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Trip Report WillTravel's April 2009 trip to Iguazu and Buenos Aires

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Thanks everyone for all their tips, which were very useful.
Here is a start to my trip report.
It was a very long set of flights. Vancouver to Toronto, 3+ hours at YYZ airport, Toronto to Santiago, off the plane in Santiago and go through the connections area and through security, wait around a bit and get on the plane again for another 2 hours. So about 21 hours from first takeoff to last landing, and about 17 hours of that was just flying. Ugh, it was so very, very long despite having books. It's hard to put the light on when your seatmate clearly doesn't want lights, but I did sleep a fair bit.

I took the Manuel Tienda Leon service to the Marriott Plaza hotel. This costs 45 pesos (current exchange rate is around 3.65 to 1 USD), but is a bus service that runs about every 30 minutes and takes you to Plaza San Martin, at which point you can do a traslado (transfer) to another bus. As it turns out, I was about 3 blocks away from the Marriott at the Plaza San Martin point, and the transfer bus went to several other hotels first, but who cares - I got to see the city a bit. On the way back, I paid 95 pesos for a transfer service from the hotel I was staying at.

A slight complication, though, at this point. I had laryngitis. I had had a cold earlier in the week, but thought I was okay. Well, not quite. I could not say a word in either English or Spanish. At the Manuel Tienda Leon window, I wrote down where I wanted to go. But lucky for me, I was meeting up with a friend who had arrived in Buenos Aires two days before, and she was waiting for me at the Marriott as I had text-messaged her. My friend is a Marriott Platinum and had gotten upgraded to a very nice room on the executive floor. Lucky for us we had free food and drinks (although there's a charge for alcohol) in the executive lounge.

Despite my laryngitis and the very long journey, my energy level was pretty good. We stopped at a pharmacy where my friend asked the pharmacist for remedies. I got a couple things, but I doubt they were more effective than the lozenges I had already. We walked down the pedestrian street of Calle Florida to Avenida de Mayo and the government buildings. We then walked around Puerto Madero, a newly developed area in the former docklands, and went to Spell Cafe for dinner. I had one of the special plates, which featured a steak of some sort and a very nice side dish with mashed pumpking, ham, and cheese. Between the two of us, neither of us knew the Spanish word for pumpkin, so the side dish was a surprise. Who would ever guess how tasty that side dish was? I had ordered a syrah wine, but I got a white wine. Is that possible? At any rate, I didn't feel like objecting, and it was a good dinner. As we found all over, the portions are not small.

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    Back to the Marriott for my first night in Buenos Aires.

    The next morning we got up early to catch a 9:10 AM flight from Newberry airport, on LAN to Iguazu. The time had changed from our original booking (which I think was 9:45 AM). Everything was easy and uneventful. We got a taxi ride with a woman driver of Swiss ancestry. My friend talked to her quite a bit in Spanish, but I was still suffering laryngitis. The fare was, I think 60 pesos to the Sheraton, plus a 20-peso per person fee to enter the national park, as the Sheraton is in the park.

    I used the Cash+Points Starwood option to book this hotel at 5000 points per night + 60 USD, and we stayed for three nights. This hotel fulfills one very basic requirement for a hotel in the middle of the jungle - it has great air conditioning. I found the hotel very pleasant and all the services up to par. There is also an outdoor pool, and a spa that includes an indoor pool, but I didn't get around to using those. I suppose if you expect a 5* hotel, maybe it falls short, but the fabulous location is so enjoyable and convenient.

    With no other dining options readily available, I was happy that the hotel includes a fantastic buffet breakfast with the rate. I particularly loved the assortment of fresh juices and fresh fruit. Somehow we got a window table every morning, and although the falls are perhaps a half-mile away as the crow flies, it was still great to see them.

    The first night we had dinner at the hotel, and as expected, it was quite expensive by Argentinian standards. It was delicious, though, and the chef's menu was a good value overall, considering the quality and quantity of food. There's an a la carte menu, and a buffet. At 155 pesos for the buffet, I didn't feel I could eat enough to justify that, but it looked good. The chef's menu, which was definitely more than enough, was 110 pesos. According to the guidebook and locals, tips of 10% are standard.

    The second night we took the bus into town (Puerto Iguazu), at a cost of 5 pesos, and went to a pleasant little Italian restaurant that I think is called El Piacere. We had a friendly waiter and the food was good. We took the bus back, and by showing our Sheraton room key, we did not have to pay another entrance fee into the park. There's a bus stop for the local bus at the entrance to the park, and also a short distance from the hotel.

