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The Ramblers Elope: Las Vegas, Nevada

Although we arrived in the U.S. on February 23rd, Nick and I had a bit more rambling on our itineraries: we eloped in Las Vegas.

Neither of us had been to Vegas, or even had the desire to go, until a few friends raved about Sin City over the past year.  With our arrival back to the States and a major house restoration in the works, we thought, why not?  We were ready to be married, and our plans for a 300+ wedding seemed more like a chore than a thrill.

Our three day wedding escape was exciting, spontaneous, and stress-free.  Here are a few tips for ramblers who want to venture into the neon glitz and glam (whether you plan to tie the knot or not!):

Book your hotel room ahead, and upgrade upon your arrival. There are countless Las Vegas flight and hotel deals on sites such as Priceline.com and Expedia.com.  Since Nick and I wanted to stay at one of the newest, nicest hotels in Vegas (the Encore), we signed up for it’s email list to receive promotional discounts and package deals.  You can also search for promotional codes, which will provide discounts when you make reservations online (for example, we Googled “Encore promotional codes”).

If you would like a room upgrade, ask for this when you check into the hotel.  The upgrade may be cheaper than the price for that same room online.

Skip the weekend vacation, if you can. Prices are cheaper for hotels during the week, and restaurants are less likely to be packed.

Not a great gambler, but still want to play? Head over to the Sahara for cheaper games, such as the $1 Black Jack tables.

Make restaurant reservations whenever possible. Even for same-day reservations, call your hotel concierge to book a table at desired restaurants.

And for you lovebirds who are looking to wed without a large wedding:

Discuss what your goals are for your wedding experience. If you want a typical Vegas wedding, go all out!  If a classic ceremony with a few family members is what you desire, there is room for this too.  Be prepared before you arrive and research the various wedding chapels on the strip.  We paid close attention to customer comments, as well as pictures of the chapel.

Gaudy meets classic. Nick and I chose the most typical, Vegas-esque chapel we could find, but balanced that kitsch with a lovely hotel, top-of-the-line restaurants, and stellar shows.  Vegas is a two-faced city, which gives you the advantage of drinking $1 Miller High Life in cheap casinos by day and toasting over foie gras appetizers in a tuxedo by night.  Decide what your indulgences can be for your special day, and enjoy them with no regrets!

Buy select flowers from a florist as a money saver. I had a beautifully vibrant bouquet and flowers in my hair on my wedding day, and I spent less than $50 on them.  Call ahead to order flowers from a nearby florist (our hotel had a florist in the building) and pick them up on the morning of your wedding.  Since I used to work at a florist, I prepared the flowers myself in the early afternoon using 20 stems of ranunculus (10 magenta and 10 orange).  Here are a few flower tips based on my wedding morning:

Notes: In order to keep the flowers from wilting, keep them in water for as long as possible before you begin the cutting and wiring process.  Bring scissors, florist wiring, tape, and a thick white ribbon from home (or you may be able to order these from your florist).

To wire flowers for an updo:
Wiring your flowers will make it easy for your stylist to insert flowers into your hair with bobby pins.

  • Choose 8-10 flowers that all vary in size.  Cut the stems, leaving only a 1-2 inch stem from the flower.
  • After cutting the wire into 6 inch pieces, insert the wire at the base where the stem meets the flower.  Run the flower halfway along the wire’s length, and fold the wire in half.  Twist the wire, being careful not to break the stem of the flower.
  • Starting at the base, twist the florist tape around the stem, and slowly twist down to cover the wire.
  • Cut the tape when complete, and repeat these steps for each flower.
You can also make a single-flower boutonniere with this method for the groom.

For your bouquet:
Take the rest of the flowers and arrange them to your liking.  Tie them together with your ribbon, cut the stems, and place them into a vase of water until you are ready to leave.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

WHERE WE WINED, DINED, AND MARRIED:


CHAPEL
A Little White Wedding Chapel It was just what we had imagined for our truly Vegas wedding.  The fake flowers, drive-thru marriage service, and limousine pick-up were just perfect.  Our minister, Roger, was heartfelt and considerate, just as one should be for such an emotional event.  And we figured, if Frank Sinatra, Michael Jordan, Brittany Spears, Bruce Willis, and Demi Moore all got married here, then it’s gotta be a snazzy place.
www.littlewhiteweddingchapel.com

HOTEL
Encore Steve Wynn, famous hotelier and developer of the Encore hotel, is also known for his prior Las Vegas hotel developments such as the The Mirage, Treasure Island Hotel and Casino, the Wynn Las Vegas and the Bellagio.  The Encore is his latest masterpiece, offering every extravagance we could have hoped for our wedding vacation and honeymoon.  I was particularly impressed by the customer service – any of my needs were immediately met by the concierge, room, or bell services.
www.encorelasvegas.com


OUR PHOTOGRAPHERS
D.L. Anderson and Kavanah Ramsier- As soon as we decided to wed in Vegas, we contacted D.L. Anderson, a photojournalist for the Independent Weekly in North Carolina.  Fortunately for us, he and his fiancee, Kavanah, were open to traveling to Las Vegas to shoot the events of the week, and they did an extraordinary job.  Every photo in this post is by Derek and Kavanah, who made us at ease while they expertly hid behind their lenses.
www.dlanderson.com

RESTAURANTS
Le Cirque
Decadent french food and an interesting decor.  It is pricey, but is hands down our favorite restaurant in Vegas. RAMBLER’S PICK

B&B Ristorante Mario Batali’s restaurant combines flavors that complement each other well, but I still can’t buy into the “hoopla” of these superstar chefs’ restaurants.  We also ended up talking with our neighboring table quite a bit due to a lack of space and privacy from table to table.

Cafe Ile St. Louis We were hungry and made a rash decision – if you are basically an IHOP, why not admit it?  We should have gone to Mon Ami, which is also located in Paris, and has outdoor seating.

La Salsa Mexican RestaurantThey claim to have the best margaritas in Las Vegas, but we’ve had better.  However, the outdoor patio that sits virtually under The Forum shops fountain is a wonderful resting place on a sunny afternoon.  The cheese dip and chips was a tasty treat.

Sensi This Asian fusion restaurant allows the customer to peer into it’s kitchens while eating, since each kitchen is divided by glass walls.  I sampled a few appetizers, which were creative and colorful, however they didn’t leave me raving about my meal.  Order a Sensi’s version of a Dark & Stormy with spicy homemade ginger beer.

SHOWS
Jubilee!
-This is the ultimate Vegas showgirl performance, with over a hundred topless women garbed in thousands of rhinestones.  Although is was a bit cheesy, the sheer grandeur of it all is incredible and entertaining.

Cirque du Soleil’s “O” - One of the best performances I have ever seen in my life.  I can’t say enough!

GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS

The Bellagio Fountain Show Don’t leave Vegas without catching the fountain show at the Bellagio.  The towering fountains “dance” to music by day and night, and it is a surprisingly breathtaking event.

$1 Black Jack at the Sahara It’s cheap and fun, and you’re sure to meet a few folks while you play.

Cruising the strip by motorized wheelchair A half hour before the wedding, Nick snapped his knee while we were taking photos (we were jumping on the couches in our hotel room).  The next day, we decided that he needed a wheelchair.  After hours of wheeling him around myself, we rented a motorized wheelchair from the hotel, which costs $40 dollars for the day (plus $15 insurance).  Once he started scooting around, we realized we could save a lot of time walking if I just sat on his lap!  It may look funny, but exploring Vegas by a motorized wheelchair allows you to see twice as many places, and saves hours of walking along the strip.

Our Flight Home: Flying a Dog on International Flights

Although I was excited to fly home from Buenos Aires to North Carolina, I was extremely nervous for Domino.  Since Domino is a pitbull mix that is 55 pounds, he was required to travel underneath the plane as cargo with the cabin’s luggage.  We bought a crate that followed the airlines’ regulations, acquired proper documentation from the Argentine government, and provided Domino with blankets and comforting items for his journey.  Below is a quick guide to flying your pooch to the United States from Buenos Aires, as well as tips to make the flight a bit easier:

1.) See a veterinarian, who will inspect your pet and give you the necessary paperwork to bring to the Ministerio de Economia y Produccion.  The ministry requires:

  • A certificate that notes the breed, sex, age, color, and name, address, and passport number of the owner.
  • A document stating it is free of miasis, gusanera or bichera.
  • A copy of your passport.
  • A rabies certificate that proves its rabies vaccinations are valid.

