29 December 2014

Family Reunited!

We had the very great pleasure of hosting our daughter, her boyfriend and our son for one week over the holidays.  Instead of spending the holiday on the boat as we had anticipated in the summer, we stayed at an elegant three bedroom apartment in downtown B.A. Built in 1903, the building had great “bones”.  The landlords of Cuban ancestry, live in NYC where they are both professors.  As he told me on the phone, about ten years ago they fell in love with B.A., purchased an apartment in the bustling center of town - they were Manhattanites, after all - and restored the space to it’s original splendour.  And, although a bit tired, a characteristic of much of B.A., it was perfect for the family reunion.
A courtyard with parilla in distance and beyond that a "galley" kitchen and bathroom.  Not bad at all!
We were very busy touring with the kids.  We walked a lot,
Streets are a touch dirty.
biked a bit,

ambled through San Telmo street market one afternoon,
Em, Gid and Tom found Peter a guitarra in this market shop
watched tango,

were saddened by watching the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo,

talked, laughed, went to the horseraces,

explored Cementerio de la Recoleta,
Emily helping the man in black hold up a branch of a huge  Ficca tree.
sampled shop-made perfumes (very cool)

and bought, prepared and ate huge quantities of food in house or at assorted restaurants. More on food later!

We decided to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at home.  Four of us walked to a special food shopping area and bought steak, salmon, chicken, a beautiful spinach pie, smoked salmon, eggs, wine, beer, champagne, fruits, vegetables etc. etc. at numerous specialty shops.  I tried to ask the owner of the fish shop where we could buy fish hooks in the city.  He gave me his hook out of a hat and suggested putting our picture on his wall of “huge fish” fishing photos when we caught one.  We’ll see!  My biggest to date is a sunfish from Danford Lake.

All this food was consumed over two days culminating with steak and salmon grilled on the in-house parilla.  Canadian kettle barbeques are nothing to the Argentinian parilla.  An open brick oven with a hanging grill that can lower or rise with a handle, a special light to watch the meat - remember, Argentinians eat at 10 p.m. - huge chunks of charcoal and a natural gas torch are all part of the mix.  Luckily we were able to figure out how to use it with a Google search.  The trick to the wonderful taste of Argentinian grilling is apparently “long and slow”.  Steaks cook for two hours??  We managed 45 minutes and they were delicious, as was the rest.

At midnight on Christmas Eve, B.A. erupted with fireworks.  The narrowness of the single-laned street we lived on did not stop our neighbours from enjoying the tradition. Children and men lit the rockets and crackers from the center of the road or from a balcony railing, setting the rocket in a wine bottle so it would shoot straight into the air instead of into a window.  Slightly unnerving as we watched from our balcony!  The crackers were not ordinary cherry bombs that I remember from childhood. They exploded with a flash and a chest-pounding bang.  The neighbour seemed to have an unending supply.  The occasional bang was still heard over the next 24 hours.

Most exciting, the five of us took a trip to see Milly.  Peter and I have been twice since last post and she is just on the verge of being ready to splash.  It was wonderful to see our own excitement reflected in our children’s faces.  Both are sailors, both understand our desire to cruise and both hope to join us as much as possible. And we ardently hope so, too! Although unfortunate not to enjoy this holiday on the water, the next holiday was tangible.  Our kids approved of the boat! and that made Peter and I very happy.

It was a busy, happy week.  We are always sad to say good-bye but each child is returning to exciting times. Emily is very happy with her sweet boyfriend and works as senior editor for The Coveteur, travelling to interesting locations - Columbia next week - to do “shoots”.  Tom is on the Canadian Sailing Team, campaigning in a laser for the 2016 Olympics. If you are interested in making a donation and being part of his support team, visit his website tomramshaw.com.  :)  And Peter and I are off to sail the world.  Sad to be so distant but we are already looking forward to the next reunion….on Milly!!

Meanwhile, thank goodness for Skype/Facetime!

24 December 2014

Feliz Navidad!

One of the things I miss most about being away from home at Christmas is having a tree.  Ours was always a spruce, smelled woodsy and was decorated with predominately red decorations collected over the years of our children’s childhoods, lit with tiny white lights.  Very tasteful - in my opinion, anyway! 

Christmas preparation in B.A. is far more understated than North America’s hype, not getting going until mid December.  In hot and humid weather, the pine or spruce Christmas tree is missing - really a good thing as it would need to be cut and imported a ridiculous, environmentally-unfriendly distance.  The tree is still here though, either in faux form or teepee-shaped by rods, lit and decorated.  My daughter and I consider ourselves tree aficionados and so we were on the lookout for the best.

Here are a few of the highlights:

In the main boulevard of Puerto Iguazu, a small palm with a diminutive, faux tree plopped on top.

At the “international” airport in Puerto Iguazu, a patriotic tree sporting the Argentinian colours.

A HUGE upside down cone outside the Casa Rosada in B.A.  The Casa is the presidential palace where Evita and Peron orated from the balcony to thousands!

The teepee-like tree outside the Teatro Colon 

My favourite, a sweet tree inside, El Federal, reportedly the oldest bar in the city.  Shows my traditional taste!

…and, the piece de resistance, an incredible Nativity Scene - the picture does not do it justice - with every character (seemed like at least one hundred) in life-size realistic forms including soldiers, three kings sitting on thrones, lots of shepherds, cherubic angels, innkeeper and guests, numerous animals - elephants, donkeys, camels - Mary and Joseph of course, unknown characters standing at I think was a bar, maybe lunching? etc. etc.  No Jesus though.  I guess he appears tonight.

We have enjoyed our Christmas prep and look forward to experimenting on the in-house parilla tomorrow.  No intestines or sweetbreads.  No turkey.  Just steak and salmon. 

We wish you a very Merry Christmas!  Enjoy!


14 December 2014

Cataratas del Iguazu

We have just returned from two full days exploring the Cataratas del Iguazu.  Our book at home titled something like “A Thousands Things To Do Before You Die” includes Iguazu Falls way up on the list so, of course, it was a must-do on ours.  

And it did not disappoint!  The Cataratas includes 275 individual saltos or falls in multiple levels and ranging from dramatic churning water that soaks the onlooker to idyllic, high and slender falls reminiscent of novels set in paradise.  They curve around the river on a 2.7 km cliff across Brazil and Argentina borders.  Unlike Niagara surrounded by cement and development, the Cataratas are situated in 2,250 square km of Brazilian and Argentinian national rainforest, a green and verdant canopy, punctuated by falling water.  

Day One saw us on the move for 12 hours.  First, visiting a bird sanctuary where toucans, flamingos, parrots, owls, eagles etc. etc. were saved from vanishing habitat or from humans plundering feathers.  Not being “zoo” people, we were surprised to be fully and happily occupied for almost three hours. 

Next, off to the “Brazilian side” - a bit more developed but with gorgeous vistas and upclose fall encounters when we were soaked by the cloud of spray augmented by a sudden downpour. 

After that, taken by our driver! for the day, to the Argentina side.  This side is set up with trails for getting a more intimate view of the water rushing over the top, water falling down and water splashing into the pools at the bottom.  Here we saw monkeys feasting on the water and roots of epiphytes in the trees above us, koatie families - a racoon like animal, not my favourite - scavenging at “Tropicanas” or, more naturally, digging in the earth, iguanas sunning on the paths and skittering into the bush and hundreds of magical butterflies of all sizes and vibrant colours.

Day Two we had a later start and shorter day, walking 8 km round trip on a path through the rainforest to an isolated and slender stream of water falling more than 100 m. into a round pool surrounded by trees, vines and rocks.  Determined to enjoy what seemed like our first encounter with stereotypical paradise, we braved the murky water.  Sadly and despite the sensational beauty of the falls, the water itself is not so pretty.  Because the trees of the rainforest upriver  are being cut without foresight or planning, the earth is eroding into the rivers.  The water which used to be crystal clear, is now muddy and brown.  In this idyllic pool which we could wade across, we could not see our feet, slightly off-putting when the day before we had seen poisonous watersnakes in the sanctuary that were long, fat and scary.  This was forefront in my imaginative mind but determined to experience the falling water, I waded/dog-paddled across the pool and thoroughly enjoyed the shower.

On our return trip along the path we were startled by a pair of very large lizzards, one giving chase to the other for love or for war, only the lizzard knows.  In either case, they hurtled down the path to toward us, seemingly galloping, springing inches above the path on a collision course with us.  The sight stopped me cold in my tracks but quick-witted Peter did a stomping dance.  Off the lead went into the bush. The second stopped turned and sauntered with a “who cares” nonchalance back from whence he came - I may wrongly assume that the chaser was a he.  Sorry, we were not quick enough on the draw with the camera for a picture but those lizzards were so big....no fishing story, here.  The sign even forewarned us!

Our days in the parks were memorable and wonderful.  Equally so were our mornings and evenings spent with our characterful host in The Secret Garden B&B, Puerto Iguazu.  But more about that in another post. 

Addendum:  No boat update last week.  Our plans to visit Milly on Monday before our Tuesday departure for Iguazu, were scuppered due to a national holiday for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, unbeknownst to us!  We plan a trip this week.

4 December 2014

Milly - December 2, 2014

We have visited our Milly again and, after an 8 week absence, she is well on her way to “splash”, still anticipated as before Dec 20.  However, we have been warned of and are prepared for possible hiccups, delaying the splash until after January 6, mainly because of the holidays.  In either case commissioning will follow for 3 weeks or so and then she is ours!

Imagine the blue as white - the blue plastic is a covering to protect the finishes during the build - and the background as blue sea and blue sky.  That’ll be us in about 8 weeks or so once we leave the River Plate.  Note the helm chair is in place!

The galley.  Under the white plastic is beautiful cherry wood.  Antares makes a great galley that I can’t wait to work in.

Looks complicated?  It is!

Our cabin.  It’s almost done…apparently.

Port side.  Signs of lots of work going on.  Where are the workers?  We timed our visit for their lunch break so we wouldn’t interrupt any progress.

We are very excited, needless to say, and plan to make a visit once a week.  Will keep you posted in pictures.