    The third night we had signed up for the full moon walk (I recommend booking through Macocu Tours), and opted for the included buffet dinner in a restaurant that is just inside the entrance to the park. We had gone to Brazil that day, and did not return to the hotel before going to dinner around 8 PM. At 55 pesos, this was a very good value considering the amount and quality of food offered.

    I know the Sheraton offers cheaper dinner and lunch options in the bar, but we never tried that. And we never ate lunch on any of the days. With the buffet breakfast and the odd snack and all the hiking, we didn't really feel like eating again until dinner.

    Next, I'll describe our hiking and excursions at the falls.

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    After the flight and taxi and check-in at the Sheraton we were ready to hike. It would have been best if we had gotten up early sometime for sunrise, but we never did. The park does not open until 8 AM anyway, but still we really never got going before 10 AM or 10:30 AM. Because of this we probably had more crowds than we would have otherwise, but it was never unbearable. The parks close at 6 PM, so you can't be wandering around after dark, at least not legally.

    On the Argentinian side, during the course of our stay, we did the Lower Circuit, the ferry ride to Isla San Martin and exploring Isla San Martin, the Upper Circuit, the Green Trail, the train ride through the park and the hike to Devil's Throat (Garganta del Diablo) both during the day and for the full moon walk, and the Macuco Trail. I think there were likely a few more places too, but nothing out of the way.

    The Macuco Trail has only one waterfall, at the end of the trail, but it is great for seeing wildlife. We saw numerous monkeys.
    Most of these hikes are technically easy. On the Lower Circuit, as you head down to the free ferryboat that takes you to Isla San Martin, you have to scramble over rocks a bit. This is also the route you take if you want to do the boat ride under the falls from the Argentinian side.

    We did our daytrip to Brazil as follows. First, we took the bus from the Sheraton to town (Puerto Iguazu), and then caught another bus to take us across the Brazilian border. There is a border point where you get your passport stamped as having left Argentina. You then get back on the bus, and go to the Brazilian border point. I had paid $36 CAD at the Brazilian consulate in Vancouver to get a Brazilian visa. My friend used her German passport, and no Brazilian visa is required for Germans. However, this was all a moot point, as we were told not to get off the bus for the border point unless we were planning to stay overnight in Brazil. So no one looked at our passports, and so I guess I got the visa for nothing, but who could know that. I know people with US passports are often reluctant to go to Brazil for the day because Americans are charged a reciprocity fee of $200 USD or so. But if the same policy applies when you cross the border for a daytrip to Brazil, you can get away without it, whether or not this is the way it is supposed to be. Unfortunately, I don't know if you can count on this.

    After not getting checked at the Brazilian border, the bus driver let us out on the highway and told us to get another bus to the falls, and we did find the bus stop about 100 meters away. This threw us for a loop as we thought we were actually going to Foz do Iguacu bus station to catch the bus. There we were on the highway in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, it was very hot, and I felt slightly panicky. I insisted we take the secure cab from the taxi stand that was right there, and I would pay for it. My friend wanted to wait for the bus, but I was feeling really nervous. Anyway, she negotiated the taxi price down to 40 Argentinian pesos ($11 USD) and away we went for a 10-15 minute ride. I had read in my guidebook that Foz do Iguacu was dangerous, and the taxi driver said there were purse snatchers (of course he had an incentive to play up the danger). I saw some shanties not too far away at the edge of the highway.

    Anyway, we got to the Brazilian national park, and although there were MasterCard symbols everywhere, they didn't take MasterCard except MasterCard Maestro. As we didn't have Brazilian currency (an oversight - probably should have paid the exchange fee to get some beforehand), I was able to pay the admission fee in USD which I just happened to have with me. The price for the two of us was $18.80 USD, and I had a $20, so this was better than paying the equivalent with a large Argentine bill, which was our alternative. There's a free bus which takes you from stop to stop through the park. Our impression is that the Brazilian side is perhaps more fully developed with more activities available than on the Argentinian side. Bungee jumping, abseiling, helicopter tours, etc. None of these interested us, however.

    I also checked out the elegant Hotel Cataratas that is in the Brazilian park. If you are planning to visit Iguazu and cross to Brazil, it might make sense to spend two nights at the Sheraton and two nights at Hotel Cataratas to allow you a full chance to experience both sides.

    We then did the main hiking trail that leads to viewing the falls. On the Argentinian side, the planks and rails are brown, but they are green on the Brazilian side. Again, the hike was very easy. We had beautiful views on the way, and then we got to to the end and saw the beautiful panoramic view you can only get on the Brazilian side. On the Argentinian side, you can get up very close to the Garganta del Diablo, but on the Brazilian side you have the experience of being completely surrounded by waterfalls. Both are spectacular.

