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Trip Report Argentina trip report: Buenos Aires, (Colonia), Mendoza

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The hubby and I took a sort of last minute trip to Argentina back in March. We normally travel like morons and zip from here to there, but we decided to relax. And while our itin may not sound relaxing to some of you, it actually really was.

I usually write novels so I'll apologize now for the length of this...

Flights: American from Boston to Miami, Miami to Buenos Aires. LAN from BA to Mendoza, no idea how we got back to BA (return flight got cancelled and we scrambled for an alternate airline), then American from BA to Miami and then again from Miami to Boston.

Day 2: arrive in BA around 11ish. Paid the $130 entrance fee, arranged our taxi from one of the booths outside the terminal (thank goodness for that advice!!), got to our hotel in Palermo Soho. Miravida was fantastic! Loved staying in Palermo. Not much to do during the day, but who cares, you just putz around one of the many other barrios and then at nighttime when you want the best of restaurants and bars, you're so close to your hotel!

By the time we got through customs, to the hotel, checked in, and changed clothes and got our stuff ready, it was about 1. What the books recommend to do in 3 days, we did in less than 5 hours. Note: we didn't go into and explore any museums or galleries which obviously would have taken up a huge chunk of time. We went for a light lunch at La Olla de Felix, then straight to Recoleta Cemetery to explore its amazing grounds. Walked around that area a while, stopped into El Sanjuanino for mid-afternoon empanadas (they ran out of everything but ham, so I didn't have any but the hubs wasn't really impressed). From here, we hit a good chunk of the major sights like the pink house, Florida Street, Peru metro station, Plaza de Mayo, El Centro, and a few others I can't remember. We weren't interested in doing any shopping, as we aren't interested in leather and weren't sure what other things (apart from wine) people get while in Argentina. Early evening, we popped into Cafe Tortoni for tea/coffee. Back to the hotel to rest a bit, shower up and get ready for the night out. We went to a couple bars in Palermo before dinner around 9ish at Don Julio. WOW, that place was incredible! After dinner, we went to Salon Canning to have a taste of what a milonga is like. Pretty cool, I'd say! A bit tired from all the travel and activity, I think we were in bed early for BA standards, around 130.

Day 3: slept in really late, till about 10. Went straight to La Boca and putzed around for a bit. As everyone says, it's totally tacky but I'm still glad we went. It was pouring and I actually liked the photos we were getting in a different light than what I was used to seeing. From La Boca we came back into the main part of town, went to La Cuartito for pizza lunch, and then wandered aimlessly for a couple hours. Stopped at Heladeria Cadore for some ice cream and let me tell you, the dulche de leche with chocolate chips was to die for. I wish I had gotten half that and half the chocolate amagre, but I couldn't pass up an entire cup of what I had ordered. We walked to Palermo Hollywood to grab pre-dinner cocktails at Home Hotel. Tried fernet with coca cola - I do not recommend this. We did not enjoy this. Oh well, we tried it! :) Dinner tonight was at La Cabrera in Palermo SoHo and yes it's in every guidebook for a reason! WOW. Another incredible dinner. And I don't eat meat! So delish. After dinner, we headed to San Telmo for a tango show at Bar Sur. We didn't want a huge showy production and decided for a very intimate show. We both loved it. Just a few tables surrounding a small center dance floor, the dancers showing off their talents and then offering to teach us themselves. Good times! From here we bopped around a couple bars in San Telmo and found live music and settled in for a bit. Again, I think we were in bed around 130.

Day 4: got up early to take the ferry over to Colonia. Gorgeous day! My goodness, anyone who comes to BA and doesn't take the ferry might have some marbles loose. Very important! DO NOT throw away your ticket stub from BA to Colonia. We almost were refused entry in Colonia when we wanted to head back to BA because Type A Control Freak over here got rid of the stubs. Oops. Anyway, we get to Colonia and made the dumb mistake of walking the hard way to old town to our hotel. It was uphill on cobblestones. Not great for suitcases, even the small carry-on ones we had. We read so many accounts of people saying a daytrip was plenty and anymore would be foolish. We are so happy we didn't listen and instead took advice from friends of ours who encouraged us to spend the night. We stayed at Posada Plaza Mayor, an adorable little place right in the heart of old town. Fantastic room with brick walls and doors that opened to the center courtyard. Being photographers, we went a little crazy this day, taking pictures of everything the light touched. Beautiful town and a photographer's dream! We had lunch outside at El Rincon and spent the day wandering in and out of galleries, wandering along the waterfront, climbing the lighthouse, and just passing time. We had sunset cocktails at El Torreon, then grabbed dinner somewhere I can't remember the name of. We were tired and wanted something quick. We originally were planning on El Drugstore, but the menu didn't entice us. La Casa de Jorge Paez Vilaro Art Gallery was closed, Sacramento I think shut down, and we didn't have much else written down for options. Very early night - I think we were in bed by 1130.

Day 5: got up super early for sunrise photos and deemed the late afternoon light in Colonia is much better than early morning, but still, we got some great shots. Grabbed an earlier ferry back to BA for one more afternoon. We wandered the Plaza Serrano and then parks of Palermo, bought a giant box of alfajores, grabbed a long, lazy lunch, and then made our way to the domestic airport to head to Mendoza. Arrived in Mendoza around 9, took a taxi to our hotel, Hotel Argentino on Plaza Indepencia. Went straight out to dinner at Casa 3. It was still early for Argentina standards, so we sat outside with the other 6 customers. Great dinner with good, cheap wine. We got the most expensive bottle on the menu for the equivalent of a whopping 12USD!

Day 6: Checked out of Hotel Argentino. Got picked up by our rental car company Auto Mendoza, and we headed west for about 45minutes to reach Argentina Rafting. Had an incredible 1/2 day of rafting Class III rapids! So fantastic, and the views along the drive were stunning. Vineyards to either side, the Andes in front of us - you can't beat that! After rafting, we checked into a major splurge for us - Cavas Wine Lodge. Whoa. That pretty much sums it up. I don't think my jaw left the ground for the 24 hours we were there. Checked into our adobe, went for our pre-arranged spa service, which was some amazing combination of wine infused exfoliator, a wine bath and then 45minute massage. Heaven, I tell you. Drank a bunch of wine, then instead of dining in the dining room, we opted for a private dinner on our rooftop terrace. The sunset was spectacular, the food was amazing, the fireplace up there added to the ambiance, and all around made for one fantastic evening.

Day 7: got up early, took my 3rd shower at Cavas - with a bathroom like that you don't want to waste it!! - then we went for a bikeride through the vineyards. Unfortunately, I got attacked by a stray dog - some german shepherd type mix - and got bit on the ankle so we had to cut the ride short. He definitely broke skin and over a month later I still have scars, but I wasn't bleeding heavily so I opted not to go to the hospital. I cleaned it out thoroughly with hydrogen peroxide and iodine and went on my (slightly less) merry way. We had a really late breakfast served on our patio overlooking our private plunge pool, then begrudgingly left Cavas to head back to Mendoza. I tried yerba mate before leaving Cavas, and discovered yet another authentic drink of South America that I cannot stomach. I much prefer Boston's tea-house versions of mate!!! We stopped in Chacras de Coria to walk around and then went back to Mendoza and got in around 4. Checked into our B&B - B&B Plaza Italia - and went for a very late lunch (it was about 5pm). Wandered around the adorable city of Mendoza - absolutely loved it there! Had a late dinner at Azafran and had one of the most incredible meals of my life, accompanied by one of the best wines I've ever had, in one of the greatest restaurants ever. Granted, everyone in the place spoke english, but it was still amazing.

Day 8: today we got picked up before 9 by Ampora Wine Tours for our full-day wine day. And what a wine day it was! We visited 4 wineries, had an unbelievable gourmet lunch, and came away with 10 bottles of holy-crap-this-is-amazing wine. When we got back into Mendoza, around 630pm, we went to the shop called Winery to pick up 2 more bottles, then to some other wine store to get a box to fit all 12 bottles. We also popped into a couple stores - we travel so much and ALWAYS bring something back for our home. We picked up a really nice table runner at the store Zoe. Back to the B&B, we packed up the wine and rearranged and repacked our suitcases, then set off for dinner. First we stopped at the bar attached to the Winery store for some wine. Then we went to El Palenque for empanadas and wine served out of penguin pitchers, and we were going to head to another top rated restaurant in Mendoza. But when we got there, it was beyond touristy with zero atmosphere so we left immediately. We should have gone back to El Palenque or had another fabulous meal at Azafran, but instead settled on Facundo and ate outside. It was just ok for me - I longed for another Azafran level meal but I guess that's what makes those nights so special! Very early night in for us - I think we were back around 1130, went through some pictures and were sleeping by midnight.

Day 9: got up early and wandered around for one last morning. Went to the giant park and barely touched it, it's so huge. But we didn't have time for much other than walking around the lake. Had a late morning ice cream and then checked out and headed to the Mendoza airport. We were supposed to take LAN back to the domestic airport in BA, then switch to the international airport, but our LAN flight was cancelled. They could have booked us a much later one that would have changed our Miami-Boston flight to have us arrive much later tomorrow, so we opted to pay for a change and took some other airline that got us directly into the international airport. With a giant box that held a case of wine in addition to our regular luggage of 2 carry-on suitcases plus 2 fairly large carry-on bags, this ended up being so worth our time and money; rather than transferring from domestic airport to international one. We arrived at the international airport to find complete chaos. Thousands of people for various American flights from BA to Miami, Houston, Atlanta, New York - it was madness, all in one tiny spot. Poor management that's for sure. We had a bit of a longer layover with our flight change, but we didn't mind. Just caught up on work and got mentally prepared to get home.


Final thoughts:
A great, quick, last minute trip. But not something I would choose to do again. It was our first time to South America and while I knew we wouldn't get a "South American" feel with Argentina, I wasn't expecting it to be SO MUCH like Europe. I had an amazing trip, and would go back to Mendoza in a heartbeat, and I'm also dying to head south to Calafate, and over to Chile, and up to Salta, but I'm not sure I'd go back to BA.
The mosquitos in Argentina are some of the most vicious I've ever encountered. If there is a mosquito within a mile radius I swear it finds me. I've never been eaten so badly, even covered head to toe in deet all hours of every day and every night.
The only thing I would have changed to our itinerary was added a couple days to Mendoza to allow us to do the overnight Aconcagua.

Thanks to all who helped me plan this on such late notice, and if any of you want more info please don't hesitate! I love talking travel!

Sorry once again for the length of this... I can't help it ;)

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