Thursday, March 11, 2010

Que tal che?...and the rest of 2010

So I started this post back in February upon my return from Argentina and Uruguay, my first sojourn to South America. I had the title. That was it. And apparently 2010 has FLOWN by and I've been remiss to share the numerous adventures I had. South America, the Pacific Northwest, the farthest tip of Long Island, mansion hopping in Newport, revisiting history and art in Philadelphia....all without a peep. As I told a good friend, my goal was to recount the highlights before the end of the here it goes. (Possibly in fragments).

Argentina & Uruguay
In February I had the amazing luck to meet my parents in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They were finishing a month long sail down the eastern cost of South America and it culminated with a week spent in BA. We had rented a flat in the Recoleta area of BA - upscale homes, boutiques, 5 star hotels and Michelin restaurants populate the charming neighborhood. It is also adjacent to El Cementerio de la Recoleta where Eva Peron's body is entombed. I'm getting ahead of myself though.....we arrived to amazingly humid weather. Regardless of the frizzy hairdo's we sported it was a brilliant reprieve from my first NYC winter! A friend had put us in touch with a wonderful guide, Cielo Subiza, who is a native Portena and had lived in La Jolla many years ago. She toured us all around the city and provided invaluable tips for things to do on our own.

On our first day, we hit the highlights with a tour around the Plaza de Mayo, La Casa Rosada (Argentine equivalent of the White House), and the famous Cafe Tortoni where many a highly recognized poet, author and artist would gather to share musings and entertain. We drove through the infamous La Boca area of BA and would have walked about but the unusual yet persistent rain deluge we experienced throughout the trip eliminated that option. Aptly named as it sits at the mouth (boca) of the Riachuelo, La Boca is predominantly constructed with materials from former boats and other maritime ships. It is quite colorful and inviting.

Our outing was finished off with a grand tour of the Cemeterio, an approximately 6 square block elite cemetery that houses some of the most influential and important Argentines in history, including Eva Peron. The tombs ranged in size, ornamentation and architectural style and the cultural melting pot that has become Buenos Aires over the years (particularly post WWII) was clearly evident in the last names and religious symbols on the tombs.

That evening we were driven to Puerto Madero, a newly revitalized waterfront area of BA. It reminded me of downtown San Diego with the plethora of newly constructed condominiums and adaptive reuse of old warehouses turned retail and restaurants all on the marina and waterfront. Our destination was the Faena Hotel and their "Rojo Tango" show. The design of the hotel is quite striking and unfortunately they don't allow photography so you'll have to visit the website to see for yourself. We enjoyed a pre-show cocktail in their chic bar and then were escorted to the Cabaret Room for dinner and the show. It was quite an experience! Some of the published shows in BA are quite large and "touristy" but this was very authentic and extremely entertaining.

We ventured outside of BA for a day trip to visit La Pampa - specifically San Antonio de Areco where we enjoyed the afternoon at the Estancia El Ombu de Areco. The Estancia offers beautiful accommodations, horse rides in the campo with the gauchos, amazing carne a la parilla & vino de la casa (literally made onsite). It was such a beautiful day (after all the rain) and we enjoyed a nice poolside relaxation time post lunch. My dad even showed off his baseball skills to the ranch hands playing "sapo", a game of toss where you try to toss the gold coins into the mouth of the sapo (frog).

One cannot discuss a trip to Argentina without consideration for the cuisine! Cielo will forever be in my debt for instructing us to eat Empanadas at El Sanjuanino. RICO RICO! We went back twice....quite possibly the best thing I ate the whole trip and there was competition for that accolade. Obviously the food at the Estancia was fabulous as well as the steak dinner we had in Recoleta as well. But let's NOT forget the amazing Argentine specialty, the Alfajor. I've taken my stab at making them in the past but they are so much better when prepared by the experts! In addition to the alfajor, we also indulged in several amazing deserts topped with dulce de leche, the "glue" of the alfajor. Let's just say no morsel was left unaccounted for.

Uruguay is only an hour boat ride across the Rio Plata. As we were so close, we decided to capitalize on that fact and visit Colonia del Sacrament, a UNESCO heritage city in Uruguay. The term river was not appropriate for the body of water we crossed that was 10 foot waves and tossing all around the "speed boat" we were in. They handed out barf bags about 10 minutes in....they were greatly appreciated. Let's leave it at that. The rest of the trip was quite charming - definitely worth the trip for a half day visit. The city is still enclosed by a stone wall and has some great old architecture, colorfully painted buildings and artisan shops worth visiting.

As this is written in retrospect, I know I'm missing a lot of details....from the fantastic variety of wines (we sadly didn't have time for a trip to Mendoza for wine tasting...a future trip) to the amazing boutiques (we got some singular pieces of jewelry and clothing), the Sunday antiques market, and obviously just the experience of being in such a dynamic city was fabulous. Upon arrival I felt like I had been transported back to my days living in Madrid, Spain with the similar architecture and "essence" of the people. It certainly felt more European and cosmopolitan than I had anticipated.

Spring 2010
The spring held a variety of adventures. A quick trip up to the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY - think the scene of Dirty Dancing but with snow....adventures in snowshoeing, cross country skiing and just relaxing lake side (in our snow suits). Scavenger Hunts in Manhattan...snow storms in the city followed by snow balls in Central Park...and the first flowers of Spring peaking out through the brown leaves and muddy bushes!

A friend of mine suggested we visit the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia so we made a weekend of it. I took the train down (she drove up from D.C.) and we headed directly to the Barnes Foundation for our early morning appointment. For anyone who even has a small appreciation for art, this is a MUST see. For anyone who really loves art and can appreciate being part of a collector's unique vision and composition, you MUST visit the Barnes Foundation - and hopefully prior to it's sad move from the property. My words can't do justice to the unique vision Dr. Barnes had in creating the composition of pieces he did along with the fixtures and furniture that were part and parcel to his grand picture of the room. He even had a nude Van Gogh something I wasn't even aware existed (I'm a big fan of Van Gogh). Again, words won't do it justice so just go visit.

Post Barnes, we enjoyed a stroll through the boutiques of the Old City followed by dinner at Tinto in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood. We did a nice walk through the historical part of town the following morning including stops at the local farmer's market and front row seats for the Gay Pride Parade. Having not been to Phillie since my college tour fifteen years ago, it was nice to get a new introduction to such an accessible and charming city. I'll be back.

Enough for one post....I'll be back to continue my 2010 Look Back.