I’m on the top of the world lookin’ down on Creation…

Totally on top of the world today, my senses heightened to a new level!

As soon as we awakened (late as usual – hey, we are on vacation), we headed downhill, ate some scrumptious empanadas, then caught the bus to Cerro Catedral (only 10 pesos, about $1.10).  The drive up was ultra scenic and took only about 20 minutes.  Once there we took a gondola about 2/3 way up the mountain and a ski chair lift the remaining distance.  The gondola was easy but for some reason, fear seized me as I hopped onto the open ski lift – thankfully, it didn’t last long.image

For as we reached the summit and disembarked the ski lift, I let out a gasp, not in fear but in total awe!  The view was simply magnificent! If I were a painter, I would have pulled out my easel and began trying to capture the glorious mountains before me using a wide brush and deep rich water colors. But since I’m not a painter, I tried capturing the landscape with my camera.  I’m afraid I failed miserably.  But my senses were still intact so I simply soaked in in the cool mountain air, and the breathtaking scene before me.  It is a moment I will never forget! Total peace and oneness with the world.

The day could have ended for me right there but it didn’t.  Instead we returned to Bariloche and got one last chocolate and cappuccino fix.  While we were indulging in chocolate, one of the homeless dogs walked up and stared at us for a few minutes before moving on to the another table.  There are many huge black and brown dogs just roaming the streets looking for a handout, all very friendly and polite.  But we didn’t want to poison the poor dog with chocolate so we ignored him.  However, the chocolate and coffee took the edge off our hunger (and I love that the waiter always serves a little mineral water with our coffee to finish it off).

After coffee we strolled along the lake once more, just as the sun was setting.  So peaceful and serene.   On the way back up the hill, we stopped by a beautiful stone church and walked in for a moment of silence.  I love that the churches here are always open.

Then we traipsed up another steep block to El Boliche “de Alberto”, the same restaurant where we had lunch.  Although Wes has eaten a few steaks since we’ve been in Argentina, I have not, so since it’s our last night in this beautiful country, I knew It was about time.  So we ordered a ribeye to share and ended up with two for the price of one.  It was amazing but so huge!  We have definitely eaten well since we’ve been here and the prices have been great.

I hate ate to leave Argentina but am looking forward to our Lake crossing tomorrow and to our time in Chile – so “Don’t Cry for me, Argentina”  – I’m doing just fine!

Hola, Bariloche!

It took 21 hours to get here via a first rate bus driven by a crazy guy who paid no attention to the double lines, weaving around 18 wheelers on a two lane road with a split hair between our vehicles.  Hey… But we made it!  And the drive was well worth it!  When we awoke and gazed out our bus window on Thursday morning, we were greeted by the Andes, looming overhead in purples and grays.  And it only got better.

Within a few hours we drove into our destination, the beautiful resort town of Bariloche.  Many compare it to a town in the Swiss Alps because of the architecture. The town is full of cute shops, restaurants, and best of all, chocolate everywhere you look!

Immediately we hailed a taxi to our airbnb and was met by our kind host, Alicia, who showed us around our dwellings (small but an entire apartment and very quaint with wooden rafters and antiques throughout).  After receiving recommendations from her, we walked 4 blocks downhill to the town center and grabbed a bite to eat, then found a chocolate store to delight our palettes – Ahhh…delicioso and so rich.  A cup of cappuccino helped top it off.

Then it was time to explore and what better place to begin than the Nahuel Haupi lake, only a block away and surely the most beautiful lake in the world!

imageThe vast Nahuel Haupi lake is a perfect Mediterranean blue, smooth and clear as glass, and surrounded my mountains (several of the peaks resemble ones I used to draw as a kid -very sharp and pointy and a few In the distance even have snow on them).  My pictures won’t do this scene justice so hope I can keep clear images in my head.  Of course, the first thing we did was  to find a rock so we could sit and dangle our feet in the chilly water – brrrrrr, just as I had imagined!  Once our feet were numb, we dried off and took a short walk along the lake.

