Cafe Tortoni, Sundays in Buenos Aires

Cafe Tortoni Buenos Aires

Cafe Tortoni Buenos Aires

I am in Buenos Aires once again on a Sunday, not that being here on a Sunday is bad, it’s just the city is very quiet, For a major city Buenos Aires will not start coming alive until mid afternoon and then most shops will still be closed with only a handful of restaurants opening up.
So waking up early and not wanting to eat in the hotel, I try to get away from eating in hotel restaurants as much as possible, I feel it’s too Americanized and you are not getting the taste of the local culture.
Today my friend, an American who is living here in Buenos Aires called me up early knowing I would already be up since I am a early riser, asked if I wanted to meet at Cafe Tortoni for coffee, I looked at the time and said let’s do it. Not that the time really matters for coffee it just a matter what time you are going to Cafe Tortoni.
For those unfamiliar with Cafe Tortoni, this is the oldest cafe in Buenos Aires, Located on Ave De Mayo, just a couple blocks down from the Pink House, Buenos Aires answer to the States White House. Opened in 1858 by a French Immigrant, Cafe Tortoni has become a very popular stop on the tourist tours of Buenos Aires. The cafe is decorated with antiques and the walls are covered with old photo’s on the history of Buenos Aires giving the cafe a air of yesterday and years gone by.

Cafe Tortoni old photos Buenos Aires

Cafe Tortoni old photos Buenos Aires

So our decision to meet for coffee on a Sunday morning was more on timing, Sundays few cafes are opened early yet Cafe Tortonis can be found opened. If you are interested in seeing Cafe Tortoni it it advisable to go early. We arrived just before 9am to find only a few table occupied. This early it is very pleasant to sit, talk, drink coffee and enjoy the history of the building. By the time we left almost a hour later the place was almost 3/4 full the noise level starting to rise. Later in the afternoon when I walked by the line to get in was at least 50 deep with more tour buses pulling up.
Looking for good coffee, a little bit of history and you are in Buenos Aires on a Sunday, try Cafe Tortoni. Then stroll down to Plazo de Mayo to view the Pink House and make your way to Defensa Street for the street fair that stretches from Plaza De Mayo all the way to Plaza Dorrego in San Telma, another Sunday favorite in Buenos Aires.

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Wintertime in South America

Monday started out hot, leaving Orlando for New York I thought it was hot in Orlando until we touched down in JFK to 98 degrees. The northeast was going through a record breaking heat wave. Lucky for me my time in New York was going to be short since I was headed south to South America, Sao Paulo Brazil to be exact where it is now winter. Cross the equator and the season flip from the northern seasons.

The never ending city, Sao Paulo Brazil

The Never Ending City, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Heading to Sao Paulo, and saying it is winter does not mean that I will be seeing snow or anything like that, but the weather is a nice change from muggy Florida or the heat wave that the United States northeast was going through. This trip we found Sao Paulo foggy when we ended up arriving early Wednesday morning, with the temperature only getting to the mid 70’s during the day, this was a perfect temperature for walking around  Sao Paulo. Evening saw the temperature drop to the low 60’s to high 50’s which was just perfect for having dinner with friends at a outdoor restaurant. What more could you ask for, here we sat ,ate an unbelievable steak, drank and had good conversation while 3000 mile back home they were suffering in the heat.

Nice 12 Dollar Steak in Sao Paulo Brazil

Nice 12 Dollar Steak in Sao Paulo Brazil

The next benefit about wintertime in South America is the flying, the weather is usually a lot calmer, fewer thunderstorms. Yes there are still the normal thunderstorms that sit year round along the equator, yet as you get farther south it is fog that is more of a problem than the thunderstorms.

Headed  from Sao Paulo back to New York we were routed farther east than we normally go, for the most part it is almost a straight line going from Sao Paulo to New York. This night there was a weather disturbance south of Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. So we were flight planned from Sao Paulo to Belem Brazil, which is pretty much the most eastern part of Brazil then to Barbados which is almost the farthest island east in the Caribbean, from there we followed the chain of islands up over Guadeloupe and then up to Antigua before we made the turn north and headed straight for New York.

