Oregon Coast – Seaside

P1130967I love the Oregon coast – from Brookings in the far south to Astoria in the far north, each town boasting a distinct personality. After six-months of  breast cancer “treatment,” I decided a week at the ocean was needed to celebrate my cure. A full-on absorption of negative ions to displace the nattering nabobs of negativism that had nestled in the neurons of my nutty noggin. A last minute call landed a cute Seaside beachfront home with 180 degree ocean views. Mother Nature delivered a week of sunshine and moderate ocean breezes.

P1130941.jpegSeaside is 80 miles NW of Portland. Its claim to fame, “the end of the Lewis and Clark trail.” We had passed through Seaside many times, but never stayed. Until now. It’s a busy place with about 7,000 full-time residents and a lot more tourists. The whole city is designed to accommodate families seeking fun on the ocean. Pizzas, burgers, fish & chips, ice cream parlors and taffy shops abound.

P1140081.jpegThe promenade, known as The Prom, runs for a 1½ mile stretch along the beach. Seaside’s just north neighbor, Gearhart, pridefully maintains a natural coastline. In contrast, the city of Seaside pridefully clears the beach of foliage to increase the play area for visitors.

P1130953.jpgP1130825Our cute rental sits on the North Prom about 20 feet from steps down to the beach. A steady trickle of people, many with dogs, pass throughout the day. Walking, biking, skating, jogging, stroller pushing and skateboarding, all seemingly enjoying the experience. The kitchen is perfect for watching the sunset while cooking dinners of fresh fish and veggies. The bedroom windows showcase an unbroken beach vista. Long walks on the beach followed by a curl-up on the couch with a book and an afternoon nap, all the while listening to the waves from the ocean, make for a perfect day. Oh, and there is a haunted house next door broadcasting weird vibes that permeate my dreams!

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Crazy vibes from this place.
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I peered into a window and captured this image.

The east and west sides of Seaside are divided by the Necanicum river. The river is spanned by a handful of attractive small bridges.

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Boats for rent.

There is no shortage of family activities in the town.

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Coin operated shooting gallery.
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Indoor old fashioned carousel.
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A re-creation of the salt works used by the Lewis & Clark expedition to produce salt.

The legend goes, five men worked for seven weeks boiling salt water to produce 28 gallons of salt. Captain Lewis wrote about the salt in his diary, “excellent, fine, strong & white; this was a great treat to myself and most of the party.”

P1130948.jpegThe seaside aquarium is still housed in the same 1937 building as in this picture and is a popular attraction. You can hear the sea lions bark as you pass along the Prom.

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Need I say more?

P1130971This industrious young man created giant bubbles in city center. He played upbeat music  as dogs and children chased bubbles while adults watched with smiles. His tip jar displayed in a prominent spot.

P1130872Ecola State Park looms above the ocean at the city’s southern end, separating Seaside from Cannon Beach. Ecola has wonderful hiking trails with stellar views. You can take a 7-mile hike between the two cities. If you shuttle a car to a parking lot on one end, you don’t have to turn a 7-mile day into a 14-mile round trip. Choices abound! P1140059Bell Buoy is a seafood institution on the south end of Seaside. It’s a good place to pick up a fresh catch of the day. The canned tuna is very good, as is the smoked fish. They have a tiny restaurant. I enjoyed the fish and chips – fresh, not greasy. Conde was not enamored with his crab cakes. But then, he makes the best crab cakes in the world.P1140061.jpegSeaside has visible civic pride. We stopped into the Historical Society museum which houses a funky collection, giving insight into the area. Next door is the Butterfield Cottage, formerly sited in the middle of downtown and owned by …. the Butterfields! The lovely volunteer docent clearly embraced her community as she pridefully led a tour of the cottage. She said y’all a lot, so won my heart. P1140077Astoria is 15 miles north of Seaside. The town reeks of Oregon history. I won’t digress into the multiple Lewis & Clark historical sites in the area, as that’s another story for another time. We drove over for lunch at the Buoy brewery.

P1140075P1140072P1140071P1140069We scored a window table overlooking the Columbia River, enjoying a great meal that included local steamer clams, fresh halibut cheeks and chicken salad. Conde indulged in an extra glass of fresh brewed beer. A good day.P1140115.jpegCannon Beach is a 20 minute drive south of Seaside. There is no way we would come so close and not walk on the beach and say hello to my Haystack Rock. We walked on the beach for a couple of hours, then stopped at the local grocery for lunch provisions before heading back to the cottage.

Ari loves his off-leash beach runs. One of these days … for sure … he’ll get one of those crazy seagulls. It could happen.P1130866P1130834P1140029Sunsets are my favorite time of day. Nothing better than a nice glass of wine while watching nature strut her stuff. Thank you Oregon Coast for helping me re-center. Until next time.

For all you Geezers On The Go – Keep on Keeping On!

 

Buenos Aires – Hasta Luego!

 

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Buquebus station in Buenos Aires. Say “Buquebus” three times really fast!

The morning of my 62nd birthday, we boarded a huge ferry in Montevideo Uruguay for a 2½ hour ride on the Rio Plata back to Buenos Aires. Buquebus has high-speed catamaran ferries (and bus services). We reserved seats on a ferry with a 1,000 passenger capacity and 150 spaces for cars. They have first, business, and tourist class reservations. There are small cafes on the boat’s multiple levels and, of course, duty-free shopping. Before boarding we went through customs, stamping out of Uruguay and at the next window we officially entered Argentina. The Buquebus online reservation system is a breeze. There are comfortable secured lobbies with easy baggage check systems. The only caveat when traveling between BA and Montevideo is the bus/ferry option versus the ferry only option. If opting for the bus/ferry option, you take a bus to Colonia and then the ferry across the river to BA. It’s a few hours longer, but gives an option to poke around Colonia for a short while, if you haven’t already.

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Entry to the station at the ferry dock in Uruguay. A busy port with a naval station next door.
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We opted for business class. After all, it was my birthday. Everyone had to don these shoe covers before entering the lounge. Pale blue carpet at risk, I suppose. We were offered plastic flutes with sparkling wine. Pretty cushy!

We were back in Buenos Aires by 2:00 pm. The first cab we hailed tried to gouge us. We politely declined and hired another ride. In spite of the bad rap about BA cab drivers, this was the only time we experienced a problem. I’m a fan of the cab drivers in BA.

