San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina. View from the outdoor pool of the Llao Llao Hotel and Resort looking towards Nahual Huapi Lake. Cue Meg Ryan in French Kiss: “Oh! Beautiful! Gorgeous! Wish you were here!”
Posts tagged ‘Argentina’
Ischigualasto Park, San Juan province, Argentina. About a day’s drive northeast of Mendoza, past increasingly scorched earth and a gently sloping horizon, the “fertile valley” floats into view like some kind of mirage. In an instant, a ribbon of fresh water streaks through the scaly soil top forming a creak clogged with desperate algae and even more desperate locals who plop their lawn chairs in the water in an attempt to cool their buttocks. This tiny oasis flashes by in one hamlet as the desert swiftly reclaims the terrain. It’s hard to imagine that such land could ever sustain much in the way of life. And yet millions of years ago, this patch of earth was entirely fertile, like the lush wetlands of the Pantanal or the Everglades. And it is precisely for these once fecund conditions that today the Ischigualasto park has one of the richest concentrations of dinosaur fossils in the world. (In fact, according to the park’s UNESCO World Heritage page, the site contains “the most complete continental fossil record known from the Triassic Period”.)
Knowledgable guides direct caravans of tourists and make several pitstops to explain the unique geology of the region. It’s a dusty and torrid affair, but if you time it accordingly and arrive around opening or closing, you’ll avoid the most oppressive of the heat.
The park itself is surreal, the landscape seemingly better suited for the moon or mars than for earth, and the rock formations so perfect they appear to have been hewn by hand.
Practical Info: The best way to get to Ischigualasto is to rent a car in either Mendoza (6hr drive), San Juan (4hr30), or La Rioja (1hr45) and drive there yourself. Once there, you’ll take your own car through a guided caravan tour of the park. Public transportation options are limited, though there are buses that connect San Juan and La Rioja to San Agustín del Valle Fértil (the nearest civilization, about an hour from the park entrance). Without your own wheels, your best option is to organize transportation to and from the park through your accommodation in the Valle Fértil. General admission is 70 pesos per person (roughly $15 USD). The park is open daily from 8hr to 16hr in winter and until 17hr in summer. For more information and for detailed driving instructions consult the park website (in Spanish).
The casual oenophile can only take so many wine tastings before her blood alcohol levels start to sky rocket and her patience for excessively poetic wine descriptions flat lines. Nothing like a cold cheep beer to level the fancy/slummy alcohol ratio in a jiffy. But beer is best drunk as an accompaniment to something else: a burger, a Jimmy Buffet concert, a NASCAR race. It’s also a damn good companion to a game of pool. At the cavernous Andes Billar & Pool Avenida in downtown Mendoza, customers order a rack of balls and a few cold ones before installing themselves at their pool table. While they warm up, dignified old waiters in Brasserie-style suits shuffle over to them, balancing drinks and peanuts with nerve-racking frailty. The old world atmosphere is compounded by the fact that there are no women in sight, and the slice of the male demographic in attendance is extremely manly, with big worn hands and protruding beer bellies. At the pool hall their seemingly ungainly physique transforms into something altogether athletic as they prowl around the tables, hone in on a target, and then strike with the utmost confidence and precision. Even if the sport of pool eludes you, a trip to Andes Billar & Pool is worth the effort if for nothing else than a glimpse of blue collar leisure in a city of generally snooty diversions.
Practical Info: The Billard hall known as Andes Billar & Pool Avenida is located on Avenida San Martin, two doors down for the Banco Francès, in downtown Mendoza.
Mendoza, Argentina. There are so many esteemed wineries in Mendoza, how is a girl to choose? Well if mere tasting is a bit too academic for you, then what about a boozy lunch at the attractive Bodega Ruca Malen? Not only will you sample a handsome variety of the winery’s finest, but each glass will be perfectly paired to compliment each course of your meticulously executed meal: the delicate floral notes of the Torrontés highlighting the freshness of the trout and the snappy tartness of the apple, the intense tannins of the Ruca Malen Reserva softened by the sweet beet root and creamy ricotta. What’s more, as you peer out over the lifted rim of your glass, you’ll be treated to a captivating show: emerald green vines softly fluttering in the wind and snow peaked Andes sparkling in the distance. The experience is real a feast for the senses. Now, if only a postprandial foot massage could be worked into the mix!
