 25 km (15 miles) outside Mendoza. Our first stop this morning was Matervini where we got a short tour of the wine production facilities and then we got to taste 4 different wines in their beautiful tasting room.


Note: if you are planning on visiting the wineries on your own you must book in advance!


The next stop was Bodega Renancer conveniently located just down the street from Matervini. The garden at Renancer is beautiful ponds, trees, a beautiful storage room and tasting room. The guy who presented the wine did a good job and the wine was good and we did buy a couple of bottles. We continued to Casarena  where we got a beautiful 6-7 course lunch with various wine to the different dishes. There were so many glasses on the table that there was hardly space for anything else. The food was delicious and we got lots of good wine! Our final stop on the wine tour was Kaiken. It had been a long day with lots of wine so a couple of the girls fell asleep on the way there. So if you are not used to drinking wine you should remember to taste and spit from time to time. Kaiken was interesting in different ways, They seemed to have a strong focus on sustainability and sheep were roaming the vineyards. They were just done with the harvest but there were still a few grapes on the grapevines. The grapes were actually a lot sweeter and juicier than I thought they would be. We got to see the wine production area and also the storage area where they had Gregorian chanting being played for the barrels to cleanse the chakra. I’m not sure that this is scientifically proven but I guess it can’t hurt. By the time the wine tasting started, the group seemed to be a bit out of focus (read tipsy) and our guide struggled to get the attention.


All in all, it was a fun day with lots of good wine. We got to see some beautiful wineries with stunning tasting rooms and facilities. This is quite a contrast to other parts of the city where it seems like people are living in very modest accommodation to put it mildly.
As it had been a long day with lots of wine and a very good lunch, we were not that hungry. We did have a quick dinner at Maria Antonieta. I have not noted that much down from the dinner so it can’t have been that memorable but the green risotto was good at least.


Exploring Maipu
We decided to check out the Maipu area on our own but once again the city was very quiet due to Easter. We wanted to try the train to Maipu but that turned out to be a bit tricky. We needed to be some sort of train card and this was available at some kiosks. But most people didn’t speak much English and our Spanish is non-existing and in the end the Google Translate app on the phone came to our rescue. The train turned out to be more of a city tram and there was only one every 30 minutes. The ride out to Maipu didn’t take more than 30 minutes but once again we were reminded that there is quite s difference between rich and poor as we rolled through neighborhoods where the houses were basically shacks.


We got off and the last station and I’m not sure what we had expected. After being in places like Napa, Tuscany and the wine region outside Cape Town I guess I was expecting a nice scenery and vinyards but when we got off the tram we felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. We had read that it was possible to rent bicycles in Maipu but due to Easter Sunday all of the bike rental places were closed. Luckily, we are young and fit so we started walking and made it to the wine museum of Giol . This used to be a big wine producer and they supplied 10-20 % of all the wine in Argentina! Back then I guess it was more about quantity and not that much focus on quality. We got a guided tour for 100 Pesos (6 USD) per person and it was interesting to see the old facilities and hear the history of this place. We also got to taste 3 wines if I’m not mistaken.


We continued walking towards the center of Maipu but most shops were closed. It was still interesting to walk through the town as there were lots of really old cars that I haven’t seen in years and stray dogs lurking around (watch out for the dog shit). In many ways we were walking aimlessly around as we didn’t have bikes (and they normally suggest a route) and nothing was open. We had a terrible lunch at Restaurant Don Tomas next to Plaza 12 de Febrero. We were only a handful of people in their yet the service was slow and I don’t think any of the guests enjoyed hearing Michael Jackson hits being played really loud. When the food was served it was not good at all.


At this point I think we came to the conclusion that this day was not working for us and we started to walk back to the “train station”. It was a 3 km walk and when we walked in to the train station area, we saw a tram roll out! We managed to find a bus and it turned out that we didn’t have enough money on the train card but luckily a girl came to our rescue. At night, we took a taxi to the night life street of Av. Arístides Villanueva. Our jinxed day was not over yet – it had started to rain and it made the pavement slippery and Nikki was on her butt before I knew what was happening. In addition to this we had to venture through a few rats on the way so Nikki was not that happy. But the day did get a happy ending in many ways as we found our way to La Lucia Grill & Bar. The restaurant was modern and had a good menu. We had empanadas to start with that was good and we also ordered a sharing plate of meat for two. The waiter looked at us and said “no, you don’t need that” and we were a bit surprised. He ensured us that it would be enough with a meat platter for one to share and he was totally right about that. And finally we got meat that was living up to our expectations for the Argentinian beef! The meal was 750 Pesos (44 USD) for both of us excluding drinks and tips.


All in all, we were a bit disappointed with our visit to Mendoza. We did go there during Easter so it was only natural that things were closed. I guess we didn’t do enough homework and we hoped that we could just wing it like we did in Napa valley. I guess the recommendation to others is: plan your visit ahead! Get a driver and get in touch with the various wineries that you want to visit!


Goodbye Mendoza - hello BA again

On Monday April 17th, we got up at like 6 am and used a tiny local taxi to get to the airport for 150 Pesos (9 USD). Once again check in was fast and we got handwritten boarding cards – that does not happen very often. We had not bought any wine as we figured that it would be tricky with packing but it turned out security control at Mendoza airport was not like your average airport security. People carried boxes of wines through security so I guess they don’t have the same 100 ml restriction of liquids that you normally see at airports. The Andes Líneas Aéreas flight was a bit delayed but we departed at about 9.30 am and landed back in Buenos Aires after about 1 ˝ hours. In BA the weather was nice with 18 degrees C (64 F) and we even got the luggage fast! But once outside we had to wait around for 30-40 minutes for a taxi.


As we enjoyed the Recoleta area we decided to stay in the same area this time around. We stayed at Cyan Recoleta Suites which is located right next door to Urban Suites that we stayed at when we first came too BA. You can read my review of Cyan Recoleta Suites here. The taxi ride from the airport to Recoleta cost 280 Pesos (18 USD). As it was about lunch we decided to continue our culinary adventures and the hunt was on to find the perfect empanadas. We walked over to El Sanjuanino but we got a bad feeling the moment we walked in there. There was lots of TripAdvisor and Yelp stickers on the entrance door and the place was packed with tourists. There didn’t seem to be any tables but we were taken down a steep staircase to the basement and we got a table there. The basement had a water leakage and it smelled bad so after 2 minutes we decided that this place was not worth it. We grabbed a taxi instead and drove to a place called La Cocina on Av. Pueyrredón instead. This was a tiny place with just a few locals. They only had a few empanadas varieties on the menu and they tasted good, seemed fresh and was served warm within seconds. In addition, we got table wine straight in regular glasses.


If you have read from the start you will know that we tried to check out Teatro Colón on the first stay but due to light issues, that didn’t happen. We walked over once again to the theater but it turned out that the homepage was not very accurate. There were not tours every 15th minute, all the English tours were sold out and the next Spanish tour was in 1 ˝ hours. We decided to give up that project and head to Palermo instead. We visited the Palermo area a couple of times at night on our first visit but it was great to walk around the neighborhood during the day. The atmosphere is relaxed, there are lots of small boutiques and restaurants, there are colorful houses and trendy art and clothing stores etc. We did go back to JA (the wine store) and we bought a box of 9 wines. They had sold to tourists before and they were good at the packaging. The weather was great and it was nice to sit on an outside café and have a local beer as the sun was setting. Fall was in the air as it was warm when the sun was out but once is started setting it got cool. Out trip was nearing the end. We decided to have the last supper at Rodi Bar near our hotel. The place seemed to be filled with lots of mature guests that seemed to live in the neighborhood and it had a nice vibe. Once again, our waiter informed us that it would be too much food when we tried to order and I think that is great. The sirloin steak that we had was good and tender but the asado de tira had a lot of fat. The meal ended up being about 900 pesos (60 USD) excluding drinks and tip.


Time to head home
Our two-week adventure in Argentina had come to an end and after breakfast at the hotel, it was time to head to the airport. We got a taxi using the hotel and it cost 690 pesos (46 USD). Most of the downtown area has one-way streets and traffic was moving slowly on the way out of the city center. But it gave us a last chance to look at the porteńos on their way to work, the many street corners with ice cream shops, the dog walkers taking a herd of dogs for a stroll in the upper-class neighborhoods etc. And it gave us a chance to reflect on this first visit to this big country. Thinking back, I guess we should have had more time to explore it but you could probably stay months and years and still not see it all. Coming all the way from Norway it was tempting to cover as much as possible in the two weeks, but it is best to limit yourself and rather checked out some areas better. I enjoyed getting to know Buenos Aires a bit. It was fun to see how it can be compared to some of the big classical cities of Europe (like Paris, Rome, Milan etc) yet have its own signature. We were a bit disappointed about the wine areas of Mendoza but that was a combination of Easter, bad weather and bad planning. But the wine area is spread out quite a bit and to me it did not looks as beautiful as what we have seen in e.g. Tuscany, Napa or Cape Town. To me the highlight will always be the visit to the Perito Moreno glacier in Patagonia. The glacier was picture perfect and we had a beautiful day hike on it. It would have been great to stay longer in the area to do more hikes as the area looks stunning in terms of mountains, lakes, glaciers etc.


I hope that this travelogue has been of some help if you are planning a visit to Argentina. Please get in touch by e-mail if you have any questions or comments and I will do my best to answer. And don't forget that you can see more photos on this page and see the locations on the Google maps. Here is the Buenos Aires Google map, Patagonia Google map and Mendoza Google map.



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