14. AEP – IGR on LA in Y

14. AEP – IGR on LA in Y

Buenos Aires (Aeroparque City Airport) - Puerto Iguazu, Argentina

LA 4026

Departure Time: 12:20 PM (Actual 1:20 PM)

Airbus 320

Economy Class Seat 2L

Duration 1 hour, 40 minutes

Another day, another LAN Economy Only flight within South America.  This is the last of our LAN flights, and the last of our flights as part of our OneWorld Explorer Award until we resume the open-jaw we start at IGR in NOU (Noumea, Caledonia – about 8,000 miles away).

AEP did not have a lounge for LAN passengers to use, so we cleared security and went to the gate.  The flight was delayed about an hour, and it was unclear to me the reason of the delay.  I was thankful there was even a flight, given the current bickering between Politicians in Argentina and LAN Airways.  Basically, the government of Argentina nationalized Aerolineas Argentina a few years ago.  Literally, they stole it from the person who owned it, and said we are going to own it now for the public interest.  So the government has an interest in the success of Aerolineas Argentina, which has a hub at AEP airport.  They don’t like LAN’s presence there, competing with their stolen loot, so they have been cage rattling politically as of late to try to get them out of there.  Rumor has it LAN may discontinue flights in AEP in the coming days.

Boarding was via remote bus, and we climbed the jetway stairs and boarded our seats in row 2.  The flight was overall uneventful, with a couple trip report posts written, and another LAN snackbox consumed.

IMAG0683Departure board at AEP airport for our flight to Iguazu Falls.

IMAG0684Line forming for boarding the remote bus for the Iguazu Flight

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These remote buses to be ferried out to the gate are getting oldIMAG0689

Another snack basket down

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There were two really cute Argentine sisters on the flight, in the row across from us.  The cabin crew was very kind with them, and even presented them with a “my first flight” certificate at the end of the flight.  It was very cute.

When we left Buenos Aires, the cold front we had been experiencing had just ended.  About mid-way through the flight, we caught back up with it, and by the time we landed in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina, it was pouring rain and very cold, around 45F.  We were thankful we had requested our posada to arrange a taxi pick-up, so we didn’t have to schlep it on the bus in freezing, heavy rain.  It would go on to rain for the next 18 hours straight…

13. Hostel Ostinatto Buenos Aires

13. Hostel Ostinatto Buenos Aires

Hostel Ostinatto

San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina

3 nights paid cash (use Xoom to get the “blue market” rate 8.2 Argentine Pesos per 1 USD instead of official 5.2 Argentine Pesos per 1 USD rate).

Top Floor “Penthouse”

Hostel Ostinatto is in the heart of the San Telmo district of Buenos Aires.  We found this neighborhood to be very charming.  Cobblestones, tile, restaurants, hotels, cafes, and lots of local charm.  The hostel itself has 50-60 rooms.  We were booked many months in advance in their nicest room, the “penthouse”.  Most hostel rooms have 2-12 beds that are shared by backpackers with a shared shower.  Some hostel rooms are private or semi-private, with a private bathroom.  This hostel’s “penthouse”, was a private room, including private balcony, on the 6th floor of the hostel.  We had our own private bathroom, and it was the nicest hostel room I have ever had.  At the blue market rate, it only set us back about USD60 a night, an exceptional value to be in the heart of the city.

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The outside and entrance of hostel Ostinatto, located at 680 on the Avenida Chile in San Telmo.  To get into the building, you have to ring a bell where the front-desk employee comes and opens the door for you.
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The lobby of the hostel, taken from the check-in desk.  There was a couch, sitting area, and up to the left a small set of Internet computers.  Even though we arrived at the hostel a bit before noon, our room was ready and they let us check-in early.  The front desk staff, a very English fluent Argentine named Carolina, let us know about the activities available that week.  The day of arrival, there was an organized group going to a soccer match.  For ARS480 they would give you transportation, and unlimited pizza and beer.  We strongly considered it, but given the cold, windy weather that arrived in Buenos Aires, and the short notice, we decided not to go.  We were told about the free yoga class that would go on the following day, which we quickly but gracefully declined.  There was a weekly Asado for Friday night, but we were already Asado’d out from our meat-sweat inducing time in Mendoza.  So we didn’t participate in any of the hostel group experiences.

It was winter in Argentina, and the days we were there were a bit cold.  Highs in the upper 40s and lows in the mid 30s, with a good bit of cold wind coming up from Antarctica and across the Rio de la Plata into Buenos Aires.  Thus, the hostel was very empty and we had the place almost to ourselves.
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To get to our room, you had to take an awesome old-school elevator from the 1920s, then go through a locked door, up a flight of stairs, and finally through another locked door into the hostel room, room 60.
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Standard if only marginally-worn room amenities.  The sheets, blankets, and two towels were provided by the hostel.  Generally, the room was comfortable enough and clean.  If I had any one niggle, it was that the two pillows offered were quite thin.
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There was a kitchenette with refrigerator and microwave, which we didn’t end up using. In a hostel, a private fridge and microwave are quite the luxury.

