100 Days of Difference – Day 14

If you missed my post two weeks ago explaining my summer project, check it out here before you continue reading this post.

Now that you’ve done that, you should know that today (June 7th) is National Cancer Survivors Day. So if you know anyone that has beaten any of the numerous varieties of cancer that currently plague our world, take a minute before continuing to reach out and let them know you’re glad they won! Life after a cancer diagnosis and even after a remission or “all-clear” declaration is never the same as it was pre-cancer. I feel so thankful for each of my family and friends that doesn’t have to fight anymore, at least not right now. And as silly as most “holidays” are these days, I support this one because it recognizes those among us that have been to hell and back.

But this special day also brings up the question of what can I/we do for those still in the trenches, fighting for survivor status? The answer for me was in this #100daysofdifference challenge. I can RAISE MONEY for an amazing organization, Hope for Young Adults with Cancer, that helps 18-40 year olds across the nation that have been diagnosed with cancer. No donation is too big or too small and my goal is to raise at least $1,000 this summer, which would be enough to fully pay for a scholarship for one deserving cancer warrior. These scholarships allow recipients the opportunity to not only pay for their treatments, but also to continue living throughout their often long and difficult cancer journey. Check out my donation page on Crowdrise or contact me about other ways to donate financially.

As someone who has worked with charities for a long time, I am fully aware that not everyone is comfortable or able to give money. That’s 100% fine with me! You can share my blog link or my Crowdrise page and help me spread the word. I appreciate any efforts, no matter how big or small.

I also created an Amazon wish list this week to give potential donors even more ways to help support young adults with cancer. So one of my #100daysofdifference goals is to put together 100 “cancer care kits” to take to the North County Oncology Medical Clinic. The idea behind this is that chemotherapy and radiation and blood transfusion are all long, scary processes that cancer patients have to endure. While I can’t change that, I can provide bags of goodies to help entertain or increase the comfort level of patients. The medical center plans to give our bags to new patients during their first day of treatment, just to welcome them to the cancer family and let them know that there are people who care, even during this difficult time.

The way the Amazon wish list works, is kind of like a wedding or baby registry. You click the link I just gave you, decide which items you are willing to purchase, check out, and then they will be shipped directly to my house. I will collect items all summer and hope to distribute the 100 finished bags the last week of August. For those of you that live in San Diego and see me on a regular basis, please feel free to pick up any of the listed items on your own and give them to me when we see each other. Also, if anyone wishes to donate other items I am happy to accept those as well, just send me a message!

Thank you, thank you, thank you for supporting me in the huge summer project. I literally cannot do it without each and every one of you that reads this blog and please know that I appreciate every donation, every encouraging comment, and every spreading of the word. Below is a chart of my progress so far, I’m getting there!!

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Big Sky and Yellowstone Ski Trip

As many of you have probably seen on Facebook, I went on my annual ski trip last week! My two best friends from California and I have gone to Mammoth and Whistler in past years, but this year it was time for Montana 🙂 We planned this trip before I moved and I was SO looking forward to spending time with the boys and getting out on the slopes! Traveling from Greensboro, NC to Bozeman, MT was an adventure. Especially going through Chicago (ORD). In the snow. We had to use de-icing spray on the plane to take-off. This California girl was thinking “WTF. Just get me to Bozeman”, lol. I landed before the guys and enjoyed sitting by the fireplace while I waited. Once they arrived we got our (free upgrade) Expedition, which was WAY too big for three people, but it turned out to be great for our equipment!

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We got groceries, picked up our condo keys, grabbed our equipment for the week, and had some mediocre barbecue for dinner. Our place was super close to the slopes, which was the point, but it was also fairly small. We settled into our studio (with a murphy bed and sofa bed for sleeping, lol) and headed to bed fairly early? Morning one we were all (especially me) quite pleased that the weather was in the mid to upper 30s. After bundling up, we skied ALL DAY. From 9:30am to 4:15pm. Snow was in pretty good condition, great for me! I’m not an icy skier, it’s harder on your legs and edges. Especially since I hadn’t skied any yet this season. But we all held up well and had a blast. At lunchtime we paused at the Lone Peak Cafe at the base of the mountain. One disappointment that continued throughout the week was the lack of on-slope amenities. But I guess it added to the rustic, Montana charm 🙂 For dinner after showers, we cooked up a delicious pasta-beef-salad dinner before playing games long into the night.

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Day two we set out with the goal to explore the right side of the map. One minor snag was that we didn’t really know how to get there… and we ended up essentially cross-country skiing on downhill skis for a bit. Other than that, day two was another amazing day of skiing and we even got some sunshine in the afternoon! For lunch we checked out Whiskey Jack’s bar and grill, which was better than the cafe and the tacos really hit the spot. We skied harder this day, tackling some un-groomed blues and even escaping into the trees! Everyone was skiing really well and we did another full day on the slopes with no injuries (yay!).

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That evening… I think by now we are at Friday… X had some work to do so Sean and I decided to seek out hot tub options around town. We learned that the Huntley Lodge right across the street had a spa with a heated outdoor pool and hot tubs. After wandering through the underground tunnel, we acted like we knew what we were doing and walked right in unnoticed. It was a great facility and we enjoyed relaxing after a second long day on the slopes. Then it was back home for another amazing dinner (these guys spoil me, but I’m a really good sous chef) of chicken curry. Poor X had more work, so Sean and I hit the town to check out one of the free concerts going on as part of the weekend’s blue grass festival. The band was really chill and it was nice to see what happens in Big Sky after the slopes close (bonfires, music, food… the usual ski bum life).

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Saturday was our last day of downhill in Big Sky, so we set out to cover as many new slopes as possible, which was easy since that place is HUGE. And it had snowed overnight so there was fresh powder to be had! Unfortunately, with the snow came gusting wind and several of the lifts were closed. Boo. We managed to get over to a new part of the mountain and made first tracks on a huge section of slope. But visibility was almost zero, between the wind and the snow and the low light. We pulled up at one point above a drop, and determined that we needed to keep speed to then cross the flats below. The line I chose was not the right one, and I didn’t see a steeper drop followed by an abrupt rise. Basically, my body folded in half into the far slope and I crumbled to the ground… losing all speed and one ski. My elbow hurt and my body was shaken but, with help from X, I got re-situated and skied down to meet Sean at the base. I was in pain. But nothing like my knee last year in Whistler!

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After the crash, we quickly learned that we were trapped on a small number of warm, almost slushy slopes. Luckily, a cowboy (bellhop) from the Huntley Lodge was dropping some people off and offered us a ride back to the main part of the mountain. We cruised tons of perfectly groomed slopes and even experimented with some moguls and blacks. My elbow was only painful when I fully straightened it, or put too much pole pressure on it. So I was good to go for the most part! We did make reservations for a fancy, slope-side meal at Everett’s (located at 8800 ft). The meal was over the top, but probably the second-best meal of the trip. I had an open-faced grilled cheese sandwich with an egg, apples, and some fancy kind of cheese on a sourdough-like bread. It was awesome! At the end of the ski day, we turned in our downhill equipment then drove straight to the other rental place in lower village to pick up our nordic skis for Sunday.

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We had booked a snow coach trip with See Yellowstone from West Yellowstone (an hour south of Big Sky) into Yellowstone National Park and added on a short cross-country ski section. After a late night out Saturday at another blue grass concert (this time with X!), we were all a bit tired when our 6am alarm went off. Admittedly, I was the slowest moving because my arm and back/shoulder muscles were on fire from my fall the day before. I was so stiff and I think the guys had coffee brewed before I was even out of bed. But we made it to West Yellowstone in time to hop in the snow coach and drive into the park. We were SO fortunate on this trip to see a ton of animals. Elk, coyote, bobcats, bald eagles, and of course bison. It was a long day with the tour lasting from 8:30 to 5:30, but I think it was absolutely worth it! Especially since we hopped out a few miles shy of Old Faithful to cross-country ski through the geyser fields. Not only did we get to stretch our legs, but we got to see more of the thermal features!

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We made it in to Old Faithful with a few minutes to spare before the eruption, which was just as amazing as it was decades ago when my family visited. We met back up with the group, loaded our equipment, grabbed a quick bison brat for lunch and headed back out. We didn’t get very far before we had issues though. The road had melted through to mud in several sections because of the unusually warm winter weather. This jacked up the tread on our snow coach and we were soon stuck. As we waited for help to arrive, we hung out with the nearby bison herd and cat-napped. We were picked up by Andy in another (bigger) snow coach and made it back to West Yellowstone fairly on time. Then we had to get our equipment back to Big Sky before closing, which wasn’t a problem. We rewarded ourselves with an AMAZING barbecue dinner “for two” at the Riverhouse restaurant. It was a sample platter with brisket, pork, chicken, sausage, and I don’t even know what else. Oh, and sides of beans, cornbread, coleslaw, and a corn mixture. So good. So, so good.

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Big Sky Trip 371Post-dinner we cruised the rest of the way up to Belgrade (where Bozeman Airport is) and checked into our Quality Inn for the night. The boys had a ridiculously early flight, so we wanted to be close. Monday morning we all got up, I dropped them at the airport, and then went back to the hotel to sleep for four more hours. Then I checked out, dropped the rental car and checked in for my flight. By this time they had already had a layover in Seattle and were well on their way to San Diego. Lucky them! I had a connection in Chicago again, but it was warmer this time so no icing issues. I finally landed in Greensboro about 10pm and drove the hour and half home to Wake Forest. I was exhausted but I was happy. This trip was great on so many levels and I can’t wait to see where we end up going next year (Colorado? Utah? The Alps?).

Welcome to 2015!

Well hello, everyone! So much has happened since my last blog post and I’d like to take a minute to catch you up. I last wrote to you from Buenos Aires, Argentina where Jenny and I were finishing up an incredible two weeks. After the post, we had a slight mishap where our day packs were stolen in a super touristy part of town. It happened really quickly and there was nothing we could do about it. Long story short, we spent the next 36 hours changing our flights, canceling our credit cards, getting new passports, and waiting in airports. But we made it home safely exactly 24 hours late, more than ready to relax and enjoy the holidays with our friends and family.

The easiest way for me to describe my holiday season is with a list of days and places. Are you ready?

12/23 – Miami/DC/Maryland/Ashburn

12/24 to 12/26 – Ashburn

12/27 – Ashburn/Richmond

12/28 – Richmond/Williamsburg/Buffalo Junction

12/29 – Raleigh/SF layover/San Diego

12/30 to 1/1 – San Diego

1/2 – Chicago layover/Raleigh/Buffalo Junction

So in eleven days I had six legs of airplane travel, slept in four locations, spent (brief) time in six states, and saw twelve members of my extended family (and my mom). Woof. And that doesn’t include the countless hours spent on hold or in line trying to replace my stolen belongings. No wonder I’m exhausted this week! But I will say that I loved every single minute of the holidays this year and would not change any visit or any time spent with family and friends. Thanks to all of you who made time in your busy schedules to see me as I zipped around the country!

Okay, it’s 2015 now and what does that mean for me? I’m back in Buffalo Junction (aka staying with my friend Paige), so I have shifted focus back to my future! I told y’all a few months ago that I had decided to move back to the East Coast for a variety of reasons. It has been a challenging few weeks (and months) since I first packed my belongings in the storage unit and I am MORE than ready to unpack and settle in here. I spent much of last Friday and Saturday looking for apartments in the Raleigh-Durham area and I think I’ve found my new place! I’ll post more about that once paperwork is signed and I move in. But suffice it to say that I’m really excited just to have a home address again 🙂

While I wait for that paperwork to process, I am launching head-first into the daunting world of job hunting.. and I am already dreading it. Why? Because I am not a sales person. My talent in life is not to sell things, especially not myself. But I am a passionate person, especially when it comes to the right causes and helping others. And I acknowledge that I have a great skill set and background… so I hope that when the right jobs presents itself, I will be able to communicate those strengths and passions to the hiring committee. Once my apartment paperwork is processed, I will also take time to switch my driver’s license, vehicle registration, official address, etc… all things I am looking forward to doing! And I will unpack my belongings. YAY!! I have a list going already of items I already know I’ll need for my new place (shower curtains, microwave, etc) so hopefully this week I can start shopping for a few of those things as well.

Another big task for this week is to start thinking about a new car. Fnshine (my 2003 Volkswagen Golf) has carried me, once again, across the country. But it’s getting older and tired and is starting (continuing?) to show signs of distress. It has just under 150,000 miles and potentially a crack in the timing belt… oops? So I’ve been saying since this past summer that if Fnshine could get me to North Carolina, that’s all I cared about. I’m silently cursing myself for that wish because it appears that Fnshine has taken that literally and is struggling. Since I am not working right now, it just makes sense to start the research process by test driving some of my top choices. My focus is on something a little bit bigger, so I can drive four adults on a weekend camping, skiing, or beach trip, but not too big that it guzzles gas and swamps me. Something in the crossover family such as a Tiguan, Forester, Tucson, or Sportage most likely. But we shall see as the research continues.

Alright, that’s enough procrastination for now. I hope each of you had a wonderful holiday season and are enjoying the first few days of 2015. If I get a second to pause and breathe this week, I’ll try to nail down some goals or “resolutions” or philosophical ideas I want to focus on this year… but no promises 😉

Argentina – Palermo, Buenos Aires

I broke the last six days of our trip into two pieces. One of activities in and around the neighborhood of Palermo, where we are staying in an apartment rented through AirBnB, and the other about day trips outside of the city. But first, let me give you a chance to read what we’ve been doing so far on our trip to Argentina:
Buenos Aires – San Telmo
Ushuaia
El Calafate
Buenos Aires – Day Trips

We arrived back in Buenos Aires on Tuesday night and were met at our apartment by our host, Gus. After a very animated tour of the place, he left us and we searched for food. It’s a cute neighborhood but it closes down earlier than other areas of Buenos Aires. We found a delivery place open and ordered a bunch of empanadas and got a liter of soda. Not our best meal but not bad! back at home, we were pleased to find the Internet was stable and that there was even a desktop! This allowed me to do some job searching and apartment hunting before bed.

After all of the moving around and operating on tour schedules, Jenny and I collectively decided that Wednesday would be a less planned day of wandering. And boy did we wander! First stop was groceries. Since we have an actual kitchen, it made since to plan to eat breakfast in and have snacks for lighter lunches. The grocery store wasn’t too hard to navigate but it certainly was crowded! I did a load of wash in the morning as well and hung it up to dry before we set off for the afternoon.

Gus had left a Sube card which we added money to and hopped on the bus. Our destination was Recoleta Cemetery in the neighborhood next to Palermo. I had found an app that we downloaded and used to walk through the huge city cemetery and learn about a small fraction of the crypts. The app included a map and 25 descriptions of people buried there. It was well worth the $3 download fee and shares the name of the cemetery for those that are interested! The crypts themselves were stunningly beautiful. Many were as large as confession rooms with benches inside or many compartments for various family members. Styles varied from Greco-Roman classical to ornate Celtic to Egyptian to Byzantine mosaics… It was fascinating to see and hear how and why people chose to be forever memorialized.

My favorite story was about a couple who were married but the husband had been quite wealthy from a previous marriage. He was tired of his new (25 years younger) wife spending all of his money so he posted a letter in the newspaper declaring that he would no longer pay off her debts. She was so mad that when she designed her bust years after he died, she requested that it be placed facing away from his statue in their crypt. She requested this so that she would not have to gaze upon her husband for the rest of eternity. Harsh!

After the cemetery we were quite warm (it’s been 85 degrees here) so we searched for a cafe to cool off. We stumbled upon Persicco, a helado (ice cream) shop that had been recommended to us by several locals. We sampled quite a few flavors before each settling on a small cup with two types each. I got Cheesecake de Marayana (passionfruit flavored cheesecake) and Chocolate Suizo (chocolate with swirls of dulce de leche). Oh my goodness! They were so creamy and cold and delicioso. Definitely worth the stop and a great break in our day.

Next up was a visit to the travel agency that runs boats to Uruguay. We purchased our tickets for Thursday and then enjoy a nice, LONG, leisurely walk back home. It was quite a ways but there are a number of parks in Recoleta and Palermo, so it was a pleasant trip. According to my step counting app, it was over 10,000 steps for this part of our day alone! We came across a holiday festival for children, which was free to all so we took a few pictures and enjoyed the reminder that Christmas is coming! There were a lot of statues by Argentinian artists scattered throughout the green spaces, but our favorite (and the most popular) was at the United Nations Square. It is called, “Floralis Generica”, and is a flower that opens everyone morning and closes each night. It is unique because it is the first moving structure to be controlled by a hydraulic system and photoelectric cells.

After our epic journey home, we looked up dinner options and did some research for Uruguay. Then we headed back out around 8:45pm to Na Serapia, but not before grabbing Jenny’s laundry from the roof as it was beginning to rain. The rain didn’t last and the food was well worth the trip! It was a local place and we were the only foreigners there (bonus!). We split two empanadas, one carne picante and one carne salteñas. Both beef with different styles. They were amazing! We both agreed that we would consider returning just for those. Then we also ordered the locro and humitas. Jenny’s was more of a corn stew with various vegetables in it and mine was a corn mash inside chala, similar to a corn tamale. But were really good as well! Getting back to the apartment and collapsing into bed were all we could manage after this long, fun day.

Thursday we went to Uruguay for most of the day, which you can read about in my Buenos Aires day trips post. When we returned in the evening, we went back to our favorite chaotic street, Florida, where we exchanged the US dollars from Uruguay. This time we decided to go all in at one shop and get it over with. So we exchanged $600 for the legitimate equivalent of $897. Oh and we did that in the back of a magazine stand in the center of the street. Nbd. Feeling rich, we walked through the Galleria Pacifico shopping mall to see the huge Christmas tree decorated in crystal ornaments. The most interesting part of that was that exactly one week before Christmas there was no line to see Santa. Zero.

Next on our list in the area was Guerrin’s Pizza for dinner. Another local recommendation, this restaurant has been a staple in the city center since 1932. Jenny and I split a small pizza, half chicken/hearts of palm/artichoke and half ham/olive/red pepper. We wanted a side salad but at Guerrin’s, the choice is pizza… Or empanadas 🙂 Feeling full and TIRED, we caught the bus home and scurried into bed.

Friday morning we agreed to sleep in again, which for me meant 8:30(ish). I then did some research, applied to a few jobs, looked for a new camera online, showered, etc. On the daytime agenda was “just” the Japanese gardens and the Eva Perón museum. We had seen the gardens before and they were a quick ten minute walk from the house, so we went there first. They were certainly pretty, and it was nice to wander through them, but they were not the biggest or the best Japanese gardens I’ve ever been in. The biggest issue I had was that city life was going on around us with construction, traffic, weed-whacking, etc. After enjoying the gardens for a bit we walked through the rest of the parks in Palermo’s green section. A pleasant surprise was the rose garden, whose flowers were in varying stages of blossom.

Our end goal in wandering through the gardens was to find one of the extremely rare “food truck” vendors in Buenos Aires. Specifically to try choripan, a BA specialty that was essentially chorizo on bread (pan). A few things to note at this though. One, by truck they really mean cart. Two, the information online is sketchy at best and you basically cross your fingers to find one. Three, even as recently as the last few months stands have been closing or relocating to undisclosed locations. I should mention that at this point it was 90+ degrees and today was supposed to be our rest day from too much walking. The first stand, which we had a clearer location for was gone. The workers nearby confirmed that and offered McDonald’s as an alternative since it was the only thing nearby. No, gracias.

Jenny put her faith and tired legs in my control and I said I wanted to try one other spot and then we would call it quits. We also agreed to taxi from lunch to the museum to save our legs and because it would be quite cheap. The second “truck” was rumored to be in a three block stretch on the same road, beginning just two blocks over. The blocks were huge, one having the horse racetrack on it, and shade was minimal. As we were approaching the last of the possible blocks, we saw an umbrella on the opposite side of the street by a grassy park. We found it! And it did not disappoint. An older couple took our order and gave us colored chips to represent what type of food and drink we wanted. We then walked to the grill, turned in our chips, and waited for delicious food. We both tried choripan and then later went back to split… Something that was delicious but we weren’t sure what it was 🙂 Meat on a bun, basically. And we had a soda each. We sat in tree stumps, in the shade, surrounded by scavenging birds (including green parakeets), and chatting with the local men. It was awesome!

Jenny struck up a conversation was a nice older gentleman who had lived in New York. We thought nothing of it and said our good-byes to everyone when we were done eating. We were close to the regional airport so we walked up to the next intersection to catch an available cab. Just as we arrived, a car pulled over and it was Luis, the gentleman Jenny had spoken with! He offered to drive us wherever we were going and was concerned that we didn’t know anyone in the city. We accepted the ride to the Eva Perón museum and we were off. Through a combination of English and Spanish, we enjoyed our talk along the way and thanked Luis profusely for his kindness.

The Eva Perón museum itself was quite interesting and detailed. I learned a lot about this controversial woman in human history and enjoyed the mixed media format of the museum. It wasn’t gigantic but it sure fit a lot of information into its space. I recommend it to anyone with a spare hour in BA. We were both happy to go home and rest for a few hours that afternoon, out of the heat.

Around six, we hopped on the subway into the city center. Our plan for the evening was to enjoy everything tango! Jenny had researched and settled on a newer show in town, La Ventana, that included a dance lesson and dinner prior to the show that celebrated not just tango but other traditional music of Argentina. For the first hour, we met upstairs with one of the male dancers who taught us variations of a basic tango step. It was actually fun and the instructor was really good. There were maybe 6-8 other people up there, so not too many! Next, we went down to the second level and were shown our seats. We had the choice of appetizers, entrees, dessert, and wine with our deal. I chose the capresse salad (gave the tomatoes to Jenny), the baby beef with fries “traditional” dish, and the dulce de leche crepe for dessert. Oh, and the house white for wine. All of it was good, I couldn’t eat half of the meat as the portion size was so big.

The show was really good as well! Jenny chose it because of the variety of performances involved. Not only were there eight tango dancers, but a gaucho, an incredible accordionist, a few singers, etc. It was really well done and flowed in such a way that made sense and kept me entertained. The only drawback to it being so new was that the crowd was fairly small. We didn’t get home until after midnight and were up early to catch the train to Tigre, which you can read more about in my Day Trips post linked above.

Saturday when we returned from Tigre, we showered and dried off from the rain before meeting our friend from the States for dinner. We selected Don Julio in nearby Soho Palermo and had a great parrilla (grill) for our last dinner in Argentina. Justin is traveling the world for almost a year so it was great to hear his stories so far and share ours. I had chorizo and split a butterflied steak with Jenny. We also sampled a blood sausage… Not terrible but not awesome. After dinner we sat out at a cafe in a square nearby and just enjoyed the evening.

Sunday morning we had big plans to hit the weekend markets for one last day of shopping before flying home at night. But I’ll save the rest of that story for a bonus post in a few days 🙂 Hasta luego!

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Argentina – Buenos Aires Day Trips

This title is a little misleading, but the gist of it is that this post will be about the two day trips Jenny and I took outside of the city of Buenos Aires. If you’re following our Argentina trip through my posts, thank you!! If you haven’t had a chance to catch up, let me give you the links:

Buenos Aires – San Telmo
Ushuaia
El Calafate
Buenos Aires – Palermo (coming soon!)

Uruguay
This section of the post will begin on Thursday morning as Jenny and I make our way to the cruise port in the city. We were told to arrive an hour prior to departure but cut it a little closer by arriving 45 minutes before departure. We had to wait in a long line to check-in with our tickets and then go upstairs to pass through immigrations. The countries are smart in that you check out of Argentina and into Uruguay at the same place and before embarking on the ferry. That way, passengers can disembark and be on their way upon arrival. The ferry was quite luxurious with a cruise ship feel and the crossing took just over an hour. Jenny and I had decided not to push on to Montevideo (an additional 2.5 hour bus ride) but instead just to stay in Colonia, Uruguay. It is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site and had plenty to do before our return trip that evening.

