Thursday, May 16, 2024

Turtles, dolphins invite tourists to learn, enjoy on Hawaiian islands


The graceful sea turtles of Kauai are protected under the Endangered Species Act.  It is a crime to endanger them.



Bottlenose dolphins are stars at Hilton Waikoloa Resort,
 where visitors can swim with the dolphins in strict
 supervision by educated environmentalists and trainers. 

DOLPHINS AND TURTLES are primary tourist attractions in Hawaii. They have a magical aura and delight visitors of all ages, from all over the world.

We found both in abundance on our most recent trip. We discovered our mutual fascination with sea creatures when we began traveling together nearly 18 years ago. Both of us had admired them for decades before so we strengthen this bond in travel each year.

Although both sea turtles and dolphins can be spotted on other Hawaiian islands, today's piece focuses on sea life of Kauai and the "Big Island" of Hawaii.

These waters off the coast of Kauai attract sea turtles,
dolphins and whales. There are strict rules protecting wildlife.
SEA TURTLES or “honu” -- pronounced hoh-noo -- top most travelers’ wish lists of wildlife viewing in Kauai. Long considered symbols of good luck, the creatures’ kind faces and trudging gait are endearing. Watching them is joy.
On the Big Island, spinner dolphins are the ones we see most in the wild. There are hundreds of them -- perhaps thousands -- up and down the Kona Coast. In our encounters on Body Glove's fun tours, we've watched these playful creatures in pods of five and six, up to 30 and more.
We watched this green sea turtle swim under
one of the bridges at Waikoloa Village.

At Hilton's Waikoloa Resort north of Kona village, we never tire of watching the graceful bottlenose dolphins and we've twice booked encounters with them through Dolphin Quest Hawaii. It opened in 1988 as the first of its kind to provide a natural sandy beached tidal lagoon filled with filtered sea water for resident bottlenose dolphins. It's possible to swim with them here in a strictly supervised and diligently tended environment.
WATCHING dolphins and turtles never ceases to amaze. Dolphins are playful and smart and have been known to protect humans in shark invested waters. These affectionate creatures seem to enjoy human contact and being observed. Turtles are more elusive,
The one highly supervised place dolphins can be gently
touched is at Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island.
Here, Amarylla and Steve Ganner, Peny and James
join their auntie and uncle, Cookie and Keller. 

and have slimmer odds of survival, which makes them all the more precious.
Newly hatched turtles try to elude predators as they scramble from their sandy nests to the relative safety of the water. A few make it in one of nature's most harrowing stories. If they make it to the sea, hatchlings are a favorite snack of larger creatures. Only one in  1,000 eggs survives to adulthood.

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers
had the rare opportunity to swim with dolphins
at Dolphin Quest at Hilton Waikoloa Village.

HAWAII'S TURTLES are protected under the Endangered Species Act as well as by the state of Hawaii. Dolphins are, too. It is illegal to pursue wild dolphins in Hawaii as well as any place in any waters within United States jurisdiction. Legally, one must go in the water and let the dolphins come. Boat tours that promise swimming with dolphins can risk a stiff fine of $10,000 if they are caught encouraging this activity, so make sure you are touring with a reputable company. The key is to watch them and hope they approach you. Do not try to swim to these beautiful creatures. For turtle viewing, it is best to visit their areas around sunset and stay through the evening. Poipu Beach State Park is a popular place where we've seen many, walking right from our Point at Poipu room. 
The sea turtles at Poipu Beach State Park can
be enjoyed, photographed, but never touched.
We saw the most turtles at the end of the day. Years ago, we stayed up later and saw them come ashore after dark to sleep.
Dolphins swim in pods off the Kona coast. Many
snorkeling tours allow visitors to swim in areas
frequented by dolphins; let the dolphins approach.

We found lovely turtle viewing spots just
a short hike from our Point at Poipu room, on
the scenic southernmost tip of Kauai.

When you spot honus, the rules are: stay at least 10 feet away. Never harass, feed, chase, ride, handle, injure or hunt them. Holding the animals in captivity is prohibited under federal and state laws. Violators can be fined up to $100,000 and even imprisoned. And if you find yourself in the water with spinner dolphins, be aware that the Marine Mammals Protection Act prohibits people from chasing, feeding or touching marine mammals in the wild. Resist the temptation to pursue dolphins, rather, allow them to swim to you.

Thrilling to see turtles on Poipu Beach, Kauai.

Swimming with dolphins: click here

SEA TURTLES and dolphins made the Hawaiian islands their home long before people did, but counts of both have dropped. Honu were officially placed on the endangered species list in 1978 and are strictly protected. Dolphins are threatened by fishing, toxoplasmosis (a parasitic infection) and other diseases. Other threats to the dolphin population worldwide are oil and gas exploration, boat strikes, mining, tourism and noise.

WE TRAVEL with courtesy toward all fellow inhabitants of our planet. Show animals on land and sea respect. Watch them, but please don't approach them.

For more information or to book a stay or activity for wildlife viewing in Hawaii: (for Dolphin Quest bookings and dolphin viewing info) (snorkeling, dolphins, dinner and sunset cruise tours) (for info on the park) (tours on all the islands)


In May 2017, Christene "Cookie" Meyers wheels  
Bruce Keller from the ICU at Scripps Green Hospital
Transplant Division, two days after transplantation.
UP NEXT: We are celebrating.  Please join our joy as we mark our seventh anniversary post transplant.  Thanks to a generous donor, and a crack medical team at Scripps in San Diego headed by a Columbia University Medical College ace, Bruce William Keller is on the high seas today -- not in an urn or cemetery plot.  We tell the story of our trials to work up the transplant list and into health after a long undiagnosed case of hepatitis C nearly sidelined him for good. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live, celebrating each day.  Catch us each week for a fresh spin on health, nature, travel, family, the arts and more, at

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Exploring Buenos Aires with a native son yields touring at its finest


Buenos Aires is known for its savory red wine, sultry tango halls and succulent steaks, and we found them all with a spirited local. He took us to hidden gems throughout the capital of Argentina, including a visit to El Mirasol (sunflower or sun watcher). This famed
steakhouse is a favorite with locals and a delight for tourists who have the advantage of a native son's expertise to tour the city.

 Keller, left, and our friend and exemplary
guide, Rolando, right, pose with statues
of famed writers Borges and Bioy at 
La Biela, a famed Buenos Aires eatery.


In early morning, cafe tables await customers who will fill
 the tables by late morning.  People watching and lingering
over a coffee are favorite rituals in Buenos Aires. 


A GUIDED TOUR of any city is best when arranged by a local. We were lucky in Buenos Aires, to get beyond the best known spots and into the real heart of the city. So we had the good fortune of enjoying the expertise and guidance of financial wizard and Buenos Aires native son Rolando on our recent tour of this fascinating city.
Sure, we also sampled succulent steakhouses, savory red wine and sultry tango halls.
But we welcomed the opportunity to tour with Rolando, reveling in his knowledge, insights and anecdotes of lesser known haunts.
ROLANDO'S PASSION for his native city is unmatched by that of any guide we've encountered.  
Keller, Cookie and Rolando
at Colon, the city's beautiful
and famous opera house.

He is a man of fine taste.  He is a gourmand, coffee aficionado, opera buff, lover of palaces and warm pastry, fan of chocolate and crema de leche. And, perhaps a minor inconsistency, Coca Cola.
He is devoted to literature and architecture, and enhanced our time with charming stories of artists, builders, poets and writers who share his love of one of the world's great cities.   

La Confiteria Ideal is famous for its beautifully presented
pastries, elegant coffees and teas. The two-story building
has hosted presidents, celebrities and is a favorite stop. 

BUENOS AIRES is known for its remarkable architecture, wonderful parks, top quality restaurants, and world renowned museums and concert halls, including one place you can’t miss: the Colón Theater, the city’s fantastic Opera House. We toured it thanks to Rolando, who booked us for a fascinating afternoon there. 
(We wrote about this grand concert hall separately.)Step inside a world class opera house
At La Biela, writers Borges and Bioy greet people
from the table where they sat to discuss their
writing projects. The sculptures immortalize
 the famed collaborators at their favorite table.

ROLANDO IS comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt, but he dresses up for world conferences and spent much of his career in suits. He served as the Assistant Director at the International Monetary Fund from 2003-2009 and still consults with high-level officials, in demand as a financial consultant. In world capitals he shares his extensive experience in public policy, research and publication, and discovers eateries and museums to integrate into his impressive "visitor's vocabulary." 
Our local guide Rolando took us to charming little
places down alleys and corridors, where people sit and enjoy.
OUR FRIEND'S private life is more casual, whether in his Washington, D.C. apartment, or his Buenos Aires apartment.  In D.C., he might take a break from a Zoom video meeting to share a coffee with his neighbor, my longtime friend and colleague, writer Cathy Healy. In Buenos Aires, he took time off from meetings to tour us through the heart of the city he loves. His Recoleta neighborhood is pleasant walking distance or a short taxi ride to most of the city's grandest sights and historical buildings, including a cemetery where  Evita lies in a heavily fortified crypt  five meters underground, to protect her remains. The cemetery is worth a visit for its grandiose array of peculiarities. 
Rolando grew up in Buenos Aires, with his European parents who fled Poland before Rolando was born. They brought their distinguished tastes in art, music and culinary finery to their new home in South America.
ROLANDO, naturally, grew up with refinement, surrounded by opera, art and fine food.  He knows all the city's historic concert venues and cafés, which are part of the soul of Argentina's capital and deeply imbedded in Rolando's soul as well.  The eateries were and are still frequented by artistic bohemians and celebrated writers. Some of Rolando's favorites are mentioned in guidebooks.  
Known for its prosciutto, pasta and desserts
is La Parolaccia, where we went for an
elegantly served early dinner with Rolando.
WE DELIGHTED in discovering Confiteria La Ideal, an historic landmark and one of Rolando's favorite places.  It houses a dramatic stage area with a vintage piano, an old-fashioned elevator, and elegant tables where sumptuous desserts, cocktails and specialty items are served.
The French Fleur de Lys is
the enigmatic emblem
of Confiteria Ideal.
This classic 1912 French- inspired building was closed six years to restore its elegant original beauty.  It once was a favorite of tango dancers, too. This city  claims to have invented the sultry dance known for its rhythmic  accompaniment and tricky, sensuous footwork.
THEN ON TO LA BIELA, the oldest restaurant in town. Opened in 1848, it has witnessed the transformation of Rolando's beloved Recoleta neighborhood.  Famed personalities Adolfo Bioy Casares and Jorge Luis Borges met often here in the northern part of the city, by the Rio de la Plata. 
The area was transformed from fertile farmland to upscale eateries, shops and that famed aforementioned cemetery where  Peron and other notables are buried. We hobnobbed with locals who, like writers Borges and Bioy, frequent the cafe to discuss art, literary endeavors and politics. The two famous writers are immortalized in sculpture at the table where they always sat. It remains now and forever "their" table.
Woman's Bridge behind Keller, Cookie and
Rolando, capping an evening in Buenos
Aires with a stroll on the waterfront. 
Elegant service is a
tradition at La 
Parolaccia, where
the city's best
prosciutto is served.

day with our enthusiastic local guide and with an early flight the next morning, we arrived early to dine at La Parolaccia. We were practically alone at 7:30 p.m. because most Argentines don't enjoy their evening meal until 9 p.m., 10 p.m., or even 11 p.m. We had fabulous service at this traditional Italian restaurant where Rolando and his late parents often dined, savoring the prosciutto which is said to be the best in town.
We capped the evening with a stroll to the Puente de la Mujer -- "Woman's Bridge"-- a rotating footbridge for a busy dock in the city's Puerto Madero commercial district, a pleasant stroll from our hotel . 
Thank you, Rolando, for enhancing our visit beyond measure. If you ever forfeit your day job, a tour guide spot awaits you.
More info: 


Poipu's beautiful green turtles, or "hono" are protected,
and a heavy fine understandably awaits for touching them.
UP NEXT: Turtles of Poipu greet us. These graceful sea turtles, or “honu” to the locals, top most travelers’ wish lists of wildlife to see in Kauai. Long considered symbols of good luck, the creatures’ kind faces and trudging gait are endearing. We watched them swim for a week, marveling at their will and endurance. The odds for a Poipu turtle to reach adulthood are slim. A newly hatched sea turtle is popular with predators as it makes its way slowly from its sandy nest to the sea. Then if they make it, hatchlings are a favorite snack of bigger creatures, and only one in 1,000 eggs survive to adulthood. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on the arts, travel, performance, family and more: and please share the link.

