Belém, Brazil

February 23, 2017

Our ship was anchored, which required taking a tender boat into port. Larry and I went ashore with our friends, Julianne and Brian (from Tasmania), to explore. Looking north, we could see what appeared to be a small village, which was what we expected along the Amazon River. To the south was the big city . . . and I do mean big! The eleventh largest city in Brazil has a population of more than two million in it’s metro area.

The city lies approximately sixty-two miles upriver from the Atlantic Ocean, on the Pará River, and is considered the gateway to the Amazon River.

Belém is the Portuguese word for Bethlehem. Founded in 1616, but Portuguese Captain-General Francisco Caldeira Castelo Branco, the economy depended up the sugar trade until the end of the seventeenth century. Cattle ranching supplanted sugar until the eighteenth century, when cultivation of rice, cotton, and coffee became profitable. The discovery of rubber and its importance in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries triggered an economic boom in Belém. The city became known as “the tropical Paris.” a cultural legacy still evident today in the in the splendid colonial buildings that remain. Today the economy is dependent on transporting immense quantities of fish, shrimp, and timber through the port.

Many of the buildings in this port, and others, were in need of a good power wash and paint job. It’s a bit sad to see them in such bad shape. The photo showing the power lines was common throughout many of the countries in South America and other parts of the world. Seeing the dangerous looking tangle of wires increased our appreciation for underground utilities in our city.

We opted to stroll through part of the market area, where many eateries were patronized by locals. Freshwater crab, a traditional local delicacy, is popular. Found only in swamps, its well-tempered meat can be served in different forms: as a shell, the so-called unha (the claws) or toc-toc. “Maniçoba” is another highlight of local cuisine. Its preparation is time-consuming, and its final appearance is quite surprising for those who have never tried it, due to the dark look of the cooked maniva (ground manioc leaves). But this first impression ends quickly, after you taste the dish with its seemingly awkward ingredients. Maniçoba is often served in ceramic dishes and can be eaten with rice or with manioc flour and capsicum.

Quite a few stands were piled with Brazil nuts, in and out of the shell, for sale. I haven’t been able to find out what they do with all the leftover shells though. There were also the usual trinkets available as well as an abundance of produce.

After covering about half of the market, and not finding anything we couldn’t live without, we encountered another couple from the ship. They had just been pickpocketed, so we decided it was time to head back. We stopped to enjoy a local brew before catching the tender back to the ship.

Julianne and Brian joined us for dinner in the Lido, and we all went to the movie in the Wajang Theater. I had already seen Inferno, starring Tom Hanks, but the others hadn’t and I enjoyed seeing it again.

Soon it was time to drift off to sleep with visions of brazil nuts . . . ZZZZZZZZ




Almost to Rio

Enjoying dinner

Jacquie and the staff

More yummmm

Proscuitto Wrapped Veal

Roasted Salmon with Pesto Mashed Potatoes

Yuimmm

Larry wasn’t crazy about going to Brazil. Just getting the tourist visa was such a huge hassle and expense it added fodder to his resistance. However, it was part of the itinerary, so we were obligated to be prepared. In fact, we couldn’t get on the ship without our Brazil tourist visa. I figured since we were going, we might as well see the Christ the Redeemer statue, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, in Rio de Janeiro.

Thanks to Mary Anne, on the Cruise Critic roll call group, we learned of a tour that sounded good. It included a city tour, lunch at a Brazilian BBQ, the trip to Corcovado (where Christ the Redeemer is located), and a visit to Cococabana Beach. So, we booked it.

Rio is one of those dual personality kind of cities. On one hand you hear about the excitement and debauchery of carnaval, which is like Mardi Gras in New Orleans. This annual celebration, in the Roman Catholic tradition, allows merry-making and red meat consumption before the more sober forty days of Lent which culminates with Holy Week and Easter. The tradition of carnaval parades was probably influenced by the French or German courts and the custom was brought by the Portuguese or Brazilian Imperial families who had Bourbon and Austrian ancestors. Up until the time of the marchinhas, the revelry was more of a high class and Caucasian-led event. This changed with the influence of the African-Brazilian drums and music.

