Posts Tagged ‘LAN AIRLINES’


Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

ESCAPESEEKER GLOBAL ODYSSEYBuenos Aires, Argentina ~ I’ve been devoting a lot of ink these past few weeks on our One Ocean Expeditions Antarctic Adventure, which originated from the most southern city of Argentina [Ushuaia], which we accessed via the country’s vibrant Capital of Buenos Aires.  Since everyone traveling to any region of Argentina passes through its gateway capital, it’s time for me to pause from my Antarctic wonderment and shine some light on one of South America’s most famous stars. #buenosaires!

Buenos Aires


The year–1808.  Buenos Aires makes a final push for its independence from Spain and the town council in Buenos Aires cuts ties two years later in 1810. This move fueled further development of Argentina and its unique culture.  Meanwhile across the Atlantic, Europe’s industrialization was booming, opening the doors for Buenos Aires to become one of the world’s leading explorers of agricultural products. It was at this time that a great deal of wealth was amassed in the capital, paving the way for residences modeled after French chateaux.  It wasn’t too long before Buenos Aires aristocrats transformed the city into the “Paris of South America.”

La Mansión symbolizes the love story of  Félix de Álzaga Unzué – dashing heir to a vast South American ranching fortune – who built the masterpiece as a wedding gift for his young bride, Elena Peña Unzué.

La Mansión symbolizes the love story of Félix de Álzaga Unzué – dashing heir to a vast South American ranching fortune – who built the masterpiece as a wedding gift for his young bride, Elena Peña Unzué.

A Beaux Arts landmark set on the grounds of the Four Seasons, La Mansión evokes a time when Buenos Aires was referred to as the “Paris of South America” — a city obsessed with French culture, fashion and architecture.  Now hailed as one of Argentina’s finest residences from this time period, La Mansión offers seven one-of-a-kind suites, each affording a unique opportunity to live the city’s history first-hand.

In the early 20th century, Buenos Aires marked the centenary of its first declaration of independence by building a subway system and wide avenues, once again inspired by the French capital–Paris.

Avenida 9 de Julio in downtown Buenos Aires  is no ordinary avenue. Nine lanes wide, with gardens and beautifully manicured medians between the opposing flow of traffic, it is recognized as widest street in the world! Only those with a quick pace and long strides will be lucky to get to the other side before the intersection's traffic lights changes. A pedestrian crossing this street usually requires a few extra minutes, and two to three traffic light rotations. 9 de Julio Avenida is only one kilometer,  but 110 meters wide.

Avenida 9 de Julio in downtown Buenos Aires is no ordinary avenue. Nine lanes wide, with gardens and beautifully manicured medians between the opposing flow of traffic, it is recognized as the widest street in the world! Only those with a quick pace and long strides will be lucky to get to the other side before the intersection’s traffic lights changes. A pedestrian crossing this street usually requires a few extra minutes, and two to three traffic light rotations. 9 de Julio Avenida is only one kilometer long, but 110 meters wide.

The Porteños, as the people of Buenos Aires are called, are proud of their city, and rightly so. It boasts some of the best dining–especially if you’re a fan of tender beef–as we discovered it’s a city staple! The shopping, the entertainment, the museums, and of course the TANGO for which the city is world-renowned, all combined have earned Buenos Aires its world class status.

Tango-down-the-street-of-Buenos-Aires-ArgentinaTHINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

When To Go

First, remember, that summer in the northern hemisphere is winter in the southern hemisphere.  That translates to Buenos Aires’ winter is from July to September.  During this time, the temperature is chilly, but never below freezing.  Summer is from December to March at which time its humidity and temperatures can rise to uncomfortable levels. Spring is from September to December, and autumn is from April to June–these are the two seasons most idyllic for exploring the city.  The temperatures are mild, and you’re in the off-peak tourist season too–that is until the world reads my story!

Cash Is Still King

It is important to have cash on you at all times in Buenos Aires as credit cards are accepted in some places but NOT everywhere. Generally, top restaurants, hotels, and stores will accept credit cards. But many will only allow it on purchases over 50 pesos.

The Argentine Sun Sizzles

fashion style


May I recommend that you bring at least two sets of sunglasses, a nice handy supply of sun block, and your favorite hat or two to protect you from the sizzling hot Argentine sun.

You’ll blend in nicely with all the stylish locals too. The people of Buenos Aires are naturally stylish and trendy but still manage to be wonderfully casual about it all.  Feel free to bring your favorite fashionable threads as long as they’re comfy for walking and oodles of sightseeing.  Warning: I would leave the expensive jewelry at home so as not to be an open enticement for sly street thieves.




However, should you forget anything at home, no worries.  Buenos Aires provides a plethora of shopping opportunities!

Retail Therapy can be found at  San Telmo Market, Calle Murillo, Palermo, Galerias Pacifico, and Recoleta.


The Feria de San Telmo is one of the most popular activities in Buenos Aires on Sundays.  Artisans sell their beautiful handmade goods, and you’ll also find fabulous antiques, art, and delicious local fare. The market spans several blocks so wear good walking shoes. Street performers and tango dancers liven things up along the way.  For more info, go to

Calle Murillo in Villa Crespo is the place to be if you’re in the market for  leather goods–bags, belts and jackets are plentiful. Many of the items can be made to measure, so they’re a worthwhile investment. Negotiating is acceptable.  But be aware that the leather items sold in this area is significantly cheaper than anywhere else in the city. The locals advised that Murillo 666 is known as one of the best stores with the most reasonable prices for leather goods on Calle Murillo.

