LUGARES MAGAZINE Nro. 63
Page. 40 - 49
By: Rossana Acquasanta
Picture: Carolina Aldao
MAR DEL PLATA AND BEYOND
We arrived with Carolina on a sunny day and the bay was still very quiet with only a few parasols on the sand. We were staying at Pretty Nook, Puppe Mandel's father's house, which she turned into a bed & breakfast last year. The place is so lovely we would have stayed there forever, especially after we saw the exquisite winter garden, from which you can see the gardens, pool and the guesthouse. Pretty Nook
was built in 1926, in a European chateau style, up on the hill dominating the landscape, which in those days was purely rocks and ocean.
It is a completely peaceful spot even during the high season, and is very nearby the Piazza Café, the best place to watch the sunrise, and also the Boston, with its famous croissants. The Boston is most popular on Sunday mornings when people go there to have breakfast and read the newspapers.
Caro and I didn't waste a minute. We did the tour of the famous mansions, now almost all of them museums, went for a short walk around the port,
and realised that no matter where we were, the ocean was always present, even when out of sight. You smell it, feel it on your skin, taste the salt in your mouth, the sea wind always filling one with vitality.
We ate the best fish, in the very popular Viento en Popa, and celebrated my birthday with cake and candles in the Sheraton, looking at the sea and the stars.
Works of art
The Museo del Mar, the masterwork of the young Pablo Sisterna, is still splendid. His father Benjamin spent a lifetime assembling the incredible collection of seashells (some 30,000 representing 3,300 different marine species from all over the world). Each one is scientifically identified and they are displayed in glass cabinets, which follow the interior curves of the walls of the new building. The strangest shapes, colours and sizes of shell are all to be found here. Children
and adults alike will spend hours with their noses pressed to the glass of the aquariums watching the sea life native to Argentine waters swimming before their eyes: sharks, sea bream, hake, bass, brótola,
angel fish, rays...."I will never fish for rays again" said one man after seeing them swimming here, so delicate in the athletic grace. According to Eddie Aristizábal, a 38-year-old biologist and the director of the museum, the aquariums are each 4m wide and "even though you might not realise it, they each hold 100,000 litres of water kept at a constant temperature of between 12 and 13°-C." After their capture all new fish are kept in quarantine in a plastic pool and disinfected
before being transferred into the main tanks.
"I make these things with what others throw away", says Juan Ramón Giménez, engulfed in a cloud of marble dust as he fashions ingenious lamps, candlesticks and sculptures. All his works can be viewed and purchased in his workshop, at the back of his house beside the fig tree. There are pieces of marble and stones of all sizes "but nothing so hi-, that I cannot pick it up and move it myself'. He is 29 years
old and has worked with marble for six years. One day, when he was alone on the beach, throwing pebbles into the water, he began to think what could he could make out of stone. He started by making pendants,
then the Museo Municipal de Arte Juan Carlos Castagnino exhibited a stone that he had worked into a likeness of a Quijote and he hasn't looked back since.
The Country Inland
The road to Balcarce runs through a variety of farmland with many ravines, hills and promontories. We went to the home of Juan Manuel Fangio, the hero of touring car racing and five times Formula 1 World Champion, to see the museum dedicated to his life and achievements. We also went to the Sierra de los Padres and decided to stay there for a couple of days. Although barely 20kms away, it seems much further and was developed around a magnificent 18 hole golf course that sprawls over rolling countryside and is surrounded by wheat fields. In Sierra de los Padres people live a life far removed from that of the big city. One such is Hugo Giménez, an expert rider and the organiser of pony treks to the Brava and de los Padres lakes. We also found a warm welcome at the comfortable Sierra de los Padres Apart Hotel.
Chapadmalal is the first piece of wild coastline on the road after passing the long line of beach resorts of Punta Mogotes, the Mar del Plata Aquarium, El Faro, the La Reserva private resort and the Barranca
de los Lobos resort. The journey is a spectacle of cliffs and sea. To the right a road runs to Marayui, another golfing Mecca where you can live like a king at the estancia that used to belong to the Martínez de Hoz family.
A short distance from the estancia is neighbouring property of the Club de Playas Siempre Verdes spa, which forms part of the RCT - the Residencias Cooperativas de Turismo - a complex of apartments that is always full to the limit.
Inés Lenell, a young, blond, kinesiologist and masseuse, runs the spa. She learned yoga while travelling in India, has a masters degree in reiky obtained in California and worked for eight years in a Hawaiian super-resort frequented by Hollywood stars. She now lives in Chapadmalal with her husband and children and dispenses her massage skills to
her lucky clients.
Guests at the Club de Mar de Manantiales also benefit from her ministrations and here, as in Siempre Verde, programmes for couples are available every weekend. I have absolute faith in Inés' skills - after an invigorating and restorative two hour session with her I was ready to make the first parachute jump of my life!
The Outdoor Life - lots of it
I am going to state the obvious: flat on your back in the sun, the rolling waves, a siesta by the sea, the pricks of sand fly bites. In short - beach life. A strong element is, for example, the surf. Ricardo Saracino is the President of the Mar del Plata Surfing Association
and has been riding the waves for 25 years. He works in conjunction with the Environment Secretariat to promote public awareness of "the care of the beaches", and is the owner of Big Wave, a local surf gear and sports wear shop. The shop is also a meeting place for surfers. In Ricardo's own words "There are three places to find the power wave:
Playa Grande, beyond the cliffs at La Paloma and Chapadmalal. Changes in the wind determine the quality of the waves in these three places." For the landlubbers there are various people who organise spectacular bicycle trips suitable for all ages. One of these is Leonardo Da Costa. The whole family can enjoy one of his excursions and take in the countryside on the old roads, visit abandoned stations, ride around lakes and lagoons to the most remote areas and all this in outings of a few hours or a couple of days. A healthy alternative.
Another idea, if you have not tried it, is hanggliding. We were staying in the Boston one evening when Carolina looked out of the window and saw a huge coloured wing on the other side of the street, out over
the water. We went to the cliff on the coast road and watched as Pedro Larrunaga, a hang-gliding expert, played at being a seagull. From the ground his partner Guillermo Di Camillo checked on him over the
radio. They take their sport very seriously and there are few things more thrilling and challenging than riding the wind without risk or danger.
And so we came to our last adventure. Enjoying Mar del Plata from high above - in a Cessna at 3,000m. On clear, still days the view is glorious. Take a look and then jump. That's all there is to it. But first call Osvaldo Campos of Mar del Plata Jumps, which is what we did. Carolina wanted to take some aerial photographs and I, who had never parachuted before, just wanted to make my baptismal leap.
How did it feel? First the fear one feels before any new experience, then exhilaration, laughter, everything but vertigo. While falling I discovered that Mar del Plata is much smaller than I had imagined while the ocean is gigantic. During interminable seconds of free fall
I had the privilege of capturing the grandeur of space that is normally the reserve of the gods and the birds.