Loading...
Browsing Category

Adventure & Hobbies

Adventure — lifestyle

My 2019 Reading Challenge: The Highs And Lows

So Back2Basics living has been quiet for the last month.

What have we been up to?

Well, we’ve been back in Ireland introducing Naoise to her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I’m back (George) in Canada now, getting into the swing of things while Theresa gets to spend another month in the old country.

I was also lucky enough to give 2 yoga classes in my home town of Daingean. Thanks to all who attended.

Apart from giving a quick update and explaining the lack of blog posts recently, I thought that a nice topic for the first post of 2020 would be a summary of the books I read in 2019 and any recommendations I have from that list.

I like to set myself a reading challenge for the year using the Goodreads app, and for 2019 it was 25 books.

They ranged from fiction, spiritual, fantasy, classics, non-fiction with my favourite being Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Some of them I read, others I listened to the audiobook. I also cheated a little towards the end of the year by listening to the shortest Audiobooks I could find. This strategy got me listening to some unexpectedly fantastic books like A Christmas Carol and the above mentioned Of Mice And Men.

So, here’s the list:

The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey

This was at the tail end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019. Chris has experimented with every Productivity hack you can imagine and presented the best methods in this easy read.

The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

This is a great fantasy story about a travelling musician whose family are killed. He then joins a magicians university where most of the first book is set. I really enjoyed this one, if you like fantasy, I recommend it. It is slower than a lot of other fantasy books I read and doesn’t feature any battles or elves but instead follows the main character through his university life and exploits.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

The first book I read by Gaiman was American Gods and I loved it. This one is a retelling of the stories of the Norse Gods. It’s light-hearted and an easy read though the stories and the escapades of the Gods are utter nonsense.

Ethics in The Real World by Brian Singer

I heard of Singer on the Big Think Podcast and he had great things to say. One of his most important projects is Givewell, a website that recommends the most effective charities you can donate to. In this book, he writes several different essays on life and ethical issues. Singer is vegetarian and speaks in-depth about the unethical treatment of animals here also.

I think it is our duty to educate ourselves on these matters and this book is a great place to start.

A Winters Promise by Cristelle Dabos

This is a fantasy book set in a world of floating islands, each one ruled by an ancient matriarch. The book follows a young lady who can travel through mirrors as she leaves her home to meet her future husband.

It’s a far-out concept and for me, it didn’t really work. It’s well written and it held my attention to finish it but I won’t be reading the sequel.

15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management by Kevin E. Kruse

This book is a must for anybody who works in an office or has difficulty managing their time. A lot of the information is common sense but there are so many little bits and pieces that make a real difference.

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Another very useful book if you work in an office job. The book focuses on how you can blank out the distractions of modern living to get into a state of high productivity.

The Boys on the Boat by Daniel James Brown

A historical book about the American rowing team who won gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, it’s a book about real grit and is truly inspiring. A great story.

The Year Of The Flood by Margeret Atwood

The first Atwood book I read was The Handmaid’s Tale, and with the sequel, Testaments released now it was a big year for her. The Year of the Flood is the second part of a trilogy set in a post-apocalyptic world. I didn’t realise it was the second part of a trilogy but that did not take away from the enjoyment. It’s a great story.

Bhagavad Gita

This was part of the required reading for the Vinyasa teacher training course I took part in the summer. It’s a must-read if you are a yogi or yoga teacher and offers some interesting insights.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

I found this one a little bit of a slog to get through. If it is productivity your interested in I would recommend Productivity and 15 secrets above this one. It has useful information but it’s a heavy read.

The Snow Leopard by Alex Deghan

This non-fiction book focuses on the efforts of a conservational team to set up a national park in Afghanistan. It thought me so much about the country and people of which I knew nothing about as it follows the team through remote parts of the country.

