Holidays and Other Excursions

Month: November 2017

South America – 2 – Argentina – Mendoza

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Wednesday afternoon is spent hopping over the Andes to Mendoza.  This could have been an 8 hour bus journey at one stage of planning this holiday but the flight is under an hour, mainly spent going up and then down as the distance between the two cities is not huge – merely the Andes are in the way.

I drop off to sleep before take off and wake up about half way through the flight.  We had originally been seated separately but Jackie’s neighbour had moved so I was able to occupy the empty seat.  With some turbulence seat belt signs are on and so there is great need for the toilet on landing.  The queue for the passport check more than quadruples by the time we emerge from the toilets but the delay is not of “Luton” type lengths.  The taxi driver taking us to the hotel cannot speak English and luckily it is only a short drive into town – although the road feels surprisingly rough (oddly no more poor roads experienced in our later local journeys)!

Park Hyatt Hotel Mendoza is a modern corporate hotel and lacks the charm and style of the hotel in Santiago which was very nice.  It is not helped by an apparent belief when we arrive that there is no room booked for us and no real acknowledgement that they might be in the wrong – even when it turns out that they have booked someone else into our room (allegedly with my first name – how about checking surnames seeing that everywhere takes a copy of the passport? – even more amazed that another visitor has the same first name!).  Having settled in we check the hotel dining options – and decide on the rather nice Grill Q – Parilla for a little later.

First we need some cash and think the casino might be able to change pounds into local Pesos (it was impossible to obtain Pesos at home).  No – they can only really change dollars and if they must then they might change Euros.  When did sterling cease to be important?  We attempt to use the adjacent cash point but that seems to want a passport number, so as there is no urgent need we abandon the cash hunt for now.

We partake of a drink sitting in the evening sun, Jackie is getting attached to Pisco Sours to start the evening and I am drinking local red beer as it seems to be most acceptable .  We decide on eating a plate of parilla (sometimes known as Asado) which is served for two people.  It is an enhanced mixed grill consisting of two different steaks, short ribs, black pudding (in a sausage shape), a sausage, and a huge piece of chicken, some kidneys, all barbecue grilled exactly right.  With all that meat a bottle of locally sourced Malbec seemed appropriate.  We did order some vegetables but these were not the high point of the kitchen’s ability!

Time for bed.

South America 1 – Chile

Monday 27, Tuesday 28 & Wednesday 29 November 2017

It has been a long time since that last holiday jaunt to Europe – but here we go again and much further afield.  I am hopeful that this blog will now be much closer to real time as we head off to far flung shores – this trip includes very small portions each of Chile (one night), Argentina and Brazil.  I also hope that the quality of the photographs might improve, but not sure that either of these hopes will be sustained!

What has changed is that I now have decent working apps on both iPad and phone for WordPress and so hope that if time permits something can be published as progress is made.

We shall only be in Chile for the one night – so no great insights can be expected.  Formally the Chilean capital is Santiago de Chile simply to avoid confusion with the one in Spain.  Our taxi is due at 6:15pm and the plane is due to depart at 22:00.

British Airways are now flying direct to Santiago – the flights commenced on 3 January 2017 and at 14 hours 40 minutes they are the longest flights that the airline makes.  The new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners are allocated to the operation – panic commences given our experience on the return trip from Mexico earlier this year!

A huge plate of cheese and biscuits each and then settle down to sleep.  Get about 6 – 7 hours sleep with a decent breakfast and the flight is slightly early into Santiago on Tuesday, late morning.  Apparently the Chileans are keen on queues as the passport line takes an hour for us and much longer for the people behind us as it overflows the theme park style queues and is backed up, up the stairs.  Not helped by those at the front of the queue not actually watching the display for the next free border officer!  It is a bit mad as we reach the exit with huge numbers of waiting drivers.  We miss our guide on a first pass but a wander back along the line gets us heading into the town centre with guide and driver.

Hotel Plaza San Francisco is almost in the centre of town with a beautiful church next door – internally it looks like this:

Earlier we had been advised by our guide to go to Lastarria which is walking distance and he particularly recommends Bocanariz.  First we do a wine flight each to taste some different wines and then have a bottle of Carmenere to go with our steaks.

Photos of the first views of Santiago are here.

The following (Wednesday) morning we are met by our guide and are driven to the Presidential Palace and then taken on a walking tour through the City to the main markets which are huge – we see the fish and the farmers’ markets, the latter is mainly fruit and vegetables.  The Chilean garlic looks very strong!

In the background Santiago is largely surrounded by hills – on one side the Andes which we have to cross again shortly.  There are no trains across the border apparently.

We are then driven to the lower end of the cable car which takes us up to the top of the hill for San Cristobal and the view over the City.  I see the funicular which is on the other side of the hill but we do not have time to return that way.

Photographs of the morning tour are here.

The final part of the tour is a drive around the new expensive modern suburbs before returning to the airport for our flight to Mendoza.  Once on our way I establish that at some point my small Canon camera has not made its way to its normal place in my bum bag and appears to have been left at the hotel.  Subsequent attempts to contact them have not been successful!