In February 2015, I was really looking forward to leaving the cold Canadian winter behind and heading south to sunny, warm Chile and Argentina. I had done my homework and knew we would be learning a lot about the culture and history of this region as we visited Unesco World Heritage Sites, markets, churches and museums. We would also be sampling wine and fine cuisine, but I was not prepared for the many exciting things we did that made this a very special Craig trip.
The wine was spectacular! I now enjoy Malbec, but I did not realize that wine was included almost every day either at a winery or with one of the many fabulous meals. Wine and food are passions of these South American countries and we ate at some of the best restaurants, sampling lots of Argentine beef and many other local specialties, always with wine pairings. We also had a fun afternoon blending our own wine and deciding which was the best!
But the trip was so much more! We had an exciting cooking class in the fish market in Santiago where we made fresh ceviche which we enjoyed at lunch. I thought that was all we were having for lunch until they brought out enormous seafood platters which we washed down with more wine. When we left Santiago we crossed the Andes, climbing 3000 metres in the early morning and enjoying the incredible vistas as we traversed 29 switchbacks through the mountains.
In Mendoza, we had reserved seats for the outdoor evening Grape Harvest Festival where 25,000 people watched a spectacular show of colourful dancing, music and fireworks on multi level stages- to me it was reminiscent of an Olympic opening show. The costumes alone were incredible and at some moments there were over 100 performers on the stage dancing and singing. They also crowned a Harvest Queen at the evening show and we were there to be part of the parade and pageantry leading up to this important event. There were regional princesses everywhere, each with their own entourage.
We visited one of the 3 most famous waterfalls in the world…Iguassu Falls. Now that I have also seen Victoria Falls and Niagara Falls, I think that Iguassu is the most impressive in its natural unspoiled setting. Of course that is up to debate. We spent a day in the exotic subtropical vegetation following the walkways and modern catwalks to see the many viewpoints and waterfalls that make up this Unesco World Heritage Site.
And then there was Buenos Aires, home to the tango, which we saw being performed on the sidewalks everywhere. We also visited a small intimate night club where we saw a sultry performance done by professionals. The next day we drove out to the countryside into the dry ‘pampas’ to visit a true Gaucho Ranch where they breed polo ponies. Everyone rode horses, ate a typical ‘criollos' lunch and watched the gauchos perform with their beautiful well trained horses.
This was a trip to remember and savour. So many memories made better by the local guides who were superb and the wonderful, fun Craig travellers who got involved in all activities and enjoyed every minute.