Category Archives: beverages

Grape escape

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There was a very good reason why we crossed the border back into Argentina from Chile, making a bee-line for Mendoza….Wine, wine and more wine! We were on a mission to try as many good wines as we possibly could in three days – whilst trying to remember what they actually tasted like! No mean feat with hundreds of wineries on our doorstop to choose from, growing grape varietals such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and the infamous Malbec and Torrentes. With rather a lot of success these days… Or so it would seem from the 90+ scores given by Robert Parker, the acclaimed critic. Argentina, one of the New World wine suppliers, is considered the fifth largest wine producer in the world, with Mendoza and the vineyards in the province, producing two thirds of this. The region contains 223,000 hectares of planted vineyards, compared to 400,000 in France, with some 280 wineries opened between 2001 to 2007. Malbec is very much the flagship grape; originally brought over from France in 1855, it thrives in the continental climate and semi arid dessert conditions of Mendoza, perfectly suited to the terroir. With vineyards planted at altitudes between 800 – 1100m, Lujan de Cuyo, is very much the epicentre for this emblematic wine of Argentina.

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Magical Malbec grapes

We decided against DIY; neither of us fancying our chances of making it on bikes all the way out to the Uco Valley, or navigating the city after a few glasses in a hire car. We were keen to learn more about the process and varietals and had noted a handful of vineyards we would be keen to see…. none of them were close to each other.

Cellars at Alto Vista

Cellars at Alto Vista

Notebook in hand and open mind we opted to go with Ampora, a well known wine tour operator for the first two days that offered full on guided tastings and we were so glad we did. Not only were Majo and Alex great hosts cum tour guides, they each added a different dimension; Majo, Mendocino history, culture plus her amazing personality and wine knowledge and Alex, a breadth of technical knowledge that was astounding coupled with a great passion for wine; he had just graduated from his degree in wine making.. Before we arrived at each of the chosen bodegas we were given a brief potted history. It was so interesting to learn about each of the predominately European funded vineyards, their preferred viticulture methods before we began tasting; the tours were given with great passion and pride and you couldn’t help but feel an almost reverential hush fall as we stepped into each of the cool and inviting cellars. Over the three days we met agronomists, owners, along with first and second winemakers – all keen to give us an insight into their world.

Tasting room good to go

Tasting room good to go

Spit or swallow… It’s just one of those questions you have to ask. We did both. With twenty odd wines to taste on our first day, we couldn’t possibly quaff all of them and remain coherent. So we studied the colour and savoured the aroma, before taking a slurp across the tongue and palate; occasionally doing ‘the right thing’ and making use of the spitoons. And took notes … decidedly more legible at the start of each day!

Behind closed doors... Private cellar at AV

Behind closed doors… Private cellar at AV

On day one we joined by a handful of Americans as we headed to Lujan de Cuyo, less than 20km south of Mendoza. First stop Bodega Altavista, an really attractive and well established winery, with old vines dating back to 1889, it also doubles up as the French Consulate. Here we had our first taste of Torrontes – known as the “liar” – for a good reason – on the nose an aromatic perfume like Viognier yet on the palate a complex and refreshing citrus finish similar to Sauvignon Blanc.. Unexpected and delicious, it was a show stopper. We actually tried their full range of top shelf wines, from sparkling to their single vineyard Malbec, plus another newbie for us, the Italian grape Bonarda. One wine we didn’t get to try was their Alta Vista ‘Alto’ 1998… Around $2900 AP, or £380 a bottle, we didn’t blame them for not opening it!

The bar had been set and we were not disappointed, as the hits kept on coming.

Wine painting in the cellars  of Kaiken

Wine painting in the cellars of Kaiken

Next stop, Bodega Kaiken, with its pretty covered pergola overlooking the vineyard we ate our first grapes, straight from the vines. Deliciously sweet the Merlot grapes were weeks away from their hand picked harvest. Their Malbec Kaiken Rose caught our attention; the deep rich rose colour a result of 24 hour contact with the grape skins, an aroma that reminded us of cherries and candy floss, it tasted of bananas and melon…we imagined savouring it with a plate of chorizo and octopus in a sun-drenched beach cafe.

