We arrived quite Wednesday morning (3-19-14) and after unpacking headed out for lunch at Canita La Mamma Rosa, as we always do on our first day. We met Julia and Pablo (youngest daughter and her boyfriend) and Camila and Tito for dinner at our favorite restaurant, A Nos Amours. Tito mentioned to Leandro, the chef, that the figs will be ready for harvest on “the farm.” Leandro gave Tito a lovely smile and said, “I want your figs.”
The following evening we rented a car at Localiza, one of the few car rental places outside the airports, which is (luckily) just three blocks from our house. The day consumed with biking to a meeting with the escribano in the afternoon and shopping for the weekend. We didn’t get to dinner at La Choza until eleven.
On Friday morning we picked up daughter Diane and son-in-law Troy at the airport. We headed straight to the estancia (ranch) of our friends Camila and Tito, which is about 4 hours south of BA. Camila served a lunch of delicious empenadas. Afterwards, Tito, Troy, Diane and I drove to Azul, the nearest large town (population: ~60,000), to go shopping for provisions for the weekend. It’s about a 35 kilometer drive over dirt roads that cut through a landscape of grass, blue sky, and lots of cows. Diane and Troy got a good glimpse into life in this important agricultural and cattle center.
It was a Friday afternoon and the town was bustling with pedestrians, motor bikes, wandering dogs and cars competing at every intersection. The first time Carolyn and I had been here , a number of years ago, was during the quiet siesta time, after lunch, when the only person, besides us, at the main square was a taxi driver snoozing in his car.
We visited a couple of panaderias (bakeries), the supermarket and the butcher, where Tito selected 7 kilos of meat for the asado planned for Saturday night. That’s 15 pounds of meat! The trunk of the car was filled with food when we finished shopping! Of course, the Saturday evening asado and all our meals were fabulous. Camila and Tito are excellent cooks. Particularly popular was the Ricotta Cake that Camila prepared from scratch.
“The farm,” as Tito and Camila refer to their estancia (cattle ranch) in English, is named La Esperanza. It’s 2,500 acres supports about 1,400 cows. Altogether, from what I can gather, Tito, his brother, 3 sisters plus two cousins own about 11,000 acres, cumulatively, within the same area. For us urbanites, it’s really hard to fathom such huge tracts of land.
The vistas over the flat land, dotted with thousands of grass fed cows, are astounding. The nearest large town, Azul, is a bit over 25 kilometers (15.5 miles), yet you can see the lights of many of its buildings.
We noticed last December that the flag at La Esperanza was ready to be replaced. Indeed, when we arrived this time it was gone.
The weather was and ideal, summer-like, but it is the start of fall and perfect timing to harvest some figs and walnuts.
Above, Diane whizzes by as she took a turn driving the cuatro ciclo (i.e. ATV).
We had a chance to visit a nearby pulperia, called Campodonico, which is an ancient bar and general store that has served the gauchos and locals since 1850. These old pulperias are quickly disappearing on the pampas. (location: -36.341944,-59.789722) (See more images, taken by someone else HERE).
Tito’s cousin, Inca, her husband, Paul, and their two younger sons joined us for the asado. I preapred Tito’s Hammock cocktails that disappeared very quickly. Unfortunately, I had developed a sore throat and had to abstain. Mas o menos. We attacked the meat with appetite and energy, but only made a dent into the 7 kilos. We went at it again on Sunday lunch, but still could not finish everything.
On Sunday afternoon we drove to the estancia owned by Inca and her brother Juan. It’s called La Aurora (The Sunrise). It’s fairly close to La Esperanza, but even larger in acreage. Although Inca and Paul were not there, Tito provided a thorough tour and some history. The house is a rambling colonial Spanish style building that consists of two connected houses that share a huge dining room. Altogether there are over a dozen bedrooms. Great place for a party! ;)
We returned late on Sunday afternoon to finally introduce Diane and Troy to the city. Since we still had the rental car on Monday (a holiday here) we took the opportunity and drove down to La Boca and San Telmo with them. Julia (youngest daughter, who lives in BA) joined us and served as an impromptu tour guide.
Luckily we found parking in San Telmo. Because it was a holiday, the market that operates on Sundays was again in full swing, including a demonstration of tango in the square.
In the evening Pablo, Julia’s boyfriend, joined us at Casa Palermo and shortly later we walked to meet Adriana and Carlos for dinner at the restaurant Minga.
Tuesday morning I returned the dust encrusted rental car to the Localiza office. The young woman there carefully inspected the car, making officious notes on her clipboard. I was worried that there was damage from the rocks on the country roads. She returned to the office and announced “Perfecto!” with a beaming smile. Whew.
In the afternoon we walked around Palermo Soho, exploring the various shops. Carolyn and I haven’t done this in the last several years and we astonished how many new shops there are and how many have vanished. Needless to say, it was a lot of walking around. We enjoyed a good lunch at Bartola (corner of Gurruchaga and Costa Rica). In the evening, we met Camila at Plaza Guemes and strolled back to Casa Palermo where she showed us how to start the gas heater. (Unfortunately, the auto pilot has quit working.)
We had a late start on Wednesday and didn’t arrive at Maria’s hotel (Magnolia Hotel) until after noon, in spite of the fact that it is only a block away. At long last Maria and Diane and Troy could meet. We had a chance to catch up with Maria and she gave Diane and Troy a short tour of the hotel. Afterwards we had lunch at El Renaciente, a local dive that serves up inexpensive but tasty fare. After a meat-packed lunch we headed to Recoleta Cemetery for the obligatory tour and a stop at Evita’s final resting place.
After an helado, we peeked into the famous Alvear Hotel. From there we walked about a mile to Plaza San Martin, which truly is an elegant park and then about 1/5 miles down Florida Street, which was very crowded with people, hawkers and people yelling “cambio” (change), hoping to exchange pesos for dollars. Last stop: Casa Rosada (the presidential office building).
Later we enjoyed a very nice dinner at our favorite restaurant, A Nos Amours, and called it night, exhausted from all the walking.
This morning, Thursday, was cloudy and there was a light, intermittent drizzle, but it was over by noon. Diane and Troy headed out to visit the Museo Evita, but Carolyn and I decided to chillax Casa Palermo. This evening we have plans to go for pizza and then to Milion, a popular club that is housed in a mansion in Recoleta, which is the upscale neighborhood in Buenos Aires.
Unfortunately, Diane and Troy’s week in Argentina is quickly coming to a close. Somehow we have to squeeze in all the rest tomorrow, before they leave for the airport at six.