I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










Entries in Argentina (4)


Good to be home




On Saturday night, as we sat in the balmy, Buenos Aires evening air overlooking the new docklands area, we reflected on our recent travels.  Sure, there were a few shortcomings but you know what?  We had a great time!  But sitting here, my Hero observed that really, there were no clues to our location – well, apart from the socking great hunk of beef that was being grilled a stone’s throw away, that is Winking smile.  But he was right – looking out over the new office blocks, the classic modern water landscape with a few yachts, restaurants and smart shops could have been anywhere in the world: Vancouver, Sydney, London…in a mad moment, he even suggested Gloucester!

Well, the wine was excellent and we were in good spirits.  We were here, in Buenos Aires, enjoying dinner in Cabana Las Lilas on the last night of our holiday.




I ordered the smallest, choicest cut, just 875g.  Good grief.  No, I didn’t manage to finish it sadly, because it was easily the tastiest, juiciest most delicious piece of meat I’ve eaten in ages.  Oh, Argentina!




Yesterday morning, then, it was time to leave.  I snagged a decent shot of the British tower as we left.




Waiting for our flight, we feared the worst as a small child appeared to be playing a drum in front of us in the queue.  What sane person would give a child such a thing to take on a 13 hour flight?!  But our fears were unfounded – phew – the child was merely beating the base of a signpost to death!  Thankfully, our flight was comfortable once we’d got four or five hours of turbulence out of the way – it was a windy night, we were advised.




As we took off, we flew over the city towards the Rio de la Plata before banking and turning north.




Somewhere down there on the riverside, my hero spotted our home for the last three weeks.  Funny to think they’ll be in Montevideo again today whilst we are back here in our comfy, cosy home.

We’re glad to be here, too.


In Buenos Aires


Well, we’ve disembarked.  Our cruise has come to an end here in Buenos Aires and tomorrow, the ship will sail without us on the next leg of the journey to Rio.  We’d originally booked that section as well but thought better of it and cancelled.  This morning, as we packed our bags, we felt we’d done the right thing.  It’s time to go home.

Except, not quite yet!  We have a day to ourselves in BA and don’t fly home till tomorrow.  There is something about this city that I really like and I was looking forward to a bit of fun.




So, we checked into our hotel and after a bit of a breather, headed out to see what was going on.  We knew of a flea market in San Telmo, where we’d been yesterday, and thought that might make a focus to aim for.




We’ve actually been here twice before; the last time was about ten years ago when we spent a week in Argentina on our way home from New Zealand.  We walked our feet off around the city that time and sure enough, it all came back to us as soon as we turned into the Plaza San Martin.  We walked down Calle Florida, then, just like in those days.




The cashmere sweater shops were still here, with amazing prices.  There are 20 Argentinian Pesos ($) to the pound, by the way.




Above street level there are some truly gorgeous buildings with fine architectural details.




But beware of looking up at them too long, because underfoot are quite a few hazards.  Yes, Buenos Aires has been going through some tough times and it shows.




We were heading into the Plaza de Mayo, the main square with the Casa Rosada at one end.




There it is, beyond the monument, the balcony where Eva Peron stood and sang “Don’t cry for me Argentina” – well, at least, in someone’s imagination, but definitely not in real life Smile




Here is the centre for all protests, including the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo whose white headscarves are painted on the ground alongside outlines of the disappeared.




Just beyond that spot was the street which we understood led to the flea market.  Actually, there was a market going on right inside the street here, so we crossed the road and headed in that direction.




I‘m not sure the goods on sale would really constitute a flea market in my opinion, but never mind, we carried on to see what’s what.




There were fine buildings with interesting old signs.  Nothing we wanted to buy though.




Oho, I could put on my own bola show when we get home, maybe, and pretend to be a gaucho? (I still haven’t told you about that, have I?)




We decided instead to sit by the side with a beer and watch the world go by a while.  Watch the children picking bottle caps from the cobbles, too.




Across the way, something was cooking.   You are never far from a piece of grilled meat in Buenos Aires, believe me!




Tempting though it was, we kept walking.  We have plans for later.




But there really was plenty of temptation!




As always, we were drawn to some live music.  This group were playing tango music down a small side street and so we stood happily in the shade and listened a while.




I’m pleased we did – otherwise, I’d not have seen this great piece of graffiti.




Or this pretty house, falling to pieces right now, but just imagine how beautiful it could be with a bit of investment.




For now, these houses are locked and bolted and are in need of love.




Soon, we were in the square where the real flea market was being held but once again, I could hear tango music.  Actually, wherever you walk in BA, there’s tango music playing somewhere, but when it’s live, it immediately captures my attention.




We stood on the shady corner of a “Calle de Tango” named after Mariano Mores, watching a group play and thinking there was going to be some dancing soon.  They had laid out a sheet of board in front of them on top of the cobbles and there was no other reason we could think of to have it there.




Then he appeared.  A gentleman of a certain age, wearing a hat tipped forward and with a definite glint in his eye.  In not time, he’d got one of the women dancing – not really a tango, but something of the kind!  What a rascal he looks, don’t you agree?




We took a different route back, not wishing to mooch through all those market stalls again at a snails pace.




Even in the back streets, there’s always something to see and photograph.




And plenty of small corner restaurants offering tasty dishes.  Hmmm…




All through the city, we came across small groups of policemen.  One group appeared to be trying on each other’s hats, another was undoing new high-vis uniform pieces and trying them on.  Were they cadets?  Special constables?  Or just normal police officers going about their jobs on a quiet Sunday afternoon?  We had no idea.




We walked as far as the Avenida 9 Julio and walked a block or so before turning right towards our hotel.  We were getting tired and it was very hot.




Remember, I said you’re never far from a piece of grilled meat in BA?




As we turned into Florida to walk the last stretch back, we spotted an ice cream shop.  Having made our purchases we perched on the edge of the windowsill of a bank opposite and sat eating it, musing about the day.  Suddenly, two women ran down the street and seemed to be running away from something.  Other people began to look – what was happening?

Next thing we knew, a young man was running shouting towards us from the street where we’d just walked.  He was being chased by a couple of police officers (wearing new high vis vests!) and was clearly running from someone else too.  The police officers grabbed him and sure enough, another man who’d been chasing him was rugby-tackled to the ground right in front of our eyes!




Whilst they tried to calm the chaser down – his head on the pavement above,




They brought the other – shirtless – man alongside us and began to ask a few questions.  How amazing that there were so many police officers instantly on the scene!  Two police cars too.  We watched a while until we’d finished our ice creams and then continued on our way.

Too much entertainment!




I took a few last photographs of grand buildings and a reminder of what Buenos Aires was like in its heyday and we were almost back.




I had intended to go over and take a photo of the Falklands – sorry, Malvinas – memorial in the park there, but my feet wouldn’t let me!  I have a photograph at home which I may post in a few days time instead.




It’s opposite the tower built by the British from materials imported from the UK to commemorate the May revolution.  Sorry the tree got in the way!

Footsore and feeling a little overheated, we retreated to our cool, air conditioned room having bumped into a couple of our on board neighbours in the street outside, waiting for the bus back to the ship.  Did we wish we were waiting for that bus to return to our comfortable suite on board?  Well, not really.  We said goodbye to our friends this morning and look forward to being back in our own little Cotswold village soon. 

Not before we’ve had dinner, though.  Argentine style.  You know what that means?


It takes two


We chose and booked our places for each of the activities and tours some months ago and occasionally have a change of heart.  Sometimes, what seemed like a good idea at the time turns out to be too much in a busy schedule, or perhaps doesn’t seem to give us a chance to discover a place to the extent to which we’d like.

Sometimes, we look at our ticket and wonder what on earth we were thinking!

A couple of days ago I returned to the Destinations desk to say I felt we’d made a mistake.  “Tango Masterclass” in Buenos Aires?  M a s t e r c l a s s ?  I explained we were rank beginners and as such, didn’t really feel such a class would be appropriate.  We’d better switch to “The highlights of Buenos Aires” or something instead.

The young Argentinian staff member wouldn’t let me.  “Mrs Thomas, you will have such fun, believe me!  Please, stick with it and see”.  (Well, she would say that, wouldn’t she?)




This morning, a dozen or so of us headed to La Ventana Tangueria, where this delightful couple was waiting to teach us to tango.  We needn’t have worried about being out of our depth, for not everyone had danced before and even those who had were no tango experts.

We started at the beginning then.

Eight steps…one two and three were a piece of cake, but four five and six were a bit tricky for me, involving crossing my feet and transferring my weight from one foot to the other.  Seven and eight just involved going back to the beginning, which was fine if I’d managed five and six but otherwise, were a muddle.

Slowly, though, I got the hang of it and having a hero to lean on made it a bit easier…unless we both lost the plot somewhere along the line and got the giggles.  For fifteen minutes or so, we practised, practised, practised under the expert eye of the professionals, who occasionally took our hands and gave us 1:1 guidance – oh my!




Having got to grips with that basic eight-step process, we were shown how to add in a few twirls – four swivel turns, to add a little flourish.  Oooo.  My excuse was that I needed a pair of heels to dance in, really, to make that swivel easier.  It might have been easier too, had we both had the same flat stomachs as our teachers, but looking around the room, most of us shared that particular challenge Winking smile

Our lesson ended with a glass of wine, the music turned up and an invitation to put everything we’d learned together.  Can you believe we really did dance the tango in Buenos Aires!?

Great fun!  (and thank you to Gabriela for persuading me to stick with it!)


The end of the world


…and the beginning of everything. 

So goes the tag line of Ushuaia, the most southerly city in the world (or is it?)




We spent the morning sailing through the Beagle Channel, between spectacular peaks in the most glorious weather.




Our Chilean pilot transferred his responsibilities to his Argentinian counterpart and buzzed off in a small boat – to where?  Nowhere we could see.  This whole landscape is deserted with not a sign of habitation anywhere.




We made the same manoeuvre to approach Ushuaia as on our previous visit, on board the P&O Oriana.  We sailed right past the port before making a tight turn and coming back in the opposite direction.




We were all looking out for wildlife, hoping that a seal might just pop his head up in time!  We’ve had plenty of distant sightings of whales, albatrosses have been buzzing the ship and swooping low and there have been cormorants a plenty.  But so far, I’ve not managed to snag a decent photograph of anything.




We berth right in the centre of Ushuaia, alongside the Ponant Lyrial, the Ocean Endeavour and the Plancius, all preparing for Antarctic expeditions, because Ushuaia is the jumping off point for such journeys.




We chose to board a slightly less adventurous vessel – the catamaran which would take us to a couple of islands in the Beagle Channel and then to the Tierra del Fuego National Park and our tour began with a brisk walk over the pier.




Off we set, travelling eastwards into the Beagle Channel, getting a grand view of Ushuaia’s airport and the Andes backdrop.




Now this was a wildlife tour so we began to look closely at anything on a beach…but these are stones!




At this point, I decided to hotfoot it upstairs, to the open deck on top of the catamaran.  Breezy?  Yes!  But this was surely the best place to be.




The obligatory flag shot.




As we approached the three small islands, the naturalist described it as “the white, guano-covered rock”.  Except that many of our group hadn’t heard the word guano before.  I’ll leave you to imagine the resultant conversation and the amazement when it was learned that fortunes had been made on such basic stuff.




I could see a few birds on the island and thankfully, they were not flying around our heads, or else I’d have scooted downstairs pretty fast!




There was a lighthouse too, solar powered now, we were told.




I caught sight of two rather pretty grey ducks.




What a fantastic morning!




Cameras were clicking non-stop, because the light and the colours were incredible.  The air is so crisp and clear, too.




We headed back around the guano covered rock for a closer look at the cormorants.




I gasped as a small storm petrel landed right in front of me – no not this close (I used my zoom) but close enough, thank you.




I gritted my teeth and took the picture.  Well, I really felt I must, all things considered!




I was more comfortable sailing by the other island.  Here, an assortment of sea lions and seals were basking in the sunshine.




It was explained several times over that a sea lion has a rounded snout and a seal has a pointy nose, but some around us still didn’t quite get it!




Mother and baby were coming out having had a dip.




But mostly, they were all just sunning themselves and doing not very much.




Having seen the wildlife, the catamaran put on a bit of speed and we zoomed straight past Ushuaia (again) and headed for the entrance to the Tierra del Fuego National Park




Getting off the catamaran was a bit precarious, but hey, we are all used to hopping on and off gangplanks and tenders now – no problem!




“zorro” doesn’t feature in my Spanish vocabulary, but we won’t feed them, whatever they are.




And as we sat waiting for our driver, there was a reminder that we are now in Argentina – the man opposite topped up his mate cup and sipped it pensively.




We had a short ride through lightly wooded areas to our next stop.  I tried to get a decent picture of the green lichen-like growths on the trees here and was going to ask what it was.  Actually, our guide beat me to it and explained it’s a form of mistletoe.




Next stop was the station, to catch the End of the World Train back to Ushuaia.




Diego was our guard, although having made this announcement, he switched on the recorded commentary and settled into his cab to play a game on his phone.




It was a bit of a “toy train”, but had actually got real historic credentials having been built to transport prisoners.




The areas cleared of trees by the prisoners were in stark contrast to the rest of the park and the pale grey, dry stumps littered the landscape in an eerie way.




We made one stop, where everyone piled out to take a picture of the engine and/or the Macarena Waterfalls.




Then, all aboard once more for the last stretch into Ushuaia.




Mind the Gap is so much more succinct, don’t you think?




Once at the station, the bus was waiting to take us back into town.




This was where it was clear to see Ushuaia developing and growing.  Many, many houses and apartments are being built to house the people who are arriving from all parts of Argentina to make their living here at the end of the world.  Mostly young, 80% are under 35 – or thereabouts (just remembering from the conversation with our guide…don’t quote me!)




My hero and I hopped off the bus in town, so we could have a wander around before making our own way back to the ship.  We wanted to see how it had changed in the intervening years.  So, after a flag shot of the Tierra del Fuego flag, we headed for the main street.




Well, in many ways, it’s the same.  There are still the same souvenir shops, the outdoor clothing stores and the cafes and bars.  But somehow along the way, it’s lost its cutesy character which was a shame.  Well, hardly surprising, though.




I quite liked the T shirt models.




We were ready for home now, really, so made our way across the busy road junction to the port.




As we did, I stopped to take a photo of the memorial to Evita.




Oh, and we had to have a photo of the “fin del mundo” sign – though quite who those people are, I have no idea!




And that was that.  We were blown back along the pier by such strong winds that at times, I thought I might blow away!  The two expedition ships had sailed for Antarctica, though the Lyrial was still there alongside Mariner.




On this occasion, we won’t sail around Cape Horn, which is an island to the south of here.  We have fond memories of rounding the Horn on Oriana, however, so didn’t feel cheated in any way.  We did, however, feel cheated a short while after leaving Ushuaia, though, when the Captain made an announcement that we appear to have a fishing net around one of our propellers and as a result, can’t make the speed necessary to include a stop in the Falkland Islands as planned.


We knew that the weather in the Falklands is notoriously fickle and that there was a chance that we might not get there.  But the weather is fine and we’d hoped for better.  There was an air of disappointment on the ship tonight, then, and a few mutterings amongst the groups of people in the bar.  There’s nothing to be done, but it is another brick in the wall, that’s for sure.