Returning to D.C.

My “kister” (cousin who is more like a sister) Judy, and I recently returned from Daughters of the American Revolution Continental Congress (CC) for our fourth time.  This event takes place in our nation’s capital in June. DAR members, guests, and family members come from all over the world to attend the week-long annual meeting.  Business sessions, committee meetings, and social functions are topped off with formal evening ceremonies at which national DAR award winners are honored.

We attended the first time when I was a new chapter regent (president) in 2012. We were able to schedule a week after CC to do some genealogy research, see the sights, and enjoy an amazing 4th of July fireworks display from the fourteenth floor condo of a friend of mine in Alexandria, Virginia. The panoramic view of twelve displays is imbedded in our memories.

Sweet Hall

When my “kister” became a chapter regent in 2016, we attended again.  This time we scheduled a week before CC to visit Williamsburg and Jamestown. Not only did we walk in the footsteps of William Claiborne, our tenth great-grandfather, the surveyor for Jamestown in the 1600’s, but we visited a home, built by his grandson, that is on the National Historic Register.  In case you’re interested visit: Sweet Hall.   We also had time to tour Monticello and Mt. Vernon.

Just getting to D.C. from the West Coast is a full day experience.  So, there isn’t time to do much sightseeing the first day.  This year we were ecstatic to have our room upgraded at the JW Marriott.  Being on the “Concierge Floor” and having access to the Executive Lounge was a treat.  We had a view of the Washington Monument, White House and other historic buildings.  This hotel is within walking distance of DAR Headquarters, weather permitting.

View of the Washington Monument

View from our hotel room

Encompassing an entire city block, DAR Headquarters is one of the world’s largest buildings of its kind owned and maintained exclusively by women. Ground was broken for DAR Constitution Hall on June 22, 1928. The cornerstone was laid by Mrs. Calvin Coolidge on October 30, 1928, using the trowel George Washington used to lay the cornerstone at the Capitol in 1793. Mrs. Herbert Hoover was the guest speaker at the formal dedication on April 19, 1929. The first musical event in the hall was on November 2, 1929 and featured Anna Case, Efrem Zimbalist, Sophie Braslau, and Hans Barth.

Memorial Continental Hall, the oldest building of the DAR complex with a seating capacity of 3,702, was designed in 1905 by prominent Washington architect Edward Pearce Casey, designer of the interior of the Library of Congress.

Memorial Continental Hall

Upon its completion, Memorial Continental Hall was quickly recognized as one of Washington, D.C.’s most elegant buildings. The design for the building is in the classical revival style of the beaux-arts. Because of its classical detailing, the Hall fits in well with the Colonial Revival movement.

Memorial Continental Hall was designated as a Registered National Historic Landmark in 1935 for its role in world history, which includes hosting the famous Conference on the Limitation of Armaments in the wake of WWI (1921). Diplomats from all over the globe met to discuss limits on the proliferation of arms. Their work at Memorial Continental Hall remains a recognized milestone in global peace efforts towards disarmament.

Constitution Hall was built in 1929 and designed by John Russell Pope.  Since 1930, members of the DAR have come to Constitution Hall to conduct business and elect new officers during their annual convention (CC). Over the years, Constitution Hall has hosted many popular performers and speakers.

In 1985, the Department of the Interior designated the building a National Historic Landmark due to its national recognition as a center for the performing arts. Constitution Hall is the largest concert hall in Washington, D.C. and hosts a variety of events including concerts, speakers, films, graduations, corporate events, award ceremonies, television productions and gala dinners.

DAR Headquarters also houses the DAR museum, which collects, preserves, and exhibits objects made and used by Americans prior to the Industrial Revolution. Decorative arts are the primary focus of the museum, which has been accredited by the American Alliance of Museums for over four decades. Changing exhibitions and educational programs for all ages provide a variety of opportunities for visitors to experience the DAR Museum. Guided tours of 31 period rooms are available daily.
The museum includes:

  • A collection of over 30,000 early American artifacts;
  • Changing exhibition in the Main Gallery;
  • Permanent exhibits in thirty-one Period Rooms illustrating American decorative arts from the 1600’s to the early 20th century.

For more information visit: DAR Museum.

Our first full day will be busy with a tour of the U.S. Daughters of 1812 Headquarters and Museum, another lineage organization to which we belong.  Then attendance at a luncheon at Gordon Biersch with the other Oregon daughters attending CC. This will be followed by registration at DAR Headquarters, and our annual dinner at Old Ebbit Grill.

Old Ebbit Grill was Washington’s first saloon, founded in 1856.  It boasts a rich history and a “Who’s Who” list of patrons. With three hundred employees, they serve as many as one thousand customers a day.  One of our group members makes the reservation and we have a table in an alcove that makes conversation much easier in the very busy and noisy environment.  The half-mile walk from the hotel is slightly uphill getting there and much easier going back.

After a very full day, we were ready to settle down to sleep!

