Sevilla-Cathedral versus Alcazar

Sevilla is 2000 years old with the usual group of defining influences Romans, Moors and Christians. The city sits on the Guadalquivir river, which is very difficult to pronounce, but which provided navigatable access to the sea so that vessels could dock in the port of Sevilla.

Sevilla has a Cathedral and an Alcazar which are its two major attractions. But which is the best?  Here they go head to head.

The Cathedral took eighty or a hundred years of construction effort, depending on your source (say 1434- to say 1511), it is enormous and it’s very gothic. It has the thickest supporting stone pillars I think I’ve ever seen and is decorated with extreme wooden carvings inside.

The Alcazar is a palace which was first built in 913 as a fort. The Moors worked on it for a couple of hundred years from sometime in the 1000’s. The Christians arrived in 1248 and used it as their main palace and continued with the building works.

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The cathedral has the biggest altarpiece in the world. Created between 1482 and 1564 it contains over a thousand carved figures !

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Seville gained great wealth from having sole Castillian rights to trade with the American colonies. Fitting, therefore, that Christopher Columbus ashes are held in this large box in the cathedral.

The cathedral is certainly very large, it is still the largest cathedral in the World, the two churches that are larger don’t have an Archbishop so they aren’t cathedrals. The big churches are St Peter’s at the Vatican and a church with a long name in Brazil that can hold 70,000 worshippers. In particular, the Sevilla cathedral is tall. I can imagine the effort that it took to move all those enormous stones and place them one on top of another until they finished up 42 metres high in the main churchy drag, called the central nave. The tower is an even more impressive 105 metres tall that has been built with ramp access so horses can be ridden up there, which we did not attempt. An incredible feat for the age. Perhaps more impressive if it had been engineered sufficiently to prevent the roof falling in. Firstly, in 1511, shortly after version 1.0 had been completed and secondly after an earthquake in 1888.

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Great big stone pillars holding up a great big stone roof over a great big stone floor.

The Alcazar is light and bright and adorned with carved arches, stucco and many courtyards that reflect a different Moorish mindset. It is joyous to walk around and at 17,000 square metres it has also been built on quite a scale. I say this to compare with the the cathedral which was deliberately done large, but which is, by my calculations, 1,500 square metres smaller in footprint.

 

The visit to the Alcazar is made all the more delightful by the sounds of running water and the various ponds stocked with fish and the extraordinary underground baths.

 

Just when you have decided that this is a most fabulous experience, there’s more:imageimage

Seven hectares of gardens by the side of the Alcazar. They are well maintained and again feature many pools, plus shaded walkways and elevated viewing corridors.

Judgement:

I found the cathedral to be dark and oppressive. During the last sixty years of the cathedrals construction the Catholics were ramping up the Inquisition. Torturing people (Jews and Arabs and others) and burning them to death with both Papal and Royal support. This suggests to me the Catholics of the time liked their religion to be served with a lot of suffering (mostly of non Catholics but not exclusively so). With this context, for me the Cathedral’s architecture reflects and captures the brutal misery of those times.

During the last twenty years of the cathedral’s build “trade” was starting with the new lands of the Americas and bringing great wealth to Sevilla. I place the word trade between rabbits ears as I understood that much of the bounty from the new lands was extracted forcibly, an activity similar to theft. Upshot was, Sevilla and the royal family had increasingly large amounts of cash to splash. Behind every great fortune there is a great crime. In this instance a slice of the great fortune was spent on, what I think is, an ugly cathedral, with a funding model that was also ugly.

The Alacazar and its gardens were light and bright, joyous expressions of the people who designed them, the Moors. Altogether a happier, more uplifting place to be.

As a cheapskate I occasionally stand next to tour guides without subscribing. The tour leader I stood next to for five minutes at the Alcazar was pointing out the Star of David incorporated into a window design. She explained how the Moors thought that everyone should get along famously for mutual benefit. As a result the Moors didn’t persecute Jews or Christians. As a result I have awarded contextual moral high ground points to the Alcazar.

At the Alhambra, and from my free audience at the Alcazar, I learnt the Moors were highly advanced in architecture and engineering, they were navigating using the stars and were great educators. I chose to see this advancement reflected in a more aesthetically designed edifice than the cathedral, more points.

