Friday, October 10, 2008

Tomorrow morning, we depart for Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Jim will be attending an International Bar Association Conference, that will begin on Sunday through next Friday.
We will connect through Miami to Buenos Aires. Total air travel time will be approximately 12 1/2 hours.
This will be our first trip to South America, so I hope to have some interesting information to pass along.

(Click to play)

Sunday October 12, 2008

We arrived in Buenos Aires this morning at 7:30A. The flight from Miami was long and somewhat turbulent as we approached Argentina, due to some storms in the area.
Being that it is Sunday morning, traffic from the airport was relatively light for the 35KM drive to our hotel, The Marriott Plaza.
Our room was upgraded to a junior suite, which makes it very comfortable. A large bedroom, bathroom and living room area.
We slept for a few hours this morning before we went to the Convention Center where Jim had to register for the conference (short 2 block walk).
After the registration we spent the next few hours walking the the shopping district by the hotel, trying to get a feel for the city. We stopped for a beer at a small cafe' and had a light lunch.
Though the time change is only two hours later, we returned to the hotel and napped again before dinner. Our flight was through the night, but was not exactly quality rest.

We had a late dinner at Bar Uriarte, located about 20 minutes from the hotel. Home to the longest bar in Buenos Aires, great service and excellent food.

So far we have found that taxi's and good meals are a bargain.

Monday October 13, 2008

The weather today was overcast and cool. Jim was at the convention center for most of the day.I spent the afternoon just strolling around still trying to get a feel for the area.

Buenos Aires is quite a large city with many smaller areas. Tomorrow I plan on venturing out by cab to try a new area of town to explore.

This evening we had dinner at Casa Cruz, located in the same area as last night in Palermo Soho. When we arrived for our 8:30p dinner reservation, the restaurant was empty. We thought this was a replay of our dinner at the Green T House in China, when we were alone the entire evening. While we were having a cocktail at the bar, taxi's began arriving one after another. By 8:45, the bar area was getting crowded. We were seated for dinner and the dining room came alive. The server told us that the peak time for dinner here is 10:30p. On the weekends, the kitchen closes at 1:30A.

The service and food were excellent. Our appetizer was 4 grilled shrimp in a cream sauce. For entrees- Jim ordered the goat, yes goat. It was actually quite tasty. Tasted similar to smoked pork and is very popular in Argentina. I played it safe with Hake, a mild white fish. If we return for dinner here, I think I will have to order "Billy".

Tuesday October 14,2008

I took a taxi to Recoleta, a very elegant part of Buenos Aires.

I spent the first few hours walking the Cementerio de la Recoleta. A large cemetery located on the edge of the city center. One of the notable family tombs is that of Eve Peron and her family.

The tombs have glass doors/gates that you can look to the inside. Many coffins are visible to the public with some of the coffins being draped in cloth.

The Basilica is located around the corner from the cemetery and was conveniently located for a short visit.

Recoleta is home to many high end shops such as Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton and Armani. But you can buy more for your pesos if you buy from local designers.

The streets are lined with small shops and cafes'. They are busy but not overly conjested with people or traffic.

Because there are many apartments/condos, there seems to be the need for professional dog walkers. Every block you will find a walker with anywhere from three to eight leased dogs.

After a light lunch and some people watching, I took a 20 min taxi ride back to the hotel.

We had dinner at Club 647. When we arrived at 9P, except for two people at the bar, was desolate. But once again, by 9:30 the room came to life. Another great dinner, pork that was very tender and a rib eye steak that was very different than in the US. It reminded me of a very tender porterhouse without the bone. Desert was very unique mascarpone cheese cake. The cheese was covered with a hardened sugar dome, surrounded by small bits of fresh fruit. The dome, when cracked with a spoon, revealed the cheese.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Just wandering around today. No place in particular, just walk and turned down various streets in the area.

I find that many of the small shops off the tourist path are more accommodating with no pressure to buy. They allow you the opportunity to browse without feeling guilty for not making a purchase.

I stopped for lunch at an outdoor cafe' and ordered a burger. Instead of the bun, the meat was on medium sized tortillas. Also included, was a thin slice of ham, melted cheese, sliced egg, tomato and lettuce. Though I like eggs, I opted to leave it off the sandwich. Bit of an odd combination, but it seems to be popular here.

While seated outside I was approached a several times by children, young girls 7-9 years old, trying to sell items for cash. They were very polite and the items ranged from small religious calenders to salt and pepper containers. I found it interesting and scary that parents would be sending such young children on the street for money. We would not even think to leave young children alone, yet these kids are voluntarily approaching complete strangers.

There does not seem to be large numbers of homeless, but there are quite a few people asking for money as you walk down the street. (Participants at the convention were warned of street crime in the area, so common sense and awareness of your surroundings is necessary)

Weather was cool and rainy this morning, but cleared up by mid afternoon.

We had dinner at Sucre', a very modern and lively place. The back bar had bottles displayed about 20 feet high to the ceiling. When using the restroom, you walked over the bar on a catwalk.

Dinner was pork rib eye, roasted in a wood burning oven.

Thursday October 16, 2008

Jim was free today from the conference, so we spent the day in Reccoleta and Palermo areas. The weather was very warm, in the mid to upper 70's. The best walking weather since we arrived. After a light lunch in Reccoleta, we walked through wide open parks and neighborhoods. Locals were enjoying the spring weather rollerblading, biking or having a run.

The areas are completely filled with high-rise living. Not once did we come across a single family type home.

We stopped at Plaza de Mayo where you have a view of Casa Rosada. The balcony facing the Plaza is a presidential podium where Evita rallied the working class and Madonna sang her filmed rendition of "Don't Cry for me Argentina".

We had dinner at Resto, that was recommended by a server the other night. It is a small restaurant that seats 28. They are open for lunch M-F, and dinner is only served on Thursday and Friday with only one seating. The staff is attentive and the food excellent. The menu is done by three sets of recommendations for dinner, appetizer/entree/desert, or you can mix and match your selections.

Starter : spider crab with corn -asparagus with goat cheese

Main: Roasted quail with lemon risotto - lamb and pea salad

Desert: Hot chocolate cake with ice cream - creme brulee with fresh blueberries

One of our favorite dinners and restaurant this trip.

Friday/Saturday, October 18 &19 2008

Jim finished his conference by noon today. We had a light lunch in Reccoleta and again roamed the many neighborhoods.

We found a small men's store near the hotel that sold local brands. Jim purchased 3 new suits for a 1/3 of what it would have cost in the US. The owner was very accommodating. He had the suits tailored and delivered to the hotel Friday night.

Dinner was at a relatively new restaurant Francesca. Great room and very accommodating staff. We both had fillet of beef that was almost a double portion. With all the appetizers and sides we were both pretty stuffed after that dinner.

Our flight on Saturday was at 9P and we had to check out of the hotel by 2. We took a city tour (maybe 5 days late) for three hours. We had a group of 6 in a medium sized van. Though we had been to many of the stops during the week, our guide gave us the history behind the areas and monuments. We had a short stop at a street/craft market and purchased a leather mask that will hang in the basement. It is colorful and made locally by a couple who has won awards for their creations.

We spent the remaining afternoon on the riverfront. A mile or so long area loaded with restaurants and shops, all with seating overlooking the river. We had a long Italian lunch before our trip back home. -There are many cars and taxi's here and multi lane roads. The lane lines are ignored. Drivers do not use the lanes. If the vehicle fits, they make a lane.

-I should have paid more attention during Spanish class or remembered that I brought along a translation guide. Both would have been very helpful on this trip.

-Due to the MANY dogs in Buenos Aires, keep your eyes on the ground at all times. You never know what kind of unwanted souveniers you bring back to your hotel.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

This evening we depart for Dublin, Ireland. We will arrive there on Wednesday morning around 8:30A.
We will be here seven days and plan on many day trips revisiting the small towns of Ireland.
We also are looking forward to spending time with my nephew Brian's future in-laws, Marie and Bernard, who reside in Dublin. It will be nice to have a "pint" with them in their homeland.