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

I really liked A Wild Sheep Chase by the same author. It was off the wall and completely random. This book is also off the wall and completely random but so much so that it didn’t make any sense to me. Maybe I don’t have the mental capacity to see what Murakami’s point is here but none of the stories the book followed seems to tie together with any satisfaction.

It is set through one night in Tokyo and follows a young girl through the city as she mingles with musicians, prostitutes and criminals.

The Oregan Trail by Rinker Buck

This one I listened to on Audio. It’s narrated by the author as he tells us about his trip with his brother to retrace the Oregan Trail in a covered wagon. It seemed like a nice enjoyable little trip when I started reading but as I read, I realized how difficult it was to cross the country with a wagon and team of horses.

It’s a great read if you’re into American History.

As a Man Thinketh by James Allen

This was my first Cheat book as I had researched the shortest Audiobooks in my reading list so I could meet my goal. There are some useful snippets and it is something I would probably listen to again. It’s not a big commitment at less than 2 hours.

Siddartha by Herman Hesse

This fictional piece follows the journey of a young man in the time of the Buddha as he practises the life of a holy man, falls from grace and then returns to the life of a holy man. There are some good real-life lessons to take away and it’s a great read if you are interested in eastern spirituality.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

This is a real classic which I had never read before and I got stuck into it just before Christmas. It’s such an easy read and I would recommend it for anybody of any age.

Seven Brief Lessons in Physics by Carlo Rovelli

Another short read but it is heavy at times. The main take away for me was the author’s pessimism about the future of the human race. He feels that it is too late for us to change our ways and that we have doomed ourselves as a race. The earth itself will recover he believes but we the people will not.

Buddhism without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor

I found this book to be a drag, though I did finish it. The narrator was not engaging and some of the points were long-winded and uninteresting. Not for me.

Of Mice and Men

This is one of the greatest stories I have ever read and I can’t wait to read more from John Steinbeck. Though it’s not set in a prison, it had a strong feel of The Shawshank Redemption or The Green Mile. I can’t quite put my finger on why. It follows two companions as they travel through the southern states looking for work.

A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen

This is more of an essay than a book but it made the list anyway. I didn’t take much from it and feel there are much better books out there on getting to a happy state of mind if that’s what you’re after.

The Great Gatsby by Scott F. Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby is another classic which I had never read. I watched the Leonardo DiCaprio movie a few years ago but don’t remember anything from it. It follows the lives of extravagantly rich and self-indulgent people in New York. I didn’t like it and wouldn’t be interested in reading more from Fitzgerald based in this.

The Ocean at the End Of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

My second book by Gaiman this year, this is a fantasy book set in modern England telling the story of a boy’s fight against a demon who tries to take over his home. For me this book was only ok. The other books I read by Gaiman (Norse Mythology and American Gods) are much better.

Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel

I love this book. The whole premise is that in Japanese culture one cannot master the arts like archery, swordsmanship, flower arranging, painting etc unless they come to a zen state first. The bow could not be mastered through constant practise or physical training but only through intense meditation. It is an idea that I love and think that it applies much more than we realize.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

I have read 1984 by Orwell in the past and though it is a great book, it is truly depressing. Animal Farm is equally dismal and reminds me a little of The Lord of The Flies.

Most of you probably know that it is not a cute story about animals on a farm, yes it is about farm animals but no, it is not cute, as it reflects Stalin’s rise to power and the growth in strength of communism.

Those were my books for the year, to wrap up if I was to pick my five favourites they would be as follows:

  1. Of Mice and Men
  2. The Year of The Flood
  3. A Christmas Carol
  4. The Name of The Wind
  5. The Snow Leopard Project

If you want to set your own reading challenge go search for Goodreads in the app store and set up an account.

Thanks for reading and I hope that you find some use in the above list. We will be back regularly from here on as the holiday is over.

Peace,

George

 

Podcasting: It’s Free And Easy

I have been addicted to podcasts since I discovered them about 6 years ago. They are free and a wealth of information on almost any topic.

