John and Sheila's bus ride through South America
From Santiago through Mendoza, Cordoba, Salta, Asuncion, Iguazu Falls, San Ignacio, Posadas, Fray Bentos, Colonia and Montivideo to Buenos Aires
Monday 7th October. Chile.
We arrived in Santiago de Chile. After finding a hotel (Hostal Americano, special deal $20 at the airport hotel reservations desk), we straight away set about some serious sightseeing.
The metro station is just down the road from the Hostal Americano, so
we got the metro to the main square, Plaza de Armas, and had lunch in a café
overlooking the square as the world strolled by. We walked down Puente, a
pedestrianised shopping street, to the central market, which is a large wrought-iron
structure made in Birmingham in 1872 and shipped here in bits. The market
is half traditional market with meat, fish and fruit & veg stalls, and
half trendy fish restaurants.
We carried on walking round the shopping streets around the square, stopping
only for ice cream, where we discovered 'dulce de leche' ice cream, amazingly
rich and sweet, made from condensed milk; for the rest of the holiday we ate
nothing else! Walking along Avenue Bernard O'Higgins, we branched off into
Lastarria where there were several interesting-looking restaurants, then
crossed the river into the Bellavista district where there were many more
- no shortage of places to eat! First, though, we took the funicular railway
up to the top of San Cristobal Hill for wonderful views of the city surrounded
by the snow-capped Andes mountains lit by the setting sun.
|Street artists and the world strolling by - Plaza de Armas, Santiago de Chile.|
We finally settled for the restaurant 'R' back in Lastarria for a wonderful
meal and a couple of 'Pisco Sours', a local drink like lemon sorbet with
a huge kick. Finally we collapsed into bed in the Hostal, 44 hours after
last getting up at home!
Tues 8th Oct. We got the metro to Los Leones, which
is the business district and also has a good selection of restaurants. We
sat out having coffee and cake at a café in Avenue el Boque Norte,
then ended up in Holley Street, which is an almost Disney-style street of
themed restaurants in renovated (or newly built) old houses. The competition
is fierce and there are some excellent lunchtime deals. We got the bus back
to Santa Lucia Hill, a pleasant park with a miniature fortress on the top
in the centre of the city, with great views of Santiago spread out below,
and the green hill reflected in the high rise buildings.
From there we walked around the downtown shopping district for a while
then sat in the main square watching the world go by, and the mimes and
story-tellers and 'moving statue' men and street artists. Finally we went
back to restaurant 'R' for another brilliant meal - we are eating and drinking
far too much!
Wed 9th Oct. We got the 9:30 bus from Los Heros bus
station just down the road, across the Andes to Mendoza in Argentina. The
pass through the mountains was impressive, with a zig-zagging road between
snow-covered peaks. The mountainsides were steep, bare rocks with no plants
at all and the road wound its way through snowdrifts and fast little streams
where the snow was melting in the bright sunlight and a Condor was gliding
The Ahumada-line bus was very comfortable with more leg-room that I've
ever seen before - I really had to stretch my legs out to touch the seat
in front. The conductor brought round coffee, tea and cold drinks from time
to time and he completed all the paperwork for us so we breezed through the
Argentina. In Mendoza we discovered that Argentina is even better
value than Chile. The taxi from the bus station to the centre of town was
US$1, we found a pleasant, slightly run-down hotel right in the centre called
the Rincon Vasco, where we got a 4-bed room (ensuite, TV, balcony) for 60
pesos (US$16). Then, after walking round town for a while and stopping for
a beer, we had an excellent meal at "Mendoza's finest Italian Restaurant"
La Marchigiana ($13 for two, 2 courses plus wine). We collapsed into bed
again unaccountably exhausted after an easy day. Or maybe it was the wine.
Thurs 10th Oct. The wineries do not open to visitors
on Thursdays, so unfortunately we couldn't go on the tour to try a little
sampling of Argentine wine. Instead, we had a day at leisure in Mendoza,
with shopping, a trolley-bus ride and plenty more eating and drinking.
Fri 11th Oct. We caught the 9 o'clock bus for the 10-hour
(about 600km) trip through open prairie and scrubland to Cordoba. The T.A.C.
line bus, although it was comfortable and we had a panoramic view from the
front seat upstairs, wasn't as quick and efficient as the Ahumada one. We
kept stopping to let people on and off and at one point there were several
people standing (but no chickens).
