I’m back from Argentina edition – Part 1

As the saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun. Well, not only did my wife and I spend almost three weeks in Argentina, we also spent about 14,000 miles in the air; travel to and from Argentina and within the country itself. Time, flying and fun in this case, certainly went together!

Over three weeks ago on my blog, I discussed “why Argentina”? Well, I can now confirm (and refute) what I thought about Argentina before our trip.

Here’s what you should know about this fine country in Part 1 of my back from vacation post:

•Buenos Aires is indeed “Paris of the south”. No, not in glamorous Champs Elysées terms since BA (as it is known) has a ways to come; signs of poverty still blatantly exist since the Argentine peso and economy collapsed almost 10 years ago. But is does feel very European in terms of the ubiquitous cafes, restaurants and shops that exist in the numerous neighbourhoods that make up its central core. It would take lifetimes to visit most of them in this city of over 10 million people, but cafe sitting, people watching and window shopping are definitely part of Buenos Aires DNA; all of it very enjoyable I might add.

•Culture. Take a quick walk down the main corridors of Buenos Aires, on Avenida Santa Fe for example, and you’re bound to hear at least four languages other than Spanish in your travels. To visit Buenos Aires, is a lesson in gastronomy. You’ve got sushi bars next to pastry shops next to nuevo argentine fine dining next to lingerie stores (lots of them). And that’s just in one block. In the Palermo district, for dining and nightlife, you can find every type of club, bar or lounge imaginable. We found one Irish Pub that played 80’s remixes and served great microbrews until the wee hours of the morning. We found another place later that night and quickly learned we stuck out like a sore thumb. Not because my wife and I were in some exotic club and are not fluent in Spanish, rather, we walked into this lounge at 1 AM expecting to dance and instead of dancing, people were eating listening to DJ’s spin remixes of Lady Gaga. I was told we arrived far too early for their party. Their dance floor doesn’t get busy until about 3 AM. In talking with the locals, simply pick what you want to do and there’s a place in BA to do it regardless of what time it is.

•Affordability, very much so. One of the reasons we chose Argentina for our vacation, was because of the powerful Canadian dollar. For the most part, our dollar bought almost 4 pesos. That was great! For example, a coffee and small pastry during our afternoon travels would cost about 10 pesos. That’s $2.50 CDN. Ok you might say, “I can get that at Tim Hortons”. However, how about this in Mendoza:

o A private 8-hour wine tour from Mendoza and back again affiliated with our B&B.
o Complete wine tasting (three samples minimum) at four boutique bodegas (wineries) in the foothills of the Andes.
o Tours of each bodega visited.
o A five-course gourmet lunch with wine pairing for each course at Bodega Ruca Malen (the main course was grilled beef tenderloin medallion with Spunta potatoes and Valencian onions baked on butter. Crust of raisins accompanied by sweet corn chimichurri and smoked dry figs).
o Two complimentary bottles of wine (one Malbec from the last winery and the other red wine courtesy of the B&B).

The cost for one of the best days of our life? Priceless? Yes, but not really. About 1000 pesos per couple or about $260 CDN.

•Diversity. In Argentina, you have “Paris of the south”, wine country, glaciers to the south and the jungle to the north. We took a few days to visit this jungle in Iguazu Falls, and if you have the chance to visit Argentina we suggest you do the same. Absolutely breathtaking. Our small resort was Los Troncos and home for a few days, amidst 30+ degree Celsius heat (in their springtime I might add). We took two days to visit Iguazu Falls or the Cataratas as they are known. This waterfall system consists of over 250 falls along almost 3 kilometers of the Iguazu River, bordering Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. Basically, you’re surrounded by waterfalls. Many of the individual falls are 70 meters high, and the highlight is a U-shaped, 80-plus meter high waterfall called “The Devil’s Throat”. It spans hundreds of meters wide. This one particular waterfall is much like Niagara Falls, except for your experience you can get much, much closer to it. Again, it’s just one of 250 you’ll see. Iguazu national park is nothing short of spectacular.

Sad but true, our journey to Argentina has come and gone – but my wife and I have fond memories of the places we visited, the people we met and the experiences we shared. I hope to share more details about our trip, Part 2 and beyond. I’ll also get back to more personal finance and investing matters in the weeks to come, since our broad economy continues to evolve as does our household affairs. We’ve got a house move to get through in the coming weeks and some Christmas shopping as well, to keep things interesting. Posts on those topics are to come so stay tuned and I look forward to your contributions to them.

For now, I’m going back to my morning coffee with rum cream. My wife and I are still on vacation for a few days and we want to take every opportunity we can to savour it before work next week. It will be a tough one…

It’s amazing to travel and get away, but there’s no replacement for the comforts of home.

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