Saturday, March 26, 2011

Shopping in Buenos Aires

Shopping in Buenos Aires can be sublime. At the Galerias Pacifico on Calle Florida, the frescoes in the central dome could be the destination more so than the expensive boutiques inside the mall. The frescoes depict the history of mankind and was painted by five well known Argentine artists in 1945. For a leisurely view of the frescoes, sit and order a drink at one of the cafés under the dome.


Calle Florida is packed full of shoppers and walking along this pedestrian only street is a slow crawl as there are so many things to check out and perhaps buy from the vendors on the street. There are toys, handbags and wallets, costume jewelry, clothes, socks, flowers, and an incredible assortment of goods.  There is free entertainment from musicians and tango dancers. If you take a picture with the tango dancers, you will have to pay for this privilege. There's something for everyone.

In the posh Retiro district, food shops like the one above in  the glass ceilinged Patio Bullrich and trendy shops like Ay Not Dead below, draw the Porteño elite and visitors staying at nearby plush hotels like the Alvear.

In La Boca below, postcards and paintings of tango performers stop tourists for a look see.

I found the prices at Avenida Santa Fe to be far more reasonable than other parts of town. I couldn't resist checking out the display windows of leather shoes and bags, travel accessories, summer dresses, and knick-knacks. It was delightful to discover the pasillos (halls) where I found more of the same. The incredible El Ateneo bookstore is also on this avenue.

My favorite stores were Isabella and Falabella which latter carries a wide array of home decor and kitchen tools and utensils as well as appliances. Falabella reminds me of Pier One Imports. Isabella sells scarves, costume jewelry, and bags. I found beautiful scarves for $1.00 though I had to check them for defects which annoyed the salesgirl at the Calle Florida branch. But there are Isabella shops all over town, sometimes two or three within a mile of each other and the salespeople are far nicer and more helpful than the harassed folks on Calle Florida. 

In the small upscale community of San Isidro, there is an arts and crafts shopping center. It's a convenient stop if you're on your way to Tigre and the Delta.  I thought that the jewelry pieces sold there were unique and well made. I also found these colorful, woven wall hangings, throws and blankets.

Argentina is best known for its well crafted leather goods and I broke down and bought me a pair of gladiator style sandals with cork heels.  They're so comfortable that I wore them most of the time I was in Buenos Aires.

Most stores will tell you if you're buying real or synthetic leather. If you're not sure, ask the salesclerk. In established boutiques like Prune, their leather bags are displayed separately from the synthetic ones and the attendants are quick to point you in the right direction. Also there's a big price difference between real and synthetic, especially on sale items. It's always best to check before you purchase an item.  Aprovecho!

*  *  *

Images by Charie

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Colorful La Boca

Of all the many attractions in Buenos Aires, I found the neighborhood of La Boca to be the most fun and interesting of the bunch. Though the conventillos (tenements) here are restored and freshly painted, this neighborhood is still one of  the oldest, the home for many Italian immigrants in the 1940's.

Colorful buildings shown above line the streets of La Boca. It is said that past residents of this barrio used remaining paint they found in the docks to coat their wood and corrugated zinc dwellings. This explosion of colors adds a festive air to the neighborhood.

Narrow alleys like this separate the conventillos in La Boca. Living in such close quarters, there's not much privacy in these tenements. The courtyards became the living room of residents and this is where the celebrated tango was performed by the immigrants who were said to have introduced the tango to these shores.

A whimsical mural in the Antiguo Mercado de La Boca reminds visitors that this barrio is the birthplace of the tango.

Dancers entertain restaurant patrons along the bustling Caminito, the famous pedestrian street in La Boca.

The first paragraph of the sign above reads: "How many stories, happy and passionate moments, troubles do these walls or those of other conventillos guard?"  How many indeed!  And the bright colors mask "la verdadera identidad de Caminito" (the true identity of Caminito).