I listen to many subjects ranging from yoga (Kevin Boyle), reading (The Guardian Books Podcast), self improvement (Rich Roll), there is so much out there. Fiction, true crime, even podcasts on podcasting.

Some, you will love and some, you will hate, but I guarantee that you will find something that’s for you.

I think that they are so successful because we can take them with us anywhere. The first time I camped by myself I had my phone filled with podcasts because I was afraid I would hear a bear in the forest. In hindsight it may have been better to have been able to hear the bear but I slept well in my ignorant bliss.

For some reason I cant stand almost any radio DJ I have ever heard and I’m not big on music so I listen to podcasts when I’m, cycling to work or out on the road for the day. And they all fit on that tiny device I complain about so often.

Some of you may know that I am in the process of publishing my first novel (The Pagans Revenge).

I have written fiction for a few years now but struggled to find a publisher. I also have an inbox folder full of rejection emails for my short stories that would make anyone wonder why I keep trying.

That got me thinking, if I can’t get published, why don’t I just broadcast them online myself? Its free, and one youtube video later, I was ready to go. I probably shouldn’t have included a link to the video – now you don’t have to continue reading.

My first step was some free sound editing software, Audacity is great and easy to use. It can get rid of background noise easily and if you have a decent mic you will have great sound quality. I currently don’t use a mic and the sound quality isn’t bad but I plan to buy one before starting my Back2BasicsLiving Podcast (coming soon) where I will be interviewing local people (to Vancouver) who inspire me.

Youtube has a great selection of non copywrited music and sound effects you can include also.

The next step was to get the Podcast online, I used Spreaker as mentioned in the video I shared. It can connect to ITunes, Stitcher and Spotify and it is free for a certain amount of hours storage.

I am so grateful for my listeners (all three of them – including me). It has allowed me to share some of my short stories which were not accepted by publishers. You can find it here if you are interested.

If you have any questions or if you have any fictional short stories you would like read on my Podcast you can email me at getyourstoryoutthere@gmail.com.

Also watch out for our upcoming podcast from back2basicsliving.com where we will be interviewing world champion kick boxers, yogis, health experts and many more.

And remember, podcasting is a free and easy way to get your material out there.

Thanks for reading,

Peace,

George

Winter Camping: Pemberton BC

I have camped in winter before but never in a tent. Always in a cabin. Not sure that counts as camping but anyway.

Winter camping (in a tent) has been on our list for a long time. We had a few different locations in mind:

  1. Golden Ears Provincial Park. Golden Ears has both walk in and drive in sites available throughout the winter.
  2. Joffre Lakes. We met some people before who hiked a little way in past the first lake and set up camp there. I have also heard of people camping in the parking lot in winter.
  3. The Red Heather hut on the way to Elfin Lakes. Apparently, it is permitted to tent camp outside the Red Heather hut in winter because it doesnt damage any of the plant life. The hut is for short stop offs only and over night use is not allowed but there is a stove if it got too cold.
  4. Nairn Falls. Nairn Falls is about a five minute drive from Pemberton and is available for camping all year, though you do have to carry your stuff in from the road as the parking lot is closed.

We decided on Nairn Falls because we would be close to the car and close to the town in case all did not work out.

We packed the essentials:

