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Trip Report Buenos Aires and Mendoza Trip Report

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Buenos Aires: Trip Report November 2010

My husband and I just returned from a 10 day trip to Buenos Aires (with a side trip to Mendoza) and here is our take on it. Was it one of my top trips – no, did I enjoy it - yes. I do have to start out by saying that unfortunately within the first two hours of arrival we were mugged in Palermo Soho. Do I think this is a common occurrence-no, do I think it is a common occurrence if you wear a Rolex watch – yes.

After settling in our accommodations in Palermo Soho we went to Serrano Square and sat outside and ate lunch. We did notice a man walk by and stare at my husband’s watch (Rolex Submariner – not flashy ie. No gold or diamonds) and then he walked away. We didn’t think much about it as he never reappeared and we finished our lunch and then took a leisurely stroll to walk off the 14 hour flight. We walked into a couple of shops, made reservations at LaCabrea and continued to walk. Out of the blue 2 men from behind came in-between my husband and I and were trying to take off his watch. My husband was fighting them off and when I tried to get in-between them and my husband the one guy turned and punched me in the face hard enough to knock me down. I looked up and saw an additional two men on motor scooters (waiting for the two attacking men for a quick get away). The next thing I know they were gone, as they had attracted people to the noise, and without my husband’s watch. The watch band was heavily damaged and the clasp was broke and my husband’s wrist was swollen and bruised. A local (that we could not communicate with) walked us to the police station which was a few blocks away but they obviously could do nothing but hail us a cab back to where we were staying as we were pretty shaky about doing anymore walking seeing that this happened in broad daylight, in the middle of the afternoon, in an area that everyone said was safe. PS – my husband and I are both in great shape in our mid forties and are very comfortable in big cities and we live close to NYC and are there all the time.

My husband and I had a long talk and made the decision that we could not let this ruin our trip, especially since we had just arrived. We also talked about the fact that the men never went after my purse (which had my ipad in it and a lot of cash) nor did they try for his wallet. It was pretty obvious that they were after the watch and we figured out that the guy who had eyed it in the square called his buddies and they tailed us until we were on a street where there was not a lot of foot traffic. We also noted that when we ventured out again that no one wears a lot of jewelry – not the locals, not the visitors. Mind you the only jewelry between the two of us was my husband’s watch as I had taken off my wedding ring prior to going out.

When we got to Mendoza we met a couple who had the exact same experience that we did. They were around the same age, in great shape and they were on a street corner eating gelato with another couple when three men came after them, again just going for his Rolex watch. He did not try to fight them off and they got away with it. (3 men this time and 3 on motor scooters). Broad daylight in Palermo Soho. Again they did not go after any of the purses, other jewelry or the men’s wallets.

We had no other issues and did not feel unsafe other than that instance although we were very wary and jumpy for the next few days. So the bottom line is this. Don’t ever wear a Rolex or any flashy (even costume) jewelry in BA. You make yourself a target if you do. I thought the city would be much more refined in dress (i.e. the Paris of Latin America) but quite frankly it isn’t. No need to dress up or get fancy. I found I fit in quite well in leggings, nice shirts, simple costume jewelry. Jeans and nice shorts are fine for dinner.

Okay so with that behind me let me tell you about some of the great things about BA.
SAVINGS:

LEATHER PURSES:
I loved the quality of purses at Prune. There are several stores throughout the city but the store I ended up purchasing from was the one that is located in the Pacific Galeria Shopping Mall off of Florida Street. I bought 2 bags with matching wallets. Florida is a great street close to Recoleta and City Center. You will find your typical street vendors that line the middle of this cobblestone street with great shops on either side. The mall I reference above is actually quite nice with a lot of great shops inside.

LEATHER SHOES:
I did not look at leather shoes but my husband bought three pairs at Democrata (1716 Malabia-Palermo Soho) that were just beautiful.

LEATHER COATS & BOOTS
I looked at leather coats and boots but found that while the quality was fine, the styles were better at home. I did not shop for clothes but I can tell you there were a lot of great shops to look at.

FOOD:
On our last night in BA we had a great meal with a bottle of wine for around $80.00 U.S. So yes food and wine I found were a nice bargain. Here are a few places that we recommend that we liked:

Wine Shop:
• Malambo - 2089 Thames (and Guatemala) had nice quality wines and the owner is very knowledgeable. They also have a little cheese shop inside.

