Monday, January 29, 2024

Baby, It's Cold Outside

 


If things had gone as planned with the 3-year cruise I signed up for in March 2023 (I lost time due to the cancellation, but no money), I would have visited both the Falkland Islands and Antarctica this month. We would have also had several sea days, which I enjoy most about cruising. The weather as we traveled south would have become colder, rainy, and windy. I would have missed spending time outside walking on the deck.


I took a cruise south from Los Angeles towards Cape Horn about five years ago. I enjoyed that cruise very much. There was lots to see and do, plus the weather cooperated. As we headed south, I realized I wouldn’t enjoy the last leg of the cruise, so I disembarked near Santiago, Chile and flew home instead of completing the itinerary. I wouldn’t have had this luxury on my 3-year cruise. But as with other long cruises I have taken, there would be plenty to do while onboard and new friends to make.

Heartier people than I would enjoy disembarking on the islands. Although the terrain is rugged near the cliffs along the coast, there’s both birdlife and sheep farms to see. In town, there’s the Falkland Islands Museum, with themed galleries focused on maritime exploration and natural history. It would be a pleasant visit and easy for passengers to enjoy, since the island’s native language is English. This would have been a welcome break after so much Portuguese and Spanish.



After a few more days at sea, yippee, we would have arrived in Antarctica. Our first stop would have been Deception Island. It’s in the South Shetland Islands, close to the Antarctic Peninsula. Although it’s summer in the southern hemisphere, it would be far too cold for me, in the mid 30’s. Again, hearty passengers, those without health conditions when breathing cold air, would love it.


The terrain was created by an active volcano, and it shows. There are no inhabitants on the island, except for wildlife, seals, whales, penguins, and other varieties of birds. Photographers would go nuts. Even if shooting from the deck of the ship, with the right lenses, photographs would be stunning.



The second cold, cold stop would have been Half Moon Island. It’s farther south, and colder. The terrain is a mix, but what impresses me the most is the rock outcrops and cliffs. Lovely. The sea is also impressive, as it is very blue and clear. Of course, there are few visitors to mess it up.


I doubt we would have been allowed to visit the island itself, although I know some ships do visit remote, uninhabited islands. Our cruise ship was small enough to get close, drop anchor and let us observe from a safe distance. We wouldn't have been a scientific group, so I think going ashore wouldn't be allowed. The safety I referred to is not for the passengers, but for the wildlife and vegetation.

After leaving, we would have rounded Cape Horn and headed north. Although seeing the wildlife would have been fabulous, and taking photographs enjoyable, the cold temperatures would have been hard on me, asthma stinks. Going north, therefore, would mean I could take laps around the deck outside, and perhaps go ashore. I know the next few stops on the itinerary would have been familiar territory for me. I know I liked them in the past, and would no doubt find them pleasurable.




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Saturday, January 20, 2024

Don't Cry for Me

 

If things had gone as planned with the 3-year cruise I signed up for in March 2023 (all my money was refunded), I would have spent four days this month in Argentina. The first city we would have visited is Buenos Aires, the capital of the country. Two days isn’t enough for this big, cosmopolitan city. However, the weather cooperated, was only 81 degrees, with pleasant humidity. It’s summer there, and these conditions would have been a welcome relief from the tropics.

It's yet another coastal city with gorgeous neoclassical architecture. I would have taken an organized half day city tour first ($55/adult), since it’s so large. I have done this in every large city I have visited over the years. It gives me an overview and lets me know where I want to spend more time.

I’ve heard about Recoleta in Buenos Aires before. It consists of a series of palaces and mansions designed by French architects. It resembles parts of Paris because of this. It’s one of the places I would spend extra time, perhaps wandering the streets and then having lunch with the locals in a restaurant there. I always enjoy breaking away from the tourist spots and finding where the locals dine. Never had a bad experience doing so.

The last place I would enjoy spending some time is the Bosques de Palermo. It’s the largest park in Buenos Aires, and well maintained. There are lakes with geese and ducks, as well as manicured lawns and rose gardens. Roses have a special place in my heart, as I once had a garden of twenty-four bushes. Since I lived in Southern California, they bloomed all year. My house was full of their scent. I miss that.



After a full day at sea, my favorite place, we would have visited the port city of Bahia Blanca. There’s more stunning architecture here, like what can be found in Buenos Aires. There are also many gorgeous parks, some near the coast. Honestly, I would probably stay onboard the ship instead of going ashore to explore. The city so much like Buenos Aires, although smaller, I would relax on the ship, enjoying the peace and quiet after most passengers left for the day. It would be a great time to have a pedicure and manicure, maybe even a haircut.

The final city we would have visited in Argentina is Puerto Madryn, which is on the northern edge of Patagonia. I was excited to visit here, sadly it was not to be. The coastline is the draw for me. There are wide sandy beaches and stunning cliffs. Add to this a vibrant city and the interesting addition of the Welsh language, and it would have been fascinating to stay for the day (or more). 

I would have spent the one day allowed by the itinerary on a small boat seeking out wildlife such as orcas and right whales. I'm sure we would have spotted Magellanic penguins too, since there are over 1,500,000 of them in the area. I understand no cruise, even one three years long, can stay several days in each port, but Patagonia deserves more than one day. I would have been sad to leave after such a short stop. 


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Sunday, January 14, 2024

Using My Spanish

If things had gone as planned with the 3-year cruise I signed up for in March 2023 (no one went), I would have spent all of December in Brazil, and then visited Montevideo, Uruguay. It would have been a relief to be in a Spanish speaking country after so long being where I don’t know the language.


I took up Spanish at the beginning of the pandemic using the Duolingo app. So, communication wouldn’t have been a problem. The weather would have been a vast improvement too. It stayed in the high 70’s while we were scheduled to visit the area. Neither wind nor humidity would have been an issue either.


As the capital of Uruguay, Montevideo is a major city with a large population. It’s on a lovely bay and has the kind of architecture I enjoy. There’s lots of Art Deco buildings in the Ciudad Vieja (Old Town) along with historic colonial homes, churches, museums, theaters, and landmarks.


The city was ranked number one for the quality of life in Latin America in 2019. It stayed number one through 2005. It’s considered a “global city” and has a vibrant economy. This would make it a lovely place to live and to visit.

We were only scheduled to stay in Montevideo for one day. That’s a pity since it has so much to offer. I would have liked to spend a full day in the Old Town and another taking an organized city tour, (at about $48 per person). Since it has a vibrant theater culture, I would have found a play or concert to attend in the evening. But with only one day in the city, I would have spent it in Old town. Art Deco is one of my favorite types of architecture.

To learn more about Uruguay, CLICK HERE (ad). 


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Sunday, January 7, 2024

Twelve Stops in Brazil

 


If things had gone as planned with the 3-year cruise I signed up for in March 2023 (long story, canceled), I would have spent the month of December in Brazil. We would have visited most of these towns and cities for only one day. This is not my favorite way of traveling. I prefer to savor a location. If it’s not worth spending several days, it’s probably not worth visiting at all. But that’s just me I guess. Others don’t mind rushing.

The last two weeks of December were in cities that seem quite similar to each other. They are very modern, with lots of Brazilian charm. Since they are located fairly close to the Equator, the temperature stays high. It was mostly in the high 80’s to low 90’s in December, with bright sun or brief intense storms. None of this is in my comfort zone, but the cities are lovely, and worth putting up with the heat and humidity.

In order to protect my fair skin, while not causing damage to the environment, I found this sun block, CLICK HERE (ad). I had already purchased some before my real world 3-year cruise was canceled. So I know it's good. 


Fortaleza is a big city, well known for its urban beaches. We would have visited this location in the second half of the month.

Natal is also on the coast, is very built up in a modern way. It’s well known for the sand dunes there. I saw many huge sand dunes when my cruise ship stopped in Peru in 2017. The ones in Natal are very different. They have lots of vegetation, even trees. In Peru, this is not the case. Both have their own type of charm.

Recife is another very modern, built-up city on the coast. There are fabulous beaches, and rain forests on the outskirts of the city. They’re really into sports there. For me, although it is lovely, and an interesting mixture of modern, beach and forest environments, it would have been too much of the same thing one stop after another.

Maceio is not as built-up as the last few cities we would have visited on our 3-year cruise. That would have been a relief for non-big city lovers, like me. It’s best known for the beaches, reefs, tide pools, and music. I would have enjoyed the topography there, lots of rocks along the coast, like in the photo below. I always carry a sun protective hat with me, even when not on a trip. I found this one for the cruise, CLICK HERE (ad). I especially like the tie, so it doesn't go flying in the wind. 

Salvador has more interesting architecture, at least from my perspective. I enjoy old towns, and the buildings they contain. Where I’m from, in Southern California, most old buildings have been torn down and replaced with sterile modern structures. Not a fan. It’s why I would be sure to spend time in every old section of town in our cruise destinations. Salvador is also Afro-Brazilian in culture. I would have enjoyed this as well. I lived in South Africa for two years. I liked it very much.

We would have stayed in Rio de Janeiro for three days. While that’s more than many other cities on our itinerary, it’s not enough time. Rio is in a natural setting, with beaches, hills, and lots of plants. But it’s huge. It would take several days to do it justice. My favorite activity there would be taking the cable car up to see the 98’ tall Christ the Redeemer stature on the top of the Corcovado Mountain. I’d probably do it more than once.


Sao Paulo would have been our last stop in Brazil. It’s a modern center of finance in Brazil. This is why it has a large population. It’s a place for movers and shakers. There are plenty of modern buildings and excursions that a visitor could take, but the old architecture in Centro would be my draw.


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Sur le Pont d'Avignon