Category Archives: travel

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 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.

Last Day in Paris

So it finally happened, the sad day of May 15 went I took the train to Paris from Valence for the last time. The final two days in Valence went by so quickly and were such a blur of packing that I find it hard to remember them. But I remember saying goodbye to the friends who were still there and having a drive around Valence at night with one of them so that I could see the lights of the city one more time. When I first got to Valence, I couldn’t imagine that I would miss it. It seemed small, sequestered, and unremarkable. But then I made friends, discovered the amazing Saturday market, started traveling around Provence, and it grew on me. Still, I know it wouldn’t be the same once all the assistants had left.

My “responsable” picked me up at the foyer and took me to the TGV station, where I loaded my giant suitcase, backpack, laptop back, and snowboard boots on the train. Luckily, a kind French gentleman lifted my huge suitcase into the only available luggage slot, or else I might have dislocated my arms. Then we sped off to Paris and next I got off at Charles de Gaulle Airport. Here’s where a snag showed up in my plans. I had written down only that I was staying at the Ibis Hotel, not realizing there were THREE in the airport, all with the same name. The information desk was completely unhelpful and there was no internet to check my reservation, so I just guessed on the one closest to the RER station and was miraculously correct. I left all my luggage in my very own hotel room (this is novel for me) and then took the RER into the city where I was going to meet up with my friend Lauren, who had been traveling with her mom and happened to also be in Paris.

While waiting, I took shelter from the rain in a cafe overlooking the Seine with a view of the Eiffel Tower and ordered a cafe creme. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t go near such an expensive place, but this was my last day in Paris! Well, last is relative, I always seem to claw my way back. Anyway, once Lauren showed up we wandered through the Marais and decided to go to the always delicious l’As du Falafel. After, there was more exploring and we meandered over to Bastille and had an ongoing competition of spotting Space Invaders. Oh, Paris, I miss you.

Eventually we had another coffee at a brasserie near Les Invalides so that we could use the wifi to find Lauren a hostel. Once that was all arranged, we saw the William Blake exhibit at the Petit Palais. I had no idea Blake did art, only knowing his poetry. Embarrassingly, the first thing that came to mind was “Dead Man,” but I would be validated at the end of the exhibit where they were playing clips from the movie. Anyway, it was an excellent exhibit and I was impressed with the work, although I think he was a better writer than artist.

That night, we had crepes with a bottle of cidre and then walked along the river. I was reluctant to leave watching the lights from the boats stream across the water under the stone bridges, but I didn’t want to take the RER too late at night and had to think about my flight in the morning. So we said goodbye in a metro station and I went back to the hotel. The next day I flew from Paris, to London, to Chicago, to Oklahoma City, where my brother picked me up from the airport.