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The Feria de Mataderos

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Gaucho Stories

The barrio of Mataderos, former home to Buenos Aires’ slaughterhouses, has always been tightly linked to gaucho culture and the meat industry. In fact, the neighborhood is also known as “Nueva Chicago”: a nickname the local football team still plays under.

Not Fake

Though the days of gauchos leading herds of cows into Mataderos for the slaughter have long passed, the neighborhood still strongly identifies itself with gaucho culture. The connection is never more evident than on Sunday, during the Feria de Mataderos, a wonderful celebration complete with music, food, trick riding and stands selling everything that can possibly be made from a cow.

The barrio is far outside the normal tourist haunts of Buenos Aires, but if you have a free Sunday, it’s absolutely worth the effort. In fact, it’s one of the best things we did during our months here. Stepping off the 126 bus, shopping was our first order of business. There was so much to browse through, from knives and matecitos to leather vests and wine flasks made of cow hooves. With friendly vendors and incredible prices, it was a blast to browse around; I bought a leather belt with “Argentina” stitched into the loop for $40 (US$10).

Our shopping was interrupted by the beginning of a dance concert. A group of young gauchos and chinas got onto the stage and proceeded to tear the place up. They were from a nearby town, and in a very flamboyant performance, demonstrated that gaucho culture isn’t all machismo and mate. I never thought I’d find myself enthusiastically clapping for a group of dancing cowboys, but there you are.

The food was great, too, though getting any required herculean patience. While Jürgen hunted for a place to sit, I waited in line for nearly an hour, to order empanadas, tamales and sweet red wine. Arms precariously full of food, I stepped through the crowd searching for Jürgen, finding him at a table with an Argentine family, with his mouth full. They were forcing him to try their locro, a corn-based stew, and regaling him with stories of the different Argentine cities he simply had to visit. I joined in the conversation, and we enjoyed one of the most entertaining meals we’ve had in Buenos Aires.

After eating, we said adiós to our new friends and went to watch the horse riding competition. Gauchos propelled their horses at breakneck speed down the street and attempted to spear a ring with a stick. I mean, a regular ring meant for a finger. A nearly impossible task, and the few competitors who succeeded happily soaked up the crowd’s appreciation.

Overall, the Feria de Mataderos met our expectations, and then some. Check out the video and pictures, and if you have the opportunity, don’t skip out on this fair. Tons of fun.

Feria de Mataderos
Location of the Fair on our Buenos Aires Map

Proud Gaucho
Tiny Gaucho
Gaucha
Gaucho Belt
Crafts Belts
Horn
Silver Horse
Wild Gaucho
Sweet Lady
Mean Gaucho
Gaucho Culture
Gaucho Dance
Spectacle
BBQ Heaven
Asado
Gaucho Sausage
Smoked Meat
Booty Knife
City Gauchos
For Sale
Gaucho Price
Corked
Hoof Work
Gaucho Kids
Gaucho Gear
Gaucho Fest
Super Gaucho
Lama Drama
Gaucho
Bar Oviedo
Cool Dude
Caja
Cool Gang
Eistruhe
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April 28, 2011 at 8:45 pm Comments (3)

Las Pizarras – Go to the Head of the Class!

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Pasta Recipes

When I consider the word chalkboard, my head instantly seizes up with all sorts of negative connotations. My brain thinks “school”, my nose remembers the stale stench of erasers being pounded together, and my ears… the unbearable screech of a bad piece of chalk scraping uselessly against the slate. Awful.

Las Pizzaras

Pizarra is Spanish for “chalkboard”, so when I discovered that we were on our way to meet friends at Las Pizarras, I went into a semi-catatonic shock. NO|FORK|CHALKBOARD|NO|FORK|NO But there was no reason to fear; the restaurant provided one of the most pleasant dining experiences we’ve had in Buenos Aires.

From the moment you ring the doorbell, and the door is opened, Pizarras is all about charm. The dining area is small and the menus are found on the huge chalkboards which cover the walls. The wine card was right above us, desserts behind us to the left, and entrées across the way. It was a novel way to present the menu, and blended seamlessly into the thoughtful, tasteful decor of the restaurant.

