What to pack for a trip to Buenos Aires

September 25, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A Packing List to cover you in Buenos Aires

what to pack buenos aires

[Photo credit: Salihan Laugesen’s photostream//CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

After ruminating over all the exciting destinations around the planet, you’ve finally decided to travel to Buenos Aires. Great, we know you’ll love it here as much as we do. And though you’ve tossed and turned over your decision, figuring out what to pack can be even more stressful. Start your trip the Argentine way: tranquilo, relax, we’ve got you covered.

Pack light and in season

If you’re coming from the Northern Hemisphere, don’t forget that seasons switch when you cross the equator. Argentina’s summer is from December to March, autumn is March to May, winter spans June through August, and spring blossoms from September into November. While summer can be insufferably humid, and winter bitter cold, the weather is overall quite temperate and these extremes usually last only about a week. Your best bet is to bring layers and peel off or pile on as necessary.

Regarding style, people in Buenos Aires are quite fashionable and trends change every season. Europeans will find the styles quite aligned to their own, but US Americans may want to leave some of their most casual t-shirts and flip-flops at home. Your best bet will be to pack light and buy a few things once you’re in town, if necessary. When in doubt, bring classic, flattering basics and lean toward dressy instead of casual.

These boots were made for walking!

Argentine packing list

[Photo credit: David Avalos’s photostream//CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]

Buenos Aires is an incredibly walk-able city, and we recommend taking a private walking tour to best get to know the place. Without a doubt, the most important thing you can bring to BA is a comfortable pair of shoes.

Having said that, if you are planning to do some trekking in one of the more rugged regions of Argentina, know that hiking boots will definitely stand out in the fashionable capital. Also, if interested in dancing some Tango, you will want comfortable shoes to learn in before whipping out those ravishing heels to show off your moves. Try some simple flats or pick up some alpargatas once you get here.

A quick reference list of what to pack

Of course, what you pack depends completely on your style, gender, travel tastes, length of stay, and itinerary. But here we’ve compiled a list of essentials to get you started.

Clothing Checklist
Item Description
Comfy walking shoes Absolutely essential
Another pair of nice shoes or sandals Comfortable but more dressy
Plenty of socks and under garments
3 pairs of pants or jeans Good for day and night
A few shirts For every-day wear
2-4 nice blouses or dress shirts For fine dining and tango shows
2 sweaters/sweatshirts One lighter; fleece or wool work great
1 light coat
Pajamas and comfortable clothes For hotel and travel
Sunglasses
A hat or scarf
A raincoat or shell For sudden torrential showers

If this seems like little to you, remember you can shop in the city. Below we’ve listed items for the female traveler. Ladies keep in mind that while BA is very cosmopolitan, you are still traveling in a Latin American, mostly Catholic country and should avoid low cut tops or short skirts if you don’t want to attract uncomfortable attention. Showing some skin is not a no-no here, especially in summer, just try to do so tastefully. Women who wear sizes larger than a US dress size 8 will have a challenge finding clothes that fit in BA, as clothes run quite small.

Ladies Clothing
Item Description
2 dresses and/or long skirts keep weather in mind
A couple of tanks for layering
A scarf or two depending on your style
Nice boots/sandals/low heels avoid uncomfortably high heels
Pair of leggins Great for the plane and totally in style
A long shirt To wear over your leggings
1 pair of nice shorts avoid short-shorts and jean shorts

Those who rely on hair dryer should note that the voltage is different in Argentina than in the US, and hair dryers may blow-out (it’s happened to me!). Your hotel should provide a dryer, and if not bring a voltage converter. Buenos Aires uses 220 volts. Your computer, however, is likely dual-voltage and will be fine. Here’s some more information on voltage.

Other items
Item Description
Sunsreen  The sun is strong here
Medicines  Bring any perscriptions you need
Toiletries  Ladies bring feminine products as options are limited
An adapter for electronics  See photo below. Can be purchased here.
A camera  Lots of film and memory!
A good book For the plane and long bus rides
Passport Up to date
Printed receipt of paid entry fee Details here
Reusable waterbottle Try one with a built in filter
Credit/debit card and cash US dollars get a great rate here

Plugs and voltage in Argentina

What not to bring to Argentina

A tip when packing: pack everything you’re planning on taking into your bag. Now reduce that by 20%. You want to leave room in your suitcase for souvenirs. You should also leave valuables at home; flashy jewelry will attract attention on the street in Buenos Aires, and while theft is not out of control here, you wouldn’t want your memory of your travels tainted by a lost heirloom.

