A Travellerspoint blog

January 2020

PUERTO MADRYN, ARGENTINA

Wales in Argentina

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We feel like we are very far away! We are sailing down the east coast of Argentina and have arrived at Puerto Madryn, Argentina, on the Patagonian coast in the state of Chubut. It looks like Patagonia. The eye sweeps across flat and dusty pampas with occasional guanaco (like llamas) and rhea (like ostriches) in the scrublands.

As we drove two hours westward on narrow and straight and bumpy roads, it was hard to believe that we would see anything larger than a bush, but we did. Somehow there is a river in Chubut and near the river is the Narlu Artisanal Fruit Farm. Our eyes bugged. Never would we have imagined anything green growing in this desolate land; never would we have imagined flowers managing to send roots into stone hard clay. But there at Narlu, a series of irrigation canals brings enough water so that an elderly man named Charlie can farm many acres with beautiful cherry trees and berries and lavender and hazelnuts and walnuts. Charlie walked us through his fields where we picked strawberries and raspberries that were the sweetest ever. The roses were the reddest ever too. Really. Charlie also has a guesthouse with bathrooms and a little shop that sells his produce and gavd us tastes of jams and nuts and juice and Welsh wedding cake.

Welsh? Yes, this region is filled with so many Welsh families that Welsh is an official language of Argentina! The immigration began in 1865 when a clipper ship brought 150 folks to Puerto Madryn, a harbor safe from the high land rents and harsh working conditions at home. The Welsh lived in caves near the coast but there was no fresh water, so they moved inland and dug the irrigation ditches still in use.

We moved inland and visited the Old Chapel and New Chapel, two iterations of the Nonconforming Church of Wales. Interesting lighting! Weekly worship in Spanish is led by an ordained minister, but all Welsh worship is led by lay people since they have not had a Welsh speaking pastor in twenty years. One of the enthusiastic members spoke to us from the Old Chapel pulpit and then from the New Chapel pulpit. (They don’t look much different.) We got some idea about the beliefs and practices at the Chapel when we heard of this year’s conflict when St. David’s Day fell on a Sunday. Usually, there are festive teas and celebrations on David’s Day, but not this year because “you have to keep the Lord’s Day holy.” They celebrated the feast a day early instead.

Next we moved quickly through an historical museum in a former train station; documents were in Welsh, as was the butter squeezer pictured. Then we drove to Dolavon for lunch in a former grain mill. The homemade pasta was absolutely atrocious, its texture being like toothpaste and the “meat sauce” being hunks of tough gristly beef. The wine was good.

In a burst of odd excursion planning, we were next off to a Welsh tearoom in Trelew, where we had our tea and many many cakes and scones and sandwiches. At the end, a Welsh choir sang hymns in Welsh and Spanish. Ah yes, we remembered that we were actually in Argentina.

Posted by HopeEakins 13:51 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY

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In Montevideo, Uruguay, folks say the name of their country something like “your-way.” The Your-wayans are wonderful. The country is progressive, beautiful and has a healthy economy. The tower of the legislative office building is held up by twenty-four (granite) women! Palacio Salvo fascinates. We visited the central market (terribly upscale), the Presidential Museum (the memorabilia of another country’s Presidents aren’t terribly fascinating), many monuments to national heroes, and a famous bar restaurant called Facal. After lunch, we joined a group of about twenty folks gathered on the sidewalk to watch street tango. After “Don Juan” whirled his partner around, he looked to the audience and held out his hands. One of our group from the Whisper joined him to dance. She was amazingly talented (and surprise – a professional tango dancer from Argentina) and delighted everyone but Don’s original partner. Finally, we trooped through the Carnaval Museum (costumes, costumes, costumes) and the Port Market. We are really looking forward to the two sea days ahead. But last night our suite was filled with sacks of parkas, boots, etc. and the lecture schedule today is filled with things like “Intro to Expeditions” so we imagine our attention will shift from empanadas to ice bergs.

Posted by HopeEakins 04:28 Archived in Uruguay Comments (0)

BUENOS AIRES - THE OUTSKIRTS

San Isidro

sunny 82 °F

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Our last foray into the wonders of Buenos Aires was a visit to San Isidro. This suburb is about 20 miles north of the city, and is lovely. Apparently it burgeoned in the late 19th century when yellow fever devastated Buenos Aires and those who could moved out of the crowded city. After the excitement and density of BA, the simplicity and charm of San Isidro is restful. The center is an historic area with cobbled streets and old single-story houses. Traffic slows down because the cobbles (having arrived as ship’s ballast) keep the roads rutted enough to stress the benefits of slowing down. We visited a lovely colonial house now used as a local library and were awed by the fountain and tiles in its entry and the garden overlooking the river.

