Posted by: pennyinparadise | February 20, 2011

Argentina in 2010

In January of 2010 I left the US after 3 months with my mom, to join a group of people from Boquete in Argentina.  We visited Buenas Aires, Mendoza and Cordoba and then I continued alone on to Iguazu Falls…one of the 8 Wonders of the World.   I actually spent my birthday there at the Falls.   I hope you enjoy my little travel log!

Buenas Aires

This is a city created by the French, and their architectual fingerprint is everywhere.   Charming tree lined streets with Paris style buildings but of course, also the steel and glass high rises so common in big cities.   Buenas Aires city proper houses 3,000,000 people, but that number swells signnificantly on work days when the surrounding Province of Buenas Aires contributes many of it’s 11,000,000 inhabitants to the working city.

One of dozens of buildings that remind you of Paris
Of course, there are Cathedrals
And towers…..
And tree lined streets….

And fountains….

And the President lives in the Pink House… our White House

Presidential Palace…right there on the main Square
And paper mache ladies
An area called Palermo has these colorful houses

There is a huge cemetary in the area we stayed, for all the wealthy people of the past years…..Eva Peron (Don’t Cry For Me Argentina) is buried here.  It is interesting that when she and husband dictator Juan Peron were driven out of the country, and Eva died…she was buried in Europe under a fictitious name, to avoid her body being dug up and mutilated.   Juan married again, and after his death, his widow brought Evita’s body back to Buenas Aires to be buried here in her family’s crypt.

The outside wall of the cemetary
Lynne, me, Penny B and Janet inside the cemetary
Eva Peron’s Crypt

There’s Tango, of course….and the BEST was at a renovated Art Deco theater on 9 de Julio Boulevard called Tango Porteno.   The show was fabulous and the food delicious…..friend Larson and I went one night.

Picture taking at Tango Porteno….

Hard to capture photos there, but here’s the cast and orchestra, above them.

Full cast curtain call…
Bar at Tango Porteno

Another night we went to a club called Senor Tango….not as good a production, but what’s not to like about the Tango????

Dancers at Senor Tango

One night we were treated to a fabulous exhibition of actors, singers and horses at the Opera Pampas.   These photos cannot adequately depict the show because they were always moving very fast….and I didn’t think to video it!   Suffice it to say it was a history of Argentina in a huge arena with a dirt floor and big stage (click link above for more info)….we had an Argentinean Grill dinner before….

YUM….big ribs and stuff for dinner
Everything about Argentina includes their famous gaucho horses
The stage performance and singers were awesome!

Buenas Aires sits on a HUGE river called Rio de la Plata that at some places, you can’t see the other side.   Smaller rivers feed off of it and run through the city.

Tall ship in the river outside a restaurant we ate in

Lots of lovely European type restaurants are everywhere…

We had a nice lunch here…

One day we went to a street fair with stalls selling everything…lots of antique “smalls”…and lots of entertainment going on.

NOW….SOMETHING NEW IN MY  BLOG….VIDEO!  THAT’S RIGHT.  I’m just getting the hang of this, so excuse if it’s not the best!   But I learned alot and will improving on my technique.   In the meantime, press the PLAY button at the lower left corner of this video….I’ll be using more video later in this page!


Street corner tango….
Gaucho at his stall at the street fair….


In the cathedral shown above, there is a special gallery in tribute to the overthrow of Spanish Rule by the hero, San Martin.   This gallery showcases Argentina, Chile, Peru and Ecuador.   There are guards in uniforms of that time, that are changed on the hour.  This is much like the changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, only these guys will give you a little smile.

Guards march to & from their billet to & from the Cathedral every hour
Entrance to the Tribute Gallery….you can get a little smile from the guards

El Tigre

Just upriver from Buenas Aires is the sweet town of El Tigre, on the El Tigre River.   We took a train there, and then boarded a boat at the port to see the sights.   Friends Sylvan and Barbara Cohen have recently bought a condo in El Tigre, and I can really see why they decided on this place. (NO, I’m not moving to El Tigre!!)

This was our sightseeing boat
This is the El Tigre River
There are houses of all kinds on the river
And Clubs like this one for the local fishermen
I never did find out whose Club this was…..maybe the Lawyers???
EVERYTHING on the river is brought by boat…here’s a grocery boat!
River girls….me, Raquel (from California) and Lynne (Raquel’s hostess)

Well, as much fun as Buenas Aires was… was time to leave for Mendoza.  This is the Province and City where all the fabulous Argentinean wines are grown and we fortunate to visit 4 different wineries.   Here’s some things you may or may not know about Argentina’s wines/vinyards.


Olive trees grow on every vinyard….and all the wineries bottle their olive oil.   We were grateful to be given a bottle of this fabulous olive oil by the good people at Familia Zuccardi where we enjoyed a tour and EXCELLENT lunch in the owner’s dining room.   I bought a wonderful knife there, with leather braided handle and leather scabbard.

Modern and super clean stainless steel ages some of the wines…
My Zuccardi knife….what will I do with it? I don’t know but it sure is pretty!
Our bunch at lunch at Familia Zuccardi in the owner’s dining room…YUM!
Now this is what I consider the proper size for a wine bottle!!
We girls paid VERY close attention on these winery tours…

So…here’s some skinny about wine.   Of course you know that Argentina is best known for it’s fabulous MALBEC, but they also bottle Merlot, Siraz, Chardonney, Sauvignon Blanc and sparkling wines (you can only call wine grown in the Champagne region of France,  Champagne….all other wineries call theirs “sparkling” wine).    So….the reds are aged in oak for a while and also in stainless steel for a while.    Temperatures are carefully monitored, and each wine maker decides on everything….when the grape is picked, how long it stays in each medium (steel or oak), etc.   He’s the Jefe!   And, oak comes in either French Oak or American Oak… other.   Usually a winery uses 70% French and 30% American in their barrells.

These are the oak barrells….French & American Oak
Wine In The Skin…..these are Malbec grapes…picking starts in March

One of the wineries we visited had a big and wonderful museum!   It was fascinating to see how the industry started.   Here’s some facts….originally grape vines were brought to Mendoza by Spanish settlers and was only pressed for home consumption.   As technology improved, so did the quality of the home consumption product.   Mendoza is in the far west of the country, near the Andes Mountains, so it was not exported at all.   By the mid-20th century, Argentineans were comsuming about 96 litres of wine per person, per year so they didn’t have to export it…there was plenty of market demand right there in Argentina…..wagons that took the wine to the various cities within the country were replaced by trucks, and as roads improved, so did the distribution of wine…still within Argentina.  People worked 1/2 a day, went home for lunch, had wine and went to sleep.   By the 1960’s people began to work full days, so the wine consumption dropped by half.   The exports of other goods going out of Buenas Aires and other port cities, made it possible to begin exporting their wines.   And now, Argentinean wine is considered some of the most prized wines on the planet.

These machines were used in the old days to insert the corks in the bottles
In the old days, each vineyard had a distinctive label on their barrell, so indicate which winery’s wine was in the barrell
Copper kettles were used in the old days…today it’s stainless steel
In the old days, a worker at the winery had to supply his own tools…so there was a blacksmith on site to create what the worker designed for his own use
This cattle skin was fitted between poles to serve as a place to press the grapes. The neck was sealed off and then opened to allow the wine to pour into the barrells

The town of Cordoba wasn’t anything to see at all….thus no photos.  It is the biggest manufacturing center of the country…factories.   We actually went to the Mall and saw a movie!  But the one interesting thing we did see there was the childhood home of Che Guevara.   He was born in Santa Fe, Argentina but his parents moved when he was 7 to near Cordoba for the dry climate, because of the child’s very severe asthma.   They were a middle class family, and Che was in school to be a doctor.

One surprise was a video we say, in which childhood friends, neighbors and teachers were interviewed about what he was like as a young person.  Without exception, they report that he was always putting others before himself….he was a kind person who helped the less fortunate whenever he encountered them.   He was a born, natural leader, but never used his traits to the detriment of others…indeed, just the opposite.   He was a loving, giving, generous and very popular person.

If you saw the movie Motorcycle Diaries, which is about his trip around South America with another young man, you will recall how he was helpful and friendly to everyone, and how he worked in a leper colony, and went over and above the efforts of others, even swimming across a big river (with crocodiles) to get to the lepers who were kept on the other side from the missionary settlement that cared for them.  It was a fiesta, and the lepers were unable to participate, so he went across the river and in the middle, his asthma kicked in…he almost died, but he didn’t want the lepers to be left out of the celebration.   It is interesting to think about what would have been Cuba’s outcome, had Che (instead of Castro) been in the lead of that country after the revolution.   He died in Bolovia,where some say Castro had him killed because of his popularity among the Cubans.

Che Guevara’s childhood home
His real name was Ernesto

Iguazu Falls

Now Iguazu Falls (one of the 8 Wonders of the World) is an entirely different story.   WOW….I spent my birthday there, and was blown away.  Here again I will use some of my newly acquired video skills to give you more of a sense of it than you could see in a still photograph.   The falls are so powerful, and generate so much energy and mist that it is even difficult to see them properly on a video.

One thing you should know is, these falls are more than just one or two areas…..they are kilometers long, and you walk to different places to view the segments….even taking a train to the BEST one, which is called Gargantua del Diablo (Devil’s Throat).   So….hang onto your seat!

Pretty amazing…..huh?   Here are some stills

These are the Two Sisters Falls
View of a tiny piece of the Falls
See the tiny red boat in the water….it was a very BIG boat, actually
The noise is deafening….a VERY loud roar!

Wanda Mines

Iguazu Falls is situated in a national park and nearby is an area where mines are located, extracting semi-precious stones.   I visited one called the Wanda Mine, and it was amazing.   The government issues permits to private mining companies who are authorized to extract 20 meters down (about 65 feet).    The first layer reveals Amethyst, Quartz, Agate and Crystal bubbles.   Below that are found Topaz and Aquamarine.

Bubbles containing air, gas and water are trapped within volcanic lava during an eruption period, and the amount of each determines what kind of stone results.  Some of the volcanic rock is at the surface level, and is cross cut so bubbles are revealed right at earth’s surface in the ground.

Surface lava reveals bubbles
At upper right, a Quartz bubble with a Crystal bubble trapped inside…….a Double Bubble as it were!

The owner of world famous Swavorski Crystals has a home nearby….guess he likes to be near his source of revenue!

The first 10 meters down contains Amythest, Quartz, Crystal and Agate.  The miner looks for a thin white line in the volcanic rock because that line is an indication that bubbles are nearby.   A small explosive is set off to reveal about a 10 foot section of rock containing bubbles.

Entrance to the mine
Cross cut of bubbles embedded in the volcanic rock
Bubbles can be irregularly shaped and very large
Agate bubble
Amethyst bubble that has been removed from the mine

This was a fabulous way to spend my birthday, and it is an experience I will never forget!    Argentina was fabulous and I look forward to going back again someday.

My flight back took me through Santiago, Chili…I couldn’t leave the airport but the familiar sight below was a great place to spend the stopover.   Pisco Sours have become my favorite drink down here.   They originated in Peru, and it seems Chili has adopted the drink as their own.   This bar was next to my gate at the airport.

Indeed, I had my last Pisco Sour here…luckily we have them in Panama too.


%d bloggers like this: