Galloping to the end in Buenos Aires


With one week left in Buenos Aires, and finally over my cold, I decided to do all the touristy things I could and maybe find something I liked about the city so we could part on good terms.


I love to read and strolling through a used bookstore on a Sunday afternoon is one of my favourite things to do. When I heard about an old theatre that had been turned into a bookstore, I knew it was the place to start.


El Ateneo Grand Splendid is almost 100 years old and many of the original theatre details remain including ornate carvings, muraled ceiling, and heavy, red curtains. Even the box seats have been turned into reading nooks and the stage is a café.


It’s an adorable space than encourages you to linger, admiring both the books and the ambiance. No wonder it’s been named one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world.


My spirits lifted, despite the heavy rainfall and soaking wet shoes, we pushed on for more experiences to love.


Argentina is known for it’s Malbec and I have a soft spot for cheese so a wine tasting and cheese pairing event sounded perfect.


We spent the evening sipping various types of local wine, trying our best to describe the scents and flavours we were experiencing. We then moved on to cheeses, nibbling and savouring the unique textures.


Finally, we had to determine which cheese went best with which wine, but we didn’t have any left! Our host laughed and generously brought more bottles and cheese boards.


We walked home, arm and arm, smiling at our silliness and recharged after an evening spent with friends.


Next, I decided to better understand the history of Argentina. I had to admit most of my knowledge was likely from the movie Evita (yes, based on a true story but how much was truth and how much was movie-making?)


I went to a tiny café called Perón Perón, a restaurant dedicated to former president General Juan Domingo Perón and his wife Eva. Surrounded by memorabilia, I listened to a passionate Peronist tell his story of the political party, the people, the successes and challenges overcome, and the current state of the country. Although I’m not a political person, I appreciated hearing the history and details first-hand.


The only thing left on my list was to see a polo game. Not only do I love horses, but I heard the polo players were easy on the eyes too!


My friend Adrienne had an even better suggestion – let’s go play polo!


We booked a full day experience which included being picked up at our apartment by Sebastian, the veterinarian who also played polo. On the hour-long drive, he answered all our questions about Argentina, gauchos, breeding polo ponies and even why drivers constantly honk their horns (to which he shrugged – “welcome to Argentina!”)


We turned off the highway and down a long dirt road. My body relaxed as I gazed at the rolling fields, the quiet country roads, the pastures with horses. We pulled into a driveway, greeted by three adorable dogs.


I had found my home.


Sebastian led us over to the horses, where we first watched a friendly game of polo between professional players. The game is fast, with horses galloping from one end to the other, quickly turning direction in pursuit of the ball.


The riders hold two sets of reins in their left hand, the mallet in their right and only use their legs to stay on the horses at break-neck speed. I gulped as I realized we were going to be attempting this soon.


In between each chukka (period), we learned about the rules of polo and practiced swinging the mallet and hitting balls on the grass.


There’s a definite art and skill required. Holding the mallet correctly, swinging with precision and strength, avoiding hitting yourself or others was tricky enough on the ground – how were we going to manage it on horseback?!


The game finished and we met the players (yay!), took pictures with the horses (and players), and learned about the equipment before heading back to the main house for lunch.


The family welcomed us with a full asado – several cuts of grilled beef, each serving more flavourful and tender than the last. Plus salads, grilled vegetables, fresh baked bread and unlimited local wine. The Argentinians are gracious and generous hosts.


Other people had joined our polo adventure and I was pleased to meet two Canadians!


Originally from Thunder Bay, Ontario, Rick and Jake were childhood friends travelling through Argentina. (Rick had been working on a project in Bolivia and Jake joined him for vacation.)


It’s hard to describe the small joy it brings to find your countrymen when you’ve been travelling for so long.


Our stomachs full and our courage bolstered, we grabbed our helmets and mallets, put on team jerseys and leg protectors and headed out to try our own game of polo.


There was nervous laughter as we mounted, trying to balance the mallet and hang on at the same time – and the horses weren’t even moving yet!


We started slowly…even slower than a walk, as our horses decided it was a great time to visit friends and stand around in the sunshine.


With a lot of coaxing, and some prodding from the players, the horses started moving and we began to test our abilities to steer our horse, follow the ball, remember the rules and swing without falling off. Needless to say, it was a gong show!


We completely forgot the rule of following the line of ball and had our horses jammed up like a group of kindergarten students playing soccer – everyone chasing after the ball in a big group!


We had no idea which end we were shooting for and wildly swung our mallets, to everyone’s peril.


A few horses simply trotted over to the shade or stood still, against their riders protests to play the game. Other riders were competitive, madly encouraging their horses and yelling to “pass the ball”.


I’m sure the professional polo players were laughing so hard at our attempts to play a game they had gracefully demonstrated.


As with so many things in life, people make it look easy but when you’re learning, it’s really hard! I had a new level of appreciation for the skill and talent required to play polo.


I was in the open, the ball coming my way, and I nudged my horse to move a little faster. We took off at a run, not realizing one of the players had given my horse a smack from behind!


Ackk, now I was focused on hanging on and completely missed the ball!


The players kindly stopped and let me circle back to try the swing again.




They let me count it but it didn’t feel like a true goal. Nonetheless, we laughed and joked and thoroughly enjoyed the day.


We finished with a tour of the farm and took the horses to the barn for dinner and rest.


Slowly walking back to the house on wobbly legs, we were dirty and sweaty and muddy and happy. It was a perfect day – exactly what my soul needed.


Once again, I’m reminded that I’m not a big city girl, my heart belongs in the country.


I’m happiest when I’m near the water, with wide open space and fresh air. And if it includes puppies and horses, and a handsome cowboy, even better!

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Showing 2 comments
  • Krista Hargrave

    Oh Michelle…what great stories. I just love reading them. You are amazing.
    Love Mom xoxoxo

    • Michelle

      Thanks mom! xo

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