Let’s Spend the Holidays in Paris!

“New York has neon, Berlin has bars,
But ah! Paree!”

Follies, 1971

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Fifi D’Orsay extols the virtues of Paris in Follies

Greetings from a frigid (27° but feels like 18°) but brilliantly sunny afternoon in New York City, where the weather of late has been totally schizoid. We had weather in the teens a few days ago and, yesterday, it was pushing 60°. It makes a person lose faith in weather prognosticators!

But, we don’t despair – we pack. On Friday, we’ll be winging our way to the City of Light, a/k/a/ Paris, for a week of holiday cheer. You may recall, from a former post, that we were originally planning to be in Hong Kong for the holidays. But then there was that hip replacement and cancellation of a trip to Amsterdam. Because we didn’t want to forfeit the Amsterdam airfare (on British Airways), we had to come up with an alternative plan. Et donc – Paris!

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The Champs Elysee all gussied up for the holidays – December, 2014

BA has a subsidiary airline – Open Skies – and that’s how we’ll make our way to and from Paris. We’ve flown them on a couple of other occasions and, if you plan ahead, you can obtain a competitive fare (not now, of course, at the last minute). They have a good business class cabin (referred to, by them, as “Biz Bed”), which gives you a seat that fully reclines so you can get some shuteye on the flight over. Open Skies has a fleet of mostly 757s, and the cabin interiors are acceptable, but could use a redo. However, it’s a way to snag a good fare and fly nonstop to Orly.

Another thing to note is that, since these are evening flights, meal service onboard is minimal, as passengers mostly want to get some sleep. For those passengers in Biz Bed, there is a full meal service on the ground at JFK called “Sleeper Service”, which is available in the Terraces Lounge.

 

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Our Open Skies chariot awaits

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The “Biz Bed” Cabin

And as an added treat, Open Skies currently has a promotion that entitles us to a complimentary Uber to and from JFK, so we’ll start our trip off on the right foot.

TRAVEL TIP: Open Skies

So what, you ask, will we be up to in Paris? For starters, we somehow scored the deal of the century at the Peninsula Paris. It’s a new property, under 2 years old, and it’s sensational. Located on Avenue Kleber within 5 minutes of the Arch de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees, it a very convenient base of operations. When we booked last August, the hotel had a promotion wherein you paid for 2 nights and the 3rd night was complimentary; as we’re staying 6 nights, we ended up with 2 free nights. The rates were so low, in fact, that I booked directly rather than reserve through the AmEx FHR program (which features all kinds of giveaways and benefits), as it was still less expensive to book through the hotel.

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Side entrance to the Peninsula

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The spectacular lobby at the Peninsula

TRAVEL TIP: Peninsula Paris

By now, you’re perfectly aware that I’m intrepid when it comes to planning, so I know you’ll believe me when I say that we have all of our evening meals planned. Whenever we go to Paris, we typically have one blowout, super, over-the-top Michelin meal. This year, we’ll return to one of our favorite restaurants anywhere, Le Grand Vefour, a jewel box of a restaurant, originally opened in 1794 and located in the arcades of the Palais-Royal. We usually don’t return to restaurants in Paris, except on rare occasions where we might go back for a 2nd visit. However, our dinner at Le Grand Vefour next week will mark the 4th time we’ve dined there. It’s that special. One of the charming details of the dining room is that the banquettes are named for notable Frenchmen and women: among them, Victor Hugo, Jean Cocteau, George Sand, Emile Zola, Joséphine de Beauharnais and, at the adjacent banquette, General Bonaparte. The banquette we always request is named for the noted French author, Colette (né Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette).

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Le Grand Vefour in the arcades at the Palais Royale

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The jewel-box dining room at Le Grand Vefour

CUISINE TIP: Le Grand Vefour 

Other highlights of our week in Paris:

We’ll be going to the famed Palais Garnier on Christmas night to see a performance of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride, preceded by dinner at L’Opera, the restaurant adjacent to the opera house. If you’ve never been to the Palais Garnier, it’s a must – think Phantom of the Opera on steroids.