The food was delicious. I stuck to seafood, with an appetizer of razor clams (navajas) and a main course of shrimp risotto. Juergen went with pumpkin soup and steak, and the girls we were with had pasta dishes. In the end, we all ended up sharing off each other’s plates; it’s really a mark of a great restaurant that I couldn’t say which of our meals was the best. All of us left full and happy.

The prices weren’t even bad, especially for a chic restaurant in the middle of Palermo. Make reservations, and head over to Las Pizarras. You won’t be sorry. And if you even think about being “that guy”, who thinks it’s funny to stand up on his chair and drag a fork against one of the chalkboards, know this: I will hunt you down. And I will find you.

Las Pizarras
Thames 2296
Location on our Buenos Aires Map
All the restaurants we visited in Buenos Aires

Pizzaras Menu
Pizarras Palermo
Pizarras Restaurant
Pumkin Soup
Navajas
Risotto
Entaña Bife
Fresh Pasta
Fresh Ravioli
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April 28, 2011 at 3:18 pm Comments (2)

Tierra Santa … Holy Cow

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Jesus Merchandise

Tierra Santa, found in Palermo’s Parque Norte next to the Newbery Airport, is a Jesus-themed fun park. Though, calling it “fun” might be stretching the truth a bit.

Fly To Jesus Land

Step right up, and get your picture taken with Crucified Christ, Argentine flag waving proudly behind him! Or right over here, let’s have fun watching Jesus struggle under the burden of the cross. My, how lifelike his agony seems! Wonderful, clap clap. Haha, Johnny, step up here and get a picture with the Roman soldier whipping Jesus. Smile, Johnny! You are at a fun park, after all.

Jürgen and I were sold after reading about Tierra Santa’s big draw, a massive Jesus statue that emerges from the ground once an hour. Yes. It was like hitting the atheist’s irony jackpot. So, we went. We had to.

The park turned out to be lame. I mean, of course it was lame, but even more so than we’d expected. The big nativity show was ridiculous. Are you old enough to remember Showbiz Pizza Place? It was like that, except a lot less cool. And there was nothing to do in the park. You could get your picture with demonic, twisted caricatures of figures like Mother Teresa or the Pope. You could pet a donkey. Buy a Pepsi. That was about it.

Honestly, I don’t know who the target market for Tierra Santa is. If you take religion even the slightest bit seriously, you’d be horrified by. Maybe it really is for people like us: godless heathens who just want to have a laugh. But it’s not even good for that.

Tierra Santa
Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Buenos Aires Sights and things to do

Weird Buenos Aires
Jesus
Tierra Santa
Me and My Donkey
Jesus Party
Jesus Shock
Fake Church
Giant Jesus
Jesus Cross
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April 27, 2011 at 11:26 pm Comments (3)

Palacio Paz – A Private Home Fit for Kings

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The most expensive Hotel in Buenos Aires

Fleeing the yellow fever which was devastating the city’s southern barrios at the beginning of the 20th century, Buenos Aires’ most wealthy families established fabulous residences around Retiro’s Plaza San Martín. None were more extravagant than the Palacio Paz.

Dome

José Camilio Paz was the founder of La Prensa, the city’s most influential newspaper, and a man whose success brought him to the forefront of Porteño society. He was Argentina’s ambassador to France, and harbored aspirations to the presidency. Clearly, he regarded himself as a man of much import, and so ordered the construction of an outrageous private home in the heart of the city.

Like many Argentinians of his day, Paz was obsessed with Europe, and returned to France to choose an architect and materials. Construction on the palace stretched from 1901 to 1914, but Paz died in 1912 without ever seeing the completed work. But his widow and family happily moved in, and enjoyed a life of absolute splendor.

As we were taking the tour, our guide stressed that the Palacio Paz was for a family of nine. Yet, regardless of how many times I heard that, I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea. This was a place fit for royalty. At four stories and 12,000 square meters of space, the sheer size of it is incredible. The nine family members had sixty servants at their disposal. There are seven elevators. Seven.

