LUGARES MAGAZINE Nro. 41
Page. 48 - 52
By: Julia Caprara
SEASIDE AND ESTANCIAS
On the northern end of the Samborombón Bay, by Punta Piedras, lies Juan Gerónimo, the estancia of the Muniz Barreto family. We arrived at noon on a beautiful sunny day and were warmly welcomed by Florencia, our host, with a delicious lunch: home-made pasta, Malbec wine, profiteroles and coffee. The estancia belonged originally to Ernesto Tomquist and then, to his daughter María Luisa and her husband Benjamín Muniz Barreto, Florencia's grandparents.
In the afternoon, we toured around the property which oozes the peacefulness of the English countryside. Several houses dot the property, all in Tudor style, designed by María Luisa Tornquist and architect Collcut, author of the Hurlingham Club and the British Embassy. A boulevard lined with eucaliptus and acacia trees leads to the stables with 20 boxes for Percherons. Through the forest looms the silhouette of the charming tea-house. We took deep breaths as we strolled along the forests of ferns and calla-lilies, and as the last sun rays faded away, we took shelter in the matera, the gauchos' gathering place, where a vivid bonfire and a sip of mate rekindled our energies. Back at the main house, in its refined ambience of Portuguese furniture and English silverware, we enjoyed a delicious barbecue dinner, before retiring to bed.
Next morning, we joined the farmhands in their rural chores, and watched the vaccination of the cattle. Afterwards, we went on a horseback ride to the riverside, collecting seashells on the way, traces of the old ocean basin, and trotted to the coast, where the grass dunes undulate over the clayish soil. Indigenous tala trees (hackberry) dot the countryside and offer soothing shades. Along the road, lie marshy lands infested with crabs. In the background, the vast brown waters remain intact in the horizon, a characteristic image of the Buenos Aires coast.
A sea world.
All kinds of tender loving names came to our minds when we visited Mundo Marino Aquarium in San Clemente del Tüyú. We were captivated by the endearing scene of a baby dolphin suckling at her mother's breast. Overwhelmed with tenderness, we admired the diverse starring actors: killer-whales, sea-lions, penguins, among other species.
Lagoons with flamingos, pools with playful dolphins, multiple shows, happy families ambling around the 42-acre park, auditoriums with stateof-the-art projection screens, loudspeakers announcing the diverse activities, music and fun, is what Mundo Marino is about. A "backstage" foundation rehabilitates sick animals and promotes didactic and scientific programs with the aim of sparking awareness of our beaten world, while the underlying controversy on captivity remains latent.
Along the Coast.
En route once again, we drove across the pine forests of Costa del Este, eight miles due south, and visited the Playa Palace Resort & Spa, a time-sharing development which rents apartments and offers the spa facilities independently: toning, anti-stress and rejuvenating programs by the sea.
We stopped at Lucila del Mar, a quiet seaside resort, where you can fish for rays and small sharks from the main dock. As we continued south, the low houses gave way to the high rise apartment buildings of San Bernardo, a remarkable contrast. We walked along Chiozza Street and San Bernardo Avenue, the commercial centre and hang-out of youngsters. We lunched a tasty sea-bream a la Basque and a seafood-salad at a traditional restaurant.
On the beach lies the huge and modern South Beach hotel offering comfortable accommodations, heated swimming-pool and jacuzzi. Palantelén. Rafael Cobo, the late owner of Estancia "El Centinela", leased his lands to Don Nemesio Olaviaga between the years 1895 and 1924. His 56,000 acres property stretched from Mar de Ajó to Pinamar. Don Nemesio built a cottage on the beach by the shipwreck of a German sailboat, the "Anna", which ran aground in 1891, using the remains of its doors, panels and carpentry.
In 1935, Cobo's son-in-law, Isaías Ramos Mejía, divided part of the property into lots which originated the town of Mar de Ajó. Later on, Javier Rosas, another son-in-law of Cobo, bought the cottage from Don Nemesio and settled there with his family. He christened it Palantelén, which means gathering of people around a tree. The current owners are Diego Ramos Mejía and his wife María Laura Viñales welcomed us with a smile. We left our belongings and head out to the shore. The endless desolate beaches are a stirring sight.
As we lounged on the soft stuffed couches and enjoyed cocktails, we planned our following day Next morning, we went on a fun and vertigo four-wheel motor-cycle ride along the shore and came across the remains of an old shipwreck. We climbed over the impressive dunes of Punta Médanos, and to my bewilderment, plunged down the abrupt slopes of these mountains of sand, a heroic feat which was rewarded picnic with champagne with the Ramos family.
We left route #11 and continued on route #2 towards Dolores. Luis de Elizalde and his wife Sara Angelinetti awaited us at their estancia, Dos Talas. Descendants of Don Pedro Luro, they proudly preserve the cultural spirit of the estate. Illustrious guests as García Lorca and Ortega y Gasser frequented Dos Talas enjoying the warm hospitality of Bebé Sansinena de Elizalde, Luis' grandmother, an Argentine patron of arts who lived anonymously, in spite of having founded the renowned institution "Amigos del Arte". The main house is a two-storied castle set in the middle of the humid Pampas, appointed with French furniture and a library with over three thousand books. The lavish rooms still breathe the belle époque ambience in every corner.
The park, designed by French landscaper Carlos Thays, spreads along tree-lined boulevards and paths that fork out and fall downhill. A chapel, dating from 1914 and replica of the French Señora Gracia de Passy, lies in a clearing in thewoods and boasts a beautiful Byzantine altarpiece and a Florentine altar.
Almost at dusk, we visited the small museum of the estancia's founder and ended our pleasant sojourn with a lovely ride on a horse-drawn carriage.