Author Topic: Yehoshua's Buenos Aires, Iguazú/Iguaçu, Rio de Janeiro TR  (Read 7688 times)

Offline Yehoshua

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Yehoshua's Buenos Aires, Iguazú/Iguaçu, Rio de Janeiro TR
« on: November 25, 2013, 12:27:37 AM »
Back in April 2013 we decided to book a trip to South America.  The man purpose of this trip was to get an overview of three cities: Buenos Aires, Argentina, Puerto Iguazú, Argentina/Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil (to see the National Parks and the falls), and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  The trip was scheduled for 13 days.  In the end we added two stops: Toronto, to see Niagara Falls (I’d never been), and Philadelphia (to visit my inlaws).

Note: I speak fluent Spanish and a decent Portuguese, making some of the conversations I had with various storeowners and cab drivers a lot easier as almost no one outside the hotels spoke English.

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Buenos Aires, Iguazú/Iguaçu, Rio de Janeiro TR
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2013, 12:29:17 AM »
Flights:
We used 80,000 United miles each (30k going, 50k returning)

10/29/13-10/30/13
LAX-YYZ (stop to see Niagara Falls)-SCL-EZE.  This portion of the trip was in X class on Air Canada.  Because we wanted to go to Niagara Falls first, we needed to fly through YYZ, which meant getting stuck in coach.  While we were in coach on these flights, I really wanted to be able to lie down to sleep on the way to SCL.  Thankfully, the gate agent told me that there was an empty row a few rows back from our assigned seats.  As soon as we got on the plane I headed straight for row 53ABC and sat there.  Since everyone thought it was my seat, no one bothered me, and I got to lie flat and sleep the whole flight.

11/3
AEP-IGR. For this portion of the trip we used 7,500 BA Avios to get up to Iguazú.  The flight was operated by LAN Argentina (LA).  While the flight itself was uneventful, check in was a different story.  We were advised to arrive at the airport 2 hours before the flight.  I thought that was a bit excessive for a domestic flight, but we decided to listen to everyone just in case.  It’s a good thing we did! There were no kiosks to check in with, just really long lines, broken down by flight.  By the time we got checked in and to the gate they had just started boarding.  We boarded our bus to the plane and left on time.  It was also interesting to point out that they gave out free snack boxes to everyone; unfortunately they weren’t kosher.

11/5
IGU-GIG. This was the only flight we paid cash for, but at $134 for 2 people it was worth it.  We flew GOL (A3), which is definitely a discount airline.  Their planes were set up like Spirit: cramming as many people as physically possible into the plane.  It’s a good thing it was a short flight.  There was free water on this flight, but everything else was for purchase.

11/7
GIG-IAH-PHL.  As our only UA flights of the trip, these were the only ones for which we could use Plan B.  I set up Plan B for these flights in June, but we didn’t get waitlisted by the time they closed the waitlist 24 hours before the flight even though there were seats available.  I had UA call me and after explaining the story got a rep to confirm us both in BusinessFirst from GIG-IAH; IAH-PHL was in F was sold out.  The kosher meals on the first leg were catered by Deleite Restaurant and were decent.

11/10
PHL-LAX.  The last leg of our trip was operated by US Airways.  When I set up Plan B there was room in F on this flight, so we were able to sit there.  Unfortunately the coach seats on Air Canada to EZE had more legroom than these seats.  They wouldn’t let us order kosher meals, so we were stuck with just the snacks, 99% of which were kosher.  The plus side was we saw Wanda Sykes on the flight.

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Buenos Aires, Iguazú/Iguaçu, Rio de Janeiro TR
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2013, 12:30:29 AM »
Hotels:

Buenos Aires
We used two free nights to stay at the PH Buenos Aires while there.  We got a suite on the 13th floor on the new building with a view of the Palace and garden.  We liked the room and found outlets all around.  The hotel staff was courteous and very helpful.  Our diamond amenity ended up just being 1000 points as the didn’t have kosher wine or Champagne available.  They provided us with lots of bottled water with just a phone call.  This was our favorite hotel of the whole trip.

For Shabbos, we rented an apartment in Once.  We did this for two reasons: the first reason was to be in the Jewish community.  While the Chabad in Recoletta was ok, I’d hardly call that a community.  The second reason was because we got set up through a friend with some people for Shabbos meals.  Finally, we wanted to see how the “typical” Jewish family in Once lives.  The apartments we stayed in, Apartments San Luis 2774, are Kosher apartments right in the center of the community.  While the accommodations were a real leap down form the PH, they were nice, clean, and comfortable.  Because it’s a Jewish place, their rates are built around Shabbos.  We got the 2-night rate, which goes from Friday at 1:00pm until Sunday at 11:00am.  The cost for both nights was ARS$754.

