Tag Archives: argentina

Facts you didn’t know about the Vatican

Buon Giorno and Happy Easter Monday! The new Pope is elected and Catholics all over the world are celebrating. But did you know these little-known facts about the Vatican?

  • Vatican City is a country with its own sovereignty, passports, bank and, yes, stamps. It’s been a nation since 1929, and is the smallest in the world with only about 800 residents and 0.17 square miles.
  • The special security team that protects the popes is called the Swiss Guard. If you want to join the guard, you have to be between 19-30 years old, male, at least 1.74 meters tall and have been born in Switzerland. They can, however, get married after 3 years of service.
  • The Swiss Guard have a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/gsp1506
  • The museums contain one of the largest art collections in the world, with over 9 miles of pieces and 1400 rooms.
  • One of our preferred vendors, Tauck, offers an exclusive after-hours Vatican Museums tour. View the remarkable Sistine Chapel, Candelabra Gallery, and tapestries after all the crowds and lines have left for the day. Quite the memorable experience.
  • The day a Pope is elected is considered a holiday during his term in office.
  • Animals are not allowed in the Vatican.
  • The ATMs are in Latin.
  • Every Wednesday morning the Pope holds a Papal Audience and addresses the public in multiple languages. Drop by on this day to receive a holy papal blessing with the crowds!
  • The Church’s Chief Exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, claims to have expelled more than 300 demons a year.
  • The Vatican still has the letter from Henry VIII requesting the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, which they promptly refused.
  • All the artwork in St. Peter’s Cathedral are mosaics instead of common paintings, ensuring that the beauty of the chapel they would persevere through the ages.
  • Pope Francis is the first pope to come from Latin America.

Thinking of a trip to Italy? Do you prefer the hustle and bustle of Rome or the languid hills of Tuscany? Our agents have been in and around Italy several times and can advise you on air tickets, rail, villa rentals, hotels, and the best time to go! Give us a call at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Argentina Feature: Empanadas

The empanada appears in many shapes and forms all across the globe, and each chef has their own unique recipe. In Chile, they tend to stuff their empanadas with pino, a traditional filling of beef, onions, raisins, black olives, and a hard-boiled egg. Costa Ricans serve dessert empanadas with guava, pineapple, chiverre squash and dulce de leche.

The empanada is one of the national dishes of Argentina, second only perhaps to the famous and succulent beef barbecue. Nowhere else in South America do we see such a variance in these delicious hand pies: beef, corn, béchamel, ham and cheese, onion and cheese. In Buenos Aires alone there are about fifteen flavors! There are also so many regional variants, from the olive empanadas of the Mendoza valley to the seafood-stuffed goodies of the coast.

Empanadas can come in savory or sweet flavors. Baked or fried, they can be served as a snack (2-3 pies) or a larger lunch (4-5). They are said to come from Spain and Portugal, in the Spanish version empanadillas. The world empanada comes from Spanish empanar, “to coat or wrap in bread.” Originally a dish for festivals and celebrations, the empanada is now very common in Argentina restaurants and as a take-away food. While strolling down a street in Buenos Aires, look out for the repulgue, a pressed pattern on the dough that indicates the filling.

Want to delve more into the world of the empanada? Book an empanada cooking class in the bohemian neighborhoods of Buenos Aires or try these recipes at home!


photo by mumumio

RECIPE – SHELLS (from http://laylita.com)
You can purchase shells of the empanada in most Latin markets; the two types of shells are estilo criolla or the flakier estilo hojaldre. Or make them yourself at home—it’s not as hard as it sounds! To make 15 medium empanada shells:


3 cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
6 oz unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1 egg
4-5 tbs water


  1. Mix the flour and salt in a food processor.
  2. Add the butter, egg and water until a clumpy dough forms.
  3. Form a ball and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
  4. Roll out the dough into a thin sheet and cut out round disc shapes for empanadas (use round molds or a small plate).
  5. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator or freezer to use later.

