A Travellerspoint blog

May 2013

Quebec City, Canada (17th - 19th May)

Our flight from Rio got us back to Toronto at about half past midnight. As we then had a flight to Quebec City at about 9am, we just spent the night in the airport. We used the website Sleeping In Airports to find advice on where best to go. They suggested the lounge at the far end of the departures level, which was indeed perfect. I think it's technically just intended to be used by people flying to the US on a particular airline, but overnight no-one's going to care. We didn't get a huge amount of sleep of course, but we got some, which was all we were after. Our flight to Quebec was then all fine and we got a taxi to our hostel: Maeva. It was an ok hostel - the location was good and people were nice, but the wi-fi reception in our room was practically non-existent and the breakfast was just toast and spreads. Granted, the breakfast thing isn't a big deal and they say how it's complimentary and you therefore shouldn't expect much, but considering some hostels do provide really good free breakfasts, it means they don't compare so well.

Quebec City itself was really really lovely - very European and 'quaint' (for want of a better word). It's wonderful to just walk around as it's so picturesque and photogenic, particularly the old town, it made me happy just to be there.


During our time there, we did a lot of walking around the town, plus we travelled slightly out of town to go to Montmorency Falls. It was just a $3 (each way) bus journey. We spent quite a while there, walking all around the falls and taking photos from different angles. Here's one of them:


On our last day in Quebec City we went on a free tour of the Residence of the Governor General (which is something you can do at weekends). That was really enjoyable - we just had a small group for our English tour and the tour guide was excellent. It was fun and informative! Nice way to end our time in the city before we caught our train to Montreal. Although we did also have time to sneak in some poutine before boarding the train. If you've not had the pleasure of poutine; it's chips covered in gravy and cheese curds. Mmmm artery clogging:


Posted by chantalpatton 21:24 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (13th - 16th May)

This weirdly feels like a long time ago now - maybe because we're back on a different continent - so apologies if it's lacking in some details, it's just my memory failing me.

We flew into Rio and then got a bus from the airport to Ipenema, where we were staying. We stayed at Hostel Harmonia, which was a nice little place. The staff were really friendly and it had a good vibe. As Brazil's a bit expensive compared to other places we stayed in South America, we'd booked into a dorm room rather than a private room, but that was all good - not too cramped and everyone was friendly. Breakfast was some fruit, bread, cheese, ham etc. and juice, tea and coffee. Pretty good. Plus there were eggs you could cook for yourself if you wanted to.

As our flight from Santiago was pretty early, we were able to check in to the hostel and still have a bit of time for doing stuff that afternoon/evening. We therefore decided to go up Sugarloaf Mountain. You take a cable car up and get great views over Rio. We went up just before sunset, so got to see that and then Rio in the dark.

If you're thinking of travelling to Rio, you're likely to see/hear that it's quite a dangerous city, with muggings and such like being especially rife. I'd read the Wikitravel entry and it had made me particularly wary. I didn't wear my watch while I was there and on that first night I didn't take my camera out with me either. I did then regret that though as all the other tourists were quite happily carrying cameras around. I carried mine around on the other 2 days, but it's a shame I didn't get to take any photos from Sugarloaf. Jamie got some though, so I'll just steal his at some point!

On our first full day we went up to the Christ the Redeemer statue. This took quite a long time in total as we first needed to take a bus, then there's the train that takes you up to the statue, then we looked around for a while, then we had the same in reverse. Worth it though to see something so iconic. It's always weird seeing things like that in real life when you're so used to seeing them on TV.

Christ the Redeemer:

We only had the 2 full days in Rio so there's a lot we didn't get to see. However, we wanted our last day to be quite chilled out, so we walked over to Copacabana beach and spent a while there before returning to Ipanema and spending a while at the beach there.

The following day was then spent on planes. We got one plane from Rio to Panama and then another from Panama to Toronto. People on aeroplanes can be quite annoying in general, but these flights seemed to have a higher percentage of annoying people than usual. Here's the Chantal guide to aeroplane etiquette:

1. Try to avoid tilting your seat back, unless you really need to. This doesn't just go for aeroplanes - this rule should be obeyed on all forms of transport. Just because your chair can be tilted back, doesn't mean you have to do it. Consider that there's a person sitting behind you and they're unlikely to want your chair in their face. Why do you think that you deserve an extra inch of space and they deserve an inch less? Yes they could also tilt their chair back, as could the person behind them, then the person behind them, and so on and so on, right down the entire plane, just to redress the imbalance in personal space caused by your unnecessarily selfish action. Or you could just not do it. If it's an overnight flight and you're trying to sleep, that's fair enough, but otherwise no.

2. Obey the seat belt sign. Don't decide for yourself that it's fine to just get up and walk around. Granted, on these particular 2 flights, the seatbelt sign was on for almost the entire duration, so you have to do a bit of ignoring it then, just for your bladder's sake. However, when the plane's still clearly ascending, don't start getting your bag out of the overhead compartment. I'm sure you can do without it for a few more minutes.

3. When you're told to turn off your phone, TURN OFF YOUR PHONE! Is an extra minute of phone time really that important? Do you really really need to be using it up until the last possible second? Also, do you really need to turn it back on as soon as the wheels have touched down? You're really that obsessed with your phone? Your life makes me sad.

I'm sure there are other things that I'm forgetting, but those are the major flight crimes. However, the most ridiculous incident of flight selfishness I've ever encountered, occurred on the flight from Rio. On the row of seats in front of us there was a couple and a spare seat. The spare seat was in front of me (they were sitting either side of it). "Great," I thought, "I'll avoid having a seat back in my face." But no - after pushing their own seats back, they also pushed back the spare seat! I found myself sitting behind no-one and still having a chair right in my face!! Madness.

Posted by chantalpatton 20:49 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

Santiago, Chile (8th - 13th May)

We got 2 buses to the airport in Montevideo, which was a bit of a hassle I guess, though not hugely so - plus it was a lot cheaper than getting a taxi. The flight to Chile was then only about 3 hours. From the airport we got a bus to a subway station, then the subway to the city centre. It was then just a short walk to our hostel (Plaza De Armas Hostel). The location was great - really central, plus looking out onto the main plaza - it was up on the 6th floor and the view from the balcony was awesome. However, the hostel itself wasn't brilliant, which was a shame. Breakfast was a bit paltry - 2 slices of bread (which you could toast), a cheese slice and 2 slices of pepperoni. Plus tea and coffee of course, but still, not even cornflakes. There was one day that we also got a bonus little cake, though that was just the once. The bins in the toilets weren't emptied as often as they really needed to be either - which in general you wouldn't think of as being a big deal, but when you know that the toilet paper can't be flushed and has to go in the bins... yeah. The shower situation was a bit weird too - they were split into male and female, but mostly because you had to get changed and put all of your stuff in a communal area. As a modest Brit, that was a tad disconcerting to me - getting naked in front of strangers? Crikey! Happily the hostel wasn't that busy, so there was only once that I had other people showering at the same time as me, and then I managed to utilise the shower curtain to retain my modesty (or at least I think so - it wasn't totally opaque). The fact that the dividers between the 3 showers were practically transparent too was an added bit of pervy weirdness. Still, despite not being the best hostel, it was all right and we had a good time.

The view from the hostel:

Santiago's a really nice city - it seemed pretty chilled out, maybe due to all the wine. Some of the things we did during our time there:

- We went on another free walking tour. This one was led by a Scot called Johnny. He was good and seemed to know his stuff. It was 3 1/2 hours long, though included a stop for a drink. Afterwards we went for more drinks with a Canadian lady we met on the tour.

- We went to a few museums. The Museum of Memory and Human Rights is generally considered the best museum in Santiago and we spent quite a while there. It's free to enter, though as the exhibits are in Spanish, it's useful to pay the 1,000 pesos (about $2) to get the English audio guide. It's all about the Pinochet regime and remembering all the people who were "disappeared" under it. My history knowledge (including things like that, which happened within my lifetime) is pretty bad, so I found it all really informative and interesting. We then went to a few other museums on the Sunday, as Sunday is free museums day! As in a day when museums are free, not a day when museums seek their independence. Those museums included a couple of art museums, which were both good, albeit pretty small.

- As you have to do when in Chile, we went on a vineyard tour and wine tasting. There are numerous options near Santiago, but we went for the Undurraga vineyard as it didn't sound overly commercial and had good reviews. We also had a discount voucher for it, so we got the tour for about $12 each. As we were the only people wanting an English tour at the time we selected, we got our own private tour from a guy called Dave. We got to walk around the vineyard itself and taste some of the grapes from the vines. We then saw the process the grapes go through and one of the wine cellars. Then finally came the tasting! We got to taste 4 wines - which is another reason why we opted for Undurraga - some of the other vineyards only offer 2 wines for tasting. We got to taste 1 white, 2 reds and a dessert wine. We then got to keep the glasses - bonus! Although, sadly, I managed to drop mine on the way back to the hostel. Doh! Jamie's given me his though (aww), so I'm currently carrying that about in my suitcase. Not hugely confident it's gonna make it back to the UK intact, but I'm hopeful. I'm padding it with pants and socks, so it'll either make it safely or I'll end up with glass in my underwear (ouch).