Our tour started in the reception area, moved into the ball room, then a long gallery, decked out with wooden benches and velvet walls. We continued through the dining room of honor, where each guest had his own personal waiter, the smoking room, the ladies’ room, and the music room. At this point I was starting to lose my orientation; every room was just as gorgeous as the last. But on we marched, through the waiting room, to the music room and then into a round room which shattered my conceptions of what kind of things private wealth could actually purchase.

This was the formal reception room, meant to leave guests astonished, and it accomplishes its task handily. A perfectly circular room over 21 meters in height with statues, paintings, marbled columns and a ceiling fresco dedicated to Louis XIV, the Sun King. From here, we were led into the garden, and had the chance to admire the iron wrought sun room on the palace’s back side.

After the Paz family moved on, the palace was purchased by the Círculo Militar for private functions and, except for the unfortunate addition of a sporting area which replaced the garage and stables, it’s survived almost completely intact into the modern day. The tour costs $40 (US$10) per person, and is a wonderful chance to see how magnificently rich porteños of the early 20th century were able to live.

Palacio Paz
Av. Santa Fe, 750
English-Language Tours at 3:30pm, Wed & Thu
Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Buy Dulce de Leche Online

Marble Buenos Aires
Wood Way
Wood Arche
Chandelier Weirds
Wooden Fireplace
Fire Place Hunk
Fancy Dining Room
Massive
Fancy Lamp
Ballroom Buenos Aires
China Vase Lamp
Dizzy Lamp
Barroc Buenos Aires
Kronleuchter
Palace Buenos Aires
Weird Lamps
Amazing Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires Palace
Curious
Black Door
Rose Garden
Palacio Paz Buenos Aires
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April 27, 2011 at 10:44 pm Comments (2)

Puerto Madero

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The Architecture of Calatrava

Buenos Aires’ trendiest residential neighborhood is probably its most bizarre. Even though it’s physically close to the historic center, Puerto Madero almost feels like a completely different city.

Puerto Madero

The narrow port for which the neighborhood is named opened in 1882 to help serve Buenos Aires’ shipping businesses. But it was in use for only sixteen years. Before construction even completed, Puerto Madero had been rendered obsolete by the sheer size of the newer, larger barges. For most of the 20th century, the warehouses sat unused and the area around Puerto Madero was abandoned to urban rot.

But that’s changed. About ten years ago, a concentrated effort was made to modernize and clean up one of the city’s best-located and most-neglected neighborhoods. With its location along the Rio de Plata, and the ecological reserve of the Costanera Sur, it’s amazing that Buenos Aires took so long to make proper use of Puerto Madero. Wealthy porteños, both young professionals and retirees, have moved there en masse, and property values have shot through the roof. To accommodate the new residents, a number of restaurants have opened up along the old port, which itself has become a place of touristic interest.

We’re in Puerto Madero constantly, usually for jogging, but also taking advantage of the cheap and modern Cinemark theater. There’s still a lot of room for improvement in Puerto Madero — the newness of the buildings and shops is too apparent, and the large, expensive restaurants are almost always empty. A stroll through the neighborhood can be a surreal experience; where the nearby streets of Monserrat are noisy, dirty and gloriously alive, Puerto Madero is clean, quiet and desolate.

Still, walking along the old port as the sun behind the city, its rays reflecting off the water and giant glass buildings, is one of the more pleasant ways to spend an evening in Buenos Aires. We’ve gone to bars along the port for happy hour, and perhaps there are some treasures hidden in Puerto Madero that we haven’t discovered… does anyone have a suggestion?

Calatrava Buenos Aires Mujer
Shady Lovers
Rowing Buenos Aires
New Buenos Aires
El Mirage
Night Building
Boat Buenos Aires
Puente Mujer
Art Buenos Aires
Crane Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires at Night
Calatrava

Calatrava in Oviedo and Valencia

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April 27, 2011 at 8:43 pm Comment (1)

Ah, the Sounds of Young Love

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Love for Argentinian Wine

Schlurp. Schluuuuurp. Schleck, schleck. Schlick, giggle, schluuurp.

Ah, the delightful, not-at-all-nauseating sounds of young couples in love! Along with honking horns and buses rumbling down cobblestone streets, the wet, sploshy sound of tongues exploring throats adds another note to the grand Buenos Aires symphony. Public make-out sessions are as much an Argentine pastime as drinking mate (and there’s an eerie acoustical resemblance between the last sip of mate and the slurping of kissing kids).

You Love

They’ll make out anywhere, these horned up monkeys! Waiting for the bus, on the bus, on a bench, in a store, in front of my apartment door, in parks. Oh my god, in parks. Last Sunday, in Parque Lezama, I thought I was in the middle of a kissing competition. I felt like I should go around to each couple sprawled out on a blanket, and award them points for style and presentation.

This might be a phenomenon all over Latin America, but Buenos Aires is the first place I’ve ever encountered such outrageous amounts of PDA. Sure, there’s something sweet about it, but I don’t know. A quick peck on the lips is about as far as I’m willing to go in public. But I’m from the States; we’re prudish that way.

Get a Room in Buenos Aires

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April 27, 2011 at 12:03 am Comments (3)

The National History Museum & Lezama Park

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The biggest park in San Telmo is Lezama, a giant green hill which fills up on weekends with sun-bathers, mate drinkers and chess players, along with some market stands. The park also is home to the Museo Histórico Nacional.

Pedro De Mendoza

Eager to deepen our understanding of Argentine history, we visited the museum on one of our first days in Buenos Aires. It’s small. We were done in less than 20 minutes and didn’t learn much about Argentina’s history. I was expecting a primer in the country’s story, exhibits about the key points in Argentina’s development, but it was nothing like that.

That’s not to say it was a disappointment. At one peso, the museum is basically free and boasts some extraordinary pieces of art, including giant canvasses of Argentina’s revolutionary army, and portraits of its presidents. The collection of artwork and objects might resonate more with Argentinians already familiar with the stories, than with foreigners.

Parque Lezama itself is awash in history. It’s here that Pedro de Mendoza founded the city, way back in 1536, and the explorer is honored in the park with an impressive monument. Today, Lezama is a typically porteño mix of beauty and destitution. The colorful amphitheater on the park’s northern side serves mainly as a clubhouse/bathroom/shelter for homeless people, and a lovely path lined with statues is kept strictly protected bars.

Sunny weekends are the time to visit Lezama. Bring a blanket, your matecito, and (if you really want to emulate porteños) somebody to make out with, and enjoy one of the coolest chill-out spots in the city.

Location of Parque Lezama on our BA Map
Everything you need to book your vacation

Lezama Park
Museo Historico Buenos Aires
Lion San Telmo
Lezama Mueseum
Bells Buenos Aires
Crazy Bird
Lezama
Protected
Naked Lady Run
Romulus-and-Remus
Sol Buenos Aires
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April 26, 2011 at 9:52 pm Comments (0)

San Telmo’s Market Hall

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Buenos Aires Map

Occupying a good chunk of the block sketched out by Estados Unidos, Defensa, Carlos Calvo and Bolivar, the Mercado de San Telmo is a place which locals and tourists visit in almost equal numbers. The latter to buy antiques and souvenirs, the former for their day-to-day groceries.

Telmo Dome

Since we precariously straddle the line between tourist and local, we use the mercado for both purposes. A number of veggie and meat stands compete for business in the center of the market, surrounded by antique shops that extend down long hallways. Prices for cool souvenirs, second-hand clothing and random trinkets are noticeably cheaper than at the Sunday antiques market. I picked up an old Carlos Gardel album for twelve pesos, and on that very day, saw the same album being sold for 60 outside.

The souvenir shops are a somewhat newer addition, capitalizing on San Telmo’s reputation as the best antiques hunting ground in the city, but the market has a history stretching back to 1897. It was inaugurated a couple decades after the Yellow Fever epidemic which devastated San Telmo, and the new center of commerce was greeted enthusiastically by residents. Ever since, the mercado has been an integral part of the neighborhood. In 2001, it was even declared a national historic monument.

