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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

La Candelaria

With the gloomy winter upon us here in Buenos Aires, we decided to take a weekend trip with some friends to an estancia outside of the city.  An estancia is essentially a ranch that has opened itself up to visitors, like a South American Bed & Breakfast, and there are many different styles to choose from.  The only other experience I have with estancias was in March of 2010 when I went to La Oriental with my mom and we had a blast, so when this opportunity came about I was more than excited.  The requirements for the estancia were; 1) Child friendly, 2) Within 2 hours of the city and 3) Nothing too rustic.  La Candelaria fit the bill. 

La Candelaria is located just outside of Lobos, a small town approximately 115 km outside the city of Buenos Aires.  As with most places we've visited outside of town, it doesn't have an address per se, just a kilometer marker where you turn right onto an unnamed road.  The GPS will help you on your way to this place, but you don't want to rely on it exclusively.  We made it there in just under 2 hours, though without traffic it is closer to an hour and 15 minutes.

Our "family" portrait
The claim to fame at La Candelaria is the castle pictured above which is a working part of the estancia where you are able to stay as long as you travel without children.  If you bring your kids, there are rooms available that are simple, but nice, with a "living" room complete with a working fireplace that is separated from the bedroom by a door (perfect for a sleeping/napping baby).  If you are interested in going inside the castle, they offer daily tours in English and Spanish, and though the tour was short, it was really great to see the antiques and incredible decorative detail.

Our rooms were all located in this separate building
They offer 4 meals a day, so there is almost always food to be had.  We arrived just in time to check in, get our rooms organized and head to the Salon Criollo for merienda (otherwise known as the meal of dessert offered between lunch and dinner).  Here are Gretchen and I enjoying our merienda. 

It was such a nice reprieve to get out of town, the air was crisp and clean and there was nothing but fields and open space to explore.  There were a ton of things to do and see on the ranch, we spent our free time sightseeing and walking the grounds. 
Gretchen and Daddy enjoying the day
The Newhook family with adorable baby Talia
We made a new friend during one of our walks, this extremely tall pup followed us for hours during the day.  Somehow, Jon seems to attract dogs wherever he goes, I'm hoping one day this will persuade him to not be angry when I come home with one.

On Saturday there was a whole dia del campo that is offered as a part of your weekend stay at the estancia or as a single day trip.  This event consisted of a full asado meal, mid-meal entertainment and a gaucho show later in the afternoon.  We enjoyed the full range of events - and it really drew a crowd of people that were just participating in the day trip. 
Here is the beef cooking at the beginning of the day.  I love the indirect heat method they use here, this photo was taken at 10:00am and the lunch wasn't served until 1:00pm.
At lunch, each table was served a little grill filled with meat.  Some of the pieces are things we eat, and some are interesting strange-parts such as intestine and sweetbreads.  The grill is a great little item, it keeps everything hot throughout the meal.
The mid-meal entertainment was a bit like Argentine River Dance.  It was a bit cheesy, but the kids were captivated throughout the show.  It was a little funny to recognize the performers as the same folks that worked on the estancia during the day. 

One of the more hilarious points in the weekend occurred during the gaucho show after lunch.  The Argentine cowboys were really incredible horsemen, doing all sorts of cool and impressive tricks.  At the end of the show they laid out two cow hides and asked for volunteers to participate in the show.  Our friend Paul promptly volunteered and was then dragged behind one of the horsed by a rope in this sort of bobsled race.  I can't imagine this happens at any resort in the US.
Paul is in the red, I think he won the race
Gretchen loved the horse show
Paul and Trey enjoying the bikes
La Candelaria offered all sorts of activities that were included in the cost of your stay.  Some of the activities included; bicycles available for use, pool and ping pong tables, a swimming pool for the summer months, a mini playground for kids, and daily horseback riding.  You can also go fishing, golfing, take a polo lesson or learn to fly a plane - but these activities cost extra.

After 2 days of watching these horses sit waiting for riders, I decided to try my hand at riding for the first time since I was 13.  My mom goes riding all the time, how hard can it be??

The answer: pretty freaking hard.  Here I am all smiles before the ride begins.  In my defense, take note of the big pad and blankets that are tied onto the horses back - there was not really a full saddle to speak of.  Also, the stirrups are just wooden rings AND I'm wearing leggins and tennis shoes (and no helmet - there wasn't even a helmet on the property).  There, those are all of my excuses. 

The guide I went out with was not content with the leisurely walking tour that I was expecting and he somehow thought that I was going to have control of my horse.  My little buddy walked right int the white plastic chair in the photo above and then continued on to, not one, but TWO clothes lines before walking into a tree.  After the tree incident, the guide tied the rope from my horses bridle to his stirrup and then cantered for 20 minutes.  For those not familiar with cantering, it is the speed between trot and gallop that makes you squeeze with your legs harder than you thought possible and hold on to your pad-saddle so tight that your arm is sore for 3 days afterward.  It's also the fastest I've ever gone on a horse - back in the day when I had been taking lessons for months and had all the right gear.  Cantering is also the speed at which I forget how to say "slower please" en espaƱol so I just hang on tight, watch my life pass before my eyes and wait until we come to a stop to catch my breath and wipe the tears from my eyes. 

The weekend was great, we had an absolute blast.  I would recommend an estancia to anyone who needs a break from the city, and La Candelaria was a great place to spend the weekend.  We had lots of fun with our friends, came away from the weekend with lots of funny stories and cannot wait until we can spend another weekend in the campo. 

1 comment:

  1. Looks like fun!!! I can now understand how all of our blog followers were living vicariously through our adventures...I am doing the same through yours.