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John and Diane's Latest Adventures - 2020

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Sounds like you had another wonderful excursion.

 

Glad John is improving.

 

Great pictures especially the one pf John and you in front of the statue of Christ the Redeemer.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

At Sea en route to Punta del Este, Uruguay

 

We continue our course southward, headed for Uruguay, Buenos Aires, and then Montevideo, Uruguay.  It’s easy to tell that we’re in a hemisphere which is in the midst of summer,  When the sun shone in our windows this morning we assumed it was “wakey, wakey” time, but when I looked at the clock it was only 5:30, so I headed over to the curtains, closed them securely, and went back to sleep.  It reminds me of sleeping on a yacht/hotel in Stockholm once when we were awakened by the sun shining in our faces at 3:30 in the morning.

 

I’m still fighting with the internet from time to time, as it can be both slow and frustrating.  The text parts are not so much a problem now, but uploading photos requires that I sit in the library near the ship’s main server and bring a book to read while they very slooooly appear on the website.  This location, while seeming to take forever (last night 6 photos took an hour to upload), requires that I bring a book with me.  At least that’s given me an opportunity to finish my Book Club selection early.  Actually, however, I do prefer this year’s internet over the system which required us to buy minutes (which were never enough).  Now we simply pay for the entire cruise and can log on whenever we choose.  It also makes it easier to keep in telephone contact with home, since our conversations with our daughter’s family usually last about 30 minutes on What’s App.  

 

When I answered the question about how many passengers were on for the full world cruise, it turns out I underestimated.  While talking to Henk, the Hotel Director, at the sailaway yesterday, he told us that of almost 1300 passengers, 1200 are full world cruisers.  Only 13 are disembarking (and embarking) at Buenos Aires, the end of our first segment.  In Sydney, which usually has about a hundred, there are only 30 passengers off and on.  On previous world cruises, the number of passengers usually declined as passengers disembarked, once arriving in Ft. Lauderdale with fewer than 1000 passengers, but Henk said that he expects to arrive in Ft. Lauderdale with a full ship.  As of right now, we have only two empty staterooms, and I think they’re full of empty luggage.

 

Our friend Jacques, the Cellar Master, sets up Sommelier Dinners in the Pinnacle restaurant.  A few years ago there were only about three per cruise, but on this cruise there will be three per month.  We skipped the first one, but we’re signed up for next week’s dinner, called Moulin Rouge.  It has a French theme and since we love all things French, we’re looking forward to it.  

 

The other thing we’re looking forward to is having the Tango people come on board.  They put on such wonderful shows and encourage many people to attend the dance lessons at which they instruct us in the finer points of tango.  My only disappointment is spending only one day in Buenos Aires, but we’re planning to take full advantage of it by being signed up for a walking tour through Tours by Locals.  We did this the last time and saw a great deal of the city, both by walking and using public transportation, including the oldest subway system in South America and Cafe Tortoni, the oldest cafe in Argentina. 

 

Since I didn’t get to include photos of some of the beautiful wall art at the port in Rio, I’m going to show you more of it today.  Enjoy!

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I, along with many, appreciate the time you take to write your daily reports and post photos.  I think this itinerary is one of the best, if not the best, of the itineraries since I've been following your WCs.  Possibly the route is what attracted a larger number of full world cruisers.  I am just loving the route and hope it will be repeated when I can be a passenger.

 

I also love reading the detailed reports of your Sommelier Dinners.  Can't wait for the Moulin Rouge dinner.  

 

Happy to hear that John will soon be back to pickleball.  And it will be fun to hear where your friend Will replaces his gold cross.  The new chain and cross will have quite a story.   Thank you brightening our days with your photos and reports.  Cherie

 

 

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I love the idea that they are increasing the number of Sommelier dinners -- they are so good and a lot of fun.

 

Love the pictures.

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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Punta del Este, Uruguay

 

Serendipity:  the phenomenon of finding agreeable things not sought for or expected.  