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The spectacular Palais Garnier

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Inside the auditorium with the famed Chagall chandelier

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The grand stairway to the stalls

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The ultra-Rococo grand foyer

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A scene from Iphigénie en Tauride

CULTURE TIP: Palais Garnier

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L’Opera, which is adjacent to Palais Garnier

CUISINE TIP: L’Opera

And, while we’re on the topic of shows, the famed Théâtre du Châtelet has, over the past 10 years, presented over 25 Broadway musicals on its stage. Several years ago, we saw an excellent production of Sweeney Todd and, two years ago, we saw the out-of-town tryout of An American in Paris on Christmas Eve, which opened on Broadway a few months later. This year, the Châtelet is presenting a new production of that old chestnut, 42nd Street – not our favorite show, but a fun way to spend an evening. After all, the show contains these immortal words: “Musical comedy – the most glorious words in the English language!” And the Châtelet always delivers: full (sometimes oversized) orchestra, large casts and it never stints on the glitz and glamour.

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Théâtre du Châtelet

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The gorgeous auditorium at the Théâtre du Châtelet 

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42nd Street at the Théâtre du Châtelet 

CULTURE TIP: Théâtre du Châtelet

Although it’s going to be our 13th or 14th visit to Paris (can’t get enough), we still do a bit of sightseeing on occasion and maybe revisit some favorite places. Because we are Philistines when it comes to art (sad, but true), we decided to avail ourselves of this outfit called Paris Muse, which specializes in private tours in and around Paris. So we’ve booked two excursions: the first will be a 2½ hour Introduction to the Treasures of the Louvre and the second will be a 90 minute tour of Notre Dame Cathedral. We’ve been to both places in the past, but not as an immersive experience. I’ll report back to you and let you know how it goes.

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No caption necessary

CULTURE TIP: The Louvre

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Notre Dame Cathedral

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The Cathedral

CULTURE TIP: Notre Dame Cathedral

We also discovered that one of our favorite museums – the Jeu de Paume, located at Place Concorde and on the edge of the Tuilleries – is currently featuring an exhibit entitled Unrest, which is described as “a transdisciplinary exhibition on the theme of collective emotions, political events insofar as they imply crowd movements in conflict: there is talk of social disorders, political agitation, insurrections, revolts, revolutions, vacancies, riots, upheavals of all kinds”.

Seems like an appropriate time for this exhibit, right?

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Musée Jeu de Paume

CULTURE TIP: Jeu de Paume

Otherwise, weather permitting, we hope to walk the streets of Paris until we drop. It’s a city made for strolling and we intend to show off AAC CPA’s new and improved hip as we make our way through the Marais or the Champs Elysee or the Place Madeleine, especially as we’ll be having a lovely lunch at Caviar Kaspia one afternoon.

So that, in a nutshell, will be our Parisian holiday adventure. I’ll fill in more details as they happen.

Restez à l’écoute et de joyeuses fêtes à tous!

 

 

Autumn – New York

Greetings from New York City on a lazy weekend afternoon. The last time you heard from me, we were aboard the beautiful Crystal Symphony sailing across the placid waters of the Atlantic from Lisbon back to the States. It was a glorious voyage: calm seas, warm weather, and a most congenial crowd. Perhaps, in another post, I’ll tell you more about the crossing and our adventures onboard.

In the meantime, it’s been a tumultuous 11 days for almost everyone. TheCulturedTraveler does not discuss politics – that is not the purpose of this blog – but I’d venture to say that, regardless of your political affiliation or interest, we Americans a charting a new course through unknown waters. There has been either lots of exhilaration or lots of hand-wringing (depending on your point of view), none of which is going to change the outcome of the election. 

