Markets and Parks

Our plan for Sunday was to visit the Feria de San Telmo, the market and fair held in the San Telmo district of the city every Sunday. We would be using the subway to get there, but there appeared to be a problem with our usual starting point on the D-line so we had to walk a bit further to get a train at Malabia Station on the B-line. Undaunted by this minor obstacle, we utilised our new-found public transport expertise to negotiate our way to Independencia station whence we had memorised a straightforward route to our destination.

It transpires that this is a big day for Argentina’s third national sport after football and rugby: political protest.

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Small demonstrations were congregating in various side streets, presumably with the intention of coalescing, or conflicting, at some later point. I couldn’t dissuade Ishbel from taking a surreptitious snap. I’m fairly certain that protesters, in general, prefer to avoid being captured for posterity but in this case, they either didn’t care or didn’t notice.

We eased ourselves in the direction of the market’s epicentre, Plaza Dorrego, but were slightly distracted by a large antique/flea market in its immediate vicinity. There was an amazing quantity of Peron memorabilia – both Eva and Juan. It’s clear that the lure of Peronism and the cult of personality around them remains strong here.

The San Telmo Sunday Market is very popular and we moved along its thronged streets keeping a watchful eye on our belongings. It’s a pickpocketing hotspot here, for obvious reasons.

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Eventually we reached Plaza Dorrego and meandered through the stalls. We stopped at a little restaurant, attracted by the elegantly dressed couple standing outside. Clearly, there was going to be some tango in this place. Having judiciously avoided being corralled into any of the many outrageously priced tango shows available across the city, we decided a little light lunch here might provide our fill of the dance.


We each had a salad while these two performed immediately in front of us on a tiny little dance floor. A stiletto heel whizzed past my ear as a couple of acrobatic movements were performed but luckily neither we nor any of the other diners were at any point impaled. This was a fun little add-on to our visit here and we were pleased to have seen tango performed during our visit. And we got a couple of fun photos out of it.

After lunch and another relaxed wander, we made our way back to the train station, passing yet another demonstration en route. It turned out that the D-Line was now running so we were able to get back to our usual stop at Plaza Italia and make our way back to the hotel.

The rest of Sunday evening was occupied with our previously booked Argentinian wine tasting. We presented ourselves at the JA wine shop at the appointed hour of 5pm and were escorted to their downstairs tasting room. We were the only two official customers for this evening, but our guide for the tasting had invited along a friend of his who is just starting a sommelier course in Buenos Aires. We were treated to a lovely selection of wines from boutique wineries that we would be unlikely to see in any mainstream wine store back home.

They also provided an excellent cheeseboard and cold cuts to accompany the wines. That was a pleasant conclusion to our Sunday evening and we retired to the hotel and made plans for our last full day in BA.

As part of our walking tour on Saturday, we had heard of a sculptor by the name of Lola Mora, an Argentinian woman who had scandalised polite society in the middle of the 19th century through her lifestyle and her works. Her masterpiece, the Nereids Fountain, was her gift to the Argentine people and government. Originally, it was sited just outside the Casa Rosada but was deemed so shocking that it was moved to an out of the way spot in Costanera Sur. As luck would have it, it was our intention to visit the Ecological Reserve in Costanera Sur, so we would be able to see what the fuss was all about.


It’s a wonderful piece of public art and should definitely be in a more accessible part of the city.

We made our way from here to the nature reserve, eager for Ishbel to get the tripod set up and the big lens attached to see what wildlife she could capture photographically. None, as it turned out. Never Trust Google. The place is closed on Mondays. Open every other day of the week, so we could have visited at any point during our stay. Apart from the very day we chose. Oh well, chin up and let’s find an alternative. It turns out that the Botanic Gardens is just outside our usual subway station at Plaza Italia. Let’s go there, instead!

But Ishbel had adventure on her mind. We wouldn’t simply walk back to the subway station where we had alighted. We would take…a bus! She was not to be dissuaded from this radical course of action so I allowed myself to be directed to a bus stop. I made a rudimentary attempt to pronounce Facultad de Medicina as our target stop and touched the travelcard to the reader twice. Amazingly, it worked. It took a while and we missed our stop by one, which wasn’t bad, but we arrived at our destination and managed the interchange with the subway like experienced Argentinian commuters.

We were proud of ourselves and our elation lasted all the way to gates of the Botanic Gardens. Which are also closed on Mondays. There was nothing else for it. Coffee and a slice of cake was the only remedy, of which we duly partook.

