live blog: plaza de mayo

Plaza de Mayo could be considered the town square of Buenos Aires.  Not only does it house the neo-classical cathedral and Colonial Cabildo but also the presidential palace – the famous Casa Rosada.  The square has always served as a civic center for the city, be it the crowds who rallied to hear Evita’s speeches from the balcony, the families of “the disappeared,” who walked in silent protest of the military junta or the veterans of the Faulklands war – known here as the Malvinas – who were encamped here today demanding official recognition.


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live blog: still life with churro

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live blog: san telmo

The Sunday antiques market in San Telmo is the largest in the city, filling Plaza Dorrego with kiosks of every kind and spilling out into the surrounding streets that radiate off of La Defensa.  The area has been known as the city’s antiques district since the 1970’s and prior to that it was the neighborhood all the best families called home – until a Yellow Fever epidemic sent them scrambling over the cliff to Recolta, which now boasts some of the best preserved French and Italian architecture in the city.

San Telmo is also home to one mean churro, stuffed with dulce de leche.

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live blog: puerto madero

The city’s second old harbor  – BA is now its third – is Puerto Madero, a renovated docklands and marina complex with a string of good restaurants housed in the old brick warehouses.  Posh yachts clubs sit among old cranes and historic tall ships, with the stylish silhouette of Santiago Calatrava’s Bridge to the Woman in the background.  Not only is this the safest part of town, the mix of condominiums, office blocks and hotels also make it feel like the most modern part of the city, too.

An interesting side note to the warehouses that line the docks:  when we first drove by I could have sworn I was looking at the Albert Docks in Liverpool, England.  (Another recently revitalized docklands)  The color of brick, the style of the architecture – it looked plucked out of Victorian England.  Well, it turns out the bricks are, in fact, British.  During Argentina’s shipping heyday, the boats transporting goods to the UK needed ballast for the return journey across the Atlantic.  What did they use?  English bricks.

And because this wouldn’t be a proper posting without some mention of food, check out the crazy red color of the salmon we had for lunch.

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live blog: cafe tortoni

We started our day today with a ride on the subway.  For less than a quarter, it’s a no brainer for getting around the city if you don’t have the luxury of a car and driver at your disposal.  BA has the oldest underground in South America – who knew? – and one line even continues to run the early 20th century vintage wooden cars.  It made the perfect overture to Café Tortoni, a Belle Epoque coffeehouse where we stopped off for a snack and a surprise.

Appointed in wood, stained glass, and old marble on a grand scale, you’d be forgiven for thinking you landed in one of the baroque 19th century cafes of Budapest.  Also as in Hungary, the cafés served as an intellectual and artistic meeting place.  For Buenos Aires that place has been the Tortoni since 1858.  (Quinquela Martin, the famous socialist realist painter from La Boca, regularly held his salons here up until his death in the late 1970’s.)  Even if you’ve not the time for a coffee, I’d stop by and use the toilet, just for the glimpse back in time.

As for the surprise……you’ll have to check back later.

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live blog: obelisk

In the middle of Avenida 9 de Juilo is the Obelisk, the picture postcard symbol of Buenos Aires as well as the place where the first Argentine flag was flown in 1816.

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live blog: la vida la boca

Buenos Aires is sprawling city of distinct neighborhoods.  One of the more colorful is La Boca, the original port of Buenos Aires at the mouth of the Riachuelo river. A ramshackle collection of corrugated tin houses along cobbled streets, Italian immigrants originally made it their own, residing in tiny spaces while living their lives out in the street – much like the great wave of immigrants took to NYC’s lower east side.  Music fills the air of La Boca, along with the smell of parrilla, or Argentine barbecue.  And while the pedestrianized street of Caminito might be thronged with artisans and tango dancers cashing in on the tourist buck, life in the rest of the barrio is still very much authentic – and public to boot.

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live blog: tomo i

Tomo I is one of the most famous restaurants in Buenos Aires.  Run by two older women for the past forty years, it specializes in porteño gourmet.  Porteño is the name given to residents of Buenos Aires, so to understand the concept of porteño gourmet, you need only look out the window:  Renaissance-style palazzos, Parisian hotels, Spanish conventillas, skyscrapers; the architecture of the city has been influenced by many different styles, yet somehow it combines into a unique and (seemingly) unified whole.  Porteño gourmet is exactly the same – blending traditions of Spain, France, and South America into something unique.  Something that goes beyond the simple term “fusion.”

Today’s lunch was my introduction to what the city has to offer and it set the bar high:  roasted scallops (with the succulent feet still on them!), flash fried calamari with three aioli and shredded brussel sprouts, and a suckling pig so outrageous I even gobbled up the skin.

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live blog: the streets of buenos aires

Avenido 9 de Julio is the widest avenue in the world: an astonishing twenty lanes. Yet somehow the four meridians and copious tree plantings makes it eminently navigable, too. (Do yourself a favor and turn off the sound.)

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live blog: lost

Upgraded into first class, my photographer and I slept like babies all the way from Houston to Buenos Aires.  For the first time I can remember, I arrived at my destination after a long haul flight actually feeling refreshed.  My luggage however, opted to overnight in Houston – I think; they can’t quite locate it as of yet.  Another first.

With the amount of travel I do, I’m amazed this hasn’t happened to me before.  Naturally, I was caught unawares:  in my checked luggage is my computer cable, phone charger, prescription, toiletries.  Oops.  As there’s only one Continental flight to BA daily, I won’t be reunited with my stuff anytime soon, but I am taking it in stride.  I guess the first order of business today is going to be doing a little shopping.

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stand back, buenos aires

Though I am currently en route to Argentina, be sure check back over the  next ten days as I live blog my way from Buenos Aires to Barriloche, before hiking the glaciers of El Calafate.  This is my first trip to South America and it promises to be a grand adventure.

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