    After some time there, we walked to another section where we saw a quiet part of the river. Then we got on the bus with the intention of going to the bird park. But we met a guide who was fluent in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Hebrew, and Russian and he persuaded us (in English) to take a combination jeep/boat tour. We did, and it was a great experience. You get yet another view from the water, and we went under a waterfall. Going in the jeep through the jungle, with the guide explaining various things to us was great too. The price is about $80 USD, and I know some people we talked to thought that was expensive, but what can you do for a once in a lifetime experience.

    We could have paid 260 pesos for a roundtrip taxi from the Sheraton to the Brazilian park, and the taxi driver would have waited 2-4 hours while we did the main hike. But we spent at least 6 hours in the park, so I'm glad we did not go for that more costly option. With the cab ride and all the buses we took there and back, the price for the two of us probably was around 100 pesos total. On the way back, we were with a group of about 8 people waiting for the bus back to Argentina, so it did not feel so intimidating to be standing there on the highway.

    Instead of returning to our hotel, we went to the entrance of the park. Our stay coincided with a full moon, and I had previously reserved a full moon walk and buffet dinner through Macuco Tours before I left. Then I had paid for the tour at their office, which is conveniently located at the Sheraton. I think the cost of the full moon walk is 80 pesos, and 55 pesos for the dinner, per person. After a very nice dinner, we waited outside for instructions on how to proceed, and the guides showed up a little later than the appointed time. We got some instructions about the walk (no smoking for one thing) and information about the jungle at night, and we headed off to the train. At night you can hear the crickets, and other interesting noises. Once you're off the train, you walk to Garganta del Diablo. It is a good idea to be careful of course, because the moon provides some light, but it's not exactly midday. It truly is a great experience to be able to do this, if you are lucky enough to be in Iguazu on a clear night during the full moon. The falls and the jungle are a magnificent, but somehow different, sight at night.

    After our walk and train ride back, we were provided with complimentary Caipirinha cocktails. Here's my guilty admission: I like to eat all the lime, rind and all. But it was late, and we were tired, so we had only one of these. We paid 20 pesos for the short taxi ride back to the Sheraton, but we were sort of a captive market at that point.

    Backing up a bit, when I took the train during the day, I was just sitting there when I felt a very sharp sting in my mid-thigh. Of course, I feared I had been bitten by a deadly scorpion or something, and it was quite painful. We talked to the staff, and my friend and I were loaded into a little assistance vehicle that took us to the first aid station. I was feeling terribly embarrassed, but my friend quite enjoyed the ride. Then I explained the situation to the nurse and doctor, and they laughed when I asked if it was dangerous. They thought it was a bee sting. They gave me some antihistamines just in case. Then the next day when we went to Brazil, I put my hand on a handrail right on top of a bee, and believe it or not, got another bee sting, this time in my hand. At that point, I was pretty sure the sting yesterday was the same thing, so I was slightly relieved. Both are healed now.

    Despite using DEET, I managed to get three mosquito bites in Iguazu, but luckily did not get the dengue fever that is now proving to be a significant problem in Argentina. I had gotten a yellow fever vaccine before I left, which I think is a good idea. I had not put DEET in my clothes, but I am thinking that with the prevalence of dengue, it might be a good idea. The signs at the airport that I later noticed suggested this was a good idea.

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    Excellent report. Sounds like you had a great time.

    We must have had the same bus driver! We we were given the same information about staying on the bus for entry into Brazil. Although as UK citizens we don't have to pay visa fees but I understand it is very expensive for US nationals.

    Looking forward to teh rest of your report.

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    Thanks everyone!

    My friend and I flew back on Aerolineas Argentina, which I know had a bad reputation at one time, but our flight was on time and all went well. Although my friend noticed they had a rather lax attitude towards cockpit security, with one of the pilots flirting with the flight attendants with the cockpit door open for half an hour or so. Even as the plane was descending, that pilot was not in his seat.

    We went back to the Marriott, which was great again. One of my few complaints about the Marriott is that you have to go up stairs with your luggage, as there is no elevator between the reception and the first floor. Usually the bellmen are there, but then I feel obliged to tip. A very small point, and a very small expense.

    My friend went off to Ushuaia the next day, and I remained in Buenos Aires. We both switched to hostels for this portion of our stay. As you can see, my friend and I are mostly in agreement when it comes to traveling styles, as we both like nice hotels when we can get great deals on points, but are also willing to stay in hostels.

    Hostel Suites Florida is actually very nice. I posted a review on TripAdvisor if you want to read more. I had a private room with a private bathroom. My first room (I had booked my stay in two parts) was a bit noisy during the day, as you could hear the hawkers on Florida Street. But my second was very quiet. Both rooms were newly renovated, with sparkling hardwood floors, chic decor, pretty good bathrooms, and excellent, strong air conditioning. It's a big hostel, and the reception staff can get very busy at times, but it's very clean with great services. There's a board with all sorts of hostel-sponsored activities, including estancia tours, tango shows, guided walks, football matches, Tigre daytrips, and so forth.

