Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

San Antonio de Areco

After our first evening in San Antonio de Areco, we had already seen that this really is a proper gaucho town.  It is the town where in 1926 writer Ricardo Guiraldes wrote his famous book called Don Segundo Sombra, about a gaucho of the same name, their culture and way of life.  The author was also credited with helping to introduce the argentine tango to Europe.

We saw many of the men wearing the traditional gaucho trousers, neckerchieves and hats.  And people do wear the same type of belts as they sell in the artisan shops - although these days most of them seem to have a mobile attached to it.

After spending some time playing fetch with the hostel dog, we wandered out into town to buy out next bus tickets and have a look around.  In a lot of the places that we have been recently, the architecture has been quite old. Here, some of it was similar, but there were also a number of properties that had the spanish villa style, and looked as if they could have been out of the set of a Zorro film.

It did amuse us though to see one old building, that looked abandoned, with a little vehicle outside that appeared to have been driven, presumably accidentally, into a ditch, so was half into the ground.  It still had a load of wood on top, as if noone could be bothered to move them by hand.

Near to the bus station, we spotted a bust of an old gaucho called Victorino Nogueira, with a frieze of gauchos herding cattle.  Victorino was a friend of Don Segundo Sombra.  I don't know why he has the statue rather than the key character, but I guess they had their reason.

We followed a sign to an old bridge that seemed to be considered important in the town.  It was called the Gabino Tapia Bridge and was built by the wealthy Tapia family back in 1700.  It wasn't a very exciting looking bridge, and these days it didn't seem to serve a great deal of purpose, but I guess it was a big deal back then.

The park at the edge of the old town is large and has plently of areas where people can presumably come to have their own asados. This a big white amphitheatre, a nice vertical sun dial and a huge old tree.  It looked a nice place to pass the time in the summer, though for many people here it was probably already getting a bit cold for all this outdoors stuff.

The main square was quite pleasant, and we looked around a variety of shops and studios for traditional leather and silver work.  You could certainly buy everything you needed to kit yourself out like a proper gaucho, including some rather mean looking knives.  I decided to buy a ring instead.

We stopped for lunch in the place that had been recommended to us as good for meats.  We weren't disappointed.  It was a bit quiet, but nice enough inside, and the menu included things like wild boar and rabbit, which is relatively unusual in a country where beef is very definitely the mainstay.  The rabbit empanadas were good and so was everything else.  Definitely a place to go if you want a meat fix.

On the way out, we chatted briefly to an older couple who were also leaving. They initially thought we were German, which happens quite a lot around this area. They had been to the UK a few times and like it by much, so we pleased to talk for a while.

We mentioned that we had seen in the local newspaper that the town had just had a visit from Christina Kirchner and asked if that had caused some excitement. However they, like some others that we met, we're decidedly unimpressed by Christina; apparently she does nothing to support the agricultural workers in Argentina, which obviously does not go down well in a town that is defined by its estancias.

After booking a table back at last night's place for around 10:30pm, and an afternoon of leisurely exploring the town, often followed by one or more dogs - at one point we had three of them escorting us around - we made our way to the local cerveceria to try out the local beers. It was a nice little place, that in fact had beers from all around the world as well as its 'Old Town' local brew.

We tried the various different types of old town and they were pretty good. So we stopped for a bite to eat and some more beers before we eventually got to talking to another customer who we figured was also from the UK.  It turned out that Mark was staying at our hostel and was had been working in BsAs for a number of months, and was just getting around to doing the tourist bit before going back to the UK. We swapped some BsAs stories and told him that where we were heading in case he wanted to join us, which he later did.

When we arrived at Tokio Viejo, we were shown to our table with great flourish. We got the impression that they were genuinely pleased to have us back there which was nice. We were somewhat amused though by the reservation label on our table. Instead of the Nic's name, which we had given them and they had written down, it said 'extrañeros' which simply means foreigners.
The music tonight was folk music, so the dancing was also the more traditional style such as the Chacarera that we had seen before, the Cueca and the Zamba, which is the rather more flirtatious love story dance chacarera. These are more like barn dancing or reels, and often involve a lot of finger clicking, intricate foot stomping by the men, and waving of hankies - white for the men, blue for the ladies.

It is interesting to see how varied the couples' dance style is despite doing basically the same moves, especially between different generations.  It was great to watch, and thankfully tonight no one tried to get us to join in, which given how complex some of the moves are, was just as well.

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