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Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Chillin In Chile

Kelly and I only had a week in Chile, so unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore much of the country and stuck mainly to Santiago and Valparaiso. We’d definitely like to make it back someday to visit the Atacama desert and see the Lakes District and Pucon.

After waiting two hours in immigrations and customs and then getting screwed on the price of the cab, we arrived at our hostel in the Bellavista barrio of Santiago, which is known for it’s numerous bars, cafes, and clubs. Kelly and I had heard mixed reviews about Santiago, mostly that it was ‘just another city’ and that there wasn’t much going on.   Aside from the thick layer of smog that hung over the place obscuring the Andes, we thought it was rather nice…clean, easy to get around, and plenty of parks and green space.

During our time in Santiago, we hung out in the park of Santa Lucia, climbing up to the top tower to take in the views of the city.   After snapping some photos, we made our way to a nearby craft market and encountered an Asian lady selling egg rolls out of a cardboard box.  Kelly and I stuffed our faces for less than $2 on some of the best egg rolls we ever had…cheap delicious street food cannot be beat.

Entrance to Santa Lucia

View from Santa Lucia

One morning I climbed to the top of Cerro San Cristobal to see the statue of the Virgin Mary, which also has a church and an outdoor theater amongst some nice gardens (you can take a cable car to the top, but I needed the exercise).   The views of the city were outstanding, but again, the mountains were hidden by the smog.   Another day, Kelly and I wondered around the center of town and the Plaza de Armas before having a typical Chilean lunch of roasted chicken and french fries, topped with a fried egg and grilled onions.  So simple, yet so yummy.

View from Cerro San Cristobal. Can you see the smog?

Virgin Mary statue

Cool statue in the Plaza de Armas

This brings me to the subject of Chilean food.   There is definitely more variety than in Argentina (a lot more seafood) and we found that Chileans use a bit more spice in their dishes.  They also put mashed avocado on everything, including on one of my favorite foods here — the Chilean hotdog (which are sold EVERYWHERE).  For less than $4, you can get a ‘completo’ or an ‘italiano’, which is a hotdog smothered with avocado, tomatoes and mayo on a crusty roll with fries and a drink.  Nice.

Italiano

Fried eggs make everything better

Our evenings we spent at the hostel drinking with new friends and hitting the neighborhood bars (well, Kelly did anyway).

Interesting story behind this one

Since the coastal city of Valparaiso and the resort town of Vina del Mar were only a couple ours west of Santiago, we decided to hop a bus over for a few days with a few Aussie friends.   National elections were taking place over the weekend, so most all businesses were closed and we figured lying on the beach would be a great way to pass the time.

The city of Valparaiso is situated on the coast amongst dozens of ‘cerros’ (hills).   There are elevator lifts located all over town to help people up amongst the winding streets and a lot of the buildings are covered in graffiti, which is actually quite beautiful.   We wandered down to the port, visited some craft markets, ate at Cinzano (a restaurant specializing in Chilean seafood) and spent a couple of days lazing on the beach in Vina del Mar.

Dinner at Cinzano

Renaca Beach

Valparaiso

Since most of the bars were closed during our time here, we hung out at our weird hostel and watched movies with the Aussie boys and some Brits.   We spent a couple of more hot days in Santiago before catching a 14 hour flight to New Zealand for the holidays.

Random thoughts on Chile:

 -Chile is much more expensive than Argentina.

 -The wine is delicious and you can get a good bottle for around $5 – $6.  We were going to try and hit up a couple of wineries while we were here, but it just didn’t happen.  We drove by a few vineyards though on our way to Valparaiso and they looked lovely.

 -Every family member makes it a point to see their loved ones off at the airport, which is nice for them, but makes the place crowded and annoying for me.

 -George Castanza’s and Mandy Patinkin’s twin brothers ran for office here. Not really, but…maybe?

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Into Patagonia

To me, the word ‘Patagonia’ has always conjured images of a far away ancient landscape that was only visited by the most adventurous of travelers and trekkers. Visions of bearded men scaling jagged mountains and massive glaciers would pop into my head and I knew that we had to experience this place, even if we only ended up staring at some pretty mountains.

 It turns out that you don’t have to be a hard core trekker or climber to visit southern Patagonia at all…you just have to like to walk. A lot. 

