~ 2010 ~
Argentina:  Patagonia or Bust!

Journal Entries By Date:

10 12 14 18 20 22 26 29

February 01 04 08 11 14 17 20 24 28

March 03 06 09 12 18 23 25 29

April 03 06


Google Map
for 2010

Slideshow #1

Slideshow #2

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Slideshow #7


     The departure date for this year’s winter adventure is somewhat in doubt because of the current hospital stay of my 95.5 year-old mother. She seems to be progressing nicely from the congestive heart failure and very mild heart attack that caused her hospitalization 12 days ago and we hope to take her home on Christmas Eve to resume life with my brother and sister who have been caring for her for the past decade. I have been visiting the hospital daily to help with her meals because she has trouble opening the containers on the meals provided by the hospital and I don’t want to leave the country if my sister needs help with her during the day. My brother is still working and helps in the evening, but my sister provides care by herself during the day. That in a nutshell is why the departure date is in doubt.
     I hold a ticket to depart Dulles AirportWashington, DC, on January 5th, but I will only depart if my mother’s health keeps progressing. My destination is Buenos Aires, Argentina, where the last temperature reading I obtained was 80° - my kind of winter temperature.  I plan to explore Buenos Aires for a month or so, and then return by bus to beautiful Mendoza, home of the wonderful Malbec wines that I sampled during my last visit there. After that, I plan to bus to parts of Argentina that I haven’t traveled heretofore. I want to see Patagonia, the city of Bariloche in the foothills of the Andes, and perhaps even travel to the southernmost city in the world Ushuaia. I could even bus over the Andes again and swing through southern Chile, reputed to be breathtakingly gorgeous. As usual, my schedule is very flexible and I will adapt on the fly.
     There is a possibility that my old friend, Schim, will visit me again and that would be a blast. I’m certain that I will run into Crazy Larry from northern California whom I met in La Paz in Baja Mexico last winter, because Larry has been busing around Argentina since October in his annual six-month adventure. He has been writing a blog describing his travels and has communicated his intention to look me up in Buenos Aires. He visited that gorgeous city in October and wants to visit some of the neighborhoods he hasn’t visited when we meet. In the meantime he is traveling through northern Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil, where he hopes to observe Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, a spectacular sight and one that will make his entire odyssey worthwhile.
     I look forward to spending at least a month in a furnished apartment in Buenos Aires, where the 4-1 currency advantage of the dollar will permit me to rent a more than acceptable place in a good location for somewhere between $600 and $700/month - a daily rate of from $20 to $25. I have scanned apartments on the internet, so I know that price range is possible, but I won’t rent an apartment until I arrive and can look at the place, the neighborhood, the proximity of restaurants, etc. I will spend the first couple of nights in an inexpensive hotel while I search for the apartment. I haven’t made reservations at a hotel, but will take a list of inexpensive hotels with me so that I have an address to give the taxi driver who transports me from the airport. If the first hotel I select has no vacancies or I don’t like the room or location, I will proceed to the next hotel on my list. I have all day to find a hotel, so I am not concerned about having to sleep on the street.
     I will begin posting my Harry’s Travel updates on January 6th or 7th, so stay tuned if you are interested in traveling with me vicariously.



January 7, 2010 - From Buenos Aires, Argentina (BsAs)
     The flight into summertime took 11 hours portal to portal, which doesn't count the two-hour drive to
Dulles Airport in D.C. But, with the help of the miracle drug, Xanax, it was one of the smoothest flights ever. I might have slumbered a full seven of those hours, unaware of the dinner service, any bumps to reach altitude, or announcements from the cockpit. There were no heart palpitations, fears of imminent death, or signs of an anxiety attack; ahh, the miracles of modern chemistry!
A $32 cab ride took me to the front door of the Alcazar Hotel in downtown (Centro) BsAs where Crazy Larry from northern
California (whom I met in the Baja last winter) had procured a room for me. I didn't even have to shop around for quarters, so this was an easy first day. Larry was waiting at a table outside the hotel, sipping one of the many “biggies,” as he calls the liter-sized beers he enjoys, that he consumed during our evening together. He was wearing Bermuda shorts and sporting a tee shirt, indicative of the 70 degree weather that embraced me upon arrival. No more arctic blasts for me this winter!
     Almost immediately after removing my tee-shirt, brushing my teeth, and heading for a restaurant for lunch, I experienced another of the adventures that some have accused me of fictionalizing as Larry and I strolled down Calle Florida, the famous pedestrian-only street in the city's center. I felt a dab of wet hit the top of my ear, wiped it off, and squished a black, oily substance on the tips of my fingers. I asked Larry to check my back and he said the stuff was all over my back and shirt. I had him turn around and his shorts were sprayed, too. Immediately, a young man appeared, looking up at the building above us, claiming that a child had sprayed us from above. I had surmised that a passing bus had sprayed me, but I was sprayed on the ear away from the street. The young man waved for us to follow him which we did reluctantly. I thought that perhaps he was going to take us to the building where the children lived, but he reached in a backpack in an alcove where he had placed it and extricated a bottle of water and a pack of tissues and offered to wipe the spots from my clothing. That set off an alarm and I wouldn't let him touch me. It was all a diversion and I'm certain that he was a pickpocket, dying to get his hands in my pockets. The spots were quite extensive and some were located in places which couldn't be reached if sprayed from above (like between Larry's legs). We probably should have confronted the thief more vigorously, but Larry and I simply walked away, went back to our rooms to change clothes, and took the clothing to the laundry around the corner to see if they could remove the stains. They worked on the spots and told us to return the next day to pick up the clothing. Larry had washed his shorts with hand soap in his room and was certain the spots could be removed.
     When I picked up the clothing this morning, the shirt (the only long-sleeve shirt I brought along) was fine, but the almost-white khakis were not completely spotless. Here's hoping that future washings will diminish the effects of this unsuccessful criminal act.
Larry and I didn't let it ruin our day, however. After my afternoon nap, Larry and I had a drink with his friend Tarak, an Australian who has been here for five months taking tango lessons. Tarak is a ceramic tile installer and the last guy in the world you would pick as an avid dancer. From the conversation over another “biggie” he shared with Larry while I thirstily downed a Coke, I think Tarak has found the dancing an excellent device for meeting women. He has taken Larry to a tango club, but has yet to convince him to get on the dance floor. Larry is a little shy, but seems sorely tempted to resort to the dance floor to meet some young ladies. I’ll keep you updated on his progress.
     A long stroll to Puerto Madero, a section of town along the Plata River and lined with restaurants, to an all-you-can-eat buffet, complete with grilled beef, pork, chicken, blood sausage, innards, etc. topped off our evening. The meal, with a luscious dessert of your choice, as much Malbec wine as you wanted, and a selection from the delicious salad bar was $15.00 each. Now that was a bargain. Hasta luego!

January 10, 2010 - from Buenos Aires

The eMedicineHealth.com website describes it pretty clearly in its first few words: a nosebleed can be dramatic and frightening. Trust me, it is both! In all of my years, I have never experienced a nosebleed until
6:15 a.m. on Friday morning. To say that I panicked a little with blood streaming from my nose in what looked like some kind of fatal hemorrhage is putting it mildly. I couldn't stem the flow and splattered blood around the entire hotel room and bath looking for something to absorb the bright red fluid and stop its flow. Pressure on the bridge of my nose seemed to help and the copious flow began to ebb in five minutes or so, while my life quickly replayed itself in my mind. I thought I was history, but recovered in time to brush my teeth, spit out disgusting gobs of blood that had gathered in my mouth, and jump in the shower. Still a little shaken by the experience, I walked downstairs and went outside to the sidewalk cafe next door and sipped on orange juice and coffee. My friend, Larry, was already sitting there wondering what had taken me so long to appear, since I am always the first one outside. Larry was sympathetic and later, I found out that Larry and a couple of other North American acquaintances were most concerned by my lack of color. I had no doubt blanched considerably from the "dramatic and frightening" ordeal.
I slowly recovered and Larry and I were able to maintain our schedule of apartment viewings. We were looking for a two or three-bedroom furnished apartment with at least two bathrooms and had scheduled a visit to three of them by selecting possibilities from the internet pictures of apartment brokers. The reason we looked for three bedroom places is that one of Larry's friends from home may visit him and I never know if somebody from home will take me up on my invitation to "come on down!"

     For a variety of reasons, none of the apartments were satisfactory and we headed home, thinking we had a short walk back to our $40/night hotel. After walking 39 blocks and missing a turn to get back home, we hailed a cab and rode the rest of the way. Neither Larry nor I wanted to be the first to concede that we were getting tired in the 85 degree heat and significant humidity, so we had kept on walking. After realizing that we had walked past our shortest route, we both conceded that we had been ready to ride a long time ago. I was pretty proud of having kept up with the youngster (Larry is 58), despite being down a quart or two of blood. I felt tired but pretty good after my second shower of the day. I celebrated by eating a modest portion of rice with rabbit at a Spanish (Astoria, Spain cuisine) restaurant.
     Then came Saturday morning! Again at
6:15 a.m. in a light sleep and in a replay of the previous morning, I felt my nose begin to run. Next came the torrents of blood which I didn't think would ever stop. My concern was even greater this time and I thought the end was near as I foolishly brushed my teeth amidst the red tide. I remember thinking that at least I would feel better with a clean mouth while I passed from this world. There was so much blood that the hand towel was completely soaked in red. I quickly threw on a shirt, pants, and shoes and headed to the lobby seeking help. I asked the desk clerk to call for an ambulance because I wasn't sure how much blood I had left in my system. The desk clerk tried to help, telling me it was all caused by salt, which I had confessed to eating as a regular part of my diet. "Salt will kill you," he admonished and I was completely convinced that it was happening right then and there.
The ambulance arrived 15 minutes later and a young, handsome (think Antonio Banderas, ladies) doctor approached me as I sat in the hotel lobby. He took my blood pressure and pulse and I noticed that the flow had begun to abate. He said my blood pressure was high (140), although his English was weak and I couldn't obtain the diastolic number (the lower one) from him. He said that my pressure was probably even higher earlier and that the rise in blood pressure probably caused the bleeding, although my pressure has been higher than 140 in the past (I take medication) and I’ve never had a nosebleed. He said there was no emergency, however, and I didn't need to be taken by ambulance to the state-run hospital.  He told me that I should go to the Brittanico Hospital (a private one) and have an Otolaryngologist look at me. He also said that his service is free (what are the negatives about a government-run, single provider system in the USA?) and even tourists are covered.
     I went to the
Brittanico Hospital but, of course, there are no specialists on duty over the weekend. Perhaps, I will return on Monday. I always have my annual physical exam right before I leave on my winter trips and my doctor pronounced me fit just two days before Christmas with a blood pressure of 127/70. What had gone wrong in just a couple of days? Thanks to the link I mentioned above sent to me by my concerned spouse, I think I cleared up the mystery and also relieved a ton of anxiety. It seems that the potential for nosebleeds increases with age and is very rarely caused by high blood pressure (read the link). The desk clerk, the ambulance doctor, two taxi drivers, two North American acquaintances, and Larry all had diagnosed high blood pressure as the cause. Beware of unsolicited expertise! Nosebleeds are very, very rarely a serious matter and most can be treated quite readily. I should have continued to use pressure on the bridge of my nose while leaning slightly forward (not backward as the desk clerk prescribed) for at least 10 minutes. I had only done that for a couple of minutes and it had stopped the first day. During the second episode, I had held it longer while I waited for the ambulance and the flow stopped. The link is probably right; this is probably not the major medical issue that I had feared. The link is certainly right that it is, however, "dramatic and frightening" and not the best way to lose a little weight.
     It is now Sunday morning and I went to sleep last night with towels by my bedside, prepared to fight the bloody battle once more. The good news is that this morning was flow-free and I am feeling much relieved. Now, perhaps I can get on with the acquisition of an apartment. Larry and I are beginning to think that two studio apartments in the same neighborhood might be a better option, since there are more of those available. We will pursue that direction on Monday. I may even squeeze in a visit to the Otolaryngologist. This is the first time I have ever had to use that term in an update and I certainly hope it is the last. Stay tuned.

January 12, 2010 – From Buenos Aires
     The weekend was spent surviving the heat and humidity, enjoying the slow pace of a weekend in the big, foreign city, and looking at apartments. Monday, Larry and I looked at four more apartments and settled on one located in an exclusive section of town in what might be the best building in Buenos Aires. It is a five-year-old 37 floor skyscraper where we rented a two bedroom, two and one-half bath apartment with a full kitchen on the 24th floor. The view is absolutely breathtaking out the huge window that wraps around the living room, offering a nighttime spectacle that will, no doubt, occupy us a few hours each day. I cannot bring myself to look straight down, because of the acrophobia that still haunts me. My whole body tingles when I get too close to the window, my palms start to perspire, and my heart starts to race. Perhaps, living in this place will help me overcome the fear, but in the meantime, I claimed the smaller of the bedrooms where I could move my bed farthest from the window. Larry can have the larger bedroom. There is also a tiny balcony in our apartment where Larry will go to smoke and I will avoid like the plague. I can't even imagine the symptoms I would experience by standing on that tiny balcony, hanging 24 floors above the ground.
I didn't mention the ground level work-out room, sauna, large swimming pool, tennis court, and patio available to all residents of this gated, 24-hour, security-patrolled building, but I think you are starting to get the picture. The next month will be spent in the most luxurious surroundings I have ever experienced in my travels. I wouldn't have paid the discounted $2,500/month rent if I was alone, but splitting the cost with Larry made it more palatable. I was already paying $40/night at the hotel, so the apartment is only a few cents more per day with many, many more amenities. Each of the bathrooms has a shower curtain which is the amenity Larry and I will enjoy most, since our hotel showers had no curtains - only a long-handled squeegee with which one mopped the floor after every shower. Larry loved the apartment's full kitchen, since he loves to cook, so it might save me considerable money on food. Here's hoping he is a good cook. He is already planning to roast a stuffed chicken and how bad can that be messed up? We move in at
4:00 p.m. today to give the maids time to clean after the last tenants.
The health news continues to be good: three consecutive days without the nosebleeds that scared me to death. Perhaps, it was a sinus infection, described in the internet link as a distinct possibility.

Overnight, a nor'easter, here called a temporal with winds probably from the so' west, swept through the town, clearing out the hot, humid air under which we have been suffering. Unfortunately, the temporal had 70 mph winds that damaged 130 trees in the city. I heard a little rain overnight, but the storm passed while I was sleeping and I wasn't as impacted as the man in the news who had a street lamp pole fall on him during the gale. This morning brought brisk breezes and temps chilling the locals. Significant shivering and goose bumps were evident on the workforce as they headed toward their offices. I opted to partake of my cafe con leche and media-lunas (mini-croissants) inside to protect me from the bone-chilling, mid-60's temperatures. Now
noon, it has warmed considerably, the breezes have subsided, and people are sitting outside at all the cafes once more. Mother Nature probably just wanted to remind me of the winter being endured by friends and family in the frozen tundra of Pennsylvania.
Larry and I have had a continuing, finally finished, days-long saga with a pair of counterfeit 10 peso notes that has been quite entertaining. On my first night in town, I paid my bill at a very famous, all-you-can-eat parilla (BBQ grill) restaurant and pocketed my change. We cabbed home and when I went to pay the taxi fare with two tens ($2.50 each), the cabbie held them up to the interior light to check for a watermark for verification of the bills' authenticity and, lo and behold, they were counterfeit - the watermark of the historical figure seen only by holding the bill up to light was not there. Larry thought it hilarious, even though he got stuck paying for the taxi.

The next morning, we had breakfast at the restaurant next door and I paid my bill with the counterfeit money. The cashier accepted them without a glance and I left the restaurant feeling great, while Larry paid his tab. You guessed it: Larry got my bills in change. We both roared when we got outside. After that, we went to the laundry to pick up the clothes we had taken after the spray-on, pickpocket incident. Larry paid first and I paid for mine a few seconds later with a large bill. Right again - I got the bills back. I spent several days trying to pass the currency again, but was turned down several times by people who checked, including the owner of this internet cafe. We have a lot of laughs with the cafe owner and we all check every bill that passes between us now. Finally, I got rid of one bill at a cafe, where I over-tipped so they didn't lose the entire amount and the other one was passed to a cabbie, along with another generous tip. I couldn't let them incur the full loss for the counterfeit currency, but they probably passed them on to unsuspecting people as well. Now, Larry and I even check the currency we get when we get money from the ATMs. I guess you had to be here to get as big a charge out of it as we did, but when one is spending three months with so little to do, we have to find entertainment somewhere.  Stay tuned for the first reports from skyscraper apartment life in
Buenos Aires.

January 14, 2010 - From Buenos Aires
     Despite the concern that describing what follows will indicate that I approve of the behavior, I feel a need to share another exciting event that occurred a few nights back. I didn't describe it at the time because of the time spent packing, renting, and moving into the new apartment and I need to keep reiterating that I couldn't possibly make this stuff up:

On Sunday evening, Tarak, the Australian that Crazy Larry introduced to me, was sitting with Larry outside the cafe next to our hotel, drinking the liter-sized
Quilmes beers that they enjoy. I sat with them for awhile, consumed a tonic water (seriously) and finally suggested at 9:00 p.m. that we find a bite to eat. They concurred and we started walking up the street past the very famous Cafe Tortoni, where there is always a queue. Tortoni has a gorgeous interior, with high ceilings, old paintings of the famous artists and intellectuals who still gather there, and formally-attired waiters noted for their impeccable service, ergo the queue.
As we approached the queue, and unbeknownst to me, Tarak extricated a marijuana joint from his cigarette pack and lit it, exhaling a huge cloud of THC-infused smoke. As soon as it hit my nostrils I recognized the odor, having spent eight years tracking the substance in the restrooms of schools where I served as disciplinarian. I dodged most of the cloud, but the queue and the Policia Federale who was standing nearby got a full dose of the stuff. Larry and Tarak had been occasionally taking puffs (hits) on the substance while drinking their beers over the past few days, so Tarak's behavior in this instance was not a complete shock. Larry possesses a medical marijuana prescription from
California, so I knew that he both grew and smoked the stuff at home, but he hadn't smoked the weed last year in Mexico since he feared confinement in the notorious Mexican prison system. Tarak had been pretty open, he later said, smoking the stuff in clubs, at cafes, and pretty much anywhere he wanted during his four months in the country, although he maintains that he only smokes a little each day.
Tarak must have felt the displeasure of the queue and the concern of the young policeman, because he immediately extinguished the joint and quickly discarded it along the curb. Not fast enough, however, because before we reached the corner only a few feet past Tortoni's, the policeman's voice rang out to stop and we quickly complied. He targeted Tarak, since several people in the queue had pointed him out and he immediately confronted him with the discarded joint, permitting Larry and me to continue walking, if we chose. We stopped a few feet away to help our friend as he was asked for identification and underwent some stern questioning, which was somewhat humorous because Tarak's Spanish was as nonexistent as the policeman's English. We refrained from laughter out of concern that our friend might be arrested, especially after the policeman gestured with crossed wrists that he would be cuffed and taken away and we began to assist with the translation between them. For twenty minutes there was some concern among us that he was going to be arrested, but finally, the policeman left him off with a warning. It turns out that it is legal to smoke marijuana in your apartment or in your hotel room, but NOT on the street. Larry and Tarak were both relieved with the warning, since I learned while standing there that Larry had also taken a hit on the street near the queue and he thought he was next in line for arrest. I tried to help by telling the policeman that in all of my years I had never smoked marijuana and that information might have been the deciding factor in Tarak's happy ending. At least, that is what I keep telling the two of them, both of whom learned a valuable lesson. Tarak has become a trifle paranoid, thinking the policemen who work a regular beat in the neighborhood keep an eye out for him and the experience has certainly altered his (and Larry's) behavior. I wouldn't want to spend much time in Tarak's apartment now, however, for fear of becoming THC-infused myself.

     Each day brings a new experience while traveling and, sometimes when they are happening, I shake my own head in amazement.  Hasta luego!

January 18, 2010 - From Buenos Aires
     The weekend was full of sightseeing, social affairs, housekeeping chores, and plenty of heat and humidity. Friday evening, we hosted our first - and with all the work probably our last - dinner party. Tarak, our friend from Australia still shaken by his bout with the Policia Federales, and Franco, a 68-year-old professor of French and translation at McGill University in Montreal, were our guests for a dinner of spaghetti and Larry's famous sauce. The sauce is famous, no doubt, only on Larry's homestead in northern California, but I humored him so that he did most of the cooking. I handled the salad and the hors d'oeuvres of rolled ham and cheese, salami, blocks of cheese and olives. Larry made a dip of cream cheese and pimientos, so the appetizers looked pretty impressive. With the quantity of beer that Tarak and Larry consumed and the wine that Franco and I managed to imbibe, the success of the dinner was pretty much guaranteed.
I had an interesting discussion with Franco, whom Larry also met in
Mexico last year. They kept in touch over the summer and planned to meet this winter (ours) in Buenos Aires. Franco is so impressed with BsAs after only three days in town that he is beginning to look for work here. He is recently divorced and attempted to no avail to find similar opportunities in Mexico City last winter. I take it that he has had enough of Montreal's winters and he remembers fondly his life in his hometown of Paris, France. BsAs genuinely reminds him of Paris and he said, "the corner cafes, the delicious coffee, and the late night dining all remind me of home." Since he is an educator, we had much to discuss, although I was encouraged to give a mini-lecture on the Amish which Larry and Tarak also seemed to enjoy, although they could very well have been humoring me, too.
Saturday, we intended to visit
Tigre, a river-delta town where Porteños (what folks from BsAs call themselves) spend weekends and vacations. It is only an hour's train ride and closer than the long trip to the beaches on the south Atlantic. I awoke to a gentle rain, but managed to walk to a nearby cafe for a cafe con leche and two media lunas (half moon mini-croissants) and a post-breakfast stroll to this internet center to answer emails. Larry apparently needed more sleep; he later told me that Tarak had departed at 2:30 a.m., a reasonable hour for Argentineans, but three hours after Franco had said goodnight and I had ambled off to my bedroom. That gave them more time to consume adult beverages and also provided Larry (he calls himself Lorenzo in Latin America) with the need to sleep off the effects of the Quilmes beer they enjoy.
As Larry slowly recovered from the
Quilmes after effects, I convinced him that we should make the day productive by walking to MALBA, a famous Latin American modern art museum located about 17 blocks away. There, we enjoyed lunch at the attached, sophisticated, but expensive cafe before taking on the works of American icon Andy Warhol, whose art was on loan from the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. We took a taxi to return home, but walked another 21 blocks later in the evening to the Plaza Serrano for the sushi dinner that Larry had begun to crave. The sushi was fresh, but limited in its variety. Apparently, the south Atlantic yields little more than sushi-grade salmon, my least favorite sushi entree, because the 40-piece sushi-sashimi combination plate was 90% salmon. Larry's Quilmes, the only two, small bottles he would consume on his day-after protocol, and my half-bottle of Sauvignon Blanc left us with a bill of about 200 pesos, about $28/each. We taxied home for a good night's sleep, planning for Sunday's trip to the postponed Tigre.
Sunday broke hot and humid, but we braved the weather for the 30 cent train ride to
Tigre. The train's cars were full of people, including boy scouts headed for the recreation provided by the muddy waters of the Parana River. This river delta of the Parana and the Uruguay Rivers covers more than 5,000 square miles. That was no typo - more than 5,000 square miles that are used by the locals much like the canals of Venice. Heavy boat traffic, sightseeing catamarans, inter-island ferries and water taxis, rowing sculls, canoes, kayaks, pleasure craft, and grocery barges ply the waters. We took a water taxi to a beautiful restaurant located on the banks of one of the main channels where we had lunch and enjoyed the passing river traffic. A 45-minute, return trip, included in the $6.00 fare, was shortened by a delightful five-year-old girl who apparently thought that Larry and I were street entertainers. Larry's facial antics with ears and tongue (every face an improvement over the norm) and my hand gyrations entertained the pretty, young child during much of the trip to the delight of her grandparents.
Afterward, we visited a local casino to use the baño on the way to a huge market, where the heat and humidity was oppressive. We gave up shopping in about 10 minutes and hurriedly made our way back to the train station, taking the special, tourist train along the river through the most attractive of BsAs's suburbs. We couldn't wait to get home to our beautiful apartment with its conditioned air. We were exhausted from the heat and humidity. I made a salami and cheese sandwich with mayo and mustard at about
7:00 p.m. and Larry dined sumptuously on three cans of Quilmes. I was in bed by 11:00, though I confess to napping through CSI Miami on occasion prior to that. It was a productive weekend and one where we became a little more accustomed to our neighborhood and our apartment. Hasta Luego!

January 20, 2010 - From Buenos Aires
Like Oscar Madison and Felix Unger of the "Odd Couple", Lorenzo and I are working to get accustomed to one another's idiosyncrasies. He drinks beer; I drink red wine. Wait, he drinks red wine, too, and rum and almost anything else that contains alcohol. He likes to stay up late and sleep in; I like to go to bed at a reasonable hour and arise early. In the morning, he enjoys lingering over homemade coffee until his mind clears enough to start the day, but rarely eats breakfast; I like to shower early, always eat breakfast, and take my coffee with toast or media-lunas in a nearby cafe while I read a copy of the Buenos Aires Herald (a local English daily). I interrupt my reading to watch the distaff side of the Porteño population head to work. He is almost obsessive-compulsive, writing down every expense, making notes about our activities, and endlessly reading his travel guide; I pretty much wing every day, never making notes, or writing down expenses. I only read my travel guide occasionally, mostly to see if we should head to a specific restaurant. We now share control of the TV remote on alternate days, and select the location of our evening meal the same way. I usually select a nice restaurant, whether in my guide or not, where I think a good meal is possible; Larry (oops, Lorenzo) selects restaurants based on the price of a litre of Quilmes. Occasionally, the price of Quilmes coincides with a good meal, but only rarely.
We are both tidy people, so the apartment is litter-free with beds made daily, tables and counters clean and orderly, and dishes regularly washed. The odd couple washed every pot, pan, and dish when we moved in and also wiped every kitchen cabinet. I dried while Lorenzo washed. After our dinner party, while Lorenzo battled his morning-after demons, I washed and dried all the pots, pans, and dinnerware used for our night of entertaining. In exchange, Lorenzo has been washing our few dishes on a daily basis. It has been a good relationship to date and he is very considerate about his horrendous, cigarette-smoking habit, adjourning to his precarious loft on the balcony to indulge. I have ceded the balcony to him, since the drop from there is a cliff-like 24 stories.

The past few days have been spent with laundry, a great haircut, long walks to distant neighborhoods for dinner, and late evening (for me) television. We get several movie channels in English with Spanish sub-titles, helpful in advancing our Spanish vocabulary, but get no news channels in English. The headlines (titulos) that stream across the bottom of the screen also add to the growth of our vocabulary, but to really understand the news I rely on the "Herald" and the internet.

Two nights ago, while we enjoyed a drink in a section of town called Palermo Viejo and sweated profusely after our 21-block walk to get there, another "temporal" rainstorm began with crashing thunder and lightning. We dashed into a nearby parilla (grill) for dinner and for protection from the rain. It was my night to choose restaurants and I got lucky, because the dinner was excellent. As the storm persisted, we shared a rib-roast of lamb for two, creamed spinach, and mashed potatoes. I accepted full credit for the choice of an excellent restaurant, despite the serendipity of its selection.

Last night, Lorenzo's turn for restaurant selection, we headed on a 17-block walk to a neighborhood called Barrio Norte to a restaurant he selected from his ever-present travel guide. It was one of those nights when the price of beer intersected with a quality meal. We enjoyed two completely different cazuelas (stews), advertised as being from the countryside. His, called locro, had corn, beans, pork sausage, and a couple pieces of beef and reminded him of the bean soup he makes at home. Mine was a delicious shepherd's pie, with much chopped beef, onions, and a few diced tomatoes under the mashed potato covering. I swear that in one bite I tasted beef liver, so the chopped beef probably included many of the cheaper parts of the cow, but all was tender and delicious. With bread, a $3.00 carafe of the house wine, and Lorenzo's beer, the bill came to $10/each, including tip. I had to give him credit. He had found a hearty, delicious meal at an unbelievable price. One must give the devil his due.  Hasta Luego!

January 22, 2010 - From Buenos Aires
Plane, train, automobile, bus, subway, shoe leather, and taxi. We have used them all in getting here and around BsAs. Bus and subway fares run around 30 cents, so that is the most economical way to travel around the city, but we have walked miles each day to sight-see and reach the restaurant of the day. Taxi fares rarely reach $5.00 and fares are rounded up to the next peso, so there is little tipping. It is really economical to see the city, especially when taxi fares are divided among a pair of sightseers.

     But, to travel seven stops one way on the subway and walk five and a half blocks for a burrito is a little much. No, burritos are not regular fare here in
Argentina, but Lorenzo has been here three months, is craving Mexican food, and it was his night to select restaurants. His book said there was a burrito joint on Calle Lavalle (Lavalle Street), one of two pedestrian-only shopping streets in center city, so we charted our way via the subway to the dark, tiny burrito joint. They made our burrito to order, as we moved our tray down the line and pointed to different ingredients. I selected boiled beef, some chunked pork, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, lettuce, cheese, guacamole, and mild, hot sauce. They wrapped the burrito in a tortilla and aluminum foil, placed it on a George Foreman grill, and inquired as to what I would like to drink. I selected a margarita, another oddity in Argentina, and paid the bill at the end of the cafeteria-like line while waiting for the burrito to steam inside the foil. 38 pesos ($9.50) was the bill, the same as Lorenzo paid for his large beer and burrito. He had broken his record by 50 cents. This was the cheapest meal, yet and he was a happy camper. Not much ambiance, no table service, only a 20-minute dining experience, and a long walk and subway ride to get home, but I must admit: it was a very good burrito! I hate to give the devil his due two days in a row, but he had done it again. I will be hard pressed to match the price, but tonight I will top the ambiance, the service, and the length of the dining experience by simply walking our neighborhood and selecting a restaurant.
Lorenzo just arrived at the internet center, freshly showered and unshaven, and right on schedule at
10:15 a.m. He is a slow starter. I made scrambled eggs with cheese and toast this morning and, along with his coffee, we enjoyed an American breakfast for a change. I washed and dried the dishes, and walked to the internet center, arriving at 9:00 a.m. I shower as soon as I arise and he slowly rounds into shower mode. It isn't necessary to alternate showers to preserve water, though, since our water is a hot-water-as-you-need-it system which takes a little long to get hot water to you, but works really well. No heating a tank of water, so the system is very economical.
Our trip to the zoo and famous
Japanese Garden turned out to be just a trip to the zoo. It was a hot and sticky day, as is today, and Lorenzo took pictures of every single animal we saw. He got a new camera for the trip and has taken, literally, thousands of photos. He keeps offering to show them to me, but I have escaped that fate so far. We tired after a couple of hours in the sun and decided to call it a day. It was a pretty nice zoo and there were children everywhere whose enthusiasm is always fun to observe, but it was too hot. We also decided that we may run out of things to do in our month in BsAs and we could save the Japanese Gardens for another, hopefully cooler, day.
Lorenzo informed me that the news channels are saying that
Argentina is an oven, with hot temperatures everywhere, some cities over 100 degrees. I don't like snow, but too much heat and humidity isn't a lot of fun, either. I'll bear up, however.  Ciao!

January 26, 2010 - From Buenos Aires
I came out of my bedroom refreshed from my morning shower at
8:00 a.m. on Saturday, just like I do every morning.  When I entered the living room with the wrap-around windows, I noticed a couple of ropes hanging over the outside of the windows. What in the world? I suspected window washers, but couldn't imagine anyone hanging from that sheer drop of 37 floors. I decided that I couldn't watch their efforts, if they were, indeed, going to wash the very windows from which I can't even look down, so I left early for my breakfast at the corner cafe. Sure enough, when I got outside and looked up, there were eight men hanging on thin, somewhat-frayed ropes, rappelling down the side of the building, washing windows. I took a couple of photos, tried to quiet my stomach, and left them to their efforts. When I returned, the windows were cleaned, there were no suspicious oil spots on the ground outside the building from the bodies of the fallen, and the men were gone. Now, there is one job for which I will never compete.
     Other than the window washers, the weekend was a pretty routine passage of life in the big city. We are getting to know the neighborhood and are beginning to be treated like locals by folks we see every day. The waiter at the cafe knows what I want for breakfast and welcomes me like family, although he doesn't yet kiss my cheek in greeting like he does other regulars. Single besos (kisses) in greeting and to say good-bye are common among men and women in Argentina. Maybe, I need to start puckering up as I approach the cafe in the morning.
     Lorenzo, our designated shopper and a veteran of 30 years in the grocery business, visited the local supermarket several times over the weekend to replenish our supplies of water, ginger ale, beer, and bread. We have been eating lunch in the apartment and the rotisserie chicken we had for lunch last week has provided the contents of sandwiches for most of the weekend. I think a wing or two still survive deep in the recesses of our refrigerator.
     Evenings, we have been alternating the selection of restaurants with much enthusiasm. I love the restaurants I choose and Lorenzo loves his. If the restaurant is good and cheap, the selection is deemed a success by both of us. His $9.50 burrito dinner is the lowest priced meal to date, but the weekend saw us go head-to-head at the top end of our price range. Lorenzo selected a Vietnamese Restaurant where the food and ambiance were absolutely awesome. God, it hurt to admit that. The bill, however, was about $32/each, so there was plenty about which I could complain.
     On Sunday, I selected a restaurant that my travel book (a much-appreciated gift from a neighbor) lauded as inexpensive and consistently serving the best beef in Buenos Aires. The place was located very close to the American Embassy and the Ambassador's house, from which Lorenzo was chased by a guard as he took a photo of the residence. We arrived at 7:00 p.m. and had an hour to waste because the Rio Alba Restaurante didn't open until 8:00. We strolled the neighborhood and noticed a huge park across a 10 or 12 lane street (Avenida Libertador). We spent the hour strolling the park with Lorenzo snapping photos of kids on skates, blooms in the rose garden, lovers sitting beside the enormous lake, peddlers propelling pedal boats, statues of famous Argentineans, as well as a bust of Shakespeare, and whatever else caught his eye. He estimates that he has taken more than 7,000 photos since he began his trip in October. The hour passed quickly, although we were sticky with perspiration from the hot sun and humid air. Days are getting shorter here in the southern hemisphere, but the sun still does not set until after 8:00 p.m.
     The book was correct about the quality of the meat. Lorenzo has wanted to order the table-side parilla (grill with charcoal) mixed meat platter for two since we started dining out and we agreed that this was our opportunity. The serving was unbelievably large. There was chorizo, blood sausage, kidneys, ribs, four or six servings of tenderloin steak, and probably cuts that I have forgotten or that we haven't eaten yet. We brought half of the grill home to be eaten some night this week when we are ready for beef once more. The steak was very rare like we had ordered and was the most tender beef either of us has eaten in Argentina. We both agreed that the meal was terrific. That he selected the wine and went with the waiter's recommended Malbec contributed to the cost of the meal, although his cheesecake and my chocolate mousse probably didn't help. Neither of us are dessert people, but we gave it a go - me, because I felt like chocolate mousse and Lorenzo just to inflate the check. Sure enough, the meal cost us $42/each and Lorenzo had something to complain about. When we finish the second portion, the cost per meal will drop to $21/each with a good bottle of wine, so he can't complain too much.
     Monday night, we ate his left-over spaghetti sauce on some refrigerated cheese ravioli he purchased on his trip to the supermarket, so we are eating at home a little more frequently to reduce our expenses. He will choose the restaurant tonight and it's my turn tomorrow, so we'll see what kind of turn the restaurant competition takes this week.  Hasta luego.

January 29, 2010 - From Buenos Aires
All TV channels have been announcing, "Alerta Naranja," (Orange Alert) daily for the past week or 10 days. Not a notice of terrorist threats, the alert is because of "La Ola de Calor" (the heat wave), that has gripped the country. There is only one higher alert - Roja. Here in the country's capital, temperatures have gotten to 95 degrees and the heat index approaches 100, with stifling humidity. It almost appears like Mother Nature is saying, "You wanted summer, Harry, take that!" I'm not looking for sympathy, since I realize that none will be forthcoming from those in the northern hemisphere suffering the throes of daily high temps below freezing; I'm just attempting to accurately report the conditions under which I am operating. Some parts of the country have daily highs of 105 degrees, including in
Mendoza, the center of the Malbec wine industry and a future destination. Bariloche, another destination, and Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city not on my itinerary, seem to have escaped the heat. Ushuaia sometimes reaches 50 degrees during the daytime and Bariloche has lows around 40 with daytime highs in the mid 70's. I need to get to Bariloche pretty quickly.
The news channels help, advising us to drink plenty of water, eat fruits and vegetables, wear light-colored clothing, and to check on our neighbors - all of which I have done. Lorenzo is fine and he is the only neighbor to whom I have access. He should be fine in our great apartment, although he could be suffering from frostbite, since he keeps his bedroom air-conditioner set at 64 degrees. He doesn't appear too concerned that electrical demands are at an all-time high in
This week, I introduced Lorenzo to an additional way to wait out the hottest part of the day. Previously, we had stayed in our air-conditioned, luxury digs and insulted each other for hours on end, but on Wednesday I convinced him to reluctantly accompany me to the movie theatre, only three blocks away. A modern theatre with eight viewing salons, it was a great respite during the hot, late afternoon. For a price of under five dollars, we watched "It's Complicated," with Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin, although here it was called, "Still in Love with My Ex." The movie was hilarious in its original English with Spanish sub-titles, and we exited at
7:30 p.m. to slightly cooler temps and ready to change clothes for dinner. We wear Bermuda shorts (I only brought two pairs) during the day, but change to long pants for evening wear in an attempt to be culturally correct.
Restaurant selection has taken an ugly turn. On one of his days to select this week, Lorenzo stole a restaurant from my travel guide and took credit for the interesting results. It was a very crowded bar/restaurant in a section of town called Palermo Hollywood, so named because of the films once made there. It is now the "in" part of town, full of exciting restaurants teeming with young people. We forced our way into "Bangalor," past the youngsters, some engaged in romantic endeavors like sucking on their partner's ear lobe or biting one another's lips (public displays of affection always embarrass me for some reason), and made our way to the second floor of the establishment where we were the first diners seated. The noise of "Happy Hour" and the heat of the bar area rose to our level, but we sat under the air conditioner in a very Indian room, complete with floor seating on pillows. We chose a small table for two, however, since it would take a crane to get me up from a floor pillow with my arthritic knees.

Lorenzo ordered curried chicken and I tried the duck
Madras, which were both served on a large piece of Naan (Indian bread) and accompanied by white rice. Both were OK, though not sensational. The experience was a rich cultural one, even though I was older than the median age in the place by at least 40 years. It is good to see how young adults live in other countries, and how romantic they become in the most public of places. When I was an assistant principal in charge of discipline and student decorum, I would have filled the detention room with violators of my public displays of affection ban.
Last night, after frittering away the day attempting to see ALL of his more than 7,500 snapshots on CD's that were cut for him at the local Kodak shop and getting extremely frustrated because he couldn't find every one (identified by number), despite two trips back to the shop, it was Lorenzo's turn, once again, to select the location of our evening repast. We walked around the block in ever-increasing circles for about an hour, past several interesting possibilities until, perspiring heavily, we arrived at the large shopping center where Lorenzo selected (are you ready for this?) Benihana. Benihana!!!! Since he lives in the sticks of northern
California, somewhere near a town of 400 people, he had never dined around the hibachi in a Benihana. I endured another mediocre meal at Benihana that produced far less entertainment than in my previous experiences in restaurants of that chain - no eggs in the chef's hat and a botched spin of the spatulas. The total bill with tip and including a couple of glasses of a nice Malbec was about $32, much less expensive than Benihana in the USA, but a little over our budget.
The previous evening, I had selected a "pulperia" without air-conditioning, but with a huge, corner fan, where I had an empanada, a humita (spiced, corn meal-stuffed corn leaves) and a small pitcher of wine, while Larry had locro (stew) and a large beer. Because of an error on the map in the travel book I had used to get the restaurant's location, we walked about 20 blocks out of the way to reach our destination. The tiny place with 10 tables turned out to be only three blocks from our apartment and Lorenzo crowed all night long about the error. The bill was $8.50/each, a new record low in my opinion. Lorenzo refuses to acknowledge the record because we secretly bought the meal of the two, indigenous, old ladies dining at the next table ($4.00/each) and took six empanadas home for lunch the next day. He claims that the entire bill is part of the expense and his record for low-priced meals ($9.50) remains intact. I only wish there were some place to appeal that decision.

I have had thousands of requests (well, maybe two) for more photos of the apartment and some of the food we are served. I have not taken any pictures of food to date, but I will attempt to honor those requests in future scenes. First, I will send a few more of my current photos, especially those of some cute, Argentinean children I have captured on my malfunctioning camera. You can look for those sometime after this weekend. In the meantime, I will attempt to survive "La Ola de Calor."  Hasta luego!

February 1, 2010 - From Buenos Aires
     For us, life in Buenos Aires has evolved into what would pass for urban life in almost any large city in the world. Short, shopping trips to neighborhood businesses where owners get to know and greet you, like in this "locutorio," where three computers share floor space with one telephone "cabina" and a small variety of snacks and cigarettes, are a daily occurrence. In the USA, one could not make a living on the volume of business done in this establishment, but the young owner seems to be making a go of it, despite the fact that there is a "locutorio" on almost every block. The owner here always smiles and welcomes us as do the other two employees that man the cash register.
This morning, the waiter at the cafe I frequent greeted me with a firm handshake and a "Buen dia, amigo," and was genuinely glad to see me after his day off on Sunday, although I still haven't quite worked my way up to the more intimate kiss-on-the-cheek greeting that I see him bestow on other regulars. I took his photo this morning, so I will share that when I next send photos.

Yesterday's rain refreshed the sidewalk where I sat enjoying my cafe con leche, but it apparently also refreshed the dog urine sprayed liberally on the trees and the pavement boxes in which they grow. There is nothing appetizing about the morning breeze wafting the sweet fragrance of uric acid into one's nostrils.

Buenos Aires is similar to Paris, not only in the many, welcoming corner cafes where residents lounge over coffee, but also in the percentage of residents who own and love dogs. A large city, whether New York, Paris, or here in Latin America, does not seem an appropriate place to raise a dog, but I have seen Old English Sheep Dogs, Australian Sheep Dogs, Boxers, Labs, Golden Retrievers, English Bull Dogs, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Cocker Spaniels, Portuguese Water Dogs, Collies, and just about every type of dog you might find on a street in your hometown. But, here, they live on concrete and tile sidewalks, asphalt and cobblestone streets, and generally have little space to run, jump, play, or excrete. But, one of the things I enjoy most every morning is to sit at my cafe table and watch folks walk their pets. I saw one lady scrupulously clean the cobblestone street when her beloved Fido got the urge in the middle of the thoroughfare, but generally, when one walks the sidewalks of Buenos Aires or Paris, one must constantly look down for one of my pet peeves: doggie do-do left behind by a discourteous pet owner for unsuspecting pedestrians. There are very few stray dogs in this city, although Lorenzo tells me there were many in the cities he visited prior to my arrival. Here, it is always fun to watch the dog-walkers who sometimes have as many as a dozen pets out for their daily exercise. I wonder if the dog-walkers clean up after their charges?
The weekend was spent as most days have been spent, lazy mornings at the corner cafe with cafe and media-lunas, and an hour or two on the computer answering emails, writing updates, and sending photos. Another slideshow should appear today if my webmaster (mistress) is as efficient as usual. Afternoons are spent in the apartment, beating the heat, reading, watching the news in Spanish, and searching for movies on the English movie channel. Saturday, we went to another movie at the local Cineplex and it was Lorenzo's turn to choose the movie. Actually, it was his turn to choose, pay for the tickets, and to make all arrangements. He chose one starring Robin Williams and Alec Baldwin. I had no problem with his choice, although it turned out to be a Walt Disney children's production. I could have handled that, but the fact that he didn't inquire about which language the film was to be shown in necessitated an early departure when it turned out to be in Spanish, here called Castellano. The last time for "It's Complicated," I had asked the cashier about the language when I purchased two tickets, but neglected to inform Lorenzo of that fact. He never thought of it and we only lasted 40 minutes in a child's movie in Castellano. I could hardly wait to lambaste him over his choice and his lack of research, though all in good nature.

We have traveled to all sections of the city by subway, bus, and taxi, seen the highlights of the tourist destinations, such as the old section of Caminito in La Boca, the Sunday antique auction in San Telmo, walked along the revitalized port section in Puerto Madero, and strolled along the walls of Recoleta. We still need to visit the
Japanese Garden where we might head for lunch today to dine on sushi once more. We have had three dinner or lunch ventures in places where chopsticks were the utensil of choice. In the first two, Lorenzo opted for a tenedor (fork), but I kept trying to teach him how to use chopsticks. Saturday at lunch, we ventured back to Benihana where we had seen the best sushi we have encountered in our stay in BsAs. He stumbled at first with the lumber, but this time he persisted and, by the end of the meal, he had mastered the chopsticks. He was thrilled and I was pleased - once a teacher, always a teacher.
The heat wave was broken by yesterday's rain, but, with the sunshine this morning, the heat and humidity have returned. Rain is supposed to return for the next two days, so we will get a respite from the heat. The humidity here has surprised and reminded me of my winter in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where it was even more oppressive. We are hoping for some cooler temperatures when we head south in 10 days or so.  Hasta luego!

February 4, 2010 - From Buenos Aires
Lightning danced between the clouds, instantly illuminating the sky and the low, overhanging clouds, while occasional, gorgeous, distant, ground strokes generated rumbling thunder. We had a front row seat for the show from our living room perch on the 24th floor. Before and after dinner we turned out the apartment lights, turned off the TV, and enjoyed nature's beauty. Tarak, the Australian tango dancer, joined us because we invited him to a mixed-grill restaurant dinner to say farewell, since he leaves for home in three days. It was a very enjoyable evening with loads of laughs. I went to bed at 12:30 with the lightning still dancing as Lorenzo and Tarak had beer nightcaps. Or so I thought.
It happens that my
12:30 a.m. bedtime is usually the beginning of the evening for Tarak, who has adapted to the Buenos Aires lifestyle of sleeping late and living in the night time hours when heat and humidity are lower. The boys apparently left the apartment for some nightclubbing after I retired and I heard Lorenzo return at 5:30 a.m., only two hours before I awoke for the day and headed for the shower. I imagine that I won't see hide nor hair of him until late this afternoon. Their bedtime is apparently a regular part of Tarak's schedule. He told us that he awoke yesterday only half-an-hour before the start of his advanced, tango class at 3:00 p.m. after a night of partying.
Tarak has really thrived in
Buenos Aires, despite the fact that his Spanish is non-existent. He loves the downtown area even though he lives in a rural area almost 1200 miles from Brisbane, the nearest large city to him in Australia. He has not only adopted the Porteño lifestyle of late nights; he has purchased tango boots, tango pants, and a tango hat. I have never seen him on the dance floor, but I can imagine that he is something to behold, although he tells us that he is not yet confident enough to dance the tango in the tango clubs. He maintains that the dance is very complex, almost all moves controlled by the right hand of the male, and he is comfortable only dancing during his advanced, group classes. He says that it will take at least one more series of lessons, three-months long, before he will feel that he has the dance mastered. I admire his persistence.
This morning marks the third consecutive day of rain showers and they have provided a welcome relief to the heat wave that had the TV stations declaring that "the capital is an oven." Yesterday's impressive thunder, lightning, and evening long downpour culminated an off-and-on-again daylong rain event, unlike any we have experienced here. This morning began with overcast skies and showers with the forecast being that the rain will extend through the weekend. That is delightful! The heat and humidity were oppressive prior to the rain and even Tarak said that the conditions were some of the worst he has ever experienced and he lives in a tropical area of
Australia where bananas are grown.    
Lorenzo and I have visited BsAs'
Chinatown, only three blocks long, where we had lunch on one of the particularly hot and humid days prior to the rain. We enjoyed the meal and also the visit to a museum which had a beautiful collection of portraits and a delightful garden. I will share photos of the garden when I send pictures again in a week or so.
We have seen two movies, as well as the botched children's film in Spanish, with George Clooney's "Up in the Air" our last venture. We have purchased tickets for "Avatar" in 3-D for a showing tonight at
7:30, if Lorenzo awakens in time. Movies frequently sell out here and advanced purchases are usually necessary to guarantee a seat. I haven't seen a 3-D film for more than 20 years, so I thought this was a great opportunity. I would never have gone to see "Avatar" at home, but with three months to kill, there is plenty of time.
We continue to alternate restaurant choices and I was pleased that Lorenzo chose to return to the Rio Alba to host Tarak's dinner last night, since that restaurant was a previous choice of mine. I'll be certain to remind him of that today. After another mixed grill, with the huge pile of beef that three of us couldn't devour, I am a little tired of red meat, a frequent problem here in the land of grass-fed beef. Tonight, I will probably choose Italian after the movie.

Although my updates probably don't indicate it, I have survived a 36-hour-long fast to rid my body of the bacteria which have brought my first bout with traveler's diarrhea, a yearly companion on my trips. Whether the Hershey squirts (as Lorenzo colorfully names them) were caused by water or a food we ate, I suffered for two days and Lorenzo only one. He called his malady the sympathy squirts since they occurred a day later than mine. I feel much better after eating again yesterday, as does Lorenzo, so I assume that bout number one has passed. So ends the health update for today.

Only a week remains of our time in
Buenos Aires, with visits to Recoleta and Evita's tomb still to go. We'll head south after that with our first stop probably at the beach resort of Mar del Plata, for those of you following on a map. After that, we are headed to the Valdez Peninsula where the penguins that Lorenzo wants to see, as well as sea lions, seals, and orcas, call home this time of year. After that, we cross Patagonia to Bariloche, the city everybody describes as the most beautiful in the country. All of our travels will be by bus, so yesterday's news that six people were killed and 45 injured when a bus crashed near Cordoba caught my attention. I always feel safer on a bus than traveling on local airlines, but that news will flash through my mind as I board my first "autobus" this year.  Hasta luego.

February 8, 2010 - From Buenos Aires
The "Bella Italiana" was a beautiful, upscale restaurant that I selected from Lorenzo's book on Friday. Turnabout is fair play, right? After a quick dash from the taxi in one of the day's hardest downpours, I sat down at the white-linen-covered table and admired the textures of the gorgeous, ancient, brick walls cast in the flickering light of the table candles and absorbed the beautiful paintings hung from the walls. The owner approached, threw another table cloth over Lorenzo's jacket which was hung from one of the unoccupied chairs at our table, apparently to protect it from soiling, and spoke to us in perfect English. It turns out that her mother-in-law lives in
Pittsburgh, PA, and she travels there quite regularly. She visited with us at the table, then left and returned with a beautifully-sculpted basket of breads, flatbreads, Italian rolls, cake breads, and homemade breadsticks piled high with artistic, vertical precision.
     The waiter approached,
professionally took our order for red wine, and left to find the bottle of Escorihuela Gascon Malbec that we have grown to love. I continued to look about at the beautiful ambiance, and then turned to speak to Lorenzo only to find him looking back at me with the two, homemade breadsticks protruding from his nostrils. Lorenzo is a class act! I think one breadstick was sesame and the other cheese, but I never got to find out. Somehow, my taste for breadsticks had evaporated.
I tolerate his sophomoric humor, Lord knows I have reheard every joke that I was ever told in elementary school, and I abide his smoking and alcohol consumption, but I must say that his presence has virtually eliminated the homesickness that always accompanies my initial separation from family in my first weeks on the road. I give him credit for that, despite petty annoyances like my arms becoming the target of his new-found, pinching expertise with chopsticks. He is always upbeat, except for the mornings after those rare, late-night adventures with Tarak and he is a considerate, tidy roommate. I keep telling him that he will make someone a fine wife, since he is constantly wiping tables, cleaning the kitchen, straightening chairs and tables, and emptying the trash can. That he is anal, taking notes and asking to see the menu after a meal so that he can obtain all the ingredients for his scribblings and tallying every expense in great detail, is little bother. And, if I ever have a question about a meal or a restaurant or wine identification, there are always his notes to fall back on.

We have completed our tour of sites visited most often by tourists visiting
Buenos Aires. This weekend we revisited Recoleta Cemetery and Evita's tomb, visited Evita's Museum in a different section of the city, toured the beautiful, public Japanese Garden, and also visited the final two museums of interest to Lorenzo. Lorenzo visits museums and cathedrals in every city and has pretty much exhausted photo ops in BsAs. He probably has 10,000 photos (seriously) of his four-month-long visit to Argentina and there are still two months left on his vacation. One can only imagine how many photos he will take of the penguins, sea lions, and elephant seals we are heading south to find.
It rained daily over the three-day weekend just passed, with sporadic thunderstorms pelting and cleaning the streets and regenerating the doggie urine around trees, but the rains have brought much more tolerable temperatures, though the humidity remains. Breakfast at corner cafes and dinner at outside tables are exceedingly pleasant and far better to deal with than the two feet of snow that has buried the northeastern
USA. My annual flight to warmer climes has apparently been successful.
The next three days will be full of travel preparations, a final trip to the laundry ($4.00 for a bag full), packing strategies, trips to the bus station to study departure options, and talks with the realtor to negotiate an early return of our apartment deposit, so that we can depart in the morning on the day we check-out for our six-hour ride to Mar del Plata. I will send my final photos from BsAs later today, so look for them in a few days.  Hasta luego!

February 11, 2010 - From Buenos Aires
Argentineans are passionate people and believe they must be heard about whatever opinion they hold. There have been daily protests here in the nation's capital since my arrival and I have witnessed several firsthand. The TV news channels broadcast protests from around the country and it seems there is a different one every day. This morning's news highlighted farmers driving tractors to block highways in protest of government programs about export taxes that have apparently cost them money and driven up the cost of beef. Beef has risen 40% since December and, last week, there were street protests about the higher prices. Milk costs are also rising and I guess I should expect to see milk protests soon.

Even when they are not protesting, Argentineans are engaged in serious discussion about most everything. I have seen mothers and teen-aged sons in deep discussions over lunch, husbands and wives ardently discussing the banking crisis over coffee, and friends heatedly waving their arms and debating issues over happy hour drinks. It helps that the huge Italian immigration here has provided the hand gesturing and the musical, Italian lilt to the Spanish language. It is fun to behold.

On Tuesday night, as Lorenzo and I finished a shared, sub-par paella in a restaurant where we had previously enjoyed a great meal, a couple of Argentineans engaged us in conversation. He leaned back to our table and asked where we were from, which started a lengthy conversation. Roger is a 63-year-old diplomat and a trained lawyer. His 66-year-old wife is also an attorney. I know she is 66 because Roger kept bragging about how beautiful she was and commented on her age. I'll share their photo the next time I send pictures. Roger is out-spoken and politically conservative, although he claims to be a libertarian, and the current government is liberal. The government has shelved Roger, though he says by this stage in his career he should be an ambassador, but the government continues to pay him. He and his wife believe the pay they receive is another indication of the country's fiscal irresponsibility under the Kirchner administration.

In the first five minutes of our conversation he had referred to Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Roger and his wife spoke excellent English from his four-year, diplomatic tour in the
USA. He was obviously extremely well educated and his early use of British and German philosophers' names forced me to harken back to my college philosophy classes and to pay very close attention to what he said. I had to be on my toes; I didn't want to appear uneducated, but Lorenzo tired of the philosophy and engaged Mrs. Roger in a separate conversation. Lorenzo noticed expressions on other customers’ faces as Roger's political positions became more animated. We had a great conversation, however, and it is amazing just how often that occurs in this very expressive, very passionate society.
Last night, we had a great, though expensive, meal (Lorenzo's choice) and were seated next to a handsome, young American couple from Chicago who were on their honeymoon. They were both graduates of the
University of Chicago, a fine institution. He was a constitutional attorney, though his wife, a gorgeous creature if ever there was one, works in research for a drug company. We had a lot of laughs and great conversation about restaurants and tourist destinations in the BsAs area. They were delighted with their first trip to Argentina and expect to visit again.
     Our laundry is being done at this moment and we will pick it up this evening so we can pack for tomorrow morning's departure. We leave at 10:00 a.m. on a 5.5 hour bus ride to Mar del Plata. We hope to find a couple of inexpensive hotel rooms and decide if we want to spend a couple of days at the beach or move on to Bahia Blanca, another Atlantic Ocean resort city. Much depends on how we enjoy the town and what the weather holds for us. I imagine we will travel on if we get a rainy day, rather than to sit in a hotel and watch the raindrops. Both of us prefer shade, rather than sunshine, so we will spend no time sunbathing. There is an outside chance that we could spend a day or two in a beachside cafe doing bathing suit research. There is never enough research done on this topic and we may want to contribute to the current body of knowledge. I will report again when access to internet cafes allows.  Adios.

February 14, 2010 - From Mar del Plata, Argentina
Filthy, threadbare carpets, no reading lamps or paintings on the walls, no air conditioning,  a flat bathroom floor (including the shower), a paper-thin shower curtain to prevent too much water from running across the flat floor, a long-handled squeegee to push water back toward the drain in the corner of the shower, and finally, the trash basket between the toilet and the bidet for used toilet paper which cannot be flushed down the toilet: we are no longer in the luxurious apartment in Buenos Aires. We got the room for around $48 after looking at identical rooms with air conditioning that were $10 more expensive. The hotel owner said that we wouldn't need air conditioning here, since the evening temps fell to the 60's and the rooms have a ceiling fan. He has been spot on. Last night was even a little chillier and I took a sweater along to the restaurant in case we decided to sit outside for the meal. We got the hotel room after visiting the tourist office where they called several hotels before finding availability at the Corcel, which is three short blocks from one of the main, suburban-like shopping streets in the city and quite a distance from the bustling downtown. Stylish clothing shops line the streets of Avenida Güemes and, at night, side streets hold many restaurants full of beach-going tourists. The hotel does provide free internet access on three, modern computers and breakfast every morning, so I am eliminating those expenses and probably paying exactly what I paid for my half of the rent on the luxury apartment in BsAs, around $42.
My "Fodor's Guide to
Argentina" does not even include Mar del Plata among the cities it describes and that absence is incomprehensible. The city of 700,000 residents is a seaside resort, quite similar to Ocean City, MD, or Atlantic City, NJ, with long beaches full of sun worshipers, multi-hued umbrellas, and the colorful tent-like cabanas so popular at foreign beaches. I could never quite understand why somebody would come to the beach and rent a tent or a cabana to escape the sun's rays. The water is the dark color of north Atlantic water, no clear or Caribbean turquoise water here. But the city has many, large, beautiful stone homes that would put most homes in Ocean City or Atlantic City to shame. There must be a nearby source of rock, because well-crafted, masonry work is much in evidence in larger homes in Mar del Plata. Many politicians, musicians, film stars, and wealthy Buenos Aires families maintain summer homes here. I'll send photos at a later date.
The bus ride here was almost exactly five hours on a divided, four-lane highway. I consumed the shrink-wrapped, four-pastry lunch we were issued upon boarding in fits and spurts along the way and even drifted off to never-never land a couple of times, which shortened the trip considerably. We were seated above the driver at the very front of the double-decker bus, a perch that really facilitates snapshots of billboards and road signs. It takes a little practice to zoom in and snap the shutter at exactly the right time. Lorenzo has it down perfectly. I'm still working on my technique, although it must be said that Lorenzo has a new, Sony camera with all the bells and whistles and I am operating with an older-model Nikon given to me a few years back when one of my sons decided to replace his camera.

We walked miles yesterday, to the ocean and toward the center of town where Julio Iglesias performed last evening. Lorenzo stopped to visit two churches and photograph their windows and also stopped at a seashell museum. To each his own, but I don't get his thing about stain-glassed windows and ALL small museums. I continued walking, stopping to wait for him at the end of the street on an overlook above the beach and sat on one of those beautiful stone walls to catch some rays. I waited an hour and got a little sun-burned, but figured that he either converted and joined a monastery adjoining the church or, as is his wont, turned the wrong way and I might run into him again late in the evening after he took a long, cab ride back to the hotel. I proceeded alone walking toward the center of town, stopping often to look for lithium batteries for my camera. After numerous attempts in stores that had Kodak signs pasted on their front windows, I finally found the batteries I needed and proceeded toward the pedestrian-only shopping street swarming with people. Three blocks in, while I was standing and waiting for traffic to slow so I could cross the street, Lorenzo tapped me on the shoulder and tried to panhandle some change. Drat!! I thought I was free of him for the day. There must be more than a million people here in the summer time and he found me among the throngs of shoppers and beachgoers. I'd take pretty big odds that that was an impossibility.

In the center of the city, we had lunch at a seafood restaurant on a pier with views of the throngs of sunbathers on both sides. Lorenzo kept snapping photos of bathing beauties (for his buddies, he says), but there weren't many such beauties on these beaches. This seemed to a beach for large men and women and their equally-obese offspring. Somehow, though, Lorenzo found one or two shapely bikinis to focus upon. His buddies back home will be delighted. I focused on my meal. I ordered "Chernia," a species unknown to me. The English version of the menu called it "wreck fish" and I could only imagine that it was caught above a wrecked ship somewhere, like grouper, or sea bass. It was a big filet, perhaps five by eight inches in size and an inch and a half thick, so it must have come from a large fish. It was delicious and nary a bone challenged my consumption of the unknown creature. There is a challenge there for one of my readers: find a picture of a Chernia or wreck fish. *
     Although I whined and begged to hail a taxi, Lorenzo insisted that we walk the couple of miles home in the heat of the day. He had no idea which way to go, but my God-given sense of direction took us on the shortest route home and I was thrilled that I had lost the taxi argument. We probably put in five miles of walking during the day and the exercise was good for me. I stopped along the way to call my wife and wish her "Happy Valentine's Day," then readjusted the date on my watch when she informed me that I was a day early with the call. I volunteered to hang up and call tomorrow, but she thought it was close enough to the holiday to continue the conversation. It is great to hear her voice, but the information she shares about three feet of snow on the condominium roof and the worry about the roof collapsing makes me delighted to fight off the heat and humidity of Argentina. That is especially true here in Mar del Plata, where there seem to always be cooling sea breezes to lessen the effect of the heat. And, I don't have to battle the sub-freezing temperatures, ice, and dirty snow drifts at home.
When packing for the trip, my major concern was in the selection of shoes, since I had been experiencing pain on the ball of one of my feet. I chose carefully and brought one pair of SAS, brown, leather, "dress" shoes, a pair of Teva sandals, and a pair of Bass hiking shoes that I thought could reduce the pain during long days of walking. A metatarsal pad was installed in the hiking shoes by my shoe maker, as per the podiatrist, and the footwear has worked remarkably well. Choosing footwear is probably the most important decision a traveler can make and, so far, so good. The remainder of the clothing choices has worked out pretty well, too, although I could have used a cotton golf shirt and I should not have brought the black, short-sleeved, collared shirt I chose. I brought three golf shirts, three, short-sleeved, collared shirts, one, long-sleeved shirt (which I wore on the plane), and five, cotton tee shirts for the three month trip. I have already grown tired of the limited wardrobe, but I can get by and most people only see me one day. I also brought two pairs of khaki golf shorts and wish that I had brought a third. There were also two pairs of khaki slacks in my initial wardrobe, but one has already bit the dust in a bend-over, crotch rip-out that could not possibly be repaired. I made quite a sight walking home from the internet center in BsAs where the incident occurred. The wrinkle-free treatment on those khakis shortens their lifespan and that can be difficult with such a limited wardrobe. I also brought a black pair of untreated khakis and a pair of jeans, so the trouser portion of my wardrobe is quite sufficient. Two light sweaters and a Gore-tex, rain jacket complete my wardrobe and there is still the very chilly Bariloche in the
Andes to test the sufficiency of my layered, cold weather gear. I only brought one, wheeled suitcase for the trip, along with a backpack that contained vitamins, medicines, camera, books, important papers, and the like.
     Enough about packing and clothes selection. Today, Sunday, we plan to purchase our bus tickets for tomorrow, not yet knowing whether we will make a short, two-hour trip to the small town of Necochea or endure a seven-hour marathon ride to the much larger, beach-resort city of Bahia Blanca. We need more information to make that decision and hope to find it at the bus station. The buses to Bahia Blanca leave at 6:00 a.m., then again at 1:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m., etc. for the seven hour run. The schedule is everything. We don't want to make a 6:00 a.m. bus, since the bus station is 20 minutes or so from our hotel, making a 4:30 a.m. wake-up necessary. Seven hours is also a long bus ride and with a later departure we would arrive at nightfall, so two shorter runs look desirable. The problem is that there are few hotels at Necochea, so the likelihood of a hotel vacancy is in doubt and I don't particularly want to sleep in the bus station or on the beach.  The next update will provide you with the sordid details of the next leg of the trip.  Hasta luego.
*Webmaster Note:  Harry's oldest son, Gary, found a picture of a Chernia.

February 17, 2010 - From Viedma, Argentina
     Cross sea lions off the list of animals I expect to see, because a trip for lunch to restaurants near the fishing harbor in Mar del Plata produced thirty or forty of the large mammals, sunning themselves on the concrete piers of the port. We joined a large crowd of locals cheering the efforts of a lone, young female as she tried to produce enough vertical lift to join her colleagues sunning on the dock. She failed to get up the six-foot, concrete wall to the pier, despite five or six of her best efforts and the crowd kept yelling suggestions to her. "Use the other flipper," they would yell (in Spanish, of course) as she got her head and one flipper on the dock, hanging there gamely, only to make a huge splash as her efforts failed.
Mar del Plata also changed my thinking about the new approach of traffic engineers, which started in the Netherlands, to eliminate traffic signs and signals to reduce accidents. Mar del Plata, with more than 700,000 inhabitants, probably doesn't have more than 10 or 12 traffic signals and very, very few stop signs. The only place traffic backed up was where there were traffic lights (here called semaforos). At other intersections, all traffic slowed to see what the guy coming the other way was going to do, then stopped or accelerated accordingly. I witnessed what to me seemed close calls, but no accidents and few lost tempers. The system, not done by design here, I'm sure, seems to work because it makes everybody drive more defensively. They may just have something but, when unaccustomed to the custom, it certainly takes one's breath away in the back seat of a taxi.
On the final evening in
Mar del Plata and on my night to choose a restaurant, Lorenzo returned from his solo visit to a museum with the news that he had found a great, little parilla (grill) restaurant where he saw a small pig on the vertical spit. He said it was only four blocks away and I foolishly agreed to have a look at it before deciding where we would eat. His sense of direction is just awful! I should have learned by now that when he says turn right, we should turn left. He is usually 180 degrees off in his chosen course. I failed to adjust for his directions since I had no idea where the restaurant was located and it cost me dearly. His four block walk ended up being a 30-block, forced march that ended exactly four blocks from the hotel at the restaurant he had seen. I should have asked for the address of the restaurant sooner and taken the map that he studied at every corner to plot my own course to the establishment. We would have gotten there exactly one hour earlier.
The restaurant was a local eatery and we were the only tourists in the place. We both ordered roast pork and it was absolutely delicious, arriving with a large, crispy piece of skin attached. Lorenzo had never eaten crisp pig skin before and he fell in love with the fattening stuff. It can't be much worse for one's health than all of the beef these folks eat, however.

The next day, we departed the bus terminal at
Mar del Plata at 1:40 p.m. for the six-hour ride to Bahia Blanca. No food was served on the trip, so I was glad that I had taken half a ham and cheese sandwich with me from the cafe at the terminal. The road was a two-lane, well-maintained ribbon of asphalt that passed fields of soy beans, sunflowers, corn, and olive groves with processing plants for those agricultural products positioned every few miles along the way. We arrived right on time, though we had departed 10 minutes later than our 1:30 schedule indicated and we had our suitcases from the luggage compartment of the bus by 7:40. Lorenzo checked the tourist office for a hotel while I purchased two tickets for the next leg of our journey to Viedma in Pategonia. Arrangements worked so smoothly that we checked into an old, immaculately-kept, downtown hotel (Hotel Muñiz) before nightfall at 8:00 p.m. Other than the "flat-floored" bathroom, the place was perfect. By "flat floor," I mean that there is no tub or shower stall, not even a lip of tile to separate the shower floor from the rest of the small bathroom. So, much water from underneath the shower curtain splashes on the bathroom floor, forcing one to use the omni-present, long-handled squeegee before stepping from the shower. It is not what we are accustomed to in our bathrooms, but it doesn't work badly at all on smooth, tiled floors. The floor in the Muñiz was very smooth, so all worked well. The one in Mar del Plata had a rough design, so the squeegee was ineffective in removing water. A well-placed towel corrected the problem there, however.
The four-hour trip to Viedma from
Bahia Blanca fortified my belief in the existence of karma, because Lorenzo got just what he deserved for a seatmate. He seems to have a knack for quickly selecting the best seat in a restaurant for a view, or for the air-conditioner or fan, and he quickly chose one of our two, assigned seats, despite the fact that there was another woman seated there. He expected both women in the double seat to rise and go back to their assigned seats, but the woman next to him with a three-month old child on her lap remained in place. He slid into the seat next to the window in the front seat of the double-decker bus, while I struggled over the very large, 21-year old woman seated across the aisle. We had intentionally selected seats on the corners of the front row to allow for photography opportunities during the ride, but since he was first up the stairs (as usual) he could select either seat and he again selected what he thought was the best option for himself.
Here is where the karma comes in: The three-month old was of breast-feeding age and minutes after Lorenzo assumed his place, the mother indiscreetly pulled up her blouse, exposing her very-ample breast and nipple and gave the little guy his lunch. Lorenzo didn't know where to look and cast his eyes out the window until Junior was finished dining. Then, as the mother burped the child, Lorenzo relaxed and began to take his first photos of the day. Moments later, mom switched breasts and Junior had his second course from the breast closest to Lorenzo. For a man who was only married for a couple of years and who has been a bachelor for 35 more, this was an uncomfortable situation. He was probably closer to a breast than he had been for years, and he finally experienced the warm feeling of fatherhood for the first time. My seatmate turned out to be a young lady who is studying to be a teacher of English, so while Lorenzo was experiencing the blessings of parenthood, I enjoyed a delightful conversation in English about the region's agriculture, the educational system, and her plans for the future. We had a lot of laughs at the end of the day about Lorenzo's choice of seatmates. He took my abuse quite nicely.

The extremely-straight ribbon of highway that headed south toward and into Pategonia was narrow, but well-maintained and very lightly traveled. My seatmate answered many questions about the agriculture and I saw strawberries, onions, olives, what I thought were celery mounds covered in white plastic, and corn interspersed among the fields of grass where huge numbers of cattle grazed. The sunflowers and soy beans that seem to dominate the agriculture of the area were also very much in evidence. We passed through a number of small dust storms which made visibility very difficult during the latter part of the trip. My seatmate informed me that Viedma is very windy and the dust storms can sometimes last for days.

My Fodor's guide doesn't have any information about
Mar del Plata, Bahia Blanca, or Viedma, so we taxied into town, checked two hotels from Lorenzo's "Lonely Planet," and took two rooms overlooking the central plaza, only three blocks from the delightful Rio Negro River where the best restaurants in town are located. At 8:30 p.m. when the restaurants opened, we walked three blocks in the cool, windy dust and I ate a poorly-made paella while Lorenzo looked on and sipped on Coca Cola. He was experiencing a touch of stomach upset and had decided to dine on Alka Seltzer. He was feeling better by the end of the evening and we both enjoyed a good night's sleep.
Traveling by bus is very tiring and it was easy to convince Lorenzo to spend a second evening in Viedma, the capital of the
Rio Negro province. Today, we will travel back to the bus station to purchase tickets for the six hour run to Puerto Madryn from whence we will enter the Peninsula Valdez in search of more wildlife. Stay tuned.  Hast luego.

February 20, 2010 - From Puerto Madryn, Argentina
His karma will get him! Again on our most recent bus ride, Lorenzo popped on the bus first, even before the bags were loaded, and I waited to make certain that the luggage got on the bus, which had been our usual practice. I possessed an assigned-seat ticket to seat number 25, which was the first seat behind the coffee and juice "bar" with a huge amount of leg room. Lorenzo's ticket gave him seat number 29 directly behind the one assigned to me, although the ticket agent said that we could trade seats if we wished. There was no trading, discussion, or debate; when I reached the upper deck of the bus, Lorenzo was sitting in my assigned seat with a huge smile on his face and no apparent guilt. "She said we could trade seats," he finally said when my face indicated displeasure - no apologies.
My seat had sufficient leg room, but my seat mate, a nice, young father traveling only to San Antonio Oeste just two hours of the six-hour ride to Puerto Madryn, had a four-year old son on his lap. As we left the station the father handed the son a huge, dry, ham sandwich on a roll almost the size of a basketball and the lad proceeded to devour three-quarters of it in short order. Twenty minutes into the ride, father and son moved to the juice cooler and poured the boy a cup of orange juice which, along with the coffee, was the only food provided on the trip. You have to be able to see this coming: the father sat down on his seat next to mine first, then the little guy followed, hit his father's leg with the white, foam cup and the orange juice drenched his father's leg and mine, soaking my leg and derriere with the sticky solution. Fortunately, I had five hours to dry, but Lorenzo's karma will get him.

The ride through the scrub brush of the Patagonian desert was uneventful, except for the sharing of our sandwiches with other passengers. I had purchased two, large, ham and cheese sandwiches which were each cut into four, flat, six-by-six inch squares (no crust) and placed in a box at a corner cafe while Lorenzo ate a late breakfast. We had been informed that there would be no food served on the trip, but were not informed that there would be a 30-minute lunch stop along the way, which made the sandwiches unnecessary. We each ate two of the four pieces of our sandwiches while stopped at the lunch stop in San Antonio Oeste and many people, including the drivers, ate lunch in the small bus station. As we got on the road for the final four hours of the trip, the now-empty seat next to me was occupied by an older man who had been seated across the aisle from Lorenzo, because the woman next to the friendly, old, talkative guy (all Spanish) also had a seven or eight-year old child on her lap and the move made everybody more comfortable.  After a short while, I asked the old guy to get my remaining sandwich from the overhead and offered it to him. He quickly accepted and shared it with his granddaughter who had been sitting next to Lorenzo for the entire trip. I told Lorenzo about sharing my sandwich and he quickly offered his two, remaining sections to the granddaughter and the woman with the eight year-old. They hungrily devoured the food and the eight-year old later ate the remainder of my lunch. It was obvious that they couldn't afford to buy lunch during the lunch stop. The old man next to me jumped up, got a plastic bag from the overhead on the opposite side of the bus, and offered me sealed, wrapped cookies from the box inside. They were the famous cookies made in
Cordoba and treasured by people all over the country. He also gave Lorenzo one and they were delicious, if a little sweet. He had shared his valuable cookies with us, the ones he had, no doubt, carried home from Cordoba for friends and family. It was a very pleasant experience. I must give Lorenzo credit; during his entire trip, he has been taking whatever meals he can't finish with him from restaurants (para llevar for the Spanish speakers out there) and sharing them with hungry people he sees on the street. Perhaps, his karma about the seats will take a little longer to return than I thought.
Yesterday, we rented a car after getting three quotations and settling on a stick-shift, Chevy Corsa with a 400 km. allowance. Extra mileage (kilometers) would be charged at half a peso per km. In a seemingly impossible coincidence, we left at
12:30 p.m., drove to the Peninsula Valdez, and returned to the hotel during the last moments of dusk at 9:00 p.m., having put exactly 400 km. (about 240 miles) on the vehicle. Amazing!
About 250 km. of the ride was on heavily-graveled road, with puddles of water from the previous day's rare thunderstorm sometimes completely crossing the road.  There wasn't much traffic on the washboard road, but what there was always generated large clouds of dust that also complicated the driving. Of course, I drove the entire way, with Lorenzo giving constant instructions about staying (or not staying) in the ruts, despite my offer to let him drive. He rode like a king in the passenger's seat, constantly scanning the scrub brush for the animals that he wanted to see. The karma has got to get him. But, see animals we did! Even with all of the driving responsibilities, I saw many, wild animals in the national park, a UNESCO site.

Sea lions... check! - must have seen 500 of the creatures, lying on the beach. There were many calves, most lying inside a protective circle of females who were also sunning themselves. One little calf was roaming the beach, either following or avoiding his loudly-braying mother, an entertaining sight to watch and photograph. Elephant seals... check! - only saw three of these two or three-ton creatures lounging on the beach, but at such a great distance that I couldn't really identify them except by word-of-mouth from other tourists with long lenses. Guanaco... check! - saw from 25-30 of these wild, brown, llama-like creatures; one group of eight crossed the road not 30 yards ahead of our car. Fox... check! - saw two, native, gray fox, one tame enough to roam a parking lot only a few feet from our car at one of the ocean overlooks. Armadillos... check!  - saw three, two of them not more than a couple feet away at two, different locations.
Hawks... check! - saw many soaring and swooping over the desert landscape. Seabirds... check! - saw many gulls and birds, some different than those seen in the northern hemisphere.  Partridges... check! - saw three pairs of partridges very close along side the road, with their long necks and ribboned head; for the first pair, we stopped and they flew, reminding me of a pheasant's initial flight.  And, finally, Magellanic penguins... check! - saw at least a hundred, some from no further away than five or six feet, but behind a fence installed by park authorities. The fence was probably to protect the tourists from the little birds who tolerate people, but who will bite if you get inside their comfort zone of five or six feet. These formally-dressed, black and white creatures were in and around the ground-hog-like holes (called caves in Spanish) they dug into the mud for rearing their off-spring. It was very entertaining to watch the birds, which mate for life, preening one another's feathers and sunning themselves. Some of these little creatures travel as far as 250 miles out to sea to feed, which is quite amazing.
The day at Peninsula Valez was a long and arduous one and we decided to take today to lounge, recover, and update. Tomorrow, we will probably rent a car again, weather permitting, for a trip to Punto Tombo, another reserve where larger numbers of penguins (think 13,000), elephant seals, and sea lions are located. We will also visit Trelew and Guiman, two small cities where Welsh settlers have located and brought much of the Welsh culture, including unique Welsh teas and pastries that the travel guides extol.

We have decided to return to the windy, dusty, rather-unpleasant city of
Viedma from here to catch the Patagonia Express Train for a 17-hour, overnight ride to San Carlos de Bariloche (simply called Bariloche). We have already purchased the tickets for the February 26th departure, on the once-weekly train that apparently stops in small settlements all across Patagonia, the reason for the 17-hour duration of the trip. We purchased Pullman berths, so we will have sleeping space, but the train is anything but luxurious. The train was sitting in the station, minus the locomotive, and was an antique by anybody's standards. It appeared to be older and in poorer shape than many of the Mexican railcars I have taken in the past. From the ticket agent, we learned that cheap food is served on the train to supply the natives who use the iron horse for regular transportation into and across the desert. This will be quite unlike the great train with superb food that I took two years ago to travel from Johannesburg to Capetown in South Africa, but it should be an adventure. Stay tuned.  Hasta luego.

February 24, 2010 - From Puerto Madryn, Patagonia Sur
Before I begin today's update, I would like to note the passing of one of my most ardent readers, one who thoroughly enjoyed traveling vicariously with me. Luke passed away just a few days ago and will be laid to rest today. With maps close at hand, he followed every day's adventures over the past 11 years and communicated often with me, asking questions and solving my own, most recently about my meal of Chernia, a fish of which I had never heard. Luke often asked me to increase my updates when he felt he wasn't informed well enough and there aren't many folks that interested in my adventures. I will miss his electronic presence. Vaya con Dios, Luke. Rest in Peace.
     The rental car was delivered to the hotel with a partially-flat, front tire which was probably the only thing that didn't go according to the hastily-devised plan of the day, yesterday.  By the time we got to the gas station on the outskirts of town, it looked even flatter, so we asked the attendant if he could repair it. They didn't even have an air compressor at the station, but he directed us to a place that he thought could solve our problem. That garage didn't repair tires, either, but additional directions and a fortuitous spotting by Lorenzo of a pink air hose hanging on the side of a tiny, dilapidated building took us to a man who could do the job. Though the word for tire in Spanish is a very logical "pneumatico," the hand-lettered sign on the little building read "Gomeria," so I reckon there is another word meaning tires - probably "gomer," who knows? The owner knew exactly what he was doing, located three leaks, and 20 pesos (a little more than $5) later, we were on our way with the repaired pneumatico to Punto Tombo, the nesting place for 500,000 Magellanic penguins. I know that I said 13,000 in a previous update, but I recently read another source that declared that there were 500,000 of the little creatures nesting there. Makes one wonder if the first guy miscounted or the second guy over-estimated.
The drive took a little more than two hours, but the last 50 miles were a deja-vu experience over the dangerous, river-rock gravel that had driven me nuts on the drive to the Peninsula Valdez a couple of days back. This was only 50 miles or so, not the 250 of
Valdez, but we only saw one other car on the road the entire time, making me painfully aware that it would be a long wait for help if we spun out or rolled the little Chevy Corsa. We arrived safely, walked the wooden boardwalk which weaved among the penguin nests (holes), and I can vouch for about 1,000 of the penguins (mas o menos). I have no doubt that there were 500,000 there, because the entire area teemed with the cute, little creatures and their offspring. There was a lot of chirping and braying going on. Yes, braying. These penguins are sometimes called "jackass" penguins because of their donkey-like braying. We didn't walk the entire length of the well-constructed boardwalk, because if you've seen one Magellanic penguin, you've seen them all. They all look alike to humans, but they obviously can distinguish one from another, since they return to their nest and their mate after swimming hundreds of miles searching for food to feed their young. We took many pictures, including one of a young, emu-like (ostrich-like?) bird pecking close-by, but who was far more sensitive to the human presence than the penguins and disappeared rather quickly. We got some great pictures of the bird, but have no idea what it is called. There is another research project for readers: identify the bird. I will send a picture, but it won't appear for a few days. Luke would have loved the challenge.
We left Punto Tombo in a rush, after partially filling the window-washing reservoir with a bottle of my warm, drinking water. I had hit a puddle on the washboard road on the way into the park - it couldn't be avoided - and used the last of the liquid to get the worst of the mud off the windshield. They hadn't really prepped this rental car the way one has come to expect in the
USA and I wanted to be prepared for anything on the way home to Puerto Madryn. We hurried out of Tombo because we had been told that tea was served at 2:00 p.m. in Gaiman where we were headed. Tea! Yes, tea. The cities of Trelew and Gaiman were settled by Welsh immigrants who brought the UK tradition of tea with them when they created a community in Argentina. The towns were reputed to be very beautiful, but Lorenzo and I were unimpressed to say the least. Both towns were dusty, dirty desert towns, which reminded us of Mexican desert villages and, like the Mexicans, the people were very friendly. The beauty to which Argentineans refer may be the tens of thousands of Lombardy poplar trees planted by the Welsh immigrants as windbreaks. Patagonia is dry, scrub-brush desert with no trees. This island of green, near the Rio Chubut, was a real oasis in the otherwise brown, boring desert. There were a lot of small farms in the area surrounding both cities. I wanted to head to the teahouse before tea was no longer served, but Lorenzo was not thrilled with that prospect. He was hungry and throwing another tantrum, so we headed down the dusty, main street, looking for an open restaurant, since it was now 3:30 and restaurants close after lunch. Surprisingly, we found one, tiny restaurant still open and enjoyed a meal of Patagonian lamb and fresh, fried or roasted, potatoes. I rarely eat french fries, but these round, sliced, pan-fried potatoes were delicious. Lorenzo enjoyed the roasted ones. The lamb was spectacular, enjoyed by both of us, the horde of flies we constantly waved away from the aluminum, foil-covered serving of cordero, and the two cats which joined us for lunch.
We took our time with the meal, although we were both ravenous; perhaps it was dealing with the visiting menagerie that lengthened the process, but the extremely friendly waitress assured us that the teahouse was open all day for tea, so we relaxed and enjoyed the time in the sun. After lunch, we went to a small museum, listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest museum of recycled exhibits. The dirty, dusty, desert town housed a dirty, dusty, desert museum that has brought many a smile to people's faces, including ours. A grandfather, who died only a month ago at 90 years of age, started making exhibits to teach his grandchildren about the world, and about life in general. Many humorous, philosophical, Spanish sayings decorate the exhibits of dinosaurs, a whale, birds and other animals, cars, the Taj Mahal, and too many others to mention. He created the exhibits out of trash: bottles, cans, plastic flowers, and about every container known to man. His house was completely covered in the tops of beer and soda cans, for example. I'll bet his neighbors just loved the process, but it grew and grew and he became famous. Numerous newspaper articles from around the world describing his "museum" were displayed. His entire yard was covered in the displays and they have weathered, their colors have started to fade, and with the colors, what little glitz the kitschy exhibits once possessed has also faded. The photos we took and later reviewed unfortunately made most of the exhibits look like the products from which they were made - trash.

After leaving the museum, we headed to the largest of the teahouses, one visited by Princess Di, who is memorialized in photos throughout the large dining room and in a sign on the porch. The dusty, gravel street led to a dusty, gravel parking lot beside a gorgeous, exquisitely-manicured home along a run leading into the Rio Chubut which also curved around the property.  It was, indeed, an oasis. We took many photos, including one of the working water wheel, and many of the beautiful flowers that decorated the yard of the teahouse. Then, we went inside and I attempted, in vain, to give Lorenzo some culture. We ordered the full tea, which came with sandwiches (I told him we shouldn't have eaten lunch first), buttered, homemade bread with marmalade, shortbreads, samples of cakes and, quite simply, much more food than either of us could eat after just finishing our lunch. We tried, though, we tried. The waitress appeared with the pastry plates, and then returned with the large teapot, decorated with a knitted sweater (the pot, not the waitress). When we finished eating what we could, pinky fingers raised the entire time, we got the remainder packaged to go and eventually gave it to the hotel clerk when we returned to the hotel. It was a very successful day in
Patagonia: we had completed two days of driving through the desert to observe wildlife, had a touch of Welsh culture, and returned safely to our hotel.
The heat wave in the entire country has dissipated. We have enjoyed pleasant days, chilly evenings requiring a sweater or windbreaker, especially with the stiff winds of
Patagonia, but behind us to the north, summertime thunderstorms have inundated the country. Buenos Aires suffered serious flooding and some neighborhoods still don't have electricity, more than a week later, generating more protests, of course. The only paved road (route 3) between Viedma and Puerto Madryn was closed for several days because of floods. We seemed to always be ahead of the rain which shouldn't be too surprising, since we headed south into the Patagonian desert. The tickets we purchased for crossing the desert from Viedma to Bariloche in the Andes on the once-weekly train are for Friday and we were worried that we couldn't make it back to Viedma to catch the old train. Have no fear, the road has been reopened and we purchased our bus tickets to return to our departure city. We will need to spend one night in Viedma because the train doesn't depart until 6:00 p.m. and there are no morning departures from here to that city, six hours away. One must be flexible when traveling by bus. Lucky doesn't hurt, either.
I believe there will be more interesting adventures ahead, especially the overnight ride on the rickety, old train across the land made famous by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid who emigrated to
Patagonia after their days in Texas became a little too threatening. Stay tuned.  Hasta luego.

February 28, 2010 - From San Carlos de Bariloche
     Terremoto!! Terremoto!! That word is Spanish for earthquake and the Chileans suffered a major blow yesterday with the quake that registered 8.8 on the Richter scale. Lorenzo and I were in a tiny, train compartment attempting to sleep through a very rough train ride across the Patagonian desert when the quake hit. I had drawn the top bunk and Lorenzo the bottom and the rough track had both of us bouncing back and forth all night. In the top bunk, the sideways motion is somewhat greater than on the bottom, so I was having a roller coaster night of it. In retrospect, I awoke shortly after 3:30 when the quake hit. The ride was so rough that we had no idea that there was a quake, but at that time there was an exceptionally large bump which I thought would throw me out of the bunk. I used the awakening to pull on my pants and shoes and walk down the hallway of the sleeping car to the men's room, thinking that I might avoid the morning crowds if I evacuated then. I went back to the compartment, climbed back up the ladder to my bunk and slept until 8:00 a.m. We didn't even realize that there had been a quake until the taxi driver in Bariloche informed us of that fact. Now that I think about it, we were probably pretty fortunate that the train didn't derail after the quake and cause death or injury.
     About an hour and a half into the trip from Viedma, the train came to a smoky halt in the middle of the desert. A full moon shined brightly before dusk, but the train was going nowhere. I had left Lorenzo with a bottle of Quilmes beer in the dining car when the train suddenly stopped and I saw many passengers walking in the desert toward the back of the train. I disembarked and walked back to assess the damage and offer my expertise on emergency repairs. The major electrical connection between cars had completely melted during the fire and it looked like we might face a night in the desert. When I located Lorenzo, I told him that we needed to shepherd our supplies, like water and snacks, in case we faced a life or death situation. Lorenzo was uninterested, continuing to snap photos of telephone poles, desert plants, train cars, and whatever else captivated him. He must have taken 200 pictures during the train ride, including several of our compartments. Perhaps, I took half a dozen.
     Much to my surprise and pleasure, there were a couple of mechanics on the train and they worked on repairs for about an hour, under my supervision, of course, and we started rolling once again. Rolling is a generous description of the train's performance. The expected clickety-clack, clickety-clack, was more like thump, bump, and wobble. Then came the terremoto at 3:30 a.m., a much larger thump and bump, so the train ride was an exciting part of this year's adventure for me. At least the beds were clean, well-made, and quickly converted from the long, blue, vinyl-covered, bench seat where we watched the desert pass by until the dining car opened.  It was an interesting experience, but neither Lorenzo nor I slept very much. We both crashed a few minutes after finding a cheap hotel on the main street of downtown Bariloche.
     To the thousands who wrote, inquiring about my well-being, I thank you for your concern. To those who inquired of my wife about whether I was in Chile or near the quake, I appreciate your thoughtfulness. Honestly, we had no idea there was a quake until the taxi driver informed us about it and until we had time to reflect on which of the many bumps might have been the terremoto.
     Today, we went to the world-famous Llao Llao Hotel and Resort for Sunday Brunch. Pronounce the name Ziaow, Ziaow, and get here when you can. Rooms run $549/night for a mountain view and $769/night for a lake view. Those are dollars, not pesos! Compare that to the $31/night in the awful hotel where Lorenzo and I crashed after the exhausting train ride. This morning, we changed hotels, and this hotel has decent-sized bathrooms and relatively firm beds. The first hotel is the only hotel in which I have ever stayed where I couldn't sit on the bed to put on my shoes, because the bed sagged so much I was almost sitting on the floor. I didn't see any bedrooms at Llao Llao, but I'd bet that I could put my shoes on from their beds. The brunch was fantastic and included paella and a lamb dish as the main courses. Scrumptious! The salad bar included lox, mixed seafood ceviche, cold, poached trout, endive salad, cold, roasted vegetables, and delicious, huge hearts of palm (called palmito), among many other beautifully-prepared dishes. The brunch set us back $45, but both felt like it was money well spent. We exited past the beautifully, manicured golf course after taking many, many photos of the gorgeous property in the finest setting one can possibly imagine. A huge, snow-capped Andean peak highlighted the scene, but the three surrounding lakes added a beauty all their own. No wonder Argentineans have told us that Bariloche is the most beautiful city in Argentina. They were absolutely right! You might want to try Googling the Llao Llao Hotel and Resort to better appreciate the scenery we enjoyed.
     Tomorrow will take us on two tours, lasting all day, around several of the lakes in this lake district and will eventually take us to the Chilean border. My heart goes out to the warm, friendly Chilean people who have suffered this terrible earthquake. Though they have the most robust economy in Latin America, they will struggle for a long time to rebuild their country. My heart goes out to them.   Adios.

March 3, 2010 - From Bariloche, Argentina
     The weather in Bariloche has been a pleasant surprise. While Buenos Aires is still being pummeled by summer thunderstorms and humidity always above 75%, the weather in Bariloche has been perfect. Chilly evenings, last night the coolest, requiring a tee-shirt and summer sweater, and warm days with almost no humidity make this the perfect place to stay longer than anticipated. I had packed a couple of white tee shirts, one long-sleeved shirt that I also wore on the flight from Washington, two light sweaters, and the gore-tex windbreaker that also serves as my foul weather gear. I expected to wear all of that clothing in a layering defense against the cold breezes off the Andes slopes that would leave my teeth chattering. I was quite apprehensive that I did not have sufficient clothing for the Bariloche chill and expected to purchase a fleece, zippered shirt to add one more layer when I arrived. Bermuda shorts, tee and golf shirts, and sandals have been the garb of the day while visiting Bariloche and Lorenzo and I are both thrilled. Lorenzo kept threatening that if it were cold in Bariloche, he would only be spending a couple of days here. Since our arrival, I have heard nothing more about his premature departure. What a glorious way to spend the winter - temperatures in the upper 70's and low 80's, no humidity, surrounded by gorgeous lakes and snow-capped peaks. Perfect!
Monday, we went on an all-day tour of the Bariloche area, including visits to six or seven of the 27 lakes in this area that is accurately called the
Lake District. In the morning, we visited a waterfall near Lake Gutierrez and the guide did an excellent job, though all in Spanish, of discussing the flora and fauna of the area. We also visited a geological museum with an extensive exhibit of rocks and fossils. Lorenzo had a field day there, even photographing petrified dinosaur poop. He has such a wide array of interests.
The afternoon saw us skirting the edges of huge Lake Nahuel Huapi on whose shores Bariloche sits. This Andes-fed lake covers several hundred square miles of area and is part of Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi which stretches all the way to the Chilean border. Views of the lakes and surrounding mountains, oft-times dusted with snow on their peaks, were spectacular. Many times the views were so pristine that you could be certain that your photos would look like postcards. The guide pointed out the changing plant life, from the arid steppe climate areas to the more moist slopes where conifers were in abundance. Argentineans, like people from most of the other countries I have visited, are much impressed by nature. Waterfalls, plant and animal life, geology, and protection of the environment seem to be more important to these folks than most people in the
USA. Perhaps, that is why they are so frustrated with our unwillingness to sign the Kyoto Accords.
     We have checked prices for both bus transportation and air travel to Mendoza, our next destination, and have learned that we may have a problem obtaining lodging in Mendoza, the heart of Malbec wine country. It is from Mendoza that I bused with Schim three years ago through the Andes to Chile. The airline agent said that most of the international relief efforts for Chile's terremoto have funneled through Mendoza, making lodging a challenge. She also said that many Chileans have fled to Mendoza to escape the aftermath of the quake in their country. We have decided that an airline flight is cost prohibitive, so we will take two lengthy bus rides to reach Mendoza. The first will be a six-hour jaunt to Neuquen, where we will probably spend the night. We will leave the next evening on an overnight, 11-hour ride in a sleeper bus to Mendoza. The bus rides will total $75, while the air flight would have been around $400 - not much of a decision there, made even easier when we learned that all flights to Mendoza from Bariloche go first through Buenos Aires. The first-class bus fare will include a lounge chair-type, fully reclining seat, movies, and probably light meals, so, if I can get a few hours sleep, it should be a lot more comfortable than the Patagonia Express. This could be the first time that we attempt to get hotel reservations in advance, because of the Chilean earthquake and the demand for hotel space. It is way too nice in Bariloche to risk winding up in Mendoza sleeping in the park, so we will be cautious. There are other options, too. We could bus directly to Buenos Aires, stopping in small cities along the way to make the length of the trip more bearable, but both of us enjoyed Mendoza in previous visits and want to spend more time there. The great wine is definitely an attraction.
     There are a couple of golf courses here in Bariloche and, when Lorenzo returns from the museum where he is probably taking another 100 photos, we may taxi there to hit a bucket of balls. On another day, we might just tee it up for a round, even though Lorenzo hasn't struck a ball in anger in more than 30 years. Should be interesting. Stay tuned. Hasta luego.

March 6, 2010 - From San Carlos de Bariloche
    Fore!! I played seven holes of golf two days ago and had another adventure, getting there and back to Bariloche. I hailed a cab and inquired about the driver's knowledge as to the location of a golf course that a Canadian tourist told me about, located on the way to Llao Llao, but closer to town so the cab fare wouldn't be sky high. The cabbie hadn't heard of the course, but made three phone calls for help in locating a destination. It ended up costing $14 for the cab fare (a huge tab here) and I wound up at a different course, probably the worst course I have played since my pre-teen days, but I had a great time. The poorly-maintained course only cost $5 for the greens fee and wasn't worth a penny more. The course had five bumpy greens and eleven dirt tees, but was all I needed to stretch muscles that I hadn't used since the end of October. I rented clubs, balls, and tees for $7.50 and they were something to behold. The clubs were a mismatched set with a metal driver, a two iron, several other clubs that proved unnecessary on the executive-length holes that I played, but no putter. No problem, the attendant (he couldn't have been a club professional) took one from a bag containing the only other clubs in the little building and gave it to me. The putter that he loaned me didn't appear to be his own, but, no matter, I was golfing. The rental package included two, plastic, broken tees no taller than an inch and broken off square at the bottom. Classic. The balls took the cake, however: there were three of the worst balls I have ever hit in my life. Washing had worn them almost smooth and I could barely make out the Slazenger name or the range-ball ring painted sometime before the war on the little, almost-white spheres, which had, remarkably, maintained most of their original shape. But, play I did, hitting the ball much better than I could have possibly hoped and losing only one of the balls and both of the tees. The attendant was not in sight when I finished and I left the clubs by the door of the little building and hurried off, afraid that he would catch me and require reimbursement for the loss of his valuable equipment.
    As I left the course, the bus back to Bariloche was only 50 yards ahead of me across the road, but I couldn't catch it before it pulled away from the bus stop. At least, I now knew the location of the bus stop and I waited for the next one. While I was waiting, however, I noticed another man, heading in the other direction, hitch-hiking toward Llao Llao. He was successful in short order, so I stuck out my thumb and unsuccessfully tried to catch a ride back to town for 10 minutes or so before other passengers started to accumulate at the bus stop. I boarded the next bus along with the other five passengers who had gathered and headed back to town. The bus was a regular city-type bus with a seating capacity of 35 passengers or so, but, by the time we reached town, more than 100 passengers had crammed on board. It was great for people watching and I was thrilled that I got on in time to get a seat, because the trip took 40 minutes on a windy road with many stops, but I felt bad for those who had to stand in the aisle crammed like olives in a jar.
    Yesterday, Lorenzo decided that he was going to travel up a chair lift to a revolving restaurant for the view of the lake and surrounding area. A ride up a chair lift is not exactly my cup of tea. I would have paid double the lift fee just to remain on the ground, so I boarded the bus toward Llao Llao once more, headed to Puerto Pinero, the departure point for boat tours to Isla Victoria and another unique, forested island in huge, gorgeous, Lago Nahuel Huapi. The tour was spent among some of the most picturesque views on the face of the earth! I take far fewer pictures than mi amigo, Lorenzo, but even I snapped 71 pictures during the six-hour tour. Had Lorenzo been aboard, he would have easily taken 250 photos. Views that contained mountains plunging into the deep blue waters of the 350 square mile lake, huge redwood trees planted from seed transported from California, ponderosa pine, also imported from the USA and now used for lumber in the chalets that are everywhere, Douglas Fir, cypress, and other exotic trees planted in experimental plots on Victoria Island that was once laid bare from the over-harvesting of indigenous trees. The redwoods have grown as big in 85 years here as they do in California in 300 years, so perfect are the conditions for the giant sequoia. The pines are being harvested and will be cleared from the island so that conservationists can replant indigenous species of the hardwoods that once thrived there. The redwoods will remain, however, and they are as beautiful to behold as are ours in Sequoia National Park.
We have purchased bus tickets to depart San Carlos de Bariloche tomorrow morning. I leave at
10:00 a.m. on a deluxe bus and Lorenzo leaves at 10:15 on a vehicle not rated as good by the agent, but one that had his favorite, front-seat perch on the upper level available. I refuse to take a lesser bus so that Lorenzo can have his favorite seat to take pictures of road signs, so I will take the earlier bus, costing only about 50 cents more. If all goes according to plan, we will meet in Neuquen, six hours away and just a stop on the way to Mendoza, eleven hours by overnight bus beyond that. I had no trouble getting reservations on the internet in a hotel in Mendoza or by telephone at the hotel where Lorenzo stayed when he visited the city in November. I didn't actually make the reservations, however, since we both prefer to see hotels and their rooms before we actually commit to staying there. I was simply testing the waters to make certain that there would be no problem securing hotel rooms in the city because of the Chilean-earthquake-rescue efforts. We are good to go.
     It will be very difficult to leave this spectacular location, certainly one of the most picturesque spots on the face of the earth and easily one of the five most beautiful locations I have visited in my travels. The weather in March is as perfect as the views of mountain and lake, with brisk mornings and evenings and warm afternoons. It doesn't get much better than this, but we have been here for more than a week and the Malbec wine of Mendoza beckons. I return home one month from tomorrow and want to spend at least a few weeks in Buenos Aires, decompressing after six weeks on the road and resting for the trip back to the frenetic pace of life at home.  I will update again from Mendoza where the March wine festival should be going strong. Hasta luego!

March 9, 2010 - From Neuquen (still in Patagonia)
    Neuquen is a dusty, dirty, desert town that reminds me of Mexican cities. That said, it was particularly fortuitous that we didn't fly from Bariloche to Mendoza and miss the drive between Bariloche and Neuquen. The spectacular topography we passed during the first two hours of the trip was like driving through our National Parks in the western USA. Mesas, buttes, plateaus, unique rock formations, arroyos, canyons, and the clear, white-water streams that paralleled the road and emptied into blue lakes that reflected the bright blue skies were the views that kept my eyes riveted to the spectacle outside the bus windows. Both Lorenzo and I, though on different buses, took many pictures of the scenery. Lorenzo has the wires to his camera and has sent his photos. My pictures will have to wait for more modern equipment, hopefully in Mendoza, but, suffice it to say, the scenery was a pleasant surprise. I expected boring, desert, scrub brush the entire trip, but the view was anything but monotonous.
Interestingly, in retrospect, one of the most surprising things about the lakes and streams in
Patagonia is the lack of boat traffic. I saw only two tour boats and one, small sail boat on mammoth Lake Huapi during my eight days in Bariloche. Silvina, the Buenos Aires doctor, stopped while Lorenzo and I were seated outside our favorite cafe, to tell us that she had spent the day kayaking on the lake one day, so there must be water sports somewhere on the lake, but I marveled at the lack of boat traffic. The river that paralleled the road and the lakes along the way to Neuquen held not a single vessel, although I saw two boats parked on trailers along the way. There were several fishermen, including one in waders, fishing the shoreline for trout, but no boats. Even the long lake, which was scores of miles long, contained no boats. A fisherman could fish the almost-virgin waters here for the rest of his life, that's for sure, because even the shore fishermen were usually tens of miles apart.
     We scheduled two nights in Neuquen, because Lorenzo wanted to stop at the dinosaur digs that his travel guide mentioned. We passed the dinosaur digs 50 miles outside of Neuquen on the way in and Lorenzo decided against busing back to the site. Since we purchased the bus tickets to Mendoza while we were at the bus station upon arrival, that meant two nights here and nothing of interest to see in the dusty, dirty, city of 251,000. Neuquen is in an agricultural area, apparently using the waters of the nearby lake for irrigation, and we saw corn, alfalfa, vineyards, and many orchards as we neared the city. Pears, peaches, and red and green apples hung prominently from the trees growing close to the well-maintained, two-lane highway between the two cities.  I also saw a large apple warehouse that indicated a thriving, apple agro-business in the farmlands surrounding the city. The city itself had little of interest for us, although a Sunday night festival in the strip park downtown kept us entertained one evening.
     I awoke yesterday morning after a fitful night of sleep with excruciating pain in my right knee. Not that I haven't had years of knee pain, but prior to this, only after an injury I could remember. This felt exactly like the athletic injuries that preceded it, but I couldn't remember any incident that could have caused it. I started taking ibuprofen and the pain was bearable during the day, although I walked painfully with a noticeable limp to the laundry four blocks away in the morning before the ibuprofen kicked in. With nothing to do for two days, using the time to have laundry washed seemed an efficient use of time. With clean clothing, I should have more time to enjoy the famous Malbec that Mendoza offers and having a suitcase full of unsoiled garments is a special treat while on the road for several weeks. I limped again to the lavanderia at 8:00 p.m. to pick up the clothes and repacked my suitcase while Lorenzo sat outside for hours and scribbled his update in the notebook from which he meticulously pecks, Columbus-style (discover a key and land on it), for hours more in an internet center several days later. He is pecking away three machines down from me as I write this.
     Last night, I took the pillow from the other single bed in my room and used it to elevate my knee during the night. That, plus the magic of a full day's worth of ibuprofen, led to a great night's sleep with little pain. I awoke this morning with a more swollen knee, but much less pain. I still limp when I walk, there is occasional pain, and I must keep moving my knee while writing to avoid stiffness, but I think I will survive to make the overnight, eleven and three-quarter hour bus trip to Mendoza tonight. The seat on the bus trip to Neuquen was exceedingly comfortable, with an almost fully recline-able back and a calf support that tilted back from the back of the seat in front of me. I don't think there will be a problem getting a decent night's sleep on the way through the desert to Mendoza. The first-class bus seats are only three wide on the bus and I selected the single-seat side so that nobody will sleep with their head on my shoulder. Lorenzo opted for the double-seated side, no doubt looking for another encounter with a breast-feeding mother.
     I already miss the fondue and variety of foods offered in Bariloche, because there is clearly a paucity of decent restaurants in Neuquen.  I am ready to escape this city and head to the more tourist-friendly environs of Mendoza, where I hope the wine may aid my recovery as much as the ibuprofen.  Hasta luego.

March 12, 2010 - From Mendoza, Argentina
     The seats were disappointingly less comfortable than the first class bus from Bariloche to Neuquen and the overnight ride took all of twelve hours, but I managed to get five or six hours of sleep before we arrived at 8:00 a.m. in Mendoza, the center of Argentina's thriving wine industry. The second floor of the bus was "semi-cama" or semi-bed like, but the first floor, for which we were ticketed, was supposed to be the "cama" or full-bed section and cost $8.00 more than the seats upstairs. The bus I took from Bariloche was a full "cama," upstairs and down, and the seats reclined much farther with more leg room. But, there were two drivers and one stewardess on the bus to Mendoza for the duration of the trip and "Avatar" was shown on the TV screen during the early part of the ride. A blanket and small pillow were provided for the trip and the stewardess served a hot meal, starting at 11:00 p.m., which included roast beef, mashed potatoes, rice salad, fixings for a ham and cheese sandwich, flan, and a choice of beverage, including the two glasses of red wine that I consumed. She also offered champagne after the meal, but I declined. I was ready to let the wine take effect.  It really wasn't a bad trip, though I longed for the more comfortable seating of the executive-class, full-"cama" bus of the previous trip.
     During the ride, I had time while drifting off to never-never land to reminisce about the time spent in Bariloche, by far the most beautiful city in Argentina. The Swiss influence inspired the fondue Lorenzo and I shared on the first afternoon in the city and every block had several chocolate shops from which tourists from all over Argentina made purchases before heading home. I admit to having tried a small portion of almond bark which met or exceeded any that I have had in the past. While drifting off to sleep, I thought of all the backpackers, hikers, campers, trekkers, and other young people that filled Bariloche and its buses. Modern hippies with dreadlocks, sandals, huge, front and rear backpacks, and dirty jeans filled the streets, but rarely sat in street-side cafes. They must have eaten over the campfire or in the many hostels in town and along the road to Llao Llao, or wherever they were sleeping at night. They came from around the world to enjoy nature and the physical beauty that Bariloche provides.
     I also had time to watch Lorenzo across the bus aisle where he had drawn a handsome, young military man in civilian clothes as his seat mate - so much for his dream of another encounter with a breast-feeding mother. He enjoyed what seemed like a long, pleasant conversation with the young man, then opened his backpack to extricate the down pillow he carries with him when he travels. I yelled across, asking if he was going to put on his "jammies," too, and he laughed, but he drifted off into sleep rather quickly. I was delighted that he hadn't also tucked his teddy bear under his arm while he slept.
     Upon arrival in Mendoza, we headed by taxi directly to the hotel where Lorenzo stayed in his November visit to the city. We secured two rooms, Lorenzo again insisting on a matrimonio (double bed) for the same price of $35, including breakfast, and I was given the same. The bed was horrendous, lumpy, and sagging mightily even under my much-reduced torso and, the following morning, Lorenzo and I both requested different rooms. I asked for a twin room, because I don't think the narrow beds sag as much, but Lorenzo opted for another matrimonio, no doubt leaving room for the bear. This room is much better with a tub shower and an almost-new mattress and I have slept comfortably both nights in the new abode.
     Mendoza hasn't changed much. Everywhere, the streets are lined with sycamore and poplar trees that, no doubt, provide necessary shade in the hot summer sunshine. While we suffered the heat wave in Buenos Aires, the temperatures for Mendoza were always four or five degrees higher and I was glad that we hadn't visited then. The grapes must love it, though. We passed many vineyards on the way into town and most of the famous bodegas in the country are located here. Unfortunately, the wine festival ended before we arrived, but that won't stop me from sampling some of their products.
     It was enjoyable, strolling through the streets and around the central plaza where Schim and I stayed three years ago. I wrote him, saying that I got a tear in my eye when I saw the hotel where we stayed and shared a room on our previous visit, although I certainly stretched the truth. Schim has stayed in touch and followed my adventures, envious of the new experiences and regretting that he chose not to participate this year.
     Yesterday, we took a city tour that was unenlightening since it was all in Spanish and I remembered having visited most of the sites the last time I was in town, which means that I probably had talked Schim into spending a few bucks ($10) to take the tour back then. The tour did travel the tree-lined streets and into the big park on the city's outskirts, so I did get another overview of the city. Actually, I even understood most of the guide's explanations about the tour's highlights. Lorenzo and I disembarked the air-conditioned van at a sushi restaurant, because both of us have been craving sushi that has been unavailable since we left Buenos Aires. The sushi was excellent and we also shared a great bottle of D.V. Catena, 2007, Chardonnay Chardonnay (intentionally double typed, as was the bottle label), that really complemented the fish. The wine was $20 at the restaurant and we probably could have purchased it at the supermarket for half of that. I don't know if the wine is available in the USA, but it would certainly be worth the effort to try to get it. I don't drink much white wine and will go with a red tonight, but white was the thing to do with sushi.         
     This city has a delightful, three-city-block-long, pedestrian-only street ("peatonal") with several wisteria-covered arbors that is the center of life for inhabitants, day or night. I have long championed a pedestrian-only street in my home town and
Mendoza is another case where a city has thrived once pedestrians can walk and dine, inside and out, without the fear of being run over by automobiles and buses. We will probably spend the weekend here in this delightful setting, then head in short bus rides to San Luis, then Cordoba where we will again spend a few days. From there, it will be a short hop to Rosario, then one final short bus ride back to Buenos Aires. Lorenzo heads back to northern California on April first, and I make the long flight to Baltimore one week later. There could be many more adventures until then.  Hasta luego.

March 18, 2010 - From Cordoba, Argentina
     It was difficult to bid adieu to the beautiful city of Mendoza which welcomed us with perfect weather and fantastic Malbec wine, but it was time to make the long haul back to Buenos Aires. Gone are the beautiful tree-lined streets and the river-rock-lined, four-feet-deep aqueducts that carry water from the Andes to Mendoza's streets. The aqueducts were begun by the indigenous people who once inhabited the area and they are still much in use today. The greenery of the parks and the city's trees is a result of the channeling of the rushing water to where it is needed. It is a challenge to negotiate the streets without tumbling into the deep, usually-dry channels and is much more easily accomplished without the generous portions of fine wine available in all the town's restaurants and cafes.
The last night of our stay in
Mendoza, we celebrated our departure from one of our favorite Argentine cities by traveling across town to Godoy Cruz, a small bedroom community outside Mendoza, where I had made reservations at Mallman's Restaurant, located on the grounds of the Escorihuela Gascon vineyard. We entered a beautiful building and were ushered into a breathtakingly-beautiful garden courtyard by one of the many young ladies working in the establishment. The restaurant was started by a chef who is famous all over Argentina and his cuisine encompassed foods from all over the country and from the indigenous people who once lived here.  There was a huge grill that shot fire fifteen feet in the air and a domed, clay-brick oven where empanadas and his famous cabrito (kid goat) were roasted. We heard much English being spoken from the tables that surrounded us, no doubt because most locals cannot afford the price of a meal in the place.
     Lorenzo couldn't afford a meal either, or, more likely, it was because of the lateness of the hour and the acid reflux that has continued to bother him when he dines at regular Argentine dinner hours, customarily beginning at 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. He just shared the great bottle of wine with me, while I enjoyed the cabrito Chef Mallman made famous. Lorenzo had one taste of the tender meat, but simply enjoyed the environment and the young ladies who waited on us. The great Miguel Escorihuela Gascon wine made the night complete. We were as ready as we could be to leave Mendoza.
     We boarded the bus at the bus station and, like magic, three and a half hours later, we arrived in San Luis, only a stopover to prevent an even longer bus ride to Cordoba. The ride enhanced our perception of the agriculture centered around Mendoza and a full two hours into our bus ride. Many vineyards, orchards, and fields of vegetables kept the ride interesting. After securing two rooms ($28/ea.) in the hotel where Lorenzo had previously stayed, we surveyed the town by walking a few miles and locating a restaurant for Lorenzo's late lunch, his large meal for the day. After a late siesta, we again strolled the town, Lorenzo pausing for one of his afternoon cervezas, while we searched for a restaurant for me that would serve dinner at a reasonable hour (8:30 or 9:00 p.m.).  We found an Italian restaurant, complete with a second or third generation, Sicilian owner who proudly shared his heritage with us. Accompanied by a cheap bottle of Escorihuela Gascon (who knew they also produced cheap wine?), I dined sumptuously on an inexpensive, tender, very-delicious rib-eye steak, while Lorenzo simply shared the wine. We were up early the next morning for the 10:00 a.m. departure for Cordoba.
     Seven hours later to the minute, we arrived in the large city of Cordoba, and I couldn't have been happier to see the bus terminal. I had a 77-year-old seat mate for the entire ride who talked incessantly during the whole trip, no matter that I understood only a small percentage of the conversation. I am getting to be a master at smiling when the speaker smiles, laughing when she laughs, and looking sympathetic when the mouth curls downward or tears glisten her eyes. This very nice lady was heading from San Luis to Cordoba to help her daughter, an architect, while the 50-year-old daughter dealt with the treatments for cancer that seemed to be in her hip and legs from the gestures the mother made. She was going to help with her daughter's three children.
     During the dreadfully long ride, made without my hearing aid that should have been in the ear facing my seatmate, the lady also communicated her love for Barack Obama, her dislike of Christina Kirchner, Argentina's president, and her dissatisfaction with the $250 pension that retirees get from the government. Wait, perhaps I understood more than I thought during the conversation. I was happy to provide an ear for the lady's woes, even though that ear should have been aided for improved comprehension.  On second thought, perhaps it was better that the good ear didn't face the lady, she might have talked another deaf ear on me.
     We stood in the bus station while Lorenzo had the tourist office call what seemed like a million hotels to check on availability, price, and location. We ended up staying in none of them, finally settling on a hotel on a peatonal (pedestrian-only street) we found in Lorenzo's guide book while we sat with our suitcases enjoying a much-needed beverage - Lorenzo's a coke and mine a bottle of agua con gas (carbonated mineral water), something for which I have only recently acquired a taste.
     It is very hot and humid here and it will take a few days to adapt. Like most cities in the hot and humid interior of the country, inhabitants empty the streets, the stores close, and a siesta is enjoyed during the hottest hours. Things start to hum again around six, after the sun descends, when locals (and the two of us) exit our rooms and take to the streets once more. Thank goodness the old hotel, currently undergoing extensive renovation, has CNN in English and several English language stations to help wile the late afternoon away.
     We may extend our stay in Cordoba a few extra days since Lorenzo has finally checked a calendar and realized that he doesn't need two weekends in Buenos Aires for shopping. A shorter stay in the nation's capital will still contain the one weekend he requires for the famous, Sunday shopping at the antiques fair in BsAs' San Telmo neighborhood. I will be in BsAs a week longer than Lorenzo, so I have time to shop for the leather jacket I hope to acquire. There are still almost twenty days remaining on my adventure this year and who knows what thrills lie ahead?  Hasta luego.

March 23, 2010 - From Buenos Aires, Argentina
     The weekend in Cordoba generated a few tales that need to be told and the first night back in BsAs last evening served up another:  Saturday afternoon in Cordoba, Lorenzo and I had lunch in a corner cafe, because we had permitted the lunch period to pass us by while walking to and from the bus terminal to purchase tickets to go to Rosario the next day. Once the lunch period ends, between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. almost nothing other than cafes are open. It is really like a witching hour, with restaurants declining customers, no matter how hungry they may look or how much money they might spend. We ate a lousy lunch with roasted, overcooked chicken and the customary, one-quart, personal serving of mashed potatoes (they also had french fries on the menu, but both of us are trying to avoid fried foods). The cafes stay open, apparently, to sell the last of the day's specials which have been under the heat lamps or in the oven since the lunch period began. The potatoes were great, though.
     The point being that we had just finished a late lunch and headed back to our hotel with full stomachs. At the corner of the block before our hotel, we observed a group of men grilling something in a parking place between cars on the street. They had placed a piece of fiber board (like plywood) on the street to protect the asphalt, placed charcoal on top, then placed a simple, small grill over the charcoal. We couldn't see what they were grilling, so we walked a few steps up the street on the opposite side to see what was up. They yelled at us across the street and eventually waved us to join them at their barbecue. There were six men in the group, at least three of them cab drivers and one the owner of the locutorio (small corner grocery and snack store) in front of which the grill was set up. They shared their grilled beef and it was the best meat we have eaten in this friendly country. We only ate a bite or two, shared on a common knife and fork, because we were so full from lunch. But, the conversation that lasted fifteen minutes or so was fantastic. They asked about our jobs, then how much retirees get in government pensions (social security) in the USA, because they were envious of our ability to travel for such a great length of time. We inquired about their jobs, talked about how illegal it would be to cook on top of the asphalt in the USA, and about our impressions of their great country. They told us that it was illegal to cook on the asphalt or on the fiber board in their country, too, but they did it anyway, and that generated a lot of laughs a few minutes later when two policemen walked by without saying a word. Their hospitality extended to a mentally-deranged, street person (they can be identified because they talk to themselves and answer enthusiastically) to whom they gave several pieces of meat after he hung around admiring their culinary skills (to himself of course). The entire experience was a pleasant one and I wondered how many of us would invite a passing stranger to join our barbecues.
     On Friday night in Cordoba, the night before our unexpected barbecue, Lorenzo and I bought dinner for a female college professor we had met weeks before in a park along the river in Viedma, where we drank a coke and attempted to pass the time while waiting for the train across Patagonia. She was at a table nearby and we started a conversation that lasted no more than half-an-hour. She was in Viedma working as the university's marketing consultant, but was returning to Cordoba the same afternoon. She gave us her phone number after we made her laugh with our normal Abbott and Costello routines and told us to call her when we passed through her city. I got the job of calling and she agreed to accompany us to dinner to continue our conversation. I invited her to bring a friend, thinking she might be a little timid about meeting with two men, especially with Lorenzo who seemed to be drooling over her while we conversed in Viedma.
     Olga, a twice-divorced friend who had recently acquired a new boyfriend stationed in Cordoba in the military, accompanied Graciela to dinner. She must have been willing to support her friend despite the new relationship and she and I served like "seconds" in the boxing world, supporting the two principals who seemed to be genuinely attracted to one another. Lorenzo drooled, Graciela smiled coyly, and Olga and I kept them talking and drooling, while conversing quietly when they needed to talk alone. We laughed a lot, especially considering that Olga spoke absolutely no English and Graciela was a little insecure about practicing her very-limited knowledge of our language. The relationship between Graciela and Lorenzo flourished enough that the ladies, Graciela, 48, and Olga, 50, agreed to dine with us again, two nights later. It is always good to have company other than Lorenzo for dinner, since he and I have dined together for almost every meal over the past three months and have heard each other's best material several times over.
     At the second meal, held in a shopping mall restaurant outside the center of town and costing five dollars (a huge sum) in cab fare for us to reach, the budding romance continued. Lorenzo and Graciela seemed to enjoy one another's company (there is no accounting for a woman's taste) and they talked about Graciela visiting Lorenzo in May or June, after she visits her brother who lives in Miami. Again, I served mostly as a second, but took time to cheer on Olga who really enjoyed the meal. The only one among us to eat dessert, a beautiful fruit salad, Olga ate more than the rest of us combined. She genuinely enjoyed the meal, a seemingly-never-ending variety of grilled meats, and that alone may have been her reason for joining our party. Both meals we ate together were excellent and Olga led the way in her enjoyment of the cuisine. Both meals were enjoyable experiences that ended with nothing more than the typical, very-proper, Argentinean buss on the check, though Lorenzo was frothing at the mouth for a more intimate conclusion. Graciela was off the next day, though Olga had to work, and generously offered to guide the two of us into the beautiful Sierra outside Cordoba the following day. Unfortunately, Lorenzo suffered another brief bout of the green-apple quicksteps that day and we had to cancel. I'm hoping that they remain in touch. Lorenzo could use a good woman to show him the error of his bachelor ways.
     The bus ride from Cordoba to Rosario, a six-hour trip, shortened the ten-hour ride required to go directly from Cordoba to Buenos Aires and we passed huge campos (farms) along the way. Chief among the crops in order of their prevalence were: soy beans (tens of thousands of acres), sorghum (almost as extensively planted), field corn, and alfalfa. We saw dairy cows, steers, sheep, and horses grazing in fields along the way until, an hour from our arrival in Rosario, the skies opened with a huge rain squall eliminating any view at all. The streets of Rosario were flooded above the curbs and at almost every intersection people worked to unplug the storm sewers. It was a major rainfall and the bus was not sealed tightly enough to keep the passengers dry. Several windows leaked badly, though mine stayed dry, and water sloshed back and forth, up and down the aisle, when we accelerated or braked. It was certainly different weather than during our previous rides, but that is what makes the day to day experiences worth living. The rain continued in Rosario, but ended by early evening and people began taking to the pedestrian-only street, though in diminished numbers because it was Sunday and we were downtown where all stores were closed.
I napped beyond the time when I was to meet Lorenzo, maybe it was the 2/3 bottle of wine I had with my late, pizza lunch, but I didn't get to our meeting place, where Lorenzo was headed for a beer, until a full two hours after our scheduled meeting time. I had a banana and peach licuado (like a smoothie, but with milk) and enjoyed the cool evening air while watching several children energetically run around the peatonal (pedestrian street) while their parents enjoyed a drink or meal, effectively ignoring them. Soon a young woman, later I found out that she was 39, sat at the table next to mine and ordered a gaseosa (carbonated soft drink). After the children and their parents departed, the young lady, whose name I cannot recall, began talking with me far too rapidly to understand. I explained that I didn't speak much Spanish and asked her to speak slowly, to no avail. She chattered on and I attempted to make sense of what she said. I got that it was her birthday, that she was alone in the world, that her parents had died, maybe recently, in an automobile crash in
Buenos Aires, and that is about all that I comprehended. Oh, yes, she liked my face, pointing to hers as she talked about mine which permitted me to understand. She was a slim, relatively-attractive young lady who thought me handsome (and somewhere between 48 and 51 years of age), so I lingered 10 or 15 minutes, eventually tiring of the concentration required to follow the conversation. I asked for the check and offered to pay for the woman's 7-Up, only to be told by the waitress that the woman doesn't have to pay for drinks at their establishment. I asked if she was the dueña (owner) and they both laughed, but I couldn't make out why her drinks were free. I headed for the hotel only a short distance away, but the woman unexpectedly came with me. She asked me if I liked cidre (an alcoholic cider) and I said, "Yes." She grabbed my arm and sat me down at a table at the next cafe, saying something about having a cidre together. Not wanting to offend, I sat down and the waitress approached with a menu. My companion ordered a cidre and I asked if they had Bailey's. The waitress suddenly picked up the menu and said something about not serving us anything, while looking directly at my companion. I have no idea what that was about, but began to suspect that the woman was either a prostitute or a street person who was unwelcome in that establishment. As I reflected on it later, I suspect that she was a confused street person and the first restaurant's generosity with drinks may have been like the men in Cordoba who fed the crazy guy at their street-side barbecue. They were both simply being kind to the needy. Maybe, I should have suspected as much when she found me handsome and placed my age at 48 - 51, but I didn't.
     We headed around the corner toward my hotel which overlooked the central plaza and suddenly I realized that the woman was coming with me. I tried to tell her that I didn't want her in my hotel, but she persisted over the few steps remaining and was in my hotel lobby. It was 1:00 a.m. and the desk clerk was seated on a sofa watching television. He arose and I fell behind the woman, opening my eyes very widely and shaking my head negatively, trying to inform him that I wanted no parts of this woman. He understood immediately and gently sent her packing. I still have no idea whether she was working or whether she just needed a place to crash, but I am delighted that I never found out.
     Last night finally back in Buenos Aires, Lorenzo and I headed for dinner, me to dine and Lorenzo to share our bottle of wine. He insisted that I go to a tourist trap that he loves because it is open at all hours. It had a very entertaining singer and tango show that Lorenzo video taped for me with his great camera, but the excitement came when I asked for the check. The check was three times what I expected and when I examined the bill, it turned out that the bottle of wine cost $60. While I searched the menu in vain for something light to eat, Lorenzo studied the wine list. When I ordered dinner, Lorenzo quizzed the waiter about several different wines, as is his wont. The waiter told him that one was better than the other, so Lorenzo ordered it. I left the entire wine selection process in Lorenzo's hands because I wasn't very hungry and had difficulty finding something I might like to eat, finally ending up with Patagonia lamb which was very good. Back to the check. We planned on splitting the cost of the wine, but neither of us was prepared for the mistake that Lorenzo made in accepting the waiter's recommendation without checking the price. My credit card, whose old magnetic strip is not read by many machines, was rejected once more and we needed to come up with the cash. Between us, we had exactly the amount of the check. Me, because I was running out of cash due to the frequent rejections of my card which required that I pay cash and Lorenzo because, for security reasons, he only brings a small amount of cash with him each day, preferring (I think erroneously) to leave the bulk of his cash in the hotel room. Anyway, I grumbled and complained all the way back to the hotel about the price of the bottle of wine. He will only be here 10 more days, but he will hear about the cost of that wine every day; of that you can be certain. That may be the reason that I haven't seen Lorenzo yet today. Either he wants to avoid the grief or he drank beer late into the night and is sleeping it off as it approaches !:00 p.m.  There are still 15 days left in my adventure this year and there could still be some excitement to come. Stay tuned.  Hasta luego.

March 25, 2010 - From Buenos Aires, Argentina
     Yesterday was Memorial Day in BsAs, a national holiday, and the Argentineans certainly know how to remember their war veterans. I'm sure that there was some remembrance of the people who served in past wars, but the event was really a huge protest to remind citizens of the time, 34 years ago, when the military seized control of the government and exacted a terrible civil rights tragedy on the populace. More than 30,000 people disappeared during that horrendous regime, some thrown out of planes to their death, if the charges recently brought against a pilot now living and flying commercial jets in Spain are true. Thousands of others have never been heard from again and their families will not let the country forget them. I'm sure that more than a million people, carrying bright, multi-hued banners and marching to the cadence of a variety of drums while chanting slogans, filled the downtown streets. The parade passed on the Avenida de Mayo, the street where our hotel is located, although we had walked to San Telmo to do a little shopping and missed most of the parade. I crossed the parade route several times returning from San Telmo and, the first time I crossed the throng of marchers, I lost Lorenzo in the melee.
I headed down Avenida
Florida, one of the main peatonals (pedestrian only) streets in town, confident that I knew the way back to the hotel, since I have a sense of direction, even in large cities, that sometimes even amazes me. I had no map, but Lorenzo always carries one because his sense of direction is 180 degrees from accurate, which I think I have mentioned in other updates.  I didn't have to worry about him finding the hotel because of the map he carried, so I walked and window-shopped toward the hotel, enjoying the stroll except for the blisters that were developing on two toes on my left foot. I missed a turn, however, and walked at least 24 city blocks farther than necessary to return to the hotel. I enjoyed the window-shopping, stopping several times to check the prices of leather jackets which I intend to purchase before departing for home, but I was exhausted when I got back to the hotel to find Lorenzo sitting at one of the outside tables of the cafe next to our hotel, enjoying his second liter of Quilmes beer. There was one open seat remaining and I collapsed into it while enduring Lorenzo's abuse. He had been back for at least an hour. The parade had become somewhat irregular by that time in the late afternoon, but several more large organizations, one playing Chilean flutes, marched by while I enjoyed a banana licuado (milk smoothie). I lasted a few minutes after consuming the licuado, and then headed for my room to nurse my sore doggies and to rest my weary legs. While lying in bed, I computed that I had walked more than 50 city blocks during the day, probably five miles or more. It appears that even I can make a minor navigational error.
     My irregular path through the center of town took me past a nice leather shop that displayed the kind of leather sport jacket for which I was looking. I went inside, talked at length to the owner of the shop and to a couple of other customers, one who had previously worked for Neiman Marcus in Miami. The other customer was a woman who appeared to be a buyer, making purchases for a store in the US and I heard her mention that she had made previous purchases from that shop, which made me feel good about the quality of workmanship I might expect. After negotiating a slightly lower price than was originally quoted to me, I made an appointment for the following day (today) to select the type and color of leather and to be measured for a jacket.
     I returned this morning for the fitting, settled on the type of stitching and the leather color, and felt very confident about the expertise of the Bolivian employee, termed her best employee by the beautiful, 20-year-old daughter of the store's female owner. I need to return on April 2 for a fitting, hopefully allowing time for any last second adjustments to the garment before I return home. I have received many compliments about the last coat I purchased here, labeled the "goat coat" by fellow traveler, Schim, three years ago, and I am looking forward to adding another leather sport coat to my wardrobe.
     When I sauntered off to bed last evening around 11:00