Friday, March 23, 2012

Buenos Aires- A few last photos

The best-looking fleet of public buses we've seen!
Cementario de la Recoleta
The plaque on Evita's mausoleum
Harper and Cal watch mom ride the roller coaster at the indoor mall.  Cal went with me next and said, "I thought it was a little fun and a lot of scared."
The three best parts of Buenos Aires for Cal- Legos, his soccer jersey, and the rolling chair. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

And we're back!

Unfortunately close enough to feed.
Yahoo.  We are all feeling better again.  After feeling crummy for a week we were excited to get out of our apartment and see some of the sights left on our to-do list.  We let the kids decide where to head the last three days and as a result we've been to 2 zoos and a soccer museum.  The city zoo had a some decent exhibits and it looked like it used to be a beautiful area, but overall we were pretty disappointed by the conditions and the condoned feeding of animals.  All around the zoo were dispensers of some kind of nutrient-rich dog treats, but unfortunately we saw a lot of people also tossing their snacks into the animals' habitats.  It made us realize how much we take for granted the education piece that other zoos pass on to their visitors.  As a result of the feeding policy, there were also tons of Patagonia Maras (a very large rodent species that looks like a cross between a rabbit and a deer) and ducks roving the walkways trying to shake down visitors for the treats.  No bueno.
Patagonia Maras- Real life ROUSs 

Hot water dispenser for mate, the Argentina national tea drink
Before we headed to the soccer museum Thursday we started in the San Telmo neighborhood and watched a little tango show in the square.  Harper and Cal considered getting up and doing their own dance show but got cold feet and decided to just watch instead.  On our way to lunch we walked past a shoe store selling only tango shoes and Harper was mesmerized.
Checking out Tango shoes in the San Telmo neighborhood
Later in the day we were walking through the La Boca neighborhood on the way to the Boca Juniors soccer stadium and we were invited into the firehouse to see some antique firetrucks.  Harper and Cal got to try on a helmet and a friendly firefighter hoisted them up onto a truck.  "This is just like Uncle Greg's truck," Harper exclaimed.  There was a blue and yellow striped firetruck sporting Argentina's colors parked in the station as well, but unfortunately we didn't snap a photo of it.
"Just like Uncle Greg's fire truck!"
The colorful La Boca neighborhood around the stadium.
The soccer museum was located in the bottom of the stadium and we had fun looking though all kinds of memorabilia and watching the numerous highlight reels playing on all the screens.  Harper and Danny took a tour through the locker room and around the field, while Cal and I took a moment outside to take a break and sit for a while.  A police officer nearby came over and invited Cal to have a seat upon his police ATV which made Cal's day.  Once again we were reminded how friendly and welcoming the people of Argentina are, especially to children.
Constant highlight reels show all the great plays by members of the Bocas Junior club
Harper and Cal at the field.
Danny considers climbing the fence like all the fútbol maniacs do during the game.
The Temaiken Zoo just out side of Buenos Aires was worlds different from the city zoo.  It is an animal conservation and preservation foundation and you could tell great amounts of care and time were put into all aspects of this place.  The grounds were beautifully landscaped and the animals were well cared for with lots of natural, open space.  We were there when the zookeepers fed the hippo and gave a talk about her life and habits.  It was by far our favorite animal there.  Danny and I had never been up so close to a hippo and with the window right up to the hippos pool we got a great view of her swimming about, opening her huge jaws, and flipping her ears as she came to the surface for air.  The bird area was also really beautiful and it got us even more excited for Costa Rica; we were up close to all kinds of parrots, macaws, and toucans.  Cal and Harper also really liked the dinosaur exhibit where they got to "dig" out a fossil from the sandy soil.
Flying on my newly sprouted pelican wings 
We've embraced our children's regressions and allowed Cal to spend the afternoon in a stroller 
Harper's new tooth is finally coming in, albeit a bit yellow.
So close!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Buenos Aires