    As Buenos Aires was in a heat wave during my stay, I was so thrilled about the air conditioning that I really cannot express it. Now that I have seen the city, I think that on a subsequent visit I probably would want to stay in Recoleta or Palermo, but having good air conditioning and a modern, clean room would be even more important. There's nothing wrong with staying at the Marriott or Hostel Suites Florida in terms of location, but I think it did feel a little hectic, and I am not one who is usually bothered by hecticness.

    Some things I did:
    Visited San Telmo. The walk there from the Marriott was not that great in parts. We did this in the early evening, and parts of the walk felt deserted and creepy, with boarded up buildings and graffiti, and the frequently encountered rough sidewalks. We didn't make it the full distance, as my friend did not feel comfortable. We did walk it in daylight, and made it to Calle San Lorenzo, which is very nice, and to the mercado, but parts of this walk were just not pleasant.
    However, I went back to San Telmo on a Sunday night when I was going to a tango show. I arrived at the venue early, and so took a walk around. Luckily, this was just when Plaza Dorregos market was shutting down, and there were numerous musical groups in the streets. I really enjoyed being there at that time, hearing the groups, and seeing all the people.
    Another time I went to San Telmo for a hostel-sponsored pub crawl. Now, I am neither the age nor the demographic for a pub crawl, but I thought I might was well try it. I did enjoy chatting with many travelers I met, and the guides are fun. However, by the second bar (both of the bars were at different hostels), I had had enough to drink, and I grabbed a book from the reading exchange area, and found a corner and started reading. I also spent some time outside the bars chatting with other travelers, as it was always quite noisy inside. A man was walking along and asked me what the event was, and I did my best to explain in Spanish. Although I am not certain, I think he was trying to persuade me to go with him to other bars! Which I declined. In fact, shortly thereafter I got into a taxi and headed back. The young people continued on to another bar and a disco.
    Tango shows, both of which I arranged through the hostel:

    La Ventana
    This is held in a very elegant venue. The food is great, and the wine is unlimited. I had a 30-peso cocktail (quite steep, I know, by Argentine standards probably), but it was a really nicely done caipirinha. They do tango, but also some other styles of music too, including a little chamamé. Of course it is tourist-oriented, but I still recommend it. Of course it is not traditional tango to end with "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" (in Spanish), but who cares. At this one, they put me at a table by myself, as everyone there was with others.
    www.la-ventana.com.ar/

    La Boca Tango
    I was put at a table with three other women, all of whom were very interesting. Two of them were young Irishwomen had been traveling around South America for three months, and the other was a Brazilian woman from Rio. The food was good, maybe not quite so good as at La Ventana. As you may know, La Boca is a colorful, dockside area. The building has a courtyard area where everyone stands, after dinner, while they do the operetta, based on life in Buenos Aires circa 1900. Then you go inside and sit down and watch a regular tango show. I don't think they had any other musical styles. This was a fun experience, but don't drink too much considering you have to stand for 20 or 30 minutes (and wear comfortable shoes).
    (to be continued)

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    Some other interesting places I saw and things I did:

    Cathedral Metropolitana - Easter service. This was for cultural reasons, and I had read about the pipe organ. The music was good. I understood little of the service, other than a word here and there, whereas I think I am able to follow services in Mexico much better.

    In fact, I seemed to have a hard time getting into understanding people in Spanish, which is not surprising given my tenuous grasp, but it is easier for me in Mexico (and I am thinking maybe it was even easier in Spain). After a week or so, I was starting to feel more comfortable, but of course I have a long way to go. Part of the reason, too, I have to admit is that where I stayed and visited, there was quite often an English-speaking person available so my lazy tendencies could easily manifest themselves. But if I made the effort, people could understand me. I just had a hard time understanding them sometimes.

    But the highlight of the cathedral service is that it ended with the choir singing the Hallelujah chorus, in English, with the pipe organ. How beautiful, and what a surprise. I had read a long time ago that Handel intended his Messiah oratorio to be played at Easter, not Christmas as has become traditional.

    I would recommend dressing respectfully, of course, but quite a few people (whom I doubt were all tourists) were quite casually and even skimpily dressed. So I think matters must be more relaxed than in Italy, for example.

