Transcribed from travel journal Sunday, we fled the city on a Patridge Family Bus – complete with trippy, brightly colored flowers painted on the side – past the Rio de la Plata and into the grassy lands known as the pampas. An hour and a half drive, ending on a bumpy dirt road, delivered us to a leisurely, lazy day at the Estancia Los Dos Hermanos.
The weather couldn’t have been more perfect – sunny and warm – and we came off the bus to a spread of sweet rolls, juice and coffee awaiting us. The estancia is run by a woman named Ana and her family and it includes small guest houses, a barn with bathrooms and changing rooms, a corral of horsies, a small gem-blue swimming pool and fields as far as the eyes could see.
After some lolling in the sun or shade in comfy sling chairs and good-natured fighting over the three primo hammock spaces, the vast majority of us lined up to take a horse back ride. For the most part, we’re not a really horsy group. Only Marcello, Birgit’s beau from Brazil, counted himself in the expert group, although Sally proved herself no slouch, either. A few brave souls – Thomas and Tony included – were mounting up for the first time. The rest of us fell into the category of having ridden a few times but not well, although Clover wondered aloud if his camel-riding experience was help or hindrance. For the most part, we rode in slightly separate groups – the brave souls who wished to gallop and go faster were up ahead, while most of us were content to walk and shake it up once in a while with a trot. It was a gorgeous experience, fields and blue sky for miles, all enhanced by the awareness that you are definitely not in Kansas anymore. (Although, having written that, I’m guessing there probably are bits of Kansas that look a lot like the pampas…but I’m digressing.)
A better writer would insert some foreshadowing here but I’m too lazy, so I’ll just say that things were going swimmingly until our poor Fara fell off her horse. It seems the two of them had a difference of opinion about whether or not they should gallop and, fortunately, they were not at full speed when she took her tumble. However, it was a nasty fall and although I know she wouldn’t have wanted it to, our concern over her well being colored the rest of our afternoon.
While Fara was carted off to be cared for at a nearby hospital – with Vanessa along to play translator – we all returned and were soon treated to a really lovely and (of course) meaty lunch served on red-and-white gingham table cloths spread across long picnic tables in the grass. Lots of fun! Especially when Tony left the table for an afternoon nap and we watched as the tame foal running around roused him right out of his hammock and onto the ground. From our point of view, it was like a Benny Hill skit, watching as the pony followed him around, professing its love.
After that, I entertained myself – inspired by the view of a wagon wheel propped against a tree – by forcing people to pose for senior portraits. It was quite a kick for the foreign fellows, to whom the concept of a cheesy, posed photo as rite of passage was completely foreign. With Gail and Rainey setting up and directing the shoots, they had no trouble getting into it. Should make for a wonderful yearbook. Although I suppose we need a yearbook committee for that, eh?
We were plenty sleepy on the trip back to the Dazzler that night, but we headed out for dinner to an Italian place a few blocks away. It was the choice of Jeremy, a friend of Graham and Rainey’s from back home in Boston, who happens to be on holiday here too. We had a great meal with outstanding service and it was, of course, dirt cheap. It would have cost even less if I hadn’t lost a handful of pesos on a Gerard-devised game of taking bets on which 80s group would next play in the steady procession of that era’s power ballads playing overhead. (For the record, Jeremy won with Berlin, after I came back and said, “Damn, I wonder if I should have put Berlin.” I’m still bitter.)
The last day or so have been pretty tame. Yesterday, the spouses played hooky from the day’s seminars and Kim, Rainey & I took Fara to lunch at a place called Edelweiss, at Luis’ recommendation. It was very businessman-y but decent food and you can’t beat this Argentine habit of sending over a little something extra free of charge – in this case, a round of drinks both before and after the meal.
After that, we took Fara shopping for tango shoes because, god love her, even if she wasn’t going to get to tango again, she sure as hell wasn’t leaving without some red suede stunners. (It looks like she's broken her shoulder and may require surgery - either way, she's heading back to the states on Wednesday with the rest of the gang and has to give up her side trip to Salta.) We delivered her back to the hotel to rest after that and Rainey and I went on a search for El Ateneo Gran Splendid, () a former theater turned bookstore mentioned in our guide books. Along the way, Rainey talked me into buying a pair of metallic sandals as though I were, like, someone who wears metallic sandals. She has sway, that girl.
In the evening, we attended the Foreign Correspondents dinner at Cabana Las Lilas, yet another stunning restaurant all about (no surprises here) the beef. Here, we were joined by and chatted with members of the local press, some past fellows and potential applicants as well as BA’s press agent. I think we were supposed to impress them with our sophistication and be good little poster children for the program. But, instead, we were ourselves, letting loose with laughter and cheers that bordered on manic fraternity behavior. Still, fun was had all around and none of us returned to the hotel to find our bags packed. Another day, another bullet dodged. Such is the life of the fellows in Buenos Aires.