Our spirits buoyed somewhat by the tasty comestibles, we made our way back to the hotel and lost ourselves in the ever challenging task of packing for the next leg. Our flight to Lima was scheduled to leave at 8:30am on Tuesday morning, and we wanted to get to the airport in good time to avoid rush hour traffic. We got our luggage organised and headed out for dinner. On the night we had checked in, the concierge had advised us that  there was an excellent Italian restaurant just on the next corner, Il Matterello. For one reason and another, we hadn’t eaten there yet so decided to give it a try. He was right – it was excellent. A cheering meal with which to make our farewell to Argentina. Tomorrow  Peru!

Cheapskate Chile

I had been keen on fitting into our Chilean visit an opportunity to sample the local wine production. To that end, I undertook some research with the aim of sourcing a pleasant, reasonably priced vineyard tour. Such a thing seemed to be unavailable, with prices coming in at between USD 150 and USD 200 per person. I decided that this was more than I was willing to pay to spend all day on a bus being shuttled to three vineyards coupled with a visit to Valparaiso. Further investigation was required, blended with a little imagination.

My thought was that one need not visit a vineyard to taste wine. Perhaps a local wine bar might present a tasting that would meet our needs. I found that there existed, nearby, a place called the Santiago Wine Club. We made our way to their threshold and asked about tastings. They do not offer tastings but pointed us in the direction of Bocanariz, a wine bar and restaurant which would fit the bill. Even on Wednesday afternoon, there were “Reserved” signs on many of the tables and it certainly looked like the kind of thing we were looking for so we booked a table for the Friday evening.

Having used the metro to visit the museum of human rights earlier in the day, we were feeling quite pleased with our new-found mastery of Chile’s subway system. We had acquired the necessary electronic access card – called bip! and pronounced “beep” – and loaded the necessary funds to allow us to travel more widely across the city. This meant that when we researched further how we should visit Valparaiso and discovered that comfortable modern buses ran between the two cities, we decided that would also be added to our schedule, and pencilled in the excursion for Saturday.

The last bit of forward planning we settled on today was organising a hike. We could see the Andes from our living room window, so we had to get into them at some point. We tracked down a guided hike on the AirBnB Experiences section and made a booking for Sunday. The week ahead was becoming quite crowded and Wednesday had faded into history.

On Thursday, we undertook an unusual tourist quest and visited the Cementario General, the cemetery where are interred the great and the good of Chilean history. Almost all of Chile’s presidents are buried there, and it also houses the infamous Plot 29. During the Junta, countless murdered dissidents were secretly buried in this plot, the public becoming aware of it after a tip-off to the press.

DSC_0143 Many of the graves in this section still hold unidentified victims.

The cemetery claims to hold two million buried Chileans, and it stretches over many acres. We went and paid our respects to Allende’s grave, but also saw some interesting things that we certainly wouldn’t have encountered in the UK. The use, for example, of Mayan symbols seems incongruous in a Christian – predominantly Catholic – graveyard.

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And we were struck by the existence of crypts and plots for specific groups of workers. For example, there are communal crypts for Glassworkers and for Railwaymen. The one that leapt out at us, however, was this one:

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This is a plot dedicated to deceased circus workers – hence the big top theme.

As we walked towards the graveyard’s exit, we encountered a funeral on the way in. Naturally, we stepped aside and doffed our hats, showing appropriate respect. More respect than a couple of members of the funeral party who were engaged in animated conversation on their phones as they accompanied the cortege. The tolerance of the bereaved in ignoring this was admirable. If this were to happen at my funeral, you, gentle reader, have full licence to educate the individual forcefully in the value of common decency.

We departed the cemetery and returned to our Lastarria neighbourhood for refreshment and a wander.

There is a lot of street art around and this was an especially interesting work on a corner building just along the road from us. Street art was to be a theme for the next few days and we learned a lot about the works and the artists prevalent in Chile.



Highway 6 Revisited

Today’s title is adapted from the famous Bob Dylan album, Highway 61 Revisited.  Highway 6 is the road that runs down the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island and we were back on it this morning as we set off for our next stop in Manapouri. We had decided to take a look at Queenstown on the way past as well. When she was here as a young woman, Ishbel chose her 21st birthday present here. It was a seascape painted by a New Zealand artist named Mark Thomas. She wanted to see if she could track down the gallery and maybe find out what that artist was up to these days.

