LUGARES MAGAZINE Nro. 42
Page. 28 - 45
By: Soledad Gil
Pictures: Federico Quintana
Estancias. (Farms or ranches).
RELAXING AT AN ESTANCIA
Where the good life expands to the endless horizon. An oasis of tranquility out of the bustling city. Peaceful weekend escapades to bucolic sceneries. The land of the gaucho, where minutes linger or gallop swiftly over the hours. Immensity that shrinks to a table-cloth for lunch and stretches infinitely to a vivid pink or faint lilac line in the fading afternoon. Seigniorial, elegant, illustrious estancias. Rustic, spartan, earnest. Castles where the gardens timidly slip in through the windows.
Days of communion with tilled soil, fire in the form of embers, and the water of rivers, lagoons, pools. Air. Air to inspire poetry. To unveil the beauty of peace and rest, and challenge our bodies with country delights, we set out, photographer and writer, to this promising land.
Estancia Santa Rita
When Franklin Nüdemberg and Isabel Duggan visited Santa Rita for the first time, the. park was smothered by invading thistles. Having returned from living in Germany and Brazil, they were looking for a week-end retreat for the family. They bought the 200 hectare estate in 1988 and embarked on the restoration of the old house leaning on Franklin's inborn passion for art and architecture. His first artistic task, while the roofs leaked, was to draw flowers and ornaments on an exterior wall to conceal the humidity. The fountain came next. The old barn was turned into a luminous and comfortable ambience with large arches, reminiscent of Jesuit missions. The house has six ample bedrooms for guests. There is a chapel, and a 40-hectare forest with eucaliptus trees towering around the house. Llamas, goats, ducks, geese and turkeys remain in sight, while the pigs are only present when savoured in hearty dishes. Vegetabtes are also grown cm the farm. Santa Rita is also reachable by train from Constitucicín station, which provides for additional entertainment, leaving Buenos Aires on a Friday at 7 p.m., and returning on Monday at 8:30 in the morning, Carboni station lies right by the estancia.
The estate originally belonged to Rosas wife's family, the Ezcurras, and then was taken over by the Carbonis, who exchanged a property located closer to Buenos Aires for Santa Rita. The station still preserves the old grain barns, the inspector's office and ladies' room. Grocery-stores still sell on credit and bicycles lean on the old walls as in the old days.
Estancia La Candelaria
Orestes Piñeiro, the founder of La Candelaria, was a doctor and pharmacist of the beginning of the century. The property was named after his wife, Candelaria del Marmol, but it was their son-in-law who conceived the castle with round turrets and slate roofs which Don Orestes never saw, as he died in 1904. The castle's Norman elegance is deliberately concealed behind lanes lined with casuarinas that wind through the park spotted with statues. Appointed with Murano chandeliers, French furniture and a carved staircase, the eclectic building was designed by French architect Alberto Favre and built with materials imported from Europe.
It boasts ten bedrooms all with their original bathrooms. The coffered ceiling of the billiard-room, the lamps in the tea-room, the engraved canopy beds and the 100hectare park with a chapel dating from 1937 reveal its lavish splendour.
The estate was sold in 1980 and opened to pay ing guests in 1994. Nowadays, it is managed by Ricardo Ayerza, a lawyer and thcologíst, who takes utmost care of the property.
Estancia La Rica
La Rica is an old-time estancia, from the days When the Salado river marked the frontier line with the Indians. Located near Chivilcoy, the estate takes its name frotn its neighbouring town. Visiting La Rica is a trip back in time: the old house with creaking wooden floors, the underground network of tunnels which provided refuge from Indian raids, patios with a water-well as center-piece, dressed with wisterias and hydrangeas, haunted with ghost legends of women in white. The property has been reduced from the original 18,000 hectares to its present 500, and belongs to Ema Teresa Aguirre and her husband Daniel Elizalde, who greeted us with open arms and the warmest hospitality.
With them we Walked the grounds: the green-garden, a mill preserving its original hydraulic system, carriages, horses, leaving the best for the end: a garden that is literally the garden of forking paths. Also designed by French landscaper Charles Thays, his touch is evident in the magnificent casuarinas and magnolias, tall and blooming, while the relentless lush vegetation menaces to take over. The outcome of the garde-versus-gardener struggle is a magnificent maze leading to the glorious pool. Surrounded as well by vivid greenery, the morning dives breathe a secret air, more in tune with the tropics than with the Pampas. In the pergola of scents, different types of jasmines and gardenias invade the garden with their glamorous perfume.
The sign reading "Los Cisnes" still stands, left behind by the filming crew of El Impostor, a movie based on Argentine author Silvina Bullrich's story, starred by Walter Quiroz and Antonio Birabent. The estancia was the perfect setting and a living stage for a romantic novel.
