[D61 – 65] Buenos Aires

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D61, Feb 15, 2014, BsAs

La Boca, the colorful neighborhood, and home of Boca Junior as I just learnt. Caminito is said to be the most photographed street in BsAs. It’s a street painted in rainbow colours, the richest ones : yellow, red, blue, green. It’s also a notorious neighborhood – outside the immediate tourist streets it’s an area of social crime, poverty and daylight robbery as I read. ‘it’s not a place for a casual stroll’ as LP put it. But when you arrived on a Saturday, right into its center, you would think it’s the most festive place on the earth: tango shows, music, street artists, bars, restaurants full of earnest tourists, all with the most colorful murals as background. I would have loved getting into a restaurant with tango shows as they advertised it on guide book but somehow we ended up in an open air bar, with arrogant waiter and miserable food, although the beer was abundant. It wasn’t such a bad idea to sit outside for people watching. It’s such a sunny weekend so the crowd was impressive. All street vendors and artists were out, tango dancers were ready to pose for a fancy photo for a fee. Drum players were marching the street. The tourists, oh the tourists, armed with cameras or phones, a backpack, a jacket, jeans and walking shoes. Sometimes they look quite a scene themselves, funny, naive, ridiculous. When I said ‘they’, I included myself. There were a Chinese looking group with professional filming gear and journalist liking cameras having fun with posing for fancy photos. The guy acted like someone. Maybe he was, but who cared. The bar was the only eating/drinking place I didn’t leave a tip so far – it simply didn’t deserve a tip. Then Nicolas told me he asked me to pay for a higher price already (no bill was given when I asked for la qanta). Oh mine.

Football fans obviously could visit the stadium where Maradona started his career, and Boca Junior’s home ground. Or even better watch a match. But we couldn’t care less and gave it a pass.

There was a missionary couple of Argentinian husband and French wife approached us to have a chat, and at the end gave us a brochure to invite us to ‘reflect on the origin of life’. It turned out to be a topic dear to Nicolas’ heart as he read it with great enthusiasm in the afternoon during our various breaks (one ice cream break, and one vino break).

We left La Boca in a hurry, hoping to come back in a week day with less crowd and hopefully see it in its better self.

We then discovered the puppet museum, to my greatest delight.  Museo Argentino del Titere is a tiny museum with a small strip of puppet show theatre, a reception room and display room full of puppets of their own creation and collected from all over the world. It’s the type of place you felt true love of this art and a desire to share the love. It’s not a typical popular tourist stop, even though it’s just a few small blocks away from the major attraction in San Telmo. We also learnt that at 5:30 there would be a show to delight the kids. I begged Nicolas to watch the show even though I had no idea what the show would be.

At 5:30pm,we returned with Nina who woke up just in time for the show. We found other few families, each child eagerly waiting for the show to start.

I couldn’t understand a word but Nina seemed fascinated. It turned out to be the Patita who became the swan. I figured out only at the end. It’s called Eras Una Vez un Patita.

There were no more than 10 adults there (fewer kids), with $70 per adult and free for kids, it’s a very small revenue for the museum. I guess it somehow explained the rather shabby facade, simple curation of the display, and very basic furniture on the stage and seating in the theatre. But the obvious love of the puppets cried out from every corner. They displayed a sculpture of the founding lady, called Sarah Bianchi, an all smiling lady. This website has a good read about this place. http://www.welcomeargentina.com/ciudadbuenosaires/museum-titeres.html

It’s the experience like this little theatre and no-oscar-winning show that delighted me most. Thank goodness we’ve got the luxury of time. Nina may not remember much – well she most likely won’t remember a thing) – but it may leave a trace on her to appreciate the simple pleasure, a sense of curiosity, the notion of fascination by something that someone else loved, and humbled by all the talents.

D62, Feb 16, 2014, BsAs

It’s Sunday and we headed to Palermo Viejo to hopefully find a more lively neighborhood. It was, at least in the centre of it. Park for families – Nina of course played in the sandy playground and mounted on the carousel, twice. There were two smaller markets but one was unimpressive and the other marginally better. Perhaps I have seen enough markets by now to not to feel easily overwhelmed, although always excited.

Had a lunch in a most lovely restaurant, with an banal name though Sheldon. Its set up was eclectic and mix and match, turning the open space between two houses into a covered courtyard, filled with vintage chairs and lounges. One house was a disc house, selling mainly Spanish discs in jazz and tango.

The food, not cheap, turned out to be surprisingly good, not sth I expected in the middle of the tourist attractions. Nina had fun running around and exploring the big place.

We then walked over to the Palermo Hollywood, across the train line, through many furniture and home deco shops, and even more restaurants and bars. The enthusiasm of porteños over food was openly claimed.

D62, Feb 17, 2014, BsAs

Planned for the trip to El Calafate and Uruguay, talked to an agent. Domestic flights for residents and foreigners have different prices, very different in fact.

Microcentro finally. Walked into an indescribable cafe/resto, having an indescribable lunch – arroz primevera was nothing like what I expected, it’s done ham, raw capsicum, carrots, beans on top of some hard rice.

Walking on ave Florida at 3pm was amazingly crowded. Were these well dressed people on their lunch break?

The national academy of tango had the most classic and amazing old style lift that’s still working. The tiny, iron cast box that made loud noise when in use, with dim light in the stairs around it. Oh I was in love already even before I visited. The museum had a very nostalgic feeling to it, with all the old posters and photos of the legends in tango history. There was a theatre with velvet seated chairs. Next door there was a tango class going on. It’s a place of amazing power to bring peole back in time.