As we all breathlessly await the next administration to take over the reins of government, I decided that it’s time for a diversion – one upon which, I hope, we can all agree: Today in New York was a sensationally perfect and beautiful autumnal day.

AAC CPA and I were out and about with purpose: we went into our backyard (a/k/a Central Park) to look at park benches. As AAC CPA believes that everyone should support the Central Park Conservancy in a way that is meaningful to them, so he believes that we can always do more to preserve the most beautiful part of New York City. So, he and I are considering the possibility of “adopting” a park bench. 

Did you know that there are more than 9,000 benches in the park and that over 4,100 of them have already been adopted? Of course, if we’re going follow through, it will have to be a bench that is close to where we live so that we can go and visit with ease. It turns out that there’s a section of the park that has recently been restored to its former glory and there are still a few benches that are available. That was the point of our mission today.

We found 3 prospective benches which seem to be available for adoption. They’re in an excellent location, so we’ll have to contact the Conservancy to see if can snag one. Stay tuned for further developments.

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AAC CPA scopes out a potential bench for adoption

As it was a perfect late autumn day, I thought you might enjoy seeing some photographs of the park. I think we’re at the height of fall foliage and the colors were spectacular.

See for yourselves:

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Central Park West on a beautiful fall day

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Central Park is all its autumnal glory

So, even if you’re in a funk about the world around you and feel nothing but despair and disappointment, I hope that the natural beauty of the park will, in some small way, make you feel a little better. 

And finally, consider this: With a little bit of luck (and lots of support for the Central Park Conservancy), these trees and this park will outlast not only the next administration but the many others that will succeed them.

 

Recap: Antarctica and South America

I hope you didn’t think that I’d forgotten about you – after all, it’s been almost 2 weeks since my last blog entry. The truth is: after being away for 3 weeks, it took me awhile to return to normal (whatever that is) life.

So I hope you didn’t miss me too much (actually, I hope you missed me and my posts a lot), but now it’s time for TheCulturedTraveler to get off his – ahem – backside and get to work.

Therefore, I thought that today’s post should be a “highlights” replay. After all, I’d have to say that we had an amazing time on this latest adventure. If you were following me throughout Buenos Aires and aboard Crystal Symphony, you’ll most likely be familiar with what you’re about to see. But what the heck, right? 

Enjoy!!

Luggage for 3 Weeks
It took this much baggage to get us from “here” to “there”.

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The fabulous Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt Hotel

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2nd favorite meal in Buenos Aires, and a 5-minute walk from the hotel

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Quiz: What song did Evita sing from this balcony?

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Favorite and most elegant meal in Buenos Aires

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Seeing Buenos Aires with Pedro, one of the best tour guides ever

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Visiting La Boca (in the rain)

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Teatro Colon: one of the world’s most beautiful opera houses

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Crystal Symphony in port as seen from the Park Hyatt Hotel 

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Repacked and ready to embark Symphony

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AAC CPA on deck for the 1st sunset

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Gorgeous sky 1st evening at sea

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Breakfast al fresco 1st full day at sea

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Family Negronis on the 1st formal night

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Formal Shoes

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The Virginia Gentlemen – Bar none, best entertainment on the voyage

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Invited to have a cocktail with the Captain in his quarters

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The beauty of Tierra del Fuego National Park

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AAC CPA at the end of Route 3 – 11,090 miles from Canada – the lowest piece of land in the world

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More yummy food on Crystal Symphony

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First look at Antarctica from our balcony

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AAC CPA appreciates the view

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Penguins and sea lions (photo courtesy of Nancy Shafran)

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A delegation from Palmer Station arrives for a visit

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More sea lions just hanging around

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Cruising around Antarctica at about 8:30 PM

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And about 3 hours later! It’s still light out!!

