Category Archives: argentina

Buenos Aires Day 5: Roaming the Day and Night Streets

Chocolate Shop

After exploring La Recoleta Cemetery and the church next door, we wandered through the market that was set up outside of the cemetery and had lunch in the grass. Then we walked over to the significantly fancier part of Recoleta to a chocolate shop that Cecilia had researched. I don’t remember the exact flavors I picked at random, but I do remember they were delicious. And the shop was incredibly charming and full of people buying Easter candy. We then had coffee at a cafe, which came with an astounding number of extras: three miniature croissants, orange juice, sparkling water… I think there might have been other pastries involved. Pretty wonderful.

Teatro Colón

That night we attempted to see a ballet at the Teatro Colón, but unfortunately it was sold out. However, we still got to see the stunning theatre at night. Apparently it is among the acoustically best in the world. We will just have to imagine from here.

Interior of the Teatro Colón

Teatro Colón stairs

We did get to see the entry hall, which was topped with this elegant stained glass dome that reminded me a little of Printemps in Paris. The threatre opened in 1908 with a production of Aida, replacing a theatre that had opened in 1857.

Exterior of the theatre

Cars driving by the theatre

After declining into desrepair, the Teatro Colón was recently renovated and reopened in 2010. No wonder it felt a bit like we’d stepped into a time portal to its 20th century opening night grandeur.

Night on the grand avenues

Outside, the city was beautiful with lights gleaming on its grand avenues. Some cities become ghosts of themselves at night, details masked in shadows and sidewalks empty of people. But Buenos Aires comes more alive the later it gets and the streetlights shine gorgeously on the curved ornaments decorating the buildings.

Monument at night.

Building detail.

Subte!

We decided to head to Palermo for a drink and enjoy the cool weather from a table on the sidewalk.

One more Argentina day left to blog!

Buenos Aires, Day 4: Café Tortoni and a Lonely Procession

[We now return to my adventures in Argentina…]

My fourth day in Buenos Aires was Good Friday, and after thoroughly viewing the street art in Palermo, I met up with Cecilia and Jacob to head towards the Plaza de Mayo. The street in front of the Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires was closed to traffic and there a Good Friday mass was taking place. The music was being broadcasted on speakers up the avenue, so that you could hear it everywhere. The classical-inspired building above doesn’t look much like what you would expect of a cathedral in South America, but it’s the center of Catholicism in the city.

There was supposed to be some sort of procession, but all we saw was one person carrying a banner while a few scattered people walked along who may or may not have been part of it. It was a little strange. Maybe we missed the party.

While it’s anything but off the beaten path, we decided to get a drink at the iconic Café Tortoni. The cafe has been around since 1858, created, unsurprisingly, by coffee-loving Frenchmen. It’s been in its current location since 1880. A bit overpriced and touristy, all visitors to Buenos Aires should still stop in to see the beautiful space.

Right across from our table was a statue of Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentine author of dreams and labyrinths. Apparently he was a patron of the cafe.

Okay, will be catching up on the rest of Argentina, soon!

Buenos Aires: Day 2, Metal and Green Gardens

After a morning exploring La Recoleta Cemetery, I walked down towards the Rio de la Plata, the estuary that flows past the city. Although Buenos Aires is a city on the water, it very much has its back to it. I didn’t see any paths along the water and apparently projects to build boardwalks have not been terribly successful. However, there are several busy waterside green plazas, including the Plaza de las Naciones Unidas, where the metal flower shown above blooms. The Floralis Genérica was created by Eduardo Catalano in 2002, and it opens every morning and closes at sunset. It’s meant to represent all the flowers in the world.

I wandered through some rather fancy neighborhoods where there were many embassies, and happened upon the Jardín Japonés (Japanese Garden). It was only a few pesos to enter and I was ready to sit down somewhere, so I found a nice bench and watched this egret strutting through the water. Behind it, children were playing on a small island connected across the pond by a red bridge.

There were swarms of eager koi fish begging for food from visitors, and a little tea restaurant where you could feed yourself, if you wanted to make a day of your visit. But I only had a few days in Argentina, so I continued on my way.

Ask I continued, I crossed one of the large Buenos Aires avenidas, or avenues, and saw the Monumento De los Españoles, or the Spanish Monument. The white marble monument was created in 1910 in honor of the centennial of the Revolution of May. However, it was not inaugurated until 1927, as its designer, and his successor, died shortly after each finishing sketches. In 1916, the ship carrying much of the monument’s statuary from Barcelona wrecked near Brazil, killing 450 people and taking down the heavy sculptures with it.

While walking past the zoo, I saw this charming mural by the street artist Gualicho.

Just past the zoo is the Jardín Botánico, which is a free, somewhat in shambles, botanical garden with a healthy population of domestic cats. Needless to say, I loved it there.

It was started in 1898, and near the old mansion where the founding family used to live is this beautiful Art Nouveau glass greenhouse.

There is a diverse collection of plants in the botanical garden, and if not for the porteños around you, it would be easy to think that you are in Europe rather than South America.

There is a structured French garden, as well as gardens with Asian plants, and even a Roman garden that includes the species of trees that grew at the first century botanist Pliny the Younger’s villa.

There was also a garden of Yerba Mate, the basis for the strong, tea-like drink obsessively consumed by Argentinians. Everywhere I saw people drinking mate through metal straws in gourd cups, their thermoses of hot water beside them. I hear it is a bit of an acquired taste, and I actually didn’t try it as it isn’t really served in cafes. You have to make it yourself or get someone to share.

There is an astounding number of cats living in the botanical garden. Everywhere they are reclining in the sun, watching you from trees and greenhouse roofs, ambling around fountains, or joining you on a bench. I read that they are not actually feral cats, but are mostly domestic cats that have been abandoned by their owners.

I wandered around the old greenhouses, peering in windows and meeting cats, and then walked further into the Palermo neighborhood to meet my friend Cecilia and her brother Jacob for lunch. They were spending the month in Argentina, and we had empanadas before heading out to see the stores in the shopping area.

After wandering through the busy streets and fancy designer shops, we stopped for coffee and I got this cappuccino, that turned out to be more decadent than expected. It came with three chocolates, with the height of them corresponding to how tall your drink was.

More wandering ensued, and after much walking I got a cab back to the apartment and slept better than I had in months. That was true for this entire trip. So nice to relax after this long edgy winter.