The first half of the month was (mostly) in Meadow Lake. The second half was (mostly) a trip to Brazil and Argentina. Scroll down for details and a sample of the 3 k photos we took on our trip.
Once upon a time you would show up to an employer’s work site. The employer would check your safety certificates and put you through the training needed to bring your certifications up to date. That time went away. Now you have certain minimum safety courses that are required to be on record with the union hall before the union hall will issue a dispatch slip to a job site. I had two that were expiring in September.
The first safety course was four minutes drive, or half an hour walk from Nick and Rebekah’s on August first. I needed the steps but drove rather than walked because of a threatening thunderstorm. Once there I walked around the building until the building doors opened. Got half my steps in. Yay! Got the rest in at midday break. The course on August second was across the river in the Northwest of the city. Not a bad drive but walking was not an option, so I got there early and walked around the building until time for the course. At noon I walked away from the course building until the break was half over and turned around to come back. The union hall was near the second course which made it easy to register the certificates after the course was done.
The second day I was in training, Juanita, Becky and the kids went to the Reynolds Museum in Wetaskiwin, Alberta. This turned out to be Nick’s last day of work at the site where we both had been working in May, June and July.
The next day we all went to the Jurassic Forest near Gibbons. After that adventure Nick, Rebekah and family carried on to feed the sheep at Fort Saskatchewan. Juanita and I drove home to Meadow Lake by the northern route through Bonnyville. Looking back at the pictures of the Jurassic Forest I may have lost weight while working but I am not ready to be wearing a size medium SEV tee shirt. Not at least without a bra.
Back home I took the paint that had arrived and went over and painted the rocker guard on Sasha’s car and had supper with Debbie and Ernie and family.
On August 4th we set up the wood splitter. Juanita split firewood to fill the gaps in the wood shed so we are ready for the winter. I carried on puttering at cutting up windfalls, packing for Brazil, packing for a turnaround in September, getting in my daily walks, taking pictures of mushrooms encountered while walking and reading trashy mysteries.
On August 15th Juanita went to town for a haircut and I finished my packing for Brazil. When she got back we loaded the car and drove west. As I was drifting off to sleep last night I noticed that the Nissan dealer in Lloydminster had advertised a Rogue in stock at a “Purchase price (Cash)”, “Freight & PDI, installed options and other fees included”. If this was accurate we could save a couple of thousand dollars and be buying from the dealer closest to our home. We stopped by on our way through. We got to test drive a vehicle with the same trim level as we want in a colour we don’t want. After a couple of hours of ritual we got the sheet. The “installed options” don’t include a $3,700 “prairie package” (plastic film on front, undercoat, floor mats and a block heater). Are those “uninstalled options”. Only they aren’t optional. Dealership won’t sell car without them. A true Tru Coat experience. It comes with block heater and floor mats and undercoating is not needed with modern cars according to consumer reports. End price would be over $3k more than the car we are on a waiting list for in Edmonton. Subject, of course, to their potential Tru Coat moment. We at least got to test drive a trim level we would be buying. Nice car. We like it. Pity you can’t just go on line and buy a car.
Enough of that.
We got to Edmonton, unpacked the car and went to the mall to buy Brazilian money and top up the steps to 10k for the day. That marks 79 days over 10k steps. Yay!
Brazil & Argentina Tour
Thursday morning we are scheduled to arrive at the airport at O dark 30 to fly out to Brazil by way of Denver and Houston. The blog will go dark until we return. I won’t be carrying a laptop. Just a wireless keyboard for the iPhone to write up notes. In the meantime here is the description of the package tour we have booked:
We're back. I'll post the write-ups of each day as I do them then circle back and do the pictures.
Scroll past the write-ups to see the original itinerary as posted by Gate 1 tours.
DAY 1, Thursday – August 17 - Depart for Brazil
Depart for Brazil
We stayed overnight in a hotel near the Edmonton airport. Alarm set for 3:30. Shuttle set for 4:00. Left at fourish then went to other hotels and to private terminal before our terminal. I was getting antsy at the delays. Once at the terminal with no bags to check we went straight to security check and to join the long line at US Immigration.
Our first leg to Denver was on an Embraer regional jet with not much space. We checked our carry-on bags on the skyway at the door to the plane and retrieved them when we landed. During the flight I read a Michael Chrichton novel and poked at the backlog of unread e-mails. All you can do is read and delete. Links don’t work with no wi-fi on the plane, but I still managed to get a fair bit from the in-box to the trash.
The lay over between planes in Denver was four hours. Lots of time to get in steps in the beautiful modern airport. It was a better experience than last two times in the Denver airport decades ago. Once was just before kids, when the motor home we were driving from the Tennessee factory to the Portland dealer died. The other experience I have recounted as part of The Longest Day of traveling with diarrhetic toddlers.
The airport has free wi-fi. I signed up. Name and e-mail address required to sign up. I bought an empanada. I got an e-mail from the restaurant that sold me the empanada. Creepy. If this is an attempt to create a marketing relationship why do I feel stalked?
Uneventful flight to Houston.
Another four-hour lay over.
No customs or immigration to deal with. No TSA.
I handed out a few curved illusions tracts. I gave one to a member of a flight crew sitting next to us in food area. We got talking. It turns out she was purser on our flight to Rio. As we boarded the plane she introduced us to the pilot and co-pilot as “My good friends.” We got to sit in their seats. They took our pictures. That was fun despite the visions of losing out on overhead bin space dancing through our heads as others carried on boarding the flight.
Not to worry. We found space in the overhead bin near our seat.
It was a ten-hour flight. Shortly after take-off they serve dinner. Juanita mostly slept after the dinner. I slept poorly. In the middle of the night I got up and went to the back to use the washroom. A flight attendant and the purser were dealing with a drunk. After we all dealt with our priorities we had a bit of a visit. I was gifted with a cheese and fruit platter from first class. Tasty. Cloth napkin! Real silverware. Just like the old days in CP Air economy.
I finished reading Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton and started Scott Adams’ new book, Reframe Your Brain.
One interesting discovery on the flight. Walking back and forth in the aisle with the up and down of the plane my Pedometer app credited me with six levels! That was easy.
DAY 2, Friday – August 18 - Arrive in Rio de Janeiro
Welcome to Brazil! Morning arrival in Rio, the vivacious "sun and fun" capital of South America; meet and transfer to your hotel. The rest of the day is yours to rest, relax and acclimate to your new surroundings. Tonight, attend an orientation meeting with your Tour Manager and fellow travelers, followed by dinner at a typical Brazilian Churrascaria! We recommend that you select flights which arrive no later than 3:30 PM
Arrived in Rio on time around 8:15. Went through immigration. Went outside and found person with Gate 1 sign. Actual tour manager delayed in Buenos Aires with cancelled flights.
Eventually all the contemporaneous arrivals were collected including six Patels from Houston. I just finished a job where I was working with five Patels. Small world.
The was a long drive from the airport while the guide pointed out features of the surroundings.
At the hotel the group’s bags were clumped in a corner of the lobby. It was close to eleven, so few rooms were available for check in. We were told by a clerk that our room would be ready “in about an hour”.
We met another couple who had been there for a few days already. They walked us down the street to a buffet above a supermarket in the next block. We selected our food and weighed and paid for it with the help of a clerk. If you know what you are doing it can be strictly self serve. The couple left us to eat our late breakfast.
After eating we went downstairs and bought a 6-liter jug of water paying with a credit card guessing my way through the self check out instructions in Portuguese. The credit card company had said to use the chip and PIN on the first use of the card in a new country. That worked.
We walked back to hotel. Another song and a dance from desk clerk. We decided to step away from the check back in an hour game that would tie us down. We had our bags moved to a storage room, took our claim chits and left to explore the area.
We walked to far end of Leme beach, through the military facility and followed a shaded, steep cobblestone road around the mountain to Fort Duque de Caxais at the top.
It was a steep slog.
There were benches and stations of the cross along the way. Good excuses to pause. About two thirds of the way up we passed a woman sitting on a bench. She was not what you would call fat, if you were brave enough to be honest these days, but on the heavy side. She was wearing high heels. We didn’t see her at the top. I guess she turned back but I can’t imagine the walk down was much better for her in those shoes. On our way up we met another woman carrying her shoes and gingerly walking the cobble stones in her bare feet.
Great view from the top. Can see how this and other forts would control the entrances to the harbour. Not crowded at all. Not as well known. No admittance fee so nobody promoting, and that climb is a definite filter.
Afterwards we went looking for a local MacDonald’s for an iced coffee. The menu is not the same as Canada. We settled for something else wet and went back to the hotel shortly after I had probably pushed Juanita’s stamina and maybe mine, too, a bit too far.
Got back to hotel around four. Room ready. Tour manager, Silvia, there. Took stuff to room. Went to local pharmacy for liniment for calf muscles and the local equivalent of Robax.
After freshening up and unpacking there was a scheduled meet-up with the tour group members, local tour guide and tour manager. The guides change from locale to locale, but the tour manager stays with the group for the duration of the tour. We did a round table introduction and sipped the complimentary beverages. Juices for us puritans and a local mixed drink for the others. They said the drinks were tasty and a couple asked for seconds.
Then we boarded the tour bus and went to a Brazilian Churrascaria restaurant. You start with a varied salad bar and then the waiters keep presenting you with grilled chunks of meat and slicing you off a piece. Like Pampas in Edmonton but better. Except for the pao de queijo (cheese buns) their salad bar was more varied than Pampas. Good news for the vegetarians on the tour.
Once sated we all waddled back to the waiting bus and our hotel rooms.
DAY 3, Saturday – August 19 - Rio de Janeiro, Tour of Corcovado Mountain
Awake this morning in amazing Rio. Begin the day with an ascent by a scenic cog railway to the summit of Corcovado Hill. Here, at 2,400 feet above the city stands the 125 foot tall statue of Christ the Redeemer. The Christ statue, that embraces the entire city, is designated as one of the seven "New Wonders of the World". See the thrilling 360 degree sweeping view of the city and understand why Rio is known as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Afterwards, continue along Rio's famous beaches, including Copacabana and Ipanema before returning to your hotel
Throughout the trip the tour people worked hard at getting us into attractions as early as possible to avoid the crowds. There were still crowds at the popular spots, but not nearly as bad as they become later in the day. We took the tour bus to the train station at the foot of the mountain. At the end of the train ride up the mountain we were given a time and meeting point then on our own to explore the summit and check out the giant statue of Christ the redeemer and the views from around the statue’s base. Even that early, it was crowded. The statue is reinforced concrete on a steel frame covered with small triangle pieces of soapstone although from even the base it looks uniformly white.
We enjoyed the spectacular views and got oriented to where the Botanical gardens are.
At the appointed time we met back up as a group and took the train back down the mountain and boarded the waiting tour bus. We drove around with various sights being pointed out before we stopped for a photo op on a dock in the lagoon.
Before dropping us off in a ritzy shopping district the bus drove along Ipanema beach. We passed the bar where the song, “The Girl From Ipanema” was composed. The “Girl” is still a local celebrity. With the help of modern surgery she still looks great in her 80’s. A few years ago the guide saw the “Girl” on the beach doing a photo shoot. He and his companions approached and she was quite gracious to them. He had photo proof.
We had the choice of going back to the hotel on the bus or being dropped off in the shopping district. We hopped off the bus.
We went to an Havaianas flip flop store, checked out the colourful, pricey flip flops and used the store bathroom. Then we bought a couple of gelato cones and started walking around the lagoon to the Gavea mall. We walked a long way. I did some curved illusion tracts with police and got directions to the mall and to a nearby cab stand where we got a cab to the mall.
In the mall we wandered around looking for the restaurant and trying to buy a voltage converter. One store gave directions to a store across the street that would have the converters. My phone didn’t have data in Brazil but I had taken screen shots of Google maps. Looking closer I realized that Beach Juice Gavea was not in the mall but across the street.
After a sumptuous lunch of some pizza like objects, delicious smoothies and a chocolate rum ball like thing we checked out the suggested store to buy a converter.
The map of the gardens had a suggested route. We walked it until the last half kilometer which ran parallel to the street. Nothing more to see here. We went out an alternate exit to grab the taxi sitting there. “Hotel Windsor Leme”. Agreed to price and off we went. Vendor gave him a couple of flats of water which he dropped with a vendor at the next gate to the gardens. Off we went around the mountain to Copacabana Beach and along it to Leme Beach. At the mountain there was a Police scene. Flashing lights and cars being pulled over. In one case the police were removing the young men from the car at machine gun point.
We lucked out. The cab driver took us to the Hotel Windsor Leme. There are other Hotel Windsor’s including a Hotel Windsor Copacabana which a fellow tour group member kept being directed to when trying to get back to our hotel.
Back at the hotel we ventured forth again and walked the length of the street one block off the beach. All the stores that might sell a voltage converter were closed. Juanita decided she could live without the converter for her curling iron. Before we left home, I had checked all the electronics could handle the local 220 volts. I didn’t check the curling iron. Fortunately, it didn’t get plugged in here. I assured her hair looked good. Had a cut just before leaving Meadow. Converter was scrubbed form the shopping list. Probably a good thing. They are about $C 80 on Amazon.ca. I hate to think what the price would be in tourist area.
The group met for some complimentary fruit-based punch or cocktails at a tent on the beach. Then group members wandered off to find their various dinners. The tour manager took some late arrivals to their arrivals dinner at the Churrascaria. We went to the mini buffet over the supermarket for supper. They had cold soup and cold pizza which was heated after it was weighed. Juanita says soup was good. I ate my pizza.
Back at the hotel we went up to the roof to admire the lights and the lit-up statue of Christ on the mountain. By then it was raining so we took our blurry snaps and went back to the room to watch people scurrying around under their umbrellas in the pelting rain.
DAY 4, Sunday – August 20 - Full Day in Rio de Janeiro
Today is at leisure to discover all of the delights of Rio on your own. Watch the volleyball and soccer matches on the beach, shop for local crafts, and linger at a waterfront café to just "people-watch". Join the optional not-to-be-missed glass cable car ride that takes you to the top of iconic Sugar Loaf Mountain, symbol of the city, where you'll see the stunning panorama of the beaches, Corcovado Mountain, downtown Rio and Guanabara Bay. In the afternoon attend the optional Carnival and Samba Experience. Visit one of the top Samba schools in the city and learn what made the Samba & Carnival icons of Brazilian national identity. On your last night in Rio at leisure, be sure to sample the cuisine at some of the fabulous restaurants and cafes ringing the beachfront
We did option one, the cable car to Sugar Loaf Mountain but took a pass on Samba and Carnival float experience.
Sugar loaf mountain is named for its resemblance to the shape of a sugar loaf. A sugar loaf was a ceramic container that was used to ship sugar to Spain. Storing the sugar in ceramic kept it from turning to syrup on the trip. We took a cable car to an intermediate mountain then the second to the top. There was a memorable fight scene on that cable in a James Bond movie. The styles of the cable cars have been updated over time. At the top on display is one of the original cable cars and one of the type from the James Bond movie.
Rain threatened while we at the top of the mountain, but never materialized. One can see how the forts controlled the entrance harbor. They added a fort within the harbor after some French pirate ships snuck past the entrance in heavy fog. We followed a few walking paths that went part way down the sides of the mountain until it was time to meet up with the tour group.
We toured an unusually designed cathedral. The priest behind the design was ahead of his time. Too far ahead for the Vatican. They excommunicated him. Probably not specifically for the cathedral design but usually lives have some coherence. The design was probably a manifestation of other eccentricities the head office couldn’t tolerate.
We toured the cathedral while Sunday Mass was in progress. Nobody seemed to think that was disrespectful. Outside there was a statue of Homeless Jesus sleeping on a park bench and a statue of Mother Theresa.
From the cathedral we went to an area where we walked to some tiled steps with tiles from all over the world. We were warned of the crowds and pick pockets. I was wearing some travel cargo pants with wide belt lugs. Hanging from one of the lugs was my water bottle and a nurse’s watch. The watch had seen better days. I had repaired the hinge pin once. Its paint was chipped. Lately it had been going through batteries, even the good ones not from the dollar store. It probably cammed out of the lug. If some pick pocket got it, worse luck for him. Talk about stealing trash.
My new shiny nurse’s style watch from Amazon will be waiting when we got back to Canada. Meanwhile I have to deal with the convulsive reach for the non-existent watch on my belt lug every time I wonder what time it is.
What you could see of the tiled steps through the jostling crowd was interesting. Lots of people trying to get pictures of themselves. As were we.
By the time we got back to the hotel it was raining.
Juanita had selected the Deck Buffet across from Copacabana beach for her Birthday lunch and The Bakers a nearby bakery for her Birthday treat. The hotel doorman summoned a cab and gave the driver the address. It was a circuitous route. Half the street is closed off for pedestrian traffic on Sundays. One way traffic so the drivers must be devious to get to their destinations by using back roads and then coming back to the beach road to double back.
We skirted a large puddle and ran through the rain into the buffet. Large selection. A few terms on the placards I couldn’t translate. Food words can be so regional. It all tasted good.
By the time we were done with the buffet the rain had slacked off. We walked the six blocks to the bakery, chose some cake to go and started walking along the closed to traffic road next to the beach. Just as we approached the hotel we were hit by a few drops of rain. Good timing.
Early to bed tonight because it will be early to rise tomorrow. Wake up calls typically come 1 ½ hours before bus time. They cut us some slack with a 1:45 wake up call for a 3 am bus to the airport. Coffee, pastries, juices, and fruit will available at 2.
DAY 5, Monday – August 21 - Fly to Iguassu, Brazilian Falls
Depart Rio this morning on a flight to Iguassu Falls. Upon arrival, walk along the winding pathways on the Brazilian side of the majestic and awe-inspiring Falls, one of the world's greatest natural wonders. Iguassu consists of over 275 separate cataracts across a span of two and one-half miles, wider than Victoria Falls and higher than Niagara Falls and more dramatic than both. Stand in awe at the unforgettable panoramic views before crossing the border to Iguazu, the Argentinean side of the Falls, for overnight. After a day filled with unforgettable memories, return to the hotel and enjoy a typical Argentine dinner
Early to rise.
Wake up typically calls come 1 ½ hours before bus time. They cut us some slack with a 1:45 wake-up call for a 3:00 a.m. bus. Checked bags are to be outside the room by 2:00.
We usually travel with just carry-on. This trip is no different, except while travelling with the group we decide to check our carry-on bags. There is no point getting out of the airport more quickly than everybody else. Might as well wait next to the luggage belt.
We bring our bags downstairs with us and put them with the others in the lobby. The tour manager makes everyone identify their bags and puts a sticker on each bag. Important detail for those bags brought down by the bell hops. You want to make sure nobody’s bags are languishing in some hotel hallway. Nor would you want to take bags from another group!
It’s too early for the full breakfast buffet, but starting at 2 there is coffee, pastries, juices and fruit available in the breakfast buffet area.
The bus to the airport is scheduled to leave at 3 and does. The airline ticket counter opens about five minutes late with a couple of passengers ahead of the group lined up for check in. On the next flight, checked luggage will have a limit of 33 pounds with a price for overweight. Our checked carry-on bags each weigh below twenty pounds. The few passengers ahead of the group take over five minutes each to process. This bodes ill, but the tour group members are processed quickly and efficiently. Then off we troop to the security check. Nobody takes our water bottles away. That is not a thing for domestic flights.
The plane goes to an airport near Sao Paulo. We switch planes and fly from Sao Paulo to an airport on the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls. Both planes are Embraer, made in Brazil, and painted with colourful designs. They serve decent snacks unlike United or Aeroflot Canada.
A tour bus takes us to the falls. They are enormous compared to Niagara Falls being wider and higher with many different drops. The only stat that Niagara wins is about fifty percent more volume of water passes over Niagara.
Parts of Iguazu Falls are in both Brazil and Argentina. The best falls are on Argentinian side with the best view of them from the Brazilian side. We follow the one-way path, frequently stopping for photo ops. The advice of the guides is to take it easy with taking pictures. They’ll all look alike. You want to focus on enjoying the falls.
Then we have a period of lunch. Most of it is taken up waiting for the ordered food to be brought to the counter. Lots of people in the kitchen, back of the counter. Everybody is working, but without much output. Never confuse motion with action. That said, the bananas slices on the humongous acai sundaes are perfectly arranged. We could have got by with just one sundae. Who knew they were so big? I take one for the team and eat half of Juanita’s as well as all of mine. It’s an exchange of not going to waste for going to waist. Sunk by the sunk cost fallacy.
At the border crossing to Argentina the guide trapses off with a box of the group’s passports to the Brazilian immigration people to record our leaving the country. We all stay on the bus. Then the bus moves a bit to next to the Argentinian customs and immigration facilities. We wait. You never know. They might have some or all of us get off the bus to be processed individually. They might want to look through every piece of luggage. We wait. They don’t check our luggage. The bus drives to the hotel while the guide points out the local sights.
Welcome drinks at the hotel to keep us amused while the tour manager goes through the check-in procedure. We are instructed to leave our bags in the lobby. They will be delivered to the room because there is limited elevator room. Everybody grabs their bags and heads for the one tiny elevator that has a call button to the lobby level. Bad sheep.
The room is okay. It’s a good size with a great view from the balcony. This is the triple frontier, “a tri-border area along the junction of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, where the Iguazu and Parana Rivers converge.” We have a good view of the river junction and the bridge between Brazil and Paraguay. At night the bridge towers are lit up with the colours of the flags of Paraguay and Brazil. Across the river is an amusement park with a large Ferris wheel that is lit with changing colour lamps.
The hotel is showing its age and is being remodelled. Just not our room yet.
Juanita stays in the hotel. I start walking to the mini mart a few blocks away but flag down the first cab I see. The cabbie agrees to three dollars there and back. I grab a six-liter jug of water and wait to pay the yerba mate sipping clerk. The person in front of me waves his phone, takes his stuff and leaves. The clerk won’t take US dollars. I leave my jug, go out to the cab, borrow some pesos and go back inside to the end of the line of customers waiting to pay. When we arrive back at the hotel, I pay the cabbie back and give him a tip on top of the agreed payments. He seemed surprised and pleased. Not every day do you get a gormless tourist.
The group has dinner at two long tables. We are across from a couple who are more interesting to visit with than I would have expected. We make our choices from the fixed menu. On the guide’s instruction, I am sure to order the steak rarer than I want, compensating for the Argentinian tendency to overcook. It was great. Juanita says her river fish was delicious.
In addition to the included dessert, they served a birthday cake for Juanita. We all sang Happy Birthday and she cut the cake and handed out slices.
Sated, we stumble off to bed. That was a day. Breakfast at six tomorrow then a bus to the park on the other side of the Falls.
DAY 6, Tuesday – August 22 - Iguazu, the Argentinean Falls
Your adventure continues this morning on the Argentinean side of the Falls. A rail car takes you to the top of the Falls on the Upper Circuit,* and you will walk to the Lower Circuit where the power of nature surrounds you. Continue along the catwalks to Devil's Gorge - stand in amazement as you gaze at spectacular "Devil's Throat" the most magnificent of all of the cataracts. View, photograph and feel the spray of the thundering waters, one of nature's most impressive achievements and a unique experience for your senses. Spend the rest of the day exploring the natural treasures of Iguazu National Park, designated a World Heritage Site for its rare and endangered flora and fauna *Please be advised that in order to access the falls, you are required to walk over uneven surfaces, followed by a series of narrow boardwalk paths. The paths feature many sets of stairs and can be slippery due to the mist
Today we do Iguazu Falls on the Argentinian side. Per usual the guides get us onto an early train to the trailhead, so the crowds are initially minimal. We walk three loops, each taking about an hour. The first takes us on a walkway to right at the edge of a curved drop-off of the falls. Glad we brought ponchos. There was a group professional picture taken and the opportunity for professional pictures of couples and individuals.
After the first loop we did another loop. That took us to lunchtime and some free time in an area of food choices. Juanita’s pre-trip research suggested a weigh your food buffet. It mentioned the air conditioning. It looked closed from the distance. We stayed where we were and lined up for empanadas which were fine. The couple who opted for the weigh your food buffet said they lucked out. Right after they got their food group of a hundred school kids arrived. Chaos. Wouldn’t want to be at the end of that line. They followed up with gelato next door.
If you aren’t up to the walks, you can hang out at the trail head with the tour manager. One tour member opted for that after the first loop. That loop is mostly level since it goes to the top of some falls. The next ones go lower down so stairs and slopes down and up are involved.
There is a boat ride in the river that is not part of the tour we were on. Power boats loaded with people play chicken with the falls. A couple of catch boats standby downstream to pick up life jacketed bodies if the boat loses. The same group member who opted out of loop two and three wanted to go on the boats. It was explained to her that the boat companies don’t carry enough insurance to meet Gate 1’s standards. She and her husband were welcome to book the boats on their own, take the ride and catch a cab back to the hotel. Seemed straight forward to me. I think the boat ride is stupid but if you want to do it, go for it. There was an issue that the stairs to and from the boat ride dock were more strenuous than the stairs she was already opting out from, but as Roger Mallot says, “you can’t communicate with the unconscious.” You shouldn’t get stressed out from trying. Just recognize the Impossibility of the situation. But I digress. I am grateful I am not a tour manager. I am grateful for Juanita.
After lunch we walked the third loop and back to the restaurant area. Waiting for the bus to show up I got permission to dart over to the gelato shop. Okay, if there is not a big line. Entering the shop, I was encouraged to see just a few people. As I got deeper into the shop, I could see the line stretched beyond sight into the buffet next door. No gelato for you. Back to the bus.
The guide pointed out some good restaurants downtown as we rode to the hotel.
After dropping the backpack in the room, we ventured forth to the smoothie stand across the street that Juanita had found mentioned online. Sipping our smoothies we walked through some souvenir booths to the three borders park, then around the end of the hill to the Punto Ar restaurant overlooking the river and the ferry to Paraguay. Others wandered in as we were finishing up our meal.
Walked back to the hotel past the Iguazu sign. There was a group of women holding up a banner with a cross on it. I asked if they were nurses. No. Swiss. I guess that makes sense. White cross in a red circle.
I left the room and walked to a nearby pharmacy to buy some antibiotics. They are over the counter here. No prescription required. I asked about diuretics to deal with some swelling from the heat but those are prescription only. The swelling was gone after the first day in the cooler temperatures of Buenos Aires.
Back to hotel. Another earlyish morning tomorrow. 6:30 am wake-up for 8 am bus to airport. Over 24,000 steps registered on the pedometer app on my iPhone. Sleep came easily tonight.
DAY 7, Wednesday – August 23 - Fly to Buenos Aires
This morning, enjoy some additional time at leisure in Iguazu. Time permitting, visit a local school in the afternoon before transferring to the airport for your flight to the cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires. Its beauty is apparent with its elegant architecture, wide tree-shaded boulevards, striking monuments and sprawling parks. Upon arrival in the evening, check into your hotel. The rest of the night is at leisure
Up in the middle of the night several times. Smoothie stand claimed to use purified water and ice from same, but noticed they washed mangoes at the hose bib. Maybe it was something else. Juanita had no problems. Eventually I took some meds that stopped the problem for a day or two. Long enough to start to start to worry that I had self medicated too far. Trade-offs.
