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The MALBA – Museum of Latin American Art

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Modern Art

“Well, this sucks”. We had just arrived in Mataderos, hoping to partake in the fun of its Sunday fair, but rain had forced its cancellation. Moping over a pitcher of Quilmes, we mulled over our options. “We’re on the other side of the city, but how about we catch a bus and go to the MALBA?”

Malba

You don’t really realize how big Buenos Aires is until you take a bus from Mataderos to Palermo. That mother took two hours. But it was an entertaining ride and, by the time we arrived at the MALBA, the sun had come out and was gleaming off the magnificent building. Designed by young Argentine architects from Córdoba and financed with private funds, the MALBA opened its doors in 2001.

Even if there hadn’t been any art inside the MALBA, it would have been fun to wander around. But there was plenty of art. The permanent Constantini collection is comprehensive; it seemed like every major Latin American artist of the last couple centuries was represented. I’m no expert in the field, but recognized many of the names: Frida Kahlo, Xul Solar, Fernando Botero, Diego Rivera. The collection was laid out chronologically, and a couple interesting temporary exhibits rounded things out. The size of the museum was perfect; small enough to see comfortably in an hour.

We finished our afternoon on the terrace of the museum’s cafe. By now, there wasn’t a cloud left in the sky, and the canceled Feria de Mataderos and our marathon bus ride seemed like distant memories. Amazing how a good museum can so quickly take your mind off any troubles. MALBA is one of the few must-see museums in Buenos Aires.

Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Art Factory Hostel

Malba Arte
Malba Art
Frida Kahlo
Sexy Art
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April 30, 2011 at 10:18 pm Comments (3)

Buenos Aires Thunder

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Book your Wine Tasting in Buenos Aires here

BA is Cool

We arrived in Buenos Aires in the late summer, and as the season changed into fall, have seen some spectacular weather. The city is all cement and humanity, but the earth and skies never let you forget who’s really in control.

Buenos Aires 2011
Magic Dust
Buenos Aires Drama
Hope
Thunder Tower
Buenos Aires
Crazy Taxi
Crazy Cloud
Rain Buenos Aires
Oldtimer Buenos Aires
Tapizados
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Short Term Rental Buenos Aires

Hotels Buenos Aires
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April 30, 2011 at 9:18 pm Comments (0)

Get Your Burger Fix at The Office

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Perfect Burger Cook Books

I’m not sure why a restaurant would want to call itself The Office: a word with horrendous connotations for most of humanity. When we lived in Valencia, Spain, there were two: The Office and La Oficina. And both were great! Almost as though they were trying extra-hard to prove that offices don’t have to suck. Buenos Aires’ The Office, in Palermo, adheres to that trend.

The Office

The Office is an USA-style bar and grill in the Cañitas section of Palermo, serving up a wide range of burgers, along with staples like chicken wings, cheese fries, ranch dressing, onion rings and nachos. The main draw is an incredible terrace, perfect for mild evenings, where there’s a big screen showing classic films every week.

We were invited by the owner to try out the burgers: finally, a big, hearty, US-style burger in Buenos Aires. I must have been unconsciously jonesing for a taste of home, because I devoured my burger in no time flat. Not even sure I bothered to chew. I went with la clásica, while Jürgen had a BBQ Bacon burger that was insanely topped with onion rings. As an appetizer, we ordered a generous portion of chunky guacamole. I had no room for dessert, but the brownies looked so delicious. Just as Bruce Banner unwillingly becomes the Hulk when angry, when mild-mannered, fitness-conscious Mike Powell sees a brownie like that, he transforms into something unholy. With a furious grunt of angered impatience, I ordered the brownie and mampfed it down in one terrifying gulp.

As you might expect, The Office is popular with US expats, but it’s also well-represented by porteños especially during movie nights. If you’re in Palermo and find yourself in need of a burger-fix, check it out.

The Office
Arevalo 3031
Location on our Buenos Aires Map
2050 3942

Quesadilla
Fat Burger
Brownie
Feast is Over
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April 30, 2011 at 8:44 pm Comments (2)

Day Trip to Tigre

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Tigre Hotels and Hostels

South America’s second-longest river, the Paraná, begins in Brazil and flows south, etching out the border between Paraguay and Argentina. Before emptying into the Rio de la Plata, the river extends into a flood plain which reaches 200 miles in length and nearly 40 miles in width. The city of Tigre, with a population of 30,000, is found near the delta’s end.

Catamaran Tigre

Tigre is named for the jaguars that once lived in the area, whom settlers mistakenly pegged as tigers. It was founded in 1820 and was a small backwater port until the Buenos Aires elite moved in at the turn of the century, building mansions and establishing rowing clubs. Modern Tigre has retained much of its splendor from those golden days, which we saw firsthand when visiting one sunny weekend afternoon.

Reaching Tigre couldn’t be easier or cheaper. A train ride from Retiro takes about an hour, and will set you back about 50 cents. Upon arriving, we went straight to the water. Small taxi boats and larger sight-seeing catamarans depart regularly from docks near the train station, and we hopped on the first one we could.

The Paraná Delta is immense, and the hour-long boat trip gave us only the briefest glance at the winding waterways and stilted houses which border the river. People who live here have to use boats to get home. The alluvial scenery was so lush and serene, we could have spent the whole day happily touring the rivers and looking at houses. But the rest of the town awaited.

Tigre is small, and a tour through downtown, with its odd mix of impressive old architecture and ugly modern constructions, doesn’t take much time. Soon, we reached the Mercado de Frutas, which is Tigre’s main attraction aside from the delta itself. A literalist, I was expecting a collection of fruit stands. But it’s actually comprised of home, garden and crafts stores.

Tigre is an uncomplicated day trip from Buenos Aires, and we really enjoyed ourselves, especially on the boat trip. In fact, we were so taken by the beauty of the delta that we made plans to spend our final week in Argentina renting a cabin and relaxing by the river. A more restful place to get away from the city is hard to imagine.

Tigre Tourism (Spanish)
Location of Tigre on our Buenos Aires Map
Travel Insurance

Amusement Park Tigre
Tigre Harbor
Cute Boat
Isla Bonita
Shopping Boat
Stranded Tigre
Washing Machine Tigre
Tigre Boat Taxi
Tigre Gas Station
Lonely Boat
Casa Azul Tigre
Pots And Pans
Bamboo Boys
Rowing Tigre
Market Tigre
Rasta Dog
Villan Dog
Rowing Tigre
Mercado Fruita
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April 30, 2011 at 8:26 pm Comments (2)

Café Tortoni

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Buenos Aires Travel Guides

Buenos Aires’ oldest and most famous coffee shop is Café Tortoni, just a few blocks west of the Plaza de Mayo. A gorgeous space which has been serving porteños since 1858, the café is usually toward the top of everyone’s “must-see” list. For good reason.

Reading the Menu

The oft-photographed Parisian-font logo above the front door betrays the café’s origins. Tortoni was founded in 1857 by a French immigrant, who named it after his favorite coffee shop in Paris. It quickly gained a foothold among the people of Buenos Aires, and was the first of many cafés that would sprout up around the city toward the end of the 19th century. A host of famous people have been patrons, from Borges and Federico García Lorca, to Albert Einstein and Hillary Clinton.

Inside, Tortoni is spacious and beautifully decorated with stained glass windows, wooden furniture and old pictures on the walls. There’s a billiards room, and a couple smaller salons used for concerts and tango performances, as well. The cafe has done a splendid job maintaining its spirit of authenticity, despite the crowds and camera flashes. If possible, try and go on a weekday; there are still a few hours when Tortoni calms down, and you can fully immerse yourself in its charm.

Café Tortoni
Av. de Mayo 825/29
Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Tel: 4342 4328

Everything we have done in Buenos Aires

Tortoni
Tea Time Buenos Aires
Cafe Tortoni
Tortoni Waiters
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April 30, 2011 at 7:08 pm Comments (0)

The Parrillas of Puerto Madero

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The Perfect Steak

Puerto Madero isn’t all glitzy high-rises and polished SUVs. On the slow, wide avenue that runs parallel to the Reserva Ecológica, gather what must be the city’s largest collection of parrillas.

Bondiola

At lunchtime, an endless lineup of food carts grill sandwiches for the hungry workers from nearby offices. They all offer the same things, and it’s hard to see much difference between the carts, but some enjoy long lines while others are disquietingly empty.

After a walk through the Reserva, we sat down at one of the more popular parrillas and ordered bondiolas: grilled sandwiches complete with egg and cheese. Cheap, huge and delicious. When you’re in the park, trying to enjoy nature, the stinky grill smoke isn’t the most pleasant thing in the world, but it does make you hungry.

Locations of the Parillas from here to here
Parillas of Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires Smell
Carrito Parilla
High Tec Parilla
Outside Dining
Bondiola Parilla
Chorizo Buenos Aires
Parilla Salsa
Open Bondiola
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April 30, 2011 at 5:02 pm Comment (1)

Watching Soccer in Buenos Aires, Part 2: San Lorenzo

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Going to a soccer match in a city filled to the brim with quality teams shouldn’t be a difficult task. But finding a ticket for one of the top two clubs, River Plate and Boca Juniors, can be a miserable affair. We’ve already written about our frustrating experience at a Boca Juniors match, and now continue with the much better time we had at San Lorenzo.

San Lorenzo Soccer Stadium
April 16th: San Lorenzo 1 – 1 Lanús

The Tickets
Informed by the experience of getting Boca tickets, I showed up to the San Lorenzo office on Avenida de Mayo plenty early and fully pessimistic. But I needn’t have worried. The line was small, and I soon found myself deep in conversation with the guy ahead of me. A lifelong San Lorenzo fan, he took me under his wing, explaining the history of the club and insisting we sit next to him and his son (whom he wanted me to speak English with). The tickets, in the seated section, nineteen rows up and directly in the middle of the field, were 90 pesos — exactly four times cheaper than what we had paid for the “popular” section in the Bombonera. Incredible.

San Lorenzo Amigos

Pregame
Again, such a difference from Boca Juniors, where we had no taste of the pre-match atmosphere. There, we’d been part of a tourist group kept separate from “normal” fans, deposited in a garage for crap-tastic pizza and beer, then brought to our seats 90 minutes before the game even started.

We were blessedly on our own for the San Lorenzo match, and in fact didn’t see any other tourists the entire day. Arriving at the team’s Nuevo Gasómetro stadium in Flores, we went straight to the club restaurant which was packed with fans clad in red and blue — hoping to blend in, I bought a ball cap, and we sat down for a US-style meal of hamburgers and Coca-Cola. As is the case throughout Argentina, no alcohol is sold during or before games. Given the already-fiery state of the fans, that’s probably a good thing.

Bellies full, we entered the stadium and found our seats next to the guy I’d met the day before. His kid was way too shy to speak English with us, but we all had a good time. Sitting with real fans in the seated section (the platea) was sooooo much better than with a bunch of fellow tourists in the fan curve (the popular). At Boca, I’d spent the match listening to an Australian brag about running with the bulls in Pamplona. Here, we were with a porteño explaining the lyrics of the songs that the hinchadas were singing, introducing the various players (the team’s best man has the awesome nick-name of Pipi), and telling us about the stadium.

San Lorenzo Fans

The Stadium & Atmosphere
If I had a complaint about our trip to San Lorenzo, it would be that the stadium is too new, and wasn’t filled to capacity. And it’s found in a nasty area of Buenos Aires. San Lorenzo plays in Flores, but identifies itself strongly with the more central neighborhood of Bodeo. The team’s old stadium, the Gasómetro, was located there until 1979 when it was forced to close by the military dictatorship. A true shame — the old stadium had a capacity of 75,000, tons of history and was known as “The Wembeley of Buenos Aires”. A grass-roots movement is currently advocating the club’s return to Bodeo, under the Law of Historical Reparations: an attempt to rectify some of the wrongs perpetrated upon the city’s people by the military junta.

We wish them luck! The club deserves to play in its own neighborhood. Although the Nuevo Gasómetro wasn’t completely full during the early afternoon game we attended, the fan curve definitely was. And it was every bit as wild as Boca Juniors’. From the Platea, we had a great view of the hinchadas, who filled the stadium with their songs, swaying, jumping, confetti and flags. One fat guy, who our friend referred to as El Gordo Ventilador danced and swung his shirt in a circle over his head for the whole 90 minutes. An impressive display of stamina — he features prominently in our video, below.

