All posts filed under: South America

Galapagos Lessons

The Galapagos Islands are an amazing place. We saw plenty of wildlife and were surprised at how great the beaches are. Still, visiting ‘on the cheap’ wasn’t all smooth sailing. There’s such a thing as a permit to get a permit. National parks cost money, but $20 for a form to apply for a permit that costs $100? Yup, that’s a thing. Oh, and there’s a another permit for Isabela island. Are you there yet? Nope. Travelling in the Galapagos can feel a bit like Frodo’s journey into Mordor. Getting from the mainland to your hotel may involve a couple of planes, a couple of buses, a boat or two and a taxi. But the volcanoes are lovely. Don’t lick your ice-cream before it’s paid for. Hardly anyone on the islands seems to have change, but you’re expected to. And if you don’t have change you’re expected to find it. Or you can do as David did and give back your ice-cream cone to the cashier who didn’t have change for a $10. Be prepared to check yourself out. Checking out of a hotel …

Me Gusta Cartagena

A short five hour flight from Montreal and we arrived in Cartagena. We stayed a total of five nights in the city. The first two nights in the historical centre and the last three nights in Bocagrande. Getting from the airport to the historical center was easy in the authorized city taxi that costs 10,000 pesos (about $5). Cartagena can be a little overwhelming at first. The city has a different rhythm that we are used to. The drivers navigate the streets with disregard for street signs and pedestrians. The noise is another issue. The constant honking makes it a little difficult at first to relax. We arrived at our hotel in the centre and immediately noticed that the safety box in our room was broken and the password could not be reset. The man at the front desk reassured us that the problem will be dealt with the next day. We laughed when the next morning he came and removed the safety box from the wall and replaced with another one that had a …

Machu Picchu, The Land of the Incas

Machu Picchu (Old Peak) is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. We decided not to do the Inca trail so instead we traveled from Cuzco to Aquas Calientes, the foot of the mountain where Machu Picchu lies. Aquas Calientes is a beautiful town at the edge of Willkanuta River surrounded by tall mountains and green forests. If you came all the way here to see Machu Picchu, you also have to climb Huayna Picchu (Young Peak), a nearby peak that provides amazing views of the ruins on Machu Picchu. Access to Huayna is limited to 400 people per day and entry is allowed on a first come first serve basis. We woke up at 5:30 in the morning to get on one of the first shuttles going to the entry point to the peaks. The light of day was just coming out and the peaks were covered in fog. The place looked mystical which seemed  appropriate since some of the rooms in the complex at Machu Pichhu are believed to have been …

Don Julio Parrilla, Palermo Viejo, Buenos Aires

Beef is popular in Argentina but not all restaurants serve a good cut of meat. Don Julio Restaurant is one of the best steakhouses I’ve ever been to. The place doesn’t start to happen until 9 PM. There’s an upstairs area, a type of balcony where you can get a great view of the place. The restaurant is rustic with cart-wheel light fixtures, wood panels and cow skin placemats. The most popular thing on the menu is bife de chorizo (sirloin steak) and of course that’s what we ordered. The steak is a main corse in itself, any other side dishes have to be ordered separately. The steaks are huge and juicy and the meat is tender. We heard how great Argentinian wine is so we had to try some. Without knowing too much about wine, I’ve picked the malbec Aguijon de Abeja (Bee Sting) and I was really impressed. I really recommend this wine with red meats. After you’ve finished the bottle of wine you can sign it and ask one of the waiters to put it …

The Old Charm of Buenos Aires

I loved the days I spent in Buenos Aires. The city’s neighborhoods are very different but worth visiting depending on the experience you’re after. On our first day there we had breakfast at the hundred and fifty year old Cafe Tortoni. I had a cafe con leche and three medialunas (croissants) and my boyfriend went for a hot chocolate and three churros (fried-dough pastry). The croissants were smaller and sweeter than a typical French croissant. The cafe is charming with beautiful wooden panels, lots of pictures and waiters dresses in elegant suits. After breakfast we headed south of the city to La Boca. La Boca is the birthplace of tango and soccer player Maradona. Italian immigrants took over this part of town and made it their own by painting the exterior of buildings in bright colours. We walked el caminito, a popular street in La Boca with artists, souvenir shops and tango performers inviting us to sit down at their restaurant for a tango performance. La Boca has a huge soccer stadium and it could make for an interesting experience to watch a game with the …

The Natural Wonder of Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls are located at the border between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay and they’re one of the largest waterfalls in the world. If time allows it make sure you visit both the Brazilian and Argentinian side of the waterfall. The Brazilian side has fewer waterfalls but the hike up provides spectacular views of the Argentinian falls with a beautiful rainbow hovering over. On the way you’ll be welcomed by packs of coatis, hog-nosed racoons, scavenging for food. At the end of the hike there’s a spectacular waterfall and a walkway for visitors above the falling waters. Be prepared to get wet. Once you’ve completed the hike, you’ll have the opportunity to join other guided tours of the national park at extra costs. If that doesn’t appeal to you just outside the park there is a bird sanctuary, Parque das Aves, where you can walk inside bird cages and see toucans, parrots, flamingos and butterflies up close. For dinner try churrascaria Bufalo Branco, an authentic Brazilian bbq restaurant and be sure to savour grilled pineapple with …