Iguazú
We used cash+points to stay at the Sheraton Iguazú, right in the park.  While the hotel is not the nicest category 4 property I’ve been at, they are undergoing renovations that should hopefully change that soon.  As Platinum members, we expected the nicest room in the house, but nothing above a standard room was available the first night.  The room we were in the first night was a standard falls view room on the 3rd (SPG) floor.  The second night we were moved to a suite on the first floor, also with a falls view.  This room seemed to have been renovated and was really nice and modern.  We got a platter of fruits and vegetables for our platinum amenity.

Rio de Janeiro
We used just points for the two nights we stayed at the Sheraton Rio.  This hotel is also undergoing a major renovation in perpetration for the World Cup next year and the Olympics in 2016.  Like in Iguazú we had two rooms at this hotel as well.  The first night we were in a standard room on a renovated floor (23).  Unfortunately although the rooms were renovated they came with many other problems. First, our door didn’t lock.  The ball and loop lock that’s standard on most hotel doors didn’t fit.  When I informed the front desk they did send someone right up to fix it.  By the time he finished it was quite late and we just wanted to get to bed.  As I was getting into bed I noticed the bedspread was dirty.  Ugh! The next day I got the hotel to switch up to a “suite”.  This room was on the 21st floor and was just a large room.  It had a few more chairs to sit in, but it was on a corner so it had great views.  This room also had a problem.  The blow dryer had a US plug on it.  When I asked the hotel how exactly I was supposed to use it in the Brazilian outlet the said I should have asked for an adapter.  It’s not like hotels are supposed to come with appliances that have plugs that actually fit in the outlets.

The positive thing about this hotel was the courtesy shuttle to Copacabana.  Since the hotel is located kind of on the outskirts of town just south of Leblon, getting to Copacabana, the Metro, and most of the major attractions are kind of far (not including the horrible traffic they have).  The shuttle takes you right along the water all the way to the Rio Sul shopping center.  You can even make a reservation for them to pick you up on the way back, which we took advantage of as well.

I would not rate this hotel too highly overall.  While they did have a Platinum lounge with free food (ie-fruit, coffee, and tea; the rest wasn’t kosher), the quality of service here was adequate to say the least.  They did give us 3,000 points as a compensation for our troubles. It's complicated why I can't ask for more.

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Buenos Aires, Iguazú/Iguaçu, Rio de Janeiro TR
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2013, 12:31:13 AM »
Niagara Falls/Toronto
We landed in YYZ about 50 minutes early, or about 3:00pm.  We got our car (a Chevy Equinox) from Hertz with a free day coupon purchased from a DDFer for $30.   There was a bit of traffic, but we got to Journey Behind the Falls in Niagara Falls, ON by 5:00pm.  We spent just about 1:30 hours in Niagara.  We decided to leave by 6:30pm because the lights on the falls wouldn't be coming on till 7:15pm and that would’ve been too late.  We drove straight to Omni Restaurant and arrived at 8:10pm.  We had a nice dinner of pasta even though the restaurant was closing at 8:30pm.  We then visited with some relatives for a bit before returning to the airport to catch our flight.

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Buenos Aires, Iguazú/Iguaçu, Rio de Janeiro TR
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2013, 12:32:30 AM »
Buenos Aires
We landed in BsAs at 2:45pm the next day.  During our 1.5-hour stop in SCL, we were able to get to a lounge for a quick shower before heading back to our gate.  We met a frum guy on the flight from SCL to EZE who suggested we take Tienda León to the city.  While it cost ARS$340, but they accepted credit card.  It was a bit expensive, but we were not in the mood of finding a cheaper ride or taking the bus.

After we got to the hotel and put our stuff away, we borrowed ARS$50 from the hotel to get to Once where I’d be meeting a friend of a friend to switch money.  We met up with our friend, and he was able to give us ARS$9.9 per USD$1.00.  I chatted with him a bit and then it was off to do some kosher shopping.  We went to Almacén Kosher on Paso to stock up on some essentials we’d need while in Iguazú.  We also went to Heladeria Maichel at about 6:00pm to try their dulce de leche ice cream, which was amazing!  We went back to the hotel, got settled, and hopped back in a cab to go to Al Galope for dinner.

