Vamos Argentina!!!

So in case anyone’s missed it, Argentina just qualified for the World Cup final versus Germany.  Our incredible experience in Argentina continues as the country has reached a fever pitch just before we leave for Brazil.  In case there wasn’t enough intrigue already, the last time Argentina won the World Cup was in 1986 vs West Germany.  Argentina was knocked out of the last World Cup four years ago by Germany.  We’ve watched more futbol in the last month than in our entire lives as El Mundial has completely dominated life here.  We have had pretty typical American interests in soccer (meaning null) until now, but one can’t help but catch the craze and begin to comprehend just how important the World Cup is until witnessing it in Argentina. Although soccer seems to be certainly gaining steam in the US, we really have no equivalent to the stature of the World Cup.  The Olympics are perhaps the closest event that generates a fraction of the national, patriotic emotion in the US that we see here now.  The Super Bowl pales in comparison.  We’ve been lucky to watch a number of matches with Argentines and I promise there’s no sporting event like this.  Imagine the Super Bowl and March Madness wrapped up into one, except that everyone roots as one.  The country comes to a standstill when Argentina plays.

Flash mob In Cordoba after the win over Holland

Flash mob In Cordoba after the win over Holland

Having had a persistent issue with my chest after a bad cough, Erica convinced me to visit the ER during a game thinking I’d have a shorter wait time.  The consensus from our friends later was that the giant shot I got in my ass that rendered me immobile was likely retribution from the nurse since he was missing the game on my account.  On the occasions we’ve stepped outside during matches, the streets are absolutely deserted.  Of course schools and businesses close down during the game.  We made the mistake of sending the boys to school last week on a game day.  Elliott had 5 kids in his class and they watched the game on TV. The boys have been wrapped up in El Mundial since the beginning as the geniuses at FIFA market a sticker album of players that kids buy, collect and trade.  Conveniently the Album de Figuritas has been a great carrot and stick for Erica and I as we strive for well-behaved boys.

After the dramatic win last night over Holland, we jumped in the cars with our friends Gaby and Tom and headed to a nearby square to witness the celebrations.  Fireworks, horns blaring, people hanging out of cars and trucks screaming, flags waving.  We’ve never seen anything like it before.  The video above hopefully provides a sense of the excitement, but imagine thousands of such parties across the country.   Sunday is the final against Germany.  We feel so fortunate to be invited to share this historic and hallowed day with our wonderful friends again.  I can’t imagine what will follow should Argentina pull off the upset against mighty Germany.  Vamos Argentina!!

La Estancia Experiencia

La Granadilla

La Granadilla

As incredible as it seems, our time in Argentina is drawing to a close.  In 3 weeks we depart for an epic Brazilian tour prior to returning to home.  We all have mixed feelings about leaving Argentina and returning to the States which we’ll dig into a little bit in future posts.  A return to reality looms large as I’ve begun the job search from here recently.  Erica and I agreed long ago that we’d refrain from any discussions or activity pertaining to a job search or what comes next until May.  I’m so glad we did this so that my “grass is always greener” brain cells could soak in the moment.

That said, we’re still in Cordoba and trying to squeeze every ounce of experience out of our time here.  We recently checked off a big bucket list item that should be everyone’s goal when visiting Argentina: la estancia experiencia.

To clear up any confusion, estancia can refer both to old Jesuit missions and ranches, to active ranches, or mostly commonly to guest ranches.  We made it a priority to experience an estancia before we left.  A recent visit by some friends from Portland provided the perfect excuse.

After much research, Erica managed to settle on La Granadilla, located about 75 km southeast of Córdoba.  There are a number of estancias in the region, but La Granadilla seemed the most affordable for our group and kid friendly.  Typically, an estancia stay is full board, meaning 3 meals per day are included in the cost.  They tend to be remote and not easily accessible to public transportation.  In the end we located a mini bus transport company that agreed on pick up and return for $1,400 pesos rather than rent a car.  A 6 passenger rental car in Córdoba (hard to find by the way!) tends to cost the equivalent of $100 USD per day.

One reason we had not yet experienced an estancia was the cost.  For the most part, we’ve found the cost of many to be quite high.  After searching the web and requesting pricing by email, Erica picked a winner with La Granadilla.  The estancia is located near the pueblo of Alta Gracia and perched against the Sierras Grandes.  Typical to the region, the mountains are sparse and rugged.  Just about every plant will give you a poke.  We rented a basic detached villa with a kitchen, queen, 4 twins and a bathroom set apart from the main structure that included breakfast, lunch and dinner for each day.   Our bill in the end added up to $7,000 pesos, but also included extras such as corkage, drinks, WINE, an extra lunch and horse back riding for all of us.

Shortly after we arrived Ben spotted Vicky, a friend from school in Córdoba.  In the oddest of coincidences, it turned out that Vicky’s parents own La Granadilla.  The family has owned the estancia since the 1930s!  Vicky and Molly became fast friends and Ben garnered his fair share of girlfriend teasing during the course of the weekend.  The staff was wonderful and included two college girls who served as nannies in a way for all the kids while the parents ate.  The rest of the guests included a number of other Argentine families with young children.  Activities such as hikes, games and horse back rides were posted each day.  One of the most difficult parts of this year for the kids has been the inability to just run out the door and play outside given safety concerns and security.  At La Granadilla the kids ran free and were exhausted every night.  The boys would race outside in between World Cup games to play on the soccer field.  Saturday we were lucky enough to watch the Iran-Argentina game at the estancia with a huge group of Argentines.  I’ve never been much of a futbol fan, but there’s nothing like watching it with Argentines.

Meals were served in a communal dining hall and were announced by a dinner bell.  Breakfast tended to be the usual light fare, preparing us for the lunch and dinner to come.  Lunch and dinner were each 3 course and plentiful.  Mains included pastas, milanese (think fried veal cutlet), and asado.  As an authentic asado in Argentina, this asado included every internal organ you might imagine delivered to our table on a small grill still sizzling.  I’ve tried stomach now!

Just before we dug into the asado our wonderful estancia experience hit a speed bump when all the open space and play time resulted in an injury.  Courtesy of his brother, Ben wound up on his back with a fractured collarbone.  I’m frankly surprised it took this long, but thankful it wasn’t worse.  After a rough stretch he realized he was going to miss out on asado and insisted on taking his place at the dinner table with his arm slung in a USA soccer scarf.  7 years old and 3 broken bones already.  It appears his rugby career in Argentina is at an end a bit early.

Locating an estancia to stay at can be a bit daunting since many don’t seem to utilize the web very well and none post pricing.  Erica settled on La Granadilla after finding great reviews on Tripadvisor.  This is a decent page as a starting point for the Córdoba region.