Author: Steph Louka

Stephanie is an EMS Physician and Life-Member of the Virginia Beach Volunteer Rescue Squad. She lives in Richmond, VA with her husband Amir.

Argentina Day 14: Adiós Argentina

Today is our last day here in Buenos Aires and Argentina as we fly back tonight on two back to back red eyes. Our flight to Bogotá, Colombia departs at 11:50pm which makes for an awkward setup when our hotel checkout time is the traditional 11am.

For $70, we were able to add a very late checkout (7pm) so we could spend the day exploring more of BA and come back to shower and pack before heading to the airport.

Last night we were craving Asian food, so we found a small sushi restaurant, Cherry Sushi. Not the best sushi in the world, but it was fun to get the Argentinian take on Japanese fare.

El Ateneo Bookstore, Recoleta, Buenos Aires

Before sushi, we popped into El Ateneo Bookstore, a spot that made my must-see list months ago. It’s an old theater repurposed as a massive bookstore selling everything from coffee table books to classics to DVDs, vinyl records and CDs. I purchased one children’s book in Spanish.

This morning we enjoyed the amazing $10 hotel breakfast yet again. #1Toddler devoured 5 slices of watermelon, 3 rings of pineapple an half a kiwi fruit. She’s become quite the breakfast fruititarian.

After breakfast we Ubered to the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano Buenos Aires (MALBA). We had hoped to get there during our first stop in BA, but couldn’t make it happen.

Twirling on the mosaic plateaus outside the MALBA

The current exhibit is by Earnesto Neto, a Brazilian sculptor who’s exhibits are biomorphic, made of soft stretchy fabrics, crochet and other natural fibers. They are meant to be touched, stretched and interacted with by visitors.

Inside the heart, creating the beat

The first work we discovered was a red fabric heart that encouraged visitors to climb inside and strike a drum to initiate a heartbeat.

Crocheted curtain with bells and shells

The next work we discovered was a set of crocheted curtains laced with bells and seashells, inviting young visitors to stroke and make sounds with their hands.

Nylon tunnel by Neto

One of Neto’s largest installations was a white tunnel of nylon fabric that visitors enter and walk through. #1Toddler and I went together.

Arte latinoamericano from 1900-1970
Multiple dynamic pieces make MALBA unique

The permanent collection features works from Latin American artists from 1900-1970. Amir describes it well – the collection is “digestible” – small enough to explore deeply, but deep enough to gain an understanding of the artist era and its influences.

Everyone has a breaking point

We are now back at the hotel after a pizza lunch and another tour of the “big park.” Time for another siesta before packing up for our long voyage home to Virginia.

-Steph

Argentina Day 13: Exploring Mercado San Telmo

After some more research last night, we learned Sunday is a great day for markets, art displays and carnival parades in the city. We took an Uber to Mercado San Telmo, the market named after the patron saint of sailors, St Elmo.

Sunday morning at Mercado San Telmo

Opening in 1897 to cater to the new wave of European immigrants, Mercado San Telmo still bears the same steel beams and structure as the original although some stalls have been updated.

There are stalls of antiques, bakeries, toys, jewelry, spices, butchers, vegetables and record albums. It truly is “un poco de todo,” a bit of everything.

Jewelry stall at Mercado San Telmo
Antique toy sewing machines
Semi-scary antique baby dolls

We came just after demolishing breakfast at our hotel, so we didn’t have much room for sampling things.

Tapas stall at Mercado San Telmo
Kneading the empañada dough

The market has grown so large over the years that it spills out of the original indoor space and radiates into the nearby streets.

Art fair at San Telmo

Just off the main fair you can find the French Salon, a small offset of higher end indoor shops. It caught my eye online thanks to the display of umbrellas spanning across the street.

#1Toddler soaking in the culture

After an ice cream and coffee, we caught another Uber back to the park near our hotel as #1Toddler has been asking for a “big park” for three days straight. Apparently the world’s largest waterfall didn’t count since it didn’t have a slide.

