A Really Good Dinner

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Flag of Argentina  , Patagonia,
Friday, January 28, 2011

Today's main activity was bus riding.  Our overnight bus was pure luxury since we scored the front two seats on the top deck of the bus.  That translated to tons of extra legroom, since the windshield bows out.  I reclined my seat as far as it would go, stuck my backpack on top of my footrest, and lay down with my legs sticking straight out.  It was heaven!  And because this time, no one was sitting in front of me doing rude things, I didn't have to give anyone the old powdered sugar/crumbs treatment, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, after a brief layover in Rio Gallegos, a town that makes Comodoro Rivadavia look as exciting as Paris, we took our final bus to El Calafate, the furthest south we're going in Patagonia.  My guidebook had downplayed El Calafate as just a "jumping off point to see the glaciers," but I thought it was adorable.  It reminded me of a ski town.  A few parks and green spaces here and there were decorated with old-fashioned lanterns, rose bushes, and, to the delight of this traveler who had to leave her perfume behind for the sake of a lighter backpack, lavender bushes.  I was so excited to break off a few sprigs to stuff inside my pockets and backpack.  Perfume (or a fresh lavender substitute) is one of those little details that really makes me feel like myself.

The main street, Avenida del Libertador, was lined with restaurants and shops to please the tourists (ice-cream, souvenirs, jewelry, outdoor clothing/gear, etc.).  Looking around, three-quarters of the people on the street were dressed in hiking clothes, and/or carrying backpacks.  Definitely a town for the “outdoorsy types,” as my mother would say.   



I was very happy as we checked into our hostel, the Libertador property of the Hostels de Los Glaciers.  From the outside, it looks like a cross between an alpine chalet and a Victorian dollhouse.  It’s painted teal with white scroll trim, little peaked roofs over the dormer windows and an all-wood interior.  Inside, three stories of rooms are arranged around a long, narrow open-air courtyard decorated with a few shrubs, a miniature wheelbarrow and the drying tents and socks of recently returned campers. 

Our room was small, but cute, with sunny yellow walls and new beige tile work on the floor.  The tiles a nice change from the warped, squeaky floorboards we’ve grown accustomed to at most of our hostels. 

For dinner, we headed to La Tablita, which has the best reputation in town within the budget category.  Everyone goes to La Tablita for the meat, especially the mixed grills.  That’s exactly what we had - Patagonian lamb, a couple different cuts of beef, and chicken, and a side of French fries done in white wine, garlic and rosemary.  It was all absolutely divine, especially the lamb, which had a flavorful, crispy skin that must’ve been mostly butter.  The meal was definitely more than we usually spend on dinner, but I like to get one really good meal wherever I go, to make sure I’m tasting the best the region has to offer.  Plus, they gave us so much meat that we had it for dinner for the next two nights, so it actually worked out to be a bargain.  


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