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Trip Report Rio, Iguassu Falls and Buenos Aires

We took a 10 day trip with Gate One Travel. We had used them once before for a trip to Peru and enjoyed that trip very much. Gate One's prices are excellent. If you want to use them for airfare they make it very easy by giving you a wide choice of flights to choose from- the prices do differ. We choose to return from Buenos Aires on a 9:30 P M flight which gave us an extra day in Buenos Aires which is when the one bad incident of the trip occurred- more on that later. But it was nice to have an extra day.
Storms were belting Atlanta and headed to Boston that week and Gate One called me the day before to see if we wanted to change flights- Delta was allowing this. I was impressed that they called. After discussing the options with the rep I decided to stick with our original plan- leave Boston ad 1:30 for Atlanta and take a 10:00 P M Delta flight to Rio from Atlanta. The forecast was that it would be still be raining in Boston at 1:00 and I was hoping that Atlanta would have recovered from the previous day's ice storm by 4:30 when we landed. While we were sitting in Logan the driving rain turned to snow- while they were deicing our plane for takeoff they closed the airport. By the time they had finished deicing Logan had reopened one runway and we took off. our 10:00 P M flight to Rio also went- it had been cancelled the night before. We had trip insurance which took some of the stress off this experience but it was a stressful week. When we got to Rio we met a couple from Boston who had left for Rio a day early to avoid problems but they were changing in Houston- for us the previous day was when Atlanta was closed. But I was impressed that Gate One was watching the weather and contacting people.
The flight to Rio was full- what flights aren't full these days? Delta seats seemed better than some other overnights I have been on but that could be the plane model. At Rio we met our guides and went to the Hotel Windsor Copa- one block off Copacabana Beach.
Our room was decent size with a very large bathroom- very modern. Great location- sort of behind the Copacabana Palace. The staff was very nice and the breakfast was superior- great service and lots of fresh fruit- almost anything you might want.
That afternoon we walked Copacabana Beach and were impressed- very clean and beautiful sidewalks lining the beach- lots of activity and plenty of kiosks for food and drink- the views were just like the pictures- stunning scenery all around- like Sugarloaf.That night was a group dinner at the Chursicarra(?) Palace which was very close to the hotel. Very good but not great. We thought the best meats came out last when you were pretty full.
Over the next couple of days we did group tours of Sugarloaf and Christ the redeemer , the Sambadome and the center of Rio. One afternoon we took a tour to one of the favellas- Rouhini(sp?). Only seven of us went(there were 35 people on the tour). We had to go with a special guide- it was a fascinating experience and the guide provided a lot of information about the favellas. It was a walking tour. Although there was a heavy duty police presence this is the safest favella. My wife and I have seen much worse slums from a distance in Kenya and Central America but this is a slum- not pretty. There is running water, electricity and a lot of satellite dishes. We were told the residents like the tours because the tourists do buy things (we bought a wall hanging). The contrast with Rio's wealthy is amazing- some very beautiful private homes are just around the corner from where the favella starts. For several reasons we hadn't planned to take this tour but our regular Rio guide convinced us that it would be worth it.
We spent one afternoon walking from Ipanema to Copacabana- a great way to get the feel of Rio. One night we ate alone at La Tratorria- right around the corner from the restaurant- excellent Italian. Another night we ate at an "upscale" Boteco on Ave Atlantica- which is the street along the beach. Excellent "pub" food- I had filet mignon caesar salad- really good filet mignon.
Although there were strong warnings about being careful, not carrying more money than necessary- our guide even said not to carry a wallet- we never felt unsafe in Rio We had arrived on Friday morning and left about noon on Monday and we wished we had a few more days to explore some of Rio's other neighborhoods and restaurants.
On Monday we flew to Iguassu Falls- and toured the Brazilian side with a day guide. Then we crossed to Argentina and checked into the Amerian Hotel in Puerto Iguassu. This is a beautiful hotel which overlooks where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet. Very modern with beautiful rooms and a gorgeous pool/bar area. The next day we spent the entire day touring the Argentinian side of the falls. This is a spectacular sight and the national park is beautiful- extremely well maintained. Don't miss it if you travel to this region. We had excellent meals at two local restaurants- steak very good but the fish- salmon and a river fish were superior.
