I could write about how beautiful Ushuaia, Argentina is. Or, I could write about the wildlife or the beauty of Tierra del Fuego. But I already wrote about my experiences here. So I am going to just share the pictures again and remember the time I was at the end of the world. I hope you enjoy my memories of Ushuaia as much as I enjoyed making them.
I had a remarkable travel year in 2012. Here is a list of the of some of the highlights of my travel adventures.
Buenos Aires: I rang in 2012 at a special tango show and fell in love with Argentina. I stayed at Maggie’s B&B — great location just off Avenue de Mayo and Maggie was very friendly and helpful.
Punto del Estes, Uruguay: While it was very cold in Toronto, on January 3, 2012, I was basking in the sun on a beautiful beach watching a lab puppy take its first steps into the ocean.
Montevideo, Uruguay: I had no set plans for wandering around Montevideo, however as soon as I walked off the ship, I was met by a very friendly tour guide who arranged a small tour for 5 of us in a van. It was a great way to see the city. At the end, we were dropped off in the city centre where we wandered through the streets before returning to the ship.
Puerto Madryn, Argentina: Who would have thought that Welsh was spoken here — brought from Welsh immigrants who settled in this part of Patagonia. Desolute, yet beautiful, I had a proper Welsh tea, complete with scones and clotted cream in Gaimen and saw some of the local wildlife — in the form of sea lions. A couple of them even tried to board a ship!
Cape Horn, Chile: I’ve already talked about this in an earlier post. It is still one of my highlights of my travel adventures — to “round the Cape” while schooners of old.
Ushuaia, Argentina: This is another place I cannot talk enough about — from the beauty of the mountains and Tierra Del Fuego National Park, to the quaintness of the city, to more wildlife, more isolation, and the gateway to Antarctica. Yes, I will want to come back here and spend more time. It is stunningly beautiful!
Sailing through the Beagle Channel: How could I forget standing on the deck of the ship in a formal dress and taking pictures of the massive glaciers that line the sides of this waterway. I am still surprised I got any pictures, as I was shivering! But every time I thought I was head back inside to the warmth, I would caught a glimpse of a new wonder — and would stay outside, mesmerized by the beauty.
Punta Arenas, Chile: Not only a nice place place to stop for handicrafts, but also a great place to see wildlife. I went to Ottway Sound to see a colony of Magellanic penguins — penguins are just too cute! Then is was a chance to visit the market in the centre of town.
Puerto Montt: While the town is not really much to see, once we were outside, there were volcanoes, waterfalls, and lakes! Plus an amazing lunch of local fish and pisco sours!
Valpairso, Chile: The sad part is leaving the ship — it was the best cruise I’d ever taken — but Valpairso is very interesting and close to nice beaches and a wine country that reminded me of Napa Valley.
Santiago, Chile: I think by now on my journey, I was getting tired and it was really hot — not a good combination for me. But I did see some interesting things and got a great sunset picture!
And this ends part one of my travel year in review!
In the heart of the Argentinian Patagonia is an area settled by Welsh immigrants in the 1800s. Gaimen is a town of 6,000 where Welsh is still taught in school and all things Welsh are celebrated. It is also a very nice place for a cup of tea — and very close to a large sea lion colony.
I did not know what I would expect when I sailed to Ushuaia, Argentina. Officially, this is the southern-most city in the world.
This became one of my favorite places I visited during my last trip. Here are some highlights of what I saw here.
Getting on a catamaran, I was able to see lots of birds, sea lions, and a sea elephant, a lighthouse, and beautiful scenery. You can easily arrange a catamaran tour at the port of Ushuaia. There are several companies that arrange these. The trips tend to take you out into the Beagle Channel to go by several islands that are homes to sea birds and sea lions.
This island was called Sea Wolf Island. Not really sure why — but it had the largest colony of sea lions in this area of the Beagle Channel. It was also home to several large colonies of different species of sea birds. I got several pictures of interactions between the sea lions and the birds. This one is one of my favorite pictures although I also have one the looks like a bird and a sea lion are actually kissing!
Finally, we sailed past the “Lighthouse at the end of the World.” There are actually 3 that have this title in the area between Cape Horn and Ushuaia. This particular one is the largest of the three.
