A Travellerspoint blog

November 2013

Susie and John Head South...Way South

This is chapter 1 of our story. It's not a very long chapter, actually.
We packed up and got a ride to the airport with Susie's mom, Elaine — after dropping Dick off at his dialysis appointment. We pretty much zipped through security and had lunch at the French Meadow restaurant in the terminal. We still had time to watch episode 1 of the last season of "The
Sopranos" on dvd.

Once we boarded, it was a quick 2+ hour flight to Dallas. That is a big airport! We rode the train around to our terminal, made sure our flight time was OK and then...lo and behold, there was Tirin's Irish Pub right across from our gate. That made having a snack easy.

We boarded the plane on time, sat on it a half hour longer than we should have (They had to weigh the plane? That inspires confidence.) This flight was long 10 + hours. We ate. We slept (sort of), we walked up the aisle, we slept, we walked, we slept and we ate. Oh, and we listened all night to the very loud and very talkative lady one row behind us!

But we made it!

Posted by jeburns55 17:01 Comments (0)

Setting Foot in South America: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires was first established as Ciudad de Nuestra Senora Santa Maria del Buen Ayre (literally "City of Our Lady Saint Mag of the Fair Winds") on February 2, 1536 by a Spanish expedition under Pedro de Mendoza.

We arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at about 9:30 a.m. We zipped through Customs and went to get our checked bags — and they were there! Yeah, we don't have to wear the same undies for a month! After that we found a cab and took the long ride into this huge city. We drove past lots and lots of poverty stricken high rise tenements; on the other hand, it is green and beautiful with spring foliage. Many trees are not the varieties seen where we live.
Our hotel let us check in at 11, so we got to have a nice hot shower and change clothes. Mid 60 degree F. and just beautiful. And Susie's preferred members card got us an upgrade to a room with a view of the harbor!

Speaking of the harbor, we headed over to get ferry tickets so we can go to Uruguay on Monday...but after a 1 hour wait in line, we were surprised that we needed our passports which were safely stashed in our hotel room safe a few blocks away. So to make a long story short (and it would be long story...), we headed out on our first walking tour of the city. The Plaza San Martin was our destination. First we had lunch in the Plaza Grill, where politicians and presidents go to eat and talk politics. We may have been a tad underdressed, but so were the other 3 people in the place. (Saturday afternoon is apparently a slow day there.)
IMG_2465.jpgThen we viewed the statues and monuments in the Plaza; there is an impressive memorial to the soldiers who died in the Falklands War in the 1980's.
Time for refreshments, so we stopped in Cafe Retiro in the old train station. John had an interesting experience at the men's room; apparently one pays for toilet paper here in public restrooms and someone has to unlock the stall for you.
Next, we went back and got our ferry tickets (end of the long untold story...). That was cause for celebration, so we headed to Cafe Madeleine for some empanadas and glass of Argentinean wine.

After that, we freshened up at our room and headed for dinner. We found a delightful Thai place called Empire. Stuffed, we returned for an early tuck in!

Posted by jeburns55 18:02 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

A Quiet Sunday in the Southern Hemisphere

Buenos Aires is most definitely a city for lovers. Evegrvhere we have observed couples of all ages holding hands while walking sitting on benches in each others arms, and kissing at the bus stop, the park, restaurants...everywhere!

Sunday is a day of rest — unless you are John and Susie on vacation. We were up before 7 a.m. (Why? We could have slept until 9:00...)

Breakfast is part of the deal here, and it was good: 0J, coffee, many versions of croissants and sweet rolls, fruit, and ham and cheese. Then it was off on another walking tour; this time down Calle Florida, a street known as the place you can shop 'til you drop. Nothing is open on Sunday morning, so we viewed a lot of beautiful buildings from the 18th and 19th century. We bopped down to the Plaza de Mayo, a historical place where Buenos Aires was born. A large monument to May 25, 1810 is in the center, dedicating the independence of Argentina. Facing that is the Casa Rosada — that is, the Presidential Palace (it's pink, no kidding) where Eva Peron spoke to the people (and where Madonna sang, "Don't cry for me, Argentina" in the musical movie).
By 11:00, we were at Metropolitan Cathedral for Mass. We had some idea of when they said the Lord's Prayer and that was about it, but what a glorious cathedral!
After Mass, we stepped across the street to tour the Palicio de Gobiemo (formerly where the mayor works) and the Casa de Cultura (once the home of La Prensa, the grand Argentinean newspaper). An English-speaking guide was nice enough to take both of us through a guided tour of both buildings and answer all of our questions.
Lunch was at the wood accented Cafe Tortoni, the city's oldest cafe built in 1858. Then we dropped down to the subway (the "Subte") to take the A line down to the Plaza del Congresso. The subway was built in 1913 and they still use the original wooden-framed, wooden-benched cars! At the next plaza, we viewed the most imposing building in Buenos Aires where the national congress meets. Next to it was a park, a fountain, a large monument with statues.. .the entire area meets the requirements for a notable stop.
The Subte took us back toward our starting point, but we got off at the Peru stop. This is where we took a few minutes to visit an old monastery (the tour was in Spanish, so we didn't take in the entire thing) and the Cabildo, the original seat of city government that was built in 1751.

By that time, we were hot and dry (it got up to the mid 80's) and happily the Cafe Gran Victoria was right outside the Cabildo. After a refreshment — I sampled my first Argentinean beer — we walked back the way we came. Calle Florida was teaming with shoppers and many local crafts were laid out on the street. We were also entertained by musicians, human statues (who are these people who cover themselves with metallic paint?), and tango dancers.
The last stop was the Ii Gran Caffe. We split some bruschetta (the tomato topped bread was good, the anchovy and eggplant...not so good) and a proscuitto ham and mozzarella pizza. That was enough to get us back to the hotel for a hot bath, an ice cream, and bed.

Posted by jeburns55 19:03 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay (for most of the day)

Country #10

Today was an early day (6:00 a.m.) because we had to get to the ferry boat before 8, and we didn't want the long story (that we didn't tell you earlier) to get any longer!

The ferry terminal is only three blocks away from the hotel — although during morning rush hour, you take your life into your own hands trying to cross the streets. We departed at 8:45 on a 50 minute ride across the Rio de la Plata to go 67 miles to this historic town in Uruguay. The boat was much like being on a wide body jet, except many people walked around — eating, drinking, and talking.
The tiny barrio of Colonia del Sacramento seems to be untouched by time. It dates back to the 17th century. We walked on streets and past houses that were built as far back as 1680. It was an eight block walk from the port to the old city; once there, we bought an admission to at least 10 museums for about $1 (for both of us).
We toured old houses that dated back to the days when this was a Portuguese town, looked at old remnants of native peoples' tools, looked at dinosaur skeletons and stuffedanimals, and even visited the tile museum; creating and firing ceramic tiles was once a notable industry here.
Walking up and down the cobble stone streets, we were treated to a variety of flowers, fruits and greenery. Eventually, we found a "watering hole" near the waterfront for refreshments — it seemed like the one cool spot in town. Once we resumed our walking tour, we visited the Iglesia Matriz, one of the oldest churches in the country. After that, it was time for lunch. We chose Pulperia de los Faroles, just next to the Plaza Mayor (the main square). Susie had a chicken breast and mashed potatoes and John had a chicken leg stuffed with ham, mushrooms and peppers. (Why don't we think of things like that?!) We promptly voted this the best meal we had on the trip so far.
After lunch, it was time to meander back to the port to head back to Buenos Aires — and, believe us, we needed the walk after that meal. We arrived early, so there was time to just watch people until our departure. On the journey back, our seat mate was an interesting woman from Puerto Rico, a fellow American, yes — but so much more at ease because she was quite at home with the Spanish speakers. We could have benefited from some Spanish lessons before we left home.
The evening back here in Buenos Aires started with a happy hour stop at — where else? — two of the better known Irish pubs in B.A. First was the Kilkenny Pub and then we stopped at the Druid Inn. Funny thing, though, at these pubs: they have lots of tap beer spigots for Guinness, Beamish, and other Irish beers...but they really only have their local stout or Warsteiner German lager on tap! Oh, well, it's the thought that counts!
Finally, it was dinner time. What to eat? Good Argentinean beef, of course. We made our way one more block to Las Nazarenas, an asador, a sort of steakhouse. No vegetable plates, just meat cooked over a spit on the fire. Argentinean presidents have eaten here, and now we know why. Two steaks (I'm talking a 2" T-bone for John), wine, dessert and coffee for $50. This, says Susie, was the best meal we've EVER had!

Posted by jeburns55 20:04 Archived in Uruguay Comments (0)

New Hotel, Same City

Buenos Aires, Argentina

This morning, we packed our bags, at breakfast, and checked out of the Holiday Inn Express. A short taxi ride delivered us to the Hotel Emperador where we could meet with our Vantage Tour group. Since we arrived at 8:00 a.m. and they weren't due to get there until 11:00, we left our bags at the hotel and went for a nice walking tour.
Our "old neighborhood" was the Centro area; now we are in Recoleta. This is a step up in the world of Buenos Aires. About five blocks from our front door, we got to Posadas and Alvear Avenues which are the Buenos Aires equivalent of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Lots of really expensive stores, huge hotels, people in the latest designer fashions — and dozens of dog walkers. Besides stores and hotels, we saw several inviting little parks built around monuments and some foreign embassies (Brazil and France have beautiful, old restored mansions).
Somewhere along the way, we rested and had an espresso coffee. One of the nice things that nearly every coffee house and restaurant does is to give you a little "treat" for free; with our coffee, they brought a little dish with four pastry balls for each of us. Last night at dinner (and the night before), we were served an empanada (hot, meat-stuffed pastry) as soon as we sat down. No charge.
Revitalized with caffeine, we headed for the big stop of the day — Recoleta Cemetery. This is a well-known cemetery for two reasons: one, it is filled with above ground mausoleums that are very elaborate (much like in New Orleans, only more so!); the second reason is that Evita (Eva) Peron is interred there and her grave is a shrine of sorts. We saw too many wonderful statues to photograph. Everything is so well-kept and well- designed.

Our sightseeing done, we walked back to the hotel, checked into our room, and met up with our group. There was an orientation, some questions and answers, and instructions to meet at 4 p.m. if we wanted to go on a bus tour of the city. We met a group of four people from Roseau, Minnesota (one of them is younger than us — she's with her grandmother...otherwise, most folks are quite a bit older than we are...). We also met a foursome from near Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
IMG_2734.jpg IMG_2739.jpg
Lunch was at a nearby Italian restaurant (many "Portos," as Buenos Aires residents call themselves, have Italian backgrounds). Once we got back, we napped for a bit and then got on the bus. We drove through several areas that were new to us, and then we stopped at...Recoleta Cemetery! Ah, well, there is a lot to see there, including a lovely chapel next door. Back on the bus and to our last stop: La Boca neighborhood. This is the oldest barrio in Buenos Aires. "Boca" means "mouth" and this is where the first port was located; I guess cargo goes into the port like food goes in a mouth? Anyway, many of the homes are colorful old buildings made from corrugated metal, leftover scrap from the wharves that sailors used to put up places to live. And tradition says that they used any leftover paint from the ships, which accounts for the mish-mash of color. Very unique.
Upon our return, the two of us found another Italian place a block away, ate dinner, and now we're ready to curl up and dream about tomorrow...

Posted by jeburns55 21:05 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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