Before it got too late we decided to take the gondola to the top of Cerro Otto.  The ride up was quite steep but oh, what fantastic views.  The most spectacular ones were at the summit however – below us…the crystal blue lake, the deep green firs covering the slopes, and of course, the sweet town of Bariloche. Just can’t get enough of it!  I think Wes and I were both a bit jealous of the guy who was hang gliding across the cliffs and lake- at least he waved at us.  Maybe one day we will try hang gliding ourselves but not on this trip.  So we took a more laid back approach and enjoyed a drink in the rotating restaurant instead.  It was getting late so hopped on the gondola and headed back down.  Tomorrow we visit even a higher mountain – yay!

The evening was muy bueno – enjoyed a drink at der Tiroler (certainly a German influence here) and then dinner at La Marca.  Since we are on a fresh lake, we opted for trout – muy delicioso!

After dinner we decided to make an early evening of it (around 11) so we began the steep climb uphill.  Whew!  Hopefully, we walked off today’s chocolate.  Tomorrow, we may decide to taxi up :) A good day! Buenos noches.

A Day of Remembrance

March 24 – Today was “The Day of Remembrance” in Argentina, a national holiday commemorating those who “disappeared” in the coup of 1976.  We expected there to be protests at Plaza de Mayo since we had seen signs going up on our first day in town.  Plaza de Mayo is surrounded by government buildings, the most prestigious being the “pink” president’s mansion.  One theory states that the mansion was painted pink because they used pigs’ blood which eventually faded to pink;  another theory believes it was a joining together of the two main parties whose colors were red and white.  At any rate we didn’t hear of any protests but we were busy remembering the dead in our own way.

imageSo, our first stop today was at the Recoleta cemetery where 4,800 people are buried – mainly wealthy or noted politicians or military figures.  The cemetery is massive yet very serene. As we strolled through the maze of mausoleums and crypts, I was impressed by the ornate statues and doors – no two looked alike.   Occasionally we even peered through the glass to behold huge wooden coffins and beautifully decorated altars.  One of the most visited graves, of course, was that of Eva Peron, the 2nd wife of President Juan Peron. Eva was well-beloved by the people for her work on behalf of the poor.  Sadly, she died too soon of cancer in her early 30’s.  Many books and movies (i.e. Evita) have been written about her.  What a fascinating woman!  But many other important people were buried here as well.   Next time I visit, think I will take a tour so I can hear more about the history of these noted Argentines.

After walking among the dead, we decided we needed to add some color to the day so we taxied over to La Boca, probably BA’s most colorful neighborhood. It was lunchtime so we sat in one of the many outdoor cafes, La Perla, where we could people watch for a while.  Most of the restaurants drew in crowds by having tango dancers perform outside in front of their restaurants – I can’t get enough of tango!  After lunch, we strolled through the streets and got a glimpse of a llama – 1st one I’ve seen!

Our next point of interest was Puerto Madero (after a short nap at the hotel).  Finally we reached water!  The port was a great place to stroll before dinner.  An old ship museum sat off to one side and a huge white suspension bridge illuminated the black sky.  Before leaving the port, we found a table next to the window at Puerto Cristal restaurant and feasted on crab crepes, paella, and a rich caramel dessert.  A great way to spend our last night in Buenos Aires!

Laid back in BA

Today was pretty laid back.  Wes and I slept late and ate a leisurely breakfast in the club room before venturing out to discover more of Buenes Aires.  And what better way to travel through the city than by Subte (subway)?  Walking over to the Subte was simple and we were delighted to discover that the Teatro Colon was right on the way.  Regretfully, the shows were already booked for the evening and the tours had shut down early due to an important holiday tomorrow.  What’s the saying…you snooze, you lose!  Aw well, it wasn’t on the top of my list but would have been interesting.  But my real focus today was on seeing a few of BA’s famous neighborhoods so within a few blocks of the theater, we located a Subte stop and paid a very reasonable fee to get us to Palermo Soho.

The subways here mirror those in New York City and are the fastest and cheapest way to travel to some parts of BA.  And there are always musicians to entertain you while en route.  I promise, one guy played the keyboard like he belonged in Carnagie Hall. Why hasn’t he been discovered yet?  He’s playing on a subway for a few pesos, just trying to survive.  Such talent!

