Friday, March 12, 2010

Last Night in B.A.

Am home now safe and sound ... but ... the last night in BA my handbag was stolen with everything I owned in it including all my credit cards and my passport. I was not as diligent that one night only - all my cards and i.d. and passport had been in the safe in the apartment until our last night as i had it all organized to leave in the morning. We had dinner at our favourite little restaurant downstairs which was almost empty and I took a seat right by the wall. I didn't see two people come in for a few minutes and sit behind me. Apparently the woman appeared to be pregnant (or not?) and when I got up from dinner my handbag was gone. It was also the first time I didn't sit with my bag slung around my neck and resting on my lap during a meal. We lived upstairs, it was the best area in the city and we knew the place well. Not good enough ....

I got all my cards cancelled, and talked to the Canadian Consulate that night. I always keep a photocopy of everything in my purse somewhere else, and if I can give advice about anything, it's this. It made everything so much easier and faster since i had the numbers on all my cards and copies of my photo i.d. My friend Keith made this copy for me last year in Puerta Vallarta - thanks Keith !!! The following morning I had to make a police report and then go to the Canadian Embassy to get a travel document to get me on the plane home since i no longer had my passport or any kind of i.d. at all. The embassy was wonderful, and now I know we can count on our people when abroad. It's a great comfort. They knew I had to fly that day and went through hoops to get that document through Ottawa quickly. And "Ottawa is very busy" as the agent, Beatrice said. Emily looked like she might have a stroke at this comment ......

Honestly folks, this would have been so much worse if I hadn't been with friends. We actually were laughing while waiting for a few hours for the travel document in the waiting room in the embassy. They were helpful and supportive and Emily even attempted a small nervous breakdown on my behalf since I couldn't spare the time ... kidding .... "May they roast in Hell" is Emily's credo. You gotta love that woman. Sally and Denise were great and Sally's skype (she has all the gadgets) saved the day as most of the credit card emergency numbers for Argentina wouldn't work.

Enough about that. None of the cards have been used so they threw the purse away and took the cash, which wasn't insubstantial. May they roast in Hell.

Although it wasn't a great way to end the trip, I had seven weeks of a wonderful time and one night and a day of not so good. Pategonia is the most beautiful place on earth I think, and anyone interested in pristine places of great beauty should try to go. Being on a ship is probably the only way to see it properly and i am so glad to have seen it "coming and going" and also being around Cape Horn not once but twice. How good is that?

I will go through my pictures over the next couple of days and post the best ones.

Thanks everybody for travelling with me through the blog. It's like talking to friends doing this. I have enjoyed it and will do it for my next big trip wherever that is.

love m
xx oo

Sunday, March 7, 2010

TANGO !!!!

We went to a tango show last night - I think i am now addicted to watching tango. They say it's "A Vertical Expression of a Horizontal Desire" and now i understand what that really means. These dancers were athletes and their performances were astounding. The tango singers were also unbelievable. One of the male vocalists sounded exactly like the famed Carlos Gardel (I bought the c.d.) The evening venue was dinner and the tango show and our expectations re the food were low, but it was one of the best meals I've had in South America and I've had lots ..... The place was beautiful/decadent and completely appropriately decorated for the 30's. The club held about 500 people, all seated at tables in front of a big stage. The orchestra was directly above the stage where the dancers performed. Beautiful old world grace everywhere you looked. We were picked up from the apartment and delivered on time and given that San Telmo, the tango area, is pretty seedy, we were completely safe. I want to go to another show. We have seen tango on the street here, even near the apartmet, and I'm hooked. I must see it again before we leave.

Emily just went out for a bottled water run and has come home with the obligatory Dulce de Letche cookies too. Bad woman. We seem to have tea and cookies in the late afternoon if we're in residence as dinnertime is so late here. Tonight is Oscar night and there will be goodies involved.

Will be home this week. Slight problem with our flight as AC appears to be rescheduling flights out of Santiago (without any advice to us, of course) and we were to connect there for our flight home. Santiago was still getting aftershocks a week ago so likely not the preferred airport right now. We have to vacate this apartment by noon on Wednesday and I think our hoped for flight may not be leaving until around 10 or 11 p.m. from here, if we can fly direct. We get into Toronto at the crack of dawn the following day. If direct it's around a 10 hour flight but if through Santiago it's maybe 13 hours.

Hope everyone is well - we are having a ball and loving Buenos Aires to bits. I know I will come back here. It's a lot like Paris at a fraction of the price. When I come home am going to sign up for that Rosetta Stone spanish course. Enthusiasm abounds ... right now anyway. Sally and Denise are up at the Recoleta market which has hundreds of artisans selling their wares. Beautiful stuff. I could fill trunks with their products. Everything handmade. Emily and I have both said if we had grandchildren we would have boxes of stuff going home.

must go and do a test pack to see if I have to buy another suitcase. Have gone somewhat crazy on handbags here and they're b i g.

xx oo

love m
xx oo

Friday, March 5, 2010

back from Iguazu Falls

We flew up to Iguazu Falls on the Brazilian border yesterday morning . It's an incredible place and so isolated and beautiful. Not a big commercial thing like Niagara Falls. There is a town, but it's 20k from the actual Falls and the Park, which is really a rainforest. There are hundreds of falls and they are gigantico. We walked from the hotel down a dirt path to a little train that took us to what we thought would be a short walk on a catwalk over the estuaries to the Diablo Falls which I believe is the highest. Well I can tell you .... the walk went on and on and on and on. It was 95 degrees and totally humid and we walked forever on catwalks over the water. There were maybe three little spots to sit for a minute on the way. It was a two mile walk approx. and once I started, not knowing how far the Falls were, I was committed to continue until I got there. Sally and Denise went ahead and Emily stayed with me as we plowed ahead. Once we got to the viewing area in the middle of nowhere, it was simply unbelievable. Like Niagara Falls stretched out to ten times its size and in a backdrop of pristine rainforest. I will post pictures when I get back. We saw millions of butterflies - they were everywhere. Lots of animals in the park but we didn't see monkeys. When we got back to our hotel within the park property we saw Toucans (the parrot-like bird with the enormous beak) and a flock or two of green/blue parrots. The hotel left a card asking to shut the screen doors so the monkeys could not get into the rooms. Another beautiful and unspoiled place. There were eco tours available but we weren't there long enough to go. Denise and Sally also went on a boat trip into the Falls that was apparently just amazing. The walk to get to the boat almost killed them - down down down at the beginning and then the reverse, on uneven slippery stone steps for a very long way. When we got back to our rooms yesterday afternoon after all of this, the showers were going on extra hot, and we were almost in comas until dinner. I should feel worse than I do today in terms of being stiff and sore, but all the walking on the ship surely has helped to give me a bit of muscle in spite of all the dulce de leche consumed here.
We have yet to go to a Tango show and that's on the list. Also going to have a "Gallery Day" here in BA in a day or two. Hard to believe that my time here is almost over as next week I come back home and the vacation is over. I will be happy to be home in many ways, but not so happy to be back in the cold. It's so far away here and after almost seven weeks travelling, the idea of returning is surreal. I also heard today from someone in line at the airport that Santiago is on earthquake alert - i'm guessing more aftershocks. No idea at this point whether our Air Canada flight will be going through Santiago as planned or if it will be rerouted or be a direct flight from here.
We also did a walk about in the Recoleta Cemetary the other day and found the
Duarte family vault where Eva Peron is interred. Such a lovely old place with so much history. We also continue to shop in spite of ourselves, and Eric, if you're reading this, you have another hat. This one is a summer (straw) Tango hat which is shaped somewhat like a Fedora. Eric is one of the kids who walk Oliver.
We are all safe and sound here and loving B.A. We are finding the city easy to get around in and the people to be quite friendly and helpful. We are managing in our fractured Spanish, but I will be taking lessons before my next trip to a Spanish speaking country since more of the world speaks this language than English. The food here is cheap and good and they love Italian everything. More pizza places here than in Toronto and they are wonderful.

love to everyone

xx oo

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Earthquake in Chile

We are safe and warm next door in Argentina. Thanks everyone re your e-mails asking if we are safely out of Chile and away from the earthquake area. We didn't feel any tremors here although the news said we had them in Buenos Aires. They must have been very slight. Emily arrived from Naples via Atlanta this morning without any problems, but Sally's friend Denise is stuck in Santago and we're not sure how or when she's getting to BA. She had booked a day/night there on her trip to join us since it was more or less on the way, and then had the bad luck to be there for the earthquake last night. The Radisson, where she is staying, was evacuated at 4 a.m. and she was moved to a lower floor due to damage higher up. They are without power and water and phones in Santiago and we are waiting for word as to how she will be leaving the city as the airport is closed due to earthquake damage and one would think that flights will be horribly backed up once it's operational again in a few days. There has been nothing else on CNN all day - and now the world is waiting for the effects of the Sunami in Hawaii. It's almost surreal to be sitting here watching this having just been on a ship in the Pacific Ocean off the Chilean coast just a few days ago.

We spent a few hours this morning in our "hood" wandering around the Recoleta area to an outdoor market and also found a shopping area called Buenos Aires Designs where there is an abundance of beautiful furniture and home decor items. Emily was delighted, as she is a fabulous decorator and always interested in edgy things. (Dennis, please prepare the living room for a really amazing soft grey leather sofa ensemble.) We all came back with a purchase or two from the market for our efforts and had a high test coffee in a cafe over there so we could sit down for a few minutes to rest. I'm still feeling stiff and sore from all the waiting and lining up in the airport, but it's getting better. Am continuing to walk every day and it will get better again I'm certain.

Denise is not far from our thoughts as we continue to be concerned and want her here with us as soon as possible. We're just not sure how that is going to happen and when. She was going to try to get a car to bring her here, but it's 700 miles away and some of the roads around Santiago have been damaged and aren't usable. The good news is that she is unharmed and will find a way to get here as soon as she can.

It's wonderful to have Emily here. Now Sally and I have someone we can make fun of, instead of each other ..... lol... and when Denise finally gets here, the merrier we shall be.

love maggie

Friday, February 26, 2010

back in Buenos Aires

I have been remiss in my blogging. We survived the transition from Santiago Chile, to Buenos Aires, Argentina but suffered long line ups going through the $$ reciprocity collection booths and then immigration in the BA airport. My knee is bunged up again, but not so bad as it was before I left on this trip. Standing in lines is about the worst thing i can do but icing helps and giving it a rest helps too. Enough with the whining.

BA is so beautiful I could just wax on about it endlessly. We were out and about this morning shopping on Calle Florida which is a big pedestrian street full of stores. Lots of wonderful leather products at a fraction of what we pay at home and beautiful silver. Anything produced here in Argentina is inexpensive and lots of it is very well done. We have had some really good simple meals out just a block or two from the aparatment here on Pacheco de Melo, and truth be told, there is a restaurant downstairs that has the most incredible ice cream it shouldn't even be legal. Dulce de Leche icecream and also a coffee list that goes on and on. When Sally gets back from her walk, we are going to sit in the cafe and have a wee bit - sort of afteroon tea except with coffee and icecream. hmmmmmm. We continue to be the first to arrive in the cafes at night - don't quite know how we are going to work up to going out at 10 or 11, but am sure we'll make it one of these evenings.

Emily and Denise are arriving tomorrow. Em in the morning and Denise in the afternoon. Then the fun here truly begins. Sally and I were here just for the day a couple of weeks ago when the ship was in port and we did a three hour tour - but this time we will likely go on a double decker bus and see it again. Architecture and public squares are so amazing - even the apartment buildings are beautiful with the old Mansard rooftops and grills on the balconies with flower pots etc. Just lovely.

I hear the little tiny scary elevator outside our door so Sally might be returning. This little iron cube is all grillwork and is maybe 3 ft x 4 ft. and makes your stomach lurch when it starts and stops. I am endlessly surprised and always gasp at these moments for some reason.