Barrel art at Pulenta

Barrel art at Pulenta

With slightly squiffy heads, we were glad that we would soon be filling our bellies. After a pitstop at Pulenta Estate and a tasting that left us favouring the deep red, spicy yet sweet berry Merlot 2008, we headed to Ruca Malen for lunch, with perfect wine pairing (natch). Our table was the last to leave as we lingered over our five course lunch. We sighed over our starter of goat cheese truffle with dried chilli matched with a Yauguen Torrentes and giggled as our third course of Quartirolo cheese and chorizo, beautifully matched with their 2006 Malbec, came with it’s own presentation “map” under the glass plate. Stuffed to bursting after a full day of wine tasting and wine pairing lunch, we were in need of a power nap, before we could do anything else. Casa Lila, our temporary home for the rest of our stay, also gave us a great taste of Mendocino hospitality. A few blocks from the main drag, it was charm personified; beyond the pretty worn iron gates, it was an oasis of peace and tranquility. Just what we needed after a “hard” day of tasting! Yep, gluttons for a good thing, we both knew come 8pm we would be ready for another food fix and more wine! Matt had yet to completely embrace Argentine late night dining. Mind you, even I struggled getting my head around sitting down for a ‘proper’ dinner at 11pm – the reservation time offered for a table inside one particular popular restaurant. We dined outside, serenaded by street musicians, as we tucked into a langoustine salad for me and Costelata de cerdo, pork chop, for Matt… Washed down with our new found favourite, a bottle of Torrentes.

En route to Uco

En route to Uco

Ready for round two, we got up early and embraced our first sunny day in Mendoza as we headed for the hills and Uco Valley. With just four of us (we were joined by two young wine buffs who had friends/family that owned their own vines) and the prospect of a tour and lunch at O Fournier, we were in for a treat.

Tank tasting at Altitude

Tank tasting, at altitude

With a special backdrop of the Andes, vines at altitude and high tech holding tanks, Bodega Atamisque was our starting point for the day and second tank tasting; gingerly we sniffed and sipped the murky liquid offered – full of sediment, you could just about detect the top notes of a soft fruity finish. Within thirty minutes the sediment settled and the wine took on a refreshing and slightly florally almond taste; with less than a week in the tank, it showed great promise and would eventually emerge as their Sparkling Cave Extreme. We were completed divided on whether or not we preferred their Catalpa 2011 Pinot Noir or Merlot. Tough call to make at 11 in the morning!

Straight from the barrel

Straight from the barrel

Gimenez Rilli was an unexpected gem. Not only because we toured with one of the owners, but we tasted one of the finest Malbecs we had ever tasted – from the barrel, a month into its maturation, whilst nibbling cheese and quince in the tasting room. With great pleasure we eagerly hoovered up the steaming hot carne empanadas as we worked our way through several of both their Torrentes and Malbecs. The clear winner? Gran Reserva 2008 with its deep red-violet colour and classic taste of cherry, chocolate, spice and vanilla. It was delicious.

Corn-ucopia...

Corn-ucopia….

Steak and Malbec moment at O.F

Steak and Malbec moment at O.F

We headed further towards the foothills and the incredible looking and super high tech, Bodega O. Fournier. With a restaurant overlooking a lake teeming with trout and the Andes, it was a magical setting for our five course lunch; a twist on classic dishes from Argentina and Spain, matched with some of their best wines. Steak aside – which was cooked to perfection – medium rare and came with a red mojo sauce, the starter, Duo de humita en chalk y cazuela, a thick corn stew served with the savoury cake of corn, came with a first rate glass of Urban Uco Malbec 2011. Spying the well placed deck chairs, it was difficult dragging ourselves away, as we wrestled with thoughts of a siesta, sprawled out on the terrace. Not only were we stuffed to bursting, we polished off another bottle of their B Crux 2008, a heady blend of Tempranillo, Malbec and Merlot, after lunch!

Lazy like a Sunday morning...

Lazy like a Sunday morning…


On the third day, we were almost relieved to be only visiting one vineyard, Trivento, in Maipu, and home to the production of a wine we had sampled a few times at home, La Chamiza. This time round we got to meet the winemaker and sample with him. We were not disappointed, as each glass surpassed the previous one. Our favourite (natch) was the much heralded Martin Alsina Malbec 2008 and their top end wine. With a bottle in hand we headed back into Mendoza for a hearty lunch.

The most consistent and striking observation we made, over the three days, was just how incredibly well structured the mid to top end wines we sampled were. More so given their age, or serious lack of. So many of them made the cut, it would be difficult to pick our all time favourite, although we will defo be looking out for Torrentes on our return. I would like to say we could spot a Malbec at ten paces – just by the colour – although that just might be wishful thinking!!