At the vet I saw in San Telmo, I received 4 hand-written prescription slips after she inspected Domino.  The appointment, which also included flea medicine and de-worming pills, was $80 AR (about $20 USD).

2.) Take your documents to the SENASA office in Lazareto, which is on the corner of Calabria and Rawson de Dellepiane. The paperwork costs about $76 AR and must be filled out within five days of flying out.

SENASA OFFICE phone: 4362-5755 or 4362-5757

3.) Check your airlines’ website to find information about regulations concerning your pet’s crate, food, and water provisions.

TIPS:
If you will be traveling in cold weather, put a soft blanket in the crate.  In addition to a cushy blanket, include items that have your scent – a dirty shirt, socks, or pillow case can calm a pet when in stressful situations.

I wrote a note in permanent marker on our crate that notified the baggage handlers that it was Domino’s first time flying, and also that he would appreciate positive attention.

During our layover from Buenos Aires in Miami, we had to retrieve all of our luggage, including Domino, for U.S. customs procedures.  Since officials needed to look inside of Domino’s crate, I asked if I could take him out to the bathroom, and was allowed some time outside with him.  It never hurts to ask, so always ask to take your pet out if you feel it will aid their trip.


Rambling Buenos Aires: A Guide

Wine, steak, mate, gelato, ornate historic buildings, creative boutiques, and a vibrant nightlife are my many favorites aspects of Buenos Aires.  We spent five weeks exploring the city, and I could have spent many more months sipping espresso in it’s numerous cafes, sampling grilled meat at nearby parrillas, and marveling at the impressive apartment facades and balconies as I walked Domino along shady, tree-lined streets.

The following rundown is not an all-encompassing list to the many facets of Buenos Aires, but are tried-and-true notes to my favorite places in various barrios throughout the city.  Each recommendation is also located on my Buenos Aires Google Maps Guide, which you can view at maps.google.com/?mid=1266607498.

I recommend buying a map of the city, marking restaurants and places you would like to see, and then setting out onto the pavement, exploring many of the barrios by foot.  Don’t be afraid to get lost – you’ll surely discover a funky shop, hole-in-the-wall bar, or local parrilla during your rambles.

::::  EATING ::::

Cabana Las Lilas |  Puerto Madero  |  Alicia Moreau de Justo 516
www.laslilas.com
Touting a menu that features traditional Argentinian dishes and wine list that is long enough to be a book, Cabana Las Lilas is a dining experience that goes above and beyond the call of duty.  Prices are steep, but samples of appetizers, breads, desserts and even lemoncello will be happily served free of charge.  The restaurant overlooks the river, enhancing the cushy outdoor patio seating option.

El Desnivel |  San Telmo  |  Defensa 855 (between Independencia and Estados Unidos)
This famous parilla stays open late and has ample seating space.  Come to Desnivel for a traditional parilla experience on one of San Telmo’s most popular streets.

La Fabrica del Taco |  Palermo SOHO  |  Gorriti 5062
www.lafabricadeltaco.com
Great tacos with a colorful atmosphere  – what more is there to ask for?  Make sure to order a michilada (a spicy Mexican cerveza), and at least one taco al pastor.
(Pictured above)

El Hippopatamo |  San Telmo  | Avenida Brasil 401
This old-school restaurant, although not staffed by the friendliest of waiters, is a must see for even just a chopp in the afternoon.  Head across the street to Parque Lezama to watch dog walkers and bench sleepers.

Sushi Club |  Las Canitas   | Báez 268
www.sushiclubweb.com
Sushi Club fits right into Las Canitas, a posh suburb with hot nightclubs and high-end restaurants.  While the prices are no bargain, the modern decor, plush chairs, and great people watching are worth the expense.


::::  DRINKING ::::

=
878 | Villa Crespo  |  878 Thames (between Loyola and Aguirre)
Nestled in a quiet neighborhood in Villa Crespo, the only clue of 878 from it’s front doors is the bodyguard waiting patiently for customers to walk through.  Walking into this trendy bar will may take you by surprise, but the bartenders’ meticulous system of making drinks will be even more shocking.

Club 69 |  Palermo
*Nick’s pick*
Go on Thursdays for an ultimate club party – go-go dancers, pole dancers, and break dancers are just a few examples of the entertainment.

Milion |  Recoleta  | Parana 1048 (between Marcelo T de Alvear and Santa Fe)
milionargentina.com.ar
*Rochelle’s pick*
This once private mansion is now an enchanting bar and restaurant, filling it’s ornate rooms and backyard patio with stylish young portenos.  The rooms, with over 14-foot ceilings and original decor, showcase captivating photography and modern artwork, perfect for strolling from room to room with a mixed drink in your hand.

(Pictured above left and right)

-
Plaza Serrano |  Palermo
This plaza, although a bit touristy, is filled with bars, people, and beer.  Offering ample outdoor seating, it is a great place to go after dinner for a bit of people watching and another round of drinks.

Thelonius Club |  barrio PALERMO | Jerónimo Salguero 1884
www.thelonious.com.ar
A small jazz club with a funky atmosphere and a variety of bands, Thelonius Club is the place to go for jazz enthusiasts.  Check out the website for a schedule of times and bands.

Unico Bar Bistro |  Palermo Hollywood  |  on the corner of Fitz Roy and Honduras
One of the most popular bars and open until 6 am, Unico Bar is considered the ultimate Palermo bar “scene.”  If you want a chance at sitting, go early.  Otherwise, be ready to enjoy your drinks while standing on the street curb (which is fun as well).

::::  SHOPPING ::::

El Ateneo |  | Avenida Santa Fe 1860 Books
Book browsing is even more fun in this theater-turned-bookstore.  Grab a cup of coffee and relax in the cafe, located on the stage behind the giant red curtains.

(Pictured above left)

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Feria Plaza Francia |  Recoleta  |  Av. del Liberator and Pueyrredon
Visit this artisan fair on Sundays to buy homemade mate gourds, bombillas, clothing, and art.

Feria de Antiguidades (Antique Fair) |  San Telmo  |  Plaza Dorrego and calle Defensa
One of the most famous tourist attractions in Buenos Aires and a pleasant way to spend your Sunday afternoon.  Stroll through the stalls selling antique brass nic-nacs or grab an outdoor table to eat medialunas and listen to the variety of languages spoken about you.

Mi Handbags |  Palermo  |  on the corner of Armenia and Gorriti
This boutique may be small, but it offers bags whose designs vary by shape and color combination, combining different suedes, leathers, and stitching to create modern yet functional handbags.

(Pictured above right)

And if you’re REALLY ready to shop ’til you drop, here are some major shopping streets to hit:
Calle Florida, Calle Honduras, Avenida Santa Fe

Galerias Pacifico |  Microcentro  |  Florida 737, between Viamonte and Cordoba
Although it is just a mall, it is a beautiful mall.  Vibrant frescos adorn the ceilings, and detailed moldings flow along it’s corners.

:::: ACTIVITIES ::::

Cementerio de la Recoleta |  Recoleta  |  Famous for housing Eva Peron’s tomb, this enchanting cemetery holds mosoleums made of marble and rusty, delicate ironwork.
(Pictured above left)

Jardin Japonese |  Palermo  |  on the corner of Av. Casares and Berro
Many tour books recommend this garden, which is the largest Japanese garden outside of Japan, however, while the experience of exploring the grounds is a pleasant break from the city, it is not impressive.

Parque Lezama |  San Telmo  |  A green, leafy park lined with countless wooden benches filled with people of all ages.  Bring your dog to find new playmates or people watch from the graffiti-covered stairway.

::::  SLEEPING  ::::

San Telmo Loft and The Pad |  San Telmo  |  1131 Paseo Colón
www.santelmoloft.com
Fun, hip vacation rentals in Buenos Aires’ most authentic neighborhood. Our apartments come with a cell phone, cable TV, speakers, WiFi, AC and heaters, linens and towels, a fully equipped kitchen (with a microwave), guidebooks, adaptors for electrical devices, and owners who love sharing their knowledge of Buenos Aires.

Tracey’s Apartments |  Villa Crespo (right by Palermo)  |  4323 Estado de Israel
tracey@traceyathay.com
Choose from a studio apartment with a roof-top patio, or a two bedroom apartment, also with an outdoor patio.  Tracey’s apartments are simple, comfortable, and artistically decorated, located in a neighborhood within just a few blocks from the restaurants, clubs, and boutiques of Palermo.  We enjoyed the parrilla and middle eastern restaurants right outside of our front door, and a subway stop is only about 5 blocks away.

