La Traviata"(posted in a previous blog entry), performed by world famous opera singer, Luz de Alba. This was the first time we saw the local.
We traveled to Punta Ballena and met up with new immigrants (sounds funny to be on the other side of the "immigrant" line) Shawn and Mari. We also met Mari's mom (who will now be living here in Uruguay) and her sister, niece and brother-in-law, who accompanied the Mom on her trip here. Their neighbor Lucas, a 16 year old Uruguayan boy, who speaks flawless English, accompanied us as a guide.
Lapataia is just a short drive from their house and as you first enter, you can see it is set up to host loads and loads of people. There is ample parking and many displays of antique farm equipment, various gardens (no doubt used by their kitchen) and a nice walk down the road for the stables, where we would rent horses for a little jaunt to the edge of their property.
The horses rented for 150 pesos ($7.50 US) for 1/2 hour. When I was younger, my grandfather owned a riding stables in Castro Valley, California and in my early years, I was quite a rider, until well into my 20's. I didn't realize until thinking about it later, that it has probably been a good 30 years since I've been on a horse. But you know what they say- "It's like riding a bike- you never forget how to fall off". Anyway, I was dressed for the occasion and we selected our horses. I was proud that at least I didn't need extra help to mount the horse and soon the group was on it's way.
We took the little road up past the amphitheater (where La Traviata had played), a little display of local animals, and finally down to the end of the road. Riding back, we alternated between a walk, a trot and the horses even got up to a decent gallup. The saddles don't have a pommel, so there is nothing to hold onto (if you are a novice), but they are provided with a nice soft lambskin on the seat.
On the way out, I was thinking that a short 30 minute ride is really not enough for a seasoned rider, like myself, to enjoy. On the way back in, I thought that while I might be a seasoned rider, my legs and rear end definitely were not. Thirty minutes was plenty long enough. On the way home, I barely had enough strength in my legs to shift gears (a short nap has remedied that).
We stopped into the restaurant and looked over the menu. They had buffet lunches (featuring pastas and salads) for 400-500 pesos ($20-25 US). We opted for a milanesa and fries (very nice), but even that was way overpriced and nothing on the menu was very special. Still, somebody has to pay for being able to walk around and enjoy the grounds. You don't pay entry fee and can enjoy most of the ranch, bringing a picnic, if you wish, at no cost.
It proved to be a lovely trip and well worth the effort. I think, however, that the need to ride horseback, which I have been wanting to satisfy since we got here, is not as strong as before. I'm pretty sure that 2010 is covered. Perhaps next year, we'll try another 30 minute ride, but I don't think any long distance equestrian trips are in our future.