Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Neocon in Argentina

OK, I just got back from two weeks in Argentina, a country that I had never been to. The following is a quick summary: Buenos Aires is a large, hustling, bustling, highly condensed city of approximately 12 million people(including suburbs). I stayed in the heart of the city on Carlos Pellegrini Street, near the Obelisk (Image seen from the Hotel). There is great shopping along a gigantic promenade on Florida Street, a few blocks up from the Obelisk. The conversion rate is roughly 3 Pesos for a Dollar and prices in Argentina are still relatively inexpensive by Western standards. The subway system is surprisingly efficient and fairly easy to navigate. My favorite area was La Boca, the oldest neighborhood in the city. Colorful, a little raggedy with a charming tourist area that includes Tango street-dancing, cafes and shops of all sorts. The city is fast- paced and fascinating; dirtier than I expected, graffiti everywhere and more extreme poverty than I expected. The city has wonderful examples of old European colonial architecture. I highly recommend that you watch your wallet because it's no place for the naive. It feels a bit like Tel Aviv, Israel, or perhpas like a very large eastern European city if I was looking for an imperfect parallel; highly political, an emerging market with unlimited potential if only they could get their act together. Efficiency is not ingrained in the culture and standing in lines is something of a national past-time. In any event I give Buenos Aires a strong thumbs up for any persons seeking an authentic experience in a relatively safe country that has not yet been turned into Disneyland, like so many European cities. From Buenos Aires we traveled south to the Valdez Peninsula along the Patagonian coast to experience some of the wildlife. We traveled hundreds of miles on dirt roads to reach incredibly isolated colonies of Sea Lions, Elephant Seals and Magellanic Penguins, up close and personal in their natural habitat. There is no way to describe the strange feeling of walking among hundreds of thousands of Penguins (the largest colony outside of Antarctica) during the nesting season. From the Valdez Penensula, we traveled to the most southern areas of South America, basing ourselves in the little town of El Calafate. We spent the next few days on excursions to the massive Ice-fields of the southern Andean range. We explored the Spegazzini and Upsula glaciers, as well as the better known Porito Moreno glacier (in image). There is simply no way to describe the beauty of this place.

In short, I give Argentina a massive thumbs up as a destination location for any traveler with the slightest sense of adventure.

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