 

Today was an excellent example of serendipity.  We’d never been to Punta del Este and really didn’t expect much of it except another Uruguayan port.  Boy were we wrong!  A wonderful port was not expected, but that’s what we found.  This is a great deal like a port on the French Riviera, with rich South Americans making it their summer home and condos with wonderful sea views costing more than we could afford.  The tender ride into the port was only about 15 minutes, and the weather was perfect:  blue skies and low 80’s.  

 

Since Punta del Este is a peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and the Rio de la Plata, we decided to walk from one end to the other and see as much as possible.   My IPhone app tells me that we walked 6.8 miles and over 17,000 steps, so I think we did see as much as possible.  The Rambla General Jose Artigas is a boulevard which circles the peninsula, and we walked up one side of it and, eventually, down the other.  In between, we wandered side streets and the main shopping street, Avenida Gorlero, home of every upscale brand you can imagine.  We found the city to be clean, the people friendly, and the shops very expensive.  I found a sundress that I thought I might like, but when I got out my calculator and found that it cost $350, I decided that I’d just keep looking.

 

We did do a bit of shopping, though, but only in a small way.  I had forgotten to bring bobby pins, of all things, but I found them in a small pharmacy/beauty shop.  Because of the wind on Deck 9, pickleball has been out of the question and John and friends have been playing deck tennis.  Since that sport uses tennis balls, he felt bad that our Spanish friend Alex had provided all of them, so we found a sports store and bought two cans.  We also had a postcard for our granddaughter from Rio, so we bought one from this beautiful town and headed to the local post office (carreo) to buy stamps and mail them.  We’ll be in Montevideo, Uruguay in two days, so we just bought extra Uruguayan stamps.  

 

When we walked to the Atlantic side of the peninsula, we discovered a large sculpture park, but even more interesting, we found “The Hand.”  I don’t know its real name, but in a sand dune overlooking the ocean, an artist has sculpted five fingers - or at least the tops of them - sticking out of the sand.  It really is fascinating.  

 

Then it was time for lunch, and John wanted to go back to a little restaurant/coffee shop which advertised itself as having “The Best Chivito in Punta del Este.”  What is chivito, you ask?  We did too, and it turns out that it’s a multi-meat sandwich, made with a variety of types of meat but always including some beef (since this IS South America).  We had to have one, of course, and when we saw the size of our neighbor’s sandwich, we decided to share.  It contained a thin, grilled steak topped with cheese, ham, bacon, tomato and lettuce and sitting inside a wonderful ciabatta roll.  All I can say is Yummmmm!  It came with cooked potatoes that were little wedges, lightly salted, and way too easy to eat.  They may not make the best chivito in town, but we were very pleased with the one they served us.

 

By then it was time to head back to the tender.  This port had some unusual times; we arrived at 7:00 and the all aboard was at 2:30.  The captain explained that we need three hours to to the mouth of the Rio Plata and then twelve hours to get to Buenos Aires, tomorrow’s port.  

 

I do love discovering new places, but seldom do I find one where I ask myself, “I wonder what kind of a condo I could rent for a couple of weeks on AirBnB?”  This was the perfect vacation spot, and the great numbers of vacationers and summer residents illustrated that point.  There are many other ports I’ve loved, but this is one I won’t forget.

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Glad your new port turned out to be a great one and you enjoyed it.

 

Your Chivito sandwich sounds great.

 

Great pictures.

 

 

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49 minutes ago, Krazy Kruizers said:

Glad your new port turned out to be a great one and you enjoyed it.

 

Your Chivito sandwich sounds great.

 

Great pictures.

 

 

Ditto, ditto and ditto!

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Friday, January 24, 2020

Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

What a busy and vibrant city this is.  We’ve been here a couple of times, been to two different tango shows, used the time to visit Colonia, a World Heritage City, as well as traveling to Iguazu Falls, a true wonder, but this time we’re here with friends who’ve never visited, so we decided to see the city slowly.

 

Using Toursbylocals.com, we set up a half-day tour with Mercedes, a native of Buenos Aires who knows the city frontwards and backwards, as well as knowing the history of every part of the city.  We met outside the port exit, introduced ourselves, and were off.  Will had expressed a wish to see some interesting architecture, so we walked through a beautiful area of the city dotted with 19th Century mansions.  Some were now embassies, one was a grand hotel, and a couple are actually still family homes.  

 

As we continued, we learned about the founding of Buenos Aires and the declaration of independence in 1822 (I think).  For almost a century, Argentina had a strong economy but then, in the 20th Century, military rule took over and problems began.  We were entertained by the story of Juan and Eva Duarte Peron (Evita) and how they formed a team which, on the one hand, was supportive of the military (Juan), but on the other hand fought for the rights of the workers and women (Eva).  Eva died of cancer at the age of 32, and her fame and popularity were so widespread that her enemies shipped her body to Italy, where she was buried under a false name.  It sounds like the plot for a novel.  Several years later, she was discovered, brought back to Argentina, and buried in her (Duarte) family crypt.  She is still considered a heroine in Argentina.  

 

Our walk continued, but after almost three hours in 90 degree heat, we were ready for a break, so Mercedes led us to La Biela, a coffee shop and cafe founded in the 1920’s.  We enjoyed beverages (of various varieties), pastries, toasted sandwiches, and all kinds of snacks.  Two “men” greeted us outside - in plaster, and when we walked in, two more of their “friends” were seated at a table near the door.  We spent a pleasant hour there and then continued on.

 

Across the street was one of the highlights of Buenos Aires, Recoleto Cemetery, where Eva Peron will spend eternity.  Instead of plots of land with headstones, to which we’re accustomed, there are acres and acres of concrete, marble, and adobe “houses,” some of which contain caskets and others have urns with ashes.  We’ve been here before, but I had forgotten that most of these crypts go down three stories, with a lot of space for generations of families.  It’s a fascinating place.

 

By then, we had been walking for more than four hours and five miles (thank you, IPhone app), so we hopped on the bus and headed back to the pier.  We thanked Mercedes both verbally and financially, and then boarded the shuttle for the short ride back to the ship.  It had been a wonderful tour, excellent exercise, and a great lesson in Buenos Aires and Argentinean history.

 

Many times in ports the ship brings in cultural shows, and last night was no different.  We had a three-person group called “Pampas Devil’s Gauchos,” and the large audience (uncommon for the late show) was enthralled.  They treated us to tango, Argentinean tap dancing (almost nothing like our tap dancing), and, best of all (in my opinion), the use of bolas, or small  balls on long strings which are flung around in amazing patterns and, along with taps on their boots, create patterns of sounds that had the audience at the edge of their seats.

 

It was a wonderful day in port, and the only improvement could have been two days in port.  

 

 

 

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For someone interested in architecture, Ricoletta Cemetery has a great deal to offer, too. I had an art tour through there on my first visit to Buenos Aires.
Hope your friend got to see a lot more than just the Duarte tomb. 

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Saturday, January 25, 2020

Montevideo, Uruguay

 

This is our third trip to Montevideo, and we like it just as much as we did the first two.  It’s the capital of Uruguay and has half of the country’s three million people.  It’s nice being here in their summer, with school out and many people away on vacation, resulting in a quiet city.

 

The city is extremely walkable, with several traffic-free streets.  We began the morning with our usual stroll, finding Avenida 25 de Mayo easily, with stores just opening at 10:00.  Locals were setting up small market booths along the street, and pedestrians had not yet crowded the area on a Saturday morning.  I found a second-hand store and, while I tried on a few things, nothing “spoke to me,” so I left empty handed.  Our friend Nancy always comes out of these kinds of stores looking wonderful, but I guess it’s not my lucky day.  

 

Since It was almost 11:00 by then and my stomach was telling me that it needed nourishment, I was only too happy to find a Starbucks ready to provide it.  While I love little sidewalk cafes all over the world for my cappuccinos, I know that those that I buy at Starbucks will always be exactly as I like them.  While there we ran into our friends Larry and Bill from the San Francisco Bay Area, and after a short chat, we headed back out to see what we could find.

 

Finally, at about 12:30, it was time to head to The Market, our usual lunch stop in Montevideo.  The first time we were here, we thought The Market was a collection of fruit and vegetable stands inside a huge metal building.  When we entered, however, we found out how wrong we were.  Throughout this structure, all you find is a collection of small restaurants and grills which worship the art of beef and pork.  The fires are burning, and the steaks, ribs, chicken, sausage and their relatives are merrily cooking.  

