Home

Everyone who reads this blog knows by now that NPS is a creature of habit. Find a hotel that we love? Stay there over and over. Sadly, our usual haunt in Buenos Aires was ignominiously deleted. Time to try a new place. Of course, we stuck to the Palermo neighborhood for its hip vibrancy, great shopping, and good eating. Make sure to spend some time in Palermo when you come to Buenos Aires.

The Fierro Hotel fits the bill. Great staff. Delicious food. Nice rooms. Modern style. You may recall that the Fierro was very much accommodating and welcoming when we dropped in unexpectedly to shower on arrival in Argentina. Great service!

For our real stay, we requested the rooftop suite (room 84). The room includes a sizable outside terrace with lots of room and a great view.

84 bed

By far, the silliest and most fun feature of 84 are these captain’s chars.

Terrace at night

The Fierro Hotel hot tub, which we actually used

This quirky shower cube will do just fine

A welcome amenity in Argentina! Now that is service.

Wine courtesy of Fierro with a note

Breakfast is delicious.

When in Argentina, Fernet and Coke

Work

A very fancy seven course dinner at Dario Gualtieri Bistró in Palermo was world class in all respects. Well, all but one. The credit card machine refused to cooperate, so we left without paying and returned the next day (somewhat to the surprise of the staff) to settle up.

Modern art

Dario Gualtieri Bistró logo

What do you need after a nice dinner out? Some fernet and music of course.

This sign drew us in

Veleros de Sol (a band from Chile)

Parrilla Don Julio restaurant is also very good. If you want a great steak in an authentic Palermo restaurant, this is the place. We had dinner with a good friend outside on the street.

La Dorita

the culprit

And then it was off to the world famous Verne Club and Suspiria Resplendoris both run by the mythical (and non-existent) Cuco. Both bars are fantastic.

World class rum cocktails at Susperia

The great trade

Suspiria bar. Top notch cocktails and great design

Cuco does not exist.

Verne Club. Some work. Others goof off.

Verne Club

Verne bar is intimate and welcoming

Thanks for the Pineral Cuco!

The UCO restaurant (located in the Fierro) has a lofty reputation indeed. We had a great dinner there, memorable more for the company than for the food.

We hit the MALBA again, which is a great museum. The Belles Artes museum collection is nowhere near as interesting. See more art here.

Five showerheads, a hot tub soak and a wish to return soon for Fierro Hotel. Highly recommended.

The highlight of this trip to Argentina was an extraordinary visit hosted by Claudio Z. and Inez at the Uraqui winery guesthouse. Not only is the vineyard itself the highest in the world, the project that encompasses the winery (as one of three aspects) is a study in ecology, low-impact farming, local Aymara culture, philosophy, and raising little girls.

After fording the river in our rental car, we were warmly welcomed by Caudio who proceeded to walk us through his organic seed operation.

Uraqui winery guesthouse

The guesthouse serves as a base of operations for meals and hanging out. It’s huge windows overlook farmland and the river. The humahuaca valley is surrounded by majestic Andes peaks.

Though the rooms are simple (and we won’t even bring up the shower curtains for this entry), everything else is overwhelmingly magnificent.

Of course, we’re here to see the highest vineyard in the world and to taste the exceptionally good wine.

Usually Uraqui wine is not barreled. These barrels are for a friend.

Dinner included vegetables that we picked the afternoon of our arrival, high energy little girls flitting around like birds, a violin, a broken D string, potent conversation, and laughter.

We were up early the next morning to ascend to the vineyard and the “cellar.”

The elevation of the vineyard is 10,922 feet above sea level (see this article by Sorrel Moseley-Williams for detail from a wine expert). What that means is a very steep, four mile or so drive up over an Andes pass in a 4 wheel drive vehicle. The ascent itself is stunning.

We brought along coca leaves from the market in Tilcara (and used them to good effect).

Claudio says that the UV is the most extreme aspect of the mountain climate. The grapes he grows and blends on the property certainly make great wine.

After a brief visit to the vines, we climbed another 2000 feet (to 12,139 feet above sea level) where an old barium sulfate mine has been converted into a “cellar.” There is something pleasingly absurd (almost invoking the magical surrealism of Márquez) about a cellar being both above the vineyard by 2000 feet and close to the very top of the Quebrada mountain valley.

Claudio told us an incredible story about the naming of his wine, its label, and its current storage location. You’ll have to have him tell it to you one day.

A bottle signed by Sorrel

A tasting outside the cellar high in the mountains was in order. Incredible.

Uraqui which means “terroir” in Aymara, is a blend of Malbec, Syrah and Merlot. It is deep and flavorful.

]

Overlooking its birthplace

The Andean mountain scene is stunning.

Eagle

After our morning tasting and adventure, we were welcomed for another communal lunch with the family which evolved into more philosophy with the help of some fernet and coke.

The national drink of Argentina

We said our goodbyes. And then it was off for an espresso pit stop in Humahuaca before heading back south to fly to Buenos Aires in a massive thunderstorm.

Forza

These memories will linger like wine on the tounge until we return for another glass.

Thanks Claudio

You so much want the super cute cabañas to be all they can be. Sadly, it’s close but no cigar at Los Colorados. Purmamarca is a cute town. The landscape is spectacular and easy to hike around. The design is enticing and nice. The staff is helpful and gracious.

