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Trip Report: Buenos Aires, Bariloche over Thanksgiving Week

New York, NYC
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Trip Report: Buenos Aires, Bariloche over Thanksgiving Week

This is a rather belated Trip Review but I imagine there is evergreen commentary here:

Over Thanksgiving break, I traveled to Argentina from NYC, spending over a week BA and then capping it off in gorgeous Bariloche. As a a first-timer to the country, and without a traveling companion to rely on, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the sound advice and generosity flowing from this forum.

Here are highlights of the trip:

* The REAL BA Tour, which was -- as many lucky participants have wisely attested already on TripAdvisor -- an immensely impactful experience. This was my first evening in BA and set the barometer straight, I believe, for the rest of the trip. Not only was the tour informative and eye-opening, it was a splendid way to meet the charming and inimitable AVROOSTER as well as other engaging fellow tourists. And my first parilla was one of the best.

* Teatro Colon - the tour is definitely worth checking out! I also bought tickets to a performance of Richard Strauss' Capriccio which was, unfortunately, underwhelming. The opera itself is a conversation piece so it centers on dialogue between a small group of four actors who remain on stage for the full 2.5 hour performance(one act, no intermission). With German language and Spanish subtitles this was a tiresome exercise for English-only ears. I was hoping for more stage revelry and delights but this was the only opera available and so I blame the disappointment on mismatched needs/expectations. BUT if one of your favorite operas is on the schedule, JUMP at the chance to see it performed in this brilliant setting.

* Museums - I visited the big ones MALBA and MNBA and enjoyed both as well as smaller ones like Museo Fernando Isaac Blanco (lovely and tucked away near Recoletta). Given the very warm weather, mixing up your day with outdoor activities and air-conditioned museums turned out to be an energy-preserving strategy.

* Shopping - as a New Yorker, the shopping didn't dazzle me but the outdoor markets are decent spots to pick up gifts for loved ones. I didn't even attempt to battle for the perfect leather jacket as Florida Street is a bit intense and you're constantly accosted by eager salespeople. I preferred the smaller markets and the artisan offerings...there is a market outside of town, Feira de Mataderos, (I believe its name means "slaugherhouse" in Spanish) that is particularly interesting and not overtly touristy.

* Estancia - I heartily recommend Estancia De Los Hermanos. Ana, the proprietor, does a wonderful job and goes the extra mile. She emailed me weeks afterward merely to check in. The day-long excursion is perfectly non-touristy...there were only four of us there that day and we rode (scratch that: GALLOPED!) for hours under the skillful guidance of our authentic gaucho Don Juan (yes, his real name!). The lunch was wonderful, there was a refreshing pool for cooling off, and the setting was lovely. This is a special place.

* Tour - I would avoid the city tours by bus. Mine was supposed to be three hours and it turned out to be well over four. The slow pace of bus itself, combined with the limited information offer by the bilingual tour guide (by the time he was able to identify a building in Spanish and then in English we were onto the next building...I was hoping to learn more about the history of the buildings or the contributions of the subjects of statues. Overall, I felt like it might be a good thing to do on your first day - to acclimate you to the layout of the city - but the tour is NOT a overflowing source of memorable statistics and facts about Buenos Aires. You're much better off splitting the city up and fully immersing yourself in different neighborhoods.

* Palermo Soho - I am especially partial to this part of the city...and wished I spent more time wandering around. I enthusiastically recommend dinner at Bobo, a laudable choice thanks to our excellent host SANTIGOV. I had nearly OD'ed on steak by then so the tuna entree was a joyful departure from the "all meat, all the time" diet.

* Other BA tips - the Palermo park is beautiful - worth a stroll, Recoletta is elegant and lovely, Puerto Madero at night is a must-see (and offers polished restaurants albeit aimed at tourists).

* Lodging in BA - I stayed at Hotel Dora - an affordable and perfectly mediocre hotel. While the rooms are nondescript (be sure to ask for a room off the busy street...mine was very quiet), the front desk staff is pleasant and all were willing to help with reservations, recommendations and so forth. The location is central - one step out the door and you're in the hustle bustle of downtown BA.

* Bariloche - The Aerolina Argentinas strike infused some unexpected drama into my vacation. In order to get there I had to take a 20 hour bus ride...the first class sleeper seat is not so bad, actually. It was a means to an end, but a rather scenic one. The town of Bariloche is like one nestled in the Swiss Alps. The fresh mountain air -- and the perfect 70 degree weather -- was invigorating. The stores in town were great and there is a parilla (named after the owner, Alberto) that is AMAZING. The owner took my order and I made new friends at the table next to me. It's a family atmosphere that is truly unique. Luckily the strike ended in time for me to travel back to BA by plane.

* Llao Llao - the rave reviews of this hotel on this forum swayed me into choosing Bariloche over El Calafate and I am grateful. Having been to a fair share of high end hotels, I can unequivocally state that Llao Llao is in a class by itself. I like classic French elegance and decor of most five star hotels but there is a certain stuffiness about them in my opinion. Llao Llao is stunningly gorgeous but not pretentiously so...the mountain setting and the breathtaking views of snow capped peaks works perfectly well with the lodgy feel. The service is terrific - the daily breakfast buffet and happy hours go above and beyond. There is plenty to do: I visited the terrific spa and went on several hikes but my most serious business was conducted poolside. The weather in early Dec is just warm enough for sun bathing but not too hot. My only complaint was that the construction crews were re-tiling the outdoor pool and disturbed my afternoon naps!! :)

Hope some of the above is helpful.

Toronto, Canada
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1. Re: Trip Report: Buenos Aires, Bariloche over Thanksgiving Week

Hi Happy trails! Your review is excellent. I will be going for two or three weeks in May. How long did u stay? Do you think 2 weeks is enough to see Buenos Aires and Bairiloche?

New York, NYC
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2. Re: Trip Report: Buenos Aires, Bariloche over Thanksgiving Week

Cindylou76 - I was there for 13 days with 9 in BA and 4 in Bariloche (1 spent on that loooong bus ride). I would recommend at least 3 nights in Bariloche. I might even split it up (one week in each spot) if I were you!

Toronto, Canada
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3. Re: Trip Report: Buenos Aires, Bariloche over Thanksgiving Week

Thanks! I am debating between booking 2 or 3 weeks in Argentina. Splitting it with 2 weeks in Argentina and one week in Mexico for the beach since we are going in May. Or to just spend 3 weeks in the Buenos Aires area with a few side trips. I just don't know if I would get bored.

Buenos Aires...
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4. Re: Trip Report: Buenos Aires, Bariloche over Thanksgiving Week

Great trip report! I hereby nominate Happy Trails for the LOCAL EXPERT Nº 2 vacancy left by Santiagov, who is on holiday!!!!!

LOL!!!!!!

Calhoun, Georgia
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5. Re: Trip Report: Buenos Aires, Bariloche over Thanksgiving Week

Wonderful review. Did you take any photos of Llao Llao and could you post them with a review? I would love to see them.

We loved the Teatro Colon too. Fortunately we were able to go to the symphony so the tour and performance were both good. It is too bad there wasn't an intermission when you went. We have left during several plays at the break. My husband was falling asleep during Cats he was so bored.

AV

I think you will need to step in and be the a Temporary Expert in your nephew's place.

Abilene, Texas
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6. Re: Trip Report: Buenos Aires, Bariloche over Thanksgiving Week

Thank you so much for taking the time to craft such a detailed and well-written summary of your trip. I visited Llao Llao just a few days after you, and my reaction was the same as yours--amazing place! The cypress log and stone walls, the wide plank pine floors, the comfortable, the food, the happy hour, the peace and tranquilty of the setting itself.....I wish I could go back again right now!

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7. Re: Trip Report: Buenos Aires, Bariloche over Thanksgiving Week

Glad to hear from you, happytrails! I was wondering what happened to you after dinner at Bobo. I'm sure you were glad the strike ended in time for your return flight! It was great meeting you and thanks for the trip report.

Portland, Oregon
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8. Re: Trip Report: Buenos Aires, Bariloche over Thanksgiving Week

Outstanding post, Happy! Thank you for all the details! I'm planning to take the 20-hr bus (cama style) from BA to Bariloche so have a few specific questions about that. First, which bus line did you use? Second, can you specify the seat you want (I want upper level, in front w/ most window availability!) How was the meal & movies? And lastly, were you able to get any sleep???

London
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9. Re: Trip Report: Buenos Aires, Bariloche over Thanksgiving Week

Happy, thanks for your great report. As I was reading it, I could not agree more with your thoughts and impressions! The one thing I'm thankful for is that we took a fabulous sightseeing tour which was not expensive at all, and only for the two of us. We were able to take our time in each place, while we learnt a great deal from our guide -who did not have such a heavy accent as we found in other places- so we understood everything he said. He was actually a history teacher at the university, quite an odd person, if I may add, but it was a real pleasure to spend time with him. It was a Sunday, so we visited the San Talmo market and sat down with him on a steet cafe to have a beer and chat.

Buenos AIres
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10. Re: Trip Report: Buenos Aires, Bariloche over Thanksgiving Week

AV : Happytrails deserves much more than a LE "title" ...she would be a GREAT US "ambassador" for Argentina....nice, refined, intelligent ...lovely lady !

Guess she surely would love to ... but in Paris, London or Rome...:))