Our first stop in Colonia was the tourist information center to grab a map. Here, we met a nice German girl, Teresa, who was making the trek to renew her Argentinian visa. She tagged along with us for much of the day, which was welcome company! Our first place of interest was the historic lighthouse in the old center of town. This is a small place and the lighthouse gave us a nice panoramic view of this, once we climbed the narrow but fairly stable stairs to the top. The nearby streets were cobblestone and the buildings were quaint. It was a sleepy town that wasn’t overly run by foreigners but instead seemed to depict everyday life in Uruguay. Almost like the locals didn’t care if we were there or not. It was nice!

Temperatures were almost 90 degrees by afternoon, so I took advantage of the chance to dip my feet in the river. It was like bath water and I regretted leaving my bathing suit behind, but it was nice nonetheless. The three of us were starving by that point so we found a cute street cafe and sat outside. The typical Uruguayan dish is chivito, so we split a platter for two between the three of us. It was good… But hard to explain. Basically our sides of salad, French fries, pickled vegetables and potato salad were the base of the dish. Then on top were two thin slabs of lamb, each topped with a nice ham slice, white cheese and then an over-hard egg. Heaven in my mouth. Meat and meat and eggs… Yum!

For those of you wondering about my eating choices on the trip, I should mention that Jenny and I have been averaging over 17,000 steps a day! Case in point, after lunch we walked down the Street of the Sighs and then along the seawall for over three miles.

I would recommend a trip over from BA but I would also caution against high expectations. It’s a cute town but it’s not the most adorable I’ve been too. It was a nice introduction to Uruguay and I’d be game to see more of the country in the future. For now, we’ll hop on the ferry back to BA and you can read more about our adventures in Palermo in that post soon!

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Tigre River Delta
The second part of this post took place on Saturday. Jenny and I had booked a kayak guide on the Tigre River, which is about an hour west of Buenos Aires. So we got up early and headed (by bus) into the train station in the Retiro section of town. Trains to Tigre run every 10-20 minutes 24-hours and it costs $5 for two roundtrip tickets! The train lasts about an hour so we both dozed on the way out (and back). Unfortunately, upon arrival to the delta region we saw that it was raining. A lot. Our guide postponed the trip until later that day, weather permitting. So we hopped on the local commuter boat and sailed up into the river delta. The roundtrip cost for two was just under $10.

It was fascinating to see how people so close to Buenos Aires lived so differently from the city-dwellers. Homes on stilts and dilapidated piers with rusty boats. Not every home and boat were in disarray, some were actually quite nice! It was similar to bayou towns and people in the States. We watched locals literally hop on and off our boat when we paused by a dock and then performed the same maneuver ourselves at our stop. We had picked the “town” of Tres Bocas because the Delta Terra Natural Preserve is there. There’s a 1.5k loop that is partially paved and partially jungle trekking. We walked a good portion of the paced section, up and over the canals on rickety bridges, but decided to turn back before the jungle due to the rain.

We caught a boat back into Tigre and learned that the weather forecast for the remainder of the day had turned and our guide wasn’t willing to risk the water. We understood but we’re disappointed in the weather for canceling a boat excursion for a second time this trip. Instead, we walked up to see the stunning Museum of Tigre Art. Meaning to look at the building from the outside as we’d heard it was the best part of the museum. Then we had a quick lunch of milanesa (schnitzel) and tried the Argentinian drink of choice (when not Malbec). It’s fernet and cola, which is a whisky-cola drink that didn’t suite either Jenny or I… Like we each had a few sips from the same drink and called it a day.

Next, we walked down Saenz Peña street, which is two blocks of street art. The buildings were colorfully painted and very artsy. This section was on the way to Puerto de Frutos, the old fruit port, which is now a large handicraft market. Unfortunately, it’s become quite touristy but we each bought a few items and sampled a churro before returning to the train station and heading home. If the weather cooperates, this is a great (and cheap) day trip from BA and I highly recommend it!

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Argentina – El Calafate

After two nights in San Telmo, Buenos Aires and two nights in Ushuaia , Jenny and I have arrived at our third stop, El Calafate. We will be staying here three nights and after being outside of the airport for ten minutes, we both agreed that we we are excited to be here a bit longer! After checking in to our adorable hotel, Sierra Nevada, we decided to go for a short run to stretch our legs. We did about two miles fairly slowly since we have both been resting recently. At the end of town there was a cute park with a massive flight of stairs, so we ended with a pretty sunset view over the surrounding mountains. After returning, we got a few groceries (mainly fruits!) and then explored the hotel before calling it a fairly early night.

Sunday morning we enjoyed a nice breakfast at the hotel. They had the typical ham, cheese, croissant, other pastries and yogurt. But they also had eggs and fresh fruit! We were picked up for our 7.5 hour tour around 9:30am and headed west out of town. The Glacier National Park sits 80k (49 miles) outside of El Calafate so we enjoyed a discussion on the sheep, llamas, condors, and flamingos we were passing. The first stop inside the park was at a viewpoint 12k from the large glacier we would be watching all day, Perito Moreno. It’s not the largest in Argentina or the world, but it is one of the most accessible. We could only see the south half for much of the morning but even “just” that was outstanding!

Once the photo op was finished, we drove to a boat launch on Brazo Rico (Rico Channel). The next hour was spent getting as close as 200m from the ice! We took a ton of pictures, watched for falling chunks, and stared in awe at the massive wall in front of us. It was chilly on the boat but not unbearable and the sun has not stopped shining since we arrived (unlike the often gray skies of Ushuaia). Once we returned, the bus drove the last section to the system of walkways cross-crossing the slopes opposite the glacier. We were given three hours to spend as we chose, so we first paused for baños and lunch. We split a spinach and a beef empanada with fruit and nutrition bar snacks on the side.

For the next few hours we walked between viewpoints, snapping pictures, sitting in the sun, and watching the wall. From here we could see both the south side on Brazo Rico, where we had been on the boat, and the north side which faces the Lago Argentina (Argentina Lake). The water on the north side comes exclusively from glaciers in the region so it’s water is a stunning teal color. Right at the intersection of the darker Brazo Rico and the brighter, greener Lago Argentina there was an array of ice chunks that had broken off, which made this part of the water particularly pretty. The walkways were a series of staircases that went down the closer to the glacier you got, which meant a lot of steps to hike back up to get back to the bus! We then returned to town around 5pm.

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We took this time to head to the tourist information center at the other end of town, maybe a mile away. We knew we would have free time later in our stay and wanted options. We also made a dinner reservation for the following night at a steakhouse by the center. Wandering back to the hotel we stopped in a few shops and then settled on dinner at Pura Vida. They had lots of stews and pot pies and vegetable dishes but I tried the lamb ravioli, which was actually quite good. For dessert we splurged and got the ice cream brownie with fresh Calafate berry sauce on top. Yum!

Monday morning was early as our transfer bus picked us up at 7:30am. This time we went west out of town and then turned north to meet the large catamaran that would be our main mode of transportation for the day. We set off around 9am for a five hour sailing in Lago Argentina. This is the largest lake in the country and is something like 1,500 sq km. It’s HUGE! We quickly passed through Boca del Diablo (Devil’s mouth) and into Brazo Norte (North Channel). Through two different spokes off of this channel, we viewed the Upsala and Spegazzini Glaciers. The Upsala is more volatile and produces the most icebergs in the region. Luckily, there weren’t too many to prohibit us from a close view. The Spegazzini was a high glacier, coming down in multiple places around mountain peaks. It currently has the highest wall of ice at the front and is 17 square kilometers in size.

After viewing the glaciers and the various icebergs associated with them, we enjoyed the hour cruise back through the stunningly beautiful Lago Argentina. Once returning the town and shedding a few layers, we hopped on the free shuttle to the relatively new (circa 2010) Glaciarium. The various exhibits and films discussed ice and glaciers scientifically, facts and details pertaining to glaciers specifically in the national park, and information about the effect of global warming on the glaciers and the world. I thought it was extremely well done and was one of the more visually pleasing museums I’ve been to in a while. They had a few interactive pieces and of course breath-taking photos of ice, and it was absolutely worth a visit if you’re in town!

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For dinner last night, we had reservations at La Tablita, one of many steakhouses in town. We got the recommended grilled lamb and grilled chorizo (sausage), as well as a side of grilled vegetables. We also opted to try Argentinian wine with our meal, but I couldn’t bring myself to get red even though it pairs better with red meat… My white was just fine, thank you 😉 The meat was extremely delicious and cooked to perfection. They definitely know what they are doing! On the way home we paused to sample Argentinian beer, which was… beer, at least to me. Jenny found one she liked so we relaxed a bit there. Then it was back to the hotel, exhausted but happy… at 10:47pm with daylight in the sky, lol.

Today we packed up, checked out, and stored our luggage before heading out to explore town a bit more before leaving. We wandered along the lake, past the flamingo reservation, and over to the historical interpretation center (where we learned about the native Aonikenk people. Along the way we found an artisan shop (Neo Artesania) with gorgeous jewelry and other handicrafts that preserve and relate the old world to the new one. The designer, Raúl was extremely friendly and explained that he collected the stones and crystals used in his jewelry on and around the glaciers. I bought a necklace and he custom made a longer chain for me, right then. If you’re going to El Calafate, be sure to check him out!

Lunch was a lamb and mushroom savory crepe followed by a banana and dulce de leche sweet crepe, both from Viva la Pepa. Both were incredibly good and the perfect sendoff from Patagonia. I cannot get over the landscape and people we found, especially in El Calafate. I recommend this place to anyone coming to Patagonia. We did so much but there is so much more to do! For now, we must say goodbye as Jenny and I fly back to Buenos Aires. Caio!

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Argentina – Ushuaia

Thursday morning we woke up at our hostel in San Telmo and rushed to get ready for the airport and our shuttle. Unfortunately, in the early morning chaos I forgot my camera 😦 I remember putting it in its case, but I don’t remember putting it in a bag and I didn’t have it at the airport. Luckily Jenny has a camera and we are making due with that and our iPhones. After a ridiculously long baggage check line, we boarded our 3.5 hour flight directly south to Ushuaia. This town is called “The End of the World” and served as a refueling port for boats circumnavigating the Americas or on their way to Antarctica. We were met by our travel agency and taken to Hotel Los Ñines just outside of town. It is an adorable, European-inspired winter hotel. We look out over the Beagle Channel and stare up at wooden-framed ceilings.

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After checking in, we added a few layers (it’s only 40 degrees here!) and caught the free shuttle into the center of town. It was raining so we decided to knock out the Maritime Museum and Prison Museum first thing. This was a combined network of information situated in the former prison. It was actually quite fascinating and I recommend it to anyone who finds themselves in town. After that we enjoyed a late lunch (it was probably 4pm by this time) of cordero (lamb) pizza with a side of smashed pumpkin. The pizza was very good and gave us a flavor of the Italian influence and local meat. We wandered around town a bit more after that until our shuttle arrived at 7:30 to take us home. Since the sun stays up until after 10pm, we enjoyed a snack of assorted dark chocolates and worked on various projects in our room.

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Yesterday morning started with a continental breakfast of ham, cheese, amazing croissants, fruit, and yogurt. At 8:30am we departed on our tour in a van with six other tourists, a driver and our guide Anna. On the agenda was Tierra del Fuego National Park which spans hundreds of miles at the very tip of Argentina and Chile. Our first stop was the End of the World Train where we dropped off those guests who had booked this excursion. We hadn’t and were soon glad since it was only an hour and through a rather boring section of the park. Skip this!

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Instead of the train, four of us went on to Ensenada Zaratiergui where we did a short nature hike. We learned about the four species of trees that grow in the park, saw a few sea birds, and enjoyed stretching our legs while taking in our surroundings. Before leaving this spot, we stopped in the most southern post office in the world. It’s run by one man and sits on a pier in the cove here. It was a really cool experience going in and meeting the manager!

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After picking up our four train friends, we traveled to Lago Roca, a large lake further into the forrest. We saw a mountain whose base was in Argentina and whose peak was in Chile. Go figure! Continuing on, we next stopped at Bahia Lapataia, the bay that sits at the end of route 3. This marks the end of the Pan American Highway, which starts some 17,848km (??? miles) away in Alaska. There was a nice walking path with bridges over the marshes there and we enjoyed exploring for a while. Then it was back in the bus to head into town.

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We had lunch at Chiko, where I ordered merzula (sp?) aka sucking fish, which is native to these waters. It was so good and warm, which was important. We made the decision at this point to switch our tickets from the shorter boat excursion that afternoon to the longer boat excursion Saturday morning. The reason for that choice was to add Penguin Island onto the lighthouse and sea life tour. Both our guide and the tour office supported our choice and we were happy with it too… Who doesn’t want to see penguins?!

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With our newly acquired free time, we went back to hotel for cash and minor wardrobe changes before a quick u-turn into town for shopping. Our first stop was Laguna Negra for free hot chocolate from our tour. We also bought an alfajor de maizena, which is a lemon shortbread cookie with dulce de leche sandwiched in the middle. Delicious! We manage to find a few unique souvenirs and then went back to hotel on the 7:30pm bus. We opted for a simple steak and seafood soup dinner at the hotel restaurant since we’d been running around all day. We didn’t eat until 9:30pm and the place was still empty as we were ahead of the rush, lol.

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This morning we were up early and enjoyed the same continental breakfast as Friday. We checked out of our room and left our bags with the front desk. Then we called for a taxi to town so we could catch our boat tour. Unfortunately, in the biggest disappointment of the trip so far, the harbor was closed due to wind 😦 Jenny and I were both fairly upset about this, for good reason. We had been told that there was a chance the Penguin Island portion would be cancelled due to weather but that the harbor rarely closed altogether. So by gambling on penguins we missed the chance to go see the lighthouse and sea life. But what could we do about it now? Either way penguins would not have been possible due to the weather and we can’t control that!

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We were told there was a slight chance the harbor would reopen if the winds died down and we might be able to squeeze in the short tour (no penguins). So while we waited for that verdict, we took a cab 7K out of town to Glacier Martial, home of the most southern ski runs. They weren’t in snow but we hiked up and around for a while before we began our descent. The panoramic views of Ushuaia and Beagle Channel were breath-taking and the sun was out for the first time since we arrived. Unfortunately, it was still too windy for the boats so we now had plenty of time on our hands.

After a cup of tea to help us brainstorm other ideas, we finally decided on the Museo del Fin del Mundo (museum of the end of the world). The cashier was sick so we got in for free, which was great! It was quite small and while informative, nothing like the Maritime and Prison Museum from the day before. Still feeling bummed about the boat, we finished our exploration of Ushuaia and headed to the airport. Ultimately, highlights were Tierra del Fuego National Park and the first museum. Oh, and being at the end of the world 🙂 That’s all for now, next up… Glaciers!!

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