Monday, February 21, 2011

Back in BA

Hi All,

Arrived here a couple of weeks ago and have been catching up with old friends, meeting new ones and spending a lot of time checking out our favorite restaurants. No surprise there! The trip down was uneventful. Fortunately for us the storms in the Northeast left us a window and we did not get stuck in Washington DC (our worst case scenario) as we made our way south.

We have a great new apartment for this year, much better for entertaining, as well as daily living. Barbara and I are not sure if we will continue blogging this year as we have pretty much taken pictures of everything that interests us, and how many more pictures of us in restaurants do you really want to see?

So this may be the last post for the year....Hope you all have a great rest of the winter/spring.

Chau for now!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Returning to Buenos Aires in January

It's been a great summer here on Cape Cod, and now as "Fall" begins to surface our thoughts of returning to Buenos Aires are beginning to surface. See you there soon. We'll keep you posted.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Fuerza Bruta

“Fuerza Bruta” (translation...Brute Force) – On tour in London, NYC, Rio. Back in Buenos Aires for a limited engagement. It's Cirque de Soleil on steroids. It's heart pounding...mind blowing.

We go with Kirk and Genaro...

and have no idea what to expect as we walk into a large dark space – black curtains, black walls, high ceiling, strobe lights, fog, aerial cables, 2 platforms stacked high for DJs, and Latin techno music that increases in intensity as it gets louder and louder. Over the next 20 minutes, perhaps another 3,000 people (mostly young) join us. Wall to wall people. No seating...standing room only...waiting, looking up.

Blue lights, red lights...more fog...the tension of anticipation. And then the “show” begins. I can hardly describe the next 90+ minutes. All I know is that it's a continuous assault on the senses...and is best shown through the videos that David took and that make up most of the rest of this blog entry.

A man on a treadmill running for his life through mist and fog, a "brick" wall and a tunnel of wind...

(NOTE: You have to CLICK on the Video to see them...and you might need to lower the volume!)

women in tutus directly above my head doing wild acrobatics while swinging from aerial cables against a pulsating mylar wall...

people in business suits suspended from cables, running, climbing a staircase, stepping into space...all the while, the music is blasting...

an Amadeus-lookalike DJ who's wildly playing music that increases in intensity as gusts of wind, confetti and a watery mist simultaneously waft in waves over our entire body is vibrating from the raw power of the amplifiers and speakers...

and then the crowd all around us begins to break into spontaneous dance, even as buckets of water pour from the ceiling, soaking those just a few feet from us...and still the intensity heightens...

It's crazy!!! My entire body is pounding and, for the first time in my recent adult life, I feel like I know what it must be like to experience the energy and intensity of today's discos! And I feel kind of old...ughhh.

It's exhilarating and overwhelming in a way I've never before experienced and will never forget!

When the show ends at 1:00 a.m. we leave, though it appears that most of the crowd stay to dance for who knows how many more hours! We are so wired that we all go for coffee and don't say good night until 3:00. Don't go to sleep till after 4:00 cause by then the caffeine has kicked in!

David says it's the best thing he's done since he's been here!

And that, my friends, is how this year's blog ends. We arrive home on May 12th and will not be blogging again until next January when we return. We had a great time with old friends, new friends, and those who came for a visit, and thank all of you at home for following our adventures and staying in touch.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Home Stretch

With just one week to go, there are still things to going to the Palacio Errazuriz; aka the National Museum of Decorative Arts. We've passed by, had lunch in the courtyard, but never taken a tour...until now. The only early 20th century French styled mansion in BA regularly open to the public, it's elegant and beautifully crafted.

Original furnishings are on display, as are 15th to 18th century tapestries, sculpture by Rodin, and paintings by Corot, El Greco, Fragonard, and Manet, all collected by Chilean diplomat Matias Errazuriz and his Argentine wife, both of whom lived in the palace after its completion in 1911 until 1937, when it was donated to the state by the family.

Unfortunately, after taking just one photo in the reception area, we are told that no picture-taking is allowed...que lastima (what a shame).

Two nights later, we go to a “closed door” restaurant or, as the guide books refer to it, a salon for food and conversation. No mention of the address, no sign announcing its existence on the side of the building, the only way you'd know about it is by word of mouth. Reservations are necessary, and a mix of languages (in our case, English and Spanish) is a given.

The “restaurant” is actually the living and dining rooms of a private apartment, and the chef is also the apartment owner. The feel is casual but very dinner party-ish; a maximum of 12 individuals can attend, as there are only 2 communal tables, one seating 8 guests and another for 4.