On Wed we flew to Buenos Aires. The hotel Novotel on Ave. Corrientes in the theater district is an ultra modern hotel with a beautiful pool area. The staff is very helpful and the breakfast is excellent. We weren't thrilled with the location - it was a commercial area- one New Yorker said it was like Times Square. We would have preferred an area where you walk out and there are cafes and fewer commercial stores- maybe Recolleta or Palermo. Taxis were not expensive. That night we went to a Tango show with the group. Dinner was very good but the show was spectacular. We almost didn't go- this was an optional event but were very glad that we did. Don't miss one.
We did a group tour of BA the next morning. Recolleta cemetery was the highlight. We had lunch in a famous cafe across the park from the cemetery(sorry I don't know the name) where i had the best hamburger that I believe I ever had. The next few days we were on our own. We skipped the gaucho tour. We returned to LaBoca- a very cool neighborhood- colorful houses, and lots of stores and crafts. On the advice of our tour guide I went to a money changer in a booth at the back of a store- I got 11 pesos to the dollar. In Boston they wouldn't sell Pesos- I got 6 pesos to the dollar in Atlanta but they said they would never buy them back from me. There are guys yelling cambio on Florida Ave- a big shopping street- every few feet- one member of our group got 11.5 pesos to the dollar there. We took a cab from LoBoca to Palermo- a $25 cab ride- it was a long ride but we had the feeling the cabbie may have gone the long sway or played games with the meter. We were disappointed in Palermo Hollywood and Soho. It is a nice residential area with restaurants and shops . At night when the clubs get going the area is supposed to be a lot of fun. We took a cab to the Museum of Latin America Art and walked from there back to Recolleta cemetery- this was a really nice walk- a beautiful part of the city. That night we ate at Sotte Vocce- an Italian restaurant in the new Puerto Madero area that our guide had recommended. We thought this was the best Italian meal we ever had- better than Italy and better than Boston's North End. The free glasses of champagne before and after the meal added an additional glow and we ate outside on the river. A couple of "foodies" on the trip who also ate there that night and eat in Manhattan all the time agreed with us- they said they would have returned but the next night was our freewill dinner. That dinner was at a steak house in Puerto Madero. Very good but not spectacular.
On our last day we checked out of the hotel which held our luggage for us and decided we would do a walk in the Fodor's guide from San Telmo to Puerto Madero. While we were on a side street in San Telmo a woman behind us called out Señorita and pointed at my wife's back. He hair and dress had flops of a green substance on it- we had been warned by our guide about this scam- they spray this "mustard" on you and them pretend to help you get it off while they pickpocket you or steal your purse. I immediately yelled a them and kept yelling (which our guide had recommended) and they walked away quickly. This was a very stinky substance and of course we had checked out of the hotel so we bought water and cleaned my wife up. Our guide called it the mustard scam but it is also know as the poop scam- you think it is some kind of bird poop. We finished the walk in Puerto Madero and it really is a beautiful walk but of course this wasn't a good experience. Fortunately we had been warned and knew how to react. Later that afternoon one of our group said that this had happened to her Aunt in New York City I guess it is popular in many places. Our guide said it was making a big comeback in Buenos Aires. Some people think Puerto Madero lacks charm but we liked it. Like Barcelona, Boston and other places Buenos Aires did a very nice job of redeveloping the waterfront area.
This tour was great and we recommend it. We just wish it was a few days longer for both Rio and BA. We had enough time at Iguassu Falls. We liked both cities- Rio was pretty much what I expected but I was a little disappointed with BA. The sidewalks in several areas of the city were in very bad disrepair- especially the theater district. Some of the buildings along the wide boulevards seemed to be in disrepair. Of course there are economic problems ( the currency is evidence of that) and our guide said that the country's President hates the leader of Buenos Aires and makes like difficult for him whenever she can- they are at opposite ends of the political spectrum- so money may be in short supply. I expected to taste the best steaks of my life but that didn't happen- possibly because we didn't eat at the most expensive places but the guide books gave me the impression steak would be fantastic everywhere. And being victims of a failed poop scam wasn't a good way to end the trip.

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