When we arrived in Palermo Soho, we strolled for a few minutes around Plaza Italia, admiring yet another of BA’s historical statues, then walked a few blocks down the street until we spotted a local curbside cafe, El Preferido, where we plopped down and ordered a scrumptious lunch.  When the waiter didn’t seem in any hurry to bring us a menu, I had to remind myself that Argentines take their time to eat (no such thing as grabbing a quick bite).  So I leaned back in my chair and just enjoyed gazing at the surrounding tree lined streets.  Yes, this was my kind of neighborhood, I immediately decided – very Bohemian.  No wonder it’s frequented by young Argentines and foreign travelers alike.

After lunch, we meandered further eventually coming upon Plaza Serrano which was covered with people wandering in and our of the cafes, bars, and multiple arts and crafts booths.  Since we had done enough shopping yesterday, we decided to leave Palermo and head over to Recoleta where Eva Peron is buried.  The subway was quick but the walk from the station to the cemetery was not.  Thus, by the time we reached the cemetery, one of the most noted and beautiful in the world, it had closed. (But not to fear, we will reschedule this stop for first thing tomorrow morning).  imageSo Wes and I enjoyed strolling through the park, especially under the branches of one of the grandest trees I’ve ever seen.  It reminded us somewhat of a banyan tree but much larger.  Wish I knew the name of it!

And thankfully, there was an open cathedral right next to the cemetery so we quietly entered and stood at the back for just a few minutes, listening to the mass.  Although neither of us are Catholic, we do appreciate the serenity and beauty of mass.

By this point we were so relaxed that we decided to stay in laid back mode so we sat on a couch in the outside bar overlooking the park, just sipping on a cool drink and nibbling on guacamole.

After resting a while, we became total slugs so ended up hailing a taxi to haul us back to our hotel.  I figured that was it for the night but I was mistaken.  The clock struck 10 and we knew it was time for dinner (that’s when Argentines eat and we definitely want to fit in) so we walked over to La Chacra – a true Argentine restaurant, complete with a fiery spit grill cooking all sorts of juicy red meat, heads of deer and buffalo accusingly peering at us as we ate, and a big brown horse to greet us at the door.  Wes said the place reminded him of Texas!  The food was definitely up to Texas standards, especially the lamb, so juicy and tender!  Such a great way to end our lazy day!

Kathy’s Walkabout in Argentina and Chile

Here’s yet another travel post – this one in South America.

My buddy, Wes and I arrived in Buenes Aires, Argentina yesterday morning at 9:30 AM.  Although neither of us had slept much on our 10 hour flight from Houston, we were determined to be good little travelers and not give in to our strong desire to nap once we arrived at our hotel, The Sheridan Libertador.  So after being told they had upgraded our room (yay for free snacks and wifi), we set out on foot to visit BA’s oldest barrio, San Telmo.

My first impressions of BA?  An interesting mix – Mostly Euopean (the architect, the narrow cobbled streets, the green plazas breaking up a sea of stone and brick), New Orleans (the wrought iron balconies), and also New York City (the smells of humanity and street vendors, and of course, bustling pedestrians).

San Temo was quite a walk but well worth it.  This is Sunday and Sunday is fair day.  What a fun beginning!  The streets were lined with arts and crafts booths as well as musicians filling the air with lively tunes and entertainers drawing small crowds along the way.  Our favorite was the

imagemarionnette who appeared to be very drunk.  (Check out Wes’s video on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10153143436762560).

At Plaza Dorregos we plopped down at Todo Mundo, cafe to enjoy a light lunch and people watch.  Then we walked to the other side of the plaza to have an expresso and cookie at Havanna – I have a feeling I will be drinking too much coffee here as it is so wonderful!

But the shopping was the best. I purchased a Bahama type hat plus a paper thin vest with leaf prints. Wes was very patient as I shopped, however, I did hear a sigh escape from him once or twice :).

The most amazing part of our afternoon, however, was our stop at El Zanjon, a beautifully restored 1830’s house in which a labyrinth of tunnels was discovered buried underneath.  Some historians believe that this is the location of the first settlement in BA in 1536. I’m sure our guide was well informed but since he spoke only Spanish, I was quite lost.  Regardless, I found the tunnels and the artifacts found therein to be quite fascinating!

Even though we were extremely tired that evening, we opted to enjoy a nice dinner and tango show at El Querandí.  The evening was filled with surprises – so much more than either of us had expected.The 3 course dinner was superb, and the show simply spectacular!  The old house was elegant, antique chandeliers dimly lighting the room, a stately wooden bar lining the wall, and tables dressed appropriately  with red roses and small dangling lamp shades.  The space was intimate and we were fortunate to be seated at a table close to the stage.  The musicians, the singers (especially the elderly man who had the audience eating from his hands), and the tango dancers were all so amazing! And it wasn’t just modern tango – this show depicted the history of the dance so it was interesting seeing the changes in fashion as well as the different styles of tango, some much more athletic than others but all so intense and passionate!

Needless to say, our first day in The Southern Hemisphere, in South America, in Buenos Aires was a memorable one!

Final Day and Final Thoughts

Wes and I flew back to Edinburgh and spent one final evening there before coming home last night. (It was less expensive that way :). But I certainly was not unhappy about walking down the Royal Mile one last time – I love this city! We opted to go on a ghost tour of the underground vaults – people actually used to live in these dark, dank vaults – you can imagine the filth, the disease, the unhealthy conditions. Very sad. Of course, some believe ghost still inhabit the vaults. Very interesting but also a bit gloomy.

After the tour, Wes and I celebrated with one last meal – I hadn’t had my shepherds pie yet so found a great restaurant that offered it. The food throughout this trip has been awesome!
(Back to Healthy eating tomorrow!)

On Sunday, we bid farewell to Scotland – don’t think either of us were quite ready to leave but our pocketbooks were :) and Wes had to get back to work :(

Now I’m home and basking in my memories. I must say it was the Perfect Trip from start to finish! Such kind people I met along the way and I learned so much about the history and land of our European ancestors – going back to my roots was great! Of course, the scenery was amazing (glad to have so many pictures that somewhat capture it). I’m glad to be home but feel a little homesick for my land across the sea and I already miss the accent!

Thanks to all of my faithful readers! I’ve enjoyed your comments along the way and I appreciate you overlooking my many errors! (most entries were done in haste!). I’m going to go back and edit and add pictures on the beginning entries since now I know how :). So if you missed some or want to just look back at the pictures, feel free.

Thanks for accompanying me on my journey!!!

Cheers! Kathy

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2 Days in Dublin

Arrived in Dublin on Arthur’s Day – Arthur Guiness’s birthday! So you can imagine the party going on in the streets of Dublin! Since I wasn’t feeling all that great, Wes and my host, Daragh, brought me in food and I rested a while. Then I was ready to hit the streets for a few hours. We had already visited one pub, Tom Kennedy’s, on the way into town. After my rest, we maneuvered our way through the thirsty crowd over to Mulligans’s where I had the best Guiness so far. Made it an early night so we’d have energy to hit the town the next day.

Next morning – we made a brief stop in St Patrick’s Cathedral and saw where people “think” St Patrick’s well was, the place where he did his first baptisms.

Then we walked over to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells, a handwritten copy of the four gospels dating back to 800 AD – very colorful Celtic designs throughout. Several other old books are displayed in the library, mostly pocket gospels from the same era (Book of Dimma – see picture below, the Book of Mulling, and a few others). The entire library was quite impressive.

We also visited the National Museum of Archaeology. Since Hugh did such a great job explaining things on our tour, I felt I was on familiar ground. Great museum!

The evening was loads of fun! Wes and I took a literary pub crawl! The two guides were hysterical and performed scenes from Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot, plus a few other pieces like a part from Strumpet City by James Plunkett. Of course we heard about James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, and George Bernard Shaw.

Before leaving to fly back to Edinburgh the next afternoon, we toured the Guiness Factory – so interesting. I really enjoyed learning about the whole process and viewing some of the old advertisements, and of course, gulping down the best Guiness I’ve had so far!

Wes and I hated to leave Ireland – what a magical place! But we’ll return one day!

Slainte!

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