Monday, April 30, 2018

GE 2018: Don’t Cry for Me Argentina (Day 2) and Uruguay

Buenos Aires Day 2 was even wetter than Day 1.  Unrelenting pouring rain. But we were not to be deterred… In the past two days, we have completed 38 challenges and three bonuses.  That is called “moving and grooving” (and falling into a coma at night as soon as your head hits the pillow).
But first, our second and last day in Buenos Aires found us up and out early for Sunday Ceremony (catholic mass) at Basilica Nuestra Senor del Pilar.
The bonus scavenge today was to take the train to Tigre and do a boat ride. Tigre turned out to be a series of deltas, rivers and islands where (a) Rich people have fancy boating clubs; (b) Middle class people have chic weekend homes and (c) the cast of Deliverance are hiding out in dilapidated shacks that are falling apart and sliding into the river. A stunning display of income inequality. 
Posh boating club
Charming vacation home

"Don't step on the pier or you may end up in the river" shacks
There are even small grocery / convenience stores mid-river
And abandoned ships amassing ghosts and rust on the riverbanks.
Before we left Tigre, we had a nice lunch at a restaurant by the water

Still raining all afternoon, but we enjoyed the zen of  the Japanese Gardens.

When we interviewed locals to ask them who was the most famous person from Argentina Papa Francis (the Pope… whom I love … and who I believe may well change the world) and soccer player Messi ran neck and neck. Not sure what that says about society today.
Need to hold up the branches of an old and unstable tree? Problem solved artistically: Just put a half naked, 12-pack abs bronze statue on duty.
How can you not love a city with street art like this
On Monday at 6:30AM, we were at the ferry to cross into Uruguay (another new country for me… YAY).  We started in Colonia de Sacramento, a quaint cobbled-stoned village popular for weekends with Argentinians. Every corner is picture-worthy.

Then on to Montevideo and to a local winery (Bodega Bouza) for a tour.  It was so beautiful and peaceful at the winery that we stayed and had an amazing dinner at their fancy restaurant.
This leg we have been able to scavenge all of the time with our friends Marnie and Greg, which has made the last few days so special. On some legs, the event coordinator restricts how much time you can spend with another team... so total freedom has been great
Tomorrow is May Day which seems to mean that everything will be closed here (it’s like our labor day). So not sure how many of the Montevideo challenges we will get done before check-in at 7PM tomorrow… but we will be up early to try and see as much of the city as possible.

GE 2018: Drowning in Buenos Aires: Day 1

Day 1 in Buenos Aires was AWFUL water thunderstorm after thunderstorm.  We walked in the rain, biked in the rain... we have been drenched all day. But what a fun city. Buenos Aires is so much like New York City: fun and hip with different neighborhoods, all with totally unique personalities.
We visited the city cemetery to find famous people’s resting places.  The rich and famous of Buenos Aries have palatial “final homes” with columns and turrets and reception rooms with cushy chairs so friends and family can come and comfortably grieve. 
Of course, finding Evita's crypt was one of the scavenges... with fresh flowers brought every day (still). 
Then off to the Museum of Fine Arts to see Picassos and Matisses ad Van Goghs…

Even a Rothko (same artist as the all-black Rothko chapel in Houston.  This man obviously over-concentrated the day that they taught "shading of one color" and took it to heart

And you can never have too many vagina and penis renditions.
"Holding" the obelisk downtown

Biking along the natural reserve …. And stopping for Gnobili

One scavenge was to make new social media friends.  We got the bike rental guy to not just "friend" us… but put us on the company facebook page. Sweet, sweet fame.

Favorite bonus scavenge of the day:  Eat at a Puerta Cerrada restaurant.  This turns out to be an “underground” private restaurant where a great cook turns her living room into a tiny restaurant and serves you at home.  After asking almost a dozen people about this - and getting a lot of blank stares - we hit jackpot with our new bike rental friend. He knew of one of these places and called and booked us a table.  We got out of the taxi in a quiet neighborhood, knocked on a regular and unmarked door, was buzzed in and told to come to the second floor. It was either going to be a great night or we were going to be starring on the next episode of "Missing  and Murdered Abroad." But a lovely  couple met us and showed us into their trendy living room (with great art) and - over the next 3 hours - they brought us course after course of gourmet food along with detailed descriptions of the preparation of each dish and every ingredient. It was such an unusual and interesting evening.

Chef and wife...

Living room aka our private dining area

After dinner, we went to a Milanga (or tango dance hall) and watched people – of ALL ages – tango.  It was almost midnight and couples in their 80s were twirling about… pretty impressive.

Off to bed ... I'm exhausted

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Great Escape 2018: Busy Day in Bogata

On the way to the airport yesterday, when we opened the first envelope, we discovered we were going to Bogota, Columbia. YAY …  a new destination (although we did go to Cartagena, Columbia a few years ago on the 2015 Global Scavenger Hunt). We met up with Marnie and Greg at the IAH airport and had an interminable check-in experience (Avianca managed to successfully checked in only about 3 people an hour… thank goodness we had lots of time). Our plane landed in Bogata around midnight, so we did not meet up until 9:30AM this morning, when we opened our second envelope (which had clear “Do not open until breakfast” instructions). In the second envelope was a set of scavenges for Bogota today and information about our flight out tonight to meet the rest of the teams in Buenos Aries, Argentina.

We are staying in La Candeleria district of Bogata (the historical district) which has great architecture, cobbled streets and LOTS of graffiti and color.

Look at the character in this woman's face. What sorrows has she seen?

First scavenge of the day was to take a tram car ride to the top of the hill (Montserrat) for a panoramic view of the entire city.  And Bogota  is HUGE.  It stretches as far as you can see in either direction.  Eight million people.

Scavenge: Visit the Botero Museum
This turned out to be a very hip, modern art museum (which was free of charge).  It has dozens of Botero pieces as well as a few Picassos, Salvador Dalis and one Matisse.  I know that "art is in the eye of the beholder" but this Picasso - in my opinion - looks like a 2nd grader's art project. Honestly the street graffiti was so superior. 

But then I got hooked on the Botero pieces. Fernando Botero is probably the most famous artist from Columbia.  He was raised in Medellin and started out as an apprentice Matador, before he realized that art was more his calling than torturing and killing bulls (yes, I'm not even pretending to hide by disdain for bull fighting). Botero predominantly depicts voluptuous forms, often in the nude: a unique and easily recognizable style. Some critics say his work is silly or trivial, but I found his pieces (which are very large) almost magnetic.

Across town to the Botantical gardens which are an oasis in the middle of concrete madness. 

Pigeons swarm in the main square with Spanish styled architecture all around

An interesting scavenge today was to photograph political graffiti.  We found lots dealing with the various civil wars.  I like this one… in the game of war, no one wins.  So very, very true.

We had to interview people on the street about Columbia’s feelings on Venezuela’s economic instability. So, when we ran into come college kids looking to interview tourists for one of their classes, we did a fair exchange.  We answered their questions and they talked to us at length about Venezuela.  Since Venezuela has fallen apart economically – and there is no food or medicine etc. – Columbia has been overrun with people fleeing that collapse.  While Columbians believe that they must help their “brothers,” the sheer numbers of Venezuelans arriving every day has overwhelmed this country, especially its medical care system. This matter is a central issue in the upcoming elections here.

We are off now to Argentina for another adventure... we will miss the color of Bogota


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