Lovely Lima

We’ve been in Lima now about three weeks and I can’t tell you how much we’ve enjoyed this portion of the trip. There are several possible reasons: one, we had very generous native guides , the delGustos, who squired us around for several days.   We were wined and dined and treated to a home dinner with 19 of their extended family. It turns out that our companions for this portion of the trip, had previous history with Gloria delGusto. Sharon’s family hosted Gloria as a high school exchange student for one year and other than a brief visit years ago Sharon and Gloria hadn’t seen each other for 45 years. It was wonderful to be a tag along on that reunion.

The second reason for our comfort here in Lima is that Santiago was a bit too boisterous for me. Too much activity, visually too loud and a lot of history to sort out. To take sides is impossible in some of the Chile stories. It was hot and sweaty and I find the siesta in the middle of the day confining. American work ethic drives the 8+ hour workday; Chilean ethic drives a 4 hour morning, 3 hour siesta and another 4 hours in the evening. I might get used to it someday, but not on this trip. Another factor is that Peru is the last stop. We’re winding down, getting ready and anxious to get on with the next horizon. Chile was just the lead up to the swansong; we leave one week from today and can finally hear the fat lady warming up.

For all my fellow adventurers I would put Peru on the bucket list. You already know about Machu Picchu but there is so much more. There’s the Nazca Lines in an area of the Peruvian Desert. In this area are an assortment of lines and geometric forms carved into the valley—suggested age of these lines is from 200BC. They weren’t discovered until the 1930’s when air travel became common. Imagine something that birds knew about before humans did. Additionally, there were 4 distinct indigenous tribal peoples before the Incas. And then the Incas… oh my!

Part of the intrigue for me was spending Holy Week in a very Catholic country; the days between Holy Thursday and Easter are national holidays. We went to church on Palm Sunday only to discover crowds of women outside the church selling palms woven into designs: stalks of corn, fish, florals, and of course the usual braided crosses. These were beautiful creations selling for 50 cents apiece. We happened to spend Holy Thursday in downtown Lima where on that day it is customary make a pilgrimage to several churches; our guide for the day told us that his mother would visit 10-14 different churches on Holy Thursday. Good Friday meant there was a crucifix procession where one carries another palm creation cradling a ceramic Christ crucified. Holy Saturday is spent in a candle lit church.   Peruvian Catholics know their ritual; Easter Sunday was almost anticlimactic, simple without all the Easter bonnet finery.

Machu Picchu was a life highlight. We flew to Cusco, the jumping off point for the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. While we did a 7 day walking pilgrimage in Spain several years ago, trail-ing at 11,000+ elevation for 4 days wasn’t even a consideration. We huffed and puffed our way through Cusco and would lie in bed at night trying to get enough oxygen to get to sleep. From Cusco, we rented a car and driver for the 2 hour ride to Ollantaytambo where we then boarded a train for the 2 hour ride thru the Sacred Valley to Aguas Caliente. We spent the night in Aguas Caliente and then took a 20 minute bus ride to the Machu Picchu entrance (we even got a special stamp in our passports). For those considering, that is the only route to get to Machu Picchu. There the Incas began about 1400 AD, spent 50 years building the complex of rock carved homes, spiritual sites, irrigation paths and tiered farming areas. They remained there for 40 years and then abandoned the area in the mid 1500s. We were told that it was unlikely that the Spaniards ever drove them away from their community. More likely that the demon was malaria, many were dying, they discerned that their sun god had abandoned them and it was time to move on. It was fascinating; one of those picturesque places that define where you are on the earth. If you are interested in the amazing story of its discovery read Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams who recreated Hyram Bingham’s original journey. Finding Machu Picchu was a National Geographic Society coup.

We had another visitor couple that we accompanied to as far as Cusco; they went onto Machu Picchu by themselves so we had 3 full days in Cusco–fascinating by itself. We were cut short one day; we flew to Cusco but wind condition sent us back to Lima for the night. We made it the following day. I researched Cusco airport facilities and found that before 2009 flights to Cusco were only available during daylight hours since there were no runway lights for night landings. WOW! Cusco has a population of about 400,000—about the size of Colorado Springs. I know CSprings had night landings prior to 2009.

So I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. We have our return flight to real life slated for 10 April. A week in Texas with the Gagnons and then into Colorado Springs where we establish home sweet home fondly referred to as Lasting Delight. One more blog and then I sign off. You’ve been kind to listen to my blather. Blessings!

Photo legend: Machu Picchu x 14, train to Aguas Caliente, Palm Sunday x 3, Liz herding alpacas, Cusco from atop, John on the way to 11,000+ elevation.

Photo link

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Santiago to Chile

We are already in Lima, Peru—our last stop for the year. And I know I haven’t finished the Santiago, Chile story and feel compelled to do so before we move on to Lovely Lima tales.

We continued our busy days in Santiago. Our apartment was wonderfully located in the Bellavista neighborhood, well known for its large number of restaurants. John does like to be close to food.

We had two Tours for Tips adventures both describing Chile’s turbulent political history. Originally, Santiago was part of Spain’s colonialism and declared independence in 1818 under the leadership of Bernardo O’Higgins (really!). In 1833 a Constitution created a centralized government and installed Roman Catholicism as the official religion; this constitution survived until 1925. Newspaper headlines over the decades since then would include reports of economic boom, an attempt to distribute riches more evenly, an economic decline, an inability to mediate a conservative congress, a military coup, an election of socialist President Allende who three years later appointed Pinochet commander in chief and 3 weeks later Pinochet leads a brutal coup and overthrows Allende on September 11, 1973. Chile also had a September 11; thousands died or were “disappeared.” We visited a museum outlining the stories of those “disappeared.”

We had another police encounter while in Santiago. We were exiting a tourist bus when a man approached and grabbed John trying to pin his arms down and reached for his IPhone. I was grabbing the guy’s shirt from behind and I saw another man approach thinking he was coming to help. I misread the situation. They got the phone and ran off. Luckily, there was a tourist hotel nearby so we went into the concierge for suggestions on what to do next. On his advice we went to the police station to report the loss for insurance purposes. That was another experience with many steps and confusions. The good news is there was no blood, no bruising, no knife wounds and nobody ended up on the ground. Lucky US. But I think the whole experience colored my view of Santiago. I found it very boisterous—in its art, its streets; it was an eyeful.  See link below for nightly entertainment near our apartment.  DRUMS a la Paul Simon on the Obvious Child music CD.

There is competition between the Chileans and the Peruvians OFF the soccer field—Chile for its wine and Peru for its food. We bicycled thru a Chilean vineyard and got smarter about wine. In Peru the competing drink is a Pisco sour. Next week I’m taking a cooking class which includes how to make the cocktail. Basic ingredients are pisco, sugar, lime juice and egg whites. And it’s really sip-able. Since both countries have similar histories—native people conquered by the Spaniards, we had expected there to be little difference between the two. But there is a lot. The Incan archeology and anthropology in Peru is ever present and fascinating. And more about that later with pictures from Machu Picchu.

Thanks for hanging in with our adventures. By the way I understand one of our candidates has suggested that we should all boycott Apple products. If you are planning on getting rid of your cell phones John and I could use one. Blessings!

Photo explanation: close but no cigar, chess playing on the town square, local grafitti x4, wine tasting, nightly entertainment near our apartment, overview of Santiago from above, proof of our whereabouts.

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Connecting in Chile Uno

So here we are in our 4th and final week of Santiago, Chile. It’s the first of cloudy days here. It’s Sunday and I’ve puttered around this blog for days without writing a word. Today’s puttering has included sweeping, washing the kitchen floor, dusting, counting my vitamins to see if I have the requisite 36 to finish out our on the road days. I’ve done everything but sit down and write. I am procrastinating.

Background: Evidence of human presence in Chile dates back to 13,000 BC. Spanish conquest was in the 15th century. Chile is no more than a 115 miles wide with a length of 2600 miles. One third of Chile’s 16 + million population lives in Santiago and Chile claims Easter Island and part of the Antarctic as part of its territory. Until arriving here the only Chilean name I was familiar with was the author Isabel Allende. Chile is more than wine and earthquakes and I’ve had a lot of learning to do.

We have been busy with Santiago. I think we’ve hit some pretty extraordinary tours and museums while just living. We were walking to church this morning and I was struck by the ordinariness of walking to the same church, through the same park, in the same neighborhood that we’ve gone the past 3 Sundays. One of the joys of living versus hoteling is just that: ordinariness. I see familiar faces at Mass but there is no connected-ness. At this point in this yearlong adventure, I long for connected-ness.

Some wonderful days here in Santiago. One of our first ventures was to the Pre-Colombian Art museum dedicated to the artistic and archeological aspects of ancient SAmerican cultures. I’ve seen a lot of ancient artifacts but Chinchorro mummies predating the Egyptians by 2000 years? And the Andean textiles were sublime. The museum housed remnants of “mummy bundles.” Bodies were folded over and wrapped in layers of exquisitely embroidered cloth making a bundle. The workmanship of these cloths was unbelievable and surprisingly intact because the bundles were buried beneath sand, which protected the cloth from the elements. Unfortunately no photos allowed of the textiles.

One of our other tours was conducted by Tours for Tips. No set tour cost—the guides are dressed in red and white striped shirts looked rather like Where’s Waldo and work only for a tip. This tour was advertised as a market and cemetery tour. Nobody does cemeteries like the SAmericans. This cemetery had the same over-the-top monuments to the well-heeled as the one in Buenos Aires and a section resembling storage lockers at a bus station for the poorer. We had quite a culture and political history lesson sitting on the steps at the cemetery in Santiago with Waldo/Carlos.

We learned about the concept of animatas in that cemetery. A burial spot is infused with the spirit of the dead; that place becomes a meeting point for the dead and the living to connect. A visit honors the dead and offers the opportunity to ask special favors since the dead have already earned their rightful place near to God; the dead’s ears are closer to God therefore a favor is more likely to be answered. Our guide took us to the site in the cemetery dedicated to children. We were told that frequently on that deceased child’s birthday, his parents would throw a birthday party and invite all the children buried in the same section. There’s a super-natural/mystical spirit here in SAmerica that I’ve not encountered before.

So many questions that I encounter in our ordinary days. Twice now we’ve gone to the local grocery store and found items behind glass doors and locked up. I’ve seen shampoo locked up so you have to get a clerk to unlock Head and Shoulders to check out. And yesterday it was coffee. By the way, why in a country that has extraordinary coffee beans would Nescafe instant be the big seller? And why is Nescafe locked up? And speaking of market items note the coca leaves in the photo stream that I could have but didn’t purchase. And still a lot of art on walls. More about that later…

Photo stream legend: apartment building in Santiago/atop San Christobel/CATHOLIC Chile/Pre-Colombian art/fish market/cemetery x 2/fruit and veggies market/did NOT purchase items in grocery/street art x 2/where’s waldo/street art x 3

Santiago Uno photos











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All ashore

Now the Wolfs are back on land after our 14 day cruise where we lapped the coastlines of South America, explored some pretty exotic ports (Montevideo, Uruguay), were awed at remoteness of the Falkland Islands, visited with some penguins and sailed around Cape Horn. I hear Alaskan cruises are beautiful but this was spectacular. Who knew there were Chilean fjords? And blue glaciers. We felt very lucky because frequently some of the ports of call on this itinerary need to be cancelled because of weather but we hit all our destinations. Not every day was sunny and not every day was smooth sailing but we did not have to dip into the Dramamine supply I had along. However, those passengers who had signed up to take the $3800/per person excursion to Antarctica for one day (flight and day tour) were mightily disappointed since our 6-12 foot waves and foggy conditions cancelled their hopes and dreams. Me, I was perfectly happy to see the penguins in the Falklands.

On February 8 we navigated towards Hornos Island and earned our certificate validating our “rounding Cape Horn.” We’re so proud and documentation can be produced upon request. There is so much about the S. American continent that I didn’t know and this trip has been an expansion of my world view. I’ve come away with an incredible respect for our early expeditionary sailors. I was on a replica of the HMS Beagle which demonstrated what life was like for those explorers. All I could imagine was how bad they smelled; no showers, bad food, rough seas… for years. I don’t know which is worse, being a sailor or being on the dock welcoming one home.

My cruise log from the voyage announces that we sailed 3981.6 nautical miles; that equates to 4582 statute miles. I didn’t know there was a difference. And I’m convinced that 2016 was the year for me to round the Horn—pretty sure 1856 wouldn’t have been a good year.

I think we did a pretty extensive tour from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Valpariso, Chile. I’ve no expertise but I feel better educated about this part of the world. We visited the town of Trelew. a bus ride from Puerto Madryn which was originally settled by Welsh so there are signs in town with unpronounceable consonants strung together and a fabulous dinosaur museum. Really! All the grandparents take note for future expeditions with young children.

And South America like the US and Canada and Australia has a mixture of indigenous and immigrant populations trying to meld together. Naturally, a lot of Spanish and significant Welsh, German, Italian, British and Croatian populations. We visited the town of Frutillar in Chile where we could sample strudel and they host a German music festival every year. Who knew?

One of our last ports Ushuaia, Argentina, recognized that the population was small so they imported convicts to build the railroad to transport the lumber to build the town. We rode on the train labeled the Tren fin del mundo thru landscape gorgeous with tree stumps, evidence of the convict’s labor. The taller stumps showed the depth of snow in the winter. Shorter stumps were made during the summer months. By the way, we were there in a southern hemisphere summer; it was 47 degrees F.

It was a fascinating trip that I would recommend for all. All ashore for Santiago next. Thinking of you all.

All ashore photo link

Explanation: Titanic preparedness.  Town square: Montevideo, Uraguay.  Penguins, Bus trip to Trelew. Welsh signage in Trelew, Patagonia, Argentina. Dinosaurs in Argentina. Margaret Thatcher. Falkland War Memorial. Stanley Post Office. Falkland War remnants with penguins on a beach. We are here. Super Bowl Sunday with friends. View asea. Where we were. Andes mountain from our port hole. Historic train at the end of the earthx3.  Southernmost golf course in Ushuaia. King Crab lunch. Liz with friends. Ushuaia convict roots. Replica Spanish galleon. Search mission onboard HMS Beagle? Star Princess. Making music in Puerto Montt, Chile. 5K deck walk on Star Princess for Race for the Cure, Valentine’s Day.




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Tango 3

John and I get our news from the Washington Post online edition and we are able to watch PBS both for Downton Abbey and the Friday night civilized debate with Brooks and Shields. It’s healthy, it’s grownup. John actually gets more news from other sites: Reuters and the Economist. I’m a fluff gal. I want “just enough.” In truth, the overseas military editions of the Stars and Stripes was just enough for me on a daily basis. I whine when things get complicated and the current US political coverage makes me want to whine.   Except that I’m sitting in a country where governments change with military coups: soldiers, guns, people “missing.” It’s the history of Argentina for centuries. So while our political process is tiresome, troubling, expensive, we don’t have military coups. In the end the Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Bush, Clinton, Sanders are nothing in the big scheme of the world. Freedom of the Press is our most valuable asset.

Last week we went to visit the Eva Peron Museum. The “don’t cry for me Argentina” gal; the stuff that Broadway musicals are made of.   Very interesting to see her history unfold. One of four children, Evita’s mother was the mistress of a wealthy man who had another wife. Frequently in Argentina, wealthy men would have more than one family in those days. When her father died, the family was no longer supported—mother took in laundry and sewing to feed the children and always made sure the children were educated. Early on, Evita had an acting experience that launched her into the bright lights of the stage. She worked hard as a young actress, performing in Grade B movies and in live theater. Her “poor” beginnings taught her compassion for the downtrodden; she was one of them. As luck would have it, a tragic earthquake brought the young newly widowed Juan Peron, government Minister of Social Systems, and Evita together. Evita became Wife #2 and they embarked upon a vision of Social Justice and Mercy. Juan was denounced and arrested, then the Perons were brought back and Juan was elected President. They were adored by the downtrodden. Evita was known as the Angel of the Poor. Evita died of cervical cancer at the age of 33, another military coup, Juan fled to Spain with his new wife. The then-present government didn’t want any Evita devotion inflaming the populace so her body was transported and buried for a decade in Italy under another name, then found again and delivered to Juan (and his new wife in Spain) where they kept the coffin in their dining room! We’ve done some continued research into the Perons and once again I’ve relearned that “there’s a little bit of bad in the best of us and a little bit of good in the worst of us.”

To continue with the Argentina exploration, we had a fabulous tour at the Colon Opera House. They provided a tour in English that we had to take advantage of. One of the few tours in English I might add. Usually we have to download a description from our wifi connection in the apartment before we launch and then try to put the pieces from the exhibit together with our description. Adaptation. It’s a skill and we’ve been practicing it a lot down here. The Colon Theater is extraordinary: Versailles style hall of mirrors, a stained glass ceiling, carrara marble balustrades and carvings of the world’s most famous musicians on the lintels. It is eye-popping with gold gilded furniture, chandeliers and vases. A museum is located in the building and a collection of old musical instruments. Underground is the workshop where all the costumes and stage props are designed and built.   We were told every costume is made new and we saw some very old costumes. The main theater has a seating area of 2500 and can accommodate 3500 if standing tickets are sold. It is big, stunning and I felt so gifted to have seen the Colon Theater. Estupendo!

We’ve had only one run-in with the police in Argentina—only one for the whole trip. I happened to come up to a red light at an intersection and see a man sitting in the driver’s seat of a car in the left turning lane with an infant in arms behind the steering wheel. I happened to mention it to my cohort in crime, saying something like “you wouldn’t see that in the US.” So John immediately stood on the curb and took a picture, then said something about “dangerous” in Spanish. We continued our walk and then I see a policewoman, eyes warily looking in our direction. (My government trained me as an observer). Yep our “dangerous” driver is fast afoot following us, looking angry. He approaches the policewoman, states his case, John pulls out his cellphone and deletes the picture in front of Dangerous Driver and the policewoman. John apologizes and off we went. Lesson learned: probably shouldn’t make remarks to persons who are less than careful with their children if they are heavily tattoo-ed. I did NOT take photos of the police encounter. Tattoos or no tattoos.

We did make a trip to the National Library. First, the architecture is quite phenomenal. Secondly we went to see about securing a library card which proved more difficult than other library visits. We were only allowed on the first, third and fifth floor. When I asked about taking out a book I was told that I could read a book on the 5th floor. Thinking that the shelves of books were located on the 5th floor we explored only to discover that there are reading chairs and computer access but I couldn’t even get access to the librarian to ask about a book. Unfortunately, I must announce that while I got a card at the library (postcard format with an illustration of the building), I did not get a library card. A card of the library is different from a library card. Translation can be so precarious. I wonder what John really said to the Dangerous Driver.

We’ll be on the cruise from Buenos Aires to Santiago, Chile starting 1 February until mid-month. Our explore takes us into penguin country and around the Horn.   You probably won’t hear much from us for the next two weeks but if you hear of the Star Princess being captured by pirates please send help. It won’t be an internet scam.

Maybe there are tango lessons on the boat.  Blessings to all

Photo translation:  Theatre Colon x8, Dangerous Driver, Evita presence in town, Antonio Berni mural, John and Liz???, Library card.

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Tango 2

So the Wolfs are getting better acclimated to their surroundings. We’ve got a routine that balances John’s continued research and Liz’s list of must sees/must do’s in Buenos Aires. We’ve had a few grueling walking days some 5-7 miles seeing and doing. Last week one day consisted of a walk to the Decorative Arts Museum which did not open until 2PM, then to the Japanese Garden, onto the Rose Garden and park, back to the Museum for lunch at Croque Madame, a tour of the museum and then the walk home. To all my winter climate people, I’m sorry, it was 95 degrees! BUT it was 95 frigging degrees.

The museum was originally a home, built in 1920s. Owned by one of the wealthy Argentinians who had amassed their fortune during Buenos Aires beef and wheat heyday. BA was the port so during the late 1800s and early 1900s Buenos Aires was the bright star in South America. The home was designed by a European architect and much of the interior was built in Europe, transported and installed on site. It was an amazing cooperative venture between the European planner and the Argentinian installer. There’s an ocean between them! The wife came from local money and the husband was a Chilean diplomat who was then posted to France and spent many years collecting European and Chinese art treasures while in Paris. There were Rodins, Manet, El Greco, jades from China and tapestries from the Netherlands. It was really fabulous and the ground floor was air conditioned so I could really spend the time savoring each eyeful. The French architect designed the kitchen on the 3rd floor because in those days the sewage system in Paris was “unreliable” and he wanted the kitchen to be far away from a possible problem in Buenos Aires. There was a grand entry, the Senor’s office, the grand ballroom/reception area, a grand dining room, a smoking room and glass conservatory. Elegant beyond words! And a treasure trove of goodies. The second floor held the family living quarters. Lots of paintings, fabric and tapestries. On completion, the family moved in with their booty from France. I found it humorous that the son wanted a new decorator for his quarters. So on his bedroom walls there are bright, gaudy paintings and dark colors. I can hear his mother saying “look at the posters he’s put up! What will we do with him?… And he doesn’t keep his room clean, clothes all over the floor.” A touch of commonality since I had a son who wanted to paint his room black.

There is a lot of graffiti around town. Some of it very artful (called filete) and others just loud and damaging. The first days here it was very disturbing to me and I wondered how the natives felt about it. Two weeks into our stay and it’s not so disturbing. But it’s everywhere. When the storefronts are open it’s not noticeable but when shops are closed and shuttered it’s very noticeable. Pope Francis (Argentina’s famous son) is the subject of some of the artful graffiti. Which brings to mind the local church has a priest that looked like his younger brother. I thought maybe Pope Francis might have been making a clandestine trip back home for the holidays.

I can’t leave today’s musing without mentioning the local drink. Well one of the local drinks because Argentina is very well known for its red wine. Especially malbec. I can attest to its goodness and it’s cheap! The other beverage is known as mate, which is a kind of herbal tea. They drink it from a hollowed out gourd. Since the leaves are just put in water, the natives drink it through a filtering straw.   Usually the mate cups are decorated, some even with silver rims and silver filigree. I’ve tried it, not bad and sometimes a little bitter. But the filtering straw is genius.

One of the sights we’ve seen frequently especially in the parks is the dog walkers. BA is an urban area and your dog needs to be walked. Good thing here there are professional dog walkers.   Every day we will see a single person with a pack of 8-12 dogs on the way to the park. We’ve got pictures to prove the craziness. And if John’s job gets downsized in the near future… well, he likes dogs…

Sorry, once we amass the photos we can’t move them around to clarify their meaning so here’s the nutshell:

Graffiti, dog walkers, graffiti (ladder and painter are painted in), mate cups, graffiti X3, Pope Francis look alike, graffiti X5, Japanese garden, Museum of Decorative Art, El Greco, graffiti X7, Liz with a message, graffiti.


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Tango 1

So here we are in Buenos Aires having travelled the 5,136 miles from our temporary home base in San Antonio, Texas on January 5th. Going to the southern hemisphere is an easy trip since it demands less jetlag implications on the body. We are now within 2-4 hours of our stateside children and grands’ clocks. I feel more connected since the timelag is the same from Colorado.

We got to see them all during the Christmas season. They have had their own life experiences in the 9 months we’ve been gone as have all of you. We look forward to getting back and hearing your stories of 2015-2016. Facetime is a wonder and we wouldn’t be doing this trip without the availability of being in touch. So here’s someone who is mightily grateful for technology.

Flying took about 9 hours, and a 35-minute cab brought us to our home in Buenos Aires. The apartment is located in a district called Recoleta–very convenient to all the sights and amenities. We’ve been happy with our choice; we feel connected and safe. Buenos Aires is a city of 15 million+ people. It is a capital with a turbulent history and one third of the Argentinian population lives here. There is an energy and vista that is not unlike other European capitals. In fact Buenos Aires is referred to as South America’s Paris.

Historically, the indigenous population was decimated when the Spaniards arrived in the mid-16th century. Less than 5% of the native Argentinians survived the onslaught of flu and smallpox. Spanish Argentina changed hands under Napoleonic rule, then again under Spain until independence was declared in 1816. Since then the turmoil of dictatorial rule with military intervention has continued to the present day. Argentinians just voted for the newest President who set up a stabilization of the peso. It’s a good thing for visiting Americans.

Argentina is about 5 times the size of California so there is a lot we won’t see on this trip. Choosing to be urban dwellers for the 4 weeks we are here means we’re skipping the ski area, the Andes and the central pampas. We won’t be visiting farming and cattle raising stations. We get to see the results of the agriculture and ranching that created Buenos Aires’ heyday in the late 19th and early 20th century when BA was the major port for exporting wheat and beef. It has to be enough this trip.

While in Texas we got to edit our suitcases as we return to a humid subtropical climate. Most days are in the mid-80s to mid-90s but humid. Still good enough to hang out the laundry, which was today’s task. Lest you think this travel stuff is all fun and games. I still cook although grocery shopping is a major intellectual challenge. We’ve had a few giggles when opening a can and discovering something completely different. I still wash the floor (daily) with a “lysoform panos multiuso” which I scoot around the floor under the broom—my version of swiffering. I dust and clean bathrooms but haven’t found an iron in this apartment. Pity! We’ve managed the bus routes and subways. We’ve taken a taxi once, yesterday, when we got on a number 152 bus with a destination in Recoleta (our home district) and tried to use our subway/bus card and were told no! Just NO! And no explanation we could understand. I can’t tell you how often in those moments an Argentinian angel has appeared to bail us out of our linguistic foxhole. But they weren’t on the bus yesterday. So we took a taxi across town which cost us $4 versus the 35 cent bus ride. Pity!

It is a challenge living in another culture. Sometimes there are feelings of hostility—usually prefaced by my thinking that “THEY” should have better subway signs, THEY should post the bus routes, THEY should have an English interpreter at every museum… THEY, THEY, THEY and then I’m reminded of my India days and the Gandhi quote “Be the change…

For the past days every morning about 10 AM we hear a broadcasted message as a vehicle goes thru the neighborhood. We couldn’t figure out what was going on. Another coup erupting? Paul Revere announcing the “British are coming” or a Monty Python “bring out your dead” could all be possibilities. What was going on—John finally went out to investigate and found a truck driving slowly with a cabinet and sink combo in the back. He surmises that the driver is a recycler that is happy to carry away your big trash. So much we don’t know. But we’re willing to learn.

The latest in photos follows: View from our apartment.  2 bedroom at 2163 Austria Avenida apartment shots.  Grocery shopping.  Recoleta neighborhood.  European architecture around town.  Public announcement truck.  Sometime humor translates. Blessings to all!

Tango 1 shots

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Tapas, Touchdown and Tangoes

The Wolfs are now on home turf. We exited Spain Dec 8 and now are nesting in San Antonio Texas. The trip back was without incident just looong. But that jumps you ahead and you need to hear about Sunny Spain.

We left Paris after a wonderful week and flew to Sevilla, Spain where we jumped on a train to Cordoba and then taxied to our apartment in town. Truly a day of planes, trains and automobiles. The reason for the stop in Spain was because I heard that the Alhambra, located in Granada was a sight not to be missed in a lifetime and since we are taking the trip of a lifetime it was on the list. But, while we were in Germany our friends said “wait you’ve missed Cordoba and the La Mezquita” So we changed plans and included both. And BOTH were not to be missed.

Spain challenges me. We were there 3 years ago when we did the Camino de Santiago, the walking pilgrimage through northern Spain. And we did a quick visit to Barcelona before getting on a Mediterranean cruise long ago. The challenge for me is the food and the lifestyle. I don’t adjust to a tapas culture very well. I don’t like sardines. I don’t like to eat dinner after 9 PM and I’m not a big siesta person. I like early mornings when the day is clean and fresh. Spaniards like the night. John and I enjoyed walking the streets of Cordoba with the busy cafés, families noisily enjoying each other while we were on our way home and they were just ramping up for the evening. Luckily, the tourist destinations keep “regular” hours.

The apartment in Cordoba was well situated, delightful to view (outer entry door with an inner courtyard with potted plants cascading along the walls) AND dark and cold. Spain is really meant for the summer months and our apartment would have been delightful in September. In December, tile floors and inadequate wall heaters gave our space a Cminus on the comfort scale. Additionally, the owner had timers on both the wall heating units and the water heater and had removed all but one bulb in the living room chandelier (there were no other lamps available). We don’t watch much TV on the road so reading becomes our evening entertainment. That and we’ve relearned how to play backgammon. This landlord was an energy hoarder.   Or maybe I’m just tired of being on the road. Both could be correct.

Life is always mixed so while I’m griping about the living conditions there were a lot of roses in our Tapas Days. In truth the Alhambra in Granada and the La Mezquito in Cordoba were stunning. What is truly unique about Spain is the mixture of the Moorish and the Christian influences both in the art and architecture which just tickle your eyes; breath-taking buildings, columns, gardens. And-all-things-Roman-lover John was thrilled with the remnants of that culture.

First, Cordoba. An important Roman city and an Islamic cultural center in the Middle Ages. It’s best known for La Mezquita, an immense mosque dating to 700 C.E. featuring a columned prayer hall and Byzantine mosaics. A 1600s Catholic cathedral now occupies the center of the mosque. The pictures will stun you; it is a photographers dream.

And the Alhambra in Granada was extraordinary. It’s a grand, sprawling hilltop fortress complex encompassing royal palaces, serene patios and reflecting pools from the Nasrid sultan dynasty. Those are stunning photo ops also. I must say that Granada was my favorite city—a little more cosmopolitan, more food variety and I got to Segway through town. History on Wheels with a patient and affirming guide. It was grand and I was so proud of myself. Granada was a comfort A+ stay.

While in Cordoba we went to the Bullfighters Museum because an actual bullfight sets off gagging responses on my part. We learned that bullfighting has a lot of choreography involved—it’s art more than killing bulls but I still didn’t want to go. We wandered thru display cases of the bullfighting costumes that were sequin studded; the famous costumes we saw were for tiny guys—their waist sizes may have been smaller than mine! We also went to the Museum of the Inquisition; that involved all kinds of gaggy torture devices. Another Cordoba highlight was the Calahorra Tower and museum which documented an era when the Islamic, Christian and Jewish cultures lived in harmony and peace…a world of beauty and promise for a few moments.

Leaving Spain meant a little backtracking. One way flight from Spain to Eastcoast USA was costing $1700pp. ONE WAY! So we opted for Turkish Air for $578pp—we just flew from Madrid back to Istanbul and then onto DC. Every hour I spent in the Istanbul airport I was making $100!

December meant touchdown visits with travel companions, John’s mom and family, a visit to see Grand Oliver (who now tops the scales at 33 pounds—give or take a few) and James and Karolina, a quick sighting of Dan and Tiffani waiting on a townhouse completion in Denver and a warm and wonderful stay with Johanna, Greg, Abigail and Sam in San Antonio. The best part of Christmas is being embraced by family. I was ready for familiarity. By the way a new “grand” is due in July in North Carolina. Hallelujah!

So now we are off again in 4 days for the journey to Buenos Aires and a new living experience. MAYBE, we’ll take tango lessons. Or shop for leather and eat some holy cow. Whatever, I wonder how we will be stretched by Argentina, Chile and Peru. I am beginning to understand how we’ve challenged ourselves. I’ve learned a lot about what is tolerable. A lot of what frightens me. A lot about the importance of family and connection. A lot about how “wealthy” Americans are. A lot about the richness of other cultures. A lot about “understanding” which now is defined by standing under/standing beneath/humility.

Years ago I received a girl scout Brownie penknife with the words “be wise, beware, use me with care.” What I hope is that we Americans use all our gifts and talents with wisdom and care for our global brothers and sisters. Be at peace with yourselves and others—that’s my New Year’s wish. Blessings, LIZ

Tapas Photos link

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I had no time to write in Paris. We were too busy filling our days with the City of Lights. Currently we are in Spain, having safely maneuvered our way through Paris. We did a lot of walking. A lot of walking because our apartment was wonderfully located. I went to daily mass at Notre Dame, that’s how close we were to downtown; within walking distance to the Louvre, Musee D’Orsay, and all the gifts in between.

Now while the location of the apartment was fabulous—the size was miniscule. Literally, it was 8 feet wide and 45 feet long. And on Floor 3 ½. Really! No view. So small we had to exit the bathroom after showering and dry off in the hallway.   John was reminded of the joke, “my apartment was so small I had to step outside to change my mind…” Literally, that small. And stuffed with the owner’s stuff. We had an 18 inch space in the closet for hanging and a shelf for foldables. I put an owner’s box on top of the microwave which was atop the fridge so I had a place to put our suitcase.   My “desk” was the living room coffee table because that’s where the plug for my computer was. There was 1 living room lamp, no overhead lighting and I had to crawl over John for the mid-night toilet run. It was cozy and in Paris. Balance is important. We were out a lot.

Naturally, there was a lot of police presence at the train station (our mode of transport from Bonn), on the street, at the Sites and when entering a store we were asked to open our bags or backpacks and to open our coats. It was done with grace and I was grateful for the attention to detail. The mood was not somber but serious and we were greeted warmly and with some English.

We weren’t the only tourists in Paris. We saw a number of Americans waiting in lines along side us. And we had a wonderful time. I’m very glad we decided to forge ahead. We had Thanksgiving in Paris. I thought I would miss the turkey and stuffing but since I wasn’t hearing the constant drumroll of the holiday, holiday, shopping, shopping it was kind of surreal. We walked along the Champs Elysee on Thursday after having climbed the 16 stories of the Arc d’Triomph—not for the feint of heart. And seeing the Christmas Markets along the way. I had French Onion Soup for Thanksgiving Lunch and left-over Chinese for Thanksgiving Dinner. Note: the Onion Soup was NOT as good as La Baguette’s in Colorado Springs. We thought of all our friends at home who were “stuffing” themselves but we didn’t wish to be anywhere else. I say that but I’m looking forward to being on American soil for the month we’re back in December. I’m anxious to see all my kids. And to unpack my bags of my winter wardrobe. South America in January thru the first of April will be summer.

I think we filled our 5 days in Paris magnificently. We had crepes while waiting in the line for the Tower of Notre Dame. We visited a bookstore called Shakespeare and Co. that is a Paris landmark—to all my bookie friends—you would have loved it!. We were in Sacre Coeur for the nuns singing their evening prayers and a walk thru the artist areas in Montmarte. We walked thru St Germain area to Les Halles. We ate at a café in the Louvre after hours of ogling the masters in paint, marble, paper and plaster. We visited Sainte Chapelle with the floor to ceiling stained glass and returned that evening for a Vivaldi concert. We discovered the stunning tapestries of a Benediction monk by the name of Dom Robert. They were illuminations of God’s creation. And the last night John saw the National Assembly lit up as a French flag with red, white and blue.

We slurped up every bit of Paris we could. Now we try to capture Spain in the next 9 days. We are currently in Cordoba as our center spot. We flew from Paris to Seville and then trained here. We’ll do an overnight in Granada and already have our tickets to the Alhambra. This is the Moorish part of Spain. Trip Advisor says Cordoba “was once the premier city of the Western world, the greatest metropolis west of Constantinople, the seat of Europe’s first university.”   And I hadn’t heard of it until just lately.  I’ll bet it has a library.



Paris Link












































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Bye Bye Baltics

We’ve drawn to an end of the Baltic adventure. I just checked and we’ve only missed the Museum of Vodka and the KGB building in the Trip Advisor list of must-dos in Riga. We’re really not Vodka drinkers and I think John was afraid that his name would be posted in the KGB Museum. So we move on. This time by bus—it’s only a 32-hour ride from Riga to Bonn. The Bus had all the amenities—seats that recline, a toilet, WiFi and more walking around space than we would get on an airplane. And I’ve taken a 3rd class overnight train in India. What’s the fuss? We sat in the second tier so I felt I had a bird’s eye view. Walking a town is one of my favorite things and this way I felt I had the speedy drone tour of the Baltics. Much more scenic than flying.

We’d done a lot of thinking about the next step. We have friends near Bonn, Germany that we had planned on seeing but we needed to make a decision about Paris. So we decided that after the 2 days in Bonn we would go onto Paris. When we were discussing the pros and cons both John and I were struck by a sign in Paris televised by the BBC. “We weep but we do not fear.” That spoke to both of us. That and one of my favorite Creeds gifted to me by the Benedictans says:

“I believe in God, creator of a world of beauty and promise…” I do believe that this world has promise. “That this earth can rejoice in peace and prosperity.” And sometimes I just have to act as if. Going to Paris seems like the right thing to do. To stand in solidarity with those who want peace.

So once the decision was made we had a delightful time with our German friends. Andreas and Ulrike opened their home and their hearts to us. The time there was physically and spiritually nourishing and refreshing. Andreas is a gifted tour guide, historian and storyteller. We so enjoyed their company. AND, Bonn will be the site of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in 2020. We’re planning return trip and would love to people the celebration with friends. So, all you Beethoven lovers who would appreciate a Bonn insider tour start saving your pennies for late September 2020 festivities. It would be fun. And we promise no 32-hour bus rides.

So, while in Bonn we visited a few unique sites: Beethoven’s home, a church with a suspended angel with the face of a controversial artist from the Nazi period, more statuary showing a modern Pieta—this time with a father and mother mourning in the remnants of a cratered-during-WWll church, and a visit to the local terraced vineyards and the quaint hamlet of Ahrweiler. It was all wonderful, So grateful for those roses in my life.

So we are off again.

Baltic link

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