The Spanish royal family have rooms at the Alcazar which they use. I decided Felipe VI and his family would like me to allocate liveability points to the Alcazar on their behalf. Finally, at Euros 9, the Alcazar has an entrance fee that is 50 cents cheaper than the Cathedral. That Cathedral just cannot take a trick.

Final score: Alcazar awarded bags full of points from many perspectives. The Cathedral many points also, but many negative ones which nets it out under water. The Alcazar is a must visit while in Sevilla.

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Argentina2018 – Airbnb host greets guest with requirement for their credit card details

The hosts entrepreneurial approach to insurance was a surprise. An even greater surprise was the reaction of the Airbnb Trust and Safety Team. Their first response is “We work hard to keep our community trustworthy and safe”. My experience differed. I found the Airbnb Trust and Safety Team did not work hard, declined to do anything that would help to keep the community (guests) safe and declined to do anything that would help to keep the community (host) trustworthy.

My indignation is getting ahead of the explanation…….,…….I set out below, in chronological order, a cautionary tale.

 

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The Incident

It was late afternoon on a Sunday in March 2018 and we had flown into the town of Mendoza, Argentina. We had booked and prepaid accommodation in Mendoza through the Airbnb site. The host greeted us and showed us the apartment. The host then required us to provide our credit card details to them before we were able to stay.

This was a shock. As veterans of 25 Airbnb rentals we had never been put in this situation before. There had been no mention of this requirement to us before we arrived and we had no recollection of having seen it on the listing. We felt ambushed. We felt we were without bargaining position because where else could we go at this late hour on a Sunday? The host said it was a damage guarantee, that they refer to it on the listing for the apartment and this arrangement has been authorised by Airbnb.

Unsurprisingly, there is no reference to collecting credit card details on the listing for the apartment. Airbnb confirmed that they do not authorise such arrangements. The host was slippery with the truth and my exposure is that the host will make a malicious charge to my credit card. I felt at financial risk staying at this Airbnb location.

I reported the matter to the Airbnb Trust and Safety Team and that correspondence is summarised and reproduced below:

1. I wrote a 1300 word report of the conversation with the host and sent this to Airbnb Trust and Safety Team.
2. Airbnb responded with what looked like an automated reply asking for information that had been provided and identifying that they have no liability for payments made outside Airbnb platform.
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3. I asked that they read my submission as I think it answers their questions. If there is anything more that I can provide then let me know and I will do my best to help them.
4. Airbnb told me my report was not sufficient proof that this event had occurred and they could do nothing further.
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5. I sent Airbnb the form that the host had created and printed out to be filled in with my credit card details. This form included the hosts name, my name and the hosts signature. It is a blank authority to charge my credit card.
6. Airbnb said that they reviewed the hosts form and it is not in violation of Airbnb terms of service
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7. I expressed surprise as I had always understood that Airbnb require all payments to be made through the Airbnb site and not to be collected directly by the host.
8. Airbnb responded to say that the host was operating outside the Airbnb terms of service. However, if I gave the host my credit card details that’s my problem not theirs.
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9. I suggested that now Airbnb has identified the host is in breach of the Terms of Service that Airbnb may wish to take action.
10. Airbnb responded that I had not been “able to provide us any proof this situation really happened” and they would now close the case.
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11. I made several suggestions to Airbnb of how they may like to proceed with my report:
a) Send an email to the host identifying the behaviour that had been reported to them. Remind the host that collecting credit card details from a guest is a breach of the Terms of Service. Ask the host to respond to Airbnb,
b) Airbnb could ask a number of previous guests if they had been required to provide their credit card details. This would garner additional “proof”,  although a surfeit of evidence was already in the hands of Airbnb,
c) I suggested that Airbnb could write to guests who had booked to stay in the future and let them know of my report and warn/advise those guests not to provide credit card details.

I thought these were very sensible suggestions to help Airbnb “work hard to keep our community trustworthy and safe”. I heard nothing more from Airbnb in response to my suggestions.

