A Journal, with Pictures

Happenings

February Florida Visit

by on Feb.05, 2017, under Happenings

Joyce and I made a February swing to visit family and friends to Florida. We stopped in Fort Lauderdale Wednesday to see Jennifer, Mike and Alexandra for an afternoon and evening. Life continues at warp speed there with Alexandra growing up fast. We then flew to Sarasota on Thursday to visit some of our former NCR colleagues and friends. Elton and Gordy White hosted us for lunch and we stayed in the beautiful apartment overlooking the bay. We were joined for cocktails, by Chuck and Carol Exley, Joe and Nora Stephan, Rex and Pat Fleet. We had a great time catching up and everyone is ageing gracefully and most of all haven’t lost their sense of humor. We then had a great dinner at the Field Club, continuing the frivolity.

On Friday we flew to Naples to visit Rich and Linda Miller. They are doing fine as full time Florida residence and we again enjoyed catching up. Rich and Linda treated us royally, at their great club Grey Oaks. We then flew back to Hilton Head on Saturday, a quick but very enjoyable trip, reminding us of how lucky we have been to have met and works with such great people.

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South America 2016 — first stop Mendoza, Argentina

by on Feb.10, 2016, under Happenings

This is a bucket list trip that Joyce and I have been thinking about for several years. Its been 35 years since I have been to Argentina and Brazil. Joyce as not been to two of my favorite countries in Latin America so this is it. Tony Huffman our friend organizes a incredible trip for us, we don’t have to lift a finger, just a glass, a fork, a camera and a pen to write the check. We leave Thursday January 21 from Savannah through Atlanta to Santiago, Chile then on to Mendoza, Argentina. Our first stop is the Cavas Wine Lodge, a vineyard and first class hotel. We are met by our host/guide Agostina Astegiano and our driver for the one hour drive to our lodge. Then we are checked in to our Casita which is in the Vineyard itself. We have lunch and then relax before the cooking class that we have signed up for. Leo the resort chef turns out to be delightful and we have great fun cooking empanadas  and a Argentine vegetable/chicken dish over an open fire. Its fun and of course we taste wine then enjoy our dinner, before crashing. Our casita is great, the view of the Andes is stunning and we get a full nights sleep.

Time for the cooking class, we are tired but its so much fun we forget about it and it means an early by Argentine standards dinner.

The next day after breakfast its off to do some wine touring. Our objective is to learn about Argentine wines particularly their varietal Malbec. We are in the Lujan de Cuyo Valley region and start by visiting a winery (Bodega) started by an American with an Argentine partner, the Paul Hobbs winery. We then visit  and do tasting at the Bodega Casarena.

After the winery visits we finish the tasting with lunch at Osadia de Crear at the the Dominio Del Plata Winery. The wines are impressive and the lunch is over the top both in terms of the quality of the wine and food.

We have dinner at the lodge, which is of course is very good, with Chef Leo preparing something special for us.

Saturday after breakfast we are out again to explore the Mendoza wine country. We start with, what turns out to be our favorite winery Bodega Benegas, which is owned by one of Argentina’s oldest wine families. In fact we like one of their wines so well we arrange to have a case shipped to the US. These bottles will not be cheap, so only our best friends will ever get a wiff of this ambrosia. The winery itself is interesting in that the founding father kept old wine making tools as well as a collection of Goucho ponchos and decorated the winery with his collection. The wine was superb particularly their FBL 2010 Blend.

We visit Bodega Malipal and finish with another great lunch at Vistalbas. Malipal is a modern winery and if closed your eyes you would be in Napa Valley. It turns out that Agostina our guide is not only a wonderful person she is a wine maker herself as is her husband to be. She is a delight to be with and a fountain of knowledge about Argentine wines. We then have a tasting lunch Bodega Vistalba.

Its time to relax and enjoy Cavas Wine Lodge, who’s owner is an artist so its not a surprise to find a very arty cow in the vineyard. The grapes are getting ripe and we can image that being their during the crush would be incredible. We enjoy one last great meal at the Lodge and then in the morning we are off to Bariloche.

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Bariloche

by on Feb.10, 2016, under Happenings

 

On Sunday January 24 we leave Mendoza, fly to Buenos Aires and on to Bariloche airport arriving late afternoon. We are met by Alex Outerial our guide for the next few days and driven through the town of Bariloche and past lake Nahuel Huapi to our home for the next couple of day, Hotel Llao Llao. Our suite is spectacular looking out at Lake Moreno and Mount Tranador. We learn our hotel is considered the nicest in Argentina, built in 1939 and recently completely renovated and expanded. We dine at a quaint Italian restaurant, Il Gabbiano on the big lake, and the meal and wine are excellent.