:::: OTHER ::::

Car / Taxi Service – Alfredo
Arrangements can be made for Alfredo to pick you up anywhere in the city, and his car is pet-friendly (in fact, he will be quick to show you the pictures he carries around of his dogs and cats).
phone: 1568135572   or   46375176   |  646servicios@gmail.com

Flying home with your dog or cat from Buenos Aires?
STEP 1 See a veterinarian, who will inspect your pet and give you the necessary paperwork to bring to the Ministerio de Economia y Produccion.  The ministry requires:

  • A certificate that notes the breed, sex, age, color, and name, address, and passport number of the owner.
  • A document stating it is free of miasis, gusanera or bichera.
  • A copy of your passport.
  • A rabies certificate that proves its rabies vaccinations are valid.

At the vet I saw in San Telmo, I received 4 hand-written prescription slips after she inspected Domino.  The appointment, which also included flea medicine and de-worming pills, was $80 AR (about $20 USD).

STEP 2 Take your documents to the SENASA office in Lazareto, which is on the corner of Calabria and Rawson de Dellepiane. The paperwork costs about $76 AR and must be filled out within five days of flying out.

SENASA OFFICE phone: 4362-5755 or 4362-5757

:::: RAMBLE WRITER TIPS ::::

If you are having trouble calling a Buenos Aires cell phone from Skype, try the following:

  • Make sure the Argentine code is 54
  • Dial “911”
  • If the number begins with “15,” delete the “15”

So, for example, if I am calling 15 6687 8899, then dial 54 911 6687 8899.

Carry change (coins) if you plan to use the bus – the machines to not take cash, and drivers do not give out change.

:::: RESOURCES ::::

buenosaires.gov.ar/agenda/
A schedule to theater, music, art shows, and other cultural activities in Buenos Aires

whatsupbuenosaires.com
Whats Up Buenos Aires is first and foremost a website connecting the emerging arts and culture scene in Buenos Aires to the rest of the world. Its aim is to utilize the power of the internet to communicate, inform and entertain.”  – from the Whats Up Buenos Aires website

guiaoleo.com
A guide to the many restaurants of Buenos Aires

vinosdeargentina.com
Learn more about Argentine wines at Vinos de Argentina

guardian.co.uk/travel/2008/feb/14/buenosaires.top10bars?page=all
Top Ten Bars in Buenos Aires by the Guardian’s Vicky Baker
A great quick-read guide to drinking your way through Buenos Aires.

Time Out Buenos Aires guides are extremely thorough and provide cultural and historical details that would otherwise be unknown or overlooked by visiting travelers.

Thank you to San Telmo Loft, a new Ramble Writer Sponsor

      

Ramble Writer would like to extend a special thanks to our new sponsor, San Telmo Loft, located in barrio San Telmo, Buenos Aires.  Nick and I had the pleasure of staying in The Pad, a two bedroom apartment with a patio, as well as the Loft, an studio apartment located in the same building.  San Telmo Loft apartments are colorful and funky, providing not only a comfortable and homey atmosphere, but also little extras such as cable TV, a cell phone with prepaid minutes, wi-fi, magazines, Argentina guidebooks, and a fully stocked kitchen, right down to the maté cups and bombillas.  

Angela, who manages the Loft and The Pad and lives in the same building, serves as almost a hostess, providing informational sheets about Buenos Aires, a quick tour of the neighborhood, and a readiness to answer any questions you may have about San Telmo and Argentine culture in general.  She was also very welcoming toward Domino, which is always an added bonus on the Ramble Writer accommodations checklist!  

If you plan to stay in Buenos Aires for a week or more, I strongly recommend renting an apartment as opposed to sleeping at a hostel or hotel.  The price for two people per night is comparable and often cheaper, and the perks include a complete and private living space, furnished accommodations, and, in the case of San Telmo Loft, artistically decorated rooms and beautiful antique fixtures.

A bit about San Telmo:
“I love San Telmo’s authenticity,” said Angela. “The architecture, the traditional bars, the fantastic market where vendors know me by name, the tango joints. I am really grateful for the efforts by the city and the people here to preserve San Telmo and its many little pockets of culture, art, and life at a slower pace.” 

The cobblestone streets, crumbling and renovated historic buildings, and artsy vibe make San Telmo one of Buenos Aires’ most popular tourist areas.  Many years ago this neighborhood was at the bottom portenos’ list of places to live, but a recent rejuvenation has beckoned artisans, designers, and restaurant owners to reclaim these once-weary streets.  Make sure not to miss it’s famous Antique Fair on Sundays, which brings crowds of people to Plaza Dorrego.
 

To learn more about San Telmo Loft, visit www.santelmoloft.com.

 

Rambling Argentina

It was the last country on our year-long trip, and Argentina lived up to my expectations.  We did not see even a small fraction of the country and even missed Patagonia, but the Argentine culture, landscape, and people have persuaded Nick and I to plan another trip here.  We experienced more of the city life, visiting Mendoza and Villa Carlos Paz for a few days, and then soaking in Buenos Aires over 5 weeks.

When rambling in Argentina, make sure to try their specialties: medialunas (croissants shaped like a crescent moon), asado (traditionally grilled meats) at an authentic parilla, yerba maté, and, of course, the countless wine options at fantastic prices.
 

   

MENDOZA
Mendoza is a clean and pleasant city, featuring colorful plazas, a varied nightlife, and streets covered in cafés and restaurants with sidewalk seating.  Located within a short distance from the famous wine growing region, Maipu, Mendoza is a great home-base for wine tasting and tours.

Stroll through Plaza Independencia, sip on espresso on one of the pedestrian streets, and hang out on Calle Aristides Villaneuva at night.  An artisan feria takes over Plaza Independencia on the weekends, and young adults mingle in the plaza in the evening.

  

VILLA CARLOS PAZ
Serving as a popular Argentine vacation spot, Villa Carlos Paz is swimming with tourists during the summer, who are swimming in the San Antonio River that runs through the town.  The river, which is lined with large, smooth rocks, is the perfect place to host an asado and to cool down from the afternoon heat.  Droves of families haul their beach towels, folding chairs, and, of course, pounds of red meat to the riverside every afternoon.  There are many places to sprawl out along the river, and some areas feature grills, shade and seating.  

The town center is filled with Argentine-themed trinket stores, shopping centers, and restaurants, many of which are unmemorable, but pleasant nonetheless.

     

BOLIVAR
When Nick learned that the 2010 Dakar Rally ended in this small town of only 32,000 people, Bolivar was immediately marked on our route.  The Dakar, an off-road endurance race that set off from Buenos Aires to Antofagasta, Chile, and then back to Buenos Aires, set up it’s finish line on the dusty roads of Bolivar, located about 3 hours outside of Buenos Aires.  We camped at the final corner of the race, watching motos, cars, and massive trucks whizz around their last obstacle of the race.  The crowd was energized, the vehicles were impressive, and, by the end of the day, we were caked in the dust that erupted in clouds at each turn.

To learn more about Dakar and to see amazing footage of the rally, visit www.dakar.com.

 

  


BUENOS AIRES

I have created a guide to this remarkable city, which you can view at the upcoming post, A Buenos Aires Guide.  You will also see every recommended item on Google Maps.  It is no secret that Buenos Aires is now one of my favorite big cities in the world, and I recommend leaving ample time to roam the streets and sample the cuisine.

…………………………………………………………………………………

To learn more about Argentina, visit www.welcomeargentina.com.

How to Prepare Yerba Maté: Step by Step Guide

Whether you are in a park, on a subway, shopping in an outdoor feria, or in an Argentine’s home, you will soon begin to notice that the maté cup and bombilla (metal straw) are ever-present.  Yerba maté, a drink made from dried leaves steeped in hot water, carries rules and ediquete regarding it’s preparation and enjoyment, a traditional ritual which many Argentines take to heart.  The following guide will help you to not only correctly prepare maté on your own, also —-.

First thing’s first:
Maté is actually the cup or gourd in which the yerba (dried leaves) is placed.  The bombilla, which is a metal straw, is used to sip the tea without filling your mouth with yerba flakes.  Since a maté cup is fairly small, hot water is poured into the vessel several times, utilizing the yerba again and again.  

Step 1   Begin to heat your water.  Make sure not to bring the water to a boil (water that is too hot affects the flavor of the final product), but just under boiling.


Step 2   Fill your maté cup 2/3 with yerba.

