Farewell to the Lion King

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My sweet Barcley was the closest thing you could get to a lion under 20 pounds.  He came to me in 2005, accompanied me to Michigan for 11 months in 2010, and then came back to Florida where he loved life, stalked lizards and relaxed in the sun.

A Grumeti River lion (left) and my own Lion King Barcley.

A Grumeti River lion (left) and my own Lion King Barcley.

I lost my poor kitty to Feline Aortic Thromboembolism, a silent killer that was swift and deadly.

Discovering snow for the first time.

Discovering snow for the first time.

I loved my little Lion King and miss him sorely.  We will keep him in our hearts.

Barcley and Ian

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Barcley head shot

Barcley

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Happy Father’s Day!

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Happy Father’s Day Dad!

 

What do you get the dad who has everything?  How about a big “thank you” for a lifetime of fatherly support and good advice.

Two of my dad’s best pieces of advice are as follows:

“Take care of your equipment and it will take care of you.”  I live my life by this and it has proved true.  My cars thank you dad.

Dad with 2 cars

“You can do anything, as long as you set your mind to it.”  More good advice from dad.  We all had the utmost confidence and have kept striving.

Taxi in the snow

I also would like to thank my dad for passing on to me his love of cars.  He has it in spades, and I think I inherited some of it.

My dad and his cars and trucks.  We used to think he loved them more than us, but now I know that wasn’t true.  The cars just gave him less trouble than we did.

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Dad, Laury, 1946 pickup

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY DAD!

I LOVE YOU.

 Dad and Laury

 

Posted in Family, Seasons & Holidays | Leave a comment

Back In Business

My mother's house in Oregon.

My mother’s house in Oregon.

There has been research suggesting that taking photos hampers ones ability to remember that specific occasion, and a recent Time Magazine article detailing the same.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/10507146/Taking-photographs-ruins-the-memory-research-finds.html

http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/12/10/stop-taking-so-many-pictures-all-the-time-because-its-ruining-your-memory/

Elk in our field.

Elk in our field.

All the research in the world though cannot change the fact that some of us love to take photographs and consider photography our number one hobby.  I have been on a forced sabbatical from this due to the theft of my Nikon D80 in Buenos Aires this past February.  But now I’m back in business, thanks to my sister’s former husband and friend of the family Randy, who has become quite a serious photographer and found himself with a new Nikon D4, and was kind enough to sell me his Nikon D7000 at a reasonable price.

The neighbor's horses.

The neighbor’s horses.

I spent the last week of May in Oregon getting acquainted with my new Nikon 7000.  All of the photos in this blog were taken with the new camera.

Crossing the St. John's Bridge.

Crossing the St. John’s Bridge at dusk.

We visited the Schreiner’s Iris Gardens in Kaizer, Oregon, a wonderful place to practice with a new camera and try some different settings.  http://www.schreinersgardens.com/

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purple iris

garden 3

pale pink

purple and pink

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Posted in Oregon | 2 Comments

Santiago, Chile

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The Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago on the Plaza de Armas, Santiago, Chile. The plaza was under construction.

What do you do when you have just 24 hours in a city?  You make the most of it.

We arrived into Santiago on the bus at about 630 pm.  Our flights back to the US were the next evening, unfortunately.  We would have loved more time to explore this vibrant city.

It was my first time in Santiago and I really had no preconceived ideas of the city.  I guess I may have expected something along the lines of Buenos Aires, but it was quite different.

Breakfast in the courtyard at Le Reve, Santiago Chile

Breakfast in the courtyard at Le Reve, Santiago Chile

The hotel where we stayed, Le Reve, (an oasis and I highly recommend it) is just two blocks from an underground station.  In Buenos Aires, the underground was not air-conditioned and a bit old.  We were surprised to find a very modern underground, new cars, beautifully constructed and decorated stops, and it was air-conditioned.  We took the underground to the historic district.

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There is a large pedestrian area in Santiago, which we walked on our way to the plaza.  The main plaza, Plaza de Armas, was under construction, so we could only walk the perimeter.  We stopped into the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago, (built 1748 to 1800) and passed the Museo de Santiago exterior.  That street was also under construction and the museum blocked.  Santiago appeared to be a city under a lot of construction with many projects and workers.  We also saw city workers painting over graffiti, and police officers on horseback.

Museo de Santiago

Museo de Santiago

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Our first priority for our one day in Santiago (besides getting a feel for the city) was to tour the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art.  It is just one block off the Plaza de Armas.

http://www.precolombino.cl/en/

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It is a beautiful museum, where they allow photos with no flash in many of the rooms (but not all).  It is well conceived and has beautiful pieces.  The museum was the highlight of our day in Santiago.

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I loved how they displayed the equestrian gear from the southern region

I loved how they displayed the equestrian gear in the Southern Andes section.

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 The museum is divided into cultural areas, including Mesoamerica, Caribbean, Amazonian, Central Andes, and Southern Andes.  This Mayan stela is in the Mesoamerica section.

The Warrior King, a Mayan stela in the Mesoamerica section of the museum

The Warrior King, a Mayan stela in the Mesoamerica section of the museum

From the museum website:

This large stela, originally located in one of the main Aguateca plazas, in the southern lowlands of Yucatan, commemorates a military victory of this city’s ruler. The triumphant figure grasps a shield decorated with the image of one of the war patrons, the Jaguar God of the Underworld. The two prisoners with their feet tied have been stripped of their ornaments.

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(As much as I miss my Nikon, I do have to give credit to the quality of photos that the iPhone took in low light.  All the museum pictures were taken on my iPhone).

We did a lot of walking, found many green spaces in the city, large parks with fountains, and nice neighborhoods.  The prices for everything from food to subway fares were equivalent to the prices in the US, and much more expensive than Argentina.  We stopped into the Iglesia San Francisco, the oldest church in Santiago, located right downtown.

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Iglesia San Francisco, Santiago

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The interior of the Franciscan church, consecrated in 1622 in downtown Santiago.

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Of course we found an arts and crafts market.  And of course I bought some earrings!

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A cat in the craft market

A cat in the craft market

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Our last vacation dinner was at a well known vegetarian restaurant, El Huerto, only one block from our hotel.  http://www.elhuerto.cl/

I definitely want to go back and see more of Santiago and Chile.

L at dinner

Becky at last dinnerdinner

Posted in Chile | 1 Comment

Crossing The Andes via Omnibus

Our view out the window climbing out of Mendoza towards Chile.

Our view out the window climbing out of Mendoza towards Chile.

Crossing The Andes via omnibus may not have been as romantic or exciting as trekking or on horseback, but it was definitely convenient and incredibly cost effective.

The busses and the bus network in Argentina are efficient, frequent and quite nice, so we sat back and left the driving to Andesmar.  The bus we took from Mendoza to Santiago was a double decker.  We left Mendoza at 10:30 am, settling ourselves into the large and comfortable seats in the front row of the top level.   The seats afforded us a good view and more legroom than on an airplane except possibly first class.

on the bus

We climbed through the Argentinia side of The Andes with a beautiful view of the snow capped peaks.  The bus made few stops and passed through one very small town.  At noon someone came through and handed out sandwiches and sodas.  The 8 hour trip with a border crossing cost us each $40.

Taken through the front windscreen from the top level.

Taken through the front windscreen from the top level.

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Almost at the pass

Almost at the pass

Near the top of the pass, out the side window of the bus we saw a gaucho herding horse and mules.  It made me stop and think, as romantic as the idea of crossing The Andes on horseback sounded, I was glad we did the trip in a total of 8 hours, and not 8 days.

A gaucho herding horses and mules near the pass on the Argentinian side

A gaucho herding horses and mules near the pass on the Argentinian side

After only one long tunnel (thankfully), and still below the snowline, the border was at the top of the pass.  Customs and immigration took about two hours with a search of the luggage where I lost my little bag of Chia seeds given to me by the cook at El Bordo.  Too bad.  On the Chilean side the two lane road was under construction and down to one lane.  We had to wait for another 30 minutes for our turn to start down.  (We were told that two days prior to our crossing the road had been closed to all traffic due to a rockslide).

Our bus waiting to cross the border into Chile

Our bus waiting to cross the border into Chile

Looking back into Argentina from the pass

Looking back into Argentina from the pass

The descent into Chile started with about 24 hairpin turns, then the gradient shallowed and the terrain became farmland.  The ride was scenic and it was wonderful not to worry about signs, directions or the driving.  We hit rush hour traffic coming into Santiago, and the bus station was a mad house.

The road into Chile from the top of The Andes

The road into Chile from the top of The Andes

Somewhere near the top of the pass descending into Chile, we passed this sign indicating turn 23.

