Sunday, May 25, 2008

Tango & Milonga

There isn't much that I can say about Buenos Aires that hasn't already been said by someone else, and probably a lot more eloquently than I could manage. So I figured I would simply post some pictures of our trip, and state only that we really loved the city. It reminded us a lot of Manhattan, but with more European architecture. We enjoyed walking around the different neighborhoods, watching the street tango performances, attending a tango dinner show and even visting a couple of milongas (dance halls) the locals visit.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Nature's Call

I don’t like nature. For as long as I can remember, I have longed to live in a city, vacation at resorts and, at all costs, avoid the great outdoors. I don’t hike, mountain bike or white water raft. I even recall being bored at Yosemite National Park (and cringing at the port-a-potties, to say nothing of the bugs, rodents and other inconvenient species out there) during a family vacation when I was 11. As a teen, I rebuffed my parents’ several attempts to take a family vacation to Yellowstone National Park, wondering why on earth anyone would want to see bison roaming around in the middle of nowhere.

So you can imagine my surprise when over the past year a strange whisper began beckoning me to the wilderness of southern Patagonia, Argentina. I suddenly had this overwhelming urge to ride horseback across the Argentine pampas looking out at nothing but earth as far as the eye can see; to climb mountains of ice to get a glimpse of what the ice age might have been like; to look above and out at an epic sky, feeling a sense of isolation from civilization in knowing that the distance to the end of the world – Antarctica – was close within reach.

Finally last month, after spending a relaxing few days in Buenos Aires, Sonny and I did go to Patagonia – El Calafate – for a few days of quality time with nature. The first thought I had when we landed was that this is what Alaska must look like – the beauty being the raw and wild landscape, with little civilization for thousands of miles on end.

The main attraction of El Calafate is its close proximity (1.5 hours) to the Perito Moreno glacier, a mass of ice that is 200 feet high, stretching out 20 miles in jagged peaks. It is located in Los Glaciers National Park, and a trip to see it requires a boat ride across Lake Argentina through floating seracs of ice that have broken off the glacier, and a hike through the beautiful park national park to and from the actual glacier.

The highlight was the two hour ice-trek on the glacier, climbing up and down and around its peaks, valleys and ponds as the winds whipped across our faces and nearly knocked us over at times. That day we were lucky to witness huge blocks of ice breaking off the glacier with the sound of thunder, and then peacefully floating away in the frigid lake. There really is no way to fully capture what it was like trekking on that glacier - surreal and scary, awe inspiring and amazing, to say the least.

The day after, we visited a Patagonian ranch (estancia) where we saw a demonstration of sheep herding as well as sheep shearing, and ate an authentic barbequed lamb dinner (well, at least Sonny did – I stuck to the salad bar consisting of canned vegetables and white bread). Perhaps my favorite part of the visit was the sunset horseback riding expedition that brought to life my fantasy of riding through the wilderness under a vast sky and looking out at nothing but the snow capped Andes jutting up from the earth in the distance.

Our last day in El Calafate we took a 4x4 off roading trip up the side of a mountain, 3400 feet up, for breathtaking views of the Lake Argentina region and Chilean Andes, as well as a glimpse into the wildlife residing in the mountains.

Since I have never been a real nature buff, we did not plan to spend a lot of time in Patagonia, hiking to Mt. Fitz Roy and El Chalten, and visiting Chile like most people do on such a trip. But somehow I managed to fall inlove with the Great Outdoors in just the few days we were there - and regretted a bit not planning more time there than in Buenos Aires. On the other hand, I suppose it is an incentive to return to southern South America one day, hiking boots and all.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Our Photo Archive

We have been doing a bit of local traveling over the past several months, trying to soak up some sights in Mexico. Since M&D haven't gotten around to posting any pictures, I have taken it upon myself to pick up the slack, starting with our trip to Los Cabos way back in December. While the town is beautiful and the resort lovely (the pool, naturally being my favorite part), our trip was overshadowed by Daddy catching bronchitis and missing the entire wedding for which we took the trip. Mommy & I managed to attend the wedding just before she followed suit and caught a really bad throat infection, leaving both my parents practically immobile for 3 days. Luckily we had managed one good day before the illnesses set in when we took a boat trip through the Sea of Cortes and got to see lots and lots of sea lions. The rest of the time I spent being a very good girl for M&D, and hanging out with Daddy's cousins, to whom M&D were ever-so-grateful for helping take care of me.

Then, when we returned from our looong trip to the U.S. over Christmas we began taking a few road trips as well: to Puebla with my pal Isabel and her family and to San Miguel de Allende with M&D for a long weekend. Puebla and San Miguel are both colonial towns, the former famous for Mexican Talavera and more churches than any other town in Mexico, and the latter for its views and cobblestone streets, language and arts courses, and what seemed like more Americans per square block than New York City. We also went to Tepotzlan, a bohemian little town about an hour and half away, for a day trip (or more accurately, a long leisurely lunch and stroll through the markets).

M&D still have a number of places left on their “list” that are must-sees before we leave Mexico, so I keep telling them that we had better get moving.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Happiest Place on Earth

Lest Mommy & Daddy have all the fun on vacation, my grandparents saw to it that I got to have a lot of excitement of my own. I got to see my great grandma, my cousins and even an aunt who was visiting all the way from India. I also went shopping – a lot, to the carousels and to the pool at Nani’s house.

I must confess, though, that my absolute, by-far, most favorite thing in the whole wide world was my trip to Disney World with Dada & Dadi. Of course we went to Animal Kingdom, to Sea World (where I got soaked from Shamu – something I truly did not appreciate) and to Epcot Center, but obviously what I loved the most was visiting the Magic Kingdom. While I enjoyed meeting Mickey & Minnie, I was a bit miffed that they only spent a few minutes with me (a fact that I am quick to tell anyone who asks) and was much happier visiting the Cinderella castle and meeting princesses.

I had so much fun in the U.S. that I didn’t miss M&D at all – and didn’t even care to talk to them on the phone whenever they called from South America. But who could blame me given my surroundings?

A Busy Body

I realize that I have been really behind on my blogging these days – and it is because Mommy, Daddy (M&D) & I have just been so busy with houseguests and vacations.
April was quite a hectic month, starting with a visit from Archan Mama and Aurelie Mami. Even though they were only visiting us for a few days, we packed in a whole lot of fun. Aside from going out to eat (a lot), I took them to the playground I frequent, to parts of Chapuletepec Park and to the market where we regularly shop on Saturdays (which I think was their favorite site in the city – I have never seen anyone get so excited over avocados, tomatoes and imported cheeses). Mommy also went with them on a sightseeing bus tour of the city, including the Zocalo and the National Palace where they were able to see the famous murals painted by Diego Riviera. When we weren’t all busy eating gelato or going to restaurants, we spent our time just hanging out and blowing bubbles, dancing and playing with balloons.

The day after Archan Mama & Aurelie Mami left, Nani came for a visit with her friend, Miss Barbara. Even though Mommy wanted her to do a lot of sightseeing, Nani seemed a lot more interested in spending time with me, so we did a lot of kid friendly things. I took her and Miss Barbara to the Castle at Chaupltepec Park (now that we finally know where it is – and this time we actually visited inside the castle); we went to Puebla for a day to walk around and shop for talavera, and one afternoon I took Nani to a children's farm, where I had a blast holding bunnies and baby chicks, feeding ducks, rabbits and goats and riding on a donkey (which I adamantly insisted was a baby horse).

In the middle of this fun filled visit, Mommy’s best friend, Nipa Masi, came to our house all the way from Philadelphia. She was in town on business and came two days early to stay with us. Even though she and I have not had much bonding time over the past two years, I took to her like a duck to water. I followed her around all day, and tried to get her to play with me, feed me and change my diaper (Mommy swears she didn’t put me to it).

After about a week with a house full of women, Daddy finally got a reprieve from all the estrogen. Nipa Masi went to work, and Nani and Miss Barbara went back to NJ - and I went with them for a little holiday of my own while M&D went on vacation!