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Published: June 12th 2014
Attractive flowering trees with trunks resembling bottles, lining Avenue 9 de Julio
Our goal this morning was wine tasting at a sommelier
school. We set off walking with the flowing stream of pedestrians stepping over and around broken pavement and public works. Made a few more efforts to take photos, although the light was too contrasty.
We entered a narrow hallway and climbed 1 1/2 storeys – no handrail of course - and we came into a narrow reception, decorated with wine and liqueur bottles from around the world. We had lots of time to examine these and some South American artworks, because it eventually transpired that the sommelier had been booked for the wrong day.
Flexibility being paramount in both guiding and touring, our Tuesday morning visit to the Colon Opera House
was substituted. More trekking through throngs of pedestrians, cars, motorbikes and trucks. On 9 de Julio Avenue we were dismayed to see a literal “blockbuster” line-up around the Theatre. Obviously people had been waiting in line for a long time – a few with chairs, newspapers, etc. At the entrance, a relieved Martin let us know that this was for free concert tickets, not the guided tours.
A delightful young woman with trilling laughter in her voice told us the
Crossing a wide river of traffic required before reaching the oasis of the Theatre.
history of the splendid Opera House, which was built shortly after Argentina’s independence for what became the golden age of society. The marbles all came from Europe; most of the embellishments are gilded; the chandeliers have hundreds of bulbs and lower from the ceiling murals. The “Golden Hall” is immensely long and is now used for Chamber Music (which she sings). We entered the main hall by entering the ceremonial box, the largest one, for dignitaries. The décor is red plush seats and beige damasked walls. There are seven balconies, although the top three are not so plush – the seventh one is called “Paradise”. 2500 people can attend.
Almost in front of the stage are the Presidential Box, and the Box for the Mayor and for others who wanted to be seen “before there was TV”, according to our guide. She took us to the Presidential Box, which had more room in the back for conferring than in the front for viewing.
Although only 11:00, Martin suggested walking to our designated pizza restaurant for an early lunch, thus consolidating our free time before returning to the sommelier school at 3:00. We all agreed and set off, once
Our group forms a discordant note in the glittering hall.
again through the congested narrow streets. Although specializing in authentic Italian pizzas, the restaurant was an attractive version of a big, fast food place. From my experience the pizzas were not the Italian pizzas I ate, which had almost cracker-thin crusts. These had very thick bread-type crusts and were super-loaded with local mozzarella cheese. I asked Martin, who consulted the bewildered wait-staff about a cheese-free pizza and was offered two slices of tomato and anchovy. Sounded good, and the taste was fine. A paper-thin slice of anchovy adorned each lightly tomato-sauced slice. Crème caramel was dessert; however, they offered me peaches, which sounded nice, but were actually standard canned peach halves. What was nice was the “chop” of beer (a small draft).
My afternoon mission was to find and photograph a block-sized shopping mall called Gallerias Pacifico
. Originally the head office of the railroad system, outside it has an ornate French romantic design, and inside the space is vaulted through four high floors. The stores are all very modern and high end, most known throughout the world. Modern murals are on the ceilings and a central structure. In one corner I discovered the “Borges” art gallery
. There were two small exhibitions, which
Santa Catalina de Siena
Across from the grand shopping mall - a modest church for evening worship.
I looked at briefly; major exhibitions on the next floor had admission fees.
Coming out of the Gallerias, I noticed a church across the street. Of course I went in; however, once again, a service was just starting. Outside was a sign saying “Monastery”, and I decided to investigate. Not sure there is a monastery any more, because the internal quadrangle contained an outdoor restaurant.
Back on the street I was a bit confused about directions, and street signs are rather scarce. When I passed the Sheraton Hotel, the direction felt wrong. I went in and enquired of a helpful passing waiter. Indeed I was walking in the exact opposite direction of the hotel.
Our reappearance at the sommelier school was cheerfully greeted. The sommelier who delivered our wine tasting was as far as possible from the dignified man in a dark suit who speaks in revered tones. Ines was a wild performer who reminded me strongly of Joan Rivers in her delivery and appearance. She conveyed her considerable knowledge with jokes (not all clean) and a lively love of her country, the terroir and people. For three hours she entertained and educated us about wine characteristics,
Elegant worship of consumerism!
, Pinot Noir
. I like the Bonarda best – full-flavoured, dark red and smooth. In compensation for our failed morning trip, she raffled off a bottle of each. My name was the first called! Torrontes is now in my suitcase, because we already drink endless wine at every meal!
Dinner was at La Estancia, a near-by large restaurant, rather like a beer hall except for the decor. One long wall held a mural of cattle coming out of a pen. The pillars were also painted, with patterns in soft greens and gold. On the wall hung artifacts of ranching. We sat at two tables and were quickly served lettuce, tomato and onion salad, fairly common here. One bowl generously served two people. Beef empanadas
came next, served with chimichurri
sauce, first I’ve had.
A fine dark Malbec was good, even after our earlier tasting. Then came the proudly served porterhouse steaks, more than an inch thick and bigger than my hand with fingers outspread. They were delicious, all cooked medium rare, not that they ask you. If your steak is too rare, they bring a pan of coals with a metal plate and you
Hall of steak eating!
finish the cooking to your taste. Fries accompanied the steaks, but they were limp and the potatoes too soft.
Our walk back to the hotel in the dark was cheerful. The streets were a venue for many strollers checking out the shops and enjoying each other’s company.
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