La Francisca Deli

February 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Charming deli in Palermo Soho

La Francisca - Feria de Campo

Palermo hosts a bevy of restaurants, but few sandwich spots. For the shopping crowd, it may appear difficult to find a quick, tasty bite to eat to fuel your feet to the next boutique while you lug your mounting collection of bags. Plus, you may want to save your budget for the next store and not indulge in a time-consuming lunch.

Near the corner of Malabia and Niceto Vega, a small, colorfully decorated window welcome sandwich-lovers to one of the newest, and best kept, secrets in Palermo. La Francisca looks like a typical fiambreria, offering typical cuts of cured meats and fine cheeses. As you may see, La Francisca’s sandwiches make it more of a sandwicheria – real word in Spanish – than a meat and cheese store.

Opened about two years ago, La Francisca is run by a quartet of lovely ladies, who like to practice their English! Last time I went, I tried ordering in Spanish but they kept replying in broken English. I caved and reverted back to English.

Welcome to La Francisca deli!

A great sandwich spot for shoppers

When I mentioned I was from New York, they suggested I try their hot pastrami sandwich. Yes! Finally, I found hot pastrami in Buenos Aires. Although they made comparisons to Katz’s delicatessen in New York, which offers arguably the best pastrami sandwich in the world, this sandwich was quite different. But not in a bad way. In hindsight, I realized I didn’t want a gigantic, melted-cheese sandwich that would leave me bloated the rest of the day. La Francisca’s pastrami was wonderful, included all the same ingredients of a regular pastrami sandwich, didn’t overwhelm and put a smile on my face for my walk home.

A great sandwich in Palermo Soho, Buenos Aires

Despite the small space, any visitor can immediately see that the owners have packed plenty of character into the place. If you have to wait, there is a huge red lounge chair next to the cashier. They sell an artesanal (microbrew) beer brand “Boj,” along with a small, but good collection of wines. Several high-quality jams, sauces and spices dot the shelves on the walls too. The price tags and descriptions are hand written. An outdoor bench lets patrons enjoy sunshine while nibbling on a mid-day sandwich.

The sandwiches are about a foot long, and there’s plenty of options. My favorite is their proscuitto (jamon crudo), brie, dried tomatoes (soaked in olive oil) and arugula on a French baguette. Other sandwiches include salami, ham, pancetta and other cured meats. La Francisca also has vegetarian options, such as their eggplant-tomato-arugula sandwich. Each delectable item is prepared well, and isn’t sloppy or greasy. The owners also seem unaware of their lucrative location in Palermo Soho because the menu is very reasonably priced – a foreign concept to a boutique-filled neighborhood.

Although La Francisca’s sandwiches make it my go-to lunch place, the service almost outdoes the food. The ladies always make me feel welcome. I always find some new detail inside – old golf clubs, a dusty guitar – that add to its abundance of charm. La Francisca is a classic, local deli with Argentine character.

Al fresco lunch at La Francisca, Palermo Soho

Where is La Francisca?

La Francisca, Niceto Vega 4712 (near the corner with Malabia), Palermo Soho

Telephone: 4771-0172; La Francisca Facebook Page

Open Mondays to Saturdays, 11am to 8pm

Cafe La Poesia

December 20, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

A writer’s cafe in San Telmo

La Poesia sign

After you attend the San Telmo market – a rite of passage for any traveler in Buenos Aires – you and your tired feet might wonder, “Where can I relax in a quiet place around here?” Surprisingly, you only need to walk one more block.

Although it has received some attention in travel books, La Poesia has maintained its character, bohemian environment and simple, great tastes. Located on the corner of Chile and Bolivar, one block off from the feria on Defensa street, La Poesia (“the poetry”) charms its patrons with old, wooden tables, exposed brick ceilings, walls covered with pictures, signs and quotations, and a nice balance between bar and café.

Opened in 1982, closed in the late ‘80s and reopened four years ago, La Poesia has plenty of history. If Jorge Luis Borges didn’t sip coffee here, his admirers did. His quotations adorn the walls, invoking Argentina’s literary past.

