Argentina Gauchos Tour, Recoleta Pictures
What's a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina without taking in a day trip to a Gauchos Barbecue at an Estancia (ranch), and a walking tour of Recoleta to the market and the tomb of Evita?
And what is this Yerba Mate everyone seems to be sipping? Read on!
Estancia Santa Susana Gaucho barbecue near Pilar Argentina
From downtown Buenos Aires, with a short stop to look around the San Telmo Sunday Market, we headed out Ruta Panamericana then Route 6.The drive from Buenos Aires took us northwest through rolling countryside, where, we were told, "The richest people have weekend houses."
We passed by the Pilar Golf Course, and the El Paso Hotel and Spa, about an hour from Buenos Aires.
We arrived just after noon at this ranch (estancia), to see the Argentina gauchos show.
One and all were welcomed with a cold fruit drink and a crispy empanada.
Argentina Traditional Kitchen Estancia Santa Susana
There's about an hour's free time before the barbecue lunch, when visitors can roam around the Estancia Santa Susana buildings and grounds.
Some opted to take a wagon ride (photo below); Others went to take a closer look at the horses and gauchos.
In one part of the building, this traditional Argentina estancia kitchen was set up, complete with antique cookware.
This free time was an opportunity to chat with visitors from all over the world -- from Europe, Asia, South and Central America, and even from 'home' (Canada).
Argentina Gauchos Barbecue Tour Near Buenos Aires
The barbecue grills were located in a low roofed shed, with open walls.
Long steel traditional Argentine BBQ pits were filled with racks of cooking meats.
Pork, beef, sausages, veal and more set up a smoky haze, making the room very dark. Smelled delicious, and tasted great!
In my opinion, and I know I am not alone, Argentines make the world's best barbecue.
Tango Show and Dinner at Estancia Santa Susana
Inside the Estancia's large dining room there were by my estimate about 400 seated for barbecue lunch at long rows of tables.
While we dined, tango dancers, singers and musicians kept us entertained with folk songs and traditional music.
Meanwhile, wait staff dressed in traditional gaucho costume and looking very handsome and fit, delivered our meal.
Large bowls of salad, bread, platters of barbecue meat, chicken and ribs (vegetarian options available), and pitchers of beer and wine were brought to the tables.
Argentina Gauchos Show Skills After BBQ Lunch
After a good lunch, a happy crowd made its way to the covered outdoor stadium, where groups of about a dozen riders on horseback performed precision style drills and traditional tests of skill.
To finish off the show, the gauchos treated ladies in the audience to take a horseback ride with them, which occasioned much raucous cheering and laughter.
Pre-Barbecue Wagon Ride for Gaucho tour groups
In the free time before lunch, visitors could take a ride on this wagon, and many did.
The rest of us explored the buildings, or simply sat at tables outdoors and chatted.
There's a lovely house near the parking lot that is used as a museum, but this afternoon, it was closed.
Estancia Santa Susana Gift shop
There's a decent sized gift shop that sells assorted leather goods such belts, handbags, hats, boots and sheepskins.
Instead of leather saddles, the gauchos used sheepskin cushions about 6 inches thick, which struck me as eminently sensible.
Highway Buenos Aires to Pilar Argentina
Heading back to Buenos Aires in mid-afternoon, many of us took the option our driver offered us ::
Rather than returning to our hotels, we could be dropped off at Recoleta, where the Sunday Market would be in full swing.
Most of us chose to do so. Along the highway, I could see cars parked on the grassy medians and verges, usually under a large tree.
This Sunday, though cloudy, the temperature was in the low 80s. Near the cars, people were picnicking, napping or playing soccer.
Recoleta Sunday Market Buenos Aires Argentina
My notebook shows this entry :: 'Well! Recoleta is really something! Hundreds of market stalls and thousands of people, in the park, Recoleta Cemetery, Iglesia de Nuestra Senora del Pilar (c1732) and the cafes.'
The park is called Plaza Francia, on Av. del Libertador, across from the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires top fine arts museum (with works by Renoir, Monet, Gauguin, Rembrandt, van Gogh).
I walked back towards the Obelisk along Av Quintana, then Av Alvear. Both are lovely, with carpet on the sidewalks and many flowers and trees.
This area is arguably Buenos Aires most elegant and wealthiest; a holiday condo here could be a good investment.
Recoleta Cemetery (Cemeterio de Recoleta) Buenos Aires
Fittingly, it seemed, low, heavy clouds threatened rain, and turned the day dark.
I made my way past the church to enter this famous cemetery, with its many marble sarcophagi and statues, each one increasingly impressive.
I thought to myself, 'This is one way to ensure people will come to visit and pay there respects :: Build a fantastic 'town' out of stone."
Maria Eva Duarte de Peron - Evita Tomb Recoleta
Many visitors admire all the elaborate stoneworks of the cemeterio, and I'd wager most of them also make their way to Evita Peron's tomb.
I didn't notice any signs, but thought that if I followed the crowd (there were actual tour groups with guides here!), I'd find it soon enough.
Sure enough, by following one such group, I found myself standing in front of the Duarte Family tomb.
Other crypts are for former presidents, military heros and the late Who's Who of Buenos Aires.
I've visited here again since this photo was taken, and it's still tricky to find Evita's tomb without a map.
If you have trouble finding it, do ask one of the attendants at the entrance or look for the large map of the grounds just inside the gate.
Plaza de Mayo Buenos Aires
A wide shot of part of the Plaza de Mayo near Casa Rosada.
Casa Rosada is to the rear left, out of view. The wonderful Teatro Colon is just out of view in the far center.
Argentina's Drink ~ Yerba Mate
Yerba mate (matt-TAY)is a plant native to this part of South America, and everywhere you go in Argentina or Uruguay (likely Paraguay and Brazil, too), you will see people on their own or in groups pouring mate from thermoses, or sharing glasses.
Yerba mate is steeped in very hot water, not boiling, as in tea or coffee. It has a grassy flavour, and in my case, is definitely an acquired taste.
The yerba mate is traditionally served with a bombilla, a metal straw that has a small sieve at the bottom end to keep out the leaves. I bought this wooden cup and bombilla in Iguazu, and the bag of Yerba mate leaves in Uruguay, thinking I would have time to acquire such taste when I got home. It's not to be. I cannot get used to the taste of grass.
On our way back from the Gaucho Barbecue, our guide made some mate, and offered everyone a taste. He explained that, in Argentina, to share mate like that is considered an honour, as if you were saying to the guest, "You are like family."
Traditional Yerba Mate Cups at San Telmo Market Buenos Aires Argentina
Yerba mate cups for sale at the San Telmo Sunday Market, Buenos Aires oldest area.
Being Sunday, our gaucho tour stopped here before heading out to Estancia Santa Susana and the barbecue.
Market stalls lining the street sold various wares, and reminded me of flea markets in North America.
Most travel guides recommend visitors come to San Telmo only with a tour group. And, when traveling, please leave your valuables at home (see my travel safety tips).