With little drama, we have arrived in Argentina. LAN Airlines was organized and efficient, and for air travelers, a prize to be discovered. The boarding process was zero drama, very organized, and fast. Gone are the 5 different preferred ‘classes’ of passenger boarding. They had preferred status, people with disabilities and young children, and the rest of us. Stress free and simple. What a treat!
The flight was bumpy and made me wish I had taken a Dramamine. Devlin too felt ill. But you can see from the views why the air might be a bit bumpy. The flight was a short 45 minutes.
Argentina immigration was NOT prepared for an incoming flight. There was one single person to check in the entire flight of non-resident passengers. So, an hour+ later, we met our driver once our thumbprints and photos were taken.
Our hotel is right at Plaza Indepencia, and with some research you’ll find it’s the center of town. We have been here only long enough to unpack and find dinner. It’s a very large square, and daily they have a craft market.
As many of you may know, the Argentine Peso is in flux. The official exchange rate is ~$8,5 pesos per dollar. The “blue dollar” exchange rate is closer to $12.5 pesos per dollar. Use your credit card, you get $8 pesos per dollar. Pay in dollars and you can negotiate the rate. Go to a money exchange and inquire creatively, and get something closer to $13. Not exacly legal, but very much accepted practice. Exchange on the street, take a risk of counterfeit money. There is a happy medium here, and finding it may take some creativity.
So dinner – yes we had steak. Devlin had filet empanadas. David and I also had salad and a bottle of wine. Had we charged our credit card, dinner would have been close to $90. We paid in $USD and got dinner for $65 with tip ($12 pesos/USD). Wine was great. Steak was great. We left happy all the way around, We paid less, and the restaurant gets a good exchange rate tomorrow. Win-win.
Mendoza is a city just on the east side of the Andes mountains from Santiago. It is a beautiful city, irrigated by a system designed by the natives in the 1500s. The streets are lined with giant trees, and there are stone ditches that carry running water throughout. Our driver warned us that too much wine and we should watch our step, else we fall in the ditches. The water flows year-round from the mountains and is used for drinking and irrigation. As you could imagine in a city, the ditches do not have pristine water, but nothing is smelly. Oh and the city gets about 10 inches of rain per year. We are in the desert here, warm temps and low humidity.
I will say that the Spanish we hear here sounds very familiar and is more of what we are used to. Devlin only spoke Spanish to our waitress tonight and she was most impressed. She asked him where he learned his Spanish and made a point to tell us how good his Spanish and his accent was. I was not prepared for such a difference, but this almost feels comfortable.
Not many photos today as we spend much of the day in airports, despite the very short flight. Immigration and international travel makes for longer trips. Next time we may take the bus (7-9 hrs).
Tomorrow we hope to bike through some wine country with the famous Mr. Hugo bike company. I have this urge to escape the city and see some countryside. The Andes are right here – think Denver – Mountains on one side, and plains on the other. Mendoza is tucked into the base of the impressive mountains. The snowmelt irrigates the vineyards and olives during the summer.
We have Christmas Eve dinner reserved at the hotel. And I figure we will explore the city while everyone is on holiday on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. There must be geocaches to find!
A few last thoughts:
Our bellman in Santiago was fantastic, and knew that Portland was all about keeping “things weird” which was just fun and impressive. His explanations of Spanish in Chile was spot on and also said that as a translator, he speaks English to his children at home. His appreciation for languages was impressive, and we enjoyed our chats with him very much. He very much wanted feedback on his country from our perspective. Chile was great.
Chile, and Santiago in general, was great with their fantastic transit system and no-BS pedestrians. It was easy to explore, and never once did we feel unsafe or insecure. The Portland MAX is scary by comparison. The Metro in Santiago is top notch, fast, clean, and inexpensive. A gem for those of us wanting to explore and avoid taxi scams.
Our current hotel room has a toilet and a bidet. Devlin has already managed to spray the ceiling with the bidet stream. And, as you could imagine, the YouTube videos of how to use a bidet have commenced! Bottoms Up!