Leslie’s Winter Getaway to Argentina
My husband and I traveled south in January – way
south to Buenos Aires and the Argentine wine country of Mendoza. Jeffrey wanted to revisit the city of his early career business travel and taste the wines of Mendoza’s Uco Valley. I was anxious to see “Paris of the South”, do some shopping…and taste the wines of the Uco Valley!
Planning the itinerary for this two-week trip was easy with the help of a "travel advisor" (see story below). But planning what to pack was challenging; it was summer in Argentina while winter at home. I started preparing my wardrobe far in advance as I needed new city-appropriate pieces that would be comfortable in high heat and humidity. As we were packing, Buenos Aires was having a heat wave (in the 90’s) on top of its usual humidity.
Flying overnight (10-hour non-stop flight from Atlanta to Buenos Aires) enabled us to have a night of sleep and arrive ready to go - we had only crossed two time zones. We spent four days in Buenos Aires then flew to Mendoza for a 3-day stay in the Uco Valley. Then we flew back to Buenos Aires and took the high-speed ferry to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay, for a two-night stay before returning to Buenos Aires for two more nights.
Buenos Aires Highlights
Buenos Aires is a city of 47 diverse neighborhoods. Our tours took us through the key districts of Plaza de Mayo; San Telmo - the oldest heart of the city; La Boca – where Italian immigrants first settled but now populated with artists’ studios; Palermo Viejo (recently divided and renamed Palermo SoHo and Palermo Hollywood, to distinguish the activity and the real estate); the Recoleta with its beautiful French-style architecture; and the newest district of Puerto Madera with high-rise apartments and revamped 19th century docks.
The diversity of the architecture and the activity reminded me more of New York than Paris but the European influence was strong. The colorful murals on many private and public buildings
were charming; what was unexpected was the abundance of graffiti!
Each day held highlights: the Museo Evita
, located in the house where Eva Peron established a shelter for women and children; La Recoleta Cemetery and it’s extraordinarily beautiful tombs; the Teatro Colon
opera house, where Pavaroti did not like to perform because the acoustics were so good every mistake could be heard; the Sunday markets in San Telmo; and Floralis Generica
, the steel and aluminum flower sculpture by Eduardo Catalano with petals that close in the evening and open in the morning. An evening highlight was the intimate Rojo Tango
show in the Faema hotel.
Some of the best shopping in Buenos Aires is by appointment with local designers so we hired Sophie Lloyd of Shop Hop-BA
for an afternoon of personal shopping. I discovered Sophie online weeks before our departure and was impressed with her background and testimonials. Our time with Sophie was definitely worthwhile. We purchased custom leather jackets at a fraction of what they would cost at home and saw a well-curated selection of jewelry, handbags and shoes by local designers, which we would have missed had we been on our own.
And thanks to Sophie, we were introduced to Marcelo Toledo
, a world-renowned silversmith whom we met at his showroom and workshop in San Telmo. His well-known “Evita” collection of jewelry inspired by Eva Peron is housed next door and Marcelo proudly gave us a tour.
The Wine Country of Mendoza
After a short flight west from BA to Mendoza, we drove south to the Uco Valley to behold an awesome vista from our hotel, Casa de Uco
, with vineyards spreading further than we could see up to the foot of the Andes Mountains. Day 1: a massage, a swim in the infinity pool, a bike ride through the vineyards. Days 2 & 3: winery tours, fabulous farm-to-table meals, an Argentine beef barbecue…and malbec!
Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
We flew back to BA then took a one-hour ferry ride across the Rio de la Plata to Colonia, passing through both Argentine and Uruguay customs. The old town, just a 5-minute taxi ride from the port, can be seen in a day trip from BA. However, with temperatures in the 90’s we were very happy to have booked a hotel for two nights. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the old village is rich in Portuguese and Spanish architecture, dating back to its founding in 1680. We toured at a leisurely pace and enjoyed dining both nights on our hotel’s terrace overlooking the river.
Back to Buenos Aires, then home
Our first hotel in BA had been the Alvear Palace
in the heart of Recoleta; on our return we stayed at Legado Mitigo
, a boutique hotel in Palermo SoHo, and enjoyed the walks, restaurants, and shops of this “hip” neighborhood. The abundant graffiti on the sides of buildings alongside beautiful murals was no longer a surprise but a comfortable and familiar site.
We packed clothing in lightweight, breathable, travel-friendly microfibers, cotton blends and rayon. We like to dress up for evening dining and also use our hotel gyms so carried a few more pieces than other travelers might need.
For the flight I wore rayon knit leggings
– which did not bag at all! - a white tee shirt under a long UV-rated white shirt, a tunic-length black cotton/rayon/modal cardigan sweater, ballet flats
and pashmina scarf. Jeffrey left Atlanta wearing his navy blue blazer, gray tropical weight wool slacks, non-iron white shirt, and black loafers – his typical evening dining look. He dressed down with each subsequent flight!
Here’s what we packed into our checked luggage:
(packed into a 22’’ rolling bag and a rolling carry-on tote)
• 6 Bottoms: Black rayon knit pant
, black rayon knit skirt
, white cotton/rayon/ spandex jeans, black polyester evening pant
, microfiber capri golf pants, microfiber golf shorts
• 10 tops: 2 long rayon knit tanks (crème, black
), black/white striped ¾ sleeve UV rated tee
, two ¾ sleeve cotton tees (yellow, red), cotton knit tank (white), long-sleeve white cotton/stretch
shirt, ¾ sleeve tunic-length yellow non-iron shirt, 2 evening tops (one black, one white, both can roll up into a ball)
• Workout clothes: tank, pant, bra, jacket (which could also be worn on chilly country evenings)
• 4 sets of undies and an AIRism tank top by Uniqlo
to wear under shirts to keep me cool
• Accessories: 2 scarves, costume jewelry, small evening shoulder-strap bag, cross-over bag
• 4 pair of shoes: slip-on shoe
for day walking, lightweight workout shoe
for the gym and biking, an evening sandal, and a day sandal – I broke our rule of 3 pair but these sandals took very little space!
