Argentina

Lounge Review: Buenos Aires Star Alliance Lounge, 27 July 2016

EZE Ezeiza Buenos Aires International Airport Star Alliance Lounge

The Buenos Aires Star Alliance Lounge is of a good size, in the form of one large rectangular room. As far as I could tell, it was mostly tables and chairs, and no real different areas. They have slightly more interesting food options than the AMEX Centurion Lounge.

EZE Ezeiza Buenos Aires International Airport Star Alliance Lounge

As part of my award business class ticket on Turkish Airlines, I was granted access to the Buenos Aires Star Alliance Lounge. When I was there in the evening, they were pretty busy. I was pretty lucky to score a seat, and it didn’t take long for someone to take my spot the moment I vacated it.

EZE Ezeiza Buenos Aires International Airport Star Alliance Lounge

I wouldn’t say the quality of their food was better than the AMEX Centurion Lounge, but it was more to my taste. They had a pasta dish, and they also had a fried vegetable fritter. I do have a need for one hot option during the day.

EZE Ezeiza Buenos Aires International Airport Star Alliance Lounge

Overall, it’s a solid airport lounge with decent food options. They did get pretty busy during my visit. It might be more pleasant if there wasn’t such a space crunch.

EZE Ezeiza Buenos Aires International Airport Star Alliance Lounge

EZE Ezeiza Buenos Aires International Airport Star Alliance Lounge

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Lounge Review: Buenos Aires International Airport AMEX Centurion Lounge, 27 July 2016

EZE Ezeiza Buenos Aires International Airport AMEX Centurion Salon

I had 10 hrs to kill on a layover, Buenos Aires was too far, I had too much luggage, so time to spend 12 hrs in airport lounges. The Amex Centurion Lounge was my first choice.

EZE Ezeiza Buenos Aires International Airport AMEX Centurion Salon

The Buenos Aires International Airport AMEX Centurion Lounge is pretty large, and for the duration that I was there, it did get busy during certain periods, but for the most part, the crowd was pretty manageable.

EZE Ezeiza Buenos Aires International Airport AMEX Centurion Salon

The decoration of the lounge is pretty classic Centurion – sleek, with different types of space, some for dining, some for general seating, and some screened off areas for lounging.

EZE Ezeiza Buenos Aires International Airport AMEX Centurion Salon

The fare that they serve is mostly continental and cold foods. There were no hot options throughout the day. For breakfast, there were breads and pastries, and for lunch, there were sandwiches. Neither of the options excited me much. Thankfully, I did find the freezer containing Freddo’s Ice Cream, and went to town on that.

EZE Ezeiza Buenos Aires International Airport AMEX Centurion Salon

Overall, the wifi worked well, it’s a sleek, clean space, and there was some decent food on offer, even if it wasn’t to my taste. It’d be better if you didn’t have to spend 6+ hrs here.

EZE Ezeiza Buenos Aires International Airport AMEX Centurion Salon

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Chile, Santiago to Argentina, Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo, Brazil, 27 July 2016

Santiago Aerial Shot

Award travel comes with its drawbacks. Sure, I’m flying business class, and paid a grand total of 40 dollars for this itinerary, but this itinerary also involves sitting 10 hours in Buenos Aires, and arriving in Sao Paulo at 2am.

This portion of the trip will be covered in individual reviews of various business class products, airport lounges, and hotels. One observation – there’s really nothing that I’d like to eat in the Buenos Aires airport. Sigh! It does make it easy for me to decide on free (lounge) food, in that case.

This ends the narrative version of my South America trip. Thanks for sticking with me, as I added three new stamps to my passport!

AC92 SCL-EZE Air Canada Santiago to Buenos Aires Business Class

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Hairpins through the Snow, Traveling from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile, 24 July 2016

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I woke up bright and early-ish to catch my 10-hour, 1030 departure bus that’d bring me across the Andes from Argentina to Chile. The morning was a bit of a snafu. I asked for a taxi, expecting one to show up immediately, but it took a lot longer than expected, because the Park Hyatt called one of their trusted cars for the trip to the bus station. But I didn’t miss the bus, so all is good.

