Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Estancia (1st weekend of October)

Family, holidays, and preparing for the baby have occupied most of my time for a bit, but everything's on track now, so onward with the Argentina stories!

The asado lunch described in the October 9th post was at an estancia just outside of Buenos Aires. Estancias are traditionally cattle ranches with large houses that have been passed on from generation to generation in the same family. These days, though, they serve as bed and breakfasts for tourists who want to see the rural side of Argentina. Often, they're still working ranches, but much of their business becomes maintaining guest rooms, serving meals, and offering some sort of "authentic" entertainment (like horse-back riding).

Chad and I went to a family-owned estancia. The hour-long bus ride to the nearest town (Lujan) and the cab ride out to the property were less than thrilling, but they were worth it when we stepped out onto the grounds.
The main house was original construction from the 1800s, with stucco walls and vaulted ceilings inside. There they had the kitchen, the dining room, a bedroom for guests, and a room with a long conference table for guests who needed a meeting space. If you peaked into the green doors at the corner there, you could almost always find the owners, the cook, the cook's toddler daughter, and the four dogs relaxing.

Right across from the main building was a guest building that was added later, but it was still from the late 1800s - early 1900s. It had the same stucco walls, even higher vaulted ceilings, and it was decorated with all sorts of family heirloom nicknacks everywhere.

Antique mate mugs, crucifixes, lace needlepoint, silver bowls, dried flowers, and black and white photos were in every corner, so you almost felt like you were sleeping in some family member's bedroom. They kept a fire going in the fireplace the whole time we were there. Even though it was late spring in Argentina, the big stucco rooms were actually a little cold, so the fireplace was a great place for reading and warming our feet.
But the coolest room in the whole place? The library! The main library room was lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that held antique Spanish classics, and there was a beautiful wooden rolling ladder - that they don't allow guests to play on... The entire library wing held over 40,000 books, most of them extremely valuable editions. The owner said the books were worth more than the rest of the estancia put together.

After the tour of the property, they served us asado (we were the only guests staying that weekend, so we had our own private lunch, as you saw in the October 9th post), and then we wandered the grounds a bit. The craziest thing - you know the calla lilies that we pay like $8-12 a piece for? They grow wild in Argentina! The estancia's sheep grazed on grass and calla lilies. Well, I think they were sheep. They kind of moved like a cross between a sheep and a dog...

Then we rode horses - yes, imagine a 6 month pregnant girl on a horse. Well, you'll have to imagine because we don't have any pictures, but Chad and I did indeed ride horses. It took a little convincing for them to hand the reigns over to me, but we described our experience with horses, that we had both ridden from young ages and such, and they let us out onto the ranch property by ourselves. We rode (mostly walking) through the cattle, and the dogs tagged along with us. The only bad part was that Argentine pastures have shallow ponds of standing water in them, which means they're giant breeding grounds for mosquitos. So, you had us, arms exposed, around dusk, walking our horses through mosquito land. There were definitely times we had to trot just to try to outrun the mosquitos, but in the end, we probably had 4-5 dozen bites each. It's a good thing we didn't get malaria or something. But it was fun. =)

Sadly, it turns out that Chad was massively allergic to something in those fields. By the time we were back in our room, he was pretty much dying, except not from the deliciousness of homemade dulce de leche this time, from blocked sinuses and a thumping headache. I gave him sudafed and allegra, but it was too late, and he was down and out for the rest of the evening. So, I ate dinner in the main house with the kindle. The owners and cook pretty much left me to myself because they didn't speak much English, and I didn't speak much Spanish. Then, the kindle and I spent a few hours by the fire and went to bed.

We left mid-morning the next day, so we had a little time to eat breakfast (tea, coffee, little toasts, and homemade jelly) and walk through the woods behind the house before heading back into town.

No comments:

Post a Comment