We've had a slow start here in Buenos Aires.  We arrived a week ago in a huge downpour and ended up changing apartments after the first night (spotty electricity in our building.)  And then Thursday brought on a stomach flu that has gone through all four of us over the last six days.  I haven't written anything much this week because we haven't been exploring like we'd hoped.
Cal learned to do the monkey bars this week at a little park close to our apartment.
We were able to get out a little bit here and there.  We took a ride on the double decker bus with Grandma Shirley and Grandpa Bob on Wednesday to see many of the neighborhoods and Cal got his "stander" fix in for the week.  Danny and Harper saw Barrio China with Bob and Shirley one day and had a good time looking through the numerous Chinese grocery stores and sampling the treats.
Shirley and I went to the street fair in San Telmo on Saturday and walked the long streets filled with all sorts of vendors selling everything from antiques, clothes, outfits for dogs, Tango CDs to leather jackets, magnets, jewelry, and art.  The handmade, up-cycled clothes were my favorite ones, making me miss the sewing machine a bit.
Urban trekking through Buenos Aires
Shirley and I took an afternoon walk through the markets of San Telmo on Sunday
Stones on a bridge
Harper found a huge tree near Chinatown perfect for climbing.
Harper, Bob and Shirley took in a Tango show on Saturday night.  Shirley and Bob gave Harper a new dress espescially for the night and she was thrilled to have a long, flowing gown to wear to the show. (She also has yet to take it off.)  Even though she was still a little under the weather she really enjoyed the show and had a lot to tell me, Cal and Danny about it the  next day.
Harper and Grandma Shirley all gussied up for the Tango show.
We've been lucky to have Grandma Shirley and Grandpa Bob with us these last few days.  They were able to get out and see a bit more of the city than us with a bike tour one day and a ferry trip to Uruguay another, but most of the time they have been spending time with our kids.  Harper and Cal have really enjoyed all the fun things they've done just with Grandma and Grandpa (like going out for ice cream, eating meals together, creating science experienements, and coloring pictures.)

Last night we said good bye to Grandpa Bob and Grandma Shirley.  We all were sad and Cal spent the rest of the night wondering "where they are flying over."  It was a little hard for the kids to know that they were headed back to Colorado (Cal at one point said he and Harper were going to leave with them and Danny and I could just "meet them back at home.")  But they also know that we have lots of beach time, cousin time (the Danny's sister's family meets us in Panama in less than 2 weeks,) animal seeing time, new friend meeting time, and exploring time left to do.

End of Ushuaia

I've gotten behind!  Here are a few more details and photos from Ushuaia.  Buenos Aires is next.

Cal had a great third birthday. After a special breakfast at the hotel of Cocoa Puffs and hot chocolate and a few loud songs on his new kazoo (thanks Aunt Debbie,) we climbed aboard the old steam engine train and chugged into Tierra del Fuego National Park.  Cal loved the train.  It was great to be chugging over rivers and through the forest and Cal especially liked when the conductor blew the whistle.  The train originally ran as a transport for prisoners up to the lumber work camps in the forest.  Now it just serves as a touristy way to get into the National Park. 
Listening to our "stander"
Another steam engine chugs through the woods
Harper and Cal were not too sure about this prisoner mannequin 
We had a little passenger car all to ourselves and it sure felt like a birthday party inside.  Cal opened his presents of Lego’s, an Argentina soccer jersey, three new garbage guys, and a Frog and Toad book (his favorite series for a while now.)  And Grandma Shirley brought balloons, which Grandpa Bob tied all together with his trusty dental floss from his pocket!
Lego's!  Grandpa Bob is just as excited as Cal.
Later in the afternoon we went to Ushuaia’s old general store, called Almacen General Ramos for some sweet treats and our loud, off-key and obnoxious-Americans rendition of “Happy Birthday.”  Cal and Harper each got a chocolate-coated meringue Penguin cake and we all shared a few other sweets.  I ordered the house’s famous hot cocoa called a Submarino.  It comes as a cup of hot milk with dulce de leche liquor and is served with two big chunks of dark chocolate to drop into the drink.  It was almost too sweet for me but we passed it around and Danny happily finished the melted chocolate on the bottom of the glass.

Penguin cake
Cal is usually pretty generous but he doesn't look to sure about Grandpa's bite here!
We made icebergs out of the meringue for Harper's tea
Our model train table 
Cal’s big day ended with a Skype video chat with his family in Chicago.  Aunt Meghan had everyone over for a birthday party for Cal and they all sang to him from almost 7,000 miles away.  He didn’t do too much talking, as he kept bouncing in and out of view, but it was fun for all the rest of us to see the Hanleys for a little while and catch up a bit.
Cal’s life as a two-year old will be hard to top with all the fun things he has done, the new people he has met, and the places he has seen, but home sweet home for year number three is sounding very good to him as well.

We flew out of Ushuaia the next day.  We had a mellow flight and Danny and I were able to sit and read our books on the plane for the first time in ages!  Grandma Bob sat sandwiched between the kids for the flight with Grandma Shirley across the aisle ready to help as much as she could.  We sat a row ahead and dozed off and read.  Three cheers for grandparents!
He's got a three-year old sense of humor as well!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Feliz Cumpleaños a Cal!

Happy birthday to Cal (aka: little man, Calvincito, Terremoto, Tobalaba, Feros, Calafate, Schpilkes, Saulito, Sale, Señor, Big Kid and just Cal)  We love you.