12. Three days later I received a feedback request from Airbnb regarding my report and how it had been resolved. I rated the representative as lowly as I could. I identified the Trust and Safety Issue as unresolved. I heard nothing more from Airbnb in response to my feedback.
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The lessons:

1. Stories of short term rentals being damaged by guests are newsworthy and published. Consequently, I expect we shall see more hosts protecting themselves by collecting credit card details from guests and operating a bond scheme similar to the one I encountered here. Even if it is outside the parameters of their Airbnb contract.
2. Disputes will undoubtedly arise as guests will  have a different view of any charge made to their credit card by a host. The scenario can be abused by the host. Malicious charges could be made by the host to the guests credit card.
3. In this specific Mendoza circumstance (and probably in most) there is no process in place to agree a condition report at the start of the rental, or at the end of a rental, or any agreement of damage valuation and no dispute resolution processes.
4. Airbnb declined to contact the hosts when I reported this incident to them and this would have been the mildest form of action available to them. If this is the consistent Airbnb response, Airbnb are tacitly supporting the host gathering credit card details from guests. I anticipate that the frequency of the event I experienced will increase.
5. Once the host holds the guest credit card details the reviews of the listing by guests are devalued. So too the value of the Airbnb service. Will the host maliciously process a charge to my credit card if I post a negative review? In this specific case in Mendoza, the previous guests reviews were unanimously positive. Not one review mentioned that the host held the guests credit card details!!!
6. If confronted with this situation again I would call the Airbnb Trust and Safety line at check-in with the host stood next to me. Given my experience here, I do not have confidence in the Airbnb Trust and Safety Team. However, I think making the call may be sufficient to get the host to revise their approach. The telephone number is available through the Airbnb site and seems to operate on a call back basis to your mobile.
7. If the host persisted in requiring my credit card before I could stay, I think that is the time to walk away and find a hotel. In my view it is financially unsafe to trust someone I have never met with my credit card. Particularly when that person has already shown themselves to be slippery with the truth.

And Finally:

I did post a negative review of the property on the Airbnb listing. I felt an obligation to prevent others being ambushed by this host. The way that I had been ambushed by this host. I felt an obligation to help future guests the way Airbnb did not.

Unauthorised charges from Argentina have not appeared on my credit card account. When I returned to Australia I cancelled the credit card as I felt it had been compromised.

Subsequent to my experience, Airbnb has elevated the host to “Superhost” status. Airbnb promotes “Superhost” on the hosts multiple listings.

 

 

 

 

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Argentina2018 – Ten Things about Argentina

I thought I would make a list. I like lists as they mean that you return from the supermarket with only the things you really need. This list is not about the supermarket, although a supermarket is mentioned. This is a list of the things that popped into my head when I thought I would list the best of Argentina……and a few of the irritations.

1. The great outdoors

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Iguassu, Andes, Patagonia, Perito Moreno, Ocean and Lakes, Mountains and Pampas. From the Tropic of Capricorn to the wind blasted misery of Cabo de Hornos. That is a lot of variety in a very big country.

2. Wine

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This wine tasting was at 9:30am !!! The only time we could get in. As a consequence we admired the wines and did not consume one drop.

3. Food

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Wherever we went each restaurant delivered great quality food. This is the equivalent of the Coles or Woolworths rotisserie. It was chicken cooked over wood coals. The  smell was wondrous and the taste also. Moist, smokey and perfect. Argentinians know how to cook meat, even at this AUD 14 a chicken, takeaway shop.

4. Another alcoholic beverage

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Lots of beer that is very pleasant in taste and arrives in 1 litre bottles. That is a bladder full.

5. Yerba de Mate, a non alcoholic drink.

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This is a photograph taken with guile. He is a man on a bus. He has his thermos full of water and he has his Yerba kit. You often see people in the streets with their Yerba boxes containing bowl, Yerba, metal straw and thermos flask of hot water. You see many places that sell hot water so you can replenish your thermos mid trip.

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The Yerba statistics are extraordinary as told by the Argentine Airlines flight magazine: A:  90 % of Argentinians drink Yerba. B: they drink an average of 2 litres a day EACH. Each every day. That is an awful lot of Yerba, in fact six kilos of Yerba, per person, per annum. This is truly Yerba country

 

6. Coffee, another non alcoholic drink.

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Because of all the Yerba the coffee industry struggles. There is no room for any other fluid in the stomach of the average Argentine. So how did we manage to get a photo of advanced coffee art? It is noticeable that there are more decent coffee shops than was the case four years ago. Still they are uncommon and still, most coffee is Brazilian and bitter and awful. I sense movement and that movement is positively directed.

7. Football

Lots of passion. Great songs and traditions. Any player who is halfway good left Argentina, they may return to get married but they accrue weekly earnings in harder currencies than the peso. The local game is of poor quality. Yes, do visit for the atmosphere, songs and banners and enthusiasm. Better to watch the atmosphere than the field of play.

8.  Service mentality

Not so much, even worse than Canberra? Strangely the expectation of a tip (in cash and only cash) is high.

9. Public Toilets

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In many towns there are few public toilets. A sensitive nose identified this as a public toilet. I then realised that I needed to alter my frame of reference. Once I changed the way I thought about public toilets, I realised that Argentine towns were blessed with a plethora.

10. Stray dogs

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I spoke kindly to this dog and he started following me. There are many stray dogs on the streets. People seem to feed them, which I think says something about their generosity.

11. Owned dogs

There is no illustrative photo here. Dog owners do not pick up their dog’s excrement. I saw one lady pick up after her dog in my weeks here. The evidence of others who had not picked up their dogs faeces, was plentiful. During the day feet have to be carefully placed on footpaths. At night feet have to be carefully placed on footpaths, but poor light makes this more difficult.

12. Traffic rules

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Salta and Cordoba and Mendoza are built as grids with one way streets. Where the streets intersect who has right of way? There are no markings. Each street is of equal dimension. There are no signposts. There are no signals and no officers of the law. So who has right of way? We watched and our first theory was: You give way to the left. That worked for a while and then it didn’t. We developed a second theory: You give way to the right. That worked for a little while then it didn’t. Then we developed our three tier convention that did work. As follows: a) If you have a big vehicle that is heavy and, probably, commercial you have right of way over everything.b) If you drive a shiny, newish vehicle that you own you are deferential to everything, all of the time.c) If your exhaust smokes and your car is scratched and dented you exist in a confusing midzone. Your boldness at intersections will earn you more dents and more scratches.                                         I think this rule set is from the jungle exemplar.

13. Thirteen is unlucky for some. Certainly you are an unlucky Argentinian if you want to transact with a service provider. Processes and systems are slow, inefficient, unnecessarily complicated and paper bound.

At a Post Office in Salta, we waited a lifetime to buy a stamp – take a number wait until you are called. There were 60 people in the queue before us, one had died whilst waiting. Fortunately they were carried away by next of kin before they began to pollute. We stuck it out because we were fascinated. OK we left. We had a cup of coffee and came back and our number was still a big sum away from the front. If I lived here I would go mad. It is a country that requires patience. More patience than I have in my cuerpo. Oh by the way. when we got served the man behind the counter weighed our postcards. Yes, really, he weighed our postcards and then he charged us AUD7 for each for its journey to Australia. Wow. Inefficency comes with a high price tag.

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This is an example of how technology doesn’t work very well. In the Carrefour supermarket Mendoza you can self check out. Except you cannot.  You can self scan ten items maximum. NOT fruit or vegetables!! Ten items and an item for this purpose is not fruit and is not vegetables. You scan your items and bag your items and then you take your ten items (or less) and queue at a normal till. A lady inspects your purchases and your receipt and weighs your fruit and vegetables and prices those. Then you pay her. It is perfectly Argentinian. It is agonisingly slow.

14. Same electricity sockets as Australia

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How welcoming is that? A certain sign that all Australians should visit.

 

 

 

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Argentina2018 – Mar del Plata

Mar del Plata is better known as Mardel, certainly to me and AJ. It is a five hour bus journey southish of Buenos Aires following the water. We came here for two reasons.

The first reason is that, in summer, all Portenos come here, each and every one. We wanted to understand the attraction and I think we failed this objective; because we failed to see the attraction.

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In the high season you cannot raise your elbow without nudging a neighbour from Buenos Aires. In the low season you can point your elbow wherever you wish and throw rocks as large and as far as your elbow will allow. No one will be disturbed or bruised.

