Destination: Argentina

How a Taxi Ride Changed a Writer’s Life

How a Taxi Ride Changed a Writer’s Life Photo by Rumen Milkow

Layne Mosler's memoir, "Driving Hungry," chronicles her cab-centric quest for great meals and experiences. Jim Benning asks about it.

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R.I.P. Facundo Cabral, Argentine Folk Singer

Latin America lost one of its great folk singers over the weekend when Facundo Cabral was gunned down while on tour in Guatemala. He was 74.

The singer-songwriter in the nueva trova tradition railed against oppressive dictatorships in South America and wrote novels and non-fiction. He was riding in a car to the airport in Guetamala City when it was ambushed. Officials suspect a nightclub owner also in the car was the intended target of the attack.

From a New York Times story:

Many of Mr. Cabral’s songs mixed expressions of mystical spirituality with a desire for social justice, which gave him a reputation as a protest singer. That proved dangerous after the Argentine military seized power in a coup in March 1976, and he fled to Mexico, where he remained in exile until after the collapse of the Argentine dictatorship in 1982. On his return, in 1984, Mr. Cabral was more popular than ever.

His sold-out concerts were an unusual mixture of music and the spoken word, with songs preceded by long introductions in which he would muse on philosophy and religion and often quote from his favorite poets, including Borges and Walt Whitman, and spiritual masters like Gandhi and Mother Teresa.

Here’s Cabral performing one of his classics:

R.I.P. Alberto Granado, Travel Companion to Che

The fellow Argentinian who joined Che Guevara on the Latin American road trip immortalized in The Motorcycle Diaries has died in Cuba at the age of 88.

On their journey:

As young medical students, they witnessed deep poverty across the continent, particularly Chile, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela, and their stay at a Peruvian leper colony left a lasting impression on the pair.

They parted ways in Venezuela, where Granado stayed on to work at a clinic treating leprosy patients.

In 1961, Granado moved to Cuba, where he taught biochemistry at Havana University.

Related: Will ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ Spawn a New Magazine: Condé Nast Revolution?


The Old Patagonian Express Rumbles On

I’ve always thought “The Old Patagonian Express,” Paul Theroux’s book about his trip from the U.S. down to South America by train, was one of his best.

I’ve sometimes wondered what became of the old train he writes about near the book’s end—the one he seized on for the title. It turns out, it’s still operating.

The same starkness of place that struck Theroux in the high Patagonian desert remains. Like a photograph from an earlier era, the train and the landscape remain unchanged.

The Colors of La Boca

la boca buenos aires Photo by Sarah Rooney

Sarah Rooney captures the mosaic of Caminito, one of Buenos Aires' most vibrant neighborhoods

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Photo You Must See: Glacier Sunrise in Patagonia

REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

The sun rises over the Perito Moreno glacier near El Calafate, Argentina.

World Travel Watch: Fees and Visas in India and Argentina, Maoists in Nepal and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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Where in the World Are You, Jim Benning?

The subject of our latest up-to-the-minute interview with a traveler somewhere in the world: Jim Benning, coeditor of World Hum. His email landed in our inbox just moments ago.

Where in the world are you?

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Travel Song of the Day: ‘Borges y Paraguay’ by Bajofondo

South Carolina Governor’s Mystery Vacation: Is He a Tango Addict?*

Photo by Ana_Cotta via Flickr, (Creative Commons)

Nobody seemed to know where South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford was for days. His wife said she didn’t know but wasn’t worried. His staff said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. The police got involved.

Well, today the governor emerged at the Atlanta airport saying work had been stressful and he had gone to Buenos Aires because he needed a vacation and “wanted to do something exotic.” He said he spent the week driving the Argentine coastline.

Some don’t buy his story. Speculation about what he was really doing is rampant. Talking Points Memo has put together a handy timeline of events surrounding the mystery trip.

Anyone have any good theories?

Call me crazy, but I’m going to suggest the governor did indeed go to Argentina—because he has a tango addiction. I have no evidence for this. I just like the idea of it and think it would make for a good HBO movie.

