13 July 2010

We're Out of Argentina, but Argentina Isn't Out of Us

The evening of July 5th, we headed north to escape the coming Argentine winter. About 36 hours and many many valuable Continental miles later, we landed in Barcelona, Spain, where we picked up a rental car and started off for a 3-week vacation in the sun.

Our first stop - fortuitous, since it was the only one not planned in advance - was Oropesa del Mar, along Spain's eastern Costa Azahar, about a 3-4 hour drive south of Barcelona.

The Marina D'Or resort complex there was a wonderful place to get some beach time after the long trip from Buenos Aires and then watch Spain beat Germany to advance to the final game of the World Cup. In the ensuing jubilation we gained lots of little-while friends and learned some valuable chants and songs, such as "Soy español, español, español; soy español, español, español." This easy to remember and quite manageable ditty came in handy the night of July 11, a date now forever etched into the hearts of españoles everywhere. But more on that in a later posting. More photos from Oropesa here.

Next stop: the Alhambra in Granada. Ever since her first visit in 2000 to this grand complex of mainly Moorish architecture and landscaping with Reyes Católicos overlays, Linda had wanted to stay on the grounds for a few nights. The Hotel América, an economical alternative to the Parador next door, more than adequately served the purpose. We had purchased tickets in advance for a day-time visit of the gardens and post-Moorish structures and a wonderful night-time tour of the Nasrid Palaces, built in the 14th century. Photos of the grounds here; photos from the night tour of the palaces here.

What we didn't know was that the 59th annual music and dance festival also was going on. Featured performers the days we were there included Rodolfo Mederos, famed Argentine bandoneon player whom we have heard twice in Buenos Aires, and Daniel Barenboim, Israeli-Argentine pianist and conductor, whom we will see directing the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (coincidentally based in Sevilla in southern Spain) at the Teatro Colon in August.

But the biggest surprise was running into Argentine president Cristina Fernández (no relation), stopping by briefly on her way home from an official visit to China. We knew something was afoot when we saw a security detail (obvious from the earplugs) casing the restaurant of the Parador, accompanied by officials using such typically Argentine phrases as "chau chau" and "besitos." We returned after dinner time for a glass of wine and, despite security attempts to block us, were able to snag a photo of the presidenta without her trademark heavy make-up and wearing eyeglasses. Even presidentas suffer jetlag.

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