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Bar (Notable) Hopping

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The city tourism board’s initiative to honor a set of sixty bars and cafés as bares notables provided us with a cheat sheet of places to hit up. Buenos Aires has a historically strong café scene, so the competition to end up on the list must have been fierce, and those who won a spot should be the crême de la crême. Every once in awhile, we would just randomly pick out a few and go “bar notable” hopping.

Clásica y Moderna, Recoleta
Clasica y Moderna

Argentinians love reading almost as much as coffee, and the restaurant/bar Clásica y Moderna has decided to capitalize on both. Past the main salon, patrons of the bar can visit a small but well-stocked bookshop. Sounds weird, but somehow it fits perfectly. With its huge glass windows, the book store blends in seamlessly with the rest of the bar’s decor.
Clásica y Moderna
Av. Callao 892
Location on our Buenos Aires Map

La Giralda, San Nicolás
La Giralda

More a chocolatería than a bar, La Giralda is heralded for having the best churros in the city. Found between bookshops on Calle Corrientes, this relaxed, brightly lit café has been a favorite hangout of intellectuals since it opened in 1970. We loved its tiled floors and marble tables, and the fact that six waiters were running around taking care of guests, where one would have done quite nicely. We were on our way to dinner, and weren’t in the mood for churros and chocolate, but we did try one of their heavenly alfajors. A neat place.

La Giralda
Av. Corrientes 1453
Location on our Buenos Aires Map

Bar Oviedo, Mataderos
Bar Oviedo

Of course we were gonna go to Bar Oviedo! After all, we initiated our For 91 Days travel project in Oviedo, Spain. We were there on a rainy Sunday when the Feria de Mataderos had been cancelled, so no one was in the best spirits. I asked the waitress about the connection to the Spanish city. “I don’t know. It’s just the bar’s name”. And when it came time to order, I tried about twenty things on the menu. “Out of that. Sorry. Nope, none of that either”. I settled on a sandwich of dry bread with a single piece of cured ham inside. Oviedo has some charm, but you really have to search for it.

Bar Oviedo
Av. Lisandro de la Torre 2407
Location on our Buenos Aires Map

Cool Gang
Notable Buenos Aires
Book Bar Buenos Aires
Milk Bar Buenos aires
Bar Notable
Sidra Argentina
Bares Notables
Beer Bar
Sandwich Buenos Aiers
Alfajores
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May 6, 2011 at 12:17 pm Comments (0)

The Obelisk and the Avenida 9 de Julio

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Selection of Buenos Aires Travel Guides

Avenida 9 de Julio, which cuts north-south through the city is one of the world’s widest avenues. Where it intersects Calle Corrientes, the city’s most emblematic symbol shoots grandly into the air: the Obelisk of Buenos Aires. The phallus-shaped monument is the perfect symbol for a country that so proudly basks in machismo.

Obelisk Buenos Aires

My, that’s quite an impressive… monument you have there, Argentina! Reaching 67 meters in height, the obelisk was built in 1936 by German engineers to celebrate the 400-year anniversary of Buenos Aires’ founding. Throughout the years, it’s been the scene of protests, vandalism, concerts and speeches. During Isabel Perón’s tyrannical presidency, a banner was hung on the obelisk that read “Silence is Healthy”. Ostensibly a message to keep traffic noise down, it was actually a thinly veiled warning that it might be smart for political opponents to keep their trouble-making mouths shut.

Biggest Street in the World

Crossing the street to get to the obelisk is an exercise in bravery. The Avenida 9 de Julio, at 140 meters of width (460 feet), is insane, with four separate lights to get across the street, and about 20 lanes of traffic. Well, “lanes” is an abstract term, as nobody pays the slightest bit of attention to the lines painted on the pavement. Cars weave in and out, passing perilously close to one another at speeds that make you sick. Velocity is the name of the game for pedestrians, as well: if you want to get across the avenue in one go, you have to jog.

Loud, crowded and stressful, I wouldn’t want to spend a whole day near the avenue, but every time I had to cross it, I became energized. With the obelisk towering high overhead, and cars zooming recklessly by on all sides, it’s tough not to be impressed.

Location of the Obelisk on our BA Map
Hotels, Hostels and Apartments in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires Obelisk
Avenida Julio 9
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May 5, 2011 at 5:48 pm Comments (0)

The Palacio Barolo – Inspired by Dante

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One of the best panoramic views in Buenos Aires is from the lighthouse at the top of the Palacio Barolo, on Avenida de Mayo. But as impressive as the view over the Plaza del Congreso and the city might be, expect to be even more amazed by the building itself.

Palacia Barolo

When the Palacio Barolo was completed in 1923, it was the tallest building in South America, with a crowning lighthouse that could be seen from Montevideo, Uruguay. The Italian architect, Mario Palanti, was commissioned to build the palace by an Italian immigrant, Luis Barolo, who had become rich in the fabrics trade. Palanti was a huge fan of Dante, and designed his building to pay tribute to the great author’s Divine Comedy.

The building is precisely 100 meters tall, one meter for each canto in the epic poem. Following Dante’s footsteps, a visitor to Palacio Barolo begins his journey in Hell (the basement and ground floor), moves on through Purgatory (floors 1-14) and ends in Heaven (floors 15-22). The 22 floors equal the number of stanzas of the poem’s verses. Each floor is split into 22 offices. And as in the Divine Comedy, the number nine is repeated throughout the building’s plan. Nine entries to the building represent the nine hierarchies of hell, while nine arches in the central hall stand for hell’s nine circles.

This kind of thing is like crack for me. The palace was inaugurated on Dante’s birthday, and Latin inscriptions throughout the building pay further tribute to the poet. The crowning cupola, inspired by a Hindu temple in India, symbolizes Dante’s union with Beatrice, his perfect woman.

You can join a guided tour, during the afternoon or evening, when the city lights are on. It’s an incredible way to see Buenos Aires from above, and also learn about one of the city’s most unique and amazing buildings.

Palacio Barolo
Avenida de Mayo 1370
Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Rough Guide Buenos Aires

Crazy Architecture
Crazy Building
Divine Comedy
Dantes Dragon
Buenos Aires Tour
Dantes Hell
Glass Cube
Strange Bird
Elevator
Stairs Buenos Aires
Fancy Stairs
Piso 14
Cool Photo
Old Light Bulbs
Light Tower Buenos Aires
Photographer Buenos Aires
Congresso Buenos Aires
Cool Street
City Viewing
Metropole
Skyscrapers Buenos Aires
Crazy Buenos Aires
Loft Buenos Aires
Windows to the World
Glass Dome
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May 5, 2011 at 5:00 pm Comments (7)

The Palacio de Aguas Corrientes

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An intricately detailed, 19th century building spanning the width and length of a block in Balvanera, the Palace of Running Water must be the world’s most impressive clean water pumping facility. I can’t imagine it even has a competitor.

Palacio-de-Aguas-Corrientes

At the time of its construction, Buenos Aires was the only city in Latin America with clean running water, and the jaw-dropping palace was intended as a celebration of the city’s surging wealth modernity. Who cares if it’s just a shell for twelve massive water tanks? Why shouldn’t a shell be beautiful?

They went all out. The French Renaissance style building boasts over 300,000 multi-colored bricks and terracotta tiles, and occupies an entire city block. The rich ornamentation includes columns, turrets, mosaics and sculptures of flowers, fruits, and shields which represent the fourteen Argentine provinces. Almost everything was produced in Europe. The tin roof hails from France, the bricks from Belgium and the gorgeous terracotta tiles were elaborated by London’s Royal Daulton ceramics maker.

The offices of Argentina’s water company are today found inside the building, along with a courtyard and the old tanks. You can take a tour of the premises and visit a small Museum of Water, on weekday mornings.

