Sunday, December 28, 2008

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

Colonia was designated a World Heritage Site in 1995 and is an amazing blend of Spanish and Portugese influences. After a couple of weeks in the big city of Buenos Aires is was nice to see a different side of South America.

The ferry across the Rio de la Plata to Uruguay took about 1.5 hrs and Colonia is very much a tourist destination although it didn't feel too 'touristy'. It's kind of like visiting Barkerville although it's not so much a display as it is a real place where people live. Most of the vehicles in town are very old and we were able to rent a golf cart to get around which was a really good idea except for the time Ross drove it into an area we couldn't get out of except by driving over a curb with a crowd watching and no doubt shaking their heads at the crazy driver. I pretended I didn't know him.

Just as a side note - our dinner (nothing too fancy) cost $1107.00. Mind you that's Uruguayan pesos which are 1:7 to Argentinian pesos and about 1:20 to Canadian which makes it about $50 for the 4 of us with wine and beer included.

We climbed the lighthouse tower (about 100 narrow, winding steps) and kept our cameras busy with the beautiful blend of old, stone buildings, cobblestone streets and lush vegetation.
More photos

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve in South America

It's now 1:00 am and the city is starting to come alive again. It was very strange but at about 11:30 the streets got very quiet, no couples strolling down them or cars roaring up them. Then about 11:40 the fireworks began. By midnight there were fireworks going off all across the city. An hour later and I can still hear the occasional loud bang right outside our apartment.

Apparently, Christmas Eve is a huge celebration here with Christmas Day being just a minor holiday and a chance to recover from the night before. Although the main streets were quite busy until 6 or 7 pm the smaller stores were all closed up by about 4 or 5.

We had our Hadfield traditional fondue (cheese followed by chocolate, not the usual meat) and managed to make do with the few things we had. The only thing missing was Mike! But we thought Sam made a worthwhile substitute :)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Our Apartment

We're really enjoying having an apartment in Buenos Aires and having the time to explore the city. The apartment itself is quite small but has everything we need (except for the fondue pot we need for our Christmas Eve dinner). I don't think our first apartment in Vancouver was much bigger.

Ross enjoying a cool one on the tiny deck. It's on the first floor which of course is the 2nd floor.

Today we did a bunch of grocery shopping for the aforementioned fondue as well as Christmas dinner. Ross is going to cook up one of his specialties - Chicken Parmigina - for the 25th. I think Christmas Eve is more important than Christmas and someone told us the shops will close by mid afternoon tomorrow so we thought we'd get it done today.

We also found incredibly cheap wine - about $3.00 (about $1 CDN) but we bought the better $10 bottle! We're doing a taste test against the more expensive $30.00 peso bottles (about $10).

Buenos Aires has a huge metal flower sculpture that opens at sunrise and closes at sunset. We walked the few blocks from our place last night but alas, we were too late - it had already closed. We may have to try again another evening. Buenos Noches.

[Not a great photo - taken from the bus - but it looks really cool.]

Monday, December 22, 2008

There's only one word to describe Iguazu Falls:

Wow! Neither pictures nor words can do it justice. If you've been to Niagara you've seen an enormous, majestic waterfall. Iguazu is quite different. Each section of Iguazu is probably not as impressive as Niagara but there are about 10 times as many sections. There are actually hundreds of waterfalls and the scenery, being sub-tropical, adds to the beauty.

Scott and Sam flew up with us and we spent 2 nights there. This video is from Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat), probably the most impressive part. The viewpoints are incredibly close to the water.



I've also decided to actually make use of the Flickr account I've had for years so here are some more photos of Iguazu.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mothers of the Disappeared


It may look like a party with balloons but it's actually a protest march. Every Thursday the 'Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo' march to protest the disappearance of their children in the 'dirty war' in the 1970s and 80s.

Eating out here is very inexpensive. Last night we shared a dinner for 4 from a takeout pizza place a few doors down from our apartment. Med. sized cheese pizza, 4 empanadas, 4 slices of faina (fried bread? It tasted ok with salsa) all for 30 pesos (about $10). Ross bought a big beer (1 litre) for 8 pesos and he though he got ripped off since he'd paid 3.80 pesos (about $1.30) at the store.

Our city tour took us to the Caminito district which is very colourful to say the least. Ross got a little taste of tango.There aren't many signs of Christmas here - no Santas in the mall for example. Every once in a while you'll see a store or cafe with a little tree with a few decorations on it and some of the shops have desperate looking strings of garland around the windows but that's about it.

Our city tour yesterday gave us an idea about the depth and breadth of this city and how much we still have to explore. There are many monuments and statues and plazas and museums and interesting neighbourhoods that we'll have to get back to explore.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Walking

Yesterday we wandered over to the largest street in the world, Avenida de Nueve de Julio. It actually took us 2 or 3 lights to get across the whole way. It was designed after the Champs Elysees and is home to various landmarks such as the obelisk. A short walk away was the Casa Rosada which I believe is now a museum but I'm not sure it's open to the public right now. It's the one where Evita stood on the balcony and addressed the masses.

You know the rule about 'pedestrians have the right of way' well apparently that doesn't apply in BA. In fact the cars (mostly taxis) will actually race you to the interesection to see who can get there first. If you don't make an effort to get across you may be waiting all day (where there's no light in particular or where the taxis are turning). They certainly aren't going to stop or wait for you.
First thing this morning we went to the Brazilian embassy to get a VISA for our trip to Iguazu. We filled out the forms, had our passport sized pictures taken, printed off a recent bank statement, stood in line then discovered we couldn't get the VISA until Monday at the earliest. Since we're leaving Saturday it was actually all for naught. So we're just going to take our chances. Later today we'll take a city tour although the tour is an hour later than posted due to the heat.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cats and Evita

Walking down the street in Buenos Aires you have to be careful. Besides the uneven sidewalks with holes in them and pieces missing, there are lots of kiosks (selling magazines, panchos [hotdogs], flowers, etc.), women with babies, begging (although we saw the same baby with 2 different women), all kinds of people that haven't heard of the word excuse me or whatever it is in Spanish, cars and taxis that seem to have one hand on the wheel and one on the horn, lots of construction, and moisture dripping from the air conditioners in the apartments up above.

Our first full day here and we slept a bit to counteract the jet lag then headed off to the Cemetery to see where Eva Peron is buried. The cemetery is huge and each gravesite is the size of our first apartment. There were also a bunch of cats that apparently look over the dead. This is one of the "streets" in the cemetery with a few kitties in the foreground.

Exploring Haida Gwaii

Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) proved to be quite a contrast to my recent trip to Croatia. The number of touris...