Argentina

Birthday in Colomė (that rhymes by the way) January 2013

We just returned home from 3 weeks in Cafayate! We had a wonderful time and although the weather is “nice” in Calgary, we are missing the sun, warmth, and lifestyle available in a milder climate.

We were very excited to be meeting Tonya and Calvin (who are on their year long trip). Typically we only have a long weekend with them so it was a great opportunity to spend more time together. We met up with them in Salta on December 29th, overnighted, and headed to Cafayate on the 30th. We rung in New Years at the newest winery, Piattelli – which was spectacular. We were happy that about 12 other friends and neighbours were also there. The evening was a lot of fun. For about the equivalent of $40US, we had champagne, wine, festive New Years drinks, a beautiful meal (a beef tenderloin ROAST on everyone’s plate!), dessert, musicians, and a dance….and fireworks at midnight of course. Piattelli is up on the hill so we could see fireworks throughout the valley. It was a wonderful way to bring in the new year.

Cal, Me, Bevan

Cal, Me, Bevan

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Ton at Piattelli

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the 3rd we drove to Colomė.  The hotel at Colomé is only opened if you rent all 9 rooms, or a member of the owners family or organization is there. On my last trip to Cafayate I was lucky enough to meet the new manager and she told me of a couple of days that were available as someone from Switzerland would be there. We jumped at the opportunity and it was maybe serendipitous because it was my birthday. Colomé is one of the highest vineyards in the world and is a totally self-sustaining area. (in other words they have to grow all their food, make all their wine, etc as it is really in the boonies). We had explained to Tonya and Cal that it was a long and bumpy ride, but I think they thought we were exaggerating .  The path to  Colomé is a rocky washboard “road” which often is so curvy and narrow that you play Russian Roulette on the curvy corners. We were lucky in that we missed big trucks flying around the corner in our shared lane by about 3 seconds. Every bump along the way was worth it as the scenery is spectacular.   From Tonya’s blog…she described the road like this “while only 120 kms from Cafayate, it’s about a 3 hour drive on what was termed a ‘gravel road.’ I called it a donkey path, Calvin  called it a wagon trail.For the most part, it was little more than a single lane going through river beds and cliff edges?….”. Colomė was fabulous- the service, the food, the wine, the rooms and the art museum! There is the world’s largest collection of James Turrell art installations in the world. When the artist was told by Donald Hess that he was creating a museum in Argentina James Turrel said “Great, I love Buenos Aires”. When Donald Hess told him that it would be in Colomé and what it takes to get there, James replied, “Since I suffered in creating my work, it seems only natural that people should suffer to see the work.”

Tonya took a video of a drive through ” Las Flechas” which is on a GOOD part of the road. If you go to you tube and search for “Drive to Colomé” you will see Tonya’s video.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUgInPRx4uo&sns=em

View from Colomé Room

View from our room

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Hotel at Colomé

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My birthday was wonderful….thanks to everyone who sent emails and cards!  In addition to my special trip I received some artsy gifts! Tonya sang me the birthday song in German (which was actually in English with a very strong German accent), Calvin’s alter ego, Norbert, made a video appearance for me, and Bevan wrote me a poem….which was so awesome it made me cry. I know he is a super talent in his field but he could quit and make a living writing for sure. I won’t share the poem as it will make all you gals jealous and make all you guys feel like inadequate schmucks.

We survived the bumpy trip back to Cafayate and spend the next couple of weeks just enjoying our home and the great weather. Thanks to Tonya and Cal – we ate at home several times. Bevan and Cal handled the parilla and Tonya and I prepared veggies and salads. The four of us played some  golf (Tonya’s first time – she did great!), went on the “El Paso” hike, and did some horseback riding (sin me!) It was Cal’s first time ever on a horse. Although I literally had to force him to go he absolutely loved it and found it exhilarating. I love that word! How often in life do we feel that??? Trying new things is great – makes us feel like a kid again and keeps us young. We made a visit to our favourite potter in San Carlos. Senior Mendoza LOVES Bevan’s Defender and has had his photo taken with it. He wants Bevan to drive him up into the hills to collect his special clay. Watch for future posts on that adventure!!! (the Defender LOOKS tough, but looks can be deceiving!)