Wake-up call 6:30 for an 8:00 bus departure. Went to breakfast at 6 any way and came back to leave our bags outside the room by seven.
The bus took us to the airport in Puerto Iguazu for the plane ride to Buenos Aires. There was a long ride from the airport to the Marriot hotel on the world's widest avenue. The hotel had a beautiful lobby with a French theme. It has only recently become a Marriot. It was luxurious in its day but showing a few signs of age with a couple of cracks in the walls in our room being one of those signs.
The tour manager offered suggestions for food and area attractions. Many headed off to a pizza restaurant. We walked a couple of blocks to Confiteria Ideal which has recently reopened. There is a fleur-de-lis central to their sign outside and many fleurs-de-lis as part of the décor. I guess it’s a French restaurant and bakery. Gorgeous classic, high-ceiled splendor. We had been advised that main courses portions tended to be large in Buenos Aires restaurants. True in this case. We had about half left over of both Juanita’s stuffed de-boned chicken thighs and my veal Milanesa.
We walked along the wide, central street that the obelisk is on for several blocks then turned to a side street to Plaza General San Martin then along to Florida Street, a pedestrian only street with shops. We went into several shops looking for a sweater or sweatshirt for Juanita to help with the chilly weather. This had been the plan all along. Buy a cheap sweater or sweatshirt and leave it behind when we fly north. After several failed attempts we found a poncho/shawl. That shop offered an blue exchange rate of 700:1 for US dollars compared to the official exchange rate at a bank of 350. The shawl wasn’t cheap, but it wasn’t expensive. It was goldilocks. Too nice to toss, though. It will be better than an airline blanket for sleeping on the plane. I gave the clerk a twenty for a 12,000-peso purchase (about seventeen bucks). Simple enough, a 14,000-peso bill for a 12,000-peso purchase. 2,000 pesos change, right?
Not according to the clerk.
I still can’t figure out how she was calculating it, but she seemed sincere. Not a scam. Just one of those riddles where three people contribute to a hotel bill and then the change becomes bizarre. I couldn’t convince her. She couldn’t convince me. The manager got involved. The manager said, of course it’s 2,000-peso change. I took my change. We cut off the tag. Juanita donned her shawl. We strolled off down Florida Street to the Galerias Pacifico a mall in a 19th - century beaux arts building.
The hotel is not far from the obelisk, so we have a landmark. If you can find a street where you can see the obelisk you aren’t lost.
Back to the room for a while then dragged ourselves around the corner for pizza by the slice at Kentucky. Washed down by diet pop. Followed by a chocolate covered alfajores, an Argentinian treat of a pair of cookies making a sandwich of dulce de leche. Mine was dipped in chocolate. Juanita got one tiny bite.
DAY 8, Thursday – August 24 - Buenos Aires City Tour
Discover the city's highlights this morning on a tour that includes the Plaza de Mayo, Metropolitan Cathedral and Casa Rosada (government palace); see the balcony where Eva and Juan Peron made their speeches. Then, to the colorful La Boca neighborhood, a working class barrio, and the old quarters of San Telmo and Caminito, a mix of colonial style homes, narrow lanes, artists' lofts and very trendy cafes. Drive to the Recoleta Cemetery, final resting place of many of the wealthiest and most important Argentine historical figures. The grounds here cover more than four city blocks, filled with tombs adorned by works of local and international sculptors, and more than 6,400 mausoleums including the tomb of Eva "Evita" Peron, always heaped with flowers and letters from adoring fans. Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring some of Buenos Aires neighborhoods and fabulous collection of shops before this evening's tango lesson with professional Argentine Tango dancers. Tonight is at leisure, or, participate in the optional Argentine Dinner and Tango Show
Breakfast at the hotel is buffet style. There is a good selection of pastries, bread, and fruit. There are fruit juices, coffee and green slime to drink and, of course, scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon and fried potatoes. I wasn’t the only person who noticed that the scrambled eggs at all three hotels tended to be watery. Not up to typical NA McDonald’s quality. Inquiring minds want to know but politeness prevents asking if this is how people like them here.
The group did the tour of the cathedral and cemetery which was pretty much as described above in today’s itinerary.
We were given time to explore in Plaza de Mayo. We arrived in time for the changing of the guard for the presidential palace, Casa Rosada. If you saw the movie Evita the balcony of Casa Rosada is where Madonna made a speech. We checked out the monument Piramide de Mayo marking Argentina’s revolution. The monument is a popular spot for groups to assemble for group photos or for protests. There are symbols of white scarves in the pavement around the monument to commemorate the women who silently protested their missing sons and grandsons who were disappeared by the military dictatorship.
We joined the throng through the cathedral then got back on the bus driving through various districts of the city while the guide expounded. Buenos Aires is the home town of the tour manager, Silvia, so here she performs a dual role of guide, tour manager and general cat herder.
The bus dropped us at Centro de Exposiciones Caminto a leather works and souvenir shop in La Boca. There was a coffee shop and souvenirs of all price levels up to lovely leather coats and purses. The jackets were in the neighbourhood of $350 which seems expensive to us, but I am told they sell in Canada for around a thousand. There was a change booth offering a blue rate of 690 for under one hundred USD and 700 for one hundred and above. I changed fifty. That should be enough. One doesn’t want any more Argentinean currency than necessary. The root of the word currency means trust, and nobody trusts the Argentine peso. Locals keep dollars and only put enough pesos into their bank accounts to deal with immediate transactions.
We then did as described above, stopping at the cemetery with its elaborate mausoleums. It seems the spaces are not owned but leased for short terms of just five years or so. Old remains being carted off somewhere if the family lets the lease expire and survivors of new residents doing makeovers of the space to suit their tastes. I may have got that all wrong. In a hundred years it won’t matter. It doesn’t matter now for that matter. As far as people go there will be nobody that remembers any of us in a hundred years.
Check out today’s itinerary for a better description of today’s bus tour.
The bus dropped us all back at the hotel to explore until the next booked tour event.
We walked to the river and across the women’s bridge. Olga, a single from Jacksonville, joined us on the walk. On the woman’s bridge I took a picture of a life-sized religious statue posed in front of a container with money. Offerings I guessed.
Later when we crossed back across the bridge I noticed the statue was gone. I guessed somebody had carted it away. Odd. Back in Canada showing our pictures, Juanita mentioned to the audience of family members that the “statue” was a street performer. His accomplice had told him to hurry, get ready at our approach. There is no going back to tip him now. Regrets I’ve had a few.
We cut between the buildings lining that side of the river, through a park and across a street to the promenade along the edge of an eco reserve. There are foot trucks and stands along the side here. We went to Parilla Lito’s and ordered two chori-pans, sausage in a bun. Olga had no local money and would not let us pay for food for her. She said she was going on the dinner tour and wanted to leave room. Our guess is that she didn’t want to risk eating street food. Partway through our meal she bid us goodbye to walk back to the hotel.
We noticed the locals ordering what amounted to steak on a bun. Some ordered a completo which added a fried egg and other stuff. Meal on a bun. Our chori-pans were lovely. Definitely a cut above a humble hot dog. The buns were huge. More bread than we wanted. We shared our bread crumbs with the swarm of pigeons and a couple of scavenging parrots in their midst.
I ordered a Pepsi Black, the Pepsi answer to Coke Zero. Pretty good copy. It doesn’t have the vile metallic taste of Diet Pepsi. Juanita wanted to know what the white soda pop in a bottle was. The proprietor said it was pomelo. Not knowing what that was she ordered it anyway. Turns out grapefruit is not just called toronja. It can be called pomelo. Not the first word we’ve noticed that changes with region.
Today was a day of over 22,000 steps. Some of those steps took us back to the hotel where we took the elevator to the top and admired the pool and the view of the city. Like most places I handed out curved illusion tracts.
Skipped the tango lessons. Juanita likes to keep a low profile and I don’t intentionally put side forces on my leg. The bus for the optional tango show and dinner left at 8:15. We took a pass.
We went to the food court in Galerias Pacifico for supper. Juanita had a chicken wrap. I had a steak. There were several grill places to choose from. I’m a bit confused. Chorizo as I’ve always known it is a spicy rough textured sausage. Chori Pan in Argentina is a spicy sausage in a bun. Chorizo on the menus in Argentina refers to a cut of steak. Whatever. I ordered a chorizo, taking a pass on the fried potatoes included. We may have been eating pastries, chocolate, and ice cream the last few days, but you must draw line somewhere. No fries, just salad with my steak.
DAY 9, Friday – August 25 - Full Day in Buenos Aires
Revisit some of your favorite places in the city today, shop for leatherwear and designer clothes, or, join the optional fun-filled Gaucho Party at the Santa Susana Ranch. Get ready for a rustic experience at a typical Argentine ranch (estancia), dedicated to agriculture and the breeding of cattle and horses. After a tour of the grounds, enjoy a typical barbecue lunch, followed by a folklore show with live music and dancing. Return to the hotel with time to freshen up for this evening's "Farewell to Argentina" dinner
We opted out of the optional gaucho tour. As did the couple who had recently moved from Kansas to Wisconsin. We’ve seen ranches and can see more at will. One single traveller took the ferry to Uruguay and did the tour of the colonial city at the other end of the ferry route. She had a good day she said when she arrived at the Farewell Dinner. The dinner was walking distance from the ferry terminal.
Our choice for the day’s main activity was a third party tour to San Isidro, Tigre and a boat tour of the delta area of the Parana River. The guide met us in the hotel lobby. We boarded the waiting mid sized tour bus. The bus wound around the city picking up passengers at various hotels. The guide spoke English and Spanish. To the Portuguese speaking passengers she explained she didn’t speak Portuguese but would speak Spanish slowly so they should be able to follow. It was slow by her standards. Less than burst mode but not slow by my standards. I couldn’t keep up with all her “slow” Spanish fortunately I didn’t need to. Maybe the Portuguese speakers did better. I couldn’t ask them.
San Isidro was first built up by the rich people fleeing an epidemic in Buenos Aires. It has lots of grand residential buildings from that era and a cathedral which was our first stop. Our next stop was the Puerto de Frutos a shopping mall which used to be the terminal that received fruits and vegetables from the farms in the delta. We had an hour to shop and eat before assembling to wait for the boat ride among he islands of the delts. We bought a couple of strudels. Juanita found a purse of her liking. Waiting for the boat I visited with a local brick layer doing some mods of a restaurant and we watched the market boats loading water and other goods that they deliver to the houses on the islands.
The bus dropped us downtown at the end of the tour. We walked back to the hotel and relaxed until it was time to join the group for the farewell dinner down by the river. We had better appetites than the people who had stuffed themselves on BBQ at the ranch tour.
DAY 10, Saturday – August 26 - Depart Argentina
Transfer to the airport for your departure flight
Check out time from the hotel is nominally noon. We chose to check out at eleven.
We put our bags in lock up and ventured forth for the last day of explorations in Buenos Aires.
