Argentina Flag Day

June 18, 2008 by · 5 Comments 

Every Day Should Be A Holiday?

In Argentina, every day really is a holiday. Of sorts. But there are so many national holidays and assorted celebratory days here, that it’s not far from the truth. In Argentina, it seems, every dog has his day, or feriado. From conventional days like Love Day (Dia del Amor, 14th November) and National Tango Day (Dia Nacional del Tango, 11th December), to wild and wacky ones like Train Tracks day (Dia del Riel, 18th July) and Day of the Noodle Maker (Dia del Obrero Fideero, 22nd May), they’re all here.

Yes, it’s “National Flag of Argentina Day”

Pigeons in Plaza de Mayo enjoying the Argentine Flag
Argentine Pigeons are fiercely patriotic

Still, the streets are deadly quiet on the 20th June, as per most national holidays here. Everyone has the day off for Dia de la Bandera (National Flag Day, in Argentina), which always gets put on the third Monday of June, so that we can all enjoy a long weekend. Read on to learn a little more about the Argentine National Flag.

Manuel Belgrano, Creator of the National Flag of Argentina

Manuel Belgrano created the national flag of Argentina

Manuel Belgrano, born Manuel José Joaquín del Corazón de Jesús Belgrano, lived up to the grandiosity of his name. Born in Buenos Aires, Belgrano went on to be a successful lawyer, politician, economist. Belgrano was indeed a man of many talents, and national flag designing is just one of his many legacies.

His many accomplishments landed him a spot on the Argentine 10 peso note, an honor of great distinction.

Manuel Belgrano, how we love to spend you so...

Belgrano and the Dia de la Bandera de Argentina

Most importantly of all, Belgrano was a commander in the Argentine Wars of Independence, making himself a national hero in the process. It was during this time, in 1812, that Belgrano created the national flag of Argentina, for his troops to fight under.

Belgrano later died of dropsy on June 20th, 1820, which is why we celebrate the Dia de la Bandera here in Argentina on the anniversary of his death each year. Except of course, that the date is changed slightly to allow for a lazy long weekend. Manuel surely doesn’t mind.

Pablo at D for Disorientation also has a couple of great posts on Flag Day too, from the perspective of a Rosarino (Rosario being where Belgrano first hoisted his newly designed flag back in 1812).

One Day in Buenos Aires

June 10, 2008 by · 28 Comments 

Imagine it is your last day ever in Buenos Aires, and you have just 24 hours to see and do all of the things you love in Buenos Aires for the very last time. Makes you think, no?

My Perfect Day in Buenos Aires

This thought inspired the following blog post, an itinerary for which I would definitely need all 24 hours of the day to pack everything in. I hope at least some of my fellow bloggers in Buenos Aires will read this and be able to weigh in with their own post about their perfect day in BA.

Please read on for mine…

Perfect Morning in Buenos Aires

  • Facade of Cafe TortoniMy perfect day in Buenos Aires would have to start with breakfast at Cafe Tortoni (Avenida de Mayo 829, City Center), which is the cafe in a city of cafes. It is also the oldest, having 1st opened in 1858, and one of the most beautiful, with lovely wooden panelling, bevelled mirrors, Argentine artwork, a stained-glass skylight and colorful tiffany lamps. What would I have for breakfast? My sweet tooth dictates chocolate con churros, an old Spanish favorite; a thick, sweet hot chocolate drink with long, thin, sugary donut sticks for dunking.
  • Exiting Cafe Tortoni, I would walk a few blocks down Avenida de Mayo (towards the Pink House), admiring the beautiful turn of the century art-nouveau facades and balconies along the way.
  • Upon reaching the sign for Peru station on the Buenos Aires subte (subway) A Line, I would descend the staircase to go almost 100 years back in time. Line A became the first subway / underground in not just Latin America, but the whole of the southern hemisphere, when the 1st train ran here in 1913. Peru station has been beautifully preserved to look like it did back then, with period hand-painted adverts on the colorfully tiled walls, and the original kiosks and ticket offices. What’s more, the whole line was built by my fellow Brits, so it runs on the left hand-side, making me feel at home!