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El Paso Hike

 

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It was sad to say good bye to our wonderful house guests. The house seemed empty without them.

I have been asked several times to go to “Sewing Circle” in our neighbourhood. For those of you who know me, I take after my Mom not my Auntie Alice when it comes to sewing. If it weren’t for my husband’s “one hand surgical knots” and sewing abilities I would most likely throw out any blouse if a button came loose. I decided to go just so I would have the opportunity to say hello to some of my neighbours that I hadn’t seen. Jane was knitting a hat for her first grand-baby that is on the way. Deirdrie was making a sparkly bead. The other 6 women were just sitting at the table. ALL of us were drinking Pisco Sours!!! It was great! Who knew that I would like “sewing” so much!

On our way back to Calgary we spent a day in Buenos Aires so that we could have super with our friends Brent and Julieta. They are babysitting a little dog that is super cute – although he bite me in the face. Luckily the bad luck streak seemed to pass and although it took us 4 hours to get to the airport, check in, go through security and passport control, our flight did leave ?relatively on-time? (Argentine time) and we arrived home safely.

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Categories: Argentina, Family visits | 2 Comments

AG w/ Shannon Nov.10-22..actually 23rd! (2013)

Somehow, Bevan and I convinced his brother, Shannon, to come to Cafayate and do some handyman work on our house. An all expense paid trip may be considered a treat to some, but truly this was a sacrifice for Shannon. One – he would be taking time off work to fly halfway across the world – to work! Two, he would be away from his kids for longer than he had ever been before (thus creating more work for his wife and Mom). Three – he would be stuck with me for 12 days!!! It was touch and go for a while but his strong desire to help us out (or probably more likely the things he read about Argentine BEEF!)  persuaded him  to come.

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Beef sized Beef!!! Parilla (BBQ) at Grace Hotel

I booked our flights in Economy Plus (or Business Minus depending if you are a glass half full or half empty kinda person)  – but despite me phoning United 3 times to confirm his seat assignment next to me and having the agent write on his file not to move him out of the “Gold Member” area, Shannon was shuffled somewhere off  to the rear of the plane. Once we were up and flying I started my journey back into the hollows of the plane to find Shannon. Who knew planes were so long?? Poor Shannon was literally wedged between a big man who had his entire office set up on his meal tray and lap and  another large creature that I assume was human but really seemed to be a cross between Sasquatch and a big bear. Shannon looked so tiny! I totally can picture what he looked like as a baby. I was comfy in my super-sized seat and enjoyed a lovely conversation with an Argentine man who is the head of the Catholic church (?priest, ?Pope? God? I didn’t want to be nosey and ask for too many details) This man has travelled the world meeting with other church heads (I was picturing the gargoyles on Notre Dame in Paris) and the UN. I will probably go to hell for thinking things like this. If not, I sure I will go for suggesting he watch “The Heat” because it is a “really funny and cute movie.” Watching it for a second time, with a man who is potentially the Pope, I found it more difficult to find the humour and cuteness between all of the swear words. ( a lot starting with ‘F’ if you know what I mean?)

Shannon was a good sport, and despite not having any sleep on the plane, was in good spirits when we arrived to Salta. We had a nice supper and then headed back to my Salta home: Legado Mitico.

After a morning of shopping for home supplies and having lunch at  Diane’s home, we made the 3 hour drive to Cafayate. As we drove into the property, we saw a meter long snake at “Creature Corner”. I named a certain bend in the road this as I always have animal sightings there (baby foxes playing, doves, armadillo on demand when Lorrie wanted to search one out!, rabbits, donkeys, etc). The sighting was quite rare, I am sure, as I was assured that there were no snakes in Cafayate when we were purchasing the land.

