Monthly Archives: March 2019

Argentina, Iguazu Falls – tips for a two day visit from Buenos Aires

It is easy to take a side trip to Iguazu Falls from Buenos Aires and as this spot had been on my ever extending bucket list for some time I was not going to miss the opportunity. It was indeed magnificent.

Yes you could just do an overnight trip (flight time is 90 minutes each way) but I recommend two nights so that you can take it in properly and also because it is in the rain forest where there is not unsurprisingly a lot of RAIN! If you stay two nights you are more likely to enjoy some sunny moments or at least clouds without rain – and that is worth it.

I stayed two nights – one in the the city (Orchideas Hotel – 3 star standard) and one in the Iguazu Falls Park (Gran Melia). If I did this again I would spend both nights in the lovely Gran Melia as it is a 5 minute walk into the park meaning you can be in just after 8am and able to enjoy the walks before the crowds. It has views of the Falls, a beautiful pool and generally a cool vibe and direct access to the Park is the biggest attraction. There is very little to do in the town (other than the excellent Argentine Food Experience) and it is not far to get a car to take you there and back – if you leave late afternoon you can see whatever you want to see in the town before the Experience).

You can organise yourself onto one of the many tours around the park or do it yourself. I took a tour with EcoIguazu which included my accommodation in Iguazú and a tour guide. All the logistics were well handled by this company but the main purpose of the tour guide seemed to be logistics so if getting from place to place bothers you then use one. I could have done the Park visit alone – as indeed I did on day 2 from the Gran Melia. You buy entrance tickets and choose whether to go on the train, take the Devil’s throat walk and/or the jet boat (a waste of time in my view as it seems ridiculous to pay so much money to get thoroughly drenched – but I guess that’s just me as others seemed to enjoy themselves?!?). If you are interested in the history of the Falls and the geography and geology of the place then I suggest you get a private official guide in the park so that you can bombard them with questions which was not so easy to do with a group of 10.

The train journey takes you to the highest point where you can see Devil’s Throat and there are two other walkways – both take about 45 mins to an hour. The upper walk and the lower walk (which would provide much the same view as being on the boat but only getting wet from the spray).

Because it rains a lot I strongly advise one of those attractive rain ponchos(!) – a long one. If weather is warn then shorts and a t shirt under that is fine. Use Mosquito repellant – they didn’t bug me but they did bite me! Also keep valuables in watertight containers or leave them in your safe. When I say wet I mean wet! Don’t bother with umbrellas – not enough space on the walkways to use them without banging into other people.

Finally, the Argentine Food Experience is something different. A fun way of learning about local food, doing a bit of cocktail making and cooking (they do most of the work), meeting some fellow travellers (it is not a large crowd so quite fun) and drinking local wine. My kind of evening and they do it very well.

The walkways used in Iguazu. They are designed so that the base is fixed but the slats you walk on can be removed when the river is due to flood at which point it comes way over the top of these walkways. The water is brown due to previous heavy rains which churn up the ground – this is not the case all year.

The Iguazu Express below is somewhat misnamed but nice journey through the rain forest up to Devil’s Throat and check out the view at the top!

There is wildlife to be seen – see below and I did see some toucans flying – very cool but too quick to take pics. I kept a watchful eye for jaguars, ocelots, tapirs, capuchin monkeys and snakes – especially when walking early in the morning (you cannot enter the park before 8am) – didn’t see any – fine with that except would have liked to have seen a tapir.

The Gran Melia Hotel Iguazu – a haven in the park with the falls in the distance.

Same pic, different filers:)

Views from the Upper circular walk.

In Iguazu Town.

Scenes from the Argentine Experience and my rather pathetic effort at an empanada. It tasted a lot better than it looked!

The Frontier Experience – The river changes colour where the rivers of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet. Can be seen when in town.

Argentina, Buenos Aires – the highlights. Recoleta Cemetery, La Boca, Evita, Casa Rosada, El Ateneo bookshop, MALBA, the Cathedral

What a great city Buenos Aires is – and an excellent place to spend a few days just taking in as much as possible. Great climate at this time of year too – perfect for wandering about.

First stop is the renowned Recoleta Cemetery just down the road from my hotel – the beautifully restored Palacio Duhao plus gardens

The cemetery is especially famous for its sumptuous mausoleums (cUSD12000 per square meter to buy), for being the place where Eva Peron (née Duarte was buried) but the big surprise for me was to find “the only Jew in the cemetery”! Note the Star of David on Benjamin Breitman’s tomb.

My fabulous guide was Patrica Kanelson of Ecouruguay (but don’t be fooled bye the name – they do excellent small group or private tours in Iguazu and Buenos Aires too). Another must see is the La Boca area – once a run down port but now a lively and extremely colorful area – one of the few parts of the City that does not look early century European.