The game was great, as well, though the fans were disappointed to see San Lorenzo’s 1-0 lead disappear shortly before the end. Still, I’ll not soon forget the collective insanity which gripped the stadium after that first goal. Pipi has been struggling with injury this season, and only entered the game in the second half. Almost immediately upon touching the pitch, he assisted on the goal … the crowd went nuts. I looked over worriedly at our new friend, who’d ripped his shirt off and was screaming at the top of his lungs, red-faced.

Soccer Dude

Overall…
… our trip to San Lorenzo was leagues more fun than Boca. This has mainly to do with the fact that we had booked one of the tourist-oriented packages for Boca Juniors, so it’s not an entirely fair comparison. If it had been possible to buy normal tickets to Boca, we would certainly have had a much better time — but the point is that it wasn’t possible.

At San Lorenzo, we were a real part of the scene. We paid about US $20 for incredible seats in the middle of the field and had the opportunity to meet lifelong fans. So many people only consider River Plate or Boca as options when they’re visiting Buenos Aires, but it definitely pays to broaden the selection. Besides San Lorenzo, you could go to a match at Huracán, whose art-deco stadium is supposed to be incredible, or Racing Club in Avellaneda, known for the fierce loyalty of its hinchada.

Watching Soccer in Buenos Aires, Part 1: Boca Juniors
Location of the San Lorenzo Ticket Office
Location of the Nueva Gasómetro
Soccer.com

Biggest Soccer Fan
Soccer Smile Face
Slum Soccer
Old Soccer Fan
Confetti Striptease
Goalie
San Lorenzo Player
Lorenzo Soccer
Happy Goal
Tired Fan
San Lorenzo Tattoo
Soccer Buenos Aires
Soccer Betting Buenos Aires
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April 30, 2011 at 1:56 pm Comments (12)

Watching Soccer in Buenos Aires, Part 1: Boca Juniors

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Maradona’s Golden Days

River Plate, Veléz, Racing, Boca Juniors, Argentinos Juniors, Independiente, San Lorenzo, Tigre, Huracán, All Boys… if you want to check out a soccer match in Buenos Aires, there are more than enough opportunities. Foreigners typically flock to the Bombonera to watch Boca Juniors, or the Monumental: home of River Plate. These are by far the two biggest teams in terms of success and support and clashes between them, known as superclásicos, are the stuff of legend.

I’m a huge soccer fan, so it was a given that I’d drag Jürgen along to at least one match. And in fact, we went to two. First to Boca Juniors, then San Lorenzo. Both were interesting experiences, though I wish I would been armed with the knowledge I now possess. Here’s Part One of our Buenos Aires Fútbol Odyssey. Check out Part Two, here.

Boca Juniors Tickets
March 20th: Boca Juniors 0 – 2 Olimpo

The Tickets
Boca Juniors are hugely popular, and normal tickets have become impossible to purchase. I waited in a line for two hours with a few hundred other people, before we were told that no tickets would be sold to the general public. The outrage among the group of mostly Argentinian fans was understandable — why did they make us wait so long, just to tell us that? Later, I would learn from reading online forums, that this has been the pattern since at least the beginning of the year.

The thing is … there are tickets available, and plenty of them. Boca has learned that any tickets which don’t go to their club members can be sold for much, much more money through hotels and tour operators. So, normal Argentines at the stadium booths are out of luck: all the tickets have been sold to package operators who jack up the price obscenely.

The upside of this scheme is, if you’re willing to shell out, it’s easy to get a ticket. The tour operators are a dime a dozen and, even the day of the game, you can find tickets. The downside is, the prices are exorbitant.

Not willing to miss out on the “Boca Experience”, we gritted our teeth and chose one of the tour operators. The offer was “Free Beer and Pizza” before the game, plus transport to and from the stadium. The tickets were in the Popular Section, and at 360 pesos, were nine times face value. The price seemed to be standard across all the tour operators we found, and at least we would be getting our money’s worth… right?!

