Archive for March, 2007

La Provincia de Buenos Aires

On Sunday Jorge picked me up at 08:30 and we headed south through the very quiet city towards Mar del Plata. We turned off early to explore some of the smaller coastal resorts: Pinamar, Cariló, Villa Gessel and Mar de las Pampas. Although only a couple of weeks out of high season, they were all very quiet! All quite different. The ideal would be Pinamar’s beach (with no high-rises), Cariló’s sweet streets and houses, Villa Gessel’s restaurants and shops and Mar de las Pampas’ quietness and exclusivity. I had a quick dip in the Atlantic in Pinamar, and we had a late lunch in Villa Gessel.

We carried on to Mar del Plata and found a cheap but comfortable hotel for the night. After an hour’s siesta we headed to the fishing port and found a lovely fish restaurant to try merluza negra (black hake) and rabas (squid rings), washed down with a bottle of Bianchi Chablis. Excellent.

On Monday morning we toured Mar del Plata on foot and by car. Imagine a blend of Blackpool, Eastbourne, Nice, and Scheveningen or Zandvoort. In season the beaches are completely packed as Buenos Aires decants itself to the seaside. We lunched in a tiny grubby restaurant with great locro and empanadas, before heading inland to Balcarce (with a lovely plaza and avenues). The main attraction here is the Museo Fangio, covering the life of local hero and five-times Formula 1 champion Juan Manuel Fangio, who was driving in the 1950’s at the same time as Stirling Moss.

After a coffee we carried on to Jorge’s family home in Punta Alta where his mum cooked us steaks for dinner. Distances are never small here: Buenos Aires to Mar del Plata is 400km in a straight line, Mar del Plata to Punta Alta about the same.

After shopping and errands in Punta Alta on Tuesday morning, we drove to Sierra de la Ventana via the local beach resort of Peuheun Co. Sierra de la Ventana is one of only two mountain ranges in the otherwise pampas-flat province of Buenos Aires – which is larger than the country of Urugauy – and rises to some 1250m. It takes its name from the Cerro de la Ventana, a mountain with a window-shaped opening some 20 by 10 metres at its summit. We found a 5-bed cabin to rent for only 60 pesos a night, and for an extra 20 we got the use of it until 3pm the next day. Jorge demonstrated his excellent asado (barbecue) skills using the cabin’s parilla and meat purchased from a great butcher in Punta Alta.

We woke reasonably early on Wednesday to start our hike at 9am: from the base of Cerro de la Ventana to the summit. Quite a tough path, with plenty of steep, rocky, poorly defined sections which were more of a scramble than a walk, but we reached the summit in two and a half hours, and it was well worth the effort. Quite pleased because we stayed ahead of a couple of lads in their early twenties who were about ten minutes behind us all the way up.
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The descent was less taxing physically but quite tiring mentally, concentrating on foot-falls in the steep sections. I had a quick swim in the river in the village, then we showered before heading off to Bahía Blanca, where I said adios to Jorge and boarded my 18:45 bus to take me overnight to Mendoza.
A fantastic and varied whistle-stop tour of the Atlantic Coast of Buenos Aires province. Thanks very much, Jorge!!

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Barrio Chino

I walked most of the length of Avenida del Libertador from Malba to Belgrano, where I had dinner in the Barrio Chino, or Chinatown. Only a few blocks but full of good supermarkets and restaurants. I had tofu ma po in Todos Contentos, a chance to get some chilli into my system!

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Dracula – el musical

A trip to the Teatro Opera with Jorge to see Dracula el musical by Cibrian – Mahler, the Lloyd – Weber team of Argentina. Very enjoyable even though understanding all of a musical in Spanish was quite difficult. Excellent staging and performances, in a lovely art-deco theatre.

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Palacio de las Aguas Corrientes

One would be forgiven for thinking that this building was a seat of government or high office, but it was built towards the end of the nineteenth century to house giant water tanks to provide fresh water to the city. It’s at the highest point in the central city area. The outside is decorated with thousands of tiles made to order and individually numbered by Royal Doulton.

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Inside there are public offices on the ground floor, and then three floors of now-empty tanks. There’s a small museum, and the director gave me a quick tour – in Spanish – of the tank area, together with an ink-jet printed brochure (in English) about the history of the building.

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Well worth the visit.

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Tranvía Historico

A Sunday afternoon out in Caballito, one of the more traditional of Buenos Aires’ barrios or neighbourhoods. On Sundays the ‘friends of the tramway‘ operate one of their fleet of historical trams around a 2km circuit through the cobbled streets of Caballito. It was an interesting trip, especially as the backstreets throughout the city – and one or two sections of major routes – still contain disjointed fragments of tram tracks. Free, too, although the rather sweet guide did a good job of selling souvenirs to help the funds.

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This 1950’s model was one of the last to be produced, although some lines continued to run until the 1970’s. Apparently many of the somewhat tangled bus lines follow the same routes and retain the same numbers as the trams.

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My photos, Graham’s blog

A selection of pics from Graham’s visit are now at:
http://www.michaelgray.org.uk/gallery/v/WithGinAR/

Graham is doing a great job of blogging our trip. I’ve been adding the occasional comment. So far:

Thanks Graham!

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Graham’s photos

I’ll try to catch up with the blogging later in the week. Graham and I had a lovely time together. He’s managed to upload a great selection of his photos already, on his flikr pages.

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