Nearly everyone we speak to about José Ignacio will remind us that in one month’s time, just after Christmas, this little town becomes an entirely different place. Sun-seeking holidaymakers, many from Argentina, flock here for the pretty beaches, good restaurants and laid-back lifestyle. Apparently it is THE place to see and be seen — the ‘St. Tropez of South America’, as many people have labeled it. The little dirt roads of this quaint town turn into parking lots, the beaches heave with people and the restaurants will be fully booked. Helicopters even whisk in the jet-set elite for a lunch at La Huella.
Not that we experienced any of that (and I have a feeling we wouldn’t love it as much if we had). We saw a very different José Ignacio. Just our family amongst a handful of regular inhabitants. Our little house was one of only a few with its shutters open and lights on. We passed more dogs than people in the streets (dogs tend to be ‘free-range’ here) and we had the beaches completely to ourselves most days.
Only now are the proprietors of the local shops and restaurants beginning to return. The builders, cleaners and workers join them, undoing the winter’s damage, painting the facades in fresh colours, readying the roads, and receiving the inventories of summer goods. You can feel the buzz in the air as the summer season approaches.
We enjoyed this quiet period immensely. It helped us slow down and find the unhurried pace we were after. There wasn’t much to do, so we didn’t do much. When the sun shone we were at the beach, combing for treasures or practising our surfing. When not, we added to the homeschooling or planned a field trip. In the evenings we would wander down to a rocky point to watch the sun set or we’d curl up next to a roaring fire while the rain came hurling against the windows. On weekends we would meet friends for lunch at La Huella — the only glimpse we saw of the fashionable crowd to come. Most of the other restaurants and shops were still closed.
I didn’t manage to take my camera out very often so many of the photos above were taken on my iPhone. Not the best quality, but hopefully they convey the sense of this lovely (and sometimes) quiet corner of the world.