Hola and welcome to my blog!
This is my first go at blogging, despite many months of good intentions. I had my hesitations, worrying that blogging was narcissistic, or that there was already an influx of foreigners blogging about the expat's view of Buenos Aires. But also, as those who live here can attest to, I don't know where the time goes in Buenos Aires - it always feels like there is something to do, places to go, people to meet and malbec to drink. But I'm here now and that's what matters, so without further ado, my first trip to the Atlantic coast in Argentina.
It may seem strange that my first post about living in Buenos Aires is not in fact about Buenos Aires, but a weekend away a coastal city called Necochea. If you're one of the few (and I use that word lightly) people left sweating it out in Buenos Aires in January and February, you get used to hearing about the coast and cities like Pinamar, because that is where a large portion of the city goes to escape the heat. I, being one of those people stuck in BA during the summer months, spent many a non-air conditioned day dreaming about the coast and feeling the wind on my face. So when an invitation to a friends' house in Neochea for Semana Santa, or the Easter long weekend came along, I jumped at the chance to finally go.
About a five-hour drive from Buenos Aires (we took the seven-hour night micro there...a story for another day because I hear that the the buses with beds or "coche camas" are normally comfortable, not freezing cold with broken seats, Van Halen blasting out the drivers' speakers, and bathrooms with lights that don't work), Necochea is a sharp contrast to the non-stop hum of BA. Wild and windy, and seemingly locked in somewhat of an eighties time warp, the city is a breath or more aptly a gust of fresh air for porteños (local term for people living in BA). It certainly does not have the glitz or the glam of other coastal hot spots, but it is rustic and beautiful, and in summer, when it is not quite so cold, I can imagine it as the perfect getaway.
After watching the sun rise (stunning) over the ocean upon our early arrival on Friday, we headed out with the group staying at the house to neighbouring Costa Bonita. The winding drive is beautiful with lots of sun and sand and great little tidbits to see like this very cool shipwreck. The beaches have a very deserted vibe that I loved and we went for a hike among some incredible sand dunes that felt almost otherworldly.
We went to a great little spot for a seaside coffee with cake and eventually made our way back to Necochea, where I was happy to explore all the little stores and cafes, many of which seem completely content to remain in the style of many years gone by. There was this amazing optical place with a stash of vintage sunglasses that was unheard of. If it were located on Queen Street West in Toronto, those things would be selling for a fortune, not the equivalent of around $40 CAD.
Our friend's house had much of the local charm, with a parilla, or Argentine style barbecue, in the back yard and an incredible grape vine. While the nights are cold, it is beautiful to see the stars shining brightly. The cool air, the wind, the clear skies, the vast feeling of it all really reminded me of Canada, and made me a little homesick for the prairies, of which I call home.
Even though the beach in Necochea can be a bit rough because of the wind (and for you fellow Winnipegers reading this, the wind made the corner of Portage and Main feel like a soft breeze), I liked the solitude that it provided. I went for an amazing hour-long windswept run along the beach on Saturday, and another run through the neighboring forest, also a flashback to Canada for me. The air was so fresh, and the scenery so beautiful, it is a place I definitely want to return to, but in summer, because Autumn was definitely a bit chilly for my liking.
We opted to return to Buenos Aires on Sunday in a car with friends, much more comfy than the micro, and the best part, perhaps even the highlight of the trip, was stopping in Tandil, home of the famous tenista Juan Martin Del Potro, to an AMAZING restaurant called Epoca de Quesos. In a word, this place was magic. As you can tell by the name, it specializes in cheese and salamis.
You walk in and are greeted with the strong aroma of all kinds of cheeses and salamis hanging by strings, piles of artisenal chocolate and all kinds of delicious and high cholesterol goodies available for purchase. The inside is romantic and rustic with candlelit wooden tables covered with big wooden boards piled high with cheeses and meats. Not being a meat eater, I opted for a cheese platter only, but the provoleta (grilled provolone cheese topped with olive oil and spices - one of my favourite Argentine dishes) shared by the group was the best I have had in Argentina.
As a little touristy side note, I LOVED the fact that the soda water came in an original glass sifon.
We sat outside in the garden underneath the vines with the sun streaming through, sipping wine and trying not to think about the fact that the weekend was over. It was one of those magical afternoons, I longed to return to that place before I had even left. Everyone in the group left with bags full of stinky cheese which made the the long ride back to BA a bit "sharp" inside the car, but well worth it.
All in all, a wonderful trip to the sea with a nice finish in Tandil. I hope to go back to Necochea, as I think it would be a perfect place to rent a house by the sea, and also would love to head back to Tandil again, not only to feast on cheeses, but because it really is a charming place.
After all that fresh air, and the looming traffic coming back into BA after a long weekend, it was great to be home. As I wrote that, I couldn't help but smile at the fact that indeed, this crazy city is starting to feel like home to me. I will leave you with this last photo from Epoca de Quesos, where if I look a bit perplexed, it is likely because I am pondering how Del Potro managed to win the US open with all that cheese and salami so close to his training grounds.
Chau for now.