Posts tagged ‘ushuaia’

May 28, 2012

Ushuaia, or: “you’re so adventurous for a fashionista!”

One of my passions is travel, and one of my challenges in this blog is to bring up interesting conversation that touches up the matter that is promised to be touched up in this blog — femininity and its interpretations — while sharing my jet-setting memories.

Ushuaia is, as they say themselves, the end of the world. By that, local Argentinians mean it’s the farthest city in the south on the entire planet. The small town is a 4 hours flight away from Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, and has as its greatest promise plenty of penguin sightings and breathtaking views of some exotic landscape.

I travelled there imagining it could be a very poor and uninteresting village, with nothing to do outside the eco-safaris. Although I read in a lot of places that the food there was amazing and the city was really nice, I just did not anticipate how actually comfortable the place is. Do not expect anything chic such as a Vail Village — they do not have that kind of money — but more like a small, colorful, happy place in spite of the freezing temperatures, as it may snow there even during summer. Tons of duty free shops, invitingly priced outerwear stores and excellent food, including some of the best meat and fish you may ever eat in your life, complete the fine scenario fit for everyone’s type of vacation: the adventurous friends, the whole family or the romantic couples.

So, there I went, to the beautiful Ushuaia, to walk with penguins at Isla Martillo, hike the beautiful Glaciar Martial and kill myself for the incredible views disclosed along the Senda Costera, a 8,5 km trekking trail (plus 2 km absolutely lost, and another 2 to get in and out of the trail) at the Parque Nacional de la Tierra del Fuego. I come back from my vacations truly excited and tell everyone at work about everything I’ve seen and done. In return, I get this comment from a co-worker: “I’m pleasantly surprised to hear you did all that. I could never imagine you interested in nature or sports”.

Please, do take your time savoring the judgment that was passed upon me through that pseudo-innocent sentence. Firstly, the dude felt like his approval of how my vacation time was spent was an actual benefit to my existence. Secondly, the reason why the gentleman mentioned he could never imagine me interested in nature or sports is the fact that I enjoy fashion and wear high heels. Seriously? High heels, silk and splashes of animal print for work denote one’s distaste for trekking and eco-sightseeing?

I do not wear my Jimmy Choos to the mud, as I don’t take my Stella for Adidas leggings to the office unless they’re inside my Stella for Adidas organic cotton bag and I’m attending my yoga classes later in the evening: yes, news flash, you can actually wear appropriate, high-tech and amazing designer clothes while doing even some quite radical sports (unless you figure the ladies who ski in designer outfits will never out race you because they are so well dressed). So why can’t I do it all? Why do people expect us to be so superficial and limited  when one of the things we overtly care about is fashion? Does that happen to you as well? I firmly believe this kind of thought disguises a deeply rooted sexism: if you like clothes, you’re a girl, and I don’t expect you to be adventurous because that’s a thing for guys — I’ll just think you’re a sissy!

It’s funny — it’s like when you’re still in high school or college and the other kids think you have never had sex because you have the good sense of not showing large amounts of skin or acting in exceedingly sensual manner while attending those specific environments. Remember Grease? That kind of thing.

So, while you think about how stupid and rude people can be even at their most thoughtful attempts at trying to be nice, I’ll share with you a little bit more about Ushuaia:

food – I was very impressed. Seriously. My first stop was El Almacen de Ramos General, a nice pastry and coffee shop with some choices of sandwiches, soup, some nice meals and cheese and meat platters. The location is very convenient: really close to the Muelle Turístico or the tourists’ pier, where all excursions begin and are booked. The pastry is divine — croissants, other choices of bread, and delicious pies with delightful presentation. Breakfast is amazing and for about 10 USDs, if I’m not mistaken, you can take breakfast for two: share with someone you love the heartiest choice in the menu comes with a gigantic, delicious panini, a choice of pie, orange juice, hot beverage (I might have ordered an extra one for my beloved companion), and two choices of pastry, including some options filled with incredible dulce de leche. Inexpensive, close to your stuff, and will make you happy…

The other place I must mention is the delicious Bodegón Fueguino. It just might be the best meat I have had in my life. Order anything you please, it will be delicious and melt in your mouth perfect, and the potatoes, God, the potatoes. Any kind of potatoes, they will just bring you the ideal version of it. Finally, don’t forget wine is a happy choice in Argentina. The Bodegón gets a little crowded, so you might have to wait in line for maybe 30 minutes if you go there after 8:30 PM, but it is worth it. If memory is not failing me, you should spend a happy 20-30 USDs per person on your entire meal.

On the heftier price tag side, I chose the Kaupé — a nice place, food well prepared and flavorful, with killer views of the city and the Beagle Channel, but definitely not worth the money. For about 80 USD each, we had a 6 courses OK meal, complete with wine pairing and some highlights (such as the wine pairing): the incredible desert Helado de Limón en Salsa Caliente de Champagne — a lemon sorbet paired with a warm champagne sauce — was definitely a wow moment. On the less amazing times I had, I recall the Centolla Natural — king crab presented in such a basic fashion it kind of pissed me off (some people, however, love this dish just the way it is, as I see from the Trip Advisor comments).

