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Trip Report Argentina/Chile report (longish)

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This is a little tardy as we went in October/November, but at least I'm finally getting it posted.

Normally, I make all our travel arrangements, but South America was an entirely new adventure for us, so thought it best to work with a travel agent. We used Pilar at Argentina Escapes and she did a great job. Very friendly, helpful and patient. Due to several problems, we had to postpone the trip three times, but she hung in there with us all the way.

We started the journey in Buenos Aires and stayed at the Art Hotel; warm, funky and friendly. Easy walking to shopping, restaurants and Recoleta. From B.A. we flew to Mendoza for three days. Pilar had arranged a tour that included four wineries; a top end facility (Achaval Ferrer), a winery with an outstanding wine tasting lunch of five courses (Ruca Malen), the brand new and gorgeous Landelia (beautifully sited against the Andes with a roof line that mimicked the moutains behind it) and a Mom and Pop winery. We also took the Excursion Alta Montana which is highly reommended. There is more to the Andes than you might expect. The first night we stayed at the Posada Borravino. Unfortunately, it isn't close to anything and we even had a taxi driver get horribly lost on our way back from town (high fives all around when he did get us there). Pilar arranged for us to go to the Hotel Bohemia in Mendoza itself after that and it was fine. Nice facility within easy walking distance to restaurants and shopping.

From Mendoza, it was down to Ushuaia, but we had to fly through B.A. to get there. This was a bit of a "whatthehell" destination, but Ushuaia is an interesting and attractive place and time well spent (not enough time in fact). Among other things, we did a full day on and off road excursion that included a memoriable BBQ lunch. Our driver was a a delightful nut case.

From Ushuaia, we went to Puerto Natales to pick up the three day Navimag cruise to Puerto Montt. We largely planned our intinerary around the cruise, but with great hindsight, wouldn't do it again. We knew the weather was going to be a rolling of the dice and we didn't do very well. The ship and facilities are decent enough (don't expect a state room!)and the other passangers were a fun group, but we maybe should have skipped this.

At the end of the cruise, we stayed at Hotel Puelche in Puerto Varas. Wonderful place. Attractive facilities, great staff and really nice on-site restaurant. We did a day trip to the very German Frutillar. They have a series of free jazz and classical concerts in the summer and I'll definitely be checking into that for our next trip.

And then we did the Lake Crossing from Puerto Varas in Chile to Bariloche in Argentina. This was a highlight! Interesting itinerary and great cooperation from the weather. We did the two day version of the trip and overnighted at the Natura Hotel in Peulla. This is a brand new hotel and, as luck would have it, we were the only guests. The hotel was fully staffed, but we were the only guests. It really hit us between the first and second courses of dinner: There were the two of us alone for dinner in a wonderful hotel, sitting behind a huge window with a beautiful view of the Andes, sipping a great cabernet sauvignon, listening to Mozart in the background and the entire staff fussing over us. It really doesn't get much better than that!!

Bariloche is heavily tourist oriented, but thats fine. We had a rental car and did the Circuito Chico drive around the Llao Llao Penisula. We again had the weather with us and the view from the main panorama point was literally breath taking. We also took the cable car to the top of Cerro Gordo. Beautiful views once again.

We flew out of Bariloche(after having everything thoroughly hand inspected, being patted down and having to show the inside of my wallet ... geez) to Santiago. Walked a bunch, took a city tour (The only "big bus" tour we did on the whole trip. Suggest something more informal.)and did a day trip to Valparaiso with a few wineries thrown in. Knowing what we know now, we would have divided our four days between two in Santiago and to in Valparaiso. We stayed at the Caesar Business Hotel in Santiago. Nice new hotel, but service was a bit uneven. Unfortunately, we arrived about the same time as a huge crowd from a cruise ship and the front counter and restaurant staff went into a "deer caught in the headlights" mode. This was too bad as the restaurant came through with a very, very good and creative dinner when the cruisers left. Regardless, the breakfasts were the best of the entire trip (when was the last time you had fresh cherimoya juice?).

We've travelled a bit, but South America was entirelly new to us. Would we return? In a heartbeat. Correction, nano-heartbeat.

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