LUGARES MAGAZINE Nro. 38
Page. 96 - 99
By: Soledad Gil
Pictures: Federico Quintana
We arrived there at night, having picked up the Lopez Fkmin; car at the airport and followed the signs along the way after passing La Silleta, 25 km from Salta. At El Manantial, we were met by Francisco Lenlus, a blond twenty year old, who was very relieved to find that we were native Spanish speakers, because he confessed that although he speaks English it's always a quite exhausting effort for him. Around the dinner table while we devoured the delicious "lucro" (typical Argentine stew), they had prepared for us, Francisco told us all about this estate. It wasn't long before we all felt completely at home.
By the time were enjoying our delicious dessert, we knew almost all there is to know about El Manantial. Having started out twenty years ago as a private week-end house, it was turned into a tourist venue five years ago, open to the public all year round, except during December and January when it is used exclusively by the family. It all began when a family friend asked Alice if she was willing to put up some French visitors who were looking to stay at an Estancia in the north, with comfy beds and plenty of hot water. The reply was obviously "yes", and here she is now, even toying with the idea of having her own El Manantial chain! To make this dream come true she has already bought an estate in Purmamarca, where she is planning to begin building an inn next year, once she finishes the extra rooms she is presently building in El Manantial, to reach a total of ten. But this is not all. The Lemos family are also associated with Aturs, the brand new company which includes Arnaga, El Bordo de las Lanzas, San Antonio, Los Los, Eaton Place and the Hostal Provincial Molinos, set up to promote tourism in estancias in this part of the country.
Their enthusiasm even extends to the small town "of the seven colours", Purmamarca, in Jujuy province, where soon a new "El Manantial (del Silencio)" will be set up. Alice transmits her peace to all visitor, over long chats sipping a traditional "mate" or a comforting cup of tea. She seems to have time for everything, making sure the scones are warm at tea time and that the rooms have been properly heated. She even takes her guests personally to Campo Quijano, so they can save themselves an hour on the Tren a las Nubes, and collects them at night, when they gct back ccxnpletely exhausted . She arranges horse rides through the pine and eucalyptus Woods, and takes the children out to play with young calves and newly born piglets. A more quiet alternative is to visit the hermitage and the old mill dating back to the times of the Jesuits There is even a shelter there, which the Lemos family kindly lend to those who want some solitude to meditate, paint or just get away from it all.
In the afternoon, the thing to do is to sit on the terrace and watch the national red colours of the ceibo trees, in the lovely gardens designed by Carlos Thays, while Pedro and Pablo, their pet peacocks, politely wait for a piece of bread to be tossed their way. Later, Alice makes her appearance after having visited the wine cellar and chosen something quite special to sip with some nice cheese in the evening.