Paired with Yauquén Torrontés 2011. Grapes from Salta.
Paired with Yauquén Cabernet Sauvignon 2010.
Paired with Ruca Malen Reserva de Bodega 2009 (40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Syrah, 22% Malbec, 10% Petit Verdot).
Paired with Ruca Malen Malbec 2009 and with Kinien Cabernet Sauvignon 2008.
Paired with Ruca Malen Brut (75% Pinot Noir, 25 % Chardonnay).
Practical Info: Guided visits of the Bodega Ruca Malen winery run from 10 to 11am and 3 to 4pm, Monday to Friday, and from 10 to 11 am on Saturdays. A fixed five-course lunch menu with Ruca Malen wine pairings is available throughout the week with prior reservation at 12:30 pm or 1 pm. For more information and for reservations consult the Bodega Ruca Malen website.
The small city of Córdoba in central Argentina is often used as a pitstop for travelers between Buenos Aires and Mendoza. Even so, Córdoba holds it own with a slew of merits that make the city worthy of a visit in its own right. It is after all a great old University town with heaps of young people, gorgeous architecture, and a rich and very visible history. On top of all that the city makes splendid use of open space with the enormous Sarmiento park where University students jog and lounge around discussing philosophy or politics or whatever seems most profound at the moment. Within the park, 17 hectares are occupied by the City Zoological Garden, a fine old zoo with plenty of opportunities for close up portraits of the handsome animals.
A version of this article appeared in the Lost Girls World blog on February 2nd 2012.
Traveling as a couple can be a very rewarding experience. Beautiful scenery and shared adventure adds a higher level of intimacy to a relationship. At times though, traveling together can be a major turnoff. When you’re on the road for extended periods of time, certain norms of coupledom tend to go by the wayside. Hygiene, patience, and at some point romance fall victim to travelers’ grunge. Even if you’re not traveling longterm, short trips can quickly turn sour as individuals cope with the inevitable stress of getting places. In order to avoid a hasty breakup, consider checking into a decent hotel every once in a while to indulge in a little TLC. Soak in a tub, slough off some grime, relieve any stress, and let the romantic spark reignite.
If you find yourself in Argentina trapped in the dirty backpacker circuit, or you’re simply looking for a romantic Argentine getaway, check yourself into one of these three charming and affordable hotels. Your relationship will thank you. (And your wallet won’t hate you! All three hotels have rooms for under $150 USD.)
Few things complement romance like wine, and where better to indulge your inner aesthete and oenophile than in Argentina’s breathtaking wine country. With the snowcapped Andes forming a backdrop, the vineyards of Mendoza enjoy not only abundant sunshine and dry weather, but also one hell of a view. And with great wine comes great food, an adage upheld in the area due to a multitude of excellent restaurants. To round out a day spent wining and dining, head south of the city center to the hamlet of Chacras de Coria. Here you’ll find Casa Glebinias. a posada-haven where guests sleep in private cottages scattered about a wild garden. Even in summer, Mendoza’s scorching heat is hardly noticeable at the Casa where lush trees and a large swimming pool form a shady oasis. In the morning, indulge in a little sleep-in while a tray of fresh fruit, media lunas (sweet croissants), ham and cheese sandwiches, yogurt, hot coffee, and freshly squeezed orange juice is delivered straight to your cottage. Just one more excuse to stay in bed!
FINCA LA MEDIA LUNA:
For those seeking to really get off the grid, San Agustín del Valle Fértil combines both isolation and adventure. The so-called fertile valley lies some 250 kilometers from the nearest city of San Juan and about 90 km from Ischigualasto park, an eery moonscape of prehistoric rock formations famous for its high concentration of dinosaur fossils. The rustic Finca la Media Luna serves as an ideal jumping off point for exploring this peculiar region. As at Casa Glebinias, a small grove of trees keeps this rural posada nice and cool despite the surrounding desert heat, and if that’s not enough, several creeks course through the area, perfect for plunging tired feet. Hikes and horseback rides in the surrounding cactus-spiked hills can also be arranged for added adventure. Dedicated cooks ensure that once you’re here you’ll never want to leave. Every morsel of food is made from scratch, even the silky dulce de leche that accompanies the freshly baked bread at breakfast. Nighttime reveals crystal-clear star-studded skies, which are best enjoyed from your private patio after a meal of spit-roasted goat and a bottle of malbec.