The next day I went on a 9:00am biking tour of the south side of BsAs with Urban Biking.  Unfortunately, Mrs. Yehoshua had a splitting dehydration headache so she had to sit this tour out.  The tour turned out to be just me, the guide, and a nice guy from Vancouver.  While we did encounter a lot of street traffic, there were plenty of biking lanes and none traffic areas we went through.  One of my highlights of the ride was when we got to the ecological reserve.  Because it was supposed to rain that day, they closed the reserve just in case, kind of like the care wash.  With some time to kill, our guide whipped out his maté cup, straw (bombilla) and thermos of hot water.  Neither the Canadian guy nor I had ever had maté before, so our guide proceeded to explain how it works:

The server prepared the maté by filling the cup about ¾ full and adding hot water.  After waiting a minute of so he places the bombilla on one side where it will stay throughout the entire process.  He takes the first sip, as it’s generally the most bitter.  Once he’s done he passes the cup to the person to his left (which happened to be me).  The first guest drinks as much maté as he wants and hands the cup back to the server.  A guest does not say ‘thank you’ until he is completely done drinking.  He passes the cup back to the server who refills it with water and passes it to the next guy to the left.  The process repeats itself until, repeating guests until they all say ‘thank you’ and finish drinking.

To me, this was a special moment shared between the three of us, with two of us going through this new experience that is normally shared with family or close friends for the first time.

Our tour took us to sights like Puerto Madero, Puente de la Mujer, La Boca, Caminito, Plaza de Mayo, Defensa (the first street in BsAs), and Av. 9 de Julio.  We stopped at Caminito for about 20 minutes and Plaza de Mayo for about 10.  Even with all that, we still completed the tour in 3 hours (instead of 4) because it was such a small group.  All in all it was a very worthwhile activity.

After I got back, with my wife feeling better we walked around Recoleta and found out that Sushi Go was gone.  On our friends’ recommendation we went to Luba (in the Chabad of Recoleta’s building) for lunch.  By the time we finished eating, it was pouring.  While we had rain jackets, the flooded streets were enough to soak our shoes.  To make matters worse, no cabs would stop for us so we had to walk.  Once we got back and dried off, it had stopped raining.  I then went out to the Recoleta Cemetery and looked around there followed by a trip to Freddo to taste their dulce de leche ice cream.  I also happened upon a store that sold alfajores.  I was chatting with the storeowner about what was her favorite flavor and which were the most popular ones.  When I mentioned that I'd never tried them before, she gave me a 2-pack of mini chocolate covered ones to try free of charge.  I thanked her and assured her that if I liked them I’d be back to buy some from her.

For dinner we went to Asian.  On the way we stopped in Palermo Soho to look around.  It was already dark when we were walking around, but it wasn’t raining so it was fine.  We enjoyed looking at the shops and restaurants in the area.  It definitely had a different feel than Recoleta.
Friday was a very wet day.  We decided to take a tour of Teatro Colón.  This theater was absolutely gorgeous and a good way to spend a rainy day.  We got back to the hotel, had lunch in our room for food we bought at the kosher store, and headed to Persicco for Ice Cream and to buy some alfajores from the store I’d been in the previous day. It was still raining, so we just went back to the hotel, packed up and went to our apartment in Once for Shabbos.  Although it was still raining, I walked to the Abasto Shopping center to see the Kosher McDonalds.  While it was closed, I did see it and spent some time walking around the mall.

The weather improved a lot by Friday night.  It really makes a big difference when you can spend Shabbos meals with friends instead of in a hotel room by yourself.  I really enjoyed davening in and seeing the various shuls and yeshivos in Once.

Sunday morning was spent doing some last minute kosher shopping in the neighborhood. I got fresh media lunas, alfajores and churros from Malena for breakfast.  The churros were so fresh they were still hot when I brought them back to our apartment.

We packed up and headed for Aeroparque.  This is a cool airport as it’s right off the road, right across the street from the river.

Next stop, Iguazú.

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Buenos Aires, Iguazú/Iguaçu, Rio de Janeiro TR
« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2013, 12:34:40 AM »
Iguazú/Iguaçu
The best way to describe IGR is a house.  Without signs, it could be confused from the front as just that.  I think this is pretty unique.

We got a cab to the Sheraton for ARS$110.  Our cab driver Nancy stopped at the park entrance for us to buy tickets that took all of 2 minutes.

As soon as we dropped our stuff off in our room, we headed out to walk on the Upper Trail before the park closed for the day.  All I can say is nothing I’ve ever seen compares to how nice the falls are in person.  From the first waterfall we got to until the last one we were snapping pictures, each one nicer than the next.  There were a few people around, but I’d say it was far from crowded.

We spent the rest of the night in the hotel, enjoying the separate spas empty pool.  We decided against going into Puerto Iguazú mainly because people go for food and bars neither which interested us.

The next day we got up early to buy tickets right in the hotel for the Gran Aventura (Great Adventure).  More on this later.  We then went walking on the Lower Trail.  This trail was almost completely empty because it was so early.  It wasn't until the end that we saw some people.  From there we took the train to Garganta del Diablo, the Devil’s Throat.  This was yet another awesome experience.  Once you get to the end of the trail, you’re standing over the falls right in the devil’s throat.  We hung out there a bit before heading back for a quick lunch at the hotel.  Not it was time for the Gran Aventura.

For ARS$380 per person, they take you on a ride through the jungle to see lots of animals unique to this part of the world.  We started the tour next to the train station, a 5 minute walk from the hotel.  You then take a zodiac ride to and under the falls.  As this is not the US, the only things provided by the tour company for the ride are a life jacket and a waterproof bag for your stuff.  If you don’t want to get wet you should bring your own ponchos or jackets.  This ride was amazing.  The take you literally under the edge of the falls, and you get soaked (like falling in a pool).  They had a guy filming us the entire time. Right before we went under the falls, he put the camera in a waterproof box, got his waterproof clothing on and filmed under the falls.  They even let us take pictures on the stairs on the boat without concern for someone falling off.  So South America!

The last day we were there we wanted to see the Brazilian side of the falls before flying out from there to Rio.  We called Nancy to take us to Brazil.  She took us for ARS$250; the Sheraton wanted ARS$800 for the same trip.  She gave us customs forms to fill out before we got to Brazil customs.  The whole process of clearing customs in Brazil was weird.  We cleared Argentine exit customs, drove to Brazil, and just parked in a lot near the customs building.  Nancy took our passports in to get processed while we waited in the car.  We noticed there were lots of cars just like us with people waiting for their drivers to come back.  We did have visas, but we never saw a single Brazilian customs officer.  She then drove us to the Brazilian park entrance with a quick stop at a currency exchange so I could change some USD to Reais. I still have her business card, and I'd recommend calling her for cross-boarder rides, especially if you use her from the airport to the Sheraton as well.

Since we had our luggage with us, we dropped it off at the lockers before buying tickets to the park.  They keep your bags there if you need, as many people go from the park to the airport 5 minutes away.  We spent about 2 hours walking around on the trails on this side of the falls.  The views of the falls from Brazil are just amazing, as you can get a real perspective of just how big they are.  Before leaving we stopped at the Hotel Cataratas in the park to check it out.  Besides for their open, free wifi, it’s a cool place to check out and hang out if you have some extra time.  No one said anything to us as we sat and relaxed in their lounge for about 20 miuntes.

We got a cab from the park to the airport for R$20.  It seemed like a rip-off, but it’s the standard rate apparently.  Compared to IGR, IGU is disgusting.  While they are under construction, they’ll need to go quite a bit to make it decent.  Both gates and the combined waiting area were in a single square room, with kiosks along the side selling various items.  Their size reminded me of the jewelry section of a department store, small and pathetic.  We left sunny Iguaçu for a Spirit Airlines-esque flight to Rio de Janeiro on GOL.

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Buenos Aires, Iguazú/Iguaçu, Rio de Janeiro TR
« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2013, 12:36:02 AM »
Rio de Janeiro-end
We got into Rio quite late.  GIG is also under construction, and it was a mess.  We took a yellow taxi we arranged at the stand to the Sheraton.  I told them we were going to Leblon, so they charged me R$55.  When I got outside to get the cab and told the driver we were going to the Sheraton, he said it would cost another R$10 because it was farther than the Zona Sul that the R$55 rate is for. Whatever.

One thing to note about the Sheraton Rio: the traffic around the hotel is horrendous.  The road the hotel’s on is only one-way from 6:00am-10:00am weekdays going to Copacabana.  The rest of the time it’s 2 ways, but that just makes it even more crowded.

Since it was so late when we got the hotel, we just went to bed.

A note about Rio: it rained the entire time we were there. Since we could not see Corcovado or Pão do Açucar, we took the hotels free shuttle to Copacabana to catch the Metro to Centro (downtown).  We spent the rainy day in various museums around theater, finishing the day with another theater tour.  From there we headed back to Copacabana to Deleite for Dinner.  Once we were done, we caught our pre-arranged courtesy shuttle back to the Sheraton.  The trip took us 1 hour because of rush hour traffic.

Our last day in Rio was even rainier than the first.  We were not in the mood of going to shopping malls or the planetarium, so we just spent the day in the hotel relaxing.  Once it was time to go, we took the hotel’s shuttle with our luggage back to Deleite for dinner again.  From there the same yellow cab company we used to get to Rio from the airport took us back for the discounted R$45 price (they gave me a card to use on the way into town).  After spending some time showering and relaxing in the Smiles lounge in GIG, it was time to say goodbye to rainy Rio and head to my in laws in Philly for Shabbos.

Sunday afternoon we took our final flight on US Air back to LA.  Our trip was officially over.

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Buenos Aires, Iguazú/Iguaçu, Rio de Janeiro TR
« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2013, 12:37:01 AM »
Restaurants

Omni (YYZ)- The pasta was good, but the portions were on the small side.  I’d compare it to Nana’s (that used to be in LA). 6/10
Al Galope (BsAs)- Was a typical Argentine Parilla.  The food was good but not amazing either. 5/10

Asian (BsAs)- Definitely lived up to the hype.  It was very classy and the food was amazing.  We got seats in the main restaurant (not the annex), but as we got there at 8:00pm we were the only ones there for a good hour.

Luba (BsAs)- Had very good pasta.  The portions were large and everything tasted fresh.  I’d compare it to Milk and Honey in LA. 8/10
Maichel (BsAs)- The dairy ice cream we tasted was very good, but not amazing. 7.5/10

Freddo / Persicco (BsAs)- This dulce de leche ice cream, while chalav stam, was even richer and creamier than Maicel.  We didn’t taste their pareve selection, but what we did have was outstanding. 10/10

Deleite (RJ)- Their pasta was fantastic while their pizza was a bit less then average.  I’d just stick with pastas and skip the pizza. It tasted like it was on a cracker more than a pizza crust. 8/10

Offline Fan of Dan

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Re: Yehoshua's Buenos Aires, Iguazú/Iguaçu, Rio de Janeiro TR
« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2013, 12:40:59 AM »
Great tr!!! Sorry that it rained in Rio, it really is a nice city. Also shame that you didn't like the Sheraton there we stayed there for 4 days and loved it. Did you try walking from the Sheraton to Leblon? How were your Shabbos accomodations in BA?

Offline yoruel

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Re: Yehoshua's Buenos Aires, Iguazú/Iguaçu, Rio de Janeiro TR
« Reply #9 on: November 25, 2013, 12:41:49 AM »
pics? Excellent Report

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Buenos Aires, Iguazú/Iguaçu, Rio de Janeiro TR
« Reply #10 on: November 25, 2013, 12:46:11 AM »
Great tr!!! Sorry that it rained in Rio, it really is a nice city. Also shame that you didn't like the Sheraton there we stayed there for 4 days and loved it.
It was better after they upgraded our room, but still no PH BsAs.
Quote
Did you try walking from the Sheraton to Leblon?
No. It was raining kinda hard, so it kinda dampened our moods a bit.
Quote
How were your Shabbos accommodations in BA?
While not hotel quality, it was definitely good. I'll put up pics soon.

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Buenos Aires, Iguazú/Iguaçu, Rio de Janeiro TR
« Reply #11 on: November 25, 2013, 12:47:54 AM »

Offline Galitzyaner

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Re: Yehoshua's Buenos Aires, Iguazú/Iguaçu, Rio de Janeiro TR
« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2013, 01:09:55 AM »
The last day we were there we wanted to see the Brazilian side of the falls before flying out from there to Rio.  We called Nancy to take us to Brazil.  She took us for ARS$250; the Sheraton wanted ARS$800 for the same trip.  She gave us customs forms to fill out before we got to Brazil customs.  The whole process of clearing customs in Brazil was weird.  We cleared Argentine exit customs, drove to Brazil, and just parked in a lot near the customs building.  Nancy took our passports in to get processed while we waited in the car.  We noticed there were lots of cars just like us with people waiting for their drivers to come back.  We did have visas, but we never saw a single Brazilian customs officer.  She then drove us to the Brazilian park entrance with a quick stop at a currency exchange so I could change some USD to Reais. I still have her business card, and I'd recommend calling her for cross-boarder rides, especially if you use her from the airport to the Sheraton as well.

We got a cab from the park to the airport for R$20.  It seemed like a rip-off, but it’s the standard rate apparently. 
IIRC there's public transportation, PCMIIW.

Sorry to hear about the rain in Rio, it really depends on the season I guess; sometimes it rarely rains.

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Buenos Aires, Iguazú/Iguaçu, Rio de Janeiro TR
« Reply #13 on: November 25, 2013, 01:12:19 AM »
1. Our room at the PH BsAs
2/3. Food at Luba, BsAs

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Re: Yehoshua's Buenos Aires, Iguazú/Iguaçu, Rio de Janeiro TR
« Reply #14 on: November 25, 2013, 01:13:16 AM »
Apartment San Luis