Plenty of slides to choose from at Plaza Vicente López

After the park at Plaza Vicente López we headed back to the hotel to hit the pool. It’s 75 and sunny today, so the pool is chilly but tolerable if you stay in the sun. The pool attendant pulled out a water noodle for #1Toddler to enjoy, and she quickly named it “my rainbow.”

Mural near Mercado San Telmo

I’m starting to feel a tad exhausted, so I think it’s time for a siesta before dinner tonight and boating tomorrow. I want to rest up because tomorrow is going to be a bear. We have a whole day in BA before our flight home which leaves at midnight.

-Steph

Argentina Day 12: From Iguazú back to Buenos Aires

So I’ve already been corrected that when we head back to Buenos Aires (BA) today we in fact have two nights in BA, not just one. We opted to stay at Hotel Recoleta Grand for these last two nights which is slightly more northeast in the city and allows for easy walking to different sites we didn’t yet explore when in BA at the start of our trip.

I’ve already mentioned how efficient the airport checkin process is here in Argentina, but there’s more to it than that. I looked it up, but it seems that in 1998, Autopuertos Argentina 2000 was founded. It’s a large group with over 2300 employees that operates all aspects of Argentina’s 35 airports.

At face value, it seems to work extremely well. Simple things like a single WiFi network across all airports ensure when you get off your plane, you automatically connect to WiFi. Each airport uses the same signage and security processes (imagine if the TSA had the same expectations at every location). Things are integrated and fairly seamless across the different airports. It makes it predictable and more navigable as a foreigner.

We had an uneventful 1.5 hour flight from Iguazú to BA, grabbed an Uber and checked into our hotel. Tired and sweaty, we cleaned up and rested for a bit before heading to dinner at Rufino, a typical Argentinian restaurant just a few blocks from our hotel.

Amir ordered a 20 oz bone-in ribeye, and I opted for pasta. #1Toddler devoured yet another sausage sampler. We ate too much. Sorry, no food porn as the lighting was dim, but you can check out the restaurant here if you are curious.

Tomorrow we plan to checkout the boat tours of the Río de la Plata. We don’t have a reservation yet, so we might not be able to make it happened. Regardless, we are central to activities that will please everyone in this crowd.

-Steph

Checking out of Loi Suites, Iguazú

Argentina Day 11: Iguazú Falls – the largest waterfall in the world

No toucans this morning, but we did enjoy an excellent breakfast at the hotel and stuck to our schedule of heading to Iguazú Falls at 9am.

Las dos hermanas (the two sisters)

The park is very well organized with trails marked for the handicapped or stroller-toting like us. Amir planned our route and we set off. First stop, the green trail on the lower loop to stop and see Las Dos Hermanas, two side by side falls tucked away off the main path to the big falls.

Metal walkways guide you through the park

We next headed deeper into the park to get a glimpse of Salto Bossetti and his neighbors.

Crossing paths with Coati

The trek to the next site was easy in terms of endurance and dotted with beautiful views.

Along the lower loop on the way to Salto Bossetti
Salto Bossetti
Salto Bossetti

We next backtracked to the train station we’d passed along the way. The train takes you up to Garganta del Diablo (throat of the devil), the largest view of the falls in the park.

If you want to take the train, it’s free with your admission to the park, but you must go to the ticket desk and secure train tickets for each person in your party. We were initially confused as to why, but the tickets are printed with a departure time, ensuring only enough tickets are issued for each train ride and it is not overcrowded with disappointed tourists.

The train ride itself is fairly short and not packed with huge scenery (it’s all relative here), so don’t be disappointed if you get seated in the middle or backwards.

We encountered a few critters on the way to La Gargancha del Diablo, including snakes, monkeys and coati.

Mama monkey with a baby on her back
Huge catfish in the river below the catwalks
Just a small snake
Golden Silk Orbweaver Spider
Coati wrestling match

You walk the catwalks for roughly a third of a mile to reach the platforms for viewing the falls.

Almost there…

The platform overlooking La Gargancha del Diablo was quite crowded, even with park staff controlling the flow. We still managed to navigate the stroller through.

