Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Map of South America Trip

South America Itinerary
1/29/08 - Santiago, Chile
1/27/08 - Buenos Aires, Argentina
1/24/08 - Montevideo, Uruguay
1/19/08 - Buenos Aires, Argentina
1/19/08 - General Roca, Argentina **CANCELLED DUE TO STRIKE**
1/17/08 - San Rafael, Argentina
1/14/08 - Tunuyan, Argentina
1/12/08 - Mendoza, Argentina
1/11/08 - Santa Cruz, Argentina
1/7/08 - Curico, Chile
1/4/08 - Santiago, Chile

View Larger Map

A great night for theatre!

Steppin' out on the town to spend our last night  in Buenos Aires. We will attend a broadway style tango show at the Senor Tango venue.

Senor Tango theatre

Our Senor Tango theatre experience was full of fun. The orchestra had strings, piano, guitar and accordian. Great musicians, singers and the dancers were world class.

Curtain call

The dancers were absolutely fantastic. No pictures allowed but I managed to sneak this one during the curtain call.

Senor Tango Ambiance

  Waiters and vendors add to the theatre experience by their costumes.

Day 26

Day 26  January 29, 2008


     Senior Tango is a big Broadway like show of singing, dancing and glitzy routines. We loved it.  There are many tango shows to choose from, all cost about the same.  We chose the one that sounded like a big production and it was.  From the opening number when an Indian rode in on a painted horse until the finale with the entire audience singing "Don't Cry for me Argentina," it was loud and sassy and fun.

     At first Dale was uneasy.  This would just be a show for tourists, not at all authentic.  But he was surprised to see the entire crowd, over 500 people, singing along with the songs in Spanish.  We found three other Americans, young people from NYC who work in Mergers and Acquisitions for a big bank who are trying to buy out a local financial services firm. They had a night off their "Due Diligence" work and wanted to see a show.  They had been here two weeks working around the clock.  The local Portenos told them this was the best show.  We were lucky to get tickets as the show sells out every night.

     The host was also the owner and he had a great voice.  He would get the crowd going and ask them to sing along and the place shook with their enthusiasm. It was very loud. But the dancers, oh, the dancers.  They were all beautiful, 10 couples in a variety of costumes, danced for two hours.  Slow and fast, acrobatic and sensual.  It was far better than Dancing with the Stars…and no commercials. Sadly, no cameras allowed.

     As the final number began, about 12:15 am, and the excellent orchestra broke into the strains of "Don't Cry for me Argentina" from Evita, the people had tears in their eyes.  They stood and applauded and cheered as the entire cast came on the revolving stage and a huge Argentinean flag fell from the ceiling.  As streamers and confetti drifted in the air, the love of the people for Eva Peron was again on display. She was their Princess Diana, a beautiful woman who died in the prime of life.  They love her and miss her as though she died yesterday. This is a passionate country.  Their music and love of life is inspiring.  We could not have chosen a better way to end the trip.

Monday, January 28, 2008

angry art


Angry Art

Our morning visit to the Musero de Arte Latinoamerican contained disturbing images.

rain in Buenos Aires

Our morning walk was interrupted by rain, so we took a taxi on our return from the museum. Umbrellas were required when walking around the city today.

counterfeit pesos

We evidently tried to pass off counterfeit pesos today when paying for lunch.....who knew?

Jacaranda tree in bloom

Our beautiful walk in the park on a rainy day in Buenos Aires

Day 25

Day 25  January 28, 2008


     Good art can make you think.  Bad art can make you angry.

     It was rainy this morning, our first day of rain the entire trip. The flowers were blooming on the jacaranda trees in the Plaza San Martin.  We decided to go to the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano. Housed in a modern three story building in the Recoleta neighborhood, it contains a permanent collection with some famous works by Diego Rivera, Frieda Khalo and Covarubia.  We enjoyed them and some impressionistic works by other artists.  There were some mechanical moving pieces that made us laugh.  A metal sculpture of six rings that would stretch and bend and move when you pushed a button.  Dale said: "I really think the conveyor belts in the new Unifrutti warehouse in Chile was a much finer work of art."

     Then we walked into a room with an model of an American Air Force jet at least twelve feet long, hanging vertically on the jet was a bloody crucified Christ.  The caption was:  The Christian Western World.  We chuckled at how obviously anti-American the artist was and how hamhanded and foolish was his art attack. The Soviet's had an entire school of art – Socialist Realism- devoted to attacks on America.

    But our laughter turned to anger when we went up to the top floor and saw the exhibition of Oscar Bony.  He was obsessed with death and had a series of thirty very large black and white photos of people being shot in various settings. The artist shot them first with his camera and then, after they were framed and behind glass, shot them again with a 9mm police gun. This is sick art, it was entitled the Suicide Series.  As we turned the corner to see the final, major piece of his oeuvre, it was a ten foot by six foot photograph of the 9/11 airplane crashing into the World Trade Center.  His title for the photograph was Osama Bin Laden 2001 and under the title he wrote:  "Fair is foul and foul is fair" quoting Shakespeare in Macbeth, scene 1.  Now we are not expert Shakespeare scholars and I want to read the play to get the context.  But if he means that somehow America deserved the attack, then he really made us mad.

     It is so typical for a socialist country to have a museum funded by tax payer dollars and the rich, "limousine liberals" who fund their pseudoart and use it to criticize America and all things capitalist.  We walked out of the museum fuming and hailed a taxi to the La Biela Cafe for a quick lunch.  The taxi driver refused to take the bill I handed him, saying it was "falso."  I found another bill that he accepted, and we went in to lunch.  After lunch I handed the waiter the first bill and he too said it was counterfeit.  I put two 50 peso bills side by side and they are identical except for the "feel" or the "texture" of the bill.  The waiter took me up to the head cashier and then three other waiters crowded around.  They all held the bill up to the light and stroked it, pronouncing it "bien hecho, muy bien hecho."  Well made, perhaps, but it was counterfeit. They wanted to know where I got it, but I have no idea having been given change by many people.  So we will bring it home for a souvenir, and will include a photo in the blog.  Can you tell which one is counterfeit?  Bad art and bad counterfeiting can make you angry.  Better to just ignore the idiots and move on.  Tonight we go to the big Tango show.

The sandy beach of Montevideo

Imagine living in a city with over a million people right on the beach. The citizens of Montevideo have a very nice life style.

Beach Hand Ball

Warming up for the next competitive Beach Hand Ball match. Teams had uniforms and there were spectator stands and mate cups everywhere.

A single Mate guy

A man ponders life with his friend....his cup of Mate.

Mate beauties

Mate even on the beach in the hot sun.


Sylvia Ana, our transportation from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Montevideo, Uruguay and back.

Ligure - our favorite restaurant

We dined on King crab with Parmesan and Trout with almond sauce in our favorite restaurant in Buenos Aires which was delicioso

Day 24

Day 24  January 27, 2008   


     There is an old saying "you can never go home again…"  It is sort of a sad expression that life goes on, people and places change, and one can never rediscover lost youth.  We  take a different approach. We return to Paris and Mazatlan, enjoying both the changes and the memories.  So in this trip we went back to several places to see if they were as good as we thought the first time, or perhaps even better the second time. 

     OK, so we were wrong about the beaches in Uruguay. In an earlier blog we said they were rocky and not nearly as nice as Hawaii.  This morning we walked a different direction and discovered miles of beautiful white sand beaches.  They were full of people playing, sunning and drinking mate.  We came upon a group of people playing Beach Hand Ball, and the action was fast.  It was fun to watch and try to capture the action in a photo with sand flying and the ball going into the net for a goal. Gail struck up a conversation with a man from NYC who was home to deal with a family emergency.  He loves his homeland, but is glad he can live and work in America.

     The photo of the day is the man sitting on the bulkhead of the beach and drinking his mate. We learned that sharing your mate is a token of good manners, fraternity and peace. People all sip out of the same straw and pass the cup around. We were offered the drink on several occasions and managed a polite "no thank you".  Mate is supposed to be good for your health. Since when is sharing germs good for one's health? Gail tried to catch several people in candid poses with their mate cups and then we had to catch a taxi to head to the dock and board the boat.

     We took a slow boat ride back to Buenos Aires and are now peacefully settled back in the Plaza Marriott. The hotel is as good as last time. Gail had fun spending our remaining pesos from Uruguay in the duty free shops on the Buquebus. While we enjoyed our time in Uruguay, we were excited to see the skyscrapers of Buenos Aires. Our hotel is in a great neighborhood in a fantastic city. Now what to do?  We read the newspapers and see that Obama trounced Hillary.  That is good.  We watched the weather channel and see that it is still freezing everywhere north of California.  I guess we will have to go out and enjoy the 85 degree evening.

       It is easy to develop a passion for fine dining as we are surrounded with sophisticated cuisine options everywhere we turn. We returned to the Ligure as we had the best meals of the trip there.  We were not disappointed, the second time was even better. We are still having a great time in this cosmopolitan city and are not ready to come back to the cold.  And we have not been sick even one day.  This is a great place to travel. And, yes, we do plan to come back again.


Saturday, January 26, 2008


Mate not Starbucks!

Mate is a tea-like beverage that is brewed from the dried leaves and stemlets from a tree. People walk around with a theromos of hot water and a mate cup full of mate leaves so they can sip it all day long. No Starbucks in this town! 

mate is everywhere

Mate cups are for sale by many street vendors.

Plaza Independencia

A statue of Gen. Jose Gervasio Arrigas, father of Uruguay and hero of its independent movement stands in the center of Plaza Independencia

daily catch on the ramblas

Do you believe we have been eating some of these critters? Uruguay has an outstanding  range of mariscos (seafood)

a popular parrillada

Dinner at La Perdiz restaurant in Montevideo, Uruguay near the Sheraton hotel

Day 22

Day 22  January 25, 2008   


     Mate is the favorite drink of Uruguay; it is an herbal tea and many people here drink it all day long.  Walking the streets we see men and women carrying their thermos of hot water and a mug with a straw.  The mug is full of leaves and stems and each time they drink the mug they refill it with their hot water.  It looks very awkward seeing them carrying this around tucked under their elbow.  But most of the people we have talked to love it and say they could not survive without their mate.  One local called mate his "friend".


     Today we walked over five miles, from the hotel all along the Ramblas, or beachfront up to the old part of town. Fishermen were selling their morning catch right from the dock.  It was warm and sunny so we stopped a couple times to sit on a bench on the beach and watch all the people playing football, or jogging, or volleyball.  Most of the people had a thermos with them and we took a lot of photos of the mate nation.


     As we wind down this tremendous trip we have been thinking about what we have learned.  We have met dozens of very fine and generous people. The landscape is varied and rich.  The architecture is European of the 19th century, but also includes some fine modern structures like the Telephone Company Building in Montevideo, the City Hall, the Radisson and Sheraton Hotels.  They have less work stoppages here than in Argentina.  The people seem to be mostly of the middle class and there is less extreme wealth than in Argentina and not much visible poverty.  The taxes are high, a 22% VAT here and a 21% VAT in Argentina.  The governments are Socialist or Populist. In fact both Argentina and Chile have women presidents.  Everyone asks us if Hillary will be our next president.  Most of the small business people are either content or resolved to make the best of the situation.  They are hard working and hopeful.  They have planted some beautiful orchards and vineyards and are outward looking, planning to grow an export driven economy. The worlds financial markets have been on a roller coaster this entire month so the daily news provided us a lot of serious economic issues to discuss with the locals.


     Last night Rodolfo and Claudia took us to La Perdiz, a local restaurant, for an evening of good food and talking about the fruit business.  We hope to be able to return the favor to them in Wenatchee.  In fact there have been many people in South America who would like to come to visit America and we have invited quite a few to come see our beautiful part of the world.  We expect some of them to come north for a visit.


     The carnival grandstands are being set up all over town and the festivities will grow in size and passion over the next two weeks before Lent begins.  In the main plaza, where the permanent giant statues of the nation's heroes stand guard over the Uruguayan heritage, we saw workmen setting up booths for the judges to sit and watch the giant inflatable floats and dancers and  listen to the bands play.  Everyone seems quite happy now.  This is a joyous time of the year.  The crops are being harvested.  Fresh fruits and berries, salads and vegetables, fish and meat are in abundance.  The people are a rather homogeneous mixture of Spanish, Italian and some Germans.  They celebrate their native cultures and are also proud to be part of this small and peaceful nation.  Tomorrow we get back on the boat and return to Buenos Aires for our last two days.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Champagne made at Santa Rosa

A 40 year employee grabs the bottom of each bottle, giving it a small shake, an abrupt back and forth twist, and while slightly increasing the tilt, drops it back in the rack. This action recurs every one to three days over a period of several weeks. He was FAST!!!

Bartlett pears at El Indio warehouse

Dale discusses pear size and shape with Juan and Roldolfo

super high density pear planting

Juan Fernando Corbone is an Ingeniero Agrenomo who shows us root stock to be budded to bartlett Pears.

Pink Lady crop in Uruguay

Rodolfo Fitipaldo is excited about the Pink Lady crop he will pick in late April.

a young gaucho herding cows

We were caught behind a traffic jam of milk cows in Uruguay while viewing orchards today.