Finally three!


Friday we took the recommendation of every other TripAdvisor traveler who has been through Ushuaia and went on a Pira Penguin tour.  The agency is the only one to have a license to dock a small boat on Isla Martillo and visit the penguin rookery there.  It was an outstanding trip and despite a bumpy nausea-inducing shuttle ride, the Traveling Stoneleys, Grandma Shirley and Grandpa Bob had an amazing day!
But first things first.  Our day started with the drive out of Ushuaia to the east.  We went along the mountains, through the forests and around the Beagle Channel.  Windswept trees lined the coast and we stopped to admire their twisted and warped look.  We also got a good view of Puerto Williams across the channel (Chile's naval base town that really is the last permanent settlement at the end of the world.)  
That's some powerful wind!
We continued on to Estancia Harberton, the oldest settlement in the Tierra del Fuego area.  Founded by Thomas Bridges, an Englishman who came to the area via missionaries working in the Islas Malvinas (Falkland Islands.)  The Estancia served as a sheep and cattle ranch, the first general store, it imported all kinds of goods for the gold miners and native people in area, and grew vegetables and meat to sell to the surrounding areas.  
The estancia still has the same wood covered tin corrugated iron construction from its early days. 
Patagonia Red Fox in the brush at the estancia.

Also on the property was the Museo Acatushún de Aves y Mamíferos Marinos Australes, a museum filled with an extensive collection of skeletal remains from many of the sea creatures and land birds in the area.  We had a 45 minute tour of the museum and I wish we had had more time. It was filled with skeletons of whales, penguins, dolphins and other creatures that had been collected in a bay off the Atlantic coast just north of the area.  The bay has a differential of 11km. from high tide to low tide(!) and many animals get trapped there as a result.  The guides were very knowledgeable and we learned a lot.  The skeletons were hung over realistic life-size paintings of the animals, giving you the perspective of exactly where their bones are located in the body.  Although small it was one of the best museums we've seen on our travels.

Dolphin skeletons
Seal skeleton
Finally we were off on the boat for the main event.  We zipped out to the island in about 15 minutes and pulled the boat up on shore to the welcoming stares of a beach full of penguins.  There were three species on the island.  The Magellan penguins were most numerous.  Their identifying characteristics are the black and white stripes across their chests and the white and black circles around their eyes.  We also saw the Gentoo penguins with orange peaks and orange feet.  They are a little larger than the Magellan penguins and a bit stouter looking.  

Magellan penguins walking around their nesting area (although there weren't any chicks left on the island.)
Gentoo penguin
Muchos pinguinos! (Magellans)
Both groups of penguins were in molting season so the beach was covered with feathers and many of the penguins looked kind of ruffled and disheveled.  Unfortunately, there were no chicks on the island.  We could still see their nests, but the babies had already left for open waters after developing the proper waterproof feathers necessary to make it on their own.  The Skua gulls, the main predators of the penguins' eggs and chicks, were also still around on the island.
Gentoo penguin laying on the beach. 
Harper and Cal whispering about the Gentoo penguin just a few feet in front of them.  
The last kind of penguin on the island were two King penguins.  King penguins are very similar in look to Emperor penguins but shorter in height.  King penguins don't usually visit Isla Martillo but last year one King penguin showed up in the area and this year there are two.  The biologists don't know the sex of the penguins or if they intend to raise their young in the area but they are excited by the new species coming to Isla Martillo.
The King penguins were definitely our favorite.  Their orange chest feathers are so vibrant compared to the rest of their sleek black and white body.  Our guide, Santiago, told us that the King penguins seem most comfortable with the Gentoo penguins and spend their days in the same area.  Harper hasn't seen the movie, March of the Penguins, and although it is about the Emperor penguin, we will be sure to watch it this summer.
The King penguin preens its feathers and you can see the molting on the Gentoo to the right.
Santi has one of the best jobs in the world (and some very penguin-esque shades)
It was an amazing day seeing all those penguins waddling around the island.  Cal was on his best behavior to not scare the penguins with his loud mouth and high energy.  Harper loved the penguins hiding in the brush and she was great at quietly creeping up close to get a better look.  None of us could believe that we were close enough to reach out and touch them.  While we were in awe of the penguins, they simply ignored us and went about preening their feathers and lounging about.  After we got in the boat Harper said her favorite part was watching the penguins swim around in the channel.  Danny agreed; they are so agile in the water.  Santi told us they can easily out maneuver seals because of their quick sudden bursts of speed and how quickly they can turn around- while swimming full speed a penguin can change directions 180 degrees in the space of 1/4 of its body length!  
I love the short and stubby Gentoos.
Penguin yoga
Out for a morning walk.