Tag Archives: Argentina

Long Time Gone

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Well, I am not sure how this happened, but I haven’t published a post around these parts since October 2013. I am not certain, but I believe that leaving nearly 11 months between posts is breaking some kind of blogging rule…the rule of actually writing stuff, for example.

You know how it gets, though – you have good intentions and plans, and yet somehow the days pass by and nothing has eventuated. Like you and that plan to eat more chia seeds or to get rid of that pair of jeans that you bought one size too small. Y’know, it just doesn’t happen.

Mind you, I wasn’t being completely lazy during those 10 months. I was taking a lot of photos and doing some incredible traveling (and, let’s be honest, watching Jimmy Fallon clips on YouTube). The trips I took were so eye-opening and wonderful that I think you will want to get your own glimpse of these places, too.

I will try to share the very best of it with you because we all love to know that special places exist, not so we can put them on some bucket list, but just to know that beautiful parts of our world abound even if they are not right outside our window.

Places like these…

NZ Beach

 

Argentinian lunch

 

Colombian hills

 

Brazil beach

 

Alberta rocks

Now, if these places ARE outside your window, then congratulations..and also, whaaaat?! Open those curtains for criminy’s sake!

I hope you are all still out there and willing to stop by for a blog visit from time to time. I do hope that these last 10 months have been good to you, or at least civil to you, or maybe just that you have survived them? I am not sure where our standards should be.

Okay, let’s do this! You go give away those jeans already and I will get writing! xx

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Time flies when you’re…wrong

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Where: Iguazú Falls, Argentina

Iguazu

Plate of food: The breakfast buffet at our hotel was a huge affair including tropical fruit, smoked salmon, caramel crepes, and even a diet section which as far as I could tell consisted of apples, turkey, and non-fat yoghurt. The way I felt when I looked at that section of the buffet is strangely the same way I feel about diets in general: nauseated and cranky.

I discovered a traditional section of the buffet full of earthen ware pots with the most delicious smells wafting out of them.

One item was puchero which is a rustic meat stew with as many variations as there are people in Argentina. This one contained tender pieces of beef in a thick gravy with peppers and onions. It was served with a homemade pasta/dumpling dish (very similar to “knepfle“, if that helps at all!). Never have I had a heartier start to my day, or tastier for that matter.

Hotel view

Plus, it went surprisingly well with a Mimosa.

If you can pour yourself a glass of orange juice at a buffet without topping it up with the bubbly conveniently sitting on ice, then you are a better person than I am. I, however, am completely content being lesser than because, guess what, I get a Mimosa out of this deal.

The Best: Those gosh-darn waterfalls. Criminy, they will take your breath away.

Falls

Iguazú Falls are shared by Brazil and Argentina. They span 3km and are split into many drops – the most dramatic being The Devil’s Throat (there could be no better name, could there?).

Devil's Throat

There was something so powerful and exhilirating about walking through dense jungle with butterflies and birds flitting around, hearing the rush of water get louder, until finally you are standing on the edge of a thundering waterfall with spray on your face and your heart in your throat.

It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever laid eyes on. Truly magical.

Thundering

Story that needs to be told: I feel as though this trip highlighted a few reasons why I should not be dispensing travel tips…

Firstly, we functioned in our own time zone for the majority of our trip. I don’t mean that we ditched our watches and consciously decided it’s “holiday time”, I mean that 4 adults all remained totally unaware of the fact that we had crossed into another time zone.

This had a number of repercussions: we were confounded as to why the dining room was never open on time, we marveled at how quiet the breakfast buffet was, and we cursed the tardiness of the jungle train with its complete disregard for the schedule.

It was on our final day that the time warp was corrected, and days of mysteries were suddenly solved: “Oh! So, that’s why….”

Webs

Secondly, we naively had no Argentinian pesos on us when we arrived at the national park gates…in our hideous rental van…in the middle of the night.  The guards helpfully directed us to a cash machine at the main gates. But when they said ‘cash machine’ they meant a small windowless hut on the edge of a dense, looming jungle. Not surprisingly it was not working because, well, that whole JUNGLE thing.

We were then led to the “commercial hub” of the park where there are small shops and restaurants, and supposedly access to another cash machine.

I will tell you this: there are fewer things more butt-clenchingly fearsome than your husband and your father-in-law walking off into the darkness of a deserted national park with two armed guards.

Fact.

They were gone a long time. Long enough for me to listen to the entire nocturnal repetoire of the jungle creatures. Long enough that the kidlets started softly snoring. Long enough that I decided pesos were the LEAST of our worries.

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And, then, out of a darkness so deep it looked tangible, came our men and the guards. Breathe a sigh of relief with me.

You know, come to think of it, maybe they weren’t gone so long after all….we cannot be relied upon for proper time keeping.

“Adventure is worthwhile.” – Aristotle

In the cold light of January

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Hello friend! Welcome to 2013! Here’s hoping that your holidays were magical and bright.