At the risk of sounding cliché, I think La Poesia is a classic, romantic Argentine café. It’s open till 4am Fridays and Saturdays, and is often filled with friends chatting for hours and readers combing through novels. Furthermore, a local, Porteño crowd offers an authentic atmosphere. There isn’t an English menu. The place seems destined for a scene in a Woody Allen film.

If the downstairs is bustling with the feria crowd, a staircase to the left of the counter leads to the high-ceiling upstairs, which I’ve always found quiet with nice views of the street corner (sometimes the upstairs is closed early in the week).

La Poesia inside

Micro-brewed beer in Buenos Aires!

Argentina has excellent wines. Great Malbecs are available here for very affordable prices. When it comes to wine’s brother – beer – the quality is not the same across the board. Simply put, good beer can be hard to find in Buenos Aires.

La Poesia brews its own beer – I recommend the Colorado, a red-tinted lager with a smooth flavor served in a cold mug. They also have a stout and blonde ale. Judging by the surrounding tables last night, people came for the beer.

Coffee drinkers look no further too. One of your trip’s best deals in Buenos Aires is at La Poesia. Order the “café con leche, pan casero con dulce de leche y manteca.” Coffee with hot milk, a loaf of toasted homemade bread and ample portions of butter and dulce de leche make this a simple pleasure you might order twice. I have.

Poesia’s Irish coffee is also well done, large and comes with a small side of cornbread.

The menu at La Poesia can be dizzying. Pages of sandwiches and tapas initially made me feel like I was at a Greek diner in the U.S. where they serve everything under the sun. Like its beer and coffee though, a keep-it-simple mindset will lead you in the right direction. I recommend their meat and cheese plates, or an antipasto plate, chuck full of olives.

Whether in San Telmo for the feria or perusing the streets of Buenos Aires like Borges, take a break at La Poesia. Sip your café con leche, nurse your beer and let life and its worries fade away.

La Poesia bread

Finding Cafe La Poesia

Getting there: The address is Chile 502 in San Telmo. From Recoleta or Palermo, take the D Line subway to Catedral station and walk six blocks from Plaza de Mayo down Bolivar Street. Bus lines 29 and 45 also stop nearby.

When to go: Monday – Thursday, and Sundays: 8am – 2am; Friday and Saturdays 8am – 4am. I prefer going at night, but the daytime offers more people watching.

La Panaderia de Pablo

August 28, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

Feast all day long on pizza and cake at chef Pablo Massey’s joint

Pablo Massey showing off his bread at La Panaderia

The thin crust oven baked pizzas at TV chef Pablo Massey’s Montserrat eatery, La Panaderia de Pablo (Defensa 269), seem like the chic Italian cousins who’ve come over from Naples to visit their doughy, greasy Argentinean relatives from Avenida Corrientes. But according to the chef proprietor, who spent three years in Florence honing his pizza-making skills, try presenting a Porteño with an authentic Italian pizza – tomato sauce, basil and buffalo mozzarella topping – and you’ll be met with the response ‘Eso no se hace’ (that’s not how it’s done). Instead the crispy slices we were munching on were an Argentina-fied version, made with salty cow’s mozzarella with fresh basil leaves on top.

All-day menu of pizzas, sandwiches and more

Although panaderia means bakery, La Panaderia de Pablo is, confusingly, not a panaderia at all, although they do bake five varieties of their own bread on the premises each morning, which you can also buy to take-away. Open from 8am to 7pm Monday to Thursday and 8am to late on Friday, it’s a hybrid breakfast / lunch / afternoon tea place serving a simple all-day menu of pizzas, sandwiches, salad and steak along with a mouth-watering selection of pastries and deserts, washed down with Illy coffee, Tealosophy tea blends or wine. Recover from your hangover with Sunday’s special brunch menu from 10am to 7pm (closed on Saturdays).

Sunny welcome at Pablo Massey's restaurant La Panaderia de Pablo

Chic, modern restaurant

Stepping off the history-steeped San Telmo streets into a modern, light-filled space with industrial concrete surfaces, chunky wooden furniture, exposed brick walls and heavy Portuguese cutlery, it feels more like New York’s meatpacking district, or at least Palermo Hollywood. Walk past huge shelves stacked with bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, olives and pastries to buy and into the main dining room and watch the chefs preparing the pizzas in the open plan kitchen as you wait for your food. But for all its interior-designed style and the celebrity name above the door, prices are reasonable and lunch here need not feel like a massive splurge.