RECIPE – FILLING (from www.fromargentinawithlove.typepad.com)
After you’ve mastered your shells, it’s time to make the filling! To make about one dozen empanadas, you need:


1 lb ground beef
1 TB butter
2 onions
1 1/2 TB smoked paprika
2 tsp cumin
6 green olives, pitted and cut into slices
2 hard-boiled eggs, cut into rounds
salt and pepper to taste
crushed red pepper, to taste
12 empanada rounds (tapas)
1 egg, beaten, for glazing
1 glass water, to seal edges


  1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions with a dash of salt until translucent.
  2. Add the beef, chopping as it cooks with a flat spatula. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until beef has been cooked through, then stir in the paprika, cumin, and crushed red pepper and mix well.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out the tapas on a lightly floured work surface. With a spoon, put a little of the meat filling in the center of the dough round. Add a slice of the olive and a piece of the hard-boiled egg.
  4. For sealing, you’ll need your glass of water. Moisten the edge of the top half of the round with a little water on your finger. Fold the bottom half of the dough up until the edges meet and seal with your fingers by pressing down. The empanada should have a half-moon shape.
  5. Use your hands to pack the filling firmly in the center. Next, fold the edge with the Repulgue technique: using your fingertip, fold one corner of the empanada over, and press down firmly down firmly. Go to the edge again and repeat, until you get a spiral pattern. You could also use a fork instead.
  6. Beat an egg in a cup and paint the top of each sealed empanada so that when they bake, they have a shiny, golden shell.
  7. Spread flour lightly over several cookie sheets, and place the finished empanadas on top. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown and sizzling.

Interested in a vacation in Buenos Aires or the rest of Argentina? Chat with our experienced and knowledgeable agents at Willamette International Travel. Call us at 1-800-821-0401 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Patagonia—the name sounds mythical, Argentina’s El Dorado or Shambala. South America boasts some of the most dramatic mountain ranges on Earth, and none as impressive as Patagonia. Named for a legendary race of giants, the region has long captivated the hearts and minds of adventurers and travelers.

Willamette International Travel can arrange trips that take you to the center of this gorgeous, natural world. Whether you’re a hardcore adventurer or lover of luxury, we’ll make sure you find your niche. With such a vast expansive of territory and bases to choose from, there’s something for every type of traveler.

Here are just some of sample itineraries available to clients:

Trek the full W Circuit: 12 Days, Santiago to Puerto Natales. Built for physically active travelers (not mountaineers), this trip will take you through the magnificent Torres del Paine. Head out with specially trained leaders and camp out in the wild heart of Argentina. Visit the the French Valley and Grey Glacier around the famed W Circuit.

photo by Phil Whitehouse

Chilean Adventure: 8 Days, Santiago to Buenos Aires. Combine rich wineries of Santiago and the pristine beauty of Patagonia on this amazing tour. Hike through Chile’s Lake District, cleanse your palate at a winery tour, embark on a trek to Osorno Volcano and Petrohue Falls—all against the backdrop of the incredible Patagonia range. This trip balances wilderness and comfort, with full transfers, private van, short flights, and an experienced guide.

photo by pclw

The Best of Patagonia: 11 Days, Buenos Aires to Buenos Aires. Capture the best of Patagonia with this comfortable and exciting tour. See Patagonia at its most wild and untamed, while enjoying the comforts of a planned itinerary, comfortable hotels, and a small group experience. Day hike through Glacier National Park, and view the frozen cascades of Perito Moreno Glacier. Admire the gorgeous views of Laguna de los Tres and Monte Fitz Roy.

photo by Grace Courbis

Puerto Natales in Luxury: 4 Days, Puerto Natales. Want to enjoy the vistas without too much activity? Book a trip to Puerto Natales, gateway to the spectacular Torres del Paine National Park. Just three hours from Puna Arenas, this town has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1978. Stay at a hacienda-inspired countryside hotel and admire the natural beauty of the Balmaceda Glacier, Ultima Esperanza Bay, and the Paine mountain range. Venture out from your lodge and horseback ride through valleys, ride a boat up to the nose of glaicers, or day hike up into the world.