The Palermo district of Buenos Aires, also known as Palermo Soho, is a mecca for design.  There are plenty of unique specialty shops to please the discerning shopper.

Galerías Pacífico, a short walk from our Four Seasons Hotel, proved to be a convenient Mall to pick up a few items to refresh our summer wardrobe, especially since we had arrived from Antarctica–with an entirely different temperature range. The Mall is lined with high-end boutiques.  But if you’re not inclined to pay the high prices, fear not, there’s a Zara anchored at the end of the Mall.

The Recoleta area of Buenos Aires is dotted with luxurious homes and hotels, and is one of the most affluent neighborhoods in the city.

EVitaBut there’s an area that caught our interest even more:  The Recoleta Cemetery, a must-see spot, for the closest thing I’ve seen like it is the Père Lachaise Cemetery, the largest cemetery in Paris, and one of the most famous cemeteries in the world.  Well, the Recoleta Cemetery, the resting place of many wealthy (as demonstrated by their grand, elaborate, marbled tombstones) and famous Argentineans including Eva [Evita] Peron, definitely competes. Evita’s tomb is continually covered in flowers and letters from her fans who travel far and wide to pay their respects.  To prevent her body from being stolen, as it had been many times by the various military governments installed after her husband’s fall from grace in 1955, she was finally buried in a concrete vault 8.1m (27 ft.) underground in 1976.

Weather permitting, free English-language tours are held every Tuesday and Thursday at 11am. Ask for information at the small office with the sign reading JUNIN 1790, between the cemetery gate and the church. The door is sometimes closed and locked during office hours, but you can still peek into the windows and talk to the staff, particularly Marta Granja, who speaks English. If you can’t take a tour or want to explore on your own, cemetery maps are also for sale at the gate, with proceeds going to the Friends of Recoleta Cemetery, a private group that helps with upkeep.

Once the garden of the adjoining church, the cemetery was created in 1822 and is among the oldest in the city. You can spend hours here wandering the grounds that cover 4 city blocks, full of tombs adorned with works by local and international sculptors. More than 6,400 mausoleums form an architectural free-for-all, including Greek temples and pyramids. Many other rich or famous Argentines are buried here as well, including a number of Argentine presidents whose tomb names you’ll recognize because they match some of the streets of the city. The newest presidential tomb is that of Raúl Ricardo Alfonsín, who died in 2009 and was the first president elected when the 1976-82 military dictatorship ended.

recolleta-cemetaryMost tourists who come here visit only Evita’s tomb, but among the many others, two are worth singling out and should not be missed. One is the tomb of the Paz family, who owned the newspaper La Prensa, as well as the palatial building on Plaza San Martín now known as the Círculo Militar. It is an enormous black stone structure covered with white marble angels in turn-of-the-20th-century dress. The angels seem to soar to the heavens, lifting the spirit of those inside with their massive wings. The sculptures were all made in Paris and shipped here. Masonic symbols such as anchors and pyramid-like shapes adorn this as well as many other Recoleta tombs.

Another tomb I recommend seeing is that of Rufina Cambaceres, a young woman who was buried alive in the early 1900s. She had perhaps suffered a coma, and a few days after her interment, workers heard screams from the tomb. When it was opened, there were scratches on her face and on the coffin from her attempts to escape. Her mother then built this Art Nouveau masterpiece, which has become a symbol of the cemetery.

Cementerio_La_Recoleta_Bs_AsHer coffin is a Carrara marble slab, carved with a rose on top, and it sits behind a glass wall, as if her mother wanted to make up for her mistake in burying her and ensure she could see her coffin if she were ever to come back again. The corner of the tomb is adorned by a young girl carved of marble who turns her head to those watching her; she looks as if she is about to break into tears, and her right hand is on the door of her own tomb. Many locals often place delicate sprigs of flowers into her hand. It seems each grave is accompanied with a story of triumph or tragedy–as told by their beloved family, painfully left behind.

EMBRACING ARGENTINA…Postcards from #beautifulbuenosaires

It has been said,“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” The greatest blessing of being the ESCAPESEEKER is the tremendous, brilliant, inspiring friends I meet wherever I travel. I was thrilled to reunite with Argentine friends, Felix and Sole Bialet whom I first met while on assignment on board  @paulgauguincruises m/v Tere Moana in the summer of 2013! Felix and Sole not only welcomed me, but my traveling companions as well.  It is as if no time had passed!#tequieroargentina #ifeelblessed Honestly, the #world is full of #engaging, #kind #friends just waiting to be met! — with Felix Bialet and Sole Bialet at Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires.