Leaving the lights of Sao Paulo behind, it is impossible to tell where this huge city starts and ends, we headed up to Brasilia. Flying over the relatively new city of Brasilia is amazing from 36 thousand feet, the city is so well laid out with straight lines and streets and boulevards making sweeping curves in tandem, Brasilia is a very neat site to see from the air.

Next we headed up to Belem, sitting on the Atlantic coast and about 60 miles upriver from the mouth of the Amazon River you could make out the lights of the city giving a tracing affect of the Amazon River as it empties in to the Atlantic. Even though this was in the middle of the night you still got a impressive effect of how large the Amazon River is.

Following the northeastern coast of South America and leaving Brazil then French Guiana behind it was onward to Barbados, with the lights of the island and the surrounding dark Caribbean Sea it looked like a small constellation sitting in the middle of the gigantic black universe.

Approaching the island of Guadeloupe from the south, the butterfly was clearly visible, the way the island is shaped from the air it looks like a butterfly. This night again it looked spectacular in a moonless night against a dark Caribbean Sea.

Leaving the lights and island of Antigua, it was a turn north into the dark waters of the Atlantic only to be broken in a couple of hours to the sunrise over the eastern Atlantic and the start of a new day.


Vila Madalena, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Oh no! did I jinks myself on writing my last blog post “My Endless Summer“? That’s what I was thinking as we flew in this Saturday morning into Sao Paulo Brazil. Leaving last night for the 10 hour all night flight from New York JFK International Airport I knew the weather was calling for rain and cold weather in Sao Paulo, upper 50′s, hey that is cold for Brazil.

Well as we started the approach into Sao Paulo Guarulhos International Airport the airport weather was calling for overcast skies, as we turned on  final approach we realized the weather report was a little behind for we were getting light to heavy rain. Breaking out of the clouds just a couple hundred feet above our missed approach altitude of 2644 ft (200 ft above the ground) we could see that it was going to be a very wet day in Sao Paulo. The ride into the city was not improving weather wise, the rain was still coming down and it was cold. Should not have written that last article on my string of sunny days . Oh well. Ok this will be a sleep day and an indoor day.

Checked into the hotel, agreed to meet my first officer at 2 in the afternoon after a couple hours of sleep and we would see what the day has to offer.
Threw back the curtains at 1:30 to find a cloudless day, the Gods had ended the rain, they had given a nice washing down of Sao Paulo and and now the sun was out in full force, and the temperature was now in the mid 60′s. It was going to be a great day in Sao Paulo, let the endless summer continue.

Met up with the copilot and decided to head down Paulisto Ave to the electronic flea markets, you know the place to get DVD’S and software for cheap, we were just looking:).

Street Graffiti, Vila Madalena, Sao Paulo, Brazil Later I met up with some friends from the Miami flight and decided since it was Saturday, that we would head over to Vila Madalena, one of Sao Paulos western suburbs. Arriving in Vila Madalena since I had been there many of times and this was the first time for 2 of the guys, I showed them the winding street that is covered with about 50 wall murals or as they call it in Sao Paulo graffiti.

For those that are new to Vila Madalena, this is a great neighborhood for travelers who arrive in Brazil and immediately ask the question, “What is the nightlife and entertainment like in Sao Paulo?” The region thrives off of dance clubs, restaurants, culture, and art. It is one of the most popular areas for young adults in Brazil and offers one of the most exciting cultures that visitors can imagine.

