What a crazy Antique Dealer does for fun!!
From the Southern Ocean in November...
Leaving the wonderful Alison Anderson to man Founders of Rome, I was ready!
First stop was Santiago, Chile. Oh to be in the warmth again, back into t-shirts and jeans and swimming in the hotel pool. But ANTIQUES were on my mind!
I had convinced my husband that I knew what I was doing and we spent a small fortune on a cab to a very remote area of the city that is known for antiques and dealers. The cab driver only pretended to know the address and we were left on a street corner with vague directions from him. My trusty i-phone Google map led us on the march but it became quickly obvious that we were not in the best part of town.
Thankfully we arrived at the location, which covered several blocks of very old warehouses. Nothing appeared to be open, damn. We spotted an older man sitting on a chair outside an entrance way and in his rapid Spanish and our limited understanding we soon got the message that the Antiques Market was only open on the weekends and we looked far too wealthy to be walking around that area. ‘Take your watches and rings off, put them in your pockets and get out of here’ was the message. Our pace quickened and soon we were in a cab back to the relative safety of the inner city.
The middle part of our month long journey has nothing to do with Antiques and everything to do with adventuring; we boarded a charter jet along with 140 or so fellow guests to the Falkland Islands where we landed at the Military base and then boarded our ship, the National Geographic ‘Explorer’. So, we have embarked on a 21-day trip exploring the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and now in the South Orkney Islands.
When possible we go ashore in very sturdy inflatable boats called zodiacs disembarking from the lower deck of the ship through a side door. Not for the faint hearted as the swell lifts the zodiac up and down and with skilled help you ‘step’ when told. We are fitted out with extremely good but heavy coats, and life jackets. Along with layers of warm undergarments it is not easy walking in all of that. However, whether just cruising the coastlines or if possible to go ashore it is totally worth it. We get right amongst (carefully) Huge Sea Elephants, Fur Seals, Penguins and Albatross Colonies. This is a huge privilege and I often have to focus hard on the moment to truly soak it in. These moments are special and not that easy to portray even through photos let alone the written word. Truly magical and almost ‘another world’.
I must mention though that this part of the world is not easy to get to; we travelled many days and miles across the Scotia Sea in huge swells and high winds, many people confined themselves to cabins with seasickness and the hearty amongst us continued to dine until finally it was too rough for even that and holding onto ropes and balustrades it was safest to get to and stay in the cabins.
The relief on the entire guest and crews faces was obvious when we finally got into the shelter of the Coronation Island, South Orkney. Just about everyone opted to go ashore to ‘Shingle Beach’ and climb up a thick snowy hillside and sit and enjoy the view and watch the penguins nesting. One of the pair sits on the eggs, usually two while the other collects little stones to keep building the nests around the eggs. The birds are circling above just waiting for an egg to be exposed long enough to swoop in on it. All very exciting and then carefully down icy steps the crew had cut into the hillside, onto the zodiac (wet bum in waves) and back to the ship to get warm again. A very welcome hot shower then an invitation to the lounge for cocktails and canapés and a recap by the crew and naturalists of the day’s events.
Dinner was great, we didn’t have to hold onto our glasses other than to sip and after dinner we were shown a selection of photos submitted by fellow passengers. The object was to critique the photos, which was done kindly and gratefully received, as the critics are National Geographic world-class photographers. They readily give their knowledge and help us get the best out of our opportunities.
So now that we are officially in the Antarctic we are dodging icebergs, which are just too beautiful to describe. In many ways it is truly surreal (not a word I like to use unless I really mean it) to be amongst them.
On board are many experts in the fields of underwater sea life, photography, mountaineers and expeditioners (Peter Hillary is on board giving many good talks), photographers, bird experts and so on. Lectures are held every day and I have only slept through one, it was too scientific for me and my good book was calling. The crew is amazing; they carry trays of drinks in one hand and deliver our meals in style no matter which way the ship is lurching. They remember our names and what we like to drink be it a cognac for Alex or a G & T for me. The Captain is a big tall guy with many offsiders all qualified in their fields, the Ice Navigator is my favourite. Our ‘Hotel’ Manager is a very handsome Swedish guy named Patrik. He is just so funny and we have had the pleasure of dining with him and learning about his life at sea. When asked for his cure for seasickness was met with roars of laughter—‘lots of good sex’! Didn’t go down well with the singles on board!
Clothing on board is super casual aside from one woman who has a Mink Vest and matching slippers. The naturalists are frowning at this. We step it up slightly for dinner, which usually means brushing our hair, and for the girls, another application of lipstick and perhaps a scarf. We have made friends with another Kiwi and 4 Ozzies, our table seems to be the loudest and we have a lot of fun.
This afternoon we set sail for the Weddell Sea.
Antiquing again will come; we leave the ship in Ushuaia, which is the Southern Most city in the world and fly to Buenos Aires. I have a plan there and I just hope that the Dealers are open. I admit, I am usually totally focused on Italian and French Antiques but I just cannot pass up an opportunity like this to have a good scout around----------until the next time