Patagonia: At the End of the World (Part I)

Just 24-hours after soaking in the subtropical heat of Iguazu Falls, we were greeted with this sight:

Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

Up close and personal with one of the few advancing glaciers left in the world

Patagonia in all its icy, snow-covered, wintery glory!

Argentina is definitely an amazing country of contrasts.  Packed away were the bikinis and tank tops – out came the toques, scarves, and wool gloves.  I was really looking forward to visiting Patagonia and after seeing the awesomeness of Iguazu Falls, Jason was also excited to see what else Argentina had to offer.

Patagonia is home to the Perito Moreno Glacier, one of my ‘photography travel‘ places, so I had high expectations of it.  From Iguazu Falls, we flew into El Calafate, a small little town that serves as a gateway to the glacier.

The morning of our glacier tour, there was a little mix-up and we almost missed our bus transportation to the glacier.  Luckily, we were able to grab a cab and catch up with the bus while it was still picking up people from various hotels in the area.  It was a pretty cloudy day, but I didn’t mind since that meant better lighting for pictures.

Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

Beautiful blue ice

Our group’s first glimpse of the glacier drew audible gasps.  The glacier is magnificent.  A huge expanse of blue-hued ice that stretched back into the foggy horizon.  It was unlike any other natural wonder I had ever seen.  We spent an hour or so at the boardwalk area, which allows you to see the northern side of the glacier up close.

Northern side of Perito Moreno Glacier

Well-constructed and strategically placed walkways around the northern side of the glacier

Northern side of Perito Moreno Glacier

On one of the various walkways near the glacier

Even after an hour of taking in the spectacular sight of the glacier from all angles, the feeling of awe does not disappear.  I recalled to Jason about my first time seeing the Grand Canyon in the United States.  It was amazing when we first approached the canyon; but after 10 minutes, the view got a bit old and I was ready to leave.  With this glacier, however, I found that every time I looked away for a few seconds and caught sight of the glacier again, it would take my breath away.

We also got to board a boat that takes you right up to the southern side of the glacier.  One of the coolest things you can see while visiting the glacier is catching a rare moment when ice calves or breaks off from the main glacier.  It makes a incredible thunderous crack before giant slabs of ice fall away into the water.  We saw a couple of smaller ice chunks break away from the northern side but was never able to capture it on camera.

Southern side of Perito Moreno Glacier

Chunks of ice that had broken off the main glacier

Later on that day, as the group started packing up and putting their cameras away, the loudest crack I’ve heard all day split the air.  It happened so quickly that I didn’t get a chance to take my camera back out.  You’ll have to take my word that it’s pretty incredible to see in person.  I was able to get my camera out to capture a bit of the aftermath of the calving glacier though.

Southern side of Perito Moreno Glacier (glacier calving aftermath)

The aftermath of ice calving off the glacier

I would’ve been happy just admiring the glacier from the boat, but Jason and I were lucky enough to walk on the glacier!

Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

Another group of glacier trekkers that were making their way off the ice.

They strapped everyone up into crampons and gave us a few quick tips (“don’t walk with your feet too close together or you might end up stabbing yourself in the foot”)

Crampons for the glacier trekking

One of the guides helping me get fitted for crampons – HUGE metal spikes that they tie to your shoes. One lady wore high-heeled boots. Not sure how they found crampons for her.

And then we were off!

Walking on Perito Moreno Glacier

The first few hesitant steps on the glacier with crampons

Walking on Perito Moreno Glacier

In a couple of minutes, we were walking like pros. Crampons are like winter tires for people.

The steep parts were a little tricky but once you got the hang of it, it was pretty exhilarating walking on top of a glacier.

Glacier walking on Perito Moreno Glacier

Glacier walking!!

Glacier walking on Perito Moreno Glacier

Some awesome backdrop while walking on the glacier

Glacier walking on Perito Moreno Glacier

It’s not all fun and games. I got lectured for walking too close to this giant sinkhole.

Our guides even surprised us with a little treat near the end: Scotch on the rocks over glacier ice and alfajores!  Talk about an extravagant refreshment break.

Refreshments during our glacier walk

Now that’s what I call a refreshment break – Scotch on the rocks and sweets!

Towards the end of the day, the skies even cleared up a bit.  The glacier against the mountain setting is pretty breathtaking.  Seriously still can’t believe how beautiful Patagonia is.

Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

Mind-boggling that we got to walk on this!

Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

View of the glacier while on the glacier

Bye glacier,  hopefully we’ll be back one day.  Don’t you go anywhere.

Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

View of Perito Moreno Glacier as we motored away

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Eating: Argentina

Before Jason and I arrived in Argentina, I emailed my colleague (who is Argentinian) to pick his brain on what to eat. He sent back an amazing list of what to eat and we pretty much followed it word for word. Actually it was so descriptive, I’m going to let him help me write about the awesome food in Buenos Aires (his words in italicized blue font).

Eat meat. It really is so different. Everything cooked on a parrilla. Here are some things to try:

Bife de lomo or bife de chorizo (cuts of steak, they don’t have t-bone etc)

Even though I’m not the biggest fan of meat, I really enjoyed the parilla restaurants in Buenos Aires. Parillas (Spanish for ‘grill’) basically serve grilled meat and animal parts. Our first visit to a parilla was to Las Cholas in the Las Canitas neighbourhood. It was probably our favourite parilla. They didn’t give us a choice as to how we wanted the steaks prepared (they prepared the steaks well-done), but it was still so delicious! It’s served with a side of Chimichurri sauce (a sauce of herbs, garlic, and vinegar) – which is perfect for the steaks. Never turn down Chimichurri sauce if you’re offered some.

Las Cholas, a delicious parilla in Buenos Aires

Las Cholas, a delicious parilla in Buenos Aires

Bife de Lomo

Jason got the Bife de Lomo – delicious cut of steak

Bife do Chorizo

I ordered the Bife de Chorizo. I won – it was so tasty, fatty, and delicious

We had parilla again a few weeks later at a restaurant called La Cabrera. They had an awesome happy hour deal where between 7-8pm, everything in the restaurant is 40% off. No one in Buenos Aires has dinner earlier than 8pm (with the exception of tourists), so it was a clever way for the restaurant to generate some additional business and a great deal for tourists. We had met a fun couple from California in Patagonia and we decided to meet up again in Buenos Aires for dinner and drinks. Christina and Scott had both just finished writing the Bar and were travelling for 7 weeks before starting their careers in law.

Dinner with Scott and Christina at La Cabrera

Dinner with Scott and Christina at La Cabrera

Ribeye steak (cooked medium) at La Cabrera

Jason and I ordered the ribeye steak. They even let us choose how wanted it prepared (medium).

Morcilla (blood sausage), mollejas (glands) and chinchullines (intestines) are all delicious

We had parilla again at our hotel in Puerto Iguaza, La Cantera. It’s a quiet hotel in the middle of the jungle in the city by Iguazu Falls. We met this interesting Dutch couple (Yoost and Guusha) who was travelling for four weeks before they moved from Holland to Ontario for work. We had a great time with them over dinner. The restaurant actually had to kick us out because we wouldn’t leave.

Dinner at our hotel restaurant (La Cantera)

Dinner with our new Dutch friends, Yoost and Guusha

We tried the blood sausage, glands, and intestines. Very interesting flavours – I liked the blood sausage and glands. The intestines were a little too weird for me. Guusha wouldn’t even touch the animal parts. Yoost was brave enough to try them out. He, too, thought the intestines were a bit weird.

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Our giant meat platter

I liked the blood sausage so much that I tried it again when we were back in Buenos Aires.

Blood Sausage (Morcilla) at La Cabrera

Blood Sausage (Morcilla) at La Cabrera

The trick to eating the animal part is to not think about it too much. The more you think about the fact that the sausage is made out of blood or that you’re eating the throat glands of the cow, the more you psych yourself out. I have to admit though, my first thought after I ate the intestines was ‘I wonder if the cow ate something sandy before it became our dinner?

Choripan – sausage on a bun, street food…so good

This was divine. They weren’t as easy to find as street meat is in Toronto, but when we had our first one, we both let out a sigh of delight. Choripans are grilled sausages, covered in the magical Chimichurri sauce, and served on toasted buns. I think I’ll have to write to the city councillors in Toronto to petition for the replacement of all Toronto street meat with Choripan.

Choripan - street meat in Buenos Aires

Choripan – street meat in Buenos Aires

Choripan - street meat in Buenos Aires

You can see the delicious Chimichurri sauce in this picture.

Milanesas – my favourite of all, it’s like a schnitzel but tastes way better. I eat these for breakfast, lunch, and dinner

These are so good. I can see why it’s my colleague’s favourite. I, too, ate these for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. No joke…I’ll show you:

Milanesas - like a schnitzel but better

Milanesas – like a schnitzel but better. I had these ones for breakfast – twice.

Milanesas - like schnitzel but better

I had this one for lunch one day.