Somewhere near the top of the pass descending into Chile, we passed this sign indicating turn 23.

Once in the taxi it was an easy ride to our hotel, The Reve.  The Reve is an oasis in a beautiful neighborhood.  No need to go far for dinner, as the street that Le Reve is on and the next one over are full of great restaurants.  We had dinner at Liguria, recommended for its Pisco Sours.  I had to try one, but couldn’t finish it, and switched back to the tried and true Torrentes.             http://www.lerevehotel.cl/

The view from our room at Le Reve into their private backyard seating area.

The view from our room at Le Reve into their private backyard seating area.

A pisco sour at Liguria in Santiago, Chile

A pisco sour at Liguria in Santiago, Chile

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Posted in Argentina, Chile | 1 Comment

A Wine Tour in Mendoza

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Another day of rain, but no worries about the weather for us.  Mendoza is malbec country, and we had signed on for an all day, four vineyard plus lunch tour by Trout And Wine Tours.  Since we were staying in Chacras de Coria, south of Mendoza and on the northern end of the wine country, we were the last of the 8 guests to be picked up in the morning.

Alta Vista Winery

Alta Vista Winery

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Our first stop was Alta Vista Vineyards, right in Chacras de Coria.  At Alta Vista we were treated to a complete winery tour including the fermenting vats, barrels, and storage areas.  The winemaker/guide at Alta Vista explained some of the reasons that the local industry is on edge for the 2014 vintage.  It has been a warmer than usual growing season, sometimes with temperatures in the low 40s C, and lately they have had much more rain than usual.

Alta Vista Tasting Room

Alta Vista Tasting Room

The day of our tour was the second day of rain in a row.  The week before, they had three days of rain where they measured as much rain in those three days as they usually get in one month, and now they were getting more.  The harvest season is just around the corner and the wine makers and growers are all concerned about the grapes.

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The informative tour was followed by the tasting.  We sampled three wines; a sauvignon blanc, a malbec and a cabernet blend.  My favorite was the 2009 Alta Vista Alto that sold for 650 Argentine Pesos or about US $65.  The best vintages for Alta Vista we were told were 2005 and 2006.  The day before at Clos de Chacras we were also told that 2005 was a very good year.

http://www.altavistawines.com/

Catena Zapata Winery

Catena Zapata Winery

Our second stop on the tour was Catena Zapata, established 1902, and still in the same family.  The winery was built to resemble a Mayan Temple on the exterior and very beautiful on the interior.  The tour started with a short video about the property and the family, and included a trip to the top of the pyramid.  On a clear day you would have a very good view of the Andes, but not today.  Our guide at Catena Zapata was the most helpful and came across as very knowledgeable about the wines and tasting.  We tasted 4 wines:  a chardonnay, a cabernet, a 2010 malbec and a 2009 Angelina Zapata.  I liked the 2010 malbec that sold for about $40.

The view from the top of the pyramid.  In clear skies you can see the Andes

The view from the top of the pyramid. In clear skies you can see the Andes

Catena Zapata

Catena Zapata

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Comparing the color of two different red varietals

Comparing the color of two different red varietals

http://www.cantenawines.com

At our third stop, Finca Decero, we had lunch.  Another beautiful property, we did not tour the facilities but were ushered up to our lunch table and served four wine tastes with lunch.  The food was stellar, but I can remember only one wine, the syrah.  For lunch I had a corn textures appetizer, beetroot pasta filled with goat cheese and herbs, black olives and lemon dressing, and pistachios, and for dessert a lavender crème brulee, biscotti and chocolate truffle.  In all honesty, I could have stopped at this point, but we had one more winery on the tour.

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Restaurant at Finca Decero Winery

Beetroot Pasta

Beetroot Pasta

Lavender Crème Brulee

Lavender Crème Brulee

Our last stop was the Vina Cobos Winery.  We tasted four wines; a 2013 Felino chardonnay, a cocodrilo, a 2011 Bramare Appellation malbec ($21) and a 2011 Bramare Marchiori Vineyard (single vineyard) malbec (US $43/bottle.)  The last one was my favorite.

Vina Cobos

Vina Cobos

My sister who has done many more tastings in many more countries than I asked all the questions and discovered that the wine industry in Argentina is less regulated than in France.  This did not surprise us, as the laws in Argentina seemed to be treated more like guidelines in other areas as well, particularly where it comes to crosswalks and stopping for pedestrians.  I felt like I learned a few things about tasting, tannins, where in your mouth you taste things, the wine’s finish, etc.  I also know that you like what you like.  It was a fun day.

