Sunday, March 16, 2014

Penguin Rookery, Ushuahia, Argentina

The trip was advertised as a catamaran adventure to a penguin rookery.  On the ship you have a ticket that tells you the meeting place and time and someone with a white paddle held high walks you down to the motor coach or boat.  In this case by the time we got there another group ad loaded before us, so of the 225 seats not many were left.  Greg sat on the top of the boat which is like sitting on the top of one of the hop-on hop-off coaches – pretty windy when the wind motor is started and the trip heads off for a 2 ½ hour ride up to the rookery.  We were promised that there would be places that sea lions slept out on rocks and told that we were to watch for whales, but all of that would be dependent on the animals.  “Which side of the boat to the whales like,” someone had asked.  “If you are on the starboard side, they are on the port side,” was the answer.  Truthfully, we saw a family of beautiful orca whales, which is unusual for that bay.  And the sea lions could be smelled first and seen later.

The trip reminded me of a trip I took on the barge at Shuswap in the early 1960’s.  The hills and mountains roll by.  The water changes colour.  The pace is leisurely.  We watched an albatross fly back and forth over the tail of the boat, swooping down, turning, flying back over us – magnificent for those who braved the cold outside the deck:  Wyona, Greg, me, a German traveler and his dad who came out occasionally, a disabled woman who tucked herself  into the corner where the cabin met the deck.  She only moved when someone would help her get up.  After an hour Wyona and I had everything we had brought in the way of clothing, wrapped around us, and she was sharing one of her gloves, so that we both had one warm hand and one cold hand.  The art teacher from the boat huddle between the three of us for a while, since we were using the body heat that would transmit itself hip to hip and shoulder to shoulder between us.

“Do you want to go inside yet,” Wyona kept asking.  I like the adventure to all of the senses: the wind on my skin, the sound of the water, my hair blowing across my mouth or flying straight behind.  Greg went inside and bought a sandwich – just one, for old time’s sake.  It was $5.00 and must be a sandwich that is well known, since it is the one that we ate when we went to the other penguin rookery.  “No.  You can’t make me eat that.”  I could still remember the first one I ate.  “This one is different,” said Greg. “No mayonnaise.”

Wyona, today with a buffet tucked away in her travel bag, provided cheese, rye bread, cake, Coke.  Any surprise I can think of she can pull for somewhere.  “I bet you don’t have any chocolate.” 

“Oh yes, I do.”

Those who had the preferred seat in the cabins were 4 across on each side of a table with no room to bend or move.  They sat that way for 5 hours – worse than an airplane.  Now we froze on the outside, but had all of the other advantages – really living in nature!  Our toes so cold we didn't know if we would ever feel them again, our faces windburned from the sun, our best logical powers heightened as we tried to figure out how to maximize a blanket we borrowed from someone inside, making a blanket for one cover all three of our legs.

In the elevator and then again at a pre-dinner reception, I asked people what trips they took today.  Both couples had taken the Penguin Rookery Adventure and said politely, it was nice but I don’t think we would do it again.

Not us.  We would do it again.  With more blankets.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Ushuaia Bates/Johnson

What beautiful scenery! It reminds me of home except I have a kayak parked on my beach.

The Beagle Channel is very similar to Alaska and the Vancouver interior passage, except it is Argentina and Chile. Beautiful waterfalls and glaciers just dropping into the water. This is the end of summer for South America.


A number of times we had whales coming quite close to our catamaran.

Ushuaia/The end of the World Johnson/Bates

As one cruises to the tip or Cape Horn in South America, one finds out that there are many claims as to which place is really the end of the world in South America. I think the end of the world is wherever one happens to be at the time. Ushuaia is the last of the towns or cities in the county. Arta, Greg and I were there.

From Ushuaia, we took a 6 hour catamaran ride up the Beagle Channel passing Bird Island and Sea Wolves Island until we came to a Penguin Rookery. It was windy and very cold but we hardy Canadians spent the day on the deck of the boat and we never went inside. Here in this picture you can see the sea wolves and the cormorants sharing the tock. It was noisy and smelly but a fabulous sight with great sounds of the creatures.

Just one of the scenic pictures on our way up Beagle Channel.

And here is our first ever "Selfie" Do we look cold or what!

Montevideo Bates/Jonson

Our first day on the cruise we went across the Rio de la Plata to Montevideo. One of the attractions here is a large hand coming out of the sand, just the beginning of life. Another interpretation is a person drowning at sea and this is the last of the person to be seen. Take your pick.

We walked around a beautiful museum which displayed many of Salvador Dali's paintings and sculptures. I went to the museum in London with Janet and we spent the day looking at and reading about Dali. I learned to love his works.

Here we are back in Buenos Aires. We were looking for a museum when we came upon a huge protest. Greg captured this picture which appears to be the changing of the guard. The guard appeared mid protest and just marched down the street. The protest was amazing to watch.

And now you have the five fingers or what is left of the hand.

Puerto Madryn Johnson/Bates

Arta and Greg took an 8 hour drive from Puerto Madryn around the delta. I never went because there were warnings of bumpy roads and anyone with back or neck problems should not take the excursion. When they arrived back at the boat, Arta told me I had to sit and study their pictures, every of them because driving through the delta was like driving in the desert. People take the trip just to sea animals and birds.They only saw three green things. However, they did take stunning pictures of the sea and other stuff.
The sea lions above just lay on the beach for the month of March. They have their babies and they molt before they leave again.

This is the same picture but from up on the cliff. Greg used the zoom to get the sea lions on the beach. People are not allowed to get too close to the beach. Look closely and you can see dots on the beach. Those are the sea lions.

A couple of lama like animals. Arta wrote the names in her blog. I am burning the early morning oil to use up our free internet minutes. The rest of the ship is in bed so it is easier to get on the internet.

Arta reported to me that this was a stuffed penguin. But it was not. It just never moved while the tourists were walking around. I missed a great tour.

Missing you, Moiya and David

Hello,

We are going into the second leg of our journey.  The last time we had this much fun we were travelling with you, Moiya and David.  Now we are only having 3/5ths as much fun.  Tonight at dinner we voted and by acclamation we declared that while Buenos Aires was fun, it was nothing like Venice.  Thank you for coming with us when it really counted.

And now onto the next leg of our journey.

Arta

Speaking a Different Language

There are huge groups of people travelling together – like the French Canadians on board who have come under the auspices of the CAA.  That is a wonderful way to travel – The Canadian Automobile Association makes the arrangements and the only like-minded qualifications is that a person wants to go around South America.  There is also a big group of German-speaking people on board, some Swiss.  Well, the bottom line is people from 47 different countries.  Now here is one of the tricks of the voyages.  The head waiter has to find a way to get all of these people at dining tables where everyone speaks the same language.  And the menu has to go to them in their language of choice.  And something can go wrong even when all of the above gets done correctly.  For instance, I wanted the Rasperberry Meringue, but the waiter snatched the menu from my hands and said, “Somehow by mistake you got tomorrow’s menu.” I had to begin to deliberate on today’s choices but it put me behind.

I make the mistake of speaking to people – in halls, on elevators, while climbing stairs.  I forget how multi-national the passenger list is.  And English just doesn’t work for everyone.  I really notice in the market how difficult it is when there is a language barrier.  It just doesn’t help much to say the same word slower, or louder, or over and over again.  We were shopping last night in the loveliest market.  After the organized tour, the bus guide told us that if we would come back to the main street, turn left and walk 200 metres, we would find a 3-block long market. Greg is the perfect companion for this kind of event.  He walks along beside us, waits at the stalls as we go right to the back of them. Sometimes Greg is right out on the streets, for small cones have been put out there blocking off the parking lane, to let busy shoppers pass each other stepping off the curb for a while and then back onto the streets.  Their cone-shaped devices must be their way of trying to preserve the lives of the tourists making their way up and down the streets.. 

The guide had told us during our excursion that people in Chile are allowed to have as many dogs as they wish.  Some people have 3 or 4.  They roam the streets freely. I think he was explaining to us why there were so many dogs – I saw them all over – for example, three just sleeping side by side in the crevice between the road and the curb outside of a busy shop, people stepping over and around the dogs, back out into the road, around them, back to the side-walk.  Wyona buys a cape.  I buy a colourful knitted sweater.  Greg quietly comes by each of us, takes the bags we are carrying.  We are empty handed again – able to admire the beauty of the alpaca scarves or check out tooled leather purses that have Chile written on a pocket, or embroidered into the flap of a finely woven bag.

Greg is quiet.  He pulls more money out of his wallet as we run out. He did buy himself a sandwich one day.  A sad day. Wyona’s last shopping moment in Argentina was when she wanted to buy a pitcher for her grand daughters to pour water out of this summer.  She was short of money – just the amount he had spent on the sandwich.

My highlight of the market was Wyona buying a poncho for $20.00.

“No forty,” said the vendor.
“Why?,” said Wyona, wrinkling her brow.

“Chile.  Chile.”  Then she pointed to other products in stall saying dismissively as she touched them, “Synthetic.  Uruguay. Peru.”  Then smiling and touching the shawl Wyona wanted, saying “Chile.  Chile.  $40.”

That the moment was well worth $40. 

When we got home at night, Greg asked if we could stop in Miami and go to the post office.

“What do you want to buy there?”

“I was thinking that we could stop and ship some of the items you have been buying to Calgary.”


iLearn Class

Wyona tells me that I should give the Mac a chance.  Just go to the classes on board and see if I wouldn’t like to make the switch.  Now I am done two classes:  Siri and today’s Q&A.  To be right up front, a person is lucky to have classes like this – aimed at people my age.  The presenter makes this argument to grandparents.  You have purchased an IPad for your grandchildren and an iPhone for your children.  You are the iPaid generation.  Now get one of these products yourself.

I am a big note taker and have to say I enjoyed the class this morning.  The classes Wyona attended were standing rom only.  This mornings was held at 9 am and on the last day when cruisers are packing to leave the ship – neither an ideal time nor an ideal day. 

Wyona was up at 9 am as well – off to a water colour class.  When I got back to the room, she had the pictures she had done and the ones that I had done tucked up into the all mirrors so that they are displayed.  I would probably have thrown my pieces out, but she says no – they are good.  Cubist.  Keep them.  I had to choose this morning:  water-colour painting or learning about electronics.   I am having to make the same kind of choices every hour I am on this trip.

Last night we barely go in from our tour in time to get ready for dinner.  I split from my group.  This must be a carry over from when I was young.  I don’t mind being alone, doing things alone – and sometimes quite prefer it if the choices is going somewhere else where I don’t want to be.  There was a game show:  The United States vs The Rest of the World. Having both citizenships, (ie a US passport and one that is categorized as part of the rest of the world) I was conflicted about whom I should cheer for.  It doesn’t seem right that the rest of the world would beat up on the U.S.  The game show had me laughing so hard that I thought my fun for the evening should be finished.

Mike Doyle from Wales was the star performer for Celebrity Showtime.  I have seen him twice before.  He does a show that is timeless – a joy to laugh at the same jokes – for the ones he uses do not go stale.

The Curse of Coke

There are clubs for everyone – a new one to me is the cruising club for people who have gone on spectacular voyages. Their benefits shift.  I thought ours included breakfast in a lovely refitted dining room from an old ship.  We just never had time to get there.  Then at dinner I found out that only elite plus members are invited to that breakfast – not the elite, which is us.  Wicked of our dinner companions to tell us that, given that they have breakfast there.

I didn't want to go until I wasn't invited.  Clubs are a curse that way. Wyona, Greg and I do have a wonderful choice before dinner though.  Three drinks every evening. To get the best value for our money we should be drinking alcohol, but having no interest we have turned to drinking pina-coladas, then a peach drink, then a strawberry slush drink and now we are trying out the mango drink every night.  A stemmed glass, a maraschino cherry, and enough calories that we shouldn't have dinner afterwards – at least if we are just making sure that our bodies have enough energy to sustain themselves, which is a difficult count to make on a cruise.

Between us there are 9 drinks every night.  Three go to the mixes described above.  The rest of the tickets are used up in Coke that we carry away in a big black bag every night.  “Does this look a little gauche?”, I worried one night. “Carrying our drinks into dinner, wearing our formal evening clothes and carrying this bag of contraband Coke.”

“Don’t worry.  It is zipped closed,” replied Wyona. She is right.  The bag is closed and only looks like we have been shopping for a six-pack.  The revenge of the Coke is only to me, for if I drink mine after I have watched the last of the evening’s entertainment, I can’t sleep at night.  And that is the reason I was doing Braille around the room at 5:45 am, trying to find something warm enough to wear out on the deck for I was still wide awake. Pulling out exercise wear, changing orthodics in shoes, not caring if I found socks that matched – just finding socks was the task.

Nice to have a body so sensitive to drugs that caffeine will have that impact – not letting me sleep. Now I have to figure out a way to use the effect for when I need to stay awake.  Having no way to stay in bed, I was up on deck by 6 am, walking in the dark, having a open-air deck all to myself, watching the sun rise, It was not the sunrise that was spectacular.  This was one of those mornings when light comes but the clouds hide the brilliance of the sun.  I was watching the crew come alive by 6:30 am – some out washing and drying the deck, other’s delivering food on huge trays held shoulder high, still others opening towel kiosks and folding blankets for those who will need them in the early morning coolness before the sun brings out the sun-tanning crew.

Two other set of people were outside.  One woman huddled in the smoking-corner of the deck, alone on a rattan couch smoking.  The other people I saw were those were all men, hitting the gym before the big crowds get there.  We have one such exercise-conscious person at our dining table at night, Olis, – a retired pilot and former policemen who stopped working 20 years ago.  Now he is 74.  He walks 3 miles a day at home and has 18 miles of walking paths close to his home. 

But back to last night. The formal dining room on the ship is dimly lit.  People’s faces are buried in the menu as we walk through.  A 3 piece band and lounge singer called So Long play pre-dinner music in the lounge for 45 minutes.  Wyona and Greg dance before dinner.  They have been dancing all of their lives.  Yesterday doing a new tango – “the Brazilian way”, having mastered it in one of the Celebrity Life Activity Classes.

No matter how long a person cruises things change.  In the past there has been a wonderful parade of cookies, waiters, and maitre d’s on the last formal night of the cruise.  They sing and then walk through the aisles between the tables.  We wave our white linen napkins and cheer them on.  Greg, Wyona and I have been watching for that event.  Apparently it was canceled at the end of 2013. 

We asked about the Sunday Celebrity buffet.  That has been cancelled as well – too hard to keep health controls on the food – there is very little that is buffet style anymore. 

As for the Coke – Wyona told me to drink early in the morning and taper off at night. Being a latent scientist, I will drink a lot of Coke this morning and see if I sleep at night.

South America Bates/Johnson

Here is Arta in our room at the Sarmiento Suites in Buenos Aires. 





We were in heaven with the room size and the location.






This was the living room/Arta's bedroom with the kitchen on the left.





Here we are at the end of the world going around Cape Horn.




This is the lighthouse and the house at the end of South America.


You can see the waves lapping up on the rocks.


It was quite a sight to see and it was windy and cold.


But what an amazing experience.


Can you spot us in the crowd?
I tried to load five pictures but only three showed up after twenty minutes of time.

So I shall send them anyway for now.






Friday, March 14, 2014

Puerto Montt, Puerto Varas and Frutillar Chile

The tours off of the ships that are 8 hours and the 11 hours are arduous. I have to explain, before someone mocks me. Taking cruises is thrilling. And a chance that no one should miss. But I noticed a couple on the front seat of the bus who have paid to have priority for that seat.  The man rarely got off the bus.  And this was a short 4 hour trip.  At my age – OK, maybe a bit older -- stairs become arduous, balance is not good. A walk of 200 yards is becomes a matter of discussion. Wyona overheard a woman saying to her friend, “How far is 200 yards?”  The woman may have forgotten, or perhaps never known.  The other woman told her, “I know a football feet is 100 yards long, but I don’t know how to make the conversion.” Yup.  $ven  simple formulas becomes difficult.

On our tour through Puerto Montt, Puerto Varas and Fruitillar we passed colorful wooden shingled houses, drove by the neo-classical cathedral in Plaza de Armas and saw the picturesque Angelmo Fishing Wharf.  At the town of Puerto Varas we saw Chile’s largest lake, I think 70 kilometers wide.  Wyona and I spent some short minutes, too few, in the handicraft market.

The town of Frutillar has a regional museum, inside and outside, that celebrates the lives of 1 million Germans who emigrated to clear land, farm and establish themselves in Chile. The German style architecture is charming.  I spent my time by the water wheel and in two of the homes.  Greg visited the blacksmith shop.  All of us walked the gardens – a lovely one hour stop over.

I think I am slow on the paths.  I breathe to the bottom of my lungs and make by body climb hills.   While I feel old (at moments when I get out of a chair after a long sit) I know I am like a giselle compared to others.  I didn’t realize that I take the cobbled stones in my stride, find myself stable on slopes slippery with water, and I need only one hand-rail instead of 2 to go down stairs.

On the return home others slept on the coach. I kept my eyes glued to the scenery out the bus window. 

Passing through the port authority gates we snaked our way through a long line of people at the moor – the late minute shoppers who all want to get on the same tender at 4:30 pm.  I don’t ever want to be left on the dock.  On the other hand, I want to shop until 4:29 pm so as not to waste a precious minute of time when I could be looking at the Chilean crafts and Lapiz Lazuli jewellery. 

A ship’s employee uses a hand counter to check how many people are getting on the tender.  He radios to the ship – 223 passengers and 3 working crew are on the tender.  At every minute the ship know how many people are in transit, how many are onboard, how many are yet to get on board. 

While getting into the boat, Greg pointed out the top of the tender was open-seating.  We climbed the ladder to the top of the tender.  Such a wonderful ride.  The wind in my face, the smell of the sea, the ship becoming larger and larger as we approached.  In every language, people from the balconies shouting down words of welcome to their loved ones arriving in the last moments before departure.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Chilean Fjords

“Nothing equals the trips through the passages around Victoria Island, except maybe the trip through the Chilean Fjords.” That is what the onboard naturalist told us when we were on the Alaska cruise.  With this lovely balcony the choices for the day were a slam dunk.  Out on the balcony, wrapped in three layers of sweaters, hoodies, jackets to keep off the wind, and I needed two more blankets.  One to sit on so that the balcony railing was not right at my sight line and then second fleece blanket to wrap around me. I haven’t seen that kind of beauty before.  The naturalist had explained how the fjords are created:  pockets of water in the rock that feeze, then expand and cause deep fissures, so there are few of our glacial shaped valleys.  Just this massive rock, some of it bare with huge striations across it.  And then there were trees, soil deprived.  The tree line was defined.  There was little in the way of sandy shores, though Peurto Arenas does mean sandy point. 

The second day of doing the same thing didn’t mean seeing the same thing.  Now we saw salmon farming:  small houses on logs, pathways on which people can walk to feed the salmon, black buoys and sometimes orange ones.  Greg is a source of knowledge about the past – at least about Canada’s efforts to establish salmon farms.  He told us how the public has been lead to believe that wild salmon is better than farmed salmon and how hard it has been to establish the industry. This is not true in Chile.  Salmon farming is one of their leading industries. I recoginize an embarrassment of riches.  A once in a life-time cruise, a trip around South America.  A space on open deck, and a brother-in-law giving a compelling history and narration.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Port Areanus

“I am not going into town.  I am too tired today,” said Wyona.

“No fun for me going without her, for what will I do in the market with no one to encourage me to buy,” I said.

“I am going,” said Greg.

“I had better join him.  I need a walk and it is a shame to be in Chile and not step on dry land, when I really need a walk and could get one there.”

“Then I am going, too,” said Wyona.  And that is how we made it to the market to kiss the toe of the Magellan monument. Now we are guaranteed a return.

The tourist bureau representative told us that the day was beautiful for Port Araenus.  Yesterday it rained and the wind was double the force of today, which I think was about 90 miles per hour.  I hung onto Greg a couple of times, least I would be thrown out into the middle of the road and someone would think I had just jumped into the path of some oncoming car.  A real wind.

The market was the same, but the vendor know how to batten down the hatches.  We walked from stall to stall, taking off layers of clothing to try something on, and then layering back up.  The money was easy to figure out once a clerk told us to drop the zero’s and then double the figure left.  So $5,000 pesos becomes $10 American.  I can do that math.  Even if I can do the math, the vendors continue to do it on their calculators for me, just in case I make a mistake.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The End of the World

They say it is the end of the world.  I will get a certificate for being here.  The Argentinians say that the end of the world is the last light house in their country.  The Chileans make the same claim.  The passengers who have been on the cruise to the Antartic say that the end of the world is the light house there.  We are cruising past the Falklands, through Tierra de Fuega, and around Cape Horn, going out of our way to go around the Horn so that we can say we have been around the cape.  Other captains don’t take this route, but navigate these channels in ways that they can maximize their fuel and minimize the number of miles they travel.

This route went out of vogue in 1914, the year the Panama Canal opened.  Few boats will travel down here and go into the choppy, cold waters where the Atlantic meets the Pacific.  But that is where we are.  I sat out on the deck this afternoon watching islands go by, seeing the shifts in the colour of the sun on the swells of water, watching the albatrosses fly.  The birds fly down low.  We are looking from above, down on them.  Occasionally one will do a fly by for Wyona and me and we note the ruffled end of the tails of the birds we see or the markings above and below their wings.  They are always above the six foot swells of the waves though it seems sometimes the waves will roll over them.  The birds don’t light to get food.  Nor do they dive.  They just soar above us and then swoop.

Today I am watching the water with a new eye, having successfully completed my second painting class.  True success, I guess, would be having completed the class with relaxed muscles, ... or perhaps believing the teacher who keeps tell us that painting is meant to be fun.  She does love colour and encourages everyone to forget the pastel washes in water colours, and instead encourages people to have fun with the paint. 

I know I could paint the scene I am watching go by me at the end of the world.  “Rock behind rock.”  That is how Wyona is describing what she is seeing.

All I know is that I wondered when we knew that we were coming, how it would feel to be upside down on the globe.  What if the magnet of gravity that holds me to the earth, loses its power, would I just float off the earth, down, down, down, ... further away from home than even the end of the world.

Manchupichu

One hundred of the people who went on the cruise to the Antarctic, stayed on board to travel around Argentina.  Of those of us who got on board there, 786 are going to cruise back to back, past Valparaiso, all the way to Miami.  Today we gathered together for instructions on how to make the move the day that the Chilean boarder security have us all debark so that they can look at the passports of the passengers who will continue on up past Peru and Ecuador. The ship will get a deep clean and will be ready to sail again.  We all have the job of either taking a long trip to Santiago, a short trip around Valparaiso, or sitting at the cruise terminal for three hours.

After the presentation on how to make this a smooth transition, a special tour was offered in the middle of the next cruise – 3 days to Manchu Pichu.  Leave the boat and go overland for 3 days. There will be a flight to the nearest city, then a train ride to the nearest village, time in an Andean market, and then a bus ride and tour of that now historic spot. 

Half way through the presentation, Wyona leaned over and said, “How much do you think this side trip will cost?” 

I did a quick calculation.  “$1,300,” I whispered back. 

At the end of the presentation Ii found out I was half right.  The full price is $2,800. 

“Go Greg.  We are close to this spot and if you have had this dream, now is the time to take it.”  That is what Wyona said.

He shook his head.  If this were on a lifetime bucket list, she is right – we are close and now is always the moment to take a chance.  We talked about the opportunity at lunch in the Trellis Restauraunt – on the fifth floor, a lovely view of the end of the world passing by our window. Greg has been wanting a new watch but denying himself that luxury, already owning two watches that work, he says.  He can’t justify a third watch.  We told Greg that hearing the price of the tour will give us, at least, permission to buy lapis jewellery in one of the shops in one of the next ports.  Or at the very least, an ethic bag in an Andean market.  He said owning another watch even seems closer to him.  Closer, but not quite there.

Bags

I continue to learn how much or how little a person needs to pack when they leave home for five weeks: a container for medicines, one for make-up, a pouch for a water colour kit, a pocket or pocket book for a room key, a place for an airline ticket and passport, a silk bag for faux pearls, a place for pens and a piece of paper in case I need to make  a list of something. 

I started the trip with a black leather 3 pocket belly pouch that circles my waist, since there is nothing like having hands free for balance when going over the cobble stones or down a ship’s corridor on a day of rolling waters.  I have other bags.  Catherine sent me a wine coloured over-the-shoulder travel bag from Mountain Equipment Coop – already containerized for a bottle of water, a compartment for a camera, a larger pouch for a scarf, a flat pouch for maps and travel books and a place for a cell phone and an IPad.  I wear it around the ship and re-compartmentize “stuff “depending on if I am going away from the cabin for a hour for the morning and the afternoon, and returning only in time to shuffle papers to a sequined bag for dinner.  How much fun.  I need more bags than clothes.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

More bread...

This time I tried Arta's "Multi-grain Bread" from Larch Kitchens.  Really delicious.   But it is pretty close between this one and Moiya's cracked wheat bread.  Try them both!
http://larchkitchens.blogspot.ca/2014/02/cracked-wheat-bread-bulgar-or-cracked.html

http://larchkitchens.blogspot.ca/2014/02/cracked-wheat-bread-bulgar-or-cracked.html

The adventures of Flat David

Flat David (David Camps-Johnson) has come to Victoria for a visit!  Interested?
http://carter-johnson2.blogspot.ca/2014/03/flat-david-comes-to-visit.html

ICE

“The Ultimate Tribute to Michael Jackson.  No use getting there early tonight.”  I was wrong.  When I got there 35 minutes early all of our usual premium seats we gone.  I must have looked surprised for a man who already had a seat on the side isle taunted me with, “You have to be in the line-up at the door at 8 pm to get one of those good seats.”   

“But I saw this show in London on the stage,” I said.  They laughed.  Yes, they live in London and see everything ... but not Thriller.  I wouldn’t have gone either, but having been in a performance of the song, “Thriller”, on another ship, I thought I owed it to my colourful past to see the Michael Jackson impersonator.  I have at least a faint idea that I have heard some of the Jacson songs before when I hear “Billie Jean” or “Beat It” but the dead-on vocals and masterful dance moves pretty well pass me by.  Not so the rest of the audience.  They shouted, they sang along, they whistled.  I was glad I gave the art form another try.  That many people can’t be wrong.

The Pampas Devils

In Buenos Aires, up and down the walking street of Florida (pronounced Flor-i-DAH) we encountered the soft whisper of people willing to exchange money at a better rate than we could get at the money changers.  And no, the bank wouldn’t give us exchange on money at all. The other big item to buy on that street was dinner and a dance show – the tango – done as we had never seen it before.  We knew there would be a similar show on the boat. 

The Pampas Devils gave  us that show tonight – two couples doing different versions of the tango, a video on the tango, a beautiful blanket dance, footwork – the clicking of heels and toes, drumming and hand work with the bols.  Greg says they are something like our lasso, but used to catch the feet of sheep instead of the neck of calves.  At any rate, a breathtaking evening.  So why are we so tired to go up and try the 70’s party – dancing, music and demos from a period I can remember – but only barely when it is late at night.

Mickey Live

One of the enrichment lecturers uses google earth to show us where we are, zooming in, then zooming out to give us a broader picture of the ship’s whereabouts.  The first time I saw this tool used was when Richard used it to show me exactly where he had tagged his deer this fall. He could show me the rigde where he had spotted the animal, the cliff he had climbed while seeking out his prey, and the place where the animal dropped and was skinned.

Now I was seeing google earth around Cape Horn, the Falkland islands, Tierra de Fuego, and the Beagle Channel.  I would not have known how the lecturer could draw so many together to be so interested in this spot, sometimes called the end of the earth.  The Argentinians have a light house to which they give that title.  The end of the earth.  Chile has another.  There is a light house in the Antarctic which is also called the end of the earth, in case you miss one of the other two places.

You Can't Make Me Paint

The day is March 8, 2014.  It is possible for cruisers not to know what day it is, even the the Daily Schedule announces the day, the temperature and lists possible things to do.  To read the list was overwhelming.  I began to cross of choices I would not take.  One was Painting with Watercolours. 

“You can’t make me paint,” I said to Wyona.  “I tried that on two cruises.  I was so happy the choice wasn’t here on this trip.  And now they have it in the bulletin.  A big no from me.”

I was right about making a choice that was in my best interess and this morning I knew that choice was to get out and walk the deck, to catch up on that good feeling that only a brisk walk can bring.  I tried to sneak out the door, putting my exercise clothing on in the bathroom so as not to wake Wyona and Greg.

I was successful getting my first leg in the pants I was wearing.  The second I tried while leaning against the vanity.  The four foot waves outside gave the boat a lurch and I slid toward the shower.  No problem, I would just slide down the wall of the shower door.  No door there, unfortunately.  Only a shower curtain that gave way.  I made the fall as quietly as possible, no sound passing my lips but thinking, wow, that was a lot of weight to hit the ground just now.

The noise must have bolted sleeping Wyona right out of bed. Greg was also upright when I came out of the bathroom to tell them, no, I was still conscious, just embarrassed to have wakened them. I slipped right out the door. 

This is a different cruise.  Different people in the dining room, ones I have not noticed before in the lectures and now on deck at 8 am.   It is not the professional joggers on deck.  Only people like me.  Walking for good health. Someone doing tai chi stretches in one of the corners. All of us walking gingerly over the wet parts of the deck where the ship maintenance workers are keeping the windows and walks clean with their hoses and squeegies.  I try not to look at my watch, but to keep walking, stretching tall and tightening muscles in the back and front of my body – holding them, then giving them a soft relax as I walked.  The soft relax feels better than the real exercise.

An hours walk was up and I headed for the cabin, but saw some people already going to the Constellation Lounge.  Even though dressed in my exercise wear and with wind-blown hair, still I wanted to know what would be going on so early in the morning.  Which is the reason why I walked into the Painting with Watercolours class.  The teacher was starting in a class really for beginners.  I stopped to watch her pedagogue which was so artful.  The second time she said, “Now does anyone else need a kit?”, I raised my hand. 

Now I have a picture of a glacier.  Done by me.  Not a glacier that Greg could recognize, but Wyona got it on her first try.  I am prouder than punch.  Third time with water colours, the charm.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Lunch in Patagonia

“Look at us.  We are having lunch in Patagonia.”  That is what Greg said to me today.  In actual fact we were sitting on an air-conditioned bus (the brochure said ‘may not be up to North American standards’) with a box lunches on our laps.  We left Wyona home on the ship.  This was not the tour for her. The brochure also said, ‘dusty, bumpy, do not take this tour if you have a bad back or a bad neck’.

Our assistant dinner waiter told us the night before that he has a girl friend who is from Lethbridge. “Look at this landscape,” said Greg.  “Just like Lethbridge.  The heat, the low dry grasses, the high wind and flat, flat plain.  I can hardly wait to go back and tell Santiago (our waiter) that he doesn’t have to come to Lethbridge.  He can just enjoy Puerto Madryn, Argentina and save himself the trip to Lethbridge.”

I explained to Wyona at lunch, “The trip was 7 hours.  Five of the hours were in a coach.  I am going to show you one of my pictures out of the window and make you look at it 100 times.  The same picture.  Then you will know what it was like to travel the 5 hours in the coach. The view never changed.  No people in the fields.  No change of vegetation.  No change in the velocity of the wind (always over 40 mph).  No change in height of the dust as it would rise from the gravel road as the bus lumbered along toward the coast.   The driver only slowed down at cattle gates. The guide explained that it takes 2 acres of land to support each sheep, so to have 60,000 sheep a rancher would need a hacienda of 120,000 acres.  In Canadian terms, that is a lot of land. Sheep ranching is all we saw.