Day 22

Day 22  January 25, 2008


    There are many family owned fruit companies in Uruguay and today we enjoyed visiting some of the great ones.  Our host, Rodolfo Fitipaldo, began by driving us to the Santa Rosa winery. www.bodegasantarosa.com.uy This family owned firm began in 1898 and is the premier producer of sparkling wine in the country.  Last year they produced over 300,000 bottles by the "Champagne method" and many more of tannat, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay.  The cousin of Rodolfo, Juan Pablo Fitipaldo, is the winemaker and he gave us a great tour.  He introduced us to Daniel Mutio, one of the owners.  He told us about the cost of shipping a container of wine to Florida ($4,000 and it contains 15,000 bottles of wine.)  Daniel showed us the large subterranean cave where they were about to entertain a large crowd from one of the huge cruise ships that sail to Antarctica.  This tourist business has been a boon to many local wineries.  As we left the tour buses arrived and the cruise passengers enjoyed a feast of roasted meat, wine and tango dancing.

      As we drove on Rodolfo told us about his hobby, racing horses.  His favorite horse, Berli Babe, is racing on Sunday at Punta del Este.  Last night Carneval began with wild parades and concerts.  The big horse race is part of the celebration.

     Next we went to an orchard and met Juan Fernando Corbone, an Ingeniero Agrenomo who advises growers and warehouses on horticultural practices.  With him we walked through several pear and apple orchards.  They are in the middle of Royal Gala and Bartlett pear harvest so we met some pickers, tractor drivers and took great photos.  We visited the Indio packing shed that Fitipaldo owns and watched them packing Galas for Italy and pears for Brazil. The office staff showed us how they do the paperwork for international sales.  On the wall they had a Washington Apple Commission poster showing all the major apple varieties and a big red WAC logo.  It seemed odd to see them here in Uruguay, but shows the worldwide reach of our brand and logo.

     At about 2pm we went to Bodega Bouza, a fantastic boutique winery, to enjoy lunch and walk around the vineyard. Rodolfo ordered for everyone and we each had a huge steak in Tannat wine sauce.  After lunch we visited other orchards to see the very tight planting of new Bartlett and Abate Fetel pears.  The trees are one-half meter apart.  This will result in 9000 trees per hectare.  It looks too close to me, but they believe it will yield 60 tons to the hectare within 5 years.  We took some great photos of Pink Lady apples and Galas.  Their big problem is scab as they had seven days of rain in the spring and could not get on top of the disease.  The Red Delicious have poor shape as there is little temperature difference between the day and night here.  The climate is much warmer than home; palm trees and lemon trees are as common as apple and pears.  But on the way home, Gail finally did see a heard of cows being driven by "gouchos" down the middle of the dirt road.  Sadly they were milk cows in Uruguay and not the beef cattle of the Pampas she has been looking for.  Still, it was a great day.  Very generous people and successful family businesses.



flamenco dance at the Sheraton

Carnival is a chance to leave one's worries behind and dance into the future. Last night we saw flamenco dances rather than tango.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Patio dining

Our waitress serves us on the patio in this seafood restaurant which was made from an abandoned boat.

Paella and Tannet wine

Lunch at El Viejo y el Mar which resembles an old fishing club

Atlantic ocean view

Atlantic ocean from the Sheraton Hotel in Montevideo

Sun bathing on the rocks

The beach in Montevideo is NOT Hawaii - no sand in sight. I think we will use the pool.

Day 21

Day 21  January 24, 2008   


     The ocean runs brown as the silt from the great basin of South America pours into the Atlantic.  As our ship pulled away from Buenos Aires harbor the water was a dark brown, flowing from the Rio de la Plata.  The original European settlers in the 1500's called the river the "Plata" as it is the Spanish word for silver.  But the water does not really look silver, it just looks muddy and dirty to us. 

     The ship was named the Sylvia Ana and she was big and new, like a Washington State Ferry. We entered a room with about 40 comfortable leather seats and six tables and chairs.  The steward came up and offered us a cappuccino, croissants and newspapers.  We only had about 20 people in that cabin, it was a nice place to ride across the ocean.

     We arrived in three hours, a smooth and pleasant ocean voyage.   After clearing customs we took a cab to the Sheraton Montevideo.  It is a new hotel, according to the guidebooks the best in the city.  From our room on the 23rd floor we can see the entire city and a great view of the ocean.  We took a walk around the neighborhood and went to El Viejo y la Mar, a blatant rip off of the name of Ernest Hemingway's prize winning book that every American high school student is required to read.  (I wonder how many of those students can actually recall any important theme from the novel?)  The menu has two photos of Hemingway and a quotation from the book in English.  The Old Man and the Sea is built right on the beach and the bar is the reconstructed hull of an old fishing boat.  It is actually very well done and the food was great.  We tried the Paella, saffron rice and seafood. The people here have a very pronounced accent; some words easy and some difficult to understand.  For "pollo" or chicken, they say "pojo." In fact any word with a double "ll" becomes a "j." I asked for "payeya" for lunch and the waitress replied, you mean "payeja."   For good bye "chow,chow."  A regular Coke is "commun" and a Diet Coke is "coca lite."