  1. Sleeping bag rated minus 18 degrees. This is MECs own brand and costs $189. It’s very warm but very bulky. It is a bit big for hike in camping but you get what you pay for. Light weight winter sleeping bags are expensive.
  2. Emergancy blanket. These are really cheap in MEC ($1.70) but they would only last for 2-3 uses. I bought a reusable one for $18. This is great for keeping the cold from the ground creeping up through the tent floor.
  3. Tarp for the underside of the tent.
  4. Burner. Our burner is run on gas and is one of the cheapest available in MEC but it is very dependable.
  5. Cooking utensils. Don’t want to get hungry. We usually bring food that just needs to be heated in the pan.
  6. Firewood. Because we were camping close to the car we brought fire wood. Enough to last the evening and morning. 6 bails was overkill but we used it all. 4 would have been enough.
  7. Fire log. Usually I dont use this, but I couldnt get the fire going so I’m not ashamed to admit that I cheated by nipping into Pemberton to grab a fire log. We did NOT want to be out there without a fire. If I am camping near the car in winter again I would bring one for emergency. We would have managed without a fire it would have just meant bed at 5pm and no hanging around in the morning.
  8. Tent. Our tent is a 3-4 man (cant remember) all season and was fine. We just layered up at night and had very warm sleeping bagss.
  9. Clothes. Thermals (top and bottom). Hiking pants. T shirt. Heavy sweater. Heavy parka. Gloves. Buff. 2 pairs of heavy socks. Wooly hat. Balaclava. Outer vest.
  10. Showshoes. Check out sportsjunkies for second hand gear.
  11. Shovel. I learned this lesson when somone forced me into the ditch on the way from Mount Baker to Sumas. We ended up digging the car out with snowboards so now I always keep a shovel in the car.
  12. Axe. Cant have a fire without an axe.



The weather was giving a chance of rain so we packed up and headed out regardless, hoping it wouldn’t be bad.

We were planning on hiking Joffre Lakes and spending the night back at Nairn but didn’t end up hitting Joffre.

It rained quite heavy during the day. We have camped enough in the rain to know it isn’t fun. We try to avoid it unless absolutely necessary. We decided to give it until 3 pm and had some food in Blackbird Bakery while we waited. Great place if you are ever in Pemberton.

The rain stopped and we headed for our campsite. There were quite a few cars parked on the road. I was worried about parking because the parking lot is closed in winter. It turned out these cars belonged to people visiting the falls. They weren’t spending the night. There was only one other camping group there overnight.

We got our gear into the site. The disadvantage of Nairn is the you have to walk in from the road in winter. The advantage is that it’s free, the road is relatively close and it’s quiet.

After struggling for an hour with the fire I went for a fire log. Another advantage – its a five min drive from the town. We didn’t drive for three hours to go without a fire. As mentioned above the fire log is a great emergency fire starter but if your hiking into the bush its too heavy. In that case I’d reccomend magnesium, cotton balls soaked in vaseline, kerosene or there are loads of other emergency starters. The hard core folk may call this cheating. No worries there probably right, but I like a fire and wasn’t freezing my ass off in the dark trying to get it started 😊

Another note on the fire. Snow is absorbant, so you dont need to worry about it melting to water and quenching the fire. It will end up sinking into a hole as the snow melts so you might lose heat when it gets too deep.

It stayed dry for the night and our new sleeping bags were amazing. We went to bed early and got up early to get the fire going again, had breakfast and went for a snowshoe hike around the campground.

I haven’t hiked much around Pemberton / Whistler but there are lots of trails if you wanted to try something more adventurous.

All in all it was a success. Especially considering Theresa is 5 months pregnant. Hopefully we’ll get one more trip in before she pops but well see.

Peace

George

PS. If you liked it – please share.

Argentina: Road Trip Buenos Aires to Mendoza

Top 10 Driving Tips for Argentina:

  1. You must ensure there is an issue with your license so that your spouse must drive all 2,300 km.
  2. Ensure you pass as many vehicles as possible.
  3. Ensure oncoming cars are within site and close enough to cause a collision before you overtake.
  4. Ignore stop signs.
  5. Assume you have the right of way at ALL junctions.
  6. Increase speed when dogs and small children are visible.
  7. Honk aggressively for all occasions.
  8. Drive as close to the car in front as possible.
  9. At night time, increase to maximum speed and maintain.
  10. DO NOT SLOW DOWN.

