The Andes are wide in the Bariloche area. and this is looking northward, across Lake Nahuel Huapi, and broadside from the waves breaking 6-8 feet high on the waterfront. This is the best place to see a romantic sunset, but stay in your car, out of the Patagonian wind.
The promised shot of the Russian dolls above the Mamaschka chocolate shop. The dolls rotate when the shop is open (if they remember to turn them on) and face backwards when the shop is closed. I hadn’t read anything about Russian immigrants to Patagonia, nor recall any famous Russian chocolate tradition, but the hot cocoa and pastries inside were delicious.
I did sign up for a second week of Spanish lessons. La Montana offers activities several times a week for its students, like hiking, bowling, and salsa dancing. R and I wanted to attend the salsa lessons on Friday, but we couldn’t find the bar we were supposed to meet at. I was really happy to get a second chance the next Monday. R couldn’t go because it conflicted with the keynote lecture of his conference (he’s dedicated that way). We had a lot of fun anyway, all 6 of us women, and the instructor could partner with three of us at once.
Bryan arrived for the conference on Monday. He went with me to shoot dawn over the Andes a couple times. Then I trundled off to class for four hours each morning. The new hotel cut back on my sense of immersion compared to the week before, because the staff were trained to speak in English, and there were so many of R’s pals around to catch up with. Even so, every day I would hear something, on the streets, in a shop or even on tv, that we had just studied in class.
I knew Bryan would get into the old cars in town. Tons of Ford Falcons, but also ancient Fiats, Citroens, and even some former Soviet Union craft that I didn’t recognize. The import taxes are huge – R saw an ad for a new Honda CRV for US$88K. Prices for imports were often quoted in US dollars, because the Argentinian economy has been struggling with inflation. We saw a few late model luxury imports, including a BMW sedan, but not many.
Let’s talk about food. First, dinner time? No one is in the restaurants before 9 pm, and things don’t really get busy until after 10. No wonder they don’t eat more than a piece of toast or a croissant for breakfast. Even little kids are eating late. Second, besides the Bariloche chocolate industry, Patagonia offers some local culinary specialties beyond the classic Argentinian steak. Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of parrillas grilling massive slabs of beef. But Patagonia isn’t prime cattle country, and the early immigrants stocked the lakes and streams with trout. We saw monster-sized trout on our adventure to El Tronador, and again on our plates in the restaurants. Bryan had some outstanding local venison one night. Local shops smoke venison, trout and boar, even cheeses. We sampled some smoked boar in a spread that was offered instead of butter with our bread at an Italian place. It took me a more than a moment to recognize the word ñoqui for gnocchi. At the Italian restaurants, you choose your pasta separately from your sauce – my favorite was a wild mushroom cream sauce over meat filled agnolettis.
I didn’t get a second chance at the cake that almost made me cry. We found a lovely little cafe near the school. Every cafe had a mandatory selection of croissants, but La Providencia made the most beautiful cookies and tarts. Sometimes we’d go there for a sandwich, and one day I waited until it was quiet and asked the waiter to match the names of the treats to the pastries in the case, because none of the words were in the dictionary. Think butter cookies dipped in chocolate,or sheets of puff pastry sandwiched with dulce de leche caramel. One evening, when we had had a big lunch and weren’t hungry for a full dinner, we went to La Providencia for dessert and coffee. Some true genius baked thin layers of sponge cake, spritzed them with a sugar/liqueur then spread them with dulce de leche instead of frosting. Once the layers were stacked, more dulce de leche coated the whole assembly and was topped with an hard dark chocolate glaze. If I had met the pastry cook, I might have dropped to my knees, it was that good.