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At the neo-gothic San Isidro Cathedral we were surprised both by its grandeur and its simplicity. Jesus hangs alone without any golden cherubs flying around him; his outstretched arms seem a sure declaration that he has come for us.

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After a visit to the Fruit Market (amazing) we took a boat trip through the Tigre Delta islands of the Río de la Plata (called the River Plate by guides for Americans). The lagoons and channels surround hundreds of houses, social clubs, and resorts, many of which are lovely. There is no transportation throughout the delta save for boats, so there are school bus boats (21 schools), supermarket boats (that bring bottled water, small appliances, meat and milk), an ambulance boat, etc. People sit on their docks and chat and call to each other and wave to us, but travel from one place to another must be by water – you can’t walk or drive. There is no fresh water except for the collected rain, so all drinking water must be brought by boat.

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Finally, we had a late lunch and strolled by shops. One of them had a doll house with an internal elevator!

Posted by HopeEakins 11:35 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

BUENOS AIRES BY NIGHT

Tango

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Exhausted or at least bushed after our long days trip through the city, we were off to a Tango Show. Now tangoing is much more complicated than we thought. There is tango dancing, tango lessons (a sort of social phenomenon where the same folks take lessons and practice with each other in a sort of club like arrangement), and tango shows. The women fling their legs back and forth only at the shows (it is considered rude to the other dancers if they are not executing a professional stage act).

So off we went at 8 pm (night life in BA really happens in the night) to Rojo Tango in a small sort of bar theatre in a lovely hotel. Drinks first, then dinner (beef!) at 9 pm, and the show at 10. The band played; the dancers wove their way around the bar to the stage and both kept it up until 11:45. There were no intermissions, no breaks between acts, no pauses. The music and dancing were good, but you can likely tell from Bill’s body language that there was more energy on the stage than off it.

We returned to the ship tomorrow.

Posted by HopeEakins 13:29 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA

Exploring the Paris of South America

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Oh, we have fallen in love with Buenos Aires. The avenues are broad and often lined with stunning tipas, a kind of rosewood tree with tiny leaves and remarkable trunk structures. These trees are coming into flower, so a haze of yellow is starting to cover them. Also along the ways are coral trees covered with velvety red clusters of the national flower of Argentina.large_IMG_0321.jpg497e3190-4144-11ea-baeb-3b2863abbaf1.jpg

The city is filled with parks and park systems; our guide Alejandro said that 30% of its area is official parks. Add that to the squares and monuments and road landscaping and you’ve got a green city that smells good. The rose garden is a little bigger (!) than Elizabeth Park at home. A mammoth metal sculpture, Floralis generica, opens and closes according to the sun. large_floralis_generica_buenos_aires-1024x683.jpg
And for reasons unknown, there is absolutely NO trash. Apparently Argentinians are born knowing about waste receptacles. Furthermore, the graffiti is energetic and looks like art, not like the signature of hoodlums as in Rio. large_IMG_0325.jpg

There is a considerable focus on health and well-being. In the parks, little yellow buildings serve as wellness centers. Staffed by a doctor and a nurse, people can get simple lab work done, get weighed, get first aid, get referred. All is free. Also free are public education, health care, and orange bicycles, many being ridden all around us.

People do die here, and some are buried in an incredible cemetery. Recoleta is in the center of the city and has 4600 mausolea, some filled with fresh flowers, some covered with cobwebs, some being refurbished by the city. IMG_3387.jpg

The Water Palace knocks your eyes out; once the actual water pumping station, it now serves as the administrative center for the water department as well as a museum. But wow, it looks like a palace. And the new pumping station itself looks better than any other municipal installation I have seen – we thought it was the Cathedral.
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The upscale residential neighborhoods are stunning; even the shantytowns are charming. The Ateneo bookshop looks like an opera house. At the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar (no, we don’t know what this dedication means), Jesus sits puzzled and weeping, and we can’t figure this out either.IMG_3399.jpgIMG_0345.jpg

Alejandro brought us (B&H + Doug and Jane Kline) to a bar called Atlantico for lunch: leek empanadas, grilled cheese (just cheese in a little pan), bread, fried capers, and pickled onions and peppers. IMG_0347.jpglarge_IMG_0348.jpg

We are very happy cruisers.