Step 3   Tip the cup so the yerba sits on a diagonal to one side.

Step 4   Quickly pour the hot water over one side of the yerba, allowing a portion of the leaves to remain dry (these leaves will provide added flavor for the next cupful of hot water).

Step 5   While placing your thumb over the mouth of the bombilla, insert the filter side into your cup.  Once the bombilla is inserted into the water, it should not be moved or stirred.

When sharing maté with a group of people, after a cup’s worth of yerba maté is sipped, it is passed to another person in the group, and so on.  The servador, who leads the maté drinking experience for the group, not only prepares the maté, but also replenishes the cup with hot water whenever the maté is passed to the next person.  When you finish sipping your maté, pass the cup to the servador, and, once he or she has refilled the cup with water, the servador passes the cup to the next person.

There are countless benefits to drinking yerba maté, many of which Argentines would be happy to discuss.  Maté, which contains more caffeine than black tea, serves as a pick-me-up without the jittery feeling that many coffee drinkers experience.  It has 20 vitamins and minerals, and has a high antioxidant content.  It is believed that yerba maté also helps with digestion, which may be why it is a perfect way to end an asado (assorted grilled meats) feast.

Border Crossing :: Chile to Argentina – Las Cuevas

Our entry into Argentina was fastest and most straight-forward border crossing of the entire trip.  Driving through the mountains provides a scenic route, and the drive-through customs procedure is a pleasant surprise for border-wearied ramblers.
 

CHILE

STEP 1:
When you drive up to the first kiosk about 25 km from the border, an official will request to see your Chilean Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit and will then wave you through.  You can now drive into Argentina.

 

ARGENTINA:

STEP 1:
Drive to the migracion office and show your passports and your Chilean Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit.  You do not even have to get out of your vehicle.

STEP 2:
At aduana, a drive-through office, fill out the form provided by a customs official.

 

TIP: Argentina requires vehicle insurance (seguro), which you can buy in Chile as well.  It costs $58 USD per month.

Pirate Camping: Valparaiso, Chile

By Nick H-J

Valparaiso is an awesome city, with beautiful murals and great beaches nearby.  However, it’s not the easiest place to pirate camp and it’s not cheap to stay anywhere.

We wondered into this little gem of a pirate camping site entirely by accident.  It has showers, bathroom facilities, beach volleyball and great beach side sunsets and views.

Vina del Mar is a small area north of Valparaiso proper on the coast.  It is rather ritzy and has a nice boardwalk along the beach with a workout area and little parks scattered along the strip (as well as a wonderful gelato shop).  On the north end of the boardwalk there is a beach called Playa del Deporte.  This beach has free beach volleyball courts and is staffed and maintained for people that live in the Playa De Deporte area (a beach community suburb).  There are different parking lots along this beach area.  The one to the south is a pay lot.  The one to north is free and has bathrooms, showers and you can stay as long as you like.  We drove into the pay lot after hours and ended up parked in the area that is the free lot.  There is a fence separating the two areas, but you can just move it and drive into the free area.  We were parked here for 5 days, without moving the truck, and were the only car in the lot most of the time.  No one bothered us a bit, except the staff stopped by to offer us showers.  The area we were parked in used to be an old go-cart track, and is now used for martial arts events for kids.  It even has a half-pipe that is usually being used by the local skaters.

The guys that staff this beach during the day are extremely friendly, and will likely let you in through the gate at the very north end of the beach area, especially if you tell them you are visiting someone that lives in Playa del Deporte.  Once you are in, set up and camp to your heart’s content.  The paved lot we were in is just north of the Military School, which is across the road.  We were able to get on some unsecured wifi at times, though the signals were intermittent.

  GPS Location:

  32°59′35.55″S

  71°32′52.02″W

 

 

 

 

 

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Rambling Chile

Chile, the richest country in South America, is a modern and organized country with a northern desert, sunny beaches, and the mountainous landscapes of Patagonia.  Be prepared to pay significantly more money for food, accommodations, and shopping items, which will pay for the modern amenities that Chile has to offer.

After countless days of camping in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, we entered Chile a bit starry-eyed.  “You’ll never guess what they have in there,” I said to Nick as I walked out of the gas station bathroom, “toilet paper, a mirror, soap, a light, AND a hand dryer!”  To have even two of these items, if any at all, was a rarity during our time on the road.  Chile’s standard of living closely resembled the States, and suddenly, looking at my greasy hair and dirt stained cargo pants, I felt a little out of place.
 