Bus from Mendoza to Santiago - Cama Ejecutivo

For this trip, I booked a second class bus, Cama-Ejecutivo for 500 ARS (~30 USD). It was a double decker, and the seats were 2 by 1. As I booked the ticket online, I was able to pick my seat as well, and naturally, I picked the solo seat. The leather seats were very comfortable, and there was a lot of legroom. Included in the ticket price, were also meal services. So there was a breakfast service almost immediately after departure, where we were given a package that included a sandwich and an alfajor. I sense this is a theme. The bus attendant also offered hot beverages, and soon a movie about Chinese who were transplanted to the borderlands was played.

Bus from Mendoza to Santiago - Cama Ejecutivo

I drifted between the state of sleep and being awake on the bus trip. I was very glad for the moments I was awake, because the snowy landscape was stunning. Families turned the snow-covered mountains into ski slopes, or other avenues of snowy fun. People were sliding down the hills. I wished I could have joined them!

Bus from Mendoza to Santiago - Cama Ejecutivo

Due to traffic at the border crossing, there was about an hour spent waiting. The border clearance itself wasn’t that terrible, but inspecting our luggage, and just generally, waiting in turn for the administrative process to be over took up some time.

At the Argentina - Chile Border

The greatest treat was the portion after crossing the Chilean border. There are a lot of hairpins leading down to Chile. While watching the ginormous bus wind through these hairpins was rather harrowing, at the same time, it was a beautiful sight to behold. This was easily one of the highlights of my trip, and reminds me of why I like traveling – life’s marvels will just unveil themselves when you least expect it!

I’d recommend this trip to anyone.

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Argentina: Mendoza, 23 July 2016

Bubbles at Plaza Independencia

Ahh! The troubles of traveling. Ever since I started travel hacking, I’ve been trying to charge everything to my credit card, and use as little cash as possible. On this day in Argentina, I was trying to conserve my pesos, as this is my last full day in Argentina, and I didn’t want to change any more money, and be stuck with a bunch of pesos. So a bunch of workarounds – buying my bus ticket to Santiago online, and deciding to eat dinner at the hotel.

Mendoza

The Park Hyatt is in front of the Independence Plaza. On this fine weekend, there was a fair of sorts going on, with kids running around, a performance for children, and also the ubiquitous bubble person. It was nice to sit around for a bit, and take in what a weekend in Mendoza looks like for people who live there.

Mendoza

After setting in and handling a bunch of administration like printing my bus tickets, I ended up at cafe Essenza, eating my last medialuna and having my last cafe con crema for this trip. I really enjoy these slow paced trips where there’s no real need to see any touristy things, and I just spend my time reading and people watching!

Coffee break and some reading

In the evening, I decided to splurge on my last Argentinian steak dinner, and ordered a steak with sausage, alongside a glass of wine from the regions. It was an excellent end to the Argentina portion of my trip! Food at the Park Hyatt is excellent, but pricey.

To work off some of the calories after dinner, I went out, and took some pictures of Mendoza after sundown. I had my tripod with me, so that gave me the opportunity to do some long exposures.

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Argentina: Cafe hopping and Mattress Running in Mendoza, 22 July 2016

Mendoza

Mendoza is a city set in Argentina’s wine region. Unless you’re into doing wine tours (which I’m not), I guess most people don’t stay three days. I was, however, mattress-running for Hyatt status, and Mendoza has a category 1 Park Hyatt.

After my complimentary diamond breakfast at the Park Hyatt, I moved my stuff to the Sheraton, which was a short, 10 min walk from the Park Hyatt.

Mendoza is a pretty compact city. In its heart, is the Independence Plaza, and there are four other plazas in its northwest (Plaza Chile), northeast (Plaza San Martin), southeast (Plaza Espana), and southwest (Plaza Italia). There are also plenty of sidewalk cafes and restaurants, alongside shopping arcades, which makes it a very pleasant walking city.

