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Argentina - February 1996

Vicky Blitz

Nearly every trip I have ever been on has had a little surprise I wasn't expecting; something that is NOT mentioned in the itinerary; something that is so special, that, had I known, I would have gone out of my way to find a trip that included it on the schedule. It could be an art object, a structure, a natural formation, a special meal, but in Argentina, it was Ushuaia, pronounced ooo-SHWI-ya, a cute little town, located near Tierra del Fuego, near the southern most tip of South America. But first, let me get us there.

We left Washington, D.C. at 3:15 p.m. on Friday afternoon, just ahead of another big snow storm that was arriving that evening, which is something you struggle with when planning big deal vacations in the middle of winter. In Miami we boarded an Aeroline Argentina plane and were an hour and a half taking off. It was one of those flying cattle cars called a 747 where there are about 80 people per six bathrooms, and, of course, our flight was crowded. I remember those good old days when I loved to fly.

Saturday morning, in Buenos Aires, we met our charming tour guide, one Charles Driskell, an American, who would be with us for the entire trip. We were only 14 of us on this 17 day tour of Argentina, Chile and Peru. This trip, billed as Patagonia's Great Frontiers, is usually not a trip taken by first timers, so we were all seasoned travelers, which means that people were always on time and very seldom late for breakfast or getting on the bus.

We checked into the lovely Sheraton Buenos Aires and I got a one and a half hour nap before meeting our tour group at 2:00 p.m. for the obligatory city bus tour. Buenos Aires is a lovely, modern, expensive looking city, not unlike the cities of Europe. We saw the parks, statues, the opera house, the largest Jewish Synogog of the city, the pink State house and an enormous 200 year old rubber tree. At the Plaza de Mayo Square people had gathered to protest 513 people being laid off somewhere. We saw "The Obelisk", which looks like the Washington Monument, only it's smaller.

And then we arrived at the incredible cemetery, where the mausoleum of Eva Peron is located. I could have used up an entire roll of film here. In that section of the cemetery, each tomb (almost) is like an art object in itself. They are like small ornate buildings, many large enough to walk upright in, and some actually have a down stairs section, as entire families have their own family crypt. The sculptures that adorn them are just beautiful. Of course, we were taken through the more wealthy section, I'm sure, but it was well worth the time and not to be missed.

Back at the hotel, I had a salmon dinner in my room, as we had what is called a "free" night, where we are free to have dinner anywhere in the city we want, or in our room, if we choose. I have discovered, after being with a tour group all day, I like some down time to myself and often take this opportunity to be alone. My room overlooked the harbor and it was so peaceful, watching the ships docking as I ate.