Inside the wooden carriage on Subte Linea A

  • A hop on the subway train, and I’m off down to station Saenz Pena. Most of the trains are the original wooden carriages, with subdued lamp lighting on the inside which really makes you feel you have gone back in time. I usually travel in the first carriage, where a front window lets you watch as you snake your way through the underground tunnels; hold on tight for the bumpy, but fun, ride.
  • I get off at Saenz Pena to enter the amazing Palacio Barolo building. I take a quick tour of the interior (available for a reasonable price from Monday to Thursday between 2pm and 7pm, ask at their front desk), which takes you up to the very top of the tower of what was once the tallest building in Latin America when it was opened in 1923. This gives you some of the best views available of the whole city and out across the river, including an excellent bird’s-eye view of Congress and back down Av de Mayo to the Pink House. The Palacio Barolo building itself is one of the most interesting structures in Buenos Aires, both architecturally and symbolically speaking. Here is my slightly blurry photo of the daytime view to Congress from the Barolo tower:

View of Congress from the roof of the Palacio Barolo

  • Then it’s back down into old Line A of the underground and a ride up to the Castro Barros station in Almagro, although I always call that area Caballito (it’s basically on the border between the two, and Caballito is the better known barrio).

A Cake-o-holic’s Lunch in Buenos Aires

  • On a corner very close to the Castro Barros station is Cafe Las Violetas (Avenida Rivadavia 3899, Almagro). As previously confessed, I am a cake-o-holic. The picture in that link is of me stuffing myself with a huge plate full sandwiches and sweet, sweeeeeet cakes at Las Violetas. I can’t think of a better way for me to have lunch on my perfect day in Buenos Aires. Las Violetas also happens to be one of the other more beautiful cafes in the city, with even more stunning stained glass than Tortoni. But it’s their cakes that really do it for me! Here’s a photo of Las Violetas to keep you going:

Stained glass in Cafe Las Violetas

  • Now I waddle to catch a taxi on Rivadavia, and head over to Plaza Francia in Recoleta, to walk off, ooh, around 1% of the calories from lunch in its grassy sloping hills.

An Argentine Afternoon

  • Plaza Francia leads into Recoleta cemetery, which just so happens to be my favorite place for a stroll in Buenos Aires. Now that might sound a little bit morbid, but it’s nothing like that at all. It has some amazing architecture, ranging from Egyptian Art Deco to over the top French sculptures, and (literally) contains some of the most interesting Argentine figures from the last few centuries, with many stories to be told. And it’s not all about Evita…personally, I prefer the many resident cats. You’ll see when you visit!

Art Deco Egyptian Style Tomb in Recoleta Cemetery. Plus a cat!

  • After I’m finished seeing dead people, there is nothing better to do than sit and have afternoon coffee in La Biela, possibly the most upmarket cafe in Buenos Aires, and a Recoleta landmark. It’s my perfect day, so it is sunny, and I’ll sit outside under the shade of the massive ancient gomero tree.
  • Then I walk a few blocks through upper-class Recoleta, until the corner of Santa Fe and Callao, where the Un Altra Volta ice cream parlor is found. I have my usual, a quarter kilo of dulce de leche and chocolate amargo gelato, in the quiet of their nice outdoor patio.
  • Next up, it’s the expat’s favorite mode of transport, the 152 bus along Marcelo T de Alvear, to Plaza Italia in Palermo. From here, its a pleasant walk through the green parks of Palermo, until El Rosedal / the Rose Gardens.
  • After admiring the blooms in the last light of the day, I patter around in a ‘pedal boat’ on the Rosedal’s lake, as the sun goes down…

Exceptional Evening of Eating & Drinking

  • After sunset at the lake, it’s a brisk walk back to Plaza Italia to take the subway to Plaza San Martin (first Line D, changing to Line C at 9 de Julio).
  • Here I would definitely partake in a pre-dinner gin and tonic, in the lovely, expensive, Art Deco style bar downstairs in the Marriott Plaza Hotel (Florida 1005, facing Plaza San Martin), and then almost certainly some kind of silly fruity trago (cocktail) at the small, colorful, arty Dada bar (San Martin 941, Retiro) a couple of blocks away.
  • Now we’re well lubricated, it’s a short stumble down the block to the El Establo parilla restaurant (corner of San Martin & Paraguay), one of my favorite places for a succulent Lomo steak, papas fritas, and an ensalada mixta (a simple classic; tomato, lettuce & onion, with oil and vinegar) even though the waiters will undoubtedly advise that this is too much for me – but, I’m English, so I will not let that phase me. Of course, it’s all washed down with a nice glass of Malbec red wine, and maybe finishing up with panqueques con dulce de leche (there’s my sweet tooth again), if I am not feeling too stuffed by then.

Night-time to morning: No time for sleep in BA!

  • After all that indulgence, some exercise is definitely in order. A nice stroll down the slope to Puerto Madero, seguing into a night-time walk along the lit-up docks, and past the beautiful Puente de la Mujer, is the perfect after dinner activity in Buenos Aires.

