15 April 2008

A plan (of sorts) emerges

Despite some disappointment at not being able to fit Iguazu into our Argentina plans, I think we're settling on a very feasible and very fun intinerary.

We will drive (con los ninos) to LA on Saturday and Sunday, June 28/29. We'll drop them off with their dad and stay somewhere nearby, in preparation for our departure on Monday the 30th. Our LAN Chile flight departs LAX at 1:10 PM. After an overnight flight to Santiago, Chile, and a connection from Santiago, we arrive in Buenos Aires the following day (Tuesday, July 1) at 10:30 AM. We've arranged for a car from the hotel to pick us up, so we'll have no particular challenges getting to our hotel and base of operations. After that, I'm guessing we will want to nap for a few hours, which will work out well, given the Argentine predilection for eating dinner after 10 PM.

We'll plan to spend our first few days in Buenos Aires just familiarizing ourselves with the city and its various neighborhoods. After a few days we may be ready to take an overnight trip to Colonia, Uruguay, or a day trip on the train to the town of Tigre, to the north of BsAs proper.

Our Argentina trip will end on Sunday, July 13, when our flight back to LA leaves BsAs at 8:35 PM. Again, we fly overnight, arriving in LA on Monday the 14th at 7:40 in the morning. To cap off a fun day of travel, we'll pile the kiddos into the car and head up the 5 to Sacramento before stopping for the night. Tuesday we'll drive the rest of the way home and on Wednesday I'll go back to work.

Action-packed, no?

(Steve, 15 April 2008)

13 April 2008

So where are we going to visit?

Okay, so we've managed to throw a few options off the table, what's left on it?

Well, there's Buenos Aires itself, of course, and we're actively looking into day trips we can make.  One place that sounds interesting is Colonia del Sacramento, located in Uruguay, just across the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires.  Another is Tigre, located on the delta islands at the mouth of the Plata.

First and foremost, however, we gots to find ourselves a place to stay in BsAs!  We've done some searching and have discovered that there's a lively market in apartments for short-term rent in the city.  Some of these are beautiful, modern places with high-end amenities - however, in that space, the per-night charge approaches what a decent hotel costs... so what to do?

We ultimately decided against going the apartment route.  I think it's a great alternative for 1) longer-term stays of a month or more, and/or 2) a lower-cost option.  However, our budget can accommodate $100/night or so, and we've found a wonderful hotel in San Telmo that will end up well under that number.

I've gone online at the TripAdvisor website to learn more about the Casa Bolivar and its surrounding environs.  Sounds like a great, hospitable place with enormous, cool rooms (we're staying in the "Baroque" loft, which is a "... spacious apartment decorated with an original painted ceiling, chandeliers with pendants, and window of red cedar.  46 sq meter loft with a mezzanine and 4 balconies..."  Four balconies?  Whatever - the photos look fantastic.

The San Telmo neighborhood is the bohemian heart of BsAs - funkier than the more tourist-oriented barrios of Recoleta and Palermo.  San Telmo sounds like the place every tourist wants to visit before retreating back to the more internationally-oriented neighborhoods where most hotels are located.  I think we'll enjoy staying here - it's kind of akin to our last Amsterdam visit, where our hotel was well outside the normal tourist circuit, but within easy walking distance to everything we wanted to see.  Walking may be a little less practical in Buenos Aires, particularly at night, but taxis are cheap.  We'll do our walking during the day, whether directly outside our hotel doorway or in some other quarter of the city.


12 April 2008

Now comes the fun part

Now that we've settled on a destination, we can start making a few plans.  To begin with, maybe it would be helpful to learn a little something about Buenos Aires and Argentina in general.  We bought a Frommer's guide to Argentina and quickly discovered that not only is Argentina a hell of a long ways away, once you get there, it's big - way too big to do more than scratch the surface in an initial two week visit.  So that's what we'll do - try to scratch the surface.

Patagonia pretty quickly gets thrown off the list, dammit.  It will be winter there, not to mention the fact that it's a couple of thousand miles from our destination in Buenos Aires.  The wine-growing region around Mendoza lasts longer as a candidate, but eventually falls for similar reasons: it's an expensive, two-hour plane ride from BsAs and it will be cold in the Andean foothills.

Iguazu Falls, in the extreme northeast of Argentina at the juncture of Brazil and Paraguay, is a tantalizing destination: one of the great natural wonders of the world, it's a shorter (45 minute) plane trip, but still will cost us upwards of $650 USD just to get there.  Unfortunately, the costs just keep climbing - a Brazilian visa costs over $100 per person and everyone says you just gotta see the Brazilian side of the falls.  Lodging is at least as expensive as in BsAs, so there's another $100+ per night.  The final straw was when we read that there's been an outbreak of yellow fever in the area - yellow fever immunizations are painful, have nasty side effects, and cost about $300 for the two of us.  We're easily over $1000 for a freakin' day trip... cooler financial heads prevail and we reluctantly back off on the idea of seeing Iguazu.