Now we are into the first week of January which is THE biggest let-down, is it not?! Jiminy. All the sparkle is gone, the decorations are packed away, and I’m left with the realization that my resolutions are exactly the same as last year (not because they are so awesome, but because inevitably I did not accomplish them).

But I say January does not necessarily have to be a shock to the system. You can begin a new year gently, tenderly. You do not have to know everything by this first week of this first month.

You will have seen all of the “Year in Review” questionnaires bouncing around. Here is my take on it, in the spirit of A Year of Travel:

Top destination in 2012:

Argentina: Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Iguazu Falls. That country ticks all the right boxes.

Favourite plate of food in 2012:

Sweetcorn pancakes with bacon, asparagus, and Hollandaise sauce in Australia. I would eat that meal again in a heartbeat. (Then again I would eat most meals again in a heartbeat.)

Best thing about 2012:

I found another piece of myself through starting this blog. Truly.

Oh, and this song. I played it so much that my children can sing along to it. My work here is done.

Story that needs to be told about 2012:

Oh, so many! But thankfully the stories coming out of last year are happy, blessed ones.

There was a surprise helicopter ride in New Zealand; there was a trip to Banff with no children along (!); there was my large-ish 50/50 raffle win on Canada Day; there was the “hilarity” of our dishwasher taking 10 weeks to be fixed; there was my brother getting married (just like a grown-up…when did THAT happen?); there were visits from family which acted like a well-meaning cattle prod and made us explore Rio more; there were trips that renewed my faith in nature, people, and hotel upgrades…..So much. Thanks for it all, 2012!

A word that sums up 2012:

Travel (doing it, writing about it, planning it…)

A resolution for the new year:

Well, there are those pesky ones from last year, but….

I have some hopes for 2013. I hope to discover more of Brazil in particular, to carve out more time to enjoy this blog, and to not take things so seriously (it’s kind of laughable how grave I believe things to be – “WIPE HIS CHIN! QUICK! THAT CHERRY JUICE WILL BE IM-POSS-IBLE TO GET OUT OF THE TABLECLOTH!”….that was some insight you did not need).

May this year offer up the things you least expect, but need the most.

Here was my 2012…

January

Old world Portuguese charm

Old world Portuguese charm in Petropolis.

February

Best winery experience in Chile

Best winery experience in Chile

March

So, a helicopter showed up and....

So, a helicopter showed up and….

April

Seeing the city with my sister!

Seeing Rio with my sister!

May

Birthday bunting for my sweet girl.

Birthday bunting for my sweet girl.

June

Colour of the sky exhibit in Calgary.

Colour of the sky exhibit in Calgary.

July

Yeehaw! Stampede Centennial!

Yeehaw! Stampede Centennial!

August

Best restaurant discovery of the month.

Best restaurant discovery of the month: Quinta.

September

Golden larches in Banff National Park.

Golden larches in Banff National Park.

October

Best meal in Rio of the entire year. Fact.

Best meal in Rio of the entire year. Fact.

November

The breathtaking Devil's Throat Falls in Argentina

The breathtaking Devil’s Throat Falls in Argentina

December

My Brazilian gingerbread beauties!

My Brazilian gingerbread beauties!

Mendoza Math: no petrol + lots of wine = good times

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Howdy stranger! Has anyone else noticed that my “3 posts a week” blog has turned into a “one post per month, if you are lucky” blog? Yeah, me too. Sorry about that. There are so many reasons and excuses, but should we just decide together to move on? Yup. (Phew!)

Where: Mendoza, Argentina

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We just got back from a 10 day love-fest with Argentina, so rather than delve into my traveling past, let’s do Mendoza which is so fresh and recent that my suitcases are still waiting to be put away in the spare room and my waist line is still waiting to get back to its former self (let’s be honest, it will have to be patient).

Plate of food: We ate so well on this trip that I feel compelled to do a Top 3.

Foodarg

  • Starter: (eaten at Belasco De Baquedano winery) Delicate rolls of zucchini filled with sun dried tomato cream with tiny jewels of sliced radish, green peas, beetroot cubes and carrot crisps. This was springtime on a plate: fresh, colourful, and light. A nice balance to the alarming amount of Argentine beef I was consuming (I am from Alberta, after all). When I wasn’t distracted by the views of the snowy peaks of the Andes out the window, I had an equally appealing sight on my plate.
  • Main dish: (eaten at Familia Zuccardi winery) Grilled meats with roasted vegetables and fresh salad. Simple. The best ones always are, aren’t they? The meat was brought to our table straight from the grill; first the sausage and black pudding, then pork and goat, then chicken, and finally beef. All of it tender and succulent. Don’t worry – you don’t have to select all of it, if you don’t want to. I, for one, chose to hold back and declined the offer of…sausage. So there. I loved the black pudding with its deep, rich flavour; and the chicken with its salty, crispy skin; and, of course, the beef which was perfectly cooked and smoky from the outdoor grill. And don’t think that the accompaniments paled in comparison. No, those slightly charred onions, slices of eggplant and zucchini; the marinated fresh tomatoes; and the crunchy ribbons of carrot all came together on our plates in one happy marriage of opposites. Hot, cold, rich, fresh, smooth, crisp, yum, yummier.
  • Dessert: (eaten at Azafran restaurant) You know about my menu-stopper: Creme Brûlée. Well, meet her brazen cousin: The Dulce de Leche Creme Brûlée. This little vixen is a deep caramel colour with more toasted sugar flavour than the regular. Still silky smooth, still with that satisfying brittle top. Argentines are crazy about Dulce de Leche. They put it between biscuits, roll it into crepes, slather it between cake layers, make it into ice cream, and create a Creme Brûlée with it that made me grateful for every single one of my taste buds.
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The impressive door to one of the wineries and the Andes behind me. It just does not get better than that.

