a diverse collection of travel photos and firsthand experiences while venturing across the globe. each destination has welcomed us with open arms and warm smiles, making us feel right at home. from argentina to utah - and thousands of miles in between - these are our visual memories of 'home'...just as we never imagined.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Harvest is Approaching...

While most do not consider grapes to be symbols of the yuletide season, such fruit is indicative of December here in Argentina. With summer in full swing, and the radiant sun overhead, local valleys are bursting with color as grapes begin to fill the numerous vineyards cultivated in the shadow of the Andes Mountains. The harvest is quickly approaching...which will be celebrated in early March during La Vendimia.

This past week, we had the wonderful opportunity to visit Tania's family in the sun-drenched province of San Juan. Their backyard, while small and quaint, is overflowing with lemon trees, peach trees, and even an obnoxious rooster. But the highlight is the shaded patio constructed by my father-in-law. Made of broken tree limbs, the canopy extends into the backyard from the main house, providing shade for those who would like to spend the afternoon drinking mate. At this time of year, the canopy provides plenty of grapes hanging from the multiple vines that wrap around the twisted branches of the canopy. Here are some "homegrown" photos...

Monday, November 3, 2008

just another day...for you and me...in Buenos Aires

So, I was back in Buenos Aires once again. Another long overnight bus ride...a quick overnight stay in the city...and a long trip back home.

While there, I had the privilege to share lunch with several members of our American Embassy - what wonderful people! On Friday (for Halloween), the Embassy was decorated with plenty of spiderwebs and ghouls so that American children (of government employees) could enjoy an old-fashioned haunted house and some afternoon trick-or-treating. In fact, some employees were wearing the traditional black and orange colors (with a few festive sweaters). It was nice to see traditions from home...despite the 90 degree weather!

So, as always, it is time to post pictures of another new destination inside Buenos Aires. This time, I spent a few hours inside the Japanese Gardens of Palermo. This is a very peaceful retreat despite the hustle and bustle of such a large metropolis. Enjoy the pictures...and a special treat at the end!

Right in front of the US Embassy is a beautiful open park. Many professional "dog walkers" come here in the afternoon. This man alone is in charge of 40 different dogs from owners across the city - French Bulldogs, Retrievers, Boxers, etc. As you can see, they are quite friendly and often chase down others inside the park to play catch. The most amazing part? None of the dogs had leashes!!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

This Month in The ENSIGN...

Yesterday, I had the true pleasure to accompany a very special group of friends into the vast wine region of Uco Valley, Mendoza. Ann Monson Dibb (Second Counselor, LDS Young Women General Presidency) and Silvia H. Allred (First Counselor, LDS Relief Society General Presidency) were here in Mendoza to provide a training session for multiple stakes.

President and Sister Lindahl (LDS Mendoza Argentina Mission) asked me to come along for a day tour and provide some historical insight as we drove towards Tupungato and the flourishing vineyards of Bodega Salentein. While none of us drink wine, we did enjoy a personal visit through the luxurious wine cellars of Salentein, a Dutch investment now attracting tourists worldwide for its modern design and fine art museum.

It was a joy to hear the testimonies and experiences of both sisters. This week alone, they will provide training sessions in Mendoza, Salta, Buenos Aires, and parts of Uruguay and Paraguay. Both Sister Allred and Sister Dibb are true examples of service as they continue to commit their time and efforts on behalf of the church. We shared great stories and good laughs...especially when learning more about Sister Dibb's dear father!

And where did we go for lunch? La Tupiña, of course!

Wordless Wednesday: Corks & Bottles

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Another Day in Buenos Aires...

Despite the long distance, I have been fortunate enough to occasionally travel to Buenos Aires for business. No matter how many times I have visited in the past decade, I find myself exploring something new (or at least revisiting something with a better camera).

Following an overnight bus ride (13 hours) and an awful, dramatic German film along the way (new trend?), I arrived to the capital and quickly headed to my hotel. I did not have too much time for sightseeing, but I did review a few spectacular hotels. In between meetings and clients, I took advantage of both the bus system and underground subway. While waiting for the subway, and especially when crammed inside, I noticed a unique smell in the air - the subtle blend of sweat, chimichurri, and cigratee smoke. Yes...spring is in the air :)

I thought I would post a few photos to highlight some additional Buenos Aires landmarks:

El Ateneo Grand Splendid is the nation's largest bookstore, and recognized as the second most glamorous in the world (the first being a restored 800-year-old church in Holland). Along Santa Fe Avenue, one can enter this four-story libreria and browse through thousands of texts, movies, and varieties of music. The original theater was inaugurated in 1919 (with a beautifully painted ceiling by Nazareno Orlandi). The bookstore opened in 2000, using former balconies as cozy literature nooks and the former stage as a coffee shop.

