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A Fantastic Voyage

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Posted: Friday, March 2, 2018 10:36 am

Bob and Meda Jensen are off on another wonderful adventure, in celebration of their 60th wedding anniversary. They share their fantastic voyage with all of us.

E-Postcard from Ilhabela Brazil

Ilhabela (eel-ha-bella) is a small island just south and east of Rio de Janeiro and only four miles off the coast. It has 80 miles of coastline. It is a vacation spot for Brazilians.

It was discovered by Americo Vespucio in 1502. This is another reminder that South America has an early history rivaling ours. The population is about 30,000 and the language is Portuguese.

Roads are very poor so the taxis are all four wheel drive vehicles. Its tallest mountain stands 4,500 feet tall. The mountains extend down to the ocean so all the development takes place there – what there is of it.

Ferry boats are the only means of reaching the island. The circumference of the island is about 90 miles. It rains 175 days a year but we had a sunny, beautiful day.

We took a morning cruise on a schooner – Ilhabela is known as the Brazilian Capital of Sailing. Commercial fishing is an important industry. Fresh seafood abounds as it has on our ship. Shrimp, oysters, squid and octopus are abundant. Sugar and coffee plantations were established in the 17th and 18th centuries. The island is an important bird watching spot.

We had to tender (by small boats) to in to shore from our ship.

Regards, Meda and Bob

E-Postcard from Rio de Janeiro

We arrived early this morning. Rio’s population is about 6,300,000. It has the largest Portuguese population outside of Lisbon. Europeans arrived in the 1500s. The Portuguese founded the city in 1565.

The rainy season lasts from December through March so we need to be prepared. 90 degree temperatures are forecasted for today. Tonight we go to the Carnaval parade from 8:00 pm until 4:00 am if we can last that long. We just had short preview when some floats drove by our ship.

Brazil is one of 13 countries that straddle the equator. A small portion extends north of the equator. 75% of the population is Catholic which makes it the world’s largest Catholic population. Portuguese is the official language but many languages are spoken.

The most impressive structures are the Christ The Redeemer statue on Rio’s highest peak, the Janeiro Cathedral and the mid-18th Century Carioca Aqueduct which is now used as bridges for the Santa Teresa Tram. Most all Caribbean, Central and South American cities celebrate Carnaval but Rio’s is the largest – one million people come to Rio for Carnaval! The city is packed. It is a time for revelry before the 40 days of Lent. We viewed the famous Samba school parade at the Sambadrome built expressly for this parade. 

Our Carnaval experience exceeded our expectations! We left the ship at 7:45 pm by bus and because of heavy traffic we arrived at the parade stadium just before 9:00 pm for the parade which started at 10:00 pm. The stadium consists of concrete bleachers along both sides of the parade avenue. Capacity: 90,000. We had to climb more than 50 steep steps to get to our seats which had to accommodate also the feet of the person behind us. There were no aisles for vendors so they simply climbed over us. Fireworks preceded each samba schools 45 minute parade over a half mile course. About 20 minutes separated each school. The floats and costumes defy an accurate description.

Between 2,000 and 5,000 dancers and marchers were included in each school ‘s parade. The colorful costumes followed the theme of the school’s entry. All the participants appeared to be adults of African heritage. Most of the Brazilians in the audience stood for the entire performance. Each school appeared to have a king and queen who performed for the judges right in front of us. The samba schools prepare for the annual completion eleven months of the year often weekly.

Competitions take place annually on the Friday through Tuesday nights before Ash Wednesday. Meanwhile parties are taking place all over the city. Many from our ship left at midnight before the event ended at about 4:00 am.

For us this was a once in a lifetime experience.

We arrived back at our ship at about 1:00 am. The floats are built and stored in warehouses near the port. We followed a slow moving float for the last part of our return.

Regards, Meda and Bob

E-Postcard from Montevideo Uruguay

Montevideo (mahn-tay-vee-day-o) is the capital of Uruguay. Its population of about 1,400,000 represents about 50% of Uruguay's population. Spanish is the official language and the Uruguayan Peso is the currency. Uruguay lies between Brazil and Argentina – the countries from which it gained its independence in1825.

Uruguay prides itself on its beef raised on its pampas under the watchful eyes of its gauchos. Sheep are also raised and seafood is plentiful. Wines are also a source of pride. And meat is its prime export.

The first soccer world cup was played in Montevideo in 1930 with the host team beating neighbor Argentina. Uruguay also won the soccer crown in the 1924 and 1928 Olympics and the World Cup again in 1950. The stadium seats 65,000.

The first naval battle of WWII took place just off the coast of Uruguay. The German pocket battleship (a cruiser on steroids because the WWI treaty restricted Germany from building battleships.) Graf Spee was badly damaged by the British cruisers Exeter and Ajax off the coast of neutral Uruguay. As we recall the German scuttled the Graf Spee to keep it out of British hands.

Our shore excursion took us around South America's arguably most cosmopolitan capital. The country boasts of being "South America's least corrupt country." We saw the first hospital, the soccer stadium, and the Legislative Palace (considered one of the three most beautiful buildings in the world. We also drove by the Graf Spee Monument.

Like the Brazilian ports of Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza the most prominent street runs along the waterfront. A truly European colonial city, it has splendid examples of French, Spanish, Portuguese and British architecture.

Everyone we talked to found Uruguay to be the most impressive countries we have visited on this cruise.

We forgot to report that Brazil freed its slaves in 1889 after 300 years of slavery – the last country to do so. The captain patted Bob on the back for the third time and Bob did not have on one of his Navy shirts. Also our head waiter likes to tell his coworkers Bob lived in the Philippines whereupon the second shouts Daddy, Daddy. Think about it!

Regards, Meda and Bob.

E-Postcard from Buenos Aires Argentina

Some left over thoughts from Uruguay: People in this country pay 4 ½% of their salary for universal medical care. There are no copays for maternity care. They pay 15% for social security and can retire at age 60.

Education through the university is free; the university buildings are scattered throughout the city – there is no campus. We loaded an amazing amount of provisions – meat, fruits and vegetables. Meda was amazed by the process and the equipment. Our server last night confirmed that the prime rib Bob had tonight was from Uruguay – he never has had tastier or tenderer beef.

Buenos Aires means “good air.” Buenos Aries’ European heritage is readily apparent in its early architecture – particularly French. This country bills itself as a country of immigrants. Italians are the largest segment followed by Spanish, German and Jewish people from around the world. Beautiful parks are everywhere and seemingly every street is lined with trees. Monuments are everywhere.

It is a city of culture. The early 20th century five story Post Office Building has been repurposed as a cultural center and named for the husband then wife former presidents Kirchners.

We visited the beautiful Catedral Metropolitana where honor guards are positioned at the tomb just as at our Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. As the primary sources of its population would suggest, Argentina’s primary religion is Catholicism.

Our visit to Buenos Aires was capped off with an evening performance of dance by a tango dance company in the ship’s theater. It was unlike what we see as tango in US movies. It fell somewhere between Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers and classical ballet. The dancers were accompanied by a pianist an accordionist, two violins and a drummer. In one number the women dancers made effective use of drums. The troupe was made up of five women and five male dancers and an older male singer. This performance has been the entertainment highlight of the first 24 days of our cruise. Buenos Aires sees itself as he tango capital world while Rio de Janeiro claims to be the samba capital.

Regards, Meda and Bob

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