On a serious note:

  1. Avoid driving at night in the countryside. The roads are dominated by aggressive truck drivers.
  2. BE CAREFUL – it is not always clear who has the right of way.
  3. Stay off the dirt roads. We tried a short cut to avoid a detour and (wisely) abandoned the idea.
  4. Tolls are common. Have cash at the ready before setting out. Generally between 40 and 90 pesos for a car but I lost count of the amount we passed through on the way from Buenos Aires to Mendoza. At least 8 each way.
  5. Police presence is strong. We had no issues and they were all friendly but our documents were checked at least three times.
  6. Go with the flow. Drivers are impatient and erratic.

Monday

We picked up our rental car and hit the road. I recommend Baires Rental in Palermo. They speak English and are friendly and helpful.

If you are a good husband and like to share the driving, make sure you have a current license. If you are a bad husband and want your wife to drive all the way, then renew your license before the trip and present the temporary paper copy at the car rental agency. They won’t accept it and you can get away without driving for the entire trip. No problem. 🙂

The drive brought us through flat farm land, which could have been the Canadian prairies or even the Irish countryside in parts. Wealthy farm land, as far as I could tell, with ship shape new machinery everywhere. It was a far cry from the cow drawn ploughs of Cuba. The country side has cows everywhere. I suppose the country is known for its beef. Anyway, as a vegetarian, beef was definitely not on the menu for us.

We gave ourselves three days to reach Mendoza and picked Rufino as an ideal stopping point (450km from Buenos Aires).

Driving Route Buenos Aires to Rufino

It was late when we arrived. A crazy detour added about three hours to our journey, forcing us to drive at night. As mentioned in the above tips, I don’t recommend this. Truck drivers are aggressive and dangerous and there are a lot more on the road at night time.

We tried to avoid the detour by taking a dirt road, but it got too soggy and we were lucky we didn’t get stuck. An old saying says that “only a foolish man tries to take a two wheel drive Chevrelot off roading.”

Rufino is a Small town. As far as I could see there wasn’t a whole lot to do there but our Airbnb was cheap and extremely comfortable.

Our Air Bnb in Rufino

Our Air Bnb in Rufino

The countryside in Argentina is a tough one for vegetarians. Maybe a total non-runner for the vegan friends out there unless you are very well prepared. We could get food and didn’t starve but we were tired of bread and cheese by the time we reached Mendoza.

Tuesday

The next day was a 380km drive to Los Arroyitos guest house in Portrero De Los Funes.

Rufino to Portrero De Los Funes

The guest house was in the middle of the country side in the mountains, walking distance from the town. We were greeted warmly by Victor and breakfast was included the next day.

Los Arroyitos grounds

Our cabin at Los Arroyitos

Our room was comfortable and spacious

We were surprised at the high fences surrounding the road in the town at first. It was only when we saw the spectator stands that we realized we were driving on a racing circuit which gets used twice a year.

Some surprise racing on a circuit is essential

Dependable co-driver required

After a bit of yoga we headed to the town (small town) in search of food. Not an easy task for a pair of vegetarians. After wandering around for a bit we got some advice from a friendly local named Julio. Eventually we found somewhere and as if by magic Julio appeared again to make sure everything was OK and that we could get vegetarian food.

On our return trip we ended up eating at the hotel here which is a great option.

Friday

Yoga at 07.30 followed by breakfast. The terrain flattened out again until eventually we could see the snow-capped peaks of the Andes on the horizon. We had a 340km journey to our destination outside Mendoza which would be our home for the next few days.

Portrero De Los Funes to Portrerillos (outside Mendoza)

Wi-fi is scarce in the country side so decent hotels are always a good stop off point, in this case, the Intercontinental, where we got a good meal and could download our maps and contact our host at our next Airbnb which was about an hour from Mendoza.

Once we entered the Province of Mendoza, the climate was much dryer. We could feel it on our skin and our nostrils were dry. Moisturizer and lip balm are essential in desert areas. You will also immediately see the wineries once you enter the province.