When you go, take your wallet and take your time. It’s almost inconceivable that you’ll walk out without buying something. If you’re in the mood for meat, check out our favorite stand: Puesto 54. With incredible prices and friendly cleaver-wielding butchers always willing to explain the various cuts, it quickly became our go-to place for beef.

Mercado de San Telmo
Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Buenos Aires Travel Guides

Shopping Buenos Aires
Mercado San Telmo
Butcher Buenos Aires
Cuts of Meat Argentina
Chorrizo Buenos Aires
Butcher
Antiques
Antiques Buenos Aires
Sombreros Buenos Aires
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April 25, 2011 at 10:33 pm Comments (4)

Buenos Aires – A World Unto Itself

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The Music of Carlos Gardel

Russian Nights

There’s no reason to leave Buenos Aires to experience the different cultures of the world. So many people and cultures from all around the globe have established a strong presence here… the Bolivian neighborhoods of Liniers, Chinatown in Belgrano, the Italian heritage in La Boca, and Once with its Jewish population are just some of them. There’s even a Valencian community which celebrates Fallas in Buenos Aires!

Hope you get a kick out of these diverse photos from Buenos Aires:

San Telmo Market
Cartas
Bus Buenos Aires
Defense Buenos Aires
Pigeon Monument
Buenos Aires Cat
Dog San Telmo
Secret La Boca
Souvenirs Buenos Aires
Spider Spider
Porteño
San Telmo
BsAs
Buenos Aires Traffic
Pink Bridge
Parked In
Sneaky
Colors of La Boca
Gaucho Dance
Power Tower
Scraping Skies
Moulin Rouge San Telmo
Moody
Lost in Translation
Eating Buenos Aires
Bar Sur
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April 25, 2011 at 3:31 pm Comment (1)

Las Cuartetas – Pizza in the Theater District

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We’ve already written about El Cuartito, one of the very first pizza joints we discovered in Buenos Aires. Las Cuartetas is similar in food, name and decor. But it’s larger and, especially on a weekend night as the theaters of Calle Corrientes are emptying, much more boisterous.

Animated Pizza

We took friends from Germany on the same Thursday night that Plácido Domingo put on a free concert at the nearby obelisk. The restaurant was full when we arrived and, after the concert ended, the insanity in Las Cuartetas ascended to a level I could scarcely believe. Unceasing rivers of people flowed through the doors, passing by our table, headed towards the back in search of seating. I don’t know where any of them ended up; the restaurant was already packed to capacity when the flood started. The only explanation we could imagine was that they were exiting again through a door in the back, in an elaborate game to punk us. The line of people just kept filing past, like midget clowns piling into a car, and I swear I saw a few faces twice.

The pizza was incredible. Deep-dish, cheesy, greasy; everything we’ve come to expect of Buenos Aires’ best pizzerias. But really, the food took a back-seat to the atmosphere inside Las Cuartetas. Every seat was taken, and people shared tables with total strangers. Old deaf couples munching down fugazzas next to lip-pierced alterno-kids drinking Fanta, everyone screaming to be heard. Most of the screaming was directed at the waiter. The dapper old gentleman had to deal with about 40 tables in our section, and did so with the utmost professionalism.

We had a blast at Las Cuartetas, and can definitely recommend a visit, especially when it gets crowded. If the idea of cheesy, unhealthy pizza in a raucous madhouse full of shouting Argentines sounds like a good time, you won’t be disappointed.

Las Cuartetas
Corrientes, Av. 838
Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Books on Bar Notables

Pizza Zombies
Pizza Waiter
Buenos Aires Beer
Pizza in the Theaters
Hot Dad
Pizza Morron
Best Dulce de Leche
Serving Pizza
Pizza Stud
Pizza Pies
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April 24, 2011 at 4:14 pm Comments (5)

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The Feria de Mataderos
For 91 Days