We were on our way to the Valdes Peninsula Nature Reserve, an ideal spot to check out nature in action:   southern elephant seals, magellanic penguins, sea birds, southern sea lions, choiques (Darwin’s reas) and guanacos.  The bus pulled over for the choiques and guanacos.  They are shy.  The minute the bus slows down, the animals began to travel in the opposite direction.  I also saw a little partridge like bird on the other side of the road.  I was supposed to be looking to the right and seeing the choiques on the other side of the bus, but it is possible to look in the wrong direction and see nature.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Restful Day at Sea

I started early, wanting to hear Dave Cornthwaite, a travel writer, give a talk entitled “Say Yes More”.  A agree with his premis.  All of us should say yes, more. For me the task was saying yes to getting to the next presentation by Dirk Younkerman, “Penguins, Life in the Colonies”.  I couldn’t miss seeing the tango lesson demonstration, nor taking an hour to see the Colombian Emeralds Grand Presentation.  I quit taking notes when the presentor was giving the formula for an emerald: berilium, silicone and something else.  I didn’t get it written down fast enough and then I realized that I am not going to get tested on this, and I gave up taking more notes.  Still I was off to a lecture where we could  watch our cruise travel via Google Earth and then I went to watch a guitar and violin play classical music until it was time to meet Wyona and Greg for the hour when the elite cruisers drink together and listen to the big band music of the celebrity orchestra.  Wyona ordered me a virgin pina colada the first night, a strawberry drink the second, a peach concoction the third night.  Tonight I passed on any kind of liquid.  Drinking calories are more interesting in they are found in chocolate to me. Still it was time to go to dinner and then to a production show but first came the captain’s welcome.  This schedule is why people who cruise need such a long rest when they get home from their trip.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Puenta del Esta

I thought Greg was making a mistake, taking his rain jacket on his add-on trip when we were in Puenta del Esta.  We had enjoyed a 3 hour day trip on a coach – seen the Atlantic and the Rivera de la Plata on the side of the peninsula, driven to the Ralli Museum, gawked at the upscale neighbourhoods of the city, heard explanations about the poor neighbourhoods we had driven through and then gone over the iconic bridge of Puenta del Esta – its shape is like the curves of a woman’s body.  Imagine a group of 40 retiree’s being asked if they want to do the bridge again, this second time at high speed.  All had to agree which put a lot of pressure on the timid and those with pace makers. There was so much happiness among the old as the driver began to pick up speed. I suspected he would come to a full stop, but no – he hit the highway at full speed, the bus load of oldies screaming as though some could remember a time when they did this at the fair on holidays.

Greg walked around the island without us.  He was right to take his jacket.  The thunder clouds rolled in and poured rain.  The tender boat loaded up for the last trip back to the boat.  As Greg tells the story, the crew took in the last of the poles, the huge canisters of water and cool towels that they greet us with on the shore when we are returning to the boat. But as the fully loaded tender took off, a crew member slipped into the water, the boat moving up against him and crushing his leg against a tire.  The captain rushed to the back.  They took the crew member on top of the tender to look at the wound at which time he fainted.  So off the tender came all 160 passengers and the equipment and the tender went high speed to the hospital, the passengers waiting for the next boat.

That day, our tour guide had apologized for talking so much – she said that people only remember 10% of what they hear on tours.  That will be difficult to prove by Greg, Wyona and me.  We talked for a long while about the depth of the information we learned about Uruguay’s economy, politics, and government.  Did you know that there are 3.2 million people in Uruguay and 12 million cows.  Fewer sheep.  Only 3 per person.  Wyona and I were ready to buy leather, but it is exported for car seats and beautiful leather coats sold elsewhere.  “You are more likely to buy Uruguayan leather in another country than in ours,” she told us.

The Ralli Museum had many pieces by Salvador Dali.  Janet and Wyona spent a day in London looking at a Dali exhibit and Wyona could still  remember what to look for in a Dali painting.  I spent a day in Catalonia doing the same thing at the Dali Museum.  Now was a chance to see some of his travelling work.  Wyona took on my job –keeping the group (of two) moving.  I was in a linger longer space.  She knew that the bus was pulling out of the museum parking lot in 40 minutes and we had a lot of pieces to see.

A day to always remember.  Even though I have already forgotten to tell you about the Pablo Atchugarry work we saw.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Goodbye to the Gelato Shop

 ... 3 flavours to one styrofoam package...
2 flavours if you buy the small size
4 flavors for large -- which we have never allowed ourselves
This pictures no where approxi-
mates the joy we have been having at the gelato shop.

The best flavours are any of the chocolate flavours (mouse / chocolate with dulche de leche), cookies and cream (really marbled caramel), amaretto, strawberry, Americano -- oh they are all good.  Perhaps the lemon wasn't fruity enough and was too strong, but it is all a matter of taste.

We have no idea why we had to take the styrofoam containers home and clean them out.  We haven't used this much styrofoam in years at home.

Wyona wanted to shake the hand of the clerks who have served us tonight when we left.  I thought we should wait until we really leave on the boat on Monday.

Arta

Mosquitos

Last night Wyona looked at the local drug store that was across the street -- Farmacity and said, "We haven't stopped in one of those  yet."