Notes from a non-recovering Cruise-a-holic

As fairly experienced cruisers, we’ve learned a few tricks over the years that help make cruising more affordable. Having a Holland America credit card, that earns double points on all Holland America charges (ie the cruise itself, shore excursions, onboard expenses, etc.), has been worthwhile for us.  The 0% annual fee is a plus. However, this isn’t a card I’d recommend unless you are a frequent cruiser with Holland America.  We trade the points for onboard amenities, gift cards and merchandise. As a bonus, you can use them for airfare statement credits.  

Carnival Corporation is the majority owner in the four major cruise corporations.  We purchased one hundred shares of Carnival Corporation stock a few years ago.  As the parent company for Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Costa Cruises, Holland America Line, AIDA, P&O Cruises (UK), P&O Cruises (Australia), Seabourn, and Cunard, shareholders get benefits when sailing on these lines.

For each fourteen day or longer cruise, we receive $250 credit per stateroom on Holland America.  An additional perk is that the stock has increased in price since we bought, so we’ve also received dividends!  Our investment has paid for itself and reaped benefits.  The best of both worlds.

Though it does take time, we check several sources for information about ports and shore excursions.  One of the best has been Cruise Critic, especially for longer cruises.  For every cruise, their website has a “roll call.”  You can easily join Cruise Critic by registering on their website: https://www.cruisecritic.com.  Besides finding our “Roll Call” for the cruise we’re doing, information is available on destinations, ships, deals, cruise tips, news and reviews.  

Through this we’ve “met” people ahead of the cruise that share common interests!  For longer cruises someone usually takes charge and organizes an onboard  “Meet and Greet.”   And, many other cruisers share information about shore excursions they’ve researched and want to share with others to reduce expenses.  We’ve enjoyed the pleasure of shared experiences organized through these connections.  Besides the delight of the excursion, friendships germinate that  last for years.

For last year’s Grand South America cruise, another couple (Tim and Julie) posted about a penguin excursion.  Not being sure whether it would be too strenuous for my Honey, I inquired about the physical difficulty.   Tim  (from Minnesota, my Honey’s home state) checked with the travel agent and we decided against him trying this one. I did it and had a great time though!

Bishop’s Finger and Old Speckled Hen beers with our tour guide, Jimmy

With a few penguins

Magellanic penguins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did connect  with the travel agent who booked us on an amazing private penguin tour in the Falklands that was very doable for my Honey.   Not only did we arrive at the prime penguin viewing area a half an hour ahead of the ship’s tours, we went to the Globe Tavern afterward for adult beverages.  My Honey had a “Bishop’s Finger” and I enjoyed the “Old Speckled Hen” beer. Our tour guide, Jimmy, who seemed happy with our tip, treated us!

We ended up booking other private tours through Jelena, each  with excellent results, and have referred her to several friends. I very much appreciate that she is well traveled and responds in a timely manner to my inquiries.

Lunch on the balcony at Viñamar de Casablanca

With Sebastian, our guide, and Leonardo, our driver

At Viñamar de Casablanca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Valparaiso, Chile, Jelena arranged a tour to the Casablanca wine region.  Not only did we have a tour guide, we had our own driver!  Besides visiting several wineries, we went to one where we enjoyed a gourmet lunch overlooking the vineyard.  

Here is Jelena’s email:  jelena@skitara.com.  We’re currently booking shore excursions through her for our next cruise.

A few other helpful websites are:

https://www.tripadvisor.com

https://www.whatsinport.com

https://www.cruisingexcursions.com

Costco members can check:
https://www.costcotravel.com/Info/Shore-Excursions

It’s nice to have options . . . and, the fun of researching possibilities! Holland America seems to have realized that cruisers are smarter than the average bear.  They now offer a Best Price Guarantee.  From their website, “To apply for the onboard credit:

  1. Book your tours through Holland America Line.
  2. If you find the same tour elsewhere that is priced comparatively lower, complete the required fields below and submit the form. You must be logged into the booking # that contains the tour purchased through Holland America.
  3. Within two business days, you will be notified by email regarding the status of your request. If your request is accepted, you will receive 110% of the difference in the form of a non-refundable onboard credit to your shipboard account.”

We haven’t used this option yet, but will certainly give it a try!  Note the term, “comparatively lower.”  One of the tours we’re considering is only $5 more on Holland America.  Hmmmm . . . that might not qualify.  At any rate, we’re having fun trying to find things we haven’t done before and are getting excited about the adventure!

Too long of a dry spell!

As passionate cruisers, going long periods of time without enjoying high seas adventures causes us to longingly pour over email and snail mail brochures while dreaming of our next adventure.  

We’ve had a long dry spell on land due to planned and unplanned medical interference’s.  After receiving one new knee in July 2017 and the second one just two months later, my Honey is finally at a point where he feels ready to cruise!

Although knee replacements were planned, our son’s three and half month hospitalization, and my own sixteen day hospitalization this year, was not. I’ve healed and now that our son is doing better and home, we’re finally ready to go.

Though there are many to choose from, we’re opting for another Alaska cruise.  This will be our sixth, and we’ll visit the same ports we’ve been to before. But it’s a cruise!  And, it’s not too far from home just in case our son has a medical problem and we need to return.