Our sojourn continue(] with a visit to the forlorn comers of the town of La Rica, its boulevard lined by liquidambar and aromatic Japanese pagoda trees, and then to the thriving town of Chivilcoy, with its buildings of French and Italian inspiration. On our way, we ran into Patnpa Cura, a picturesque character who led us to El Recreo, a charming old general storemuseum which deserves a visit. Located on the old Camino Real, nowadays, Avenida de la Tradición, it has metal tables, a sapo gatne at the entrance and an Englishstyle garden which is visited by botany specialists from all over the country.
Estancia La Rosada
La Rosada was originally a military barrack during the Desert Campaign and was granted to Colonel Tomás Fretes in recognition for his services. Its present owners, Liliana García Llana and her husband, bought it in 1982 and exquisitely restored the century-old house, appointing it with good antiques and country furniture. The house has three bedrooms and also opens for large groups, weddings, meetings and parties. It has a wonderful park with unusual species as a huge Slovenia oak and an ash tree, both over 180 years-old. The latter is specially unique as there is no other in the country. An artificial 'pond crossed by a small bridge and lined with agapanthus, is the backdrop of many pictures.
Nearby lies the peaceful laid-back town of Carlos Keen which also deserves a visit, with its pretty church, train station, and spagetti and dulce de leche factories.
Estancia San Ceferino
Close to Luján, on route 6, lies Estancia San Ceferino. It offers accommodations for large groups: it has thirty bedrooms and 7 meeting-rooms to house seminars, business meetings, barbecues and weddings. San Ceferino belongs to doctor Francisco Eleta, a keen collector of horsecarriages, which are neatly displayed Linder a huge shed, while his wife Hebe, is dedicated to saddles.
Apart from bucolic promenades on the coaches, activities include horse riding, swimming, volley-ball, soccer and pingpong. The food is impeccable and delicious.
Estancia Los Talas
Los Talas still remains in the hands of its direct heirs, trimmed in extension but intact in spirit and nohleness, after more than a century. Nowadays, Etelvina Furt and her husband Ricardo Rodríguez are in charge of the archives and the vast library which belonged to Jorge Furt, Etelvina's father. History is breathed in every corner at Los Tatas: the house dates from 1824, it has a wooden corner-door with a grapevine shade and a pigeon nest, lanterns that shed light from the angles, a kitchen with adobe walls, a park with ancient trees.
A second house, dating from 1860, holds original opalines that hang from the high ceilings, daguerreotypes, an old piano and delicate porcelain. A library with 40 thousand volumes; a collection of historic letters: 7,200 sent to Juan Bautista Alberdi between 1824 and 1884, bought by Jorge Furt back in 1946, having to mortgage a farm for this purpose, to prevent the documents from leaving the country; 22 written by Mitre; 4.3 by Sarmiento; and 106 by Máximo Terrero, Manuelita Rosas' husband; the complete collection of Nosotros Magazine; and a variety of Argentine, French, Cennan, Greek and Latin authors; apart from the first hook of Alcalá de Henares, dated 1502; three Iong corridors, ten metres long each, filled from floor to ceiling.
Estancia La Mora
Located close to Mercedes, La Mora is a pedigree-farm of Black Angus cattle and criollo bulls which are raised to be exhibited at the annual Palermo Rural Show.
The main house has 12 bedrooms and the old barns have been renovated to host large barbecues and events. There is a swimmingpool, polo-fields and volley-hall court, golf at the nearby club in Mercedes. Homemade dulce de leche and salami are two of the farm's specialities.
Estancia La Encantada
Close to Capilla del Señor lies La Encantada, which apart from a relaxing stay, offers exciting flights on hot-air balloons. Weather permitting, they take off with the calm of the early morning or at the end of the day; the flights are three hours long.
It holds the only permanent balloon aerodrome in the country and also runs a school for this activity. There is a tempting swimming-pool and a restaurant serving fine cuisine, as chicken raised on the farm prepared with orange sauce and a delicious chocolate marquise for dessert.
Estancia Dos Talas
Dos Talas, an imposing castle in the middle of the Pampas, near the town of Dolores, combines a bucolic scenery with a cultural attraction: illustrious men and their memories. The trees are a landmark of the estancia: the story goes that its primitive owner hired Don Pedro Luro to plant 200 of the property's 7,500 hectares with trees, at a given price per tree. After five years, the amount of planted trees had exceeded the value of the estancia. When the anonymous debtor declined to pay, Luro sued him and obtained the property in compensation. Don Pedro was a French Basque, horn in 1820, a visionary and promoter of national development, in the times when the Province of Buenos Aires suffered the backwardness of isolation. He was also a pioneer of the city of Mar del Plata. Pests, Indian raids, draughts nor floods refrained him from colonizing, sowing and trading in the south of the Province of Buenos Aires, from the mouth of the Salado river to the mouth of the Colorado.
