It's not exactly Pieter Cornelius Hooftstraat in Amsterdam, or Oxford Street in London, or Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, but the west end of Avenida Hypolito Yrigoyen is gradually evolving as the chic shopping district of San Rafael. It is close to the upscale residential area called "Las Paredes," where many American expats choose to live in gated communities. There are a number of new businesses in the area, and the zone has developed a decidedly trendy atmosphere. This is where affluent shoppers go to find fancy evening wear, fine wines, exquisite baby clothes, expensive pet supplies or a high-end Johnson kitchen. It's a world away from the modest auto-servicio stores in Rama Caida and the barrio just across the river with the telling name of "Pobre Diablo".
La Cava wine store
La Cava, located at the corner of Yrigoyen and Manuel Donega offers a full range of wine and spirits, an assortment of local gourmet food items and accessories such as bottle openers and crystal decanters. Their inventory includes some fine vintages from boutique bodegas with limited production, as well as the more familiar wines by Bianchi, Goyenchea and Roca.
We purchased a bottle of Lavaque Pinot Noir 2006,
elaborated from grapes grown in the district of Canada Seca, near San Rafael. The Bodega Lavaque
is owned and operated by the fifth generation of the founding family. This wine was a fortunate discovery, with good balance of fruit and tannins, a silky texture and a complex, rich cocoa and herb flavour, characteristics that we rarely find in a Pinot Noir grown in such a warm, dry climate. This bottle costs 16 pesos at La Cava, and is great value for that price.
Celia Parasecoli boutique
For couture clothing and one-of-a-kind fashion accessories, Celia Parasecoli
is a boutique that offers great designs and unusually sumptuous fabrics. The walls of this shop are graced with abstract paintings by artist Antonio Camba
, whose bright canvases succeded in drawing me in the first time I passed by. I purchased a grey floral print silk blouse with rhinestone buttons on that initial visit and obtained the contact information for the artist, who sells work from his own downtown studio. (I ended up buying 7 of Camba's paintings, too.)
Frills, florals and ultra-feminine shapes are fashion-forward elements in Argentine ladies' wear.
This flouncy little sundress costs 390 pesos at Celia's shop and can be paid for over time, in quotas.
Just a little further down the street one finds the brand new branch of La Delicia Boulevard ice cream and sandwich shop. The interior is light and open, with natural stone details and off-white modern furnishings. This is where San Rafael's young people congregate for ice cream treats and people-watching on hot summer evenings.
There's a bright mosaic covered counter, with the word for "Welcome" translated in a dozen languages overhead. The young clerk at the till speaks English with an American accent, as well as Castellano.
For lunch we order a sandwich of jamon crudo, arugula and cream cheese on "pan Arabe" with an espresso coffee.
There's a mile-long counter serving ice cream in over 50 flavours, ready to fill waffle cones or styrofoam tubs, and a host of sundae toppings. La Delicia also delivers ice cream and pastries by motor scooter to addresses within the city limits of San Rafael.
We sampled Chocolate Bariloche/Chocolate Granizado and Dulce de Leche/Coco. Rich and refreshing! The bill for lunch came to 145 pesos, with a tip for our waiter.