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AAC CPA welcomes you to the Falkland Islands (and its lovely weather)

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But we enjoyed another amazing sunset at sea

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And AAC CPA conjured up a full moon for your viewing pleasure

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Back by popular demand: The Virginia Gentlemen entertain in the Crystal Cove

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Welcome to Puerto Madryn

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This product is sold in the local market

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Late night at sea: full moon on a deserted Promenade Deck

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And another gorgeous day at sea as seen from our balcony

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Approaching Montevideo, Uruguay

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A private field trip to Juanicó

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Lunch Table
Enjoying a private lunch at the vineyard

Wine Tasting
The wines we tasted at lunch

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Disembarking Symphony for the last time (those smiles are FAKE)

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AAC CPA back at the Park Hyatt for 9 hours before the flight home

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AAC CPA hunkers down for the 10+ hour flight home

Postlude:

All-in-all, we had a fabulous trip. Visiting Buenos Aires for the first time was a total delight. As a dear friend of ours’ puts it: “BA is beautiful – a bit shabby but, like some aging countess, still elegant”. So true. We learned that Argentina is a country that, in all things, is in a perpetual pendulum swing. We had the benefit of an outstanding tour guide, enjoyed several memorable meals, accompanied by some amazing Argentine wines (let’s hear it for the Malbec!), and just marveled as we walked through the city.

Then we had the great pleasure of returning to Crystal Symphony for 2 weeks. Having sailed on Crystal many times, it’s like returning home. The Crystal fleet is elegant, beautiful and has a crew that has but one goal in mind: to insure that you have the best time imaginable. 

The days we spent in Antarctica were so memorable for the things we saw and which are hard to capture on camera. You’ll just have to take my word for it: you must see it for yourself.

Finally – and I know I’ve said it before – we live to travel and we travel to live. It’s a truism that we must get outside of our shells (and, sometimes, our comfort zones) and go exploring. Whether it’s on land, sea or air, there is so much to see out there and we diminish ourselves if we don’t take the opportunity to visit new places, whether it’s the town next door, the state across the border, the other coast, or another continent. 

Give in to your own personal wanderlust and go a-traveling!

PS. Here’s how we know we’re back in NYC and the vacation is over:

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Montevideo, Uruguay – A Day at Juanicó

Our last port – yesterday – was Montevideo, and we wanted to do something special. We decided to arrange – with the help of Crystal Symphony’s concierge and shore excursion manager – a visit to the Juanicó winery (dating back to the 19th century), located about 45 minutes from the port. Our excursion included a driver, round-trip transportation, a tour of the winery, and a private lunch with wine pairings.

We had a wonderful time.

Our driver, Alvero (who spoke no English), picked us up at the ship and we arrived at Juanicó right at 11:00 AM. We were greeted by our guide, Dianela, who showed us the vineyard and explained how the wine was made. Having made many visits to the Napa Valley and the Paso Robles wine region of California, we’re very familiar with the production (and consumption) of wine. Daniela was a wonderful guide and we enjoyed the tour, which lasted about 45 minutes. 

Here are some photos of what we saw:

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The main building at Juanicó, where we were to have our lunch

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Touring the grounds with our guide, Dianela

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The vines, the grapes of which will eventually be used to produce cabernet sauvignon

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Some of the grounds surrounding the winery

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Part of the production plant

Bottling the Wine
Assembly line production to bottle, cork and label the wine

Old Building
This building was built by the Jesuits back in the 18th century

Following the tour, we went back into the main building and Dianela showed us the private wine cellar, down some very rickety stairs. The cellar was being prepared for a special dinner that evening.

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Scary stairway to the wine cellar

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Wine is stored in these casks from 1 – 3 years.

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Setting up for a fancy dinner in the wine cellar

While we were in the cellar, Dianela showed us a very special place: the Wine Library, a secured area of the cellar in which are many very fine bottles of vintage wine are stored. Dianela unlocked the door and told us to go inside and choose a bottle as part of our wine tasting. How does one choose from so many treasures?