Lastly, don’t bring too many gadgets. LandingPadBA has written quite a lot about checking electronics before you travel here, but we think that apart from your computer and camera, you really won’t need anything else. Besides, you’re on vacation — take a break from the screen and engage with the amazing city all around you.

For more information on what to pack, read LandingPadBA’s article What Not to Wear, and check out what people are wearing on the streets of Buenos Aires on On The Corner. Enjoy your trip!

How to Make Great Images with a Point-and-Shoot

September 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Photojournalist Jerry Nelson shares his tips for how to get the most out of your point-and-shoot or camera phone

One of the challenges that I face almost daily as a pro photographer is the fact that with the proliferation of cameras, everyone thinks they’re a photographer.

I’m not a songwriter and putting a guitar in my hand and showing me a few basic chords doesn’t make me a singer and giving me a paintbrush doesn’t make me a painter.

Yet, everyone with a camera thinks they are a photographer.

The majority of cameras — 85% according to some studies — in use today are either camera phones or point-and-shoots.  With some guidance and practice even someone with the most basic point-and-shoot can drastically increase their picture taking skills.

Regardless of the platform, most users fall on a continuum between being a Happy Photographer and a Detailed Planner.

Happy Photographer

We all know digital camera users that think that taking pictures is switching on the camera, holding it at arms length at the weirdest angle possible and clicking the shutter over and over and over again — hardly giving any thought to where the subject is in the frame.

At the end of the day, these images are just a ferris wheel ride between some great creative shots and the bizarre.

Detailed Planner

At the other end of the continuum is the Detailed Planner.  We all know photographers like this also.  The person with the camera spends hours — well it feels like it — getting you posed just right and then spends more time staring into their view finder and playing with the controls (if any) to make sure the exposure is perfect.

Once you hear the click of the shutter, you relax and try to move on only to find out that the photographer needs to go through the whole thing again because the sun moved, the reflection changed, someone walked in front of the viewfinder, you closed your eyes or, well, pick any excuse.

So maybe it sounds like I’m making these two types of shooters sound evil.  Truth is, even the best shooters that I know do both at times.

A good shooter has the ability to be spontaneous, experimental and creative yet still take the time to consider the photos that they are shooting BEFORE they go into rapid-fire-sequence.

If you ask yourself just five questions before taking the shot, you’ll find the results are better than what you’ve been getting and you’ll get better shots more consistently than if you just randomly fill your card with images.

• What is the subject of this photo?
• What is the mood of the moment?
• What is going on in the background of this shot?
• Is the place I’m shooting in light or dark?
• Is my subject moving or still?

Asking yourself these questions might seem like it puts the brakes on the creative process.  Well, taking too much time can definitely kill the fun and only you can assess the moment to see which end of the spectrum you need to shoot from.

You can save yourself — and your subjects — some aggravation by anticipating the shot, looking through the viewfinder and snapping the picture.  Don’t over plan.  Be creative. Have fun.

Camera Phone

No matter what camera you use to make images, composition is the key that makes or breaks them.  It’s never the camera that makes the image — it’s you.  Or more precisely, it’s your eye.

If you’re like most iPhone/Camera users, you’ve downloaded a bunch of camera apps.  Maybe you delete them quickly or maybe there’s a few still hanging out that you haven’t used in a while.

Doesn’t matter.  Delete all the camera apps now.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

Done?  Good.  Now we can get on with the serious business of making some great images.

Great images come from holding the camera properly, managing perspective and paying attention to composition.

When you’re taking the image, hold the camera up while you keep your arms close to the body.  Holding the camera steady is key regardless of what kind of image maker you have, but it’s more critical with the small format of the iPhone.

Frame the scene in your viewfinder, take a breath and push the shutter.  That’s all there is to it.

Once you get comfortable composing the shot, you will want to take images every day and that’s the best way to learn to pay attention to the settings around you.

What is Perspective?

One example of perspective.  Notice how the tracks seem to converge in the disance.

One example of perspective. Notice how the tracks seem to converge in the disance.

Perspective is one of the ways that the eyeball can judge depth within a scene and refers to the angle and location of parallel lines within a scene.

If you’ve ever stood on railroad tracks and  noticed how the rails start getting closer in the distance, you’ve seen perspective.

Another way to think of perspective is the ‘binocular’ effect your vision experiences when you look at a distant object.  Because your eyes are spaced several inches a part, your brain receives two different images that are combined to produce the feeling of depth and perspective.

The change from binocular to monocular can be challenging when someone loses sight in one eye as all depth perception goes out the window and the person needs time to re-learn and readjust.

