Buenos Aires: A tour and a tango

by Guest bloggers Russ and Susan Rosenberry 18. September 2009 20:31

Guest bloggers Russ and Susan Rosenberry are owners of Islands in the Sun Cruises and Tours. You can find the original blog from their 2008 cruise around South American here, or visit the company's website at www.crus-sun.com.

 

Dec. 19 — When we arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina this morning, so had summer — with abundant sunshine the afternoon temperature reached 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Luckily the tour we had chosen for part of the day started fairly early in the morning. We chose a ‘highlights of Buenos Aires’ tour combined with an authentic tango show and lunch. Our guide spoke excellent English and we first traveled to the famed Recoleta Cemetery. This is located in an upscale ‘old money’ neighborhood of Buenos Aires that has become an important sight for tourists because Eva Duarte Peron — “Evita” — is currently layed to rest 18 feet below the Duarte family’s black marble mausoleum. Despite her short but controversial life and her death over fifty years ago,  she has been the most important woman in Argentina’s history to date, and fresh flowers are still left as daily mementos. This cemetery dates from 1822 and the sheer size of the cemetery and diversity and ornateness of many of the mausoleums makes it an interesting sight. (It recalls similarities with the above ground cemeteries in New Orleans.)

Buenos Aires is often called the Paris of South America, and the many apartment and government buildings decorated in Parisian style with the ornate iron grill work attest to this. The grand and wide ‘Avenue de 9 de Julio’ boulevard and with its many parks and obelisk reminds us ofthe Champs de Elysees in Paris. As the city and environs have grown to approximately 12 million, traffic has become a ‘headache,’ and you must allow adequate time to travel even short distances within the city.

Despite the traffic we were able to see many of the historic and impressive government buildings including the Casa Rosada. This is the ‘Pink House’ which holds the offices and residential quarters for Argentina’s president — currently a woman, Christina Kirchener — who recently succeeded her husband in office. La Boca was another very ‘colorful’ neighborhood — both literally and culturally — that we visited. Many of the original immigrants in this area were from Italy and they built inexpensive housing and other structures from corrugated iron that they then colorfully painted. There is an interesting selection of cafes, shops and street markets for tourists to enjoy here.

We also passed by the old but newly renovated port area, Port Madreo. It was the old, neglected port area of the city which had been completely abandoned and run down, but which now features many of the city’s best restaurants, hotels and international corporation headquarters. We then proceeded to the highlight of our tour: a tango show and luncheon at ‘La Ventana’ in the San Telmo neighborhood.

Tango shows and ‘culture’ have experienced quite a revival in Buenos Aires over the last 20 years, and locals and visitors have a wide variety of shows to experience most evenings. Tango shows during the daytime are not normal, however the cruise line arranged for one of the most popular shows to conduct an afternoon performance for a limited number of guests — it ‘sold out’ to a full house. A hearty lunch was followed by an hour-long show with a full tango band, complete with the important accordion section, both male and female tango singers, and four of the best tango dance couples you’ll ever see. The intensity and fancy footwork is an incredible sight to see up close and personal — and highly recommended.

Then before heading back to the ship, we and others interested in shopping and soaking up more of the local culture were dropped off at the famed ‘Calle Florida’ pedestrian shopping street. Many of the best and most popular buys were leather coats, purses, ‘gaucho related’ and woolen items. The street goes on for about four miles and is somewhat reminiscent of ‘Las Ramblas’ in Barcelona with the eclectic mix of street performers. The variety of stores is wide with upscale jewelry, leather goods and clothing stores side by side with less expensive souvenir shops. A grand old building from the 19th century was coverted into a large mall with many world class boutiques – ‘Gallerias Pacificos’.

We then had plenty of time to return to the ship before it’s 8:30 p.m. departure. It was certainly a port with a lot to offer and we hope to return again for further exploration in the future.

Sailing for Montevideo

by Guest bloggers Russ and Susan Rosenberry 18. September 2009 20:20

Guest bloggers Russ and Susan Rosenberry are owners of Islands in the Sun Cruises and Tours. You can find the original blog from their 2008 cruise around South American here, or visit the company's website at www.crus-sun.com.

 

Dec. 16 & 17 — We enjoyed two more relaxing sea days as we sailed northwest from the Falkland Islands to the middle of South American’s east coast. Our daylight grew a bit shorter each day, but this was offset by welcome warmer temperatures. We continued to have very calm seas fell into the comfortable ‘sea day’ rhythm of doing as much or as little as we wanted. We also learned that the passengers on our cruise represented 46 different countries — even more diverse than our crew. English continued to be the main language, but a few announcements were also made in Spanish and Portuguese.


Dec. 18 — A beautiful sunrise greeted us as we arrived at Montevideo
, the capital of Uruguay, this morning. This is the second smallest country in South America, and most of the three million inhabitants are of Spanish or Italian descent.

Montevideo is located on the very wide Rio de Plato – just a bit north of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The capital is an eclectic mix of older and very ‘European’ looking buildings along with more modern ones. A Spanish sailor is said to have given the name to the city when he spotted a nearby mountain from the crow’s nest and shouted “I see a mountain” – “Monte veo yo”.

There were numerous tour options to choose from today that concentrated on Montevideo or visits to estancias in the countryside to sample the highly acclaimed Uruguay wines and beef. However, we chose a tour that headed two hours east to the Atlantic Coast to visit the international beach resort of Punte del Este. This area was a small fishing village until the 1950’s and 60’s when visionaries realized its potential as a world-class resort. It is most popular with Brazilians and Argentineans.

The small resort city is well situated where the Atlantic Ocean and the Rio de Plato meet. It is a combination of high rise condominiums, casinos, restaurants, boutiques, yacht harbors and private homes and museums. It appears to be a very pleasant and safe place where a nice holiday could be enjoyed.

Exploring English islands

by Guest bloggers Russ and Susan Rosenberry 18. September 2009 20:11

Guest bloggers Russ and Susan Rosenberry are owners of Islands in the Sun Cruises and Tours. You can find the original blog from their 2008 cruise around South American here, or visit the company's website at www.crus-sun.com.


Dec. 15 — As we reached Stanley, in the Falkland Islands, rain was forecast, and the morning started off cloudy. But by 11:00 a.m. the sun broke through and it stayed bright and sunny for the rest of the day. However, despite the bright sunlight, dressing in layers was still necessary for comfort for touring around the island.

The Falkland Islands are a protectorate of the United Kingdom and comprise about 700 islands, although only the two major islands are inhabited. The total permanent population is now approximately 3,000 and about an additional 2,500 in military and support personnel from the UK live here as well. The islands were first discovered by the Spanish in the 1500’s and Europeans were the first human settlers. It’s sovereignty was transferred back and forth among several European nations until the early 1800’s when British rule solidly took over, and was only temporarily broken during the 3 month long ‘Falkland Islands’ conflict between Argentina and the UK in 1982.

In addition to war memorials and first hand stories from the locals that lived here then, one of the most visible remnants from that short conflict are the miles and miles of land that is still totally fenced off and unusable because of the large number of land mines that the Argentians planted. It is sad that there are not enough resources (after more than 25 years) to remove these mines and let this land be useable again.

Since most of the land is privately owned, in order to get to most of the island’s penguin colonies or other interesting sights it is required that you do this through an official tour. We decided to take the three-hour tour to Bluff Cove to see a large colony of over 1,000 breeding pairs of Gentoo penguins and also several breeding pairs of King penguins. The first 15 minutes of the tour out of Stanley was conducted on a mini-bus and we then transferred into land rover vehicles for an incredible 30-minute journey across an amazing landscape of rocky outcroppings and peat bogs. It was the first time I was in a four-wheel drive vehicle where all of its functionalities were put to the test. The journey was worth the effort for the amount of quality time we got to spend near the penguin colonies at sea’s edge, and the excellent photo opportunities.

After this exciting tour we returned to Stanley and went to the ‘Globe Tavern’ for some very British Fish & Chips. We also had time for some further sightseeing and shopping in town and then had a pleasant tender ride back to our ship.

Chilean Fjords

by Guest bloggers Russ and Susan Rosenberry 17. September 2009 20:37

Guest bloggers Russ and Susan Rosenberry are owners of Islands in the Sun Cruises and Tours. You can find the original blog from their 2008 cruise around South American here, or visit the company's website at www.crus-sun.com.

 

Dec. 9 & 10 – Two sea days traveling south off the Chilean coast, most of the time not in sight of land until the latter part of the second day, allowed time for relaxation and getting to know the comforts of the ship. We enjoyed visits to the health club, attending port and naturalist lectures, meeting an interesting mix of other ‘international’ passengers, and of course the delicious and bountiful food – available 24 hours a day.

On a two-week voyage like this it is such a treat to get fully unpacked and settle in to your ‘home away from home’ and find your favorite places on the ship. Our ship, the Star Princess, features three swimming pools, multiple hot tubs, a variety of theatres and lounges, several dining rooms and restaurants, library, internet café, a health club and spa, the innovative ‘Skywalkers Lounge’ (set like a ‘spoiler on the back of Deck 17 reached via a glass enclosed moving sidewalk), and the new ‘movies under the stars’, and so on. As we journeyed south our sunny and clear days grew increasingly longer with daylight lasting until about 11:00 pm. The temperatures also started to decline and winds picked up at times too, but the seas remained relatively calm.

Dec. 11, 2009 – We took the captain’s advice and set our wake-up call for 7:30 a.m. to view the entrance into the Chilean fjords, the Straits of Magellan and the beginning of glacier country. It turns out that we even woke up before our ‘call’ at 6:00 am and enjoyed the journey through balding mountains, some still topped with snow and others with some minor vegetation. Our major destination was the majestic Amalia Glacier in the Southern Patagonia Ice Fields. It reaches the sea at approximately half a mile wide, and 100 feet high. It is a tidewater glacier and at this time of year has lots of calving action and deposits many iceflows and mini icebergs on its march to the sea. In the surrounding mountains a myriad of other hanging glaciers can be seen. Sailing up to a thrilling glacier like this is a special ‘once in a lifetime experience’. It’s somewhat similar to Alaskan glaciers, but nestled in the beautiful Chilean Fjords with ample sea life and bird watching opportunities, it takes on another dimension. Viewing the sights from your balcony with warm clothing, a blanket and hot beverage creates memories that cannot be erased. Scenic sailing and smooth seas were the order of the day.

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