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Mooching in Mendoza

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Arriving at Mendoza was a shock to the system. After the hazy sunshine of Santiago we were met with grey cloudy skies and rain. Torrential at that; it bounced off the runway tarmac on our approach and we could clearly see major pooling beneath row upon row, of vines, huge puddles on some roads and water coursing along the acequias, irrigation ditches. Essentially a desert town with max 20cm of rainfall a year, it was far from the welcome we were expecting.

Sleepy leafy streets

Sleepy leafy streets

On Easter Sunday morning the city was still very much asleep, with a handful of flowers vendors setting up their stalls for business and the odd proud home owner out sweeping and cleaning the grey and ochre tiled veradas in front of their property.

imageMendoza, with it’s wide avenues, mix of historic and modern architecture, plazas and parques came across as a relaxed yet traditional city (Mendocinos do observe the siesta) full of flavour and culinary promise; Argentine, Italian plus the odd Middle Eastern cafes and restaurants line the streets of Av Sarmiento, Aristides Villanueva, Montevideo and Av Juan B Justo, to name but a few. We tried to imagine the buzz along these streets on a glorious sunny Saturday afternoon, or balmy evening; restaurants and cafes brimming with chatter and the smell of grilled meat, seafood, rich tomato sauce and fresh breads. Anything, rather than how they appeared on a cold wet Sunday mid morning!!

As we couldn’t check into our “one night only” hotel for several hours, we donned waterproofs and walked the quiet tree lined avenues, fallen leaves and rain making tiled veradas, slick beneath our feet.

Local Heroes - SM & OH

Local Heroes – SM & OH

With hardly a soul around it took us no time to figure out the ‘lay of the land’, the five plazas providing points of interest and reference; the main plaza, Plaza Indepencia, in the centre and four smaller ones, Chile, Espana, Italia and Plaza San Martin, but two blocks from the corners of the main plaza. They were all added when the city was rebuilt after the massive earthquake in 1861, each unique plaza with it’s fountain(s) and decoration offering something different, aside from a space to hang out and contemplate life. Our favourites; Plaza Espana with its traditional and pretty mosaic walls depicting life in Mendoza and numerous tiled fountains and Plaza Chile with it’s sturdy sculpture of the two liberation leaders O’Higgins and San Martin.

Surprisingly the city seemed to have suffered more than it’s fair share of juvenile tagging along benches, walls and the odd sculpture; the dioramas depicting Mendoza’s history on Av Las Heras having also fallen foul of vandalism too.

Bedside reading outside banco hipo...

Bedside reading outside banco hipo…

We took in the nearby Iglesia y Basilica de San Francisco, with it’s image of the Virgin of Cuyo and patron of the ‘Army of the Andes’, considered more miraculous than anything because both church and chamber survived the ’68 earthquake. Outside and inside the former Banque Hipocetario Nacional, modern art reigned supreme, with a mix of local and national art exhibitions.

Stumbling across a Carrefour superstore, we got very excited – like a couple of real saddos, we took time and great pleasure, peeking along the aisles, examining what was on offer; household, beauty products, not to mention the massive food section, price checking and looking for things we hadn’t seen before – eyeing covertly (or at least we tried to) trolleys and baskets to see what ‘the locals’ were buying, we stood out like a sore thumb in the checkout queue – all our basket offered up was empanada cutters, coffee ‘socks’, fresh ground Lavazza coffee, suntan lotions and mosie repellant. Hardly a gourmet meal in the making.

One of many fountains - Pl Indepencia

One of many fountains – Pl Indepencia

Like the rest of Argentina, the city really came awake post sundown, all around the grassy lawns of Plaza Indepencia, more stalls were being set up, selling souvenirs, carved bone handle knives, leather goods, jewellery and plenty of knick knacks. We walked along Av Sarmiento towards the eastern peatonal, the pedestrian section, awash with cafes and bars starting to spill onto the pavement and chose a cafe for its “wifi zonal” sign. Bad move. Although the wifi and service were both pretty good, the pizza was far from. In fact it was probably one of the worst we have eaten. Ever. Consoling ourselves with the upgraded Malbec we were offered, we checked our emails.

Thankfully our choice of dining establishments and lodgings improved over the next few days!!

All day fave - Maria Antonieta

All day fave – Maria Antonieta

We were recommended Maria Antonieta and for a good reason. Resembling a French styled version of Fergus Henderson’s ‘St John’, with an open kitchen, it offered the best bread we had tasted and incredible up-market cafe dining. The tarta del dia, pumpkin on the day I tried it, was huge, even by a navvies yardstick and totally divine. As was the mixta salad with the bitterest of arugula leaves and sweetest tomatoes. I polished the lot off.

"Light" lunch - pumpkin tart

“Light” lunch – pumpkin tart

Azafran at night

Azafran at night

Azafran, was so good, we actually returned for a second helping. This may have been partly because I had a classic case of food envy first time round. Matt had ordered the Costeta de cerdo, pork chops with a traditional lentil stew and sticky beer reduction, whereas I had gone for the simple langoustine salad with avocado and Parmesan galettes. Don’t get me wrong, it was delicious – just not in the same league.

Eyeing up the wine cellar

Eyeing up the wine cellar

Did I mention that there isn’t really a wine list? Instead you can pop into the cellar and choose from the racks, sommeliers on tap to offer a guiding hand. The decor inside, if you can get a table (we did, second time around) is rustic shabby chic and quite a draw card by itself. And they served the meanest and poshest empanadas we had tasted to date; Molleja y champinion, Chorizo con cebolla and Morcilla y parmesano. A meaty mix of sweetbreads, sausage and black pudding versions with a tomato concasse.
What more could you ask for??

Mmm... Empanadas

Mmm… Empanadas

Camping and caffeine

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It all began in Nepal. The practice of “bed tea” brought to gently awaken and refresh the quietly slumbering walker on a “tea house” trek… Sign me up for a Lifetime subscription! I swear I don’t fire on all cylinders without a java fix. Incorporated into the pre-nup (natch), this tradition was eagerly adopted in our household with Matt invariably getting up to make coffee in bed, come hell or high water. Yep. Spoilt.

Fast forward to this trip… A lot of thought had gone into which blend and indeed what method would be adopted to get the perfect camp brew. Research done, investment was made into a nifty little HD Ortlieb waterproof filter holder, with cheeky welded loops to slot tent pegs in (to hold it over your camp cup). Neat or wot?!

We foolishly used up our supply of Union Hand Roasted revelation blend in Buenos Aires and Ushuaia and had to include coffee in our supermarket sweep in Calafate. Decision time; we had seen various coffee brand names posted outside confiterias, yet none of them were represented on the shelves. We settled for Super Cabrales; a name we vaguely recognised, but missed the connection between ‘torrado‘,roast and azucar, sugar. All of the brightly coloured foil pouches before us had, during roasting or post, a percentage of sugar added. We are not complete coffee geeks, but it does make you wonder how bad the beans might be if you have to add sugar from the get-go, right?….

The fab filter had to be tweaked as the grind was that little bit finer than our ‘home grown’ and tested blends – Matt the ever professional bed tea-maker persevered and perfected the brew, adopting the pre-steeping of coffee and double filtering approach. Camp coffee at it’s finest!

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Leaving BA….

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We left Buenos Aires just as the party people came out to play, heading for the southern most point in Argentina, and indeed the world. Ushuaia. Shuffling along the check in queue at 3.30am, we couldn’t help but wonder what possess an airline to schedule a flight as such an early hour. No surprises we nodded off pretty much as soon as we were in the air.

Blearily around 6am we peered out of the windows to spy the most incredible strips of colour, the beginning of a sunrise above the cloud-line and hoped we had seen the last of the rain. Alas not. On our descent the sprawling town came into view, nestled below snow-capped mountains, the tiny landing strip on a small peninsular, was dwarfed by commercial harbour just around the bay.

Main Street in Ushuaia

Shop til you drop on San Martin..

Matt in his gone fishing garb

Capt Matt getting ready for the Drake…

You name it and they sell it in Ushuaia, last stop Antarctica. Ski clobber (Spyder at that) Timberland, Northface and plenty of serious outdoor shops, duty free stores galore; knick knacks and trinkets you never knew you needed, the town has it nailed! A town that has boasted a penal colony and hosts a small naval base, it felt like a friendly frontier town with cars cruising (well crawling) up the main street, San Martin, in the early evening with pop tunes (80’s stylie) blaring and windows down. Not sure if the lads were checking out the chicas or not, but it made us giggle.

