Today we are visiting Puerto Madryn, Argentina, but before I get into that, I am dedicating this particular posting to “ship board dining etiquette”, or lack of. Those who have traveled by ship know what I am talking about, but for others “here’s your sign.”
Dining in the Dining Room is fairly straight forward as you usually have a dress code to follow, a specific time to arrive, someone to meet you at the entrance, someone to guide you to your table, someone to place a napkin on your lap, someone to hand you a menu (which is a good sign that you need to pick something to eat from this list), someone to explain “things” to you, take your order and get you moving along the road to actually eating. Yes, dining at its finest usually with a number of food experiences.
My biggest irritant is in the Buffet Line. To be clear, I really prefer the Buffet food over the Dining Room because someone who is trying to get promoted to “Chef” is always messing with the Dining Room food. One night I wanted to try the advertised Veal. I like veal, but not when is has “sprinkles” of crab meat on it (Seafood allergies). Two nights ago I had Beef Stroganoff. I like Beef Stroganoff, but have never had it cooked with large slices of dill pickles, large slices of red beets and numerous other unidentified items that completely changed the food’s taste. Last night they advertise two spaghettis; one with some kind of cream sauce and other “standard” Bolognese. I like Bolognese, but I’m used to this being of a red, mainly tomato sauce. This time there was NO sauce. I had plenty of ground beef topping (brown), but that was it, no sauce. But, Julieann likes the Dining Room where she is properly pampered. I prefer the Buffet Line as the food is almost never “messed” with. It’s just good old fashioned “comfort” food, made the way it was intended. The last three cruise ships we’ve traveled all were in line for having the very best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had. No overuse of garlic, no green things hanging on top, no NOTHING --- just good old fashioned mashed potatoes.
But, with the great buffet food comes the “floor show” of people who, I believe, have NEVER had to stand in line for anything their entire lives. They have NO concept of “wait your turn” or “walk in the direction you are looking” or “no stopping in the middle of no where; keep moving!” I won’t mention the actual ethnic group or nationality, but there are two who really stand out as needing some buffet line training.
I have my favorite seat in the Buffet Dining Room where I can watch people “do” stupid and/or funny stuff. Yesterday I observed a very large man standing against a support pillar with his arms folded and a large scowl on his face. Eventually his wife approached him and asked, in a voice loud enough for all to hear, what he was doing. He said, in a much larger voice, “(Pointing at his watch) We arrived here ten minutes ago. Since then you have gone over there and then over there and then over there (pointing in different directions). I do NOT plan on following you around the restaurant the entire morning so I will stand here until you FINALLY make up your mind and sit down and then I will join you.” It was all I could do to contain my laughter and stop the coffee from coming out of my nose as he was stating what almost every man in the place was thinking.
Another part of the show was funny, but also sad. I observed a handicapped young lady with her companion (mom, aunt?) eating her breakfast. She was very careful in eating every last bite of all the food on her plate. She had just finished her last piece of toast and turned to look out the window. Just then her companion placed another piece of toast on the girl’s plate. The girl turned back around and was visibly shocked at seeing the toast on her plate. She stared at it for awhile, looked around to see who was watching, glanced at her companion and returned to staring at the toast. She was totally confused and we could see it on her face. I was tempted to approach the companion and smack her upside her head while explaining what she had just did. But, for a change as most would say, I minded my own business and spent the remainder of the day thinking about that poor, confused girl. I still wonder if she ate the fresh piece of toast or did she just secretly push it to the floor.