Today is the day.  I woke up with 15 mosquito bites and that is just on the left arm.  I didn't bother to go counting more.  I just want to go to Farmacity.

Wyona and I have both been attacked by them.  Greg doesn't have the delicious kind of blood that she and I have, apparently.

Arta

Missing our travelling friends


Photo: Greg Bates
For Glen, in praise of soccer
We are missing our travelling friends: Janet and Glen Pilling and Moiya and David Wood.  Often we say oh wouldn't Dave just love this, or this moment was made for Janet.

I never know if the best part of the trip is that few days we take at the beginning when we stay in a city and get to know its inner city sidewalks.  Or perhaps the best part is on the boat.  I wouldn't have wanted to have missed the longer stay ... in London, or Venice for example.

Photo: Greg Bates
For Dave, in praise of deisel
Here is a charming thing about the merchants in the markets in Buenos Aires. There is no calling out to the passers-by, none of the hard sell, just a gentle showing of merchandize and then thanking the customer for looking as they move on.

At any rate, here are two pictures -- the soccer stadium for Glen.  Yes, people got off the tourist bus to worship at the temple of soccer in Argentina -- BOCA.

And Greg said, "Oh, wouldn't Dave like to see this gas station", as he snapped this picture for fueling up.


Arta

Measuring Breakfast


Breakfast is included with the price of the room. We go to the first floor for fruit, cheese, yogurt, cheese, a selection of pastries and fresh squeezed orange juice. That will cost us $4 a glass on the boat, but here? We have been commenting to each other – no this is not extra to the bill. Do not bring out your credit card. This comes with the room.

The cereal is what interests me. It comes re-wrapped from the kitchen in saran-wrap that has been laid out, then 1/3 cup of dry cereal measured and the four corners twisted, then all three kinds put in the same bowl from which you make your selection. One appears to be corn flakes. I tried a mini-shredded wheat looking cereal but it was sweet and more like the centre of those malt balls other people buy. Not me. I pass on those. Perhaps this is the customary way to serve cereal here. I don’t know. I just haven’t seen this done before.

As the mornings go on, we discover something new about the breakfast room. There is a caramel topping – dulche de leche that Wyona only found yesterday. We get there so late some mornings, that all of the fruit is gone. Two days ago there was no yogurt. We saw it being delivered by the dairy man just as we were walking out the door. We are staying in the Sarmiento Suites. We highly recommend the fun we have had here. Only three people can get in an elevator at once. If we try to bring up groceries at the same time, the elevator knows and the doors won’t close. I am going to miss this place.

Arta

Finally, on Board




San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The taxi driver told us that 9 pieces of luggage and 3 passengers were too much for his cab.  I could understand that much from his body language.  I didn’t have to speak Spanish.  Somehow Wyona fit all of us in, and Greg offered a generous tip, so the driver left the port happy. 

We proceeded to get on board.  For us – entering the day of final miracles – no need to unpack again until we leave for home.

The same delicious Sunday market was in full swing and Wyona and I had pesos to spend at the market. Knowing that this would be that last of the really big markets for us we proceeded to the best market of all. 

Greg found coins that had been carved so as to leave the interesting figures still in the circle of the coin and the rest cut away.  If only he were a jewellery wearer.  But he couldn’t bring himself to buy one of those, nor lls one of the purses that other men carry.  But to give him his due, he happily carries any of Wyona’s bags, often two or more at a time.

At the end of the day the church bells were ringing at the San Telmo Catholic Church.  We stopped in to watch a priest dressed in jean light the candles getting ready for the service.  Then we headed for the bus, only to be stopped by Spanish music coming from a derelict hacienda.  The front courtyard was full of musicians.  A sign said, come in, stay, free, the musicians are not being paid so give what you can.  At first we watched through the spaces in the high wrought iron fence. 
from a website for One Day Cafe in San Telmo
(http://onedaycafe.me/tag/san-telmo/)

Then we could smell the grill where chorizo sausages were grilled, split, and place on buns that were only vehicles to get meat into the mouth.

I would have stayed forever.  Greg and Wyona forever and a day.  The end of a dream day.



Saturday, March 1, 2014

moiya's fabulous bread recipe!

i did the recipe off larch haven kitchens.

Thanks Moiya!

It worked.

Smells good and tastes even better!


Rebecca

Note Under the Door

We walked into our room tonight.  There was a note under the door.  There was a can of Raid on our table.  We looked at the note.  We looked at the can of Raid.

"Whoops.  We are in trouble with the hotel.  We forgot to close our windows when we went out.  Now they leave us a note in Spanish, which we can't read.  Who will go down and take care of this?"

But before someone goes down, we  try to read the note in Spanish.  We are pretty sure someone is bawling us out.  But we can't tell exactly what the sin is, though we notice that the kitchen door is closed, though they have left that window open.  Is it that we left the apartment and forgot to close the front room window.

Wyona walks down to the desk prepared for something to have gone wrong.

She steels herself.  "You will have to give us this not in English since we can't understand the Spanish."

The clerk gives Wyona a much shorter note.  "Please pay your bill before 11:30 tonight or before check-out at 10 am or you will be charge for another day -- no allowances for over-time."

"What about this can of Raid," Wyona asks.

"The cleaning staff left it in your room accidentally.  I will take it," says the clerk.

All three of us feel exonerated but we don't know for what.

Arta