The next morning after a great breakfast at the hotel we are off on a hiking adventure. It turns out the Alex is a world class trekker and mountain guide, as well as very knowledgeable about Patagonia. We drive around the mountain behind our hotel to a lodge on another lake. Our objective is to hike up the mountain to a waterfall with a view of the lake and lodge. It is a moderately steep trail but we handle it and are rewarded with great scenery.

After our trek we have a great lunch at the lodge overlooking the lake. We return to our hotel and relax before a dinner at a restaurant called Butterfly on Lake Nahuel Haupi. We have a great view and the seven course tasting menu with wine pairing fits right in with our new style. The next day we leave for a boat excursion on the lake. We will cruise from the western in and can see the Chilean border in the distance and end up on Victoria Island. The whole area including Bariloche is in Nahuel Haupi National Park, once a private land holding of Perito Moreno an early explorer of the area. He donated 26 square miles in 1906 to create the park. He was responsible for importing exotic species of trees from all over the world to Victoria Island. After our cruise we hike around a bay and are surprised to find giant sequoias from our home state of California as well as many other interesting species.

We set out on our trek, which is a very easy walk around the island, that includes structures that no longer are used as well as a school for area children that’s not in session. We see an amazing array of different trees and woods with beautiful views from the island.

 

We end our hike in a small bay that has an abandoned tour boat on the beach where our boat has docked and it turns out that our first mate in fact is a accomplished chef and has set up a gourmet picnic lunch on the beach. This is a very memorable lunch of course with wine and multiple courses and to top it off out of the woods comes a young musician who was below deck during our cruise playing first a local flute then a local guitar to serenade us. An incredible experience, one we will not forget.

 

After lunch we cruise back across the lake and return to our hotel. That evening we invite Alex to join us for dinner at a restaurant named Cassis. This is a tasting menu of native Patagonian cuisine influenced by the German, Austrian and Italians who immigrated to the region. Another great dinner, with fine Argentine wine and we enjoy the company of our new friend Alex. Tomorrow morning we are off to Buenos Aires so this will be our farewell dinner. Bariloche and Patagonia will go down as one of the highlights of our trip, however it turns out there were no low-lights.

 

 

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Buenos Aires

by on Feb.10, 2016, under Happenings

January 27, at 3:00 PM we arrive at the downtown airport and are picked up by our escort after a looong wait for our bags. The natives are restless and guess what a demonstration almost breaks out over the delay. It must be Buenos Aires where demonstrations have changed the course of the countries history. Being an admitted Argentine history junkie, this is meca for me. Our first stop is the Teatro Colon (Columbus Theater), where we meet a wonderful enthusiastic guide who tells us the history of this amazing building. Construction started in 1889 and is South Americas most prestigious performing arts venue, which has been completely renovated to its former glory. As Argentina became rich, it was determined that the country must have a Opera House as grand as any in Europe, so five families went together and built it at their personal expense. The acoustics are perfect and the greatest performers in the world have performed there from Caruso to Pavaroti. After the tour we checked into our hotel Palacio Duhau, another very nice hotel and room. We then walked to and dined at the incredible Fervor, which is a traditional Argentine steak house. A great steak and bottle of Cabernet/Malbec  from a winery we discovered in Mendoza, perfect.

Thursday we begin the day with a visit to the historic Plaza de Mayo, anchored by the presidential palace know as the Casa Rosada (Pink House). The square in front of the palace, is surrounded by other important and historic buildings, including the city hall, the Metropolitan cathedral, the Argentine IRS and the National Bank. This is the place of many historic demonstrations including the one that freed Juan Peron, who would later become president. Of course there are two mini-demonstrations going on when we visit, one for pensions for the Faulklin Island war for those who never left Argentina and for the welfare recipients who were getting paid off by a now imprison corrupt social administrator Eva Peron wannabe. It is Argentina after all and anything is possible, just demonstrate.

We visit the Cathedral that looks more like a court house on the outside. Inside is the tomb of the General Jose San Martin who liberated Argentina from Spain in 1816. They had ruled since 1580, so many of the things that plague Argentina were implanted during the Spanish rule, including the established landowners and corruption. We then stop by the Argentine Legislature, for a photo, but based on recent history, with the Peronist party President who was called the “Empress” being recently defeated it doesn’t sound like they have had much to do there lately, its been mainly government by presidential decree. Since its warm our great guide Maria suggests an ice coffee which the Argentine’s do very well.

We then travel through the San Telmo district, the birthplace of Tango. This is a very historic area, one of Buenos Aires oldest districts that was abandoned during a yellow fever epidemic and now is a major tourist attraction. We then preceded to explore the near by La Boca (the mouth) district the original port at the mouth of the river. The area was settled by immigrants who painted their shanties with bright ship paint and the color scheme persists.

That evening we dine at an incredible restaurant called Chila, with authentic Argentine cuisine. We then take in a great Tango show at Faena Hotel. Both the restaurant and hotel are in a new area developed from the second port that fell into disrepair now has been redeveloped to be “the” new place in Buenos Aires.

Time for a after dinner drink on the terrace at the hotel, the smoke from the next table has a very sweet smell, could it be, guess so. Time to get some sleep another full day of touring tomorrow. Friday we tour the city’s northern area starting with the area around our hotel and then driving to the bohemian-chic-neighborhood of Palermo. The former grandeur of BA is apparent, with some privately owned mansions still maintained and others turned into commercial structures. The old part of our hotel is a former private mansion and next door is a mansion still maintained by one of the old families. We then travel to a area with a old favorite morning gathering place with a gigantic Ficus tree with interesting supports for the limbs next the restaurant.

We then walk to one of the most interesting places in Buenos Aires, the old cemetery next to a old Spanish Church. The rich and famous are entombed there in unique and sometime elaborate tombs with in some cases underground chambers. For example, one famous individual wanted to be buried in the Andes so his tomb is made from rocks brought from the mountains. The most famous tomb is that of Eva Peron, finally placed in her families vault, since she had fallen into disfavor with succeeding regimes her body was removed from the original burial place and hidden out of the country.

We then finish our tour of the northern area passing the Hipodromo Argentina de Palermo, the first race track established in 1876. Stop and see the huge piece of art in the form of a flower, next to the University of Engineering and then our final stop is at the Eva Peron Museum. Her story is a fascinating, marrying the President and becoming a national figure as the Dior clad first lady and supposed champion of the poor. Her body was hidden in Milan Italy by the opposition party and later returned to Argentina in a hostage swap that was botched. Her damaged body was finally interned in the family tomb and she still is a symbol of the Peronist party.

One of the biggest ethnic origins in Argentina is Italian so we dine at a well known Italian restaurant on our last night then turn in early by Argentine standards since we have an early flight to Iguassu falls in the morning. Buenos Aires is a beautiful city, with the worlds widest boulevard and a definite old European feel, with traces of its glory days along side new modern development that with a new more conservative government seems to have given the people renewed optimism.

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Iguassu Falls

by on Feb.10, 2016, under Happenings

Monday February first, we catch a early flight from Buenos Aires to the Argentine side of the Iguassu Falls. We have lunch on the Argentine side, then take a train to the catwalks that go to the most impressive part of the area, Garganta del Diablo (Devis’s throat). The Iguassu Falls area is made up of 275 waterfalls and is considered one of the natural wonders of the world. We luck out and do our sight seeing between rain storms.

We then drive to the Brazilian side passing by the border with Paraguary. The rain turns into a deluge as we clear customs, all handled by our guide Carlos Roldan. We check in to the Hotel das Cataratas which is, again, a very nice hotel with a very nice suite with a view of the falls. A great dinner (of course) in the hotel then we get a good nights sleep to the sound of rain, before tomorrows touring. The rain stops and we walk the area below the falls, which is impressive back up to the main face across from the Devil’s throat. The sight  and sound of 400,000 gallons of water per second cascading is hard to describe, but its definitely impressive.

After a Brazilian barbecue dinner we pack for our departure in the morning. We check out and on our way to the airport we stop to take a helicopter ride over the falls before boarding our flight to Rio de Janeriro. What a spectacular view, plus a fun ride in the chopper. We luck out again, no rain.

We say good by to Carlos our great guide and board our flight to Rio and sunshine.

 

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Rio de Janeiro

by on Feb.10, 2016, under Happenings

Rio de Janeiro our last stop on our South America adventure is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and I wanted Joyce to see and experience it. To make things more interesting it’s Carnival week and preparation for the Olympics is in full swing. We are met by our guide Venilton Mariano or Veni, and our driver who gets us right to our hotel. The plan was to visit the Pao de Acucar (Sugar loaf) on the way in but we elect to do that tomorrow. We check in to the fabulous Copacabana Palace (built in 1923), then do a little quick sight seeing on the famous beach, before another great dinner at the celebrated Cipriani restaurant in the hotel.

The next day way do the tourist things, Christ of the Redeemer on Mount Cocavado and Sugar Loaf ( Pao de Acucra). The views from these two iconic sites are breath taking, particularly the Sugar loaf which is 1200 feet above the city. After our touring we have lunch at Aprazivel featuring Brazilian cuisine and a great view of the city from the hillside. After some more sight seeing, including the Ipanema, we return to the hotel and then have dinner at the amazing restaurant Lasai.

Our last day we cover the eclectic artists neighborhood and the cobbled streets of Santa Teresa. We see the Escadaria Selaron a set of world-famous steps covered in over 2000 tiles from around the world. This is the work of the Chilean born artist Jorge Selaron, who was a bit eccentric. We then visit Rio de Janiero’s modern cathedral.