Thursday, May 2, 2024

'Museo Evita' fascinates, taking tourists into colorful life of Eva Peron

A short pleasant walk from the hop on bus takes visitors to Museo Evita.
It's also an easy taxi ride from most of the centrally located hotels. 




STEPPING INTO the Evita Museum in Buenos Aires is a walk back in time to the days of glory for the woman whose life took on legendary proportions in Argentina. 

Known simply as "Museo Evita," the museum is in a building built in the early 20th century, designed as the home of a wealthy family. Before its incarnation as a museum, it housed administrative offices and earlier,  a shelter run by the internationally known personality who rose to fame and power although not elected to high office.

EVA DUARTE Peron's foundation acquired the stately home in 1948 to help needy women from all over Argentina. Social workers addressed their health and housing problems and proposed solutions.

The museum's gift shop offers mementos and
books, photographs and postcards of Evita's life.

EVA DIED in 1952 and after the Peron government was overthrown in 1955, the home served as an administrative venue. In 1999, it was transferred to the Eva Peron National Institute for Historical Research. The museum opened in 2002 for the 50th anniversary of Eva Peron's death. On a lovely spring day, we stepped inside the fascinating museum with Peron fans and curious tourists from all corners of the world. Many weren't born during Eva's lifetime, but knew the "Evita" story.

EVA DUARTE rose form the ranks of a humble rural family in the village of Los Toldos. She was born May 7, 1919, in a single-story brick house in the agricultural town 180 miles from the Argentine capital. With a gift for performance, she took her dreams of becoming an actor to Buenos Aires, and was playing bit parts when Argentina's Juan Domingo Perón,  met her. She caught his eye; the attraction was mutual. We enjoyed photos of them and displays of stunning dresses she wore at functions in Buenos Aires. The museum also features photos from her 1947 European tour, when she made headlines charming international leaders and even had an audience with Pope Pius XII.

Eva Peron and President
Juan Peron were married
in 1945.

Historian Santiago Regolo offers
insight into the popularity of
Eva Peron, known as Evita.
Social justice was her platform.
DESIGNER DRESSES of silk and taffeta are displayed with objects and mementos that belonged to Evita. Interactive exhibits focus on turning points in her life, including her career as an actress, her campaigning trips to elect Perón,  her devoted political and social work, her illness, death and funeral. Photos and films show her speaking to enthralled crowds, and offer insight into her massive appeal during Argentina's turbulent times of the 1940s and 1950s. Evita gave downtrodden people hope.
ARTISTIC CURATORS have woven contemporary objects into the museum's mix for a fascinating glimpse of Evita, her husband and the changing landscape of the country. After meeting then Colonel Perón in 1944 during a charity event at Luna Park Stadium, she became a tireless advocate for the poor.  That event benefited victims of an earthquake. The people she helped remembered her and voted for her husband. She was the first First Lady to actively campaign and beat the drum for her spouse.
Eva and Juan Peron at their country home.

THE BUILDING'S history begins with its tenure as a private home. The Perons acquired Casa Carabassa because of a mutual attraction to its French and Italian touches. To Eva, these flourishes suggested a boutique hotel. The Carabassa family had purchased it in 1923, adding their touches before it came to the attention of the Perons in 1948. After its tenure as a refuge for women, it evolved into today's unusual museum, which includes a room used by school children in an educational program. Their artwork leads to a pleasant café which offers both indoor and outdoor seating, a restful space to contemplate Eva Peron, surrounded by beautiful, mature trees, the song of birds and views of lovely gardens

A wealthy patrician family designed the elegant
home, now museum, more than 100 years ago.

The Peron family is still controversial in the country.  Some consider his rule to have been a dictatorship run by self-serving egotists. But Perón followers including historian and professor Santiago Regolo praise the couple's efforts to eliminate poverty and dignify labor.  One wonders: Were they inspired, generous leaders passionate for the poor, or the  demagogues their detractors claim them to be? Perhaps a bit of both.
Beautiful tiles, marble and iron can
be seen throughout the museum.