 

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In December Mardel fills. At the end of February Mardel drains. Once it drains it leaves rusty edifices and homeless people stranded by the outgoing tide. In early April we arrived and made comparisons with Skeggy in the off season, or Blackpool after the illuminations have been extinguished.

The second reason we came to Mardel is related to the threat of nuclear war.  It is THE centre of population, greater than 500,000, that is furthest from Kim Jong Un’s launch sites in North Korea (Attribution: ABC News). His rockets can’t reach here. We thought we would feel safe for a few days. We also thought we should check it out, just in case a longer term residence becomes necessary.

4EB191DE-5AD0-40CC-80CE-A0DD1D4F3523On our first day here we pulled down our trousers and exposed our buttocks in the direction of Kim Jong Un. We were secure in the knowledge he could neither see us, nor do anything that would impact upon us. Because, we were in Mardel and we were safe.

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On day two in Mardel we loosened our belts in order to buttock salute Kim Jong Un in a repeat of day 1. But our heart wasn’t in it. It had started to seem a bit childish. It was also cold and wet and this time there were schoolchildren watching us. So we didn’t.

Instead we went for a coffee and booked a flight out of Mardel. We resigned ourselves not to return.

Mardel. Its safe from North Korea but its wet and its boring.

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I can always find something nice to say about everywhere. I liked the museum of contemporary art in Mardel which housed this exhibit. The girls on the chairs are life sized and I liked it, even if it is a bit creepy. Insufficient on its own to reward a five hour bus journey from BA? Possibly so.

 

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Peru2018 – Ten things about Peru

1. Everyone provides a taxi service

Lonely Planet said that one in seven cars on the street in Lima is a taxi. I think that is possible. Three types of taxi are captured below:

There are also taxis that have no external markings of the fact that they are taxis, they are usually the expensive taxis. As we walked along the street taxis flashed their lights at us, or the drivers whistled or sounded their horn. It was a tad tiresome.

2. The Theory of Supermarkets DB452312-E596-4B68-8103-00A1FC37033A

I have a rule which states that you can tell something of the people by visiting the supermarket. Here there was a lot of shelf space given to this product. Inca Kola.

It looks like a urine sample and tastes like cream soda that is chewing gum flavoured. Ten grams of sugar for every 100ml, which is a lot of sugar. It is a source of national pride and the top selling soft drink, outselling the number two, Coca Cola. Inca Kola was invented here and built its brand on Peruvian nationalism in the 40’s. The brand is now owned by Coca Cola (who are not Peruvian) and is manufactured by Coca Cola everywhere in the World except………….Peru, where they sit in a JV arrangement with the local originators.

3. Lima is a desert

I didn’t know that. It means it rarely rains and the smog collects from the cars used by its ten million residents.

4. Food can be very good

The very good includes: Ceviche, Causa (mashed potato sandwich), Guinea Pig, limes as an ever  present accompaniment, chilli sauce that looks watery but is pretty durn hot, Papas a la Huancaina (cold potatoes with a yellow sauce that is generally bland, although sometimes the sauce is green not yellow), Leche de Tigre (ceviche juice), goat stew.

5. Food can be very ordinary.

Chicken and rice is guaranteed at every low cost buffet, the bread is generally awful and desserts are absent or very limited on most menus.

6. Food can be superlative

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Central, Maido and Astrid and Gaston are restaurants placed at numbers 5,8 and 33 in the listing of the Worlds best 50. And in Lima, there are many more locations of high quality.

7. Visa versus Mastercard

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If a shop/restaurant accepts Visa, that doesn’t mean it accepts Mastercard. Two different systems two different machines. Quite annoying to discover you have one and require the other.

8. Pre Inca Civilisations. Moche, Chimu and Chachapoyas.

During our visits to the North of Peru we were very impressed by the Moche and the Chachapoyans “People of the Clouds”. Both preceded the Incas. At this point in time I have a revisionist blog posting. An addendum to my original posting concerning the Chimu.

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The Chimu ( 1300-1532) built Chan Chan and the Huaca del Arco. I dismissed them as big mud wall builders. This is accurate, they did build big mud walls with little decorative inspiration. In Lima we visited the Museo Larco. This holds the largest collection of pre Inca artefacts and reveals the Chimu to have been great metal and textile workers, examples above. I blame the guide at Trujillo for my premature and unwarranted dismissal of the Chimu. She was provided to us because she could speak English and not because of her subject matter expertise. I think that explains my earlier error.

