Hello, and happy Boxing Day!
Oscar is cooking and the air-conditioning is off, so I am sweating profusely as I type this. It’s still (insert expletive) hot in La Rioja, oh yes (and the sun has shined just about continuously since I’ve been here [not that I’ve seen that much of it, hiding indoors as we have been]).
I’ve just uploaded my photos, not that there are that many – La Rioja doesn’t have many “sights” as such, it’s more about the feel of the place, and that is difficult to capture on camera (sleepiness and incredible heat are qualities difficult to pictorialise). But, a couple of observations came to mind whilst looking back at my photos on Picasa: a) the second chair-breaking incident was particularly memorable because in falling I managed to knock a glass off the table, which miraculously I somehow reached out and caught during my fall. Talk about reactions! J b) the can of peanut drink was absolutely disgusting, but it was a very kind gesture because Adrian, Oscar and Andres bought it for me from the Chinese supermarket as a Christmas present, stemming from a joke which started in Cordoba, relating to the pronunciation of peanuts!
Friday 24th December 2010
Anyway, back to Christmas Eve, which is where I left you yesterday. Our group of four had been expanded to five with the arrival of Manolo (another Chinese guy studying here in La Rioja). We started the day doing our Christmas shop at Super Vea… people must have thought us strange with all the vegetables in our trolley! We then went to the DIY superstore so that I could buy replacement chairs as Christmas presents for Oscar and Andres. It was in the heat of the day, but perhaps fractionally cooler than previous days, so we managed to survive the experience. After a light salady lunch, I continued with blog-related antics, while Oscar set about preparing the Chinese feast for the evening. And what a feast it was! We started with a cool beer or two to refresh the palate… and then started with the first dish, which was a kind of chicken and mushroom stew (but quite dry and obviously with oriental flavours), with the chicken cooked on the bone, and a variety of vegetables added to the mix. Deslish! Considering they only have one ring in the kitchen, it’s amazing what Oscar can do with a couple of woks and endless imagination (and some internet research too, I believe). This was washed down with a lovely Syrah from Cafayate. The second dish was a kind of fondue, similar to the one we had on a previous evening, again with a selection of meat and vegetables cooked in a spiced broth. The Santa Julia wines were a bit disappointing, but nothing compared to the Cabernet Sauvignon from La Rioja (disappointing considering it cost over 3 pounds), which was virtually undrinkable. We decided to mix it with coke later on, which rendered it just about palatable! The now inevitable Fernet and coke followed, with dancing, singing and much festive merriment. It was a fun evening all round and certainly the most “different” Christmas I have ever spent.
Saturday 25th December 2010
A quiet day was required after all the eating and drinking of the day before, so apart from a lovely chat with Mum and Dad (hope your toothache gets better soon, Mum), we didn’t do much apart from play cards and decide where to eat in the evening. Oh, and eat lots of watermelon and oranges!
The original plan for the evening was to have an asado (Adrian's last one!), but the 2 asado restaturants were closed, so we had to adopt a plan b instead. We ended up in a rather fancy restaurant, which I guess was apt for Adrian’s last night. The food was a bit pricer than usual for Argentina, but still about half what you would expect to pay in the UK. The filet mignon was lovely and the Tannat (red wine) from La Rioja was the best local red wine so far. Oscar thought his pasta was too creamy (the Chinese palate is totally different from the western one… cheese and cream aren’t really appreciated – which would make for an interesting experiene for a Chinese person in the West Country!) and Andres’ tuna and blue cheese was a rather odd combination, but they were the only complaints, so it was another good evening all round.
I can only say good things about the hospitality I have received. Oscar loves to cook and I love to eat, so we have definitely bonded over food (I think that's why he and Adrian get on so well too... well, that and the fact that they are both thoroughly lovely blokes). And not to forget Andres, who is the quieter of the two, but still warm and funny and kind and welcoming. It's the people that make a place and for that reason I will long remember my Christmas in La Rioja...
Well, I will leave it there for today. Adrian is leaving in a few hours and when I'm at the bus station I'll see what options are available for onward travel myself. I think I'll probably head towards Tucuman tomorrow. The blog updates might become rather more sporadic again from then on, as I struggle with slow hostel computers and internet-hogging guests and such like. But I will try my best to keep you informed.
I hope you are all enjoying yourselves this holiday season and it would be nice to hear your news if you get the chance.