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From Argentina to Antarctica: The Ultimate Expedition

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Dec 1st, 2017, 06:37 PM
  #1
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From Argentina to Antarctica: The Ultimate Expedition

And we're off - this time to the White Continent, Earth's final frontier, number seven.

We begin our expedition in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires. From there it's on to Patagonia, where we make our way from Bariloche to El Calafate and finally to Ushuaia.

From Ushuaia we aim for the Antarctica Peninsula on an expedition cruise. Along the way we hope to make stops on the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and South Orkney. What we anticipate will be a journey of a lifetime.

Please join us. Buenos Aires, Argentina, here we come.
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Dec 2nd, 2017, 01:22 AM
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Looking forward to a great trip report, trip planner001.

Do not hesitate to contact me via albertovgalloATyahoo.com if you feel there is anything I can do for you in BA.

Have a great time in my country.
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Dec 2nd, 2017, 06:36 AM
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Signing on. Loved Patagonia, am ambivalent about visiting Antarctica.
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Dec 2nd, 2017, 07:44 AM
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Looking forward to reading all about your adventures. We were saying only yesterday that the only cruises we would even think about taking would be the Navimag trip along the coast of Chile and Antarctica / Falkland Islands.
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Dec 2nd, 2017, 08:12 AM
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Hi crellston - you might want to add Hurtigruten along the Norwegian coast to that list. (Have done Navimag - Hurtigruten is more comfortable and better food, lol, also arguably better (at least more) scenery.)
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Dec 2nd, 2017, 08:35 PM
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AVRooster, thank you so much for the generous offer. I've made a note of your email address. If the rest of Argentina will be like our time at Iguazu Falls a few years ago, then we will be very happy.

Crellston, I'm with you on the cruising. The four of us went on a cruise to Alaska in 2005, and it was our only voyage. While we enjoyed the scenery and even some of the shipboard activities, we much prefer being on land and exploring.

Thursdaysd, interesting you should mention Hurtigruten. Hurtigruten will be the operator of our expedition to Antarctica. We booked on the MS Fram. Honestly, we've been indifferent about the ship; your feedback gives me encouragement.


Arrival in Buenos Aires

We arrived in the Argentine capital on an American Airlines flight from New York City at 10:30 this morning. The 10-hour flight, in economy aboard a Boeing 777-200ER, was comfortable enough. The flight attendants who served us could not be nicer.

Immigration and customs at Ezeiza Airport were both very quick. The taxi counters, however, were less efficient. The counter clerks were slow to take our order. And it took about 10 minutes after we paid for our taxi driver to arrive. Nonetheless, the ride to the Poetry Building - near Recoleta Cemetery - was smooth and easy.

We learned about the Poetry Building from our Lonely Planet guidebook. The online reviews were mostly positive and the photos of the property looked good to us. And we were pleased with its location. We booked Loft 2B, a 2-bedroom apartment - the largest of the property.

We were shown to our apartment shortly after our arrival. As always, we dropped off our belongings, freshened up, and immediately went sightseeing. We typically enjoy acquainting ourselves with a new city with a walking tour of a neighborhood or two. With Buenos Aires, we opted for comfort on our first day. This meant we would focus on Recoleta and Palermo today.


La Dolce Vita

Located northwest of the political center of Buenos Aires, Recoleta and Palermo are home to Buenos Aires' upper class. Recoleta is home to the city's most famous cemetery, while Palermo's highlights include its numerous parks, gardens, and boutique shops.

From our apartment, we headed north on Junin towards Recoleta Cemetery. Before paying homage to Eva Peron, it was lunchtime. We chose La Biela, one of the city's classic grand cafes, located directly across the street from the cemetery. The café offers a faded elegance but reminds me of similar establishments we've visited in Paris and in Vienna. We ordered sandwiches along with a few empanadas as well as Viennese ice coffee. The food was mediocre; the coffee much better.

Stomachs filled, we visited Recoleta Cemetery. We wandered the necropolis, admiring the endless rows and rows of marble mausoleums and the exquisite sculptures and art that adorn these palaces for the dead. Like most others who come here, we made our obligatory stop at the mausoleum of the Duarte family, where Eva Peron, or Evita, is interred.