12417696_10154497086878032_6034909032255144132_n (1) Just hanging out with the #whoswho of #argentina I learned so much from our brilliant @metropolitantouring Argentina #guide Andrea! Thank you for our #mindexpanding day Andrea, and for teaching us about #argentinaslegends:#carlosgardel #alfonsinastorni and #jorgeluisborges #tequieroargentina — at Gran Cafe Tortoni. 12573948_10154498820313032_6450231398075470887_n

12642492_10154512387963032_5715491327832433032_n (1)THAT EXACT MOMENT WHEN YOUR GRACIOUS GUIDE BECOMES MORE LIKE FAMILY

Maybe it was because we were standing inside Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral–an architectural masterpiece where former Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires listened to many in his parish bear their souls.  But we never realized we were about to have one of the most moving experiences of our Argentine journey.   Part way through our tour of this beautiful Cathedral, Andrea began to tell us her story.

pano-catedral-gdeAndrea has a genetic propensity to cancer and has been fighting cancer most of her life. If that was not enough of a burden, she lost her only brother when he died in the war with Britain over the Falkland Islands. Shortly later, her husband and only child were killed in an automobile accident in which she too was seriously injured. She laid despondent in the hospital for weeks. She wanted to end her life and asked her father for help. Her dad said he would help but since Andrea was his only surviving child he said would end his life the day after she took her life. (She said her dad was really smart.) She decided she could not commit suicide under those circumstances.

the-cathedral-n1-buenos-aires-argentina+1152_12994299458-tpfil02aw-17189Andrea left the hospital not knowing what to do. She then went to the Cathedral for Confession and asked the priest for help. The priest said he could not counsel her in the confessional but she should return later that day and give her name to an assistant at the Cathedral. That was the beginning of many months of weekly counseling sessions with the priest whose name she did not know. She later learned her counselor was Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

941156_10152984229280105_520529327_nAndrea recovered her mental health but is still fighting cancer. She is a bright, cheerful guide. Recently while waiting for a medical appointment she received a call on her cell phone. It was her counselor, Pope Francis I, checking up on her!! After finding that Andrea was okay, Pope Francis asked her to pray for him. Her story is a true testament of the marvelous, compassionate character of Pope Francis I.   No matter where they reside, they will always be the parish priests caring for the Children of God. We were all in tears as we huddled around this beautiful soul–our extraordinary guide, Andrea!  From that moment on, we all felt like one big family, bearing each other up.  Life is filled with its unpredictable challenges, and when we support one another, we are no longer strangers, but members of a caring circle of #humanKIND! [Photo of Pope Francis captured by yours truly, the ESCAPESEEKER during my 2013 assignment at the Vatican.]


12565624_10154495839003032_2482896507647747399_nIt is such a #joy teaming this #epic #antarctica #argentina @escapeseeker assignment with Roy Henderson, Mary McGill, and John Hempelmann! Savoring @fsbuenosaires hospitality and exploring this vibrant city before we move on to our final stop: #iguazu #falls …another world’s wonder awaits us! I #love my @escapeseeker team! Te quiero #argentina — at Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires.


Our two top pics:

1) The Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires with its unrivaled views of the vibrant Argentine Capital.

cq5dam.web.1280.720This is how @fsbuenosaires greets their very happy guests, yours truly the @escapeseeker included! #delicious #argentina …my team and I were fueled every morning  for a full day of #buenosaires #exploration! Thank you @fsbuenosaires #tequieroargentina — at Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires.

12592326_10154497863113032_2496245071222933460_n (1)

2)  The Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt Buenos Aires is decorated with antique Persian and contemporary carpets over wood floors, silk curtains and crystal chandeliers. It’s underground Art Gallery showcases renowned contemporary artists rotating every two months, as well as a permanent collection of original contemporary fine art on display throughout the hotel. I love the Palacio’s magnificent garden that sits like an elegant sanctuary, an oasis in the middle of the city.

31296751At the Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt Buenos Aires, dining is also a work of art!

11272957_1596362613969060_1486790658_nBuenos Aires is truly a #worldclass capital with something for everyone…including those of us who have wished to learn how to TANGO all our lives! I need to practice a bit more before I share my tango steps.  But, I’ve definitely been bitten by the Tango bug…and the only cure is to return to Buenos Aires and dance with the native pros!  What a graceful way to wrap up a beautiful stay in Buenos Aires!

We will be returning in October, 2016 with our entire ESCAPESEEKER film crew.  I’ve intentionally left out additional extraordinary activities we engaged in–after all, we have to reserve some surprise elements for our extremely talented cinematographer!

Here’s to #blissful, #endless, #amazing #escapes…and remember, no matter where you go, be the kindest person you know.

With love and gratitude to all who make being the ESCAPESEEKER a continued series of “Pinch me moments”…


PS:  Stay tuned for my next report…destination? Iguazu Falls!




To access our outstanding native guides contact: |

To book our tremendous professional TANGO instructors: Rachel Makow <>






Sunday, October 11th, 2015

Anthem, Arizona ~ My day began at 0300 when I tried to balance my groggy self in front of my desk to continue scripting our ESCAPESEEKER episodes on ‪#‎phenomenalperu‬. One of the most challenging part of this assignment is finding a new angle to present Peru–beyond its camera-ready iconic ancient Inca monuments that dot its mountainous landscape and document a culture light years ahead of its time; or, its giant blue lake the size of an ocean presiding at 12,500 feet; or, its thick, towering rainforest caressing the life-source headwaters of the mighty Peruvian Amazon.

12046709_10156315005620105_8457267183934608170_n (1) gallery-fieldnotetiticaca2I did not have to go far to find the answer–it came in the form of a request from someone who spent 18 full months dedicating her life to voluntarily serving the people of Peru. This was no simple transition for this youngest of six children, completely adored by her older siblings, and totally embracing her fun Southern California lifestyle. Saying goodbye to it all was difficult, but saying goodbye to the love of her life, Chandler, for several seasons was heartbreaking. Nevertheless, following the promptings of her soul, she heed the call to serve.

