It’s no secret that I’ve done a lot of traveling. I’ve been to a lot of places and have seen and done so many amazing things, but there are a handful of countries that I just haven’t seem to haven't made it to yet. One of those countries was Argentina.
Truth be told, South America as a whole was new to me. In my mind, images of flamenco, beautiful leather goods, and European-like cities flashed. It seemed familiar in some ways, reflecting places that I already know, and yet so unfamiliar at the same time.
The view out the window of Palacio Duhau - Park Hyatt Buenos Aires was reminiscent of an old Parisian apartment
My trip to Argentina wasn’t supposed to happen at all actually. Tickets to Dubai were booked which would have marked my second trip to the United Arab Emirates. I was looking forward to it as I do most trips, but I had secretly hoped this work trip would bring me somewhere unknown. Before I knew it, plans changed, and I was in the midst of rebooking to Morocco. This was something I could really get on board with. Just as soon as I started dreaming of exploring hidden riads and wandering through the souks, plans changed again. This time, I had just three days to plan my trip to South America and Central America.
The trip consisted of seven days, eight planes, and two countries: Argentina & Costa Rica. We landed in Buenos Aires early in the morning on a Sunday. It was chilly, rainy, and most places along the streets were shuttered for the day. I was exhausted and battling a terrible cold and my only saving grace was that we were checking in to the Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires. It was everything I could have hoped for and everything I needed in that moment.
Looking down at La Mansion at Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires
After an amazing brunch, we headed out into the city, passing by places like Casa Rosada where Eva Perón famously addressed the masses below and the riverfront where we looked out to catch a glimpse of Uruguay. After a customary steakhouse dinner where even I, who does not eat red meat, had a little steak (it is Argentina, after all!), we all retired for the evening in anticipation of the following day. I sadly went to sleep feeling a little unsatisfied with my quick trip to BA.
Early the next morning, we headed to the airport to catch a plane to Mendoza. Well, as close to Mendoza as we could get. The airport that sits just outside the city was closed for three months for renovation, so the nearest airport was a two-hour drive away. Only three airlines service it and the restrooms are glorified port-a-potties.
Aeropuerto Internacional de San Juan Domingo Faustino Sarmiento - the longest name for the smallest airport
Upon landing, we loaded into the van and settled in for the trip. I was particularly excited about this portion of the week as we were headed to wine country! My taste buds were already watering at the thought of all the Malbec I was about to enjoy (antibiotics aside!), but my mind quickly moved to what I was seeing outside my window as we approached the city. Lining the two lane highway were miles and miles of trash. Trash piles so big I was starting to wonder what we were in for. As the city approached, trash turned into stray dogs that ran alongside the roads and darted across busy streets. I locked eyes with one and Sarah McLachlan’s “In the Arms of an Angel” suddenly started playing in my head. This was not the picturesque town I had imagined.
We arrived at our hotel, Park Hyatt Mendoza, which sat in the center of the city and was honestly quite lovely. We ventured out to check out a few wineries and partake in some tastings. I was so impressed by the winemakers’ passion and dedication to bring Argentinian wines up to par with some of the best in the world that I nearly forgot about all the other things I had seen. Nearly.
Before I knew it, my mind was already focusing on the following day, which consisted of a two-hour drive back to the airport, a two-hour wait to board our plane which meant standing in a line with no one who spoke English while an old lady cried to me about, what I gathered, saying goodbye to her daughter, a two-hour flight to the domestic airport in Buenos Aires, a one-hour car transfer to the international airport in Buenos Aires, 10-hour flight to Houston, a four hour layover, a four hour flight to Liberia, Costa Rica, and an hour and a half drive to the hotel. Over 24 straight hours of travel. Thank you American Express for the showers in your Centurion Lounge.
Behold, the Centurion shower!
As you can imagine, there was ample time for me to sit and reflect on the whirlwind that I had just experienced. I was determined not to be let down by my experiences and I refused to believe that the Argentina that I’ve always thought existed isn’t there. There is a reason why so many people love Argentina and I am determined to find out what that is and hopefully, be able to write more about it. Until next time, South America!
This article first appeared in The Showcase where Ash is a contributing writer.