Just outside of the cemetery is the Recoleta street fair, held on weekends. As many of you know, we find great pleasure wandering from stall to stall at street fairs, farmers markets, and the like. Today was no different. From wood carvings to jewelry and clothing and items made more for tourists than locals, there was a bit of everything.

A short distance from the fair is the Museum of Fine Arts, home to a good collection of paintings from both European and Argentine artists. There's two floors of art in the building, although we only focused on the permanent collection located on the ground floor. I especially enjoyed the impressionist and post-impressionist paintings on display as well as a collection of Rodin sculptures.

From here we walked around the art museum to the Floralis Generica, a stainless steel flower sculpture that opens and closes each day.

A short distance from the art museum is the National Museum of Decorative Arts, housed in the palatial mansion of Matias Errazuriz and Josefina de Alvear, two of late-19th century Argentina's high society. House museums are usually treats for us and this one did not disappoint.

From the Errazuriz mansion, we made our way westward on Avenida del Libertador and Avenida Presidente Figueroa Alcorta to Palermo's expansive green spaces. Along the way we passed the well-known Museum of Latin-American Art or MALBA, but decided to pass on it this afternoon. After two museum visits in one afternoon, the wide open spaces and greenery of the Palermo parks called our names. We simply ambled along the footpaths, enjoying the fragrant scent of blooming jacaranda trees all around us. Ah, life is great!

Parks gave way to more street fairs as daylight began to fade on Buenos Aires. We made our way to Plaza Serrano and Plaza Armenia and wandered about the stalls. Along the way are endless boutique shops, cafes, and restaurants that call Palermo home and made the neighborhood the trendy destination that it is today.

After a little bit of window shopping, it was 8:30 - or time for dinner. Tonight we had reservations at Don Julio, one of the leading parrillas in the city (thank you Crellston and MarnieWDC). The beef was amazing and everything we had hoped for; the sausages, though, were simply heaven. Satisfied, we took a short taxi ride back to our apartment.

Good night to you as our very first - and very rewarding - day in Buenos Aires comes to a close.
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Dec 2nd, 2017, 11:33 PM
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Terrific and very descriptive start tripplanner, looking forward to more. Sounds like you hit the ground running. Glad you liked Don Julio. Apart from the great steak, it was our first taste of grilled provolone and have been hearing for it ever since! Sadly it is very difficult to find in the UK.

Thurs, thanks for the suggestion, my wife has mentioned cruising around Norway, (more than once, as I recall!!) Still not sure about spending more time in Europe though. Back two weeks and It is taking a while to get adjusted.
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Dec 3rd, 2017, 03:00 AM
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Terrific (as Crellston said) start to your trip report, even exceeding my extremely high expectations.

Which taxi or remise firm did you use? I know a great English-speaking lady taxi driver I would suggest hiring if you fly back home from BA.

La Biela is better for people watching than for eating.

How about attending the San Telmo fair today, as every self-respecting tourist does when in BA? If walking to and from the fair, be particularly wary of the ¨mustardeers¨.

I´m quite comfident you´ll go on having a great time in my town. Do not forget to try the ¨provoleta¨ or grilled cheese Crellston suggested.
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Dec 3rd, 2017, 03:51 AM
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Far away and long ago:

https://tinyurl.com/zy3cltv

Restaurant suggestions for Bariloche and El Calafate:

Alto el Fuego in BRC and the lamb at La Tablita in FTE.
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Dec 3rd, 2017, 07:45 PM
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Crellston, like you, Don Julio was the first place we tried grilled provolone and it was a definite crowd pleaser. Not sure I've seen it on restaurant menus in the States too.

AVRooster, I'm glad you are enjoying my report. I hope I am doing your fine city justice. We used Tienda Leon, which was adequate. We were fine with our limited Spanish; we've been getting by with it along with English and Portuguese. San Telmo was definitely on our itinerary today, as you will ready below. And thank you for the restaurant suggestions for Bariloche and El Calafate.


Plaza de Mayo, San Telmo, and Caminito

Today is Sunday in Buenos Aires, which means the street fair in San Telmo is in full swing.

