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Trip Report for May 2008 (Buenos Aires & Salta and surroundings) - Part II

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Jun 1st, 2008, 06:55 PM
  #1
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Trip Report for May 2008 (Buenos Aires & Salta and surroundings) - Part II

Prior to our departure Isabel mailed us Tips and a calendar for the trip with all essential info/day recorded in it. They proved to be very useful. I will include her Tips at the end of Part II.

We lucked out as we were not impacted by the smoke that covered BA for a few days before we got there or by any airline strike or the farmers’ strike.

The flight from NY to BA was uneventful (which in today’s world is great). The only surprise was that AA changed the seats such that they barely recline which made sleeping much more uncomfortable than before. There is no service during the night and when I got up for some water, there was no water anywhere and nobody to help, the stewardesses were all asleep.

Upon arrival we followed instructions and exchanged money at Banco de la Nacion and found without any problems Taxi Ezeiza. There were no lines. Contrary to popular belief they didn’t take credit cards but the all inclusive charge was 88 pesos, which was very reasonable compared to everybody else’s charges. Their receipt provided an offer for the return trip for 60 pesos (which we took advantage of).

We arrived to the Marriott (formerly the Plaza) around 11am where about 6 people were standing at the door helping the guests. It was too early to check in so we left our luggage in storage, valuables in the safe and just walked in the area until 12:30 when Isabel promised to be there with our tickets.

Immediately we found the leather store mentioned by many, Silvia & Mario and got an introduction from one of their helpful sales ladies to the many different leather options one can have. The styles are very different and they have a huge array of very nice jackets, coats, sweaters, etc. They offered to make any model in any color in 2 days but we wanted to first look around in other places.

We found the place that I selected for our first lunch close to the hotel and then returned to meet Isabel who was already waiting for us. What a pleasure it was to meet her! While we have just corresponded before, we felt like knowing her for a long time and knew that we found a friend. She brought a whole package with her with a lot of useful information. Unfortunately she could not join us for lunch but promised to stay in touch, which she did relentlessly for the whole duration of our trip.

The room we got was very clean and had everything we needed: a comfortable bed, functional air conditioning, a bathroom with plenty of space, etc. We liked the down comforter and pillows. The service was exceptional; the staff at the Concierge was very helpful.

We had lunch at the El Establo on Paraguay 489. No reservations were needed at the time we got there but by the time we left the place was full. The food was very good but was more expensive than in most other places where we ate. They had some sweats with chestnuts on the menu but we were too full for deserts. We decided to try them at another time but never got to it. Next time.

In the afternoon, based on Isabel’s advice, we just hang around; walked down on Florida and then on a portion of Ave Santa Fe, the park near the hotel, etc. just to get a sense of direction. We had no plans for the night as we had to still unpack and get some rest after the overnight trip.

Our breakfasts consisted of the traditional and very good medialunas and expresso coffee in one of the chain coffee places on Florida, close to the hotel.

On Friday and Saturday we walked a LOT. We went to Purto Madero, San Telmo, down on Ave de Majo, Recoleta, to the leather district near Murillo St. We stopped at famous places, looked at many of the majestic buildings, took brakes at coffee shops (tasted many versions of dulce de leche) and just enjoyed the city which is very walkable and reminded us of Europe. We had no problems finding what we wanted and if needed asked for help. Our Spanish consists only of a few words but since we speak Romanian (another Latin language), we can read and understand most of the words. Speech is different because the porteno Spanish has a very different pronunciation than Spanish in Spain. I had a small phrase book but I never used it. Most people spoke English in BA. I wrote down before I left something I assumed that I will need: “quisieramos compartir” (we would like to share), which came in handy but only in the N-W. We knew that portions usually are big, but they were even bigger than expected. The two of us on some occasions could not finish the shared meal. We had a great lunch in San Telmo (on a side street off the tourist track, if I remember correctly at the intersection of Moreno & Piedras; I lost their menu which I took with the intent to mention them…). Many times we just had a late lunch and something really small for dinner. Steaks as expected were incredible and VERY reasonably priced. One evening we went to Las Canitas and ordered the grilled combination of organs. It was different, some of it we liked, some of it we didn’t but at least we tried it.

Isabel checked in almost every day to ensure that everything is OK with us, leaving us lovely messages. I felt as having a mother again taking care of us like nobody else.

We went on Saturday afternoon to Confeteria Ideal to watch the milonga. It was interesting to see it; most dancers were good but not “experts”. No reservations were needed (Scarlett, you were right).