Frankly, I’m glad we WEREN’T here during Carnaval. I know some people find it fascinating and entertaining. I fail to understand how people can parade around in public, nearly naked, behaving in an immoral manner, and consider it acceptable.   We saw enough of that in Key West on Halloween. Consider me a prude, if you want. There are just some things you can’t “unsee.”

On the other hand, thousands of pious people make a sort of pilgrimage to Corcovado Mountain to show respect for and take selfies with the Christ the Redeemer Statue. That was much more to my liking.

Did you know that Rio de Janeiro means January river? I’d never thought of translating it before, so I was a bit surprised to learn that it was discovered on January 1, 1502, by Gaspar de Lemos, a Portuguese explorer. Reportedly, Amerigo Vespucci was on the same expedition.

What they’d really found, though, was the Bay of Guanabara, and mistook it for a river. Subsequent settlers discovered gold and diamonds, in addition to sugar, and the port became important for shipping.

After Napoleon invaded Portugal, the royal family and other nobles relocated to Rio. They even transferred the kingdom’s capital, making it the only European capital outside of Europe. Many local residents were evicted to make way for hundreds of noblemen who arrived suddenly. Rio has the largest Portuguese population outside Lisbon.

A large influx of Africa slaves arrived in the early eighteen-hundreds. By eighteen-forty, there were two-hundred-twenty-thousand slaves. Here, the samba was born of the black community with Angolan influence.

The South Zone is divided into several districts and is the wealthiest part of the city. Two of the zones, Leblon and São Conrado, have the most expensive real estate in all of South America. The daily rate at the five star hotels is second only to New York City. It is in this area the renowned Copacabana Beach is located. And of course, Ipanema, which was chosen as the number one beach in the world by CNN in 2012.

The North Zone contains many of the one-thousand favelas (slums) where ninety-five percent of the population are poor. Government initiatives are trying to improve conditions and bring them up to par with the rest of the city.

Sugarloaf Mountain (‘Pão de Açúcar’), (whose name describes the famous mountain rising out of the sea) stands sentinel marking the entrance to the bay. The summit can be reached via a two-stage cable car trip from Praia Vermelha, with the intermediate stop on Morro da Urca. The view it offers is second only to Corcovado mountain.

There are now more than twelve million people living in the metro area, six million of which live in the city. Portuguese is the official language. Spanish and English are also taught in high school.

Brazil is a country that seems to be at a crossroads. Effort is being made to improve transportation and housing. We’ve all read the stories about the corrupt government.

The edition we receive of the Times Digest had an article about the crumbling legacy of the Olympics that were hosted in Brazil this past summer. In preparation for hosting the games, the city promised plans to turn facilities used for the Olympics into public sporting areas and schools. Six months later it hasn’t happened. Though the mayor’s office says plans are in the works, there is no timetable. In fact, on January 1st, the mayor told city council members, “The nation is in crisis, Rio de Janeiro is in crisis—it’s time to be cautious.” Doesn’t sound too promising, does it?

Fun with the staff

We celebrated Valentine’s Day early with a special meal in the Canelleto. Rifki, the manager gave me a long stemmed red rose. Dinner was fantastic and we had fun taking photos with the staff.

At sea . . .

Brazilian Seafood Soup with Coconut, Lime, and Coriander

Chef Laurent with Hannah

One of my favorite events to attend on board is the culinary programs. On other “dam” ships, I’ve been able to take several classes, where we cook with the guest chef. The Culinary Arts Center on the Prinsendam is so small participant classes aren’t possible. So, the next best thing is watching the chef prepare recipes.

Our guest chef for now is Hervé Laurent. Though he was educated in France, and still has a strong French accent, he now has the School of Culinary Arts Central America, located in Argentina. He was very pleasant and it would have been fun to actually cook with him.

Today he demonstrated Brazilian Seafood Soup with Coconut, Lime and Coriander. This one did sound yummy and is somewhat like a soup I make at home using coconut milk and shrimp or chicken. Keep in mind that what is called coriander in this part of the world, is what we call cilantro.