    Museum MALBA - This is a beautiful museum that features modern Latin American art. I had lunch here one day, as I had been having a hard time today after twisting my ankle on one of the nasty sidewalks, and after a long walk anyway, I had found the museum was closed. So I splurged, as it's definitely above the normal price point in BA. But it was really nice to sit in that beautiful setting. Security guards are constantly walking back and forth along the patio, which is good of course, but it is not something I am accustomed to (the same thing is typical in Mexico City). I saw a woman order an espresso, which had a small serving of complimentary chocolate cake. She was there perhaps 10 minutes, talking on her cell phone the whole time, drank her espresso, did not touch the cake, and ended up paying 20 pesos for her little espresso (11 pesos for the espresso, 8 pesos cover chage, and I saw her give one peso tip). I came back another day, coincidentally on a day that the museum had a greatly reduced admission. But I had read they had English-speaking guided tours that day, and when I asked that was not the case. But they had printed materials, and it was fine.

    So to back up, on the day of the twisted ankle, I had set out to see Our Lady of Guadalupe church in Palermo. But it was closed, so I couldn't look inside. Then I had set off towards the planetarium and walked in the wrong direction. Then I had righted myself, but in the course of looking up at the street sign, I tripped over a treacherous bit of sidewalk. Then for whatever reason, I did not hop in a cab, which I should have done, but kept up for another 20 blocks or so to the planetarium, which was my goal. I was also really rushing to get there for the 1 PM show. This, of course, was silly. I should have gotten in a cab, and I should have rested. Anyway.

    The planetarium has about 10 staff who seem responsible for selling tickets. But only 4 people showed up for this show. I had a difficult time figuring out what was going on, but we were called up at about 1:15. I had been envisioning a planetarium experience like we have in Vancouver and Seattle, where you sit in a comfy chair, and have an immersive, surround-sound experience with the cosmos represented on a spherical ceiling. Alas, this was quite different. The astronomer took us on a walk around this darkened area, with various aspects of the universe, the Milky Way, the solar system, etc. represented. With a twisted ankle, the last thing I felt like doing was standing for another 30 minutes, but I did not see a graceful way to exit. Because I know something about astronomy, I think I understood this, or at least knew what he was talking about. It's certainly a unique experience, but too bad I didn't know about the lack of comfy seats ahead of time.

    The parks and lake in Palermo are quite beautiful, and I visited these on two occasions - Easter Sunday and the following Tuesday which I have described. I would have liked to try the paddle boat, but I was too nervous to do it on my own.

    The difficult day I described ended well after my late lunch at MALBA. I went back to the hostel, and then back to the Marriott. My friend was coming back from Ushuaia, and we had agreed I'd stay with her again for her last night/day in Buenos Aires. She had arranged with the Marriott so I could check in first, which they graciously allowed. I got a junior suite on the executive floor, with a very nice living room and a very nice bedroom. I got some snacks in the executive lounge. Back in the suite, I put the air conditioning on, put my foot up, and watched TV. I think it's totally necessary, in a hectic city like BA, to allow oneself plenty of downtime. If I hadn't been rushing and hadn't been exasperated with myself for getting my directions mixed up, I doubt I would have twisted my ankle.

    Anyway, I relaxed, and watched Law and Order (which I had never seen before) in English with Spanish subtitles. The plot was quite extraordinary. My friend came along, with no problems with her Aerolineas flights, and we decided to just get room service. It really is not badly priced, considering what I am used to seeing at 4* or 5* hotels, and the server came along with a dining table and chairs and a full setup. The hamburgers were good too, and my friend had some wine which she had bought.

    (to be continued with more activities, etc.)

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    Am loving your report--we head out to BA for our first-ever trip in just over two weeks, and your report is making me wish it was tomorrow! Thanks for writing it, and keep the details coming if you have more.

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    Buenos Aires Free Tours
    http://www.buenosairesfreetour.com/en/index.html

    I took both the morning and evening versions. You can't go wrong with these. Gaston gave the morning tour which featured a walk from Congreso to the Plaza de Mayo (and some other points). Sol (who I have read on TripAdvisor is his sister) gave the evening tour of aristocratic Buenos Aires, from Plaza San Martin to Recoleta. Both speak English very well, are very engaged with the subject, are well-informed, and will give opinions if asked. So feel free to ask your difficult political or historical questions, or just regular tourist questions. Of course you should tip if you appreciate the tours.

    Cafe Clasica y Moderna
    http://www.clasicaymoderna.com/
    This cafe offers concerts in an intimate venue. One night it was tango songs played on the guitar, with a surprise singer. Another night it was boleros (which I would tend to think of as similar to torch songs, based on what I heard), with a backup 3-piece ensemble. There's also a bookstore. One concert was 50 pesos, and the other was 40 pesos, and you are expected to order 30 pesos of food and drink. Certainly the concerts are not expensive by Canadian or US standards, but they are not particularly cheap by Buenos Aires standards. The crowd is well-dressed and middle-aged. The place was always completely full. Although I managed to get in both times, it was a bit tenuous. So make your reservations in advance, and dress up a bit. During the first concert, people joined in for certain songs - clearly they were favorites even if I didn't know them. In the second concert, people were waving their cloth napkins and waving their candles above their heads for certain songs. The waiter here was particularly considerate on my second visit. I ordered a Spanish tortilla (omelet) and a salad, but he explained to me that it was too much food, so he would make my order half and half (yay me, because by this point I was understanding this in Spanish). Indeed, the half and half portion was still huge and I could not eat it all.