There are two suggested routes: the easy one, which carries on along Highway 6, or what we’ll call the fun one: the Crown Range Road. This is the highest main road in New Zealand, peaking at 1121 metres as it traverses the Crown Range. The ascent and descent are full of hairpin bends and the locals are not averse to sharing both lanes as they go round bends, so it pays to stay alert. It’s worth taking this road for the spectacular views all the way along the route but particularly at the top of the pass.


It’s always interesting when you’re looking down on an aeroplane. This is an Air NZ flight descending through the valley to land at Queenstown. This wasn’t the only flying object that Ishbel managed to capture while we were there.


This New Zealand Falcon happened by while she had her camera out.

After having our cobwebs blown away at the viewpoint, we got back into the car and headed for Queenstown. We re-joined Highway 6 and were on a straight route into the town, until we passed Wet Jacket Wines, which offered not only wine tastings, but cheese tastings too. Unable to resist, we pulled into the car park and signed up for both. The cheese was all locally made and we bought a cheddar and a blue to have after dinner that evening. The wines were also local, but we didn’t buy any. They were nice, but the biggest red wine production in NZ is Pinot Noir, and I’m not a huge fan of that grape. My tastes are too crude, I guess. One other attraction they had at the place was a reconstruction of an old wool shed, which brought back childhood memories for our brother-in-law as he recalled the same tools being used on the farm on which he grew up.


After this stroll down memory lane, it was back in the car and on to Queenstown. The town was very full when we got there but we managed to bag a parking spot just next to the main library, so it was easy to walk everywhere we wanted to go. Our first target was the Skyline, which claims to be the steepest cable car in the Southern Hemisphere, rising 450 metres to the top of the imaginatively named Bob’s Peak.

This was always going to be an interesting exercise as neither Ishbel nor her sister are particularly fond of heights. They decided to sit together facing the upward slope, which meant we got excellent views back down over the valley and lake as we ascended. Their view improved about halfway up when they opened their eyes.

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We declined the add-on activities that were available at the top – bungee jumping or taking a wheeled luge down a concrete ramp – for fear of invalidating our travel insurance. Instead, we had a nice, sedate coffee then went back down the hill.

We took a stroll around town and located the gallery where Ishbel acquired her painting all those years ago. They had some recent works by the same artist available but his style has changed considerably since then and his current oeuvre didn’t strike a chord with her. We wandered through a street market, and some musicians entertaining the cafe crowd that thronged the centre but didn’t find anything to detain us further so headed back to the car and, once again revisited Highway 6. We still had 170km to go before we reached our next AirBnB at Manapouri, so it was time to be on the move.

We were unsure how big or well stocked the shops in Manapouri might be, so we took our first opportunity to stop off and buy provisions for the evening meal. We bought some food but, more importantly, spotted an appropriate beer. Monteith’s brewery is in Greymouth, where we alighted from our train a couple of days ago, and they produce an IPA called Highway 6. It was fate – we had to have some.

We arrived at our “Crib” and settled in. I’m not trying to be gangsta. In the South Island, a crib is a holiday home. Once again, we had lucked out with views over the Waiau River which feeds Lake Manapouri – one of the deepest lakes in New Zealand being over 450m at its deepest point.


After dinner and a taste of the delicious beer, it was time for bed. We had to be up early the following morning as we had booked a tour to Milford Sound. This is the place that 90% of people will recommend if you tell them you are visiting the South Island, so we were looking forward to the trip. We had decided to take the organised tour as it was a long drive there and back so we wanted to let someone else take the strain.

We were organised and ready to go dead on time the following morning. The tour started from Te Anu, a 20 minute drive away, so we set off as soon as we were ready, parked up near the pick up point, and had breakfast at a nearby cafe. The drive across had been quite foggy, but the forecast was for that to burn off as the day warmed up.

We got on the bus and set off, with everyone having a quiet time except the driver and guide, both of whom were very knowledgeable about the landscape through which we were travelling and very entertaining. We made a brief stop on the journey and the mist hadn’t quite cleared yet.


As we got back on the bus, I noticed the lady who was sitting across the aisle from Ishbel and me. I wasn’t sure and obviously looked too intently at her as she started to appear quite concerned at my scrutiny but I eventually decided I was right and addressed her by name. She looked surprised but when I told her my name, she recognised me. My beard had grown since we last met, but she was a former colleague from my last place of work. The world is a small place.