With cruise ships stopping to disgorge their passengers, several times a day during the summer season (our winter) there are plenty of places to eat. From king crab and blow out seafood dining experience at Kaupe (we were saving this for our return from Antarctica) to more regular Argentine asado grill restaurants serving up the local fave of Fuegian whole roast lamb, there is something for everyone. With something of an overload in red meat already, we settled on a simple fish supper of calamari plus perfectly grilled hake and salmon at Chiko’s.

One thing’s for sure, although booze is cheap, food is not a cheap commodity in these parts with a lot of products shipped down from BA and other areas. Our supermarket sweep of the biggest of the local supermarkets revealed why there is little in the way of salad or veg served… The fresh produce aisles were a fraction in size, compared to the other sections; limp and sad leaves were left abandoned, next to a tiny selection of cucumbers and plump yet squishy tomatoes. None of them keenly priced. Beetroot and squashes looked liked they had survived their journey and we did manage to find a great little red that came in a Tetra Pak … Perfect for trekking and camping!

Tetra Pak vino for trekkers

Vino tetra

Tango-tastic…

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Since before we even arrived in Argentina, I wanted to see tango performed by professionals, up close, and personal-like, plus have a lesson at a milonga (tango hall), in a sleepy backwater town.  The last bit no doubt inspired by the film ‘Patagonia’.

Sunday’s street dancers in San Telmo had furthered our desire to see a show, although I am sure purist would argue there is nowt proper about show that is just put on for touristas, but what the hell!
We booked at one of the older established  and although we weren’t expecting anything amazing on the culinary front (supper was included) we were hoping to see a great show that gave us an insight into both the history and mystery surrounding tango.
Result! As we arrived, we were ushered to a ring-side table; one of, if not the best seats in the house! Having heard the wines (included) was closer to a balsamic we asked for the wine list; our waiter, Diego, kindly suggested we give the house wines a go, before upgrading.  Happy he did, as the Aberdeen Angus (!!!) was actually more than palatable.  And the hits just kept on rolling…. The tenderloin and pork fillet we ordered were cooked to perfection.
Our evening, just got better as the stage show, lived up to and exceeded our expectations….. An old crooner and chanteuse opened, warming up the audience with their plaintive and heartfelt melodies re-living stories of days gone by.  From the bars, gaming houses and bordellos of Buenos Aires, a dance was created that blended machismo, passion and longing for the women left behind by immigrants and other working men.
Dirty dancing at the Milonga

Down & dirty at the Milonga

Decent woman and families of good reputation wanted nothing to do with this perceived vulgar dance and  brothel workers would have to be paid; men wanting to improve their moves on the dance floor (and to impress the ladies) would have had to practice with each other…
Boarding houses, and more importantly the yards around these spaces became the place to learn these moves and (saucy) lyrics attached. Over time the dance was taught to sisters, cousins, neighbour’s female family members and sought out and danced at family gatherings for immigrants and Argentines alike. A cleaner version emerged that was taken by the middle class Argentines holidaying and partying with the equally rich and famous across Paris and London. It because the craze of the time
Tango returns home

Tango returns home

Eyes smouldering, chests pressed together, legs invading each other’s space with perfect synchronicity and lightening speed, the dancers depicted the  very best of tango – the subtle change in style from it’s infancy, through to the 1920’s  and it’s ‘legitimisation’ across Europe, to ‘modern’ day sultry expression.
Buenos Aires, is the birthplace of tango and our hearts had been well and truly captivated.

Sunday fairs and closed-door dining

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What’s not to love about the gentle and good natured jostling that surrounds antique and bric-a-brac markets? Sunday morning we joined the sharp-eyed locals and tourists alike, all heading along the sleepy streets towards Plaza Dorrego and the Feria de San Telmo.

We made our way along cobbled streets with low storey colonial buildings, still shuttered to the sun and ducked into Walrus bookstore, the only English one in town; it smelt of leather-bound and well thumbed paperback books, sandalwood and timbered beams. Leafing through the more serious tomes on philosophy, astro physics and the ilk, I spied what I had come in search of … A trash novel I could trade later along the way. Patricia Cornwall for a tidy price of 10 pesos!

Antique Siphons at Feria de San Telmo

Stall at Feria de San Telmo

The market was packed with personality and charm with vendors selling everything from vintages soda siphons, Christolfe silverware, Panama hats and jewellery to bags and rugs you can find pretty much in any hippy market from Camden to Ibiza.