He also demonstrated making Argentinian Alfarores, a cookie filled with Dulce de Leche. I will try this one at home . . . especially since Larry was gifted a jar of the filling!  Hannah, the Culinary Arts Hostess, keeps things running smoothly while the chef cooks.

It was time to pick up the next book for Book Club, The Gods of Tango, by Carolina De Robertis. This one came with a disclaimer, “As the reviews suggest, this book is very sexual and has LGBT themes. It is also by an award winning author with many positive reviews and has been chosen for it’s merits and setting. The story transports the reader into the life and culture of a Buenos Aires immigrant, and takes you to the dark nightlife that birthed the Tango. While some of the themes and language might be uncomfortable for some readers, those who do chose to read the book will have much to discuss from this prime example of South American Literature.”

Our librarian, Megan, handed out the disclaimer with the book, and, said that one woman responded, “I don’t think it will change me.”

This evening’s entertainment was Richard Gauntlett. “Direct from London’s West End, bringing you a variety of vaudeville entertainment not usually seen in this price range.” He really was very funny and worth watching.

Alas, we lost another hour of sleep. That makes us six hours different than the west coast of the U.S. It also put us in the same time zone as Greenland.

Tonight’s quote: “We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.”~~Hilaire Belloc

 

Punta del Este, Uruguay—39 Years of Wedded Bliss

Our ship arrived at ten a.m. We had our tender tickets and were off on the second boat. Our tour guide, Jaime, had been waiting since 8 a.m. for which we felt terrible. He assured us it was no problem . . . he had time for breakfast and a leisurely start to his day. It was a short walk to his car, and we were ready to set off.  Jaime wished us a happy anniversary, which was also very sweet.

We’d arranged this wine tour through (super travel agent!) Jelena. Jaime was kind enough to postpone his own vacation one day to accommodate us. We felt very special. When I learned that Uruguay has a sauvignon blanc wine I hoped to try it. I’d fallen in love with the sauvignon blanc’s in New Zealand a couple of years ago and enjoy comparing them in different countries.

The famous hand sculpture

Jaime narrated as we drove through town. The famous sculpture of a hand emerging from the sand memorializes those who have drowned in local waters. The lighthouse was actually built in France in 1858, and reassembled here according to one account. The other story is the lens was brought from France. This leads me to believe it has a Fresnel lens, like the one in Heceta Head Lighthouse just up the coast from us in Oregon. Unfortunately it isn’t open to the public.

High-rise condo’s framed the beach. Occasionally a luxurious home appeared. Jaime said the area is called “Beverly Hills.” Apartment rent during high season is three thousand dollars a month. A lot of ex-pat’s live in an area north of here called Floriadopolis.

 

 

Another view of the hand

 

 

 

Punta del Este Lighthouse

Unemployment is seven percent, inflation, nine and half percent, and a twenty-two percent tax on everything, doesn’t seem ideal, but it’s better than Argentina. I can see why those who can afford to want to live here. The tax is factored into the price, so what you see is what you pay.

Soon we were in the countryside, passing large expanses of beautiful grazing areas dotted with sheep and cattle. Estancias (stations/ranches) were spread out and the few homes we saw were very nice. People here name their homes, like in England.  Imagine estates with names like, “Laguna del Sauce, La Barra Manantiales, Pan de Azúcar, and Pueblo Edén.”

Beautiful home in Punta del Este

It was about forty miles to the winery and we enjoyed getting to know Jaime along the way. He lived in the United States for five years and has an excellent command of the language.

Once we turned off the highway, we eventually reached a dirt road that continued about a mile up the hill. With this kind of approach, we were pretty surprised to find such and upscale building!

In front of the winery

Most of the wineries are owned by Italians. That was the case for Bodega Garzon. The owners have two wineries in Italy, one in France, one in California and this one. They know their wine!

We’re accustomed to wine tastings where glasses are lined up for several customers and are poured in order from driest to sweetest. Imagine our surprise to have our own sommelier! He described each wine and let us choose what we wanted to taste. If we liked it we had a bit more. I enjoyed the Albariño, a white wine I’d never heard of before. Unfortunately we couldn’t take any back with us unless we wanted to pay an eighteen dollar corkage fee since this was a private tour.