Border to Mendoza – check points are common and your documents will be checked

We were greeted at the Airbnb by three happy dogs and Eduardo, the owner, who built all of the cabins on the property. It is situated in the countryside near a small town (if you could call it that). There is a shop 10 min walk away with some supplies and that’s about it. The isolation is perfect. Just us, the dogs and the mountains. And Eduardo pottering about here and there. There are also some restaurants and a brewery within a short drive if you get tired of the isolation.

We made friends

Our cabin consisted of a kitchen, a bathroom and a bedroom. No TV, which I love. We had wood stove as it gets cold in the winter and all the cooking essentials. Getting back2basics with the forty-three-year-old fridge also.

The view from our bedroom of the snow capped Andes (and our feet)

The dining area in our cabin with the 43 year old fridge on the left

Our bedroom

In the evening we had a snack of cheese and jam by the light of a candle and slept like the dead in the black of the desert (there was power we just like candle light).

Saturday

We woke in the morning to clear skies over the snow-capped Andes in front of us. When I stood to look out the dogs were sleeping outside waiting for us to emerge.

Every morning they waited outside our cabin

Outside view of our cabin – Our host lived in the red cabin on the right and was always available if needed

There are some other rental cabins on the property also

The plan for the day was to explore the wineries of Mendoza. It’s not like what I experienced in Kelowna, British Columbia, where you drop in and out of wineries having a taster here and there. It seems like you need a reservation in all the places we tried.

Mendoza is a big Province so maybe that is not the case in other areas. The wineries we visited were visited closer to the city and are smaller, so maybe that’s why.

Eventually after the fourth attempt we found a winery that would take us without a reservation and we got a 45 minute tour of Clos de Chacras winery (located here). The grounds were beautiful and it felt like we were in another world as we went from a built up area to this quiet winery. I would recommend you do your research before visiting any of the wineries (unlike me).

I found it interesting that in Argentina they actually openly (it’s a conspiracy theory in North America) release chemicals into the sky to change the weather. This is in an effort to reduce the size of hail which can be similar in size to golf balls.

Our tour was followed by a tasting of four wines. These tasters were full glasses and considering Theresa doesn’t drink I was obliged to help her out. Dinner also included two glasses of wine each, so I think even though we only hit one winery we had a decent wine experience.

It was good value, we got 50% off the tasting because we took the tour. So, 12 glasses of wine, dinner for two and the tour cost around 2,000 Pesos ($70 CAD / $53 USD / 47 EUR).

When we returned to our mountain getaway we walked to the shop. We asked Eduardo to keep the dogs in because they would follow us and chase cars. Funny enough on the way back up, there they were waiting for us on the road, so happy to see us.

Sunday

After breakfast we set out for an unused Ski hill. Our cabin is at 1,600m elevation and we probably climbed another 1,500m or so on the spectacular drive up. There are cabins all along the way for rent and quiet hotels high up in the mountains. That doesn’t take away from the isolated feel to the place.

Journey up the mountain to the ski hill

There were lots of horses and cows as we made our way up the unpaved switch backs. Our two-wheel drive car was fine for the climb but I’m sure that’s a different story in winter and I wouldn’t like driving up here in the snow.

Some of the sights along the road

Switch backs on the road up as we climbed around 1,500m

Once we arrived at the end of the road it seemed like there lots of trails. If you had the gear you could probably spend a few days hiking and camping around here. We met many hikers along the way and some of them were decked out for the long haul (others were applying make up for photos).

We hiked about an hour to a camp ground at 3,200m elevation

There air was clear, and the sky was blue. We were surrounded by mountains on all sides. My personal belief is that nowhere is closer to God (whatever God is for you) than the top of a mountain so I found it interesting to see a crucifix nestled between the rocks.

After this we headed for the Hot springs (Located here).

The roads were busy and thousands of people had come out to the countryside to stay by the lake or even dried up river beds). We paid a bit extra  (900 Pesos / $32 CAD / 21 EUR / $24 USD) to go to the hotel hot springs rather than the public ones as they were too busy.