Upon learning that I was returning to Peru specifically to find the destinations and compelling stories to fill almost two broadcast hours, Gabrielle Gee Chow had but one request: “Mom, please make sure you tell the story through their eyes.” While serving as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Hermana Gee developed such a deep respect, and abiding love for the resilient, caring people of Peru–from it’s bustling Capital of Lima, home to over nine million Peruvians and a sprinkling of global expats–to the high jungle plateaus of Tarapoto, the link to the upper Amazon-Hermana focused on being the hardest-working missionary she could be–hoping to be even better than her two elder missionary brothers,Brennen Gee, who served in the Czech Republic and Garrett Gee who served in Russia–both learning equally challenging languages–never mind the cultural adjustments that entailed.

11062133_10154238260293032_1607182564311704531_nHermana Gee’s missionary shoes may be a good testament that she achieved her goal–but these faces I captured in the Spring of 2013 when I traveled to Peru to “walk in her shoes” for a very brief moment speak volumes. I was granted a tiny glimpse of what her Peruvian Missionary life was like, and more importantly, I began to understand why Hermana Gee cares so deeply about Peru…and why it is so important to her that I get my story right!

12079298_10154238261993032_258971816976609284_nMuchas Gracias Hija! Eres mi inspiración. Siempre te quiero! Soy una Mama bendita y agradecida.

12063628_10154238264598032_742936429991009774_nI’m going on week three of very little sleep, as my ESCAPESEEKER film team and I prepare for one of our most arduous assignments–filming/producing four 27-minute episodes under the feature title of “Phenomenal Peru.”  I’ve been fine-tuning pages and pages of scripts, which I’ve written under the on-going instruction of Gabrielle Gee echoing “to get it right.”  Now, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that all the puzzle pieces will come together, including the multiple film permits required by the Peruvian government for our crew to film per site location–you can only begin to imagine how many we’re covering in almost a month of filming–plus the logistical planning that goes into moving our crew from place to place.

It does take a village to produce our program…and in Peru’s case, it will take village after village of native land support for us to get our story right!  We thank you all in advance for your tremendous support:  Thank you @LAN Airlines for making sure we are where we are supposed to be throughout our Peruvian filming adventure!  After working with so many wonderful Peruvians during the Advance Research Phase, I can totally understand why Gabrielle Gee holds such a special place in her heart for Peru and the loving, kind-hearted Peruvians she thinks of every day.

We hope you’ll follow our #peruvian #adventures as we prove once again that there’s no destination on earth too far, too difficult, or too phenomenal to reach!

With kindness and gratitude,


PS:  We can’t wait to see our dear friends at the JW Marriott El Convento Cusco  We are so very appreciative of all of your unwavering support.



Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

with select images by ESCAPESEEKER Photographer, Miristi Gee MiristiGeeImagery

Punta Arenas, Chile ~ Ok, let me begin by admitting, I am addicted to “Experiential Travel,” and I believe I am not alone. For those of you who are not familiar with this current phrase that’s sweeping across the travel universe,  please permit me to explain.  Experiential travel is a trend in tourism (also known as immersion travel) which focuses on experiencing a country, city or particular place by connecting to its history, people and culture. It is about valuing the experiences you actually have versus what you’re being told you should be having as described in the travel brochures. For example, everyone who travels to Paris normally stands in the incredibly long lines just to get into the Musée du Louvre, only to find more long lines and crowds just to get a glimpse of their favorite works of art.  Well, how about sitting on the bench along the River Seine and observing a local artist paint the iconic vista of the Eiffel Tower reigning over the magnificent City of Lights? I’ve even discovered a few who are more than happy to explain their art and share their deep passion for their city. 

It’s a fact.  We’re all different, we all enjoy different things and our travel choices should be reflective of our respective passions and interests.  Well, lucky for me and my ESCAPESEEKER team, we thrive on finding the unexpected, and seek out travel experiences that are truly a cut above the rest.  That brings me to my latest report– Our Bucket List, Cruise Expedition to the “End of the World” on board the m/s Stella Australis! I would tell you what Bucket List # it is–but my list has grown so long, that I’ve honestly lost count–clearly indicative of my travel-passion-driven life! 🙂

The Australis Is No Ordinary Cruise

11034281_10155427927140105_3861473284065647837_nOnce  you’re on board the Australis, and after you settle in to your comfortable staterooms with its big picture windows, you’ll be introduced to numerous nature guides–extremely knowledgeable Chilean natives who have come to know every corner of this pristine region of Chilean Patagonia.  They can retell its unique history in such a captivating way.  They make it come alive.  Each night, they’ll enthusiastically recap all of the various daily adventures they have strategically lined up for you–but here’s where the Experiential travel kicks in. Now matter how well designed/scripted the excursions are–you realize the real MAGIC in the entire expedition experience is that at the end of the day, it is Mother Nature who is the real the boss.  Mother Nature is also ever present, driving the WOW FACTOR and delighting at every turn.  You’ll witness ancient glaciers as we pass Glacier Alley suddenly calving right before your eyes, as it thunders down the mountain and lands into the frigid Patagonian waters.

pia-1You may pass through the legendary Cape Horn amidst a morning shower only to be welcomed by a magnificent rainbow!


Observing the Magellanic penguins, also known as Spheniscus magellanicus–which reside exclusively in the southern hemisphere– from our special zodiacs is an unforgettable experience. Forget my annual pilgrimage to the Cannes Film Festival, for this has now become my favorite “Black-Tie” event! 🙂

It is the most numerous of the Spheniscus penguins. Its nearest relatives are the African, the Humboldt and the Galapagos penguins. The Magellanic penguin was named after Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan,  who spotted the birds in 1520.

The guides continually impart their knowledge while we observe, clicking away with our cameras. My favorite factoid about the Magellanic penguins–they mate with the same partner year after year. The male reclaims his burrow from the previous year and waits to reconnect with his female partner. The females are able to recognize their mates through their call alone. Now that’s what I call true love!


4stella-australisIt not unusual to hear the Captain announce, “I recommend passengers come up to the open deck or if you prefer to be indoors, the Darwin Lounge, and remember to bring your cameras as  we’ve spotted some native whales enjoying the sunset as much as we are. Take a look for yourselves!”


10431448_10155201572230105_8753376283438270471_nSpeaking of sunsets–that’s my other addiction–glorious daily sunsets that just make you gasp!  If you lack gratitude in any way shape or form–I promise that by the time you disembark–your heart will be overflowing with gratitude for this tremendous planet of ours…for the gift of sight…for the gift of life…and let me not forget…for the gift of forging new friendships…because you’ll quickly discover that almost every nation is represented on the Australis guests list.  Can you imagine discovering that there are people from other countries, from varied cultures, speaking foreign languages, but who absolutely share your same passion for our universe? I should warn you–you will wish you could take them home after the cruise is through because all of a sudden all these strangers will begin to feel like your family! You hike together…you compare photos and stories…you break bread together and raise a glass or two to your wondrous lives…and close each day as if it’s Christmas Eve…knowing that the morning light brings yet another adventure…scripted by Mother Nature…and chances are very good, it’s another series of “Pinch Me Moments.”

11094768_10153729968633032_608894613346060905_oThis is Experiential travel at its finest!  It is up to you to determine how much mind-expansion you’re willing to allow; how much soul-enrichment you’re open to; and equally important, how much room is there in your heart to embrace new friendships with kind, engaging people you’ve discovered are not so different from you after all.  These are all the reasons I am addicted to #travel. I hope you’ ll follow in our ESCAPESEEKER footsteps.  It is as easy as clicking on the following link with your right thumb!

11011109_10155563807005105_4380763350239580009_oAnd, just one more requests, be sure you write me ( and tell me how amazing your experience is ok?  Let’s definitely compare notes!

11136226_10153729974438032_6982682011641658571_oI cannot wait to return to capture the Australis Expedition Experience in all its splendor on film as I return on October 3-10th with my entire talented film crew! As a journalist and TV host of the ESCAPESEEKER Travel Series, nothing brings me greater #joy than to share our travel discoveries with the rest of the world.  Honestly, it multiplies the #joyoftravel 10-fold!

Here’s to Blissful, Endless ESCAPES!

And, remember, no matter where you go, be the kindest person you know!

With love,


Notes:  How to get there: From the USA, we traveled via LAN AIRLINES: from Miami (MIA) to Santiago (SCL) to Punta Arenas (PUQ).

Where did we go? We embarked in Punta Arenas, and disembarked at the same port 7 nights later.



DSC_0220 (1)My ESCAPESEEKER theory holds true on the Australis:  The world is full of wonderful, engaging friends, just waiting to be met!

Why I am not surprised to find our photog, Miristi jumping for joy during our Australis Expedition?  If you want to find out why, best you stay tuned as we continue our #neverendingadventure to the #endoftheworld in our special coverage of CHILE: Long, Lean, and Simply Spectacular!


CHILE: Long, Lean, and Simply Spectacular…Our ESCAPESEEKER South American Odyssey Continues into the Heart of Patagonia

Friday, April 24th, 2015

By Mel Gee Henderson

With select images by ESCAPESEEKER Photographer, Miristi GeeDSC_0358

11001647_1627407797487815_6003666140581740289_oand, baqueano photos captured  by Miguel Angel Fuentealba,  Las Torres Hotel Patagonia

Torres del Paine Parque Nacional, Patagonia

With Torres del Paine Parque Nacional* measuring approximately 242,242 hectares, one of the largest and most visited parks in Chile, one ESCAPESEEKER episode could hardly do it justice!  We are thrilled to learn that we are being afforded an opportunity to return, explore and capture on film other facets of this magnificent nature’s wonder! Declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1978, the Torres del Paine National Park is internationally recognized as one of the most beautiful, pristine destinations on the planet!

My first view of Torres del Paine!Torres del Paine National Park is located between Cordillera de Los Andes and Patagonian Steppe. This view was captured as I stood on the shores of Lago Sarmiento.

d-a-a-de-campo-en-la-estancia-1940But even more priceless, we are given the chance to experience it through the eyes of the family and friends of Antonio Kusanovic Senkovic, the son of Croatian immigrants who arrived with his parents in the Magallanes Region as a teen.  Following his parents’ exemplary work ethic and immense sacrifice, Antonio became a highly successful cattle farmer, and in 1976 he bought the beautiful Cerro Paine Estancia, located at the foot of the majestic Torres del Paine mountain range. It was here at this 8,000-acre ranch that Antonio began his cattle breeding business.

In the early 90´s Antonio and his wife Amor Eliana Marusic decided to build nine rooms with a small restaurant to welcome the many tourists arriving from around the world, attracted by the sheer legendary beauty of Torres del Paine. Today,  the Hotel Las Torres Patagonia has grown in size and scope, but still retains the original goal of the Antonio Kusanovic Senkovic Family: to afford each guest an authentic Chilean Patagonian experience, “by sharing the warmth of the people and customs of Patagonia.”

Baqueano Por Un Día | Baqueano For A Day

One of the ways guests are able to get a first hand glimpse into their unique Patagonian lifestyle is well, frankly, mount a horse! Take a look:

 More on how to  follow in the footsteps of the Cowboys of Patagonia:

Chile’s Baqueanos

The word “baqueano” is usually easily translated as “cowboy” which is its closest equivalent outside of Chile.  But in reality a baqueano is so much more than just a cowboy.  Please permit me to share what I’ve learned about the rich cultural tradition of the baqueano of Patagonia:

10506951_555047434601419_6101872349018842064_oThe Baqueano

“Strong, reserved, silent, proud, courteous, loyal”  are just some of the words used by Hotel Las Torres guests to describe the characteristics of the baqueano with whom they’ve eagerly explored the mountains and valleys of Torres del Paine.   Above all things, they say “a baqueano is a man connected to the land with a detailed knowledge about their revered stunning expanse of  Patagonian soil.” It is easy to see he is a skillful rider, with an almost telepathic connection to his horse. Dressed in worn leather riding boots, baggy trousers, a beret and neckerchief, and when needed for warmth, an added wool poncho tied in a knot under his right arm so as not to fly in the wind and unduly alarm his horse, he wanders at will through the untamed wilderness, even across cold raging rivers. It is simply a striking image that you’ll not easily forget!
Even today,  Patagonia still represents a frontier many people merely dream of exploring. Its tempestuous, unpredictable weather presents a challenge  for many, but the bagueano remains undeterred,  heading deep into Patagonia, always exploring and rediscovering its mysteries. First and foremost, the baqueano has always been a pathfinder.  A true baqueano knows how to orient himself at all times, using the sun, the stars and the landscape to find his way. They are renowned for knowing how to find shelter and clean drinking water in the middle of nowhere, and how to avoid natural hazards such as swamps and quaking bogs. It is said that they can find their way anywhere, even in the all-encompassing darkness of the Patagonian night. These are the very reasons they are so sought after as expert guides by Europeans and Americans seeking to experience a true, authentic, goosebump producing Patagonian adventure!
10547973_555041727935323_1316245774360426479_o 2The Chilean Horse
A baqueano’s horse is his proudest and perhaps, dare I say his most prized possession, since it is his favorite mode of travel, his work source and, at times may even be his only traveling companion. The Chilean horse is one of the oldest breeds on the South American continent and after centuries of breeding it is perfectly adapted to life in Patagonia. Chilean horses tend to be slightly smaller than many North American or European breeds, at about 14 hands high on average.  They are muscular and built for endurance with a very thick hair coat that protects them both from extreme cold and intense heat. They are born and grow up on the Patagonian plains and in the foothills of the Andes, so they are naturally sure-footed and at ease in their environment. Descended from generation upon generation of working horses, they are incredibly responsive, reacting to the lightest touch of the rein. This is just as well, since most baqueanos ride ‘one-handed’ using their spare hand for balance and for other needs that may arise.


The baqueanos revere their land…in their new-found country of Chile. This is the estancia where it all began for the Antonio Kusanovic Senkovic Family.

 IMG_6261Upon setting foot on this untamed land, and witnessing the sheep farmer sheer his sheep, I am reminded of something I read:  “To husband is to use with care, to keep, to save, to make last, to conserve. Old usage tells us that there is a husbandry also of the land, of the soil, of the domestic plants and animals – obviously because of the importance of these things to the household…Husbandry is the name of all practices that sustain life by connecting us conservationly to our places and our world; it is the art of keeping tied all the strands in the living network that sustains us.” ~ Wendell Berry, writings from  Bringing it to the Table


Continuing The Antonio Kusanovic Senkovic Family Legacy

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A welcoming home built against all odds…

in the wild, untamed Patagonian Prairie

001 facebook_cover (1)It is always a cherished privilege when my ESCAPESEEKER film team is given the opportunity to share the inspiring story of dynamic individuals who helped shape the unique landscape of a region or a country we are featuring. So it is with our in-depth look at Torres del Paine.  We’ve shared our wildlife discoveries in Episode 1 of Chile: Long, Lean, and Simply Spectacular. During our 2015-2016 Season, we will take you deeper into Torres del Paine with the people who proudly reside in its midst. They will share what it is like to grow up in the shadow of the Grand Massif as they invite us to share in this unique “Estancia Experience” of Las Torres Patagonia, a place we quickly discovered makes all who visit feel like a member of the family! Honestly, the aroma of the Chilean cuisine prepared by the talented Chef derived from original family recipes alone is enough to beckon you to Las Torres‘ welcoming doors!  We hope you’ll tune in, because that’s all I’m going to share with you for now.  Some things in life are truly worth the wait!


toma-general-hotel-las-torres-patagonia-1.JPG.1920x807_0_134_10000Hotel Las Torres guests find its privileged location especially convenient because many of the different trails to the most renowned places of the park start just a short walk from their rooms, like the trail to the base of the iconic towers. And, after a full day of strenuous hiking, Hotel Las Torres is indeed a welcome sight!

Torres del Paine National Park,
Magallanes and Antartica Chilena Region, Chile
+56 61 2617450

PS: STAY TUNED:  As ESCAPESEEKER continues our South American Odyssey. Our next stop:  PUNTA ARENAS…Wait until you meet the amazing, brilliant, young Chileans behind this brand new, charming BOUTIQUE HOTEL at the most southern tip of Chile– LA YEGUA LOCA…with an artistically curated, uniquely created one-of-a-kind furnishings, remnants from their ancestors’ lives, and beautifully transformed into a LIVING HOMAGE TO THEIR LASTING LEGACY! 11081310_345987045609677_7189951443939767339_nHILLTOP VIEW OF PUNTA ARENAS FROM LA YEGUA LOCA



Until then, remember, no matter where you go, be the kindest person you know.

With love,


IMG_6547*The park is one of the 11 protected areas of the Magallanes Region and Chilean Antarctica. Together with four national parks, three national reserves, and three national monuments, the protected forested areas comprise about 51% of the land of the region (6,728,744 hectares).


Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

 by Mel Gee Henderson with select images captured by Miristi Gee DSC_0358

MasterfulArt: Remota HotelModern Art In Harmony With Patagonia’s Wild Horizon


Puerto Natales, Chile ~ It is dusk and we arrive at Remota hotel just as the sun is bidding the day adieu.  One can’t help but gaze at the way the hundreds of windows reflect the events taking place outside its walls. And, what are those events?  It’s Mother Nature’s own works of art on display day after day in this, the most remote and only outpost town of significant size in Chilean Patagonia, Puerto Natales.


Architect Germán Del Sol, who is also a professor at the Universidad de Chile, wanted to conceal the luxury that awaits the traveler, “to lower the expectations, so its interior will appear unexpectedly in all its splendor.” It’s all about the element of surprise—including the fact that even with its innovative design and lavish comforts, the hotel was built with a conscious effort to care for nature, striving to use minimal energy.  Congratulations Mr. Del Sol. Mission accomplished. The minute one walks into Remota Hotel, you feel as though you’ve walked into an expansive living, breathing Museum of Modern Art. If it hadn’t been for the instant welcoming staff eager to make us feel right at home, I would have immediately begun exploring every corner of this innovative hotel on my own!

Golden Hue Remota Hotel exudes a warm golden hue exceeded only by the genuine warmth of its caring staff.


Recognizing my childlike curiosity, Marisa Pugliese, who serves as the General Manager’s international guests liaison–in great part due to her command of the English language–invited me to tour the hotel early the next morning, vividly explaining the philosophy behind each area of this masterful work of art.

No stone turned...Marisa pointed out that the empty central courtyard or plaza, introduces the vast wilderness of Patagonia at the core of the hotel.

It is surrounded in three sides by two guest rooms buildings, and the main one in the back a little higher, where the common areas of the hotel are placed.

“The plaza is empty, except for a few big boulders, but is full of suggestions- like the clear cut that one makes to see the forest. It lets one see what one wishes, whether it is the natural environment, or the strong culture that has allowed men, women and children to enjoy  life–the unique life found only in Patagonia.  The main plaza is an invitation to leave the warm environment of the hotel, and go wandering into the wild, unworried whether the day is windy or cold, keeping in mind that all the comforts of home await you at Remota when you return,” Marisa adds.

 MiristiGeeImageryThe ever-changing Patagonia light enters the building through the sequence of vertical cuts of the window panes granting guests the feeling of open space.


The strong and spartan geometric furniture was made by carpenters at the job site out of big pieces of dead native wood recovered from the big forests of Lenga trees that still thrive close to the sea in the Patagonian low lands.

In all the furnishings, the handwork expressed by the craftsmen is clearly evident, the fruit of their labors document the year-long challenge of ultimately bringing the hotel to life.

IMG_0254Remota affords so many options for guests to find their own favorite space to gather with family and friends or just merely close your eyes to ponder and reflect upon the beauty of life.  It’s easy to do when every day you’re given an opportunity to get up close to the world’s most iconic natural wonders, many of which some people can merely dream of visiting.

Let nature's light shine throughA Chilean poet describes, “What is important is not the light that one turns on every night, but the light that one once turned off allows the memory of light….”
A place to rest...After a day of exploring Puerto Natales and its nearby sites, it’s a welcome reprieve to be able to sink into our luscious beds!


Enter Marisa Pugliese, a beautiful Latina who embodies all the extraordinary qualities we associate with being Latina, especially after we learned of her family’s famed Argentine Tango roots.  She gave up dancing the Tango long ago, but she puts the same focus and passion the dance requires towards her hospitality duties as she serves as the liaison for all international visitors.  No matter what arises, Marisa is all about “Mission Possible”…and when you’re visiting a place as remote as Patagonia, you want someone at the helm with a total “can do” attitude!

Understanding that my ESCAPESEEKER team is on a quest to find the compelling stories to build a new episode featuring Puerto Natales, Marisa quickly introduced us to native Chilean guide, Javier Lazo.  My photographer, Miristi’s first reaction, “Ok, she knows how to be a “casting agent” too.”  Our guide definitely has a camera-friendly face! Now, the big test–will he have the encyclopedic knowledge of the area that our PBS program standard requires? Well, we were about to find out:



We arose early to enjoy Remota’s bounteous breakfast to ensure we were properly fueled for our full day’s exploration with our expert guide, Javier Lazo.  Our first stop, Cueva del Milodón Natural Monument located  24 km (15 mi) northwest of Puerto Natales.

The monument is situated along the flanks of Cerro Benitez, and comprised of several caves and a rock formation called Silla del Diablo (Devil’s Chair). The monument also includes the largest 200 meter long cave discovered in 1895 by German explorer, Hermann Eberhard who found a large, seemingly fresh piece of skin of an unidentified animal. In 1896 the cave was again explored by Otto Nordenskjold who later recognized that the skin belonged to Mylodon, a giant ground sloth animal which became extinct at the end of the Pleistocene Epoch,the geological epoch which lasted from about 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago, spanning the world’s most recent glacial era.

MilodonDarwiniAfter our mind-expanding geological history lesson, Javier led us further up the Cerro Benitez, continually teaching us about the flora and fauna.

10258344_10153704860798032_4915237461637036254_oThe higher we hiked, the more dramatically beautiful the vistas. I have an acronym for times like these, TYGM or “Thank You God” Moments!

Cerro Benitez8381-two-condors-soaring-below

I noticed we were not the only ones enjoying the view above Lago Sofia as we witnessed Andean Condors soaring below the cliff top where we stood.

Exploring on foot guided by an enthusiastic native guide is the fastest way to help modern travelers, especially those of us coming from big cities to relate with the natural environment and enjoy an enriching, mind-expanding, breathtaking experience.

Thank you Javier for fueling our curiosity and helping restore our childlike wonder.

Our dedicated Remota driver was waiting for us near Lago Sofia’s shoreline ready to take us back to Remota, just a short drive awaywhere we had no doubt another of Chef René Espinoza’s delightful dinner offerings were being skillfully prepared. What’s our first hint? Well, for one, the incredible aroma of hot Chilean bread baking in the kitchen is enough to make one want to steal a few loaves!


42-34986576As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so please permit me to allow this photo montage of the images captured by our own talented photographer, Miristi Gee to tell our delicious story of our nightly dining experiences. Chef Espinoza uses only the freshest ingredients–his baked crab casserole is out of this world–and, I’ve personally witnessed his bread makers and pastry chefs in action–they’ve gotta be the best bakers in Puerto Natales.

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 LIFE IMITATING ARTMany Puerto Natales newly arrived adventure-seeking residents are drawn to the natural, inspiring beauty of this remote land.

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punta-arenas-mapPuerto Natales is located in the province of  Última Esperanza (Last Hope), named by Juan Ladrilleros, the sailor who was seeking the Strait of Magellan in the year 1557. It was his “last hope” to find the Strait after exploring the maze of channels between the waters of the Pacific and the mainland. It was not until three centuries later, in 1830, that another major expedition sailed through the fjords and channels of Última Esperanza: the British expedition of the sloop HMS Beagle. Some of the expedition members, Robert FitzRoy, William Skyring and James Kirke as well as their senior officers are remembered by several place-names in the Puerto Natales area. Commander Fitzroy was the captain during the Second voyage of HMS Beagle (1831–1836).

In 1870, interest in the Ultima Esperanza region was rekindled. Among the daring travelers who ventured to these desolate lands was Santiago Zamora, also known as ‘Baqueano’ Zamora. He discovered the lakes of the Torres del Paine area. Another was the English traveler and writer Lady Florence Dixie, commemorated in the city’s present-day Hotel Lady Florence Dixie. Dixie authored the book Across Patagonia, where she describes the first tourist expedition to Torres del Paine and the Three Horns (the three granite spires) which she named as Cleopatra’s Needles.

Puerto Natales was founded on May 1911 as a port for the sheep industry. During the last half of the 20th century the sheep industry declined and many people from Puerto Natales started to work in the coal mines of Río Turbio in Argentina. During the peak of the sheep industry in Patagonia, two large “frigorificos” or cold-storage plants were constructed in the Natales area, of which one still stands.


Puerto Natales has many tourist facilities to meet every budget,  including sporting goods stores carrying popular global brands, i.e. Solomon for the serious outdoor enthusiasts.   It has become a common base for excursions to the world-famous Torres del Paine National Park, one of the most visited national parks in Chile, in great part due to its  impressive, towering rock formations.  Named a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, the park is home to hundreds of different birds and many mammal species, as well as the third largest ice field on the planetThe national park is open all year round, but the best season to visit the park is from October to April, the southern hemisphere’s spring and summer season, the latter of which has more than 16 hours of daylight–a mountaineer’s delight!


Stay tuned for our next report…when we discover what it’s like to reside at a true Chilean “Estancia” located within the shadow of the Torres del Paine!

Until then, here’s to #Blissful, #Endless #Escapes…

With love,

Mel Gee Henderson aka The ESCAPESEEKER

DSC_0105How we got there: via LAN Airlines: MIA/SCL/PUQ

Upon arrival in Punta Arenas, we were picked up by TURISMO BOULDER

Contact: Gonzalo Ginouves @ +56 9 79572915 or


Ruta 9 Norte, km 1.5

Puerto Natales, Chile

+56 2 23871500

Architect: German del Sol
Location: Provincia de Última Esperanza, Magallanes, Patagonia,
Project team: José Luis Ibañez G. / Architect, Francisca Schüler M. / Architect, Carlos Venegas / Architect, Rodrigo Arenas P. / Graphics Arts
Contractor: Salfa, Punta Arenas
Constructed Area: 5,213.46 sqm
Project year: 2004 – 2005
Construction year: 2004 – 2005
Photographs by Guy Wenborne, Felipe Camus.