Come clean, governor. Is it tango? If it is, it’s OK with us.

*Update 11:37 a.m. PT: Well, I was close. The governor gave a press conference clearing up the mystery. It was a tango of a different sort.

*Update 4:34 p.m. PT: Gawker commenter flossy has the line of the day on the mixed messages earlier about the governor’s whereabouts: “In all fairness to his aides, “I’m getting some Argentinian tail” sounds a lot like “I’m hiking the Appalachian trail” when you’re on a fuzzy satelite phone connection. Who hasn’t had that kind of innocent misunderstanding?”

Interview with Kelly Westhoff and Jen Paulus:

Interview with Kelly Westhoff and Jen Paulus: REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas

Eva Holland talks Che and the meaning of his ubiquitous image with the founders of a new travel photography site

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The Buenos Aires Twitter Detox

buenos aires Photo by Valerie Conners

On a trip to the Southern Hemisphere and with a need to disconnect, Valerie Conners pledges to embrace a Twitter-free vacation

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Hotel Tipping: A Change is Gonna Come

Hotel Tipping: A Change is Gonna Come Photo by AppleSister via Flickr (Creative Commons)

I’m pretty good about tipping in hotels. I don’t mind dropping the bucks for bellmen—especially after I spent two days as one at the Hotel Giraffe for the New York Post—and I agree that some money for the maid in an envelope is usually the way to go. However, I had an interesting situation in Buenos Aires that made me wonder whether I made a cultural faux pas.

At the moment, BA is in the throes of a change shortage. There simply aren’t enough coins—you see signs everywhere that say “NO HAY MONEDAS” or demand exact change if you’re buying a pack of cigs. The buses in Buenos Aires only take coins, so the commute for a lot of working people in the city is rather difficult. I accumulated a fair amount of change over the course of my stay, and on the recommendation of a friend who lived in the city, I gave it to one of the front desk fellows at my hotel who had been helpful. He seemed a little ... surprised, though he said “Great! For the bus!” after an awkward pause. Still, I felt weird just giving someone a handful of change as a thank you.

Have you guys ever given unorthodox tips in hotels? Cookies? A hat? Tell me I’m not the only one.

A Visit to the Alvear

A Visit to the Alvear Photo by Irargerich via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by Irargerich via Flickr (Creative Commons)

While in Buenos Aires last week, I got a chance to tour the Alvear Palace. As part of a test of social media web 2.0 blahbitty blah, I also tried to tweet about my tour, with marginal success. It’s really hard to type little messages on your phone during a meeting with someone and not seem like a total jerkwad in the process.

Maybe, though, I gave you guys an eye into what the travel-writing game is about—namely, nodding appreciatively at pools and gym machines. OK, I actually was impressed by the Alvear’s gym—the machines have flatscreens with videos explaining how to do all the exercises. That’s right in the wheelhouse of a doughy nerd such as myself. 

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Trip Drip

I like to think of myself as pretty worldly when it comes to hotels and hotel design. I don’t mind sacrificing a little to stay someplace pretty, whether it be some space or comfort. But sometimes, hotel showers baffle me. I’m staying at the Moreno here in Buenos Aires this week and the shower looks amazing: rainfall showerhead, slatted wooden floor and just a small glass partition with no actual door to enclose it.

Functionally, it makes no sense. The water spritzes everywhere else but on the partition when you use it, and there’s no door to close to prevent that from happening. I’m a relatively clean guest, yet the hotel is actively encouraging me to make a mess. Plus, some of the shower water stays on those wooden boards overnight. If I were a groggy, first-thing-in-the-morning shower taker, they’d be slippery beams of death. This happens to me time and again: great looking shower, but it fails in the whole keeping water inside the shower area part. Do the hotels just not care?

I don’t mean to single out the Moreno; I like that shower, and if they want me to be a little messy, fine. In a nod to their understanding and patience, I promise I won’t eat a meatball sub over the room’s white cowskin rug.