Day 1: Buenos Aires City Tour. Buenos Aires is a sprawling city of many different neighborhoods. This necessitates a local guide and driver, or, alternatively, a series of taxi rides. It’s a beautiful city, albeit a fading glory. The decline of Argentina is often discussed by economists. It was one of the world’s ten richest countries at the dawn of the 20th century. Now it ranks 61st. To put this in perspective, its people now enjoy a standard of living that is only about 40% of the levels enjoyed by the top ten nations. Argentina has become a textbook case for how bad governance can, over time, wreck even the best economy. The Wall Street Journal’s Index of Economic Freedom– a measure of how friendly (or hostile) nations’ institutions are to business and entrepreneurship – ranks Argentina 158th (out of 179). BA’s former prosperity is evident in such architectural masterpieces as the Teatro Colón, Palacio de las Aguas Corrientes, and the Palacio Barolo. The Palacio Barolo was inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, with its lower, middle, and upper floors evoking hell, purgatory, and heaven, respectfully. Buenos Aires’ neighborhoods also are nice for short walks. Recoleta Cemetery is a maze of ornate crypts, including that of populist former first land, Eva Perón. La Boca is full of art galleries, street performers, and tango bars. It’s a great place to spend an hour taking a professional tango lesson. For dinner, try Fervor – in Recoleta and a short walk from most hotels. Its wine cellar contains rare bottles of Bodega Catena Zapata’s Estiba Reservada, a delicious blend of cabernet sauvignon, malbec and merlot rarely found outside of Argentina.
Day 2: Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. Just across the river from Buenos Aires is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. It’s only an hour-long ferry away. You enter Colonia’s 17th century Portuguese historic quarter by walking across a wooden drawbridge. Once inside, there are various homes, convents, and museums. It’s one of those places where the collective ambiance is the destination—rather than any number of its parts. After lunch, get picked up by a driver from the Carmelo Resort (previously the Four Seasons Uruguay, now a Hyatt property). On the way out of town, ask him to stop at the Colonia bull ring. It opened in 1910 to crowds of 10,000 or more, only to be put out of business two years later when Uruguay banned bullfighting. Its arches and facades are now crumbling (so watch for falling debris). Sneak inside for a unique picture amid the ruin’s graffiti-covered walls. The drive to Carmelo will pass through dove hunting country. You don’t even need a gun. There are so many birds that your driver will hit dozens along the way. Try to keep count!
Day 3: Polo and Wine Tasting Tour. Carmelo has an excellent polo club, where you can receive lessons. Even a complete novice can be hitting the ball across the field in 15 minutes. Mornings are better, though, as the fields get hot in then afternoon. Carmelo is in the heart of Uruguay’s wine region, which is known for its unusual red wine varietal – Tannat. The best place to start is Finca Narbona, which also offers a solid lunch after the polo outing.
Day 4: Dove Hunting. Scott grew up bird hunting in northern Mexico. Before the Rio Grande Valley became a sprawling metropolitan area, there were mass migrations of doves. Flocks were so large that they looked like dark clouds on the horizon. Uruguay and adjacent areas of Argentina are home to enormous flocks of eared dove, estimated to number about 30 million. They breed four times a year and fly constantly between woodland roosts and agricultural areas, where they descend on crops like a plague of locusts. Scott and his son hired a guide to experience the rapid-fire hunting. The number of birds that could be killed was almost limitless. Their son got so bored with the slaughter that he set his iPhone at the base of a tree where most of his dead birds were landing. He turned on the video recorder and fired. The bird tumbled toward the camera, landing two feet away from the phone, caught for posterity.
Day 5: Bike Tour. The hotels have mountain bikes available, along with maps to ride along rural trails and byways. Bikers can ride into the village of Carmelo and cross its famous swinging bridge. Another fun destination is the nearby marina at Puerto Camacho, which has a casual dining spot on the river known for its pizza.
Day 6: Boating on the Rio Parana. The Parana is the second longest river in South America, flowing from Brazil to the Atlantic. Its name means “like the sea” in a local language – not, as some report, the flesh-eating piranha fish. That being said, locals claimed that piranhas inhabited its waters and attacks on swimmers were not uncommon. The Gailles opted to stay in their boat during the tour.
Photo Tip: The Colonia bullring.
Photo Tip: On the polo field