    Estancia Don Silvano
    I signed up for this estancia day trip through the hostel, and it's also patronized by people at other hotels as well. A bus comes and picks you up, and you drive out of the city. On the bus, a bilingual tour guide explains some aspects of Argentinian rural life, and shows some implements (like a whip with three ropes and balls attached, a maté gourd, etc.) that she passes around.
    When we arrived, we were served empanadas, wine, juice, and water. Then we could decide whether to go horseback riding, carriage riding, or tractor-wagon riding. I did both the horseback riding and the tractor-wagon riding. The ride is short, so you wouldn't do this day trip if you wanted to do serious horseback riding, but as I was initially apprehensive about horse riding at all, a short ride was fine with me. It was a hot, dry day, but there is shade available.

    After that portion of the entertainment, we were brought in for lunch. What a lunch. The salad, potatoes, and bread were simple but good. Then they brought out platter after platter of different types of meats. I think the best steak was actually the last type of meat served, but I had eaten too much by then to even think of it. The wine was basically unlimited, from what I could see. We were served dulce con leche ice cream for dessert.

    The entertainment was fun too. Folk singer Roberto Paz and a guitarist and two dancers did various selections from all over Argentina, including a bit of chamamé. But they also did Patagonia, Santiago del Estero, etc., and of course they ended up with the tango, and people did get tango lessons too if they wanted. All this while we were eating. Then Roberto Paz switched to doing songs from all over the world. For each of Austria and China, two ladies from those countries jumped up to take over from the version he was doing. For the United States, he did "When the Saints Go Marching In". For Canada, he did a version of "This Land is Your Land" adapted to the Canadian landscape, but I know it only in the original Woody Guthrie version. For England, he did a Beatles song ("Let it Be"), etc. I really liked Roberto Paz. I have a friend who knows a lot about folk music who says that he is well-known, and that she has heard of him, but he has hardly any Internet presence, and I'm not sure if she is confusing him with someone else. (Or maybe people can even be well-known without an Internet presence, in the right circles!)
    After dinner, we watched various gaucho horse race tricks, including ring catching. This was fun too.
    After that, presumably they were worried that we were still not fully fed, because they gave us some sweets and maté tea.

    I know this is a very touristy experience, but it was very enjoyable. I saw that they do have an inn-like building that was the former stable, from what I could tell. I walked through it, and it looks like a very pleasant place to stay overnight.

    Anyway, I know that other estancias are highly recommended here no doubt for good reason, but if you have time for only a day trip, Estancia Don Silvano will be quite adequate.

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    Gran Cafe Tortoni
    My friend and I visited here one afternoon. It is a lovely and elegant cafe, I think the oldest in Buenos Aires. I had a very nice iced coffee (maybe cappucino) with orange flavoring. Note that in Starbucks or any such establishment, I absolutely cannot stand any of the yucky syrups they want to put in coffee, but in Buenos Aires they use some other method, because the flavorings are very nice at all the cafes I visited.


    Some areas I visited (this may be repetitive):

    San Telmo
    Described above. Great to visit when there is action happening, but rather desolate and trashy at certain times and places.

    La Boca
    In addition to visiting by myself with the tango tour, my friend and I also visited here one afternoon. The taxi from Microcentro is about 15-20 pesos. We were really warned about La Boca. My friend had heard a story about three American men who were held up at gunpoint and forced to go to an ATM and withdraw money. So we took only cash (no cards) and we stuck only to the clearly touristy areas. It does look rough at the perimeters, no question about that. In the touristy area, when you walk down the main street, you are continually accosted to go into their restaurant or tango show. The side streets of the touristy area are not bad. The main attraction, of course, are the colorful century-old dock workers' houses. It is very picturesque and quite worth seeing.

    Recoleta
    This is a lovely, pleasant area that I visited a number of times. The famous cemetery, with its mausoleums in numerous architectural styles, has to be seen to be believed. I happened to visit Recoleta when they were having the weekend artisans' fair. I heard a great electronica group playing on the sidewalk in front of McDonald's. The shopping centre here (I forgot what it's called) is fun to visit. Avenida Alvear, a very posh street, is in Recoleta.