      One of our reasons for coming to this country was to investigate the Tannat grape, the mysterious wine grape from the Cahors region of Southwest France.  This grape is grown in only two places on earth:  Southwest France and Uruguay.  According to the Harvard Medical School study released last year, these grapes are the healthiest on earth, full of antioxidant powers even greater than the blueberry.  Sadly the grape has not been a winner on taste, seeming harsh and tannic to the modern taste.  During the middle ages it was reputed to be a strong and vital wine that was very popular in Europe.  We tried a blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Tannat.  It was fine, but not our favorite.  Will there be a huge market in the US for a "healthy" wine?  Probably not unless it also tastes great. 

    After a pleasant lunch we walked along the shoreline.  Most of the beach here is rocky but that did not stop dozens of local folks from sun bathing on rocks or swimming.  The guidebooks says there are great beaches about 30 minutes east of the city.  There are 3 million people who live in this country and nearly half of them live in the capital.  It looks modern and clean, but not nearly as prosperous as Buenos Aires.  Tomorrow we go touring orchards and vineyards with Rodolfo Fitipaldo. The two guys yesterday laughed when I told them we were going to meet Fitipaldo as they said he not only does not speak English, but he doesn't even speak their kind of Spanish.  Hope we can communicate.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

more tango

The street tango dancers are very entertaining and fun to watch

shoe shine

Shining shoes in BA

typical cafe greeting

Cafe life is everywhere in BA and the Portenos (locales) are so friendly!

Day 20

     Gail came to Argentina with some preconceptions. She knew that Argentina is currently one of the best travel bargains in the world because the dollar hasn't declined against the Argentinian peso. She expected to see lots of fruit trees and to taste good wine in Mendoza. But what Gail has not seen yet is a herd of cattle.  Maybe most Argentineans don't know what a cow looks like? Half of all Argentineans live in the city of Buenos Aires, with the rest of them living in Mendoza or elsewhere. But Gail is learning an important lesson in geography. Most of the cows live in the Pampas, a vast and sparsly inhabited region east of the capital.  We have seen plenty of beef served on a plate. Per capita beef consumption in Argentina is the highest in the world - and nearly double that of the U.S. The men we meet say they eat meat every day. But one wonders if these people have ever met a cow? I guess she expected them to be everywhere. They are everywhere, in pieces on a plate.                                                                       

     The street scenes in the city are fascinating. Today we stopped to watch more tango dancers, window shopped and shared a delicious fruit infused gelatti. Dale got his shoes shined near our hotel and they look great!  People hang out in the numerous cafes that appear on every other corner of the city in the various neighborhoods. We see locals who sit with a $2 coffee in hand somehow resting in the middle of this often traffic-clogged, horn-honking, passionate city. The café culture is strong which is yet another reason this city reminds us of Paris.

     Today the newspaper had three articles that were of interest:  1.  Major hail storm hits Mendoza last night, over 1200 Hectares of fruit and vines severely damaged.  2.  A labor strike hits all the Bartlett pear growing regions of Rio Negro and Neuquen.  For the past seven days no one would pick, the roads were blocked to prevent any pears from reaching packing houses. This is the reason we could not go to Neuquen, we might have seen stuck in a road block by angry pickers ten hours away from an airport.  Twenty percent of the pear crop will not make it to market as it is overripe on the trees. 3.  An Irish investment group has purchased 2500 hectares of farmland as it is a bargain compared to land in Ireland.

     We had lunch and a business meeting with Andres Panizza of Mono Azul, the fourth largest fruit packer in Argentina, and Chimo Alama, from Valencia, Spain a fruit salesman from Saborjuice.  They are planning their sales of pears and apples to the European market and agreed to give us a briefing.  It was invaluable.  These are smart, sophisticated fruit salesmen and Dale took a lot of notes for future use. One of the interesting facts is that five companies in Argentina control 80% of the fruit.  Can anyone spell "oligopoly?"  Yet the workers go on strike every year the day before harvest of Bartlett pears begins.  The employers had to promise a big payraise, from $20 per day to $22 per day.  Still sounds like a bargain to me.  Meanwhile we had a beautiful lunch at a Spanish restaurant selected by Chimo.  He comes here regularly on fruit buying trips and since he is from Spain he wanted us to taste some really great Spanish dishes:  Scallops in Parmesan cheese sauce, calamari, trout in capers and sole with clam sauce.

     Tomorrow we take the boat to Montevideo, Uruguay for our third country in three weeks.    







Tuesday, January 22, 2008

the camera reappears

Gail's lost camera reappears

a cute little girl

A musically challenged accordian playing cute little girl!


A beautiful profiterole - a family favorite.

Sorrento del Puerto

We enjoyed a table on the patio with an impressive view of the water and old port.

Day 19

Day 19 January 22, 2008


This day began with bright sun streaming into our windows, we slept  until eight (what a luxury) and then upstairs to a great breakfast. The maid cleans our room while we have coffee so imagine my surprise when we returned and my camera was sitting on my nightstand!  Yesterday, we looked everywhere and can only figure it fell out of my pocket and was lost in the sumptuous layers of bedding and pile of pillows on our bed.  In order to save water, the hotel washes linens every 3 days. Today was laundry day and the camera reappeared. We are happy. Imagine, we were somehow sleeping with my lost camera under the pile.  I let out a shout of joy and Dale came in and took a photo of me and the miraculous lost and found camera.  And to think we accused a poor merchant of pick pocketing!


     We went to the pool for a couple of hours to read and Dale called the man from Mono Azul, the large fruit exporter, to schedule a meeting for tommorow.  The stock market is crashing worldwide and it is difficult for Dale not to watch, but he decided to just ignore it until the end of the day.  So we went for another long walk. We explored the Puerto Madero neighborhood that is Buenos Aires's port and trade gateway to Europe. The city outgrew the old port in 1910 and it was abandoned for almost a century. Currently the waterfront has been developed and looks much like San Francisco lined with a riverfront promenade and cute restaurants. There are dozens of skyscrapers and at least 20 cranes in the process of building more beautiful buildings.  Just across from our restaurant was the Microsoft, Sun, ABN Amro, IBM and dozens of similar corporate towers.

     While we dined at the Sorrento restaurant on salad, seafood and profiteroles, a cute little girl with her accordion came by our table. Now I am a sucker for street musicians. So we gave the little girl 2 pesos and she posed for a picture. She then squeezed the accordion back and forth making the worst music I have ever heard. Obviously, the accordion was her prop for begging. She could not play a note. I was expecting a child prodigy. Oh well, once again we had an excellent meal. Dale was especially happy to get his favorite dessert, profiteroles. 

     Then we walked to the dock and tried to book our tickets to Uruguay on the Buquebus.  This is a large ferry that carries over 1000 passengers and 200 cars at a very high speed.  It looks ultramodern and goes back and forth twice a day.  Each trip takes three hours.  It should have been a simple process to buy two tickets.  It was not.  First we went to the Tourist information office and no one spoke English but sent us to the inside office.  We took a number and waited in line.  No one called any numbers and a lot of people were just sitting at their desks, doing nothing.  Finally Dale just walked up to one of the desks and the young woman (who did not speak English) asked where we wanted to go.  We said to Montevideo on Jan 24 returning on Jan 27.  She took our passports and filled in the information on the computers.  But she would not take our credit card, he waved us over to the next room and said we had to stand in line and make a confirmed reservation there.  After waiting for over 20 minutes in that line, the young man (who spoke very little English) reentered the same information from the passports and waived us over to a fourth line to pay.  We were a little frustrated by the inefficiency, and waited only 10 minutes in the last line.  There he asked if we wanted Tourist class ($476 pesos) First Class ($526 pesos) for First Especial Class ($626 pesos).  Since he spoke no English, and I was too tired to ask him to explain the difference, I said "First Class."  He THEN said, "Oh, we only have First Especial Class for your return trip."  So I said, OK, then give us the First Especial Class.  He printed the tickets and in 48 hours we will be riding in First Especial Class.  Should be a pretty especial trip.  Ah, life is interesting.  And the stock market, after falling 500 points at the open ended down only 109.  And so it goes. At least life does have some profiteroles to go along with the BS. 






Monday, January 21, 2008

a special find

We want to remember this restaurant for our next visit to Buenos Aires.....we love Argentina!

our hotel suite

Gail reads and plans for sightseeing tomorrow while relaxing in our beautiful suite.

Plaza San Martin

A frequent scene in the Plaza San Martin

Day 18


Day 18, January 21, 2008


     36 years ago Dale and I arrived at the gorgeous Banff Springs Hotel on our honeymoon and there was "no room in the Inn". Dale likes to travel impromptu which sometimes offers great travel experiences but sometimes not! (Many of you have heard this story before) This week Dale surprised me in Buenos Aires and had previously reserved the corner suite at the magnificent Marriott Plaza Hotel on San Martin Plaza which is the grande dame hotel of Buenos Aires built in 1909. This stay has been like a second honeymoon.  He even reserved privileges at the executive lounge where we have breakfast and can snack anytime of the day or night. Well done Dale. From this location, we can easily stroll and watch the street scenes on the Calle Florida Street nearby, have convenient access to tourist sites and all the best restaurants. We watch locals line the street, pack the café terraces and stroll and kiss in the park. Things always take a long time here and we find we are adapting to this new rhythm of life. 