Restaurants:
• Malasartes - 4999 Honduras (On Serrano Square) had excellent empanadas, hamburgers, and a salad with chicken that was so flavorful. Good for lunch and mid-day snacking and cocktails. I think we went here almost every day because the empanadas were so good!
• Mott – 4685 El Salvador had a great space and great food. I recommend the rabbit dish!
• Cluny – 4618 El Salvador had a great space and great food too! I recommend the parmesan risotto with veal (it says veal but this is a word they use interchangeably with beef, in this case the most delicious, tender and flavorful beef short rib came atop the risotto. Also the tenderloin en croute was very well prepared.
• Meridian 58 – 1689 JL Borges – we had lunch here as it had a chicken enchilada on the menu and I just need a change!
• La Cabrera-5099 Cabrera (and Thames) – show up around 8:15 and put your name on a waiting list for a table. We actually got seated quite quickly and they do serve Champagne on the street for the people waiting. The provaleta was a great appetizer as was the argentine sausage. Beef was great as one can expect and it comes with quite a complement of sides.

I loved walking around Palermo Soho. Great shops, restaurants galore. I did feel safe despite our incidence as I took to not wearing jewelry and a lot of times I did not bring my purse. I had quite a nice purse but fancy just doesn’t fit in in Palermo – bring a basic bag and you will be fine. I had a bag stolen once in Chicago so I guess it can happen anywhere. I did make sure to never hang my bag on the chair or put it under the chair. It is safest on your lap or under the table no matter where you go.

The shops in Palermo were also very cool. They just have a great way with space and design that I have not seen anywhere else. So Palermo for me, reclaimed itself despite our rocky start.

Now it was on to the wine country so I will give you my thoughts about Mendoza.

MENDOZA

We flew out of EZE as Jorge Newbury was shut down for a month for renovations. Quite a bummer as it was close and a much smaller airport. The flight was about 1 hour 40 minutes and quite pleasant. The Mendoza airport is very small so very manageable.

We rented a car from Hertz which was quite easy and then we were on our way. We were staying at Cavas Wine Lodge which is about a 45 minute drive from the airport. They gave us directions which were a little hard to follow in the fact that they kept talking about traffic circles and when you first leave the signs make most of the roads look like traffic circles when they were just exit signs. A round about is an actual roundabout so don’t get confused!

Cavas – in one word HEAVEN! If you are considering – please just do it! The owners and employees are all great. The food was excellent. The accommodations – who can complain about having your own casita in the middle of endless vineyards with a view of the Andes , not to mention your own outdoor plunge pool and rooftop fireplace. They told us about a tango show and bbq that night and we almost said no (we thought oh, some long drawn out tourist trap show with a meal) I am so glad we opted in! First of all the show was great! You sit on these wonderful steps looking down into a courtyard with beautiful musicians and dancers who explain different aspects of tango, it’s history and the music. All while drinking wine and being served appetizers during sunset. Then the fun begins as they light an outdoor bbq and cook the most amazing meal you have ever had! This is a must do if it is offered while you were there. The spa they had was also quite nice.

The day after we arrived we did wine tastings in the area. We had our own car and found that we could get around just fine as most of the wineries we wanted to go to were all within 20 minutes of the resort. We left at 9:30 a.m. and got back and 4:00 p.m. Here is where we went to:
Archaval (10 minutes from the lodge),
Melipal (10 minutes from the lodge) this was the most beautiful that we went to – great grounds and a great tasting room in their celler,
Vina Cobas – (5 minutes from lodge) we love the Branmere Malbec here. This is a Paul Hobbs collaboration and the building is very modern.
Decero - (10 minutes from lodge) we had lunch here. Don’t get the pasta – very very bland. Everything else was good though and a great view of the vineyards and Andes.

All the winery lunches are multicourse and take time and are plentiful with wines thus you are kind of spent by the time lunch is done and are awaiting that great vacation afternoon nap!

We had intended to do a second day of tastings and we just wanted to hang at the resort, sit in the sun and go to the spa. What a great day it was to do that! We didn’t regret our choice for a minute.

Cavas will set up additional dinners for you at various wineries. There does not appear to be a lot of other choices in the immediate area outside of the wineries. We ran into a couple that went to Francis Malman in Mendoza and were not impressed at all.

The drive back to the airport was a little daunting as we missed a turn and ended up in downtown Mendoza. Yes being late to the airport and trying to get directions from Spanish speaking individuals on how to get out of the city is enough to strain any marriage! It did look like a fun place to visit though, just didn’t have enough time!

Well that is my trip report on Argentina. We did enjoy our trip and were glad we went. It is unfortunate that we had the one bad experience but we are safe and fine and learned a good lesson – No more rolex’s on vacation! Enjoy your trip!

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