We arrived in Cordoba but one of our bags didn't; it had been in
the overhead rack and somewhere along the way somebody had taken it without
us noticing. We attempted to report it to the police and although they were
very helpful we didn't get far because the interpreter was not there, so
we agreed they would ring us at the hotel and we would come back when he
arrived. We checked into a hotel that the police recommended for us (Hotel
Filipe II, great value at 60 pesos), and had just gone down the street and
ordered a beer at a café when a group of policeman came up. One introduced
himself - he was the interpreter - and we cancelled the beer and departed
in a police car, to the great interest of the other customers.
The police interpreter and inspectors were even more friendly and helpful
and we made out our statements back at the police station, then they gave
us a lift back to the same café where we ordered the same beers,
while the same other customers feigned disinterest. We finally ate at midnight,
just about the time that Argentinian cities get going.
Sat 12th Oct. A day at leisure in Cordoba, walking about,
looking at the old architecture, listening to musicians in the square, shopping,
keeping clear of a small anti-American political demonstration and, of course,
eating and drinking. In the evening we had a Parilla - a barbecue of steak
and other meats, with an all-you-can-eat starter and salad bar. Delicious!
Sun 13th Oct. We went to Alta Gracia, about an hour
away by local bus. Alta Gracia is a pleasant, historic town but, being Sunday,
it was shut! There was a small craft market in the main square which we just
managed to look round before they packed it away, then we had the town to
Alta Gracia used to be a summer retreat for people to escape the heat
of Cordoba, but it was pretty hot here too, so after a short walk around
we had a drink in a café then caught the bus back. Back in Cordoba
we waited till evening when the temperature returned to bearable, then walked
around for a while before returning to the Parilla for a meal.
Mon 14th Oct. We caught the 9am bus to Salta in north-west
Argentina, about 800km/500 miles. The Andesmar line bus was very well organised,
with a packed lunch at lunchtime, coffee and biscuits in the afternoon and
three movies. During a couple of 5-minute stopovers the conductor swept out
the floor, cleared away the rubbish and sprayed air freshener over the bus.
There were two drivers so we didn't have to have lengthy stops, but it was
a long way and still took 13 hours so it was 10pm when we arrived.
In Salta we got a taxi from the bus station to the central square
and immediately spotted the Colonial hotel, a slightly faded old style hotel
where we got a room for only 50 pesos (UK£5, US$7.50) with a little
wrought-iron balcony overlooking the street. We had a late dinner of beer
and a sandwich at a café on the corner of the square.
Tues 15th Oct. Salta has a great feel to it, lively
and interesting, and it's the best place we've visited so far. We spent the
day sightseeing around the city, and up the cable-car to the top of the hill
overlooking it. There are several museums in old colonial houses which charge
a token 1 peso to go in, and several ornate old churches, as well as lively
squares and shopping streets. Even at siesta time it only slowed down a bit,
not shutting up completely like the other towns we've been to.
|The 18th-century Cabildo Historico museum, with an unusual weather vane. Plaza 9th of July, Salta.|
|The colonial-style house of Arias Rengel, constructed in the 1740s. Florida street, Salta.|
|The ornate San Fransisco Church in Salta.|
Wed 16th Oct. We tried to go on an organised tour to
the picturesque valley of Humahuaca in the Andes today but the weather defeated
us. Up to now it has been pleasantly warm to really hot, but during the night
and into the morning it poured with rain and the temperature plummeted. At
first we regarded this as a minor inconvenience, but as the tour minibus drove
up the road we started meeting drivers coming back the other way telling us
that the road had been blocked by a flash flood. The mountains around here
are really crumbly and flaky and any rain washes copious quantities of debris
down into the valley where the road and former railway run alongside a wide
river bed. The railway used to lead up to Bolivia, but they abandoned the
task of trying to maintain it 20 years ago, and now the rails hang crazily
in mid-air over gaping holes, or disappear into mounds of shale. We drove
as far as the blocked road and sure enough it was impassible, so our driver
proceeded to try to find other things to entertain us. We stopped at a llama
farm and fed the llamas with tasty twigs from nearby trees. The llamas were
soft and wooly, even though they were still sodden from the rain. Most of
the herd were quite nervous, but one became very bold and snatched the twigs
from our hands. As we left the farm the owner told us about the best restaurant
in Salta, run by her nephew, where we could try llama steaks! We visited a
little town with a pretty church and drove back to Salta on a different winding
mountain road, but it wasn't the trip we'd wanted and the tour agent was
very good and gave everyone their money back.
| Feeding the soggy llama.
