Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Land of Chivito, Mate, and Rafaelito

"Darlings," we asked ourselves, "is this a country which works?"

Not at all, that is if we take heed of our friend AS who is convinced, unconvincingly, that there are only two countries in the world which have a legitimate right to such a claim: North Korea and Romania. Indeed, for those seeking the security and convention of a dull democracy, then Uruguay and, in particular, its capital Montevideo, is not the place for them.

But for us it was, and is, a dream become reality.

Palacio Salvo - a landmark building in central Montevideo
reminder of former colonial times - Montevideo town house

For how could we not be captivated with, and enchanted by, a country where the brilliance of a southern summer sun, shining through the December days, is reflected in the vitality and warmth of a people so relaxed and at one with themselves?

a cheery shopkeeper leans across his book store counter 
a woman in the park enjoying a drink of the traditional Mate
group of nurses returning to the hospital after the lunch break - note the Mate

With our Mad Boy, Rafaelito, to act as our guide we toured the old town with its crumbling colonial-style shops and houses, its faded Coca-Cola signs, its bustling markets, street corners and pleasant parks. And at each turn always something to fascinate, to interest, to intrigue. New, new world indeed!

Coca-Cola, almost a National drink, seen advertised almost everywhere
the port area with Lance Hattatt and Rafael González Paz
browsing among the books and objets d'art in the Old Town
explanations being given by Rafaelito [Rafael González Paz]
playing at statues in a small city park within the Old Town
possibly not quite the Harrods of Montevideo but hugely interesting

Denied entry to the port to see the anchor of the 'Admiral Graf Spee', scuttled at the mouth of the River Plate in December 1939, we merrily, through the persuasive talk of Rafaelito, skipped past the guards and into the house where Garibaldi had once upon a time lived.

Jane Hattatt, Rafael González Paz and Lance Hattatt at Garibaldi' s house

A music concert, a night at the opera, a tango party [led astray by Rafaelito], a mausoleum, museums, cathedrals and churches, and buskers on buses all served to delight us further.

staircase, looking down from above, inside the Museum of Decorative Arts 
inside the mausoleum situated underneath the Plaza Independencia
purchasing tickets for the opera , 'Il Duce' at Teatro Solis- a very jolly occasion

In Pocitos, a residential suburb, we were invited into one of Montevideo's finest extant Art Deco buildings, ate delicious dinners and cavorted on the seashore.

Art Deco at Edificio el Mástil, 3105 Avenida Brasil
clambering over rocks on the shore of the River Plate

A Sunday market, occupying several streets, proved amazing, a handbag snatched and stolen alarming, a Christmas dinner of uncooked rice [woe on you Rafaelito] inedible, and a trip to Colonia del Sacremento pure heaven.

young rabbits, just one of countless items for sale in the Sunday street market

motoring in Colonia with Rafael González Paz [Rafaelito] and Lance Hattatt

But of Colonia del Sacremento there will be more to tell! [click on all images to enlarge]

Thursday, 20 February 2014


Qui s'excuse s'accuse. So let us not dwell on an absence which, most shameful to admit, approaches that of a year. But should reason be required, then let it be said that it has been a year full of friendship, foreign travel [fear of the long haul flight finally overcome], frivolity [such parties], fantasy [the enchanting world of opera and ballet], and delights in abundance - the alliteration now exhausted - beyond all measure.

Richard Adams, Jane Hattatt and Lance Hattatt on The Grand Canal, Venice

Revisiting our garden days we spent time with dear friends, Lesley and John Jenkins, whose outstanding gardens surrounding their home, Wollerton Old Hall, enjoy much deserved critical acclaim from both near and far.

Wollerton Old Hall - view from the dining room window

Country house visiting remains an untold pleasure for us and the spent year excited with many most interesting discoveries of castles and palaces hidden in the depths of the Hungarian countryside. Alas, as has been remarked upon here before, many are in dire need of restoration and with some, one suspects, it is already too late.

a fireplace surround within the castle at Tata, Hungary

At home we have continued to entertain and with it has come the joy of spending time with friends old and new.

Jane Hattatt surveys the set table in the dining room

Alongside this we have been so very fortunate to enjoy seasons at the opera and ballet, to have attended musical events from Salon Concerts to full symphony orchestras and, on occasion, to have had the enormous pleasure and thrill of hosting cello and piano recitals within our own Budapest apartment.

Lance Hattatt - before a country house Salon Concert
before a concert to celebrate Latvian Independence Day
exterior of Budapest Opera House advertising a new ballet

Art Market Budapest occupied much of our time throughout 2013 having been invited early in the year to join the planning committee. The Fair, opening in late November, proved to be an enormous success, attracting thousands of visitors, and establishing Budapest at the heart of the Contemporary Art scene.

Ari Kupsus Gallery, stand at Art Market Budapest 2013
newly purchased painting by Orr Máté above sideboard

Abroad we made such fun forays to Italy [Lucca, Milan and Venice], to Slovénia, a jewel of a country with its ancient villages and towns and breathtakingly beautiful coastal ports, as well as to Germany and the cities of Weimar and Dresden.

Lance Hattatt, Andrea Franchi and Carlo Claude in Milan
table prepared for lunch in the loggia of Villa Massei, Lucca
guide books in readiness in a Venetian hotel bedroom
wayside Madonna with electrically lit candles in Slovénia

And then, finally, at the year's end, came The Great South American Adventure where, accompanied by Rafael González Paz, the maddest of Mad Boys, we crossed continents to his home city of Montevideo. 

Rafael González Paz practises in a rehearsal room in Weimar

But that is a tale yet to be told. More anon!!

Lance Hattatt in Montevideo, December 2013