Posted by HopeEakins 13:03 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

PUNTA DEL ESTE, URUGUAY

Vacation City!

sunny 75 °F
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Punta del Este is lovely. Uruguay’s premiere resort city is beautiful, immaculate, filled with brilliant flowers, sleek yachts, and NICE people. Here are three examples of niceness:
1. When Hope pulled a map from her pocket, her key card (that looks just like a credit card) fell out. A young man ran after us for a block to return it.
2. Bill left his phone on the restaurant table after lunch. The waiter followed us and handed it back to him.
3. We went to a ferriera (?) to get a new rubber tip for Bill’s walking stick. No one spoke English there, and our Spanish is a little weak, but we pointed and a clerk went “in the back” and came out with a box of rubber tips. One fit! We had only Brazilian and American money and a credit card. The clerk shook her head. Then she took an American dollar from us and gave us a fist full of change in Uruguayan dollars. (After figuring out the exchange rate, we can tell you that rubber tips are retty cheap in Uruguay: $0.41.)

The beach is long and beautiful and marked by a stunning sculpture called Dedos here and Hand in the Sand by English speakers. The photo only shows a few fingers, but from afar it really looks like fingers waved by someone buried far, far down. The statue depicted here is the father of the country who looks like he will topple over if you sneeze at him. But he stayed on his pedestal while we were there.

We saw jellyfish waving their tentacles beneath our veranda, a huge sea lion at the tender landing, and birds soaring around us (we haven’t had enough ornithology lectures to identify them yet). The sun made everything sparkle and sea breezes kept us cool. All in all, this is a very attractive place.

Posted by HopeEakins 13:18 Archived in Uruguay Comments (1)

EXPEDITION AHEAD

Of ships and Zodiacs

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Life aboard the Silver Whisper has changed. A twenty-one person expedition team has arrived to prepare us and the ship for the Antarctic part of our adventure. They look different; they are younger and very fit. They speak with enthusiasm, extensive knowledge, and conviction. They have loads of equipment with them, hoses, parkas, and odd shaped boxes.

Our lectures and amusements used to be delivered by people like our friend Michael Buerck, BBC anchor newsman and raconteur extraordinaire. Now glaciologists and ornithologists and cetologists give lectures and our heads start to spin. We have been taught about light v. heavy water in ice core samples, about the differences between albatrosses and petrels, about penguins and passerines (perching birds) and, of course whales and seals. The expedition team absolutely loves their subjects, and they are determined to make us just as excited as they are.

Outside our veranda, Zodiacs sail by, practicing for the adventure ahead. The little boats get hoisted from the ship’s bow on a huge crane and once in the sea, nuzzle in to be loaded from a tiny platform. Today the temperature is in the high seventies and we face the gorgeous beach of Punta del Este (Uruguay), and this embarkation looks difficult. How it will work when we are on the ice sheets makes us just a little bit anxious.

One of our suitcases sits under the bed filled with mittens and long underwear and heavy socks and wet pants and hats and scarves. Soon we’ll put the bathing suits away for a while. We are hoping that the notorious Drake Passage which is known for fierce storms will be the Drake Lake when we sail through its 500 miles to the Antarctic ice shelf.

Posted by HopeEakins 11:22 Archived in Uruguay Comments (0)

MORE RIO

The Cathedral of Saint Sebastian

sunny 75 °F

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In the center of Rio's crowded and vibrant bustle, the Roman Catholic Cathedral stands apart from the modern governmental and financial office buildings and old warehouses. The cathedral looks like an Aztec pyramid, is wide open to passersby and yet still manages to feel like a house of prayer. We think it has something to do with the light. The darkness hovers about you as you enter, creating a safe and holy place here in the city's center, but that darkness is pierced by the lively movement of brilliant color from the stained glass. Light pours in from the huge cross-shaped clear window 250 feet above and from the lively stained glass panels that descend down the walls. There is almost no more decoration save for a coach (looks like it was borrowed from Snow White) carrying St. Sebastian (complete with arrows) that moves through the streets on Sebastian's Feast Day (January 20).

P.S. The little yellow flowers pictured here are absolutely charming. They are about the size of a thumbnail and enliven every place they are planted.

Posted by HopeEakins 04:01 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

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