After a thirty something hour bus ride (2 nights on a bus…ugh), along the mostly unpaved Route 40, we arrived in El Chalten, the ‘trekking capital of South America’. El Chalten is a small mountain town in southern Patagonia, with only about 300 permanent residents. There is absolutely nothing to do in this town but go on hikes, which is why we were pretty bummed that it was raining and snowing when we got there. The weather slightly cleared up later in the afternoon, so Kelly and I were able to do a short two hour hike to a waterfall before heading back to spend the evening at our hostel where we made dinner and played with the resident bulldog, Tango. 

El Chalten

 

Trying to catch some snowflakes on my tongue

Tango

Our second day, the weather was better, but still overcast. Since you can pretty much experience all four seasons in one day here, we decided to try our luck, suck it up and hike to Laguna de Los Tres, which is supposed to be beautiful and have a great view of one of the mountains, Fitz Roy. It was a nice hike, but the further we got into the mountains, the colder it became, and before we knew it, the sky was dumping snow. We had to turn around because it was pretty miserable and we couldn’t see anything. 

The next morning we awoke to blue skies and a handful of clouds. Finally, the weather was looking better! Our goal for the day was to hike to Cerro Torre, another one of the well-known mountain peaks in the area. The staff at our hostel had warned we should only attempt this trail on a ‘shiny day’, since you could not see any views if it was cloudy. We had to take advantage of the clearer skies. 

The hike itself was absolutely stunning, despite the little bit of clouds that obstructed some of our views of the mountain range. Three hours later, we reached Laguna Torre and settled down to have a picnic, hoping that while we were there, the clouds would part and the Cerro Torre would be visible. 

Sure enough, after about 15 minutes, the clouds cleared and we could see the peak!! It was one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever laid my eyes on and I could not stop taking pictures of it (sorry if you see a million of these on our flickr page), although pictures do not do ANY justice to what we saw. We sat there and stared for another 45 minutes or so, thinking how lucky we were to have had some good weather. 

The hike to Cerro Torre

Cerro Torre

Cerro Torre

On our way back down the trail, the sky cleared completely and we were able to glance back and see the entire panoramic view of the range, including Fitz Roy. We celebrated that evening with a fantastic steak dinner and a couple bottles of vino. 

Steak Dinner...of course!

Our final day in Chalten, there was not a cloud in the sky. The bus to our next destination didn’t leave until 6 p.m., so we decided to try and hike to the first view point of Fitz Roy, once again. We made it there in under two hours, and of course, the view was incredible. I took a million more pictures. Kelly and I had a picnic at the view point before heading back to take a quick shower before catching our bus 3 hours south to Calafate. 

Kelly at the Fitz Roy trailhead

On the hike to Fitz Roy

Fitz Roy

Us at the Fitz Roy View Point

The bus ride out of town was breathtaking, as you could see panoramic views of the Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy. Needless to say, it was a much different bus ride than when we drove into town. I could have spent at least another week in Chalten…there were so many more hikes and trails that we didn’t have time to do. I hope to make it back there one day to try again and actually camp in the mountains.

 That’s right, Mary and Nicole…I said I would go camping.

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Lake…BIG Lake!

Bariloche. The Switzerland of Argentina, located in what is known as the Lakes District.  This was definitely one of my favorite cities we’ve hit so far.  This small mountain town is located right on Lake Nahuel Haupi, near many trekking areas and other ski resorts.  The lake is massive and one of the prettiest shades of blue I’ve ever seen. 

Lake Nahuel Huapi

 
We stayed at Bariloche Hostel which is known for their roof top deck and great views of the lake.  It was like a little bed and breakfast! So clean and neatly decorated.  We felt right at home.  Also, our friend Marianne from Norway that we met in Mendoza was meeting us there the day we arrived so we all got settled in and cooked dinner at the hostel.  I decided that it was high time for me to go out dancing and Marianne was happy to join me.  We grabbed a couple of boys from the hostel and we headed to a local bar called Dusk for some drinks and were totally surprised that there was no cover charge and they actually played decent music, not just techno like all the other clubs we had been to.  We had a blast!  Of course, we stayed up too late and didn’t quite get up when we were supposed to.  Sorry Kim. But it was worth it!  I’m pretty proud of myself for limiting my social outtings these days.  But hell, if I’m going out…I’m doing it right!
 

Before

After

Obviously we had a lazy day the next day, walked around town, checked out the main plaza, and discoved some of the biggest chocolate shops ever! We had heard that Bariloche was known for all of its delicious chocolate, but we were amazed.  Chocolate shops as big as a grocery store! We were very happy:)  We had another chill night drinking beers at the hostel. 
 
The following day, the weather was not so great.  It was raining a bit and really cloudy, but, we headed out anyway to hike through Llao Llao National Park.  Of course, our views were limited but we still saw some amazing scenery.  We decided to save the Cerro Campanario viewpoint for the following day in hopes of better weather.  It’s supposed to be one of the most incredible views in the world. 

On the trail in Llao Llao National Park

 

Kodak moment on our hike

Sure enough, it was worth the wait!  The weather was much better so we took the bus to the viewpoint and did the super steep, but fairly short 45 min. hike up to the top.  And everyone was right, it was breathtaking.  A 360 degree view of lakes, mountains, all of the surrounding towns…check it out.  However,  the pictures don’t to it any justice…
 
We spent some time up there, had some hot chocolate and our picnic lunch before we made our way back down and headed back to the hostel for a nap.  Life these days is pretty rough…ha! To celebrate our last night with Marianne, we went and had dinner at another wonderful parilla.  This time, a spread of lamb, chicken, sirloin, flank steak and ribs.  Um….yeah.  Of course a couple bottles of wine as well. 
 
We spent the rest of the evening at the hostel with a little more wine, laughing and watching you tube videos.  We had to share all of the Andy Samberg/Lonely Island videos with our new foreign friends.  They loved it! And I’m sorry, they never get old.  “I’m on a boat!!!”
 
Our last day in Bariloche, we hung at the hostel and played poker with some new commers from NYC before our 36 hour bus ride to El Chalten.  We had to say goodbye to Marianne, but we will be meeting up with her in Australia yet again! She is moving there to do a semester of med school, and just happens to be arriving in Sydney the same day we are.  So great how things work out sometimes!  Kim and I loved it here and definitely think its a must see if you are in Argentina.  Now on to El Chalten for trekking! Fitz Roy here we come!
Also, just a note that our flickr page hasn’t been updated very well…the internet in Patagonia is not the greatest, but we hope to get caught up in the next few days.
 

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Red Red Wine

Mendoza.  Wine country!  With the friendly people, tree-shaded streets, lovely plazas, huge park, and tons of vineyards 20 minutes away, Kim and I could totally live here.  There are over 1,200 wineries in the Mendoza region, all specializing in Malbec.  We were in heaven!

After our 23 hour bus ride, we arrived in Mendoza on November 1st and checked in to our hostel, The Oasis.  This was another family-run, smaller hostel that offered amazing, cheap asados (BBQ’s) every other night with, hallelujah, unlimited wine!!!  Gaspar, the owner’s son, was not only our grill master, but a fantastic source of information for anything we wanted to do around town.  Not to mention, his English was perfect.  Yay for Kim!

Gaspar

Gaspar the Grill Master

Dinner 056

Dinner at the Oasis

We took the first day to get settled in and then headed to El Parque General San Martin.  Along the way, we had lunch with May and checked out the main Plaza Independencia.  The park was the biggest park we’d ever seen. Izzy would have loved it!!!  Tons of trails, open green areas, and a really nice lake equipped with a backdrop of the mountains.  It reminded us a little of Town Lake because there were tons of runners and a few rowers getting their workout on.  We even stumbled upon an awesome outdoor group aerobics class!  Ha!  It took a lot for us to not join in.  It was great hearing all the Spanish commands and super loud techno music.  Awww, we miss you Gold’s Gym!

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One of the trails in San Martin Park

San Martin Park 045

May and me in the park

The following day, Gaspar hooked us up with Mr. Hugo, a old man that rents out bikes to get to and from of all the vineyards.  What a fantastic day!  One of my favorite of the trip so far.  How can you beat riding around on a beautiful day, surrounded by vineyards and ice-capped mountains, with a group of fellow travelers??  We stopped at 3 wineries and toured the facilities, tasted a few types of their wine, had lunch and shared a few bottles with our new friends.  And to top off that amazing day, after the wineries close at 5pm, we headed back to Mr. Hugo’s for unlimited free wine!!  He and his wife literally just keep filling up your cup the minute you turn your head. Around 8:30 pm, Mr. Hugo personally escorts the entire group of 50 people to the bus and hugs and kisses them goodbye.   Awesome. 

Bike ride 086

Cruisin' through the vineyards

Bike ride 091

Our biker gang at one of the wineries

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Wine Tasting!

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Classy

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Us at Mr. Hugo's, where the wine flows like water

We spent the next day recovering and chilling at the hostel with our new friends.  The following day, we signed up for an all day trek in the mountains of Vallecitos.  We headed out around 8:30am, took a 2 hour drive into the mountains, and started my first trekking experience!  Kim did Machu Picchu in Peru a few years ago so this wasn’t her first rodeo;).  

It was 3 hours straight up for 3000 feet, that’s right….straight up.  No switchbacks for you experienced trekkers.  Luckily our guide, Rodrigo, walked extremely slow and kept the group on the same pace.  Oh, and we had a couple from Israel in their seventies in our group!  It was so inspiring to see them still keeping up at that age.  That’s going to be us.  For sure. 

It was 2 hours back down, which actually seemed a bit harder due to the pressure on the knees, but still amazing. E very time it gets a little tough, you just look around and it’s all worth it.  Check out these pictures…

trek 007

My first trek!

trek 023 

trek 014

Us on the mountain

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On the way down

The following day, we rested our sore legs and butts, hung around and went to the park again for some frisbee action. We were supposed to leave the following day for Puerto Madryn for whale watching and penguins!!! However, we had a mishap with the bus company, Andesmar, and ended up letting our bus leave right in front of us. They failed to tell us that the bus’s final destination was a completely different city and it would say that city on the bus and not Puerto Madryn. They wouldn’t allow us to change our tickets, so we had to buy new tickets for the following day and are out $200. Screw them. If any of you plan to travel in Argentina, try to avoid Andesmar at all costs. On a side note, I was pretty impressed on how efficient I was at bitching people out in Spanish. Go me!

We headed back to the hostel and luckily they had two beds left for us to stay an extra night.   We also lucked out because they were having another BBQ that evening!  It was one of the best we had. Great company, some English and Norwegian drinking games, tons of wine….see, things do happen for a reason. Marianne and Carl, we’ll see you in Bariloche.  Mark, James and Dicken, we’ll see you in Manchester, Lisi and William in Austria and Doug from Canada will be in Hong Kong when we go!  Traveling is the best….now on to Puerto Mardryn! 

 

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Argentina is not for vegetarians

One of the things that Kelly and I love about Argentina is all of the red meat and how amazingly cheap and tasty it is.  Our typical meal includes the following:

-1 juicy, perfectly cooked steak as big as your head (Kelly and I share it and we still don’t even finish the whole thing)

-Salad/Veggies

-Mashed potatoes or fries

-Bread basket with dips

-1 Bottle of fantastic wine

All of this for $30…TOTAL, for both of us.  Back home you would spend $30 on the bottle of wine alone!

Steak

More Steak

Let’s hope Kelly and I don’t gain 500 pounds while we’re here. 

 

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It’s so great when the stars align and things just work out.  Staci, a wonderful girl that I met in my study abroad program in Barcelona in 2003, just happened to be in Buenos Aires for two days on her way to Chile.  She and her friend Gulzar would be visting a few companies through their MBA program.  We hadn’t seen each other since my going away party the second time I went to Spain over 4 years ago.  She had left Austin to pursue her career in DC and currently lives in Dallas while going to school. So random and crazy, but what a perfect opportunity to reconnect!
 
They arrived Wednesday afternoon and we made plans to meet up for dinner.  A friend of hers suggested The Standard, a restaurant that he comes to every time he visits.  Thanks Mike!  The empanadas, lamb and dessert were amazing, but the Rutini Sauvingon Blanc was the best white wine I’ve ever had!  Thanks to the recommendation from our cute waiter, Sabastian. 
Staci and Me

Staci and Me

We then headed out for a drunken night of debauchery at Congo, a nice quaint little bar in Palermo Hollywood.  We met some great guys that treated us to many cocktails and then headed home around 4am.  Kim was such a trooper! 
At the bar with a tasty mojito

At the bar with a tasty mojito

The next night they girls went to see a show at Hotel Faena in Puerto Madero.  Holy crap.  This hotel was the nicest hotel Kim and I had ever been in. It was absolutely beautiful!  Even the bathrooms were amazing!  And there was also this lovely little unicorn bar that Kim was freaking out about.  She was obsessed with unicorns as a child.  We met up with the girls after the show for a few drinks and then headed to a great little bar, Milian, in Recoleta.  We had such a great time!  Yet again, another late night.  Love you Kim!
 

Pretty Ladies

Pretty Ladies

Unicorn bar!  Can you see their heads mounted on the walls?

Unicorn bar! Can you see their heads mounted on the walls?

Lobby entrance.  This hotel was incredible.