I consulted with Silvia before we left, showing her our plans on the map. That was good. One attraction was a square block but only had an entrance on one street. I had planned to walk down the parallel street. We never would have found it. We walked to the Plaza de Mayo and headed down the correct street. When we got close, we asked other people where it was. They indicated a few blocks back and north and then left to find what they were looking for. That didn’t make sense. We went another quarter block in the direction we had been going and there it was, El Zanjon de Granados. We went inside and booked the noon English tour which started about five minutes later. We had the tour guide to ourselves.
The property was in ruin when bought by an entrepreneur planning to restore it and open a restaurant. There were controls on the façade and the first couple of meters from the street of historic buildings so he started from the back and started removing rubble. In the process he discovered tunnels that had been used to cover the original stream. Archeology intervened and the next several decades were devoted to restoring the building and making it a museum. It was the home of a wealthy family. One sign of their wealth were the cisterns for fresh water built into the lower level. They bailed from Buenos Aires to the countryside near San Isidro during a plague and the building went downhill, eventually housing many immigrant families at a time. They slept in their tiny quarters and shared a common kitchen and latrine next to the kitchen. Kids played in the tunnels.
The mortar between the bricks was originally adobe. Restorers spent twenty years spooning out the adobe and replacing it with modern cementitious mortar. One joint at a time. There were displays of some of the artifacts found in the rubble and the remains of a wall of a cabin that had been on the banks of the original stream when the site was close to the beach. As the city built up the waterfront was moved about two kilometers away from the house. We walked through the tunnel under the house and through the tunnels built by neighbouring houses. Each had their own style. Nobody cared as long as you did your part to contain the stream.
Pictures of the tunnels are not permitted.
After the tour we walked to San Telmo Market. There is an antiques market next door of the same name on Sundays. This market had a few shops with smaller antiques and memorabilia, but it is mostly eateries and food and vegetable stalls. We tracked down the Hierros Parilla a grill that Juanita found reviewed online. It lived up to its reputation. I had a steak and Juanita had a lamb sandwich. In non-Argentinian fashion the steak was under cooked. I sent it back as did a couple of people sitting next to us at the counter. It was great after it was cooked more thoroughly.
After lunch we bought exotic paletas at Guapaletas and started walking back to Plaza de Mayo by way of the parallel street and then to our hotel. We joined fellow tour group members lounging in the lobby and visited until it was time to board the bus to the airport. Somebody tells me the pool boy is showing his curved illusion tracts to other staff members. I go up to the roof top pool and hand out a few to those who don’t already have them.
People leave for the airport according to plane departure times. One person left from the dinner last night. Some are staying a few more days. Several leave by taxi at four. The biggest group leaves at five. It is big enough to warrant a bus. We are in that group for our 9:20 pm flight.
Our first leg is on United Airlines with a competent but surly crew. It is around a ten-hour long flight, so it follows the format of meal after take off, lights out, then lights on, snack and land in Houston at about 5:50 am. I get a bit more sleep than on the previous long flight. Juanita gets more.
DAY 11, Sunday – August 27 & Beyond - Fly Houston – Edmonton – Drive Home
We landed in Houston ahead of schedule and went through customs, immigration, and security to connecting flights quickly. Our next flight is from a terminal at the other end of the airport, so we took a train to the right terminal. After a food court breakfast sandwich we headed to the departure gate for our flight with Aeroflot Canada.
The flight was full. They announced they would check carry on bags to the destination for free and volunteers would get priority boarding. There is the implication that if there are not enough volunteers there will be some voluntolds. We have clothes in Edmonton. If they lose our bags for a few days we’ll be fine. We volunteer and quickly board the plane.
Glad we ate in the airport. Aeroflot Canada has some free drinks but zero free snacks. Not even the puny packs of tiny pretzels. You can buy snacks for outrageous mark-ups e.g. a paper cup of noodles for five bucks. Cheap earphones are $4, premium earphones are $7.
We land in Toronto and quickly go through immigration. Customs doesn’t have us pull our bags from the checked luggage. The bags continue to Edmonton without intervention. There is no need for security. We venture forth through Pearson International Airport, Canada’s claim to third world status. The food court is on the bizarre side. Brands you’ve never heard of offering things you’d rather not eat for prices that ought to be in some devalued currency. That’s the price in dollars?!
I try a chicken sandwich between waffles. Juanita is more wise. At least the sandwich stays down and destroys my appetite until Edmonton. Mission accomplished. I guess. We have a couple of seven dollar mint ice cream bars at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.
The flight to Edmonton boards on time. There is the appeal for volunteers to check their carry-ons. No bribes offered of priority boarding. Our carry-ons are already part of the checked luggage cohort. It lands on time. We wait by the belt, grab our luggage and proceed to a shuttle phone. I decipher the accented English instructions. We wait for a shuttle in the indicated area. I answer a text from our daughter if we are staying in Edmonton tonight. Yep. I guess she got the same information that the car park did. Our car has another day left on the parking ticket. Oh well. Not worth the time to argue for a five-buck refund.
After dining out in style at the nearby Costco we headed to our daughter’s for the night then drove home to Meadow Lake the next day. We made a stop at the car dealer in Sherwood Park to see if our new car might have arrived. Nope. Last heard it was in Vancouver. By the time we were home we got a call that it was in Edmonton, and we could pick it up in a few days once they had done the predelivery prep and added a block heater.
It rained a lot while we were gone. The pond level was up and there were all manner of mushrooms on the property.
The rest of the month was consumed with chores around the property. All our pre-winter prep must be done before I start work near Edmonton in mid September.