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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)

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)

The International Book Fair

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Books for only 1 Dollar

One of the world’s biggest book fairs takes place in Buenos Aires. We visited the 37th annual Festival Internacional del Libro, which brought together a million readers and 500 publishers from over 50 countries.

International Book Fair Buenos Aires

Hundreds of stands selling books on every conceivable topic fill up the massive Sociedad Rural complex near Plaza Italia. Everything is in Spanish, but you can find any kind of book you’d want. We even found a stand from Bolivia, which would be our next destination, and picked up a couple of novels set there. Every year, the fair draws famous authors for conferences and workshops, and there are daily various concerts, book signings, activities for children, and countless other things to do. Entrance is $20 (US$5) per person, and worth every cent.

For logistical reasons, I’ve made the switch to an e-reader. I’m a fairly voracious reader, and lugging around books while we travel doesn’t make sense. Besides, our grandchildren will look at books the same way we look at vinyl records. Nostalgic and cool, but not the primary way they’ll ingest the printed word. Better to get with the times, I’ve reasoned, and actually, I find reading on a tablet pretty enjoyable. Still, finding myself in a convention hall, surrounded by tens of millions of dead-wood books made me happy. I could have spent all day there.

Feria del Libro’s Official Website
Location of the Sociedad Rural on our Buenos Aires Map
Buenos Aires Books

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May 3, 2011 at 1:48 pm Comments (4)

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)

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)

Photographing while Traveling: Instant Inspiration

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We recommend Bite Away against mosquito bites. We use it daily!

Blue Diamond

Compared to a lot of photographers I know, I have it pretty easy. Visiting so many new places all the time means I never have to sit around, waiting for inspiration. When you’re in a new location and everything is novel to your eyes, finding interesting things to photograph is a piece of cake!

Enjoy the latest random pictures from Buenos Aires:

Panorama Buenos Aires
Argentina Flowers
Mosque Train
Mosque Buenos Aires
Tilt Way
Happy House
Trash Toad
Window Shades
Buenos Aires Blog
Power Tower
Filete Porteno Collectivo
Manga Chicas
Pirate Sign
Urban Art
Retro Bar
Old Old Timer
Stonken Cute
Street Ping Pong
Night Taxi
Very Big Moon
Calle Defensa

Really cool hostels in Buenos Aires

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April 15, 2011 at 6:42 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)

Caballito – The Middle of the City

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Explore Buenos Aires

The geographic center of Buenos Aires is Caballito, a charming neighborhood with large green spaces, and well served by the Subte. Although it’s not on the top of the normal tourist itinerary, this barrio has enough highlights to make it worth a trip.

Centenario Buenos Aires

We began our excursion at the perfectly round Parque Centenario, designed by master urban planner Carlos Thays (also responsible for the Jardín Botánico). Though the park looked cool enough, we happened to arrive at the same time as a massive thunderstorm, and sought shelter in the Natural History Museum.

Nature History Museum

Along with approximately 39,403 screeching Argentinian rugrats, we drip-dried while looking at fossils, animal replicas and fish. The focus was on on native Argentine fossils and dinosaurs, such as the giant glyptodon, and it was fascinating to see the differences between prehistoric life here, versus in the USA. Their prehistoric monsters seem cuter, somehow. Though we hadn’t planned on a visit, the museum was a fun place to escape the rain. But if you’re allergic to children, you might want to stay away.

Once the downpour ceased, we walked along Avenida Rivadavia, a boisterous shopping street. It was a nice alternative to the more famous and ultra-touristy shopping zones in Retiro, with stores of comparable quality. And it was relieving to be surrounded by Argentines who weren’t continually shoving Tango Show fliers into our faces. We walked past the Parque Rivadavia, and browsed the offers at a second-hand book market. I bought an old Superman comic for a few pesos, and then sat down for a drink in El Coleccionista, a bar notable which still serves as a meeting place for different groups of collectors.

Book Market Buenos Aires

Fully rested, we ventured onto the other side of Calle Rivadavia and into the Mercado del Progreso. Behind its wonderful art deco facade is a lively goods and produce market, which has been a staple of the neighborhood since 1889. It was cool but we didn’t spend much time inside; the day was getting late, and we didn’t want to miss out on an historic tram ride.

The Tranvía Histórico de Caballito offers free trips around a small section of the neighborhood. Until 1963, trams had been one of the primary modes of transportation in Buenos Aires, linking the city’s 48 barrios to one another. Out-of-use tracks are still visible in between the cobblestones of many of the older streets, and the Asociación de Amigos del Tranvía seeks to remember this history by operating one last route. It’s a fun ride; a quick 20-minute trip into the romantic past.

Tram Ride Buenos Aires

The tram skirts around a section of Caballito known as the Barrio Inglés, long one of Buenos Aires’ most fashionable residential areas. The small area occupies just a few blocks, and has somehow survived intact into the present day. Built in the late 1800s as homes for British train executives, the Georgian- and Victorian-style houses are gorgeous, and cost a small fortune. This is one of those areas in Buenos Aires where vigilant security guards will watch your movements carefully.

Enjoy our pictures of Caballito! We’re making an effort to explore some of the less well-charted areas of Buenos Aires… if there are other great neighborhoods which not many tourists get to see, let us know!

Ducks
Stone Beast
Bird Argentina
Bird Collection
Flamingo
Insect Collection
See Stern
Skull
Blubber Beast
Simon Bolivar Buenos Aires
Lady and Sons
Beer Snack
Qiulmes
Market Buenos Aires
Malinesas
Market Caballito
Tracks Buenos Aires
Yellow Tram
Old Tram Buenos Aires
Tourist Tramway
Tramway Argentina
Tramway
Tramway Historico
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April 11, 2011 at 7:55 pm Comments (4)

Casa Felix: Great Food & Company Behind Closed Doors

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Since opening a couple years ago, the closed-door pescaterian restaurant Casa Felix has built a name as one of the best dining experiences in the capital. Chef Diego Félix and his US American wife Sanra welcome guests into their charming Chicarita home for an evening of excellent cooking and conversation. In the garden and around the dining table, it’s not uncommon for total strangers to quickly become friends.

Casa Felix

Concentrating on ecologically-friendly, organic foods and produce from their own garden, Diego invents dishes which are both delicious and beautiful to look at. Ingredients are selected from across South America, such as plantain leaves, manioc and an Argentine mint called peperina. Unless you’re a professional gourmet deeply familiar with the continent, you’re going to be discovering a lot of new tastes during the five-course meal.

Casa Félix is a secret underground restaurant, but breathless reviews in publications like the New York Times and Condé Nast Traveler have made it a rather poorly-kept secret. Which is good. We visited on a warm late-summer evening and, sitting in the garden for a drink before dinner, fell easily into conversation with other guests. Everything was so relaxed and casual, it really felt like you were over at a friend’s for dinner. If you had a friend who was an amazing cook.

The restaurant is just one piece of Diego and Sanra’s culinary project called the Colectivo Félix, which seeks to promote eco-gastronomic through meals, investigations and photography. We didn’t get to meet Sanra, who was occupied with their recently arrived newborn, but Diego was a gracious host throughout the evening, eager to explain the various herbs and ingredients, and clearly happy to have us in his house. Besides, meeting Sanra would have probably just ratcheted up our envy of her… a gorgeous home, a highly-praised closed-door restaurant, the attention of the world’s best food critics, and a handsome Argentine husband who just happens to be an incredible cook. Quite the life, there!

Check out their website, and make reservations when you’re in the city! The five-course meal is just 150 pesos (US$38); an incredibly fair price for an unforgettable evening out.

Colectivo Felix’s Website
Tel: 11 4555 1882
Haute Cuisine Cook Books

Casa Felix Garden
Restaurants Buenos Aires
Bread
Diego Felix
Private Restaurant
High Cuisine
Empanada Futura
Perfect Fish
Sweets Argentina
Hotels Buenos Aires
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April 1, 2011 at 11:49 am Comments (0)

Fileteado Porteño with Alfredo Genovese

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Filete Porteño Books

Swirling, symmetrical lines and bright colors are the primary elements of fileteado, the most porteño of all arts. The decorative style can be seen everywhere in the capital, from store fronts to city buses, and is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. We met one of Buenos Aires’ most famous filete artists, Alfredo Genovese, at his studio in the barrio of Paternal.

Alfredo Genovese

Alfredo has been painting fileteado for 25 years, perfecting his skill. He’s also dedicated himself to learning about the history of the style, even writing a couple books on the subject. Fileteado first began to appear in the capital’s streets in the 19th century as simple decoration for horse carts. Designs became ever more intricate and, soon enough, every cart in the city was pimped out, usually with the vendor’s name written in Parisian lettering in the center.

Filete spread from horse carts to store fronts, street signs and city buses, but was never truly appreciated as “art” among porteño society. As Buenos Aires became more cosmopolitan and less focused on romanticizing the past, the style was on the verge of being forgotten forever. Luckily, that trend has been reversed. Thanks to the tireless work of artists like Alfredo, it has established a strong foothold in the Argentine conscience.

Alfredo’s studio itself was a thing of beauty, blanketed in samples of his work. When we showed up, he took a break from painting a greeting sign for a family home in Tigre, in order to show us some of his favorite pieces. One was a skateboard design painted for an Argentinian athlete living in LA, which proved so popular, it was mass-produced. Another, and possibly the most well-known example of filete outside of Argentina, is Alfredo’s cover to Mike Doughty’s album Haughty Melodic.

Filete Dragon

We also got a crash course in the basic concepts of filete… Alfredo pointed out the floral designs, and three-dimensional illusion, as well as some of the symbols that often appear. The sun, usually the one in the Argentine flag, represents prosperity. Both real and mythical creatures appear, such as a dragon, which usually signifies corruption. And almost always, a phrase or a portrait can be found in the center — 85% of the time it seems to be Carlos Gardel.

Alfredo is most interested in pushing the boundaries of the art style. He works a lot with body painting, and has introduced some non-traditional elements into his pieces. For those interested in learning about the style, he offers courses in his studio. We had a lot of fun meeting him and learning more about the style, which is so ubiquitous in Buenos Aires, and completely unknown everywhere else.

Alfredo Genovese’s Website
Hotels in Buenos Aires

Filete Porteño Studio
Filete Porteño Classes
Filete Art
Filete San Telmo
Filete Porteño Sneakers
Yerba Mate Filete
Horse Carriage Filete
Filete Body Art
Filete Porteño Coche
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March 30, 2011 at 5:30 pm Comments (4)

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