Tasty Italian style pizza at La Panaderia de Pablo in Buenos Aires

Indulge yourself

After a Fugazzetta (onion, mozzarella and olive oil pizza) or Fugazza (the same without cheese), tuck into the dulce de leche filled, meringue topped Torta Rogel (the best we’ve tasted) and though you’ll feel like you never want to eat again you won’t be able to resist stocking up on alfajores on the way out.

For other reviews of La Panaderia de Pablo check out the AhhArgentina’s blog post and the review of Sunday Brunch on La Panza Porteña blog.

La Panaderia de Pablo, Defensa 269, City Center (Montserrat)

Telephone: 4331 6728       Website: http://www.lapanaderiadepablo.com/

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

Buenos Aires Zoo

November 22, 2007 by · 10 Comments 

It’s all happening at the zoo…

Elephants at Buenos Aires Zoo

The Buenos Aires Zoo is spectacularly charming for anyone with an afternoon to spare. Located in the heart of Palermo off the Plaza Italia subway stop, the zoo spans the distance between Avenidas Las Heras and Libertador. Home to over 350 species and known for some of its exotic breeding, the zoo is the perfect place for families, a romantic date or an afternoon alone.

On sunny weekends this attraction is packed full of children, which isn’t always entirely different from the weekdays, when many school field trips attend. Nevertheless, the best time to visit the zoo is on a sunny weekday afternoon, when you can lounge in front of the white tiger enclosure or elephant house with few others peering over your shoulder.
Feeding time at the Buenos Aires Zoo

Buenos Aires Zoo details

The zoo’s entrance is located on the corner of Avenida Las Heras and Avenida Sarmiento. Cost varies depending on what you want to see and how much you want to spend. General Admission (Entrada General) gives you access to most of the zoo. However, there are several exhibits requiring the more advanced pass (Pasaporte), which gives you access to exhibits such as the Aquarium, Reptiles and Rainforest, as well as the ‘Dragon House’ and a boat ride on the lagoon.

The General pass shouldn’t be overlooked however, as the majority of the zoo is indeed found within the General layout. Meanwhile, the Aquarium has penguins with both fresh and saltwater fish (including piranhas) in large tanks and the reptile area is eerily captivating (especially for the boys). However, if after purchasing the general pass and you find yourself thinking that the Rainforest exhibit looks too good to pass up, a few pesos extra at the entrance to each additional exhibit will grant you entry.

Nice views in the Buenos Aires Zoo, Palermo

Don’t feed the animals (or do!)

OK, so you have your pass… now, where do you begin? Upon admittance you’ll see a large entrance where you can purchase disposable cameras, snacks and also rent lockers. They also have professional photographers if you want to capture the moment without any blurs or overexposures, which is ideal considering the entrance is next to a picturesque lagoon where flamingos lounge on the far side of the fountains. (Look closely and you’ll also see snapping turtles!)

The entrance area is also an excellent chance to buy some animal food (Comidas Animales) – throughout your journey you’re welcome to feed elephants, alpacas, monkeys, camels, deer, zebras and other feed friendly animals. The food bags are affordable, as are the larger bins. While you’ll find yourself wondering how it’s possible that all of these different animals eat the same food (maybe save yourself some cash and try it out on the kids… just kidding!), it’s a wonderful way to interact and gain the attention of the more commonly aloof critters. Some of the animals will even play up to the food, with elephants raising their trunks and monkeys motioning for you to throw more.

Some of the enclosures are so close to the animals themselves that sneaking in some petting (while you’re feeding the camel, for instance) isn’t difficult. Naturally, it’s important to be socially conscious of the safety of the animals and yourself, so be mindful when you’re petting the zebra. If the kids are complaining that you’ve run out of food, then there are stations located throughout the Zoo where more can be purchased.

Also, if the Comidas Animales didn’t go over so well as the kids’ snack, then there are stands where popsicles and other treats can be found. However, like most zoos, these are extremely overpriced… so, if you go over to the sides of the zoo (by the fence) you will often find street vendors that will sell you a larger variety at half the price, right through the gaps in the fence! In Buenos Aires, where there’s a will, there’s a way .

A Camel has the hump at Buenos Aires Zoo

You are HERE

The layout of the zoo is simple so you don’t have to worry about missing anything. Posted maps along the way indicate your position, but by following the main path you’ll surely see it all. If you’ve taken this zoo-pert’s advice and headed RIGHT upon entry, your first stop will be the polar bears with their large swimming pool and the Aquarium, should you choose to view it.

The elephant house is enormous and the elephants seem to spend most of their time near the perimeters in hopes of catching some snacks purchased by zoo goers. Again the intimacy of the Buenos Aires zoo is spectacular and it’s breathtaking to see these amazing animals up so close.

The zoo is also known for its success in breeding white tigers and these, along with the other large cats (pumas, cheetahs, jaguars and lions) are all in well built enclosures where they’re easy to spot. Each enclosure lists the animal with some basic information for those wishing to educate themselves on the wildlife. Information such as where you can find them in the wild, the types of food they eat (interestingly enough, none mention the Comidas Animales!) and other key characteristics about each inhabitant is listed.

If the white tigers aren’t impressing the kids and they’re getting rambunctious, not to worry. The middle of the zoo houses a playground fully equipped with swings and slides for them to exert all that extra energy. The zoo also has two carousels located at the back and far left. The one in the rear is always running and is nearby a rest area with food. It’s a great halfway point and the perfect load off.

Zoo and more

The region dedicated to Africa is located on the left side of the zoo which again bodes spectacularly intimate views of anything you’d hope to see. This gives way to a petting zoo where at the end of your journey (you’re actually allowed to here!) to pet a family of goats, donkeys and Shetland ponies.

If you haven’t had your fill by this time, take another loop. Or, if you have, you’re back at the lagoon and ready for home… Once you’re home and realize that house cat of yours isn’t exactly living up to those white tiger cubs, visit the zoo website to see what other activities and adventures the zoo has to offer. This includes information on birthdays, guided tours and other specialized events: www.zoobuenosaires.com.ar (one such specialized event at the moment is night time zoo opening, as reported on here in Buenos Aires Weekly).

Giraffe at Buenos Aires Zoo

Location of Buenos Aires Zoo

Corner of Avenida Las Heras and Avenida Sarmiento, Palermo

Website: http://www.zoobuenosaires.com.ar/

Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve

October 7, 2007 by · 8 Comments 

A quiet nature reserve just steps from the city

Viewpoint in the Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve

The hustle and bustle of the City Center are lost in the cooling mood of the only ecological reserve in the city, the Reserva Ecologica Costanera Sur. A stone’s throw away from the trendy, modern neighborhood of Puerto Madero and you find yourself walking along the park’s boardwalk littered with nuzzling couples, parillas (steakhouses), and more pigeons than you can throw a stick at.

The Costanera Sur’s walkway borders the front of the reserve and from there you can see the greater landscape that opens up into the park. The boardwalk itself is entertaining, with beautiful architecture and sculptures, casual eateries and dozens of pickup games of futbol. Your initial examination of the swampy marshland is only an introduction to the many more birds and interesting views that await you upon entering.

Patio area in the Costanera Sur nature reserve

Buenos Aires grows its own ecological reserve

The city of Buenos Aires has seen its fair share of change over the years, and the history of the reserve is part of this constant transformation. During the city’s modernization in the mid-20th century, remnants of demolished buildings and construction debris were discarded into the Rio de la Plata. Gradually the debris, mixed with sand from the river began to create the marshy foundation for what is now the reserve. Soon, the plants began to grow, and not long after the birds followed. The ecological park is the result of this interesting history, and a great location for observing that fascinating border where city and country convene.

So although you may see more than a few empty bottles and wrappers that have been thrown all over the small concrete divider at the start of the boardwalk, just remember that debris and waste is the reason you’re there in the first place! And don’t worry, once inside, the heart of the park is much cleaner and well kept.

