Dream 1-Saturday, May 12, 2007 was a very hectic day for me. I was stressed just because we had so much to do before our evening flight. All were fun things that I wouldn't have missed. I started out with meeting Bethany, Nicole and Sandy at AL'Mour bridal salon so Beth could try on gowns! She tried on some beauties and needless to say, looked gorgeous in every one. Then it was on to our next appointment at 11:30 at David's. That's where Bethany took our breath away when she appeared before the mirrors in the last dress. Sandy gasped and I documented it all with many photos. We then crossed the parking lot to Bahama Breeze where Alan met all of us for Mother's Day lunch. The girls presented me with a lovely basket with Chilean wine, their picture and books on Chile and Argentina. After a delicious meal, we hugged goodbye and I ran to my crochet chapter meeting in Rolling Meadows where I dropped off "stuff." I was in and out in 10 minutes and arrived home with time for 15 minutes of crochet to relax and catch my breath before the taxi came.
I call this the "Chile/Argentina Dream" because it is the first opportunity I have had in a long, long time to accompany Alan on one of his many exotic travels to do business in Latin America. It is a dream trip and you will see why if you read on!
We checked in at American Airlines right on time and then relaxed comfortably in the Admiral's Club until our flight to Miami at 6:30 PM. Alan got us upgrades to first class with AA points and guess who I spotted in the row behind us? Hulk Hogan!!!!! Whoopee! He was very quiet the whole time and mostly read. It was fun to watch people walk by, notice him, determine if it was really him and then punch their companion to point him out. (kinda like I did to Alan! Ha!) We only had 35 minutes in Miami to clear customs and get on our flight to Santiago.Our trip included a fairly decent meal at 10:30 and then attempts to sleep. Not bad, I must have slept because the time went fast!
Alan’s Area Rep, Francisco, from Argentina arrived Sunday night. We had a drink with him about 8:30 after a wonderful day together. Monday Alan and Francisco had many appointments to attend to so I was on my own. After breakfast with the men, I walked to the Metro station with them so I would know where it is. Then I had a leisurely morning in the hotel room finishing up a beaded bracelet I am giving to Francisco’s daughter. I also connected with Victoria, the mother of Nurse Judy’s sister-in-law. From her I got the number of a person who runs tours. This didn’t work out as she wanted $100.00 for a 3-hour city tour. That seemed too much for me, but Victoria was very gracious and also spoke so rapidly on the phone that she was hard to understand
Santiago has a lot of smog but the sun did peek through a couple of times yesterday. About 1:00 PM I ventured out and explored the immediate area around the hotel. I would say I covered a 10-block radius in three hours. It is fall here; the leaves are turning and the temperature was about 45 degrees. I felt very comfortable although I was cautious with my purse. There were noticeably few gringos. The dress was much more casual than I expected and I saw everything from jeans and sneakers to skirts and even a woman wearing an Andean blanket skirt. There was the proverbial dog in the doorway of a restaurant and I only saw a couple of beggars.
At two, there was a very noticeable explosion of people onto the street-LUNCH TIME. I found an Italian restaurant around 2:30 and ate some delicious ravioli with pesto sauce. The people are polite and friendly. I guess I did get some “second looks,” but don’t feel like I stood out too bad as a gringa alone in the city. I explored boutiques and saw some nice crocheted garments with some not so nice yarn. I saw various stores selling souvenirs, antiques and vintage clothing. At lunchtime, vendors spread their wares out on towels on the sidewalk. It is here that I brought a crocheted necklace with covered balls and beads for $4.00. I bought it not because I loved it so much, but because it is very similar to one that I designed for a jewelry book that is coming out in July. Either my design was incredibly bland or inspiration travels very fast! It does prove to me that my theory is true: “there is nothing new under the sun.” Besides, I was helping this lady’s income for the day!
I went through a department store called “Paris” and that was interesting. There were tons of purses, scarves and other accessories and even a Clinique counter! The ladies here tend to wear blazer jackets with a scarf or pashmina over it for warmth. I saw a great woven scarf that I thought Bethany would like, but I didn’t want to pay $18.00 for something that was imported from Indonesia! Here, the natural products are made from copper and lapis lazuli. I have seen some great earrings made from copper but no lapis lazuli yet. We are going out to Rancagua tomorrow which is in the countryside and wine country. I hope to find some goodies to bring home there.
By four, the crowds had thinned out and my feet were getting tired so I headed back to the hotel to rest and read. Alan and Francisco were back by five and we went out to dinner about 6:30. This is very early as customs go here, so not waiting in the Italian restaurant Francisco took us to. By 8:30 we could see the place starting to fill up as this is normal dinner time for the Chilenos. As we walked back at 9:00, there were still so many people on this street; it makes one wonder when they get any time at home. Businesses don’t start to open, though, until 10:00 AM.
Well, I guess I have rambled on enough for now and we will see what today brings as I venture out and give the Metro a try. Francisco assures me it is very easy. I am going to the central section where government offices are and we’ll see what else I find. I hear there is a yarn shop down in the entrance to the Metro!