Café Tortoni, now celebrating its 150th anniversary, is a trademark restaurant of the nation's capital. Inaugurated by French immigrants along Mayo Avenue in 1858, Café Tortoni still draws thousands of tourists and locals for its great food and lovely interior (which draws you back into decades of historical icons and cultural pastimes). Besides Storni and Gardel, Jorge Luis Borges was also a regular guest, enjoying a daily breakfast inside.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Travel Slideshow #4 - Córdoba

Termed "La Docta" for its educational development and academic appeal, Córdoba is also referred to as Argentina's second capital. While the city center is crowded with office towers, government buildings, and endless apartments, the numerous locals also pride themselves on provincial history. First founded in 1573 by Spanish explorers, Jesuit missionaries arrived shortly after, dedicating the national university in 1621 (the oldest in Argentina). The Jesuit order, along with Carmelites and Franciscans, constructed multiple religious edifices across this central province: cathedrals, chapels, convents, and estancias. The capital of Córdoba combines both modern construction and colonial architecture with baroque and indigenous elements. The Jesuit Block, in the heart of downtown, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. The lush countryside offers narrow dirt roads, rolling green hills, and several religious sites. Alta Gracia, one of many rural towns, was also home to a young Che Guevara in 1932. It was his hope to escape Buenos Aires and breath the fresh air of Córdoba in order to relieve his asthma.

LDS Church History:

In 1925, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered in Buenos Aires to dedicate the entire continent of South America in preparation for Mormon missionary service. While multiple chapels were constructed in the following decades, the LDS temple in Argentina was not dedicated until 1986 (in Buenos Aires). Many sacred ordinances of the LDS faith are only available inside this religious edifice. For many years, church members scattered across Argentina have traveled great distances to visit Buenos Aires and enter the temple.

As Tania and I served as missionaries in Argentina's northwest, we witnessed how local church members often saved their money for years before taking this important trip (a distance of 800 miles from Salta). There are currently 128 LDS temples in operation worldwide. Such temples are established based on regional population of church members and other factors. The construction of such temples are financed through the tithes and generous offerings of faithful members (cumulative, not regional).

This weekend, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered worldwide to hear the semi-annual General Conference. In April and October of each year, religious leaders of the Mormon faith share important messages and principles with church members across the globe (a live satellite broadcast from Salt Lake City to nearly 100 nations and translated into more than 80 languages).

Just yesterday, 5 additional LDS temples were announced during General Conference: Philadelphia, Kansas City, Calgary, Rome...and Córdoba, Argentina. There are currently 300,000 members of the LDS faith inside Argentina. We are so happy for the local members here that have waited so long, in patience and faith, for this second temple in their homeland. Construction will begin shortly.

(click here for local newspaper article regarding mormons in argentina - i am actually sitting in the top right photograph)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Restaurant Pick: La Tupiña

This blog has become a wonderful outlet for both Tania and I to discuss our life and share our moments. We do not openly market and/or promote businesses on this blog - however, there are special exceptions. I believe it is always necessary to recognize exceptional service when possible - especially when such service far exceeds your initial expectations.

In 2006, I returned to Argentina on business. I spent two weeks building contacts and friendships across the country - artists, managers, chefs, etc. While in Mendoza, I had the pleasure to visit La Tupiña - a unique bistro nestled below the majestic peaks of the Andes. After years of eager anticipation, I returned yesterday (2008) with three dear friends who have recently relocated to Argentina. What appears to be a quaint adobe cottage along a narrow gravel road is actually one of the finest dining experiences we have ever had. I use "experience" because the word "meal" does not suffice.

From downtown Mendoza, you must travel south along Ruta 40 before turning west towards Tupungato - a developed town nearly 100km from the provincial capital in the heart of Valle de Uco. Located just outside Tupungato (in Gualtallary), La Tupiña welcomes travelers for afternoon lunch (reservations a good idea).

La Tupiña signifies the black cauldron which rests inside over an open fire - a common gathering place for dear friends in the countryside. Upon arrival, you will be greeted with the warm hospitality of both cooks and servers, inviting you to join them around the cauldron as master chefs prepare fine h'orderves and appetizers before your eyes - roasted eggplant, empanadas criollas, grilled mozzarella with sundried tomato, and a "shot" of gourd soup. You are encouraged to mingle and ask questions as the chef clearly explains his choice of ingredients and methods of preparation.

After savoring the flavor of several distinct spices and herbs, you will return to the main dining area and unwind on a leather sofa, turning the pages of local wine books that sit before you. In just a few short minutes, a new round of h'orderves begins, each served with a gracious smile. A personal favorite: miniature bowl of soft yam served over ground beef and onion, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.

Your official table has now been prepared and you are invited to dine outdoors on the patio. Amidst a peaceful vineyard, and surrounded by towering poplars, you will now begin with the main course - vegetable canoles, roasted potatoes, and seasoned matambre (flank steak). Each and every dish is served with an insightful explanation.

