Friday, July 18, 2014

Libertad o Muerte, But Let's Eat First!!!!!

Hey all,

How have you all been since I talked at you last?  It's been busy, crazy and fulfilling here in Buenos Aires.  This is one of my favorite cities so far.

Today's blog is about one of the places we just visited.  Not Buenos Aires but a fun daytrip just a ferry ride away.  


It was a great time and while we would have loved to see more of the country by going on a road trip we only had a weekend, so we had to stay close.  We chose two cities to visit with a road trip in between.

We started in Colonia del Sacramento, a small colonial town about an hour's ferry ride away from Buenos Aires.  We took the early morning ferry, which was so easy-peasy.  Even going through immigration was a piece of cake.  The Argentine official stamped our passport to leave the country then handed it to the person sitting next to him.  Who just happened to be the Uruguayan official.  She stamped the passport to go into Uruguay and we were done!  EASIEST IMMIGRATION EVER!!!!

Once we got to Colonia, we got off the boat, picked up our rental car and drove around the city.  The part we were interested in--the older part--was so small we saw it by car in about five minutes.  LOL  But wanting a closer look, we parked and wandered.  It was a lovely little town with a lighthouse, several museums, pubs and restaurants.  The old buildings were my favorites.  I could have spent hours taking pictures of all the beautiful sights.  Here are a few to enjoy.

The Old City Gate--Refurbished, but still absolutely beautiful. 

One of the streets in Colonia.  The cobblestones are ridiculously hard to walk on.  

The lighthouse and the ruins from the old Franciscan convent.

The view from the top of the old lighthouse.  And yes, the river is that pale brown.

One of the old houses in Colonia.  They do love their colors and trailing plants.

 The cathedral and another one of the streets in town.  More cobblestones.

This tiny street is called Calle de los Suspiros (the Street of Sighs)  No one knows why it's called that.

Once we were done in Colonia, we jumped in the car and headed out to Montevideo.  We drove through the pampas--their countryside-waving at vacas (cows) and actually saw a few gauchos (cowboys) as well.

Montevideo is the biggest city in Uruguay and was supposed to have a beautiful old city flavor to it and we were really looking forward to it.  We got into town about an hour before sunset, so we were able to wander around a bit, then take the drive along the coastal route following the VERY long boardwalk called Las Rambles.  It circled the city from the port all around the peninsula.  I was impressed  It was beautiful.

The next day we got up early and headed out after breakfast to visit the Old City area.  Unfortunately, it was pouring down rain, but we learned a long time ago not to worry about such trivial things.  Enjoy the day, rain or not.

So we did.  Some of the city was quite impressive, but there were places that were pretty run down and scary looking.  It wasn't the prettiest or most interesting city we've visited, but it did have it's moments.  Check my favorite places below.

 The Las Ramblas Boardwalk

Sunset over the Rio de la Plata and Montevideo

City Gate Into Old City Montevideo

 Montevideo Metropolitan Cathedral from Constitution Square

 Inside the Cathedral

 José Gervasio (The Father of Uruguay) Artigas Tomb and Monument

Statue of the General over the monument.

 The Original Bank of Uruguay

The Teatro Solis - A beautiful original theater.
While it wasn't my favorite weekend trip we've done on our tour, it was definitely an interesting place to visit.  And since I love old architecture and colonial buildings, I was very happy in our choice.

Anyway, on my next blog I'll have a topic, near and dear to my heart.  So until next time...Have an awesome week!


CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Friday, July 11, 2014

Mamas, Please Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Gauchos!!!

Hey all,

It was a crazy time last week.  Jon picked up the flu and we both got it, so we were down for several days.  Really down.  I didn't even pick up my computer for several days so you know I was sick.  LOL

But luckily we didn't get sick until AFTER our special day out, one we'd been looking forward to since we first got to Argentina.  We visited one of Argentina's famous, Gaucho Parks.  

Now for those of you who don't know what a Gaucho is, here is the description from Wikipedia...

Gaucho is an equivalent of the North American "cowboy" (vaquero, in Spanish). Like the North American word cowboy, the Chilean huaso, the Cuban guajiro, the Venezuelan or Colombian llanero, the Puerto Rican jibaro, and the Mexican charro, the term often connotes the 19th century more than the present day; then gauchos made up the majority of the rural population, herding cattle on the vast estancias, and practicing hunting as their main economic activities. 

To read more at Wikipedia, go HERE.

Now most of the Estancias or "Stays" are VERY touristy...over the top so, but since Jonathon and I went in off season, we didn't have to worry about the hundreds of other tourists that would usually be at the ranch.  We only shared our day with about fifteen others, so we got a lot of special treatment.  

And yes, while it was touristy, it was fun.  Especially since we knew ahead of time that it was going to be so.  We wanted the experience and we weren't expecting an actual working ranch.  Which was good, because the ranch we went to, Estancia Santa Susana focused on horsemanship.  There wasn't a cow in sight on the huge 1200 hectare farm!!!!

But that was okay, because it was truly an awesome experience.  We got there early and were treated to some delicious freshly made empanadas that were the best I've had in Argentina.  There was beer, wine and juice available and we munched and sipped as we wandered around the compound.

Unfortunately, it was a very gloomy day -- the coldest we've had down here so far.  There was a low fog and while I'd have preferred a beautiful sunny day, the views of the ranch through the mist were beautiful.

There was a small museum, a historic house and chapel set up as it would have been in the olden days, and it was quite well done.  It showed how a wealthy ranch owners family would have lived.

The rest of the guests arrived while Jonathon and I were having fun on a quick trail ride.  The horses were healthy and beautiful, but VERY sour.  Which means they were used to greenhorns who didn't know how to ride.  Since I grew up on the back of a horse, it was a battle at first until the horse (and our guide) understood I knew what I was doing and I was the one in charge.  LOL  After that, I had a wonderful ride.

We also took a quick wagon ride with our host, Alejandro (I think), who greeted me with a kiss.  Considering the fact he has to be in his 60's or 70's, he was a hell of a rider.  He wore, as was traditional, his money on his belt to show his status.  We couldn't communicate much, but I did enjoy what I was able to get out of him.

After the fun riding, we went inside to warm up.  Since it also happened to be the day where Argentina was playing in the World Cup, we all gathered around the small TV watching, until they called our meal.

And what a meal it was.  Four types of salads, sausage, blood sausage, chicken, three types of beef and all the wine or beer you could drink.  Delicious, and a great place to try a lot of different types of Argentine food.  The desert, a delicious egg creme flan made with one of their traditional sweets, dulce leche, was a perfect way to end the meal.

While we ate, we were entertained.  A very talented couple did a tango for us, then after a singer sang some traditional songs, they returned with Argentine folk dancing.  Also done was a dance I was very much looking forward to.  The "Bolleadores"--a set of braided leather cords with wooden (or hard hide) used by the gauchos to catch livestock somewhat like an American cowboy would use a lasso. 

But the dance is something much more.  The Gaucho dancer wields the bolleadores in a circle, allowing the wooden balls to strike the floor in a manner to create a hard and fast rhythm.  He also used his boots, bottoms, heels and sides to create a rhythmic beat as well.  It was AMAZING.  I could have watched that one dancer all day.  I kept thinking that Cirque should use that act in one of it's shows.  Seriously, it was that good.  I got a little bit of a movie.  Hopefully, it will come out.

If for some reason the movie didn't embed here as it was supposed to, go HERE to see it!

Yet the best part of the day was when we went outside (after Argentina won their game) and watched the horsemanship displays.  For me, it was like going back in time to my rodeo days where I was doing my gymkhana stunts and trick riding.

They did two types of horsemanship.  One is called the Entrevero de Tropillas where a group of 8 or 9 male horses follow a mare (termed "godmother") that has a bell around her neck. The mare is led by a gaucho. The objective is for no male horse to leave the group. Several groups of horses come together and mix, but every horse has to stay within its group.

It was pretty cool how the different groups would mix together then split apart, seamlessly following the same mare as they had before mixing together.  I didn't understand at first what was going on, but after they'd mixed things up several times, I realized just how well trained the horses were.

All except this one that just stood there in disgust as the rest did what they'd been trained to do.  Even the cowdog snapping at his heels didn't move him.  It was obvious he had no intention of giving us a show.  LOL  But he did, just by his disobedience.  We watched his utter disregard of the rules as much as we watched the rest of the impressive performance.

We ended the performance with what is called the Carrera de Sortijas.  The carrera de sortijas (ring race) comes from the time the Spanish came to South America.   There is a “goal” and from its crossbeam hang some rings. The objective of the game is for player to come galloping and remove the rings from the goal with a pointer. Players come galloping one by one or two or three at a time.  

I have to say this was something really astonishing to watch.  The rings are tiny--about the size of a man's wedding ring.  And to see a gaucho snatch it out of the air using a thin piece of metal no bigger then a pencil, well, you have an idea of the skill needed to do this game.

And each time they do catch a ring, traditionally they give their prize to a lovely lady in the audience.  And yes!  I was given one by the owner, Alejandro, himself!  WooHoo!!!

Anyway, it was a great day and a wonderful way to learn a bit about Argentina and it's gaucho culture.  While I'm more of a mountain and forest type of girl, there was something about the wide open pampas that made my spirit yearn. 

Who knows?  I'm already a cowgirl.  Maybe I've got a bit of gaucho in my soul as well!!!!

Until next time...Have an awesome week!

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams