Saturday, June 16, 2012

Now & Soon: a Southern Cone Update

Today’s entry focuses partially on my own current and recent activities, and a potentially encouraging development in Argentina.
Every month, Air Canada’s inflight magazine En Route features a “High & Low” department that focuses on a destination from distinct price viewpoints as reflected in the section’s title. This month, I myself wrote “Santiago Two Ways” to cover alternative options for wine (Baco Vino y Bistro, as pictured at top, and Viña Santa Carolina, pictured above), culture (the Teatro Municipal and the Centro Gabriela Mistral, pictured below), and dinner (Zully and Galindo) in the Chilean capital. The succinct coverage was a challenge and, even then, I only had to write half of it – as it must do, En Route also translated my original text into French for its Quebecois clients.
This weekend, I can breathe a sigh of relief as I submit the manuscript for the upcoming fourth edition of Moon Handbooks Chile. That’s a little later than I anticipated because a delayed departure for South America, followed by successive bronchitis attacks in Buenos Aires and Santiago, slowed my research. Still I was able to spend two and a half productive months in the Southern Cone.
Now the editorial process gets underway and, with a little luck, the new edition will be on the shelves before year’s end. Look for substantial improvement in the coverage of hotels and restaurants, especially in key destinations like Santiago, Valparaíso (note the Hotel 17, above, and the view restaurant Casa Cuatro Vientos, below), the Colchagua valley wine district, San Pedro de Atacama, Puerto Varas, Puerto Natales, and Rapa Nui (Easter Island).
Yesterday, Argentine interior minister Florenco Randazzo publicly presented the new Argentine passport, a state-of-the-art document that carries the bearer’s personal data on a microchip. At first glance, this wouldn’t seem to matter much to non-Argentines or even many Argentines who live overseas – my Argentine-born wife, for example finds it simpler to travel there on her US passport. Still, this has potential significance for many foreigners interested in traveling to Buenos Aires and beyond.

That’s because, according to Randazzo, the government plans to petition foreign governments that require visas from Argentine travelers to lift those visa requirements because the new documents are more difficult to falsify than the older ones.  If the governments in question – primarily the US, Canada, and Australia - accept the proposal, though, it could mean the end of Argentina’s own expensive and irritating “reciprocity fee” imposed on travelers from those countries. The end of that ill-considered and counter-productive measure (which was really a “retaliation fee” against the governments mentioned above, with the US the primary target) would be a positive development for everybody. Still, it’s easier to impose such measures than it is to revoke them.

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