Our agents would love to share their expertise in travel and South America with you. Call us at 800-821-0401 or email info@wittravel.com for more information.

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Filed under Argentina, Chile, News, South America, Top Experiences In..., Travel by Backpack


Imagine yourself at a table in Mendoza city. Food is terrific and tasty. The dishes in front of your nose are a myriad of delights: regional cheeses; salmon, trout; baked beef served with chimichurri sauce; locro, a dish of maize, beans, and pig’s feet; fried empanadas; tomatican, cherry tomatoes cooked with spring onions and eggs; Figassa butter bread; carne a la olla, meat and white wine stew in an iron pot; and spicy humita en chala sauce.

All of these tasty and hearty dishes are served with the finest wine of the province. Home to two-thirds of Argentina’s entire wine production, Mendoza has steadily been climbing the ranks of the finest wine regions of the world. Nestled in the foothills of the Andes, in the shadow of Mount Aconcagua, these vineyards cultivate acres of Criolla Grande, Cereza, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, and Chardonnay. These vines arrived with the Spaniards and share a common ancestry with the grapes in Chile and Peru.

The city of Mendoza herself has no end to sights and attractions. Explore one of the many parks, Mendoza Museum of Modern Art, the beautiful Plaza Espana. Just 14 km of town is the historic 1890 Casa de Fader, once home to the famous artist Fernando Fader. The heart of Mendoza is easy to navigate; you can walk or take one of the many affordable taxis around town. Stay at a downtown hotel for easy access, near the Plaza Independencia, a fantastic four blocks teeming with hustle and bustle. Wander down the nearby Sarmiento road, plop down at a café, watch the locals meander by while you sip on 6-peso-espresso.

Like all wine regions, the Mendoza province is best sampled in a private car—which gives you the flexibility and freedom to visit winery after winery. Keep in mind to book ahead well in advance, perhaps even with a professional—many wineries prefer if you arrive on a tour. For the best convenience and bang for your buck, you can fly from Buenos Aires and book a guided tour that will show you around. Wineries are still establishing themselves as an industry in Argentina, so your vineyard tours will likely be informal but with plenty of tastings. Many businesses don’t have the infrastructure or roads to handle too many tourists yet, so it’s best to organize a tour beforehand with a travel agent. Just remember: don’t drink and drive!

Want to sample the best of Mendoza’s Malbecs? Speak with our agents at Willamette Intl Travel for more information and suggestions for your Argentine itinerary. Call us at 800-821-0401 or email info@wittravel.com.


My favorite recipe for chimichurri

1 bunch flat leaf parsley

8 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 lemon wedge (juice of)

1 tablespoon diced red onion

1 teaspoon dried oregano (optional)

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt



1.       Pulse parsley in processor to chop.
2.      Add remaining ingredients and blend.
3.      Separate sauce into equal parts.
4.      Use half for basting or marinade, and half for table service.

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Seven Argentine Museums Not to Miss

photo by Victor Santa Maria

Museo Evita

A museum for one of Argentina’s biggest icons—Eva Peron. It houses extensive collections of her luxurious wardrobe, posters, books, paraphernalia—even fingerprints and a funereal mask of the famous First Lady.

Calle Lafinur 2988, Buenos Aires. Local/Foreigner: US$0.75/1.75. Open 2-7:30pm Tue-Sun.

Museo del Vino

Naturally Mendoza would have a Wine Museum. Situated at the Bodega La Rural, this museum/winery contains more than 4500 artifacts from antique oenophiles and modern winemakers alike. Admission includes a short guided visit around the facilities, a historical overview of Don Felipe Rutini who planted the first vines of La Rural in 1885, and—of course—exquisite wine tasting at the winebar.