A point-and-shoot can never ‘learn’ how to see depth; you as the photographer have to give it that ability by using a technique called ‘layering’ to do it.

Layering, like many other things, isn’t difficult once you’ve practiced.

In essence, layering is the placing of one or more objects in the foreground and the subject of your photograph in the background.  Or vice versa – placing something in the background behind your subject that appears in the foreground.

By itself this can get confusing to the viewer of the image though.  Which object is ‘the’ subject of the photograph; the one in the foreground or background?  A technique called “bokah” comes to the rescue.

"Bokah", an effect you've seen many times.

“Bokah”, an effect you’ve seen many times.

If you’ve seen a photograph where the object in the foreground was in nice, sharp focus while the object(s) in the background were fuzzy and blurred, then you’ve seen bokah at work.

Depending on the make and model of your camera phone or point and shoot you may be able to achieve bokah also.  If you can’t then you’ll have to resort to photo editing through software to accomplish it.

Composition

A plane over a busy airport.  The story is obvious.

A plane over a busy airport. The story is obvious.

Composing an image through the viewfinder is subjective.  What one person finds pleasing and appealing, someone else won’t like it.

Basically, composition is organizing and arranging the individual details of the scene in front of you into a pleasing arrangement.  While there is no right or wrong composition in photography, a composition that shows what your intended meaning was is affective.  If the image confuses the viewer, then it’s a bad composition.

Rules of Composition are Just Guidelines

You don’t need to think that guidelines of composition are hard-and-fast and the photography police will come take you away if you break them.  The guidelines are just that — guidelines.

Photographic guidelines are valuable.  They are time-tested and have provided great guidelines for shooters regardless of the skill level.

Now, go have fun and make some great images!

MASA Club de Tacos – Private Taco Dinner

September 11, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Inventive Mexican food in an intimate setting

review of Mexican food Argentina

[Photo courtesy MASA Club de Tacos Facebook Page]

When I tell Argentines that what I miss most about the US (other than family) is the Mexican food, they don’t get it.  You see while famous for its beef and wines, Argentina is not known for its food diversity – and forget about spicy foods.  Growing up in Arizona, Mexican food formed the nucleus of my diet, and continued to do so when I moved to California and basically survived on burritos.

So when I heard about a new Mexican-inspired puertas cerradas restaurant in Buenos Aires, I knew I had to check it out. I’ve scoured Palermo for good Mexican food joints, but I usually end up disappointed and nostalgic. Somehow spending 300 pesos on mediocre tacos and leaving without flaming lips, having doused my food in the “extra spicy” sauce, feels traitorous to my roots. I figured a fellow West Coast yanqui would get it.

Simple, tasty, and creative Mexican-inspired cuisine

Kevin, the creator of MASA Club de Tacos, gets it. MASA is named after the heart of Mexican cuisine, the masa or dough used to make tortillas. In Argentine Spanish, however, masa while still meaning dough, is also a slang term for a cool person. Dinners are hosted every Thursday night in a residential home alternating between Belgrano and Almagro. Guests typically reserve in small groups, and the mixed company provides a perfect opportunity to meet new people — especially Argentines! The experience feels more like a warm dinner among friends than a private restaurant, and the price scheme adds to that feeling: each guest pays what they deem to be the value of the meal, and brings their own beverages.

cooks MASA taco club

I arrived with my Argentine partner last Thursday at the Almagro MASA location, and was immediately made welcome by Kevin, a laid-back and friendly California native. He lead us to the kitchen where his quirky and fabulous right-hand-lady Evy was busy with prep work. We chatted about Mexican food in BA and the US as the cooks prepared appetizers. When the rest of the guests arrived, a family from Bahia Blanca and a few young Argentines who work in the tech sector, we settled into the living room, discussing the emerging kite surfing scene on Argentina’s Atlantic coast.

Dinner is served!

While we chatted with our fellow guests, Kevin and Evy served us baskets of fried avocados and a creamy jalapeño salsa. To my delight, the salsa sent steam zipping through my nasal cavities! The Argentines seemed a little overwhelmed by the spice, and warned me against dousing the palta slices, but I just couldn’t get enough. The avocado was warm and creamy, without being over fried. Delicious.

Buenos Aires Mexican food

To avoid gobbling up all the slices on the table, I ventured to the kitchen to find the Negra Modelo I brought with me. With the new Daft Punk album and some classic Outkast tracks pumping in the background, the cooks were preparing the first dish. I asked about the concept of restaurant, and Kevin explained it as an elevated spin on Mexican street tacos. He founded the project after working on a local website with a cultural agenda, with the ideal that going out in Buenos Aires shouldn’t have to be exclusive to those who can afford a pricey meal. That’s how he came up with the unique, pay-what-you-can price: it makes the hip closed-door phenomenon accessible.

