Punta has long reigned as the Argentines' summer destination of choice, having endless sandy beaches, good cuisine, charming people
‘Now, caro mio, you have confused me. The beach or Garzon,’ Bibi says emitting a chuckle, her neck drenched in coral and her hand decorously wafting a caiporaska as we sit watching the sun set over the Atlantic.
As I run a property company in London this is not standard chat. The fortunate truth is most of my family is Argentinian and I’ve been coming to ‘Punta’ (the name given to the town of Punta del Este in neighbouring Uruguay and the surrounding villages) for the last twenty years. Bibi has commissioned me to find her a property.
Bibi is half Italian, half English and was brought up in Kenya – she’s more White Mischief than White Company. I found her South Kensington flat some five years ago and formed a friendship. She divides her time between there and Ischia; recently divorced she’s ready for somewhere new to winter. She declares the Caribbean too suburban, the Maldives too sterile and her ex is in Lamu.
Punta has long reigned as the Argentines' summer destination of choice, having endless sandy beaches, good cuisine, charming people and being a forty-minute plane hop from Buenos Aires. In the last decade it’s become the haunt of Brazilians and Europeans – the barefoot chic appealing to a Mediterranean spirit. The town itself is more practical than beautiful – high-rise buildings dominate; the charm lies in the villages along the coast.
I unearth a plot on the beach that’s part of an estancia. It’s south of Punta rather than to the more fashionable north but the beaches here are empty and pristine. Bibi, though she wouldn’t say it, tends to set rather than follow trends and she finds Jose Ignacio (where the most expensive real estate is found) too obviemente.
Pictured above: The view of Casa Anna, Martin Summers's house in Garzon, Uruguay, from the swimming pool
We start negotiations – Senora Kirchner (the Argentine President) limits the export of $US and as the Argentines make up 90% of the property market in Punta there are deals to be had.
While Bibi envisages a modernist glass temple overlooking the sea we head to lunch at Garzon. This typical Uruguayan pueblo was made fashionable by Argentine uber chef Francis Mallmann and British art dealer Martin Summers. It is based around a plaza and arrived at from a dirt road.
We lunch with Summers at Casa Anna. It’s a slice of rural heaven, rolling hills forming the backdrop, and the chefs spontaneously turn into a three-piece guitar act at the end of lunch and wow us with a rendition of ‘Mas o menos bien’. Summers’s style and Mallmann’s cuisine create an intoxicating effect – they’ve succeeded in both preserving and creating Garzon.
I can see Bibi’s mind at work – we learn a casa pueblo has just sold for ‘neinte’. It needs everything done. This lunch could be expensive.
Pictured above: The dining room of Casa Anna, Martin Summers's house in Garzon, Uruguay
And here’s the dilemma Bibi finds herself in – beach, country village or both. It’s less arduous than contemplating a journey to work in Britain’s freeze however.