Monday and Tuesday we did tourist things and I will write about that later. Monday was another gray day and we didn't want to go out on our bikes for exercise. Santa Cruz is a big city of over 1.5 million people, we don't have a good city map, and the weather wasn't inviting. So, we wanted a gym to go to and our hotel, Toborochi, didn't have one functioning at the time. We went to look at the public gym near the hotel. It didn't have a Jacuzzi, sauna or steambath. Not interesting.
We decided to go to another hotel that we hadn't checked on Sunday when we arrived. Buganvillas Hotel Suites & Spa had everything we wanted in a garden-like park (Buganvillas Resort & Spa, Av. Roca y Coronado No. 901. tel (591-3)355-1212, e-mail: email@example.com, web: http://www.hotelbuganvillas.com/). It is a hotel and condominium complex where people live. We saw a one bedroom which was okay but the storage was terrible. There was no furniture for putting clothes away and the closet wasn't big enough. We saw a two bedroom/2 bath and it was huge. We could use one bedroom for our clothes. It had a large kitchen too. There was, in addition to the 2 BR, 2 bath, a maid's room and bath, as well as a laundry room.
We are paying Bs612/$85 (plus US$10 per day for wi-fi), the price for a one bedroom because we got a free upgrade. We feel like we have a mansion and we will stay awhile!
About Santa Cruz: we have seen more fancy cars than we have seen anywhere else in South America, the number of Hummers in Santa Cruz rivals the number we saw in the West Side of Los Angeles in September-October, 2007. So it's true, the oligarchs/civicos have a corner on the economic market and don't want to lose it. Thus the number of rich provinces that have referenda for autonomia. Have a click and a look at our experience in Tarija (one of the richest provinces) during it's campaign for the autonomia referendum.
It checked with the Chowhounders (http://www.chow.com/) for suggestions for restaurants in Bolivia and got a recommendation to go to Le Coin in Santa Cruz. We went Monday night. (Le Coin, Calle Moldes esqina Oruro, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, tel (591-3)336-7508, e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org,
web: http://www.lecoin.com.bo/). We spent Bs270/US$39 and had a lovely meal. There was no amuse bouche but the garlic bread was very good and was served warm (but the duck was impossibly tough and grisly). The room and the art were delightful. The service needs improvement but this was compensated by the chef's attentiveness. Marcello (who speaks English) came to our table to chat repeatedly and we enjoyed that immensely.
We shared everything and had wine, a starter, a main and a dessert. The wine was a Bolivian Campos de Solano Malbec (Bs85) and it was good. The starter was Tejas de Pejerrey (Bs35) described as filietillos adobados y rebosados, acompanados de sals Tartara y Marinara. The fish was sweet and tasty. The batter was too thick for our taste and not cruchy enough. But the dish and the sauces were good. For our main we had Pato al Amaretto (Bs 41) which was described as Magret y muslo deshuesado en reduccia de licor de Amaretto y frambuesa. The sauce was excellent. The duck breast was chewy and grisly, unfortunately. It didn't bear much relation to its French cousin. The dish came with Papas provenzal (salteadas en oliva virgen y perejil). We also ordered as side dish of vegetables described as Juliana de veduras y gengibre. The sauce for this dish was excellent too. For dessert we had Deliz de canela y rosa Bs 18 (sorbete de caela con toronja rosa marianada en licor de Amaretta). Dimitri liked that too. And he had coffee. I didn't because the didn't have decaffeinated. All in all a fine meal and a big change from the meals we've had so far in Bolivia.
We would have put the duck down as "Bolivian duck" but we went to Mandarin, a Chinese restaurant (Mandarin, Alameda Potosi 793 esq. Irala, tel (591-3)334-8388), and also had duck. It was tender, juicy and not at all tough. (This is what we had: Pato a la Mandarin Bs54, Tofu al Mapoo Bs36, Arroz blanco Bs12, 2 glasses of wine Bs32 and tea.) We couldn't possibly finish the dishes and so we took the duck and the tofu home. Those dishes made a fabulous lunch the next day.