A Travellerspoint blog

Time to reboot....

and re-route.

semi-overcast 21 °C
View a migratory path on Dani Parry's travel map.

It's Tuesday 24th May. After weeks of coughing and generally feeling a bit rubbish but valiantly trying not to let it get her down, Noush has been to the doctors and been told she has bronchitis. Luckily we had checked out of our hostel in Salta (more later) yesterday and into this gorgeous B&B Casa Hernandez. Run by a very cool Dutch couple, Alex and Rjikje, who have opened the kind of guesthouse, home from home, that Noush and I have talked of running one day. Rjikje kindly escorted Noush to the doctor this morning too so we could make sure she didn't end up with the wrong kind of medicine.

So for the last two days we have done almost nothing - it's been great. I have started and finished a book, written postcards, sat in the garden and Noush has slept a lot. We have drunk lots of tea and a bit of wine last night with the other couple who are staying at the moment. With Nick's help we have rerouted our trip a bit to accomodate recovery and rest and not too much strenuous activity as Noush's lungs are a bit shot. Plenty of "tranky tranky' to restore our "ying yang" as Alex would say. And - let's get this over and done with so any horrified people can get over it - we are no longer hiking the Inca Trail - we will be getting a train to Machu Picchu.

Our guesthouse is 5 miles outside of Salta - a lovely city in NW Argentina. Full of ornate churches - more theatre or wedding cake than places of worship. It's main square is full of orange trees and fountains and lights - it's quite enchanted.

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Great restaurants and the second best steak that we've had in Argentina. We booked into a hostel that came highly recommended on websites which left us pretty perplexed.....check out our bathroom!

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Ah the glamour - not even a shower curtain! However we met some lovely people there and all shared stories of dread about crossing the Bolivian border and getting stuck in Villazon or worse having to get a bus form there as you can't get on a train. We are now flying to Sucre in Bolivia from Salta. Infact we are avoiding the infamously awful buses in Bolivia altogether and I don't feel bad about that one bit.

Speaking of buses though - we really lucked out on overnight bus from Cordoba to Salta. We got a blanket and pillow, an almost entirely reclining seat (intentionally this time), a Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz film (OK - pretty ropey, but in English and it worked the whole way through) AND a tray of food....consisting of:

a brown crustless cheese and ham sandwich
a white crustless cheese and ham sandwich
a sweet swiss roll containing ham and cheese
some ham
some cheese
a chocolate biscuit and a carton of orange juice. And we ate the lot!! My organic, fair trade standards are on the floor!!

And we are clearly not on a health kick - in fact we have decided it's basically impossible here. Check out Noush's iced coffee......

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We'll be at Casa Hernandez for a few more days before heading a bit further north to see some more of the natural wonders that NW Argentina has to offer.

Ciao for now

XX

Posted by Dani Parry 15:08 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

A tale of two cities

Rosario and Cordoba

semi-overcast 19 °C
View a migratory path on Dani Parry's travel map.

Occasionally we have been left perplexed by the massive disparities between how a guide book describes a place and our own experiences of it. Rosario is considered by many to be the second city of Argentina, although Cordoba is bigger, and the books all rave about it...as have other travellers that we have met. However after the grandeur of our (undeniably middle class) Buenos Aires experience we found Rosario an altogether much dingier place. To be fair to the city, I think it is a spring and summer place as there is a lot of focus on the river and we were experiencing some nasty drizzly weather when we arrived. There are certainly some beautiful buildings and interesting monuments to see. For example the Monumento Nacional a la Bandera (monument to the flag) which contains the crypt of the flag designer, General Manuel Belgrano. Pop Quiz readers.....who designed the Union Jack? The Argentinian flag is massively important here though - if you look through the photos you'll see hints if the blue and white everywhere - even in that crazy button shop. You can travel in a lift to the top of the tower for views of the city of Rosario.

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This bird built his nest on the shoulder of a statue...we thought it was a very regal place to make your home...if slightly precarious!

We also walked to Parque Independencia to see the Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes which is apparently one of the most important art museums in Argentina. The building itself was looking ....well.....mouldy. Our ticket was 4 pesos - about 75p which should have been our first clue. The fact that it says the museum is filled with European and Argentine fine art and it looked more like an end of year show at a 6th form college should have been our second. (It was probably some very important modern art but as I think most of that is a load of arse I wouldn't know.) Well it turns out that it was some kind of temporary exhibition and I think they may have been doing some renovations during 2011. A disappointing experience all round.