I scuttled back to the table as they plated the salad, an absolutely divine grilled cabbage salad with mango, tomato and a creamy vinaigrette. The cabbage was perfectly grilled to eliminate bitterness but still be crunchy, and my boyfriend has been begging for grilled cabbage since. Peppered with mango slices, the salad was mildly sweet but still light and refreshing.

Grilled cabbage Mexican salad

“Don’t judge your taco by its price” -Hunter S. Thompson

As we awaited the main dish, our fellow guests told us about an application they invented called Cook App which allows you to search puertas cerradas restaurants in Buenos Aires. It’s like a go-to spot to find different venues on the lively underground restaurant scene.

MASA club tacos closed doors restaurant

And then came the main event: two tacos filled with pork carnitas with onion and cilantro, and chicken slow cooked in honey, jalapeño salsa, and blueberry juice, both served on homemade corn tortillas. The tortillas were the best I’ve eaten in Argentina; they were light and not overwhelmingly corn-y (as corn tortillas often can be), with a perfect touch of griddled flavor. Both meat fillings were delectable, and the pollo (chicken) was particularly juicy. The tacos were served with another salsa, this time made with the Peruvian Locoto chili, and I doused my tacos with the two spicy spreads to the horror of the Argentines. Once again, the tacos delightfully blended sweet and savory flavours.

Swooning in a taco-induced reverie, we cleaned the juice off our hands and discussed the spectacular tortilla masa. The strawberry cupcakes came right at the perfect time and perfect closure for the pallate. Again, these were not too sweet, and the cake itself was spongy and exuded fresh strawberry goodness.

Strawberry cupcake desert

While the family had to leave early, we stayed and talked with Evy and Kevin. We laughed about Argentine and US American cultural differences, and Kevin even admitted that he made corn tortillas since he knew I was coming. Argentines, apparently, are much easier to serve Mexican food. “They pretty much love anything we serve them,” noted Evy, while those of us from the US, on the other hand, have lots of expectations about Mexican food. True enough. Overall, I felt the dinner combined traditional Mexican ingredients into fun, and unique dishes.

Our hosts regaled us late into the night with stories about demanding clients, the joys of menu planning, and what it was like serving the rock group The Black Keys.  The MASA Club de Tacos is a unique, friendly experience.

If you’d like to reserve a spot at the next MASA Taco dinner, find further details on the MASA Club del Taco website, or visit their Facebook page. Vegetarians and those with diet restrictions, never fear! The MASA team is willing to accommodate to your requests. Read  more reviews of the restaurant on My Beautiful Air or The Argentine Independent, and happy eating!

Shoot Outside the Postcard

September 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Buenos Aires-based photographer Jerry Nelson shares his top tips for better snaps

metropolitan cathedral interior

Metropolitan Cathedral Interior

Welcome to Buenos Aires.  Home of the Casa Rosada, Plaza de Mayo, Metropolitan Cathedral and a bunch of other potentially iconic photographs.

How many times have you stood in front of a world famous landmark and realized that every possible shot that could be taken has already been taken by one of the thousands of tourists that have stood in that spot before you? You are on a once-in-a-lifetime trip and your goal should not be to bring back images that look like the postcards at the hotel or – worse yet – the pictures that are goofy and don’t do anything but scream, “An amateur took me!”

So when you visit the Casa Rosada don’t try to capture the palm tree to frame the photo with and for Pete’s sake, do NOT have someone pose with the Obelisk as if they’re holding it up.

Here’s some things to keep in mind when you’re photographing a famous landmark in Buenos Aires.  Relax, you can use the tips when you return home to keep taking better images than your friends.

1.  Get the cliche shot out of the way.

Title Test

The May Pyramid in Plaza de Mayo

Go ahead take the shot of the Casa Rosada with the palm tree.  You won’t feel right unless you do, so go ahead and take the picture.  Got the shot?  Okay, now think of some different ways you could capture the image and add your OWN iconic slant to the same subject. Look for the buildings reflection in windows or a puddle if it just rained. Include the local architecture, shoot it as a silhouette.  There is really no limiit to what you can do when you are looking for different ways to see.