    Retiro
    The Marriott and Plaza San Martin are here. I'm not sure of the dividing line between Retiro and Microcentro. I was told that a few hundred meters behind the bus station is a shantytown, which of course I did not visit. A lot of the attacks where people are hit with some substance that "helpers" then attempt to clean seem to occur around here. But in the area of the Marriott and heading to Recoleta, it certainly looks nice.

    Microcentro
    Calle Florida is a pedestrian street that feels safe to walk, with so many people for most of the day and night. But much of this area, which is a business district, is sort of on the charmless side.

    Montserrat
    This is between Microcentro and San Telmo, and has some nice Belle Epoque buildings, but it also has some closed up, graffiti'd buildings.

    Palermo
    I think I did not explore this area fully enough, because I think of it in terms of the parks and museums, but not much else. La Flor is either here or in Recoleta, and is worth seeing for sure.

    Puerto Madero
    Full of attractive skyscrapers, this is a restored waterfront area. This is a great place to walk around, and very pleasant on a warm evening.

    Ecological reserve near Microcentro and Puerto Madero
    Just at the edge of a city, by the Buquebus terminal, is an ecological reserve. My friend and I walked here for a couple hours one morning. Nothing too extraordinary, but some nice vegetation and trails. A stray dog continued to follow us hopefully for our entire walk. It was so sad to see how hopeful she looked, but we had no food. There are a fair number of stray dogs in the city, no doubt in part due to economic factors. I saw a sign in a Recoleta park to the effect of "Please do not abandon your pets. They need you."

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    One other place I stayed, for my last two nights, was Hotel Concorde, at Avenida 25 de Mayo and Viamonte. I had a great deal through HotelClub.
    www.ConcordeHotel.com.ar

    I'd say this is analogous to what you would expect from a 3* family hotel in Italy. I was lucky enough to have a small sitting room and a bedroom. The bathroom was quite quirky, with an oddly placed toilet. Like all of the bathrooms in all the places I stayed, it had a bidet.

    I think the only English-language channel here was TruTV, which featured various real-life crime cases. But I enjoyed watching TV a bit here, I have to admit. The location is convenient enough if you are staying in Microcentro, but as I said above, I think Recoleta or Palermo would generally be better. The air conditioning at this hotel was very good in my room too, so I really lucked out on the air conditioning throughout my entire stay in Argentina.

    The breakfast here had a fair number of choices, and although it wasn't the best buffet ever, I think it is pretty typical for an Argentinian 3* hotel.

    So to sum it up, I had good experiences at all four places I stayed: Marriott Plaza, Sheraton Iguazu, Hostel Suites Florida, and Concorde Hotel.

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    Food
    Although food is not super-cheap, the portions are always good-sized and I always found the food to be well-prepared. Unfortunately, the details are vague for most places I went to.

    One fast-food type place is on Esmeralda near Avenida de Mayo. It features various vegetarian options, and the prix fixe menus are a good deal. You order the food at the counter, and it's brought to you. A nice entree, lemonade, and dessert was 26 pesos. The entree, for which there were several choices, was a nice vegetarian cutlet with vegetables on the side. There were several dessert choices, but I chose a roasted apple, which I found delicious.

    There's a complex of technology companies in Microcentro, and one day my friend and I met someone she knew for lunch. We went to Sabado's nearby. This has a great prix fixe menu that is between 25-30 pesos (approximately) with several good choices. (I know the right term here is not "prix fixe", but I can't recall the term.)

    Another time I had a nice wholewheat sandwich with bocconcini and tomatoes at a cafe near the Obelisco. I had a nice coffee drink and a huge serving of chocolate mousse cake at a cafe in the Recoleta shopping centre.

    Many places offer a good deal for prix fixe dinner menus too, so take a look when you are walking around. I had one such dinner on Santa Fe Avenue near Callao.

    Taxis and other transport
    As visitors to Argentina know, it's often quite difficult to get any amount of coins. There were several days on which I could not take the bus, because I did not have coins. Now, if I had carefully conserved them in Iguazu, I might have been okay, but I didn't realize how scarce coins were and how hard to obtain.

    I took the subte (subway) a few times. I found, though, that while it's helpful for a few places, you will typically have to walk a long distance anyway. I'm not positive if they require coins or not, but I only used coins.

    The bus definitely requires coins. You have to tell the bus driver where you want to get off, and he tells you the fare to deposit. The problem I had was that I wasn't sure where I was going. I was planning to ride until I saw something interesting. I said something random, and that seemed to work, as I was charged a standard fare.