The Saturday “feria” in Recoleta was very nice, lots of arts and crafts. Obviously I could not resist the temptation and bought some jewelry, a set of white, cotton patns and top with local colorful decoration (and a little Argentinian flag as a broche), a practical bag for storing plastic shopping bags (which usually create a mess) and two “sporty” handbags with very interesting burned in motives. The handbags one sees in BA are not inexpensive but they gorgeous and very different and of top quality. I had a very hard time not buying more but I already have a collection at home matching everything and never use any, except my old black faithful which has compartments for everything.

The leather district was interesting but the selection is somewhat more uniform and we didn’t see anything as nice as we have seen at Silvia & Mario. We bought a pair of very nice leather slippers for my husband for $12. The nice and stylish leather jackets in other districts are not inexpensive. Most likely they are much better quality that what we get here. But those that we liked were $400-500 and that was more than what we wanted to spend, particularly since we really didn’t need any.

A few times we used cabs and as instructed asked staff at a hotel, restaurant or store to call a cab. We had a list of them with phone numbers. We used mostly City Taxi (4585-5544). Sometimes we had to wait 15-20 minutes for the cab but we were never in a rush so it didn’t matter. As advised, we always had smaller bills (got them at the ATM by taking out 90 pesos at a time).

We carried with us only one credit card and money for the day, placed in a flat wallet hanging in my husbands neck under his shirt. We had a backpack with water and if needed a sweater but no valuables and never had any problems with anyone spraying us or opening the backpack. I didn’t like the idea of having to worry about little kids but we paid attention when we saw many of them together, particularly on Florida Ave.

On Sunday morning we headed for the airport for our trip to the N-W that I will report about in Part III.

Isabel’s TIPS:

MONEY ISSUES

There are many ATM in the city.
During the weekends, it is difficult to get money as the machines are empty.
Even when they are full there is a limit in the withdrawals of u$s 100
Therefore, if you need more than that , you can try 2 or 3 times with the same card withdrawing u$s 100 in each try.

In the city it is better to use ARgentine money.
Try not to accept $arg 100 notes. There have been several cases of fake money.
Try to withdraw $arg 50 or 80 so the ATM will give you small notes.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

SAFETY

As in any big city, people have to take normal precautions.
Your area is over crowded at certain times, people coming and going all the time.
Watch out on Florida Street, specially the very young children you will see everywhere.
They are professional pickpocketers.

Dont go out with your passport You dont need it.
Dont go out with a lot of money. You dont need it.Everything can be paid with credit card. and if you have $arg 300 that will be enough for a day eating out and using taxis.
Though it is advisable to bring 2/3 c.cards for any contingency, dont go out everyday with them. You need only one.

Enter the ATM in the banks when there are other people
Dont count money in the streets.


TAXIS IN THE STREETS VS. REMISSE SERVICES.

Try to use the remisse services that work with all the hotels and restaurants.
Do not hail taxis in the streets.

Tourists use Remisse services as they are reliable and really inexpensive.

---------------------------------------------------------

RESTAURANTS

To go and come back from Restaurants use the remisse services.
The hotel has 2 restaurants inside and they are really good.

ICE CREAMS are famous.: Freddo - Munchis -
------------------------------------------------------

CHANGING MONEY

There are several agencies that change money on Florida.
However i recommend using the Banks. There is one in the corner of the hotel

----------------------------------------------------------

LOCUTORIOS

This are places where long distance calls are inexpensive.
Near your place there are several
A card of $arg 10 will be enough for 15 minutes call to the USA
---------------------------------------

TO TAKE HOME - you can get them in the same International Airport the day you leave. Dont forget to try them during your stay.


HAVANNA alfajores there are several outlets. Try them and buy 2 boxes to take home.

DULCE DE LECHE milk jam and the best in the world.

WINES
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Jun 2nd, 2008, 03:53 AM
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Thank you for a great second chapter, Suzanna!

Isabel's tips were an unexpected treat!

Now tourists will no longer need her help! Or will it work the other way around? LOL!!
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Jun 2nd, 2008, 04:48 AM
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Really enjoying your report and all the tips! What did you think of the location of the Marriott? It is one I had put on the back-burner because of location so would be interested in hearing your thoughts.
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Jun 2nd, 2008, 04:20 PM
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I was warned before we left that the location is "not good". Obviously good or not in the eyes of the viewer. I felt that it was a great location. We didn't go towards the train station and didn't walk around late at night around the hotel. During the day it was close to many places that one wants to go to. Florida is turisty but at least is only for pedestrians and you are spared from the busses, the noise and immediate fume when you walk on it instead of some other narrow sidewalks. When we went out at night we always took cabs. It worked out very well- for us. We did not investigate other places (had a discount for the Marriott) so I cannot compare. Good luck w. your decision and have a fun trip.
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Jun 2nd, 2008, 04:31 PM
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Even though if I were a tourist I would prefer to stay in the Recoleta area, there's no way I would call the Marriott Plaza's location "not good".

