Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tigre & an Estancia: Buenos Aires Day Trips

Our vacation to Buenos Aires was easy to plan because we basically stayed put. We booked accommodations in only one city, and we had no planes or trains to catch mid-week. It was relaxing.

I did, however, plan three day trips that took us out of the city limits. Uruguay was one. The other two: Tigre and San Antonio de Areco.

Saying we had no trains to catch was just a tiny white lie. In fact, we had to catch a commuter train to get to Tigre, a delta town about an hour outside the city. But round trip tickets were only a couple of pesos apiece, and there were several trains an hour going back and forth. Extremely low-stress.

Tigre is known as a good day trip from Buenos Aires because of its delta and scenic waterways. We took a one hour tour on a boat crammed with about 60 tourists. Although the commentary was in Spanish, the tour was worth it. The delta was a maze with branches in every direction, beach houses lining the shore. Each house had its own deck and stairs leading into the water -- some nicely maintained with benches and hammocks, others in various states of disrepair. Quite a few people were on the decks, watching, chatting, fishing, eating. Each deck and house also had a name -- a point of pride, I imagine -- and many had boats.

After the tour we walked along the river and eventually made our way to a market called the Puerto de Frutos. Although this was only the third day of vacation, this was already our fourth market, so we explored only a fraction before we were hot, tired and marketed out.

We sat along the river before we made our way back to the train station and back to Buenos Aires. Total time, including the train trips: about 7 hours.

The next day we were off to La Cinacina, an estancia (or ranch) just outside of San Antonio de Areco. San Antonio de Areco is a rural city of about 20,000 residents a couple of hours outside Buenos Aires, in the Pampas. Paul called it the Defiance of Argentina.

Paul and I booked transportation to La Cinacina, and a tour bus carried us and a couple of other dozen people to the estancia. It was every bit as touristy as I expected, but it was fun and we both left with full stomachs. It was impossible not to. We were greeted with empanadas, and about an hour later had an appetizer of half a sausage in a roll. Then the bell for lunch was rung.

The guests -- maybe about a hundred of us -- sat along tables filled with salad, french fries and bottles of wine, water and pop. Then they served the meat. Every five minutes or so they placed another piece on our plates -- short ribs, sirloin, strip steak, chicken, roast beef and maybe another cut or two. Then dessert (ice cream), and a jelly-filled pastry and mate right before we left.

The day wasn't just about food (although truth be told, it mostly was). We had a little free time before the meal to look around and take a short horseback ride. During the meal we were treated to traditional songs and dances, and afterward a show of horsemanship. Total time, including bus rides: about 7 hours.

The bus ride, too, was interesting, if only for its familiarity. It was much like rural Ohio -- lots of fields. It was odd seeing corn nearly knee-high in November. The guide on the bus told us that Argentina is a top producers of soybeans but eats almost none. About 80 percent is exported, mostly to China and India. Because of the high prices soybeans yield, farmers have turned away from raising cattle, leading to a meat shortage. Now meat prices are rising and no beef is being exported.

Needless to say, we saw no shortage of beef in our one week in Argentina.

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