As for desert, you will be treated with rice pudding and other sweet miniature concoctions. However, it is the soft sorbet inbetween that will not only cleanse your pallet, but delight your taste buds: strawberry with specks of black pepper + pear with a pinch of thyme.

Each course is paired with fine wine - burgundy Malbec, Cabernet, Merlot - all of which are carefully crafted inside Altus, a charming bodega (winery) located directly across the gravel road. As La Tupiña is part of the Altus establishment, you are encouraged to combine your culinary experience with a private tour conducted inside the winery - a staple activity of the local tourism industry.

*For my fellow non-wine drinkers, you will be happy to know they serve all Coca-Cola products...and a very pleasant lemonade :)

With such a peaceful rural setting, paired with the rustic elegance of the interior (dried flowers, vibrant gourds, warm paints of orange and yellow hues), La Tupiña captures both intimate ambience and cultural tradition.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Enanitos Verdes: EN VIVO!

To celebrate Tania's birthday early, I purchased tickets to see Los Enanitos Verdes here in Mendoza. As native mendocinos, the group was coming home to perform at Bustelo Auditorium - just a few blocks from our home. Despite Marciano's apparent new look (reminiscent of Jerry Garcia), the band put on an incredible show until 12:30AM last Friday, September 12th. We only recorded a few clips with our camcorder.

Suddenly, during the third song, a frantic red laser beam started jumping around my head. Security must have seen the camcorder, and thinking I would sell bootleg copies of the tape all over town, they made me turn it off (which you will see near the end). Irony: street vendors were selling pirate music of the band just outside in the hallway.

The concert was amazing. Felipe must have changed his guitar at least 12 times during the show - including a neon green "glow in the dark" guitar for Tu Cárcel. Marciano would make a different toast between each song, and even invited a bunch of young girls on stage to sing Luz de Dia with the band. My favorite highlight was watching teenagers and their aging parents jumping up and down together with their illuminated cell phones during Guitarra Blanca.

Anyway, here's a short video highlighting one of Argentina's great rock bands - music for all ages.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tele - $%*@

So, as many have noticed, we have not posted anything new this week. We apologize to our devoted readers and friends - all five of you :)

Basically, we lost our internet service at home this past Wednesday morning - no explanation, no reason. Despite numerous calls to different "customer service" numbers, Telefonica will not assist us for at least 96 hours - this is their company policy.

You do not have much of a choice when the company you have basically runs a monopoly across the nation. So, as with many of our friends, we just sit and wait.

For now, we have the joy of using public cyber cafes in the city.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Travel Slide Show #3 - Jujuy

While I spent very little time in Jujuy during my volunteer mission, my dear wife spent several months in Jujuy as a missionary herself. In mid-2005, as part of an independent research project, we visited Argentina's northernmost province together to travel along both Ruta 40 and Ruta 9 in hopes of discovering the hidden treasures and villages of the Humahuaca Canyon. Now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this province offers indigenous fortresses, historic museums, adobe chapels, and dusty roads. Once territory of Perú (a key factor in understanding local traditions), select churches still display colonial images of Cusco along their walls.

So, here are a few stops to make during your trip: Visit the yellow adobe church of Tumbaya. See the hillside cemetery of Maimara, set against the zigzag patterns of Paleta del Pintor. Admire the Hill of Seven Colors that embraces Purmamarca. Explore the recreated fortresses and corrals of Pucara de Tilcara. And make it to Humahuaca before 12:00 noon so you can witness San Francisco Solano appear from the local clock tower to bless the central plaza (the world's first animated saint).

Below is a compilation of photos taken during 2005 and subsequent trips. For further information and travel consultation, please visit Imagine Argentina Travel.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Travel Slide Show #2 - Cusco & Sacred Valley, Perú

In April 2006, I was fortunate enough to visit Perú - the Sacred Land of the Incas and South America's focal point for indigenous ruins. A dear colleague of mine, native to Lima, had shared with me both beautiful stories and photographs of her homeland. Still, I stood in awe each day as I walked along ancient fortresses and through open valleys.

As a student of Latin American history, visiting Cusco was such an amazing experience. The central square, Plaza de Armas, is completely overshadowed by the local Cathedral of Santo Domingo. Once inside, I had never seen such intricate woodwork in my life - one could spend the entire day just exploring the fine details of the interior. For me, this is one of the most significant historical sites in all of Latin America. The city was overcome by Pizarro in 1535, and the colonial structures that followed stand as a testimony to the Spaniards' adoration of God (and wealth) - yet they also stand for years of abuses against the local indigenous tribes.

While everyone is familiar with Machu Picchu, I will save those photos for another day - it deserves its own presentation. However, most people do not know that several breathtaking ruins lie just outside Cusco along the Urubamba Valley. Local residents in vibrant attire hike winding trails, while others sell baby hot potatoes along the hillsides. Pisac Market is another required stop - pick up some authentic crafts, or try some corn with green peanut sauce!

*All images and content are property of Imagine Argentina. All rights reserved - use without permission is prohibited ©