At a llama farm north of Salta.
After an unexpectedly restful afternoon (the tour hadn't been due back
until 9pm) we went to José Balcarce, the restaurant that the llama
farm lady recommended. It was wonderful; very stylish and clearly frequented
by the elite (i.e. rich) of Salta. The chef, dressed in black with a big
black chef's hat, came out and described the menu to us. We received complimentary
glasses of champagne with our starters - carpaccio of llama and a Caesar
salad. Then for main courses we had a Chateaubriand and fillet of llama -
both delicious, tender meat perfectly cooked, with crisp vegetables and a
little pastry case of curried potatoes, washed down with a pleasant local
Malbec red wine and mineral water. We finished with a couple of beautifully
decorated sweets, and the whole meal cost 56 pesos (US$16, UK£11).
Thurs 17th Oct. Morning in Salta - breakfast at a café
on the square, a walk through the market and visits to three of the city museums,
where the main attraction is the interesting old buildings that house them;
18th century houses with leafy interior courtyards and wooden
galleries. In the afternoon we caught the overnight Nueva Estrella line
bus across miles of endless scrubland to Clorinda on the Paraguay border.
It was quite comfortable and we got a reasonable amount of sleep.
Fri 18th Oct. Paraguay.
We bought a sandwich for breakfast at one of the stops along the way, had a coffee from the coffee 'tap' on the bus, and arrived at Clorinda, the border town, in quite good shape. Getting through the border was a bit fiddly - there are apparently buses that go directly from Clorinda to Asuncion but we were whisked away in a taxi to the border, completed the formalities very quickly at two adjacent windows (out of Argentina and into Paraguay) then found a minibus for the trip into Asuncion (at 30 pence/50 cents, a lot cheaper than the taxis). Asuncion is a bit run down and very busy, with traffic jams in the sprawling suburbs before you eventually get through to the centre. We drove around in a taxi checking out hotels and settled on the Plaza, on Plaza Uruguaya in a fairly central location, quite nice with a/c and fridge for $21 including breakfast. At the laundry next door we had a huge pile of laundry done for $6, and it was ready that afternoon.
We had lunch at Café Literario, a stylish café that doubles
as a bookshop. We would have browsed, but not surprisingly all the books
were in Spanish. Then after a walking tour round the centre of Asuncion,
we decided to go out to the Yacht and Golf Club, a top-end hotel, for a drink
and a look at the yachts. This turned out to be a bit of a disaster - it
was miles outside the town and the taxi driver tried to charge us a 50% surcharge
(which actually only applies after 10pm), so we had an argument and didn't
pay it. Then, because it was after dark, the yachts were shut - the 'beach'
on the river Paraguay is closed at night. So we had a drink and returned
The first couple of restaurants/bars that we tried were charging an entrance
fee because they had entertainment on, but we didn't feel up to it so we finally
ended up back at the Café Literario.
Sat 19th Oct. Woke up to another tropical downpour,
which rather dampened our plans for walking about taking photos. The Plaza
hotel breakfast turned out to be a surprisingly good buffet, so we lingered
over it for a while, then went for a look round the shops in the rain.
Paraguay closes at midday on Saturday, so we went to the Bar San Roque,
actually a very smart restaurant, for a very nice lunch: a bottle of champagne,
fish soup, beef stroganoff, tenderloin steak with eggs and onions, rice
pudding, for $20.
After resting for a bit to recover from this, the rain had eased off and
we went sightseeing to the president's palace, a museum and the river front.
|The President's Palace in Asuncion, Paraguay.
In the 1830s President Francia ordered that anyone observed gazing at his palace should be shot in the act, but it is reputed to be safer now.
Sun 20th Oct. We got the 7:30 bus for the 5-hour ride
across the rolling farmland of southern Paraguay to Cuidad del Este and
across the border to Foz do Iguacu in Brazil.
Brazil. We asked the taxi driver at the bus station for his recommendation
for a downtown hotel and he took us to the centrally located San Rafael Hotel
which was very good, at 84 reals (UK£17, US$25).
It was 2pm and we went straight for a tour of the falls - the magnificent
Iguazu waterfall which is the main reason anyone comes here. We entered
the national park (8 reals) and after a short drive stopped to do the Macuco
jungle trail and boat trip. This was expensive (US$33 each) but worth it.