Panama hats at Feria de San Telmo

Hats galore at Feria de San Telmo

Buskers worked the crowd and groups of tourists gathered around the tango shows that popped up in the square; full of tautness and desire, the dancers conjured up passion and mystery for a few pesos.

We were tangoed in more ways than one … Having dismissed a chap waving flyers as we ducked into a bar for beer and quick bite, we were slammed with a ‘tango charge’ for the couple that gracefully and theatrically weaved their way across the floor whilst we ate our parrilla y salade. Serves us right!

Next stop was Playa de Mayo, with it’s Piramide de Mayo, an obelisk built to mark BA’s independence from Spain, the impressive facade of the Banco de la Nacion and the Catedral Metropolitana – the towering pillars give no indication of the delicate murals and stained glass inside. Did feel rather sorry for two soldiers in full dress uniform guarding the tomb of General Jose de San Martin.

Having walked the streets of both San Telmo and Congresso, we had built a healthy appetite and were really looking forward to our ‘closed-door’ dining experience, Puertas Cerrades, at Casa Saltshaker with Dan and Henry our soon-to-be-hosts.

We arrived outside the appartment and noticed a few people lurking apprehensively…fellow diners? Full of Dutch courage after apperitifs en route, we rang the bell and announced our arrival in Spanish. Henry appeared and ushered us into the apartment block…. Along with the other four people. Thankfully Dan made introductions as we headed into the garden. Result!! The other dinner guests hailed from Portugal and the US. Relief flooded through us as this meant we could focus on enjoying our five course supper, rather than making conversation in faltering Spanish!

The highlights? Toughie as a really balanced meal with thoughtful wine pairing, but here goes…..
Gazpacho d’oro, sorbete de cilantro – a smooth sweet gazpacho with the added twist of a coriander sorbet with a hint of chilli…. Washed down with a glass of Atemporal Brut
Lomo de conejo, pure rustico, ruckus selvatica – loin of rabbit (not that easy to come by) on a chickpea and potato mash, with rocket and mustard dressing .. Paired to perfection with Padrillos Pinot noir
Cheesecake de miel, compote de ciruelas – not a pudding fan in the slightest, the homemade plum compote worked a treat with the honey cheesecake.
Casa Saltshaker

Conversation flowed as freely as the wine; we traded travellers notes, anecdotes from home and our future holiday plans…Cindy, Sarah and Marcus especially, added to the pleasure of the evening. As Dan said, you never can tell how these sort of evenings unfold and ours was definitely a resounding success.

The heat is on…

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Arriving at Buenos Aires was an assault to the senses in every way; you could taste the heat, even at 9pm, and the noise and bustle were so very far removed from our luxe (and totally spoilt) cocoon of business class, on the flight over.

Clutching our pre-ordered voucher we eagerly headed towards the taxi service to take us to downtown BA; like true Brits abroad, we waited patiently at the desk and again once we had paid the fee. Might just as well have rocked up empty-handed, as it was organised mayhem with drivers coming up to collect their fares and grabbing any voucher to hand!

Hey ho, lesson learnt, we nodded off to the sounds of a city getting ready for the night ahead, as the cab cruised the streets of BA, lined with street-side cafes, restaurants and bars.

Matt picked the perfect place for us to unwind and get to grips with not only BA, but the rest of the trip planning that was still required; ATempo Design Hotel in Palermo Hollywood (one of the nicer districts close to the main hot spots but far enough away to get some sleep!)  It was an awesome duplex – huge and airy with plenty of space to spread out and streamline our kit ready for the next leg and tighter luggage allowance.

Exhausted, we crashed after a couple of glasses of jolly good Malbec from the lobby bar.

Saturday dawned bright, sunny and oh-so humid. Time to explore the neighborhood and get our bearings; in a four block radius we had two mini supermarkets; one Korean and the other Carrefour (albeit a baby one) four cafes, with Vintage Coffee having better java and vibe, plus five restaurants and scrummy looking bakery, Darma, to check out ……. all before we headed south.

More time than anything was spent dodging dog poo and cracked pavement tiles whilst checking out the grafitti art and counting the number of tags (twenty plus in the space of half an hour). Seriously.

28 degrees at 4pm was more than our poor ol’ pasty arms and legs  could handle on day one! Yep, the duplex not only came with a kitchen (of sorts) it had access to a terrace pool… What better way to acclimatise to the heat?!

Full graffiti wall

Full graffiti wall along Ave Santa Fe