It's a matter of taste and anyway, you are within walking distance of the Recoleta.
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Jun 5th, 2008, 02:48 PM
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could you please give an overview of what you did in Salta and NW Argentina? What were the highlights, particularly active type activities, that you think were fantastic?
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Jun 6th, 2008, 08:03 PM
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Tulane, I just posted the report for the trip to the N-W. The scenery is what impressed me the most, but learning about the history was also interesting. There are plenty of places where one can hike but we had no time for hiking and it was also hot. I didn't see marked trails but I didn't look for them either. However, I am not sure what type of activities you are interested in.
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Jun 7th, 2008, 05:26 AM
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Tulane, for sure there are hikes. Also horseback riding, and I think there are other adventure type activities you can do. The driving times between destinations are longer than they would seem on the map, so if you are interested in traveling there, but having time to do more active pursuits, plan your itinerary carefully, or better yet, just plan on a longer time to see everything AND do everything!
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Jun 8th, 2008, 05:49 AM
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Suzanne a couple more questions if you don't mind. Was there a particular store or area that you felt had the best prices/good variety of leather bags & shoes?

Also, on LAN, this is probably a stupid question but does the 3oz carry-on rule apply on inter-Argentina flights? And how much time did you allow to get from hotel to Aeroparque? Thanks!
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Jun 8th, 2008, 06:39 AM
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I'm obviously not Suzanna, but Prüne http://www.prune.com.ar/invierno08/home_i.html
is usually considered the best for leather handbags.

I don't think the 3 oz. rule for carry-ons is enforced for local flights, but I'm not sure.

If your hotel is located in the Recoleta or Palermo, it's only a short cab ride to our local airport, maybe about a quarter of an hour. Estimate a little more, to be on the safe side, if you wish.

Have a great time in our country.
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Jun 8th, 2008, 10:25 AM
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Help, please!

The link posted for Isabel didn't work when I clicked on it. My message was returned for having the wrong e-mail address.


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Jun 8th, 2008, 11:36 AM
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It's a Fodor's technical problem, caboom.

Her e-mail is:

[email protected]

Copy the FULL address. Got it?

Her website is:

http://www.buenosaires-tours.com.ar/index.php

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Jun 8th, 2008, 11:38 AM
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Here you go, and I second everyone else, she is a delight to work with.

"Isabel | Buenos Aires Tours" <[email protected]>
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Jun 8th, 2008, 11:38 AM
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The above links should work, caboom.
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Jun 8th, 2008, 02:50 PM
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av - thanks, yes I'll be in the Recoleta area and have a 7:40am flight, so I figured leaving at about 6:15 should be plenty of time.
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Jun 8th, 2008, 03:10 PM
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That should certainly be plenty of time. Very little traffic at that hour.

Have a great trip.
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Jun 8th, 2008, 07:02 PM
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The NW is really is interesting and the scenery amazing, you can also hike, take a horsebackriding, 4x4, bikes riding, rafting, or just admiring the beauty of the landscape and eating as many empanadas you can,with wine, of course, my favorte is torrontes (late harvest) from Cafayate town. Thank you so much for visiting Salta and the the wonderful NW of Argentina and for telling everybody about your experience.
Thank you so much, for posting and do not forget there is always something else to see in this area.
Flintstones
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Jun 9th, 2008, 05:39 PM
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Tully, sorry for the delay in the answer. None of the airlines in Argentina seemed to care very much about anything. I took on the plane 2 bottles of water (I am always thursty). I decided that if they want to take them away, I will empty them and fill them up after the check point. Nobody wanted to know about them.

However, on my flight back to the US w. AA, after passing the usual checkpoint and before getting on the plane we had to show everything we had in our carry-ons to a line of AA employees. This time the water I bought in the check-in area was taken away, something that never happens in the US. No major deal but I was surprised. The AA staff explained that the local security doesn't pass international security standards and they have to take extra measures....
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Jun 10th, 2008, 07:53 PM
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Thanks Suzanna. Since I'll only be in Iguazu for 2 nights, really want to go carry-on, hopefully it won't be a problem if I have some over 3ozs. I can relate to the randomness - last year leaving CR I handed over my lighter at security (they were still banned) and the lady said 'oh it's a small one, keep it' but then this year (when they have been un-banned) they found & took away 1 of my 2 lighters.
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