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The bathroom exceeded expectations.  A full rain shower with jets, decent tile, and strong, hot water pressure was much appreciated after walking around the city all day.  The toilet came with a bidet which we thought was kind of gross.  Luckily the regular flush handle on the toilet worked fine without having to activate the bidet.
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For a hostel, this was a freakin’ impressive view.
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The private balcony was also a really nice touch.  Regrettably, the weather was too cold to enjoy the balcony, but it was nice having the full glass windows to let in the sunshine and the view.

We spent three awesome days and nights touring Buenos Aires beautiful neighborhoods and nightlife.  I don’t know what it is, but I really liked Buenos Aires.  It had the feel of Paris’s arridismonts, mixed with the Big City feel of Chicago.  Each neighborhood had its own charm, like Lincoln Park in Chicago, SoHo in New York, or even Servette in Geneva.  I have to say, that this is probably my favorite Latin large city I have visited to date.  And while I haven’t seen that many, I have been to Barcelona, Malaga, Mexico City, Panama City, Belize City, Lima, Santiago, and Valparaiso.  Buenos Aires takes the cake.  This is truly a world class city of friendly people, great culture, and endless things to do.  I hope to make it back to Buenos Aires again one day.

I will also gush about the hostel.  Our room was definitely the nicest hostel room I have ever had.  Ostinatto provided very reasonable priced drinks and services (think $1.25 massive bottles of water, $1.50 beers, $2.50 laundry service).  The desk staff was so attentive, and always happy to help point us in the right direction to the right sights.  It was safe, quiet, and comfortable.  Now that I have outgrown my party animal days a bit, the dozens of backpackers, and the fraternizing that goes along with them, was not missed on this stay.  There was standard backpacker fare for breakfast, which we opted to skip for more substantial food for our daily sightseeing.  I would highly recommend Ostinatto, and particularly the penthouse room, for excellent value for money and a unique lodging experience in San Telmo/Buenos Aires.

12. MDZ – AEP on LAN in Y

12. MDZ – AEP on LA in Y

Mendoza – Buenos Aires (Aeroparque City Airport)

LA 4241

Departure Time: 9:00 AM

Airbus 320

Economy Class Seat 2L

Duration 1 hour, 20 minutes

The Mendoza airport is very small, 4 gates.  LAN has a small check-in area, and one check-in counter labeled Preferentes.  We checked-in here for our flight to Buenos Ares.  Buenos Ares has two airports, EZE and AEP.  EZE is the big international hub, and is far outside of the city.  AEP is a very convenient city airport.  In fact, a ride from this airport to the heart of town can be completed in less than 10 minutes! We were flying to AEP.

After check-in we waited in the security line, and were at the gate shortly thereafter. There was a Preferentes line for our AEP flight, so we waited uneventfully in this line.  They called boarding and we walked out to our plane.

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LAN’s peaceful check-in counter at MDZ airport.
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The A320 that would take us to Buenos Aires
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Legroom on this flight was excellent, the best yet for a LAN economy class flight.  I believe, but am not certain, that the first three rows of LAN economy only A320s, and maybe A319s, have extra seat pitch compared to the other rows.  Either way, it was a very comfortable economy seat on a 100% capacity flight.

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By now with so many short-haul economy flights on LAN, we were getting used to these snack boxes.  They change for each flight, and in this case we got some Parmesan cracker thingys, some white chocolates, and some chocolate wafers.

The flight went by quickly and peacefully and before we knew it we were making a windy into AEP.  A cold front had recently blow in, making temperates in Argentina about 10 degrees Farenheight colder than normal.  And it was quite windy.  As a result, we had a bumpy, windy, topsy turvy landing as we glided by many high-rise buildings in downtown Buenos Aires.  The captain stuck the landing beautifully, and the entire cabin applauded the successful touchdown.

We were unceremoniously picked up at a remote gate and bussed into the terminal.  Once at the terminal, we went out to the public bus stops, where for only ARS3.50 (USD USD0.40 at our blue market rate), we took bus 45 into downtown Buenos Aires and walked to our hostel.
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The bus didn’t actually want to take our money, so our ride (shown above) was free instead of the 7ARS it should have been.

After a 10 minute walk down cobblestone and tile sidewalks, we were at our hostel, Ostinatto.  We would be here for the next 3 nights, and I was looking forward to a hostel experience, something I knew very well but hadn’t enjoyed in the last 3 years or so.

South American Asado

While in Santiago, Chile and Mendoza, Argentina we’ve had the carnivorous pleasure of sampling South American Asado.  According to Wikipedia, Asado is “a term used both for a range of barbecue techniques and the social event of having or attending a barbecue.”

Our first experience of Asado was outside Santiago, Chile at La Vaquita Echa.  At this point, we weren’t quite sure what we were getting into, so Tocqueville and I decided to split the Asado.  Boy were we surprised by the amount of meat that was included!  It was more than enough to serve at least six people.  Various cuts of beef, chicken, and sausages were served table side on a custom “hot box” that kept the meat warm.

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Our second Asado experience was at Posada Cavieres, where our host prepared the Asado on his outdoor grill.

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With a great showing of intestinal fortitude, we managed to find ourselves eating Asado for the third day in a row at Posada del Manzo, a roadside restaurant near Historico Manzana.  Here, one of the meats we sampled was chivito, or baby goat.  This was surprisingly one of our favorite cuts!

This restaurant reminded me more of the Brazilian churrasco because they had a loaded salad bar and brought the meats to the table in courses.

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Asado is an experience not be missed while in South America.