On the return journey we stopped off at El Salto for a meal. It is a tiny town but there are a few restaurants. Google maps told me there was a  brew pub in the area. I was skeptical but there it was (Jerome brewpub) in the most unlikely place.

Jerome brewpub

It was the first night I took the time to look at the stars of the southern hemisphere and see patterns I did not recognize and could not put a name to.

Monday

It was as if the dogs sensed we were leaving. They did not wag their tails or say goodbye to us. They were sad and so were we. We said goodbye to Eduardo and hit the road, taking the same route back. In hindsight if you were to make this trip it would be a good idea to fly back from Santiago rather than making the return drive.

We made our stop off in at Los Arroyitos guest house in Portrero De Los Funes to be greeted by Victor again. This time we had no issues with the food as we went to the Hotel in town.

Along the way there are so many little shrines with empty water bottles outside. These are an homage to a Catholic saint (not recognized by the church) who died in the desert with her child (who survived). People (mainly truck drivers) leave bottles of water to quench her unending thirst.

The next day, Tuesday, we headed off through the countryside under a blanket of strange clouds to arrive at our Airbnb in Lincoln. This place was excellent and our host Patricia cooked the most fantastic dinner for us before bed and our final leg of the drive the next morning back to Buenos Aires, where we stayed in Palermo again.

I can’t wait to return to Argentina sometime and next time take in some of Chile and head further south to see Patagonia or north towards Bolivia. It is cheap but seems to be a wealthy country for the most part. People are friendly, and travel / accommodation is easy. It’s definitely better to speak some Spanish especially in the rural areas. The only hard part is the journey to get there (depending where your starting point is, I suppose).

Hope you enjoyed the blog.

Peace,

George

 

PS if you enjoyed this blog please share it in Facebook.

 

Argentina: Buenos Aires (First Time Round) & Lunch In Uruguay

Top 5 tips

  1. Taxis are cheap and reliable. Good for a chat and information also.
  2. Uber (in my opinion) is not reliable in Buenos Aires. The drivers usually rely on maps for navigation and the cars are not overly comfortable. Taxis are nicer.
  3. Vegetarian / Vegan food can easily be found in the City (contrary to what we were told – by non-vegetarians). Not so easy in the countryside.
  4. Cash is useful. One supermarket would not accept foreign credit cards, another required my passport to pay with CC.
  5. Many places ask to see your passport when paying by credit card.

Friday:

After leaving Cuba we had most of the day in Miami, so we got out of the airport and headed for Miami beach. After dinner at a vegetarian restaurant Full Bloom (good food but over priced) we walked the beautiful white sandy beach looking out on four cruise ships.

Miami Beach

Bad hair day

Before heading back to the airport, we had a drink and dessert among what appeared to be the social elite of this City. The verdict? I do not belong in Miami. Take that how you will, it is not intended to be an insult or a judgement on myself, it is just a fact.

Saturday:

My friend the sleeping pill helped me through the flight to Santiago where we had a brief stopover in the airport which was surrounded by mountains.

After a two-hour flight we landed in Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires. On leaving the airport, a taxi driver told us Uber was prohibited but we ignored this and got an Uber anyway. Unlike the US, the Uber cars are less comfortable than Taxis and probably around the same price, so the only advantage to using Uber is if you don’t have cash. The Taxis generally don’t take credit card. Also, the taxi drivers for the most park know the city. The Uber drivers don’t always, and some even had the GPS on their laps as they drove. Not the experience I want.

It took us about 50 minutes to get from the airport to Palermo (Traffic can be CRAZY).

Approximate drive from Ezeiza airport to Palermo

We got dropped off at Buenos Aires Verde for some great vegan food as we waited for check in time. In General Buenos Aires is a great city for vegetarian and vegan options. We had a six-minute walk to our AIR BnB.

Our Air BnB was comfortable and a reasonable price – cheaper than a hotel room

Palermo is a cool district, full of restaurants and bars. People are friendly and usually speak some English.

Sunday:

We started with rooftop yoga to keep the exercise up and headed out for lunch to Gratitude.

Yoga time

Gratitude – great food

Great vegan and vegetarian options here and then walked the city taking us to Bosques de Palermo, a large park with a beautiful rose garden and lakes.

One of the small lakes at Bosques De Palermo

Lots of people enjoying this busy but spacious park

Our walk then brought us closer to the Down town region of Buenos Aires, where it could easily be mistaken for European City with the mixture of old and new architecture. We stopped in to El Ateneo Grand Splendid, an old theater converted into a book shop. I was shocked at the price of books here and won’t be picking up any extra reading material.

This old theater is converted into a book store

Next, we headed to the water front past the Plaza de Mayo and Casa Rosada, the presidential palace and had dinner looking out on the waterfront. There are lots of restaurants to chose from here though I’m thinking they are the more expensive.

The taxi driver who drove us back to Palermo told us about the strong Irish roots here and explained that Hanlon is a common name in Buenos Aires. Most people we have spoken to, just like Cuba, want to know if we are from Northern Ireland or the Republic. Our Taxi Driver, unlike Cuban people was well aware of Che Guevara’s Irish roots and knew that he came from the name Lynch.

Monday:

We went to Uruguay for lunch. We got up early to catch the ferry to Colonia, a Uruguayan town approximately 1-hour journey away.

Ferry to Colonia

Warning: DO NOT use the Google Maps location for the ferry terminal. I did, and we ended up missing the ferry and paying for the later one as the Google Maps location is nowhere near the actual ferry terminal. I suppose a reasonable person would use the address on the tickets rather than the Google location but there you have it.

Red pin shows Google maps location, yellow highlight is the actual location

The Ferry ride is expensive (1700 Pesos = $63 CAD) but It is worth it. Colonia is a peaceful haven (probably a different story in high season) full of sleeping dogs and cats and a few tourists ambling around.

Just like Cuba, more sleeping dogs

The cobbled streets are quiet and there is not much going on but it’s a great getaway from busy Buenos aires

Some of the old cars here were reminiscent of Cuba

Sssshhh…..

Half a day in Colonia was more than enough time but I’m sure there are things to do if you intend to spend more time here. It would be a good way to start your Uruguayan trip if you plan on spending time in the country. We ate lunch in El Drugstore which offered great veggie options. We ordered fantastic spicy potatoes and had some Mate, a kind of tea which you see people regularly drinking.

Mate is drank through a straw. Hot water is poured on top of a cup full of tea leaves

I am the sort of person who does not stand in line for airplanes, buses, ferry’s etc., especially if I have a seat reserved. I don’t understand the mad rush when everyone will get a seat regardless. Not the case here. If you don’t line up, you won’t get a seat and the ferry is not a comfortable place to stand for an hour or even sit on the ground. Take the time to stand in line.

When we got back we had some Mexican food and hit a bar which miraculously sprung up right next door to our apartment. There had been no sign of it the days before.

Tuesday:

It rained. It was nice. We had breakfast across the road at Crisol. It seems like a chain but had great breakfast options. I ordered incredibly healthy pancakes covered in Nutella.

In the evening we hit a yoga class with friend (of a friend) Dani whose family owns Caravan Hostel. This is a cool place in the middle of Palermo and is a great option for accommodation.

Sweaty class, though from the pick it looks like I was the only one who thought so

After a shower we met two more friends (of a friend) – Gonzalo and Augustin at 9.30 PM (Argentinians eat late) for pizza at El Cuartito. River Plate were playing in the soccer that evening, I’m not sure why they play their games so late but the people watching went MENTAL when they scored. Soccer is a big deal here apparently.

Buenos Aires is such a cool City. It is so modern, with a great mix of older buildings and has so much to do. But after a few days it was time to grab a car and head across the country. Stay tuned for the next blog on the road trip.

Peace,

George