La Rural, Montecaseros 2625, Coquimbito, Maipú, Mendoza. Weekdays 9a-5.30p. Sat 10a-4p, Sun 10a-1p.

Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes Juan B. Castagnino

This museum is a great resource to learn about art in Argentine and Europe. It stays modern, renovated, and up to date with its intriguing temporary exhibitions. It has 35 rooms of collections, comprising of more than 3000 works. Considered one of the most important art museums in the country.

Avenida Pellegrini 2202 CP 2000, Rosario, Santa Fe.  Weekdays (except Tue) 2p-8p. Weekends 1p-7p. Adults US $1.10.

photo by Liam Quinn

Museo Penitenciario (Prison Museum)

The Prison Museum preserves and promotes the social and cultural heritage of federal prisons in Argentine. Its building was originally used as a house of prostitutes and abandoned women. In 1980 the current museum opened. It contains a lot of intriguing objects of prisons, like clothing, tattoo machines, and playing cards. All of these are housed within themed rooms such as the criminology room, the pharmaceutical room, and women’s prison room.

Humberto Primo 378, San Telmo, Buenos Aires. 2p-6p, with bilingual guided tours at 5pm. Free entrance.

Museo del Títere (Puppet Museum)

The spectacular puppet museum was established in 1983 by Sara Bianchi and Mane Bernardo, in the latter’s old home. Her former house displays puppets from all over the world, and includes a library. Each puppet comes with a story—animals, dolls, heroes, tango singers, marionettes, wizard, skeletons, and dozens more. The in-house theatre even puts on productions every Saturday and Sunday.

Piedras 905, San Telma. Open 10a-12:30p and 3-6p Tue, Wed, Fri.

photo by Nestor Galina

Museo Rocsen

The eclectic museum operated by anthropologist and curator Juan Santiago Bouchon. It contains more than 11,000 pieces including antique motorcycles, mounted butterflies, human skulls, Buddha statues, film projectors, Catholic altars, 19th century instruments of torture, a shrunken head and a 1200 year old Peruvian mummy.

Alto de la Quinta 5887, Nono, Cordoba. $1.75 admission. 9am-sunset.

Museo Nacional del Teatro (National Theatre Museum)

Established in 1936, the theatre museum is located in the Cervantes National Theatre. It contains a collection of photographs, posters, handbills, documents, costumes, and personal belongings of actors, actresses, and authors of the past two centuries. Featured are such theatrical giants such as Lolita Torres, Milagros de la Vega, and Pepino 88. Besides the exhibits, there are many fantastic activities such as readings, book presentations, filmings, workshops, and theatrical productions.

Av. Cordoba 1199, Buenos Aires. Mon-Fri 10a-6p. Guided tours in Spanish on Wed, 2.30p. Free entrance.

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Guide to Argentina: Buenos Aires

The capital of Argentina is composed of a series of central barrios (neighborhoods). From the business district of the Centre to the wild tango clubs of Palermo, Buenos Aires has something for everyone.

Take an Empanada-Making class. Professional, local chefs will teach you all you need to know about the classic Argentine empanada. Afterward, pair the fruits of your labor with succulent Malbec wine, juicy steak, sweet biscuits and mate. Whether you’re an expert hobbyist or a novice, local chefs and guides with delight you with their local knowledge of cuisine and customs.

photo by Jameson Fink

Go on a food-themed walking tour or a pub crawl. Meet the friendly locals in popular, hip neighborhoods of San Telmo, Recoleta or Palermo. Led by an expert guide, you’ll be introduced to the best the culinary world has to offer. For a daring traveler, we recommend black pudding, liver, and sweetbreads.

photo by Pablo Dodda

Sample the drinks. Meet a local sommelier at a wine bar, and learn all there is to know about Argentina’s famous wines from Mendoza. Sample wine that has been carefully paired with tapas—crackers, cold cuts, cheese, and nuts. For a drink, sample the ingenious cocktails and browse through the 3,000 list of Argentinean reds and whites.

photo by Sergio Aguirre

Head to the Temaiken Zoo. Spend a day trip to the zoo just outside Buenos Aires. See animals from all over—sharks, white tigers, hippos, tapirs, alligators, penguins and more. Go on a Tuesday, when tickets are 50% off. Check out the Interpretive Centers, where audiovisual presentations educate the visitor on biology, the ecosystem, and the importance of nurturing the environment.