The smog was extremely heavy and thus the sky so grey that there was no rush to go out today. I planned to head to the Metro at 11:00 or 12:00 and was enjoying some crochet when the phone rang. It was dear Senora Victoria and as I said, she really talks fast! So maybe she told me yesterday she would stop by or maybe she just stopped by unannounced because she had already been for an electrocariogram in the neighborhood. I didn't ask, but joined her in the lobby.
She invited me for coffee. We went to a lovely coffee shop across the street and I had my 3rd double expresso of the day! I've caught on how to do it: I ask for water added to it and it makes a great robust coffee. Cafe Americano is horrible and tastes like chlorine water!
Anyway, Victoria proposed to take me to a former Dominican Nunnery where they sell folk art. We debated between a bus or taxi but took a taxi because we had a bone-chilling,spitting rain. Once there, we spent an hour wandering around to get an idea of all the wares: silver and copper jewelry, some with lapis lazuli, many copper adornments and more scarves and shawls, plus many other goodies. Victoria was getting cold and it was clear she was preoccupied with the Maestros (painters) she left at her house working. I told her I would be fine if she wanted to leave and she agreed it was probably best. I walked her down to get a taxi and spent the next hour finalizing my purchases. Boy, I enjoyed it and am pleased with my purchases. It was so nice and hospitable of Victoria to take the time out of her busy day to come and meet me, a perfect stranger. She is 82; did I mention that? Thanks for introducing us, Nurse Judy! (who I suspect isn't even reading her email at work!)
I easily made my way home in a taxi and had lunch in a restaurant near the hotel. There, I had my first experience in "gringa awareness." I am fairly certain the waitress tried to cheat me by adding five dollars onto my bill. When I questioned $14.00 for a bowl of soup and french fries ( I know, strange lunch!) she blamed the cashier's math and had him "recalculate" the total. My tip off was when she helped me with my coat (completely out of character for her or the place). I figured she felt guilty for being caught! Pesos are the currency here and the exchange is 510 to 1 dollar. One thousand peso bills are common and are worth about $2.00.
I was surprised to have Alan return to the hotel shortly after I got there, finished with his work and Francisco ready to return to Argentina tonight!
We walked and explored Avenicda Providencia and found a decent German restaurant. Cold and tired, we retired to the hotel room about 8:00 PM. Tomorrow we can play a bit and we have Manuel, the taxi driver, reserved to take us to Santa Rita Winery about 100 miles from here. I should be a fun day and hopefully, a little warmer there. Thank goodness I brought two scares; they are coming in handy.
HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY TO ALL! Into our hotel room at the Sheraton by 10:30 AM, I was given a rose because they celebrate Mother's Day here just as big as we do. We were on the street by 11:00 to maximize the time because Alan has to work tomorrow. Our taxi driver, Juan Andres, took us to the City market where we explored and walked and waited for him at a cafe in a mall while having an express and doppio. I like coffee somewhere between "americano" and "express" and our waiter advised us that "doppio" is the word. We didn't realize it must have been an Italian cafe. You find out why later.
Next, Juan Andres took us to Rio de Bordo where there are many many restaurants with a view of the Andes. We chose one with Chilean fare and Alan enjoyed ceviche and corvina while I, not being of seafood mentality, dined on roast beef and potatoes. The chimichurri was added to everything. Yum! After enjoying dessert of pastel de mil hojas, we must have caused a scene trying to explain that I wanted "doppio" because the Italians sitting next to us helped us out and told us that in a Chilean restaurant it is "double." Conversation ensued with them and they had a precious little Chilean girl they adopted. I think the woman got a crush on Alan because while her husband was in the bathroom, she ran out the door to take a photo with him and then one with me!
Juan Andres was waiting for us and took us up into the foothills to see a view of the city before dropping us at the hotel. Unfortunately, the day was smoggy but nevertheless, we enjoyed the ride and saw some fabulous houses. By now it was four o'clock and we were starting to fade from a busy day and full tummies! After a relax and maybe a nap, we may have just a sopa tonight and catch up on our sleep. More from me tomorrow.
What a change in the weather: Our day started with glorious sunshine coming in the window. This was perfect because after a leisurely breakfast (I have been eating a lot of delicious kiwi), Manuel was waiting to take us about an hour south to the Santa Rita vineyards. It's Fall here and the air was crisp and sun very warm. As we traveled along the relatively new highway, we had great views of the snow-capped Andes 50 km away. Upon entering the vinyard, it was interesting to me that the leaves on the vines were vibrant Fall colors of reds, yellows and oranges. We could clearly see the bunches of grapes as they trim and control the vines so the machines that harvest can move through the rows easily.
While waiting on our tour to start at 12:00, we went through the Andean Museum. It had a very sleek looking architecture with huge glass windows and views of the vinyards. Inside was an amazing collection of archeologic artifacts. All had been collected over forty years by one man, the current owner of the vinyard. He created a foundation to preserve the collection to be enjoyed by the public. There were some impressive examples of textiles, dating from 1350 to 1470 AD, still with quite vibrant colors due to the arid climate in the north of Chile where they were found. It is one of the dryest climates in the world. I especially enjoyed an array of ceremonial hats in a large display case.
The tour of the winemaking process was interesting and kind of a deja vu of the tour we did last September in Mexico at the Herradura distillery. The process ranges from the mechanized bottling of 1500 per hour to the completely manual production of the very finest wine. Our tour included an exquisite lunch in the restaurant. It was really first class and we enjoyed beef dinners, actually the first we had had all week. Of course we had wine, a lovely cabernet sauvingon, palmitos (which we grew to love in Ecuador) and a to-die-for mushroom soup with whiskey cream.
Of course we stocked up on some wine at reasonably good prices for a certain someones who collect wine. I went back to the Museum to make some sketches of the Andean motifs in the hats I had admired. Manuel was waiting for us and he is such a gracias man who was willing to stop by the roadside for the silly gringos to snap a photo of a huge bunch of grapes! We also took his photo by the Sta. Rita sign at the entrance and it might be fun to send a copy of it back to him when we get home.
With the sun shining in the car window, our bellies full and the influence of the wine, both of us had to fight to not doze off. Back in the hotel room we did succumb to a nap; ah, the life! We were thrilled as the sun began to set to see the anow on the Andes reflecting the sun as a beautiful pink color. No dinner needed, we stepped out for coffee and dessert. I don't know how the Chileans handle so much coffee, but my gastroenterologist would not be pleased. We were noticing middle eastern music in the coffee shop and the strange name, Hamoody. It turns out the owner is Israeli and lived in Chicago for four years. He seemed lonely three days travel away from his family,but said he's going there in three weeks to introduce his new Chilean wife!
Good night to you all and we love and miss you!
Today our day was much more laid back; I slept 'til nine! Alan had a few hours of work to do on the computer, so we had a leisurely breakfast in the hotel and then spent the morning in the room. I always have crochet to do, so I don't mind quiet time at all. I had an article deadline to prepare and also spent a little time in the hotel gym. Quite an enjoyable start to the day.
It was two when we headed to the Metro and we went to Sts. Lucia Cerro. It is a huge outcropping where the city was founded in 1540. It is now a lovely barogque style building in the city's center and the outside patios are open to the public. From there we walked and walked and found a nice market where we made a few purchases and then strolled until we found the intersection of Paris and London streets where the architecture ranges from neo-clasical to gothic. It is a pleasant stroll along the cobblestone walkway to Avenida Bernardo Higgins who is the founder of the Republic.
By now, it was 4 PM and time for lunch, so we asked a man on the street for a suggestion and his choice was just around the corner, Tabla Italia.
Free of hunger once again, we headed down the Avenue to find "La Moneda" where Chile's Presidents once lived. Not that tall and designed to resist earthquakes, this building is considered one of the finest examples of colonial public buildings on the sub-continent. It is here that Salvador Allende supposedly committed suicide.
In front of the building, a plaza has statues of three former Presidents, including Salvador Allende, all facing each other. Although the air was cooling as the sun dropped behind buildings, it has been another very pleasant sunny day. Alan saw the hotel where he had stayed 25 years ago just off the plaza, Hotel Carrera. It was renting from the government then, but has now been taken back for use as offices for the Ministry of Foreign affairs.
We crossed over from the plaza to a street which brought back many memories for Alan although it is so different now. Then we decided to get back on the subway to our hotel neighborhood before the throngs decided to leave work and crowd the subway. We still haven't figured out quite when or if they work!
Back near the hotel we went into yet another coffee shop for a capuchino and express. The custom is to include small butter cookies with the coffee order so that satisfied our sweet cravings and we headed back in for the night.
Alan is heading to Antofagasta on a plane tomorrow. It's in northern Chile and will be a very long day of work for him. I will enjoy my day on my and see what I can up with to explore.
Ay ay ay, I haven't written in three days! We've had a really busy weekend, so here goes.....Alan left very early Friday morning for Antofagasta on a plane and I was on my own. After another leisurely morning of coffee and breakfast, I spent time in the room with crochet and email. I also sent in an outline for an article I plan on writing for a magazine. Hopefully, my idea will be accepted.
With my money pouch under my jacket, I set off for the same subway stop that Alan and I took yesterday. I returned to the Sta. Lucia area and the artisan museum we had seen but not gone to. It was more a mini-artisan market than a museum, but that was okay. Alan has a "thing" for t-shirts and I found a good one for him.
Next I headed on foot to find the Museum of Bellas Artes at Cerro San Cristobal at the north end of the Cerro Sta. Lucia. I suppose I walked three miles and it was a change of pace away from the extremely busy B. O'Higgins Ave. by the subway stop. I enjoyed walking by shops, restaurants and pedestrian walkways and the neighborhood feel. Using my map and retracing my steps only a couple of times, I got there.
The Bellas Artes is impressive, designed after the Petit Palais in Paris. Its sidewalks and entry steps are vast and it is across the street from the Forestal Park. Again, the day was sunny and crisp and beautiful. I was content to just look from outside and soak up the afternoon sun, with a growing hunger!
I returned via the same route and stopped for lunch about 3:30 closer to the Metro stop. The restaurant was bustling and nosy, mainly due to 3 cashiers who were shouting out orders to the waiters. As I watched, I decided that they were carrying out some kind of control system for the orders and the receipts. the Chileans don't readily smile anyway, so this shouting was a bit distracting. The steak and rice was satisfying and I was on my way.
We've noticed that there are very few English-speaking tourists here. It is nothing like the hordes of gringos you see in Mexico! There did happen to be one woman speaking English a couple of tables over from me, though. The service people seem to know English pretty well.
I finished my walk back to the Metro and upon exiting in the hotel neighborhood, I encountered a woman who had been on my mind all day because the bracelets she makes were calling to me. They are crocheted in wire with beads and only cost $4.00! I caught here just as she was packing up her wares to leave and showed her which two bracelets I wanted. She gave me a discount of one dollar. Since I had forgotten to take my charge card in the morning, I was running short on pesos, so I told her I would take only one bracelet. She insisted that I take both for the price, but I felt bad and dug into my pouch for whatever coins I had left and gave those to her. I hope they weren't dollar coins!
Back in the room, I crocheted and read until my 7 PM date with a capuchino and piece of lemon pie. Alan is expected at 10:30 PM, a really long day for him.
Alan had a very good day, although long, in Antofagasta and he was taken to visit the Lomas Badal mine about 72 miles out in the extremely arid desert. There he was most impressed by the trucks that were so huge that a man standing by one only reached halfway up the wheel, as well as a controlled explosion that shook the building he was in and, of course, the potential business.
We started out at 10:30 with Manuel heading first to Vina del Mar about one and one- half hours from the hotel. It is a lovely hillside resort town right on the sea with winding roads that go up and up. The houses are amazing structures built over every inch of the hillsides. It reminded us of Quito.
We were in the car most of the time with great vistas of the sea and the unique architecture. It is varied, colorful and an amazing feat to build the towering high rise apartments onto the hillsides. We stopped at a couple of look-outs to shoot photos and saw sea-lions in the distance lounging in the sun.
Manuel suggested a restaurant where we all ate fresh seafood and I had a "torta de choclo," which is a very typical Chelean casserole of ground meat, chicken, egg and cumin, covered with a layer of mashed sweet corn and baked until it is a golden crust. Delicious avocados, palm hearts and tomatoes completed the meal.
Just a mile away, we went on to Valparaiso after lunch. Manuel drove us all around to see the hghlights. We saw the Palace of the Presidents, where they relax on the weekends, high above the city. He took us to the dock where we saw huge ships loading 100's of containbers. The ornate government building for congress was directly across from the dock and it is where parades and speeches will take place on May 21, Independence Day. We then climbed some very steep inclines in the car to the highest point in the city where we could see the whole city. It was a magnificent view and we had our last chance to purchase mementos from the many vendors set up there.
On our way down the steep and winding two-way-which-should-have-been-one-way streets, only a honk warned us of an on-coming car. Again, very reminiscent of Quito!
Our last stop was one of Pablo Neruda's houses which is now a museum. He is an important Chilean poet and the house brought back memories of the house of Oswaldo Guyasamin in Quito, as it is set up high with views of the city and the entrance had an uncanny similarity to his, only smaller. I enjoyed seeing the structure and the bold blue and rust colors it is painted. From there, we headed back to Santiago and arrived by 6:30. It was really getting cool after dark and about 7:30 we strolled around the corner from the hotel for a slice of pizza. It was all we needed to warm our souls aftetr an enjoyable and stimulating day.
Our days in Santiago are ending and we finished our night packing up for the early flight to Buenos Aires on Sunday morning.
Just as I had started to get used to Santiago, we were off on another adventure! Our flight to Buenos Aires was at 9:30 am and for a while we didn't know if we would get out as the smog/fog was very heavy. By 9:00, though, the sun had appeared, the smog lifted and we were off on time, but not before we experiencedd a tremorthat lasted 6-8 seconds! The floor shook and hanging wine glasses clinked, but no one got excited! Just another experience to add to our list!
Francisco, roas and their 14 year old daughter, Roxanna, were waiting for us right outside of immigration and all smiles! We loaded into their VW Passat and were off to lunch at a seafood restaurant at the mouth of the River Plata (sliver). The aairport is quite a distanceout of thecity, so we got to see lots of views, including a glimpse of the Casa Rosada!
We had lovely Argentinian red wine and pasta/seafood selecions. I have neve had so much Italian food in one week in my life, but all delicious. I fear I am gaining weight, so back to the "real world" when we return. The sun was delightful again and we walked along the walkway of the doc a bit. Then we set off in the car for a city tour. Buenos Aires seems huge and has 10 million people! Yeah, huge it is! We ended up at the opposite end of the shore of the river on the north side at a yaght area where we had a cup of coffee about 5:00. We lost an hour from Chile, so it was really 6:00 in B.A.
We arrived at the hotal by 6:30 and Francisco offered to return later to take us to dinner. He lives fairly nearby and was willing to give us a break to freshen up, but we declined as we were tired. at bit later we stepped out for a walk and explored the neighborhood where we found a street market just finishing up for thye day. I did see some incrediby artistic macrame jewelry, but left it behind. I am kind of getting "up to here" with souvenier/chotsckes and why do I need another necklace?? We found a cafe and ate a light sandwich before retiring to the hotel and to catch up on email.
Our hotel-Casco-is neo-classic style and dates from 1890 and is in the very nice neighborhood of San Isidro. Its ceilings must be 15 feet high and the floors are wooden. There are creaks and squeaks that give it a certain charm. The huge iron gate at the entrance is managed electronically and they provide us with a very nice continental breakfast.
Francisco's daughter, Yanina, who is 25, was assigned to be my tour guide today while he and Alan were off to work. She arrived right on time, as I finished my coffee at 10:30, with a driver in tow. We were off to explore the city. The Ave. "El Libertador" runs the length of the city and goes for miles and miles. We passed many government and other important buildings,too numerous to mention, all with distinct European architecture. We got close enough to the Casa Rosada to see it, but the police had it cordoned off due to protests from the low economic class of people who were protesting the injustices done to them. Apparently, this is a frequent event in the area and people are annoyed more than impressed by it!
Our first stop was "La Boca." It's on the banks of the Riachuela River and is known as the area that gave birth to the tango. Historically, the buildings which are small rooms stacked on top of each other were bordellos. They are colorfully painted in a hodge podge of colors and now serve as high priced souvenier shops. Many artists also now live and work there and sell their paintings on the street. Couples also demonstrate the tango in the street or at restaurants for tips. It really is a beautful dance, as those of you who watch "Dancing with the Stars" well know, and very complicated to do. I am getting "up to here" with souveniers, especially hight-priced ones, so I am choosing carefully!
After a lot of nice walking in the sun on the pedestrian walkway and enjoying several "shows" of the tango, we set out for the opposite end of the city to the area known as the Ricoletta, which is an exclusive shopping area and also the name of the cemetary which is the resting place of many of the wealthiest and important Argentines, including Juan and Eva Peron. If any of you are wondering why I seem to be obsessed with Eva, it is because I kinda am. I am so proud to say that Nicole played the role of Evita right after high school in the community theatre and Bethany also played the part of one of the protesting workers. it was a great thrill of my life to see her perform this role and to see them both in their first show together. I got to know the history of Eva Peron and greatly admire her.
The avenue is lined with restaurants with a view of the cemetary! Yanina was almost apologetic for the view, but it is really just a brick wall. Yanina told me that the mausoleum of Juan and Eva is very sequestered and not accessible to view so we didn't go in. We ate at La Strada, yet another delicious Italian restaurant, where I had pumpkin ravioli in a delicious cream sauce.
For her age, Yanina is very mature and a delightful tour guide. The people here are fairly formal and quite polite. I was trying to imagine Nicole or Beth in the same position leading an almost-sixty year old woman around Chicago. Yanna explained that her father gave her this assignment so she could practice her
English and get more comfortable dealing with the public. She is studying to be a chef as well as taking French lessons and she will graduate in August.
I arrived back at the hotel just ahead of Alan, content with all I have seen today. Neither of us felt like eating a meal, although Francisco offered, so we just went around the cotner for a lite bite at a cafe. We both get quite worn out just from the effects of talking all day in Spanish and struggling to understand everything that is going on around us. The stimulation of so much new territory, not to mention the odd stares and questioning looks can wear one down. I do think the Argentines are a bit easier to understand; they don't speak as fast as the Chilenos. I have gained a new appreciation for what alan has done all these years. "Traveling for work" is not as glamourous as it seems all the time.
We were up at four to get to the airport for our 7:30 flight to Montevideo with Francisco, only to find that our flight was delayed an hour. A month ago the tower was hit by lightning and they have no radar, so they space out the flights a bit more now as the pilots are flying by insturments only! Yikes. It's only a 45 minute flight across the River de la Plata and we were greeted at the airport by the Founder of the company that Alan and Francisco would visit, Sr. Oswaldo Carretes, who is close to 80.
Once at the office, he introduced us to everyone Alan has known for years via email and phone and we had coffee while we chatted awhile. Liliana, a long-time employee, was assigned to take me out for the morning and show me around, which she did. A most hospitable lady, I enjoyed her very much. Montevideo is surrounded on three sides by water, so the waterfront is one of its main attractions. We saw lots of it from one end of the city to another, I believe. It seems in each country I have been in, they think we Americans like to shop. She was not an exception and took me to a their "best mall."
I had mentioned to her that I would like to find some yarn and as luck would have it she thought that "Manos de Uruguay" in the mall would be the place. When I heard this name, I just about died. As any of you who know my passion for crochet/yarn, will understand the thrill of finding "the source" of a yarn that I know and love! Manos is imported to the states and I have some of it, but that doesn't mean I can't have more! It turns out that the shop only had finished products like sweaters, scarves, ponchos and shawls, along with some other upscale folk art. It was a delight to visit and unfortunately, they didn't sell yarn. She then took me to an upscale leather shop in the mall where she insisted that the company wanted to buy me a gift so I should pick out purse. I was amazed and somewhat embarrassed by this unique but very Latin approach, but I was able to make a decision on a lovely and soft leather purse! I will treasure it for years to come as a memory of the generous hospitality of the Uruguyans.
We were directed to another location where I did find some pure wool to bring back. It seems Manos does not sell yarn at their retail outlets; it is probably all exported to the states! Soon after I return, I will be meeting with a group of designer friends at a trade show in Columbus, OH, and I wanted to bring them a sample of yarn for South American. Mission accomplished!
We returned to the office as the gentlemen were ready to go to lunch. Six of us had a delightful lunch at a parillada: all beef all the time! Delicious! Since I was shopping for yarn, it came out that one of the men's wives loved to crochet. They were intrigued by my involvement in the crochet guild, as well as my website which I referred them too. Francisco had told me the night before that his grandmother had taught him to knit and that he knows the seed stitch. I happned to let this out when he wasn't with us and he soon became the brunt of the men's light-hearted jokes. They teased him that he might be stopped in immigration because of the knitting needles in his briefcase! It was obvious that they have a great admiration for him and a long-standing relationship in business, so they could play with him a bit. They said they now know his history, pre-Gwen and post-Gwen!! It was fun and I really did enjoy this group of people.
By now, it was time for us to rush to the airport for our 6:00 pm flight. Back in B.A. Francisco insisted that he take us to eat again even though he only had coffee; this time in a gringo-like restaurant called "Kansas." Alan had steak; I had a stuffed potato. I know he was very tired and poor, poor the both of them had to get up at 3:00 the next morning for their trip to Brazil, so we didn't dawdle to get back to the hotel. I am staying in B.A. for the day and am assigned to Francisco's wife, Rosa.
Wow, I am about to get caught up to "real time" as I write today's blog. I hope all of you are well and HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Debbie W. and Debbie K and my father, Mart!
Rosa picked me up at noon and I had enjoyed a most leisurely morning, sipping coffee and writing my blog, feeling ever so sorry for Alan who had to get up so early!
We drove around for a while and especially along the waterfront. We ended up in an area know as "the delta" where the river is very wide and there are natural canals where lined with houses that are accessable only by boat. We ate lunch at a waterfront restaurant and it was delightful with strong sun pouring in the windows. I also heard a young woman speaking English at the next table (a rarity here). As we left, I greeted her and she is studying here from North Carolina and he mother was visiting. She must have been with a host "sister and mother" and her Spanish was very good. Rosa and I have been speaking English all day; she likes the practice.
After lunch we went to an area, El Tigre, where a lot of straw and cane weaving is done. There were many interesting shops along a little spit by the waterway. I enjoyed exploring in the sunshine but didn't see anything that was a "must have." I did buy Alan a cup and silver straw for drinking "mate." Mate is a very popular herbal tea mixture here and he has one variation he bought years ago made of cow horn. He will have to use it as decoration in his office!
From there we headed to a huge mall where she planned for us to have coffee. On the way she drove me through some neighborhoods to see the housing. There is some very interesting architecture here for houses, not unlike those in Mexico but still a little different. There is adobe with tile roofs, but also red brick with palm trees and cactus! Once at the mall, we wandered around a bit and I am sure it is a bit larger than Woodfield, with many familiar shops. She was aware that malls in other countries don't hold that much fasination for us Americans, but it was interesting to see. At last, with much insistence on my part, she let me treat for the coffee and lemon pie!
By now, I was pretty overstimulated and could imagine that she was tired from driving stick shift all day; although she wouldn't admit it. Still, she was willing to bring me to her house for awhile. I told her I preferred to return to the hotel to wait for Alan; he had called as they were boarding the plane for the two hour flight. I really wanted to get caught up on the emails and maybe I am beginning to get a little homesick!
So I will bid you adieu and maybe you will hear about our trip tomorrow to Mar de Plata tomorrow!