Our second day in the Argentine capital began with breakfast at Cafe Tortoni, a city institution dating back to the 1850s. Like La Biela, the grand cafe on Avenida 8 de Mayo reminds me of the cafes in Paris and in Vienna. Breakfast consisted of Argentine classics: medialunas, churros, and hot chocolate - all delightful.

From Cafe Tortoni it was a short walk to Casa Rosada, where we had reservations for the 10:30 tour of the presidential palace. Casa Rosada is larger than we expected - much larger than the American White House. The 40-minute tour took us to the official presidential office, the press conference room, a beautiful courtyard, elegant staircases, and, of course, the famous balcony where Eva Peron stood before her people. A very worthwhile visit.

Leaving Casa Rosada, a low drizzle quickly turned into a heavy downpour. We took shelter at a nearby bus stop before continuing onward. Bad idea. About 30 minutes into our time at the bus stop, we were unfortunately approached by a man who claimed to be from Bolivia engaging us in small talk. Before we knew it, we felt a projectile hurled toward our direction - yes, you guessed it, the well-known mustard scam. We immediately understood what was happening and walked away unharmed and without parting ways with any of our belongings. The rain subsided too, so we were able to clean ourselves off before continuing on.

Our next stop was the Metropolitan Cathedral, also on Plaza de Mayo. We arrived in time for the noon mass and was able to enjoy some of the glorious hymns being sung while touring the cathedral. Highlights of Argentina's largest church include the tomb of Jose de San Martin, Argentina's independence hero; the exquisite altar; and some memorabilia honoring Pope Francis, who served as Archbishop of Buenos Aires before taking up his post at the Vatican.

From the Cathedral we dashed across the street to the Cabildo, the original seat of political power in Buenos Aires. Constructed in the 1500s when the city was founded, the characteristic white Spanish-style building is now a museum with exhibits on the city's founding and early life.

Calle Defensa, the site of San Telmo's street fair, begins at Plaza de Mayo a couple of blocks from the Cabildo. We ambled our way down the cobblestone street lined with stalls on both sides. Calle Defensa becomes more interesting at Avenida de Chile. Even in the light rain, browsing the street stalls and popping in and out of the many antique shops lining the way was pure delight.

Not far from Avenida de Chile is El Zanjon de Granados, the site of a former mansion turned tenement complex. Underneath the residences are a vast tunnel complex of archways that was constructed approximately 100 years ago to cover the creek which ran through here from the garbage being thrown into the waterway. The site is a true gem that we would recommend to any visitor who finds himself or herself in the area.

We enjoyed a late afternoon lunch of empanadas and sausages at Desnivel before continuing on to Mercado San Telmo and Plaza Dorrego for more handicraft and antique browsing. A short distance south of Plaza Dorrego is Parque Lazama, a nice little oasis from the surrounding streets.

From here we headed further south, to Caminito in the La Boca neighborhood, for a look around. We would normally walk the short distance between Parque Lazama and Caminito, but given safety warnings, we traveled by bus. Caminito is well known for its multicolored zinc metal homes inhabited by fishermen and other working-class portenos. The area frequented by tourists was particularly lively this late afternoon given the influx of attendees of the Boca Juniors home game at the nearby Bombonera. After a quick lookaround the colorful streets and the nearby soccer stadium it was back to our apartment by taxi.

Tonight we were in for a treat: a tango show at Esquina Carlos Gardel. Yes, we understand that it's a highly produced show geared towards tourist. And yes, we were aware of the high costs. Among the shows available, this one was particularly appealing to us for some unknown reason. We were picked up at our apartment at 8:30 and driven the short distance to the Abasto neighborhood, where the show was held. We ate a nice dinner on site before being treated to the hour-and-a-half long performance of song and dance. In spite of the produced nature of the show, it was a good introduction to Argentine tango for us and we had fun. Following the show we were driven back to our apartment.

Tomorrow we aim to explore more of Buenos Aires' city center. Until then, buenos noches a todos.
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Dec 4th, 2017, 02:13 AM
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My post of yesterday at 8 AM warned:

If walking to and from the fair (San Telmo), be particularly wary of the ¨mustardeers¨.

For some reason or other, we ¨porteños¨ and our governments are unable to get rid of them. The good part is that they are not violent.

The Buenos Aires city center will be completely different on a working day, meaning the traffic will be crazy, among other things.

As a tourist, I would find this kind of thing interesting: https://www.clarin.com/politica/clim...HyzBppW-G.html

Go on having a great time in my town. When I get up in the morning, the first thing I do is look for your report!
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Dec 4th, 2017, 08:32 PM
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AVRooster, I am humbled to hear that my reports give you something to anticipate each morning. And you are totally correct about the city center of Buenos Aires feeling very different on a weekday. I can now concur based upon our own experience.


Urban and Monumental

Today was devoted to the city center of Buenos Aires. As AVRooster suggested, this section of town felt very different today as it did yesterday. Portenos were out and about everywhere, whether it's men and women in their professional attire going to and from work to people running their everyday errands. Trains and buses were more full and traffic is much, much heavier.

Our third day in the capital city began with a satisfying breakfast at Tea Connection near our apartment. Apparently a chain found throughout the city, it is well known for its wide selection of teas from around the world. Their food is as good as their tea.

After breakfast we walked east on Juncal, enjoying the street life of the city at the beginning of a weekday all along the way. In about half an hour we reached Plaza San Martin, with its great monument to the independence hero, along with a memorial dedicated to those lost in battle in 1982 against Great Britain over the Falkland Islands, and a clock tower constructed by the English during the tug of war between it and Spain for control of the city.

From Plaza San Martin it was a short stroll to Calle Florida, known as Buenos Aires' main pedestrianized shopping street. Shopping - at least in this way - is not our thing. Nonetheless we enjoyed window shopping along the way. We also popped into Galerias Pacifico, with its fine art as well as must-have Christmas tree for the season.

We continued onwards west on Avenida Correntes to the Teatro Colon for a guided walking tour. The opera house fronting Avenida 9 de Julio, the largest in the city, is a massive building. It's exterior reminds me very much of the opera house in Vienna while the guilded corridors could have come straight from France. The theater space itself closely resembles La Scalia in Milan.

Following the 50-minute tour we took a stroll on Avenida 9 de Julio to the Obelisk - with its strong resemblance to the Washington Monument in the U.S. capital. After taking in the madness - and grandeur - that is the wide boulevard we headed west on Avenida Correntes, where we enjoyed a quick lunch at one of its many pizzerias.

From here we headed to the National Congress, which again resembles its counterpart in the United States. We had planned on a tour of its interior but there were only two available times today. The 12:30 tour had already come and gone and we had other obligations at 5:00.

And so it was on to the next place. We strolled down Avenida de Mayo towards Casa Rosada. Only a short walk from the National Congress is the standout Palacio Barolo, an office building commissioned by a wealthy Italian textile businessperson and completed in 1923. Palacio Barolo is 22 stories tall and a testiment in stone to Dante Alegheri's Divine Comedy. And divine is a tour of the masonry piece de resistance. The 90-minute guided tour took us throughout the building from hell to purgatory and on to heaven and back. The views over the city of Buenos Aires were spectacular! Words cannot do it justice. My recommendation is simple: If you find yourself here and have time to visit one place, make it Palacio Barolo.

After being fully sated from the architectural richness that is Barolo we marched on along Avenida de Mayo past 9 de Julio and to Cafe Tortoni for a quick coffee break. We then made our way to Puerto Madero by way of Casa Rosada. Puerto Madero is a modern redevelopment on land claimed from the city's former shipyards. It is here that we ended our walking tour of the city today.

We capped off our day with a nice dinner at Sottovoce, an Italian restaurant right along the canal. The food - everything from appetizers to the fish and pastas as well as dessert - was absolutely perfect. One of the best meals we've had here so far.

Hope I'm making my report enjoyable to you. Back to you tomorrow.
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Dec 5th, 2017, 01:43 AM
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Enjoying following along. You are certainly packing a lot in so far! We really liked Puerto Madero and even contemplated buying a place there when we first visited the city.

