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Published: February 18th 2018
We had a wonderful 2 day visit to Buenos Aires. Firstly, I was impressed and grateful for the lack of pollution in a city of this size. The sky was blue! The only time I coughed was during rush hour on a busy through-fare. Noise pollution was also minimal, unlike the constant cacophony of horns that have irritated me in the Asian cities we have been visiting during the last few years.
We stayed at the Intersur Hotel in the Recoleta district (intersurrecoleta.com.ar). It has an expansive lobby and smiling staff eagerly awaiting to help you. Their English is quite good. The best architectural feature are the chandeliers. I just peeked in the door of the main restaurant as I am not a fan of Italian food. Our room did not quite maintain the elegance of the public areas. The carpeting retains the smell of tobacco from times past. Fear not, it is now a smoke-free facility. The bed was of Baby Bear quality. Not too firm. Not too soft. I am a Papa Bear kind of guy. Nevertheless, I slept well, especially after the long flight to get there. The bathroom was a bit crowded what with the bidet. I haven't quite figured them out. I am leary of an unwanted enima. There was a shortage of counter space for my toilet kit, non-existent actually, and no Kleenex or face cloths. A big redeeming feature were the giant towels to dry off with after a shower.
The breakfast room was expansive and well appointed. There was a large selection of food items, both hot and cold, to start the day. I like a large breakfast and this trait payed off as we didn't have lunch until 2 pm, a baguette, package of cheese and a bottle of wine we got in the duty free in Santiago, Chile on the flight down. An excellent vintage from a small vineyard that, like Red Rose tea in Canada, is not available outside Chile. Pity. Supper is not available in restaurants until 8 pm, almost bedtime for my wife. The Spanish custom of a mid-day siesta is preserved in Argentina. Thankfully, it is not a custom that will be difficult for me to adjust to.
We had done some research and had found a restaurant that looked promising. Unfortunately, by the time we found it, there was a line-up and half-hour wait. We were too hungry to wait so started back towards the hotel. We saw a place that wasn't so crowded and gave it a try. What a disappointment. We ordered a cut of grilled beef. It spurred blood when we cut into it. We sent it back for more cooking. We had asked for medium! It was not much better when it came back. Turning it over, I saw that it had only been cooked on one side and gave me a sore jaw from chewing. It reminded me of the $4.95 tavern steaks of my youth. I had understood that Argentina was known for it's excellent beef. I had only tried Spam corned beef to this point.
The next morning we went on a half-day city tour to get a lay of the land. We visited several districts, both rich and poor. Unfortunately the area around the parliament area was under re-development in preparation for an up-coming G-20 summit. The last stop was the Recoleta cemetery. It is laid out with streets, including lamp posts, even though it closes at dusk. It is only a couple of blocks from our hotel so we went back to our room to freshen up before heading out in search of nourishment. It would be a long time until supper.
Just across from the cemetery is a park with a giant tree. Nearby is a row of restaurants with terraces. One is the disaster place of the night before. Another one is "The American Burger". It restored my faith in Argentinean beef. An excellent juicy burger with only a few fries so as not to spoil your appetite and washed down with a tasteless local beer. On our way back to our room for a short siesta, we came across a seafood restaurant that had a nice little courtyard with trees and a waterfall that looked promising for supper. Having been disappointed the day before, we made reservations.
After our nap, we headed back to the cemetery for a longer exploration. What a treasure! It is laid out like a city with wide avenues, streets adorned with lamp posts ( even though the place closes at dusk) and narrow alleys. Elaborate crypts of all descriptions are squeezed up against each other. Here lie the remains of the cream of Argentinean society. Crypts run at about $70,000, just for the plot. The cost of architects and masons easily double the price. Generations are entombed here, both caskets and boxes of ashes. Some are well maintained and others are falling into ruin, with broken windows, crooked gates and the insides littered in plaster. Many seem empty but upon closer inspection, a set of steep stairs descent into the ground.
After a couple of hours we left this bake oven to sit in the park across the street. I would recommend you take a guided tour as there many questions that I still have. Guides are readily available at the entrance. This is a gentrified neighbourhood and people use this space to exercise their dogs that have been cooped up in their high-risk apartments. In the park can be found an enormous tree. The branches are held up by metal posts and one particularly large branch is purported by a Hercules-like sculpture. I don't know the type of tree this is but the flowers of a smaller version have a wonderful perfume odour.
Next was a visit to the church next door from the cemetery. It is filled with huge plaster sculptures depicting Catholic dogma. Quite gawdy as old Catholic churches tend to be. Back to our room to get some respite from the heat and humidity and await the supper hour. I spent the time trying to download some pictures. The business area computers had very slow internet connections.
Jose Luis restaurant is only a couple of blocks away. We were looking forward to a seafood feast and it was difficult to decide so we went for the 2 person paella. There was more than enough for us both. The dish included squid, octopus, mussels (not as good as PEI mussels) and some sort of white fish. Unfortunately, the fish was overcooked but the rice was excellent. We were the first clients to dine that evening. A few other couples arrived during our meal. On the other hand, the waiter we had was excellent. A truly career server. Even though my Spanish is minimal, he spoke slowly enough that I could almost understand.
Today we departed for Puerto Madryn, a 2 hour flight south to continue our circle tour. We were picked up at the airport and crossed an arid plain for about a half hour on a straight highway. We arrived at the Dazzler Hotel (was.dazzlershoteles.com) and were pleasingly surprised to find that it is right across from the public beach. The lobby is small and nothing to talk about but our room is huge. No carpets and the bathroom is a good size with some counter space and again, huge towels. Alas, no air conditioning.
We spent a few hours walking along the beach boardwalk and main street. The beach is about 5 kilometres long. At one end are some archeturaly unique luxury homes and the other end looks more industrial. Most women seem to copy Brazilian beach attire. Claudette forbad me from taking any rear-view pictures. A cheeky experience.
We grabbed a late lunch at a cafe across from the beach. Nothing special. I ordered a chocolate milkshake with my tartas (quiche) in the hopes of cooling off. I had been a good boy to date, forgoing sweets. On the first sip, I choked. COFFEE FLAVOURED!!!!. ARGG. I sent it back. It was difficult to explain to the waiter that I detest coffee and there was no mention of it on the menu. He sent the manager over and he replaced it with banana and orange smoothly. Much appreciated. He was miffed that someone doesn't like the stuff.
Back to our room for a siesta. Hopefully it will help keep us awake long enough to enjoy supper.
We decided to have supper at the hotel. An excellent choice. Mostly locals eating there. We ordered a crab plat to start. Only a couple of mouthful each, but what a delight. The crab was just cooked and melted in the mouth. The sweetness of the shellfish was balanced with the farthest of the spinach and beet greens. This was followed with a seafood stir fry, packed with scallops and shrimp. Again, cooked to perfection. Service also was excellent.
We finished supper at midnight! When we got back to our room, we could hear children playing outside on the jungle gym. Certainly a different perspective on child-rearing this sweets culture. Good night all.
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