South America


Preparing for a trip to South America Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Florida and the Caribbean(to paraphrase MasterCard::

  • $500 for Brazilian visas (with processing fees)
  • $320 for Argentine visas, aprox. same to come for Chilean visa
  • Well over $1,000 for hepatitis a, b and yellow fever shots, typhoid pills, travelers diarrhea pills, travel clinic consultation, permethrin, anti-anxiety pills (so I make it over the Andes in a bus) When I am hanging permethrin soaked travel clothes, (to keep mosquitoes away from us and reduce risk of malaria and dengue fever.  Permethrin has to drip dry, can’t go in the dryer) , in 32 degree NorCal weather

It’s priceless! We are planning to have a wonderful journey and hope you will follow along with us on this blog. We leave for Miami tomorrow!

Saturday, 1/12, Depart Sacramento for Fort Lauderdale, drive to Miami
Sunday, 1/13/13, Miami

Cuban Pork in Little Havana

 We started in Little Havana today with Cuban pork at a somewhat gritty place.  It was filled with Spanish speaking men chowing down on the same pork dish and watching a soccer game on TV.   As we walked down the street, loud Cuban music blared out from most shops, there are many cigar shops and small food stands, fruiterias, and a park with mostly old folks playing dominos. The weather was warm, but not oppressive and there was such a carnival atmosphere!

Then we headed to amazing South Beach.  I adore the art deco buildings, the pale pastel colors, like a Beer margarhita freezer full of sherbets.  They uplift and cool.  Gorgeous people include barely clad women, flamboyant transvestites, gawking German tourists who all crowded the streets.  Blocks and blocks of bars tempted us, many with this super margarita with 2 beers propped up in it! Many enthusiastic imbibers with a straw at the bottom just enjoyed the parade going by.  Here are some people who seem to be enjoying life, albeit, through an alcohol haze.


Ice Cream ShopWaiting for our flight tonight to Chile, I am remembering the rich, rich ice cream that Barry and I shared in little Havana yesterday.  Azucar Ice Cream (photo left) serves Abuela Maria, which I had never heard of before, is especially rich and wonderful because it has CREAM CHEESE in it.  Decadent! Found this article about the place where we stopped and the recipe for abuela Maria as well as Sweet Potato Ancho Chile Ice Cream Recipe! 

I’m going to try it, here’s a recipe

Abuela Maria Ice Cream with Galletas Maria, Guava and Cream Cheese

 (Photo/Betty Cortina)

abuelo maria

1 gallon good vanilla ice cream, softened

1 package Galletas Maria (available at most Latino supermarkets), crumbled

1 16 oz bar of guava paste, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 8 oz block of cream cheese, cut into 1-inch pieces

7 oz Guava nectar

1. Pour half the softened ice cream into a rectangular or square deep container.

2. Top with half of the crumbled cookie, half of the diced guava paste and cream cheese. Drizzle with half the guava nectar.

3. Pour the second half of the ice cream over the toppings and repeat step 2.

4. Place in freezer until ice cream is firm.

Monday, 1/14/13, Depart Miami for Santiago Chile overnight flight
Tuesday, 1/15/13 Santiago, Chile

Phew, after the flight (how do people sleep on planes?) We took an overnight flight from Miami to Santiago on Monday, arriving on Tuesday morning. First class looked lovely, as we awkwardly trudged through with our carry ons. Folding oneself into an economy seat to try to sleep is never fun, but at least the flight wasn’t THAT long at 8 1/2 hours.  We arrive in the capital of Chile on a Smartours tour.  We are picked up by bus, we are given a breakfast stop and then a guided tour of the city.  It’s a very clean, beautiful, modern city. It reminds me a little of Milan, and is more European looking to me than North American. There are some buildings that could have been copied and pasted from boulevards in Paris juxtaposed by glass sheathed skyscrapers.  Parks abound and are well tended. The only negative I see, and it is a substantial one, is the smog! The worst I have ever seen,?including a bad day in LA. The tour director took us up to the top of San Cristobal hill for “the view”.  The surrounding Andes could not been seen and the city was blanketed in brown yuck.    We also tour Plaza de Armas, the city’s main square and the nearby Cathedral.

