LUGARES MAGAZINE Nro. 68
Page. 84 - 88
Text and Pictures: Julia Caprara
Seven estancias at the foot of the hills in the south of Buenos Aires province. Memories of an old French colony, a blend of glamour and folklore in the Pampas. Pigüé in Mapuche dialect means "gathering place" in reference to the two chains of hills that meet, the Cura Malal running west of Pigüé and the Bravard to the east. And that is precisely where, towards the end of the 19th century, 40 families from Aveyron, France settled to build their homes and raise their children.
Olga, Nancy, Susana and Hugo Martí are the owners of La Nancy, some 25 km from Pigüé. The only real luxuries in the big white main house with its seven rooms and abundant memories are the charming owners. With almost adolescent energy Olga organises the activities, looks after the guests and tells the family stories. Here you can either chill out and relax or visit the de Puán lake, go mountain biking, riding, fishing and golfing, thanks to an arrangement they have with the Sierra de la Ventana and Pigüé 9 hole golf courses. The façade of the main house is an exquisite blend of art déco and art nouveau styles. The estancia maintains most of the original furniture and works of art. Gabriela Champredonde, great granddaughter of the founder, guided me through these treasures. Sofas, tables, lamps, inkpots...each object is beautifully designed. The paintings in the rooms are by Numa Ayrhinac, a local painter who achieved international fame, and also painted the portrait of the owner's great grandmother, Lucía, hanging in the sitting room. La Nancy has other attractions: guided pony rides and treks through the hills, indoor games for rainy days in the sitting room and spectacular homemade French inspired dishes such as fondue, crepes and aligot (mashed potatoes with cheese).
The estancia is located on the stone horseshoe formed by the Gruta de los Espíritus, at the foot of the hills and near the Encadenadas lakes. This spot is ideally suited for fishermen and climbers alike. Negrita Sbarbati looks after every detail in the spacious bedrooms, both dining rooms and sitting room in Las Grutas. Most of the 1700 hectares of the estancia are used to grow pastures, maize and soy bean. But it is the rest of the scenery that attracts the tourists: the avenues of cedars, the fruit trees and the cherry trees on the flanks of the nearby hill, where indigenous animals such as the grey fox, wild cats and over one hundred bird species can be spotted.
Nito and Luz María Oustry opened the gates of La Corita (a cattle breeding and agricultural ranch) in 1997. As the house is for the family's private use, they have set up different day activities for visitors: folklore, tango and gaucho shows. A "for export" display that has already been enjoyed by over one thousand Frenchmen. The main house, designed in 1917, has touches of the Versailles architecture. In the gardens there are flower beds teeming with roses, dahlias, gardenias and begonias. Inside the house the ceiling is quite amazing as are the doors and windows and even the wooden floor which was shipped in from Aveyron. It is not the only French thing there: at the Corita they serve typical French dishes as farzu (stuffed goose necks) and carrier (duck or goose thighs cooked andserved as a cold cut).
When he bought the farm in 1968, Francisco Méndez found arrowheads, remains of ancient ceramics and mortars. After extensive research he came to the conclusion that this place had been first settled by Pampa Indians, followed later, between the 17th and 18th centuries, by the Araucan Indians. Those relics, now a collection of 2000 pieces, are today displayed in a tiny museum frequently visited by schools. There is also a cave of Rupestrian paintings with primitive drawings in the woodlands on the same grounds.
Prepared for adventure tourism, it is especially geared for deer and wild boar hunting and is chosen by many foreigners. Mario Baez, together with his wife Patricia runs La Tramontana and after making us an asado took us on an excursion, half on horseback and half on a 4x4 to the hills of Bravard. We even got to see a couple of paragliders. At night under a starry sky we sat around a bonfire under the wooden shelter built by the Baez'.
La Esther Lina
It looks like a castle in the middle of the Pampa. The elegant French house, that used to belong to the Frayssinet family and that for the past twenty years has belonged to the Sol family, still maintains the stained glass windows and the huge gaslights on the front stairway facing the 15 hectare parkland. They have everything needed to have a great time: tennis court, carriage rides through the fields, trekking, photographic safaris, climbing excursions to the Cura Malal hills and much more.