Archive for February, 2007

Anniversary present

Graham arrived last night in remarkably good shape after 25 hours on the go. I met him at Ezeiza international airport and we got a remis or private cab directly back here. We nipped over the road for a late dinner before crashing out.

This means that I had a wonderful first anniversary present this morning in the form of Graham in person in Buenos Aires with me! We spent a very hot morning (32C + 70% humidity = 39C experienced temperature) being tourists in La Boca and San Telmo, before a nice light lunch in the funky Farmacía bar-restaurant.

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We’re now resting up having an air-conditioned siesta before our anniversary dinner this evening.

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MNBA

Not the bank but the Museo Nacional de las Bellas Artes in Recoleta. Although still a bit full of a cold, I had a lovely stroll through Recoleta to the museum. I started in the wrong place with the good but unremarkable (in terms of differentiation from UK collections) European galleries downstairs, but then discovered the fabulous pre-Colombian and Argentinian galleries on the first floor. This glass sculpture in the modern Argentinian gallery caught my eye:

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although at this resolution it’s hard to see the exciting insect-eye refractions of the art on the wall behind.

I continued via the swanky Patio Bullrich shopping to Retiro to make sure I knew where to go on Saturday to catch the airport bus.

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Out with classmates

Seven of us met up for a very enjoyable meal at La Peña del Colorado only three blocks from my apartment. It’s a party restaurant and the parilla wasn’t the best, but not bad either, and a good choice for a group do.

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Hostería Los Pecanes

I spent a lovely weekend at a remote guest house on an island in the Paraná Delta, only some 60km from the city centre but a world away in most other respects. To get there takes about three hours: an hour on the suburban train service to Tigre, and then 90 minutes on a lancha colectiva or public launch running a bus service through the delta, right to the private jetty of the guest house. Location on Google Maps.

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Los Pecanes is set in a lovely garden with its own vegetable patch and orchard, and has only three guest rooms. The hosts, Richard and Ana, are very friendly and attentive, and the wonderful food is all home cooked. The only down side was the unexpectedly cold and very wet weather on Friday and Saturday, but the sun came out on Sunday.

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On Friday night I was the only guest, but on Saturday others arrived including a family of five together with cousin, so four children of 8, 8, 6 and 3, changing the ambience just a little! But they were very friendly and all bilingual (would have been better for me if they hadn’t been!). I became official photographer and joined them in two canoes for a circuit of nearby streams and canals.

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Sunday lunch is an asado or traditional barbecue, and during high season they often cater for up to 80 day trippers, but the rain had broken the telephone service and in the absence of confirmed reservations, we were only 20. Richard served up meat after meat (sausage; blood sausage; loin of pork; a very tasty cut of beef; and finally prime sirloin) whilst Ana and her helpers laid out a salad table followed by wonderful desserts. I left with a mind emptied of worries and a belly filled with food.

If you plan to visit, you must book well ahead for weekend stays. I booked about five weeks ahead. Reservations by telephone only, but all the details are on the web site: Hostería Los Pecanes.

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Quien dice que es facil

On Thursday – on my third attempt – I managed to get to see this new film. It’s not a terribly complicated story: modern, liberated, pregnant-by-unknown-father woman falls in love with straight-laced suburban landlord; but it’s well paced and well acted and obviously very popular. I was pleased to keep up with the story and appreciate quite a few of the jokes, even though I couldn’t follow some of the faster arguments.

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Iguazú – travel, lodging and the town

Internal flights in Argentina are expensive by European budget-airline standards, but the distances are very large. Therefore very popular are luxury coaches with reclining seats, which come in three different types. Semi-cama is the standard 2+2 comfortable reclining seats. Cama ejecutivo seats are 2+1 across the coach and recline much further (but not completely). Super-cama or cama completa recline to almost-horizontal and give you complete separation from the rows in front and behind. This is what I chose for the 19 hour trip from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazú.

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The on-board steward serves a hot dinner, free wine, a night-cap whisky and a cold breakfast, and there are two drivers. My outward journey was excellent and with earplugs I got a reasonable amount of sleep. On the way back I made the mistake of having a heavy lunch and regretted it later on! Graham will get to experience this himself when we travel to Bariloche en micro.

