Andes Lands B&B, an Argentinian idyll

I was rather sad that I’d miss Easter at home. (What’s home now? I’m not sure.) My family was having a reunion at my Aunt Mary’s house in Suffolk, England and I knew it’d be just like the old days when we were little. Except instead of us being little, now it would be the next generation running around the rambling house. I can feel now the nostalgia-flooding smell of home cooking, old fabrics and my childhood seeping through every sense-receiving synapse.

Since we’re living in Buenos Aires, my boyfriend and I were looking for an Easter-break a bit closer to our new home. We had decided to go west to warmer, wine-soaked climes, Mendoza for a day and then San Rafael. It was in San Rafael that we found an Anglo-South American family Easter, home away from home. I suppose it was no accident. I did pick the ramshackle farmhouse for its tangled English garden, but when we arrived to find over-bloomed yellow roses being cut for the dining room table and the house full of three generations of Anglo-Argentine family; my heart blossomed like the table flowers.

Andes Lands is a failed soft fruit farm. In the family since 1914, the traditional business was the victim of serious hailstorms. Over the last year, the owners, Michael and Vicky Stuart have turned their hand to another form of income: hospitality. It’s a good word for their business. We arrived on a Friday at lunchtime and found ourselves in the midst of a chocolate egged, Easter lunch extravaganza, with eggs for us as well. From that moment on we felt part of the family. Perhaps we are the least autonomous guests they’ve ever hosted since we had no car and it rained nearly the entire time. Maybe that’s how our lives became so interwoven for the three days we spent together. We ate all meals of Vicky’s outstanding cooking together save breakfast. Every outing we made together, bar one escapade to Atuel Canyon when the sun shined for a while.

By far the most memorable event was the family picnic. Vicky is a Scot, and the picnic was typified by a stoic effort to enjoy the outdoor adventure no matter what befell. Luckily a tent had come along for the ride as well as Vicky and Michael, two of their sons, their sons’ partners, a two year old, a mother in law, us hapless guests and Archie the Jack Russell. The rain came. In stair rods. We sheltered, sodden on the tent’s archipelago-esque floor munching lunch from a woven basket of goodies while the boys heroically attempted a fire. Even dousing the thing in petrol didn’t help. Eventually we abandoned ship, but the boys wouldn’t hear of us walking unprotected in the rain. Up came the tent around us and like Queens of Sheba the boys carried the tent as a roof over the girls’ heads. What a parade, what a picture! Of course we were all soaked, but nothing could dampen our spirits.

So back to home, a treasure trove of patchwork quilts, ancestral paintings and corridors and wonderfully colourful rooms punctuated by book cabinets containing a veritable canon of classics and bucket list books. What a wonderful place to spend a sunny day with its gardens and big swimming pool and doubly so on a rainy one.

One of the sitting rooms, perfect for our brekkie and for book reading.

One of the sitting rooms, perfect for our brekkie and for book reading.

Perhaps the gem in the Andes Lands crown is Vicky. She’s simply true, through and through. She is exactly the same to everyone and soldiers through life with an endearing, well-worn wit. She’s extremely kind and her family follow suit, they all made us feel very welcome.

Vicky made us feel part of the family.

Vicky.

On our last full day, we went on a dog walk, Andes Lands style. After a roof lifting ride down a track more water than road, our Jeep chauffeured by the charming Michael, stuffed full of three more family, us and the ever present Archie arrived at the rocks. We spent several hours clambering through holes and over fantastically eroded turrets in this natural adventure playground. So much fun!

Archie is such a little trooper! He scrambled up with us.

Archie is such a little trooper! He scrambled up with us.

The upshot of this blog post is that I’d highly recommend staying with Vicky and Michael if you get half a chance. Here are some details and tips:

www.andeslands.com

Room rates vary. We paid $45 (US dollars) each per night. We paid in pesos though, so I guess either currency is fine.

There are about 5 guest rooms, all with their own bathrooms.

Transport: We flew to Mendoza to tour the vineyards before travelling down to San Rafael by bus. The bus journey was four hours. Michael picked us up at the bus station (there’s a small fee for the pick up). Andes Lands is 10 minutes from the centre of San Rafael. You can fly direct to San Rafael from Buenos Aires.

Weather: The average rainfall is 350mm a year, so next to nothing. We were just unlucky with the rain! The climate is lovely and warm.

Languages: Vicky and Michael speak fluent English and Castellano (Spanish)

Extra costs: Breakfast is included of course. Other meals come at a very reasonable rate, however they may not be on offer so check first. They’ll make you drinks, for example a super strong and deliciously fresh gin and tonic if you like. These come at a small cost.

You can get to the sights by bus, but it’s a lot easier if you hire a car.

For more photos see Tripadvisor. Some people complain on Tripadvisor that it’s a little bit shabby, but I think the faded grandeur is part of its charm.

Email Michael at stuartsanrafael@yahoo.com.ar

One small part of the rambling house.

One small part of the rambling house.

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