On our maiden voyage to The Market, we decided on La Chacra Del Puerto because it looked the best.  There were no tables available, so we sat at the bar and put in our orders.  We didn’t know what to drink, but the guys there suggested a couple of glasses of Media y Media, a lovely frizzante white wine.  

 

Since then, we’ve always bellied up to the bar, both to watch the cooks tend the fire and the meats and to chat as much as we could with our limited Spanish and their limited English.  Today was no different and lunch was wonderful.  As someone who generally skips over any beef choice, this is my once in a great while adventure, and I make sure to enjoy it thoroughly.  Having finished off our large plates of grilled steer and a bottle of Media y Media, it was time to head back to the ship for a well-deserved nap.  

 

Since Montevideo is the beginning of our second segment, it was time for another evacuation drill, disliked by most passengers but willingly attended in the interest of safety. Having finished that, many headed upstairs for our sailaway on the back deck.Today is Chinese New Year, so the Lido is decorated with bright lanterns and stuffed dragons.  I’ll have to find something that fits in, although I don’t think the dining room is joining in the celebration.

 

Now, after three port days in a row, we head into two sea days and then, hopefully, tender into The Falkland Islands.  We’ve had them on our itinerary twice on previous cruises and once succeeded in going ashore.  It’s going to get cold soon, and The Falklands will begin that experience.

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Your photos are so colorful and vibrant. Hope you make it to the Falklands again. We did in 2004 and really enjoyed walking around Stanley. The Air You Breathe is a fabulous book. I am learning so much.

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Monday, January 27, 2020

At Sea en route to Stanley, Falkland Islands

 

Two days ago it was 85 degrees in Montevideo; today is’s barely 50 degrees at sea, with waves so strong that the Lido pool is permanently in a “surf’s up” situation.  We all walk more carefully, holding onto railings where possible.  I really feel for those passengers who suffer from motion sickness; I’m sure some of them don’t even leave their cabins.  We do love the motion, and instead of keeping me awake at night (as a friend complained), it seems to make both of us sleep better.  Nothing like taking us back to the cradle!

 

Because of the heavy weather, which always seems to be prevalent around the Falklands, there is some question about whether we’ll be able to go ashore tomorrow.  As I mentioned earlier, it’s a tender port so the requirements are quite a bit higher.  We’ve had The Falklands on our itinerary twice before, but we’ve only been able to go ashore once.  In fact, our friend Eloise had been on four or 

five cruises and never been able to go ashore until she was with us.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

 

Since yesterday was a Sunday and a sea day, it was once again time for brunch.  We’re always guaranteed our regular table as long as we arrive when brunch begins at 11:00.  The routine is always the same, with a “cold sampler,” followed by the main course, or “hot sampler,” then followed by the “Sweet Ending Sampler.”  The food is excellent and the selections are just so cute and tiny.  There are apparently five rotations of menus, so yesterday was #2.  Some tasty mimosas complete a wonderful meal.   

 

Last evening was a Gala Night with a black and white theme, so we got ourselves all fancied up and headed to the Crow’s Nest.  A man in the hallway passed us and said, “If you’re headed for the show, it’s been cancelled.”  The Amsterdam Singers and Dancers were scheduled for last evening in a show called “Dance,” and it’s just not smart to dance with this kind of weather.  Surprisingly, they didn’t replace it, though.  Usually any cancelled show would have another in its place, or at the very least a movie, but not last night.

 

Since it was “officer night,” we had two really lovely young ladies hosting our table.  Isolda is the Assistant Cruise Director and Claudia is the computer teacher.  Coincidentally, they’re both from Monterrey, Mexico, although Claudia and her family moved to Texas (where her dad is an engineer) when she was eight.  We’d met them both earlier, and they’re both bubbly and outgoing and perfect company throughout dinner.  

 

We’ve got a new dinner “game” which was a gift from Will and Nancy.  It’s called “Do You Remember?” and it’s a little metal box filled with 50 cards.  Each has a question on it.  Last night’s were “What was your first kiss” and “What was a family tradition that you remember fondly?”  It’s a great way to encourage conversation (not that we need that), but it also includes everyone, since we go around the table answering (or trying to answer) each question.  Since it’s my game, I made an arbitrary decision that we’d do two cards each evening, preferably between dinner and dessert.  Everyone seems to love it and we’ve had some great discussions resulting from it.

 

Since we’re heading into cold (and then colder) weather, our “pillow gift” last night was a matching set of scarf, gloves, and beanie.  I had packed the scarf and gloves, but I was glad to see that beanie.  My IPhone weather app tells me that the current temperature in Antarctica is -15 degrees - yes, that’s 15 degrees below zero.  When we’ve been here before I loved walking outside to appreciate the frigid beauty of the place, but I’d better remember to dress for it.  

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I am surprised that the pools have not been emptied of their water.  I can remember on some cruises when they were.

 

Great pictures.

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Really enjoying your report😊  Hope the seas calm down for you to make it to the Falklands.  

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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Stanley,  Falkland Islands - I don’t think so!

 

John and I are now 1 for 3; we’ve had The Falklands on our itinerary three times and actually were able to land only once.  When we awoke this morning, the seas seemed fairly calm, so we thought that Captain Jonathan was right; he’d told us that he’d give it his best try.  Tender tickets were handed out beginning at 7:30; when I got there our ticket number was 7, indicating that we’d board our tender about 8:30.  

 

Then the news came.  Captain Jonathan announced that the harbormaster had contacted him to say that the seas were quite rough and that waves were breaking over the tender platform.  That put paid to our intentions, and everyone was assured that their HAL tours would be refunded to their accounts.

 

In addition to our little ship, there was the Celebrity Eclipse, holding about 2800 passengers, 200 of whom had already been tendered to shore.  After the harbormaster made his decision, they had to bring their chicks back to the nest and we watched as tenders tried to align themselves with the ship - a difficult task in this weather.   Finally our captain decided to just sail around them and leave, but the entrance to the bay is so narrow that we only cleared them by about 200 feet.  

 

Now, by actual count, we’ll have ten straight sea days from Montevideo, including four which are our “Antarctic Experience” but which don’t include going ashore.  Actually, by international rules, ships with more than 500 passengers may not go ashore in Antarctica,   If you really want to set foot on Antarctica, you may sign up for an HAL shore excursion from Punta Arenas, Chile to Frei Base, Antarctica.  It costs $3,599, and if weather prevents the flight, a tour to Torres del Paine  is substituted, at a cost of $1,199, resulting in a $2400 refund and a great disappointment.  We’ve never even been tempted - not for that kind of money.

* * *

 

Last evening was the second Sommelier Dinner with a French theme.  The food was wonderful and the wines chosen to pair with each course were perfect.  We began with a foie gras terrine paired with a late harvest sauvignon blanc from Chile.  We didn’t think a sweet wine would work at the beginning of a meal since they’re usually served with dessert, but the combination was perfect.  

 

Course number two was soup - not regular soup by any means. It was oxtail consomme filled with vegetables, served in a little cast iron pot and covered with puff pastry.  When you poked a spoon through the pastry, steam and a wonderful aroma emerged.  There was no wine with the soup.

 

The fish course was butter poached lobster served on a parsnip puree with a bit of foam on the side.  I really don’t like turnips, and for a long time I assumed that a vegetable with a similar name must taste the same, but I really do like parsnips.  I just don’t run into them very frequently.  The lobster was excellent, and it was paired with (I love this name) Rupert and Rothchild Baroness Nadine Chardonnay from South Africa.  Generally I really dislike chardonnay; I refer to myself as an ABC wine drinker - anything but chardonnay.  However, this one had very little oaky flavor, and I managed it quite well.  

 

Then it was time for the “palate cleanser.”  I thought this was the most creative course.  The chef had cut apples into wedges, removed the “meat” of each wedge, used it to create an apple sorbet, and then molded it back atop the skin of the wedge and froze it to create the appearance of an apple wedge but actually being a very flavorful sorbet.  Yummm!