Lose yourself among the Dead. Take a sobering trip to the labyrinth of tombs and mausoleums of Cementario de la Recoleta. This is a necropolis of the good, bad and beautiful—from presidents, Nobel Prize winners, the granddaughter of Napoleon, and others. Pay homage to Eva Peron’s grave, then head to her collection of costumes, jewelry, and paintings on exhibit at the Museum Evita.

photo by Chimpanz APe

Learn to Tango. You know you want to, and where else but the birthplace of the dance? Spend an evening at a Milongas, or tango club, and admire the masters from afar or join in with the novices. Combine a tango show with delicious cuisine at the beautiful Palazzo Rossini. To see the cream of the crop, try the Centro Cultural Torquato Tasso. To delve more into the history, visit the Museo Casa Carlos Gardel, which celebrates tango’s first superstar.

photo by Gustavo Brazzalle

Sip at a Café. Café in Buenos Aires is nothing like watery American coffee—it’s thick, rich espresso. Nibble on a succulent medialuna (Argentinian croissant) while you dive into the liquidated warmth of freshly roasted beans. Delve into the countless pastries served here, from biscuits, cakes, ice cream, crepes, bonbons, flan—and the king of them all, the dulce de leche.

photo by Phillip Capper

Have a Picnic. Buenos Aires is a city of parks and picnics. Head over to the Reserve Ecological Constanera Sur and chow down on your lunch while enjoying the skittering iguanas, 200 species of birds and that oddest of fauna, the jogger. Moonlight tours can be booked ahead of time.

Marvel at Masters—Old and New. Head over to the art exhibits and galleries of Recoleta and Malba. Take a tour through the Coleccion Constantini, which boasts impressive pieces from Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Tarsila do Amaral. Fashionistas might discover funky boutiques in Palermo Viego. For the antiques collector, your best bet is hunting for relics in the bric-a-bracs of San Telmo and its main street, the Calle Defensa.

Willamette International Travel can arrange some of these experiences beforehand, and connect you with locals who live and breathe the city of Buenos Aires. Ask us about Marisa, our dedicated, personable tour guide whose vast knowledge and love of her city have charmed many of our clients.

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Argentina’s Reciprocity Tax

Prospective travelers to Argentina may or may not be aware of the reciprocity tax required for travel.

Argentina began to charge this tax three years ago as a response to the fee charged by the USA on Argentine citizens for entry. Previously, one could buy this on arrival at the Buenos Aires airport. Beginning September 1, 2012, there have been changes made to the amount and the procedure to pay for this tax. Cost is now $140 and must be purchased online. Citizens of Canada and Australia are also required to pay online, though the price differs. The lack of a proof of payment will result in denial of entry and consequent returning to the departure city by the airline.

Travelers in transit, meaning those who arrive and leave the same calendar day, do not have to pay the tax. This includes cruise passengers who arrive for the day—tax only must be paid if there is an overnight stay involved.

If travelers have paid the tax before, it is valid for 10 years as long as they still have proof of payment.

The new online system will work parallel to the regular on-site collection service at Ezeiza Airport until December 28, 2012 and at Jorge Newbery Airport until October 31st, 2012. After these dates, the only collection method will be online.

How to Pay Argentina’s Reciprocity Tax

1) Register on the website: https://virtual.provinciapagos.com.ar/ArgentineTaxes/Registro.aspx

2) Complete the form with your credit card information. This is sent to the DNM (Immigration Office)

3) Print the payment receipt

4) Upon arrival in Argentine territory, show the printed ticket

5) The ticket is scanned and validated to enter the country

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