 Many of the people in the street are strikingly attractive, men and women, with raven dark hair and very dark eyes, perfect skin. Many of the women wear dramatic red lipstick and I can’t help but hold my glance upon them.  I wonder why there aren’t more dark haired women, rather than so many blue eyed blondes in fashion magazines, rich coffee compared to weak tea.

Bear and I are in a tour group for the first time in over thirty years. All of we tour members are of an age, mostly retired and mostly ambulatory ;). There are 41 people in the group and we are told that this is unusually large.   Our group enjoys a welcome dinner at our Atton El Bosque Hotel.  Bear and I were a little early for the dinner and thought we’d stop at the bar for a little drink.  We tried pisco sours, Chile’s potent national drink, it was refreshing, light and very, very, VERY drinkable. A oops, at the dinner party, were were served more pisco sours  and lots of chilean wine. I suspect that these drinks and the nice hot showers we all enjoyed in a very nice hotel put the smiles on everyones faces. Our first big outing will be tomorrow morning and my teachers eyes are looking for the class clowns, teachers pets, and trouble makers. 🙂

 Wednesday, 1/16/13, Vina del Mar and Valparaiso, Seaside Resort and Wineries

From Santiago today we took a side trip to Chile’s wine region and coast.  It was nice, but now that we are confirmed Northern Californians, well, please….no comparison teethe. Vina del Mar was very pretty, a resort area that looks little a small, less grand Nice. Valparaiso was a major port before the Panama Canal was built and must have been a colorful place in its day.  Today it seemed a little tired.  Don’t think that we will be adding any more Chilean destinations to our bucket list.

Thursday, 1/17/13, Santiago/Puerto Montt/Puerto Varas

Today we took a flight to Puerto Montt, a Chilean port city.  We drove along Lake Llanquihue (I have no idea how to pronounce it!)  before arriving at the gorgeous hotel on the gorgeous lake in Puerto Varas. Comparisons are make between this area and the Northern Europe, which I’d have to agree with, in a weird parallel universe sort of way.  Today there happens to be a beerfest going on in the main square.  There is Bavarian Oompah band music in the event hall filled with small, brown south american people. It all looks just sort of strange to me.

We looked around the town and then enjoyed empanadas and beer in our room with a gorgeous, gorgeous view.  (Gran Colonos del Sur Hotel)

IMG_0011The our group dined together in the hotel and I am finding that I really enjoy everyone that I have met.  There are some very interesting folks, it doesn’t hurt that they keep the wine flowing either.  Both of the group dinners began with Pisco sours.  This is the “national drink of Chile”.  It’s principle ingredient is Pisco, a wine brandy from this region, mixed with lime, simple syrup and bitters.  It’s becoming a little too sweet for my tastes, but then I haven’t refused any that have been offered to me.  Teehee

Certainly, one of the nicest things about this trip is that we are traveling with our son-in-law’s parents, Jan and Bill. Our brilliant daughter married into such a great family.

Friday, 1/18/18, Lake Region/Bariloche (Argentina)

Today is the day that I was dreading, we traversed the Andean Mountains through the Lake District from Chile to Argentina. I HATE driving mountain roads, panoramic vistas make me queazy, but this was “no sweat”.  The roads were great, the driver and guide congenial, it was a lovely day seeing lakes  snow-capped volcanos and dense forests. Included were Chile’s Puyehue National Park and Argentina’s equally amazing Nahuel Huapi National Park. Later in the afternoon we arrived in Villa Angostura for a boat ride to view the Arrayanes Forest with its ancient  Myrtle trees.  We ended the day at the Edelweiss Hotel in Bariloche (a little bit of Austria in Argentina).

I came across this several times.  Heaven, crispy croissant type rolls and super sticky rich caramel sauce.  Yes, for breakfast!
I came across this several times. Heaven, crispy croissant type rolls and super sticky rich caramel sauce. Yes, for breakfast!
Saturday, 1/18/13 Patagonia Museum, Shopping and Shootings

Barry and I were walking through a nice gift shop very near the central square in Bariloche when we heard 3 gunshots coming from very close by, outside of the shop.  Several people rushed into the store, shaken. The shopkeeper quickly locked up the doors and the dozen or so people with us all moved away from the windows to the back.  As they talked anxiously in Spanish, I could only guess what was going on.  Strangely, I immediately thought that they were gunshots and stepped away from the front of the store toward a display case in the back of the store, with my hand on the sides, ready to dive behind it.  Barry now says that he thought the thought the sounds were firecrackers and that he didn’t get worried until he saw the shopkeeper lock up the door.

Policia”, I kept hearing and  I watched people running down the street and lots of shouting outside.  We all just stood there for a few minutes,  then another shop keeper moved to the front display window  and looked more at ease, unlocked the door and the people in front of us started to walk out of the store.  We followed and saw the body of a man in the street about 3 stores from where we had been.  The dark haired man was face down and in an awkward position, two policemen were standing over him, talking on their cell phones.  Neither seemed to be helping the man and both Barry and I thought he appeared to be dead, I suppose because the police weren’t trying to help him for subdue him.

 Now we are sitting in our hotel room and reflecting upon the day.  It started with a “tour” by a our local guide.  She took us to a hot stuffy conference room of our hotel (no air conditioning in the hotel and it is unseasonably warm here right now).  It seems that the mayor of this town was ousted on Friday.  She said it was because he gave into demands of some radical types who have built a very large, strange wooden structure that is build around the statue in the square, not far from the hotel.  (I took photos on my iPhone, but the hotel wifi won’t let me log in on more than one device during my stay, and the iPad got logged in first.??!)

 She said that these radicals joined together into cooperatives, (sounded like unions), and they built it to protest not having enough work.  It looks like some people are living under the structure, there is graffiti all over it and the statue of a man on a horse under it, has graffiti all over it.  (Kind of like to take over Wall Street photos.) The tour guide talked on for quite a while during the time we were supposed to be taking a walking tour.  She walked us down the street to the Patagonian Museum for us to see on our own. This was the walking tour.

 To spite the lecture, Barry and I had a lovely day here, which I would like to write about later. I got some beautiful photos.  This is Patagonia, after all!!!

A-mazing beef and chimichuri sauce in South America
A-mazing beef and chimichuri sauce in South America

 When I got back to our room later in the afternoon, I was still unnerved by the talk that the local guide gave.  It didn’t quite sit right with me.  Going online, I found stories about the mayor’s resignation. The US news articles said that  the mayor was a blamed on a series of lootings in this town last month.  The reports said that these lootings, shortly before Christmas, triggered similar looting incidents throughout Argentina.  some people were even killed .  So, did the man who was shot today have any connections to the politics less than a block away? Interesting that the tour guide didn’t mention this, and that the lootings were done by “slum dwellers”, not union protestors…..and see, we just went to see Argo before we left for the trip….. Anyway, we fly out tomorrow for Buenos Aires and I think I will feel better.

Sunday, 1/20/13  Flying Down to Buenos Aires

Another plane and we are in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s Paris of the South.  That evening we stroll with the Machitunas and find the end of a craft fair and a cute sidewalk cafe. There’s music and dancing in the park and lights and fun everywhere.  We have a lovely evening and get comfortable in a lovely hotel, Americas Towers Hotel.


Monday, 1/21/13 Seeing Buenos Aires

The day starts with a guided tour see the Plaza de Mayor, the famous Opera House and the historic La Boca district. We then proceeded to the elegant Recoleta district and the cemetery where Evita Peron is buried.