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Dianela helped us select the perfect wine to accompany our lunch

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Daniela displays a 2004 Don Pascual Merlot – the unanimous choice

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Ascending the stairway – much easier than descending

Once we got back upstairs, we were shown to a beautifully laid out table next to a huge picture window overlooking the vineyards where we were to enjoy our lunch.

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Sitting down to lunch

Lunch Table View
And our view

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The 6 wines we sampled at lunch, including the very special Don Pascual merlot

As Dianela poured the 1st and, a bit later, the 2nd wine, she presented us with a tray of meats, cheeses, olives and bread – a wonderful start to our lunch.

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A little something to get our lunch started

Then, for our 1st course and our 3rd wine, came individual quiches with a fabulous pear and blue cheese combination, incredibly fresh plum tomatoes and delicious greens.

Lunch - 1st Course

Next up, paired with the 4th and 5th wines, came a tenderloin of beef served with a delicious wine reduction and grilled vegetables.

Lunch - 2nd Course

During this course, Dianela presented the Don Pascual Merlot, which perfectly complemented the beef.

(By the way, we were encouraged to ask for seconds on any of the wine(s) that we enjoyed.)

Just when we thought we couldn’t eat another morsel, dessert appeared.

Lunch - 3rd Course
Individual cheesecakes topped with fresh fruit

By the time we’d finished dessert, it was time to return to the ship. We thanked Dianela for a delightful experience and departed.

45 minutes later, we were back aboard Crystal Symphony.

Cost of the Juanicó tour (exclusive of transportation), 3-course lunch with 6 wine pairings was $90 per person. We thought it was quite a good bargain. The wines are perhaps not the quality that you’ll find in California or France or next door in Argentina, but they were delicious and this excursion was one of the highlights of our 3-week vacation.

Should you find yourself visiting Montevideo, I would highly encourage you to arrange your own excursion to Juanicó. It will be time well spent.

TRAVEL/CUISINE TIP: Juanicó

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Quick Sunday Post

Good afternoon, everyone. We’ve just departed the small port city of Puerto Madryn. Our cruise is beginning to wind down now: one more sea day, one last port (Montevideo, Uruguay), and then we disembark where we began – Buenos Aires – on Wednesday morning. Can you believe it?

Anyway, here are a few images from the past 24 hours that I thought you might enjoy – nothing earth-shattering or life-changing, but just for your enjoyment:

Saturday afternoon: rough seas developing – Promenade Deck closed due to high winds. The intrepid AAC CPA and I snuck out on Deck 11 aft and took the following shot – great poop deck action, right?

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Here’s a shot of the full moon as taken from the Crystal Dining Room on Saturday night. The wetness on the large window is due to the fact that we were having 20 foot waves hitting the ship, several of which crashed right into that window, causing AAC CPA to jump into the air each time it happened. It was very dramatic. Nice moon, though.

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And then our headwaiter, Bruno, appeared to prepare an encore presentation of his famous beefsteak tartare. It was beyond delicious.

After dinner, it was supposed to be showtime in Galaxy Lounge, Deck 6 forward. But the rock and roll was SO intense, that the show had to be canceled at the last minute. The ship’s cruise director, Paul, literally had to sit down on the stage (so he didn’t fall over) to explain that it was too dangerous for performers to come out on the stage. In this case, the show must NOT go on!!!

We crept back to our cabin – the pitch was really fun – and attempted to get ready for bed without falling over too much. And then we were rocked to sleep!

Sunday morning and here we are in Puerto Madryn, Argentina.

Puerto Madryn Tourist

Our landing early this morning:

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Just a few random shots:

Port at Puerto Madryn

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How we got off and on the ship

Walking around the town for about an hour or so, we stopped in a market to see what they sold. Not sure what this product is for – any thoughts?

Product in Market

Here’s good old Symphony seen from town:

Symphony from Town

“The King” is still very big in Argentina, as seen on this billboard:

Elvis in Puerto Madryn

To be honest – perhaps it was Sunday – there wasn’t a lot to see or do, so we just came back to the ship.

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Returning to the dock and the ship

A few hours later, it was time to depart:

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AAC CPA bids a fond farewell to Puerto Madryn

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Captain Ralf Zander (left) and his officers oversee our departure 

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Another officer at the front of the ship observing our departure

Time to get ready for our evening Negroni, and our fantastic butler, Raja, will be stopping by in a few minutes to bring us something tasty.

Have a great evening, y’all!!

 

 

 

 

 

Another Day in Antarctica

I am here to tell you that it never gets boring. If you even think you might become a bit ho-hum about sailing around Antarctica, just wait 5 minutes and see another marvel.

This morning, we woke up to find ourselves near Deception Island. If penguins are your thing, this is the place. There are literally hundreds of thousands of them running all over, scrambling down to the shore (a/k/a “Penguin Highway”) to find food, then back up into the hills. It’s fascinating.

We’re now en route to Elephant Island, which will be our last stop here before, once again, sailing through the dreaded Drake Passage on our way to our next port, the Falkland Islands.

Here are more images from the past 24 hours:

And oh, did I mention that we had visitors yesterday from Palmer Station, who came aboard to tell about what they do here?

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Here they are, arriving on the port side

BTW, they played to a packed house and they were extremely interesting as well as entertaining.

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Look at this amazing photo of seals and penguins! (photo courtesy of Nancy Shafran)

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Can you believe these penguins? (photo courtesy of Nancy Shafran)

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Another iceberg – note that you can see it underwater as well

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AAC CPA on deck at cocktail time – it’s now about 8:00 PM

Evening Front of Ship
Same time, from the bow of the ship

Evening Back of Ship
And from the stern

Evening on Promenade
And along the deserted Promenade Deck

Iceberg Sunset
Is that a fabulous sight or what? Still 8:00 PM yesterday evening

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And, immediately after, cocktails in the Palm Court

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Sunset in Antarctica – at 11:45 PM

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Earlier this morning – Deception Island from a distance

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Another view of Deception Island, closer up

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Those spots are penguins – wish I had a telescopic lens for my iPhone!

The last photo today is for our sailing buddy, Jim Brochu, who has entertained aboard the Crystal ships many times. Every day at sea, one of the activities is “Team Trivia”. The following question gave a sly wink to Jim, as #4 is a show that Jim wrote and performed for a season in New York and later performed on Symphony back in 2012. (7% of the respondents voted for “Zero Hour”!!) 

Zero

That’s all for now, folks! 

 

 

Breaking News: Antarctica!

Greetings from the bottom of the world! For some unknown reason, we have the best Internet service since we boarded the ship last Wednesday. I’ve decided to strike while the iron is HOT, and am posting a few pictures from our first 5 hours in Antarctica. The photos probably don’t do justice to what I’m seeing in front of me at the front of Crystal Symphony’s Palm Court. I’m here with a couple of hundred other passengers taking in the sights. Wish you were here to share them with us!

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AAC CPA at about 6:15 this morning – icebergs in the distance

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Lido Deck totally cleared of everything

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Humpback whale sighting

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AAC CPA with mainland Antarctica behind him

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Mainland Antarctica

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THIS ONE
Taken from the top of the ship on Deck 12

Pretty amazing, right?

More to follow, as our Internet connection allows!

 

 

Day 5: Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego

Buenas tardes from the almost the bottom of the world. Today we anchored in Ushuaia, Argentina – the lowest point in South America. We were supposed to have docked early this morning, but wind conditions prevented that from happening.

Speaking of which, the Captain’s Announcement just came through to the entire ship literally this minute! Change in plans – when we depart Ushuaia later early this evening, we will not pass by Cape Horn on our way to Antarctica as originally planned. The reason? The pilot boats refuse to get off the ship there due to the bad weather forecast that has been predicted! Instead we will head directly towards Antarctica. (Remember my last post about “the Drake Lake” vs. “the Drake Shake”? Looks like we’re going to get the latter.) The seas should turn rough around midnight. Winds up to 30 MPH and wave heights up to 14 feet. Let the games begin!!