ANTOFAGASTA
We spent Christmas Eve in this port city of nearly 300,000 people only because it was located on our route south.  Antofagasta is a pleasant town with a clean beach and numerous hotels, however there are little unique attractions or tourist-oriented locals I recommend to visit in the area.
 

TALTAL
Taltal is a quaint coastal town with a leafy plaza and a low-key atmosphere.  Only small businesses populate the area, and activities include strolling around town and relaxing by the rock-lined water.

We arrived in Taltal on Christmas Day, and fortunately found Hotel Plaza, a bed and breakfast facing the ocean.  When entering town from the north, take a right onto the main beachfront street, and look for a light blue building.  The owners, who had just opened the hotel a few months ago, were extremely friendly and were happy to allow Domino in our room.

 
Hotel Plaza
Calle Esmeralda 442
Telephone 055-611070
www.hotelplazataltal.cl
Private Bath, free breakfast, cable, gymnasium, wifi, and parking
28,000 pesos ($56 USD) per night

 

 

VALPARAISO
Valparaiso, Chile’s sixth largest city, feels as if it leapt out of a book of fairy tales.  It’s cobblestone streets, which wind up and down the city, are lined with brightly-painted, cottage-like houses, cafes, and boutiques.  The graffiti, which adorns numerous walls, corners, and sidewalks, serves as beautiful works of art, showcasing the colorful imaginations of the scores of creative minds that live within the city.

Valparaiso is a world heritage site, a port city, a college town, an artisan’s haven, and a picturesque vacation spot all in one.  You can amble along it’s curving streets, dip into the nearest cafe for an espresso, or feast on a cheap but wonderful seafood lunch above Mercado Puerto.  While it touts a list of tourist recommendations, such as touring Pablo Neruda’s house or the cathedrals, meandering the streets of Concepción, Valparaiso’s historic barrio, will possibly be your favorite activity.

 

VIÑA DEL MAR
Viña del Mar, a beach resort town that focuses on it’s pristine boardwalk and people watching under the shade of colorful umbrellas, is the ritziest town in Chile.  Locals flock to it’s sandy beaches, and are willing to pay top dollar for a hotel room that overlooks the water.

We camped in the municipal parking lot along the beach for over a week, which was a great spot to relax.  To read more about pirate camping in Viña del Mar, read Nick’s post for recommendations.

TIP: Viña del Mar is an expensive area.  Be prepared to pay higher prices for groceries and restaurant meals if you plan to stay in town.

 

 

 

Border Crossing: Bolivia to Chile – Avaroa and Ollague

Leaving the poorest country in South America and entering the richest is quite a shocking border crossing experience.  The Chilean government, in contrast to Bolivian administration, is organized, modern and efficient.  As usual, leaving a country is fairly easy, but you will be glad to find that entering Chile is painless as well.

 

 

BOLIVIA:

STEP 1: Find the migracion office to get your passports stamped with the salida (exit) stamp.  You will need to pay $21 B per person at this office.

STEP 2: Across the train tracks from the migracion office is the aduana office.  It is a yellow trailer.  Park at the front of the building.  Officials will ask to see your Bolivian Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit.

You will need to drive about 15 minutes to Ollague, Chile’s border entry town.

 

CHILE:

Chile is very strict concerning the introduction of foreign plant and animal products.  Make sure to throw away any fruits, vegetables or meat from your vehicle prior to customs inspection.  Inspection of vehicle contents is a fairly regular occurrence when entering Chile.

STEP 1: Go to the migracion office to get your passport stamps and to fill out a personal information form.  If there is a long line, request a form at the desk in order to fill it out while you wait.

STEP 2: Park in front of the aduana office for a customs official to inspect your car.  Fill out a form, and be prepared to present the following:

  • the passport of the vehicle owner
  • vehicle title
  • vehicle registration
  • an International Health Certificate for your pet (if you are traveling with one).  TIP: Should officials question your pet’s papers, show further documentation, such as vet records and rabies vaccination documents, and do not look doubtful about the certifications shown.  Repeat that the International Health Certificate is registered through the U.S. Government (or your country of origin).

Insurance is not required for Chilean drivers.