Palacio de Aguas Corrientes
Riobamba 750
Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Tel: 6319-1104
Architecture in Buenos Aires

Sun Argentina Flag
Palace-de-Aguas-Corrientes
Running Water Buenos Aires
Architecture Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires Blog
Buenos Aires Tour
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May 4, 2011 at 10:28 pm Comment (1)

Radio La Colifata

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A radio station with an unusual and highly laudable purpose, Radio La Colifata was established in 1991 as the world’s first station run by the inmates of a mental hospital. Twenty years later, the project is still going strong. We decided to check out one of the transmissions.

Radio Colifata

Dr. Alfredo Olivera was still a psychology student when he dreamed up the idea for Radio Colifata. By putting inmates in charge of a radio station and letting them tell their stories, many benefits could be realized at once. The inmates would gain a sense of autonomy, allowed to talk about whatever they wanted with the assurance that people around Buenos Aires would be listening. Those who hear their stories on the radio might come to the realization that not all asylum patients are dangerous lunatics, bolstering the reputation of mental health. And by giving the patients a voice, Radio La Colifata would help restore sense of community which is lost by being locked away.

Attending the broadcast of La Colifata turned out to be an adventure. Upon arriving at the Dr. José T. Borda Neuropsychiatric Hospital in the southern barrio of Barracas, we were a little confused. I don’t know what we expected to find, but this was just an abandoned building. A woman at the corner bar verified it was the correct place, so we ventured inside. Everything inside the hospital was rundown. Stray dogs roamed the hallways along with feral cats. Jürgen hesitated, so I went further indoors on my own. Turning a corner, I almost collided with a man who clearly wasn’t playing with all his marbles. And who had recently peed himself. Confirmation, at the very least, that we were in the right spot, and the only time I’ve ever felt relieved to run into a piss-drenched crazy man.

The hospital was huge, and as we explored, we realized it wasn’t completely desolate. A few staff members and patients wandered the halls, in addition to the animals. Eventually, we found a way into the back courtyard, where the unmistakable sounds of a radio broadcast could be heard. About 30 people were sitting in a semicircle around a desk, and we grabbed a spot toward the back. The doctor acting as the show’s emcee walked around the group, occasionally handing the mic to one of the inmates. The first speaker, a rather young kid with a huge bush of curly hair, complained about the state of the hospital. Another man talked about the negative perception of locos, arguing that, after all, everyone is crazy in some way.

We didn’t stay for a long time, fearful of the microphone being thrust into our hands, but came away with an appreciation for the program. And we learned that the reason for the hospital’s pitiable state, is that Argentina has ordered the closing of all mental hospitals. Their functions will be moved into general hospitals. Just a few weeks ago, the gas in Dr. José T. Borda was shut off.

The first time I’d heard of La Colifata was in Spain. One of the more famous Spanish rock bands, El Canto del Loco, recorded an entire album with members of the station. Check out Quiero Aprender de Ti, one of the band’s best songs, which was taped at La Colifata.

Colifata, by the way, is lunfardo for “amiable crazy person”.

La Colifata’s Website
Location of the Broadcasts

Sad Place
Dr Borda Buenos Aires
Mental Hospital
La Colifata
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May 4, 2011 at 7:49 pm Comments (7)

La Poesía – A Great Place to Read, Drink and Relax

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Classic: Read some Borges at La Poesía

With its shelves stacked with books, soda bottles and photographs from years past, La Poesía is a bar beautiful enough to truly deserve its name.

La Poesia

The café was originally opened in 1982, to celebrate the end of the military dictatorship and provide a place for Buenos Aires’ intellectuals, authors and poets to congregate and discuss their renascent democracy. It was immediately popular, especially known for its sessions of Poesía Lunfarda, but the bar was closed after just six years. In 2008, the same couple who own Bar Federal restored the Poseía to life and helped reestablish it as a staple of the San Telmo scene.

I was in the place all the time, usually with a book. It has an atmosphere conducive to reading, with tango music playing softly in the background and a good selection of drinks. Unfortunately, the wait staff isn’t always the friendliest. One girl in particular always greeted my arrival with a frown and an attitude; I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what I’d done to her. And once, a waitress directed me to a table with a power outlet, watched me set up my computer, provided me with the Wifi code, then took my order. The internet didn’t work and when I pointed that out, she was like, “Yeah. It’s been out all day”. But, couldn’t you tell I wanted to use it? I even asked you for the access key! “Yeah. Well, you never asked me if the internet worked“.