Mendoza

As I don’t have any real touristy things I wanted to do, I decided to spend my time in Mendoza, like I would any regular day. So first stop, find a cafe for reading. While it’s winter in Argentina, the sun made it warm enough to sit outside. I wound up at Cafe Jack, and settled to reading with a cafe con crema.

Coffee and shoeshine, Mendoza

When I started getting cold, I walked around for a bit. The signage for tourist attractions in Mendoza is excellent, so if you’re looking for a particular church, or a particular architectural gem, there’s no real guidebook required for exploring Mendoza.

Stained glass in Pasaje San Martin, Mendoza

The town of Mendoza has some nice architectural gems. Two instances are the Pasaje San Martin and the Banco Hipotecario Nacional. The Pasaje San Martin was built in 1926, and the covered shopping arcade features beautiful stained glass. I don’t know anything about the Banco Hipotecari Nacional, but it features a very beautiful facade with ornate carvings.

Banco Hipotecario Nacional, Mendoza

I ended my day with a pot of tea at Bianco & Nero, and more reading.

Tea time at Bianco & Nero, Mendoza

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Flight Review: Premium Economy on Aerolineas Argentinas from Cordoba to Mendoza, 21 July 2016

Aerial view of Flight from Mendoza to Cordoba

I have probably repeated myself over and over about this – I have morphed from budget backpacker to luxury travel on a shoestring, and my tolerance for suffering has gone down significantly. Initially, I was going to take the 12 hr bus ride from Cordoba to Mendoza. However, after some price comparison, I don’t really save a lot flying vs taking the bus. Also, flying really just takes an hour. And to give you an idea of what a degenerate I’ve become, I figured that it was just $20 more to fly premium economy (the highest class of service) vs. flying economy. I can spare an Andrew Jackson. As I hate rushing, I booked a 5ish pm flight from Cordoba to Mendoza.

Aerolineas Argentina Club Economy AR2535 Cordoba - Mendoza (COR - MDZ)

After lunch, I asked for a late check out, and eventually took a taxi from Cordoba to its airport. The Cordoba airport seems to be quite a work in progress. They were ripping off the renovation plastic at my waiting area.

Aerolineas Argentina Club Economy AR2535 Cordoba - Mendoza (COR - MDZ)

Aerolineas Argentinas is a Skyteam member, so I was able to credit this flight to my Delta account. The nice thing about Delta miles is that they sit there and never expire, even if Skypesos suck in general.

Aerolineas Argentina Club Economy AR2535 Cordoba - Mendoza (COR - MDZ)

Premium economy on Aerolineas Argentinas is arranged 1-2 in four rows, although the there are only two single seats. I chose one of the single seats. The legroom is generous, although the overhead space is somewhat limited. Larger US-sized carryons will probably not fit in the overhead cabin. There was also a quick snack service, where I was given a water, a sandwich, and the ubiquitous Alfajor. There were also power sockets for those who need to charge their electronics. I don’t think mine worked, though.

Aerolineas Argentina Club Economy AR2535 Cordoba - Mendoza (COR - MDZ)

One of my gripes about Argentinian baggage handling is, even if you have a premium tag, it literally means nothing. They will load it in whatever order they got it, so if you’re hoping your bag will be one of those that rolls out earliest, tough luck! This happened both in Buenos Aires and in Cordoba.

Aerolineas Argentina Club Economy AR2535 Cordoba - Mendoza (COR - MDZ)

From Mendoza airport, I simply took another cab to the Park Hyatt. I’m rapidly running out of pesos! Eep!

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Argentina: Wandering in Cordoba, 20 July 2016

Cordoba

My only full day in Cordoba. My hotel isn’t exactly in the centre of town, but it was probably a 15 min walk to the heart of Cordoba, where the Jesuit block is located. Cordoba was founded in the 1500s, making it one of the oldest Spanish colonial cities, and the architecture reflects that.