     Today we had a morning cappuccino at the historic Café Tortoni which has served as the artistic and intellectual capital of Buenos Aires since 1858. After a leisurely two hour morning stroll, we realized one of our cameras was missing. After retracing our steps, we recall a young man bumping Gail to offer her a brochure.  There are many young men and women trying to get your attention and hand you cards or brochures for discounts for tango shows or shops.  The crowds are so thick you are bumped all the time. It only took him a second to slip the camera from Gail's pocket.  Sadly that camera had a lot of great photos that had not yet been downloaded.  Dale's camera is also not working right, probably overloaded with photos.  We need to quickly figure out how to fix it or our blog will be short on photos. A beautiful city, but pick pockets are prevalent.

      We had a late lunch at Ligure, a romantic restaurant built in 1933 with French inspired cuisine. I was brave and ordered centolla with Parmesan which I knew was seafood but was not sure what; it turned out to be Argentinean King Crab. Dale's calamari was delicious but paled in comparison to my meal.  I agree Dale, sometimes those impromptu, unexpected travel experiences do turn out to be memorable. I know my lunch was a nice surprise.  Salut to another 36 years of marriage and travel!

     Looks like the labor strike in Nuequen is now settled so we are trying to decide what to do next…

Calle Florida a pedestrian thoroughfare

The Calle Florida is lined with boutiques, restaurants, tango dancers, and street performers who do magic and sing opera.

Paris of the South

We feel like we have been transplanted into Europe by the Parisian architecture and street scenes

Marriot Hotel in Buenos Aires

A beautiful hotel built in 1909

Day 17

Day 17  January 20, 2008


     The city of Buenos Aires is not Paris, although everyone says it is the Paris of South America, the most beautiful city in the Southern Hemisphere, that walking down the broad boulevards here is like the Champs Elysee.  But for us on this first days wandering and touring BA the city is wonderful, a feast for the spirit in its color and diversity, the music (mostly tango but some guitar and some chamber music) that flows around the corner from parks, green spaces, pedestrian streets, bars, retail stores, homes.  The crush of happy people, crowding in flea markets, craft stalls overflowing with hand made necklaces, purses, dresses, paintings, carved wood pieces, food stalls, with empanadas, sweets, drinks, mate cups and maps.  The mansions are really mansions, this nation had great wealth about 100 years ago and the rich folks tried to replicate the best of Europe in their houses, public buildings and universities.  Massive sculptures fill the gardens, art museums, churches are gorgeous.  We went to their White House, called the Casa Rosada, as it is pink (there were two political parties one using red and the other white for their colors.  When they compromised they painted the President's house pink. It actually is sort of rose and looks very nice.

     We took a three hour guided tour with five other people.  The guide spoke English well and we got off the minivan at least 6 times to walk around the various neighborhoods.  Thousands of peoples in every street from the Recolta and Puerto Maduro expensive neighborhoods, to the San Telmo and La Boca where the poor people live.  Even in the shanty town built alongside the old port and under the freeway, where the demonstrators stood with placards and banners and the two dozen police in riot gear stood opposite them as they argued over the recent firings of 20% of the employees of the local Casino.  Tango dancers posing for photos in the streets of La Boca and tango dancers dancing for fun in the streets, simply dancing for joy and not as a way of earning a living or asking for tips.

     La Boca is the most colorful neighborhood.  It is at the south side of the city, along the old port.  The poor Italian immigrants who did not go north to Ellis Island in NYC often wound up here.  The living conditions were worse here than in NY and they struggled to survive.  Now there is a great pride in being from this area.  The have their own football team and a stadium that will seat 70,000 screaming fans.  In one of the odd factoids of this trip, the top of the stadium is covered with Coca Cola signs, the ubiquitous one we have all seen a million times.  But for the first time in my life, it is not red and white, it is black and white.  Can you imagine?  And the best part is the reason why.  Coke agreed to be a major advertiser of the team but the archrivals of the Boca team is from across town and their colors are red and white.  The people from Boca would not allow any red in their stadium.  Their colors are blue and yellow, from the Swedish flag, and everything in the town is painted those bright and cheerful colors.  The red was banned and Coke complied.

