south america | argentina | san antonio de areco
presse agent Alejandra De Miguel
Although I always craved a stronger presence of nature in my daily life, I never thought I’d end up having the “small town country girl” experience. Yet here I am, for an extended amount of time, living in a small town right in the center of the humid Argentinean pampas. On the banks of the Areco stream stands one of the most ancient and traditional settlements in the Province of Buenos Aires – San Antonio de Areco. Located 113 km from Buenos Aires, this picturesque town is steeped in gaucho life and the customs of those storied South American cowboys. All of which are highlighted during the annual Fiesta de la Tradicion in November. Not surprisingly, this is a great time to visit, but Areco reveals its charm all year round – summer months (November- March) being my favorite.
San Antonio de Areco was founded in 1730, and has been declared a town of historic national interest by the Argentine Government. Recognized for being the homeland of Don Segundo Sombra, the immortal character of the novel written by Ricardo Güiraldes. Needless to say, this town vibrates with tradition! With over a dozen museums, numerous estancias (ranches), some of the best master silversmiths and leather craftsmen in the country, traditional pulperias (bars), its own artisanal beer, a chocolate factory, polo fields, and gauchos walking the cobble stone streets. This town is one of Argentina’s hidden gems and should be on your list if you are traveling to Buenos Aires.
After spending several months here, and hosting a number of friends (and friends of friends) I’m convinced that Areco brings the perfect balance to a stay in Buenos Aires. In just one day, you can have your morning coffee at La Esquina de Merti in the town’s main plaza, skip off to a polo lesson just minutes from town at La Morada Polo, enjoy a traditional asado (argentine BBQ) and pool lounging at one of the many estancias. In the evening, head to Lo de Bessonart – one of Areco’s oldest bars for an aperitivo. Chase it with a great meal at Casa Gingko, a restaurant and cultural centre where everything you see is for sale. The menu is a gastronomical experience where tradition meets modern creativity in a perfect balance. If you’re lucky you may even catch a night with live music.
Looking to spend the night? There are some great choices depending on your budget. El Puesto Hostel, owned by Sali & Felipe, is a turn-of-the-century house turned laid-back hostel in the heart of town. Brightly painted walls, a beautiful swimming pool, hammocks and high ceilings give the place a bohemian air.
For something a little more private, Antigua Casona is a great choice. It was built in 1897 and still maintains its original style and architecture. The rooms open to the courtyard and rates includ breakfast in the garden. Make sure to sneak into the kitchen to snap some photos as they’ve got some great antiques on their shelves.
Staying in town definitely has its advantages, but just ten minutes from the main plaza you can rent a quinta (weekend home). La Morada is a two-bedroom country style home on a large property. The house sleeps six so it’s a great option if you’re traveling in a group.
My ultimate five-star experience was an overnight visit to La Bamba de Areco – which you can also visit for the day. It’s pricy, but worth every peso. The estate dates back to 1830 when it was one of the post houses on the Camino Real, the road linking Buenos Aires to northern Argentina. It was transformed into an estancia in the early 20th century. The name is derived from the Celtic word bahamba and means “place of rest and tranquility”…definitely representative of the experience they offer.
I was greeted around 6pm with a traditional spread of sweets to accompany an afternoon mate (tea). As the sun was setting I made may way to the fields by the pool where an extremely talented horse whisperer demonstrated an incredible level of trust and intimacy with his horse – a connection between man and animal unimaginable unless experienced. “We’ll see you for cocktails at 8:30” I was told by Lucila, who immediately makes you feel as though you are a guest at her home. The guests of the hotel sit around the main dining room and have dinner together, often joined by the French owners of the ranch.
Between excursions on horseback, carriage or mountain bike, hot stone massages, polo matches on the property, pool lounging, meals and those horse whisperers, I could have stayed a few more days!
No matter what your style of travel is, San Antonio de Areco is a destination not to be missed. You will feel tradition in its simplest form, and experience Argentina’s gaucho culture in the most subtle and informal ways.
Alejandra is a vintner, restauranteur and in-the-know foodie. Born in Mendoza, Argentina and raised by a family of world-class winemakers, she is committed to living wine and the lifestyle which surrounds it. After working in a number of wineries around the world, in 2005 Alejandra founded Olivia’s at Fifty-Three – a restaurant and micro-winery in Toronto’s Little Italy. Her passion for wine took over in 2007, when she and launched Canada’s first city winery, Vintage One Wines, with her brother. V1 recently launched the Living brand, which offers an authentic opportunity to learn and experience wine culture in its many forms. This new platform is a way to share the passion for the traditions and everyday experiences wine brings to our lives – what she calls “living wine”.