Then its to the old down town and port area that are have lots of new additions stimulated by the upcoming Olympics. Rio is a city of contrasts with the Favela’s (slums) much improved from my last visit, but in close proximity to the city and some of the most modern structures and nicest neighborhoods.  We also learn about the Carnival which is not a event but an industry, with thousands of participants many from the Favela’s and tens of thousands of viewers. Our hotel is being decorated with venues priced from $700 to $1200 per person.

The contrasts of the city are numerous old verses new side by side, colonial architecture verse the most  modern, a city that outlawed casinos but you can buy an illegal lottery ticket anywhere and always with a vibrancy that is uniquely Brazilian.

We have lunch with Veni our guide then freshen up before our night flight back to the United States. Its been a great incredibly interesting and educational trip, but as always it will be good to get back home.

 

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Prague, Czech Republic

by on Sep.19, 2015, under Happenings

On Saturday August 22, 2015 we depart Cincinnati for Paris and then on to Prague. We check into our hotel, The Four Seasons overlooking the Danube. We are going to stay in Prague until Wednesday when we will travel to our cruise ship on the Danube which leaves from Germany. We have arranged for a guide and driver to see the city and surrounding area, but first on arrival day we explore on foot after our check in and are immediatly blown away by the beauty of the city. The Prague Castle is across the Danube and looking out our hotel window it looks like a post card and we can see the Charles bridge which is a bee hive of activity on this Sunday. It turns out that our guide Martin is a retired reaserch chemistry professor, very knowledgable and a delightful person. He does a great job telling us about the cities history including the communist era. We do two half day driving/walking tours and a walking tour of both the downtown and the Jewish district. Prague is an incredibly interesting and beautiful city dating back to 880. We visit the Castle complex, St. Vitus Cathedral, we visit the Old Town Square famous for its Astronomical Clock and the Kinski Palace. We vist the Strahov Monastery, and get a private tour of its library of 15,000 hand written manuscripts. We also visit the Jewish cemetary with 12,000 jumbled tombstones and Synagogue that has the 80,000 victims of the Holocaust from Prague inscribed on the walls. We also see Lesser Town that occupies the slopes below the castle. This historic area includes interesting squares, and building including St. Nicholas Church. We visit Petrin Hill that offer a magnificent panarama of Prague. We see Vyschfrad Fort and the oldest church in Prague still being used as well as Troja Castle. There are so many things to see and soak in and we dine at two memorable outstanding restaruants. In all Prague proves to be one of the most interesting and beauful cities we have visited in Europe.

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Kresky Krumlov, Czech Republic

by on Sep.19, 2015, under Happenings

Wednesday morning we leave Prague with our guide Martin and a driver for the village of Kresky Krumlov which is a unique village almost entirely preserved since the renaissance period. It was once the capital of the Southern Bohemia region and the stronghold of the family know as “Lord of the Roses. The magnificent castle sits on a hillside overlooking the village with gardens on top. The castle transistions down the hill into the town that sits on a hairpin turn of the river below. We start our tour on top and follow the castel down to the village, where we explore and then have lunch before leaving for our drive to meet our river cruise in Germany.

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Vilshofen and Passau, Germany

by on Sep.19, 2015, under Happenings

We board our ship at the small German village of Vilshofen. The AMASonota is an amazing new ship and we are settled into our spacious cabin instantly. We gather and are briefed on the trip, then we are off to our first event which is a local “Octoberfest” in August that is being held in the Village. We enjoy a stien of beer and see the lasses serving 10 huge stiens at a time while we listen to the Omp Pa Pa band. We then are back to the ship for the first of our many great meals aboard. We explore the village of Vilshofen the next moring then we set sail for Passau.

 

We dock next to the city center in Passau. Overlooking the city is the imposing a acient Veste Oberhaus fortress. The old part of the city sits on a peninsula formed by the confluence of the Danube, Inn, and the Liz rivers. Passau was the largest bishopric in the Holy Roman Empire and the legacy continues today with over 52 churches in town with the most imposing being St. Stephens Cathedral, which contains the world’s largest pipe organ.

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Linz, Austria

by on Sep.19, 2015, under Happenings

 

Friday, we arrive in Linz, Austria. We do a walking tour of the city, which of course is photogenic. Linz has a position on the river to conduct trade and collect tolls so it was historically important. The main square of the town stands a 66 foot high white marble column, that is supposed to protect the city for all sorts of potential calamities. The St. Mary’s Cathedral also dominates the downtown area. This area after WWII was a border area between the Allies and the Soviets, with the bridge across the Danube a no mans land. This historic city is a amazing display of different architecture.

In the afternoon we had a choice of tours and I chose the Austrian lake district which required a bus drive, but proved to be worth it. Austrian alpine architecture and incredible mountain scenery along with beautiful lakes were on display. The first village we visited was the site of the filming of the Sound of Music, who’s characters and story line came from this area.

 

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