BUT THE popularity of Evita cannot be denied.  According to professor Regolo, "The Peróns gave their name to the political movement known as Peronism, which in present-day Argentina is represented mainly by the Justicialist Party. Eva's legacy lives on." The party personifies populism in the form of a strong charismatic leader, Regolo said. Argentina's present leader is not a follower of this movement.

Eva Peron, known to the people as
"Evita," was a model and actress
before rising to fame as First Lady.
EVA -- KNOWN as "Evita" -- has had a rebirth in popular culture and is known worldwide through the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. The Tony winning play and subsequent movie trace her immense popularity,  particularly with working-class women. 
The intensity of the support she drew from the people is said to have surprised even Juan Perón himself, Regolo said. 
She used her power with lower economic classes to helped enact reforms and policies, and give women a footing they had not had in Argentina. She also helped bring about the passage of Argentina's women's suffrage law, Regolo added. 
Peron's first wife died of cancer, as did Evita.  He married a third time nine years after Evita's death in 1952.   
Museo Evita is well worth a visit whatever your politics, for insight into the life of a remarkable personality.
More information and tickets: 

Enjoying a morning at a Buenos Aires landmark, La Confiteria
Ideal, dating to 1912, are from left, Bruce Keller, Christene
"Cookie" Meyers and Rolando Ossowski. The cafe's remarkable
history includes notoriety as a tango performance spac
UP NEXT: Walk around the blocks with us in Buenos Aires. Come with us for a spectacular guided tour by a native son, Orlando Ossowski, whose knowledge of the city of his birth is extraordinary and detailed.  We'll wander through Buenos Aires with economist, opera aficionado, gourmand and history buff Rollando, visiting his favorite haunts including famous hotels, restaurants, government houses and a beloved bakery and restaurant, the elegant and historic Confiteria La Ideal. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on the arts, travel, performance, family and more: 




Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Up, up and away to the top of the world on Palm Springs Tramway

At Palm Springs Tram, the Coachella Valley spreads out in the far distance, looking from the mountain-top vista. Far below is the city of Palm Springs The tram is a great escape when temperatures in
Palm Springs can climb to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  It's 35-40 degrees cooler at this lovely vista. 

Layers are appropriate for Bruce Keller & Christene "Cookie"
Meyers in late spring. By early May, the park is warming
and you won't need more than a sweater. But you will
experience a temperature change of 35-40 degrees from
Palm Springs below the tram at 2,400 feet above
sea level. You'll climb to over 8,000 feet at the top.



HIGH ABOVE the heat of the desert floor,  magical mountains await with cooling breezes. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway whisks viewers on a breathtaking ride to almost 9,000 feet above sea level.  There, a world of hiking trails, wildflowers, birds, squirrels and sometimes snow awaits.
WHEN IT COMES to heights, I'm a scaredy cat.  But I felt comfortable, even with the gentle pre-announced "bumps" as the tram passes various stations.  I truly enjoy the rotating tram with wonderful views for everyone.  No bad seats and we were totally safe. Its workings are carefully inspected 
ABOVE: click on the triangle for our video.
and the operation is closed for several weeks each year for maintenance and thorough inspection.  It purrs like a kitten and is tended with meticulous care.
Snow at the top of the ride near the
boarding area, in late February.
THE TRAM is a major California tourist attraction, drawing many to stay a day or two in Palm Springs. The area attracts golfers, sun seekers, bird watchers, nature lovers and those just wanting to relax or escape colder climes. As the largest rotating aerial tramway in the world, the tram opened with great fanfare in September 1963 whisking folks from the floor of the Coachella Valley to near the top of San Jacinto Peak. Constructing it in rugged Chino Canyon was an engineering marvel, with helicopters bringing in tons of building material and equipment.
Summer offers views of lovely greenery below.
The tram was the dream of a young electrical engineer named Francis Crocker.
IN 1935, while on a trip to Banning, California, with  newspaper publisher Carl Barkow, Crocker was nearly overcome by the heat. Mopping his brow in the sultry desert warmth, he gazed at the still snow-capped peak of Mount San Jacinto -- 10,834 feet elevation. He longed to “go up there where it’s nice and cool.” And so “Crocker’s Folly,” as it was soon dubbed by one newspaper woman, was born – a tramway up the sheer cliffs of Chino Canyon for stunning views of Mt. San Jacinto.
 WE BOARDED the tram for our first ride many years ago. It's a  thrilling 10-minute transit over 2.5 miles and 6,000 feet in elevation.
With snow still on the mountains, the tram offers a
chance to play in snow at the top.  Palm Springs 
residents take their kids up with sleds and toys.


Climbing several thousand feet to the top are,
from left: Bruce Keller, Sue & John Speight and
Christene "Cookie" Meyers, excited at the view.

AS WE SOARED above the desert wilderness to the breath-taking landscape of Mt. San Jacinto State Park. A few weeks ago, we enjoyed the stunning scenic vista, while families played in the snow. Then we hiked a well constructed trail from the Mountain Station.

The rotating tram was introduced in the late 1990s,
making it the largest one in the world.

As the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway cars inch up the mountain, they slowly rotate for guests to take in a full panoramic view of the rugged canyon below. Once to the top, guests can take it all in from observation decks, check out the natural history museum and two historical documentary theaters. Outside, enjoy more than 50 miles of hiking trails for the true outdoor enthusiasts. Docents are on hand both inside and outside to answer questions. There's a pleasant cafe with grab-and-go snacks for a picnic lunch or early supper. Peaks Restaurant is more formal, with lovely views and a pleasant ambiance offering a more relaxing dining experience. We enjoyed the restaurant with our friends from England.

  • If you're planning to hike on your own, there are five trail options to choose from. They range in length and difficulty. For those looking for a  leisurely nature stroll, our amiable docent recommended the “Long Valley Discovery Trail.” It's less than a mile and clearly marked for an easy loop. We saw many birds and found a clean restroom.  For more experienced hikers, the 11-mile  round trip  hike to the peak of Mt. San Jacinto takes braver hikers to the second highest point in the state.  My eagle-eye husband could see all the way to Catalina Island.
  • Because it is such a spectacular feat of engineering, the tram was dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Be sure to spend time in the "photo hall" where you'll see pictures of the difficult construction and helicopters used for much of the building process. The tram had its inaugural ride in 1963 and in the late 1990s a modern face-lift introduced the rotating tram cars.
    Wildlife displays show the creatures in the
    mountains. Two theaters show interesting films.

  • When planning your tram trip, we advise checking arrival and departure times carefully.  Many people enjoy an afternoon trip up and the evening trip down, beneath the stars with the lights of the city below.  The more formal restaurant is popular for celebrations and special events. And sunsets are spectacular at the top. Don't miss the last tram down, though.  Tickets range from $18 to $31, but if you plan more than a couple visits, the summer pass and annual pass are a bargain with substantial savings. We met several local hikers who love them and come up weekly during the hottest months.   For tickets or more information:
UP NEXT: "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina." I'm listening to Patti LuPone sing that memorable song from the Tony winning Broadway musical, "Evita." 
Next week, we visit a fascinating museum in Buenos Aires dedicated to the life, rise to fame and accomplishments of a young actress from the country who became a famous and beloved first lady. Eva Peron's Buenos Aires museum in her memory is our next feature. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, the arts, nature, family and more. Please share the link:

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Buenos Aires opera house has world's greatest acoustics, ornate interior


Above, Bruce Keller, Christene "Cookie" Meyers and Rolando Ossowski pose in casual afternoon touring clothes. 
If they were at the great theater for a night at the opera, they would be in black tie, befitting a world class opera house.