Perhaps your idea of paradise involves a more verdant landscape. In that case, you could do worse than to venture to Bariloche, Patagonia’s most picturesque city by the lake. In town, swiss-inspired buildings house fine chocolate shops and adventure outfitters, while the surrounding mountains and lakes attract anenergetic crowd of skiers, climbers, fishers, hikers, and rafters. Others travel here for the soothing effect that natural beauty bestows on the soul. At the ski-lodge style Lirolay Suites, apartments are equipped with roomy jacuzzis and astounding views of lake Nahuel Huapi. Further capitalizing on the view, spa services are available in-room. Imagine you and your partner luxuriating in a massage side by side while gazing out at a gorgeous sparkling lake. Afterwards, snuggle up together by the fireplace with a cup of local hot cocoa and watch the sun set behind the snowcapped Andes.
Casa Glebinias, Price of a double room: $140 USD and up.
Finca la Media Luna. Price of a double room: $80 USD. Price for dinner for two with bottle of Malbec: $30 USD
Address: The hotel is located in the community of La Majadita, 10 km west of San Agustín de Valle Fértil. Ask at the gas station in town for directions, then follow signs for Finca la Media Luna. Be prepared for several creek crossings. Telephone: +54 (0264) 420 1950. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.fincalamedialuna.com.ar
Lirolay Suites. Price of a double room: low season $130 USD, high season $280 USD.
Buenos Aires, Argentina. Buenos Aires’ Botanical Gardens sits amidst some of the city’s hottest real estate. The Palermo neighborhood draws a crowds of chic, artsy, and just plain beautiful young porteños (the name for residents of B.A.) as well as its fair share of tourists. Though no where near as crowded as other parts of the city, at times Palermo can feel a bit congested. Luckily the spacious Botanical Gardens offers plenty of open space for decompressing and generally lounging around. Few locals however have been able to marry the excitement of the surrounding neighborhood with the tranquility of the gardens. That is except for the industrious possum who has taken up residence in an unused storage vault in the gardens. The Swede and I met this real estate savvy possum on his way home from a scavenge around the gardens. We greeted him with a simple “hola señor” to which he graciously replied with an invitation to join him in his humble abode for a little photo shoot. Of course by “invited”, I mean to say he let the Swede stick his hand inside his home without getting bitten. Muchas gracias Señor Possum!
Mendoza County, Argentina. Photos from the rest of our drive up towards the Andes from Mendoza:
Somewhere between Mendoza and Uspallata, Argentina.
The drive west out of the city of Mendoza towards the Andes may not be the most exciting ascent. There are no hairpin turns or heart-stopping one and a half lane passes. If you’re looking for that kind of vertigo and motion sickness inducing road trip, head over to the Chilean side of the Andes. (I encourage you to check out a satellite image of the road from Santiago leading up to the Andes. Just looking at it makes me queazy.) What the Argentine side does afford however is a gradual incline with plenty of opportunities for reflection and photographs. The bountiful vineyards around Mendoza, framed by a picture-perfect mountain backdrop, give way to quiet desert plains and then to rich polychrome mounds of earth as you cruise (safely) past wide ravines and through sturdy tunnels. Just as you’re beginning to succumb to a sort of beauty hypnosis, one strange scene jolts you into consciousness. You think to yourself, is that a mirage? Am I still drunk from last night’s Malbec? What is a tropical lake doing in the middle of the desert? Are those sails? Where the hell am I?
Those were the thoughts that came to my mind anyway. Suddenly out of nowhere was this Mediterranean blue lake and there were a handful of windsurfers zigzagging across it and a totally normal road leading down to it…well more precisely down INTO it. Where was it going? Why was it built? What happened? I had no idea, nor did I care. The only thing I was thinking was how I longed to be a genie so I could summon a small sailboat with the crossing of my arms and the nod of my head. Naturally I would then sail around the lake in my sexy midriff-baring genie outfit. It’s not like this place could get any weirder anyway.