Firstly, as we were waiting to board the electric car for the first part
of the jungle trip, the place was swarming with beautifully-coloured butterflies.
The 'safari' was quite short - a 15-minute electric car ride and a 600-metre
walk, but we saw iguanas, snakes and a toucan (but not the monkeys and jaguars
that also inhabit the park) as well as a riot of vegetation and a fair number
of biting insects. The boat ride was fantastic - we went upriver against a
strong current for a while and soon had some magnificent views of the waterfall,
which is absolutely huge. As well as being high and loud it is also wide -
there are several groups of waterfalls stretching along the river and at the
end a massive cloud of spray and steam where the biggest part of the cataract
plunges down into the river below. After pausing for photos we put cameras
and everything else into plastic bags that they provided, and raced upstream
into the spray - it was a wild ride, the river was racing and the spray and
white water drenched us - it was great!
|Getting close up to the waterfall!
Iguazu Falls, Argentinian side.
|Coatis ignoring the tourists.
Iguazu Falls, Brazilian side.
We drove further into the park and then walked along the walkways down
the riverside cliffs which give ever-changing spectacular views of the falls,
as well as entertaining wildlife such as lizards and Coatis (Ko-watees - cat-sized,
anteater-shaped, raccoon-related animals) which came up and sniffed us and
wandered on; and an endless chain of leaf-cutter ants, each carrying their
bit of leaf. Finally the walkway extended out into the river itself under
one of the main falls, and we were drenched again. It was great!
By now it was dusk and, having had enough excitement for one day, we had
a pizza at Pizza Hut and retired.
Mon 21st Oct. We discovered last night that the falls
are closed on Mondays! Or rather, I expect the falls keep going but the
Brazilian park is closed. So it was fortuitous that we went yesterday. Sheila
was a bit under the weather with an achy flu bug (which wasn't helped by
getting soaked yesterday) so we had a quiet day in Foz D'Iguazu, looking
round the shops (which didn't take very long). We did manage to fit in a
couple of meals, a nice sandwich and waffle at the Café de Paris,
and an excellent dinner at Cantina Ricordi in a nice old-fashioned wooden
building where the waiter was most friendly and attentive as he practised
his English on us.
Tues 22nd Oct. Argentina. This is the day we splash
out on a bit of 5-star luxury. We got a taxi across to the Argentine side
and checked into the Sheraton Hotel which has a spectacular view of the falls
from all the rooms on one side. We had enquired about the cost at another
Sheraton and at a travel agents and they all quoted in the $180-$200 range,
but our hotel in Foz got us a deal for $145 which seemed very good.
We could have just sat on our balcony looking at the falls for the rest
of the day, but there are walks and boat rides to do. There aren't enough
superlatives to describe the falls from the Argentine side. There are three
different sorts of walkways, about 2 to 3 miles long in total, that go over,
under and through the falls, giving you an endless succession of views of
raging waterfalls, clouds of spray, rainbows, cliffs and jungle. We were enthralled.
|Whichever way you look at them ......|
|... the Iguazu Falls are pretty spectacular.|
We also took a gentle boat ride between two of the walks, along one of
the backwaters through the jungle and saw monkeys in the trees.
Whereas the Brazilian side gives you a succession of great vistas, the
Argentine side is a series of close-ups - in many places you stand just
a couple of feet over where the water tips over the edge and crashes down
into a boiling cloud of steam. We finished up at the end of the lower trail
where the walkway extends out from the jungle into a pool right in front
of one of the falls, and the hardy types who go right to the end (like Sheila)
are drenched in a cloud of water with tremendous force. The falls are far
bigger than Niagara or Victoria Falls and are one of the most spectacular
things we've ever seen.
Wed 23rd Oct. We woke up at 5:45am, opened the curtains
in our hotel room, and the falls were still there!
After a big buffet breakfast and a relaxing morning we hired bikes and
went for a jungle cycle ride. There were interesting monkeys, beautiful
butterflies and swarms of really nasty mosquitos. We couldn't stop, or clouds
of the blighters would descend on us, so we kept going as fast as we could
to the waterfall at the end of the trail, had a rapid look, and cycled back
at top speed.