 

We reached the climax of the meal and it was time for the main course.  Paired with Long Shadow Pedestal Merlot from Washington, it was a small filet mignon and a large tortellini filled with chopped beef tongue.  While I have nothing personally against beef tongue, I was not unhappy that my bit of pasta wrapping it was a bit too firm to cut.  I just focused on the filet and the creamed quinoa underneath it.  Now you’d think that creamed quinoa would be something like creamed corn (and IMHO totally disgusting), but it was just a little creamy and had some very nice spices flavoring it.  I ate every bit.

 

Finally it was time for dessert, always my favorite course.  The name of it was “Textures of Mango,” and that’s exactly what it was.  One part of the plate had mango sorbet, another part had a creamy mango “pudding,” and part was a jelled strip of mango - what we called “fruit leather” when our daughter was small.  Since mango is my current favorite fruit, the combination was a hit with me.  If that wasn’t good enough, it was accompanied by Le Grand Courtage Brut, a wonderful French sparkling rose.  Since it’s also on our wine package, I think a bottle will be in order fairly soon.

 

Before I had a chance to sample the cheeses and chocolates brought around to each table, John had waved them away, much to my disappointment.  I have to admit I was stuffed by then, but what difference should that make?

 

We had booked a table for two as a “date night,” but midway through dinner we were joined by Henk, the Hotel Manager, who has been a friend through many cruises.  He stayed, drank the Merlot and chatted with us until we were all very politely kicked out at the end of the meal.  Since we always enjoy his company, it was a pleasure to have him keep us company.  

 

So . . . today becomes another sea day, the first of eight until we set foot on land in Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world.  When we’re there, it always seems like the coldest, too.  More sea days - heaven, even if we’ve had to break out the sweaters and down jackets.  

 

 

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Thank you so much, what a wonderful travel blog. Cannot wait for your next installment. Would it be possible to include pictures around the ship and possibly cabins ect . Greetings , thank you and safe travels.

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Sure enjoying the blog, I love your writing style and pictures.  Love the formal pictures as well.  You two sure make a handsome couple.  

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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Day at Sea #4 en route to Antarctica

 

Well, we’re rocking and rolling in the South Atlantic and, according to the captain, currently the closest land to us is Elephant Island in Antarctica.  The temperature today is in the low to mid 40’s, but tomorrow it will be down to 34 and everyone has been reminded to get their woolies out.  The captain also explained that we’re in the middle of a “confused sea,” which means that swells are coming at us from three different directions, and we can really feel it,

 

Last evening we had a great show put on by “The Runaround Boys,” a British foursome who play guitar and drums and focus on music from the 50’s and 60’s.  When I talked to them the other evening after dinner, I told them that they had the perfect audience for their music, since we were all there and enjoying the music during those decades.  

They have far more energy than anyone deserves, and they had us alternately clapping along or singing along.  With “Ride, Sally, Ride,” I think the whole audience  was singing that refrain, not that it’s very challenging.  They’re going to put on a second show in a few days, and we’re really looking forward to it.

 

Today was pickup day for our new book, South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby.  It’s a fictionalized account of a young woman joining a research station on Antarctica and the adventures she encounters.  I’ve just begun reading it (I think I’ve finished two pages), but I’m looking forward to finding out about the research that takes place down here.

For SJSU Librarian, I have our complete Book Club list;

 here are the next choices:

 

Under the Wide and Starry Sky

Rich People Problems

Dark Star Safari

Olive Again

 

Along those same lines, we now have aboard an expedition team from the Palmer Station, and I think they will stay with us until Ushuaia, when they’ll fly back to their station.  They have set up a “base camp” in the Crow’s Nest, and this afternoon they’re putting on a demonstration of how to set up camp in temperatures down to - 50 or so.  I’ve checked my IPhone weather app and found out that the current average temperature in Antarctica is -15 degrees.  It’s quite a young group; I think they bring down the average age on board by about fifteen years.

 

Until we get to some really cool glaciers and ice floes, complete with adorable little penguins, the photos just aren’t there.  Sorry.  

 

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