Sorry to hear you were subjected to the mustard scam. What a pain! We have spent over a month in the city and never encountered any such problems.
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Dec 5th, 2017, 02:43 AM
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Crellston, I could totally appreciate your first impressions of Puerto Madero; very much enjoyed the relaxed vibe. As for the mustard scam, I wasn't surprised it happened. We sensed the person coming up to us was up to no good, but didn't really want to move given that he wasn't really bothering us and the rain was coming down. All in all, it was fine as we were unharmed and didn't lose anything; just a little dirty on the clothes for the rest of that day. The only other time we've been party to attempted pickpocketing was in Lisbon more than 10 years ago and we felt more afraid then.
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Dec 5th, 2017, 05:08 AM
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Great reporting, as expected!
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Dec 5th, 2017, 12:15 PM
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A minor correction to a quite extraordinary trip report:

About the "clock tower constructed by the English during the tug of war between it and Spain for control of the city."

I understand our "Torre de los Ingleses", as we call it, was a present from the local British community to our country upon the 100th anniversary of our May 25, 1810 independence revolution.

Carry on the great work!
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Dec 5th, 2017, 10:03 PM
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AVRooster, thank you for the correction regarding the English clock tower. It is much appreciated.


Day Trip to Uruguay

Today was our opportunity to leave the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires behind for one day. For a slower pace, we headed to Colonia del Sacramento, across the Rio de la Plata in Uruguay.

We had book a ferry crossing with Buquebus, one of three operators plying this route, about one month in advance - to take advantage of the lower rates. Leaving our apartment at close to 7:00, we headed to the ferry terminal for our 8:15 departure. Check-in at the ferry terminal was quick and orderly and we proceedly through immigration similarly. We decided to leave on an early ferry and return on the 20:01 ferry in order to maximize our time in Colonia, even though this proved to be the wrong decision.

The ferry ride took about one hour and was as smooth as could be. The waters were very calm. There is a small snack shop on board, from where we would purchase our breakfast of medialunas and coffee. Before we knew it, we were docked in Uruguay.

From the port we proceeded to the old historic center of town. Most of the buildings in the historic center dates back to the 1680s when Spain and Portugal battled for control of the city. We spent about two to three hours just wandering about the old quarter: visiting its lone lighthouse, going inside a local church, and walking along its cobblestone streets. There are also several small museums scattering about this part of town although we passed on them; we decided that today was going to be a brainpower-free day and went easy.

We entered a slow lunch at El Drugstore, across the street from the church. The food was good and the vibe amazing. A local singer also put on a show for us while we ate.

After getting our fill of the picturesque old town with its multicolored buildings, we moved on to the newer part of town. We did some souvenir shopping on the main thoroughfare before heading north following the shoreline. While walking along with the beaches on one side was lovely, the fact that weren't anything of note along the road made it a bit dull. After about an hour, we decided to turn back.

We were back in the historic quarter by about 3:30, which meant we had another 3 to 3.5 hours to kill before our ferry ride back. We spent some of the time at a local cafe, but still found ourselves with plenty of time at the ferry terminal. In hindsight, we should have reserved the 4:00 ferry back, but we did not know what to really expect at the time.

Our ferry reached Buenos Aires at about 9:30. For dinner, we were in for a real treat. We had reservations for a 7-course gastronomic tour of Latin America courtesy of iLatina, located in the Villa Crespo section of the city. Boy was the food great! Well worth the trek.

Our last day in Buenos Aires is tomorrow before heading south to Patagonia. Until then, good night to everyone.
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Dec 6th, 2017, 01:33 AM
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Well, this confirms my usual advice about the day trip to Colonia, a question which is often asked here, which is: Go, if you feel like it, but there really isn´t much to do there.

Looking forward to the Patagonia part of your great report, tripplaner001.
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Dec 6th, 2017, 05:40 AM
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You guys are so energetic! I liked Colonia, but I agree that it doesn't take a whole lot of time. Montevideo might be a better choice.

In Bariloche I recommend the mushroom soup and Zurich beef at La Marmite, and in El Calafate the tasting menu at Casimiro Bigua.
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Dec 6th, 2017, 05:56 AM
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This TR is so very helpful, tripplanner - it is a classic. I am sending the link on to some folks who will be coming to BsAs and beyond in January. Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to be so detailed and expressive of your take on these sites/restaurants/barrios - and more.

The next time you come, and are looking for Empanadas in Recoleta, I can highly recommend CUMANA and El San Juanino.
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