9. Revolving Governments

The country tipped out a President while we were waiting for the plane to arrive here. It didn’t seem to cause any issues, no protests, no police on the street, no army presence, nothing. No one seemed very interested.

10. Football

The Peruvian team are in the same group as Australia at the World Cup (and France and someone else called Denmark). That was generally the first observation we received from the locals after we identified our country of origin. The seleccion nacional were playing international friendly matches while we were here, and winning them. That created a lot of joy. Lots of Peruvain soccer shirts were worn by middle aged men whose sporting days had passed them by. It’s the flag waving pride that sells Inca Kola.

 

 

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Peru2018 – Lima, Astrid y Gaston Restaurant

We had an impression of this restaurant before we arrived at the doorstep that wasn’t terribly positive.

1. Its booking system on the website doesn’t work and it isn’t getting fixed any time soon.

2. I read the night before our lunch that I was supposed to have phoned them to confirm my booking a week in advance. The other two big restaurants in Lima are kind enough to send you an email and you press a button to confirm. Astrid and Gaston make it harder for their guests. I thought bad thoughts.

3. The Tripadvisor reviews are “mixed”

Number 33 in the World and I was expecting old, tired and arrogant.

NOT LIKE THAT AT ALL…..Yipppeeee

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Its an old house and this is the front porch. It then goes back and back in a confusion of rooms. It is a really lovely house.

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We were sat in front of the kitchen in this bright “sort of” outside room. We liked it. Yet again we were early, which is great for photos. All the tables did fill.

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Who would recommend a restaurant for its bread? We would when it’s as pretty as this.

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The three ceviches. Trip Advisor says this is the “go to” dish. It was indeed a wonderful way of trying three representations of the ceviche. Fish was very fresh and in great big lumps. I hadn’t realised the tigers milk would be so different, sharp, orange and sweet.

No degustaccion for us. They only do 17 course monsters that fill very fat people fuller than fat people have been filled before. So we ordered two entrees and two mains and one dessert and shared them. That worked extremely well. Ceviche, Pulpo, Chipirones and then Heart. All fabulous but the heart was a step too far for me girl.

We had to have a chocolate story to conclude.

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Four chocolates from Peru. Your job is to taste each and match the mousse to its tasting notes,  condensed onto a small flag attached to a toothpick. We got one from four correct, which I think may be worse than random.

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The chocolate made my girl happy again. So we got her one more mouthful before we went home.

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Total price for 5 platters, bread,two waters, one bottle of wine, tip (which oddly had to be in cash). AUD 533. Note that the Bramare Marchionesse Malbec was $320 of that total. Which makes the food very good value in my opinion. ( The wine was superb also)

Central number 5, Maido number 8 and Astrid y Gaston number 33. Prices $735, $597, $533 respectively. Excluding alcohol the prices were $500, $440, $223 respectively. We had a bottle of wine at Maido and Astrid y Gaston and the wine matching at Central.

Central was a very serious experience and three of the dishes I shall remember to the end of my days. Maido had the food we enjoyed most in its totality, even though I can only recall one spectacular dish. Astrid y Gaston was most fun.

I would go back to Astrid y Gaston, then Maido. I don’t think I would go back to Central, but I am very pleased that I shared the experience they offer.

 

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Peru2018 – Lima, Central Restaurant

The restaurant is one of the three Lima based restaurants rated as being in the top 50 in the World. Central was at number 5 in the 2017 listing, sponsored by Pellegrino.

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We were upstairs next to the room of botanicals. The menu is a tour of Peru and this room is where the foraged product sits awaiting experimentation and consideration for inclusion on the next version of the menu.

The place looks fairly ordinary and it is. Its a bit of a tardis as a single fronted doorway opens into a restaurant that seats many on two levels. But the layout is nothing spectacular. Downstairs there is a large glass wall along the breadth of the restaurant separating the dining room from the kitchen, so the diners seated downstairs get a view of the preparations. Upstairs we got to view the botanicals and the glass fronted wine cellar.

