Archive for April, 2011

Wall of Wine

Posted by Arlo on Apr 15, 2011 under Photography, Postcard Valet, Travel

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Mendoza, Argentina is wine country.  The sunny weather is predictable and a plentiful supply of water comes trickling down from the back side of the Andes.  Obviously, the thing to do while you’re in Mendoza is to visit the vineyards.  The touristy thing to do is much the same, just on a bicycle.

Five of us set off one morning with a plan to try the touristy thing.  We rented bikes from Mr. Hugo and started pedaling our way to the first of 10-or-so wineries, olive farms, and chocolatiers.  What could have been a dangerous ride back was actually rather sober, as many of the vineyards were closed that day and, what’s more, we couldn’t justify 15-peso samples at every bodega we visited.

I’m not sure the bike ride thing worked for me.  The first time Oksana and I were in Mendoza, we simply found a bodega we liked (Tempus Alba) and spent a long, quiet afternoon on their veranda sampling all seven of their wines.  The travel time involved with the bikes, pedaling in the sun from vineyard to vineyard, made the whole day seem rushed.  That’s not to say we didn’t have a good time, however.

At Vistandes, we paid for a combination tour and tasting.  Our English-speaking tour guide generously moved us past the large steel fermenting vats and dark cellars full of oaken casks rather quickly so that we could spend more time sampling their wines.

While speeding along one plain hallway, we passed a low wall of wine bottles.  I didn’t hear what our guide said about it – no doubt something about the stack being another step in the aging process – because she didn’t even slow down as she passed it by.  I stopped long enough to frame two shots with Oksana’s point-and-shoot before I had to catch up with the group.  Both turned out well, but I like this one better because of the way the bottles go to the end of the frame, the curvature of the wide-angle lens bows them out a little, and, well, just the way that tilt of the photo makes the whole thing a bit more abstract.

Panasonic DMC-TZ5
Date: 3:03pm, 7 March 2011
Focal Length: 5mm (30mm equivalent)
Shutter: 1/30 sec
Aperture: F/3.4
Flash: Yes
ISO: 100
Photoshop: None

PVX: McDonald’s in Argentina

Posted by Arlo on Apr 13, 2011 under McDonald's of the World, Postcard Valet, PV-Podcast, Travel, Videos

Argentina is the best place for McDonald’s so far! In this video we try some of their double Angus burgers. Mmmm!

We’ve been in Buenos Aires for a month now and somehow we’ve only eaten at McDonald’s a couple times. Which is strange, because they’re ALL OVER THE PLACE down here! If you were to walk into the middle of the street in front of our building, you could literally see four different McDonald’s restaurants within sight on Corrientes Avenue. I could point you to at least 3 more within 4 blocks of the same area. ¡McLoco!

Too bad we’re on a budget, because McDonald’s is pretty spendy here. Our McAngus McCombo McMeals, if you super size ‘em, run about $10 USD. One meal for the two of us would be 1/5th of our daily budget. (Which is why we’ve been living off the cheaper steak and wine, boo-hoo-hoo!)

Costa rica
St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
Puerto Rico, US Territory
Netherlands *
England *
Cuba –
Colombia †
Uruguay ‡

* Just in the airport
– Countries I have visited in which there are no McDonald’s
† Countries I have visited and have NOT eaten at a McDonald’s
‡ Countries I have visited and have NOT eaten at a McDonald’s, but ones which I plan to revisit within the next WEEK(!!) and remedy that situation

Thoughts on Bolivia

Posted by Arlo on Apr 8, 2011 under Postcard Valet, Thoughts On..., Travel, Videos

I’m glad we approached Bolivia after traveling through Ecuador and Peru first.  I think it lessened the inevitable culture shock.  On the other hand, when we arrived in Chile (a post for another day), it felt almost like we were returning to the United States, the quality of living (and prices!) were so much higher.  Below are the things that occurred to me as we traveled through Bolivia.

Coca Leaves

What’s the first thing you think about when someone mentioned Bolivia.  It’s “cocaine,” isn’t it?  The whole time I was there, I didn’t see or hear anything about the white powder.  Not that I was running in those circles or anything, but no one even offered it to me.  I found it surprising, considering that it happened more than once in Peru.

What Bolivia does have, though, is coca leaves.  You can buy them by the bag-full at any outdoor market and, if you ask for the activator (a sticky, bitter substance made of ash, sap, bananas and/or who knows what else), you can get “high” with them in a perfectly legal, even morally acceptable way.

Oksana and I tried them a couple times and the effects, for me, were on par with drinking a venti-sized cup of coffee from Starbucks (assuming, of course, your coffee tastes like freshly-cut grass and completely numbs your cheek and tongue!)  Oksana really liked chewing coca leaves while hiking – they allowed her to completely ignore any pain she was feeling on the long, steep hike up Colca Canyon.

(In Potosí, it was almost comical the way the miners kept stuffing the leaves into their mouths.  Plucking each stem, they’d add them one at a time, over the course of hours, until their cheeks were bulging like a greedy hamster!)

After seeing the widespread use of coca leaves in both Peru and Bolivia, I’d guess it’s about as addictive as marijuana and about as socially acceptable as smoking cigarettes.  I wonder if that’s why the two countries have relatively few smokers…

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