Vina Cobos tasting room

Vina Cobos tasting room

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You would think that being driven around all day tasting wine and eating great food wouldn’t be tiring, but at the end of an 8 hour day and about 16 samples, we were exhausted.  Too full and tired to even go out for dinner, we called it a day, our last day, in Mendoza.

Posted in Argentina | 3 Comments

One Rainy Day, Two Wineries

Walking across town with a two dog escort.

Walking across town with a two dog escort.

Unfortunately, we woke to heavy rain and thunderstorms on our first day in Mendoza.  This is the one place I thought we would have clear, sunny weather, and it didn’t happen.  It ended up raining heavily for most of the day.

Clos de Chacras winery

Clos de Chacras winery

Still, you can’t waste a day sitting around, so after breakfast we walked the 30 minutes across Chacras de Coria to the Clos de Chacras winery, accompanied the entire walk and up to the winery front door by two very friendly street dogs.

Clos de Chacras restaurant

Clos de Chacras restaurant

We had a very good lunch, tasted a Malbec, a Cabernet, and a blend (I liked the blend), and then toured the facilities.  The tour guide was very good and quite enthusiastic.

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After lunch we took a taxi downtown to tour the beautiful plazas we had read about.  It continued to rain, and as we slogged around downtown we became more and more cold, wet, and miserable.  We escaped for a bit with a stop in a coffee shop, but still managed a walk around Plaza Espania.  It was lovely, and would have been stunning if the sun had been shining.

Plaza Espania, Mendoza

Plaza Espania, Mendoza

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At that point we were just killing time until dinner.  We had reservations at one of the top restaurants in all of South America, Restaurant 1884.  Our reservations were for 9 pm, the early bird dinner time.  Most Argentinians do not even consider dinner before 9 pm, and things really start to heat up by 11 pm.

http://1884restaurante.com.ar/

At least the dinner was worth the wait.  It was a lovely bodega and a wonderful meal.  My sister thought it the best bottle of wine we had tried yet, a 2009 Escorihuela Gran Reserva Malbec.

1884 Retaurante, Mendoza

1884 Retaurante, Mendoza

Inside 1884 Restaurante

Inside 1884 Restaurante

My sister looks over the menu at 1884 Restaurante

My sister looks over the menu at 1884 Restaurante

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Finca Adalgisa, Mendoza

The pool at Finca Adalgisa

The pool at Finca Adalgisa

Mendoza lies just 760 miles south of Salta, but it seems like another world.  We are staying in the Chacras de Coria neighborhood of Mendoza, pretty much the Boca Raton/Aspen of Argentina.  We suffered a slight sticker shock coming from Salta.  The Finca Adalgisa, where we are staying, is a beautiful 2 acre property, with California style and California prices.  The neighborhood is south of the main town of Mendoza, and is known for its nice properties and boutique hotels.  The Finca Adalgisa, (converted into a hotel in 2002) makes its own Malbec wine from vines first planted in 1916.  The finca’s wine is only for the guests.

Finca Adalgisa

Finca Adalgisa

We arrived to clear blue skies and warm temperatures.  Relaxation by the pool was followed by a glass of the finca’s own Malbec and tapas.  The property is beautiful, but the food prices are “international pricing”, very different from downtown Mendoza or Salta.

Finca Adalgisa's wine tasting area.  Many of the buildings are built around trees and grape vines.

Finca Adalgisa’s wine tasting area. Many of the buildings are built around trees and grape vines.

We decided to walk into the main part of Chacras de Coria to get local prices for dinner.  We saw many dogs on the street, all of them friendly.  We can’t decide whether they are street dogs, or family dogs on the loose, but they are not afraid of people, are in good shape, hang out in the cafes and sometimes don’t even eat the treats we give them.

We stumbled upon a little fair with live music, pony rides and market stalls.  The weather was fine, as we had expected.  I’d been watching the weather reports, and Mendoza was always warm and dry.  Too bad that didn’t hold out.  Too bad for the grapes and the wine growers as well.