Panoramic view of La Gargancha del Diablo
Sound on for full effect

On the way back to the train, we passed a woman who appeared to be having some sort of diabetic emergency as her family members were checking her blood sugar. A few minutes later, a park ranger blowing a whistle sped by us on the platform with the woman barely conscious in wheelchair, with an ambulance awaiting them at the train station.

Frutilla (strawberry) popsicles for everyone on the train ride back
Making more friends on the way back

In total we spent about 6 hours at Parque Iguazú, drank 6 bottles of water, ate 4 popsicles, saw 7 monkeys, and exhausted ourselves. It was an amazing morning and afternoon. We headed back our hotel ready to hit the pool.

Lobby of hotel Loi Suites
Wedding guests enjoy hours of poolside cocktails
Splashing in the shallow pool
Bouncy bridges connect the different areas of the hotel
Daddy/daughter time in the infinity pool
Nighttime view of the pool and hotel restaurant
Nighttime bridges

We’re currently awaiting room service for a late dinner. #1Toddler finally ran out of gas and crashed at 7:15. We’re enjoying the peace and quiet, so there’s no way we were going to wake her to go out to eat.

Tomorrow we fly back to Buenos Aires to spend just one more night there and catch our flights back home to Virginia. It’s hard to believe yet another adventure is coming to an end. We have plans to go to New York in August 2020 as a team of 4, but no international travel on the books as of yet. I supposed I better cross some other hurdles first.

-Steph

Argentina Day 10: Traveling from Bariloche to Iguazú Falls

We were sad to leave our AirBnB in Bariloche. It gave us so many beautiful delights – majestic views, rainbows, sunsets.

Sunset on our last night in Casa Hygge, Bariloche

I awoke at 6am to ensure everything was packed and clean prior to our planned 8am departure for the airport. If you’ve never stayed at an AirBnB before they each have different checkout procedures depending on owner specifications.

At Casa Hygge we just needed to load the dishwasher, take out the trash and a neighbor stopped over to pickup the key. Some AirBnBs utilize a lockbox or keypad system; the two so far on this trip have both used old fashioned keys.

Bariloche Airport is small, just 8 gates. We checked in easily, again thanks to priority treatment of those traveling with small children as well as those who are pregnant.

Waiting to board at Bariloche Airport (BRC)

There’s no direct flight from Bariloche to Iguazú Falls, so we are connecting in Buenos Aires. Each leg is about two hours.

We’ve booked more traditional hotels for the last two stops on our trip. Our hotel in Iguazú came with transfers for each of us to and from the airport which was convenient.

I had the window seat for the flight into Iguazú. Jungle as far as the eye can see. It reminded me of Tikal, Guatemala.

Iguazú airport is small but modern. Our bags were on the belt before we got to baggage claim, and we quickly found our driver. All in all, very efficient and easy.

At some point this morning when packing up, we realized we only had 4 more diapers for three more days. Vincente, our driver, was kind enough to stop by the supermercado on the way from the airport to the hotel to allow Amir to run in and buy some.

The entire ride to our hotel, Loi Suites, #1Toddler begged to go swimming.

“Can I put my swimming costume on?”

“Can I go down big slide?”

“Can I splash splash?

We dropped our thing in the room, coated everyone in sunscreen and DEET, and made a B-line for the pool.

The hotel also has a swing set just outside our wing. This did not go unnoticed by you know who.

We ate dinner at the hotel restaurant partially for convenience, but also because it was well-rated online.

View of the pool from the restaurant

We also might have already spotted the largest beetle ever seen. Even David Attenborough would be moved. I couldn’t get a photo though before a French couple sat down. They probably would have found it awkward if I were maneuvering under their dinner table to photograph a (fortunately dead) megabeetle.

Tomorrow morning at 8am we are going to watch the hotel staff feed the toucans just before we eat breakfast and head to Iguazú Falls at 9. Vincente said to expect to spend 6 hours at the falls, so we are heading to bed early to rest up.

-Steph

Virgin Piña Colada
Tiny Planet from Tacul Beach