By all means, have dulce de leche and wine. Bread is also a treat in Argentina in general — they stick to European recipes more closely than their South American buddies — have some croissants with the dulce de leche in the morning and stop counting calories. Eat beef – ojo de bife, lomos and other local cuts. And be merry.

convenience – the Muelle Turístico is very easy to find — just follow Maipú Avenue until you get there. It is near the Tourist Information Center, a place I highly recommend visiting because they do share very useful information in there: bus/vans schedules and prices, maps of all kinds, advice about the many sightseeing choices and companies that will help you with that. Nearby you will also find a stop where vans will hourly take you to and from the major sightseeing points (such as the Glaciar Marcial or the Parque Nacional de La Tierra del Fuego) for as little as 6-10 US dollars per person — the Lakes Escondido and Fagnano should be a little bit more expensive.

I do not find that one needs a guide for the Parque Nacional or the Glaciar Martial, and those come at very high prices, so my advice on that is: take one of the vans. To the Glaciar, I would risk saying it’s all the same to get a van or a cab (in terms of how much it will cost). To go back to your hotel, just enjoy a nice meal at one of the restaurants at the bottom of the Glaciar — such as the nice La Cabaña Casa de Té — and ask the waiter to fetch you one, or call a “remis” (prices pre-determined according to destination — I did not see a significant difference price difference between either).

la penguinera – the most amazing thing I did in Ushuaia was visiting Isla Martillo with PiraTour. After about 1 hour and a half on the road — killer views will be made available during this part of the tour as well — plus another 40 minutes visiting a nice museum with some interesting information on local sea life, you will finally take a 15 minutes boat ride to an island filled with thousands of penguins. Thousands. Many penguins. Very close to you — like, you know, centimeters away. Like, you could grab them, hug them, lick them, or kick them if you wanted to and the guides allowed you to do so — they will not.

Children should go insane with this tour. My advice: do not be cheap on this one. Choose PiraTours and pay the price — it is more expensive than other penguin choices, but the only one that will actually allow you do descend on the island and walk with the penguins. And that, I tell you, is priceless.

parque nacional de la tierra del fuego – this is really worth your while. Take the entire day off and leave plenty of time to rest in the evening before dinner — if you enjoy this place the way I did, you will possibly have extremely sore muscles by the time you re-enter your hotel room. Do not forget your photo id and check the rates that apply to your ticket before you get there — should be the equivalent of 30 USD or something.

I took the van at about 2 PM and arrived at the park about 30 minutes later. We jumped off at the last stop — close to Lago Roca — and wandered a little until we found our way to the Senda Costera, the longest trail at the park, about 8 km long. I thought I could do it easily in about 2 hours — last van would pick us up at the park entrance at about 18:30, so I felt pretty comfortable about the timing. I was fooled by the idea of a coastal trail — most of it at the margins of the Beagle Channel — and thought my entire path would be as easy as a stroll by the beach.

Well, the trail is not hard, but it’s, you know, a TRAIL. That means it goes through a forest, a path of rocks and mud and branches, and it goes UP. And then down, and then… UP. As time went by and I figured I wasn’t nearly at the pace I needed to be if I wanted to complete the entire trail in time, I doubled my speed and started producing internally a mass of heat so intense I didn’t even need a cardigan over my t-shirt, even though temperatures were low enough to produce flurries. To complete the mess, we got lost for a good 40 minutes before we got to the correct trail, so the clock was truly ticking. And finally, when the trail was over… we realized it ended about 2 km far from the van’s pick-up point, and to make things worse, the way to get there was… up. By then we had only 20 minutes. I was crazy sore. But we made it. There should be a kind of record for that. Our prize was that the lovely driver did take us directly to our hotel as a courtesy (instead of leaving us at the bus stop near the Muelle Turístico).

In spite of my stories of getting lost and really tired, this is a very structured park, with many trail options — some short and easy ones too. I do not believe a guide is necessary, unless you have a real hard time with the language. I took beautiful pictures and have incredible memories from the entire path, and I highly recommend some trekking in this park to everyone who visits Ushuaia.

glaciar martial – after previously destroying my legs and most of the rest of my body at the Parque Nacional de la Tierra del Fuego, I decided I needed more and climbed up about 400 meters — but you just don’t understand how slippery and inclined that was — from the Glaciar’s awfully old lift to about as near to the top of the mountain you can get without additional gear — sticks will most definitely help you on this one. The walk is about 1,2 km long and has some challenging moments, but the view from the top is so worth it. I do believe the path would have been much easier for me had I not crushed every bone and muscle in my body the previous day, but still, to go all the way up has its challenges and adventurous moments for everyone, I guess.


So, I hope you have enjoyed Ushuaia from my narrative. I sure did enjoy my time there — yes, in spite of not wearing heels for the entire length of the stay.

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