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Little men in tuxedos

Little men in tuxedos
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First Published: Fri, Mar 26 2010. 09 41 PM IST

Montage: (clockwise from above) A dance at Gala Tango; penguins at Camarones; and the Recoleta cemetery. Photographs by Nat Green/Silversea
Montage: (clockwise from above) A dance at Gala Tango; penguins at Camarones; and the Recoleta cemetery. Photographs by Nat Green/Silversea
Updated: Fri, Mar 26 2010. 09 41 PM IST
Buenos Aires throws up the most surprises within minutes of one’s first drive through the sprawling metropolis. Blink while in the wealthy Palermo district and one can easily imagine oneself to be in Paris. Fashionistas in the spectacularly chic Alvear Palace Hotel sip champagne served with old-world charm by handsome portenos (local city dwellers).
Montage: (clockwise from above) A dance at Gala Tango; penguins at Camarones; and the Recoleta cemetery. Photographs by Nat Green/Silversea
Across the street is the famous Recoleta cemetery, a mini city with mini homes for each tomb. Some do cost as much as an apartment. Evita Duarte de Perón naturally gets the most visitors: Her tomb receives flowers each day from the adoring public.
A few miles away but a universe apart are the immigrant quarters of La Boca, where a football stadium (Maradona’s training ground), colourful homes and the famous tango halls are the highlights. I dine at Gala Tango and see an awesome display of fancy footwork, slicked back hair on handsome men and waist-high slits on the women’s skirts as they twirl magically in gymnastic moves.
To explore Buenos Aires, one needs to go about on foot. It is a walking city. Admire the balcony where Evita waved to the crowd. Taste prime Argentine beef or delicious marlin fish served with wine at the quaint El Palacio de la Papas Frita (Palace of the Fried Potatoes) for under $30 (around Rs1,365). Or simply stroll through the crowds or shaded garden squares to fall in love with a very charming city.
At Buenos Aires, Hollywood actor Karen Allen, producer Kristi Zea (The Departed) and writer Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia) board the Silver Spirit. Karen tells me about the fun she had shooting for Raiders of the Lost Ark. Kristi shows us a film—the Demi Moore-starrer The Joneses, a delightful satire about modern advertising and marketing—which will reach theatres only in April. At Camarones, the next port, they mingle with all the passengers in non-starry camaraderie, admiring the Magellanic penguins, the rheas (an ostrich-like bird), sea lions and the Llama-like guanacos, which roam freely on the vast open land. The penguins are breeding; their young chicks moulting their brown feathers. This is the furthest south I have ever travelled: It is almost below New Zealand, closer to Antarctica.
But before hitting Chile, we head to the Falklands. We arrive in Port Stanley on a choppy sea that tosses the ship tenders. The 5m-high waves do not make for smooth berthing. At the grey port...a bit of England: The signs are in English. But not all are pleasant. As our four-wheeler bumps along the countryside, one reads, “Danger: Mines”, reminding us of the 1982 Falklands War between the UK and Argentina. The driver tells us stories about the war. The landscape is otherworldly. Hills roll by. Distant mountains pierce the sky. There are more sheep than humans. In the 5-hour drive, we encounter just four motorists coming the other way. At the end of the ride, the sky clears, revealing an azure beach. There, walking like little people, are hundreds of Lorenzo penguins, draped in tuxedos and topped with yellow beaks and fluffy white chests. Completely unafraid of humans, they surround us on the sands and look at us as if we are aliens with their almost human eyes. Adorable chicks huddle near parents.
As the light fades, the Silver Spirit moves slowly through what must be the most dangerous waters of the Southern Ocean. It is icy cold. The waves are challenging the vessel. The sky is an inky grey. We see land after a day at sea. Appearing on the starboard side, the high mountains of Cape Horn rise out of the waters. This is the southernmost tip of the world before the ice of Antarctica begins. Sailing past Cape Horn, the ship glides into smoother waters to head for the Pacific Coast. It is a surreal moment to have three oceans around us!
This is the fifth of an eight-part series.
Fashion designer Wendell Rodricks writes a cruise column exclusively for Lounge from on board the ‘Silver Spirit’ (www.silversea.com).
Write to lounge@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Mar 26 2010. 09 41 PM IST