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Posted in Argentina | 1 Comment

A Day in Salta

Iglesia Catedral, Salta

Iglesia Catedral, Salta

Salta is off the beaten path; way off compared to Buenos Aires.  But that can be a good thing.  Relatively new to the tourist route, Salta is well worth a day spent walking and discovering all it has to offer.  Just 15 years ago, according to the estancia’s manager, “Salta was a white space on the map.”  Most of the tourists in Salta come from Argentina.

The building that houses the MAAM

The building that houses the MAAM

Museum of High Altitude Archaeology, MAAM

Museum of High Altitude Archaeology, MAAM

A big part of the reason it is now on the tourist map, is the Inca children found on top the volcano Llullaillaco and the museum built for keeping, preserving and exhibiting that important find (March 1999).  National Geographic partially sponsored the excavation (a joint effort between the US and Peruvian and Argentinean mountaineers and archaeologists), the results of which are now housed in the MAAM, Museo Archeological de Alta Montana.  The exhibit includes films of the discovery, funerary objects and accoutrements, and the three mummified children. All three children are not displayed at once, rather they are rotated.   The day we visited, El Nino, (the boy) was on display.  So life-like are the mummies, so real and recent looking, that it was a far more emotional experience than I was expecting.  The 6 year old girl, 7 year old boy, and 15 year old maiden were dressed in their finest, given corn alcohol to drink and coca leaves to chew, and then buried on the mountain top. 

El Nino.  He was about seven years old when he died. The Boy was found seated on a grey tunic with his head facing the rising sun.  As every man of the Inca elite, he wore short hair and a white feather ornament held by a woolen string tied around his head.  Among the varied items that accompanied him was a miniature llama caravan led by finely dressed men.  (From the MAAM brochure)

El Nino. He was about seven years old when he died. The Boy was found seated on a grey tunic with his head facing the rising sun. As every man of the Inca elite, he wore short hair and a white feather ornament held by a woolen string tied around his head. Among the varied items that accompanied him was a miniature llama caravan led by finely dressed men. (From the MAAM brochure)

The exhibit discussed the ceremonial aspect, but it was hard to get around that when the children looked so real, almost alive.  The atmospheric conditions at 6,739 meters (22,109 feet) freeze-dried the bodies and mummified them naturally.  This museum alone was worth the visit to Salta, but we saw so much more.

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We walked from the bus station into the main square, Plaza 9 de Julio, passing many historic buildings along the way, some of them Beaux Arts style.  For the most part, the buildings were not restored, save for a few around the main plaza, now museums.

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We visited two such museums, the Museo Historico Del Norte, and the Casa de Gobierno, from 1913, in the Art Nouveau style.  The MAAM was my favorite, but they were all worthwhile.  The Historical Museum of the North is considered the best preserved and most complete “Cabildo” in all of Argentina.  It dates to as far back as 1626, but is most representative of buildings from 1789 to 1807.

Exterior of the Museo Historico del Norte

Exterior of the Museo Historico del Norte

The exterior portico of the Museo del Norte

The exterior portico of the Museo del Norte

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We took a short break for lemonadas, browsed through the stalls of a market, then had a nice lunch on the main square.

Enjoying a lemonade break on the main square

Enjoying a lemonade break on the main square

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There was less graffiti here in Salta than Buenos Aires, and I actually liked this painting on a building.

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Lunch spot on the Plaza 9 de Julio.  We saw many street dogs, all of them friendly

Lunch spot on the Plaza 9 de Julio. We saw many street dogs, all of them friendly

A little more shopping and walking around while waiting for the church to reopen for afternoon visits.  We learned that the black and red colors of the ponchos worn by the gauchos during the war symbolized red for blood and black for death.

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At 5 pm the Iglesia y Convento San Francisco church opened its door for visitors.  It is being restored on the exterior, and is fashionably covered in a faux exterior.  That was a nice change from the usual ugly construction scaffolding.

The exterior, under construction, of Iglesia y Convento San Francisco

The exterior, under construction, of Iglesia y Convento San Francisco

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Interior of Iglesia y Convento San Francisco

Interior of Iglesia y Convento San Francisco

The taxis were cheap and numerous, costing only $2 – $3 for rides to the market and the bus station from Plaza 9 de Julio.  The 1 hour and 15 minute bus out and back from the estancia was only $2 each way.

A well deserved coffee break

A well deserved coffee break

Casa de Gobierno

Casa de Gobierno

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Casa de Gobierno

Casa de Gobierno

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Images of Estancia El Bordo de las Lanzas

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Posted in Argentina | 1 Comment