With our tour guide, Jaime

We did taste several other wines, all of which were very nice. But, then aren’t they all after the first glass?

 

View from the winery 1

On the way back to town we continued chatting about the area. I told Jaime I would love to get a calabash gourd for  maté to bring home, and he thought they might be available at the supermarket.   The hollowed out calabash gourd is the customary container from which to sip maté using a straw called a bombilla.  The straw is traditionally made of silver.  For the rest of us it’s made from nickel silver, stainless steel or hollow-stemmed cane.  I’m always happy to visit a supermarket in other countries.

Maté is a high caffeine tea brewed from the leaves of the yerba mate, a shrub that grows into a large tree.  In Uruguay it is defined by law as the “national infusion.”

I just wish we’d had more time to spend inside the Tienda Inglesia. It was like a Fred Meyer store at home. There was a bit of everything . . . groceries, sundries, housewares, furniture, clothing, etc.   They seemed to have everything BUT a maté. We happened to be at a shopping mall, so off we trekked to the Uruguay store. (Imagine a Made In Oregon store here.) They had several types of maté, complete with the special “straw.” I found postcards, and Jaime generously bought me refrigerator magnets and a jar of Dulce de Leche for Larry.  Dulce de Leche is a confection prepared by slowly heating sweetened condensed milk until it transforms to become similar to caramel in appearance and flavor.  It’s used to flavor cookies, cakes, waffles, ice cream, and as a spread on pancakes or toast.

Inside Tienda Inglesia

I would love to have stayed longer, but we had to be back at the ship in time. So, Jaime finished our tour with a quick drive through an area with more upscale homes and returned us to the port.

As he walked with us to the tender dock, we ran into friends who were asking a street vendor about the product they were selling. Jaime explained that it was a sweet sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and bought us each a bag. I think he was happy with the tip we gave him! We hugged goodbye and as is the custom, kissed on the cheek.

 

Punta del Este skyline

Back on board, we were ready to relax. Larry isn’t quite one hundred percent better yet, so we look forward to a chance to sleep in.

Tonight’s quote: “We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.”~~Anaïs Nin

 

Buenos Aires, Day Two

City of the Pope

Giant tulip

The Pink Palace (like our White House)

One of many dog walkers

Old building sandwiched between new

Choripan, chimichurri, salsa

Eileen with penguin wine pitcher

Empanada

Queso baked in brick oven

Skirt steak and pappas fritas

Wine divas

Sirloin, pappas con huevo, grilled veggies, rice

Sweet indulgence

Colorful dwellings

The next day, Julianne and I, had what was described as a “walking culinary tour.” We boarded a bus and were happy to have a narrated tour of parts of the city I hadn’t seen the day before. We finally disembarked in an area that was not bustling with traffic, and set off on foot for our first stop, Parilla La Cañita. Here we enjoyed Choripan with Chimichurri and another type of condiment. The Choripan was chorizo sausage on a fresh roll. It was delicious all by itself! I do believe it’s the best chorizo I’ve ever tasted.

Chimichurri is a condiment made with parsley, onion, red wine vinegar or red wine, olive oil, garlic, oregano, pinch of sugar, salt and pepper to taste, and cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes to your taste. It’s considered an indispensable accompaniment to grilled meats in Argentina, and goes well with poultry or fish. It can easily be tailored to your taste.

Since we were on a ship’s tour, we could bring a bottle of wine back with us. The Malbec we tasted was good, so that was my choice. And, it was reasonably priced at $10 U.S. We’ve learned that most of the towns we’ve been to or are going to, are happy to have U.S. dollars. We found that to be the case on most of our cruise last year, except in Europe. The sense behind it is that the U.S. dollar is more stable that other countries currency. Yay for us!

Another surprising note about the U.S. dollar, is that people have to buy real estate with dollars, not pesos! With forty-two percent inflation, and the instability of the peso, this seems smart on the sellers’ part.

Our next stop was at Las Cholas. There we started with a tasty empanada (meat pie). If you haven’t ever had one they’re worth a try! We’ve enjoyed them in Mexico many times, and found the filling in this one very tasty. Not to spicy!

Following our empanada, we were served a melted cheese in a cute little cast iron pan. It was a semi-hard cheese, like Dutch Edam, so it was only slightly melted in the brick oven. But, very tasty! While we savored this, Eileen explained the cute penguin pitcher. She said that when Argentina began to make wine it wasn’t very good, so they served it in these cute pitchers. It didn’t taste better, but it was fun to serve. We had a chenin blanc with the empanada and cheese.

Next came the beef. Remember the commercial from years ago, where the (ahem) older woman, sat in the fast food restaurant and yelled out, “Where’s the beef?” That could never have aired in Argentina! They know where the beef is and eat it regularly. Eileen said they eat so much beef, they consider chicken a vegetable.

Our next family-style serving was skirt steak, expertly grilled and served with fat French fries and rice. Seriously! As if anyone would eat rice and fries with it!

Besides Malbec wine, next came sirloin steak, with more fries (this time with a friend egg on top,) more rice, and grilled veggies. We also had a spinach salad on the side. There were a lot of left-overs!

We managed to make our way to the next stop for ice cream. Though I rarely indulge in dessert, I figured when in Buenos Aires . . . and had the dulce de leche ice cream. It was melting fast, so of course I had to eat it!

We arrived back at the cruise terminal in time for Julianne to get a few postcards and for me to get stamps to mail the ones I got the day before.

After such a full day . . . in more ways than one . . . we met up with our guys. After a salad for dinner, we were ready to turn in early!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buenos Aires, Argentina– Day One

Busy shipping port

Catedral de San Isidro

Aboard our vessel

Boating the Rio de la Plata

Roughin’ it on the river

Private rowing club

Dinosaurs too!

Is this the mine train ride at Disneyland?

With the River Boat Skipper

Lamb and Chicken Gaucho Style

Roast pig

Desserts galore

Cute Gaucho!

Our first day here, we had a Tigre Delta and River Cruise, we’d booked through Costco. This is a very large shipping port, so a free shuttle took us to the cruise terminal. There were a few “shops” in the form of booths, a café, tourist information, and restrooms . . . but no wifi.

We met our tour guide, outside door four. We were in a small bus with a couple from the UK, and four people from Peru, so, the tour was in Spanish and English. Our tour guide described the sights and provided interesting information as we made our way through the city.

We stopped at a cathedral for photos, and then continued to the river. Río de la Plata translates to River of Silver. It’s immediately obvious the name is not from the color. The color is consistently muddy and it’s a wonder any marine creatures can breathe in the brackish water. It is the widest river in the world (yup. . . . even the Amazon), with a maximum width of about 220 kilometres (140 mi) and a total surface area of about 35,000 square kilometres (14,000 sq. mi.)

Sebastian Cabot acquired silver trinkets trading with the Guaraní near today’s Asunción, and these objects (together with legends of a “Sierra de la Plata” in the South American interior brought back by earlier explorers) inspired him to rename the river Río de la Plata.

We boarded the river boat, and sailed past Argentinian Navy ships, various other vessels, private rowing clubs, old and new homes, (some of which had seen their better days,) a private school, restaurants, a store of some sort, a museum, and an amusement park . . . all of which are built on islands. Residents receive service via grocery boats, propane delivery boats, garbage pick-up boats, etc. It all seemed like an idyllic way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.

We re-boarded the bus, and headed back to the city. It was obvious there was severe poverty in areas. Tenements appeared either half-finished or half demolished . . . it was hard to tell which. Many had no windows, doors or roofs. Laundry hung from lines, sagging from the weight. There was no evidence of electricity or running water.

We could choose to be dropped off at one of three points. One was a shopping center where the ship’s shuttle was delivering and picking up, so that seemed a good choice. Since we weren’t sure when the shuttle would arrive or exactly where, we hailed a cab for a ten dollar e-ticket ride. We seemed to be at peak traffic time.

At one point, our driver made a left turn to get through before the light changed. There really wasn’t space to get all the way into the traffic lane, so cars with the right of way were forced to go around us as they honked to express their displeasure.

Tonight’s “Gaucho Dinner” was a change of pace, complete with costumed servers.

 

 

Almost to Buenos Aires

In the first foundation of Buenos Aires, Spanish sailors arrived in the Rio de la Plata by the blessings of the “Santa Maria de los Buenos Aires,” the “Holy Virgin Mary of the Good Winds” who was said to have given them the good winds to reach the coast of what is today the modern city of Buenos Aires.

Buenos Aires dates from 1536, when Spanish explorer Pedro de Mendoza camped on a bluff above the Rio de la Plata, possibly at the site of the present day Parque Lazama. The city was abandoned in 1542, after attacks by the indigenous people.

A second (and permanent) settlement was established in June 1580 by Juan de Garay, who sailed down the Paraná River from Asunción, which is now the capital of Paraguay. Argentinians defeated the British who later invaded, and two attempts by the French failed to force the city into submission. Foreign powers eventually desisted from their demands. Ironically, current day Buenos Aires has a reputation as being the “Paris of the South.”

Immigrants from all over the world have made this a truly, large multicultural city with a population of around seventeen million. Nationalities include: German, Scottish, Norwegian, Polish, French, Portuguese, Swedish, Greek, Czech, Croatian, Dutch, Russian, Montenegrinian, English, Hungarian and Bulgarian, Romanian, Ukrainian, Chinese, and Japanese. As well as, two-hundred-fifty-thousand Jews, most of which are of Northern, Western, Central, and Eastern European Ashkenazi origin, primarily Swedish, Dutch, Polish, German, and Russian Jews, with a significant Sephardic minority, which are mostly made up of Syrian Jews and Lebanese Jews.

Christianity is the predominant religion and seventy percent are Roman Catholic. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the former archbishop was elected as Pope Francis in March 2013. There are Protestant, Orthodox Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormon, and Buddhist minorities. The city is home to the largest mosque in South America.

Like Washington, D.C., the City of Buenos Aires was federalized and is autonomous. It gets a bit confusing because the province is also called Buenos Aires.

Ok . . . enough history!

Buenos Aires

Montevideo, Uruguay

No license needed

Dutch style home built in 1911

Narrowest house between two modern ones

Monument to the gauchos taking their wares to market

Plaza de la Armada

Statue by Plaza de la Armada

Happy Mate Seller

Peddling knife sharpener

Plaza Constitución

Palacio Legislativo

Independence Square

With tour guide, Carmen

Former Carrasco Hotel

Uruguay, which is about the size of England and Wales combined, is one of the smallest countries in South America, with a population of just over three million. Most of the people are of Spanish and Italian descent and the country is considered the most “European” on the continent. Montevideo, the capital, was founded in 1726, and has one and a half million residents. Located on the peninsula, the Ciudad Vieja (Old City,) has narrow streets, large plazas, and elegant colonial architecture. It was surrounded by a protective wall until 1829.The Ciudad Nueva (New City,) is where the more prosperous residents live.

Larry contracted the cold that our friends shared, so he stayed in. I went on the tour with Mike and Carol from Georgia, and Lynn and David from Ohio. We left the port area, and drove along the Rambla (malécon, or, avenue that borders the water,) which changed names several times along the way. One section was Rambla Gandhi, in honor of the Indian of the same name.

Driving along the water, that seemed to go on forever, it was hard to believe it was a river. A lone fisherman stood in muddy, hip deep water with a long pole waiting for a bite. Larry would have loved it . . . no license required! With no threat of sharks, or tsunami’s, the beach is safe for swimming, and presumably mud baths.

Several areas had exercise equipment for public use. And, a lot of people were jogging along the paved paths. As beautiful as the area appeared, it was really hard to believe they were hit by a cyclone just a few days before. We did see broken tree branches, and occasional piles of green debris waiting to be picked up.

We stopped for photo op’s of the opulent former Carrasco Hotel and Casino built in 1921, now a Sofitel Hotel. Other impressive sites included: a Dutch-style home built in 1911 that was recently refurbished; the narrowest house in the city, built between two modern high-rises; and, a monument to the gauchos taking their wares to market.

It was in this area, the “Happy Maté” seller peddled his wares. Yerba maté is an herbal drink common to South America. I’ve heard of yerba maté and even tried it in tea-bag form the U.S., but not in the traditional South American fashion. I’m determined to learn more about the tradition and use. According to the little booklet I purchased, “sharing a maté is synonym of friendship, confidence, even sense of peace. “ Traditionally, it’s drunk from a “maté,” or pumpkin (gourd) or wood container, using a special “straw” that filters the liquid. There’s more to learn and share!

While stopped to snap photos of the Plaza de la Armada, a knife sharpener happened by peddling his service . . . literally! Apparently he sounds a special tune and the maids know he is in the neighborhood.   We were definitely in the upper class area now! Many of the homes were occupied by families of the various embassies. Most had walls and gates setting them apart from neighbors. Neatly groomed tropical landscaping, tile roofs, and stucco “Southern California” style homes were the norm. Maybe Southern California copied them! As our driver/tour guide, Carmen, narrated along the way, I felt as though I’d been transported to La Jolla, California . . . an area where many of the upper echelon live in San Diego County.

Our tour continued to Plaza Constitución, which as Carmen explained, has thirty-three palm trees bordering it. When we were in front of the Palacio Legislativo, he went on to share there are ties to the Masonic Order, as evidenced in many areas around town. Interesting, eh?

We returned to the port in time to buy a few postcards, stamps . . . and the usual fridge magnet.

Larry was still feeling puny with his cold, so we ordered room service, and checked out free DVD’s . . . “Man of the House” starring Tommy Lee Jones, and “The Hoax” starring Richard Gere. Both were pretty good!

Tonight’s quote: “Being afraid to take chances means never exploring the possibilities. If you never explore the possibility, you can miss out on your once in a lifetime.”~~Bridgett Middleton

 

Puerto Madryn, Argentina

I’d never heard of Puerto Madryn before this cruise. With most of South America having been settled by the Spanish, it was surprising to learn that the town was founded in 1865, by Welsh immigrants. They arrived on a clipper named Mimosa, and named the settlement in honor of Sir Love Jones-Parry, who estate in Wales was named “Madryn.” One of the beaches is named “Playa Mimosa,” in honor of the ship.

Welsh, Spanish, and Italian immigrants built the Central Chubut Railway and the town grew. Their economy today is based on aluminum processing. Five-thousand people are employed at the local plant. Oil production, fishing and tourism also contribute.

Our ship arrived bright and early at seven a.m. With All Aboard at 2:30, we didn’t have time to spare in port. We disembarked and met our tour guide, Fernando, for another tour arranged through Costco. We’ve really become spoiled having a tour guide/driver all to ourselves!

With three-hundred sixty kilometers to cover we wasted no time heading south to Peninsula Valdes. The area reminded us a great deal of the landscape in Anza Borrego Desert or Baja, California. Barren, and somewhat sandy, sparsely dotted with sage brush and dried grasses. Instead of the occasional wandering cow, the road hazard was wild guanacos (similar to a llama). Like deer, there was rarely just one crossing the road, oblivious to vehicles.

We stopped at the visitor information center for Peninsula Valdes, which housed exhibits of the local flora and fauna and interpretive signs. Next we set off on one hundred twenty kilometers of UNpaved road. The way the roads are laid out, you must be serious about wanting to view wildlife.

Along the route, in addition to a great many guanaco, we saw Merino sheep, a viper sunning in the roadway, a burrowing owl, a rider-less horse, rheas, Martineta’s (a type of partridge,) and armadillos. At various shore stops, we saw Magellanic and Gentoo penguins, baby elephant seals, and sea lions.

There was time for Fernando to tour us through a small fishing village with four-hundred inhabitants. In the summer, entrepreneurs stay busy with water activity tourism. Surprisingly winter is busy with foreign visitors arriving for whale watching season.