Love to everyone, and will write again in a few days. Oh - and the weather is not 95 as usual here, it's maybe 75 and totally perfect. You could see on the way in from the airport that there has been flooding, but in the main part of the city you'd never know they'd had any rain at all.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Last day at Sea / Valparaiso tomorrow

Today is our last day and tomorrow morning we will be in port in Valparaiso and then heading to Santiago for one night before our flight to Buenos Aires where we have heard we may need a rowboat rather than a taxi ...... can't get much news on it but it sounds like there was a lot of flooding in the lower areas. Am thinking the Recoletta area is higher up (since it houses a huge and ancient cemetary) and should be okay. Today will be a scary packing day and we will find out just how much room all those t shirts and hats take up. My plan was only to buy jewellery but that went out the window awhile ago.
Yesterday the excursion for my "Taste of Chile" cooking and shopping experience with a chef was not what i thought it was going to be. We were overly long at the fishmarket but the other side of it is that it was interesting in its own way - lots of octupus hanging like ragged curtains all in a row, chicken eggs of green, grey and shades of brown, king crab stacked up and tons of dried kelp and seaweed. We then went to the Chef's restaurant. The lunch took forever to get together and the kitchen far too small to be a teaching or even viewing kitchen and so most of the guests from the ship got merrily and loudly drunk on all the cheap Chilean wine they were being served by the gallon while waiting hours to eat. It was hilarious. Singing and laughing like maniacs in this charming lakeside restaurant. The food was odd - the starter being a ceviche made of octupus, kelp, and other unidentifiable sea creatures ( i hate to think what some of them might have been) - we did see huge barnacles at the fish market with the creatures poking their little feet out ... brrrrrr . The main course was Hake but it was served covered in the strongest smoked mussels ever (you could smell the plate before it got to the table) and then a dessert which might have been a Sabayone but tasted like it was something that may have been excreted by a Llama. Other than that - I had a lot of fun. A raucous group even into the tender back to the ship. Margaret, our friend from Washington State, being a contender for the most rowdy of the bunch. I think she is going to catch up with us in Santiago for dinner. I will give her a corrective interview there on proper behavior for lawyers when they are out of their home countries.

We will be in BA in a couple of days and I will get pictures onto this blog and continue writing when there's something interesting to report for as long as we're away - another couple of weeks.
Emily and Denise join us in five ? days I think and then we go to Iguazu Falls for a side trip. Sally has a birthday in BA on March 2 and I have orders to make something lemon....... Maybe will use one of those lemon reamers mentioned in the early days of this blog.

Will sign off for now as my internet minutes are growing slim (not me - that's for sure) ...

love m
xx oo

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Punta Arenas Chile and the Penguins

I thought I was going to Otway Sound to see penguins and then to Fitz Roy Farm to watch sheepdogs working with the sheep and see some shearing .... but only half right. I did go to the Penguin rookery but was on the wrong tour to see the farm. It's all good. I walked probably a mile or more in the cold and rain to see the penguins through fields and on a partial boardwalk type of trail, and am shocked at myself that i could manage it with only a couple of two minute stops to sit. It's amazing how well i do with walking now, since the dining room is at one end of the ship and my cabin is at the other.

Seeing penguins is wonderful and they are the most comical of birds to be sure, but the real deal here for me is the never-ending scenery as we cruise the many channels. I sat on our verandah last night all bundled up and watched the changing light bathing the mountains and hills and glaciers in a soft pink. I took picture after picture all the while thinking that i could take a million pictures and would never be able to choose the most beautiful because they are all beautiful and every minute is the next vista and the next. I am so very glad I came here. Tourism is really just beginning down here and i believe that it will start to change the landscape at some point. It's so vast and empty now and for all the hours between Ushuia when we left around noon and when night fell around 10 pm, I hardly saw even a bird never mind people or boats or anything at all. I don't think this place can really be compared to any other place on earth. It's just entirely different. Some of the mountains are great white skyscrapers sitting behind smooth rounded hills with a bit of lichen on them. The light just bounces off the snow on the tops. Everything is rock with barely a scraping of topsoil so there's very little growing on them. The trees are short little Beech trees and because the wind is westerly and almost always very strong, they generally are "flag trees" and short and scruffy. They can't get a toehold everywhere but you do see them around the glaciers sometimes.

Today is really the first day of inclement weather we've had in any port (not counting those rolly polly sea days).

Tomorrow we should be in Puerto Montt where I have an excursion booked to shop and cook with a local chef. I hope it's a small group and am looking forward to it. Please don't let it be skinning a live octapus or something....

Stay well everyone. We're fine and Sally is almost over her cold and so far (touching wood), I haven't caught it.

love m