     We walked and walked, took a hundred photos, even went to the cemetery where Evita is buried and took a photo of her tomb which is covered with fresh flowers and surrounded by a hundred Argentines who love her and mourn here today 54 years after her death from cancer.  They revere her as most Brits to Princess Diana.  After a full and exhausting day, we had a nice Italian dinner at 10:30 pm.  Then we came back to the hotel and watched the NFL playoff games in Spanish on ESPN.  These are the first American football games we have seen on the trip.  Since NY Giants didn't finally win until 1:30 am here, we fell asleep watching the game.  A day of 85 degrees, sunshine, tango and Eva Peron's tomb, friendly people and football.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Tango on Calle Florida

Tango on a pedestrian street - Calle Florida.

Kate Foreman

Kate Foreman checking into Business Class

Day 16 part 2

     The day began bright and warm with sunny skies and we took a long walk past dozens of small shop keepers, sweeping their portion of sidewalks and getting ready for a busy Saturday. San Rafael  was fresh and beautiful, the thunderstorm and heavy rain last night washed the strees and the air smelled beautiful. At 1pm we left for the airport and what a surprise.
     First when we arrived it was a small but brand new airport building.  We walked into the ticket area and the young woman ticket agent asked my name.  As soon as I said "Foreman" she smiled and said, in perfect English, "Yes, we have your reservation.  I only need your payment."  I asked how much it was and she said:  "The Groupo Alvarez office called and booked you in Business Class.  Are you paying with credit card or cash?"  I asked again, how much were the tickets.  She hesitated and said, well if you pay by credit card I have to call and get clearance.  It would be simpler if you just paid cash.  Well, I may not have enough pesos, (so for the third time I asked) How much is it? 
     She said, well it will be $280 if you pay cash.  The Business Class tickets are much more than that for foreigners, but because Groupo Alvarez booked the ticket I am charging you as a local person.  If you use your credit card, I will have to charge the regular fare. 
     I handed her $300 in American cash.  She gave me back the change in pesos and printed out the tickets.  Then we saw Gail's name was wrong, it said "Kate Foreman."  I pointed that out to the agent and asked if they would let her on the plane with the wrong name.  "Oh, no problem. The people from Groupo Alvarez forgot her name, but we all know she is Senora Foreman, so there will be no problem."  It just proves, its not what you know, but who you know.
     We were treated like royalty, whisked through a minimal security and onto the plane.  A delightful 90 minute flight over the vast Pampas and we were in Buenos Aires.  We took a cab into the center of town and checked into the Marriott Plaza on the main square San Martin Plaza. 
     This is a magnificent hotel in a great location.  We walked again, for an hour, all around the pedestrian only Calle Florida.  We tried to photograph the Tango dancing demonstration but the dancer was spinning so fast she blurred my photo. It was a great day, and from now on I will be refering to my wife as:  Kate, or Gail, or whatever her name is.

Protestors block highway

The citizens in Tunuyan block the road to protest new mine project

Day 16 part 1

Last night one of our local hosts, Ricardo unexpectedly appeared at our hotel in San Raphael to announce a change in our travel plans. Evidently the Agricultural workers are on strike in General Roca which was to be our next destination. A workers strike is not unusual in Argentina. Currently, the Aerolíneas Argentinas airline workers are on strike. It enters its second week today has no end in sight according to this morning`s Buenos Aires Herald newspaper. Last Monday, a roadblock forced passengers to drag their suitcases for three kilometres in 92 degree heat to an aircraft which remained grounded. Dale and I are grateful that we fly home on Lan Chile airline. We were scheduled to take a 10 hour sleeper bus to General Roca from San Raphael but now will fly east to Buenos Aires instead. Our Argentinian hosts feared the worker strike might block the national route and we would be stuck in the middle of nowhere on our sleeper bus. We are most grateful to Mauro (in Wenatchee) and our local hosts who are looking out for our best interests.
A few days ago we personally witnessed and photographed a demonstration in Tunuyan that blocked the road where we were traveling. This demonstration was staged to block a new mine development in the region. Our hostess there explained that Argentinians do not trust the government to look out for their best interests and therefore the people have to "speak for themselves". She personally had participated in this local demonstration that very morning before she took us to lunch. 
Stay tuned as our adventures continue......

Our Adventure guide

Our San Raphael adventure guide -  Gustavo Bruni

Friday, January 18, 2008

Adventure tour in San Rafael

Gustavo Bruni drove us on our Adventure Tour in his huge Land Rover

White water rafting

Grade 1 White water rafting in the Canyon del Atuel con Valle Grande

Entrance to La Valle Grande

Entrance to La Valle Grande

coral snake = golf hazard

Coral snake = golf hazard