Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hay Tormenta! (It's Stormy!)

Hay tormentas!

A week of sunshine...a week of rain. That's been the pattern since we arrived. The week of the 15th we had showers and thunderstorms (tormentas) that sometimes lasted all day (it's been the rainiest February on record in 150 years). David keeps reminding me that it's better than snow!

It rained so hard and for so long that some neighborhoods experienced major flooding. We were glued to the TV, watching people wade through knee-deep water while holding on to ropes strong between sidewalks. Street lights were out and stalled cars littered the road. Water seeped into ground floor apartments, restaurants and stores, and zodiacs were used to "rescue" stranded people. What a mess!

Given the foul weather, we spent less time outside then we'd have liked. But, in spite of the rain, we certainly had some good times. Early in the week, we had dinner with Jim, Linda and Carlos...check out the desserts – dulce de leche panqueques (crepes) and lava cake brownies with ice cream.

We really don't eat desserts like this too often (though a new bakery just opened around the corner from our apartment – wonderful chocolate and almond croissants – very French).

Linda is an American photographer/artist here on a grant, and Jim and I took the bus to the studio she is working in to watch her and 2 master print makers design and executive one of her new prints.

At this point, I have to mention my aversion to the buses here...and there are many on the streets, particularly during the day.

When they turn a corner, they can be very close to the curb. And they sometimes turn corners so quickly that I expect to see wheels off the pavement (think “Speed”). After a close encounter with one our first week here, I'm particularly cautious when I cross the street. But I didn't realize how “dangerous” they can be when you're inside one, especially if you're distracted while reading a map and happen to have your leg where it shouldn't back of the rear door as it snaps open to let passengers off...ouch.

On a happier note...we're having some really fun times with Julie and Bob, who we know from last year...

And they've introduced us to some of their friends, like Bettye (and Michael), Bonnie, and Patricia...

There is never a shortage of dining buddies... for lunches (here we are with our friend Angela at "Dada")...

for dinners or, as it turns out, breakfast. On the mornings we go to the gym, I eat breakfast at home. David, on the other hand, goes to the Melody Cafe, where he met Ron, and they've caught up with each other on several occasions.

He and I also met Vicki for the first time, more than 20 years after he first became acquainted with Vicki and her husband Paul.

They wrote a book in the early 80's, which greatly influenced David (and as a result me) and our lives. I will let David tell the story, as it is, first and foremost, his...

Barbara has told you most of the story....I read Paul and Vicki's book when it first came out and had an epiphany, which took me (us) another 25 years to actually employ. Sorry guys...I must be a slow learner!

Shortly before we decided to come to Buenos Aires for the first time, I ran across an article following up on Paul and Vicki's whereabouts. I hadn't been aware of them since I had put the book down in 1982. Believe it or not, they had settled in Argentina and not more than a couple of hours from BA. Given their constant travel schedule, it's been almost 3 years since I e-mailed them and arranged to meet Vicki in BA.

Either persistence was paying off or Vicki read enough of our blog to know I was not a crazy stalker! Never the less, we met Vicki at the wonderfully restored Retiro Cafe (at the Retiro train station)

and had a great time chatting over coffee and medialunas. Due to all of our travel schedules, we get to meet Paul next year, as we now have been properly "screened"!
Now back to Barbara....

To end off the week, I decided it was time to buy a new pair of glasses. Our friend Kevin, who speaks Spanish extremely well, came with help translate, but also to give a third opinion. As all of you who wear glasses know, once they come off, you can't really see. But after an eye exam...

here I am, with Kevin and Sabrina (my optical person) with the new frames, which will be ready on March 15th.

More to come soon.....

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

2010 Blog Post #3 Palermo - Valentines Day - and More

Palermo Revisited

After all the rain, it's back to clear skies and hot temps. Palermo, a trendy area with more than it's share of restaurants and shops, is about 20 minutes from the Recoleta. While it gets all the write-ups in the travel magazines and the NY Times, it's not a neighborhood we would want to live in...rather plain architecture, broken sidewalks, a lot of graffiti (some of it art?)...

and more than it's share of dog poop. We find it rather drab during the day...but it comes alive at night...very Vegas. And while we hardly ever go there, this past week we went 3 times.

On Tuesday, we decided to go to the zoo. But, once there, we realized it was way too hot out for people and animals and, besides, with summer vacation, the grounds were teaming with kids. So, instead, we spent the afternoon window shopping...with the exception of this store, where I tried on shoes while David and shopkeeper Marianna had a very lengthy conversation which included an exchange of restaurant recommendations. He's such a porteno!

The next evening we went back to Palermo for a fish dinner ( beef?) with Kevin, Kirk and Rick.

And, to round out the week, we made our annual trek to Palermo's Mercado de las Pulgas (Flea Market), where I, as always, drooled over the chandeliers while David wandered aimlessly, bored beyond belief.

On Thursday, we had a great time with Karen (who I've known for 20 years) and her husband Gary. From Boston, here on business, they were able to get away for an afternoon. After a leisurely lunch...

we walked down the Avenida Callao...

checked out the grand hotels and old mansions on the Avenida Alvear, including the courtyard of the Hyatt Duhau...

and the 1916 French style Mansion,

part of the Four Seasons Hotel, with its restored frescoes, gold leaf, stained glass, and grand foyer.

February 14th...Valentines Day – I'm happy to report that it's a Hallmark holiday in Buenos Aires too. Flower kiosks...

heart-shaped boxes of candy, restaurants advertising “special” dinners advertised everywhere.

But we're excited just to spend the day in the park. So we pack up our new lawn chairs, books, and iPods and head over to Vincente Lopez Parque to soak up some sun and relax. But, alas, it's not meant to be. Because of all the rain we had last week, there are swarms of mosquitoes everywhere.

Since we always have alternatives, we spend the afternoon walking around Puerto Madero, BA's port area. We've been there before, so no photos are necessary...but we find a whole new area to explore on our way back to our apartment. After crossing Av. Corrientes and Florida, we take a detour to Plaza Lavalle, where we photograph the Teatro Colon.

The opera house has been under renovations for at least the 3 years that we've been coming to BA, if not longer! The grand “reopening” is scheduled for the end of May...we'll see!

In the same general area, we also check out the very stately Palace of Justice...

and a small park with a fountain and statuary...

that looks more like it belongs in Santa Fe, NM than in Buenos Aires, where the fountains and statues are usually on the grand side, like this one in the Plaza Carlos Pelligrini.

And to end the evening, we have a “romantic” dinner of cheese and crackers (we had a really big lunch) while watching TV.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Life Begins with Coffee

Whatever else happens, the day always begins with con leche (with milk) for me and a cafe doble (double black) for David. It's very civilized...reading the BA Herald (the only English newspaper), chatting with the waitress, people-watching. We always go to the same cafes in the morning -- Josephina's on Sundays, Melody every other day -- and that's where we discuss the rest of the day - what to do, where to go, what to eat.

Lately, a lot of that discussion has been determined by the weather. After 7 days of heat and humidity, we're into our 7th day of almost continuous rain...some of it torrential. We bought ourselves 2 umbrellas and I got a pair of rubber-soled havaianas sandals to slosh around in. When it's just too wet out, we've been a record rate. David is addicted to his Nook, and I've finished 6 of the 7 paperbacks I brought with me. Luckily, we recently discovered a local bookstore with lots of English-language books (a rarity). While I canvassed the shelves, David had a lengthy conversation (mostly in Spanish) on local politics with the store owner.

When we're not reading, it seems food and friends continue to dominate our agenda. Whether it's an elegant buffet of appetizers and desserts at the Palacio Duchau Park Hyatt hotel with friends Jim, Claudia, and Tony...

or a casual lunch at a neighborhood restaurant with Kevin, Rick, Kirk, Jim and Elida...

the afternoons fly by.

Desserts often come with the meal so, in order to at least “maintain,” we reinstated our gym memberships from last year and started working out with Yamil, our trainer (also from last year).

We also walk a lot more here than when we're home. The Chabuca Granda Boulevard that leads to the Pilar Church is just 3 blocks from our apartment and, with it's cafes and open spaces, it's a perfect destination in the early evening.

For a change of scenery, last Sunday we took the bus to Barrio Chino (Buenos Aires' version of China Town) with our friend Gaby. It's compact (only 4 blocks square)...good for people-watching and buying snacks.

David is never without his Spanish/English dictionary, which he shares freely when the conversation stops for lack of the correct words.

I, on the other hand, mostly listen. I understand a bit less of what's being said...enough to get by. and that has gone a long way as I recently went to the National Theater to see a performance of Verdi's opera "Simon Boccanegra", starring Placido Domingo, simulcast live from the Met – with Spanish subtitles.

That's about it for now.... time to eat!