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Great Getaways : Times Correspondents' Course in Favorite Weekend Escapes : BUENOS AIRES

October 19, 1986|William Montalbano

In 1847, provincial warlord and later Argentine president Justo Jose Urquiza built a country mansion between the Uruguay and the Parana rivers. More than a century later, his grandson, Jose Francisco Saenz Valiente, bought the flood-ruined palace and converted it into the only hotel in Argentina that is also a national historical monument.

Santa Candida, a pleasant three-hour drive from Buenos Aires in the citrus-growing province of Entre Rios, provides a weekend in the countryside and a visit to another century.

Period furniture, neoclassical busts, antique tapestries and family portraits vie for attention with ornate fireplaces, Baccarat fruit bowls, marble and oak floors, 25-foot ceilings festooned with Venetian candelabra, and two 15-foot gilt-wrapped mirrors which, guests are told, belonged to actress Sarah Bernhardt.

Santa Candida is located on 100 park-like acres at the junction of two branches of the Uruguay River, five miles by dirt road from the Argentine town of Concepcion del Uruguay. There is a large swimming pool on the statue-dotted, landscaped grounds, which can be appreciated on foot, on horseback or in a pony trap. Also for rent are a catamaran and launches for water-skiing, fishing or river excursions.

Room rates include the price of a fixed-menu dinner and continental breakfast. The food is plain but appetizing. Menus without red-meat dishes can be arranged in advance. Mineral water is served in Peruvian silver jugs.

Santa Candida's most frequent visitors are foreigners brought by friends from Buenos Aires. Guests are asked to register but need not produce identity documents.

Santa Candida, c/o Grand Hotel, La Fraternidad 114, Concepcion del Uruguay, Argentina. Telephone 802-9364 or 393-9707 in Buenos Aires for reservations and directions. Cost: about $100 per couple.

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