Milanesas - like schnitzel but better

And this one I had for dinner.

Eat sweets. Again, so different and so good

You have to go eat ice cream from Freddo’s, you will be amazed that you have never eaten ice cream that good before.

Freddo's ice cream in Buenos Aires

Freddo’s ice cream

I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve had Freddo’s ice cream by now. It probably is the best ice cream we’ve ever had. Each time we had it, we ordered the 1/4 kilo serving. And each time, we wished we’d ordered the 1/2 kilo after we inhaled the 1/4 kilo in about 5 seconds flat.

Freddo's ice cream in Buenos Aires

This is a 1/4 kilo of heaven Dulce de Leche and Chocolate with Almonds ice cream.

Alfajores – the best ones hands down are Havanna. They have little stores you can find that sell these.

Yup, the best ones ARE Havanna. We stopped at a Havanna cafe in La Boca and ordered four alfajores. Don’t let the size of these little sweets fool you – they are very filling. We only finished two.

Havanna cafe in the El Caminito area

Havanna cafe

Dulce de leche – it’s everywhere and perfect

Along with the Havanna alfajores, we ordered coffee with dulce de leche. It really is perfect. Coming to Argentina, I didn’t have much of a sweet tooth but I am leaving this country with one (or five).

Havanna cafe in the El Caminito area

Alfajores and Dulce de Leche coffee. I think I got a cavity just from looking back at this picture.

Facturas – pastries but better. The ones filled with dulce de leche are my faves. Anything filled with dulce de leche is my fave.

My newly developed sweet tooth craved facturas all the time. They come in all different sizes and shapes and they’re all good.

Facturas in Buenos Aires

Facturas – delicious delicious Argentine pastries

In addition to the list my colleague provided, we also got a lot of recommendations from locals to eat lots of Argentine pizza and empanadas.

Argentines are very proud of their pizza. The immigration from Naples and Genoa at the end of the 19th century brought this food over, but since then Argentines have made it their own. There are two main types: Pizza a la piedre (on a stone oven) is similar to Neopolitan pizza. It has a crispy thin crust. Or the traditional pizza molde which has a spongey, chewy thick crust.

Senior Telmo pizza place in San Telmo (Buenos Aires)

Senior Telmo in Buenos Aires

For really good pizza a la piedre, we went to a popular little joint in San Telmo, called (what a surprise!) Senor Telmo.

Senor Telmo in Buenos Aires

Packed with locals – exactly how I like my restaurants

We arrived literally 2 minutes before the dinner rush (9:30pm). All the groups behind us had to wait over an hour for a table. We were seated within 10 minutes.

Senor Telmo in Buenos Aires

Arugula & Jamon Crudo and Pancetta & Mushrooms

We asked the server for two recommendations and we went with both: arugula & jamon crudo, and pancetta & mushrooms. They were delicious but I’ve been spoiled by the really good Neopolitan pizza joints in Toronto so I wasn’t that blown away.

For the traditional Argentine pizza molde, we were advised to go to El Palacio de la Pizza (The Palace of Pizza…I know, it’s cheesy! Get it? Cheesy, Pizza? haha). I typically like to enjoy my pizza with a cold beer, but Argentines love to enjoy it with wine. So we split a bottle of red.

El Palacio de la Pizza in Buenos Aires

El Palacio de la Pizza

We were also advised to order the provolone pizza. Thick, chewy, and smothered in infinite layers of provolone and mozzerrella. It was deliciously artery-clogging. We ordered a medium pizza and both of us couldn’t finish our second pieces.

Provolone pizza from El Palacio de le Pizza (Buenos Aires)

Provolone pizza. The medium size comes with 4 slices. Two people will likely only be able to finish 3.

It kind of reminded me of Chicago’s deep-dish pizza.

Provolone pizza from El Palacio de la Pizza

Side view of our pizza.

We stayed in the Montserrat neighbouhood for a couple of days, and our host (Ruy) recommended we go to a local pizza joint (closest intersection is Salta & Venezuela) for their empanadas. He described them as little cheesy pockets of pastry perfection. I ordered the Roquefort (which I highly recommend) and Jason ordered the ham & cheese.

Empanadas in Buenos Aires

Empanadas: little cheesy pockets of pastry perfection

Ruy wasn’t kidding – they were perfect. We’ve had dozens upon dozens of empanadas since that first one and none have measured up.

So there we have it: a rundown of all the delicious foods one must try in Argentina. Special shout-out to my Argentine colleague for his advice and letting me use his wise words in this blog post.