Teatro Colón: grand reminder of city's stately, opulent past




IT'S HOSTED the greats of the world of opera. Its acoustics are the best on the planet.
The majestic Teatro Colon holds a sentimental place in the hearts of the people of Buenos Aires, and opera buffs around the world.
The Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires has breathtaking design,
box seats, a horseshoe shaped house and special seats.

opera house in Argentina's capital city, is considered by many to be the world's grandest opera house not only for its fabulous acoustics but for the spectacle and grandeur of its interior.
A guide offers visitors a unique small-group
tour of the opera house, with its stunning
works of art, all beautifully preserved.
We toured this wondrous place with our friend, Rolando Ossowski, an opera devotee who grew up in Buenos Aires and attended performances.
He arranged a rewarding visit to magnificent place, adding colorful detail to the guide's commentary as we learned of the theater's interesting and complicated history. It dates back more than a century, to a grander time.
Entering this grandiose space, we were in awe of its European-style décor. Our guide walked us up the Italian-marble staircases, past stunning mosaics, beneath French stained glass and under a gleaming grand chandelier where we posed for photos. The theater's roster of performers features dozens of world-class artists, including Richard Strauss, Igor Stravinsky, Plácido Domingo, Enrico Caruso, Claudia Muzio, Maria Callas, Regine Crespin, Birgit Nilsson and the great tenor Luciano Pavarotti.
THE ORIGINAL Teatro Colón operated from 1857 to1888 before being demolished as the city outgrew it. The new theater was designed by Francesco Tamburini with plans for a gala opening in 1892. But misfortune and controversy plagued the project. Tamburini died.  So did the next architect. Rolando added that tastes changed and money ran out. Eventually, the present theater opened on May 25, 1908, with Giuseppe Verdi's "Aïda." It was closed for restoration in 2006, reopening in 2010 to celebrate its 102nd birthday and Argentina's bicentennial.

Our small tour group was in awe during a
delightful tour of one of the world's most
famous and grandest opera houses. 
Meticulous detail at every turn awaits the tourist.

determined to include the opera house in our Buenos Aires visit, even though there is an enormous amount of other things to do and places to visit.  For us -- lifelong music fans -- our time in Argentina’s capital city wouldn't have been complete without the afternoon we spent with Rolando in this historic building.

Stained glass is 
imported from Europe.

Our opera buff friend Rolando concurred with the guide that the theater does indeed have the world's best acoustics. Pavarotti, a perennial favorite here, joked that "the theatre has the greatest defect: its acoustics are perfect," meaning that any small mistake -- a delayed delivery, faux pas with a lyric or,  heaven forbid, a worse mistake -- would be heard by the audience and likely reported by critics.

group, a professional singer surprised and delighted us all, offering a few measures of a familiar aria. Instant applause and tears. Indeed, grand acoustics. But the building's artistic value is of equal importance.
Guided tours are kept small to give
tourists an opportunity to enjoy, ask
questions and soak up the beauty.
Among details we noted: 
*The central chandelier weighs over 100 kilos. 
*Every piece of material for the theater's construction was imported from Europe.
* The auditorium is horseshoe-shaped, has 2,487 seats (slightly more than the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London). It's shape makes for fabulous sound.
* Ticket prices offer "something for everyone," from standing room admission sold from $6 to $70 and more for better seats.
* The stage is 20 meters wide, 15 meters high and 20 meters deep.
* The combination of its perfectly engineered curves, and specially selected interiors create the remarkable acoustics. 
Magnificently positioned on an entire city block,
Teatro Colon is an imposing city landmark.
Of special note are the horse-hair seat cushions, which are said to enhance sound as well. (Who knew?)
More info: Guided tours in English cost 10,000 Argentine pesos (about $15)  daily at 11 a.m., noon and 3 p.m. Colón Theater is open every day of the year, except select holidays. Visit from February through December to catch one of the theater's spectacular ballets or operas.

The world's largest rotating tram gives tourists and locals alike a bird's eye
  view of the spectacular wilderness of Chino Canyon and below, Palm Springs
UP NEXT: As summer comes to the Coachella Valley, savvy tourists and locals alike take a trip up the mountain to the Palm Springs Aerial  Tramway. It is the largest rotating aerial tramway in the world and a huge tourist attraction in California. The tram and its construction in rugged terrain are an engineering marvel.  It opened in September 1963 as a way of getting from the floor of the Coachella Valley to near the top of San Jacinto Peak and was constructed in the Chino Canyon wilderness, a refuge for birds and wildlife and popular with naturalists. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on nature, travel, performance, family and more. Please share the link: