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After the nonsense that it took to get to Argentina, it was great to take a shower at the Bobo Hotel again in Buenos Aires. I am in room #5 at my request, and the shower still has the coolest port hole ever.

Port hole in the shower.

About the only thing that has changed here is the TV situation. There’s a flat screen TV on the wall now where there used to be a small LCD set in a nook (simulating a flat screen WRT wall placement). But who cares about TV when there is Argentina to be visited?!

The staff is great. The restaurant is very good (nothing like a steak and a malbec your first night in Argentina). The wifi is free. The neighborhood is cool.

Graffiti is everywhere in Palermo, but at least some of it is interesting.

I’m still casting about for mixology with my friends, but in the meantime the bar at the Bobo concocted me a Bonsoni last night:
1 oz Fernet Branca
2 oz Rosso vermouth
Shake over crushed ice. Strain into cocktail glass.

Fernet Branca is an interesting amaro originally from Italy and now more pervasive in Argentina than in Italy (go figure). The Portenos drink Fernet and Coke. The Bonsoni, from 1916, is very nice.

The hot tub and balcony through one of the many mirrors.

Five showerheads for the Bobo. This place is superb. See more pictures here and here.

Tuesday night began with a mixology visit to 878 for a cocktail. We all enjoyed a Juan Collins (invented in house by Julian Diaz) during “vermouth hour,” and then headed down to unik for an absolutely delicious meal. Juan Collins:
1 oz Bols Genever
1 oz cynar
1 dash amargo obrero
1 dash hesperidina
1.5 oz grapefruit juice
1 oz soda
Delicious and well balanced.

Ironically, considering all of the 878 hype on the net, the drinks at unik were more interesting. In particular, consider the Ferrocarril 1922:
1 oz Pineral
.5 oz Hierro Quina
.5 oz dry vermouth
.5 oz sweet vermouth
dash of marischino liqueur
dash grenadine
shake. strain into cocktail glass. This is a delicious drink from Buenos Aires in the 1920s. [Cóctel famoso en Buenos Aires en los años 30, 40 y 50, fue rescatado del olvido por el barman e investigador argentino Guillermo Blumenkamp, ésta es la adaptación de nuestro barman Federico Cuco.]

Books in an adapted theater. Supremely cool.

Visited “El Ateneo,” a phenomenal bookstore built in an old theater. Eventually bought a copy of Cochteleria Argentina by Rodolfo Reich.

A business dinner at tegui was all it was cracked up to be. Superb meal all around. Drinks until 4am at Mundo Bizarro seems like the way to go.

Of course everything in Argentina is not all shishi. Here is where Ivan and I had lunch one day in La Plata.

Michelin? No. Goodyear? Maybe. Delicious pork tenderloin.

A, O, Way to go United

August 27, 2012

(With apologies to The Pretender’s My City Was Gone.)

After several weeks not on airplanes, it’s back to the rat race—and all continues to be not well with United. It seems that Mr. Smisek still can’t run an airline that pleases and rewards its most loyal customers. I could have titled this posting My Airline is Gone.

I’m writing this entry in Buenos Aires, Argentina after a ridiculous bout of travel. Here’s what happened.

I should have known when I had to book the flight to Buenos Aires through Newark that something was fishy. United used to fly nonstop from IAD, but no longer. (Last time I came to Argentina, I flew that route.) What could go wrong adding a leg in the opposite direction of where you’re actually going? Hah.

More back story. My horrendous United experience earlier this year when I was de-upgraded by the confluence of an asshole and a pathetic set of gate agents plus all of my other railing against United’s bad service and Smisek’s bad leadership, led to my getting a call from a special assistant to Mr. Smisek who offered to help smooth things over. She actually did what she said she would, getting my bribes for bad service through the system and working to make sure I was upgraded to business using my now-mostly-useless systemwide upgrades on this trip to Buenos Aires. Right.

So I was getting ready to head to the airport and I got an email stating that the flight from IAD->EWR had been cancelled. I immediately called United and they had booked me to fly through Houston the next day. You guessed it. No upgrade and inferior equipment with no lay flat beds. Their default plan B was more like plan Z. 11 hours in economy overnight with 35 degree recline. I’m too old for that nonsense.

I figured out an alternative, flying through Cleveland (?!) from DCA to get to EWR (with no time to spare), got it ticketed via phone, and started driving like a maniac to DCA. By the time I got there, that flight had been delayed by weather so long that I would miss the flight from Cleveland (?!) to EWR and thus miss the leg to Buenos Aires. Fortunately, there was a superb gate agent at DCA named Corwyn Jeffers who suggested that I take a train to EWR. Apparently United would put me on that train for free (though none of the agents on the phone know that). Corwyn issued me a voucher and I snagged a cab to Union Station with 25 minutes to spare. Amtrak to NY. Yes, indeedy.

Of course the train was delayed thirty-five minutes (late departure due to poor line management), one-tracking outside of Delaware, etc., and I made it to EWR exactly 47 minutes before scheduled takeoff. I hustled from the station to Terminal C only to discover that it was too late to check a bag. Off to a very slow security line where they confiscated my toothpaste (too big) and almost caused me to miss boarding. EWR has no elite security line late at night, so be prepared to wait and fret while little old ladies who have apparently never flown before but who are ahead of you in line attempt to dig their laptops out of their suitcase.

Anyway, after all that nonsense I made it on the plane along with the last four Group 6 people still in line. I slept in my lay flat bed, all sweaty from the running. Takeoff was delayed for maintenance paperwork, but we landed on time. The crew was great.

But was the trip as a whole great? Not really. As we said back in Tennessee where I grew up, United can’t win for losing.

After the side trip to Estancia Cristina we are back at the BoBo in Buenos Aires for one more night before returning to the States. This time we are in room #1 (pop), which is not as awesome as #5 (argentina) but is still very nice. This room is on the 1st floor much closer to the street (and the restaurant/bar) and therefore that much noisier.

The shower has its own (sealed) door to the balcony with a very nice arched window over it. The light is great.

The bedroom itself is a bit crammed, however the tall ceilings and the balcony nip any claustrophobia in the bud.

Once again the staff was superb. They stored some of our bags when we were on the road, helped with complicated dinner reservations, and were all very friendly. Bobo already earned its five shower head rating which it easily retains.

In an attempt to avoid ever setting foot in the disappointing and highly over-named Esplendor we cast our lot by having the bus drop us off in the middle of town at El Quijote with no reservation. (We heard from an earnest Vermont yankee that El Quijote was at least exceptionally clean.)

The best thing about El Quijote (which has been in Calafate for over 30 years…that is, twice as long as the airport) is its complete non pretension. Unlike the Don’s visions, El Quijote knows exactly what it is. So what is that? Something like a slightly dolled up Holiday Inn, ready for a Saturday night on the town somewhere in the midwest.

The lobby and the breakfast room are nicely appointed in bright Patagonian colors with plenty of wood. The staff is down to earth and very friendly even when there is a mixup with the price. The front desk was exceptionally accommodating considering our complete lack of reservations. The rooms (at least 204 and 205) are passable though the walls are made of cast concrete that does nothing to dampen noise (see what I mean about Holiday Inn?). I had to call down at 11:15 and ask the front desk to tell the people in the next room to turn down their blaring TV (it worked).

The standard hotel room layout prevails in La Mancha. Rectangle for bed and TV, with a closet entrance shared by the small bathroom. The shower has great pressure (which after 6 hours on a horse feels incredibly good).

The bathroom itself is mostly shower.

El Quijote deserves at least two shower heads for attitude (and for knowing what it is).

Hot restaurant tip. Make sure to eat at La Pascasio even if you don’t stay at El Quijote. It is a fantastic restaurant.

After the intolerable Esplendor, the boat ride and arrival at Estancia Cristina is like rain in the desert. Incredible. Amazing. Uplifting. Our planet is mind boggling.

The boat from Calafate takes about 2.5 hours with a detour to see the glacier in Lago Argentina. Expect plenty of opportunity for photos, a taste of winds to come, and a feeling of getting back to nature. The staff meets the boat and whisks non-day-trippers off to orientation in the Ocatagon. Then to the rooms.

Here is a view out of the bedroom window of C2.

We will overlook the fact that the showers have a shower curtain. Really, we will. Who needs a shower when you you can hike 12km to see a glacier?!

The bed.