The best: After visiting the Mendoza region, I am convinced that if Heaven exists it is full of grape vines and views of the mountains, where you bask in the sunshine among huge trees while Saint Peter hands you a glass of Malbec.

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Just leave me here. Permanently. Please.

We spent such a heavenly afternoon at one winery, Familia Zuccardi. Driving along the highway looking at dry, dusty earth and ramshackle car repair yards, it was hard to believe that just beyond was a lush, green, peaceful oasis. We were ushered into the winery and met by Pedro who showed us around and was so passionate about wine that I felt myself wanting to pump my fist into the air. (I did not. My dignity remains intact.)

We tasted 3 wines: a fruity rose that you would want to drink in the sunshine at the seaside, a deep malbec that you would want to drink while curled up next to the fireplace, and a surprisingly zingy dessert wine that you would want to drink at 4 p.m on a Wednesday. No? Just me then.

We walked along the rows of vines until we reached the winery’s restaurant that was set among big shady trees. There were picnic tables and barrels arranged in the garden, but we ate in the glass covered conservatory . And we ate and ate and ate. And drank some great wine. Then we had the kids roll us back home.

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So many glasses, so little time.

After lunch we wandered through the garden under huge oak trees and past silvery-leaved olive trees. We drank in the dappled shade just as we had the wine. And it was just as intoxicating: the stillness, the views of the mountains, the maple seeds whirling down like miniature helicopters from the trees.

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I will use that afternoon as my measure for contentedness for many years to come.

Story that needs to be told: We hired a car while in Mendoza. (Stay with me here, it gets slightly more interesting.) We used a reputable company and we requested a car with space for children, suitcases, and many bottles of wine. (I surprised myself by listing the kids first. Huh.)

When we arrived at Mendoza’s small airport we noticed with interest that the company did not occupy one of the 6 car rental desks. We had someone call; they explained that our man was downtown and on his way. He’ll be 15 minutes, they said.

We had a coffee. 15 minutes passed. We had them call again.

He’s 15 minutes away, they said.

We sat. We stood. We paced. We wondered why no one was worried about this poor man who was obviously stuck in some time vortex where he remains 15 minutes away from his destination forever.

One hour later our man arrived, apologetic, but mostly jovial (must be all the Malbec in the region). He led us to our car.

Our car was small. Not in a zippy, easy-to-park way, but in a we-ain’t-gonna-fit way.

As we loaded the car using Tetris skills from the 90s, the man kept smiling and nodding. We eventually managed to get everything and everyone in the car and prepared to depart. It became clear to us that this car was made using paper mache/recycled soda bottles/cast-offs from cheap plastic toys because it looked as though if you changed gears with any gusto the gear stick would end up in the backseat.

I took one for the team by being pinned in my seat with the folded-up buggy pressed against my chest. AND I navigated. Sheesh.

The car also had a retro vibe going with no automatic windows or locks. Our kids had never seen a wind-down/up window and they did not know how to open them. Ha, confounded again! I also left my door unlocked more often than not because, WHAT, I have to depress the lock MYSELF?! Ha, confound…never mind.

Our car was a VW Gol. No, I didn’t spell Golf incorrectly. It was a G-O-L. Like the F was supposed to join on, but it took one look at the car and said “There’s no F’ing way I am getting stuck on that car”.

I blame you not, letter F.

But having said all that, our car did get us from Point A to Point B (with a few wineries in between). Seeing as our man dropped it off to us with a quarter tank of gas in it (thanks?), we needed to fill up fairly quickly. The first petrol station turned us away and we thought it was because it exclusively sold diesel. The next station said maybe they would have petrol in an hour. With rising panic we realized that all the stations had enormous queues of cars. There was a petrol shortage. Stations were dry.

We didn’t want to drive too far in our search for petrol, but we decided to try one more station. All they had was Premium Petrol. We’ll take it! Never have those fancy additives been so wasted on a car.

We waited in the queue and finally started filling up. Just as our tank was full the attendant announced that the petrol had run out. We couldn’t believe how lucky we were….then we peeled out of there (as quick as the Gol can) because I had visions of people getting desperate enough for gas that they would suck it from our tank with a straw.

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Let’s be honest – I would have walked here if we hadn’t found petrol. Worth it.

“Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized.”
~ Andre Simon