Christmas Eve - Noche Buena

Villa Gesell Travel Blog

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The boardwalk at Villa Gesell.

This morning I spent a few hours at the internet cafe trying to catch up on photo uploads and blogging.  A churro con dulce de leche from a local pastry shop (along with the extra raw sugar the clerk just poured into the bag over my churro) kept my hunger in check.

In the early afternoon, I did what has become my daily (or twice daily) ritual - a stroll along the beach.  Villa Gesell has a very nice wooden plank boardwalk along the main section of beach - it is mildly creative in design in that it meanders back and forth (curved, not in straight line) and up and down (over and between small sand dunes).  Good for walking or bike riding (on a mountain bike or beach cruiser), not so good at all for rollerblading or fancy-bike riding.

Ricardo taking a break from cooking.
  Maybe not so good for running either, I wouldn´t know.  :)  But actually, my strolls normally took place down by the water - a bit cooler than the hot boardwalk through the dry sand.

I paused for an afternoon snack and beer at one of the restaurants on the beach.  There, I chatted with the two waiters - Diego and Mario.  We talked about where to go later tonight for fun.  They recommended the bar next door to the other restaurant they work in.  The bar was called Chauen.  (And the restaurant was called Corcuman.)  They said they´d be there after work (after their second job of the day), and we could all hang out.  Cool, I said.

Later, back on the beach, I ran into Yanel, the woman who was my waitress the other night at Sutton bar.

Me and Ben
  I guess I´m pretty good at chatting up waiters and waitresses.)  She said she just quit her job.  I´m not sure why.  We chatted for a bit and though she was having dinner with her family tonight, she agreed to meet me out later that night.  I told her I´d be at Chauen, and she said cool, she´d meet me there at 1:30am. 

By late afternoon, it was time to get to work.  Well, I mean ¨work¨.  I needed to decide on plans for the big Christmas Eve evening (called ¨Noche Buena¨), and also (depending on those plans) buy some clothes suitable for a Christmas dinner. 

So I cruised Avenida 3, the main thoroughfare through Villa Gesell, looking for a few clothing stores.  The shops were mostly small boutique stores, offering many bikini options as well as other beach or sport wear.

Melina and Eduardo
  I did find a few stores with designer-ish means clothing.  I fairly quickly decided on a shirt.  Done.  60 pesos.  Not too bad.  (About 20 bucks)

But jeans were a different story - I didn´t particularly like the styles, and the sizes were just not as well-fitting as in the U.S.  But I had to make do with the selections available.  I had the most luck at a store called Cyclon Surf Wear, where a woman named Melina was kind enough to help me.  We chatted a bit in English (hers is excellent), I tried on a few pairs of jeans, and finally decided on a pair.  The brand was Rusty.  She assured me it was a hip, cool brand in Argentina.  Ok fine.  I´ll take them.

As I was paying, we casually chatted about the evening and what each other´s plans were.

Champagne and lemon ice cream. Mmmm.
  She was going to an asador (barbecue) at a friend´s house.  And I mentioned had no plans.  I wasn´t trying to drop a hint or anything, seriously.  But she immediately got on her phone, texted her friends, and within minutes had extended me an offer to join her at the asador.  She said the guest list would include her, the two hosts, another couple, and a ¨friend¨.   

Thrilled, I of course said yes.  Not only was Melina friendly, fun, and yes cute, but going to a real Argentina asador was going to be a unique experience.  It was way better than going to some fancy fixed menu dinner at a restaurant, by myself!  I thanked her for the invitation, and we agreed I´d meet her back at the store at 9pm to go over together.

Melina opening a champagne bottle. No, she´s not sabering it, she´s trying to remove the plastic cork. Yes, I said plastic. It was that good.

With that, I rushed home to shower (it was already 8pm), dress in my new clothes (yes, sorry gang, I didn´t wash the shirt or jeans before wearing - I figured in the last month, I´ve seen and done way dirtier things), and buy a nice bottle of wine as a gift to the host of the asador. 

Then I headed back to the store to meet Melina.  Then, two buzz kills.

First, my jeans were ripped. And not in a good spot.  The zipper fly was torn apart from the jeans, so while my jeans were zipped, it looked like they weren´t zipped.  I remember vaguely feeling this issue in the store when I zipped them for the first time, but didn´t bother looking down to investigate.  Obviously I should have.  I told Melina, and she said I could bring them to the store tomorrow and they would sew the rip for me.

Oooop thar she blows!

Second, Melina was there waiting...along with the friend...a French guy named Ben.  They apparently met a day or two earlier when HE was shopping in the store.  The story is that he had become interested in one of Melina´s coworkers as he was shopping around (shopping for clothes, and maybe a date!?).  When he went back later in the day to ask her out, he met Melina who said the girl had left for the day... One thing led to another, and Ben and Melina hit it off.  Although she told me they were friends, it was clear something was going on. 

Not a big deal, except now I felt like a total party-crashing third (or in this case 7th) wheel.  And ok, ok, yes, I had the small fantasy of maybe this was going to be a date for me.

Ricardo brings out the flaming desserts!
..but clearly no.

The asador turned out to be located about a block from my hospedaje - convenient!  The building had a bookstore downstairs (right on Avenida 3), and apartments upstairs.  But the asador was in the big grassy backyard, underneath a covered patio with two huge brick grills.  I am not sure if the proper term here is asador or parilla.  I´ll have to look it up. 

The group was:  Eduardo and Ricardo (the hosts), Melina and Ben, Nadia and Juan, and me.  Ricardo was really the main cook, it seemed.  And Ricardo was what I´d call the Entertainer.  He reminded me of cross between Cheech and the Carlos Mencia (host of show Mind of Mencia).  They were both pretty cool.

The setup was pretty unbelievable.

After we put out the fires...both on the dessert and on the table.
  The grill was FULL of meats of all different kinds, and vegetables, and potatoes, and toasted bread.  More on that in a minute.  The fridge was full of wine and champagne.  We sat at a nice picnic table in the covered part of the part.  Outside it had started to rain, complete with cool lightning.

The meal began with fresh salad - lettuce and tomatoes and onions.  And wine.  Then toast with chopped tomatoes and herbs.  And wine.  Then sausage.  And wine.  Then came the interesting stuff... Here´s how it went, translated more or less back into English:

Ricardo:  A little grilled XYZ (some word in spanish) anyone? 

Me:  Yeah I´ll try it - it looks good, like grilled eggplant.

Eduardo gives Melina a glob of ice cream in her champagne.
  (I eat it.  Tolerable, probably not my favorite.) 

Ricardo:  No, it´s not eggplant, it´s cow intestine. 

Me:  Um, More wine please.

Ricardo:  Ok, here, try this.  (He puts some dark red, soft sausage on my plate.)

Ben:  No thanks, not for me.  I don´t care for it.  (He apparently knows what it is.)

Me:  Well, what is it?  Brains?

All:  Brains, no, it´s definitely not brains.  Just eat it, we´ll tell you afterward.  It´s better that way.

Me thinking:  (I went through my head - ok, it´s not brains, it´s not an eyeball clearly, and I´ve already eaten intestines.  Any other body part might be ok.  I´ve had liver.

The setting for our Christmas asador.
  I think I´ve had chicken heart.  What else is there.  Maybe it´s ground up Tongue?  That wouldn´t be so bad.)

Me talking:  Ok.  (Agreeing that it probably is better to know afterward.  And so I take a bite.  Not so tolerable this time.  But trying to be polite, I take a couple more bites.  Then I pass my plate and say:)

Me:  Hmm, probably not for me.  Would someone else like the rest?   (Melina takes my plate and slides the rest of the sausage to Eduardo, who gobbles it up.

Me:  Ok, so what was that?

All:  Sangre coagulada. 

Me:  You mean I just at barbecued coagulated cow blood?  Mmm tasty.  Could I have the rest of that wine, please?

That excerpt was by far the highlight of the meal in terms of entertainment value for you.

Me on la playa. Third person view.
  The rest of the meal was just more traditional types of meat - rib eye, chorizo, chicken breast, etc. 

Dessert came later, on a big plate that we all shared.  It consisted of some kind of frozen - and flammable - dish with bananas, ice cream, and sauce.  The sauce was some kind of liqueur, which Ricardo lit on fire.  The plate however was a little too full and the liqueur spilled on to the table which then caught on fire.  That was pretty exciting.   We all stupidly, drunkenly, and fortunately successfully swatted at it to put it out.

The second dessert we had consisted of simple lemon helado (ice cream) scooped up and dropped into a glass of champagne.  Fairly harmless and safe - though we did consider the sabering technique to open the champagne bottle.

Me on la playa. First person view.
  Then we opted for just the traditional method.

By 1:00am, I started planning my exit, so I could get to Chauen to meet my waiters and waitress friends.  And by 1:20am, I was on my way.

At Chauen, I met up with Diego and Mario, and their other friends Roberto, Frederico, and Marcia.  We sat on the sidewalk patio and had a few drinks and lots of laughs, and photos.  The place was jam packed by 2:30am for the rest of the night.  Unfortunately, I never found Yanel. 

Home by sunrise, I indeed had a Noche Buena.


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The boardwalk at Villa Gesell.
The boardwalk at Villa Gesell.
Ricardo taking a break from cookin…
Ricardo taking a break from cooki…
Me and Ben
Me and Ben
Melina and Eduardo
Melina and Eduardo
Champagne and lemon ice cream.  Mm…
Champagne and lemon ice cream. M…
Melina opening a champagne bottle.…
Melina opening a champagne bottle…
Oooop thar she blows!
Oooop thar she blows!
Ricardo brings out the flaming des…
Ricardo brings out the flaming de…
After we put out the fires...both …
After we put out the fires...both…
Eduardo gives Melina a glob of ice…
Eduardo gives Melina a glob of ic…
The setting for our Christmas asad…
The setting for our Christmas asa…
Me on la playa.  Third person view.
Me on la playa. Third person view.
Me on la playa.  First person view.
Me on la playa. First person view.
Lifeguard station.
Lifeguard station.
Ricardo showing us the meats cooki…
Ricardo showing us the meats cook…
Eduardo showing us...something.
Eduardo showing us...something.
Me eating cow intestine.  Sorry, d…
Me eating cow intestine. Sorry, …
Melina and Eduardo
Melina and Eduardo
The gang
The gang
Eduardo loading up on some meat.
Eduardo loading up on some meat.
Villa Gesell
photo by: ArlsAndTris