The vineyard:


Posted by chantalpatton 18:50 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Montevideo, Uruguay (5th - 8th May)

We took the ferry from Buenos Aires over to Colonia in Uruguay, then a bus from Colonia to Montevideo and another bus to Pocitos (the area of Montevideo we were staying in). We stayed at Pocitos Hostel, which was a small hostel in an old house - quite a contrast to The Ritz in Buenos Aires, which was a pretty big hostel. It was a nice little place, albeit pretty basic. Breakfast was just cornflakes and toast (plus tea and coffee), though that's pretty standard for hostels really.

We only had 2 full days in Montevideo, but that was fine, there's not as much to see as there is in a place like Buenos Aires. On the first day we walked into the city centre and old town and checked out all the major sights, as well as popping into a few free museums. Then on the second day we stayed in the Pocitos area and went down to the beach and had a general walk around. It was a nice place and I enjoyed our time there, though I seemingly don't have much to say about it! I suppose I had developed a cold by this point too (which I'm still fighting off). I didn't take a huge amount of photos either, but here's one of Plaza Independencia (Independence Square):


Posted by chantalpatton 09:30 Archived in Uruguay Comments (0)

Buenos Aires, Argentina (29th April - 5th May)

We had an overnight flight to Buenos Aires, though we had to change in Newark first. Despite all our previous travels, neither Jamie or I had ever had a connecting flight before. Thankfully it was all straightforward and smooth. The weirdest part was needing to go through US immigration, albeit whilst we were still in Canada. We got the stamp in our passports and everything.

When we arrived in Buenos Aires we got a taxi from the airport to our hostel - The Ritz (makes it sound fancier than it is!). It was an ok hostel, though nothing special. The best thing about it was that it had one of those old fashioned lifts where you have to open and close the doors by hand - that kept me entertained for our entire stay there (I'm easily entertained). We'd booked into a private room, albeit one of the 'basic' ones, which was pretty basic, though we had an ensuite and a TV, so not bad. The first room we were put in, however, had a broken toilet seat, plus some wires dangling from the wall, plus it was right next to the lift, which was pretty noisy. We complained about the toilet seat in the hope that they'd fix it or something, but instead they moved us to a different room. It was pretty much the same, except the toilet seat was fine, it didn't have dangling wires and although it was still next to the lift, it didn't seem as noisy, so a definite improvement! Breakfast in the hostel was decent - cornflakes, small croissants, bread rolls, coffee, tea, juice and yoghurt - although they weren't always great at keeping it all topped up. Plus the coffee was horrible, so minus points for that. The location was good though - very central.

One instantly noticeable thing about Buenos Aires is that there's a hell of a lot of traffic. The central area, particularly, is full of wide roads and always seems really busy. It takes away from the beauty a bit, but there's still plenty of beauty to see, you just often have to stop and look up, rather than viewing things at eye-level. There are lots of areas where your eye-level view will be of slightly-dingy shops, whereas there's some beautiful French-style architecture just above them. We have the free walking tour to thank for pointing that out to us. That was definitely a good thing to do - the tour guide, Gaston, was great - entertaining and informative - plus it's free! Tipping's recommended though, of course. It lasted about 3 hours, but the time just flew by.

Other things we did whilst in Buenos Aires, included...
- Walking around Recoleta Cemetery, which is huge and full of extravagant and ornate graves:


- Going to the Museum of Decorative Art, which is free on Tuesdays (when we went).
- Going to the Cathedral, which doesn't obviously look like a cathedral from the outside, but does from the inside
- Walking around a few different neighbourhoods, like San Telmo and Palermo, where you get cobbled streets and such like.
- Going to the El Ateneo Grand Splendid book shop, which is in an old theatre:


We also witnessed quite a few political protests going on. We thought we'd just arrived at a time that coincided with some kind of political movement, but no, apparently you get them practically every day! They all seemed really peaceful and good-natured though.

Food-wise, I don't think I've ever seen so many pizza places in one city! We ended up having it a couple of times, just because it was difficult to find anywhere else. Even when we didn't have pizza, it was generally Italian food. One evening we came across a place that had a great deal going - we had a main course with a side dish, a glass of beer, a dessert and a glass of limoncello, all for about $10 CAD (about £6.50). Awesome!

Posted by chantalpatton 08:02 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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