Buenos Aires, Argentina
January 7, 2011

Another unbelievably frustrating night of ‘cat naps’.  My room has a connecting door, which provides no sound buffer.  I could hear every word coming from my neighbor’s television until VERY late.  When I do finally get to sleep; I’m probably going to crash & burn!

I was awake before the alarm went off; showered & dressed.  Was downstairs at the buffet breakfast by .  I know it’s as scary for me as it is for you.  Remember how my trip started with an awesome breakfast surprise at the Marriott in Santiago (honey comb)?  Well, I was treated to something just as monumental this morning.  Dulce de leche; a huge bowl of it.  It looked like a dark, sticky, creamy peanut butter; so I had to ask what it was (it was so early, they didn’t even have labels on things yet).  I’d die for anything caramel!

I started with fruit, cheese & chorizo (sausages).  They had the absolute best, sweetest fresh squeezed OJ I’ve ever tasted.  I think I had 4 glasses.  I had some (almost done) scrambled eggs, bacon & link sausages.  I don’t think it’s my imagination; but in a country known for its beef, I found the pork pretty fascinating.  The bacon had very thin lines of fat, unlike what we see in the grocery store.  The sausages were mild & so juicy.  When I discovered the dulce de leche, I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do with it.  They had every kind of bread, muffin, & pastry imaginable.  Then I saw these tiny thin crepes (marked as pancakes); & I knew.  Spread caramel on that puppy; rolled it up.  It was like a trip to heaven!  I’m counting on this sugar high to see me through this unbelievably long day & night ahead.

Got a little more internet work done before I went down to check out at .  Our tour was to meet at in the lobby.  The hotel will watch over our luggage while we’re out for the morning.  We finally got underway a little after 9.  Diego (one of the HAL courtesy desk guys) acted as our guide.  Roberto was our driver; there were 17 of us on a small bus.

We started our drive through the financial district on July 9th Ave (sort of the main drag & said to be the widest avenue in the world).  We made a stop at Plaza de Mayo to walk a few blocks.

In the middle of the sq. is a huge statue of Artigas (Argentina’s liberator).  At one end of the square stands Casa Rosada (Pink House), the Presidential Palace where Juan & Eva Peron used to wave to the crowds from the 3rd floor balcony.

Next we walked to the other end of the square to visit the Metropolitana Cathedral.  The frescoes, decorative tiles & stained glass were beautiful; & inside is the tomb of General Jose de San Martin.

Back on the bus we proceeded to the southern section of the city known as San Telmo, known as the home of the tango.  Here you will find many legendary tango clubs; & bright murals of their native dance decorate walls & sides of buildings.  Parts of this area are obviously quite impoverished.

Next we made our way to the area known as La Boca (which means ‘the mouth’, as in the mouth of the Rio de Plata).  This is a very artsy area; & Caminito St. is where those colorful, tin houses are located…..the ones famous in all the postcards from B.A.

We got off the bus; & walked down this short street which is full of artists.  It’s like ‘eye candy’; & the beautiful blue sky & sunshine made the colors pop with vibrancy.  I thought I was in heaven (for the 2nd time today).

I was standing in front of the post office waiting for the bus to return; & I heard a voice say “do you know where I can take pictures of some food”?  I turned around; & there stood Lou, who was on her own tour in another bus.  She said she was quite happy at the Hilton; more so than I am with the Sheraton.  We got a quick photo with some local guy dressed in ‘tango’ attire; & said our goodbyes again.

We drove back through San Telmo, along the waterfront on our way to Recoleta in the northern section of town.  First we passed through the area known as Palermo, where Diego pointed out a large brick clock tower that was a gift from the English.  And then on to the United Nations Park to get a glimpse of ‘Floralis Generica’, a huge steel & aluminum flower sculpture (whose petals open during the day & close at night).

Then it was on to Recoleta, where the well to do live & play.  We parked the bus right on the main shopping boulevard which has every designer shop on the planet.  The next walk was to the cemetery to see Eva Peron’s grave.  By now it was over 90 degrees; & I wasn’t enthusiastic about the long walk.  One lady decided to stay on the bus because she had visited the grave the day before.  In her opinion, it wasn’t worth the trek.  So, I stayed too.

The bus driver left the engine running & the A/C on.  We spied an ice cream shop across the street; & the guide had just been talking about Argentina having the best ice cream.  And he recommended dulce de leche.  We decided we wanted some; but we couldn’t figure out how to get the door open on the bus.  The driver had gone into a café; & we were afraid to touch buttons (everything was written in Spanish or Portuguese or something)..  So, we waited & waited; until finally the driver saw us frantically waiving out the window.  He unlocked the door & we scooted over for 3 scoops of dulce de leche (I’m now in caramel heaven for the 3rd time today).  It was deliciously creamy & very rich.

When the other Pax finally returned from their walk, most agreed that it wasn’t worth the effort.  Eva’s in a cramped crypt; with barely enough room to stand back & take a photo.  I got to see photos that one man took; so that was enough to satisfy my curiosity.

We drove past the site where she had lived & died.  Though the house is gone; a lovely monument in her memory has been erected on the lawn.

We finally got back to the Sheraton close to .  I had no desire to walk around outside in the heat.  I wasn’t really hungry after that much ice cream.  So, there was nothing else to do except park in the hotel lobby & amuse myself.

I wanted to get to my medium size carry on bag that they were storing for me (the same one that got separated from me on bus #3 yesterday).  So, I asked my cute Argentinean “friend” at the hospitality desk if he would tell me where to look for it.  He asked for my claim checks; & he promised to find it for me.  I had accidentally put the electric converter in that bag; & I had no way to plug my laptop into a power source.  I would go crazy without that plug.

Within 5 mins. here comes ‘cutie’ with my bag.  My afternoon would be saved.  I asked “have I told you how much I love ya today?”  He said, “no; not since yesterday”.  I can’t believe I never got his name; but he is my hero.

For the next 4 hrs I passed the time on the computer; & made the acquaintance of Lois & Noel Castle from CT.  Noel was nice enough to ‘loan’ a photo of the Uruguayan asado (huge display of grilling meats) so that I could use it on my blog.


About , ‘cutie’ came over to tell us they were going to start the airport transfer a little early.  He asked everyone to wait until they actually saw their bags being loaded under the bus before boarding the bus.  When he rolled out a huge trolley of luggage, he told me I could go ahead & get on the bus because he recognized my 2 big suitcases; & assured me they were on the 1st trolley.  The luggage just kept coming & coming.  How they managed to fit all that in the belly of the bus, I’ll never know.

When they were finished, ‘Cutie’ gets on the bus to double check that everybody on his list is actually on the bus.  When he got down to the P’s, he said “Ms Palmer, my future wife”?.  “Present & accounted for”.  A few people on the bus knew what was going on; but everybody else just stared dumbfounded.

We ended up leaving the hotel later than anticipated; & then as fate would have it, the bus broke down on the expressway on the way to the airport.  We kept trying to ignore this beeping noise, not realizing it was a warning beep.  The driver finally pulls over on an exit ramp.  He gets out; takes a look; makes a call; comes back on the bus & hands the phone to another Passenger.  He didn’t speak English; & the HA people wanted to let everyone know that they were sending another bus in 10 mins.  Yea, right!

Everyone was beginning to get hot; & wanted off the bus.  I think the driver was worried that if we dispersed, he’d never round everybody up again.  A nearby Shell service station brought bottles of water & cups over.  And we’re all standing on the side of the road (during rush hour) wondering how long it’s going to take to reload that ton & a half of luggage.

About 15 mins later a mechanic pulls up in a van; & in short order, replaces a broken fan belt.  I shudder to think what would have happened if they had sent another bus.  As it was, I barely had enough time to get through the multiple security checkpoints, passport control & immigration control.  In retrospect, I should have gone to the airport with the first wave at (it would have been my choice).  It would have been a lot more peaceful & comfortable in the Amex Lounge than in the hotel’s lobby.  I hope I never have to leave from the Buenos Aires airport (EZE) again.  There’s no method to their madness……get out of one line, into another, into another.  And not once do they ask you to remove your shoes!

After days of little sleep & feeling puny, I was sooooo glad to be traveling business elite class.  If I had been in coach, I no doubt would have gone ‘postal’ halfway through the flight.  At least I was comfortable & well fed.  I started conversing with this nice young man next to me.  James, was born in KY; raised in Paraguay; & was now in college in GA.  He had been home for the holidays.  For the next 10 hrs we talked about everything southern (cooking, hospitality, accents, BBQ).

He didn’t even think I was weird because I took pictures of the food.  A flight attendant saw me with the camera out; & asked if we wanted her to take a picture of us.  I don’t know what she was thinking; but we both thought it was funny & said why not.

The food on this flight looked impressive on the menu & the plate; but the preparation fell short.  The appetizers were seared scallops on a bed of caramelized leeks & grilled vegetables & mozzarella.  The scallops were overdone & dry; but the leeks were delicious.  The veggies were tasty but they could have been a little less crisp.

There was a very good cup of carrot & ginger soup & a mixed green salad with feta cheese & a strange tasting creamy dressing of unknown origin.

I had a choice of filet of beef, pasta or chicken.  The chicken sounded delicious; roasted with balsamic onions & blue cheese sauce with sautéed garlic spinach & mashed potatoes.  Unfortunately, the chicken was overdone & tough on the outside; but the sauce was excellent.  The spinach & potatoes were also very good.  I passed on dessert of apple tart or ice cream sundae.

I had plugged the computer into the armrest’s electrical outlet, intending to work on photos.  But after an hr or so, I realized that the electrical plug wasn’t working; & the battery was dying.  I tried reading a while; but my eyes were tired.  I was trying so hard to not cough while everyone else was sleeping.  I finally put on my eye shades, bundled up in the blanket & turned on the IPod to white noise.  I think I slept for about an hr.

About they came through pushing breakfast.  It was done to perfection.  A bowl of fresh fruit, croissant with jam, smoked gouda cheese omelet topped with caramelized onions, bacon & potato pancake.

When we landed in ATL at , I realized that my legs & feet were swollen tight as a drum.  It was frigid cold walking up the jetway between the plane & the gate.  It had to be 20 degrees; & me in capris & flip flops.  I felt like a zombie waiting at the carousel for my luggage; & pushing one foot in front of the other trying to get through immigration, customs & recheck luggage.  I can’t remember ever feeling this unwell & still functioning in a public place (praying that I wouldn’t get light headed & faint).

I did have about an hour to relax & pull myself together in the Delta Sky Club Lounge.  I had some orange juice & advil; & began to see the light at the end of the tunnel when I buckled in for that last leg between Atlanta & Ft. Myers.  I actually fell asleep on the plane; but woke up as we were descending when my ears started to hurt & I realized I couldn’t hear squat.

Man, what a mess I was.  When neighbors, Monica & Dave came to pick me up, I told them I was going to go straight to bed.  I really should have checked on Josie & Caroline & gone down to welcome Carolyn back to town.  I wanted to; but I just couldn’t stay vertical any longer.  I told Monica if she saw any of the neighbors, to tell them I was down for the count; & would emerge as soon as I could.  I even put a sign on the front door, begging for an uninterrupted sleep period.

I believe I made the comment earlier that I would get to the point of exhaustion; & that I would probably crash & burn.  Well, I’ve been home 36 hrs now; & I’m still smoldering.  It was the most anticipated vacation of my lifetime; Antarctica, being at the top of my ‘bucket list’.  It was the most surreal; I could never have imagined such natural beauty.  And it certainly was one of the most active.  I’m not often speechless; but that’s what happens when someone asks me about this cruise.  The words, & even the photos, don’t do it justice.  Sick or was quite a ride!!!


Bostonwebbie said...

Don't you write anymore Becky?

Unknown said...

I will when & if I have something significant to tell. Took me 3 weeks to recover from the bronchitis & fractured rib (from coughing). Then it's been non-stop busy ever since. Hopefully, there will be other travel adventures......