Saturday, February 11, 2017

Our All Too Short Stay in El Calafate.


We arrived in to El Calafate late yesterday afternoon and will be making our way back to Puerto Natales tomorrow morning. So, we've barely spent any time here though we did have a chance to do some walking around yesterday.    

After arriving, the first thing we had to do was get money.  So, we got some information from the ever so kind receptionist at the hostal.  We also asked her for suggestions on places to get a nice dinner as I had promised Bro we would have at least one meal in a nice restaurant (yes, one meal 😀) on our trip.  She handed us a map and marked off the locations of the ATM machine and the restaurant.

Off we went.  The ATM machine was inside a bank, just a few blocks past the bus station so that was easy to find.  It turned out the hostal was located just two parallel streets over from the main street that runs through this part of town which is the very touristy part of town.

One nice thing about the town is that it's nestled among tall trees, mainly pines.  It's very woodsy here, almost an alpine village feel to the place - especially with all the wooden A frame buildings that dot the town. It's pretty here.  It's not to say that there aren't any  *modest* structures (i.e., wooden slat buildings with corrugated tin roofs) here but overall, the place is much nicer than either Punta Arenas or Puerto Natales which I would consider working port towns - blue collar places for lack of a better description.


From the bank, we headed  down the hill, towards the main street which is filled with restaurants, cafes, bars and shops....lots of shops.  Just seeing the items displayed in shop windows and I could tell that El Calafate caters to a well monied crowd.  Lots of very nice things available for purchase.

We hadn't had  much to eat all day yesterday, so as we walked along, we kept our eyes out for a place to have dinner.  We checked out a few menus.  There were a lot of steak, burger and pizza places. Given the heavy European influence on their culture, I didn't know if this was typical Argentinian food we were seeing or if this was tourist fare.  Perhaps a combination of both.

Unfortunately, the receptionist had not given us the name of the restaurant, just a rough idea of where it was located.  I wasn't in the mood to wander around looking for a place to eat so when we looked at the menu of a reasonably priced place, I said to go for it.  And yes, I had a burger, topped with a fried egg and served with a side of fries.  I think that Americans make the best burgers so I am spoiled and this burger was only okay.  The meat, while flavorful and cooked on a grill, was dry.  The bun ....nah, tasted like a pita.  Fries, okay but I prefer shoe string fries.  Bro ordered up some beef stew which he enjoyed.  One thing for certain.  The beef here does taste good.  I am already looking forward to a steak....or two :-)


After our dinner, we walked along the main street, in the direction to our hostal.   More shops and restaurants.   Most places seemed empty so I had to wonder where the crowd is. Bro seems to think that people eat at a much later hour than we had and that while we were eating, most eateries were probably just gearing up for the nightly service.

In comparison to both Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales, El Calafate is definitely  a far more upscale place.  Things definitely cost more here!  Case in point, we walked inside a gelato place.  I have to have my ice cream and yes, they had some interesting flavors.  I checked out the various cone/cup options and the smallest cone was $5 which is pricey but if they give you a decent size cone that would be okay.  I saw an itty bitty sugar cone (no more than 2 inches in length) on the counter, above the bins of ice cream.  I thought that was just an example but that turned out to be the actual $5 cone!  I would literally get two nibbles of ice cream for $5.  I was so shell shocked by the price, I just shook my head and left.  I still can't believe the price - that's just highway robbery.  As we walked out the store, I wondered how much tomorrow night's dinner is going to cost me!


Squished between two buildings was a small plant nursery.  Even though he can't buy anything to bring back home with him, Bro had to check it out.  Whoever owns this place as made the most they can possibly make out of a small strip of land.   Once you walk past the point where the buildings end, a secret garden unfolds before you.  A lovely place.


The place we're staying at, the Schilling Hostel Patagonico is a very modest hostel but very cosy and comfy... ..and friendly. The lobby has several seating areas and there is a separate TV room as well.   You can get free coffee and tea all day long.   Our room is simple. It overlooks the inner courtyard so it's quiet.  We have two twin beds and a clean bathroom. 


The hostal's dining room is very homey and there's a kitchen that guests can make use of.  Had I known that before hand, we would've stopped at the nearby supermarket and picked up some fixings for sandwiches for lunch today.  Oh well...next time :-)

Breakfast is a simple continental.  There was some really delicious home made pound cake, with lemon frosting drizzle, this morning.  I stashed away a thick slice which I snacked when we were in El ChaltĂ©n.  It was good and since Bro had taken his own piece, I didn't have to share!


For dinner tonight, we splurged at dined at La Tablita, a well known restaurant that is literally located about 3 blocks from our hostal.  The place was crowded with people and even though we didn't have a reservation, we managed to get a table.  Looking around, it appeared that the diners were a mix of locals and tour groups.  Service was awfully slow but we were in no rush.  Since Patagonia is renown for lamb, that's what Bro opted for.  I had a weakness for sweetbreads so that's what I ordered up.  We settled on a plate of grilled veggies to share. Sadly, neither of us in a wine drinker otherwise, we would have ordered glasses of Malbec but instead we had Coca Colas.  It's shocking how unrefined I can be given how much of a foodie I am :-)


We waited for nearly an hour for our food to arrive.  Thankfully, there was some bread to munch on.  Finally, the waiter deposited a large platter before us.  Both the lamb and sweetbreads were on it.  Bro got four really good size, different cuts of grilled lamb and I got four HUGE pieces of sweetbreads.  I've never had such large pieces before!  They were creamy and delicious!  The plate of veggies was underwhelming.  More like a portion for one person and not two.


For our dinner, I forked over $65!  It was a nice meal but for less than a third of the price, we much preferred our seafood meals in Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales.  I've always said I much prefer to eat like a peasant than a king. :-) We paid for the ambiance tonight which was lost on both of us who were dressed in hiking clothes.  Not that we looked out of place but we definitely brought the style level down by a baby notch. Tomorrow night, we've agreed we're downscaling on the dining establishment.

Tonight, we have to pack up as we are heading back to Puerto Natales via Sur Bus.  Lucky the bus station is only about a 5 minute walk from the hostal!

Goodnight from El Calafate!  We'll be back in Argentina in 3 days!