Lobby entrance. This hotel was incredible.

We couldn't decide which camera to look at

We couldn't decide which camera to look at

The next day, the girls treated us to lunch before they left for Santiago.  We ate at Miranda, an awesome place in Palermo Soho.  Pumpkin ravioli, gnocchi….mmmm! Thanks ladies! 
Delicious gnocchi

Delicious gnocchi

It was so wonderful to be able to meet up with great, familiar people in a foreign place.  You just can’t recreate those kind of memories.  Staci…Gulzar, thank you so much and we can’t wait to reunite in Texas!!! 
the girls

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Buenos Aires! Kim and I arrived bright and early at 4am Friday morning after 10 hours of travel.  We grabbed a cab and headed to Milhouse Hostel located in the downtown Monserrat barrio.  Check in at the hostel wasn’t until 1pm, but luckily the nice guy in reception let us get into to our room early. 
  
The hostels are MUCH different in bigger cities than in Costa Rica. This one was in a large, old refurbished home, and it slept well over 150 people. The common area was nice and big and always had people hanging around.  We ended up meeting Vic, a guy from NYC that invited us to join him and group of others for dinner.  After a nice walk around Plaza de Mayo, we headed out with our new friends for a Peruvian dinner in the Congreso barrio.  MMMM ceviche! 
Us at Dinner

Us at Dinner

Yummy Ceviche

Yummy Ceviche

We then headed back to the hostel were we had a few drinks.  Kim stayed and I went with the guys to Palermo, another barrio known for its nightlife, for some clubbin.  I loved that area! After a few too many drinks and a few hours on the dance floor, Vic and I headed home.
 
Sure enough, I woke up hungover as hell and had to pack everything up to check out by 11am.  Kim and I had some delicious empanadas and coffee and went to Plaza de Mayo for a nap in the grass, which is the political hub of Buenos Aires.  La Casa Rosada (the Presidential Palace) is located here and is the venue for many political protests.  This is where Eva Peron and her husband made all their famous speaches to the portneos back in the day. ..you know, ‘Don’t cry for me Argentina!!!!’  Nice.  We also stumbled upon some Bolivian parade that was going on in the streets.  Everyone was dancing around in unison in some crazy ass costumes, singing and yelling…it was great!  One of the guys looked like an old 70’s pimp dancing around with his ladies. Ha! 
Plaza de Mayo

Plaza de Mayo

 Plaza de Mayo...you can see La Casa Rosada in the background
Bolivian Parade

Bolivian Parade

Nice Outfit

Nice Outfit

We arrived at our apartment and couldn’t be happier.  It was so much bigger than it looked on the web!  Cute little kitchen, nice size living area and bedroom.  It was perfect for me and Kim .  We took a walk around to get our bearings and headed to the store for some groceries. 
Our very own kitchen

Our very own kitchen

Loungin' in the living room

Loungin' in the living room

Our landlord provided us with an excellent reading selection

Our landlord provided us with an excellent reading selection

The Bedroom

The Bedroom

The next day was the famous San Telmo ‘feria’, an antique market that takes place every Sunday in San Telmo.  We were very excited to check it out and even more excited that it was in our neighborhood!  For some reason, Kim and I were having a hard time reading the map of the area, so we asked a few locals where the “feria” was located.  After we wondered around for a while, we stumbled upon a park with some tents set up.  We took a look around at a bunch of what we thought was pretty much…well, junk.  We were both a little confused and had expected a bit more from what we had heard about this market.  After about 2 or 3 hours, Kim suddenly realized we were in the wrong place!  We were at the park located right near our apartment that also has somewhat of a “feria” on Sundays. So after a few more locals’ directions, we found the REAL market.  It was awesome! There were tons of vendors, people, artists and musicians in the streets, along with quaint little restaurants and cafes. We both felt quite stupid for spending so much time in the wrong market earlier that day and plan to spend much more time here later in the week.   
 
The next day, we took on the subway system, which is pretty user friendly, and headed to the botanical gardens in Plaza Italia.  Besides all the crazy stray cats biting little kids, it was really nice.  We plan to do some more sight-seeing the next few days and meet up with a friend of mine, Stacie, that will be here for 3 days on her way to Chile.  We studied abroad in Spain together and I haven’t seen her in 5 years!  Should be good times!  Kim will be writing again soon! Stay tuned…
At the Botanical Gardens

At the Botanical Gardens

Sculpture at the Botanical Garden

Sculpture at the Botanical Garden

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