Land-cruising

Our first visit to Alaska was in 1998 for our number three grandson’s high school graduation. We flew into Anchorage and traveled in a rented motorhome and “land-cruised” for three weeks.  Highlights of that trip were Dusty’s graduation, loading the motorhome on a flat-bed train car to travel from Portage to Whittier, then onto a ferry to travel to Valdez.

 

Waiting to load on the train to Whittier

We fished . . . and I caught the only grayling! This fish is a member of the salmon family and is known as “the lady of the stream.”  Though they are edible, this one was gently returned to the river to live another day. My hubby, who has been fishing since he was five years old, was slightly envious.  He made up for it by catching a one hundred twenty pound halibut out of Homer. We had that one processed and shipped home. And, we enjoyed many delicious meals from the behemoth’s sacrifice.  

We were captivated by the abundant wildlife . . . whales, Steller’s sea lion, Dall sheep, Horned puffins, bald eagles, and the memorable scenic beauty. Everything seems grander in Alaska.

We were hooked.  Besides five previous cruises, we went to Fairbanks to check “seeing the Aurora Borealis” off my bucket list.  That was the subject of another blog entry.

With the cruise booked, flights reserved, hotel reservation made for the night before (with the assurance we can leave our car parked for a couple of weeks) it’s time to plan shore excursions.  

Turn back time . . .

Seeing Cher in concert was not a top priority on my bucket list.  However, when two of my girlfriends said “Let’s go to Vegas and see Cher!” I said, “Ok!” I’ve been watching her perform for fifty years, so I figured I might not have another opportunity.

I was long overdue for a girl’s trip . . . and my husband agreed I needed it because I’d been serving as his nurse since mid-July following his first and second knee replacement surgeries—a period of sixteen weeks . . .  but who was counting.  Thankfully he was doing well enough on his own I felt comfortable leaving for a few days.  Ordering and receiving the “Sock Horse” ahead of time helped alleviate my concern.  The handy-dandy contraption allowed him to put his own socks on without having to bend his knee too much.

Cher’s show was at the Monte Carlo, so it seemed a logical place to stay.  Rooms and flights were booked and we were ready to hurry up and have fun!  Gail, Teri and I flew down from Florence, Oregon.  My girlfriend, Sandi, drove up from San Diego.  Sandi and I were delighted to catch up after not seeing each other for three years!

When my husband and I lived in Southern California we occasionally visited Las Vegas, aka Lost Wages.  Sometimes we went with friends and had fun attending great shows, like Wayne Newton and Bobbie Vinton (the Polish Prince). This was back in the day when you could get a huge shrimp cocktail for a mere dollar downtown.  I doubt that special exists now. On previous girls trips I saw Cirque de Soleil, Mama Mia and Thunder from Down Under, which was somewhat X rated.

 I’d never thought of the literal translation for Las Vegas being Spanish for “The Meadows,” named when it featured abundant wild grasses and the desert spring waters needed by westward travelers. That has certainly changed since it was founded as a city in 1905. 

Remarkably, to me, 1844 marked the arrival of John C. Frémont, whose writings helped lure pioneers to the area. Downtown Las Vegas’s Fremont Street is named after him.  I attended John C. Frémont Elementary School, for a year in San Diego, and never knew the significance of this man who was an American explorer, politician, and soldier and, in 1856, became the first candidate of the anti-slavery Republican Party for the office of President of the United States.  I need to read more about this explorer whose series of seven maps produced from his findings, published by the Senate in 1846, served as a guide for thousands of American emigrants, depicting the entire length of the Oregon Trail.

But back to the present . . . we arrived on Monday, checked in at the Monte Carlo, and were happy with our upgrade to a suite for Sandi and me . . . just one of the perks of booking online.  We had two sofas, two TV’s, a bar area complete with a wine cooler, a walk-in closet, great view of the park across the street, and plenty of room for us to gather and gab.  Sandi brought wine, cheese, crackers, nuts, and fruit.  We were all happy to just relax, enjoy and catch up.  And, have time for Gail and Teri to get to know my friend Sandi.

One of the many things to do is visit the famous pawn shop where the hit tv show Pawn Stars is filmed: https://gspawn.com.  Sandi and I managed to leave with fun photos and all of our money.

Wednesday arrived and it was finally time to see Cher.  Sitting in the sixth row was pricey, but worth the view at $252 + for each ticket.  This actually seemed like a bargain considering tickets in the same section are now going for $405 each!  Yikes! 

The ageless Cher!

Almost on time, Cher emerged mid-stage and dazzled us with her performance, costumes, voice and poignant musical regressions to the sixties and seventies. Though she’s still going strong at 71 years of age, there were a couple of subtle fleeting moments when a cast member offered a hand of support as she moved to a new location on stage. Elaborate stage sets and talented dancers enhanced the experience. Songs spanned decades of memories.  During one song Sonny’s presence filled the concert hall, on screen, as Cher sang a duet with him. Cher wore sixties-style multicolor pants and a purple furry vest that was reminiscent of the early days with Sonny. Their emotional connection was palpable as she did indeed “Turn back time.”

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.