Eva Peron

Cemetery IMG_1641

Our very excellent local guide took us to a very well know cemetery. This cemetery has the most expensive crypts in the city, only the most wealthy are buried here and the monuments are really something to see!.  Our tour guide tells us that the families pay a minimum of $50,000 US for a crypt.  We are told that some people even rent tombs, have a funeral and then after the mourners leave, t he family moves the deceased love one to a cheaper resting place.  Some families sell their crypts and make a lot of money.  The guide says its similar to buying a house.  The previous owners have to move out the “furniture” before the new owners can move their “furniture” in.

The crypts are adorned with all sorts of statues, some have glass doors and are air conditioned inside with fresh flowers inside.  They all make up a city of the dead, a beautiful reminder of our mortality.  Actually, it all seems pointless to me, an attempt to make an eternal monument to a sacred, but very fleeting, earthly existence. The oldest crypts sit eroding, unvisited for generations long past the mourners who built it. Yet, the “streets” wind around making a labyrinth that draw you down to see more.

The most famous tomb is of Evita Peron.  She is buried many meters down, with family members above her. Compared to other crypts, her family’s is somewhat plain. She is down so deep so that it is less likely for someone to snatch her embalmed body. The story of her remains is gruesome, yet fascinating. She died young, at 33, of cancer and her husband wanted her body to be on display in a glass coffin, as Lennon’s is in Russia. A pathologist worked for over a year to rebuild and preserve her body which had been ravaged by her fatal disease. When her husband fled from Argentina due to a military coup, he didn’t take her body.  The leaders of the the new government hid her body for years, in Argentina and even in Europe. Eva Peron’s body was returned to Argentina when her husband and his next wife came back into power. It was displayed on their dinning room table in a glass case.  Eweeee, yuck

.Don't cry for me, Argentina


We went to a tango show with our tour group. I was afraid that it would be “oh so touristy” and I was too cool for such corn ball stuff. Nope, I ate it up! The smallish venue was great, an old historic building, small enough to allow everyone to see the expressive faces of the dancers.

Tango!They began the show with a video presentation that gave a little history and then, well, sex on stage. Macho male dancers with such longing on their faces swept up somewhat resistant elegant women in their arms.  They swayed, dipped, moved their feet between each others, as the man burned his eyes onto the woman. All the men looked as though they had every watt of personal energy of focused on the woman they are dancing with, moving her to best show her off and to win her attention.  The intensity is hot. Ah, I swoon.

Powering the Trip

An interesting aspect of this trip is the need to travel with lots of water.  The travel clinic nurse in Sacramento told us not to drink the water, the tour guides tell us not to drink the water, the local guide, yadayada.  After seeing the the Rio de la Plata in Buenos Aires, swiftly flowing brown, BROWN, BROWN water source for the whole area, I have no problem remembering not to drink the water. So just about everyday we buy a bottled water and lug it around like pack mules. The cost varies greatly, from about $2 US in a grocery store for a huge bottle to $3 US for a very small one yesterday in a nice cafe.

 Another health warning was for mosquito lotion. Dungue fever can be contracted in all of South America, carried by mosquitos, as well as yellow fever.  We got immunized against yellow fever, but there isn’t a vaccine for dengue fever.  Lovely…

 Electrical plugs have been a new experience too. Europe and UK have different plugs from US, but there are a plethora of electrical plugs in South America.   Though we thought we had the right one in Chile, it wasn’t, but we were luck to ge t one from the hotel front desk. To complicate that, many hotels here use a conservation method that we have seen in Europe.  The electricity in your room won’t go on unless you have the key in a holder by the door.  So one evening when we were out, I thought that I was powering up my phone and iPad back in the room, but, nada juice.

 I do have this fascination with international potties. I am  sorry to say that they aren’t strange here.  The most interesting thing about potties so far was in Chile. They have privately owned toilets near sidewalks, and the procedure is to purchase a ticket at a window then you present the ticket to use the toilet. Most restrooms are fairly clean here, as there is a little lady in each one who keeps it clean for a few coins tip or (a dollar bill when I don’t have any change).

Tuesday, 1/22/13  Argentine Pampas.
Bone furniture in pampas ranch
Bone furniture at ranch.