Cafe Tortoni was so popular that you had to wait outside to wait for your turn in. The review online was mixed, LP bluntly put that the service was rude. Once inside you saw an beautiful old-time cafe that dated back 150yrs ago. It’s the equivalent of Cafe de Flore in Paris, where the writers, intellects of the time spent countless time there. The waiters were in black suit and wore ties, like in good old time.  The service was slow but no worse than some of the similar ones in Paris, and the price was surprisingly reasonable.

Then I saw the room for tango show … And the ticket selling for tonight at 8:30. I made  deal with Nicolas to watch the show tonight so that Nina Could watch it too (otherwise we needed to have babysitter as all shows in theatre or bigger places start from 10pm or later.

We then had 1h30 to kill. We walked to see the Teatre Colon, claimed to be one of the finest on this planet. The visit was already closed but the building itself was indeed quite impressive. I saw ads for Lang Lang show in June.

The plaza in front of teatre was a quite big and pleasantly empty one. With a big screen showing the photos of BsAs by a photographer (cannot remember the name).

At 8:30pm, the show back in cafe Tortoni started on time. It was a packed downstairs room, most people seemed to have dinner there. Nina sat there watching with great attention for an hour. She seems to really like dance and music.

I was very disappointed by the dance though. I couldn’t feel the passion, tension and rhythm of the dancers. They didn’t seem to enjoy themselves. Although the singer was quite good.

As disappointed as I was, I was happy that Nina could watch it with us.

BsAs certainly is a city living late into night. That’s what I was thinking on the way back home on the taxi.

D63, Feb 18, 2014, BsAs

The day started as functional: pick up laundry, go buy ferry ticket to Montevideo (via seacat, which charges only in USD or credit card, alas, they officially do not want their own currency).

Then we walked into Galaria Pacifico, the equivalent of QVB and Harrods. A magnificent colonial building, with fresco ceiling. Even better, the cultural center of Borges that I was looking for was just inside the last floor of the building. With its various exhibition (photographs, painting, multimedia, mostly free), tango class, and shows /concerts in the evening, this magnificent center was well worth a few hours. Even better, there were few people so Nina could run and play safely.

Then we decided to have a peek inside the church just on the opposite side. Oh an oasis inner courtyard garden! It used to be a Covent, now a chic resto (Como en casa) in the quiet location with tall trees and flowers. Love time like this.

Walked to St martin square/Santa Fe to take bus back.

D64, Feb 19, 2014, BsAs

National library. Oh what a unique building. Reminds me of the slaughter house in shanghai. Love the chairs, lounges etc – a series of classic design of mid century. Weirdly they destroyed an old building – used to be presidential residence so quite significant – and fot this industrial looking structure built. Visited a few floors but couldn’t go inside the library to read some books. Had lunch in cafe, again the purpose designed chairs just for the cafe probably.

Then fine art museum, just on the opposite side of the big avenue. On the lawn, two young dancers rehearsing their dance, with horse head. So powerful even Nina became a fan, watched for quite a while.

Fine art … Typical. A sculpture of Rodin, some paintings from Gauguin, van Gogh, Sisley, and Argentinian painters like Lopez, Puerrydon ??. A special expo of photographs of Madres, the mothers of ‘the disappeared’ more than 30 yrs ago. A hard piece of history in the country, worth reading. As we left, a huge crowd of elderly ladies walked in. They might be THE mothers who continued to march every Thursday on Plaza de Mayo, fighting for justice and recognition.

Nina has not had day nap for 5 days. Should I be worried.

Nicolas and I spent a lot of time searching good accommodation in Uruguay.., don’t want to have to do this all the time. Too frustrating.

D65, Feb 10, 2014, BsAs

My Spanish sucks. The progress , or rather the non-progress of it,  sucks more. Our daily routine of visiting and doing all things as a family together somehow didn’t allow us to meet other people. While it’s fine not to meet new people all the time, it’s not helping with my Spanish.

Belgrano today. Surprisingly developed and proper as I imagined it to be much more crowded and less organized. One of the nicest neighborhood playground, with full-chair swing, against a belle church. The metro station had escalator and lift!

Chinatown – there is always a Chinatown in every sizable city on this planet, even though I have seen surprisingly few Chinese here. Even in Chinatown I didn’t hear much mandarin nor Cantonese. There were plenty non-Asian looking population. Then around the corner, there was very chic resto and bars, of all kinds of cuisines. Not a typical Chinatown neighborhood.

Had the first meal in a Chinese resro … A fine modern one, although no staff nor other customers were Chinese. Not even chopsticks unless you asked. Very good value for money set menu lunch, $55 for a few dumplings, a chau mian, desert and a drink (Nico had his chop).

A probably best helado we’ve had here (we had a lot) in a small corner heladeria. Yum.

Bought some fresh pasta in a pasteria …

We really started to know our neighborhood.

We have been playing the ‘find the number card’ game with Nina. There was a deck of cards in the drawer in the apartment, and Nina started to recognize 2, 8, and sometimes 3. I would ask her to find 8 among a few cards, and gave it to Nicolas. She loved the game and would happily run back and forth to deliver the cards. Now when we walked on the street or took a bus, we would spontaneously point out these numbers and the letter O, and sometimes A. Has been fun game.

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