A new chapter: South America

*FINALLY I have my laptop back so I will endeavour to catch up and inform you about our travels so far…*

Hitting the runway at Gatwick after the long journey back from the Philippines was very exciting. The temperature, a casual 40 degrees lower, was somewhat less exciting. But seriously, I was buzzing to see the family and arriving home to the sparkly frost was far better than rain anyway. Remember that January week where it was crisp and cold and ever-so-beautiful. That was my week at home.

Once at home, first on the agenda was a proper cup of tea made in a pot and a long walk accompanied by the dogs.

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It felt so good to wear trousers and a snuggerly jumper instead of being half naked all the time to keep cool. However, the novelty wore off within 24hrs. 

First day down and suddenly it dawned on me that in only 5 days, we were flying away again and from that moment on, the rest of the week passed too quickly and got increasingly more stressful, with some good bits between the stress. 

We spent a fabulous day with the horses, who all looked fabulous and ready for the 2016 season. 

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A few days in London to see friends, run a few important errands, a family roast with everyone including the grandparents and A LOT of washing and packing.

Despite this trip being in the pipe line for a long time, I irritatingly felt really underprepared with only 5 days in the UK. In hindsight I should have packed on the day I landed. Then I would have realised just how little space there is in a 65 litre backpack, especially when you are carrying a 4 season sleeping bag, roll mat, a tonne of contact lenses and clothing for every climate imaginable. On the day we flew, we had driven down to London and were still in Selfridges at 3pm burning through a voucher I had, buying last minute things, having not packed despite our flight being at 10PM that evening from Heathrow. Not cool and very stressful indeed.

Anyway, we got there with enough time for a quick trip to boots and WHSmith where we respectively raided the ‘mini-everything’ section and bought a Spanish phrasebook , thinking it may come in handy (no idea why we hadn’t already bought one).

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After a smooth overnight flight with British Airways we arrived in Buenos Aires and were hit with that familiar feeling of heat and humidity. *shorts back on*.

Our friends picked up us and took us back to their house in the countryside, 45 minutes outside of the city. The farm is beautiful. I had already been in 2012 and since then has only got better! Traditionally furnished with lots of Argentinian antiques, it is right up my street.

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Our hosts grabbed a huge piece of meat out of the fridge and Max stoked the fire. An asado within hours of arriving! Max especially, was in heaven.

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Once at the farm, it was time to begin planning! We literally had no plan at all and when we started to research distances and costs, everything was a commitment both in time and money. We knew we wanted to head south but that was about it. Whilst at the farm, we met a guy who put us in touch with someone in Patagonia who could offer us some voluntary work in exchange for ‘bed and food’. Our vague understanding was, that this chap had a Estancia touristica , from where he ran Cabalgatas or horseback excursions to the Perito Moreno Glacier. Sounded Amazing. We had given him the date of March 1st, therefore we had just over a month to complete roughly 2700KM south including Torres Del Paine.

Away from the planning, I was thrilled to finally get Max on a horse! This was his second ride ever and he insisted that I didn’t lead him this time. There are about 50 horses at the farm, Fernando produces and sells Polo ponies for a living and this one was particularly kind. He didn’t put a foot wrong.

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Max relaxing with the farm cat that has a dead tail, we named her Florence. He actually grew VERY found of her.

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Fernando had a friendly match with some novice horses at a polo club just down the road and we were invited to tag along to watch.

Puesto Viejo Polo Club was more than impressive with a huge modern club house, perfect pitches, beautifully cultivated grounds and boutique hotel complete with swimming pool.

With more horses than people, I was in my element.

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I had forgotten quite how fast this sport is! And this was only a friendly!

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We were both hooked and decided to go back the next day, and the next day and….

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Peppa enjoyed making friends with the club dogs. She is seen here sporting her beautiful Polka Dot Pie collar.

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We decided to take a lesson at the club and cooled off in the pool before… and after.

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If you come to Argentina for whatever reason and want to try a little polo, these guys are awesome. They offer day packages including lunch, transport and a few lessons and its totally fine if you are a complete novice. You are also likely to catch the pro’s in action so even if your spouse doesn’t want to ride, there is enough to entertain those who prefer 2 legs to 4.

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Sunset at the farm

 

We also left the farm a few times to enjoy the sights and sounds of the buzzing city. I love Buenos Aires, it has such a cool vibe and although it is a little european, for me it still has that Latin American edge which makes it a bit wild and wonderful. Sadly, it certainly has very european prices… Not quite as expensive as London but not far off.

Recommended as a ‘must see’ we wandered around Recoleta Cemetery, a graveyard for the rich and famous with many coffins above ground and very visible. Those that are not well maintained could even be touched if you dared to put your hand through the bars.

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Lonely Planet has this as BA’s main attraction. It’s an enjoyable and somewhat creepy experience, but I wouldn’t say it was that amazing. Within an hour we were finished!

We got an Air B n B for the night and went to a cool concert to see a band called Bomba Di Tiempo at the Konex Centre, a loosely restored factory like building which would have you believe you were in East London! I highly recommend it. Cheap and good atmosphere!

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We jumped on the tourist band wagon and went to La Boca. The stadium went totally over my head at the time but having been here for a while, I now understand the relevance and what a big deal this club is for many people.

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Mandatory photo at the entrance to the stadium

We then made our way to Caminito, often referred to as ‘La Boca’. La Boca is actually the barrio, or area, Caminito is the few streets that have all these colourful building.

This area came to be as it is today from quite a sad story. This barrio is still the poorest in B.A and always has been. The dock workers who lived there used cast-away thin pieces of corrugated sheetmetal from the docks to make their houses and painted them with left over paint. They never had enough of a single colour to complete their house, so they just used another colour, hence the multicoloured, patchwork look.

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Over time, the port moved from La Boca and the area went into demise. In the 1950’s an artist decided to try and put Caminito back on the map and painted it in these vibrant colours, making it into the touristy area it is today.

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Although enjoyable enough, Caminito was too full of tourists for me. You really can’t stray away from the main tourist area as it can be very dangerous. For me it felt a little “fake” as the rest of La Boca is different to those few streets which attract the tourists. It does however have an interesting story and Max liked it because, unlike other areas of BA which are akin to European cities for instance , La Boca has a unique feel, identity and style found nowhere else in Latin America.

Back at the farm, I was taught how to make empanadas, a kind of pastry filled with different things but most traditionally with grounded beef.

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They were delicious and this is how I made them:

  • Slice Onions, pepper and garlic.
  • Fry them off to make them a little soft.
  • Add the grounded mince and spices. I used curry powder and mixed herbs.
  • Slowly cook together allowing the yummy flavours to intertwine.

Some people put chopped boiled eggs in too but I decided not too!

We bought the empanada pastry so it was then just a case of adding a little water to the rim of the circular pastry, filling the middle with the goodness and folding it in halve. I used a fork to close some of them and then got adventurous and started the twists!

Weekends in Argentina are all about asados with the family. We were joined by our hosts father and the rest of the family and enjoyed the biggest meat feast to date. He is the best cook, his asados just can’t be beaten. I really think he should open a restaurant but he assures me he is quite busy enough.

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The boys enjoying a cool off in the ‘pool’. We practised putting the tent up in the garden a number of times, but we were not sleeping in it… yet!

As some of you know, my mum and I started a company in 2008 to fund our very expensive habits. Not drugs, horses. Nearly as addictive I can assure you!

Since then, my whole family gets involved in one way or another and its become something that everyone contributes to whenever they have the time, whether its between jobs, in the evenings or on our TEAM WEMYSS whats app group! Amongst many divine products that we sell, one of the most popular is produced here in Argentina.

The colourful stitched polo belts and dog collars are made in a small factory and we took a day to go and watch the whole process.

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Each belt takes around 5hours to make and it’s entirely done by hand using the waxed cotton and a needle.

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These are just some of the fabulous colours we have to choose from!

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I think this combo may work for a new design for next spring.

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Lastly each belt is stamped with our name before we have them shipped back to the UK!

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It was really fabulous to visit the factory again and see all the hard working people who make our beautiful belts and collars. Check out our website at www.polkadotpie.co.uk. We only use the best leather too so your belt will last for years and years and, like a excellent vino, get better with time!

I can’t thank our hosts enough, we had 2 amazing weeks at the farm but it was time to move on, and so we said our goodbyes and headed to Buenos Aires for one last stint. Or so we thought…

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Arriving in BA, we got very lucky. A friend from many many moons ago had seen that I was in the city and I had also noticed she was. She sent me a message just before I sent her one and after 16 years, we met up half way across the world. We met at their Air BnB which conveniently had a rooftop pool! Win.

After a little basking and bathing we went to the Campo Argentino del Polo where Puesto Viejo were hosting the final of the Canuelas Cup. We had watched the semi-final a few days previously at the club so we knew who we were supporting! There is something about horses competing in the city that I really love.

With planes flying overhead and skyscrapers cutting through the blue sky we settled into our seats to for an afternoon of high speed equestrian competition. And beer/ vino tinto.

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Unfortunately the team we were supporting didn’t win but we had a lot of fun and it looks like they got some cool prizes anyway!

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After a quick change we feasted on steak until the early hours, bumbling back to the Air BnB feeling disgustingly full and round.

The next day we hit San Telmo, a barrio known for its cobbled streets and antique shops.

After strolling around the neighbourhood admiring the graffiti and the pretty buildings we found a sunny spot for breakfast.

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My favourite piece of street art that I have seen in BA.

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Cafe Dorrego is on a pretty sun filled plaza at the heart of the Sunday market. A bit of people watching is a must before you begin browsing. Obviously this photo was taken on a non-market day. This place is heaving on a Sunday.

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We took our time strolling down the long Defensa street, full of incredible little finds, beautiful crafts and the usual junk but made no purchases. I was rather taken by a set of old Christofle cutlery but I don’t think I could have fit one more fork in my bag, let alone a 12 piece set. Another time, another trip!

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I would also have loved these tiles for a bathroom actually. Such pretty blues.

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That evening, after 48 hours of a lot of laughter and fun, we said a (momentary) farewell to Ameelah and Jamie and got the evening bus to Mendoza, a 17 hour journey. Max has distant family in Mendoza and I have a new love for red wine so we decided this would be our first move before we began heading south through Chile.

The bus journey started with champagne so how bad could it be?

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