The ride back toward town was dotted with our questions and his answers, and, a box lunch. His English was excellent! And, we had time for a tour of the old town, as well as the up and coming area with modern high rises. Tree trunks were carved into interesting shapes.

After Happy Hour with Julianne and Brian in the Crow’s Nest, we enjoyed dinner and headed for the show.

Voce, who performed again with all new songs. Two of the vocalists sang a Judy Garland medley. One sang “All I Ask of You” from Phantom of the Opera with Matthew, one of the Prinsendam singers and dancers. Their duet was equally as good as when we heard Michael Crawford perform. The closing number, “Halleujah” received a well-deserved standing ovation.

Tonight’s quote: “Change your thoughts and you change the world.”~~ Norman Vincent Peale

 

Falklands Islands

Located three-hundred miles off the coast of Argentina, the two main islands and seven-hundred-fifty smaller islands, are home to more sheep, penguins, and rare birds, than people. 

The main port is the capital, Stanley, located on the eastern shore of East Falkland Island. Reminiscent of an English fishing village, complete with pubs and shops, it’s a quaint town, of about two thousand residents, where most people know each other, and consequently enjoys a low crime rate.

Without a suitable dock, it was a long, rough tender ride to shore. Once we arrived, I spotted Jimmy, our tour guide, holding the sign with my name. This tour was arranged by Jelena, who had also set up the penguin expedition in Ushuaia.

The only traffic signal

We set off in Jimmy’s Land Cruiser for Volunteer Point, which as the crow flies, is much closer than the route we had to take. The ride was one and a half hours over largely unpaved territory. Jimmy knew the shortcuts and made a game of beating the other 4X4 vehicles carrying other ship tourists. Though we got a few minutes later start than they did, we arrived at our destination a half hour earlier than anyone else thanks to Jimmy’s cunning skills.

Falklands goose

Larry and I wandered among the penguins, snapping photos, as though no one had ever been there. Besides the thousands of penguins, we saw geese that reminded us a bit of the Hawaiian Nene. Our Daily Navigator said the temperature was 49 Fahrenheit. Ha! With the wind-chill it was MUCH colder! We could see our breath and I was really wishing I hadn’t left my gloves in my backpack.

Just a few penguins

Magellenic burrow

When we returned to where Jimmy had parked it was quite a different sight, with fourteen 4X4 vehicles, in addition to ours. Jimmy provided water, hot coffee, sandwiches, chips, and cookies for us. We warmed up with the coffee and headed back to town as it started to sprinkle.

Bake safe

Crossing back across land owned by a sheep rancher, we imagined how quiet life must be in this area. Besides raising sheep, the rancher charges tour guides for access across his land. As we neared the edge of the station, Jimmy explained the “Bake Safe” holds homemade pies made by the rancher’s wife. If you want one, just leave your money in the honor receptacle.

Rivers of Stone

As we neared the paved road, Jimmy shared his memories of the Falkland’s war, from when he was nine years old. He also explained a bit of the geology, as we saw remnants of the ice age called, “rivers of stone,” that did indeed resemble winding rivers flowing down the hillside.

Arrow points to helicopter wreckage

We passed Mt. Harriet, where a huge battle took place. And, nearby was

Christ Church Cathedral and Whale Bone Arch

the rusting wreckage of a downed helicopter.    Once we were back in town, Jimmy pointed out the sites, including the southernmost Anglican church, Christ Church Cathedral, and it’s whalebone arch. We really enjoyed chatting with him all along the way and learning more about the Falklands including, their main harvests are squid and Patagonian toothfish (aka Chilean Seabass.) And of course, they have a lot of mutton, lamb and even “bacon seeds,” aka pigs.

We happily treated Jimmy to a beer (or two) at the Globe Tavern, where Larry imbibed in a Bishops Finger and I had an Old Speckled Hen. We made the next to last tender back and bounced through the waves to the ship.  

Toasting the Bishop’s Finger and Old Speckled Hen

We’ve heard the stories about the number of times the weather has made it impossible to stop here, so we are grateful to have made it. This is one of those places we’d be happy to visit again . . . for a little more time.