A field trip today!  We spent a day on the ranch, or an estancia.  There, Barry did some horse-back riding, we watched gauchos do tricks with their horses (through a hot dusty cloud).  A rather handsome gaucho, I shall call him “Bruno”, galloped his horse by and grabbed a ring from a hanging contraption.  He presented it to me with a kiss.  AH,  how gallant, and I am a little nasty in mentioning that Nena Jan got a ring from a less attractive and less toothed fellow.

There was a fun, if somewhat hokey, show and a very nice BBQ lunch, lots of meat,  of course.

Wednesday, 1/23/13 Walking!

 Buenas Aires Opera HouseColon Opera House and lots of walking, the best way to learn about any city….

Thursday, 1/24/13 Argentinean side of Iguassu Falls.

One of the very most exciting things that I have ever seen! Set at the border of Argentina and Brazil, the falls consist of 275 inlets and cataracts that send their cascades roaring 250 feet below. The park is very modern and very organized, they move tourists from the entrance via an “ecological train” through the rainforest to Devil’s Throat for a spectacular close-up view of the Argentinean side of the falls.

Iguazzu Falls, AMAZING!

We stayed at a tropical resort, Mabu Resort.  We had to eat MORE meat, so we headed to another meat centric restaurant.

Friday, 1/25/13  Brazilian side of Iguassu Falls

Meat Pusher

After another surreal viewing of the falls, we enjoyed hotel’s pools. Though they were really inviting, they were too hot to be refreshing.  Still, had a great time.

Saturday, 1/26/13 Rio De Janeiro

 This is a city for pleasure, I think.  On the negative side, not much effort seems to be spent on serious matters such as health and safety…crime, poverty, lack of hygiene  are common.  Ah, but on the plus side!  The beaches, jungles and mountains are absolutely stunning.

After flying in to Rio this morning, we do a tour in the afternoon.  We ascend imposing Sugar Loaf Mountain by cable car to the 1300-foot summit for stunning views of the city and surroundings.  The fun ladies in our group burst into song as we go up, “Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking.  The unlucky souls who are not in our group and forced to listen to the singing, swaying and giggling, put on embarrassed smiles.  Of course, the ride takes more than a few minutes, so we had room for Barry Manilow, “At the Copa, Copabana….”.

View from window, Sherton Rio

Favela in Rio, across from our luxury hotelLater, we drive along white-sanded beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema.   Our hotel is marvelous,  it is on the beach and looks back toward Ipanema.  It has sprawling, beautiful grounds and a gorgeous pool between lush tropical mountains and the exquisite beaches of the Atlantic.  There is a large favela, a slum across the large highway, so we have the dramatic panorama of Rio.Sheraton Hotel & Towers

Sunday, 1/27/13 Rio!

Barry on top of Sugar Loaf

Another tour today, a cog railway takes you through the  rainforest up Corcovado Mountain, a 2300-foot peak crowned by the landmark statue of Christ the Redeemer. I hate heights, but I have to admit, it is breathtaking! We also take time to see Cathedral, a modern pyamidal wonder.

We then hit the “Hippie Fair”, a super art fair that I ould have spent the full day investigating.  I should have bought tons more stuff…very cool, fun stuff.

Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian, outside  Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian, inside cathedral

Tonight, celebrate with your fellow travelers at a festive dinner.

Tuesday, 1/29 Arrive 4AM Miami, stayed overnight and did laundry, bless early check-in.  

Since we are on the Florida coast, we need to go for a cruise to relax from the South America trip. teethe.

Wednesday & Thursday 1/30 – 31, Naples
Friday 2/1/13, Dania Beach (Fort Lauderdale)
Saturday, 2/2/13, Caribbean Princess Sunday, 2/3/13 Princess Cays, Elu….,  Bahamas Monday, 2/4/13, At Sea Tuesday, 2/5/13, Curacao Wednesday, 2/6/13, Aruba Thursday and Friday, 2/7/13 – 2/8/13, At Sea Saturday, 2/9/13 Depart Ft. Lauderdale, arrive in Sacramento


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