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Monday, October 31, 2011

CUZCO AND SACRED VALLEY

Here I am in the middle of almost nowhere, perhaps a hundred miles from the Amazon River, and I'm actually sending this posting to the World.  Well, this is the day that worried me.  A flight (that's Inca Cola on the right) from Lima to Cuzco, where the elevation is just about 11,000 feet.  However, a few weeks ago I did go up to Mauna Kea (13,800 feet), so I was somewhat confident.

I think the planning for this day was faulty.  Globus should have immediately bused us to Sacred Valley and our hotel, which are at 9,000 feet and 8,000 feet, respectively.  Instead, they made us walk through churches and museums in Cuzco, sometimes uphill, with a guide that walked much to quickly.  Everyone made it, but some of us only barely.  I now have a slight headache and am really exhausted. In protest I'll just show one piece of art from Quorikancha, or the Sun Temple:


Originally built by Manco Capac before 1438, Pachacuti (to the right), who built Machu Picchu, enlarged this attraction.  However, the Spanish essentially destroyed the temple, and what you see is what barely remains.

We had an excellent "family" lunch, and here are a few more photos of my tour friends.  Maybe I'll get them all in before it's over.  Here, Sally from Texas:
Rosella and Jim from Saskatchewan:

We then made a few stops for shopping in Sacred Valley, ending up at the Casa Andina Private Collection in the valley.  This chain is excellent with nicely designed rooms and good food.  Tomorrow, Machu Picchu.

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

ARGENTINA AND PERU



Argentina is 2400 miles long from north to south (the USA is about 2700 miles from the Pacific to the Atlantic) and is four times the size of Texas.  The population is 40 million, with Buenos Aires at 3 million.  Peru is three times larger than California, with a population of 30 million, but Lima has 9 million people.  The flag of the former is blue and white, with the Sun of May, a representation of the Inca Sun God, in the middle, while that of Peru is to the right.

Neither country has yet been hit by a hurricane, and while Peru does have some significant earthquakes, Argentina's major ones are in the west and north.  Buenos Aires is a safer city with respect to natural disasters.

Both countries were part of the Inca empire (which amazingly enough, only existed for less than 100 years), with Peru conquered by Francisco Pizarro in 1532, but in that same time frame, Argentina was merely settled by Spanish settlers because there was no organized indigenous resistance. They both declared independence from Spain almost 200 years ago.  The spoken language of course is Spanish, for all the countries in Central and South America except Brazil speak it.

The president of Argentina, as earlier reported, is Cristina Kirschner, while Ollanta Humala this year beat Keiko Fujimori (graduated from Boston University) for the Peru presidency.  She is the daughter of Alberto Fujimori (an agricultural engineer and mathematician, he was known as El Chino, or Chinaman), former president, who is now in a Peruvian jail.  In 1938 he was born in Miraflores, where my Lima hotel is located.  If she won, she probably would have pardoned her father.

Education in both countries, incidentally, are compulsory and free, even through college (undergraduate), providing you qualify.





Well, what else?  Miss Universe in 1957 was Gladys Rose Zender de Meier (left) of Peru, and in 1962  was Norma Nolan (right) of Argentina.

I'm now in Lima, and I bet you didn't know that the city has 43 mayors, 250,000 taxis and 400 casinos, which is impressive, because Las Vegas only has 78.  I got a quick tour pass the Peruvian version of the White House  and walked through a couple of museums, where their restrooms are the only ones where you don't need to pay around 35 cents to use.  The Cathedral museum to the left and two items from the Larco Herrara Museum, which included a pornography section

After which I chatted with Ila and Jashu of Kalamazoo:


Jashu Patel is particularly valuable, for he is a medical doctor and provided confidence about three spider bites I apparently got in the Rio botanical park.  They looked ominous and could well have been fatal, but I appear now to be recovering.

The Pisco Sour is the national drink (also of Chile), sort of like the Brazilian Caipirinha.  However, at the Casa Andina Private Collection, where I am staying, I had a variation called Coca Sour, which adds coca (no, not chocolate, but from which comes cocaine).  This is an outstanding hotel, and not only because of their drinks.