Ahem – as I was saying – we had a marvelous day traveling to the Tierra del Fuego National Park, which I described in my last post. Let me share with you some of the photos I took today:

Ushuaia Sunrise - 01
Sunrise in Ushuaia at 6:00 AM today as seen from our cabin

Ushuaia On Deck
AAC CPA on deck a few minutes later – it’s cold out there!

Ushuaia Sunrise - 02
Portside view

Symphony from Harbor
The beautiful Crystal Symphony as seen from the pier

Post Office - 01
1st stop inside the park: the world’s southern-most post office

Post Office - 02
Postcards for sale at the post office

Lake Shot - Panoramic
Panoramic photo lakeside

Visitor Center
AAC CPA at the Alakush Visitor’s Center

Roca Lake
Another lakeside view – note the beautiful snowcapped mountains

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AAC CPA with Condor Hill in the background

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Lapataia Bay – AAC CPA is at the lowest point at the end of Route 3

Lapataia Bay
Lapataia Bay

That’s all for now, kids. Time for us to batten down the hatches and get ready for our roller coast ride to Antarctica.

Remember: we’ll probably be out of internet range for the next 4 days or so. When I return, I hope to have lots of adventures to share with you.

Buenos Aires – Day Five

Well, here it is: our last day in town. Our chariot – a/k/a Crystal Symphony – awaits and we will board her tomorrow for a 14-day cruise that will take us to Antarctica and other unusual places. This is the first trip that AAC CPA and I have taken in many years where every place we visit will be for the 1st time. Exciting, right?

Crystal at Harbor
The beautiful Crystal Symphony, as seen from our hotel room

So our plan today was an easy one: We paid a visit to Templo Libertad, just a block away from Teatro Colon. Adjacent to the synagogue is the small Jewish History Museum. The best day to visit the synagogue is on Tuesdays, beginning at 11:00 AM. Due to security, a passport is required and the entry fee is 140 ARS, about $10.00.

The design of the synagogue, which opened in 1932, is heavily influenced by Roman and Byzantine architecture. It is home to the Congregación Israelita de la República de Argentina (or CIRA).

On the way to the synagogue, we made a return visit to Teatro Colon, just because it’s such a beautiful building. And it was there that we had a surprise reunion with two friends who are going to be on the cruise with us. Here’s AAC CPA’s surprised reaction when he saw them (with Leslie and Ron in the background).

AAC - BA
AAC CPA surprised by our Crystal sailing buddies

Here are a few photographs of the synagogue:

Libertad Synagogue Gates
Templo Libertad 

Libertad Synagogue
Templo Libertad gate detail, showing the 12 tribes of Israel

Libertad Overhead Entrance
No, that’s not the Vulcan salute!!

Libertad Sanctuary Entrance
Entrance to the sanctuary

Libertad Sanctuary - 01
Inside the sanctuary

Libertad Sanctuary - 02
A closer look at the “bimah”

Museum Typewriter
It’s an old typewriter with Hebrew letters found inside the museum

TRAVEL TIP: Templo Libertad

This afternoon was quite lazy and we began the arduous task of repacking. I don’t know why it should be difficult, since we’re not adding anything to what we brought from New York but, somehow, it’s very challenging and fraught with peril and emotional outbursts. Perhaps you’ve also had that experience, too?

2016-01-12 18.46.22
Is repacking more stressful than packing?

Tonight, for our grand farewell to Buenos Aires, we’re staying in and starting our evening at Vinoteca, which offers an extensive selection of wine tastings, particularly of the Malbecs we’ve been enjoying while in town. There’s also the option of sampling a selection of artisanal cheeses while you’re sipping the wines you’ve chosen. From there, we’ll have dinner at the elegant Duhau Restaurante, the gourmet restaurant at the hotel.