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We had booked the 17 course tasting lunch and chose a matching of 9 wines, 2 cocktails and one beer. Each line on the menu is described by the number of metres above sea level at which the ingredients were sourced.

On arrival at the restaurant we passed many hopeful souls waiting. Their aspiration was that there would be a no show and they would be able to hop straight into that “no show” seat. We had booked a few months prior, no standing in line for us. No siree, ushered in to table 19.

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It’s tricky to remember the best parts of 19 parts especially when many of those 19 arrive in two and sometimes three parts. And particularly when we are slurping a high volume of alcohol alongside. The mussel and snail here was superb.

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I loved the piraña. It was dried and with a flavour as intense as its orange colouring.

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I don’t think we needed bread as a filler. It came on a bed of leaves that had been burning. the smoke penetrated the bread and gave it a fabulous and strong flavour.

I shall remember the above as my favourite three. I wanted to say I loved the pig also, but am determined to limit myself to three.

The pictures below I include because I thought the food looked so lovely.

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We arrived for lunch at 12:45 and left at 16:15, so three and a half hours. It seems a long time when you write it down. At the time we felt that the food was coming out really quickly and that they were clearing up fairly speedily also.

Price. Two people 17 courses each, two wine matches of 9 wines and 2 cocktails and one beer, tip. Grand total AUD 735.

Service was excellent. Wine matched well. There was nothing I tasted that I would have purchased as a bottle for home but I’m not sure that is the test of a wine match. I think the emphasis here is on match.

The food is an experience. I preferred the food at Maido but I think the two restaurants are different things. This was an experience. A very sophisticated experience and one I am very pleased to have had.

 

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Peru2018 – Chachapoyas to Jaen

We booked a AUD$ 20 transfer from our hotel in Chachapoyas to the airport in Jaen. We selected Movil Tours. Their bus is large and has a toilet for the 4 hour trip. Consistent with the approximate nature of timetables in Northern Peru, the trip took five hours. The big bus never arrived. Instead we got onto a 20 seater and settled down for a dull transfer.

Not dull at all. How lucky we were that we had a small bus and not a large coach.

First aspect of not dullness:

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The dramatic countryside. I hadn’t realised most of the journey would be through the same limestone outcrops that had made the visit to Kuelap such a delight. Visually splendid. Because of the rain there are lots of impromptu waterfalls that cascade the water off the limestone to the raging rivers below. It reminded me of Milford Sound.

Second aspect of not dullness:

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The landslides. The two days of rain had brought impromptu waterfalls and also rockfalls. We passed perhaps two dozen landslides that had blocked parts of the road. Half of those had rocks far too large for man to move without machinery.

Third aspect of not dullness:

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As we rounded one corner we could see rocks still falling and blocking the width of the road. We got out and started moving them by hand. In this picture I am poking them with my toe!! All of this is a bit dangerous as another fall could be imminent. Those rocks are very heavy and my flesh is very soft.

Vehicles started to arrive at the other side of the rockfall and they pointed out something we could not see. To the left of this photo is an old road. The drivers pulled down the fence posts and wiring. We ran our small bus through the vegetation on the old road to translate it into the newest road. We emerged back on the new road on the other side of the rockfall, with a tangle of recently mown green stuff attached to our pathfinder bus. And off we went. I’m not sure a big bus would have been able to negotiate these various rockfalls, or smashed its way through the vegetation on the old road in such a carefree manner.

Fourth aspect of not dullness:

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Gocta Falls. The small bus suddenly went off the sealed road and up a switchback. 15 minutes later it stopped outside a very nice hotel catering for people who want to visit this. Gocta Falls. It is the second highest waterfall in South America. This ranking is achieved by the application of a twisted criterion in Lonely Planet that had been awkwardly constructed to state that this waterfall is the second highest in South America after Angel Falls.

We had thought about a day trip to Gocta Falls from Chachapoyas and in the end decided we would not. Suddenly we had a free trip. A great view and lovely toilets in a very lovely and quite expensive hotel that is not for the likes of us modest travellers. The big bus we had booked (but which did not appear) could not have got up these roads to pick these passengers.

We got to the airport in time for the plane. We had an unexpectedly thrilling transfer. No scent of dullness.

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