Nature consuming the city at the Costanera Sur?
[Photo Credit: jmpznz, under this CC licence]

Rent a bike to help explore the nature reserve

The park has two entrances. The main entrance is located on the southern side of the boardwalk and is an excellent place to rent a bicycle for the afternoon. This isn’t a bad way to go if you want to maximize your time bouncing around from view to view.

The entire walk around the reserve will take you more than an hour and that’s without stopping to peer through the reeds and to try and identify birds. The reserve offers several viewpoint stops that allow you a moment to pull out your binoculars and scan over the marshes that navigate through the wetlands. If you forget to bring your own, a few monedas (coins) will allow you a peek through the public binoculars that are placed along decks that skirt out over the marshlands.

Spectacular views with interesting backdrops

The views in the reserve are spectacularly endless. From the parks entrance a quick look back gives you a different view of the boardwalk with the city stretching up behind it. Wandering through the dirt laid paths are benches that offer a brief rest while you take in the quiet escape you’ve earned from your walk.

Perhaps most breathtaking are the views on the eastern side of the park. The Rio de la Plata borders this edge of the reserve and boats can be seen sailing in the distance. The air here is cooler and cleaner than in the busy city and the grassy areas for sitting are a great place to settle down for a relaxing view…

Costanera Sur View in Buenos Aires

This side of the reserve not only boasts amazing views of the river, but one of the best of the city. As you’ve chosen an afternoon away from the crazy downtown streets, it’s more than rewarding to see the city settled in the distance among a foreground of reeds and cattails.

Hide away from busy Buenos Aires down by the river

If you’ve entered the park from the south your walk continues past more scenes of the city and river. The river offers a true boardwalk where with some innovation and a keen eye you can find the entrance from inside the reserve and walk out along the river. On a hot day, or if you’re looking for a truer sense of solitude, this is one of the best hiding places in the city.

A closer look at the passing barges and water below will bring you even further away from the demanding pace of downtown. The northern side of the park offers many other surprises for those with a sharp eye. If you’re riding your rented bicycle too fast you may miss the small veterinary clinic and adoption center at the northern entrance of the park. Designed to offer veterinary assistance to the many birds that inhabit the reserve, you can see hawks and larger birds of prey that may usually be flying too high overhead for such a close examination. The small building also houses some wayward dogs that are now up for adoption; probably a better bet if you’re a Buenos Aires inhabitant rather than a traveler.

The Rio de la Plata as viewed from the Costanera Sur

The end of a relaxing day at the Costanera Sur, Buenos Aires

From here, you’ve almost completed your circle. Your choices of return are to take the northern exit and walk back using the footpath, stopping for any number of snacks along the way (sure to be meat). Or, heading back from inside the park instead gives you a chance to prolong your afternoon oasis and take in more of the reserve.

When you do in fact decide to head on out of the nature reserve, Puerto Madero and the water diques (canals) are your transition home. You’ve probably found yourself hours later and the countless restaurants and bars located here are a perfect way to end your afternoon, or begin your evening. Whether you’re a Buenos Aires native or first time visitor, the Reserva Ecologica Costanera Sur is an ideal way to escape from the city without the headache of organizing day trips or the burden of their cost. Whether you’re a country mouse stuck in the city, or simply looking for an afternoon off, put this attraction near the top of your list.

Location of Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve

Av. Tristán A Rodríguez 1550, near Padre M Migone, Puerto Madero

San Telmo Sunday Fair / Feria

September 29, 2007 by · 23 Comments 

Buenos Aires Antiques and Beyond

Colorful Soda Siphons at the Feria de San Telmo, Buenos Aires

The Feria de San Telmo is one of the most notable and popular events that takes place in Buenos Aires. Nestled in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Buenos Aires, the San Telmo Fair is bustling with unique artisans and antiques every Sunday from about 10am to 4pm (depending on the season and the weather). Perhaps its greatest qualities, besides the architecturally beautiful neighborhood which it calls home, are its exclusive goods and reliable nature. Never a Sunday will there be without tourists pouring into the cobblestone streets of San Telmo for one of a kind antiques, trinkets, art, tango and delicious food.