• UV rated, packable hat
and a visor
: The rayon knit separates from J.Jill
are recent purchases that traveled beautifully. I wore the skirt several times during the day in the city because of the heat; I wore the pants in the evening and gave them the ultimate travel test wearing them on the plane home – no bagging!
My golf capris and shorts were perfect for the casual and hot Uco Valley and Colonia; the white jeans worked everywhere. I tucked in extra tees & the cotton tank just in case - no, I didn’t need them! I was happy to have tucked a hand fan into my bag - it came in handy whenever there wasn’t good A/C.
(packed into a 25” bag to give us room for planned purchases):
• 4 pair long pants: 2 linen
(black, beige), blue cotton chinos, cotton zip-leg pant
(worn as shorts)
• 4 long-sleeve shirts: 2 linen
(black, beige), 2 non-iron shirts (blue, white)
• 5 cotton polo shirts: black, white, beige, grey, blue
• Pullover black cotton sweater
• Lightweight zip-front jacket
• Workout/pool clothes: nylon tee shirt, nylon shorts (doing double-duty)
• 2 pair shoes: brown suede brogue, workout shoe
• 7 sets of underwear; 2 ties; brown leather belt
: Two of the long-sleeve shirts were not needed - he wore a polo shirt into the evening more often than expected.
Smart packing tip
: Microfiber golf shirts would have been lighter and less bulky to pack but Jeffrey prefers 100% cotton.
International Air Travel Tips:
- Rather than eat dinner on an overnight flight we prefer to dine in the airport before boarding. In Atlanta’s International Terminal, Ecco is a lovely restaurant with an extensive menu and table dining.
- We take a low dose of Ambien (prescribed by our doctor) upon boarding and can sleep 6-7 hours comfortably with a sleep mask, earplugs and travel pillows. Be certain you take any sleep aid after the plane takes off. If your flight is suddenly cancelled and you have to get off the plane, you’ll find it difficult to stay awake!
- Our Global Entry ”trusted traveler” status was worth every penny! It gaves us TSA PreCheck for a quick trip through security when leaving Atlanta; upon our return, we breezed through customs and were in our car 30 minutes after landing.
The Advantages of Hiring a Travel Advisor
Leslie and her husband typically plan every detail of their trips but wanting to ensure they made the most of their short trip to Argentina, they planned it with the help of Maita Barrenechea, a travel advisor based in Buenos Aires who they contacted through travel writer Wendy Perrin’s website
. Here’s their positive testimony:
“We didn’t know how much time to spend in each area, what insiders’ 'must-see-and-dos’ were, nor how to best travel within the country. We didn’t want to be part of a large group tour but having a private tour at each stop was appealing.
Maita created an excellent itinerary for us, steering us away from adding another big city to our visit and suggesting instead the historic town of Colonia, Uruguay. Her team made all hotel reservations and transportation arrangements. They also booked private tours with a car, guide and driver in each destination. This proved to be an excellent decision for navigating Buenos Aires in the heat, making the most of our three days in Mendoza, and touring the entire city of Colonia, not just the old town.
The added value was the time spent at each destination with local residents. We got to know our tour guides and drivers and had informative conversations about local education, family practices, and politics. (Photo at right was taken when our tour guide stopped to say hello to her nephew.)
Working with a travel advisor, either based in your local area or at your destination, not only means everything is handled for you before and during your trip but you also have an
immediate point of contact if anything goes wrong. And hotels often reward clients of travel advisors (upon our arrival at the Alvear Palace, we were upgraded to a one-bedroom suite!)
There is a cost to working with a travel advisor. We estimate it added about 20% to the overall cost of a trip we might have booked ourselves, if we had had all of their insider information, which we did not. It was well worth it." (See two happy people at left on the last night of our trip!)
A Return to Puerto Vallarta…But Overpacked!
Newsletter contributor Lynn Raasch is back in Puerto Vallarta, escaping the winter back home in Washington state. We reached to her for insights on packing for a long-term stay in the tropics, this time for two months:
“It’s the common pitfall, I packed more than needed. Since we are here twice as long this year, I thought I'd need more clothes. Wrong! I decided to check my luggage this year and fell into that ‘what if’ mindset, adding items I've yet to wear. On the up side, I was able to pack a 2-month supply of my favorite sunscreen and hair care products not available in Mexico...and I have extra space in my suitcase to pack the fabric I've bought here.”
Lynn shared some additional smart packing tips:
● No one but you cares if you wear a garment more than once.
● Don't travel with anything that, if damaged or lost, would devastate you.
● Doing with less simplifies life and spikes creativity. This is true for both your wardrobe and cooking in a poorly equipped condo.
● Travel is an adventure - expect the unexpected. I was thrilled to have a washer and dryer
in the condo only to discover that when washing a load of quick dry synthetics, regardless of setting, the water was scalding hot!
Lynn and her husband are in the midst of relaxation in PV – morning walks (after greeting "Herman" the iguana who enjoys their roof each day), afternoons at the beach or touring towns nearby, dinners with friends. Every day has been perfect…another rotten day in paradise!
: For Lynn’s account of her first winter rental in Puerto Vallarta, read her article “Only One Carry-On Bag for a Month in Puerto Vallarta”.