Good morning, all. It is Friday and I am posting about our first disasterous adventure of yesterday-----not to worry, we are okay and as they say, "all's well that ends well." Read on.....We are getting tired and it has been a hectic pace. Wed. night, Alan didn't get back from Brazil until 10:00 PM and we were kind of dreading having to be ready in the morning at 7:00 AM for our trip to Mar de Plata, 400 KM from BA, with Francisco, pero bueno! Any way, we set off as scheduled. It must have taken the good part of 1 1/2 hours to get out of Buenos Aires. It is an enormous city and the traffic was starting to get congested already at this hour. I began to get a clue about Francisco's driving or maybe it is Argentine driving. They don't honk as much as the Mexicans, but they do have a tendency to follow real close.
Alan had insisted that I sit in the front seat, which is unusual, but he wanted to do some paperwork on the road. Once we got to the highway, out of town, shear fear began to set in. Francisco says it's "normal" and that they have a system, but to pass someone in the left passing lane, he would come up to their bumper at speeds of 140-180 KM or more (90-110mph) and stay there until they moved over one lane. They didn't use their signal, so I never knew when they would glance in the rear view and decide to move over so he could pass. Wait, theire's more....As they started to move over, Francisco would plunge ahead at a greater speed, passing their left bumper with just inches to spare and then surge ahead even faster.
I didn't say a word, nor did Alan; I just started crocheting and praying to any and all Gods that would listen to me that I would arrive at the first rest stop without having a myocardial infarction!!!! Rosa had told me yesterday that he stops like clockwork after two hours on any trip, so I had hope this nightmare would end after two hours.
Well, it turns out that Alan had the bee-jesus scared out of him also and was a bit nauseous, and Alan is a fast driver himself! He had a talk with Francisco as we had coffee and came to the realization that driving 4 hours at these speeds to spend two hours at the beach town and return, was not how we wanted to spend our day!! We aborted the mission and Francisco sounded like he was okay with this plan and probably glad to gain some time because he is leaving on Sat. for a Trade Show in Russia! This whole episode was a combination of Alan not really thinking clearly about the overall plan and the enormity of distance for one day; and Francisco wanting to please the Americans, even though Rosa had questioned his logic.
Francisco slowed down, I went to the back seat and crocheted some more and we asked Francisco to drop us off in the city center and we would spend the afternoon on our own exploring around the government area. It was a gorgeous day and that is exactly what we did. We wandered along Calle Florida, a pedestrian walkway that crosses another,Lavalle. It's an intense area, reminiscent of the streets of NYC, where people are yelling to sell their wares, handing out coupons and blackmarket money changers trying to make deals. Stores sell everything and we found a coffee shop to sit and rest a bit.
Using our map, we walked some more and came upon a street market selling quite nice artistic crafs and we got to the Casa Rosada, as well. The sun still gorgeous, we took some photos and just sat there awhile, soaking in the meaning of the history of this country. From there, we walked until we found a restaurant that looked good and that it was. I am tiring of red meat, so I had a chicken breast, but Alan indulged in a huge steak! Refreshed, we headed out again to return to close where Fran. had left us off because Alan wanted to see a huge clock tower he had remembered from past trips.
By now, we were feeling confident and thought we would try the metro system to get to the Eva Peron Museum. Not knowing what our day would turn out to be, we didn't have the address. However, we asked and found out it was near the Botanic Garden near Plaza Italia and that we could reach it by subway. Worried that it would be closed, but with nothing to loose, we got off the Plaza Italia stop and after asking three different people, we arrived at the museum, open until 7:00. I was so happy and we thoroughly enjoyed the presentation of Evita's life in film, documents, art and photos. The house, which is historic and was once owned by Spaniards,was a treat also.
Very satisfied with how our day turned out, we took a taxi the rest of the way back to our hotel and had time for some rest before Francisco, Rosa and Roxanna came to pick us up for dinner at 8:00; our treat, but we had to insist! A parillada type restaurant, we enjoyed a great meal and and wine and were home by 11:00 looking forward to sleeping in on Friday with plans to be at Francisco's house for a home-style bar-b-que.
Friday is a national holiday in Argentina, pre-Independence Day, when they first decided they wanted to strive for independence from Spain. It was the first day on our hectic schedule where neither of us had an appointment to be somewhere early. We enjoyed a leisurely continental breakfast at the hotel on the sunny patio and started to think about how we would get everything back into our luggage on Sat!
Francisco had invited us to his house for a traditional Argentine parrillada (bbq) with the entire family: wife, four daughters, grandson, his parents, her mother. The son in laws were both working, so we didn't meet them. What a delightful family they are. They made it a celebration of my birthday, much to my surprise! Francisco had lit the coals to perfection early in the morning and grilled a large variety of meats. He first served us grilled provolone; had I told you both families are of Italian decent? Then he began bringing out the different meats, one at a time, about every ten minutes.
We started with sausage, including blood sausage. Aside from the blood sausage, which I didn't eat, this had to be the best sausage I have had in a long while. There was bread and a simple salad and the meat kept coming: various cuts from beef shortribs to chuck and who knows what. We were stuffed and later Rosa said that sometimes he even cooks more varieties including chicken and fish. Yanina made a ricotta cheese cake with one candle and there was a champagne toast. The four year old grandson, Valentin, led everyone in singing Happy Birthday to me in English!
It was a very relaxed time together with lots of conversation. They shared a lot of history of their family and the country and had questions for us about how we do this or that, incuding politics. Francisco's father likes to tell jokes too; all in all most enjoyable. About four, the group started breaking up as grandpa was getting tired, one daughter had to go to work, the youngest was meeting friends at the mall, etc. All of this had the feel of a typical American family on a holiday weekend. While Roxanna was still there, I gave her and her mother the crocheted gifts I had brought them: a pink bead-crochet spiral bracelet for Roxanna and a free form bead-crochet pin with cabachon for Rosa. Now that I know Yanina (chef) better,
I will buy a copy of Rick Bayless' recipe book from the Frontera Grill and send to her. They were very appreciate and Luisa was quite intrigued as she does all kinds of needlework, including crochet. After I explained the technique to her, she said she will give it a try. We had brought some Johnny Walker for Francisco and a huge coffee table book of Chicago for the family. It is quite a nice book of photos and together they enjoyed looking all through it right away.
Rosa had to carpool to the mall, so the men did the dishes as I sat and talked with Luisa, Rosa's mother. She was just a doll at 82 and by all apperances, quite a feminist in her day.
Francisco says with some disdain that his father is still a Peronista. They were in business together at one point, but today Francisco has other ideas about how to do business so is on his own. We were surprised that no one had visited the Eva Peron Museum that we saw the day before. Luisa said she was now motivated to pay a visit there. This is not unlike Chicago for us, where one must study the guide books to know about some of the gems of the city.
When Rosa returned, she was shocked that the dishes were done and no less, that they had been done by the men. As evidence, I had taken a photo of them, gleefully encouraged by Rosa!
By now, it was almost time for Rosa and her mother to go to church to remember/celebrate the 33rd anniversary of the death of Luisa's mother; and Francisco had not yet begun to pack for Russia! We said our goodbyes and he took us back to our hotel where we had one last coffee in the neighborhood. Tomorrow we will have a free day to finish packing, wander the neighborhood and get ready for our 10 PM flight to the USA!! We have no desire to get back into a taxi in the traffic of a holiday weekend; we will be on foot! We will back at home Sunday morning the 27th and will look forward to seeing each and every one of you at some point soon!
The trip is over and it wasn't a dream after all! It was real and it was wonderful. I realize, as I talk to people back at home, how lucky Alan and I have been to have had the opportunity to see other parts of the world. Alan, especially, has seen so much of the world and it is a privilege to be able to understand how other people live and work and to get to know their culture, lives and art.
We have been home for two weeks and the time has sailed so quickly. We've been so busy it feels like we have been home longer! We arrived home Sunday, May 27 around noon after flying all night and spending a bit of time at OHare tracking down one piece of luggage that took a later flight!
I feel a need for closure on this trip, so I will back up and report about our last day in Buenos Aires. Our flight was not until 10 PM, so we had the whole day to ourselves. Again, we enjoyed a glorious leisurely morning and the buffet in the sunny breakfast nook of the hotel. At midday, we set out to re-visit the artisan market we had happened upon as it was closing our first day there. We got to see it all and thoroughly enjoyed spending our last pesos! I found it interesting that the vendors weren't really all that concerned about selling their wares. The sun was warm and they seemed more than happy to just sit and chat with their friends. It is very unlike Mexico where the vendors are after you to buy the minute they see you. The Argentinian vendors make a point of saying, "You can touch with no obligation to buy." They don't even seem disappointed if you pass them up and don't purchase.
We walked a few blocks to a shopping area where we found lively activity: people strolling, eating in outdoor cafes and we visited yet another artisan shop, with more of the same and higher prices. I was about maxxed out by then and Alan had a hankering for "Milanesa." We checked menus at a few restaurants to no avail, so we headed back toward the hotel where there was a coffee shop that we had frequented with a restaurant on the roof top. It was Alan's only hope for his last Argentinian meal to be milanesa! Even though it wasn't on the menu, they had it! Lucky that we asked the waiter! The ambience was fabulous and the milanesa satisfying. Yes, I had a great meal too, but I won't bore you with the deatils except to say that the breadsticks were really yummy. Diet here I come!
There was no rush, as the hotel was so kind to let us leave our bags in our room. We savored our last bit of leisure time before the long trip home, just remembering all we had seen and appreciated and feeling a bit ready to be back home, as well. The hotel staff had also arranged for a private taxi driver to take us to the airport. Dressed in a suit and tie, he was an elderly gentleman, so cute and polite. He was spending his Sunday working and called his wife on his cell phone to check on her. He gave us a mini-tour of all the sites he was proud of en route to the airport and arrived with time to spare before our flight. This is a good thing when you are full to the brim with satisfaction from a dream vacation and slightly homesick as well. The rest is history!
Love, Alan and Gwen