We caught the 1:45 bus from the bus station in Puerto Iguazu for the 4-hour
ride to San Ignacio, a little town in Missiones province with the
ruins of a Jesuit Mission Station. The bus didn't go into town, it simply
dropped us by the side of the main road and we walked up the road into town
looking for a hotel. By the little main square we found the San Ignacio hotel
and stayed in a nice wooden cabin for 35 pesos ($10).
It's a quiet, out-of-the-way little town and not much was happening. Although
it does cater for tourists there was an out-of-season feel and most of the
restaurants were closed. We found a café open and had very tasty empanadas
(like little Cornish pasties) and french fries and two big beers for 13 pesos
Thurs 24th Oct. After a nice breakfast at the hotel
($1 extra) we went to see the ruins of San Ignacio Mini Jesuit mission, which
are in a pleasant leafy enclosure in the centre of town. They are very impressive,
with rows of quarters where the Guarani natives lived, a large central square
and a big cathedral, cloisters and schoolrooms, library, etc. It is all built
in sturdy stone with elaborate carved doorways. There is also an interesting
'interpretation centre' with a Guarani hut and other displays, including a
room full of severe-looking Jesuits coming to civilise you!
|An elaborate carved doorway at San Ignacio Mini Jesuit mission, built in the early 1700s.|
|The Jesuits are coming to civilise you!|
We got the local bus to Posadas (1 hour, very comfortable - there
don't seem to be any 'chicken buses', even the local buses have reclining
seats, etc) and I had a look round while Sheila had a nap in the City Hotel.
At 6pm we couldn't find anywhere to have a proper meal so we had a beer
and sandwich at a café on the square before returning to the bus
station for the overnight bus to Gualeguachu (pronounced Wally-wachoo) 800km/500
miles away near the Uruguayan border. The Express Singer line bus was one
of the best we've been on - there was a huge amount of leg-room and we were
upstairs in the front seats with a panoramic view. The only problem was that
they had left the door open somewhere and the bus was full of mosquitos,
so there was a considerable delay while Sheila and another passenger refused
to get on, and the driver had to go to a supermarket and get a can of insect
spray and quickly spray the bus (then Sheila took it from him and sprayed
more thoroughly), then a can of air freshener to hide the smell of bug spray.
Eventually we got going and they even served up an airline-style hot meal.
|Abandoned steam trains in the closed-down railway station in Posadas, Argentina ....|
|... and the paddle steamers in Posadas harbour that used to take the trains across the Parana river to Paraguay.|
Fri 25th Oct. We were due to arrive in Gualeguachu at
6am, plus a bit for the late start, but our bus really zoomed along, overtaking
everything else, and didn't stop, so we were dozing nicely at 5am when the
conductor came along and told us we're here! We scrambled off the bus and
found ourselves in a 'motorway services' style café/bus station. The
man serving in the café spoke excellent English and told us the bus
across the border to Fray Bentos in Uruguay was due at 8am. At this point
Sheila became a total wimp and insisted we got a taxi - this cost 65 pesos
($18, £13), not bad value for a 50km ride plus messing about with the
Uruguay. Fray Bentos is a sweet little town, with a pleasant park
by the river. It was all very quiet and cool in the early morning sunshine
as we waited for things to open up. By 10am there was still no sign of anyone
in tourist information so we got a taxi to the main attraction, the museum
of the Industrial Revolution which is actually the former El Anglo Fray Bentos
meat packing factory.
|Former slaughterhouses and conveyor belts in the Fray Bentos meat packing factory, now the 'Museum of the Industrial Revolution'.|
|Steam engines in the Fray Bentos meat packing factory, Fray Bentos, Uruguay.|
You can only look round on a guided tour, but there was nobody else there
so we had a personal tour and the English-speaking lady who took us round
was very good. We strolled through the old complex of slaughterhouses, conveyor
belts for carcasses, machinery sheds and so on. There was an engine room with
three generations of huge engines powered respectively by steam, electricity
and oil. There was the big old electrical power station which was the first
one in Uruguay, and a shed over the river with an old fire engine from the
1800s that had been turned into a fixed pump. Then we went into the offices
which were a time capsule from the 1920s with wonderful wooden desks and chairs,
big old ledgers and ancient typewriters. It was fascinating. There were a
surprising proportion of British people's names in the visitors book - clearly
a lot of people who remember Fray Bentos corned beef from the 50s and 60s
feel the need to see where it came from!
|A former fire engine, now a stationary water pump, suspended over the river Uruguay at Fray Bentos.|
|The manager's desk in the office at the Fray Bentos meat packing factory. In the background are ledgers from the 1920s listing the number and weight of cattle processed each day.|
There are a couple of direct buses a day to Colonia, our next destination,
but we seemed to have missed them so we got a local bus for the half-hour
ride to Mercedes then caught another one for the 2½-hour ride to
Colonia. Again the local buses were very comfortable and none of the passengers
brought any chickens on with them.