Leaving the walls behind we headed down Rua Aspicuelta, the heart of the night life in Vila Madalena. Saturday night and the area was alive with music an people, the sidewalk cafes were full of people enjoying the cool night.A quick stop for refreshments in Salve Jorge and admiring of the antiquated photos and nick knacks. After wards we were able to get a table for the 6 of us at Boteco Sao Bento, what a great place to spend Saturday night, great music, great Brazilian steaks and of course great conversation with friends. As we headed out of Vila Madalena we passed through the intersection of Rua Wizard and Rua Harmonia, another popular street of restaurants and bars in Vila Madalena. The area also was busy with the restaurants and outdoor cafes full, will have to wait for next time since had a early get go on Sunday for out trip to Rio de Janeiro for the day.

So with my initial worries of jinking myself with my last post, the weather cooperated, and we had another day in Sao Paulo that I think I could add to my endless summer streak. But then again it is not always the weather that makes traveling enjoyable, most the time I think it is sharing the moment with friends in a far off local.

Looking for more information on Vila Madalena? thinking about traveling to Sao Paulo or Brazil? then come join us at Beachcomber Pete Travel Adventure Guides.


Sundays in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires on a Sunday is almost completely shut down, the normal shops, restaurants and even the little markets seem to be closed for Sunday. Like any major city around the world, Sunday is usually a quite day in the city.

Arriving late from New York to Buenos Aires due to the high winds and runway closure in New York’s JFK Airport we did not arrive to the hotel in Buenos Aires until around 1:30pm, a very long night. For me arriving so late in the afternoon it would not be a good choice to go to sleep, the consequence for me sleeping this late would be that I would be wide awake all night. An early get up the next day for a day trip to Montevideo and back to Buenos Aires meant that it would be better to stay up and sleep tonight at a regular time.

In my mind I had spending the afternoon sitting at a small café on the water in Puerto Madera or at one of the cafes lining the park center in San Telma. Talking with my first officer on what his plans were, he told me he was interested in finding an Ice Cream shop that he had read about and a leather store. I was tired, but I could always go for a good ice cream, not so interested this day in a leather shop. So off we headed in search of his desirable ice cream store.

Sundays on Defensa Street, San Telmo, Buenos ArgentinaHeading towards Plaza de Mayo we turned on Defensa Street, as we made the corner I noticed the normal tables set up along the street selling trinkets, watches, video’s and you name it. I thought to myself that the rest of the Buenos Aires was closed yet the normal street vendors were out on a Sunday. As we walked down Defensa, the vendors became more frequent and the crowds started to grow. I also noticed that the vendors were not selling the familiar trinkets; the goods were taking on a more antique look.

It was not long that we came to a little rise in Defensa and I could look about a ½ mile down the street, it was then that I realized this was not just a few venders put hundreds of them lining the street with thousands of people walking and shopping. I was soon to learn that this was a normal ritual that dates back to the 70’s and am told it just gets bigger and bigger.

Old World Architecture San Telmo, Buenos Aires,  ArgentinaI for one am not that interested in antiques, but this walk down narrow cobble stone streets and old architecture buildings became interesting. I cannot tell you how many different Victrola record players we saw, you know the tulip shape ones; it had to be over a hundred in different sizes. Antique knifes from World War 2, old world chandeliers. This was becoming enjoyable.

To my amazement, we ended up at Plaza Dorrego , the central park in San Telmo, just where I had originally wanted to go. I have been to Plaza Dorrego and San Telmo several times but via a different route. Today the Plaza was filled with all kinds of vendors selling everything from antiques to a variety of food; there were Tango demonstrations as well as singers on the streets bordering the Plaza.

Nona Bianca, San Telm, Buenos Aires, ArgentinaYou are probably wondering what happen to the Ice Cream store, well our initial walk down Defensa we did not find it, at Plaza Dorrego I took out my iPhone, punched in the name “Nonna Bianca” and found we had passed it 3 blocks back from where we came.

Headed back 3 blocks we found it on the corner of Estados Unidos and Defensa. Soft Ice cream awaited us inside with over 50 flavors to choose from. I will admit that I went for the ¼ liter which was 3 scoops, Dulce de Leche, bianco chocolate and get this cervesa ice cream(beer). Well worth the walk, all in all we spent about 4 hours walking and enjoying the sites of Defensa and San Telmo, what a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon in Buenos Aires and to work up an appetite for some great Argentinean Steak and Mendoza Wine that evening, but hey that’s another story.


6 Hours in Rio de Janeiro ” Governador Island”

My original plan on spending my 6 hours in Rio this trip was to visit Corcovado, the famous statute overlooking the city of Rio de Janeiro. Upon arriving at the airport in Sao Paulo and getting the local weather for Rio, it was soon apparent that my chances of seeing the statue of the Christ Redeemer this trip were not looking well, Rio was calling the weather overcast skies with drizzle.

Descending into Rio we broke out of the clouds at around 2000 feet, the visibility was great under the overcast skies. Off to the west we were able to see Sugar Loaf Mountain, yet looking back up the mountains it was noticeable that where Corcovado stood was well into the base of the clouds. Standing at 2300 feet, Corcovado would not be a good trip to make with the way the weather was today, oh well another trip, another day.

OK how then to spend another 6 hours in Rio? I decided to spend the afternoon checking out the Governador Island “Governors Island” that Rio’s International Airport is located. Having seen the area as we have made approaches into Rio’s Galeao runway 28, I decided with the way the weather was today, overcast skies and a chance of rain, there was no sense spending the cab fare to go into the heart of Rio.

Change of clothes and out to the cab stand, tried to find someone that speaks English so I could explain where I wanted to go, it was not happening, reverted to my limited Spanish once again since that is closer to Portuguese than English. Tried to explain that I wanted to be taken to a typical restaurant overlooking the water close to the airport, I even showed them on a map where I was looking to go out on the island. The driver kept telling me Copacabana, I kept telling them I did not want to go that far today, a 45 minute ride in traffic with a good chance of rain, I could not see spending the $80 round trip taxi fare today.

Praia da Banderia,  Beach of Flags, Governador Island, Rio de Janeiro,Finally they said they understood and put me in a taxi, well off we went and very soon I realized we were not headed where I wanted to go. With help from my Google Maps on my Iphone I could tell the driver went past the road that would have taken me out into the Island. Questioning the driver in Spanish, I was told we were headed to Copacabana, no, showed him the map once again on the phone and told him I wanted the other direction. A long response in Portuguese, that I did not really understand, yet we ended up turning around. Next thing I know the driver is pulling up to this fancy restaurant, we are only about a mile from the airport, once again I tried to tell the driver this is not where I want to be , I want farther out on Governador Island, I want a typical restaurant looking overlooking the water. He’s telling me this restaurant is looking out over the water. This is not what I had envisioned.

In frustration in not being able to communicate in Portuguese, I decided to get out, asked how much for the ride, was told 30 Reals, wow, almost 15 dollars just to go 1 mile from the airport, they saw gringo on this face. I paid and got out and headed out of the parking lot to the street. Spying a bus stop about 1000 feet down the road I headed that way. As I am walking the taxi driver pulls up along side of me, pointing or trying to tell me he will take me somewhere else. Not happening, you rip me off once; you won’t get me a second time.

First bus comes along I jumped on, on my way; figure I will take it to where it takes me. The bus passed through the town of Portuguesa, what I would call a typical Brazilian working class neighborhood of shops, restaurants and banks. Portuguesa was nothing fancy, so I stayed on the bus which then proceeded to the far end of the island, just where I wanted to go. I ended up getting off at Praia da Banderia “the Beach of Flags”, located right on the Bay of Guanabara. I found the water I was looking for, the small town with restaurants and shops of Paria da Banderia surrounded the main park and were bordered by the bay. I decided to walk south along the water’s edge where there was a nice sidewalk following the contours of Guanabara Bay. The scenery was nice but I would say this was not one of Brazil’s better beaches. There was a lot of trash in the water and no sand or beach to sit. I passed quite a few drink stands as I made my way to the next little town of Ribeira, a small fishing village.Riberia, Governador  Island, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

From Ribeira I walked down a tree lined neighborhood of condominiums and houses to Praia do Iequia located on a small hamlet bordering the military installation of Moro do Matoso. Again many small drink shacks lined the water’s edge, yet at this time most were closed, think it being a Wednesday and not many people around it was probably more of a weekend place. Not finding a decent place that was open to eat, I decided to catch the next bus that came by, off again back to Portuguesa for lunch.

Full from a good lunch, I again caught a bus and headed back to the airport. All said and done, it was a good way to spend a couple of hours rather than sitting at the airport all day. Weather threatening yet no rain, I still think it was a good choice of not going to Corcavado. I have come to the conclusion when I get back to Orlando I will have to pull out the Rosetta Stone lessons for Portuguese.
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Sugarloaf Mountain Rio de Janeiro

Sugar Loaf Mountain Rio de Janeiro Brazil

6 Hours in Rio de Janeiro (part 2) We flew in for the day from Sao Paulo with another 6 hour layover in Rio de Janeiro. Looking to see how we could spend the afternoon in Rio, my copilot and me grabbed a taxi at the airport and headed for Sugarloaf Mountain or Pao de Acucar as the Brazilians call it.

Located at the mouth of  Guanabara Bay lies Sugar Loaf Mountain. Driving along the avenue flanking Botafogo Beach you are given an excellent side view of Morro da Urca, the lower mountain at 700 feet and Sugarloaf Mountain at 1300 feet. The taxi driver dropped us off at Urca where the cable car station is located to climb the mountains. Two glass enclosed cable cars carrying up to 75 passengers leave the station every 20 minutes for the 5 minute ride to the first stop at Morro da Urca. Excellent views of Sugar Loaf Mountain, Botafogo Beach as well as downtown Rio and Corcovado with the statue of Christ Redeemer can be seen from the Morro da Urca station.

Pete-Sugarloaf-Rio-de-Janeiro-BrazilGuanabara Bay and city of Niteroi Brazil from Sugarloaf MountainNext was another cable car ride to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain with unbelievable views of the entrance of Guanabara Bay and Niteroi City located on the eastern shore of the Guanabara Bay. To the north is Aeroporto Santos Dumont, with the planes today taking off headed right towards Sugarloaf before banking off to the east, to the west another great view of Corcovado and the city of Rio, coming around and looking south a great view of Copacabana. On the top of Sugarloaf mountain there were several trails wandering thru jungle like vegetation offering great viewing points around the mountain, we did see a couple of climbers finishing up a climb with ropes and repelling equipment. Both Sugarloaf and Morro da Urca had snack bars and facilities.

Copacabana-Beach-from Sugarloaf-Rio-de-Janeiro-BrazilBotafogo Beach Rio de Janeiro Brazil from Sugarloaf MountainTraveling to the top of Surgarloaf Mountain one needs to plan on a minimum of 3 hours to enjoy the views, today’s adventure took us 5 1/2 hours from Rio’s Galeao International Airport, to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain and return to the airport.

Before leaving and heading out to Sugarloaf Mountain we were told it is best to see Sugarloaf first and much higher Corcovado with the statue of Christ Redeemer second so one is not disappointed by the views. We found the views from Sugarloaf were spectacular and well worth the visit.
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La Boca, Buenos Aires Argentina

Street Watchers of La Boca Argentina

Street Watchers of La Boca Argentina

Buenos Aires, meaning good air, is the largest city in Argentina and also serves as the capital of the country. Buenos Aires a high energy city with strong European ties is a port city located on the southern shore of the Rio de la Plata bordering Uruguay. Situated on the southeastern coast of South America, Buenos Aires is the continents third largest metropolitan area. Located in the Pampas Region of Argentina, Buenos Aires is geographically bordered by the Rio de la Plata to the east northeast, by the river Riachuelo to the southeast and Avenida General Paz separating the city from the Province of Buenos Aires to the west.

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