Wednesday July 23, 2008

Our flight yesterday was canceled due to three inoperative lavatories. We were rerouted 3 hours later through London and connected to Dublin in the afternoon.

After a few delays along the way we finally arrived in Dublin at 5p, 8 hours later than planned.
We arrived at our hotel, The Merrion just after 6p.

We were invited to a cook out at Marie & Bernard's home (Fionas parents). Bernard insisted that he "collect" us from our hotel instead of us driving to their home and trying to navigate through Dublin after our long day.
Great food, friends and a great welcome to Dublin by the McEntee's.
(Marie & Bernard)

Thursday July 24, 2008

We spent the day walking around the city of Dubl
in. Visited a few shops, and a tour of the Jameson Brewery. Later we had lunch in pub, washed down with a pint of Guinness.
Dinner tonight was at the Bleu Bistro.

Friday July 25, 2008

Today was a full day of driving out of Dublin headed toward Kilkenny. (Loaned GPS, perfect travel companion) The weather is cool and raining on and off all day. Very typical weather this time of year and perfect for sight seeing.
Kilkenny is a quaint small town with many shops, pubs and hairdressers.
We parked the car in the garage and walked a few blocks to
the castle for a one hour tour. No photos were allowed inside the castle.

After our tour, we stopped for lunch at a pub recommended by Mr. Travel, Rick Steves

We both had sandwiches (no beer, driving) with other tour
ists and many locals.
Since we were south of Dublin already, we decided to do the 45 minute d
rive to Waterford. On our previous trip in 2002, I regretted not buying more future gifts at the Waterford factory. Since we had arranged dinner plans, 45 minutes was all the time to shop. It was a marathon shopping spree. Completed in 40 minutes. The box will be shipped back home.
We made it back to Dublin in plenty of time for our dinner out with th McEntee clan. There was nine people in our party for dinner at The Trocodero Restaurant.

Wonderful place that requires advance reservations. Lovely, as they say.

After dinner we strolled over to the Shelbourne Hotel.
We found our way to the smaller of their two bars where we w
ere able to have a few corner tables (photo above).
While we were enjoying the evening, Fiona received a call from Brian back home with some great news. Her green card had arrived. She now can go back and forth to Ireland and not apply for all the necessary visas.

We finished the night off at a local club that was filled with people on both levels.

Saturday July 26, 2008

We slept in today until mid-morning. Well needed rest from
the full driving day and evening out until the wee hours.
We were told about Phoenix Park in Dublin, the largest enclosed u
rban park in Europe. It encompasses over 1760 acres, and is located just outside the city centre.
We rented bicycles at one of the designated entrances. Perfect way to see the park and get the well needed exercise. Bargain priced at 10 Euro for
2 1/2 hours. A must see and do if you visit Dublin.

After our ride we walked past the Guinness Brewery (toured last trip), stopped for a late lunch at Foley's Pub and rested a bit before our full night ahead.

Tonight Michael Buble' concert, thanks to our new friend Dolores in Dublin.
The venue was a short distance from the hotel, but we man
aged to get lost and a taxi took us to the correct location.
The concert was outdoors and the weather was perfect and our seats were in the second row. In our opinion the concert was better than when he appeared in Chicago.
I was able to take some video of of 5 of his songs. If your interested in viewing them click here.
After the concert, we met Marie, Dolores and Ann at the Westbury Hotel for drinks. We relaxed in the very nice bar until just past 1.
Dolores had made arrangements for us be admit
ted to Lillies, a club that is private on the top floor.
This was a relatively small room that you were only admitted if you were on the list. The three piece band was excellent and played to the quaint room of about 60 people.
We sipped champagne, enjoyed the music and people watching until 4A.

Now we were starving. No White Castle here.
Near the hotel was an all night stand serving Turkish pita sandwiches
They hit the spot.

Perfect day in Dublin.

