January 21, 2020, Iguazu, Argentina.
When you check into the Grand Hotel Melia Iguazu on the Argentine side the clerk reminds you to keep the door to your balcony closed. If you don’t, monkeys will come in and rob your mini bar. They apparently like Pringles, cookies and nuts. And guess who will pay?
I am normally suspicious of hotels with “Grand” in the name. I have been to too many run down and shabby “Grands” through Central Europe and the Balkans. But this one lives up to its name. The minute you walk into the lobby the falls face you though a plate glass window.
On the other side of the window, also facing the falls is an “infinity pool,” one of those swimming pools where the water drops over the edge giving the impression of falling off the end of the world, or at least into the falls or the jungle. After coming in hot and sweaty from the Brazilian side we opted for the pool and waited for the next day before taking our hikes on the Argentine side even though the trail system starts only 200 meters from the hotel.
While in the pool I looked up at the hotel and noticed a resemblance to almost every resort hotel I have stayed in the former Yugoslavia. The Grand had the same arrangement of balconies, each floor set back from the one below on the side facing “the view” and on the back side each floor cantilevered over the one below. The framing of the giant plate glass windows overlooking the “view” was reminiscent of several ex-YU hotels. The giant awnings over the outdoor bar and rooftop terrace were exactly like ones in the ex-YU. When we got to the dining room, we discovered the same poured concrete décor. But to top it off, literally, a Serbian flag was flying. That was too much. I asked the desk clerk about the flag and she said “yes, most people think we are flying the Russian flag upside down, but really it’s our state flag.” It is also the Serbian flag before they added the seal on it.
The hotel was designed in 1974 and completed in 1978 making it contemporary with the ones in former Yugoslavia. The manager told me the architect was Armenian. I felt right at home, except that the service in this “Grand” hotel was orders of magnitude better than similar “Grands” in ex-YU. And unlike Argentine restaurants of 5 years ago there is salt on the table. In 2015 it was against the law to put salt on restaurant tables. The government was trying to lower the collective Argentine blood pressure. We had to ask for salt. The waiter hovered while we applied it to our Argentine beef. He whisked it away before the shaker hit the table. (You can read my blog post “Steak, Hold the Salt” from my 2015 blog by clicking here.)
We loved the infinity pool, swimming, floating, cavorting, in view of the falls with the mist rising and floating off to the south, raptors rising with the mist and gliding back down. At one point I counted 13 of them floating and gliding in a ballet above the falls all to the meditative music playing from the outdoor speakers.
When you leave the pool and go into the bar the atmospheric music fads to country western, walk into the restaurant and it’s the Beach Boys, back out through C&W to the elevator where the atmospheric music lifts us to the third floor.