2.  Practice at home.

Every town and city has its own iconic landmarks. While it may not be a art deco building, it doesn’t matter. Maybe there’s a statue, a church steeple heck, even a grain elevator.  Get your camera and to out to see it for the first time again. Work the scene and find a creative way to frame it.

3.  Don’t forget people.

Be sure to include people in your frame. They can add interest and movement to otherwise stale postcard type shots. People work especially well by adding a sense of scale when you’re shooting large buildings.

Plaza de Mayo is the epicenter for protests and demonstrations in Buenos Aires

Plaza de Mayo is the epicenter for protests and demonstrations in Buenos Aires

4.  Practice.

The more you practice the quicker your eye will become at spotting those interesting shots when you visit a new place. Your images will never be boring again!

 

 

Galerías Pacífico Shopping Mall

September 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Historic Shopping Center in Buenos Aires

Housed in a lovely Beaux Arts building in downtown Buenos Aires, the Galerías Pacífico Shopping Mall is a great place to visit for much more than just shopping. Originally constructed in the 1890’s as the BA headquarters for the Parisian department store, Le Bon Marche, this prime spot on the Florida pedestrian street has changed through the years, but retains a nostalgic elegance, making it a dazzling place to shop.

beautiful shopping malls in buenos aires
[Photo credit: Wally G’s photostream/ /CC BY-BY-SA 2.0]

Modeled after the great Italian arcade Gallerias Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, the building was commissioned exclusively for Le Bon Marche. The department store never occupied the entire building however, as it struggled to compete with the English store Harrods just down the block. (The Harrods building now lays empty, after closing over fourteen years ago.) As a result, other companies and stores occupied parts of the Galerías. It was the first home of the National Museum of Fine Arts, a hotel moved into one corner (now the luxurious Esplendor Buenos Aires), and the Buenos Aires and Pacific Railway converted some of the building into offices, thus the Galerías Florida were renamed Galerías Pacífico, since the rail line reached from Buenos Aires, through Chile, to the Pacific Ocean (el pacifico).

Beautiful ceilings and dark basements

mural in mall Buenos Aires
[Photo credit: Barcex’s photostream/ /CC BY-BY-SA 2.0]

At the nexus of the galleries you’ll find impressive murals painted on the interior dome. Commissioned in 1947, these murals were painted by five of Argentina’s greatest artists at the time: Antonio Berni, Juan Carlos Castagnino, Manuel Colmeiro Guimaraes, Lino Enea Spilimbergo, and Demetrio Urruchua. The murals reflect universal themes like brotherhood and man’s relationship to nature, and it’s an interesting study in the unique styles of each artist within the same medium. Keep an eye out as you stroll through the rest of the mall for some more contemporary murals, as well.

Like many other beautiful sites in Buenos Aires, the history of the Galerias is tainted with the stain of the last military dictatorship. In the late 1980’s, a film crew ventured into the basements of the mall, and one of the cameramen recognized the the space as the site where he was held and tortured as an ex-desaparecido in 1976.  The basement still bore ghastly evidence of torture, such as markings made by the imprisoned, including dates and pleas for help. The building was declared a National Historic Monument in 1989.

High-end brand shopping in downtown BA

After lying abandoned for a while, the galleries were converted into a shopping mall in the 1990’s, while Argentina was experiencing an economic boom. Today, the stores in Galerias Pacifico are basically the same ones you can find in other malls throughout the city, or walking down Santa Fe avenue, and around Palermo. Foreign brands like Chanel, Tommy Hilfiger, Estee Lauder, and Swarovski have shops among the many Argentine brands, and you can stop for cafe or lunch in the cafes and restaurants both on the bottom floor, and up high under the glass ceiling. Here’s a full listing of stores.

Galerias Buenos Aires shopping

[Photo credit: Miguel Cesar’s photostream/ /CC BY-BY-NC-SA 2.0]

While you’re there, don’t miss the Centro Cultural Borges (Borges Cultural Center), which features many wonderful exhibits. Also stroll down the pedestrian Calle Florida for more shopping and lots of interesting people watching (rushed business people, street vendors, travelers, money traders, and buskers all converge here).

For a preview of the Galerias, check out this video, and read more on Wander Argentina.

Location and hours of the Galerias Pacifico

Av. Cordoba and Florida, City Center
Website:  www.galeriaspacifico.com.ar/eng/index.php
Phone: 5555-5110
Hours: Monday – Saturday 10am – 9pm
Sunday – 12pm – 9pm

Centro Cultural Jorge Luis Borges:
Located on the corner of Viamonte and San Martin, City Center

Your personal Buenos Aires Photo Tour

September 2, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Richard Photographer

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