Sunday July 27, 2008

Late morning start but we decided on a drive to Glendalough, the valley of two lakes. It is renowned for its Early Medieval monastic settlement founded by St Kevin in the 6th century.
It was a perfect walking day with beautiful grounds and scene
ry.Dinner this evening was at the Eden Restaurant, located in the Temple Bar area of Dublin.

Monday July 28, 2008

We decided that today would be our last road trip out of Dublin. We travele
d on 4 lane highways, fast moving and winding narrow 2 lane roads and roads that were barely large enough for 1 car.

(click below to play short drive experience)

Our travels today took us south of Dublin to Wexford, where we strolled around this medium sized town. More winding town streets filled with shops, restaurants and corner pubs.


The return trip, we drove along coast of the Irish Sea, through the great small resort town of Wicklow. Very picturesque and the perfect setting for a short holiday.
We arrived back at the hotel around 8P. At the last minute we were able to get a reservation at the Tea Room, located in the Clarence Hotel.

Tuesday July 29,2008

Today was our final day in Ireland. We opted to just take it easy and stroll around Dublin.
(Jim with Oscar Wilde)
The driving can take a toll on you. The opposite side driving, and constant state of watching every move on the roads can be bit stressful (we logged 585 driving miles).
So this was a great way to see the city again in perfect weather.
We had pint at Foley's (Fionas uncle has worked there for about 9 yea
rs) and had a nice chat.
Our final dinner was with the McEntees at a great restaurant Fallon and Byrne.
Our group ended the evening with a stop at the pub, for a fin
al cocktail and Guinness.
Wednesday July 30, 2008

Return flight home on AA 5 hours late due to an earlier mechanical delay.
Back at home by 6P.
Cannot wait to return to Ireland.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

"Lucky 7"

This was my seventh trip to Beaumont. Work is still ongoing with limited volunteers. We are still working in Port Arthur, 25 miles south of Beaumont.
On 40th Street we are building three ho
mes in an area that is not the best part of town.
The video below is from Channel 6, a local news station. Habitat is trying to get more local volunteers. Since I was there this week, they asked me to be interviewed as part of the story and encourage local recruits.

My group this week were two local guys, Tommy (retired printer), David, the prisoners and myself. No visiting groups, due to the upcoming holiday and I sure the rise in traveling expenses.
This trip I switched hotels to the MCM Elegante in Beaumont. I was able to get a great deal on Orbitz, which prove
d to be well worth the difference from previous hotels.
(Hotel Bar with a bit of London)

We worked on one home and installed siding, support porch posts and sided the gable. For a small group we accomplished quite a bit even though we were rained out on two afternoons.

(A bit warm in the afternoon)

(Completed siding and gable)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

This week on my sixth trip to Beaumont, was Jimmy & Rosalynn Carters 25Th anniversary being involved with Habitat for Humanity. Though they were in Biloxi, MS., the anniversary was being celebrated at all the affiliates in the southeast.

This week we were building from ground up on three homes in Port Arthur (30 minutes south of Beaumont).
On Monday, the local press was at the site for a ceremonial wall raising. Local dignitaries were present to show their support.
Usually when I arrive, the homes are already started. This was a nice change to be part of the actual raising, installing and leveling of the interior and exterior walls.

The Americorp Group of 20 have been here for about two weeks. We also had two retired couples from Connecticut and Kansas and a few other volunteers from the Texas area.
Weather was great this week. Every day in the 80's except on Thursday-rain in the morning. (Since we could not work in the mud at the site, a few of us were assigned some inside work on Jenard Street, where I previously worked.)
There is only one home remaining and the neighborhood is complete. It was nice to return and see first hand the completed block of 30 homes. I stopped and visited a bit with Miss Bea.

Dinner was at my usual new find, Poblano Grill. It also was great to see my friend Lois (previous Habitat coordinator). We were able to have dinner on two nights and we returned to my favorite blues/jazz club, Nells on Friday night.

There still quite a bit of work to be done. Construction will continue this year in Beaumont, Port Arthur and Sabine Pass

(Our group---Me far left)

There still quite a bit of work to be done. Construction will continue this year in Beaumont, Port Arthur and Sabine Pass.