Archive for the Chubut Province Category

Chubut Province – Comodoro Rivadavia

Posted in Argentina, Chubut Province, Comodoro Rivadavia with tags , , , , on November 19, 2015 by gannet39

I arrived in Comodoro Rivadavia after a five and a half hour bus trip from Trelew across the featureless Chubut landscape with not a hill in sight. It’s one of the most uneventful journeys I’ve ever made in terms of landscape (marginally more interesting from the air) but at least I got to write up large chunks of the blog in my comfy coach seat.

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Here’s my Google map with all the places mentioned and more I didn’t get to.

This was my second time in Comodoro (the first in 2004 and now again in 2014) and a lot had changed in the years between. It’s an oil town on the coast, the site of Argentina’s first major oil discovery back in 1907 and producer of about a third of the country’s current output, but other than that it has little going for it. If it weren’t for the oil there’d be no reason to be here.

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The centre is now dominated by tall buildings where there were only squat one or two-storey structures before. Lots of bland estates were also being built in the outskirts so it’s definitely expanding though I’d hate to live here myself.

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The first time I came I stayed at the Luciano Palazzo at 676 Moreno www.lucania-palazzo.com which was an oasis of opulence in the centre of a rough looking town. Now their prices have skyrocketed and my employer has been forced to use the Austral just over the road at 190 Rivadavia, entrance on Moreno, www.australhotel.com.ar.

The Austral is also relatively posh and expensive although I swapped two horrible little rooms (space only around the bed and no curtains) until I gradually traded up to a ridiculously large five-room suite with a sea view for the last two nights, courtesy of my employer.

Tunet, the hotel restaurant, is the best in town, according to Trip Advisor and the local teachers I worked with, but it was closed for renovations when I was there.

The best parrilla would seem to be La Tradicion at 675 Mitre (Tel. 446 5800). I had two very good meals here in the three days I stayed. It’s a formal restaurant of the type you usually find in Baires with waiters in white shirts and waistcoats.

If you can, try to get the old boy (thin chap, balding with salt and pepper hair and a gaucho moustache) who really knows his stuff (all the other waiters go to him for wine advice). His domain is the right corner of the restaurant as you go in, at the kitchen end. The waiters have their work cut out for them here but I wasn’t too impressed with the second guy I got.

On the first occasion he recommended the famous Patagonian lamb, Cordero Patagonico (B+) with an Ensalada Tradicion; lettuce, tomato and onion (B) and chunky Papas Fritas (B+). The lamb was a bit overcooked but that was my fault as I hadn’t specified ‘poco hecho’.

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To go with it an excellent (B+) bottle of 2012 Cab Sauv called ‘Trumpeter’ from Rutini www.rutiniwines.com, one of the best wine producers in my opinion.

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I finished with a decadent dessert and a glass of ‘licor nacional’ Reserva de San Juan cognac (B). The bill came to $600 with the tip, about £30, which was pricey but worth it for me.

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The second time I remembered to order a rare Bife de Chorizo (A) and had it with salad and chips again.

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With this a bottle of Malbec (Newen 2013 by Del Fin del Mundo), again very good (B+).

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I had to finish with something sweet again after this feast and ordered a Panaqueque de Dulce de Leche which hit the spot (B+) but was very expensive at $88 for a single pancake. The final bill came to $436 (£24), which was much cheaper than last time, mainly because I didn’t tip the inattentive waiter.

So a pricey place but with very good quality food that is otherwise hard to find in this town.

The only other place I ate at on this trip was Cayo Coco, around the block from the hotel at Rivadavia 102 and is TA#6 at the time of writing. It’s an informal pasta and pizza joint, both of which I avoid like the plague in Argentina. Instead I made the mistake of going for the ‘breaded langoustines’ after a positive review on TA (when will I ever learn?) but they were most likely out of a bag and were pretty horrible (C) though I finished them due to hunger.

With my waistline in mind I had the Ensalada Caya Coca with extra tuna after that. It was ok (B-) but nothing to write home about, although I am. The best thing was a good (B) Torrontes from Etchart Privado. The total bill was $300 including tip, about £16.

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Afterwards I had an average (B-) Augusta Cognac at Molly Malone at 292 San Martin It bears no resemblance to the stereotype of an Irish pub but was fine for a night cap.

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I was only here for 3 nights so can’t tell you much more. I considered climbing Chenque Hill for a view of the town and Argentina’s largest wind farm, or visiting the Museo del Petreleo in the General Mosconi neighbourhood (a taxi ride away), but tiredness/laziness took over and I never made it to either.

And this was my last stop on my 2014 Argentina tour! Flight back to Baires and then home for Xmas.

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Chubut Province – Tea and Cakes in Gaiman

Posted in Argentina, Chubut Province, Gaiman with tags , on November 18, 2015 by gannet39

I had a day off so I hopped on the bus to Gaiman, just thirty minutes away from Trelew. It’s a small Welsh town that has somehow found itself plonked next to the River Chubut in central Argentina. Signs of Welshness are everywhere.

Lady Di (or Lady Dee to the Argentinians) came here in 1995 to take tea at one of the several tearooms that dot the town. I was on a similar mission as I hadn’t had a decent brew for over a month. I arrived too early in the day though and most places were shut so I just wandered around for a while.

The town seems to be in quite an idyllic spot next to the river, surrounded by low hills of harsh steppe.

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The first thing a visitor should do is go to the Tourist Info on Belgrano, on the corner of Rivadavia where they will furnish you with a map of the town’s mildly interesting historical buildings, most of which, like the tearooms, are only open after 1 or 2pm. You can find it on my Google map.

Near the Tourist Office is a small tunnel that the Chubut railway used to go through but which is now a short cut for pedestrians to get to the other side of the hill.

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The railway finally reached Gaiman in 1914, thirty years after Trelew had been founded as a railway junction to connect the Chubut valley with the Golfo Nuevo. The old station is now the local museum.

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Unless you’re really interested in the heritage and want to visit all the buildings open to the public (entrance usually about $10/15, a pound or so, for each) you could probably see the town in a couple of hours.

I walked around and took a few snaps of the cottages and other Welsh buildings like the old school.

There were a couple of nice examples of Deco too.

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I also found a fruit and veg shop on the corner of J.C.Evans and Avenida Yrigoyen where the nice lady sold me half a kilo of these fantastic cherries.

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Finally I climbed the hill to get a view of the town.

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After all that it was time for tea. There are several ‘Casas de Te’ to choose from.

I opted for Ty Gwyn on 9 de Julio which is the Lonely Planet top pick. It’s a little oasis of Welshness with harps and lovespoons as decorative items. I had the place to myself for a while until a coach party of middle aged ladies joined me.

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I was served an excellent tea with cream cakes, scones and jam sandwiches for about £7 or so. It was heaven to get a decent cuppa after such a long time without, and the slice of custard tart (bottom left on the plate) was so good it nearly brought tears to my eyes (A+). Must find a recipe for it…

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Mission accomplished, I left a happy man.

You can catch the bus back to Trelew from the corner of the small park on Avenida Eugenio Tello. Tickets are available from the kiosk (sweet shop) with the blue front a few of doors along from the park. The bus company is called 28 de Julio and you’ll need to put credit ($12 per one way journey) on the card you got at their ticket window back in the bus station in Trelew. Keep the paper ticket too though as it is this that will be inspected.

While not the most exciting experience, it was an interesting day trip that really makes you think about what it was like to be an immigrant so far from home.

Nowadays it seems very little Welsh is spoken, mainly due to the government making Spanish compulsory in all schools in the 70s, but my ‘bore da’ raised a few smiles, possibly because I’d got the wrong time of day (it means ‘good morning’ in Welsh). The British Council does run Welsh language programs and student exchanges in the region so the culture lives on somewhat artificially.

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Chubut Province – Trelew – Places to Eat & Drink

Posted in Argentina, Chubut Province, Trelew with tags , , , , , , on November 17, 2015 by gannet39

Please see my previous post for things to see and do in Trelew.

Here’s a Google map with all the places mentioned, and more.

My best meal in Trelew was at La Casona (Intermediate B) on Lewis Jones street 155, opposite Plaza Centenario. It’s a parrilla that the hotel receptionist directed me to after I discovered that El Viejo Molino (Lonely Planet’s top pick) had closed down. I kicked off with a couple of favourites (B+).

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Patagonia is famous for its lamb and the chops I had here weren’t very photogenic but they didn’t need to be (B+). I was there for Sunday lunch and they have an all-you-can-eat parrillada, which I’m sure is fine, but I really wanted a change from beef.

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The bottle of 2013 Malbec ‘Altos de Plata’, recommended by the gruff but polite owner, was very good too (B+) as was the glass of Dulce Cosecha by Trapiche (B) I had with my (forgotten) dessert. My bill came to $495, about £35.

The only other place I would recommend is the historic Hotel Touring Club at 240 Avenida Fontana. It was Patagonia’s fanciest hotel when it was built in 1896, although you wouldn’t think that now.

The hotel rooms aren’t particularly nice according to Lonely Planet but there’s a huge old bar room that’s open to the public.

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I popped in for a glass of Reserva de San Juan cognac (B) and to look at the black and white photos of Trelew in the last century that cover the walls.

Apparently Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid stayed here once in 1901 when they were on the run. You can see Cassidy’s room but I doubt if the contents were really his.

Places I went to and didn’t particularly like:

In the same building as the beautiful Spanish theatre at 247 25 de Mayo is Sugar (Intermediate C), which at the time I went was the Trip Advisor #1 restaurant in Trelew. However that doesn’t mean much in a town whose culinary landscape is as bleak as the steppes that surround it. I don’t even usually look at TA but that shows how desperate I was.

I got great service but the Thali de Cordero I had (desperately seeking a change from bland Argentine food and hoping for a taste of home, thanks to a positive TA review) was kind of edible but I just couldn’t finish it. I wasn’t keen on the weird ‘rice’ and defrosted mini chapattis that came with it either (all C-/D). The strange addition of fresh bean sprouts on the top of the rice made me wonder about the chef’s knowledge of food geography.

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The soggy Manzana Tatin (apple pie) with a scoop of Dulce de Leche ice cream (usually a favourite) also failed to satisfy (C). With a Quilmes beer the bill came to a cheap $224. You might have better luck if you stick to local dishes.

Le Petit (Intermediate C), the TA#2 at Moreno 445 (open Monday, hallelujah!) isn’t much better. Their star dish was basically a meat sandwich of overcooked Bife de Chorizo containing sun-dried tomatoes, pancetta and cheese. Yet again I couldn’t finish it.

The recommended red was drinkable enough though (B-). With a couple of mediocre limoncellos (C) my bill came to a paltry $234, or £24. The service was pleasant enough and the surroundings are ok and it seems very popular at the weekends. Again, you might fare better with different choices.

Miguel Angel (Intermediate C) at Avenida Fontana 246 (TA#3, LP and teacher recommended, closed Monday) had similarly pleasant service and décor but the Milanesa and salad I had were unimpressive (C). The bottle of Malbec, Postales del Fin del Mundo was ok (B). The bill came to $228. It’s handy for Hotel Touring Club which is right next door.

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Places I didn’t get to try:

I did walk past La Bodeguita (TA#5 at Belgrano 374) but its harsh lighting and an unfavourable review put me off.  LP also recommends El Quijote, a parrilla at Belgrano 361, and Venezia bakery and heladeria at 25 de Mayo 21, and for drinking Margarita Bar at Fontana 230 and San Javier at San Martin 57. They might be good places but somehow I doubt it…

Accommodation:

I spent one night at the Residencial Rivadavia (a hostel at Rivadavia 55) in a cramped room with basic shower facilities and intermittent wi-fi. The ladies working there were nice enough but I didn’t like the young guy who is the night porter. Maybe he needs to get more sleep because he was miserable as sin when I was there. Breakfast involves a bland coffee and a couple of medialunas (Argentinean croissants). Continue reading

Chubut Province – Trelew – Stuff to See

Posted in Argentina, Chubut Province, Trelew with tags , , , , , , on November 17, 2015 by gannet39

With a population around 100,000, Trelew is the second largest urban area in the province of Chubut, after Comodoro Rivadavia.

It’s the principal town in the area settled by Welsh immigrants in 1865, They were escaping an economic depression and religious persecution at home and were hoping to set up ideal religious communities in the hostile landscape of the Patagonian steppes.

Their early years here were pretty hard by all accounts and they would have starved if they hadn’t been saved by the local Indians who gave them food.

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The name of the town is pronounced tre-ley-ooh in Spanish, the ‘tre’ part meaning ‘town’ in Welsh and ‘lew’ being short for Lewis Jones, its founding father.

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Nowadays there isn’t that much evidence of the town’s Welsh heritage. To experience that you’d be better off hopping on the bus to neighbouring Gaiman (see my Gaiman post).

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Trelew is a jump off point for tourists going to see the nature of the Valdes Peninsula, or the penguin colony at Punto Tumbo, or whale-watching at Porto Madryn.

I’m not really a believer in paying a tour operator a large chunk of cash to go and harass some local wildlife but I do regret not jumping on the bus to Porto Madryn, as a friend did, to sit on the cliff tops and watch the whales in the bay. Or maybe see the odd Orca intentionally beaching themselves to snack on a seal as they do in the documentaries.

It was a long bus ride there though and I needed to take it easy in preparation for a full day’s work the following morning. Damn job gets in the way all the time.

 

However I did make it to the Museo Palenontologico at Fontana 140 (entrance $140 for foreigners in 2014), which is famous for its dinosaur exhibition, thanks to the rich fossil deposits near Gaiman.

Particularly impressive is the large skeleton of a Titanosaurus in the front entrance which I think is the largest carnivorous dinosaur ever found in South America.

As usual, please click on any these photos for a better view.

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There are lots more skeletons of all kinds of pre-historic creatures inside but the dinos, such as the sauropods Tehuelchesaurus and Patagosaurus, are the most remarkable.

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It’s also a natural history museum and there were a few, more recent skeletons. I’m guessing these were a dolphin and a seal.

It’s a modern museum and all the exhibits are well presented. It would have been nice to have a few more of the explanatory texts in English, but there were a few.

I timed my visit well as the strong gale that arrived out of nowhere, just as I entered the museum, had blown itself out when I emerged into the sunshine again two hours later. The Patagonian weather is notoriously changeable but it seems these mini storms blow themselves out pretty quickly. It’s best to come prepared though, especially if you do decide to go on a boat trip.

The only other thing I saw that was of interest was this huge political mural called ‘El Transporte‘ by Ramon Cura, on the corner of Fontana and Gales.

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Other than these activities, there’s very little to see or do in Trelew itself. In terms of architecture there are a couple of pieces of unloved Art Deco along Avenida Fontana but the nicest thing for me was the old bandstand in Plaza Independencia and the colonial architecture of the Spanish theatre that faces it.

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