¡Feliz Navidad!

Old-fashioned Christmas by katiemetz, on Flickr

When you strip away the trappings of Christmas—the gifts, the decorations, and everything else that Hallmark and Martha Stewart promote to ensure a "perfect" holiday—you're left with one all-important element: family.

This Christmas I will cherish the time with my family and friends here in the U.S. even more since it's likely to be the last holiday I spend with them for a while. I wish I didn't have to choose between my American family and my Argentine one, but I found out long ago that there are plenty of tough choices to be made in life. Maybe some day I will sit at one table with all those people who are important to me—now that would be a special Christmas.

To all of my family and friends: no matter what corner of the world you call home, you are in my heart this holiday. I dedicate this Christmas song, Los reyes magos by Argentine composer Ariel Ramírez, to you all.

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Wind Farm Coming to Necochea

Going Green with Wind Turbines

Necochenses
are a bit sensitive about their beach town's reputation as a windy city, claiming that it's no windier than any other spot on Argentina's Atlantic coast. While Necochea's blustery reputation may still be up for debate between tourists and residents, the local government has decided it's time to tap into one of the area's most abundant resources - the wind - as a green method to generate electricity.

On December 5th, the mayor of Necochea, Dr. Daniel Molina, and the president of Sea Energy S.A. signed an agreement to construct a wind farm on a strip of land in Parque Miguel Lillo, about 1km (0.6 mi.) south of the fisherman's pier in Necochea. According to the company's president, the location in Necochea was selected as the project site for the quality of its winds as well as its proximity to a city center.

Sea Energy, headquartered in the city of La Plata, plans an investment of $3,500,000 for the installation of wind turbines some 40m (131 ft.) high. Work is slated to start at the beginning of January, and the first wind turbine should be in place by February. The wind farm is expected to generate 3 megawatts of power annually.

Sources: Municipalidad de Necochea and Voces de Necochea Read More......

Handmade Gifts from Argentina

If you've ever been to an artisan fair in Argentina, then it's no secret that the country has a multitude of talented craftspeople. A stroll through one of those fairs can yield some very interesting, one-of-a-kind treasures. There's a certain allure to shopping in your pjs though, so if you don't feel like leaving the comforts of home (or you don't happen to have a plane ticket to Argentina handy), surf on over to Etsy, "an online marketplace for buying and selling all things handmade."

If you're looking for a unique, handcrafted gift for someone, you can meander through Etsy's Argentine offerings or read this entry on the site's blog for specific gift recommendations from an Argentine craftswoman. There's a wide array of crafts available ranging from jewelry to woolen goods to hand-printed cards.

The necklace shown above is made by sherry truitt studios, an artist based in New Jersey. She'll customize the map on the pendant to any location. I'm fairly sure she's not Argentine, but I thought that necklace was pretty cool and worth a mention anyway.

At any rate, enjoy the hunt and feel good about the fact that you're supporting talented artisans (whether in New Jersey or Argentina!).

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Estancia Los Dos Hermanos

During my recent trip to Argentina with my family, we spent the day at Estancia Los Dos Hermanos, a ranch about an hour outside of Buenos Aires in Zárate. When I was initially planning the trip, a day at an estancia seemed appealing since I know my father prefers the countryside to the big city; however, when I first told my dad and stepdad about the ranch, neither of them was terribly enthused. Though they weren't as excited about horseback riding as I'd hoped, I wasn't perturbed since the owner assured me that other activities were available. With plain old rest and relaxation near the top of the list of alternatives [plus a swimming pool and carriage rides], I knew I couldn't go wrong!

Shortly after we arrived at the estancia, we were offered a light snack and a drink before heading out to the horses. Matías, one of the guides, selected a mount for both Daniel and me. Instead of saddling up, Vince and my dad opted to ride in a carriage around the estancia with Alejandro, another guide. They even had an opportunity to take the reins and drive for a bit. For our morning jaunt, we stayed within the boundaries of the estancia while enjoying the fantastic weather, the beauty of the landscape and some interesting critters such as teros, lechuzas [burrowing owls], and a water buffalo.

At lunch we were plied with beer, red wine, empanadas and a very tasty asado that included three courses of meat—chorizo and costillas [short ribs], lomo [tenderloin] and bife de chorizo [strip steak]—with a simple green salad thrown in for good measure. The meal was topped off by a dessert of flan, which looked so good even I was tempted to sample a spoonful, despite my general aversion to eggs. We ate together outdoors with the other guests at the estancia and the guides, and the conversation was pleasant among the group comprised of Americans, a Canadian couple and a pair of newlyweds from Scotland.

We sat and talked for a few minutes after lunch while others played foosball or sapo, and then most of the group prepared for a second ride. Daniel and I headed out for another round of horseback riding while Dad and Vince stayed behind and relaxed in the hammocks and strolled around taking photos. This time the group ventured outside the boundaries of the estancia for a wonderful ride that lasted close to two hours. More advanced riders were given the freedom to gallop and separate a bit from the group while novices walked or trotted according to their comfort level. The galloping was exhilarating!

As the sun began to set, we returned a bit sore but with smiles all around. We were served buñuelos [a type of doughnut], juice, and coffee while signing the estancia's guestbook and playing with the exuberant pack of dogs. We bade farewell to our hosts after a thoroughly enjoyable day and headed back to the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires. If you're looking for a laidback experience that focuses on horseback riding and isn't overly touristy, then I highly recommend Estancia Los Dos Hermanos.

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Argentina, Here I Come!

The date practically leapt off the printed confirmation page that I clutched eagerly: Saturday, February 28, 2009. I felt a flood of excitement and a tinge of anxiety as the realization set in that in less than three months, I will be moving to Argentina. I know that the time will simultaneously drag on and pass by in a heartbeat. Let the new countdown commence!

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I took advantage of a great fare through LAN thanks to this post on Argentina's Travel Guide.
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Tourist Information for Necochea, Argentina

English-language tourist information for Necochea, Argentina can be difficult to come by, even with the vast wealth of resources available on the Internet. Here is some information from Seashells and Sunflowers as well as other quality sources on the web to get you started.

Things to Do

» Exploring Necochea and Quequén: Get an overview of Necochea's tourist offerings. This article includes information about neighboring Quequén, too.

» The Beaches of Necochea and Quequén: Get the scoop on the area's best spots to enjoy the sun and surf!

» Taking in the Sights of Puerto Quequén: Find out about available recreational opportunities at Necochea and Quequén's port, including fishing and visiting the sea lion colony.

» Sightseeing Bus Tours in Necochea and Quequén: This tour is a great opportunity to see the cities' main tourist attractions, especially for those visiting without a car!

» Adventure and Extreme Sports in Necochea and Quequén: With access to the sea, a major river, an extensive pine forest, and undulating dunes, Necochea and Quequén offer tons of exciting activities for visitors with a taste for adventure.

» Natural Beauty at Paraje Las Cascadas: Relax, picnic, kayak or swim just outside of town along the Río Quequén.

Cultural Events

January
» Feria de las Colectividades: Celebrate the various immigrant groups that have helped shape Necochea, with ethnic foods, music, and folk dancing.

June
» Festividad de San Juan: Ring in the winter solstice with a good old-fashioned witch burning.

October
» Aniversario de Necochea: Enjoy the parade, food, music and festivities to mark the founding of Necochea.

Transportation

» Getting to Necochea by Bus, Plane or Car

Where to Eat

» Read Necochea restaurant reviews on Trip Advisor [all English-language reviews were written by me].

» Sabores de Necochea: Necochea restaurant guide [in Spanish]

Resources Around the Web
» Lonely Planet » Necochea
» TravelPod » Necochea
» ENTUR [Necochea Tourism Board] [in Spanish]
» Necochea Webcam
» Descubrí Quequén [in Spanish]
» Accuweather Forecast for Necochea
» Wind Guru - Necochea

[View Necochea, Argentina in a larger map]

[Information updated on October 8, 2012]

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