But the main object of the day was to get to Milford Sound and enjoy our boat journey. We made it just on time for our scheduled 10:30 departure and boarded the Milford Mariner.


We set out on the sound, which is actually not a sound (apparently) but a fjord. The inlet is narrow and surrounded by towering peaks that plunge down into the water on both sides.

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As we cruised along, we passed several waterfalls, with the flow from some of them creating dazzling sea level rainbows.

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From others, the water simply cascaded noisily down.


We were lucky enough to have a beautiful sunny day at Milford Sound, which is the first place I’ve ever been where I was told we should come back when it’s raining. In the rain, waterfalls appear from every mountainside and vast quantities of water flow down into the sea. I was happy with what we got and with staying dry.

We once again saw dolphins and, once again, they remained too elusive to get a really good photo. They move too fast and pop up in unexpected places. These are not criticisms one can levy at the Fur Seals, who are content to remain in one place and offer up photogenic poses.


We returned to dock and made our way back to the bus. After our early start and long day, it was a quieter journey back to Te Anu. We collected our car and returned to Manapouri. The weather was still lovely when we returned so we took a stroll around the town and stopped by the local pub for a drink before dinner. It was Saturday night and they had pulled out all the stops for entertainment.  The local Young Farmers had organised a “Bark Off” where contestants were to bring along their dogs and their barks would be judged against their peers (pee-ers?) for the chance to win a range of prizes. Sadly, we found we had to leave before the competition got into full swing, but we did have the chance to scratch behind the ears of some of the contestants. And their dogs.

The road trip was now almost over. Our last night in Manapouri then we were off to the bustling metropolis of Dunedin.


Wine is also red

McLaren Vale is a name with great resonance for anyone who enjoys Australian wines. And our wonderful friends had decided to drive us up to the region for a couple of tastings on Saturday so we could enjoy the local produce to its fullest. Roadworks on the main road out of Adelaide meant we saw quite a bit of the South Australian countryside before arriving at our first stop: Chapel Hill winery.


The gothic windows that feature on the labels are omnipresent at the winery itself. We enjoyed a range of delicious wines here. They charge a nominal amount for the tasting, but waive it if you buy wine, which we did. They had a really nice shiraz so we grabbed some of that.

After Chapel Hill, we moved on to Coriole. This is a name I am less familiar with and I don’t think we see as many of their wines back in the UK, but the winery is a McLaren Vale veteran. They have been growing some interesting grape varieties on the estate so the tasting here was not the usual grape varieties.


They have a farm shop here as well and produce their own olive oil, which is very popular with visitors.

After Coriole, we went on to another winery and a very familiar name: d’Arenberg. I first became aware of their wines many years ago when I discovered a bottle they named “The Custodian”. As I was working for a Global Custodian, it appealed to me, and it tasted pretty good as well.

D’Arenberg has upped the ante on where tastings are hosted with their new building: The Cube.


Tastings are hosted on the top floor of the building. There’s a museum/gallery on the ground floor and a reputedly excellent restaurant on the first. There’s an entry fee here to get in to the gallery and tastings, but it’s reasonable and they were fairly generous with the tastings.


We passed a pleasant time here then headed back downstairs but we had been told that the men’s toilets here were a must-see so stopped off for a look.

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The time had flown by and as we finished at d’Arenberg, it was time to head back to Adelaide for a lovely home-cooked meal and a chat.

Sunday was our last day in the city and we had arranged a couple of activities. First was a drive over to Adelaide port and a trip on the dolphin watching boat that goes out into the harbour. Dolphins are pretty much guaranteed on these trips and we were not disappointed on this occasion. The only problem is that they are out of the water so briefly and you have no idea where they will pop up so it’s difficult to get a photo.


After the boat trip, we took a little stroll around the port area which is undergoing a renovation/gentrification project, then drove over to the Wheatsheaf Hotel where we had tickets for our second Adelaide Fringe Festival event of the weekend: Ukulele Blues Explosion. And if you thought the ukulele was an inappropriate instrument for playing the blues, these guys would put you right.

After all this excitement, we just had time to get back to the house and freshen up before heading out for a farewell dinner at another splendid Adelaide pub: The Colonist. Either Adelaide has a wealth of excellent pubs or our friends are particularly adept at finding them. Or Both.

That was it for Adelaide. Monday was the start of our long drive back to Melbourne using the Great Ocean Road.