I thought I had entered the wrong house as the lights were on, the water was on, the gas was on, and the AIR CON was on!!!!! Hallelujah!! Hallelujah!!

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Shannon worked on sealing up our windows and trouble shooting and consulting with another contractor that we highly trust. He worked hard during the day, I tried to help, but mainly just ensured that he was fed and that he had time to go to places where he could buy gifts for Crystal and the kids. We had some fabulous meals out and went to the Grand Opening Party at the Grace Hotel. I even managed to get Shannon to try the local wines. I may have turned him into an AG wine aficionado!!!

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Party at Grace Hotel Grand Opening before it got crazy.

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Gauchos at La Estancia.

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We spent a day in BA on our return and had a fantastic time with our friend Brent and Julieta. On the 22nd, we arrived at the airport early to ensure Shannon was sitting with me this time, which he was, and then enjoyed a couple of hours in the Business class lounge. Shannon really appreciated the size and comfort of our seats – well… – at least for 4 hours on the tarmac –  at which time we were told to disembark due to mechanical issues and the flight was being cancelled. (Felt like “Ground Hogs Day” – same thing happened to Bevan and I in June!) Shannon and I had the taxi ride from hell – travelling in an old crap car without seat belts at speeds of up to 150km/hr while the driver kept doing something (?texting) on his phone. We were both sure we would be in a horrific accident and were both somewhat surprised when we made it to our destination.  It was almost 4am when we got out of the cab and kissed the sidewalk in front of the apartment. I had an email from back home with some very worrisome information – which made me feel like I needed to get back to Canada even quicker.

Unfortunately, the next day at 5pm, a mere 2 hours before our planned departure to the airport, we found out again that the flight was cancelled!!! Luckily, I had a very helpful and empathetic agent who booked us on American Airlines despite it not being a partner with United. We were very lucky.

The last 48 hours seemed like hell and I was very worried that I scared the travel bug right out of my brother-in-law. However, with seeing and hearing our families and a good night sleep in our own beds, the positive memories are outshining the negative.

Things I learned on this trip:

1) My brother-in-law is a fabulous travel companion.

2) Cafayate has scorpions.

3) Armadillos scurry around in the daytime. (we saw one out for an afternoon toddle)

4) When with an English only speaker that it is important to translate BOTH sides of a Spanish conversation. I found that I would translate what other people were saying to Shannon but figured when I was speaking Spanish that he should understand what I was saying.

5) Things can actually get fixed in Argentina.

6) It is window CAULK, NOT  window C**K. Who knew ? And why wasn’t I informed earlier?

7) It is possible to get a photo radar ticket even when you are NOT in the country.

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Jacaranda trees make BA a lovely purple colour! BA is gorgeous in summer!

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Pacha Mamma is Testy! Argentina July 11-18,actually 19th, 2013

After my trip to  Cafayate in March -with my friend Lorrie-  I was convinced that the house was trying to kill me. That sounds a little crazy and dramatic, so let me rephrase. I was convinced that the negative spirit or energy inside the house was trying to drive me away. (not sure if that sounds any better?) Perhaps this is because every time I am there, weird things happen. Less so when I am there with Bevan. Many of you have heard the details – but I don’t want to put them in print incase someone from the Psychiatric Association reads this and feels compelled to have me committed!

So super long story shorter – I was recommended to see a Shaman. This lady, Karen, “travelled” to our house (via astral projection), and told us that Pacha Mamma was angry that we hadn’t asked permission to build on the land. She (Pacha Mamma) was also annoyed that our land was uncared for and desolate. (I wonder if the Shaman was actually speaking to our neighbour??) Pacha Mamma is “mother earth” in S. America and she was a big deal with the Incans. We have been told that it is a custom to do a Pacha Mamma ceremony in Argentina prior to building. The Shaman gave us clear instructions as what to do for the inside and outside of the home. Considering all we have gone through with the house, and the hope of trying to make the house work for Bevan’s sake, we booked a flight down although the timing was not great for us.

