Thanks for arranging the internal flights, airport transfers and hotel bookings at such short notice. We have just returned home after our successful and enjoyable trip. I hope you will find my feedback useful when making recommendations for other clients.
We liked the Nuss hotel and found the staff very helpful and the location near the many attractive shops and restaurants ideal. Two excursions the concierge arranged while we were there was getting tickets to Swan Lake at the fabulous Teatro Colon and to a salsa show at the Cafe de Los Angelitos which has an excellent who in a miniature theatre at the back of a restaurant where we could see the show for $45 each which included transport from our hotel, drinks and the show without having to pay for a meal as we managed to eat at La. Cabrera first. They also got us 2 tickets for $50 each for the best seats to see Swan Lake with less than 24 hours notice. Although this price was through an agent and was 5 times the face value of the ticket it was a huge bargain when compared to Covent Garden and the standards of music and dance were excellent!
The Hotel Das Cateratas was a very special place to stay when visiting the falls and well worth the price tag! We cut out some of our private guided tour to the Argentinian side as we wanted to get back to spend time enjoying the hotel pool in the afternoon.
We found the city itself and the neighbourhood of Maipu where we stayed rather scruffy and disappointing. The Villa Victoria was very attractive but fortunately we were upgraded to their first floor suite at no extra charge as the B&B was very quiet. The standard rooms looked rather small and stuffy. The staff were very helpful and arranged taxis for us to visit vineyards and restaurants but the location was much further away from the places we wanted to visit than we had expected. Villa Victoria serves a very good breakfast but no other meals so we had dinner on the first night at Club Topaz but found the service extremely slow and not very helpful and the restaurant was empty until 3 other guests arrived later. While that hotel looks attractive I think the rooms were rather small and modestly furnished and some are no doubt affected by the noise from quite a busy road nearby.
On our second night we went to the famous 1884 restaurant belonging to Francis. Mallman. It was a beautiful setting in a courtyard of an old winery and the food pricey but worth it! The location was scruffy so my advice is not to arrive too early as there is nowhere to wait if you arrive before the large wooden doors to the courtyard open dead on 8.30. On the last night we went to the small restaurant in Chacras called Nadia OF which had very good food. We chatted to the owner who says she is closing that restaurant to open in larger premises near the main square of Mendoza.
We saw a little of the town of Chacras and could see it would have been a much better place to stay than Maipu. Apparently they have many small hotels or restaurants with rooms so it is worth finding more suitable places for your clients if the first choice places are fully booked. Villa Victoria would suit a group of friends or a large family as they could fill it up and make it more lively.
Punta del Este
It was only a 35 minute flight from the small airport in buenos Aires to the small but modern airport at Punte del Este and the drive to la Bluette at La Barra only took less than 30 minutes. La Bluette was a small family run hotel with 2 excellent suites at the front with large terraces with sea view. Most of the other rooms are around the central courtyard garden with swimming pool. The house is stylish with grand marble internal staircase and many interesting pieces or art and furniture. The breakfast was excellent and usually served outside on the front terrace. The owner Hugo is very friendly and helpful and could arrange car rental and advise on local restaurants. The beaches are magnificent and. Bikini beach is just across the road! Our favourite restaurant was la huella on the beach at Jose Ignacio, about 20 km away from La Barra. It is very relaxed and most of the customers see to be friends with the owners. Food and wine were excellent and waiters very friendly. It is best to book, especially at lunch on the weekends as it gets very busy. The small town of Jose Ignacio has many relaxed looking holiday homes belonging to Rich and arty looking Argentinians who spend their weekends and holidays there. In the evening there is a lovely wood fire to warm the bar area and the cooking BBQ warms the restaurant area.
We found the town on Punta del Este disappointing on the restaurant choice but an amazing place to visit in the day is the stunning Museum and Hotel at Casa Pueblo near the whale watching point on the Montevideo side of Punte del Este. The museum is the home of the famous Uruguayan artist Carlos Vilaro, friend of Picasso, who died aged 90 just 3 weeks ago. Original works are available for sale. He built an amazing hotel next to his home with stunning sea views. It is no doubt pricey and we found the service in the hotel restaurant very slow but it is such an amazing place it is worth spending a couple of nights there to experience the views which inspired Carlos!
Renting a car in Punte del Este is a must as taxis are expensive. the roads are very good and traffic light so driving is much easier than in Argentina.
La Bamba de Areco Estancia
This elegant estancia is about 2 hours drive from the international airport in Buenos aires and owned by a French entrepreneur who lives in London and runs it for tourist guests rather than as a working estate. The room rates are high but are all inclusive but clients should note that this includes the chance to do some escorted horse riding around the estate, breakfast on a terrace in an outbuilding overlooking the polo field, and evening meal in the elegant dining room in the main building. Standard rooms are in another outbuilding which do not have a shower or a proper wardrobe or a stand on which to open your suitcase. We had expected the "all inclusive" rate to cover a gaucho show or polo match but apparently these are extra activities which can be arranged for a fee. Fortunately some day visitors pay for these activities in addition to the BBQ lunch so La Bamba guests can watch at no extra charge. We saw an amazing Gaucho demonstrate horse whispering skills and were taken round the polo field in a horse drawn carriage. We went on a weekday and on the first night there were only 2 other guests and on the second night we were the only guests. It would have been more fun to have other guests or to travel with friends or relatives.
An excellent excursion is to visit the pretty town of San Antonio de Areco which was the prettiest town we saw in Argentina and has many old style shops and pubs and a beautiful church. We engaged a guide called Magda, a history teacher from the towns school who is very knowledgeable and speaks good English. The population is made up of at least 50% of people of Irish descent and even though they have lived there for 3 generations they look and sound completely Irish and have Irish surnames. A brilliant place to visit on the main square opposite the church is the jewellery workshop and museum Draghi which makes silver pieces and sells them. Other shops specialise in leather goods and every November there is a large gathering of Gauchos parading their horses through the town.
There are several hotels and hostels in the town so if you don't want to pay La Bamba prices you can go there on a day trip instead.