    So I ended up using taxis, probably more than I ever have in my life. Most taxi fares are in the range of 10-15 pesos, and can cover a surprising amount of distance for that. It can be a bit tricky for taxi drivers, because so many streets are one-way. I knew that, and I paid attention to whether their routes made sense. You can also ask for an estimate before you get in the cab. I think that with all the taxi rides I did, I may have been charged an excessive 5 or 10 pesos in total, so I think that's not too bad.

    The most handsome taxi driver of all, who spoke the best English, freely admitted he was a disaster as a taxi driver. He thought he was dropping me off right by my hotel, but he got confused the numbers between the north/south and the east/west, and between Avenida de Mayo and Avenida 25 de Mayo. He also lopped some of the price off, because he was such a disaster by taking the wrong route. I realized his mistakes, but thought it best to just pay my 10 pesos and walk the last few blocks myself.

    The taxi drivers were good to talk to, as much as possible in Spanish, and sometimes some in English. A couple were taciturn, but they got me there quickly and efficiently, so that wasn't a problem.

    The traffic is terrible in Buenos Aires, and the lanes seem to be suggestions more than anything. Not all taxis seem to have working seatbelts.

    Walking
    Of course I walked and walked and walked. But I often found this stressful. The sidewalks are in terrible shape throughout, and as mentioned, I managed a nasty twisted ankle because of them. I probably felt more nervous than was necessary when it came to crossing at crosswalks and lights, as I would dash across at a sprint. After I twisted my ankle, my sprinting was curtailed, and I think it was actually less stressful.

    I wouldn't advise against walking, but with such a huge, spread-out city, just accept that walking everywhere is probably not an efficient plan. Conserve your energy for walking in nice, pleasant places like the parks in Palermo, and take taxis a lot.

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    General thoughts
    I really enjoyed Iguazu. Although I always think of myself as city-oriented, it was great to have the experience of being out in the jungle, and seeing the waterfalls, wildlife, and vegetation. It's a great help to stay at the Sheraton. I'm sure you can manage fine by staying 20 miles away and taking a taxi or bus in, but it's sure convenient not to have to do so.

    For Buenos Aires, I was surprised that I found the city a little difficult. I have been to many cities, including Madrid, Rome, Bucharest, and Mexico City, and amazingly I had few feelings of being uneasy in those places. I did feel uneasy or a little unsettled at times in Buenos Aires, not due to any safety risk, I don't think, but just a combination of the traffic, no coins, broken-up sidewalks, the unusual heat, and sometimes shuttered buildings and graffiti. But my comfort level increased as I stayed there longer and just focused on the nice parts. So I think it's good I stayed as long as I did in Buenos Aires, because it took me a bit of time to feel comfortable. The more I talked to people, the more comfortable I felt, as well.

    I had a nap a couple of days (a good idea, I think, particularly if you will be out late), and one day I shocked myself by having breakfast, going back to bed, and sleeping until noon. But that was an exception.

    I definitely want to see more of Argentina, and when I go to Buenos Aires again, I'll definitely choose a nice neighborhood. But the fact that the whole trip takes close to 24 hours in total to get there, and 24 hours in total to get back is a bit offputting. I always want to conserve my miles, but I am thinking that business class sure sounds like a nice idea for any future trips, even if it does cost 50% more miles on Aeroplan. I am also thinking that for a future trip, I would save about three hours by stopping in Santiago, and then going onwards from there by bus in due course. This was suggested to me if I wanted to vist Mendoza, for example.

    Thanks again, everyone, and let's see when I can get back to Argentina again.

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    Great and loong review. Interesting...
    I feel the NW MUST be your nest destinatiosn in Argnetina.
    As I assume it will not be your only time in my wonderful country!
    The NW has a lot to offer completelly different to what you have already seen.
    Warm regards,
    Flintstones

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    WillTravel, thanks for your great report, I could see that you had a great time; you are right that the time for you to get there is offputting,(and I was complaining of my 13 hours direct flight from Germany) but I think that the remaining of Argentina that you still have to see is well worth it, I hope this also includes Corrientes and chamame', Happy travels and come back, Argentina is waiting for you!

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    Excellent report!! Now I want to go to Argentina. When we went to Iguazu we spent most of our time on the Brazil side with just one day on the other. Both very good. But...we too went to the First Aid station for a minor problem. They must think foreigners are very accident prone.

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    Will, you wrote such a wonderful report, so well. It is something I will recommend to people when they are planning visits here to BA.

    I have lived here almost 4 years and have not had the mashed squash dish yet :)
    La Flor is in Recoleta, just about 2 blocks from the Recoleta Feria/Facultad de Derecho ( the huge building with all the columns )..

    I was horrified that you were stung twice ! I am allergic so this is scary to me.
    I am glad everything went as well as it did : )
    I am recommending this report to some people I know who are planning their trip now.

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