Sunday, February 27, 2011

Let's start the day with a medialuna!


To start the day with a medialuna is very nice indeed. My favorite is the buttered medialuna (half moon) which I found tasty though probably packed with calories, but who's counting?

Vegetarian  Burger

My "healthy" restaurant chain of choice in Buenos Aires is the Green & Co. where for about 40 Argentine pesos, I could get a combo plate with vegies, shrimps or salmon, and sprinkling of rice. They also have vegetarian burgers, tartas, ensaladas and wraps. There's a branch at the famous Galerias Pacifico (shopping mall) on San Martin and Calle Florida.

For  afternoon breaks, I indulged on empanadas. I like the chicken empanadas best. It goes well with a nice glass of white Argentine wine. Here's a link to the recipe for this favorite Argentine snack.


There are empanadas with fruit fillings instead of meat. I find these at Mexican bakeries here in California. The choice of fillings are as many but the pineapple empanada is at the top of my list.

To complete the  meal, what can be better than this tiramisu from Café Tortoni? Sweet!!!

Oh, I haven't forgotten the steak! Find a parilla and order those thick and juicy steaks. This is really the "stuff" of Argentine cuisine.

Parillada mixta

Buen provecho!

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Images by Charie

Monday, February 21, 2011

Café Crawl - Buenos Aires

Café Tortoni

A trip to Buenos Aires would not be complete without a visit to at least one of its "cafe notables".  If in Paris you make a pilgrimage to its famous cafés on the Left Bank like Café de la Paix and Deux Magots or to Fouquet's on the Champs Elysees, you do the same in Buenos Aires. 

Wax figures of Jose Luis Borges, Carlos Gardel and Nadia

Café Tortoni is the oldest café in Buenos Aires. It has been around since 1858 and its regulars included Jose Luis Borges - the  poet and short story writer, the poet Nadia and Carlos Gardel, the singer and actor who made tango music famous worldwide. Their wax figures stand in one corner of the main dining room.  There's a theatre at the back of the café where tango shows are presented nightly. When I visited recently, there was a line at the door. The Tortoni is on Avenida de Mayo, a short walk from the Casa Rosada.

The Bar at Florida Garden

I would not order lunch nor dinner at these cafés. The food was not good at all at the Florida Garden which is located on the pedestrian shopping street of Calle Florida but I was well fed soaking in the beautiful room with paintings on the copper walls, the elegant staircase, the stand up bar with a glass fronted counter which displays tempting desserts and the constant stream of people coming in for coffee and sweets.

La Biela

At La Biela in Recoleta, the best seat in the house is on the terrace. But on a hot summer's day with temperatures in the 90's, the most comfortable seat is inside the restaurant, by the glass window.  I had a turkey cannelloni which was drenched in weak marinara sauce. It was a lot better though than the chicken and fries dish I was served at the Florida Garden and which I sent back to the kitchen for more time in the fryer as the chicken was undercooked, fatty, and was hard to chew. By the way, when you order food from the La Biela terrace under the green umbrellas with a view of the walls of La Recoleta Cemetery, you pay more than when you are seated inside the restaurant.

Turkey cannelloni at La Biela

There are around 53 café and bar notables in Buenos Aires. They're fun places to check out especially after many hours of walking and sightseeing. A mousse au chocolat and a cold refreshing beverage is exactly what you deserve after taking in all the sights.

To learn more about these cafés check out Frommer's Buenos Aires Day by Day. I found this book to be useful with maps and brief, relevant information. It is also light and portable.

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Images  by Charie

Saturday, February 19, 2011

And the March Continues

For three decades the Madres de Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of Plaza de Mayo) have been marching around the Pirámide in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires in memory of their missing children. The number of mothers are dwindling as the years pass yet those who are left persist and persevere with their quest for justice.

Plaza de Mayo from the Casa Rosada

In the the 70's (1976-1983) during what was called the Dirty War, thousands of Argentinians were kidnapped, tortured and killed by agents of the military dictatorship. Some of the abducted children were given to military families. There has yet to be a full accounting of the "desaparecidos" (the disappeared) although a civilian commission investigation puts the number at about 11,000 desaparacidos. Other sources claim the number to be as high as 30,000.

The Madres keep the memory and spirit of their missing children alive through their weekly march and other projects including free education and health care services, among others.

Banners are permanently displayed in the Plaza de Mayo which is across from the Casa Rosada (the seat of the executive branch of the government and office of the President). One of these reads: "No se puede y no se debe dejar de hablar del pasado" (We cannot and should not stop talking about the past).

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Images by Charie

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Bookstore Like No Other

The El Ateneo bookstore in Buenos Aires is truly one of kind. It is housed in the former Teatro Gran Splendid which originally opened  in 1919. Books and music CD's/DVD's are displayed on what was once the orchestra section and in the balconies. Some of the theatre boxes are used as reading area and the stage with its burgundy curtains intact, has been converted into a café. One can't help feel like a star when drinking coffee on stage with visitors' cameras clicking away.

The theatre is carefully maintained and sports a fresh coat of paint. Gilding highlights deco carvings. The fresco on the dome shaped ceiling can best be viewed and appreciated from the higher balcony. It was the work of Nazareno Orlandi, an Italian painter. Escalators in the center of the theatre on the main floor lead to the Juniors' section in the basement.

While browsing through the rows of books I found this bestseller: Comer, Rezar, Amar. This bookstore  is definitely not to be missed when visiting Buenos Aires. If you're a tango fan, Carlos Gardel once performed here.

Fun souvenir item you can pick up from the bookstore is the tango bookmark for 65 cents. Lyrics for tango songs like Volver and Cambalache among others, are printed on one side of the bookmark. You can find the rack right by the cashier.

The bookstore is located at Avenida Santa Fe 1860 in Buenos Aires. Subway: Callao.

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Images by Charie

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Artistic Icons Define Buenos Aires


The Obelisco on Avenida 9 de Julio (9th of July Avenue) has been the symbol of Buenos Aires since 1936 when it was built to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of the  city. (The 9th of July is the independence day of Argentina.) In the new millenium, two important architectural works were donated to the city and have become the defining icons of modern Buenos Aires.

Floralis Genérica

One of these, the Floralis Genérica, is a steel and aluminum floral sculpture designed and donated by local architect, Eduardo Catalano. The petals open in the morning and close at sunset except on certain days of the year when it remains open all day long. The Floralis is in the Palermo neighborhood on Plaza Naciones Unidas at Avenida Figueroa Alcorta, next door to the public law school which is an architectural destination on its own with its imposing neoclassical façade.

 Puente de la Mujer

The whitewashed Puente de la Mujer (Woman's Bridge)  soars over Dock 3 in the revitalized district of Puerto Madero. The architect, Santiago Calatrava, drew his inspiration from the tango. The single mast suggests the fluidity of a couple dancing. Viewed from different directions, the cables trailing down from the mast remind me of a harp. Dance and music are complementary. Which is why I find this footbridge so lyrical.

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Images by Charie

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Mugging Experience in Buenos Aires

Last Saturday as I was waiting for the green light to cross the street on Avenida 9 de Julio and Avenida de Mayo in Buenos Aires, I felt a sudden tug at my neck and when I looked behind me, I saw two men running away from me as fast as they could. I realized they had taken my gold necklace and leaf pendant. It was broad daylight, around 3:30 p.m. and I was following the neighborhood walk recommended by Frommer's which starts at the Casa Rosada and ends at the Congreso. I was on my way to Congreso when the robbery happened.

There was another person standing there to my left and I told him that the robbers had just grabbed my necklace and he said he didn't see them.  When I think back to that moment, I believe this same man was part of that group because he had earlier tried to distract me.  I noticed he was fidgeting with his empty plastic bag and I thought what on earth is he doing? No one was crowding me but I was surrounded. And I didn't notice that the man standing to my right a few feet away had moved and either he or his cohort approached me from behind. There was only one other person there, a woman, and she didn't seem to have noticed anything. There were no cops around and the only people I could see where at the outdoor café on Avenida de Mayo, who were too far away to have witnessed the incident.

I walked the short distance to Congreso where I took a taxi back to my hotel. I told the hotel staff what happened to me and went up to my room. The hotel elevator has a mirrored wall and as I turned my back I noticed something dangling from my right shoulder. When I pulled it I saw that it was part of my necklace which had been wrapped twice around my neck. I was glad that a piece of the chain was left but it also made me shudder to think that I could have been choked by the impact as the chain was wrapped tightly around my neck.

The moral of the story is, don't tempt fate. By wearing that necklace and leaf pendant (which latter was not pure gold but dipped in gold), I invited these muggers. I was oblivious to the warnings posted in the guidebook because I had been walking around for three days in Buenos Aires, in unfamiliar neighborhoods and didn't feel my security was threatened.

On the heels of my harrowing experience with muggers in Buenos Aires comes this heartening story of a courageous 71-year old woman who foiled a jewelry store robbery in Northampton, England - all by herself. God bless her.  Read her story below.

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Image by Charie