The European feel plays out in the charm of the surroundings – cafes and parks.

And there are always reminders of Evita as you stroll past the Casa Rosada – and the balcony she waved from is first floor (or 2nd if you are from the US) 2nd balcony to the left of the main arch. Apparently the guides have to let some visitors know that Evita did not actually sing Don’t cry for me Argentina from that spot (or indeed anywhere else!).

Then a quick whirl round the main cathedral – especially well known as this was home to the current Pope before he headed out to the Vatican 3 years ago. I also caught the changing of the guard that takes place every two hours by the main tomb.

Of course I couldn’t not go an visit any art galleries so I chose MALBA which focuses on Latin American art and includes one Frieda Kahlo and one Diego Rivera. Like the country the art is very colorful .

Last stop is one of the top three named most beautiful bookshops in the world. It’s called El Ateneo and by chance the store is owned by the family of someone I met in Melbourne who now lives back in Buenos Aires! It is wonderful – formerly a theatre and now a book haven for everyone to enjoy.

Australia, Sydney – a week of catch ups, food and cruise ships viewings

A sunny day in Sydney (and it is not always sunny contrary to the myth) is hard to beat for jaw dropping views of two icons – the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House set amongst the twinkling waters of Sydney Harbour. And at this time of year it is a different cruise ship every day. I also revisited the Botanical Gardens – one of my favorites and discovered Barangaroo Reserve (thanks for the recommendation Trish) which is a piece of land preserve with indigenous plants slap bang in the middle to an area of Sydney which is being very built up – so great a bit of green is being retained.

Night time is always special too.

I visited my friends Vidya and Gana and was treated to home cooking at “Gana’s Kitchen” – just a few samples below of the many dishes we got to taste. Wonderful meal. Great company too which included my old mate from long ago – Doug.

Talking of friends it was marvelous to catch up with more friends and get some more home cooking (thanks Jane and John and Nigel) – some of them are below. Lovely to see you Mark and Liza, Trish, Christina, Catriona, Nigel, Joel, Lana and Christopher.

Australia, Returning to Melbourne – friends, food, art, theatre and one of the loveliest cities around

As Melbourne feels like home to me have decided to just do one large blog on this three week visit., Will be back to more frequent blogs once I am in new places again later in March.

MELBOURNE – the place.

Still one of the loveliest cities. Never tire of wandering the lanes and cafes and always find new ones just when I think I have tried them all. Only downside at the moment is that a lot of central Melbourne seems to be under construction as they are building an extended subway system. Lots of very large holes in the ground.

Nice to finally see the scaffolding off Flinders Street Station though

FOOD

Always one of my favourite reasons to be in Melbourne – and that includes drinks too of course. It is the city of cool bars – many are hidden speakeasys or rooftop sites. Here is the kind of thing you can expect here including some home cooking if you have nice friends who entertain you (thanks Mike and Maria)

ART

As usual I had to visit the NGV – not just once but twice. I loved this exhibit of dogs as fashion models.

And some examples of the more modern permanent collection,

but the best thing was the Escher X Nendo exhibit. M C Escher is a Dutch graphic artist who makes most of his drawings using woodcuts and lithographs – quite amazing the detail and colourations he can create through this medium. My woodcuts at school never looked like this! Then to make it even more interesting the exhibit is displayed in an environment created by Japanese Design studio – Nendo – just brilliant. And watch how Escher plays with perspective and you mind with some of his works. Where does one bit start and another begin? And how do this birds turn into fish?

A visit to the Melbourne museum included a look at the Mandela – my life exhibit just before it closes. It was done very well and it remains shocking to read and watch videos about how people were treated under apartheid so recently.

Then a trip to Heide to see the Mirka Mora exhibit of dolls – drawings and stuffed ones. I am a huge fan of Heide and always like what they show – Mora was a prolific artist who spent a lot of time at Heide as an exile from Paris. She died last year. I like her naive style.

THEATRE

I saw some wonderful shows in Melbourne this trip – Miriam Margolyes in Woman in the Van; MSO doing the Beatles at Hamer Hall; Eddie Izzzard at The Arts Centre; Macbeth in the Botanical Gardens; Evita with Tina Arena and my favourite – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It must be the magic……

FRIENDS

Always the best bit of coming back to a place after some time away. Catching up with my pals has been amazing – many of my friends I made during the time I worked at ANZ here for 10 years and it is fantastic that we are still buddies. Some I’ve even known since my HSBC days and it was also really special to have a few drinks with my former HR team from ANZ – so exciting to see them all and already looking forward to doing the same thing next year.

And BIG HUGE THANKS to the lovely Tania and Shane for opening their home to me and putting up with my comings and goings. They are the GREATEST xxxooo