Local Peña girls at The Mausoleum
to Gauchito Gil
Without a decent guide book to Argentina I was under the impression it was a short hop, skip and a jump from Concordia on the border of Uruguay and Argentina to Mercedes and the gateway to the Esteros Del Ibera. By the way I’m loving the names of these towns in Argentina. I think I’ve under-estimated the size of Argentina compared to the trifling 68,000 miles² of Uruguay. It took us a long eight hour bus journey across beautiful but rainy North-East Argentinian countryside. Katherine couldn’t help but walk into the first styling gaucho tienda she saw offering all manner of saddle and horse paraphernalia in polished silver and leather. The friendly staff in this small town quickly found the local accommodation listing and recommended Silvia Lacour B&B, just two blocks from the main square. It was definitely the highlight of this small town (save the triendy restaurant and it’s Chablis and cold cuts!) The rooms were well furnished, nicely decorated and very comfortable, the communal garden very tranquil with a hammock and more loungers in the shade, but it was the hostess and her family that made the stay at this Bed and breakfast in Mercedes so special. The rooms are ARG Peso 160 per night (April 2009) and included breakfast.
Silvia Lacour B&B, Belgrano 520, Mercedes Corrientes, Argentina
Idyllic terrace at Silvia Lacour B&B
Within half an hour of arriving at Silvia’s house, she had invited us to her family estancia in the open countryside for an Easter party. And what a party it was, to give you an idea of what we were to expect, their private drive was about one mile long! A huge main building the main focus of which was the main hall with wooden bar, stage and dj booth and a huge asado (barbecue) with a couple of lamb roasting away. Wine flowed freely, the lamb was so tender and some of the guests rather eccentric – perhaps par for the course for an Argentinian with an Eton education! At one point the host drove through the main hall on one of the housekeepers motorbikes, before whisking her away to, well who knows. We were given a small tour of the estate, including the new tower with English library on the fifth floor. Really quite bizarre and reaming of old-school money. Plenty of wine, whisky and hand-rolled cigars later and some various attempts at flamenco dancing I secured a lift back home with promises of polo and croquet the next day!
Mercedes is a small town and so quite a suitable place to recover from a hangover on a Sunday afternoon and take a lengthy siesta like the rest of the population. It is however, a good starting point for trips to the Esteros Del Ibera wetlands marine park two hours to the North, which we’ll go to later in the week ..
Memorial to Gauchito Gil
Gauchito Gil Yerba Maté for sale
Just out of town is also the quite bizarre ‘Memorial to Gauchito Gil’. The revered Gaucho Gil is a sort of Robin Hood character who transcends all barriers throughout Argentina. Hundreds of Argentinians come to visit this memorial everyday and leave their thanks and ask their saviour for safety in the years ahead. It was quite a surreal day out and apart from lots of red flags, red candles, cigarettes, licence plates and various other red icons to the saint, there were bundles of country folk enjoying a fun holiday Monday out; eating and dancing. The two things Argentinians arguably do best!
And yes, the local buses were supplied by Mercedes.