Puerto Madero Lit Up by Night

  • But don’t stop there! Continue along the docks to the Faena Hotel + Universe (Martha Salotti 445, Dique 2, Puerto Madero) and don’t be shy…walk in confidently, non-guests of the hotel are still extremely welcome here. There is no better place in Buenos Aires to have a couple of mega-expensive cocktails than in their breathtaking cocktail bar – the design is simply out of this world (or universe). And the staff treat you like royalty (there is even the odd gold throne to sit on!) – all of this actually makes the expensive drinks worthwhile! (for more about this, see my post on the top 5 expensive Hotels in Buenos Aires, and how to enjoy them on a budget)
  • It may be well into the middle of the night by now, but in Buenos Aires that means most people are probably still getting ready to go out! And so, I hail a taxi to take me all the way back to stylish Palermo Hollywood, to enter Niceto Club (Niceto vega 5510, Palermo Hollywood) – there’s no line to wait in, because I’m probably still a little early by BA standards (it’s difficult for a Brit to ever fully adjust to this!) – and it’s time to dance through to the morning, porteno style, among a crowd that are far trendier and better looking than I’ll ever be. Still, maybe something will rub off!
  • As the sun comes back up, it’s time to exit the club and go for breakfast! Coffee and medialunas in any small, neighborhood cafe will do at this point, before I finally fall into bed, with my apartment windows shuttered, to sleep through the rest of the daylight hours…

Your Perfect Day in Buenos Aires?

I’m very interested to hear about other people’s perfect days in Buenos Aires. Let us know, either on a blog of your own, or by posting your perfect day in the comments below. Thanks!

Teatro Colon

June 9, 2008 by · 17 Comments 

Splendid old opera house in Buenos Aires

Teatro Colon

Back in 2006 took the opportunity to take in a performance at the Teatro Colon (Colon Theater) which many say is the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Buenos Aires, as one of the most famous opera houses in the world.

I had been prompted to get along to the Colon by the fact that it was closing for reconstruction work at the end of October 2006, with original plans to reopen on May 25, 2008, the 100th anniversary of the opening of the theater. However, in the end the renovations took almost twice as long as expected, and so the Teatro Colon instead reopened on May 25th 2010, the 200th anniversary of the May Revolution, when Argentina split from the Spanish to become an independent nation.

It was a long wait until the re-opening, and knowing Argentina and it’s reputation for tardiness, I correctly doubted works would be completed on time, so it was important for me to check the legendary theater out before the prospect of a long wait.

To bring us back to the present for a moment, the Teatro Colon reopened its doors, as expected (the delayed forecast!), on May 25th 2010, after almost 4 years of renovations. And it’s now more beautiful than ever.

Show tickets are available either at their ticket office (entrance on Tucumán 1171), or buying online through the Tu Entrada website, using the following link: Buy Teatro Colon Tickets Online Here for Opera, Ballet, other Concerts & Guided Tours (after purchase you will still need to collect the tickets from the ticket office from 2 hours to 30 minutes before the scheduled start of the show). The ticket website is thankfully now working in English (see the language option in the top right corner of their webpage), after many years of only being available in Spanish, making things a little easier for visitors to the city to buy tickets.

The Concert

Back when I visited in 2006, my companions and I saw a concert from the Camerata Bariloche orchestra, playing pieces from Strauss and Beethoven, which was all very pleasing to the ears (I have to admit I’m not much of a classical music fan), but the star of the show was of course the venue itself, which was resplendent in its rich scarlet and gold decoration, along with several forests worth of beautiful wooden construction that make up the auditorium, with hints of Italian, Greek, German and French Renaissance design. And that was before the renovations, when it was looking a little tatty. The place is now back in pristine condition.

It’s all very impressive when you are looking down, way, way down, from above, in the ‘Paradise’ (‘Paraiso’ – the 7th and final seating level) area, which are the cheapest tickets in the house, but still offer an interesting view and due to the famed acoustics of the Colon, it sounds great from wherever you are sat.

Teatro Colon Buenos Aires

For the record, I turned up in smart shoes, trousers, a shirt and tie, taking note of the dress code I saw in the ticket office earlier that day. I was easily the most over dressed person in the ‘Paraiso’ area – but in the more expensive areas I did see some well dressed ladies and gentleman. I think in reality you could go along dressed as you please – I saw quite a few people in jeans and t shirts.