In the bus station at Colonia we happened to meet a very helpful
man who spoke good English and he recommended La Mision Hotel, right in the
centre of the historic old town. It was lovely, in an old house lovingly
restored and beautifully decorated by a friendly Argentine couple, Juan and
Mercedes, and we felt really at home there. We had a nice meal at Casa Grande
restaurant round the corner and decided that we liked Colonia.
Sat 26th Oct. We have raced through 700 miles and some
fascinating sights in the last 3 days so we decided to slow down and see Colonia
at leisure. It is an historic old town and port on the River Plate, founded
in 1680 and, on first impressions, not changed since. We had a very pleasant
day strolling around the old town and the little harbour, and a truly excellent
lunch at La Florida restaurant just outside the old town walls.
|Los Suspiros street in Colonia, Uruguay. The River Plate flows by in the background.|
|Delivery of firewood to La Florida restaurant, Colonia.|
|Another interesting restaurant in Colonia, with a table set in the car outside.|
Sun 27th Oct. We hired bicycles from Thrifty rent-a-car/scooter/bike
and cycled up the riverside promenade to the old bull-ring at Real de San
Carlos, which is a huge brick and iron construction outside Colonia. It
was built in the early 1900s and operated for just 2 years before the President
banned bullfighting and it closed down.
As we were leaving, Sheila's bike developed a flat tyre but a kindly family
in a house nearby brought out a pump and pumped it up again (the bikes had
no accessories like pumps). However, a couple of hundred yards down the road
it was flat again so we stopped at a hotel, where a very friendly teacher
with a party of students who were staying there tried to mend it for us, and
when that didn't work they phoned Thrifty, then practised their English on
us while Thrifty brought out a replacement bike.
Back in Colonia we had a very nice Parilla (barbecue) late lunch/early
dinner at the Madera Restaurant, sitting out in the sunshine with a view
of the harbour. The most amazing old cars were driving around the streets
- a 1940s Ford pickup was delivering firewood to another Parilla restaurant
nearby. We finished off with a 'dulce de leche' ice cream from the parlour
opposite the square in the new town.
|There are some wonderful old cars struggling round the streets in Uruguay. This one was parked in Real Street, Colonia.|
|This one was parked outside a house in Fray Bentos.|
Mon 28th Oct. Today it rained for most of the day and
the wind howled up the River Plate from the Atlantic and Colonia had a very
damp Monday morning feel to it, so we spent the day having coffees in cafés
and a wonderful long leisurely lunch at La Florida restaurant.
Tues 29th Oct. The sun was out and the town was fresh
and bright, but we were moving on. We caught the bus for the 3-hour journey
to Montevideo ("I see a hill") and checked into the Crystal Palace hotel.
This is in an excellent location on the main street in the central district
and it was a bit of 4-star luxury.
Montevideo has a nice compact centre and we walked down the main
shopping street into the old town, through two or three leafy plazas. Although
it was all very pleasant, we met an Australian couple who had come from Buenos
Aires to visit Montevideo for a couple of days, and they said that the shops
and the atmosphere in BA were so much more buzzing, and better value, so
we have probably done it the right way round, leaving Buenos Aires till last.
We had a couple of tasty chorizo sausage hot dogs for lunch from one of
the street stalls that sit at every other crossroads, and for dinner we had
a drink in a bar in the old town while we waited for the restaurants to open,
then an excellent Italian meal at Panini's.
Wed 30th Oct. We went on a walking tour of Montevideo,
through the new and old towns, looking at the shops and buildings. Most
of the last-century buildings are big but rather ugly - the older, potentially
more attractive ones in the old town are crumbling away and inhabited by
|Government House, Plaza Independencia, Montevideo. Formerly the residence of the Estevez family, built in 1873 in Italian Neoclassical style.|
|An unusual skyscraper and the old railway station, Montevideo.|
We ended up at the port market, which used to be the meat & veg market
but is now entirely taken up with restaurants. Although it looks a bit touristy
they are very good and most of the diners are local people. We settled for
La Pradera and had a truly wonderful meal: starting with a huge chorizo sausage,
then big red peppers coated in herbs, a tomato & onion salad, baked potatoes
smothered in cream & roquefort sauce and finally a big, lean, tasty piece
of steak. Including wine and beer, great value for $20 including tip.