Ushuaia is amazing! More photos and stories to come as I write about sailing to Tierra del Fuego National Park and the Fin del Mundo Post Office.
Here are just some of my favourite things in Buenos Aires– and a few tips I learned along the way
I loved staying at Maggie’s B&B. Several friends suggested that I stay in the Palermo area which is very nice, but I did not find the Subte (Metro) connections very good there and that is one thing I always look for when I travel – how close am I to city transportation hubs. Maggie’s B&B is just a block and a half from Ave. de Mayo with easy access to walk most places – or take the Subte (more below). Maggie’s apartment is in an older building with a century-old elevator that reminded me of the one in the movie Thoroughly Modern Millie (although I do not think I would tap dance in it). The rooms were clean, bright and comfortable. Maggie is also very generous with information about Buenos Aires and helped me to acclimate to the city and how to get around it. Breakfasts were simple but good – I loved the homemade marmalade! Using skeleton keys was an interesting experience but I also like how it just added to the charm. Above all, Maggie is very warm and charming and I hope to stay there again on future visits to Buenos Aires – I do not think once is enough, especially since I planned my trip during a holiday weekend. What was I thinking!
The Subte: The A Line runs underneath Ave. de Mayo and is an experience all to itself! It still has the old, wooden cars that first ran along this line in 1913 – making it the oldest subway inLatin America. One thing to remember – the British built this line, so the trains’ direction is opposite the way traffic runs. I made this mistake, and had to get off, cross the street, and head in the “right” direction! Fortunately, the ticket takers helped me and I did not have to pay a second time (although the cost is $0.70 a ticket).
Tango Shows: There are different forms of tango – the type performed at a tango show and the types performed in the milongas. Tango shows are really for tourists, however they are fun and I think a “must see” especially if you only have a few days to spare. I went to Piazzolla Tango. The space is beautiful – an old-style theatre with balcony box seats above the main floor. I was seated in the box seats with a couple fromSao Paulo,Brazil. This was my New Year’s Eve treat, so the show was a bit more expensive than it usually is. The food was ok – I have to say the steak I got was one of the largest pieces of meat I’ve ever seen on a plate! We also had a bottle of red wine on our table – and could have requested more. The desserts were great! We got one with dinner, and then there was a dessert table setup for the New Year’s party after the show. The show was wonderful – good performances from the dancers, the band and the singers. Personally, I want the dresses worn by the female singer – they would fit me perfectly! I also liked how she danced a bit, showing that sometimes the simplest tango is just as passionate as the “fancy” lifts.
The Hop-on Hop-off bus: This can be a good option to get around Buenos Aires, especially to visit some areas that are not connected via the Subte and you are not up to figuring out the strange bus routes. That said, there are some things to help you make this a viable option. Buy your ticket online! You get a discount, you do not have to stand in line, and, if they are “full”, you are still guaranteed a spot. Some additional “tricks” if you have not bought a ticket online, go to the main stop (stop 0: at Diagonal Norte and Florida) to get a ticket – and if it is a weekend, go around 8:30. The service starts at 9 – and this should give you a good chance of getting on the bus and giving you a full day to “hop off” and see things. Or give you time to take the 3 hour tour then take a nice nap during the real heat of the day! The lines were very long and they were turning people away that first two days I was in Buenos Aires. The last day, I got up early and got on the second bus that starts at 9:30 – and by the time we go to the 6th stop at Caminito, they were turning people away who did not already have a ticket – even though there were spaces on the bus! I did enjoy the tour and I was able to see a few places that my walking just did not get me to!
Cafe Tortoni is consider by many to be a must see place – however because of this, it can be hard to get into because of the long line of tourists waiting to get in to see the beautiful tiffany lamps, etc. However, go, it you do get a chance! It is a nice way to start the day and an easy walk down Ave. de Mayo to Casa Rosada (the Pink House) and the Plaza de Mayo. In fact, it is an easy walk from the Plaza de Mayo to the Plaza del Congresso – and there are a number of wonderful places to see along the way!
Palacio Barolo Building – near the Saenz Pena Subte stop, Line A (or halfway between Plaza de Mayo and Plaza del Congresso) – is an amazing building but I found it difficult to take really good pictures of it from the from side. Fortunately for me, my room at Maggie’s gave me the best view and I have great pictures of the back!
Want some peace and quiet in the midst of a busy city? Head to Plaza Francia and its neighbouring attraction, the Recoleta Cemetery. I love my stroll through this space – then again I also loved strolling through Père Lachaise Cemetery inParis! Maybe I just have a thing for cemeteries with unique architecture! Regardless – this is a great place to see and the opportunities for great pictures are phenomenal!
San Telmo and the Sunday Antiques Fair is a must-see! Expect crowds of people – but also expect the unexpected – music, tango dancing, gauchos, art – just get lost in the magic!
More to come on my favourite things in Buenos Aires!
Ushuaia, Argentina Day 11
Another long day today with sunrise at 5:11 AM and sunset at 10:08 PM. We arrived at Ushuaia at 7 AM and I had a long day in store with a trip that included a catamaran sail to several islands to see wildlife, the Lighthouse at the End of the World, and to finally head to Tierra Del Fuego National Park. Ushuaia is the largest and southern-most city in the world. It is also a gateway city to some incredible land and sea adventures, including excursions to Antartica.
My day started with a quick breakfast, then off to get ready for my tour. Once we were loaded on the catamaran, we headed out into the bay for a trip to Sea Wolves Island – basically, this is just about any island where you can find sea lions and other associated birds. We saw them in the water before we got to the different islands! WOW … there were so many terns (birds). They look like penguins until they spread their wings and fly! Then there were the sea lions themselves. There was one creature that was completely different than the rest – much larger in size than even the male sea lions. At first, I questioned with it was even an animal – it was so still and blended a bit with the colour of the island rocks. But then I saw her eyes and I knew I was seeing a lone sea elephant. The guide mentioned her – no one knows why she is here or why she is alone, but she seems to be ok living on this island with the rest of the sea lions and birds. It seemed sad since sea elephants normally live in very large colonies, but she had a bit of the beach all to herself and probably all the fish she would like to eat. We then headed further out to see the lighthouse before coming back and passing by a few more islands with sea lions and birds. Then we headed to Lapataia Bay. On the way, the scenery just kept getting better and better. I also met some new friends.
I kept seeing this guy on the ship that looked like Pagan. He was on the catamaran and I got a picture of him so I could show everyone – then I noticed his jewelry and some of it looked familiar. So, I decided to tell him that he looked like a friend – and I used a few words that he might catch onto – and after a few minutes of “dancing around topics” we identified some people that we know in common from Sacramento and Ireland. He introduced me to his wife, who was taking a lot of pictures just like me – and we had a great time enjoying the scenery. He laughed when I noticed the horses and told “Rhiannon” that yes, I would get a picture of Her horses.
Ushuaia sits at the southern tip of a island called Tierra del Fuego which is half Argentinian and half Chilean. The name “land of fire” comes from how the explorers first saw the island – the native people, Yamanas, kept a fire burning all the time so it looked like the land was covered with fire. Most of Tierra de Fuego is a National Park managed by both countries. It has interesting trees and plant life and it was nice to get out and see nature. This park also has some great areas to camp, so it is popular by locals and backpackers.
One of our stops in this park took us to the post office at El Fin del Mondo – the “end of the world” – where you can get your passport or postcard stamped with an “El Fin del Mundo” mark. I had seen this little post office that sits on a pier overlooking Lapataia Bay on a travel show that I watch – and it looked exactly like the show!
We ended our tour in the centre of Ushuaia where we could do some shopping. I had seen a lot of pieces made from a stone known as the “Rose of the Incas” and so I looked at a few pieces for possible gifts. As the name suggests, the stone is pink in colour – so maybe I was looking more for myself.
Back on the ship, I started downloading the latest collection of photos and discovered I am running out of room on my computer for pictures! It just happened to have a couple of flash drives tucked into my purse, so I spent a little time shuffling files so that I can download files. I may have to purchase a flash drive to ensure I have everything!
We had another formal night dinner, which included (for me) oysters Rockefeller, spicy avocado soup, Steak Oscar, and a chocolate Bombe. We also took pictures of our dinner family before rushing out to see the glaciers of the Beagle Channel. These glaciers are named the Holande, Italia, Francia, Alemania and Romanche Glaciers. I think I liked the Romanache Glacier the best as it reminded me of the shape of the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, but there were surprises through this passage!
The theatre show was “Boogie Nights, based on the show playing on London’s West End and featuring disco. It was a lot of fun.
I ended this perfect day dancing and an end to a perfect day. This really had to be one of the most perfect days. The sea was not too rough, the temperature was not too cold, and the wind was there – but not bad. Again, the last cruise through here was not able to dock due to 60 knot winds. We have been very lucky!
On to Chile and Puerto Arenas!
Puerto Madryn Day 8
I can have eggs benedict every day! I had to walk past the “feeding frenzy” at the front part of the buffet dining room and there it was –tucked away in a corner – a cook who makes “made to order” poached egg delights. No, he cannot make Eggs Pagan and he does not have back bacon, but there is Hollandaise sauce and he will give me extra (like Pagan does)!
Today, we docked in an interesting part of the world — Puerto Madryn. This city was founded by 150 Welsh immigrants and it was named after the estate of the trip’s financier, Sir Thomas Duncombe Love Jones-Parry after his estate in northern Wales. The immigrants wanted a chance to keep their culture, language and traditions alive – yet I think they may have been shocked at the desolate landscape awaiting them here at in the heart of Patagonia. Welsh is still taught and spoken in this area and you can see from some of the very simple churches and original buildings that there is still a very strong Welsh influence. There was also a native tribe living in this area, the Tehuelche, who were described as being very tall (the men around 7 ft., and women around 6 ft.), with very long, straight hair.
Puerto Madryn is also a gateway to the Valdes Peninsula, home of large colony of sea elephants, Punta Tombo, where you can see one of the largest colonies of Magellan penguins (upwards to 2 million), and Punta Loma, home to a large colony of breeding sea lions and sea birds.
I took a tour that included Welsh Tea in the little Welsh community of Gaiman, and then it was on to see the colony of sea lions – with a few coromonts thrown in for good measure! These birds are also called Rock Shags in this area. The tea was fun – and I now have a Welsh apron to add to the collection! And I got LOTS of pictures of the sea lions and birds – I’m even getting great shots of birds flying! It takes patience, something I seem to be exploring on this trip.
The landscape is very harsh – small shrubs, little water, and sand. But there is diversity in this landscape and some amazing plants. The weather is also very changeable – with the wind shifting quickly to the south, with brings much colder air. Seems strange to say that the cold air comes from the south!
I guess I should warn my friend now — You don’t want to know how many pictures I’ve taken …
While waiting for dinner, I saw a small group of sea lions at the pier, including one that was trying to get on the ship! OK, I tried to bring my new beau home, but security stopped him from boarding. It is all very sad and I will miss him.
Dinner was nice, as usual – crab cakes, broccoli-cheese soup, stuffed quail with mushrooms and truffle, and soufflé with Grand Marnier sauce, a special dessert from our waiter. Afterwards, I went to the show. It was a magic show “Kyle Knight & Mistie in Knight Magic” (www.knightmagic.com). The show was a lot of fun and very interactive.
Back at my bar, I got an Espresso Martini – trust me this will NOT keep you awake – and met a couple from Monterey California who are on their honeymoon and who travel a lot.
Buenos Aires Day 4
There was a change in the rhythm today – you could sense it. It was like a new energy was surging through everything and there was a new purpose to the day. I was up early—Maggie even earlier. Not only did she have to prepare for my departure, but for the arrival of a group who were going to take over her whole apartment – and she was packing her things to stay elsewhere! But, as with everything about staying with Maggie, she was warm and giving – a proper hostess!
For me, this was my last time on this trip to see “everything I need to see” before heading off to new places. I thought I would try the hop on, hop off bus one more time and if I got to the ticket office when they opened, maybe I’d have a chance! So I was out on the streets early – and it seemed that there were a lot of people out and about this time.
I thought I would save my poor feet and ride on the oldest subway line in South America – especially since the A Line goes along the Ave. de Mayo. So, for 0.70 peso (yes, that it 70 cents) I got to ride on a wooden subway car where you have to open the door – and if you are not careful you can open it while the car is moving! Of course, wrong-direction Catherine had to get on the first time going the wrong way, but with some assistance, I was able to squeeze in to a very full car and head on my way.
