Holidays and Other Excursions

Tag: Jose San Martin

South America – 4 – Argentina – Buenos Aires

Friday 1 December 2017 – Sunday 3 December 2017

Friday was transit day and we have an early start but as Mendoza airport is so small they really only need us there 45 minutes before departure – we are a lot earlier and so have time to spare.  The local airline has a 15kg baggage limit – we have a worrying few minutes until authorisation is given for us to proceed with 23kg – after all as Jackie pointed out at check in it is her birthday.  Once on board we find we are on the first flight using Aerolineas Argentina’s brand new 737 Max.  The passengers clap this news and at Buenos Aires the ground staff and management are out taking photos of this wondrous new beast.

Flight distance is significantly greater than the last flight and we are flying for about 90 minutes.  I had anticipated seeing huge expanses of grasslands and roaming beef herds but apparently this is no longer the main farming output of the country we are later told.  Being a domestic flight there are no passport checks and the main wait is for luggage, Jackie’s case arrives immediately, mine takes ages!  We meet a guide and head off into the City Centre to the Brick Hotel which is no distance – the domestic airport is just the other side of the railway lines.  With our room not being available when we arrive at 12 o’clock, (despite a reminder about the birthday!) we wander about a block to find a recommended restaurant, El Mirasol which the wise heads around say is the best steak house.  This is situated under a nearby flyover alongside a number of other restaurants.

The recommendation is borne out and we both enjoy a huge steak meal to celebrate the aforementioned birthday.  Our dining companions also prove interesting – Jackie reckons the local mafia use it as their staff canteen amongst other diners.  We are early diners and initially I thought there seemed to be a lot of waiters around but the place is soon packed – justifiably so – and the waiters are soon pretty busy.

Much, much later the hotel provides a small bottle of bubbly stuff and a cake for the birthday celebrations.  I pop out in the evening briefly to go to the nearest ATM to increase our stock of local currency.  I had already drawn some cash in Mendoza but we did not arrive with any cash and the need for a decent amount of cash will become clear when we head for our next stop.

Saturday is a morning coach tour of Buenos Aires which has a first stop outside Casa Rosada – the pink Presidential Palace.  Work is in progress on improving the Plaza de Mayo at the front of the palace and so our photographs are not quite as good as we might like.  There is some great architecture around the Plaza as the photos show.

Our tour progresses via some of the older parts of the City which seems to be dominated by places demonstrating the tango, then passes the BOCA Juniors football stadium before taking a stop at La Boca.  Clear warning is given here not to wander away from the main vividly decorated street – obviously made safe for tourists but adjacent areas are apparently unsafe.  Also in this area there was some evidence of either a former tramway or narrow gauge railway – identification has proven impossible.

Back in 1910 there were close links between Britain and Argentina and to celebrate 100 years of independence the local British community funded a Tower, now known as Torre Monumental.  The events of 1982 concerning certain islands led to a change in name.  The chimes sound identical to Big Ben.

Argentina has a remarkable mixture of immigrants.  Originally a Spanish vice-royalty, independence was achieved in stages between 1810- 1818 which was followed by a civil war lasting until 1861.  There was then a large immigration influx – Italian, Spanish and Portuguese in large numbers with smaller numbers from elsewhere (including the Near East – there is a significant number of Arabic speakers), such that in the early years of the twentieth century it was the seventh wealthiest nation in the world.  Subsequently that position was lost – but in the Recoleta area where our hotel is located the architecture certainly reflects significant European influence from that time.

We also visit the house of Jose San Martin and another statue to go with the one seen in Santiago and the Glory Hill monument in Mendoza.  He had a huge impact on the history of these countries.

Most amazing was the Recoleta Cemetery which we visited as it is the final resting place of Eva (Duarte) Peron in the Duarte family vault.  (The family would not agree to Peron being interred with her).  The area covered by the cemetery is such that one could easily become lost and we can only see a small proportion of these wonderful vaults.  The linked article says that it covers 14 acres and contains 4691 vaults.  Some of these are amazing pieces of architecture topped by statues and other decoration.

The photographs from the tour are here.

On the Sunday we decide to walk to the waterfront area where we know there are a lot of restaurants – especially a fish one.  Our route takes us past this:

I did not realise at the time that there were actually three adjacent stations – we visited only the one on the left (Retiro the largest) – the Torre Monumental can be seen just to the left of the Retiro station.  Moving right are the Belgrano and San Martin stations.

The photos of the station are here – magnificent station.

As we head towards the waterfront it starts to rain and by the time we reach our destination I am completely and utterly soaked.  We are early diners at Sorrento and the food is excellent.  I steadily dry out during the meal and the restaurant steadily fills up.  A return taxi is employed for the return journey to the Brick Hotel.

I did dry out eventually but in the interests of avoiding a cold or similar we do not go out in the evening – but did allow to make progress with some reading and which saved us from getting over tired.

Monday morning is our trip to the Iguaza Falls – so on to the next post.

South America – 3 – Argentina – Mendoza

Thursday 30 November 2017

A different bed so we do not sleep perfectly and we are up and about for a busy day.  Our protest over morning wine tasting has achieved nothing and we head out of town for a 30 minute drive to the Matervini winery.  Whilst a young winery it has vines going back to 1938 and the owner has a history of producing some very high quality Malbec – and when he sold the original winery he retained ownership of the older vines as part of the new winery.  The best wine we taste is US$90 per bottle and the volumes are such that they only sell direct from the estate.  They also hope to be eco-friendly and take steps to utilise solar generated energy.

The other winery we visit has Chilean owners but they have huge Italian heritage with the estate modelled on a Tuscan style.  This is the Renacer winery.  It is working towards much higher volumes than Matervini and buys in grapes from local growers to achieve those volumes.  A very different approach and using blending of wines at the final stages to achieve some consistency.  The grapes used in both cases come not just from close to Mendoza but also from the Yuco valley and from other locations with only the top wine from the Matervini bodega being an estate wine.  Renacer are also experimenting with a Chardonnay!

Photos of the morning tour are here.

We return to Mendoza for a break and a sandwich before the afternoon city tour.  In reality Mendoza is a working city with agriculture not the main industry – that is oil.  And olives are as important as wine to the local economy apparently.  Mendoza is the fourth largest city in Argentina and there is nothing of great age as earlier buildings were all destroyed by an earthquake in 1861.  Experts were brought into prevent another similar disaster and the older part of town featured a main square and four lesser squares set apart by a few blocks to allow people to be in the open in the event of another major earthquake.  Additionally the city was protected by a huge park to prevent rock slides into the city itself from the edges of the hills.

Our tour ends at the top of the San Martin park where there is a monument at Glory Hill to the Army of the Andes which was led by San Martin and achieved the independence of Chile and with other forces achieved independence for Peru.  Although a revolutionary leader San Martin was often at odds with his fellow freedom fighters as he wanted to install local monarchies – his fellow revolutionaries generally sought presidential led republics.  There is no arguing with his resolve in achieving independence for three countries (Argentina coming before Chile and the Army of the Andes with Peru later).  General José San Martin had a busy life – reading that linked entry tells a complex but compelling story – he bestrode the continent in the first half of the nineteenth century like a colossus!

The afternoon tour photos are here.

As with Santiago we have a good guide looking after us – knowledgeable and informative.  His dinner recommendation leads to perhaps the least exciting meal of the holiday – but who knows, we might have chosen the wrong food!

It has been sunny and warm today.  We managed a couple of hours in the sun when we get back to the hotel before dinner.  Time to move on again!