Monday, July 24, 2017

South America Destinations: Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is often referred to as the "Paris of South America." It's easy to see why with its European-style architecture, cosmopolitan air, and cultural diversity. It's such a sophisticated city.

Obelisk at dusk
But Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, is a sparkling gem of its own that doesn't need comparisons with other great cities in the world—Paris is Paris, London is London, New York is New York, and Buenos Aires is Buenos Aires, each offering dynamics that make them wondrous destinations for travelers.  Let me say that I'm not even going be able to scratch the surface of things to see and do in Buenos Aires. I'd suggest visiting various websites to get a flavor of the city. Better yet, visit this eclectic city in person. My wife, Mary, and I were fortunate to spend four days in Buenos Aires in June; a trip we'll never forget.

Teatro Colon

The city has a vibrant theater district, world-class museums, statues and monuments to celebrate its storied history, spacious parks, beautiful architecture that reflects European influence, and an electric atmosphere on the busy streets. Most folks know that Argentina is world-class in sports, namely soccer. Let's not forget the Tango, that captivating sensuous dance.

 Mary at the Casa Rosada
Slicing through the center of the capital district is 9 Julio Avenue, the widest boulevard in the world. In the center is the Obelisk, erected in 1936 to commemorate the city's 400th anniversary. A block away is the Teatro Colon, the world-famous opera house. Within walking distance is the Casa Rosada (the pink house) that serves as the executive  mansion of the president, and the Metropolitan Cathedral.

San Martin monument
There's no doubt that that Juan and Eva Peron are part of the history with museums and statues commemorating their presence in the mid 20th century. But the city also honors such notables as Gen. José de San Martín, a national hero who helped liberate Argentina and Peru in the 19th century. Pope Francis is from Buenos Aires as well as famous writer Jorge Luis Borges. Too many to mention but remember actors Linda Cristal, Fernando Lamas and Olivia Hussey, music composer Lalo Schifrin, tennis stars Gabriela Sabatini and Guillermo Vilas, and soccer legends Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona....? I also enjoyed the music of jazz saxophonist Gato Barbieri, who died in 2016.

Su and Al
We were fortunate to spend two days with Argentinean friends, Al and Su, who were most gracious with their time to show me many of the landmarks of this vibrant city. They made this trip special. I do hope to return someday for a longer period and take in more of the sites and experience the lifestyle of the locals.

Buenos Aires has suffered through some difficult economic times in the past 30 years (which travelers can benefit with the exchange rate). But I saw quite a lot of construction and renovation of buildings and infrastructure during my visit so better days are ahead for this city.

So much to see and do but so little time on this visit. I want to return.

Until the next time . . . .

P.S. I have other images of Buenos Aires on my Facebook photos page.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

South America Destinations: Iguassu Falls

One of nature's magical kingdoms to experience is Iguassu Falls, a J-shaped area comprised of about 250 waterfalls on the Brazilian and Argentinean borders.

A view of Iguassu Falls from Brazil
My wife and I spent two days trekking at Iguassu National Park—one day in Brazil and one in Argentina. In Brazil, it's spelled Iguacu, and in Argentina, it's Iguazu. For English speakers, it's Iguassu. The word means "big waters" in Guarani, the language of the indigenous people.

It was rainy both days but tolerable as we were covered, for the most part, by the canopy of subtropical trees as we walked to the falls. And when we arrived to the falls, we felt the mist from the powerful cascading waters from the Iguassu River. Suggestion: Pack a raincoat!

At Devil's Throat
We were there when the falls were probably at their mightiest as the river current was swift and wide from recent rains. The national park has walkways leading to overlooks, including the thunderous Devil's Throat, and to the mouths of lesser, but still impressive, waterfalls.  For those who are more adventurous, and don't mind getting drenched, there are boat rides to the bottom of several falls.

A coati
Prego monkey
The parks were listed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in the 1980s. Besides the falls, they are nature preserves with many species of animal and plant life. Especially "friendly" were the coatis and prego monkeys, who weren't bashful around places where people get a bite  to eat. The monkeys would strike, without warning, on those unsuspecting folks sitting at tables by grabbing their sandwiches and leaping back up into the trees. Another suggestion: Don't feed the animals, intentionally or unintentionally.

Iguassu Falls was named as one of the "New Seven Wonders of the World," and I certainly wouldn't dispute that designation. It's an unforgettable and magical place to visit.

Until the next time. . . .