 

 

So what’s the problem? The problem seems to be the plumbing. Swamp gas in the small bathroom (and also wafting around the property) is masked by deodorizer and insecticide to such an extent that breathing is non-trivial. Seriously, NPS gets a sore throat just thinking about it.

And the shower? Nope.

Anyway, just look how cute this place is. Here is Cabaña 2.

living area

bamboo ceiling

The tile is great. Even the bathroom (though very small) looks good. Sadly, that plumbing thing. Not only is the shower plastic (and over a tub) but the water goes pretty much all over the place. Just no.

Then again, there is a rooftop terrace.

rooftop terrace

We slipped into Pulmarca for lunch. La Posta is workaday, but not bad. Beer is always good.

And there is this.

A hike outside of Tilcara to Garganta del Diablo occupied much of the afternoon. No water. Dinner in Tilcara at El Nuevo Progreso was quirky and decent. Great trout in saffron sauce, outstanding fried cheese appetizer, and a great desert. Worth a visit.

Nuevo Progresso

Nuevo Progresso

Nuevo Progresso

Nuevo Progresso

Back in Purmamarca, a hike around Cerro de los Siete Colores (Seven-Color Hill) is quick and easy. The landscape is remarkable (about more which later).

Cerro de los Siete Colores

So, in the end Purmamarca is well worth a visit (though we prefer Tilcara for its slightly more hip vibe).

Back to the hotel—if they rip out the plumbing and replace it, perhaps it will be what it needs to be. But for now, two sad showerheads for a place with lots of potential.

Pretty much the middle of nowhere—well kinda. There are 250K people in this city of San Salvador de Jujuy, and way more lights than we have any where within 8 miles of our house. However, when you are staying in the gateway to the Argentinean Andes, this is where you stay.

Hotel Altos de la Viña has it going on. We arrived around 9:30pm after negotiating a rental car from the airport and finding our way slightly north. What a room! But no time to explore that. Instead, it was “drop off the stuff” and head straight back down to town.

Dinner at Viracocha restaurant (Facebook sucks, but here) was all it was cracked up to be. In fact, the Argentine-bonus Fodor’s guide (which we usually triangulate around) is right on the money way up here in Jujuy. Make sure you get a copy when you come this way.

The food was remarkably tasty. Llama. Park illegally—everyone does it.

Then it was back up the hill to the unmarked 111.

111 entrance

el coucho

this desk is a great place to write some shit down

See?

Room 111 is a suite with the only real balcony on the property. Get this room.

111 sticks out

111 has a zebra bed

And a very fancy closet

And this chair, which you will never use

The bathroom is a good deal. As is almost always the case, glass showers come with ridiculous tubs that never get used.

like this

Euro-shower (Martin says this is not allowed)

If you travel for 24 hours in a row, sleeping comes easy.

Wake up to this!

one way

or another

Have breakfast on the hill

One of the main interesting things about Jujuy so far is the distinct lack of Norte Americanos. There are lots of tourists, to be sure. But there are Porteños all over, and a few others, but not many gringos. We approve.

Up in the morning, we had something that was supposed to be a cappucino but which may have just been a hot chocolate. Then it was north in the rental car.

This place is incredible.

More to come tomorrow.

Four showerheads, a view not to be beat, and some espresso for Altos de la Viña.

The flight to Buenos Aires from Newark is 11 hours and 5 minutes. The great news about such a long flight is that there is actually time enough to watch a movie, have a real sleep, and eat a good breakfast before you land. As has been the case for multiple trips in a row, United’s Polaris service (international) is second to none. Best pods. Best crew. Most flight options. Well done United. Please bring some of that goodness home to domestic flying!

Customs is now efficient in Argentina, and there is no visa tax for walking across the boarder. To be on the safe side, we set up our flight to JuJuy later in the day to give us plenty of time to be late, get stuck at customs, and otherwise be afflicted by travel woes. Of course, none of that happened.

Plan B was to take a taxi in to our hotel in Buenos Aires where we plan to check in on Monday. This was our attempt to shower in an unoccupied room, consolidate luggage, and then have lunch in the city. Thanks to the very kind people at the Fierro Hotel, we did it all and had a glass of wine in the lobby to boot. Awesome.

Room 42 is a standard issue Fierro room according to the map on the door. Modern appointment and amenities are all in abundance.

42 sitting area

From the windows in

The shower, though on the small side and a bit cramped in the bathroom, is not plastic. And boy does it feel good after being trapped in a plane for 12 hours!

ahhhhh

So a quick shower and a rearrangement of luggage (we’ll store two pieces in Buenos Aires) had us out the door before noon. That was plenty of time to find a cooperating ATM and a bistrot.

Oui Oui cafe in Palermo is recommended, but brig ear plugs if you are sensitive to noise. If you are used to rock and roll in small places, everything will be fine.

Coffee at Birkin is taken very seriously, and to good effect. (All they have is a lame ass Facebook link, so here.)

Then it was off to the other airport to fly to JuJuy.

Worth noting is the fact that Aerolinea Argentina has better equipment than United does for domestic flights. Better food too. The two hour and 15 minute flight was smooth once we negotiated the typical Argentinean boarding scrum (which for some reason always involves some sort of confusion).

Everything is slower in Jujuy, and that is just fine. For the record, that includes baggage claim, car rental, and dinner. Time to slow down.

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.