This place is worth every precious penny they extract in fees. I might even pay more if they raise their prices (but do not let them know this). Fantastic staff. Superb property. Excellent adventure.

Estancia Cristina gets an automatic five shower heads. I will have to go raise some more money so I can come here again.

The fact that I am on the Internet through my mobile phone should tell you something about just how splendid the Hotel Esplendor is in Calafate. Like a Sheraton, the Esplendor seems to have spent plenty of money on pumping music into the lobby directly from a techno-trance palace in eastern Europe but somewhat less on Internet service beyond 8kb/sec up/down and the rooms where you are obliged to sleep.

Here is what is advertised as either a mountain view or a lake view (every room has one). This should teach us to book through the Internet, huh? Must remember: hip people do not use the Internet. Parking lot mountain we call this.

The guys at the front desk are all sleepy looking very nice guys (though can’t seem to solve the “I don’t really like my room” problem). They were very helpful setting up rides from the airport and out to the glacier (which was incredible). We are supposed tro stay here on our way back form an excursion tomorrow, but I am going to try to fix that and stay somewhere else if at all possible.

Room? Forgettable. Not boutique level, and two twin beds for a couple? This sucks.

Of course the shower is just what you might expect:

The hotel restaurant where we had a meal was not good. Do not eat here. Ever. Really.

So why the “new radical” in the title? Because this is by far the most entertaining sign witnessed in greater downtown Calafate. I guess a “new” radical is much better than a stodgy old conservative radical any day!

Damn good thing the outdoor scenery is among the best on the planet!

A measly one shower head for The Esplendor. Do not come here. Stay in a tent instead!

After a long flight to Buenos Aires, and a taxi ride that somehow seems twice as far (?!), arriving at the Bobo Hotel and taking a hot shower is a nice experience. The hotel is situated in Palermo Soho, just a bit north of the center of the city (near the Zoo and the Plaza Italia). The Bobo has a funky style reflected in room #5 (argentina) where we are decamped.

So far Buenos Aires is different than I expected. Somehow more South American and less Parisian?! Hard to explain. This goes for the food as much it goes as the streets. The Palermo neighborhood where we spent most of day one has as many eclectic boutiques as it has trees. Great shopping if you are into interesting fashion designed locally.

Back at the Bobo in room 5, the bathroom has two sections, one with a hot tub integrated into a small balcony, and the other a shower room. The design reminds me of Costa Rica—a blend of tropical rainforest and California with a slight tinge of mildew in the air.

Probably the most interesting feature of the completely plastic free shower is the circular portal window. Nice water pressure with intuitive controls.

The bedroom also connects to the same small balcony with picture windows that bring the outside in. The trees are as striking as the ever present hum of traffic from the city.

All in all, the Bobo is great. The staff is very friendly and helpful. The property is well situated for the best parts of Buenos Aires. Five shower heads and a place high on the world list.

We spent 5 days in Buenos Aires before heading to Calafate. Here is a list of highlights.

The good:

  • Shopping in Palermo Soho
  • The toilet museum
  • The A line
  • Giving a talk at Universidad de Palermo: UP
  • Jolie Bistro for a leisurely brunch with Hanibal
  • Cabana Las Lilas, a restaurant deserving its excellent reputation
  • The Sunday antique market at San Telmo (bargain in Italiano instead of English)
  • Soccer on TV at a neighborhood dive close to La Boca
  • Dinner at La Baita
  • A talk at Core followed by a fantastic dinner at Fin Del Mundo

The not so much:

  • “Italian” food at the avoidable Lelé de Troya where the space outshines the food (minus 10 for Fodors)
  • Calle Florida
  • Going to Plaza Italia on the D line just before rush hour (is this Japan?)

Mixology has not quite arrived in Buenos Aires (or more likely Argentina as a whole). I was able to teach a bartender at Cabana Las Lilas how to make a drink called “The Getaway” when I noticed a bottle of Cynar on the shelf:
1 oz Dark rum, Havana Club 7 is what they had on hand
.5 oz Cynar
1 oz Lemon juice
1.5 oz Simple syrup
Shake and serve up in a chilled cocktail glass

The Bobo bar makes a mean drink (both Pisco Sours and Mojitos are well done by an authentic Cuban), and they have a bottle of Zacapa 23 on hand for sipping.