However we did take a shine to this band who were playing in the town centre.
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We left after a few days and caught a bus to Cordoba. Well, that makes it sound much simpler than it actually was. Our bus broke down about 5kms outside of Rosario. It's times like this that it really sucks that we don't speak better Spanish. We were luckily picked up by another bus company about half an hour later but no longer has assigned seats so everytime we stopped and people got on the bus we were preparing for them to ask why we were in their seats. You know what....the Guide to South American Spanish was not all that helpful! We were also sat by the coffee machine which spat coffee at Noush everytime we went over a bump - she was literally covered in the stuff and SO GRUMPY!!!! My seat was broken so I had a choice of 90 degrees or 170 degrees for the next 7 hours. I actually found the whole thing quite entertaining.....but our bus luck does seem to be quite bad.

Cordoba brightened our spirits though. We spent 4 days in a cool hostel in the city center and we had a brilliant parrilla (BBQ/steakhouse) just round the corner....what more could you ask for. The city itself was a great mix of ultra modern and old and really easy to walk around. We spent a couple of days just wandering around the city and taking it easy. The cathedral was stunning - more gold leaf than you can shake a stick at. There was also a clever reflection of the cathedral in silouette in the pavement outside in marble - had never seen anything like it.
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There is a large university contingent in the city so there are also lots of music venues and modern spaces for events that we hadn't seen anywhere else. The art galleries were also a real treat and all free on a Wednesday so we saw some brilliant exhibitions which made up for our Rosario disappointment. The staircase of one of the museums was entirely covered in black cowhide - not sure how vegetarians would feel about that but I'm not sure that is often a consideration of the Argentines! And we got to play on the disco floor.

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Cordoba is flanked by countryside and we decided it was high time that we got our walking shoes on again. We arranged to go with a guide to Quebrada de Condorito for a hike. There were 5 of us, all women interestingly and our guide Martin (is this the nombre de guia? Remember Martin in Chile?). We drove for about 2 hours from Cordoba and to about 2000m before we started our walk. The area is a conservation site for condors and we were lucky enough to see lots of them as well as eagles, vultures and this little fella who was particularly interested in our lunch.

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We didn't see either of these though - guess we should be thankful for that although it would have been cool.....from a distance.

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It was a good 6 hour hike - although I am coming to the realisation that after about three hours I get really bored! Unless the landscape is ever changing I lose interest pretty fast...and then it just becomes putting one foot infront of the other. It was great to get out in the fresh air though and some of it was really beautiful and serene.

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At the end of the day it was all we could do to freshen up and go and eat a lomito before crashing out. The next day we were getting an overnight bus to Salta in the northwest of the country....would our bus luck change for the better?

Posted by Dani Parry 06:48 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Buenos Aires part 2

No tango shoes for me.....

sunny 21 °C

Another beautiful barrio of BsAs is Recoleta. It's a bit chichi like Palermo but there's nothing wrong with that. The most famous attraction of Recoleta is Recoleta Cemetary - a vast necropolis that makes Pere Lachaise look very down at heel. This is a most elegant city of the dead. It doesn't quite have the celebrity factor of it's Paris equivalent, at least not to a European, although it is the final resting place of Eva 'Evita' Peron which draws quite a crowd. (Final resting place indeed - we went to the Evita museum and it was horrifying to learn how her body was treated after she died. She was buried in three different countries and moved from pillar to post before her family - Duarte, not Peron - were allowed her battered and broken remains and put her in their family crypt in Recoleta - seven years after she died. Shocking stuff.)

Anyway - the cemetary is beautiful and fascinating - and strange. Time and I imagine burglars have ravaged some of the tombs and a lot of the coffins are on display which is a bit sinister - especially the childrens' coffins. I was also intruiged by all the cats which I was convinced were souls of the residents of the cemetary....it could be true!

the cat is real

the cat is real


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Cleaning cupboard?

Cleaning cupboard?

Recoleta is also home to the best bookshop I have ever visited. Al Ateneo is housed in an old theatre - giving the books all the pomp and ceremony I think they deserve. There is also a coffee shop on the stage and you can sit and peruse your latest purchases in the boxes - how civilised is that?