There was a line at the ticket office for the bus tour, however it was not like previous days – and so I was able to get a ticket and on the bus. Next time, I will remember to do this online and just show my voucher – you get a discount and you get to go to the front of the line! There are 20 stops along the way at major attractions or you can stay on for the whole loop which gives you a ~3 hours. If I time it right, I would be able to do the tour, get tango shoes (the shop was near where I got the bus) and be back to Maggie’s before the next group arrived!
I will not go into complete details on the bus tour – I will go into more details and include pictures for that. But I did get to see the Boca Juniors Stadium; Caminito, the artist’s block; The other side of Puerto Madero that I did not walk to the day before; Plaza San Martin, the English Clock Tower; the Argentina Polo Field; the Flower sculpture; Barrio Chino; the largest mosque in South America; and the Opera House where the first opera ever done there was Aida – just like the opera house in Palermo! See, this will be much better with pictures and descriptions! Once cool thing I have to mention because I’m not sure I got a good picture of this – there are people who travel around Buenos Aires in a little horse-pulled cart who go around collection recycling (plastics, paper, etc.). I thought it was interesting and the horse I saw was wearing a little straw hat! Anyway, 3 plus hours later, it was off to buy shoes!
Did I mention I hate shoe shopping? Alanis is a great place to go and she really knows feet and how to get you into the right style and size. I told her that I wear a 38 European. She looked at my feet and said, “You’ve got short, wide feet – you need a 37 wide.” She started pulling out the most appropriate shoes for me (including a pale pink pair). But then I had another problem. Remember all my walking the day before? Well, my favourite pair of walking sandals did not like it and I now had blisters that prevented me from being able to try on the shoes to ensure a proper fit – so no shoes this time. I really do hate shoe shopping. I hobbled on my sore feet back to Maggie’s to prepare to leave for the ship.
I loved staying at Maggie’s B&B. My room was perfect. I slept well and had a great view. I got all sorts of advice – stay in Palermo or Recoleta areas, etc. While both of these neighbourhoods were very nice, I prefer a more central location – especially if there is a lot of character. And let’s face it – skeleton keys, a 100 year old elevator, a beautiful, homey feel and even a bird sitting on a nest on one of the window planter boxes! I like being central to the historic district as well as able to walk to San Telmo. Maggie can also tell you a lot about the tango “scene” and can help direct you to some of the best places to go. When I come back to Buenos Aires – because you know I will – I will try to stay at Maggie’s again!
Last thing Maggie did for me is call a radio taxi to drive me to the cruise port, since Nicco was not available this time. We left together Jimmy drove me to the port. Did I mention driving in Buenos Aires? While there are clearly marked lanes on the road, these lane markers are really more of a suggestion than and actually way to keep multiple lines of vehicles from careening into each other – although I did not witness an accident, there were a few close calls.
Check-in for the ship was quick and easy and before I knew it, I was doing a tour of the ship to see where everything was – then I headed to the pools because I wanted to cool off from the heat. There is a Solarium with a hydro-spa pool – and the water was warm. Then there is the outdoor pool and that was perfect – cool and wonderful! Both are salt water pools, something I really like.
So, I sat by the pool for a bit and just settled into this new rhythm.
I had an early seating for dinner at Table 308. When I got to my table, I met Scott from Denmark. Then came 3 ladies from North Carolina who travel together – Donna, Gay and Gail. The Wine Steward, Richard, joked that Scott need there to be two more women to complete his table – and then there were two more – Judy and Mary – who are cousins – Judy is from Austin, Texas and Mary is from St. Louis, Missouri. Our waiter is Herman from Indonesia and our assistant waiter is Diana. For dinner I had a goat cheese tart, mushroom soup, prime rib and puff pastries with praline ice cream and chocolate sauce – and Spanish wine. It is a lively and entertaining group.
The first night’s show was just an into to what to expect for entertainment on the ship. There were, of course, tango dancers along with the regular cruise ship singers and dancers. The band is very good and there is an amazing Spanish guitarist.
So much for my last day in Buenos Aires and my first day at sea.