We sunbathed on the harbour breakwater watching the fishermen for a while
then strolled back into town. After such a great lunch we didn't feel like
a full dinner, so we had an eclectic evening meal; starting on the 25th
floor bar of the Radisson Hotel on Independence Square we watched the sun
set over the old town with a couple of glasses of wine and plates of peanuts;
then we had a couple of tasty hot dogs from the gleaming chrome street stands
- they are trailers so we thought they moved around until we noticed that
all their tyres are flat. We finished with more dulce de leche ice cream from
the ice cream shop opposite the hotel.
Thurs 31st Oct. Argentina again. We caught the 11:30
boat for the two and three-quarter hour ride across the River Plate to Buenos
Aires. The departure lounge at the port was more like an airport, and the
price ($45 each) was more like airline prices, but it was fast and smooth
and a very easy way to cross back into Argentina. We had been recommended
the Hotel de la Paix, which was very good and in a good central location.
Buenos Aires is big! Without further ado we set off to explore,
but got no further than the next corner where we found a Museo de Jamon (Museum
of Ham) restaurant, with great haunches of cured ham hanging from the ceiling.
We had a wonderful lunch of ham & cheese followed by steaks washed down
with a nice red wine, and by the time we set off to shop it was 5pm! We spent
the rest of the evening strolling along Florida, one of the main pedestrianised
shopping streets, and finished up with beer and peanuts at a café on
Avenue 9th July, reputedly the widest street in the world.
Fri 1st Nov. A day of shopping and sightseeing in Buenos
Aires. Sheila had the complete pampering experience with hairdo and manicure
at a very trendy salon in the centre of town.
|The obelisk, Avenue 9th July, Buenos Aires (the widest street in the world, they claim).|
|Casa Rosada, the Presidential Palace, with Evita's balcony. Plaze de Mayo, Buenos Aires.|
For dinner we went to the most amazing buffet at Grant's Restaurant in
Junin Street. There was an absolutely huge array of dishes, dozens of them,
hot and cold, as well as four chefs cooking up more meals and barbecues to
order, and all of it really tasty - or at least everything we tried, we could
do no more than scratch the surface. All this, as much as you can manage to
eat, for 11 pesos ($3, £2). And it's even cheaper at lunchtimes!
Sat 2nd Nov. Another busy day in Buenos Aires.
We got a taxi to La Boca and strolled through the bustling street markets,
taking pictures of the multi-coloured painted houses.
|Street market and painted houses, Caminito street, La Boca, Buenos Aires.|
Then we got the bus back to Plaza Mayo and took pictures of the colourful
Jacaranda trees in the sunshine. We went by metro to Plaza Once, where we
found the shops were very busy but rather down-market, and the square was
occupied by rather sad food queues, segregated into men's and women's, waiting
for some nuns to arrive and start doling out food.
We had a look at Abasto, one of the big Malls, bought some wine and teas
at a fascinating deli run by a Polish lady, and had an ice cream. Then by
taxi to the more up-market Alto Palermo mall and the nearby clothes shops,
then bus number 111 back to the centre and walked along Florida and Lavalle
pedestrian streets. There was lots of street entertainment - tango dancers,
spray can paint artists and finger paint artists, painted mime 'robot men'
and a Latino band with pan pipes. Sheila had a quick fry in a Solarium.
We had dinner at La Estancia on Lavalle Street, wonderful tasty, juicy, gigantic steaks.
Sun 3rd Nov. We went to the Sunday market at San Telmo
district, which was bustling and lively with street musicians and mimes,
but most of the stalls had rather overpriced 'antiques' and bric-a-brac for
tourists. We walked back to the centre, browsed around those shops that were
open, then were just in time for another buffet lunch at Grants. After a
bit more strolling round the shops and malls we went to see a spectacular
tango show at the Tanguera National Theatre.
Mon 4th Nov. A last look at the shops, yet another hairdo,
a final ice cream, and we flew back to the UK.
|Some unusual characters in Magallanes street, La Boca, Buenos Aires.|
If you would like to read about our other travels, click here: