Greetings from cloudy, rainy, and cold London! We got back last Sunday after a nearly 48-hour journey, including a 16-hour overnight layover in Sao Paulo, Brazil where we visited a friend and caught a quick glimpse of South America’s largest metropolis as well as two arrivals at London Heathrow for me and a bit too much time at Madrid-Barajas Airport for Astrid.
Although we are back into the stress and long hours of work, I think so far this week we’ve both kept at least a modicum of relaxation about us, trying to make the effects of a good and long vacation last as long as possible (in the old days, I used to call that keeping the gruntle level up – as opposed to quickly becoming disgruntled!). We certainly both felt as though we’d really been away (properly, as the British would say), and it felt a little odd to be home again at first…but the hoarse meows of two angry kitties quickly won us over again! While we had a great time, it was really good to be home, back to a place where English is spoken (after three full weeks of nada pero espanol for me!) and where I don’t necessarily have to keep one hand glued to my wallet in my pocket absolutely all of time.
I’m glad and a bit proud perhaps to say that we’ve already told you about our only real challenges on the trip – namely being robbed of 4 ounces of coke (fluid ounces, of coca cola zero that is!) on the street and handling the bus strike in Mendoza, which led to the trip’s best highlight of driving across one of the highest mountain ranges in the world. We’ve got a lot more interesting pictures and stories to share, as well as perhaps a couple more thinking pieces about South America. We have great ambition to share all of that, and hopefully in time will achieve that. We also have quite a backlog of pictures from past trips as well.
For now, I thought I would share just a preview of some of the highlights of the trip here, with a stab at a top five below…
Crossing the Andes was clearly the highlight of the trip! Here is one view of the 24 hairpin bends following the border crossing on the Chile side of the pass. Luckily, traffic currently only goes in one direction (each half of the day), but that is due to extensive road construction.
Our time in Valparaiso (Chile, not Indiana, which we learned was named after this one following the naval Battle of Valparaiso in the War of 1812) was excellent. Here you can see “our” ascensor, which scales the hill from the (working) port area to the neighborhood where our B&B was located. The city rises spectacularly, in vivid colors, from the beautiful harbor.
Following a fast catamaran ride across the brown (they swear, it is sediment!) Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires, we spent a lovely day in Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay. Colonia was a beautiful Portuguese (you guessed it) colonial town with an amazing, romantic waterfront location. Here you can see the impossibly picturesque Calle de los Suspiros (Street of Sighs) at twilight, where we enjoyed an amazing bottle of local Uruguayan Riesling.
One of our best dinners ever (so much so that we went back for a second night!) was at Ocho Cepas in Mendoza, Argentina – where excellent wine and olive oil, amazing steak cooked perfectly, the best empanadas ever, and a good atmosphere were a perfect combination.
Rounding out the top five highlights from the trip was another day trip from Buenos Aires – to the town of Tigre and the Parana Delta region, which gave me a Louisiana bayou vibe (even though I’ve never been there). We took a great three-hour round-trip boat through the closer parts of the amazing delta, but barely scratched the surface of the 5,000 square mile area (similar to Rhode Island or Delaware). Luckily, the sun gave us a break and there was a great breeze!
Finally, how could I not include a transit picture? This is the Universidad de Chile Metro Station in Santiago, with some amazing artwork inside a very 1970s station on what is one of the busiest metro lines in the world. It is interesting that Santiago (like Montreal, but perhaps less easy to understand) bought into the French rubber-tired metro technology in the 1970s, and so have narrow trains with whooshing sounds and no screeching!