Do we have to go back to work?

January 14th, 2024
Artist Tony Valiente

John treated me to an excellent lunch at La Cabrera yesterday, then bought me this fabulous piece by Tony Valiente at the Mercado de Pulgares (flea market). I’ve enjoyed meeting Tony over the last year or so, but hadn’t stopped by to visit him in a while; I’m glad to add this crazy piece to our art collection. Folks like Tony are one of a kind – he reminds me of the people Mark Sloan wrote about it “Self-Made Worlds.”

With Tony

Work this week was busy as we both tried to catch up after being out of the office. I’m the acting Consul General while my boss is out, as well as my normal duties. John and I had lunch with our friend Jenae one day to talk about our respective trips to Antarctica over the holidays – she also had a great trip. She had a penguin jump into their Zodiac boat!

Thursday night I met Lea, Katherine, and Bhavna at a wine bar – we had fun just catching up and chatting. The wine bar was interesting – it was self-serve: you put your table’s plastic card into the wine fridge’s slot, select the amount of wine, and it automatically dispenses, not unlike a Coke machine. I laughed so hard and wish I had a video of it!

This morning I had a great video chat with my friend Stacie in Paris – we worked together in DC, then she was in the country next to me while we were in Africa. She’s working hard to prepare for the Summer Olympics in France – I do not envy her, as it’s a Herculean effort to protect the huge number of US citizens who will travel there for the games.

Last Sunday I met Lea for good seafood at La Mar, then read Ruth Rathblott’s “Singlehandedly.” We met Ruth on our cruise and really enjoyed meeting her. I enjoyed her book with its thoughtful take on disabilities and how we all hide something.

John and I watched an excellent movie last night with Peter Dinklage, Marisa Tomei, and Anne Hathaway – really fun and charming.

Happy new year!

January 7th, 2024

What a memorable New Year’s! We had dinner with a fun group of folks on NY Eve, but skipped the dance party in favor of sleep. We were out early the next day to visit the aptly named Penguin Island in the South Shetland Islands where we saw the darling chinstrap penguins. The ship moved to Admiralty Bay in the afternoon and we did more Zodiac touring.

The next day we landed on President’s Head where we saw lots of elephant seals. The afternoon took us to Deception Island – named because it is not really an island but a volcano top. We pulled into Whalers’ Bay and wandered around there looking at the old station, and of course, penguins — plus a bonus leopard seal taking it easy on the beach. That evening as we were sailing, a few of us were lucky enough to see a few pilot whales! (And yes, a naturalist was with me to verify the identification!)

On January 3, we landed on Danco Island. Instead of hiking up the icy hill to see the penguin colony, John and I jumped in a Zodiac and took a tour of the beautiful bay instead. We went on to Neko Harbor in the afternoon. The footing in the snow and ice felt better to me and with two ski poles, we made our way up the hill to see the penguins against the blue backdrop of a glacier – stunning! In route, we came across of large pod of orcas, those gorgeous black and white “killer whales” (actually dolphins).

On the fourth, we started across the Drake Passage – there was a bit of swell, but luckily John and I never experienced any seasickness. The next day, the water was almost still. When we pulled into the Beagle Channel, I saw lots of dolphins!

Map of our route

Throughout the week we attended lectures and had fun with our fellow passengers. Alas we didn’t win trivia night, but had fun trying!

Amanda, Elsie, Anthony, John, Jim, Lawrence
Dinner: our fun waiter,Sue (from Arkansas), John, Paul, Debbie, Ruth, me, Yaron, Gaby

Sadly we disembarked on the morning of the sixth. Our tour bus took us on a tour around the small town of Ushuaia, then we toured a fascinating old prison that was turned into a museum.

The old prison museum

We thoroughly enjoyed the trip! We really enjoyed our fellow passengers, the crew, and the A&K naturalists. I spent a lot of time with binoculars in hand, either in the observation lounge or bundled up outside – I couldn’t bear the thought of missing a sighting of wildlife and it paid off — I was the only person on board who saw the three rarely sighted marine mammals: hourglass dolphins, beaker whales, and pilot whales! This was really an amazing experience!

In my happy place!

Squeee! Penguins!

December 31st, 2023
Photo by John – King Penguins

Monday and Tuesday we traveled from the Falklands to South Georgia Island. They kept us busy on board with lectures in the theatre and time on deck with the naturalists looking for wildlife. We arrived at Salisbury Plain on Wednesday and did our first Zodiac boat tour of a king penguin colony – lots of fur seals, too! In the afternoon, we made a Zodiac landing in Fortuna Bay and walked out to a king penguin colony. They are just so darn cute! There were lots of elephant seals and fur seals, too – there were fur seal babies everywhere!

Fur seal babies! Photo by John
Gentoo Penguins – photo by John

On Thursday we arrived in Grytviken and made Zodiac landings at an old whaling station. We went through a museum and sent postcards from a post office, and made a pilgrimage to Shackleton’s grave. The small cemetery has around 30 graves in it. In the afternoon, we pulled into another old whaling station in Stromness Bay and walked through fur seals and penguins about a mile up to a waterfall. As we walked back from the waterfall to the Zodiacs, we were retracing Shackleton’s steps as he came over the mountain in search of help; remarkably, he was able to return to Elephant Island after four and a half months and rescue the rest of his men.

John channeling his inner Shackleton
Shackleton’s Grave
At the waterfall

Friday we moved to Drygalski Ford, but our good luck with the weather ran out. After seeing the amazing mountains at the opening of the bay, wind, snow, and fog moved in. The blue skies were gone in a flash, and our plan to explore in Zodiacs was abandoned. We continued around the south of the island and got an unexpected treat: a close encounter with the D30A iceberg – 15 miles long! It was amazing.

Yesterday was a beautiful day at sea. I bundled up and spent most of it on deck. I saw lots of whales and cool birds and chatted quite a bit with some of the naturalists (they’re great, by the way). And I spotted hourglass dolphins right by the boat – as it turns out, they are very rare to see. I was happy that one of the naturalists was standing beside me to verify the sighting (when I later told another naturalist that I’d seen the dolphins, he looked skeptical and said, “Was a naturalist with you?” Fair question, but, yes, there was someone to back up my story!)

I woke up at 5:15 today and saw the sea was almost as still as glass, so I hightailed it to the observation deck. My favorite naturalist was already there, so the two of us spent two hours by ourselves just watching whales. They were all over the place, most far out but visible nicely with our binoculars. We had three fin whales come close to the ship and we ran outside to listen to their blows – lovely! A little later while there were still few people on the deck, we saw a very rare whale called the beaker whale – amazing!

This afternoon — the last day of the year — we arrived at Elephant Island and piled into Zodiacs for a tour around the bay where Shackleton’s men waited on the tiniest bit of land for those four months. We’re now in chinstrap penguin territory and they are so cute! We saw a leopard seal in the water waiting for a penguin snack. There’s a huge glacier and lots of icebergs around. It really beautiful. The crew said our trek from South Georgia to Elephant Island was incredibly smooth and the blue skies were an added bonus!

Chinstrap penguins – photo by John

All through the week we have had great talks on penguins and whales, as well as entertaining historical talks about Shackleton and Scott. Yesterday we took a tour of the bridge which was interesting (and I saw humpback whale flukes!). We’re just tickled pink with this trip!

I finished Robin Cook’s latest book – lots of fun! We enjoyed having dinner with him and his wife Jean last night.

Fan girl!

And off we go!

December 24th, 2023

John and I set off on a big adventure this week! Wednesday afternoon we checked into the Palacio Duhau to join our A&K vacation heading to Antarctica. Thursday we joined a group tour in Buenos Aires and saw an interesting old tenement home in San Telmo that had been restored, as well as the cathedral and Casa Rosada. We had dinner at the hotel after welcome cocktails, then got a few hours sleep before heading to the airport well before the sun came up.

We landed in Ushuaia — the end of the world — three hours later. We went to a hillside resort for lunch, then boarded Le Lyrial. After security and welcome briefings, we had dinner as the ship sailed away.

We arrived in the Falklands this morning (or The Malvinas, if you are Argentine) and went by tenders to shore. We were in a small group of early birds, and went first to Gypsy Cove to see the Magellan penguins and did a short nature hike overlooking the beach where many of them were hanging out and playing in the water. We saw some up close near their burrows, as well — these are the same kind of penguins we saw in Peninsula Valdez in October. The wind was intense but the temperature was around 50 — not too bad until it started raining on us toward the end of the hike.

The rest of the time we walked around the tiny town of Stanley, going to the museum and a couple of shops. Before we went back to the ship we walked down to the hillside cemetery.

We’ve gotten friendly with a few folks on board, the most surprising of which is Robin Cook who writes medical thrillers. I read several of his books when I was younger, but haven’t read much of his work since then. He gave me a hot-off-the-presses copy of his latest book to read and I’m enjoying it. The ship is beautiful and comfortable. We have a small balcony and big picture window. We’re excited about the next stops!

Jacarandas in bloom

December 17th, 2023

The photo above doesn’t do justice to the beautiful jacaranda trees blooming all over town – they’re just gorgeous, and I love how the rain created a carpet of their blooms on this path across from the embassy. They’re very fragrant, too!

John was in Rio de Janeiro this past week for a work conference – he had fun and felt like it was productive. He saw lots of people he knew and said he learned a lot.

I noticed a college friend, Cathy, was in Argentina when I saw her posting on Facebook this week and reached out to her – I was tickled that she took the time to stop by to say hello! We had a blast catching up – we literally hadn’t seen each other since 1981! For all of its faults, sometimes Facebook comes in handy!

We had our holiday party at work on Friday afternoon and our Secret Santas were revealed – I was delighted that Lea had no idea I was hers. The party was a fun way to end the week.

I finished reading “Yellowface” – I’m still mulling it over. It was a fun read but the protagonist made me nervous the whole time! John and I watched a bit of “Slow Horses” and “The Crown” when he got back from Rio.

It really got hot this week (up to 90) so I guess summer is here…although today it’s been cooler and very windy and rainy. It caused a lot of damage around town and some folks had their electricity knocked out.