Those of you who have children, you’ll understand. When you find a way to leave your kids in capable hands, and get on a plane, or even just drive down the street, for a few days without them, it feels amazing. My parents were interested in experiencing a bit of Argentina’s culture and scenery, and we chose Cordoba because it’s a short flight from Santiago, and seemed do-able in only three days. It was an adventure, and we had a lovely time together.We stayed in an inexpensive hotel in Cordoba, but drove all over the place. We couldn’t have seen everything we saw without a rental car. Our first stop was the town of Alta Gracia, home to this beautiful, 17th century Jesuit Estancia. The Jesuits are an important part of the history of the region.Alta Gracia is also the childhood home of Che Guevara.Back in Cordoba, we took a short walk around the historic center and discovered that on Saturday night when the shops are closed, the street vendors come out in force!Our humble hotel, near the bus station. We headed to church Sunday morning, which is never boring in a foreign country.Our lunch at a roadside parilla near the town of Jesus Maria was perfect. Argentine families were there for lunch, and it felt like the real deal. It was the type of place where the (delicious) beef keeps on coming until you say “uncle.” Their sides were divine as well, and it was a lot less expensive than Ruth’s Chris!Our next stop was the lovely Estancia Santa Catalina, which was not available for tours this week because the family who owns it was there on holiday. Now scroll back up and imagine that this is the gate to your ancestral home. Wow. What you’re seeing is mostly the historic chapel (again, built by the Jesuits), which we were able to go into, and it did not disappoint.When you travel with my dad, you stop for any and all old tractors. He is what you call an aficionado.
Things went a little awry on our third day. We had seen the Jesuit Estancias (estancia means ranch in Spanish) but we wanted to see a working ranch, one where there were still animals. The Lonely Planet guide referred us to Estancia Puesto Viejo, where you can ride horses, herd cattle, and “live the gaucho dream,” which sounded like exactly what we were looking for. We couldn’t get the owner on the phone (should have been our first clue) but their website looked legit so we thought we’d just drive over and check it out. The LP guide also said, and I quote, “Access is a little tricky – from La Cumbre you have to take a taxi (one way AR$120, 24km).”
Well that was the understatement of the year, because that 24 km was on a dirt road that bordered on IMPASSABLE. We figured if a taxi could drive somewhere, we could too, but it took us basically the entire day, and when we arrived, the place was a bit more rustic than we had imagined. We still enjoyed seeing it, but whoever photographed and designed their website deserves an award! We were too late for the cattle herding (or whatever) so we had a coke with the owner, took some pictures and headed back (on a slightly better dirt road the owner directed us to). It’s a good thing the drive was so scenic, because it was a long day!Driving back to Cordoba, we realized we had missed a huge storm. Tree limbs were down everywhere, and the power was out in many places, making the drive through the city interesting and a little scary. (Matt is such a good driver — he did all of the driving on the trip, with a stick shift, through completely unfamiliar terrain. Very plucky, we all thought.) We headed out for a bite to eat (Mom, why didn’t we take any pictures of all the ice cream we ate?) and the post-storm sunset was amazing.
And that was that. Loved it. The next morning, we headed home to the kids and reality.