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Ciao, Buenos Aires

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Three months. Had it already been three months? I don’t think we’ve ever lived in a place where time seemed to fly past so quickly. It felt as though we had just arrived and yet, there we were with bags packed. After a week-long vacation on the Paraná Delta, we were going to hop on a plane for Bolivia, our next destination.

Bye Bye Buenos Aires

What an incredible city Buenos Aires is! Hectic, loud, intense, packed with culture, drowning in its own history. Before arriving, we knew that we might be overwhelmed: so many museums and buildings to visit, restaurants to fatten ourselves at, neighborhoods to explore. What we didn’t expect was the warmth and hospitality of its people. You hear so much about crime and danger, but we didn’t experience that at all. The porteños we met, almost without exception, have been kind, open and helpful. How many fun conversations did we have with taxi drivers, shop merchants, and regular folks in bars? Too many to count, and far outstripping the very few negative encounters.

But more than anything it’s the size of the city which I’ll never be able to forget. Both its magnitude and density; so much humanity living and working, so much business and commerce. Every block offers something, whether it’s a classic café, a unique store, crazy graffiti, or an incredible bit of history. We were out on the streets every day, but even when just re-traversing routes with which we were already intimately familiar, always uncovered something new. The person who claims to be bored in Buenos Aires must have his eyes closed. The person who claims to know everything about it, a fool.

As we prepared to shut the door on this chapter of our lives, we found ourselves with mixed emotions. On the one hand, it would be a relief to slow down our pace to more human levels. But we would surely miss the invigorating abundance of life and mayhem. So we weren’t sure whether to celebrate or mourn the end of our stay. The only thing that we were sure about, was that we’d never forget our time in Buenos Aires: one of the world’s most extraordinary cities.

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May 7, 2011 at 10:48 am Comments (15)

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 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)

Bodegón El Obrero in La Boca

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Without a doubt, one of the most enjoyable meals we had in Buenos Aires was at El Obrero, a classic bodegón in La Boca.

Boca Fun Song

We went to El Obrero with friends on a warm Friday night, and had a blast from the moment we stepped inside. The place was a madhouse. Every table was full, with kids running between chairs, waiters zipping swiftly past, large Argentine families shouting at each other across long tables stacked with food. We took our seats and opened up the menu. The prices were out of this world, and we felt no compunction about ordering way too much. Calamari, mozzarella sticks, salmon, lomo. Everything was cooked perfectly, and we took our time with the meal, absorbing the atmosphere of the restaurant.

The waiter was friendly and attentive, a guitar player wandered around serenading tables, and there was a general buzz of merriment. We followed the example of the Argentines surrounding us, becoming gradually louder and more exuberant over the course of the evening, drinking wine and stuffing ourselves to the breaking point on the generous portions.

Found in a seedy section of La Boca, El Obrero isn’t the place to go for a fancy, buttoned-down evening with a new girl. But if incredible food and the boisterous atmosphere of a charming porteño bodega sound good, don’t pass it up. El Obrero is one of our very top picks in the city.

El Obrero
Agustín R. Caffarena 64
Location on our Google Map
Tel: 4362-9912
Yummy Dulce de Leche

Classic Restaurant La Boca
Soccer Boca Restaurant
Obrero
Cheese Fest
Salmon Buenos Aires
Bife Lomo
Beef Fight
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May 1, 2011 at 5:36 pm Comments (2)

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)

The National Museum of Fine Arts

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Organize your Buenos Aires Trip here

We confidently strode up the stairs of an impressive neoclassical building, convinced that it was the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. Passing between the massive gray Doric columns, a guard brusquely informed us that we were actually at the University’s Law School. He shoved us off toward a nearby clump of dark red clay, which had been been molded into the form of a building.

Museu-Nacional-de-Bellas-Art.

In this neighborhood of refined elegance, the museum definitely stands out. It was built in 1870 as a drainage pumping station, and converted for use as a museum in 1933. The building’s age is evident; inside, paint is peeling off the walls and the air is impregnated with the unmistakable atmosphere of slow decay. Exhibits were poorly lit, trash was strewn carelessly about the floor, and the visitors, laughing loudly and using cell phones, weren’t treating the place with any respect. Overall, it was a far cry from what we expected of the country’s premier fine arts museum.