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

BEEF, TANGO AND THE PAMPAS

You can't leave Buenos Aires without beef and tango.  There is a special quality to their meats.  The meal was excellent.  I'll still need to return and get their names correct, but here are a few of my tour group members:

Rosalia and Leonid from Russia, then, now, Syndney.  The following, Angie/Romy and  Joy/Elpido all  from Napa Valley:
A group with Jim and Rena of Saskatchewan in front:
John and Mary of Chicago, Jim and Sally of Dallas, Doug of Omaha and Olga of North Carolina:
Ila, Taramati and Kiritkumar:

I had a front row seat for the show:
I almost felt like a voyeur.  A great evening in Buenos Aires.

Finally, there is the traditional pampas tour, which includes a barbeque:


Lunch with Joe and Hannah of Florida:


and Frank and Sylvia of Texas:


There is even a tango show:


As at the tango show, they are awfully generous with their wines and beer.  As much as you want.  And, finally, horses:


Definitely, there is a limit to how much you can take in beef, drinks and magnificent falls.  Next, on to Peru and Machu Picchu.

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MY BEST MEAL...

...for less than $100 was just experienced at La Bourgogne in Buenos Aires.  Recommended by our director Alejandro, this was an unexpectedly enjoyable experience.

As I have attempted to create at each new fusion restaurant, I had Lucio, the sommelier, combine an Argentinian bitter orange aperitif with champagne.  The name became obvious:  BOCA, because Boca Juniors is their particularly famous soccer team with Maradona.  Here with two free appetizers:


Three wines, as suggested by Lucio embellished this lunch:

  -  Sur de Los Andes Chardonnay
  -  Sur de Los Andes Malbec Grand Reserva
  -  Finca Domingo Torrontes

My meal started with a grand salad:


My ordering resulted in an overdose of green asparagus, here with the entre, a well prepared grouper:


The Morel mushrooms (raisin looking morsels) were the  highlight, for they concentrated the essence of the juices as I've never had before.  Then came one of those free dessert candy plates, which I had with a Luigi Bosca Gewurztraminer Seleccion de Giznos Nobles, an almost Chateau d'Yquem:


The chocolates were outstanding.  The whole meal, with tax and tip cost less than $100.  Yes, the best I've ever had for this price.

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I LOVE BUENOS AIRES

San Paulo, a municipality of nearly 20 million, had an amazing cusine culture, and I need to someday return.  Rio could well be the greatest city on Planet Earth and most definitely is wonderful.  I LOVE BUENOS AIRES!  This is my third time here, and I finally got it.

Our tour group took the standard quick tour, and, let me start with a negative:  graffiti.  Ninety percent of Argentinians are Roman Catholic.  It's a long convoluted story, but let me just state that the walls of their churches are the target of continuous graffiti.  Each has a painter that has a lifetime job just covering them:

There is, of course, the Pink House, where their President operates.  Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, first female who was elected president in this country (Juan Peron's third wife just assumed the role after her husband passed away), who was just re-elected this week in a landslide.


You remember, of course Eva Peron (left), First Lady, circa 1950, made famous in Evita, first the Broadway show, then the movie, with Madonna (right) playing Eva.  Eva unfortunately died at the age of 33 from uterine cancer.  Her husband, Juan Peron, of course, was one of the most interesting people who ever lived, who was president of Argentina three times and also married thrice, Eva as his second (he was 23 years older) and his third, Isabel (a dancer, who was 35 years younger than Juan, became his wife only because the Catholic Church disapproved of his living with someone so young...and became president) still lives in Spain, and would be tossed in jail if she returned to Argentina.  What a country!


Here Eva is at the age of 15 when she left her wealthy home to become an actress:


Her life is told in Evita.  The Pink House, just below the clock, is where Madonna sang Don't Cry for Me Argentina:



Elaine Paige, of course, was the original Evita in the 1978 West End production.

Eva's body has travelled the world, and now is back in Buenos Aires.  Here with Olga:


In Buenos Aires, there is also Caminito:


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