Cordoba

I don’t have much to contribute to the conversation on Cordoba, but it’s a pretty lively town that makes it perfect for walking. Nice architecture, many passage ways for exploring, and a rather compact city centre are some of the pluses. I wanted to check out the Jesuit mission, but the number of bugs biting me stopped me in my tracks. I did go to the Colegio Nacional, which is pretty cool. They maintained the colonial facade, but updated the interior of the building.

Cordoba Wandering around for food was quite a challenge. I was initially inclined towards trying their local fastfood, but then the lines turned me off. I ended up exploring the various passage ways, letting various sign boards posted outside to guide me. I wound up at a cafe that surrounded a fountain, and had a ham sandwich with fries. Tostados con fritta, Cordoba

The rest of my day was spend dealing with logistics like changing money, and figuring a way to the airport for my flight the next day.

Cordoba

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Argentina: Bussing from Rosario to Cordoba, 19 July 2016

Terminal de Omnibus, Rosario

The only grand plan for today is to get from Rosario to Cordoba. The older I get, the less I can deal with longish bus journeys. I used to be ok with 12 hr bus-rides, but these days, even the 6ish hours bus ride seems a bit much. And because I value my comfort more than anything else these days, I opted for a noonish departure, which means the bulk of my day is spent on the bus.

Terminal de Omnibus, Rosario

The Argentina bus system is pretty easy to navigate online. I used Omnilineas to check the departure times. Thankfully, buses from Rosario to Cordoba are fairly frequent. As this wasn’t an overnight bus, I opted for the semi-cama, which features quite a bit of recline, and the chairs were arranged as 2 by 2s. The bus ticket was about 460 ARS (~30 USD), and comes without any service. For more information on what the different classes mean, do check out this page, so you may select a service that works best for you.

Plusultra (Semi Cama) bus from Rosario to Cordoba

Cordoba is the first city of Argentina, and is home to one of the oldest universities in the world. The Jesuit missions in Cordoba are also a UNESCO world heritage site. Arriving at 7pm, I got a glimpse of these older buildings, but I was too tired to explore. I simply went to the mall that’s beside my hotel, grabbed some food from the food court, and passed out for the night.

Plusultra (Semi Cama) bus from Rosario to Cordoba

Plusultra (Semi Cama) bus from Rosario to Cordoba

Plusultra (Semi Cama) bus from Rosario to Cordoba

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Argentina: Che was at Rosario, 18 July 2016

Rosario Central Station - no longer in use.

This was my first morning without P. I got back into my routine of solo travel, which generally involves taking in one or two tourist sights before settling down to read. In the morning after breakfast, I went on wikitravel and found out that Che Guevara’s birth home is in Rosario, between Entres Rios and Urquizas so I took a short walk there. The building looks lived in, and it’s now an office/residential combination. There’s simply a little marker noting that he was born here.

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(It’s that little icon there)

Che Guevara's birth place, Rosario

One of the lovely things about Rosario is, it’s a nice-sized town. There are plenty of lovely little cafes, but it’s not too busy. I wandered down Entres Rios, and finally settled on Om Cafe. Om Cafe has both indoor and outdoor seating. The outdoor seating looks like it’s set in a ruined building, but done very tastefully. The interior of the cafe features white-washed bricks, high ceilings, and floor to ceiling windows, offering great views of the busy Tucuman street. It’s furnished with white tables and white chairs. I had a breakfast set, which featured two media lunas and a cafe con leche, and it is insane value at ~40 peso (< 2 usd). I had a very enjoyable time reading in the cafe.

Om Cafe, Rosario

Cafe con leche at Om Cafe, Rosario

In the mid-afternoon, I decided to stretch my legs, and took a walk towards the park along Rio Parana. It’s not a bad place to spend some time strolling. The park features several eateries, some of which do have all-day ish dining, if you are caught between lunch and dinner. There are also a couple of clubs for people who like the night life. After the enjoyable stroll, I got back to the hotel as I needed some internet.

Rosario

I got lazy in the evening and simply dined at the restaurant on the same block as my hotel. I was really craving fried chicken, so I ordered and had an excellent chicken cutlet.

Pollo suprema con fritta, Rosario

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