Friday, June 27, 2008

Chile - Part I

I had every intention of getting all of the Chile portion of our trip in one post. We have too many pictures though, so I think it is going to take two! This will only get you through days 1 and 2 in Chile.

We stayed at Casa Newen Bed and Breakfast in Providencia, Santiago. Ours hosts, Luis and Adda, were absolutely wonderful and had so many great tips and recommendations for us.

We stayed in the guest house on the bottom floor in a queen room. (The wooden door in the picture is ours.)

They have a little cafe area built on to the main house.

And that is where we had our breakfast each morning.

The forecast was calling for rain all day on Thursday in Santiago, and that meant snow up in the Andes. We wanted to go skiing while we were there, and we figured snow while skiing beat rain while sight-seeing. So first thing Thursday morning, we headed up to Valle Nevado Ski Resort (just about an hour and a half ride from Santiago) to hit the slopes.

Now, a few things about skiing the Andes. First off, wow! It is totally amazing. Tons of snow, really big mountains, long ski runs, and, when it is snowing, everything is white. The sky, the mountains, the ski trails, everything. Totally white. If you've only ever been skiing once before in all of your life, then skiing the Andes becomes even more intimidating when you are essentially doing it blind! It was impossible to see anything. I had no idea if I was on the trail half the time. And forget about trying to prepare for curves, steep hills, etc. in your immediate future. It was a lot of fun, don't get me wrong, but next time we will try to go on a prettier day. I might be a little more brave that way and not do so much snow plowing on my way down the slopes!

This picture is looking off at the resort from the trail.

When you are skiing blind from all the whiteness, you occasionally run the risk of getting off the trail. When that happens, you find yourself in quite deep, quite powdery snow. You are also probably going to take a tumble since your body has a lot of momentum going down the mountainside but your skies suddenly stop as they sink into the snow drift. And it is dang hard to get yourself out of this situation. If you're lucky like me, your husband will be there to rescue you. (Or um, rather stop further downhill and take pictures as you struggle you get up and out of the 5'+ deep powder. By the way, my completely submerged left pole is still not hitting anything solid here as I am trying to push myself up!)

Thank goodness you are never too far away from a lodge where you can warm up with a Chilean pisco sour and forget all about that earlier wipe out!

Here I am feeling like king of the world after making it all the way down a long run without falling and getting snow down my pants and inside my coat and in my gloves and other places that I thought I had adequately covered from the cold but once tumbling head over heels (or skis over head) all bets are off as to what crevices snow might get packed into!

And for the record, Eric, a more experienced and talented skier than myself, had some really great tumbles as well. There was one time when we somehow got way off the trail and as he was making his way back down towards it, he came to a bit of a cliff (it was just about 6 feet or so.) He tried to stop, but ended up falling down the cliff backwards and head first. I have never wished more that I had the video camera rolling! The skis and poles and arms and legs all flailing was really one of the funniest things I've ever seen in my life! The beauty of good, deep, powdery snow though is that you can take falls like that and never even feel it! Which is especially great since I would have felt really bad about laughing so hard had he been hurt. ;)

It was a quite chilly day as the high was just 30 degrees F. We skied until almost 5:00 pm when our bus was leaving to head back into the city. Wouldn't you know that just as we where getting ready to head out, the clouds started breaking, the sun started peaking through, and we got our first gorgeous mountain views of the day! We delayed the bus just a little so we could get some shots from up there.

This first picture does the place no justice. It is absolutely huge, but you can't really get a feel for the scale from this photo. (I can assure you it is much, much steeper than it looks here too!)

Chile Part II and all my summarizing thoughts from our vacation will have to wait until next week. We are off this evening with the Belo Horizonte Softball Team to a tournament about 4 hours from here. My mountain of dirty laundry that I've barely put a dent in from our trip needs to be neatly sorted so that when I come home Sunday and add our weekend dirty clothes to it I don't immediately pass out. I think if it is at least divided and neatly piled I can probably buy myself a few minutes before I fall out from fear and panic. Oh yeah, and I really need to pack too. (Could someone please tell me why I ever bother to unpack our suitcases?)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

5 Days in Beautiful Buenos Aires

Our 11-day vacation to Argentina and Chile was




Incredibly Awesome.

Seriously. We really had a great trip.

Here's a little from Buenos Aires. Chile will be featured tomorrow.
We stayed at The Four B&B in San Telmo, Buenos Aires. It was a nice, quiet, historic place. We had reserved the El Convento Room, but our hosts upgraded us to the La Manzana. It was a two-level room with the main bedroom upstairs and the bathroom and a smaller bedroom downstairs.

The foyer of The Four B&B. Our room entrance was the second door on the left.

The sitting room where we had our breakfast served each morning.

Out in the streets of San Telmo on Sunday. There were markets, music, and tango everywhere!

We were left wondering how exactly they get pianos out into the streets. Where do they bring them from?
And oh, the tango! It was everywhere. And it was wonderful.

There was even a tango show at the place we had lunch Sunday.
A little alley with lots of shops.
Tons of parks and beautiful old buildings were everywhere in Buenos Aires.

This is a really interesting piece of art (flower) the follows the sun through the day, opens each morning, and closes each night.
And also we found that we have acclimatized quite nicely to Belo Horizonte's fabulous year-round weather. 50 degrees Fahrenheit didn't sound very cold to us. I mean, Eric is from Iowa, and I did manage to survive a winter there too. I've seen -18 F, for goodness sakes! (And that was before factoring in the wind chill!) There was that three week span of time when the temperature never got above 14 degrees. We can certainly handle temps in the 50's! (Or um, at least so long as we have our heavy winter coats.)
Visiting the planetarium sounded like a good idea. But then I learned how much Portuguese doesn't help you with Spanish. It was still neat, but I had no idea what they were talking about most of the time. It was the first time I've been to a planetarium though since Pluto was declared not a planet. That really messed with me. And about the Big Dipper, the only constellation I can pick out of the night sky, is it not visible from the southern hemisphere this time of year? I mean, I spent the entire hour in there trying to locate it and I swear it wasn't there. What's up with that?
More parks and monuments and old buildings. (And, by the way, have you noticed how fabulous the weather was while we were there?)

There was a huge nationwide protest and demonstration one night while we were in Argentina. They were starting to set up for it in this square while we were there.

Trying to perfect my self-portrait skills.
Head back too far.

Chin pulled in too close.

Ahhh, much better. Well, it would have been.

Dressed up for a fancy supper and Tango Show. We saw El Viejo Almacen. It was a good show. Pricey, since all the tango shows are tourists attractions, but we enjoyed it.

Our first day in Buenos Aires, Eric read about a place close to our B&B that rented bikes. All I heard about for the next few days was how much fun it would be to ride bikes for a day. So on Tuesday, our last full day in BA, I gave in to my husbands desire and we went to rent bikes. And then he learned they had tandem bikes and so we had to have one of those.

It might have been a good idea. Maybe. But you see, I have this strict policy about not riding bikes in Metropolitan areas. Especially on weekdays. Especially on major roads. Eric got a map with recommended bike rides and decided we should go down to La Boca, a working class port neighborhood. La Boca itself was an alright place to ride (see pictures above and below), but sometime while making a U-turn across 8 lanes of morning traffic and onto a one way street going the wrong way with a city bus coming at us and a parked car with the door opening into the narrow path that we had between said car and bus while riding on the back of a tandem bike that my sometimes too fearless husband was steering, I was reminded of why I have a no-big-city-street-bike-riding policy. And then I started reviewing our vows taken 10 months ago and try to see if there was anything in there that made the agreement null and void in instances such as these. And then about that time Eric looks back at me and asks with a grin, "Do you still love me? You've been sort of silent this whole time." I informed him that I did indeed still love him . . . but I didn't like him too much at the moment. Have I mentioned that when they offered us bike helmets he said, "no, gracias"? (The whole thing sort of goes into the category of the desert mountain hike my husband, back when he was just a boyfriend, took me on with just one bottle of water. Or that same hike when I had been out of water for almost two hours, it was 106 degrees outside, and instead of walking the path back to the car he decided we should just "zig-zag" our way down the steep cactus covered mountainside since it would be a whole lot shorter distance. He didn't factor in how much slower I moved scootching along on my behind as to not fall down the rocky cliff and all the while dodging the spiny cacti. One day I might learn not to follow his lead on these types of adventures. Which brings us to the obvious question, what the heck was I thinking when I agreed to a tandem bike?)

La Boca was a quite colorful and very neat area though.

Once off the death trap of a bike, we went for a walk through the Botanical Gardens and I decided I liked him again. A lot.

On Tuesday, our last night in Buenos Aires, we decided to go out to a milonga, a place where people go to dance tango. We took ballroom dancing classes back in early 2007 and we had both really loved the tango. We put on our dancing shoes, grabbed a bite to eat and headed out.

The thing is, Tuesday nights don't really bring out the novice dancers. We went to a fabulous place with beautiful wooden floors calling our name to come out and dance. And then we took a look around at all the other people dancing. Good thing we wore our dancing shoes, since we spent 3 hours sitting at a table watching all the well-seasoned tango-ers do their thing. Given that it wasn't crowded and everyone's eyes were on the dance floor, we never worked up the courage to go out there and do our gringo tango. Sad, because we like to dance. But seriously, we would have looked funny out there among everyone else that night.

Friday, June 13, 2008

It's the thought that counts . . .

Or maybe the better title is The Guy is Darn Lucky We're Going on a Fabulous Vacation Tomorrow!

I married an incredibly romantic and thoughtful man. In fact, he's the most romantic and thoughtful man in the world (in my very unbiased opinion.) Anyone who heard our engagement story knows that. But even after we got married, he's continued the good surprises: like in February for Valentine's Day or on our 6 Month Anniversary.

Yesterday happened to be Dia Dos Namorados here in Brasil. It is their Valentine's Day. (Valentine's Day is in February, which is also generally right around Carnaval. For cultural and commercial reasons, that just didn't make much sense here. So, June 12 was chosen as a day to celebrate love. Apparently, June 13 is St. Anthony's Day, known in Brasil as the marriage saint. So there could be some correlation there in the choosing of the date.) I figured my sweet hubby, being the romantical type and all, would do something nice, no doubt.

Late last week he learned he would need to fly down near São Paulo June 12 with his boss to interview some candidates for a job opening. He wasn't expecting to get home until around 11:00 last night. I greeted him at the door with his usual hugs and kisses and he had one hand behind his back. And that's always a good sign. That means he didn't come home to me on Dia dos Namorados empty handed! That means he is going to whip out a bouquet of flowers or a bottle of champagne or some other fabulous goodness for me! And then he said, "I didn't want to come home empty handed, so I brought you this." (Insert his big, sweet, sexy smile here.)

Hmmm, wow, well that looks a lot like the package they wrap up the hot dog in that they give you on the TAM Airline flights.

Oh, but no! I told you he is always full of surprises! This time they handed out hot ham and cheese sandwiches on the one hour flight back home.

He's lucky I subscribe to the "it's the thought that counts" way of thinking. He's lucky his wife feels so bad for him and all the long hours he has been working. He's lucky he married such a low-maintenance, understanding woman. He's lucky he's taking me to Argentina and Chile tomorrow. An Argentinian wine and steak dinner and maybe a new purse (I hear the leather shopping is fab over there), and I can probably forget all about this ham incident. But maybe he should buy me a new pair of leather boots too, just to make sure I don't remember a thing about the sandwich . . . See, I told you he has a low maintenance wife! ;)