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Trip Report Buenos Aires and Mendoza

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We just returned on Jan. 3, 2011 from a 2 week trip to Buenos Aires and Mendoza (Chacras de Coria), Argentina. We want to pay forward all the bloggers that have provided us information to help in our planning so here are the highlights of our trip:

Buenos Aires:
We used Isabel Llobet as our trip planner. She was excellent in communicating with us and giving us suggestions, contact@buenosaires-tours.com.ar. We can’t say enough good things about her.
Eternautas Tours – We took a good overall city tour with them when we arrived and the guide was easy to understand.
Tango Porteno – We changed plans last minute and decided to see this Tango show based on the reviews we read. It was a terrific show! An hour and a half of wonderful dancing, music (live band) and singing. They showed BA over the years with real movie footage on a drop down screen. The theatre was beautiful as well. We did not eat dinner there but highly recommend this show.

Restaurants – The best were:
El Mirasol in Recoleta, typical Argentina steaks.
Sottovoce – Italian food in Porto Madero. A lot of restaurants looked good here and it was nice walking around the port. While this was an expensive choice, we enjoyed our meal and the ambiance.
La Cabrera in Palermo Soho. This restaurant was highly touted by our travel planner and she wasn’t wrong. Great Argentina steaks. Make a reservation because there is a long lineup for dinner. We recommend sharing meals as well.
El San Juanino in Recoleta – The best and cheapest empanadas. They were a quick lunch or carryout dinner when needed. About $1-2 per empanada and delicious.
Volta or Freddo for helado. People tend to favor one over the other. We liked Volta the best.

We are a family of 5 with kids from ages 14 – 20. We stayed in a temporary Apartment Hotel in Recoleta called Trianon Residence. This was a great location and the kids had enough room (3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms) that we weren’t on top of each other. The Trianon is just a block away from the well-known Alvear Hotel which was very convenient as a meeting place for tours etc.
Other items: We had a nice boat ride at El Tigre and it was easy to get to on the regular train taking 50 min. each way.
We went to an Estancia. Although the food and the show were fine, it was not worth the trip. It took 2 – 2 ½ hours each way in a hot van, there were no explanations of anything and the horses walked a few feet before turning around to go back. This was a disappointment.
San Telmo Sunday market – Although popular, this antiques market was not our style and the cafes surrounding it can be a rip-off (we were charged for the silverware).
Recoleta market – This crafts/Artisan market near the cemetery that takes place on the weekends was terrific. The crafts were not junk but very creative works and inexpensive. This is a great place to pick up souvenirs!
We were warned by many not to hail cabs on the street; however, when pressed to do so we encountered no problems at all.

Mendoza:
We actually stayed in Chacras de Coria which we loved. We stayed at Casa Glebinias which was very nice.
We used Ignacio Romero, contacto@iromero.net, to give us a day wine tour. He was excellent and knows his wine. He is only available on the weekends now. We also used Jorge Hernandez, 15-663-2973, vip_services_ar@yahoo.com, as our driver. He was also excellent, speaks English well, and drives a minivan that seats 7. Both of these gentlemen were wonderful finds!

Wineries:
Achaval Ferrer – Great wine and you can’t beat tasting wine in large white cushy couches with the Andes surrounding you.
Tempus Alba – Good wine and a nice balcony and view. The young owner who kissed all of us as we entered was a fun touch.
Belasco de Baquedano – The wine was just ok but the aroma room was fun and different.

Food: Cava de Cano – Amazing lunch that just can’t be fully described. About 5 courses that were tremendous, the rooms are in a cave-like cellar, served with their own Syrah. This was a highlight for everyone.
Family Zuccardi – We didn’t do wine touring/tasting but ate lunch at a private table outside. The food was great, the wine good, and the atmosphere wonderful.
La Piadina – Italian restaurant in Chacras where the locals go. Food was good although the service was not.

Other:
Pasrai – We took a tour of an olive factory. The store you visit afterwards is a great place for gifts to bring home. Lotions, body oils and face creams made from olives and of course olive oil for sale.
Rafting on the Rio Mendoza with Argentina Rafting, www.argentinarafting.com. This was another highlight of the trip. We are not experienced at rafting but this class 3 trip on the river, lasting around 1 hour, was a blast.

Santiago, Chile:
We spent a day here on the way home. Be aware that there is a Reciprocity (Entrance) fee (similar to Argentina) for Americans for leaving the airport that is around $140 per person but is good as long as your passport is valid.
We loved this city! We had a great lunch at their seafood market and had a private tour of the city with Hector Medina, hectortourservice@gmail.com. He was really terrific and picked us up in his Astro van. He customizes the tour to what you want. This is a city/country worth a separate visit!

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