We almost didn’t get there! The flight out of Calgary was delayed due to mechanical issues. United Airlines thought it would be a 15 minute delay – but time kept on ticking. We decided that the latest that we could leave YYC would be 3pm – getting us to Houston on time to run to the next gate and get on the flight to Buenos Aires (BA). I had said 2pm – as this would be the latest time to arrive and still be able to get my favourite salad at Pappadaux…but I agreed to 3. If we missed the connection in Houston, the next flight out would be 24 hours later – and seeing that the trip was short to begin with, we decided we wouldn’t go in that case.  Three o’clock arrived. We said this must be the universe telling us that we shouldn’t go to Cafayate and Bevan said we should sell the house. We told the United agent that we would not be flying and to have our suitcases removed from the plane.  As he picked up the phone to have our luggage removed he was told the problem was fixed and they were ready to fly. “Board the plane, board the plane” (think Ikea commercial – “start the car!”) So, then, we weren’t sure if this was karma/ pacha mamma saying to keep the house??? Oh this spiritual -energy- universe- stuff is so confusing!  We still knew the connection would be tight. We landed a little late, and had a long slow taxi to the gate…then a delay at the gate! The stewardess said it was 9:03 and our flight left at 9:10 – she said if we ran quickly we would make it….although the other couple sitting further back on the flight, would not. We ran as fast as we could. I am fairly certain that one of my lungs exploded as I could taste blood and what I am sure was lung debris in my mouth. We arrived to the gate – and the flight was an hour delayed – so was just about to start the boarding process. I didn’t think it mattered as I was sure I was going to die.

I didn’t die – so we boarded the plane, had some wine and a nice meal, and slept all the way to BA. We took a taxi to the smaller airport – which was now a tight connection seeing that the flight out of Houston was an hour delayed. Not sure why they can’t just put the pedal to the metal to make up time? Our friend, Brent, was meeting us at the small airport. He alerted the airline that we were on our way, met us at the taxi and took us to the front of line 13 – where the agent knew what the storey was. We were processed quickly, went through security and boarded the plane right away.

We had a great supper and sleep at the Finca Valentina in Salta. I had been waiting to hear back from our Shaman – as she was to travel back to our house before I got there to ensure that the negative energy and grasshoppers (disease) that she cleared previously, were still gone. Her email message came only partially through – and what I saw was, “I wasn’t lead to the house…” Gulp. Why? What was happening?? Couldn’t she just lie and say that everything was good? Is it possible that I am starting to believe it this stuff?

After our drive to Cafayate, we had lunch on the town square before going to the house. Thankfully, the Shaman’s message downloaded – the rest of the sentence was “..at first. Initially I was taken into the garage, then to the back corner of the property where there is the wild shrub, then into the house.”…all was clear. Our lot is completely desolate except a big weed that turned into a bush! Not sure how she would know this.

The next few days we enjoyed Brent’s company and just relaxed. No weird things happened in the house – although I experienced an increase in my neurological symptoms! Oh – and the furnace wouldn’t work so it was very cold at night. We went shopping to get the items we needed to do the Pacha Mamma ceremony. We went to the “Pulperia”. It looks like a hardware/grocery store from the early 1900’s. Think Little House on the Prarie, but not as fancy. There are animal feet, skins, twine, open bags of lentils, dust (not sure if it is for sale), cheese, and men older than the dirt sitting around chatting. I proudly asked for some herbs – the kind needed for Pacha Mamma ceremony. I thought this would ingratiate me with the elders of Cafayate. He answered really quickly – my understanding of Spanish when spoken at the speed of light, when I am extremely tired, is poor. I asked for some string. It seemed like he was saying no. My friend, Brent, took over and was speaking as quickly and pointing to approximately 1200 rolls of string. The man charged me an outrageous amount for the string…perhaps it has been there since the ice age, so considered “antique”. Later Brent told me he was not impressed that I wanted herbs for Pacha Mamma ceremony. He said that they don’t believe in that around here and I can go buy it from the “Bolivians”. So much for trying to be culturally sensitive. So much for flying half way around the world to honor their age old tradition!! We found what we needed at another store – not sure if they were Bolivian or Argentine. Don’t really care. I do know I will not be doing a lot of shopping at the Pulperia. (like I planned to anyways!)

After Brent went back to BA, Bevan and I had lunch with our new neighbours, who we really enjoyed meeting. We came home to do our Pacha Mamma ceremony. The front door key would not work as the other key was left in it on the inside. Usually this is still okay and works, but not today. (I think She is playing with us again!) I told Bevan that I had asked that all the exit doors be keyed the same – and I had paid a pretty penny to have it done. For those following the house saga – you won’t be surprised to hear that that didn’t happen. Thankfully we accidentally left one of the doors open at the back. We began our ceremony by  planting 4 trees – 1 in each corner of the yard – as per our instructions from Pacha Mamma. We also did a smudging ceremony in the house – we lit santa palo wood and waved the smoke into every corner of the house. I didn’t realize how big the house was until I had to put smoke into every corner! It took a long time. Spiders seem to like to make their webs in corners. I am sure all the negative energy was dissipated (some of the spiders were). I was hoping nobody would pop by to visit as the house smelt like a rock concert, if you know what I mean.

Bevan and I headed back to BA for a day, as we wanted to see our lovely friend, Julieta, in her first musical. She played Morticia, in the Adams Family. It was fabulous. I was so proud of her. After the play, and photos with fans, (Julieta that is, not me and my fans….) we had supper at a great restaurant in Palermo. I would highly suggest you go there – I just can’t remember what it is called. We left the following night – thursday – as we needed to be back to Calgary friday morning to meet our 7 house guests who would be staying with us in Calgary while attending our cousin’s wedding. The flight was an hour delayed – we boarded – sat on the plane for several hours – before the announcement that the flight was cancelled. Unfortunately – because it was a holiday in BA, no hotels were available. Apparently taxis too. Bevan and I grabbed a cab outside (which is a taxi no no there) but for 40 pesos more, we avoided the long line and wait. We made some calls to some boutique hotels, our friends, and our apartment. No availability, no answer. Our cab driver was 90 if a day, and had droopy or sleepy eyes. I decided they were actually closing – pre-sleep kinda closing – as he was literally veering between 3 lanes on the highway. There were no seat belts, and I thought for sure we were going to die, and then we surely would miss the wedding. Every time I saw the man’s eyes start to shut – I would make very interesting conversation with him. Considering this was 2 am (and we had left for the airport at 5pm) I cannot say that I was the best conversationalist ever. It kinda went like this: eyes closing, “Hola Senor. Are you tired?” one word answer, no….eyes closing, “I have a dog”…..eyes closing, “Do you live in BA?” (because I am sure many taxi drivers commute!)..eyes drifting..”I like practicing speaking Spanish”…..eyes closing…”I like monkeys”…. He started to wake up and drive faster – perhaps the stimulating conversation did the trick! (Bevan thinks he wanted the crazy lady out of the car). Whatever works. We woke up the porter at Poetry Building and he graciously let us into an apartment that had just been vacated. We were lucky to be able to have lunch again with Julieta and Brent and use their home to get ready for our flight.

We landed in Calgary at noon – and miraculously cleared customs, got our luggage, and got home in time for a 2 minute shower, and made it to Kyle and Megan’s wedding that began at 2pm! Yeah!!!!

So, overall, I think Pacha Mamma has a quirky sense of humour and was testing us a little bit, but I think we have made her happy and now we will be able to enjoy the house. (and hopefully the heating / air con will finally get fixed!)

….next planned trip to Cafayate – New Years with Tonya and Cal!

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