It’s An Adventure, Right?

We’re in Paris! The view from our kitchen window.

We wondered at times though if we were ever going to make it to Paris or in what condition. Starting two days before we traveled our plans and budget seemed to be unraveling, but thankfully it all worked out and here we are. We’re sore and jet-lagged, but all in one piece with an intact budget, ready to get out and explore the City of Lights, our first stop in France.

Our first indication that things might not be going as planned was when we tried to check in online for our flight to Paris 48 hours in advance (as requested), and got a notification that Air Europa was unable to complete our check-in and would we please see someone at the airport? We also learned for the first time that we had somehow purchased “lite” fares on Air Europa, meaning the cost of checking our bags was going to cost an additional $300 at the airport. When I booked the tickets the price included one checked bag each, up to 50 pounds, but now we were being told something different.

Minor panic set in.

We spent our last day in Uruguay packing and resting because we knew we would be facing a long, long flight on Thursday, and we worried most of the day that something was wrong with our tickets. But that evening we tried checking in again and were successful, although apparently not for the second leg of the trip, from Madrid to Paris. As that flight would be on Air France versus Air Europa, Brett decided to check the Air France site and discovered we had also been checked in for that flight. Yeah! We also decided to pay 40€ at check-in to make sure we sat together rather than let Air Europa randomly pick seats for us. However, we still had that $300 luggage fee hanging over our heads. We had read if we could pre-check the bags online it would only cost $100 per bag instead of $150 for airport check-in, but the Air Europa baggage check site did not work for us.

We were feeling a little less panicked, but still  . . . .

Thursday morning we were up bright and early and outside at 8:00 a.m. waiting for our driver to pick us up for the drive to Carrasco airport (remises are the recommended way to get to the airport in Montevideo – $36US for a private driver versus around $55US for a taxi). He finally showed up a little before 9:00 – the transport company had supposedly given him the wrong time. Whatever – he was a very pleasant man, and we had a lovely drive along the Rambla out to the airport, a nice way to say good-bye to Uruguay. We went straight to check in and learned our bags would be checked through to Paris and there would be no baggage fees! It turned out our entire flight was booked with Air France, with the flight to Madrid operated by Air Europa, and not the reverse as we had thought. Air France did not charge for the first checked bag, so no fees for us! We relaxed a little and went for coffee, and I enjoyed a couple of last empanada before boarding begin.

Every (cramped) seat on the plane was taken, but boarding went well and we began our taxi on time only to stop after a couple of minutes. Eventually the pilot announced there was a mechanical problem and we would be returning to the gate. Sigh. About 30 minutes later though the problem was fixed, we taxied out to the runway and took off for Madrid around an hour later than scheduled, meaning we would miss our connecting flight to Paris. Sigh again.

The flight was, to put it nicely, brutal. We spent 12 and a half hours in very, very cramped seats. The two middle-aged women in front of us fully reclined their seats almost immediately after take-off and left them that way the entire flight giving us about six inches of space. When I would recline my seat, the woman in back of me would tap me on the shoulder to put it back up (she also kicked my seat repeatedly). Brett sat on the aisle and was hit on the head or pushed and had water spilled on him among other indignities. The movies advertised were not the movies available, which were old and uninteresting. Thankfully the food was OK. I was able to sleep for a while thanks to my TRTL neck pillow, but for most of the flight I kept reminding myself “it’s an adventure, right?” We had paid for cheap seats and we got what we paid for.

Sunrise at the Madrid airport – we arrived at 6:20 a.m., right as our original flight to Paris was taking off.

A couple of hours before we landed, gates were announced for new flight connections. However, a flight attendant came to us personally with information about our connection. And, when we landed in Madrid a representative from Air France was at the gate to personally greet us and hand us our new boarding passes! Apparently we had been the only passengers ticketed by Air France versus Air Europa, and who were flying to Charles de Gaulle versus Orly airport.

Looking out over Spain on our way to Paris.

Our big concern had become whether our luggage would make it to Paris or not because of the changes, but there it was in Paris and so off we went to catch a taxi to our Airbnb rental. The taxi was a flat-rate 50€, well worth it because in our exhausted condition we did not have to haul luggage up or down stairs or on and off a bus or train, or try to figure out the Metro, and because our driver turned out to be a lovely man originally from the Ivory Coast who had lived in Paris for 50 years. He spoke a little English and his taxi was a Mercedes(!) so we had a very comfortable ride over to Montmartre. Although neither of us is particularly suspicious, we figured out during the drive that our flight to Europe had been on the 13th of the month, and wondered if that was why everything had been off a bit.

Our Montmartre apartment was built in 1908; it sits across the street from a small park.

Our Airbnb is fantastic! The apartment building was constructed in 1908, so the rooms all have 12-14 foot ceilings with original, ornate moldings, and tall windows that overlook a small park across the street. We have every modern convenience though, including a dishwasher and induction stove, and the bed is extremely comfortable. Our hosts are a lovely older couple, around the same ages we are, and they left us some treats including a very nice bottle of Bordeaux! Before we collapsed, Brett and I walked down the street a bit and purchased a quiche Lorraine, a baguette and two croissant from a boulangerie, and found a small supermarket and bought a few supplies (cheese, butter, jam, fruit, soup, and a bottle of Chardonnay). We fell asleep around 5:00 p.m. but woke up again at 2:00 a.m. and enjoyed a slice of the extremely delicious quiche before falling asleep again. We awoke about 10:00 a.m. this morning, and both of us have our fingers crossed that the jet lag won’t be too bad this time.

Original moldings adorn the ceilings throughout the apartment.

But, we are in Paris! We’re moving slowly this morning – we enjoyed coffee and croissants for breakfast, and will go out later this afternoon to figure out the Metro. There’s a station just down the street, and we plan to buy a book of passes. We’re very happy too that we will have no more flights for another five weeks – all our travel throughout France will be by train and car.

So, the adventure continues!

A Stroll Through the Old City of Montevideo

Palacio Salvo looks over Montevideo’s Plaza Independencia

We had planned to go on a free walking tour this morning, but Brett was feeling a little under the weather yesterday evening, and still not 100% when we woke up this morning. The tour company we were planning to use offered a second tour in the afternoon, but after checking out their website we realized that a) the tour finished at a spot about as far from our apartment as possible, and b) it started and ended too late in the day for us. Brett was feeling back to normal though by noon, so blessed with a beautiful day and armed with a map and comfortable shoes we set out to do our own walking tour of Montevideo’s Old City.

The recreated Ciudadela gate to the old city, with Palacio Salvo in the back

The old quarter of Montevideo is located at the south end of the city, near a natural harbor in the Rio de la Plata. Entrance to this part of the city in the past was through the Cuidadela gate of an old fort that guarded the harbor and the city. The fort no longer exists, but a recreation of the gate was erected in 2009

The imposing statue of José Gervasio Artigas sits in the middle of Plaza Independencia, over his mausoleum.

We began our tour at Plaza Independencia, which sits in between Central Montevideo and the Old City at the end of 18 de Julio Avenue, Montevideo’s main thoroughfare through the city (our apartment is located less than a mile from the Plaza). The center of this large square is dominated by a statue of José Gervasio Artigas, the “father of Uruguayan nationhood,” and one of Uruguay’s national heroes. His mausoleum sits under the statue and is guarded by members of a cavalry guard that has existed since colonial times. Located at the edge of the square is the imposing Palacio Salvo, built in 1928 and for a while the tallest building in Latin America. Originally planned as a hotel, the Palacio instead has been occupied by offices and private residences since its creation. The front of the Palacio at the ground level is an open galleria which currently contains sculptures created from scrap metal.

Teatro Solis

Leaving the Plaza, Brett and I headed over to check out the Teatro Solis, built in 1856 and still housing the Uruguay National Theater. Banners hanging in front advertised opera, Beethoven, flamenco and modern dance offerings, all upcoming at the theater.

Sparkling street art in the old city.

It was a short walk from the theater over to Peatonales Sarandi, an old cobblestone street now closed to vehicular traffic that’s lined with beautiful old buildings containing shops and restaurants. This street runs from Plaza Independencia almost all the way down to the Rio de La Plata. A scattering of vendors were on the sides of the street selling all sorts of goods, and there were various musicians along the way too (some definitely better than others).

The trees in Plaza Matriz’s are almost ready to leaf out, which will make this pretty little plaza even lovelier.

The Metropolitan Cathedral dominates one side of Plaza Matriz.

The Peatonales Sarandi passes by two smaller plazas: the Plaza Matriz (or Plaza Constitución) and the Plaza Zabala. We turned into the lovely Plaza Matriz to check out the Metropolitan Cathedral of Montevideo and then headed to the nearby Café Brasilero for coffee and a piece of their famous German apple pie.

The original Art Nouveau bar looks out over Cafe Brasilero.

Coffee with a slice of German apple pie.

Opened in 1877, Café Brasilero is the oldest cafe in Montevideo, and is also considered one of the 13 most emblematic cafes in the world. Its original Art Nouveau bar still holds pride of place in the back of the cafe. Brett and I each enjoyed the best coffee we have had so far on our trip, shared a slice of German apple pie with ice cream (which more than lived up to its reputation), and soaked in some fascinating history and atmosphere.

Templo Ingles

Then it was down to La Rambla once again, a distance this time of just three blocks. Along the way we passed the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, known locally as Templo Inglés, an Anglican church constructed in the 1830s for English residents of Montevideo. Originally built next to the beach, it was moved to its present location when La Rambla was developed.

Looking out from an opening in an old fortification on La Rambla. To the left were steps leading down to the rocks where several people were fishing.

Our location on La Rambla this time was a bit further west of where we visited on Monday, in the Gran Bretaña division which overlooks the area where the Rio de la Plata feeds into the Atlantic Ocean. Long, brown streams of the river’s sediment could be seen out in the distance, and there were several huge container ships in the channel. We again took a short stroll along the Rambla, and then turned north and headed back up to the Plaza Independencia and back to our apartment.

It was a beautiful day for a walk around the old city of Montevideo!

Our little tour took us around two and half hours. We covered a little over three and a half miles of the city in that time, just enough to whet our appetites for more, especially the chance to visit some of the many museums in Montevideo. We’re even more disappointed now that we’re leaving Montevideo so soon as there is much we still want to see. I guess we’re just going to have to come back!

Primer Dia en Montevideo

Spring is in the air in Montevideo

After just a day in Montevideo both Brett and I think we should have scheduled more time in Uruguay. We should have given ourselves time to get off the ferry and explore the historic city of Colonia for a few days before traveling down to Montevideo for longer than the three days we will spend here.

The trip over to Uruguay from Buenos Aires yesterday was a bit rough, to be honest. Getting to the ferry terminal on Sunday morning was a breeze – we had arranged for the same taxi driver who had brought us from the Buenos Aires airport to take us to the terminal. He was on-time and affordable. Going through immigration was easy as well – we were stamped out of Argentina on one side of an aisle in immigration, then turned around and had our passports stamped to enter Uruguay on the other side! Easy-peasy.

The ferry was HUGE, and we boarded easily and found seats quickly. They were sort of like airline seats, but a bit more comfortable (although with just as little leg room). However, instead of maybe six or seven seats across, the ferry rows had more like 30 seats across, with aisles between every set of three, and every seat was filled by the time we departed. There was an elaborate snack bar up at the front, but after over-paying for a bottle of water at the terminal we avoided it. We learned that some of the ferries that make the longer three-hour trip from Buenos Aires direct to Montevideo provide restaurants and even a tango show! Brett and I instead nibbled on some leftover crackers during the voyage which turned out to be a smart thing.

The trip across the Rio de la Plata (Silver River) started out smoothly, but got rougher the farther across we traveled. The Rio de la Plata is the widest river in the world, over 140 miles across at one point, and even the “short” trip to Colonia takes an hour and is more like crossing a lake. It was a windy day yesterday so the water was quite choppy which of course meant the ferry bobbed up and down quite a bit as well. Brett, an experienced sailor, handled it well but even after taking motion-sickness medication before embarking I was not feeling well at all by the time we got to Colonia where, after passing through what has to be the most ridiculously easy customs ever, we got right onto a stuffy, uncomfortable bus for a 2 1/2 ride down to Montevideo (we chose this option to save money). I tried to catch some of the scenery as we rolled along but mostly I tried to keep myself from getting sick (all I remember today are lots and lots of farms and lots and lots of date palms). I was glad for those crackers!

Never judge a book by its cover – the front of our apartment building (door is on the left) gave no hint of our lovely apartment inside.

Graffiti covers the side of an old apartment building n Montevideo. The graffiti is everywhere in the city, most of it tagging, but political statements can frequently be seen as well. Old and new buildings sit side by side throughout the city.

Colorful street art can be found as well.

Upon arrival at the bus station in Montevideo we retrieved our suitcases, found an ATM and got some Uruguayan pesos and then hired a cab to take us to our apartment. Our lovely host, Fernanda, met us there and explained everything about the apartment and then left us to decompress. Although the front of the building looked a bit sketchy after our posh digs in Buenos Aires, the inside of the apartment was clean, cute and cozy with everything we needed for a comfortable stay. As it was Sunday, NOTHING was open except (thankfully) a Subway sandwich shop across the street, so that’s what we had for dinner. We were able to buy coffee and orange juice for the next morning at a mini-mart, and we both fell asleep early and slept soundly for twelve hours!

Lots of food (and wine) for just under $70US – we’ll eat well for the next three days!

We woke this morning to a cold but beautiful day with clear blue skies. Our first chore in the morning was to get ourselves some more Uruguayan pesos, and then some groceries for the next three days. Brett went out to check out one nearby ATM nearby on his own but it was out of cash and the bank didn’t open until 1:00 p.m. (ATMs are all attached to banks here). So, we waited until 1:00, got our pesos and then set out to find a grocery store – easier said than done because even though we had checked out locations on Google Maps, nothing looked like a grocery store from the street. We finally entered what appeared to be a discount quick-mart from the front, but which held a full supermarket at the back. It turned out to have a better selection of groceries than stores we had visited in Buenos Aires, but prices were definitely higher here. Also, the produce section was surprisingly small (almost non-existent, really) with very little to choose from and, unlike Buenos Aires, we have so far not seen any independent produce stalls on the street nor any bakeries either. I’m hopeful they’re around though.

La Rambla (Division Republica Argentina)

Looking out on the Atlantic Ocean from La Rambla at the Parque Rodo neighborhood of Montevideo.

The place we wanted to visit first in Montevideo was La Rambla, the broad avenue which goes all along the coastline of the city, from the Rio de la Plata on the west to the Atlantic ocean on the south. Almost 14 uninterrupted miles long, it has the world’s longest continual sidewalk, and is under consideration as a World Heritage Site. La Rambla has been called the “identity of Montevideo” as well as “the lungs of the city.” The wide sidewalk is used by city dwellers for walking, skating, fishing, sunbathing and so forth. There are several beaches along its way as well, and no buildings are allowed on the water side of La Rambla so that views are not interrupted. It took us a bit longer than we imagined to walk to it from our apartment, but it was worth the time in spite of the wind we experienced. It was exciting to get our first view of the Atlantic Ocean!

Tomorrow we are heading out in the morning for a free walking tour of Montevideo’s historic Old Town and we may try to visit another division of La Rambla if we can. Wednesday’s schedule remains up in the air as rain is forecast for the entire day. We have laundry to do though and a bit of repacking to take care of before we depart for Paris on Thursday morning so we’ll be busy no matter how things turn out.

Evening approaches the city: the view from our balcony.

Trying Out the Travel Budget

A favorite meal in Buenos Aires was empanadas at El Sanjuanino, located just a couple of blocks away from our apartment. We each had two empanadas, a glass of wine filled to the rim, and shared a flan with dulce de leche for dessert, all for just $16US.

Buenos Aires has been a very affordable city, especially when it comes to food costs, and even more especially when it comes to dining out. Our host told us not long after we arrived that it was practically cheaper to go out to a restaurant here than it was to buy food at the market and prepare it ourselves! The low cost of food here combined with recent devaluation of the Argentine peso has meant we’ve had a fairly easy time of sticking to the budget we worked out before we left Kaua’i.

Brett has faithfully been maintaining a spreadsheet of our daily spending. He asks for a receipt from any place where we spend, and tracks our daily average to make sure things are not spinning out of control. So far we’ve been able to stay slightly under our daily budget of $40US that we alloted for our time in Argentina and Uruguay. Beyond food/dining costs our daily expenses have included items like tours, taxis, subway fares, tips, etc. for the time we’ve been here. Because of the lower price of food we’ve had some leeway that we’re probably not going to have when we arrive in Europe – we’re going to have to be far more careful there. I’m positive we’ll be having far fewer meals and such out in town than we’ve been able to enjoy here.

We’ve eaten breakfast at our apartment every morning.

As food is typically our biggest daily expense, our very first outing in Buenos Aires was to a nearby supermarket, and we have prepared most of our meals here in our apartment. We’ve had breakfast “at home” every morning, usually yogurt topped with fruit and granola that we brought along with us, along with orange juice and coffee. A few times we’ve eaten “Argentinian style,” enjoying coffee, juice and a couple of mezzaluna (croissant). The mezzaluna here are a bit smaller than the croissant we get back in the U.S. and are not as flaky; they are also brushed with egg whites and topped with a sprinkle of sugar . . . and completely delicious and satisfying!

Bakeries in Buenos Aires have provided affordable treats. We picked up a strawberry tart, a huge palmier, two churros, two fruit danish, and four mezzaluna the other day just $5US.

We’ve skipped lunch most days and instead stopped at a coffee shop in the mid-afternoon for a beverage and a shared pastry. I discovered that fresh fruit juices are often on the menu here, and have sometimes enjoyed having a glass of juice instead of coffee in the afternoon. My favorite so far was a combination of strawberry, mango and orange – very refreshing!

Beef is what you eat in Argentina, so we went out for dinner one evening at Fervor, another nearby restaurant. Brett had a perfectly cooked 12 oz. beef tenderloin brochette, I had longostino and we shared a plate of grilled vegetables. Each of us had a BIG glass of wine, and we shared a dessert. Total cost for everything, including a tip, was half of what we would have paid in the U.S. for the same meal (apologies for the pictures’ dim lighting – I blame the beautiful restaurant ambiance).

In the early evening, we’ve usually relaxed in our apartment with a glass of wine along with some local cheese and crackers. Good wine is ridiculously cheap here: a bottle of decent chardonnay can be had for as little as $2.50, and a big glass (like filled up to the rim) of quality wine at a restaurant goes for around $3.65. We’ve gone out for dinner just twice; all other evenings we’ve eaten dinner in the apartment. Dinners out were for empanadas one time and for a fabulous meal of Argentinian beef and seafood. In all cases, whether we’ve cooked our own meals or picked up something from a bakery or eaten at a restaurant, the cost has usually been half or less than half of what we would have paid in the U.S. for a comparable meal.

Brett had a classic Argentinian grilled ham and cheese sandwich for lunch one day at La Biela while I had a simple cheese pizza and fresh strawberry juice. La Biela is an old, famous restaurant in our neighborhood, and going for lunch versus dinner kept it affordable.

One big thing we’ve noticed here is that other than buying food, neither of us has been tempted in the least to purchase anything else, quite a difference from how we travelled in the past. The old version of Brett and Laura would have been drawn into countless shops and rationalized buying something no matter how much further traveling we were going to be doing or how the budget was holding up. These days we stand and look in windows and admire, and then remind ourselves there’s no room in the suitcases or the budget and go on our way!

Buenos Aires has been a great place to test our ability to stay within our daily limits, but with food costs so low we’re not sure how our experience here will extrapolate to future destinations.  We’re on our way to Uruguay tomorrow, where the peso has a stronger exchange rate with the dollar. We have also set a higher daily budget for our time in Europe, but whether it will be enough remains to be seen.

The Day of 17,739 Steps

Some real “street art” in Palermo Soho

17,739 steps, or 6.7 miles, is the distance my phone said I walked this past Tuesday (which means I probably walked far more because my phone has always undercounted the number of steps and distance when I walk).

One of the things Brett and I very much wanted to see in Buenos Aires was some street art in the Palermo Soho neighborhood. Airbnb Experiences had a few affordable tours to choose from so we selected one that fit our budget and off we went on Tuesday morning, setting out from our apartment at 9:00 a.m.

Houses in Palermo Soho

The Palermo Soho neighborhood is far enough away that we decided we should take the subway, which meant our first stop of the day was the Recoleta Neighborhood Tourist Assistance booth to pick up cards as you can no longer pay cash for a ticket. The booth was just a few blocks away and easy to find, but from there it was almost a mile’s walk to the nearest subway station! We were able to stop at an ATM along the way though to withdraw some pesos because we wanted to eat pizza for lunch at a highly-rated and affordable restaurant near where the tour would be.

At the subway station we discovered we first had to pay 50 pesos each just to activate the card. After that we added pesos to the card to use for our trip, 50 pesos each. Mind you, we had no idea what was happening at the time, but a lovely woman visiting Buenos Aires from Columbia stepped up to help, speaking with the man in the station window and trying to explain what was going on. Between her limited English and my extremely limited Spanish we eventually figured it out, and 200 pesos ($5.15US) later we were ready to board the train to our destination.

Upon exiting the subway in Palermo, we found ourself with yet another walk of about a mile to the tour’s starting point! The weather was lovely though and beginning to warm up, to the point we had to stop along the way for a bottle of water as we found ourselves becoming a bit parched. The neighborhood was interesting but also a bit “rougher” than the Recoleta neighborhood, or other parts of the Palermo neighborhood we had visited. We arrived at our destination tired but on time at 10:30 a.m. and set off on our tour.

The “Love Is In the Air” mosaic was a collaborative work between several artists. It was created as part of a no smoking campaign.

This mural was my favorite of all the paintings we saw. Nasepop is the artist – he created it for his son, Theo using aerosol spray paint.

Our tour guide, Florencia, was an absolute delight. She’s a professional photographer who also works with various artists in the city, and sets up installations or exhibitions beyond her own work. Along the way she offered several tips and tricks for getting better photos from our phones or cameras (a couple from Austria took the tour with us).

This artist asked for and was granted permission to paint on this particular house. After he finished he was offered a commission to create another painting on a store down the road.

The artist of this commissioned work was inspired by the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt.

Palermo Soho, Florencia explained, was a former working class neighborhood that had been ‘discovered’ by artists because of the cheap rents there, and had grown into a vibrant arts center in the city, much like the Soho areas of other cities. The street art that has flourished in the neighborhood is not graffiti (although that exists, mainly in the form of tagging) but either works commissioned by the owners of houses or businesses where the artist is paid, or where the artist or artists has/have asked for and been given permission to create a work on a building or home and the art work is done for free.

The artist of this mural was asked to paint over another artist’s work. However, she chose to leave the angels the previous artist had created in her work, and also left his signature on the mural.

The art we viewed was varied, colorful and exciting, and as tired as I was becoming I could have gone on viewing it for hours more. I was especially thrilled by the artists’ use of color – all the artwork we saw was so vibrant and thought provoking. It was also fascinating to see how the artists had used various spaces in the neighborhood, from the front of a small house to an entire side of a building.

Carlos Thays built and lived in this “castle” while he created the Botanical Gardens. It now contains offices and occasional exhibitions.

The tour did not end however with street art in Palermo Soho. We left the neighborhood and walked to the Botanical Gardens, which unfortunately was in the opposite direction of the restaurant where we had planned to have lunch. Sigh. After what seemed like a very long walk, about 30 minutes or more, we finally arrived at the Botanical Gardens, another stunning but calm space in the middle of bustling and busy Buenos Aires. The garden was designed by French architect and landscape designer Carlos Thays, and was dedicated in 1898. It covers over 17 acres, and contains eight separate geographical garden areas as well as five greenhouses and several sculptures and monuments. Some of the sculptures are copies of originals in Europe which were recreated by the original artists and sent to Buenos Aires for inclusion in the Botanical Gardens.

This greenhouse, built in the early 20th century, contained subtropical plants and only opened for an hour at 5:00 p.m. As you can see from the deep blue of the sky, we were blessed with absolutely gorgeous weather on Tuesday.

Objects in photo are more tired than they appear.

Following a leisurely walk through the cool, lush gardens Brett and I had to beg off one more garden visit as we were hungry and frankly more than a bit tired and needed to sit down for a while. Also, we were only a very few blocks from the Eva Perón museum which we both very much wanted to see and wanted to save our remaining energy for that. We said our good-byes to Florencia and headed to the museum, with a brief stop along the way for coffee and juice.

The interior of the building that holds the Eva Peron museum was almost as interesting as the exhibits it holds.

Eva Perón died the year I was born, but for some reason I feel like I have always known her story in spite of knowing very little else about Argentina. She is still a somewhat-revered figure here, so I was eagerly anticipating the visit to the museum to learn more about her and her life and accomplishments, and the museum did not disappoint. The displays and artifacts were fascinating, and the exhibits provided enough English translation to allow us to understand what we were looking at or viewing (there were several videos shown throughout the museum, all with English subtitles). Especially interesting to me were the many of Evita’s outfits on display which also often included the accompanying shoes, hats, gloves, etc. Seeing the photos of her and being able to look at the actual outfit she had been wearing brought a surprising depth to both the photos and the stories. Beyond her many accomplishments, Evita was an extremely vibrant, beautiful and stylish woman.

This is perhaps the most famous image of Eva Peron and we were able to view the actual dress she is wearing in the painting. It was elegant but simple, made of navy blue patterned velvet with the large pink rose made of silk.

I have told Brett that if I ever again say at the end of a day like Tuesday, “I think it will be OK to walk back” he is to immediately stop and hail a taxi. Yes, for some crazy reason I decided it would be fine to walk back the two plus miles to our apartment through busy city streets after we had finished at the museum. To give a small idea of how exhausting that walk was, by the time we neared our street I could no longer focus my eyes! Our apartment is blessed with a jetted tub though, and after a long soak, a couple of Aleve and a big glass of wine I was feeling good enough to fix us a simple dinner of grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. We both slept soundly, and it appears I have finally gotten myself on somewhat of a normal sleep schedule again.

“Mona Pink,” a mash-up of the Mona Lisa with Munch’s “The Scream,” appeared at the end of our art tour and I knew just how she felt.

One of the joys of slow travel we are discovering is that we don’t feel like we have to go out every day and do something. Yesterday our only activities were a walk over to the ferry office to book our tickets for Sunday’s trip to Montevideo and to go out for a wonderful dinner at a nearby restaurant in the late evening. We’re not sure yet what we’re going to do today or even if we’re going to do anything. We may head over and walk through the old San Telmo neighborhood but we might also just stick closer to the apartment and do some more exploration in our neighborhood. Whatever we decide, we won’t be walking any six and a half miles again, that’s for sure. Tuesday’s exercise was really was too much for us, too soon. 10,000 steps a day is more than enough right now.

Cementario de La Recoleta

Named as the number one must-see site in Buenos Aires in probably every guidebook, the Recoleta Cemetery’s reputation is more than well-deserved. Located in the Recoleta neighborhood, the cemetery contains the mausoleums of Argentine presidents, Nobel Prize winners, and other notables as well as well-heeled members of Buenos Aires society. The cemetery’s most famous resident is Eva Perón, the second wife of former President Juan Perón.

As we approached the cemetery we could see the roofs and domes of mausoleums peeking over the top of the high brick wall that surrounds the cemetery. It felt almost like walking up to an attraction in Disney World – we could tell there was something fabulous inside but were only being offered a small tease. We couldn’t wait to get inside to see more.

Looking down one of the many lanes that run through the cemetery. Domes were a popular architectural motif on many of the older mausoleums. (If you look closely you can see that the door has fallen off one of the crypts and the coffin is now open to the elements.)

Angels came in all designs, sizes and moods.

The modern mausoleums, with their more austere architecture and dark marble, were easy to pick out from the more ornate older tombs.

This mausoleum had its own little fenced yard.

After passing through the main gate I had to stop and catch my breath. It was like entering a fabulous but macabre city, with each street offering an array of beautiful, interesting or weird sites to explore. The mausoleums ranged in size from tiny to immense, from very old to modern, from simple to highly ornate. Some were adorned with fabulous sculpture, others were more plain. It was easy to date some of the mausoleums by their architecture: an Art Nouveau door signified the building was erected around the turn of the 19th century, and Art Deco design meant the tomb was erected later, sometime in the 1930s. Brett’s first impression was that it looked like the cemeteries in New Orleans, but by the time we left his comment was, “New Orleans is nothing like this!”

One of the oldest mausoleums in the cemetery is showing its age and wear.

Another old and decaying but still beautiful building.

Many of the mausoleums wore cobwebs both inside and out.

Most of the graves were somewhat well maintained, but many were not, and it was fascinating to observe the decay happening throughout the cemetery. Sometimes the outer building was doing well, but the inside was crumbling. Other times the whole edifice, inside and out, was falling apart. Some of the mausoleums were on one level, with coffins displayed on shelves, but many had a stairwell heading underground, where the coffins rested while upstairs contained an altar or other simple decoration. Apparently built on a hillside, the top of the back wall of the cemetery stands nearly three stories above the street below.

The Duarte family mausoleum, where Eva Peron (Evita) is interred. The mausoleum itself is fairly unostentatious, but is the most visited in the cemetery. A few people left fresh flowers the day we visited.

The most famous and most visited grave in the cemetery is the Duarte family mausoleum, where Eva Perón’s (Evita) is buried. Still viewed by many Argentinians as practically a saint, her mausoleum is adorned with flowers, rosaries and other ornaments brought by her admirers, and there is almost always a small crowd there. The story of her death and what followed is both sad and weird. Only 33 years old, she suffered greatly before she died of cervical cancer in 1952.

This man was imposing even if we had no idea who he was.

A life-size bronze statue stunning in its simplicity. The woman looked as if she could be a saint.

The largest statue in the cemetery, bronze or otherwise, I believe. I’m 65″ tall, and I barely came up to her knees. The detail on the sculpture was exquisite – it must have cost a small fortune to have it made.

The wife only merited a bust, and was placed on the back of this family mausoleum, while . . .

. . . her husband got a full-figure seated statue on the front of their building. But note the brooding angel in the back of the mausoleum who appears to be hovering over both of them. She actually sits atop the tomb behind theirs.

It is said that it costs more to die here than to live in Buenos Aires, and the Recoleta Cemetery is a testament to that expression. The cost of some of the mausoleums and their accompanying sculptures had to be in the millions, and that’s on top of the cost of space inside the cemetery. No matter, it was an extremely fascinating place to visit even though we had no idea who any of its residents were (other than Eva Perón).

Finally, this mausoleum, located on a corner, was both the creepiest and the saddest to me. The front door was locked tight with a padlock and chain, but the large side window had gone missing so everyone could peer right in. The four coffins appear to be trying to burst off their shelves, and the man’s bust was sitting on the floor with the most forlorn expression of all the statues in the cemetery. It was obvious no one had cared for the mausoleum for years, and I couldn’t find a family name on the tomb.

Beginning in Buenos Aires

The Floralis Generica, a stunning aluminum and steel sculpture in the Plaza de las Naciones Unidas. The giant flower opens and closes with the sun.

Our Big Adventure has begun! After a miserable experience in getting to Miami, our flight to Buenos Aires on Aerolineas Argentinas departed on time last Thursday, and arrived a few minutes early in Buenos Aires. We somehow lucked out and the two other seats in our row were empty, so we were able to stretch out and sleep for a few hours. That sleep was much needed because we’d gotten all of two hours of it at our hotel in Miami before having to get up again to get back to the airport on time. The flight was nearly nine hours long but very smooth and more comfortable than we imagined (and we were fed twice); clearing immigration was quick and easy as we had nothing to declare; and our taxi driver was waiting for us at the airport to take us to our lovely apartment in the Recoleta neighborhood. The weather had changed a bit when we arrived: it was raining and just 45°F – brrr! We were very glad we had gotten our coats out back in Miami! Once we checked into our apartment we promptly climbed into bed and slept for 15 hours.

Our first task upon getting up on Friday was to get to an ATM for some local currency, and to find a grocery store for some food. Finding a grocery store was the easy part – there’s a lovely supermarket just a couple of blocks from our apartment. We used our debit card to buy some beautiful produce (butternut squash, broccoli, kiwi fruit, bananas, and mandarin oranges), two different cheeses, some sausages, pasta and sauce, a package of crackers, a couple of containers of yogurt, a stick of butter, a bag of coffee, a small bottle of laundry detergent and two bottles of Argentine wine (a Chardonnay and a Malbec). All this stuffed our shopping bag to the max, but cost just $27US – quite a change from Kaua’i prices!

I enjoyed a big matcha latte and an organic pear crumble for an afternoon coffee break. Beautiful pastries and large beverages for the two of us, in a cozy setting, came to just $11, tip included.

After getting all our food unpacked and put away we headed out again to find an ATM, but every one of them around us seemed to be closed or with a sign saying the machine was closed. Here in Buenos Aires ATMs are located in a secure, locked room – you swipe your debit or credit card to get access to the machine – but at some places we couldn’t get into the room, at others we could get in only to be informed the machine was closed. After a few unsuccessful tries, we stopped in a Starbucks (we knew we could use our debit card again) to rest and plot what we were going to do if we could not find a working ATM in the neighborhood. While we were having our coffee, a lovely woman sat next to us who spoke flawless English (and she had never been out of Argentina!) and explained that the Argentine peso had dropped significantly against the American dollar the day before and many Argentinean had panicked and taken money out of their accounts which had drained the ATMs. She told us a few more places to try and we were finally able to get some cash. The maximum allowable withdrawal here is 2000 pesos, about $60US. That was three days ago though and we still have LOTS of money left over, even with a dinner out, stops for coffee in the afternoon, and a visit to a local bakery. The peso’s devaluation has been good for us, but difficult for Argentinians, and although the peso’s value has climbed a little bit in the last couple of days it is still not back to where it was.

The comfortable sleeping/living area of our studio apartment in La Recoleta.

Our small Airbnb apartment (Super Studio in Recoleta II) is lovely, and very comfortable – just the right size for the two of us. Our host, Florencia, had wine and snacks waiting for us when we arrived, which were greatly appreciated. The apartment is in a great location for visiting sites in the Recoleta neighborhood – the famous Cementario de La Recoleta is just a couple of blocks away, for example. As the days pass we’re getting better oriented to where we are and how to get places, and whether it makes more sense to walk or use the subway. The streets are clean (for the most part) and easy to navigate, and Argentinians have been very friendly and helpful, and very patient with our extremely limited Spanish (I can read way more than I can speak or understand). Our challenge today has been to try to do laundry – there is a coin-operated washer and dryer in the basement, but we have no coins and everything is closed today because it’s Sunday and Brett hasn’t been able to get change anywhere. I guess we’ll be doing laundry tomorrow evening. We’re using our time off today though to rest some more and plan the next couple of days’ outings to the nearby Palermo neighborhood. We want to visit two museums and a garden tomorrow, and we’ve booked an affordable photography tour on Tuesday (via Airbnb) through Palermo’s Soho district, famous for its street art.

The apartment’s kitchen is well equipped, and even has an outlet that accepts our American plugs (so there are always power cords in the area).

Both Brett and I are thoroughly enjoying the cooler temperatures here in Buenos Aires (less than 60°F today) and being able to get out and walk through the city. We’re both happy to be eating better again, and so affordably too. I’m still fighting jet lag, even with a significant drop in my caffeine intake. It gets a little better every day though and I hope to be fully adjusted just in time to leave for France (lol).

A Mainland Rendezvous or Two (or Three)

Ready to go through Lihue airport security and head for the mainland along with four suitcases (one overweight), two backpacks, and two shopping bags.

We’ve had a whirlwind of a time here on the mainland these past nine days. We got a LOT accomplished, but overall it was exhausting for all of us.

Pre-flight cocktails before take-off: a mai tai for me, mango-passionfruit juice for YaYu

Our flight from Honolulu to Portland in first class was completely wonderful – I’ve never felt so spoiled in my life. I’ve always said I’m not a first class kind of gal, but after that flight I sure could get used to it. I doubt we’ll ever book first class outright again, but if the upgrade is affordable . . . who knows?

Our cozy cottage in SE Portland was in the perfect location for all we had to see and do. Plus, it was air-conditioned (It was 95 degrees when we arrived).

Everything went swimmingly in Portland. The car we had booked would have been too small for us and all our luggage, but the car rental company offered us an upgrade special at an acceptable price so we took that. Our Airbnb cottage was cozy and comfortable, and in a good location for us to get around town so YaYu could take care of her shopping needs. We spend two full days at the mall, but she found everything she wanted and needed and the only items she has left to purchase are a winter coat and boots but she’s going to get those in Pennsylvania.

The lobster had been alive moments before this amazing dish was fixed and brought to our table to complement our dim sum.

We were able to get together with a couple of friends in Portland and wished we had had time to visit with more. We had delicious dim sum brunch (along with some amazing lobster noodles) one morning with our good friend Sylvia, and went out to dinner with our long-time friend Joan for Vietnamese pho that evening. Joan is storing our household goods for us while we travel, for which we will be forever in her debt. We’re looking forward to getting our families together when we’re in Portland in December.

The old PDX airport carpeting (which was famous) was changed after we moved to Kaua’i, but the tradition of taking a picture of your feet on the carpet remains.

I wondered how I would feel being back in Portland again, whether I would feel a tug to return or something but that didn’t happen. It was nice being someplace where I knew my way around, but I also came to realize how much driving I used to do, whether it was doing the grocery shopping or going to the doctors or whatever. I used to feel like I lived in our car, and now I know why, and I’m really not interested in doing that again.

One of the many delicious things we enjoyed in Dallas was personalized, custom-made ice cream (mine was green tea + fresh strawberry). The ice cream was scraped into rolls and served with various toppings.

We spent two busy but fun days in Dallas with Brett’s sister and brother-in-law, who wined and dined us and spoiled us rotten. We ate out every evening, got together with some of their friends for a tasty Sunday brunch followed by going to see Crazy Rich Asians (highly recommend!!) that afternoon. We got important paperwork taken care of and turned over all our official papers for them to hold for us while we travel. All of our mail is being forwarded through them as well, and they had a big stack for us to go through when we arrived, including a jury summons for me from Kaua’i County! I can’t believe I got another one of those less than year after the last time I served (I emailed to let them know we don’t live there any more and have been removed from the rolls). Also, our former landlord almost non-stop messaged Brett while we there, wanting us to go to the post office and look for the check (“I sent it. Honest!). Brett sent him a simple message back that we were done with him and we’d see him in court. As of today it still hasn’t arrived.

Bags and bags of dorm accoutrement from Target . . . along with a mini-fridge YaYu bought for herself.

We left Dallas very early Monday morning for Philadelphia. The drive out to our hotel in King of Prussia was easy, but we all promptly collapsed when we got there. We were still somewhat on Hawai’i time and the jet lag had finally caught up to us, so we slept through to late Tuesday morning and then headed out to Target and the Container Store to find the remaining items for YaYu’s dorm room (pillows, lamp, wastebasket, etc.). Once that was done we came back to our room to cool off and relax for the evening – none of us felt like going out again, even to eat dinner.

Today was move in day! After enjoying our free breakfast at the hotel, we loaded up the car and headed over to Bryn Mawr and got YaYu settled into her dorm room. Brett and I made her bed, and set up her desk while she put away her clothes and other things. At noon she had to attend her first meeting, so we said our good-byes and Brett and I headed back into Philadelphia to catch our flight down to Miami, which is still delayed as I write this. We enjoyed meeting YaYu’s roommate and her parents (from California, near my hometown). We had a tearful goodbye – we were saying goodbye to our littlest bird and it was hard to let her go. She grabbed the golden ring though and we know she’ll have a wonderful time at Bryn Mawr.

We will not be flying American Airlines ever again. We knew we would pay $25 per checked bag fee and then $100 for YaYu’s second bag (overweight), but on our flight to Philadelphia from Dallas we were charged both the 2nd bag fee of $35 AND the $100 overweight fee. Every other airline so far had charged us an overweight price and then waived any other lower fee, but not American, so her two bags ended up costing us $160 instead of $125. Then, when we checked in for our Philadelphia to Miami flight we discovered American had somehow “lost” our original seat assignments, and we ended up having to pay $67 for two regular seats mid-plane so we could sit together (as well as the $50 luggage fee for our two suitcases). The very few “free” seats still available on our flight were way at the back of the plane, no two of them together, and people in those seats are not allowed to bring any carry-on other than a purse. There was no way we were going to check our backpacks with our computers, medication, etc. so we had to pony up for the new seats. They offered us a chance to board early for only $31 each – no thanks. When we checked in our bags in Philadelphia we were told they were overweight even though nothing had been added to them since our last flight. We rearranged a couple of things and were able to squeak through on our $25 fee, but something was up with their scale. Finally, to add insult to injury, our flight was supposed to take off at 5:45 p.m. but we’ve been delayed for a second time until 10:40, and now won’t get into Miami until 1:45 a.m. which means we’ll have to pay for a taxi to our hotel vs. the free shuttle. That’s if American actually ever gets us on a plane with our luggage. Let’s just say American has completely and totally failed to impress me in ANY way. 😡😡😡

But, tomorrow morning Brett and I still plan to head to Argentina, the “official” start of our Big Adventure! We’ve been communicating with our host there, Feliciana, who has arranged for a private taxi to meet us at the airport and take us to our apartment. The driver, Hugo, will be waiting for us when we come out of immigration. The flight down to Buenos Aires will be a long one – nine hours from Miami – but we are equipped with snacks and other entertainments to hopefully make it easier. And yes, I wish we were in first class again! All our fingers are crossed that we make it to Miami on time.

Aloha ‘Oe

Thank you Kaua’i for four amazing years!

Mahalo nui loa for sharing your aloha with us every day, in ways big and small, as well as the breathtaking beauty of your aina and the strength and love of ohana. We’re all leaving a big piece of our hearts here.

Aloha ‘oe – until we meet againSo very lucky we lived Kaua’i!

Last Bits of Miscellany Before We Go

A delicate white hibiscus out by the pool – I will miss the unlimited variety of these beautiful flowers.

A few final things not big enough for their own blog posts:

  1. My number one concern right now is getting my back into shape for travel. I really messed it up last Saturday working at the election, more than I realized. We sat almost the entire day at middle-school cafeteria tables, with no back support, and three hours in I knew I was in trouble. By the end of the day I was a wreck, but figured time in the hot tub, pain medication and proper sitting conditions all would be well in a couple of days. Nope. It’s getting better, but one false move and it seems I’m right back at the beginning again.
  2. This past Tuesday was the deadline for our former landlord to return our deposit, or an itemized list of deductions (which has to include receipts, not just figures he comes up with). If he mailed it to us he was required to supply us with proof of mailing before or on Tuesday, and if he didn’t, by Hawai’i law he is required to return the entire deposit to us. Brett messaged him on Tuesday afternoon and asked about the status of our deposit and got a message from him just a few minutes before midnight that the check would arrive by 8:00 p.m. Wednesday (at Brett’s sister’s house). He asked us to “confirm receipt of the tracking number” but of course never gave that to us and nothing from him has arrived in Texas so far. Maybe something will show up there later today, but at this point we’re doubtful, and there’s a better than good chance we’ll be coming back to Kaua’i next year to meet him in small claims. Update: We finally heard from the landlord on Friday morning that the check had been mailed . . . to a completely unknown-to-us address in Texas, in a different city from Brett’s sister! Where he got that address is anyone’s guess, but it’s definitely not the one we gave him. Supposedly now it will be delivered to the correct address in three days, but I will believe it when I see it.
  3. We’ve all been throwing away pieces of clothing for the past three weeks, things we’ve worn almost the entire time we’ve lived here and but that are now past the stage of being saved. All this tossing away though is rather bittersweet as it means we’re very close to heading out on the Big Adventure, but also marking how very close we are to the end of our time on Kaua’i.
  4. Brett and I packed our suitcases yesterday, and except for a last few items to go in on Sunday evening that task is done. Neither of the suitcases is anywhere near full, and they both weigh 37 pounds so we each have some wiggle room (our goal was to have each suitcase weigh no more than 44 pounds). Of course, we still have YaYu’s suitcases to re-pack and will do those on Sunday. She calls her biggest suitcase “the body bag” – it is huge, but has to be to hold her comforter and other linens.
  5. We’re eating some very interesting things these days (like curry over leftover spaghetti) as we finish cleaning out the fridge and cupboards here at the condo. I have no idea what we’re going to do on Sunday because we’ll be out of everything by then, and tired of going out to eat.