The menu constantly changes...and is often thematic. In our case, it is duck and chocolate. Every meal is different, and every meal can be combined with a 5-wine tasting menu (one for every course). We go with our friend Michael, sans his wife Bettye, who is visiting family in San Fran (we miss you, Bettye!!).

We meet some really interesting people, including Natalie (to my right) and her husband Cesar (who's not in the photo), and Yuki, Akiko, and Phillip.

A few days later, friends Lynne and Joe come from the states for a week long vacation. We haven't seen them for 5+ years, so there's lots and lots of catching up to do. We spend the day walking around the Recoleta, including a “”tour” of the cemetery, of course...

and the following evening, we have a 3 ½ hour dinner at the Evita Museum Restaurant and slowly polish off a bottle of Malbec and 2 bottles of champagne...

Not surprisingly, getting up the next morning is slightly more difficult than usual! But we have to rally, because that evening we're off to our friend Michael's Cinco de Mayo party, where there are lots of new people to meet, pitchers of margaritas, and a buffet with great home made food. Due to an overdose of booze the night before we forget to bring our camera, so no incriminating photos!

When Thursday rolls around, we take it slow in the morning and start to focus on packing or, more to the point, throwing away paper and sorting clothing into 2 piles...what we leave with friends and what we bring home.

Fortunately, by mid-afternoon, Kirk saves us by suggesting we go to buy tickets for a Friday night performance of “Fuerza Bruta”. We don't know anything about it, but because we think it's something like Cirque de Soleil, and it's literally a 10 minute walk from our apartment, we decide to go and buy tickets at the Recoleta Cultural Center.

When we get to the Cultural Center, we're surprised to find a labyrinth of giant “plastic art” posters and realize it's the 2nd Biennial Borges-Kafka Festival, and Buenos Aires is the host city.

Organized by the International Foundation Jorge Luis Borges, in collaboration with the Center Franza Kafka in Prague, the intent (as I understand it) is to encourage new generations of readers to explore the similarities in the writings of both authors. That being said, we are fascinated by the art...perhaps 20 of these posters, one more surreal than the next.

Once we make it to the ticket booth, we buy tickets for the 11:30 p.m. show (what are we thinking??) and then head home, via outdoor space with street art (which changes every so often).....

and restaurants on one side with open air dining on the other. As we pass the Kosher Sushi restaurant, where they are simultaneously blessing the sushi and preparing tray after tray of the stuff, David feels a photo op coming on and the guys inside are more than happy to be in the picture.

And then there are the kioskos (one on almost every corner) where you can buy all sorts of candy.

But the best is this sign in a restaurant window...

which I think is a message to us until....

David and Kirk see a “Pancheria” stand where they buy foot long hot dogs. They both claim it is their first ever in Buenos Aires ( I suspect not)!

We have one more blog in us before we leave here, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Day Away: La Plata

With only a little more than 2 weeks before we leave Buenos Aires and head home, there are still things to do, people to see, and decisions about what to pack and what to leave behind...yes, we are coming back again and already have our return ticket for mid-January 2011.

And as much as we love the city, we think it will be really nice to get away for the day. So on Saturday, we catch a bus that takes us to La Plata, a city with a population of more than 700,000 and 60 kilometers southeast of Buenos Aires. My friend Lilian, who I met last year when we were both taking painting lessons, and her boyfriend Fernando, who lives in La Plata, have invited us to spend the day with them. Because they have a car and know the city well, we see so much more than if we were going there on our own.

Founded in 1882, La Plata is known for its parks, cultural centers, theaters and opera house, university complexes, beautiful old government buildings...

and especially for its Natural History Museum and Cathedral. Our first stop is the museum, which is flanked by life-sized saber tooth tiger statues guarding the entrance.

The museum, renowned for its collection of large fossilized mammals, was built between 1884 and 1888 (pre-electricity), and designed to maximize natural light. There are 23 rooms and glass ceilings everywhere, so light floods in. From the main entrance hall, surrounded by paintings of animals of the country, some now extinct...

we are delighted by dinosaurs that once roamed Argentina, and especially Patagonia, which is rich in dinosaur fossils...

whale jawbones and giant sea turtles found in the continent's coastal waters and oceans...

mummies (part of the only collection of Egyptian artifacts on the continent)...

and everyone's favorite, glyptodotes, huge predecessors of armadillos.

David and I love a good natural science museum, so this is a rare treat for us. Next, we all have lunch at a little Italian restaurant, one of Lilian and Fernando's favorites...

and then to the Cathedral de la Plata, the largest church in Argentina. Its architecture is neo-Gothic, complete with flying buttresses, 2 spires, 6 turrets, 200 pinnacles, and 800 needles.

Its towers rise to 367 feet...

the colors of the 37 stained glass windows are fabulous...

the soaring arches and carved wood choir seats are magnificent...

and it took over a century (1884-1999) to build. We have a wonderful time, and we are very fortunate to have had Lilian and Fernando to show us their city.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Little Surprises

It's fall here and the days and evenings are getting cooler. David and I realize we've got to get jackets, or something to keep us warm, so we go to Calle Florida, BA's pedestrian-only shopping mecca. Though we don't find anything to buy, we do notice a rather unremarkable mini-mall with a banner that reads “Galeria Guemes” and decide to go in.

We are caught off guard when we quickly realize it's not the shops but the architectural detail that makes this so remarkable. The interior is a mix of Art Nouveau, Gothic and neoclassical, and we're astounded by what we see.

It's only later that we learn its history...for almost 75 years, the building was allowed to deteriorate. Then, in 2005, it went through major restorations; the 2 glass domes, once covered with concrete, were restored...

layers of varnish were removed from the Italian marble...

and the bronze bas-reliefs over each elevator bank were polished.

We give up shopping and decide to head home, which is about a 30 minute walk. On the way, we wander into the Hotel Panamericano lobby in search of restrooms, only to find another unexpected photo op...a vast expanse of black and white marble flooring, gold leaf mirrors and art deco lounges.

Not surprisingly, after all this eye candy, it's the giant sign, maybe 6 stories high, on the Avenida de Mayo, the widest and most traveled street in the city (16 lanes), that predictably makes me roll my eyes and shake my head. There, big enough for everyone to see, is “Rey Charlie Sheen” (King of Comedy). Go figure!!

We've been here 3 months, and it's time I have my hair cut...the first time ever while in BA. I make an appointment with Gaston, who's come highly recommended, but when I get to the saloon on the appointed day, I'm told that his brother Mauro is the only cutter available. Ugh! the good news is he speaks some English and says he understands that all I want is a trim...keep the length, snip the ends. The not-so-good news...Mauro, who I now refer to as Edward Scissorhands, decides I need an updated hairdo and, before I know it, 2+ inches of my hair is on the floor. I'm initially skeptical about the cut, but it's ultimately proven to be one the best I've ever had. Nice job Mauro!

And, not only does Mauro cut my hair, but he also “suggests” I “invest” in a good hairdryer, so I go to buy one. The shopkeeper has difficulty answering my questions (she speaks no English), so she starts canvasing customers to see who speaks both Spanish and English. No one...until Silvia walks in, proceeds to translate, and we spend the next 20 minutes or so chatting away.

We form an instant connection and find we relate on so many's like we've known each other for years. Since our first meeting, we've met for coffee...which in Argentina means sitting and talking for hours (in this case, 4 hours)...

and together shared the ultimate splurge...high tea at L'Orangerie at the Alvear Palace Hotel...

the Argentinian equivalent of tea at the Ritz.

David and I, and any of our friends who want to join us, also start the “tours and museum circuit” we've always meant to take; museums we've heard a lot about. Together with Kirk and Jim, we go to the Museo de Armas de la Nacion, which houses a sizable collection of arms, including rifles and machine guns...

bombs, artillery and mortar shells,

gas masks for people, dogs and horses,


dueling guns and David's favorite...a procedure manual for conducting a duel!

You name it, it's there...not to mention the requisite bust of General San Martin, the Liberator, whose face can be found most everywhere in the city!

So many guns, so little time!

Next day, a bunch of us tour the Palacio Paz...

a former private residence and the largest in the city.

It was designed and built between 1902 and 1914 for Jose Paz, founder of the Argentine daily newspaper La Prensa. The conservative paper was at one time ranked among the most widely circulated dailies in Argentina; however, it declined in popularity due to competition and the election of populist leader Juan Peron.

It is said that Paz, whose dream it was to become President of Argentina, built this palace to serve as the presidential residency. Unfortunately for him, he died 2 years before the palace was completed. Fortunately for us, much of the palace is now open to the public.

Room after grand room...

the reception salon...

the ballroom...

the gardens.

Interestingly, a section of the palace currently houses the Circulo Militar, an army officer's club...and because of Argentina's troubling past and the connection with the military, many Argentines have never gone near the palace, though its size, grandeur and central location within the city cannot be missed.

Next day, David and friend Michael take the bus to the Club de Pescadores for lunch. A building of historic significance on a pier overlooking the Rio de la Plata, it was built in 1937 and declared a national monument some years ago.

That brings you up to date. Stay tuned for our next outing, when we head out of town to the city to La Plata.