Park Hyatt Vinoteca
Vinoteca at the Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt

Park Hyatt Duhau Restaurante
Duhau Restaurante

11:00 Update: We had a great meal, preceded by an amazing wine and cheese tasting at Vinoteca. We sampled 8 different wines: 4 red and 4 white, and 7 different cheeses, all of which were home grown. The dinner at Duhau was excellent and each dish was beautifully presented, as was the service. 

A DESSERT
Desserts at Duhau – A sweet end to a perfect meal

CUISINE TIP: Duhau Restaurante and Vinoteca

A PALACE
Another part of the hotel – just ‘cuz

PS. Internet reception aboard ships can be notoriously terrible, so you may not hear from me for awhile. Not to worry – I’ll keep in touch as best I can.

Buenos Aires – Day Four

Culture, culture, culture! Today was about visiting one of the world’s preeminent opera houses, the magnificent Teatro Colon. It’s an easy 20 minute stroll from our hotel, the Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt hotel, along Avenue Libertad.

The original theatre dates back to 1857 but, within 30 years, it became clear that a new theatre was needed and, following a 20-year period, the new theatre made its debut in 1908, with a performance of Verdi’s Aida.

Considered one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world and with perfect acoustics, all of the great singers from Maria Callas to Luciano Pavarotti performed there well into the 1980s, after which the theatre fell into disrepair. In order to return the opera house to its former glory, a complete restoration was undertaken from 2006 – 2010.

Speaking of Pavarotti, the great tenor feared performing at Teatro Colon because – he said – the acoustics were so excellent that any mistake on his part would be clearly heard by the audience. No place to run, no place to hide. Talk about performance anxiety!

Guided tours in English are available during the day, and more information can be found at the opera house’s website. If you’re planning a trip to Buenos Aires, it should not be missed. Even better, if you’re visiting from February through November, it’s possible to see an opera or ballet performance there.

Teatro Exterior - 01
Entrance to the magnificent Teatro Colon

Teatro Foyer
Staircase in the foyer

Teatro Stairway
Stairway detail

Teatro - Leslie & AAC - 02
Leslie and AAC CPA admire the sights

Teatro Golden Hall - 01
The Golden Hall

Teatro Venus & Cupid
Statue of the Secret: What is Cupid whispering to Venus?

Teatro Auditorium
Inside the auditorium 

Teatro Auditorium Ceiling
Auditorium ceiling as seen from the President’s box

Callas Buenos Aires Turandot
Archival photo of Maria Callas as Turandot at Teatro Colon, 1949

CULTURE TIP: Teatro Colon

Following this excellent tour, we returned to the hotel, had a spot of lunch and relaxed for a few hours on the beautiful hotel grounds. It was a perfect summer day, warm but not too much and with very low humidity.

Lunch
That’s a yummy cold tomato and cucumber soup with langoustines

Tonight’s dinner was at the excellent Don Julio in the Palermo district. Unlike last night’s disappointing experience at La Cabrera, we could not have asked for a more delightful meal. The service was impeccable and the food was delicious. Once again, we split several cuts of beef and pork with various side dishes and shared the inevitable bottle of Malbec.

Don Julio
Inside Don Julio

2016-01-11 21.24.05
Carnivores delight at Don Julio

(See all the wine bottles going up to the ceiling? Customers write notes on the bottle labels.)

I haven’t yet mentioned it but, for those of us who are used to eating out in New York or in San Francisco, the price of dining in Buenos Aires is a great bargain. Tonight’s meal, which included 2 appetizers, 3 different cuts of beef, 2 side dishes, 1 dessert and the Malbec worked out to about worked out to about $47 per person. In the States, we’d easily be spending more than twice that amount.

CUISINE TIP: Don Julio

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow will be our last full day in Buenos Aires.