And then there’s “the line”. Any of my veteran/chow hall friends KNOW a normal buffet line moves in one direction. You “should” continue moving down the line, ignoring/passing items of food that you do NOT want and stopping at foods you DO want and moving some to your plate. The remainder of the line waits patiently until you finish and then they do the same as you. Remember, I said “normal”. I have yet to see a ship’s buffet line perform normally. First, you get the folks who don’t want whatever it is in front of them and instead of waiting for the line to move, they “jump” the line to the next item that they do want. The problem is that one, two, five, TEN (it really doesn’t matter how many) people are now line jumpers and have consolidated their position in front of the item they want. Now you have a “gaggle” of people who have completely choked down the line so nothing is moving in any direction, but that doesn’t stop “the pushers” from forcing their way up or down the line. It doesn’t seem to matter to them that other folks were also trying to get something to eat. They will crash the line to get a plate, jump ahead a few to get “whatever”, jump ahead a few more times and finally find their way to a table being held by an accomplish who is poised to go through the same gauntlet. Oh, almost forgot one of the most important rules followed by these jumpers – Never, NEVER look in the direction you are or will be walking. You just may “accidently” make eye contact with someone and you’ll have to decide to acknowledge them or just continue walking over them. I have to admit, I do have some fun with these non-lookers. I just do what they do and walk right over them like they weren’t even there (I learned that from Rathgeber).
Anyhow, that’s my venting for today. The ship has landed and tour groups are forming. Julieann and I are planning on just walking around or maybe grabbing a Hop On Hop Off. We’re retired. We can do “whatever”.
Situated snugly in a well-protected bay of the Golfo Nuevo, Puerto Madryn is the Chubut Province’s natural access point for the plains of Patagonia. This vast area covers one-third of the country but is occupied by less than four percent of the population. The major draw is the proximity to such important wildlife reserves as Punta Tombo and the Peninsula Valdés. Scores of visitors endure long drives to visit these amazing nature reserves for Magellanic penguins, elephant seals, sea lions and whales. Another “good” reason for the lack of population is the total lack of drinking water. The town our ship docked at has over 100,000 people, but the drinking water comes from a river 70 miles away. It is pumped and/or driven here in tankers.
We took a “taxi” tour of the city, surrounding countryside and visited the Sea Lions and Rock Shags , a trip that lasted about two hours. We could have visited the Penguins, but that would have made a 7 ½ hour day so we skipped them. Puerto Madryn is a city in the province of Chubut in Argentine Patagonia. It is the capital of the Biedma Department, and has about 100,000 inhabitants. Puerto Madryn is protected by the Golfo Nuevo, which is formed by the Península Valdés and the Punta Ninfas. It is an important centre for tourists visiting the natural attractions of the Península Valdés and the coast.
I found the story of the Rock Shags (birds) interesting. They are sea birds, able to fly and dive. You can only find them along the coast of Argentina and Chile. The colony that we visited is one of the largest and has approximately 280 breeding pairs. The birds spend 4-5 hours daily feeding in shallow waters. They travel no more than 2KM from the coast or 5KM from the colony. Both parents share the 30 day incubating period for two eggs and alternate the feeding of the chicks for another two months. While one parent takes care of the chick the other gets a dinner break.
A new shopping mall in the city centre has helped tourism significantly, making Puerto Madryn a more attractive place for both international and domestic tourists visiting Patagonia. It is twinned with Nefyn, a small town on the Llŷn Peninsula in North Wales, the result of its enduring link with Welsh culture since the Welsh settlement in Argentina. The first of a two-Test tour to Argentina by the Wales national rugby union team was played in 2006 in Puerto Madryn, a 27–25 win for Argentina.
El Tehuelche Airport is located 10 km northwest of the city centre. Commercial flights from Buenos Aires, Ushuaia, and other Argentinian cities are available. Most tourists fly into Trelew Airport as flights into Puerto Madryn are restricted as a result of environmental concerns.
After our driving tour, we just walked around the beach and town a bit. Visited the “huge” mall (NOT huge) and were entertained by local Tango dancers. As we continued walking down the beach, I took a break and Julieann continued walking the main street where she found a number of dead trees that had been carved into interesting objects. This was reminisces of our travels to Galveston, Texas. A hurricane had just about completely destroyed over 100 trees. Instead of having the trees pulled and turned into firewood, the town hired a wood sculptor who did some amazing things to those trees. The trees here can’t hold a candle to those in Galveston, but they tried.