On South America’s French Riviera

LOCATION:  Punta del Este, Uruguay, then at sea onboard Azamara Pursuit
WEATHER:  A bit humid.  Sunny.  High 80

We  anchored outside of Punta del Este around 7:30 AM.

At breakfast, George tried the typical Uruguayan “chivita” sandwich.  It is a ham and cheese sandwich on a grilled baguette with bacon and a fried egg.  Later when we were in town, I saw “chivitarias” where they sell these.

Tenders took us into the port.  Punta del Este is called the French Riviera of South America.  The port is so different from Montevideo’s, which was full of container ships.  Here there are  lots of yachts and fishing boats.  Fancy seafood restaurants line the harbor.  Punta del Este is a tourist town, popular among wealthy Argentines and Uruguayans. 

A single lady from Germany/Mexico that we have befriended walked  with us around the small city.  We walked along the waterfront, admiring beautiful beach houses.  We saw sea lions and lots of birds, including thousands of wild parakeets. 

George and I will be staying here for about a week after our 2nd cruise.  So today, we tried to find the condo where we will be staying.  We found the general area, and stopped in a coffee shop there to use the wifi.  I think we will enjoy Punta del Este for a week. 

We returned to the ship around noon, as we had a 1:30 departure.  After lunch in the poolside cafe, we listened to the house band at a “Sail Away” party.

This elderly couple are a hoot.  At every music venue, they are out on the floor dancing….and they dance really well.  The guy has a lot of sexy moves, and they really seem to be having a lot of fun.

Later, I did a “Ladies Pamper Party” in the spa where they gave us facials with lots of nice products.  Of course, they tried to sell them to us afterwards.    Here I am with my “new” face…

We have enjoyed meeting fellow passengers.  At the cocktail hour today, we chatted with a couple from Savannah who just returned from an African safari, with experiences similar to ours a few years ago.  Then later, we met a couple from Germany who will be on part of the World Cruise that we are taking in 2024.  They want to get together with us to chat more later.

DINNER:  We ate in the main restaurant.  George  ordered escargots for an appetizer.  I tasted one – pretty good.  For the main course, George had venison which he said was superb.  I had a Korean eggplant appetizer as my main.  He tried the Dulce de Leche cake for dessert.  Very moist and tasty.

Tonight’s entertainment was a Canadian comedian.  His act was about funny things that happen to you when you travel.  There were a lot of Canadians in the audience, who appreciated his jokes poking fun at Canada. 

Again, to bed around 10:00.  If we stayed up, we could have gone to a dance with a live band at 10:00, and then to a disco with a DJ at 11:00.  Maybe later in the cruise we will do this. 

Another day exploring Montevideo

LOCATION:  Montevideo, Uruguay on board the Azamara Pursuit
WEATHER:  Another nice one.  High 82

We moored overnight in Montevideo so were able to return to town to continue our exploration.  The port is mostly commercial with containers and container ships filling the area.  We have to take a shuttle bus through the container traffic, for safety.

We walked around the Old City, found a nice bar/restaurant with wifi, and sipped on drinks while we used their wifi. 

When we returned to our cabin, an expert on Uruguay was on the TV comparing Uruguay to…. Iowa!  There are a lot of similarities, he said – similar population, more animals (cows/pigs) than people, similar size, and under-appreciation of the state/country,  and excellent education.  The similarities certainly end with the weather and location. …..it is pretty warm here all year long, and is located on the water….

We napped in our stateroom in the afternoon.  We were a little taken aback by the crewman washing our window! 

We then explored the ship some more – found a ping pong table, a few cozy rooms for games, a library, and specialty restaurants.  Unlike most cruises, there is no casino here.  It is much more low-key, not a party group.

We listened to some live music  over appetizers and drinks – in 2 different bars. 

We ate dinner in the main restaurant.  George had rack of lamb and I had two appetizers – a tuna poke’ bowl and a slice of pate’.  Trying to eat quality, not quantity. 

We joined the Captain’s Welcome Party.  He (from Finland) introduced the senior staff.  It is so interesting to see how multi-cultured the officers are –  from Brazil, Ukraine, UK, Philippines, Poland, Canada, and Indonesia.  Most of the support staff seem to be from Ukraine, Russia, and Indonesia.  (Unlike the Princess cruise where almost all were Filipino).   The boat’s capacity is 700, but there are only 472 of us, with 392 staff, equally multi-cultural. 

Then, the house band put on a show, introducing us to all the entertainers that we will be enjoying throughout the cruise.  A lot of talent! 

Another early night for us – 10:00. 

Mardi Gras in Montevideo

LOCATION:  In Montevideo, Uruguay onboard the Azamara Pursuit cruise ship
WEATHER:  Hot, but breezy.  High 85

We cruised overnight on the Rio de Plata, the very wide river separating Argentina from Uruguay.  We docked at 8:00 AM this morning.  It is much calmer here than in Buenos Aires, with a population of about 1.5 million.  Most of the country’s people live here, so the country is fairly sparsely populated.

After a nice buffet breakfast (we did mostly fruit and some smoked salmon), we headed to town.  We didn’t do any of the available tours, but just walked the city ourselves.  The port is close to the Old City

The central market located near the port is very interesting – in addition to the stalls, it houses many beef/grilled food restaurants.  This is a meat-eater’s paradise.  Big chunks of meat slow-cooking on the grills awaiting lunch and dinner customers.

The area closest to the port is called the Old City.  The streets are filled with vendors and small cafes.  It is pedestrian-only, so very enjoyable to stroll around.

As we were consulting our map, a local woman approached us asking if we needed help.  She struck up a conversation speaking really fast.  She seemed to take my Spanish in stride and kept talking and talking…..about how she loves her city, but how she doesn’t like the current government nor the changes taking place in her beloved Montevideo – increased crime, drug gangs (from Mexico she thinks), and poverty.  At one point, she asked me if George was bored, since he couldn’t follow the conversation and was looking elsewhere.  In any case, she was extremely friendly and kind.  This is the corner where we chatted. 

To be honest…..we are cheap!  I had made sandwiches for us from the breakfast bar.  We found a bench and enjoyed a picnic lunch.  Later, I bought a Tupperware-type sandwich container so we can continue to do this on days we stop in ports.

Our final destination on this stroll was a brewpub.  Alas, they were closed until evening.  However, there was a kombucha/brewery next door and we bought a can of IPA.  We sipped on it in a park with shade trees.

We passed by the theatre where we will be returning tonight for a show.  It is a beautiful, historical building…

The downtown is a combo of old buildings and new, with a lot of sidewalk cafes…

This big plaza is where a lot of protests take place regarding who owns the Faukland Islands.

We were able to use wifi at the Visitors’ Center, along with a lot of other cruise ship people.  There is one other cruise ship in port – a P&O from England.  You can identify the Brits as you walk around as they look miserably hot! 

Back to the ship for an early dinner.  We ate in the buffet to speed things up.  George had seafood pasta made to order and I stuffed myself with sushi.  Then off to one of the “Azamazing Evening” events that the cruiseline is famous for.  They bussed us to the theatre – beautiful setting and outstanding performance – a kind of ballet, opera, Broadway  show, dancers and drummers all rolled into one –  depicting the different ways Mardi Gras is celebrated here – cultural differences from Europe and Africa. Mardi Gras here lasts about 60 days – the longest of any in the world.

These guys welcomed us, and then we had photos taken with the ship’s captain.

It truly was “Azamazing”….

After the show, the performers wished us farewell.

We returned to the ship about 9:00, and went directly to bed…..still catching up with sleep from the flight. 

We almost missed the boat!!!!

LOCATION:  Buenos Aires, then Azamara Pursuit cruise ship
WEATHER:  Hot.  High 90

Our little boutique hotel is quite nice, and was very reasonably priced.  We had a very good breakfast (included) and then set off on foot again.  We walked to the cruise terminal as a test run to see if we would walk to it later with our luggage.  (no)

The currency situation here is puzzling.  The exchange rate bounces up and  down and there are black markets and blue markets for changing money.  Our dinner last night was 11,000 pesos which is $60 US using the official exchange rate.  However, our restaurant used a different rate, resulting in dinner only costing $30 US. 

Half the population here seems to be police.  They are everywhere.  At the same time, Buenos Aires has a reputation of being popular among pick-pockets.  So, as we were walking, we tried to be quite careful…..no issues.

We found the terminal and then headed back through a park.  We walked through a train station and through streets filled with vendors.  Most of their wares were pretty junky, making it impossible to figure out which were homeless people’s possessions versus items for sale.

There were political demonstrations everywhere.  Most of the banners said something like….”Bring back Eva” or “Evita”, or “We want Peronismo”.  Different groups were represented, most with names of  months which I think reflect some historical event, like “Movimiento Octobre” (October Movement).  We especially liked the one for the month of May which also is the same as where we used to work.  It would have been fun to buy a shirt proclaiming…”Movimiento Mayo”. 

There were even more police here,  brandishing their shields, looking like they were prepared to fight protestors.  We stumbled upon the parade, with big banners from each group.  Some had drums and trumpets blaring.

Back at the hotel, we asked the front desk to call us a taxi.  They said it would be quite a wait.  So, George tried Uber.  We watched on the phone as a driver got closer to us…9 minutes, 8, 7, 5, 4, then 10 again, and then disappeared.  This happened about 8 times, so we wasted more than an hour!  Meanwhile, I am starting to panic thinking we would miss the ship.  Taxis could not get to our hotel due to construction, so we weren’t sure where to wait.  Finally, after about 2 hours of waiting, the hotel said that a taxi with the company they used was waiting for us.  We had to run a few blocks to catch it.  The driver was sweating profusely and went on and on about all the closed streets.  He told us that it was partially due to construction, and  mostly due to the protests and police  closing streets as the Presidents of Brazil and Peru were visiting.  What a mess!  He had to go way out of his way to get us there, apologizing all the way, yet doubling his price due to the turmoil.  By this time, we had missed our time slot to board and my stomach was tied up in knots.  I was reminded of the “Keeping Up Appearances” episode when Hyancinth missed their Queen Mary embarkation. 

But….we made it!  Champagne awaited us after we went through Immigration. 

Azamara cruise lines only has four ships, and they call themselves a modest luxury cruise line.  At max, there are 700 passengers, but we are at 60% occupancy.   So, there is a lot of personalized service.  Gratutities and drinks are included.  Of course, I got a deal when I got our tickets!  Note – we did not buy the wifi package so our wifi (including these blog posts) will be limited. 

We went to the pool deck and watched us leave the port of Buenos Aires.  Complimentary drinks and snacks.  Nice

Then, to an air-conditioned bar with more drinks, a piano bar, and a nice conversation with some other people.  Passengers are mostly Americans, but there are quite a few Canadians, Brits, Argentinean, Spanish,  and Australian guests. 

There are several dinner options, and we went to the main dining room (not the buffet).  George had swordfish and veal,  and I had the scallop appetizer as my main course.  We sat with some interesting people.. 

Then, a good show featuring a Broadway vocalist,

followed by dancing.  Yay! 

BOOK:  “Q is for Quarry” by Sue Grafton.  This is an old series about a femal private investigator solving crimes.  Cute and light – just right for reading on an airplane.  3 stars out of 5

Hola, Argentina!

LOCATION:  Buenos Aires, Argentina
WEATHER:  Hot.  High 93

We arrived, sleepily, in Buenos Aires about 8:30 this morning.  Here is a selfie of us in the (almost full) airplane when we arrived.

The immigration line was long, but moved along pretty well.

The airport is about 25 miles out of town, so I had arranged a shuttle service for us.  I had read that there is no public transportation system to town.  Sure enough, in the Arrivals Hall, someone was standing with a sign “Karmen Reid”.  I don’t think this has ever happened to me.  I felt so “special” somehow.  We waited with two other couples for a 3rd.  George had to go to the bathroom.  OK.  The 3rd couple arrived, and the shuttle lady said, “Let’s go1”.  I said George was in the bathroom.  OK.  10 minutes later, the shuttle lady said, “We really have to go.  Who are we missing?”   I said George was in the bathroom.  Another 10 minutes….the lady said…”We cannot wait any longer.  The shuttle driver is blocking traffic”.  I said that George was still in the bathroom.  By this time, I was getting a little worried.  One of the guys offered to go into the men’s restroom to see if he had drowned.  He found George, and so off we went.  Whew!

Our little boutique hotel is located off the main thoroughfare that goes through the center, highlighted with one tall skyscraper with an etching of Eva Peron on it. 

The street in front of our hotel is torn up, so the shuttle driver couldn’t get us all the way here.  He parked and he guided us here. 

Even though it was only noon, the hotel let us check in early.  There is just a 3-hour time zone difference, so we really didn’t have jet lag, just a blah feelingn from trying to sleep on the plane.  We rested a bit then hit the sidewalks to stroll around. 

We needed some Argentinean pesos so went in search of an ATM.  The first one did not have any money in it.  Nor did the 2nd.  The 3rd, 4th, or 5th.  We had experienced this once before in South America.  Apparently the ATMs run out of money on the weekends, and it takes the banks a day or two to reload them.  When this happened to us before, we thought that our cards weren’t working.  This time, we knew the issue.  So, we found a little cafe that accepts Visa!  I had an empanada (beef) and an IPA – prounounced eeepa.  Cute!

We gave up on the cash, and returned to the hotel.

DINNER:  Argentina is famous for its grilled meats.  There is a really authentic-looking grill-type restaurant near our hotel that we scouted out.  Argentineans eat VERY late.  Some don’t get dinner until midnight or 1:00 AM!  Most families eat around 10:00 or 10:30.  Restaurants open around 8:00.  We managed to wait until 8:30.

The restaurant is very cozy, with almost all locals.  The waiters (all older gentlemen) greeted and hugged customers as they arrived.  The menu was pages long.  George had their beef specialty of the day – a big hunk of steak (sorry, Alexis) grilled just right.  I had a grilled chicken thigh, probably the best, moistest chicken I have ever eaten.  We split a platter of lettuce salad and a huge pile of French fries.  Of course, this was all paired with a vino tinto from Argentina.  Cheers!

And we are off……..!

LOCATION:  Somewhere over South America on an American Airlines flight

Since our flight wasn’t until 4:00, we had lots of time to get ready.  I did a lot of laundry and ran the dishwasher, so everything will be clean when we return in 2 months.  

I moved all my plants to the garden area where hopefully they will get enough water from the sprinklers.

Our friends drove us to the McAllen Airport (just about 15 minutes away) where we caught the 1-hour flight to Dallas.  There, we relaxed in a nice wine bar.  The wine was $19 for a small glass!  Can’t wait to get less expensive wines in South America.

Here I am with my roller bag – showing off how light I packed for two months….

The flight left about 8:00 PM.  What can I say except it was a long flight – about 10 hours.  Nothing eventful, thank goodness. 

We should arrive tomorrow (Monday) around 8:00 AM.  Until then…..

We leave tomorrow!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  A bit overcast.  Some rain would be welcomed.  High 73

The last…..

…..Today was my last day of line-dancing until we return.  So sad.  I really enjoy this – good exercise for the brain and for the body.

The last….

…..Water aerobics.  No, not today – too many things to do, and a bit too cool.

The last…..

……Pickleball.  No, again too busy, and the court was a bit damp.

Lots of lists to work through before we leave tomorrow.  Usually, our flights are early morning ones; tomorrow’s leaves at 4:00 PM.  We will have plenty of time to do last-minute things. 

Our next door neighbor and fellow Airstreamer celebrated his 80th birthday party today.  His family flew in from all over the USA.  So nice.

The first party was just with the family and us….(we were honored).  It was a late lunch – catered by Chipotles which did a fantastic job.  He rented out (free) the clubhouse, which is a nice benefit of living here. 

Then, the second party was an open-house for friends of Joe in Retama Village.  I served cake and ice cream to a lot of people.  So glad it was a good turnout.

DINNER:  Really scraping the bottom of the barrel.  We had some leftover ravioli to which I added some of the leftover meat from the Chipotle lunch. 

Rushing in the last few days….

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Very nice again.  High 73

Maybe it was my mindset….last day of playing pickleball.  Whatever it was, I played the best I’ve ever had.  People were cheering me on! 

From there, I rushed to the Photography Club meeting.  A resident shared his photos of his summer trip.  They travelled all over the country,  changing their plans mid-way as the wife got called to do Jury Duty in South Dakota, where they are registered.  The Photo Club meetings are now in the craft room, which is also used for my line dancing classes,  George’s ping pong, and the sewing ladies.

Another rush – this time to the beauty shop where I got a much-needed haircut.  I was putting it off until the last minute, as it will be another 2 months before we get home for the next one.  I was happy with the “look”.

Housing in this part of Texas is strange.  There are multi-million dollar houses built next to a dumpy one.  And, a lot of junk!  This house is behind my beauty shop.   Love the purple!

We are popular….some friends invited us over for wine and snacks, and to say good-bye.  They used to live in Oregon and have wine shipped from there periodically.  They shared an excellent bottle of Pinot Noir with us.  So nice!

DINNER:  George made sausage and biscuits.  He’s been wanting to do this for a long time.  The sausage gravy was very good.  The biscuits were a little flat, since he didn’t have all the necessary ingredients.  It was fun watching him.

We have the greatest sunsets here.  This was taken at Retama Village’s entrance which has a butterfly statue in front of it. 

Good food in the Rio Grande Valley

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Unusually warm.  High 87

I played pickleball for about 1.5 hours, but played especially poorly because I was hot and sweaty.  Good excuse!  Hah!

I skipped water aerobics in order to take George to a doctor’s appointment at 11:30.  When we arrived, the receptionist said the doctor was running just a “bit” late.  George was called in to the exam room at about noon.  I sat in the lobby, all masked up, waiting for him.  About 1:00, he came out.  I asked how it went.  The doctor did not show up!  After waiting an hour, George got disgusted and just told the nurse he was leaving without being seen. 

So, what to do?  Go have a beer, of course!  We had lunch and a beer at one of our favorite restaurants in the area.  They have a covered outdoor area, so we sat outside to eat, along with the napping restaurant’s cat.

We noticed this poster advertising a beer made in northern Texas.  We actually have reservations to stay at that brewery through Harvest Hosts when we set off for our summer camping trip in April.

Now that friends know we are leaving soon, we are getting invitations for get-togethers as a last “good-bye”.  Today we went with some Retama Village friensds to our favorite bistro for Wine Wednesday.  Bottles are half off, so we always get something good.  Today’s was a cabernet sauvignon from Paso Robles.  Yum

Our friends ordered duck flautas and a charcuterie board.  We did not eat as we had eaten a big lunch and I had plans for tonight’s “cleaning out the refrigerator” mission.

DINNER:  Baked ravioli.  With some frozen, basil-stuffed ravioli, I made a casserole with home-made pasta sauce (onion, green onion, garlic, mushrooms, plant-based burger, green peppers, and tomato sauce).  I layered the pasta and the sauce, then topped with a layer of mozarella and Parmesan.  Side was a tomato and lettuce salad.  Very good!

Lunch planning

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission,  Texas
WEATHER:  Beautiful.  High 74

Two new residents showed up for my Basic Beginner line dance.  Unfortunately, today is the last class of the season since I will be leaving on Sunday.  It was a couple who are eager to learn.  This was followed by two more line-dancing classes where we did some more complicated dances.  Such a fun way to exercise!

I stayed at the clubhouse for two classes of water aerobics.  By the time I got home, I had been gone for 5.5 hours!  I hungrily gobbled down some lunch.  Speaking of lunch…..Since I usually am gone around lunchtime, I leave George notes for his lunch that I prepare ahead of time.  I have been using scraps of paper with his instructions.  This morning, it dawned on me that I should be using the cute blackboard that the former owners of this house had built in a spice rack.  So, today, I left him instructions on where to find lunch – stir-fried rice – and how to prepare it….

In the afternoon, Diego the vegetable truck man, arrived and set up shop next to the clubhouse.  We bought some grapefruit and an onion, just enough to get us through the week. 

DINNER:  A new recipe I found in a magazine.  Perfect for using some things out of the freezer – andouille sausage and frozen shrimp…. The recipe did not come with specific amounts, so I just guessed…

Shrimp, sausage, and black bean pasta

Andiouille sausage, diced
olive oil
Shrimp, peeled
Cajun seasoning
Ziti  or similar pasta
Black beans, drained and rinsed
salt, pepper
lemon juice
jalapeno (optional)
onion, diced
garlic, minced
bell pepper, diced
green onion, minced as garnish

Heat oil.  Cook andouille until brown.  Remove.  Add more oil and a little butter, and sautee onion, bell pepper, garlic, and jalapeno.  Add shrimp and cook only about 1 minute.  Add cooked pasta, beans, Cajun seasoning, salt, pepper,  and lemon juice.  Cook 2 minutes until warm.  Garnish with green onion.