Colon Theatre

Some Teatro Colon History

The famous venue is not without some interesting history. It opened in 1908, almost 20 years after the first cornerstone was laid in 1889, under the direction of architect Francesco Tamburini. You might understand why I thought the recent restorations may not be completed on time when I tell you that the theatre was originally due to be opened in 1892!

But to be fair, a series of tragedies did complicate the process. Tamburini died soon after construction started, and his friend Vittorio Meano took over the project. Who also promptly died (murdered in a love triangle ‘gone wrong’ – though actually I’m not sure if there are many love triangles that ‘go right’). The architects were followed to the grave by another Italian guy, Angelo Ferrari (assassinated), that had been partly funding the building works. Italians dropping like flies…

Fortunately, a Belgian, Julio Dormal, came in and finished the job, breathing a sigh of relief as the finishing touches were made without event. This further confirmed my feeling that Belgians are in fact some of the greatest people on this planet, not only producing the best beer in the world and some of the finest chocolate, but also bucking architectural death trends without batting an eyelid. And that’s not to mention the waffles! I used to drink to Dormal and his kind whenever I could (sadly no Belgian beer) inside another of his many BA constructions, the Confiteria Richmond cafe, on pedestrian Florida Street (near Lavalle), but sadly that classic cafe closed to the public in 2011.

The Colon Finally Opens…

But back to the theatre. It finally opened on 25 May 1908 with a performance of Verdi’s Aida, and never looked back, as it became one of the world’s premiere centers of opera. Over the years the Teatro Colon has hosted such musical greats as Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini, French opera singer Jane Bathori, Italian tenor Enrico Caruso, Greek soprano Maria Callas, the legendary Luciano Pavarotti, Argentine Tango bandoneon maestro Astor Piazzolla and even Weird Al Yankovic. OK, I made that last one up, but it would have been interesting.

Colon Theatre Buenos Aires

Previous Colon Theater

There was actually a Colon theatre before the current one, which had opened in 1857 on the edge of Plaza de Mayo, and served Argentine aristocracy well for a good many years until the current Colon was opened in 1908. These days in the old Colon location you’ll find the the Banco de la Nacion – the national bank of Argentina, an imposing structure that looks down upon the tourists that buzz round the Pink House.

Teatro Colon Stage

Perfect Acoustics

The current theatre, located in the City Center (in the unofficial sub-barrio of Tribunales) and visible from Avenue 9 de Julio, has virtually perfect acoustics. This is one of its main attractions, the sound reaching each and every audience member perfectly – so you can save money and still enjoy the concert, even if the orchestra do look like musical ants from the loftier vantage points.

If that doesn’t sound like a nice visual experience, you can always take in the music while staring at the beautiful surroundings, such as the decoration around the top of the stage, the huge, dazzling chandelier, or the ceiling frescoes that surround it. Though sadly the latter are not original, due to damage caused by damp in the 1930s. Instead they were painted in 1966 by famous Argentine muralist Raul Soldi, whose work can also be found on the ceiling of the wonderful Galerias Pacifico shopping center, on Florida street (on the corner of Avenida Cordoba).

Teatro Colon Verdict

I very much recommend that any visitor to Buenos Aires pay a visit to the Teatro Colon – especially now that this great attraction has been restored to its former glory. If you don’t have the chance to catch a show there, then you can always go for a guided tour of the building during the daytime, for which tickets can be bought through the Tu Entrada website (click on Visitas Guiadas), or by visiting the theater in person when you get to Buenos Aires. They run on the hour, every hour, from 9am to 5pm, although only a few of the tours through the day are given in English – you can check those times on the Tu Entrada website.

Or if you are really tight for time, the Teatro Colon is still there on Avenida 9 de Julio (although that is the back, go around onto Plaza Lavalle for the front view) to be appreciated from the outside, and that’s not such a bad view in itelf…

Exterior of the Teatro Colon

For more detailed information on the Teatro Colon, check out the history section of the official Colon website. And of course, Wikipedia is always good.

Location of Teatro Colon

Teatro Colon, Tucumán 1171, Tribunales (City Center)

Telephone: (54-11) 4378-7109

Rumi Nightclub

June 9, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Nightlife under the lights

Going loco on the dancefloor at Rumi, Buenos Aires

The trademark red lights of Rumi are anything but a sign to stop. And as long as you don’t, you’re in for a good night. Rumi boasts a welcoming and sizable venue for dancing, food, lounging and drinks, and even doubles as a restaurant in the earlier hours (at around 10pm or so).