Still, the museum holds an astounding collection, which we spent a couple hours taking in. The first floor features masters from all over the world, including Cezanne, Rembrandt, Guaguin, Van Gogh and Monet. But we most enjoyed the upper floor, which serves as an excellent primer to the history of Argentine art. There was a healthy blend of the classic and modern, featuring artists mostly unknown outside of the continent. We loved Guillermo Kutica’s mattresses made of maps, and were puzzled by the mystical, post-modern works of Xul Solar.

By the end of our visit, any complaints we’d had about the building had faded from memory. It helped that entrance to the museum is completely free, making it difficult to gripe at all. Still, once the city has a little extra cash on-hand, another round of refurbishment for this otherwise excellent museum might be in order.

Location on our Buenos Aires Map

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April 15, 2011 at 10:23 pm Comment (1)

Floralis Genérica

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Stylish Business Cards

I can count on exactly one finger the number of times I’ve stood before a flower sculpture and thought to myself, “Now that is really fucking cool”.

Floralis Generica Buenos Aires

The Floralis Genérica was a 2002 gift to the Argentine people from Eduardo Catalano, an architect best known for his audacious home in Raleigh, NC: one of the few modern structures to earn the praise of Frank Lloyd Wright. Catalano’s 28-meter steel and aluminum flower, planted in Recoleta’s Plaza de las Naciones Unidas, opens its petals every morning at 8am, and closes again at dusk.

Meant to represent all the flowers of earth, thus the name Genérica, the daily opening also symbolizes the eternal rebirth of hope; especially poignant considering that the statue was unveiled just one year after Argentina’s devastating economic crisis. It’s stunningly beautiful. Placed in the middle of a small pond, the light shimmers and reflects from the water onto the steel. Hills and paths lead around the flower, offering views from various angles.

I would be willing to bet ten grand that nobody with a functioning camera has ever visited the Floralis Genérica and walked away without taking a picture. Considered it, but then thought to themselves, “Nah”. That seems impossible.

Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Best Prices for Hostels in Buenos Aires

Floralis-Generica
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April 12, 2011 at 9:48 pm Comments (0)

Sample the Wines of Argentina with Anuva

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As anyone versed in such matters already knows, Argentine wine has been gaining in respect and influence over the past decade. Jürgen and I definitively aren’t versed in such matters, so we’ve had some learning to do.

Anuva Wine Tasting

Basically my knowledge of wine is: I’m aware it’s produced from grapes. So when we heard about Anuva, a wine tasting service in Palermo Hollywood, we thought a bit of education might be in order. For US$46 per person, Anuva offers a quick, personable tour through some of Argentina’s best grapes, in an evening that includes great food and conversation.

We showed up for the tasting right on time, hosted in one of Palermo’s many gorgeous hotels — the Rendez-vous. After introductions with the other guests, our sommelier wasted no time in popping open the first bottle. We tried five wines over the course of about 90 minutes, each presented with an accompanying plate of food. And the wines were all incredible. Anuva represents only small, artisan bodegas, and each bottle had an fun story behind it, such as the sparkling “Hom”, made (and named) by a crafter who’s into meditation.

The fact that we were beginners in the world of wine tasting didn’t matter in the end. We were given a quick crash course in what to look for, by our sommelier (you’ll have noticed, I just learned that word… so I’m going to give it a workout). From the bouquet to the richness of the color, our sommelier pointed out each wine’s distinct elements, making the whole experience easy and fun. I’d never before heard of Bonarda, a black grape originally from Italy and almost unheard of outside of Argentina. I loved its heaviness, deep color and barely perceptible fruitiness… Look at that: I’m already talking like someone who knows what they’re talking about! Our sommelier would be so proud. Sommelier.

As a compliment to the tasting, Anuva also offers a shipping service so that you can have some bottles delivered hassle-free to your home. The wineries have exclusive export contracts with Anuva, so these wines are otherwise impossible to find in the states.

The early-evening tasting makes a great beginning to the night Palermo. If you’ve got any interest at all in the wines of Argentina, definitely check it out.

Book your wine tasting here!!
Check out their Online Wine Store

Wine Tasting Argentina
Wine Tasting
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April 8, 2011 at 11:25 pm Comments (9)

The Museo Evita

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Evita the Movie

Just around the corner from Palermo’s Botanical Garden, the Evita Museum welcomes visitors with a big, toothy smile. We had been skeptical, but the quality of both the exhibits and the mansion won us over. The Museo Evita is really cool.

Don't Cry for me Argenina

Perhaps my initial skepticism was due to Andrew Lloyd Webber and company. When I think of Evita, the image that springs to mind is Madonna squealing discordantly to “her people” from the Casa Rosada’s balcony. I unconsciously associate Evita with over-the-top histrionics, and just assumed the museum would be as tasteless as the film.

But of course, María Eva Duarte Peron’s story is fascinating and, as one of history’s most important female political figures, she’s well deserving of a museum. The moment we entered the three-story Italian Renaissance mansion, I knew it would be a good experience. Evita purchased the house in 1948 as a part of her Social Aid Foundation, using it as a temporary home for poor women to “shelter those in need and those who have no home… for as long as necessary until work and a home can be found…”

In July 2002, exactly fifty years after Evita’s death, the museum opened to the public, and was an instant success. The exhibits are lovingly presented, and visitors learn about Eva’s life from her humble beginnings in Junín, through her rise to power, and her unfortunately early death. It’s almost entirely propaganda: you’re not going to find anything inside the museum about the darker sides of Juan and Evita’s rule. You can marvel over her fabulous dresses, but the very serious allegations of the couple’s fascist tendencies are politely left to the side.

But whatever. This is a place to remember and appreciate Evita’s positive deeds. You can get a sober analysis of history from books. And if you do happen to have a book with which you’d like to spend some time, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better place to do so than the museum’s cafe. With a gorgeous patio accessible from the street, you don’t even have to pay entrance to enjoy it.

Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Buenos Aires Hotels

Evita Museum
Evita Dragon
Evita Restaurant
Museum Evita
Evita Silver Face
Eva Peron Fashion
Evita Hat
Evita Dress
Sexy Evita
Evita Kitchen
Evita Garden
Evita Souvenirs
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April 8, 2011 at 6:52 pm Comment (1)

Chancha via Circuito

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Before moving to Buenos Aires, we conducted a little research into the city’s music scene and stumbled upon an artist by the name of Chancha via Circuito. We were instantly hooked, and his music became our constant soundtrack for our final weeks in Savannah. Fresh and modern, but firmly rooted in tradition, it sounded exactly how we imagined Buenos Aires would be like. It made us anxious to arrive.

Rio Arriba Chancha

Given that we’d been listening to his music non-stop for a couple months, we were thrilled to be able to meet Chancha at ZZK Records’ studios. Pedro Canale is his real name, by the way. The alias pays respect to his daily 2-hour commute: the Chancha, or “the pig”, is the train which brings him into Buenos Aires, while the Circuito (the circular) takes him back home. Even while his new album Rio Arriba is being bandied about as one of the year’s best releases, Chancha still endures that crazy commute, which serves to underscore his refreshing modesty. He was genuinely surprised and excited that Jürgen and I listened to his music, and eager to explain the ideas that went into making it.

Pedro Canale

Rio Arriba, described by NPR as “pure genius“, has been an instant hit and is Chancha’s second album after 2008’s Rodante. Listening to his songs is an experience; a journey through the sounds of South America, from Argentina to the Andes and beyond. The lead track off Rio Arriba is a remix of Quimey Neuquen by the Patagonian artist Jose Larralde, which brings a hypnotic vibe to a style of music I’d never heard before. A lot of the album is like that: trancey beats on top of traditional drums, flutes and chants. It’s utterly unique, and works flawlessly.

When Chancha mentioned his April 1st show at Le Bar, a cool club in the middle of the microcenter, we immediately confirmed that we’d be there. The performance was awesome, and Chancha was entertaining to watch, hopping up and down behind his DJ setup, exhorting the crowd to dance and occasionally shouting out a wild “WHOO!” Paula Duró, a visual artist, was working alongside him, throwing paintings and gorgeous patterns onto the backdrop. The crowd was big, and everyone seemed to love the show. Occasionally, he’ll tour both Europe and the states, so if you find yourself with a chance to see him live, don’t pass it up!

Chancha Via Circuito’s Official Site
His music is available here: Amazon US, Amazon UK, iTunes

Chancha Via Circuito Concert
Chancha Cicruito
Underground Music Buenos Aires

Fri 4/8 @ Unsound Festival @ NYC, NY
Sat 4/9 @ Tormenta Tropical @ SF, CA
Sun 4/10 @ Atwater Crossing Courtyard, LA, CA
Fri 4/15 @ Peligrosa, Austin, TX
Sun 4/17 @ Communikey Festival, Boulder, CO
Tue 4/19 @ Team Tuesdays, Santa Fe, NM
Fri 4/22 @ Mundial de Musica (MdM) Festival, Chicago, IL
Sat 4/30 @ Round Corner Cantina, Pittsburgh, PA

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April 7, 2011 at 7:57 pm Comments (5)

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