 

While in Buenos Aires we stayed at The Poetry Building. It’s a small property that rents first class fully furnished apartments with equipped kitchens. We found it perfect for eating breakfast in and for the occasional light meal when we tired of restaurants. The Poetry front desk staff were beyond helpful, especially with bridging the language barrier. Yani stayed late to help when we learned at 9:00 pm that our next morning flight departure time had changed from 11:00 am to 4:00 am. With her help, we figured out why and bit the bullet. Who needs sleep anyway? The Poetry even has a roof-top garden where guests can harvest fresh seasonal produce. I can’t say enough good things about the place.

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The lobby of the Poetry. This is Yani and Zeke at the front desk making sure we had a wonderful evening of tango.
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Started the day in Uruguay and ended it in Argentina with tango. Conde rocks!
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For two hours the lobby was cleared of furniture while we practiced social tango moves, learning about nuances and music choices.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid is a huge bookstore housed in a beautifully restored theatre in the heart of Recoleta. The stage has been repurposed as a coffee shop. The pile of Michelle Obama’s Spanish translated memoir was at least 4 feet high. It is well worth a visit to the bookstore just to browse the venue.

Dogs are clearly embraced as family members in Buenos Aires. The city is filled with apartment buildings housing busy dog parents. The dog walking business is booming. Clients are tied to trees during drop-off and pick-up. I didn’t see any conflicts. Yes, there is dog poop on the streets and you have to be careful where you step. But, the dog walkers try to minimize the problem, picking-up after their clientele.

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I heard this little guy talking to fellow canines from 2 stories up. Took me a while to find him guarding his balcony.
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Conde is in his element when in charge of mapping. He’s really good at it!

Although huge, Buenos Aires is a very walkable city. With maps in hand we were easily able to navigate our way around. I never felt unsafe. We heard pick-pockets are the biggest threat. We had no problems, but heeded the warnings and were careful. Women frequently wear their purses across the body and you’ll often see backpacks worn in front. Flaunting iPhones, even to take photos, is a no-no.

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As we wandered, we would stop in places that looked interesting. Most museums are free of charge or have a very modest entry fee.
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The National Museum of Decorative Arts was one of our “trip upon” finds as we wandered toward a vaguely defined destination for the day. The Museum was constructed as a personal residence in 1911, and converted to a museum in 1936. Nicely restored, very ornate and lovely!
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These benches are all around the city. I thought they were made of fabric and recoiled at the thought of sitting down until I touched. They are stamped concrete with holes for water drainage. Form follows function or function follows form?

Realizing our days of warmth and sunshine were coming to a close, we spent as much time as possible outdoors. It took about an hour to walk from our apartment to the rose garden. It is a totally different experience than the Portland rose garden. Not better or worse, just different. A serene place to absorb heat and enjoy beauty while catching fragrant whiffs from rose bushes.

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We noticed a red-roof building across the street from the rose garden. We wandered over to check it out. Turned out to be a first class municipal museum with over 4,000 displayed pieces by Argentinian artists. Seniors admitted for free.
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The building is light and airy with carefully curated interesting art.
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In the rear is a small restaurant with garden seating. After our long walk in the sun, we took advantage of the cool shade, ordering fresh squeezed lemonade with ham and cheese toast.

While meandering, we passed the Argentinian National Library. It was closed for the summer holidays. We wandered the grounds and learned about the building’s “harsh architecture.” The exterior reminded a bit of the LBJ Library in Austin.

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The Biblioteca Nacional Mariano Moreno was erected on the grounds of the former residence of Juan and Evita Peron. The Peron’s Unzué Palace was demolished in 1958 in an act of political symbolism. The “new” library was designed in 1961, constructed in 1971 and inaugurated on April 10, 1992. The brutalist architecture was embraced.
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This is the only dedicated statue of Eva Peron in Buenos Aires. It is on the library grounds, where her former home stood.

After the library, we strolled a heavily treed street where many foreign government embassies in Buenos Aires are located. p1130668

Not far beyond was our destination, the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires. (MALBA).

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The interior of the building reminded us both of an improved version of the High museum in Atlanta. We were hungry, so decided to check out the museum restaurant before viewing the exhibits. It was great! I relished a quinoa salad and kale smoothie while Conde rocked-out on Belgium ale. Sated, we were ready for some art. I had no idea what I was getting into with Pablo Suarez Narciso Plebeyo. Whoa! This dude loves to shock! I held off on photos, but imagine (or not) very large graphic male genitalia and its multiple uses. Most of the pieces showed raw humor with egotistic genius.

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Here’s one of his pieces that caught my attention and wasn’t rated XXX.

The “Dirty War” in Argentina involved three succeeding military juntas, lasting from 1976 to 1983. Roaming Buenos Aires we encountered tiny reminders of that dark period in the country’s history. More than 30,000 individuals, deemed left-wing subversives, were “disappeared.” Unmarked Ford Falcons cruised the streets. Public kidnappings became the norm. Mostly young people, the disappeared were imprisoned, tortured and the majority murdered. Some lived to tell their stories. Young children of citizens labeled “subversives” were separated from their parents and given to supporters of the juntas to raise. To date, these children have not been traced or reunited with their birth families. It is a period of Argentina’s history that is minimized as you travel the country. I am of the opinion that history is more likely to repeat itself if we don’t openly and wholly acknowledge both the good and the bad.

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These two plaques are cemented in the sidewalk outside the Escuela Normal Superior No. 1. It is a public school in mediocre condition. The names are students who were “disappeared.”
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The plaques are to remember the “atrocities committed by 3 military juntas ruling from 1976 to 1983 denouncing the leftists and normalizing their extermination to cleanse society.”  This memorial is super easy to miss.

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The National Museum of Fine Arts is first class. Once again, we were not charged an admission fee. The city definitely favors opening art to all classes of the public. The museum’s lower floors are devoted to many of the well-known masters from different periods. The upper floors are devoted to Latin American artists. If I were to have a “do-over” visit, I would start with the upper floors, to view the works of artists I was not familiar with.

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Across from the Bellas Artes is a lush park with beautiful statuary. You see this all over the city.

img_3219This is Conde’s story: Casa Del Habanos is the worldwide Cuban cigar distributor, distribution, franchise and sales system, which in effect allows each region/city in the world to have an exclusive local Cuban cigar store and distributor. There is a Casa Del Habanos in Toronto, one in Hong Kong, at least one in Madrid, one in Paris, London, Rome, Vancouver BC, etc.  I found the only Casa Del Habanos in Buenos Aires, located in a formerly chic shopping area near Florida Avenue, not far from the Casa Rosada.  It has been there for over 35 years, and is the third oldest Casa del Habanos in the world, which is not surprising, because BA is one of the three or four most important  Spanish-speaking cities in the world.

img_3216The store has a locked front door. Visitors are required to ring a bell for entrance.  The humidor has a nice selection of quality Cubanos, although not terribly large. On the wall are photos of Alejandro Robaina, one of Cuba’s most famous cigar makers. He visited the store in celebration of its opening 35 years ago. I visited with Mr. Robaina at his home in Pinar Del Rio, Cuba, in 2005, prior to his passing in 2010.  He was a delightful man,  perhaps the most well-known as an international good will ambassador for Cuban cigars. His brand of cigars, “Robaina,” are especially smooth yet richly flavored. I left smoking a “Short Churchill” by Romeo y Julieta, one of my favorites, which set me back about $14, a very good price for such a gem. When I go back to BA (hopefully soon), I will for sure drop by the CdH store very early on in the next visit, to stock up on some Cubanos.

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This autographed cigar box label hangs on the wall in our home. It reads, “for my friend Conde” and is signed by Alejandro Robaina – Feb. 26, 2005. Conde received this cherished gift on a visit to Cuba.
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The city’s botanical gardens are a quiet respite from the city noise.
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The Yerba Mate bushes in the botanical garden were stripped bare. I figured a bus load of tourists from Uruguay must have visited earlier in the day using shears. They do love their Yerba Mate!
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The Palacio de las Aquas Corrientes (Palace of Running Waters) was erected between 1887 and 1894. It is truly magnificent and occupies a large city block. The building arrived in pieces from the “biggest and best” European cities and was outfitted with the latest and greatest system for providing sanitation and water to the city. It is designated as a National Historic Landmark.
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Tanks with storage capacity of 72,300,000 liters of water are at the bowels of the building and served Buenos Aires water needs between 1894 – 1978.
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The building still operates as city municipal offices, where individuals conduct business dealing with city water and sewage matters. I snapped this shot before a guard reprimanded me about taking photos outside the museum area.

The Museo Del Agua y de la Historia Sanitaria (Museum of water and history of sanitation) operates inside the Palacio de las Aquas Corrientes. The museum is only open a few hours a day. The exhibition is quirky and filled with tidbits about the construction of the palace and its inner workings over the years. Here are a few photos from the exhibit. Hoover over the photo to get a caption to appear. Blog magic!

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Obelisco de Buenos Aires

The Obelisk was erected in 1936 to commemorate the city’s quadricentennial. It is a national historic monument and an icon of Buenos Aires. Think the Arc de Triomphe in Paris or the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. It is located at the Plaza de la Republica at the intersections of Avenues Corrientes and 9 de Julio. Not noted on the Obelisk is an incident that occurred during the Dirty War. In the early morning hours one Sunday, citizens witnessed a man wrested from a green Ford Falcon, tied to the Obelisk and machine-gunned down. Perhaps a memorial honoring his life and shunning that period will someday be added at the Plaza.

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Inside the entrance to the Evita museum.

On an afternoon graced by torrential rains we visited the Museo Evita. It was opened by her grandniece, Cristina Alvarez Rodriguez, fifty years to the day after Eva Peron’s death. The museum is housed in a 20th century mansion, which was declared a National Historic Monument in 1999. It is lovely to walk about and is filled to the brim with everything Evita. If you weren’t in love with Evita prior to a visit, the exhibition does everything in its power to change your opinion. Definitely worth a visit.

We will definitely return to Argentina!

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For All You Geezers on the Go – Keep On Keeping On!

Uruguay

uruguay-map-0 Uruguay is a tiny South American Country nestled between Brazil and Argentina. Geographically the same size as Missouri, it has a population of 3.5 about million. Spain was the first European country to reach the area, settling the region in 1624. Not long after the Portuguese took over and a tug-of-war ensued. Then, Great Britain jumped into the fray. The control wars for domination ended in 1828. A national constitution was enacted, and on July 18, 1830 the democratic republic of Uruguay was established. One of the first acts of this new country was to gather and massacre its few remaining indigenous males. The women and children were “saved” and distributed as slaves. This inauspicious beginning has, in modern times, been eschewed. After a long period of military dictatorships, enabled by the CIA among others, Tabare Vasquez was elected president in 2004. As an overt symbol of independence from the US, diplomatic relations with Cuba were restored. Vasquez was wildly popular. He was succeeded in the presidency by Jose Mujica. In 2012 abortion was legalized. Same sex marriage was recognized in 2013. That same year the country legalized marijuana. Uruguay is financially stable, is one of the most secular countries in South America, has an extremely high literacy rate and enjoys a profusion of diverse cultural activity. It is a safe country with kind people and a decent quality of life.

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Colonia del Sacramento

In 1723 the Portuguese established Colonia del Sacramento (Colonia) along the east bank of the Rio de la Plata. We booked a ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia. The boat ride took about an hour. We had been told a day trip to Colonia was plenty of time to explore. We opted for 3 nights and 2 days. It was a good choice. It gave us plenty of opportunity to roam the entire city, expanding our boundaries beyond the old town.

Lonely Planet describes Colonia as “an irresistibly picturesque town enshrined as a Unesco World Heritage site.” Apt and succinct. The historic district has narrow cobble-stoned streets lined with huge sycamore trees. Large palm trees house flocks of squawking green parrots.We stayed in a gorgeous plush hotel overlooking the river. With the windows opened, it sounded like we were on the ocean.

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Historic area.
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It is easy to rent electric golf carts to tour the city. This one ups the ante. We chose to walk.
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A sneak peek into someone’s backyard.
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Typical view.
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Because I’ve always wanted a pink house?
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The buildings are well maintained. One can see why the whole town has been declared a historical site.
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Lot’s of widely used pocket parks.
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The sycamores are great for shade and rain protection. Not to mention really pretty.

Montevideo

Montevideo is the capital of Uruguay. Over 1/3rd of the country’s citizens reside there. I was enamored with the city. It has wholesome undertones in a big city setting.  Family life is obviously very important. The architecture is wildly eclectic. Older buildings in various states of repair sit alongside modern structures amidst fascist 1950 and 1960s style apartment buildings. The setting is as eclectic as the culture.

Bus travel between cities in Uruguay is comfortable, affordable and common. We showed-up at the bus station in Colonia at 11:30 am and boarded the 12:05 pm bus to Montevideo – reserved seat tickets in hand. It was a 2½ hour ride and a great way to see the countryside. Lot’s of agriculture, clean, wide-open and an interesting assortment of people getting on and off the bus. As if things couldn’t get any better, the bathroom was sparkling clean, albeit bumpy!

We arrived in Montevideo on Friday afternoon and left early Monday morning. The timing wasn’t great. Many establishments are closed over the weekend and Sundays are virtually shuttered. Not to be deterred, we donned our tennis shoes and hit the streets. One of the first things I noticed are the mate toting locals. Yerba mate is a tea made from Yerba leaves. It is pungent and contains a caffeine like substance. Friends pass it around. As best as I can tell, the whole country is cheerfully addicted.

The consumption of mate is more than just drinking. It is a ritual. Special cups are packed tight with mate leaves. A thermos of hot water is carried under the arm (some folks have special carrying cases). The silver straw has a flat filtered bottom. All day long, small amounts of hot water is added to the cup and sips taken from the straw, using care not to close the lips while sipping. If in a group, one person carries the cup and cradled thermos of water. It is passed among friends. I was introduced to mate in Argentina, but Uruguay seems to have embraced the love of the drink widely. Pardon the pun. Not my cup of tea.

One of the most interesting museums I have ever visited is in Montevideo. The Espacio de Arte Contemporáneo (Contemporary Arts Museum) is incorporated into an 1800s prison. Created in a collaboration between Spain and Uruguay it opened during a 2011 bicentennial celebration. Exterior prison walls were left intact and are covered with an array of graffiti. The wall is a striking feature as you approach. The architecture of the prison is incorporated into the exhibits. Individual cells showcase art. Peep holes through the original prison doors give glimpses of exhibits. It is impossible to forget your setting. The museum is small, unnerving, and free to anyone who wishes to visit. When exiting out the rear, you walk through a small park and playground. Somehow, this helps cleanse the soul after an intense encounter.

The locals love their beaches. After work and on weekends, folks congregate along the waterfront’s Malecon playing beach volleyball, roller skating, fishing, bicycling, jogging and just visiting. It is a place to see and be seen. But, mostly to relax with friends and family. The brown river water was not to my taste, but the lifestyle is lovely. One could grow fond of most anything, given time.

One of the few things to do on Sundays, other than hang at the waterfront, is the Sunday market. It is huge! Filled with locals, there is every type of ware imaginable. Lot’s of haggling and buying. The propensity of this society to recycle is showcased by the volume of available used goods.

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As with most cities in Argentina and Uruguay, there are public trash and recycle containers on the streets. This is where one deposits disposables. In Montevideo, many of these receptacles are brightened-up by public artists. Porque no?

On Saturday, we took a tour of the Opera house. Not nearly as opulent as the one in Buenos Aires, but respectable with an interesting history. A couple of local actors were hired to spice-up the tour. They appeared on several occasions portraying funny skits filled with lots of physical comedy that could be understood in all languages.

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Hungry and thirsty after a long walk, we saw this place across the street from the Malacon. What a serendipitous find! At the Tincal Bar we were introduced to the chivito,  a sandwich invented in Uruguay. Anthony Bourdain called it the best sandwich in the world. He wasn’t far off. The name means “small goat,” but there isn’t any goat meat in it at all. The chivito consists of thinly sliced tender flavorful beef with endless options for toppings. Think ham, eggs, cheese, etc., etc. Served with a big plate of french fries, the chivito satisfied my monthly craving for a juicy burger and fries.

The US embassy is just around the corner from the Tincal Bar. It is currently undergoing a major renovation. Work on the $90 million project was continuing in spite of the government shut-down at home.

While in Montevideo we stayed at the Alma Historica hotel, a small boutique hotel right in the heart of old town. Very comfy digs for three nights.

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This is a wonderful public mural signifying girl power. Political messages in public art are rife throughout the city.

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As I celebrated the beginning of my 62nd year on planet earth, this old fart resonated.

Leaving Uruguay, we spent 5 more days in Buenos Aires. Stay tuned.

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For All You Geezers on the Go – Keep On Keeping On!

 

 

 

 

Argentina – Patagonia

map_of_argentinaArgentina is a huge country divided into 8 geographic regions and 23 provinces (states). The Andes mountain range runs from north to south along the country’s western border, separating Argentina from Chili. The county’s national park system is huge, accessible and very well-managed.

We flew from Buenos Aires to the small city of El Calafate, gateway to Parque National Los Glaciares (Glacier National Park), picking up a rental car upon arrival. El Calafate reminds me of a ski resort city. Lots of shopping and restaurants along the main drag. But instead of ski gear, young people haul fully loaded backpacks. We stayed in a vacation rental, walking distance from the heart of town. Then again, most everything was within walking distance in El Calafate.

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Conde and I stayed  in a this duplex, built by our proprietors who live across the street. They brought us a breakfast of fresh breads, jams and juices every morning.
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Steve and Jody stayed a few blocks away in a small house built by their proprietors. It is next to their home with a bell mounted on the fence for summoning assistance. No issues with safety — it is a small town where everyone knows everything.

In El Calafate there are dogs roaming everywhere. Most seemed healthy enough. That didn’t stop me from wanting to take them all home for TLC and a visit to the vet for a quick fix job. The entire region is windy. Really windy. So windy the rental car company warned us about the danger of our car doors being damaged by gusts. The skies are huge, with magical light and unique cloud formations. And, great sunrises and sunsets. There is a wonderful bird sanctuary called Laguna Nimez Reserva Natural. It boasts a 1½ mile circular path around a lagoon with views of a glacial fed lake. The cost of entry is $10US with all proceeds going  to sanctuary preservation. Conde and I battened down our hatches and checked it out. Part way into the walk I was joined by a canine companion. Whenever I stopped to gander or take a photo, she would lay at my feet, jumping up when it was time to move on. Just before the end of the trail she silently disappeared in the bushes.

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Flamingos. Natural inhabitants.
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Crazy duck
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The View
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Tero Tero – a very loud bird prevalent throughout the country.

Jody, with her amazing nose for the finer things in life, tripped upon a hotel and wine bar while out for an evening stroll. Turned out they served excellent food and a heck of a mountain view with Largo Argentina (Lake Argentina) as a front drop. We took our time with dinner at Los Canelos, absorbing the 180 degree sunset views. My hunger and soul were sated.

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Not an exaggeration!
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The glacial fed lake is in front of the mountains.
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The clouds changed constantly.

Glacier Perito Moreno is in the southern sector of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares and a 1½ hour drive from El Calafate. The roads are undivided two-lane highways with very little traffic. Cross winds are the biggest hazard. At the park entrance you have to get out of the car to pay. One person stays in the car snaking forward with the line, while another goes inside and pays the $20 per person entry fee. We parked in the lower north entrance lot. After a short walk, it was easy to set out along a complex series of steel catwalks running 2½ miles. One can access multiple views from both the glacier’s north and south sides.

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Lago Argentino provides a beautiful view while driving. It is the country’s largest lake.
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View of Glaciare Perito Moreno from the south side as we approached the park.
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View from the glacier’s north face. Adding perspective, the glacier rises 240 feet from the water’s surface and drops 170 feet below the surface. It covers an area of 97 square miles across a 19 mile stretch. It is the world’s 3rd largest reserve of fresh water. And, it is a UNESCO world heritage site.
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Walkway with a view from the north.
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North glacier wall.
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Close-up using my 300mm lens. The colors are true.

I managed to catch a calving in action. I heard the boom, zeroed in and set my shutter in motion. Note the clear blue surface after the face of the glacier has severed.

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Before leaving the park, we needed a bite to eat. Heaven forbid 4 hours might pass without a meal. We popped into a restaurant at the north side with a spectacular view. A fair fixed-price lunch menu was offered. We had hearty lamb and lentil stews with dessert and coffee. It was enjoyed by all. The waitress even brought us a bucket of glacier ice for chilling our mineral waters. Talk about the lap of luxury!

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Steve was enamoured. “A glass of 10 year old whiskey over 15,000 year old glacial ice.” That’s a conversation stopper.

On the way back to El Calafate we stopped at the oddest place. The Lonely Planet guide gave the Glaciarium a big fat one star. It is a museum showcasing glaciers. When we arrived in the parking lot, the wind was gusting so hard, I was pinned by the car door as I tried to get out. My shrieks for help were lost with the wind as I pushed with all my might to free myself. Success ensued. The Glaciarium is reputed to have an ice bar. No kidding. The bar is maintained below freezing and drinking glasses are molded from ice. Fur coats are provided. The bar wasn’t operational when we stopped. We pondered over whether to visit the exhibit anyway. The staff at the front desk was indifferent. We decided against the steep entry fee and made free use of the impeccable rest rooms. Tour buses were pulling into the parking lot as we battled our car doors against the wind before escaping.

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A very odd place in the middle of nowhere.
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As we exited on the Glaciarium’s steep dirt drive, a herd of running horses crossed in front of us. The area has wild horses, but we couldn’t figure out why these were running or even if they were wild.
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Then, across the road we saw another group of horses being herded. The energy was high. A short distance further, we saw five horses huddled with their rears touching and noses facing out surrounded by four dogs, holding them at bay.
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Steve & Jody

The next morning we loaded up the car for a 2 hour drive to the northern part of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. We scheduled a stop for lunch in El Chaltan. From there it was a 30 minute drive along a dirt road to our hotel, El Pilar. Along the way (okay, maybe 30 minutes after we set off) we needed sustenance. Good thing we had leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. Something about snarfing down food from the trunk while standing on the side of a deserted highway makes it special. Life is good!

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Antipasta snack.
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We entered the north park entrance.
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Our hotel for 2 nights — behind Conde is the view from our room and a focal point for our hike the next morning. The mountain appears and disappears behind rapid changing cloud formations.

El Pilar is run by Cristina and Guillermo. In Argentinian Spanish, the double “ll” is pronounced “jee” – can be a bit of a tongue twister. The hotel is wonderful and has great food. There are no wi-fi connections. Guests congregated for cocktails around the fireplace before dinner and chatted over coffee and breakfast in the mornings. There were folks from all over the world. Before we set out for our 10 mile trek, we were provided with a sack lunch. It was not raining, which is a great thing. The wind was driving little pellets of frozen ice, but it was intermittent. The snow-capped mountains with glaciers tucked in their crevices surrounded us. I loved it!

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The hotel’s river powered generator shed. I wanted to set my cot up and move in next to the rushing water.

It’s impossible to capture the beauty and magnitude of this hike. We passed through groves of trees and wide-open areas with everything in between.  Sometimes we were in sunshine, at other times in the fog. The wind was intermittently intense. Here are a few  things we saw along the way.

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Well marked and easy to follow path.
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A very nice and well maintained trail.
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Crystal clear water. Everyone insists it is totally safe to drink. I abstained.
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Jody set the pace and I happily followed. Her red back-pack brought me an unexplained child-like joy.
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It was easy to miss the diversity of flora with the huge mountains demanding attention.
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The mountain formations varied in size and shape – The Andes!
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Lot’s of glaciers – in the middle of summer.
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My red beacon.
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And just when I thought it couldn’t get any prettier.
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The sound of the roaring river accompanied parts of the hike.
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Wow!

The next morning we were greeted by rain and winds. Given the conditions, I passed on the opportunity for another hike. As we drove from the area, we moved into sunshine. Another lunch in El Chalten, then back to El Calafate for a good nights sleep and plane trip back to Buenos Aires. Steve and Jody returned to Washington DC. We hopped a ferry to Uruguay.

Next, Uruguay and then some more of BA. Stay tuned!

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For All You Geezers on the Go – Keep On Keeping On!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Argentina – Buenos Aires

Summer in January! The phrase makes me giddy. A promised reprieve from Portland’s dreary, bone-chilling, wet, gray winter days. Destination — south of the equator. First stop, Buenos Aires.

P1110643Approximately 3 million (living) people inhabit the vibrant South American cultural hub of Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina. But, before exploring the living, I’d like to share a visit to the Cementerio de la Recoleta.

P1110621The Recoleta cemetery covers over 14 acres, containing thousands of mausoleums, statues and monuments. It is an oasis filled with tiny, often ornate, houses for the dead. Mausoleums can house whole families. Their personalities, social status and cultural mores are showcased by decor. Cementerio de la Recoleta is known as the burial place for Argentina’s rich and famous, although some of the interred are neither rich or famous. Included among the non-living is the country’s beloved Eva Peron (nee Duarte). Think Andrew Lloyd Webber’s broadway musical and the movie version starring Madonna. To ensure the protection of  Evita’s remains, she was nestled in a fortified crypt and buried more than 16 feet beneath the earth’s surface. Another cemetery resident, Isabel Colonna, was only six days old when she died. She was reputed to be the illegitimate grandchild of Napoleón Bonaparte. Luis Firpo was a famous Latin American boxer, known as the Wild Bull of the Pampas. Forty three years after his death, Luis was included in the list of 100 greatest punchers of all time. The roster of residents in Cemeterio de las Recoleta is expansive. Argentina reveres its cultural icons.

The walled city of the dead contrasts with the abutting towers that house Buenos Aires living. Like most cities, BA is divided into neighborhoods. The cemetery is located in the Recoleta barrio. On weekends, the park in front of the Recoleta cemetery transforms into a crafts market where local artisans hawk their wares. The market starts and ends early. If you want plenty of time to peruse the goodies, don’t do like we did and sleep half the day away.

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A bit of Argentinian history

Like most of the Americas, Argentina was originally inhabited by indigenous people.  In 1536 the Spaniards arrived, but were quickly run out by the Queradi. Around 20 years later the Spaniards gave it another try. This time with more success. The city of Mendoza was founded in the west, not terribly far from modern-day Santiago Chili. Later the Jesuits arrived and build missions. Spain tired of the Jesuits and in 1767 they were ousted by the Spanish crown. In the early 1800s the Brits arrived and tried to take over, but were defeated. The city of Buenos Aires declared its independence from Spain in around 1810. The independence movement from foreign occupation spread throughout South American. In the mid-1800s a “forward thinking” fellow was elected President of Argentina. President Mitre ramped up public education and welcomed the Europeanization of the country. Immigration dramatically increased and the melting pot of Argentina grew. By the late 1800s Buenos Aires’s population was 670,000. Around that same time the Tango was born! In 1946 Juan Peron was elected president. First lady Evita created social assistance programs and helped lower class women and children, winning the love of the people. Evita died young and Juan couldn’t handle the job without her. In 1955 the country slid into recession. Then there was a military coup. From 1976-1983 the country launched into the “Dirty War” and an estimated 30,000 citizens disappeared. By 1989 inflation had reached 200%. Corruption reigned and the public coffers were drained. President Christina Kirschner reputedly robbed the country blind. In 2015 Macri was elected president. The country struggles to find economic stability. Government programs are being cut and the local currency is on a valuation roller coaster. Meanwhile, the lovely vibrancy of Buenos Aires and its resilient people shine through.

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La Casa Rosata (The Pink House). The Argentinean president works, but does not live here.
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Locals and tourists alike lounge in the shade of the lawn in front of the Pink House.
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Argentinians are proud of their heritage, bold displays of the national flag abound.
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A street protest questions the decision to close night school. Empty pots are beaten by spoons, signifying dismay with an empty pantry.
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The city is filled with well maintained litter free green spaces with public art.

On our second day in Buenos Aires we took a three-hour urban art tour hosted by Graffittimundo. The tour showcased graffiti hotspots, teaching about the artists and the social circumstances leading to the birth of graffiti art in Buenos Aires. The tour lasted three hours and is on my list of a must do when visiting the city. Graffittimundo is a non-profit serving the urban art scene. All proceeds from tours and events are funneled back into their mission. Our tour began in the Colegiales neighborhood. We wandered the Palermo Hollywood neighborhood and ended in Palermo Soho at a graffiti adorned bar and artist operated gallery in the rear. Not only was the tour a great way to see samples of various styles and periods of graffiti art, it was a fun way to be introduced to some of BA’s hipper neighborhoods.

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Our guide, Maryella, told the story of graffiti art in Buenos Aires. She incorporated a delightful enthusiasm and wit, always showing respect to the subject matter. Maryella’s incorporation of the art’s historical and cultural significance was executed with perfection.

Once street art becomes public, it is subject to alteration and is frequently tagged by other street artists. To many, this alteration is disrespectful to the original artist. And, perhaps it is. But in reality, the art is in the public venue and stuff happens out on the streets. An interesting exception to tagging public art exists. Note the floating scarf images. These are revered and never adulterated by others.

P1110779The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo is a group of women whose children and grandchildren disappeared during the 1976 – 1983 “Dirty War.” Only a handful of the  disappeared have been recovered. The women of the missing have not stood by in silence. They began their quest to learn what happened to their loved ones while the war was still ongoing. It was a very dangerous time to speak up against the government. These women did not care. Their mission remains. Organized marches are held weekly,  demanding details about lost family members. Government denial and minimization of the numbers continues. Protestors wear white scarves, which have become synonymous with the search for answers about the missing.

Graffiti art has been embraced by the city. Each depiction has a story to tell. Police may stop and watch as a creation is being made. No altercations, handcuffs or squad car rides. No problema!

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Gran Cafe Tortoni is touted in guide books as the most reviewed cafe in Buenos Aires. We bit, arriving at 2:00 pm to a long line stretching down the block. Wait time, one hour. Our travel partner, Jody, had targeted the place and goaded us on. Her husband Steve, not so sure. After some feet shuffling, we joined the queue. All of us were super glad we did. The place is amazing! Not the food so much, although it is just fine. The cost of a table and meal is the price of admission. The entire cafe is an impromptu museum filled to the brim with original art and memorabilia from the global arts scene, starting in 1958 and spilling forward to current times. Wander the back rooms. Don’t be shy. Take time to look upward at the original stained glass ceiling fixtures. Peruse the glass fronted curio cabinets, chock filled with photos and newspaper articles. Check out the original art work gifted to the owners and crowding every space along the walls. I spent more time wandering around than sitting at the table. Do be aware, as you will need to dodge tray laden impatient waiters rushing about to accommodate hungry diners. And, resist the urge to succumb to a sense of impolite unease as you look over the heads of other diners at the art. Your discomfort will be rewarded.