I stayed about 5km outside Puerto Iguazú in Hotel Orquideas – very comfortable, clean rooms, good breakfast, lovely pool, good location on the way to the falls, but not many orchids! The town is quite small, but has a good range of restaurants, and a unique location on the Argentine side of the three-way border with Brazil and Paraguay, nestling in the junction of the Río Iguazú and the Río Paraná. A long esplanade road along the Iguazú leads up to the lookout of the ‘three nations’. This is the view over the Paraná towards Paraguay.
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The rivers were very high – apparently being held back deliberately because of earlier flooding due to heavy rains downstream.
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It would be quite romantic to cruise the Paraná on a boat like the one pictured, but as far as I can tell there are no passenger services. The customs post is for the ten-minute ferry crossing to Paraguay, where Argentinians go for cheap shopping, whilst Brazilians come over to Argentina for the same.

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Las Cataratas de Iguazú – flora and fauna

The special post for Graham has already illustrated some of the plant life.

Highlights from the animal kingdom included large (one metre tip to tail) lizzards (you’ll need to look closely, excellent camouflage):

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beautiful and varied butterflies:
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cayman crocodiles about 2.5m tip-to-tail:
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and the highlight, this tarantula which had just crossed the path to the landing stage for our early-morning boat trip:
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I think we were lucky to see it, and being the first trip of the morning probably helped. These are all my own photos, honest!

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Maps

I’ve not been able to find an all-singing all-dancing on-line map to display my travels. The best so far is:

http://www.guiaypf.com.ar/GuiaYPF/ruta/mapa/mapa/FMapa.aspx

You can zoom in and pan around. It doesn’t work quite so well in Safari but seems fine in Firefox.

To find a town directly, choose Localizadores from the list of four links to the left of the map (under the picture of the guide books), and then:

  1. Under Búsqueda de provincias select Buenos Aires
  2. Once loaded, under Búsqueda de departamentos select TIGRE
  3. Click [BUSCAR] (lower right).

This will show you roughly where I spent the weekend (Tigre) and if you zoom out one, you can see it in relation to Buenos Aires. Or, using Localizadores again, choose Misiones / IGUAZU to find Iguazú.

To find out where I live, choose Callejeros from the left-hand menu, enter Araoz in the Calle box, and 2300 in the Número box. Click [BUSCAR] and then choose the first entry, ARAOZ (Ciudad Autonoma …) You can zoom out to get the context.

  • For my previous apartment, enter French and 3100.
  • For my first language course at UBA, enter 25 de Mayo and 200, and then select the first choice offered.
  • For my current course at Lenguas Vivas, enter Carlos Pellegrini and 1500.

If you find out how to create links directly to a chosen map, let me know!

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Iguazú – for Graham

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Las Cataratas de Iguazú – on foot

I spent a wonderful long weekend visiting the incomparable waterfalls at Iguazú, in the farthest north-east corner of Argentina on the border with Brazil and near the border with Paraguay. I’m going to split this up into vaguely themed posts, covering the travel separately. So I arrived at lunchtime on Friday, and once checked-in I jumped straight onto a bus to the national park.

It’s very well thought out, with a miniature-guage train to ferry visitors around and extensive walkways at the upper and lower levels of the falls. The first thing to strike me was the gorgeous jungle setting with bromeliads and creepers in the trees, and butterflies everywhere. I followed the upper walkway first. With little warning other than the noise, this suddenly opens out to the first stunning view of the falls:

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and that’s only one section! Bridges cross the various streams feeding the falls, and lookouts take you right to the edge of some of the falls.

Since I wanted to make sure of the time, I ignored the lower walkway for the moment, and took the train to the station for the walkway to the Garganta del Diablo – Devil’s Throat. The walkway crossed about a kilometre of rivers to reach the top of the Throat. This time you can’t mistake the growing roar and the mist rising into a cloud above the otherwise-flat rivers. A mouth opens in the river, with apparently-modest falls, but the closer you get, the further down you can see into the maelstrom. I’ve chosen this image of many because the buildings on the Brazilian side give some idea of the immense scale.
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Depending on the wind, the lookout is enveloped periodically by a soaking mist carried up on the up-draught from the foot of the falls. It’s hard to convey the effect – but it was very hard to drag myself away and I returned here the following day.

Luckily, once I did leave, I still had time to return to the main station and explore the lower walkway. Beautiful vistas abound, and it’s possible to approach quite close to the foot of one of the larger falls in the section away from the Devil’s Throat.
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By now the park was closing so I returned reluctantly to the hotel for dinner and a rest, ready for a full Saturday.

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