Travel tips: An insider's guide to Argentina
Phil Crozier, Gaucho’s director of grape shows us around the South American country.June 19, 2016
Argentina is a country that Phil Crozier knows well. As director of wine for Gaucho restaurants worldwide, he has made dozens of trips there for work and pleasure since his first visit almost 20 years ago.
We asked him for some travel tips to the land of gauchos.
What do you remember from your first visit to Argentina?
It was 1999 and I was visiting vineyards in Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. It was a work trip, but it didn’t feel like work. It was the furthest I’d ever been from home and it was very exciting.
What were your first impressions?
All my preconceptions were blown away. Everyone thinks Latin America is quite backwards but I thought it was a modern place. Of course, some of it is backwards, but in a very good way.
How is tourism in Argentina?
Tourism is booming. You can do a great two-week trip there: Iguazu Falls, Mendoza wine country, a city break in Buenos Aires, and then the wilds of Patagonia down south. Those are the four things you need to do. You can spend a month there and still not see it all because Argentina is massive. I've never met anybody who went to Argentina and didn't fall in love it.
What are the Iguazu Falls like?
Mind blowing! It was one of the best days of my life. I stayed in a hotel in the rainforest in the national park. You pay your entrance fee and start walking along these walkways to the falls. You hear a bit of noise, then you turn a corner. Oh. My. God. It’s monstrously big and violent – just awe inspiring.
What do you like about Buenos Aires?
It’s very European, a bit like Paris, but more rundown. A lot of the architects who designed Paris also designed Buenos Aires. To me it feels like a combination of Paris, London, Madrid and Barcelona. It’s an old city, slightly fading and crumbling in a charming way.
Got any restaurant tips?
I think the best parrilla, or steakhouse, in Buenos Aries is Don Julia in Palermo, which is quite a trendy area with lots of young people. I also like Sucre in the Belgrano area and Tegui.
What about hotels?
The Alvear Palace is the best hotel in Buenos Aires. It’s old school, five star, beautiful and very grand. It’s still privately-owned by a family and when you walk inside you feel what it would have been like in its 1920s heyday.
When’s your next trip to Argentina?
One of the things I really want to do is ride a horse over the Andes, from Mendoza to Santiago in Chile. It takes five days. You do it with gauchos and you sleep out in the open. It's quite a challenge because the mountain roads can be scary.
Do you see gauchos on your travels?
Yes, you come from the airport on a six-lane motorway and on the hard shoulder you'll see a gaucho sitting on a horse with his dogs. It's weird.
So they’re doing a real job?
Oh yes, it’s not a tourist gimmick. They take cattle from pasture to pasture; it's a way of life. They are highly respected, proper tough guys. You don’t mess with a gaucho. But what amazes me is that they are always dressed beautifully. Ralph Lauren made a living out of the gaucho – they were his whole inspiration!