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The home church of the current Pope Francis is the Catedral Metropolitana located in Buenos Aires.  A confession. I walked blind into the church, curious about its magnificence. Only after entering and reading the signage did I learn Pope Francis is Argentinian. After saying, “I thought he is Polish,” Conde politely said, “Trish, that was 2 popes ago.” I was raised Methodist, sort of.

The Catedral Metropolitana was build in around 1827. Not surprisingly, it is in pristine condition and quite beautiful. The guarded remains of Argentine Liberator General Jose de San Martin are interred in a grandiose marble mausoleum. Two guards frame the doorway stand motionless as visitors walk past taking photographs.

The Theatro Colon (opera house) is a must see. Several months before traveling to BA, Conde scored tickets to a sold-out performance of the Nutcracker. Only $25 per person. Beyond worth the price of admission. We celebrated December 30th with a 5:00 pm matinée. The performance was absolutely lovely and a great way to usher in the new year.  If you can’t get tickets to a show, the Theatro has guided tours. No expense was spared in its construction. It’s beautiful inside and out.

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Elaborate rose colored marble staircases – the handrails are cold and smooth to touch.
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Turn-of-the century lighting and gold gild are everywhere.
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Multiple tiers of seating – makes for a magical performance.
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Opera House – Stained glass dome and skylights.

The La Boca neighborhood is a hotspot for tourists. El Caminito, a cobblestone street near the southern edge of La Boca, is at the heart of the action. Caminito was originally home to sailors working the harbor. They painted their homes with left over paints, creating an  unintended eclectic bright-colored area. When the harbor wound down, community members capitalized on the unique nature of the area, keeping the festive bright colors and turning the area into a very cleaver tourist destination. I wanted to check it out. My three travel partners were good sports and went along. Unfortunately the museums in the area were closed for the new years holiday. I enjoyed El Caminito, but would put a visit near the bottom of the list, unless you are a big shopper.

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These odd live sized cartoonish statues are common throughout the country. Here, the pope hails visitors into the shopping mall.
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Here we have Evita, Che, our boxer buddy from the cemetery and the lady in green lording over El Caminito.
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Families gather for a meal in one of dozens of outdoor eating areas. Think steak!
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Conde and Steve were troopers, tolerating the shopping mob scene.
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Tango dancers abound. In La Boca, will dance for money.

Taking a break from the city, we booked a tour of the historic town of San Antonio de Areco and a visit to an Estancia. Guillermo González Guereño, proprietor of  Camino Pampa, accommodated us with style. His driver Juan picked us up at our hotel at 8:30 am. and dropped us off at around 7:00 pm. It was a fun day.

San Antonio de Areco, named for the town’s founding estanciero (ranch owner), is a small gaucho town with cobble-stoned streets, a town center park and lots of history.  It was developed in the early 18th century and preserves many traditions of the gaucho and criollo cultures. Gauchos were nomadic horsemen who lived in the pampas. They still prosper, but are no longer nomadic. In San Antonio de Areco, there is an annual festival called the Dia de la Tradicion (day of tradition). The town hosts the largest gaucho celebration in all of Argentina.

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Elaborate silver horse tack was a sign of prestige. The city has a working silversmith shop that is  the “go-to” for gifts for foreign dignitaries visiting Argentina.

After leaving the town, we traveled to an Estansia. The last couple miles of road was heavily rutted mud, worsened by a torrential thunder storm. We had to transfer from the van to four-wheel drive vehicles. The crazy sideways sliding towards a ditch was akin to a carnival ride. Well worth the price of admission. Once at the Estansia, we rode horses, gorged on traditional barbecue and danced.

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I rode this grumpy gal. She liked to pick fights with the other horses. Every time I tried to get her to slow down or turn, she head-butted my foot, hoping to unseat me. We did not bond.
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Lunch on the veranda.
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The barbecue chef. How about that apron!
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Enough meat for an army.
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The owner loves dogs and rescues as many as she can handle. They were everywhere in all shapes and sizes.  Made us happy as we missed our pup.
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Jody cuts a mean rug.
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Before joining in, we learned the moves.
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Spanish horses everywhere.
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Horsemanship demonstration. This gaucho gently coaxed his mare to the ground. Check out his boots. They are made from the skin of horse legs. In gaucho culture, when a prized horse dies, it lives on in a pair of boots.
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Yerba Mate is the local addiction. Caffeine rich green tea leaves are packed into a traditional cup. Hot water is added and the tea sipped from a silver straw. You see the mata cups and thermos bottles filled with hot water everywhere. Our guide Guillermo demonstrates the ritual.

We are off to Patagonia, Uruguay and then more of BA. Stay tuned!

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Murals of Portland Oregon

Public art rocks!

It can bring a flash of wonderment into an otherwise mundane day. Portland sports innumerable outdoor wall murals created by artists with something to share. Some of their messages are overt, others more obscure. Color, shape and creative design are a unifying theme in Portland’s murals.

 I took advantage of beautiful fall weather, roaming the streets of my home town, camera in hand, searching for murals to share. I peeked around corners, across parking lots and into alleyways looking up, down and all around. My treasure hunt was rewarded.

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This is just a small sampling of outdoor wall murals around Portland.

I hope you enjoyed seeing these depictions as much as I enjoyed creating this blog.

Although I didn’t use it, I found there is a map of murals around Portland.

I would love to see your photos of murals from your neighborhood or from travels around the world!

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For All You Geezers On The Go, Keep On Keeping On!

America’s Wild West – Road Tripping!

PART TWO!

We loaded up the car, heading East from Portland for a 3½ week road trip.
Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

What an adventure!

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We drove southeast from Bigfork (SE of Kalispell), stopping now and again to cast a fly  into the cold clear rivers along the highway.  Our destination, Three Forks Montana, 35 miles northwest of Bozeman.

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The Lewis & Clark expedition traveled through Three Forks. Sacajawea, a member of the Shoshone Indian tribe, served as an interpreter. She and her son traveled with Lewis & Clark from 1804 until 1806.

Three Forks was an important stopping point for tourists traveling to Yellowstone National Park on the Milwaukee Railroad. In 1910 Railroad Agent J.Q. Adams developed the Sacajawea Hotel at the town’s entrance, directly across the street from the train Depot. Smart guy.  In 2010 the hotel was restored to its historic grandeur. It is a beautiful place to stay with an elegant lobby, comfortable bar and very good restaurant. The “Sac,” as it is called by locals, is Montana’s only member of the Historical Hotels of America. Breakfast in bed is provided to all guests.

Three Forks is a tiny town with a museum, theatre, and a second hotel aptly called the Lewis & Clark Hotel. Other choices seemed to include religion, alcohol or activities at the Senior Citizen Center. Or perhaps a combination of all three.

I’ll remember Three Forks as the place little Ari got a HUGE grass seed lodged in his ear next to the ear drum. We went for an early morning photo walk. When we returned to the hotel, Ari started shaking his head, left ear down. I couldn’t find anything but it was clear he was in discomfort. About an hour later he let out a series of ear-splitting small dog shrieks. I was pretty sure security was on the way. An internet search and calls turned up a veterinarian in Bozeman who could see him in a couple of hours. It was settled, we loaded up the car and headed to Bozeman for lunch and a vet bill.

P1100153Compared with other parts of Montana visited, Bozeman seemed downright progressive. While awaiting our vet appointment, we found Dave’s Sushi located a few blocks off Main Street. A perfect choice. We then drove to All West Veterinary Hospital. Dr. Karyn Cook was wonderful. Little Ari needed to be sedated to remove the HUGE grass seed from his ear. We had a couple more hours to kill in Bozeman. I distractedly fretted away the time while waiting for Dr. Cook’s “all is good” call.

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Cumberland Island taught me a lot about the Carnegie family. In Bozeman I learned Andrew Carnegie donated roughly $41 million for construction of 1,679 public libraries in the US between 1886 – 1917. The Bozeman Classical Revival Carnegie library was built in 1902 and is one of 17 Carnegie libraries in Montana. The revolving golden horse on the Gallatin Lodge No 6 is iconic and somewhat mesmerizing. This Mason Lodge was built in 1883 and is still used for their meetings.

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Bozeman Street Art

Little Ari survived the medical process with no problems. And, he was really doped-up. I had to curl him up like a rag doll in his backseat bed. We were off to Yellowstone National Park.

P1100158 2We made a last-minute reservation at the National Park System’s Old Faithful Inn. If we had a first-born child it would have been sold to pay for one night in a dorm room style setting. The hotel is facing Old Faithful Geyser. But not our cheap $300 annex room with a parking lot view. First opened in 1904, the Inn is the largest log hotel in the world. The lobby is gorgeous. If you can see past the thousands of  human bodies, long lines, shrieking children and tired staff. An after Labor Day experience would have been much better. Next time.

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Old Faithful Inn – original wing
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Re-creation of sedated Ari.

When we checked into the Inn we learned it was not dog friendly as believed. Another place to stay was hours away and would have cost us dearly. Conde’ decided to smuggle Ari into the room. He gathered our sedated limp dog into a tiny neon lime green towel. Ari’s large bushy tail hanging out the side. Conde’ rushed to the Inn’s back door, up three flights of stairs and “secreted” Ari in to our hotel room. Only a million people saw it. Somehow, no one complained.

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Old Faithful erupting

I barely had time to start settling in when Conde’ burst back in the room,”Old Faithful is erupting, come now! Hurry!” I rushed out behind him to the hotel’s Old Faithful viewing deck. It was only after I noticed people staring at my feet that I realized I had forgotten to put on shoes. The scene reminded me of trying to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre through a mass of humanity. Pretty sure someone captured the back of my head in a photo.

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Steam rising from the earth 

The next morning we started early while the masses were still sleeping. Ari was groggy but happy to be out and about. The Yellowstone geysers are truly phenomenal. A vision into the hot boiling cauldron of middle earth. If you must visit during peak summer season rise early for the quiet morning calm and stay up late for the night stars.

We crossed the Continental Divide on our way to Grand Teton National Park.  When I first glimpsed the Grand Teton range, it  was love at first sight. A majestic rugged beauty.

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We stayed at the Jenny Lake Lodge right in the heart of the park.  An idyllic place, perfectly situated for hikes along the river. Our cabin was a quiet oasis with views of the Grand Tetons. Bicycles were included for rides down to Jenny Lake, or wherever one might want to go on two wheels. The restaurant was first class. I could have lived there forever.

They aren’t kidding when they say watch for bears. It is a bit like Southern Oregon where black bears abound. Don’t be deceived by the name “black bear.” They come in many colors, including ginger and brown. Black bears remind me of big goofy dogs. On the other hand, Grizzlies, aka Brown Bears, scare me.P1100419

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This guy was eating berries and didn’t care when we passed by on the trail.

I was sad to leave Grand Teton National Park. It was busy, but not crazy like Yellowstone. Jenny Lake trail was a beautiful. Wildflower were in full bloom. Next time I’m in the area I’ll take time to raft the Snake River. Alas, we had already over-stayed our allotted vacation time.  It was on to Jackson Hole Wyoming for a quick look around before heading across Idaho homeward bound to Oregon. The local paper says Jackson Hole has the biggest disparity between high and low-income levels of any city in America. It shows.

The sidewalks in Jackson are raised boardwalks. The shops vary between good value resale to high-end jewelry shops. It is very clean and surrounded by the true American West. Rugged mountain peaks in all directions. Restaurants everywhere.

Sculpture art abounds around town. Lewis & Clark’s presence is rightfully pervasive. P1100480

I’ve traveled the world and this is an interesting first. I saw this instructional illustration in the public bathroom at the Jackson Hole bus station … An illumination of  some very basic cultural differences around the world, and an unexpected fascinating representation of the diversity in visitors to the area.

Thanks for joining my adventures.  See you next time!

For All You Geezers on the Go – Keep On Keeping On!

 

 

 

 

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