*  *  *

Images by Charie

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cruising the Paraná Delta

Only 30 minutes from central Buenos Aires, the Tigre River is the jump off point for trips around the  Paraná Delta. State of the art boats ferry passengers through thousands of miles of waterways for a glimpse of life on the delta.

Summer homes, some elegant, others simple and basic, peek through lush flora on the banks of the river. There are about 3000 residents in the delta, more so during the summer months. It's beautiful and peaceful out here and there are many activities to indulge in or none at all, depending on your mood.

This grocery boat traverses the river bringing necessary food and supplies to delta residents. Garbage pick-up barges also ply the river. There is a chapel, a gas station, a restaurant (or two) on these waterways.  It's as if you're living on dry land.

Beach goers enjoy swimming in the brown waters of the delta. The existence of silt in the waterways explains why it is brown. To keep waters flowing, the delta is constantly dredged to remove the silt which comes down from the Bermejo River and advances to the Rio de la Plata. 

A rusted boat rocks idly by the riverside.

Kayakers battle river traffic for an early morning run.  There are rowing clubs in the town of Tigre which is a favorite weekend destination for Porteños.

Tours of the the river may be arranged with Sturla Navigation or through tour companies in Buenos Aires.

*  *  *

Images by Charie

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Japan Relief - Please help

There are many organizations collecting donations for Japanese quake/tsunami victims. But check carefully to whom you entrust your donations. Yahoo has a list of organizations working in relief and recovery activities in Japan. Check this link:

For U.S. residents, I found the fastest way to donate is by texting REDCROSS to 90999 and $10.00 is charged to your mobile phone bill. The American Red Cross has already contributed $10 million to the Japanese Red Cross for medical and relief efforts. It plans to make further contributions as recovery work continues. For more information check out their website at

You may also donate to UNICEF which helps with the special needs of children, particularly in Japan at this time. They have a "Text-to-Give" campaign and you may text JAPAN to 864233. $10.00 will be charged to your phone bill.  For more on this go to

The need is great. Please be generous. Text your donations today.

Prayer for Japan:

*  *  *

Image by Charie

In Costa Rica - "Drunken Pilots Delay Flight"

Gadling reports that a chartered Boeing 737 -700 flight full of passengers was delayed 24 hours because the assistant captain and skipper were drunk, having partied for 7 hours before the scheduled flight. What a chilling thought to be in the hands of this crew!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Fascination with Evita

The memory of Eva Perón (Evita) is certainly in the minds of many travelers to Buenos Aires.  The former First Lady of Argentina had as many detractors as followers in her own country during her time but today, her international cult is flourishing, due in part to the financial and critical success of the Broadway musical and later a film version simply called, Evita.

Perhaps the best place to start following in Evita's footsteps is to take a guided tour of the Casa Rosada which is across from the Plaza de Mayo. It's a free tour (on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays) which leads visitors inside various rooms in the palace including the Scientists' Room where Evita's gold framed photo is prominently displayed on a desk, right beside the famous balcony from where she made public appearances from time to time, most notably in 1951 when crowds gathered outside the  palace waiting for her to accept the Vice Presidential nomination.

The Palm Tree Patio is an oasis in the center of the Casa Rosada. With all the buzz in the surrounding government offices, this courtyard with its water fountain is a place of refuge.

Maria Eva Duarte de Perón died at age 33 from cervical cancer. Her corpse was hidden in Milan for 16 years by the military dictatorship following the downfall of her husband, Juan Peron. She is interred in the Duarte family tomb in La Recoleta cemetery in Buenos Aires.

Monument to Eva Perón

At her death, there were plans for a grand monument which would contain her casket but these were scrapped because the military dictatorship had a ban on Peronism. But a monument was finally built and it stands on Plaza Evita at Avenida del Libertador in Recoleta. Evita was quoted as saying, "My biggest fear in life is to be forgotten".  She can rest in peace as her memory lives on.

*  *  *

Images  by Charie