Rumi is much more of a boliche (nightclub) than a bar or restaurant, but holds on to its desire to be all three just enough. Naturally, like any boliche/bar/restaurant in Buenos Aires, the hour in which you arrive will drastically determine the night you have in store. Because Rumi is the perfect halfway point between the larger clubs like Museum & the once famed Opera Bay, and the smaller boliches (where you find your self fighting for room at the: bar, dance floor, restrooms, entrance, etc…), it’s a great way to enjoy Argentine nightlife without having to embrace the extremes. The red lights of Rumi shine from the outside beckoning patrons to enter…

Rumi’s Wednesday Night Dinner Special

If you’ve arrived early then you’ve already avoided the fuss of waiting in line and probably sauntered your way right on in. At around 10:30pm the club serves dinner. Rumi is known for its Wednesday night, when for a fixed price you can choose between a choices of entrée, drink and dessert. The menu offers rotating options, but could be something like steak and pasta, both of which are delicious, and your choice of beers, wine or coffee. Afterwards, choosing which ice cream dessert most suits your fancy won’t be an easy feat!

Taking it easy at RumiNightclub

The Early Bird Catches the Booth in Buenos Aires

The restaurant set up is calming and still, and you’ll most likely be set up with a table on the dance floor. Keep in mind you’ll hardly notice that the exact spot you’re eating at will soon transform into a sea of dancers. However, asking politely, calling ahead, or knowing the owner might get you a booth seat located away from the dance floor. This eating scenario is more reminiscent of higher end restaurants and is also a great place to be seated if you plan on staying for the music and dancing.

The booths turn into a wonderful hiatus from the energy of the dance floor and are a perfect place to rest your feet and rejuvenate your spirits. There are seemingly endless benefits to arriving early, and here are just a few: you can see who’s arriving, who’s looking good and if it’s worth hanging around for.

rumi

So, You Think You Can Dance?

If you and your amigos have made other plans and have already enjoyed dinner, a siesta and perhaps a drink or two at another bar, then you’re here to dance. Arriving around 2:30am, you’re amongst the fashionable Argentines who are here for fun and to bust some moves. At this point the tables have been cleared, the music is pumping and everyone around you is here for the same reason. All those early birds who aren’t in it for the long haul, have flown the coop.

Rumi has a lovely outside terrace where people enjoy the fresh air and the occasional cigarette. If you want in, you’ll have to wait AND pay your dues. The covers very from weeknight to weekend, coming in a tad steeper on the nights truly dedicated for the night owls. Passing under the red letters of Rumi, yet more red summons you toward the dance floor.

Propping up the bar at Rumi, Buenos Aires

One of Rumi’s greatest perks is the bar and dance floor set up. The bar runs the length of the dance floor so there are no corner bars you need to fight and huddle your way into. The DJ booth is opposite the entrance where the man in charge of the decks quickly changes up synthesized pop hits to pumping techno as he feels out the vibe of the crowd. Those relaxing, watching or simply enjoying from afar seem to melt away, making the dance floor the center of a attention. And why shouldn’t it be? The surging crowd is filled with energy and the club stays this way until the sun comes up, and your priorities switch from boogie to bed.

A Word About Nightclub Ambiance

As mentioned, the layout of Rumi does a lot for the club. The bathrooms are upstairs and separate from the club and the hallway leading to the dance floor creates a sort of ‘calm before the storm’. Here you can find couples snuggling and making out in sphere shaped chairs, between bouts of dancing.

Rumi isn’t unaware of its red-light stereotype and hired entertainment is much more “red-light district” than the rest of the club. A feature dancer or two may be propped up for all to see and combing the crowd are other colorful entertainers. It adds a great mix of flavor to the club in the later hours and the crowd digs the extras like glow sticks and candy handed out by the hot-bodied dancers or men in drag. Yet another visual to keep your interest peaked is the footage of live concerts and music videos projected on the screens above the dance floor. You’re sure to draw inspiration from somewhere and I’m sure you’ll enjoy what Rumi is throwing down on the dance floor.

Rumi Nightclub, Buenos Aires

Getting there

Rumi is located on the Costanera of Buenos Aires, but not near Puerto Madero. Instead, look north. It’s much closer to Belgrano and the cab rides are cheap from other eating and nightlife areas such as Recoleta, Palermo or Las Canitas. Mention the club name to a cabbie or scribble down the address and you’ll be there in no time.

Location of Rumi Nightclub

Avenida Figueroa Alcorta 6442, near La Pampa, Costanera Norte

Tel: 4782-1307,  Website: http://www.rumiba.com.ar/

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