Luro commissioned the construction of a two-storey house at Dos Talas, whcrc he lived with his wife, Juana Pradere, and where six of his fourteen children were born. Their daughter Agustina, who married Francisco Sansinena, an industrialist and owner of La Negra freezing-plants, inherited the estate. The park was also designed by the prestigious French landscaper Charles Thays. Different green textures, a variety of over 50 species, among them sycamores, Indian chestnuts, araucarias, casuarinas, privets, rose-gardens, statues and an artificial lake, are the backdrop of the treelined boulevards.
In 1893, a two-storey castle of FrenchItalian reminiscence and Belle Epoque inspiration was built, with grand asymmetric staircases in the forefront. In 1910, the rooms of the magnificent mansion housed a banquet to entertain Infanta Isabel de Borbón during the celebration of the country's Centenary.
Agustina and Francisco had four daughters: Julieta, Elena (Bebe), María Esther and Lía. In 1914, when Julieta died in France, her mother hada chapel built in her memory in a corner of the park, a replica of Notre Darne de Passy and buried her there, Nowadays, Luis and Sara Elizalde, maintain with effort the patrimony inherited from their greatgreat-grandfather. Luis is the grandson of Bebe Sansinena de Elizalde, a patron of arts who created the "Amigos del Arte" Foundation and was a good friend of Victoria Ocampo. Portraits of Federico García Lorca and Ramón Ortega y Cassct, among others, greet guests from the lordly walls.
Walks or promenades on horse-drawn carriages along the shady park accompany the guided visit to the corrals, dairy-farm, stables, shearing barns and vegetable garden, as well as to the Pedro Luro Museum, which holds a bust of Ricardo Cüiraldes, desks, portraits and other mementoes of Pedro Luro.
After his visit to Dos Talas, historian Félix Luna dedicated the following emotive lines to Sara: "Those old Argentine estancias, which are regarded as expressions of wealth and snobism by the stupidity of some people, are in fact the fruit of hard and constant work; and when the descendants of their founders value them as you do, they become part of the common heritage of the Argentine people".
Estancia Juan Gerónimo
In the Samborombón Bay, the river meets the sea. The estate was ravaged by pirates and smugglers, since the. middle of last century, and was named by an English seaman, Juan Gerónimo White, after himself. Thus, the 10,364 hectares purchased by Ernesto Tornquist in 1901, were already known as Juan Cerbnimo, when he first lay eyes on it. Don Ernesto was a prominent entrepeneur, the founder of the Tornquist Bank and of the Plaza Hotel.
His daughter María Luisa, married to Benjamín Muniz Barreto, and an staunch admirer of Tudor architecture, commissioned the design of the cottage, the tea-house (where she played Bach pieces with her clavichord), the stables and the managing quarters, to architect Collcut, the author of the Hurlingham Club and the British Embassy, creating a scene out of the English countryside. These were the golden days, of course. But then, the 1930 crisis brought about the dwindle of the estancia's hectares -although some of them were recovered laternowadays, Juan Cercánimo has 4,000, and the original project remained unfinished. Today, the house maintains a fully criollo character: old Portuguese furniture, colonial silver, paintings, guns and a room with valuable volumes (editions dating from the 18th century), folders with prints - Muniz Barreto compiled more than 10,000 engravings -, collections of post-cards of the estancia printed in 1924 and positive glass photographs from the twenties.
The house has seven bedrooms, with fireplaces that warm the winter nights, bright fabrics on the curtains and eiderdowns. The 110-hectare park is spotted with green walnut trees, cypresses and hackberry trees. Acacias and eucatiptus line its wide boulevards. Ferns and callalilies grow in the shade of the forests between the scattered buildings.
Wine and hors d'oeuvres are the right preface of a hearty barbecue served on the main table by the delicate china and Rioplatense silverware. The four daily meals preserve the home-made seal, starting with breakfast - artisanal jams - to delicious deer milanesas (a speciality of the house) for dinner. A morning visit to the stables, makes for a good lesson on rural chores. Cows, bulls and calves await in the gangway to be vaccinated. Mixed herds of Black Angus, Brahman and Brangus cattle are raised on the farm. The branding of the cattle and breaking-in of the horses are two interesting events.
Beyond the forests, lie the rolling dunes, which are ideal for a ride, either on horseback or on a tractor tugging a trailer with neat straw-bales to sit on. Axis deer, egrets and storks make a photo feast. Approaching the riverside, the soil becomes clayish, the grass is tough and the hackberry groves barely stand out over the white sand mixed with shells and crabs.
Armadillos, foxes, tortoises, vizcachas, nutrias and plovers are easily sighted. Juan Gerónimo lies within the Parque Costero Sur, a Biosphere Reserve which was granted World Heritage status by UNESCO.