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Another typical sight in BsAs but especially in Recoleta is the dog walker. Although the manner of dog walking would be displeasing to my dog walking friends, it is a sight to behold. The walkers usually have about 15 dogs at a time of all shapes and sizes, they don't clear up after them (this is a big problem in BsAs unfortunately) and as far as I can see they walk them a bit and then sit on a bench and tie them all up for a while - lazy buggers.

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We visited a magnificent sculpture just north of Recoleta called Floralis Generica. A metal flower sculpture that opens and closes at sunrise and sunset.

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The area of Palermo where we stayed is a varied barrio. The area around our apartment was the greenest part of the city with parks, the botanical gardens, rose gardens, japanese gardens. The area of Palermo Viejo (old Palermo) has been gentrified and is full of cafes, bars, restaurants, boutiques and more fantastic bookshops. Shopping is a big no no for us at the moment but the window shopping was fun and we both bought a new book in a fantastic bookshop with a CD section and a cafe.

Our last night was my personal highlight though. We booked to go to a tango show at Esquina Carlos Gardel. We started the evening at a recommeded restaurant from Time Out - an proper old school steak house. Vegetarians look away now - but it was the most divine steak I've ever eaten, the morcilla (blood sausage) was so much better than the black pudding equivalent in the UK and the recommended bottle of Malbec was gorgeous. A massive meal cost us about 35 quid including service - a real treat for us and worth every peso. Then we headed to our 10.30pm show at Carlos Gardel and were shown to the coolest circular booth at the edge of the theatre. Many people had dined here already but we chose not to due to cost but I think we lucked out as they were all on long tables in the 'stalls' of the theatre - and we felt like old school hollywood stars in our booth (so weren't dressed like them though!). The wine was free which was also a bonus and the show was stunning. I assumed photography wouldn't be allowed but the truth is that everyone was snapping away - I'm glad that I just watched though - those feet move fast!!

There is one other famous barrio that we didn't make it to called La Boca. There is a small very touristy area that is 'safe' for outsiders to go to where all the houses are painted in bright colours. The other reason to go here is to watch the Boca Juniors playing football - would have loved to have done this but unfortunately Noush's lurgy limited any night time excursions.

Buenos Aires - we loved you. A real highlight of our trip. I hope we return one day.....when I will get my tango shoes.

Posted by Dani Parry 05:04 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Buenos Aires part 1

Warning ....this blog may be long.....

sunny 20 °C

This blog entry is dedicated to the memory of Aunt May xx

We booked an apartment in Buenos Aires for a week in the barrio of Palermo Botanico - we wanted a chance to set our own pace, unpack our bags and cook our own food for a while. Noush also needed time to take it really easy as her cold/flu was now in her lungs so staying in one place would help her recover.

First things first, Buenos Aires is cool. Believe everything you've heard - it does have a European feel - reminiscent of a sunny Paris but on the water. It is also handily divided into barrios which makes navigating it lovely and easy. Oh and the tube costs about 25p per trip (um...hello TFL) which adds to the feeling of simplicity. Not that we used the metro much as BsAs is such a lovely city to walk around. Rather than give you a day by day account I will instead give you a guided tour in photos. The only other thing that I can tell you about the week is that Noush did start to make a recovery after about 3 days pretty much in bed and some crazy strong over the counter meds, we downloaded a lot of True Blood and I got to roast a chicken for the first time in 5 months....yum.

We spent Sunday in the barrio of San Telmo - a downtown area which is famous for it's Sunday antiques market and tango dancers. We filled an afternoon just mooching around, looking at the stalls and shop windows, drinking coffee and eating cake in Bar de Plaza Dorrego and watching the fabulous tango dancers in the square - young and old.

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How pretty is this button shop!

How pretty is this button shop!

Centro is the area for shopping and historical buildings. The hub is Plaza de Mayo which is flanked by law buildings and the presidential palace, Casa Rosada (you'll see why). Casa Rosada is famous for the balcony from which the Peron's made their impassioned speeches. It's a gorgeous square and still home to a healthy amount of political demonstration which the Argentinians appear to love. In this area there are also huge shopping malls and more stores than you can shake a stick at - no matter how dire the Argentianian economy may be, the portenos love to shop. This also used to be the home of the only other Harrods outside of Knightsbridge (before they did all those horrendous concession souvenir shops in airports). Built in the 1920s, it closed during the recession of the 1970s and just sits their like a tomb of consumerism to this day.
We paid a visit to Cafe Tortoni while we were in this area - originally opened in the late 1800s and virtually unchanged, it's charming and the staff in bowties add to the glamour. Unfortunately due to dim lighting the photos are a bit squiffy so I've left them out but it was a lovely way to spend an hour after walking the city streets.

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I have so many photos from Recoleta, I'm going to put it in a second blog. Give you all a chance to make a cup of tea or get a glass of wine.
Hasta luega
x

Posted by Dani Parry 14:21 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

You say Iguacu....

I say Iguazu.

sunny 22 °C

Before we talk cataratas (that's waterfalls gringos!) I just wanted to say that it has been a fantastic week for news from home and we are so pleased for all of you who have told us of proposals and pregnancies and new houses and such - hooray hooray hooray.

Less hooray-ish though is that Noush is still unwell. What appeared to be a cold has now turned into a much more flu type beast and a few hours up and about per day is her limit. We are still loving our bite size chunks of Buenos Aires though and will write all about it at the end of the week.

Strange but True: I seem to have Begin the Beguine in my head ALL the time since we arrived - I don't even know if the song is remotely related to Argentina but it's annoying the crap out of me.

So those cataratas.....we arrived in Foz do Iguacu (there should be a squiggle under the c but I don't have one) after the most horrendous bus journey. Full of confidence in our expertise at long distance bus travel, we were horrifed to discover that the bus company weren't supplying blankets and didn't know where the off switch was for the air con. Everyone was freezing all night and they had brought sleeping bags and duvets. I didn't even have a jumper and both of us had flip flops on - no wonder Noush hasn't recovered. We tried to sleep by curling up in the tightest ball possible - didn't really work - it was miserable. The hot chocolate at 4.30 in the morning was like nectar of the gods.

Thankfully we arrived at our hostel at 8.30am and our room was ready and breakfast was being served. We chilled out for a few hours as we defrosted and then set off to see the Brazilian side of Iguacu Falls. Neither of us have seen Angel, Niagara or Victoria Falls so don't have much of a scheme of reference but we were blown away by both the beauty and the power of them. Right on the border of Argentina and Brazil (and Paraguay) the falls should be seen from both sides. The Brazilian side is regarded as the overview....I'm just going to put up a few photos - there's not much to be said - it's simply stunning.

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There was also a wonderful variety of wildlife everywhere you went at both sides of the falls. I took a particular shine to the butterflies while Noush fell for the birds and the quatis or coatis (depending which side of the border you were on). One of the butterflies is called an ochenta oche - bet you can't guess which one.

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The hostel had a lovely terraced bar area which we took full advantage of while waiting to meet our Irish friends last seen in Valparaiso - we forgot that we'd had about 2 hours sleep the night before until about 10.30pm when we almost fell asleep in our dinners - sorry girls.

The next day we travelled across the border - a strange situation where one bus throws you off to be stamped out of Brazil and you then wait in no man's land for another bus to take you to the Argentine border where you get off again to be stamped in. Then you get on a final bus to Puerto Iguazu. We had a relaxed day before heading off to see the sunset at a point where you can see the three border countries simultaneously...well that was the plan anyway...what?......it was a rubbish map!! Puerto Iguazu is a sweet town though - Foz on the other side is a bit more sprawling and of course more pricey being in Brazil. We ate in a stir fry restaurant that night and were thankful for vegetables even if they were only peppers and onions.

Following a ham and cheese breakfast we headed out early to see the Argentinian side of the falls. You get a bit more up close and personal on this side and consequently there are many circuits to walk unlike the single 1.2km track on the Brazilian side. The engineering of all of these environmentally sympathetic catwalks is quite astonishing and we could have easily spent longer there than the 4 hours but poor Noush was knackered. Again it's easiest to just show you some shots - and as you look at them you have to imagine the sound of thousands of tons of water hurling itself over a cliff face. It was an immense experience for all the senses. (You may also notice that I got a bit rainbow happy - I was even singing a rainbow!)

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I appreciate that if you don't like water, butterflies or strange ring tailed, ant-eater like creatures that this blog may not have rocked your world. However for Noush and me, it was one of the highlights of the trip so far and we were mesmerised.

Posted by Dani Parry 13:29 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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