This is why I love Argentina (and you will, too), by Pack Leader Cintia
Cintia Carolina Grimaldi lives just outside Buenos Aires and is a pack leader for Flash Pack’s Argentina adventure.
I’ve lived in Argentina all my life: I rent a house with my family in a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, just four kilometres from where I grew up.
When I was child, I remember my parents telling me, “Argentina has everything”. We have the glaciers, the mountains, the lakes and the falls. We have wine country in Mendoza and these beautiful, elegant cities. So Argentina has a little bit of everything, and I think that’s why you should visit this country. You’ll adore our cities, but also our range of incredible landscapes.
I studied tourism at university and I’ve been in the guiding business for 24 years now. But this year will be the first time I’ve worked with Flash Pack. I’m really excited to welcome groups to my home country!
My favourite part of my job is meeting new people from all over the world. Europe, Asia, New Zealand, Australia: I get to know visitors from all walks of life, and all ages. It’s so interesting hearing about their home cultures and mindsets. Trhey tell you things about the way that they live and it’s so great to be part of that.
You’d be amazed at the age range of travellers who come to Argentina, too. Because this is an adventure destination, we get a lot of trekkers and people interested in the Great Outdoors. But it’s not just young people who are attracted to the Andes and Patagonia. I’ve had people in their 90s before and they’re really adventurous – travel has no age limit!
The Paris of the South
When talking about my city, Buenos Aires, you’ll quickly see why it’s known as “the Paris of the South”. When you arrive here, you’ll probably be struck by the elegant architecture and European feel of the city. It’s like, “Oh my God, I’m in Paris!” or “I’m in Madrid”; or people say it reminds them of Rome or Barcelona.
I’ve never been to Europe, but it’s unbelievable how much visitors to Buenos Aires are struck by its similarities to Europe; You’ll love Buenos Aires’ wide, beautiful avenues, its café culture, the way that people walk in the streets or dress up when they dine out – all these things remind travellers of Europe.
There’s a road in Recoleta in the northern part of the city which leads to the park neighbourhood of Palermo. It’s like the Hyde Park area of London, very green and full of nature and rowing lakes. November is spring time in Argentina, and it’s my favourite month because you’ll always see hundreds of Jacaranda trees in full bloom, lining the avenue. So you have three or four blocks of these trees in beautiful violet blooms, it’s just fantastic. I talk about the trees of Buenos Aires a lot, and if you happen to travel here in spring, you’ll be amazed by the sight of Jacarandas in blossom.
I think our Flash Pack adventure to Argentina covers a really great range of landscapes and activities. We have cycling in Buenos Aires, wine tasting in Mendoza, and trekking and kayaking in Patagonia. El Chaltén is the capital for trekking in Argentina, and it’s a small town that’s very remote. There’s hardly any signal – we use Wi Fi at the hotels. So you’ll really love it because the views are incredible, there are great walks all around and it allows you to truly unwind in the natural scenery, surrounded by beautiful hills and mountains.
Ice hikes and people with passion
As for the best moment on our adventure, it has to be ice-hiking the Perito Moreno Glacier. You put crampons on, so it’s quite challenging but the view from the balcony, right at the top, is unbelievable. And the colour of the ice – dazzling blue – is just, “wow”. You can drink water directly from the glacier, too, it’s that clear and fresh.
As a nation, Argentinians are warm, and we’re very passionate about our country. Actually, we have a reputation for having a big ego, because lots of Argentinians think, “we are the best!” at this or that. But when you travel here, you’ll find people are very friendly and hospitable. If you’re in Buenos Aires, even if local people don’t speak English, they will try to help you with directions, or they’ll pull up a map on their cell phones.
We Argentinians like to hug, too, and we kiss each other all the time. I mean, this is the home of Tango, which is full of passion! Of course, Covid was difficult for everyone, all over the world. But with hugs being forbidden, it was really hard for us in Argentina because we’re naturally tactile. And lots of our routines, like drinking Maté (a popular kind of herbal tea) together, are very social – we even used to share the straw, and we can’t do that anymore.
From wine to family time
Family is very important to Argentinian culture, too. For example, like a lot of teenagers, our 17-year-old son wants to spend time on his computer. But as a family, we always pause for some Maté together at around 5 o’clock each day. It’s a moment that we have to share together, and talk about how our days have been. And during that time, we might also try to go to a local park or walk our dog.
When you’re in a city like Buenos Aires, you’ll see lots of families by the side of the road or in parks, with kids flying their kites, playing football or riding bikes. We’ll have all generations involved, as well: typically, we’ll gather around big tables with kids, parents and grandparents, for a family meal or BBQ.
Food-wise, you’ll find a little bit of everything in Argentina. Because of the European influence, we have things like empanadas and tapas from Spain, and pasta and pizza from Italy. But mostly of course, Argentina is famous for its incredible steaks. I always say to my groups, “OK, if you’re a vegetarian, you are in the wrong country!” But it’s just a joke because nowadays, we have lots of vegetarian and vegan restaurants.
And of course, Argentinian Malbec wine is fantastic – it goes perfectly with steak. You’ll get to explore a few excellent wineries in Mendoza on our Flash Pack adventure.
An emotional comeback
It’s hard to describe the feeling as a guide when you see people enjoying your country: our landscapes, the people and the food. It’s like “wow”. As someone who has grown up in Argentina, it makes me very happy. I enjoy my job a lot, and me and my colleagues in the tourism industry missed work so much these past few years.
Before Covid, when I took visitors around Buenos Aires, one person asked me, “Cyntia, are you famous?!” Because everywhere I went, I was saying “hi” and hugging people. The drivers, the other guides, local artists, people working in the coffee shops: we all know each other. It’s like one big family. And of course, I’ve been working in tourism for many years, so I know everyone.
It was hard not having that sense of connection under lockdown. Slowly, the tourism industry is growing again and visitors are returning to the country. I cry at everything, I’m a very sensitive person. And when I started to work again last November, I cried when I talked to some of my friends about visitors returning. After almost two years of not working, it was very emotional.
Find out more about Flash Pack’s adventure to Argentina, featuring glacial hikes, mountain lodges and the chance to make your very own red wine, right here.
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