Regardless of the occasionally brusque service, there’s plenty to enjoy at La Poesía. Leave your computer at home, and take a book. A book of poetry, if you must.

La Poesía
Chile 502
Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Coffee Culture

Bar Notable
Books Poesia
Cans
Cooking Cook
Facturas Buenos Aires
Salami Buenos Aires
Side Eye
Malinesa Sandwich Poesia
Cafe Con Leche
Hotels San Telmo
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May 3, 2011 at 8:48 pm Comments (2)

Punta Brasas – Not Bad in a Pinch!

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Grilling the Argentine Way

It was a Sunday afternoon, and we were stomping angrily around Palermo Hollywood looking for a place to eat. The restaurant we had wanted to go to was closed, and we had no backup plan. One of the bad things about eating in Buenos Aires is that restaurants have irregular schedules… Mondays, Sunday afternoons, Tuesday nights, closed. Advance research is always a smart idea. But one of the good things is that there’s usually another great option around the corner, regardless of where you are.

White Wine

Before we even got two blocks away, we encountered Punta Brasas on Bonpland and Honduras. We grabbed a spot on the upstairs terrace, and sat down for an excellent meal. I had a Caeser salad, and Jürgen ate stuffed chicken. The service was good — our waitress was there when we needed her, but stayed out of our way generally — and the prices were fair. Sitting in the sun with a bottle of white wine cooling in a bucket, and great food in front of us, it was difficult to be anything but happy.

But we almost didn’t go! It was a typically porteño scene: as we were approaching Punta Brasas, the door girl approached us on the sidewalk. “Looking food? Come in! So nice!” This is such a turn off. Even though we had planned on going there anyway, we almost turned around out of principle. Why do so many restaurants around the city employ this pushy tactic? Does anyone actually ever say “okay”? If anything, I have to believe that it drives business away.

Puntas Brasas
Bonpland 1694
Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Tel: 4776-2784
The Perfect Steak

Mozzarella Stick
Pinch
Liquid Cheese
Meat Roll
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May 3, 2011 at 7:21 pm Comments (0)

The Unbeatable Ice Cream of Buenos Aires

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Make Ice Cream At Home

From across the Atlantic, Argentina sounds out the challenge to its frumpy ancestor Italy. “Hey, you think you got good pizza? How you like these fugazzas? Oh, you’re proud of your famous Italian ice cream? LOL! Nobody but nobody beats Buenos Aires for ice cream! Student becomes the master, punk!”

Ice Cream Dulce De Leche

Until we spend 91 days in Italy, I won’t dare render a verdict in this competition, but Buenos Aires makes a strong case for itself. The pizza here, as we’ve said more than a few times, is amazing. And the ice cream… well, it might even be better.

Helado shops dot nearly every corner of the city, and porteños are rightfully proud of how good their ice cream is. Regardless of how full we’ve just stuffed ourselves at dinner, a pit stop for ice cream always seems like a good idea. The most typically Argentine flavor is Dulce de Leche. Creamy and almost sickeningly sweet, every shop offers it, as well as variations on the theme. Dulce de Leche with Brownies. Super Dulce de Leche. Dulce de Leche Fantástico.

That’s not all there is to choose from. The selection of flavors at most shops is overwhelming, and I always try and sample something new. Around ten pesos will get you the smallest cone, but don’t be fooled by its tiny size: the amount they’re able to pack into it is remarkable. Generally, people get two compatible flavors in one cone… Dulce de Leche and Crema Rusa, Lemon and Raspberry. Most ice cream shops even have delivery services, which is both hilarious and awesome.

For my taste, Argentina basically wins the World Food Competition. Other countries may have fancier fare, but the staples of Argentine cuisine are: pizza, ice cream, steaks, coffee and wine. That’s just tough to beat. It’s kind of unfair.

What is Dulce de Leche?

Ice Cream Buenos Aires
Yummy Ice Cream
Ice Cream
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May 2, 2011 at 9:48 pm Comments (4)

The Parks of Palermo

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Parks in Books

The largest barrio of Buenos Aires is also its greenest. A number of parks stretch between the residential streets of Palermo and the Rio de Plata, greatly improving the quality of life for those lucky enough to live close by.

Love Bridge
Los Bosques de Palermo

The Parque 3 de Febrero is more popularly known as the Palermo Woods, and is one of the largest parks in the city. With a artificial lake as its centerpiece, a rose garden and an Andalusian courtyard, it’s one of the most popular spots in Buenos Aires to spend a lazy summer afternoon. On weekends, the park is packed with families picnicking, while joggers taking advantage of the plentiful tracks.

You can take a paddle boat out to explore the lake, or rent rollerblades for the recreational circuit that surrounds it, which is what I did. The rollerblades cost just $10 (US$2.50) for a half hour, and although they weren’t exactly top quality, or even matching, it was nice to get some exercise. For a more serene time, you can stroll around the rose garden which juts into the lake.

Japanese Garden
Jardín Japones

We chose a weekend to visit the Japanese Gardens, which was a poor decision. The gardens are supposed to be a tranquil oasis, but on weekends, hordes of people suffocate the place, making any sort of relaxation an impossibility. We headed toward the exit almost immediately after entering.

During a weekday, though, the garden is supposed to be great. The Japanese landscaping includes bridges, a bonzai section and ginko trees.

Planetario Buenos Aires
The Planetarium

Looking like a spaceship that crash landed in Buenos Aires, the gleaming, circular Planetarium sits next to a pond. It’s more an attraction for kids, who can learn about the cosmos, but the park surrounding it is as nice a place as any to lay down with your thermos and mate.

We passed through the parks of Palermo countless times, cutting through them on the way to some museum or event. But somehow the parks make us lazy, and we always ended up sitting on the grass for an hour, happily cancelling plans in order to spend a little more time in the sun.

Locations on our Buenos Aires Map of…
The Rose Garden
The Japanese Garden
The Planetarium

Buenos Aires
Parks Buenos Aires
Boats Buenos Aires
Fashion Buenos Aires
In Love
White Buenos aires
Spanish Tiles
Rose Boy
Rose Garden Buenos Aires
Red Bike
Grumpy Old
Geese
Super Blader
Palermo Flirt
Palms Horse Ride
Deutscher Platz
Plaza Alemania
Berlin Bike
Crazy Fish
Börd
Crazy Bird
Japan Waterfall
Japan Shrine
Plaza España
Deer Park
Do Not Aks
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May 2, 2011 at 7:44 pm Comments (3)

Thinking About Buenos Aires

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Perfect Compact Camera for Traveling

Prisoner Buenos Aires

No, we’re not for 91 days in Guantanamo. That picture above was actually taken right from our apartment window! After making sure I got the picture, I found out that the hooded guy was just an art student working on a project. Phew. But I thought it was a good introduction to this latest batch of random pictures, which shows how different Buenos Aires can be, at different hours of the day. Even a window you’re totally familiar with can surprise you.

Mega Cool Dude
Balconies
Art Deco Buenos Air
Continental Pizza
Buenos Aires Book
Claridge Buenos Aires Hotel
Egg Sandwich
Gran Flauta
Hanging Out Buenos Aires
Otto Wulff Buenos Aires
Michael Jackson Buenos Aires
Oh Deer
Mask
Glass Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires Bling
Super Mall
Silver Tubes
Reading News
Special Delivery
Super Woman Comic
Sun Cube
Molino Buenos Aires
Congresso Playground
Twig Lady
Fountain Happyness
The Thinker Buenos Aires
Night Sightseeing
Pink House
Casa Rosada
Roho Hair Salon
May 1, 2011 at 10:46 pm Comments (6)

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Bar (Notable) Hopping
For 91 Days