Boca Juniors Player

Pregame
Along with about 20 other foreigners, we were bused to the stadium three hours before game time. Our guides grouped us together like schoolchildren, cut past the line of “normal” fans, and dumped us in a garage for the pizza and beer. There were two pizzas for the entire group. Not everyone even got a slice, and it was the cheapest, most disgusting pizza I’d ever tried to ingest. Fake plastic cheese, and the beer was a joke, too.

Anyway, we weren’t there for pizza. We were ushered into the stadium 90 minutes before kickoff and then just sat there waiting. Apparently, it was “too dangerous” to have us enter with the regular fans. What nonsense. By the time the game actually started, everyone was already tired and annoyed. I’m so sick of this attitude that tourists have to be afraid of regular porteños. It’s a falsehood promoted by charlatans, who can wring even more money out of foreigners by “protecting” them. “You’ll have to be bused in and out with special guards! You won’t be safe! Book with us, or you’ll be mugged in an alley! These people are animals!” Give me a break.

Crazy Boca Juniors Fans

The Stadium & Atmosphere
Regardless, the Bombonera is incredible. Even though Boca played atrociously and limped off the field after a well-deserved defeat, the atmosphere in the stadium was constantly upbeat. Singing, chanting, crazy fans (hinchadas) climbing up scaffolding, flags, confetti, etc.

So, during the game, I was really happy. But before we were able to leave the stadium, we had to wait until the opposing team’s fans had cleared out. Then our group had to wait until the normal fans in the popular section had also cleared out. Because we were helpless, silly children that needed protection from regular people. God forbid we leave the stadium with them. Sigh, it meant another hour of sitting around.

How To Watch Boca Juniors

Overall…
… the game was fun, but it was a terrible evening. We got back home with the full knowledge that we had been ripped off; that we had paid tons of money, and weren’t even able to experience the true joy of attending a match … sitting around a pub before the game begins, meeting local fans or being a part of the action. If I had it to do over, I would skip Boca entirely.

And if I absolutely had to go to the Bombonera again, I would buy tickets from a scalper. That’s a terrible thing to suggest, so I’m not suggesting you do this. But, shit. I would. I would pick the cleanest, nicest looking scalper, and buy a ticket from him.

The Bombonera on our Buenos Aires Map
Soccer.com

Magic Fall
Fan Sandwich
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April 29, 2011 at 10:25 pm Comments (5)

Buenos Aires Bits and Pieces

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Dangerous Buenos Aires

Ready for another random dump of pictures? These are some I took during the San Telmo fair, at the Museo Santo Domingo on Belgrano and Defensa, and other locations at times I found striking. Hope you like them!

Film Set Buenos Aires
Church San Telmo
Flame Guard
Psycho Barbies
Souvenirs Buenos Aires
Shoe Maker Buenos Aires
Angel Wall
San Telmo Art
Malcom Rox
Street Artist Buenos Aires
Secret Buenos Aires
Very Modern Art
Taller
Cute Porteño
Cage Burger
Balcony
Magical Nights
Buenos Aires Wet Nights
Munich Buenos Aires
Charlie Psycho
Mega Milonga
San Telmo
Sci Fi Buenos Aires
April 29, 2011 at 4:15 pm Comments (3)

Yrurtia’s Canto al Trabajo

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Oviedo Blog

I’ll remember Roger Yrurtia for two things. One: for having a last name so ridiculously intimidating that I won’t even try to pronounce it. And, two: for his gorgeous sculpture called Canto al Trabajo (“Song to Work”).

Canto Al Trabajo

This statue, in the middle of a little tree-filled park between the lanes of Paseo Colón, is a stirring tribute to the spirit of industry. Commissioned in 1905, it shows a diverse swath of people pulling a massive stone along the ground — children, women, men; Argentina.

Argentina has had a troubled history, and the bulk of its problems came after this sculpture was created. In his homage to the working class, Yrurtia seems to have foreseen the spirit of cooperation and perseverance that normal Argentines would soon need to exhibit.

Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Hostel Hotel Map Buenos Aires

Canto Al Trabajo Buenos Aires
Yrurtia
Mafalda San Telmo
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April 28, 2011 at 9:53 pm Comment (1)

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The MALBA - Museum of Latin American Art
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