If you have been following this column I whimsically call The Adventures of Syl and Bill, you know that secrecy is the “soul” of the surprise destination. That said, just imagine my apprehension and, yes, fear, when Bill requests that I go to my doctor for inoculations. Gulp. Deep dark Africa? Bora Bora? Siberia?
Well, part of the deal is trust, so I mustered up my courage, got my shots, packed according to instructions, and on the designated day of travel I arose at O-dark-thirty for our flight from Norfolk to who-knows-where, with a stopover in Miami. Of course, when we bumped into our friends Betty and Stan in the airport, I did not know that they were part of the surprise; nor did I know until then that Rio de Janiero was our destination. That means another 24 hours of no sleep for me, as I cannot conk out on planes.
That kink in the adventure was soon forgotten when we checked into the luxurious Sheraton Rio Hotel and Towers and I zeroed in on the bed. Good thing I did, too, because the next day was filled with fabulous sights, sounds and the company of Betty and Stan who were Bill’s co-conspirators for this dramatic birthday destination.
For the next few days we let Rio take hold of our senses. We strolled along the breathtaking Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. We rode by cable car up the 1,300-foot-high Sugar Loaf Mountain for absolutely spectacular vistas of the countryside. From the top of Corcovado Mountain we stood in the awesome presence of the world-famous Christ the Redeemer statue, overlooking the bay some 2,300 feet below. (And I might add I needed some kind of inspiration after the terrifying cog-rail trip to the summit and then the threat of being blown away by forceful gales of wind at the top.)
So I was ready for a lovely and serene evening, the treat being a feast of exotic fare, including an array of marinated meats and chicken, topped by a show of energetic and athletic samba dancers. No, I was not surprised when they called for volunteers and my frustrated vaudevillian husband joined them on stage for a whirl!
But bye-bye Brazil. Buenos Aires called. This “Paris” of South America is just that. Sophisticated, lively, entertaining, this city is filled with tree-lined boulevards and colorful flowers everywhere. It’s like a movie set. There we were, culturally nourished by such attractions as the president’s pink house, the magnificent Metropolitan Cathedral, the Colon Opera House and a quick visit to the cemetery where Eva Peron rests.
After a day like that I was ready for a glass of Argentine’s famous malbec wine, plus a sensual and flawless performance of The Tango (during which my beloved vaudevillian remained seated, much to my relief).
But wait. There’s more from the entertainment department. While shopping in the city’s absolutely intoxicating shops and boutiques, I glanced over to see two street performers who had lured Bill into an impromptu tango, to the delight of the cheering crowd. Perhaps it’s the humid South American climate that bubbles his blood.
For an Argentine farewell, we visited the Pampas, or countryside, to experience the rural character of this country. We were guests at the Estancia Ranch for a barbeque with gauchos and a horse-riding demonstration, all very congenial and fascinating.
And on to Santiago, the political and cultural capital of Chile, located between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Wow! Our days were filled with such memorable experiences as touring La Moneda, the official government palace; the nearby San Cristobal Hill, with its landmark statue of the Virgin Mary; and the highlight, a visit to Undurraga Winery, one of Chile’s oldest. Here we learned that the famous malbec wines are produced from grapes grown high in the Andes, a lesson that I remember every time I take a sip of what has become my fa-vorite taste treat to this day.
Ah, South America. Every day seemed like a festival, every meal an award winner, every memory indelible. And this birthday girl had taken an up-close-and-personal look at the glorious lifestyle that is its heartbeat.
Thanks for sharing, South America! And thanks, also, for uncovering the hidden dancing talents of my husband and host for this adventure. There’s more to come. Stay tuned.
Sylvia Weinstein is publisher and editor of the Oyster Pointer. She can be reached at Editor@OysterPointer.net or 757-873-4523.