Salta--June 7-12, 2006
From Bolivia I headed south to Argentina. I took the train overnight to the border of Bolivia, walked across the border and then took a couple of buses down to the city of Salta.
Having been in Ecuador and then in Bolivia, I was expecting Argentina to be much the same. I was expecting wonderful scenery, friendly people, and nice cities but I was not expecting it to be quite as modern as it is. Salta is set around a big, hustling square, with cafés spilling out onto the sidewalks over looking the square. It also has plenty of shops and restaurants along two pedestrian streets which all make for a nice place to explore and relax for a few days.
One of the first things I noticed my first day in Argentina is how serious they take their siestas. I went in an internet café the first afternoon about 1pm and came out about 2:30pm. This is what the pedestrian street looked like when I went into the internet cafe....
And when I came out it was like a ghost town. I wasn´t sure what had happened when I was staring at the computer screen and had to to a double take to see what was going on. All the shops, banks, offices, etc. close about 1:30 and reopen about 5pm and everyone goes home, takes a short nap, and heads back to work. I think this is a practice we should adopt in the rest of the world!!!
I took an all day tour out of Salta to a small town called Cafayate. This is one of the small wine producing regions of the country and I was keen to taste some of the Argentinian wine (and for those who have been following my travels... this is a regular occurrence for me!). The drive was about 3 hours and once again saw some spectacular scenery along the way.
We stopped at 2 wineries. The first one was Vasija Secreta where we took a tour and had a tasting.
Wine Ice Cream
Then we stopped for lunch at a local restaurant, followed by ice cream made from wine. There were only 2 of us on the tour, and Flori (from Israel) and I sampled the wine ice cream as well as the obligatory Dulce de Leche ice cream.
Dulce de Leche is similar to what we call caramel at home (but a little different) and they use in on all sweets, in candy, in ice cream, with crepes for deserts, on crackers for a snack. A definite must have when in Argentina.
As I wandered the streets of Salta I of course went to the market and sampled some of the local food including tamales and humitas (delicious!). I also walked and found a lady selling the best empanadas I have tasted so far. She was making the empanadas (pastries stuffed with ground beef, onions, potatoes, egg, olive) fresh and frying them as she went. She also made great papas rellenas and papas queso, of course all deep fried.
I found out on my second time there that I did something very wrong the first time I had empanadas there. Since the empanadas came straight out of the hot oil, I used a knife and fork to eat them. Evidently this is very wrong... even in the most upscale restaurants, if you order an empanada you eat it with your hands! Thanks to the translation by Flori, I now know the proper way to eat an empanada!
Another of the things that Argentina is famous for are their Asados. I thought that I knew a thing or two about barbequeing until I got to Argentina! The Aussies and the New Zealanders also have a thing or two to learn about the BBQ!!
First of all, as everyone takes a siesta in the afternoon, they are awake very late. No dinner or Asado even thinks about starting before 10pm. I went to one at the hostel where we didn´t start eating until after 11pm and they just kept bringing out the beef until we couldn´t eat any more!
Mendoza--June 12-16, 2006
The night of the 12th, I decided it was time to leave all the fun in Salta behind and head to Mendoza. I took an overnight bus, which I always dread taking, but I had heard so many great things about Argentinian buses that I was sort of intrigued. And I have to say they were quite nice. It was almost like sitting in business class on an airplane. Instead of 4 seats across they only had 3 and the seats leaned most of the way back and nice leg rests are attached as well. And to make it even more like an airplane, they give you a blanket and they serve the equivalent of airplane food (dinner and breakfast) while rolling down the road. Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, etc. can learn a lot from the buses in Argentina.
75% of the wine production in Argentina is done in the Mendoza area. I took another wine tour and visited a couple more wineries and had a chance to enjoy more of their delicious wines. The main grape they grow is the Malbec which I have to say is delicious. Here I am with on the large casks that one of the wineries used to age the wine.
Can you believe it has been a year?
As of June 15, I had been traveling for a year! Definitely hard to believe. I have visited 22 countries, used 21 different currencies, met countless people and have had an amazing experience. Some of us from the hostel went out for a nice Italian dinner to celebrate my year on the road. We went out about 10pm, which is about normal for Argentinians to go to dinner. The restaurant was still full when we left at midnight. From the left is Carl (Australia), Madhavi (Texas), me, John (Texas), and Elizabeth (New York). We went out to a really nice restaurant where if we had gotten the same entrée at home it would have cost $25. Here though we only paid about $5.
Yes, there are Walmarts down in Argentina. A few of us decided to take a field trip and check it out. I still prefer Target, but it was fun to visit.
The World Cup Football (soccer) has started since I have been in Argentina and they take their football very seriously here. Here are some celebration pictures after their second win. The fans took over one of the streets and are dancing and singing.
Even the kids are avid fans!!
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