The San Telmo Fair, in Plaza Dorrego

Set your alarm, it’s morning in San Telmo

The true Feria de San Telmo is in Plaza Dorrego, although, it spills out into the surrounding blocks making it almost impossible to see the entire fair in just one Sunday. Plaza Dorrego houses mostly antique booths where one can find any number of valuables. Some, like original matchbox cars, gramophones and old telephones, which are still fully functional, may fetch a more expensive price, but the authenticity and uniqueness of these antiques make it well worth the extra pesos.

Antique telephones at the Feria de San Telmo

Many booths house truly one of a kind relics where a handmade backgammon board, full dinette sets and antique garments make you feel like you’re looking through your grandmother’s attic rather than a street fair. Antique knives, old jewelry and a myriad of figurines earn a spot in nearly every booth and soda siphons, artwork, mate trinkets and leather goods are in abundance. While the latter may begin to feel redundant all of these effects are an excellent example of Buenos Aires’ charming nature and rich history, and all of them deserve a spot on your shelf.

The Feria de San Telmo isn’t a time to speed shop, as walking too quickly through Plaza Dorrego may cause you to miss the very thing you’ve been looking for. Each booth ultimately has something different to offer and time well spent will turn up something to earn you “Ooohs and Ahhhs” the next time you have guests over.

Puppets at the Feria de San Telmo, Buenos Aires

Take a load off while you load up on anything you want

If you’ve built up an appetite, Plaza Dorrego is bordered by quaint eateries, cafes and bars. One of the varying prices and styles is sure to offer you the exact mid-day break you are looking for. For a taste of home with Argentine style, you can always meander your growling tummy down Defensa Street, an excellent way to view more of the fair. On Defensa, pick up some choripan (a chorizo sausage sandwich) to go and maximize your time munching away happily as you continue shopping (one of the few ways you’ll find mobile food in Argentina). Of course, Buenos Aires never disappoints with a lack of restaurants and a few blocks up or down Defensa and you’re sure to find a place that fits your mood.

Don’t spend it all in one place

If you need a break from the brassy pots and old-style belongings, Defensa provides a more modern attempt at souvenirs. Naturally, leather goods and alpaca furs still pop up from booth to booth, but younger artisans with interesting clothing designs and modern jewelry are a welcome change from the antiques of Plaza Dorrego and the antique stores lining Defensa. If you have room in your suitcase or a place in the corner of your room, quirky lamps and art pieces are a must see. If your outfit needs jazzing up, then the scarves, hats and purses will surely catch your eye.

Brass pots and things in Plaza Dorrego, Buenos Aires

It’s a beautiful Sunday, enjoy the view

If you happen to remember to take your eyes off of the endless maze of booths and gaze upward, the architecture of San Telmo is spectacular and a relic all on its own. San Telmo boasts extremely beautiful buildings that stand as they were, when they were built over a hundred years ago. In fact, the walk from Plaza de Mayo towards Plaza Dorrego is almost as rewarding architecturally as it is for day shopping. Another reason to perhaps leave the house early, and take your time.

If you’ve somehow managed to enjoy all the fair has to offer, and remembered to take Defensa all the way to Parque Lezama, which has its own street fair and flea market, let yourself wander through more of the surrounding blocks. San Telmo’s quaint and quirky nature is spellbinding, and a right turn here or left turn there, and a ten-man orchestra has attracted your attention.

Street entertainers in San Telmo, Buenos Aires

Many of the street performers here deserve a closer look and many of them are geared towards the kids. (It’s important to mention as well, that you certainly won’t leave without catching a street tango performance). Be sure to mark the map with any museums you pass along the way. These gorgeous buildings are eye catching and if they’re not open on Sunday they deserve a day for themselves during the workweek.

Getting there is half the fun

If you’ve taken advantage of San Telmo the way it’s intended, you might need an extra suitcase home and more shelf room once you arrive. The best way to tackle the fair is walking from Plaza de Mayo down Defensa. It’s a wonderful transition from the city and an architectural delight. However, if you prefer to start closer to Plaza Dorrego and jump-start your antique splurge, there is a Subte (subway) stop on the C line at Avenida San Juan, about 6 blocks away from the fair. Like any true gem of a city attraction, don’t expect the fair to jump right out in front of you. From the right (or rather, wrong) side street you can almost miss it, making the San Telmo fair a real Buenos Aires treasure.

San Telmo Fair, Plaza Dorrego

Location of the Feria de San Telmo

Plaza Dorrego, corner of Defensa & Humberto Primo, San Telmo

Chiqué Tango Milonga

August 21, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Tango dancing in an authentic Spanish club

Tango Dancing at the Chique Milonga in Congreso, Buenos Aires

*If you want to check out some authentic tango salons in Buenos Aires, the easiest and most fun way to do so is on a private tango nightlife tour, where your personal guide will show you the local scene and explain everything that is going on to you, taking you to the best places on the night of your choice. For more information, click here.*

There are countless ways to experience the art of tango in Buenos Aires, the city where it was born. If you’ve already seen a flashy show and some impromptu street performances but are STILL not satisfied, attending a a tango milonga (a venue for dancing tango) where the dance is found in its natural habitat may be the answer.

Chiqué Tango Milonga is one such venue. Chiqué is held every Thursday afternoon on the first floor of Casa Galicia, a Spanish club in Congreso (near the city center). A Spanish restaurant is on the second floor. The hall consists of a very old wooden dance floor in excellent condition, which is surrounded by tables with tablecloths, women sitting on one side, men on the other, and couples at the end in the traditional manner.

There is a small stage at one end where the DJ does his thing. The other end of the salon has big windows with a balcony. There is no physical bar, but waitresses take all orders to the kitchen where they are filled by bartender just the same. There is a coat check, and a bathroom attendant. The organizers are always there to welcome their guests. Patrons are expected to order drinks, from bottled water to champagne. Snacks are also available.

The Dance Hall in Casa Galicia

A friendly, welcoming milonga

This milonga has a family feel – very comfortable and friendly. There are good dancers but people don’t go there to strut their stuff; they go to mix and mingle and have fun dancing. The Cabeceo (the inviting to dance with nods of the head) is strictly observed, but still the milonga feels informal and relaxed. There is no pressure or elitism.

A few foreigners attend, but the milonga is not dripping with them and those who prey on them. The dancers are well-groomed and well-dressed and generally between the ages of 50-80, but with younger exceptions. If a lady isn’t dancing much, the organizer himself may invite her.

Dancing up a tango storm at Chique

Strictly Tango

Unlike some other milongas, there are no tandas (blocks) of other types of music. It’s strictly tango (tango, vals and milonga) in Chiqué.

Chiqué used to be held at Club Español where it drew many more attendees due to the elaborate architecture. Many visitors would pay to go into the milonga just to gape at it’s beautiful gilt salon. This isn’t so in Casa Galicia, which is still very nice, but nothing extraordinary in terms of architecture. There is an image of Santiago el Major in a glass case on the wall, and several huge oil paintings of the homeland (which could use a wash). There are chandeliers and gewgaws on the ceiling, and air conditioning is rumored to be on its way.

Help support Chiqué

Unfortunately, with the move from Club Español, some people have gone elsewhere. And if more people don’t begin to frequent this new location, perhaps Chiqué will be in trouble.

However, as of now, Chiqué is a great place to spend a charming Thursday afternoon sampling the Buenos Aires milonga scene, before running off to dinner or to dance at a late-night milonga.

[Article written by Cherie Magnus]

Location of Chiqué Tango Milonga

Casa Galicia: San Jose 224, corner of Alsina, City Center

If you want to try Chiqué on your own:
Open Thursday afternoons 4pm-10pm
Organizer: Julio Auliel / DJ: Dany Borelli
Reservations: 4201-7199 or 15-6140-7830

Avenida Corrientes Bookstores

July 24, 2007 by · 11 Comments 

The famous bookstores of Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires bookstores on Avenida Corrientes

Buenos Aires is no doubt one of the most literary cities on the planet. The people here know the value of a good book, whether it’s poetry, fiction, art, anthropology, self-help, or psychology (not only can you bet that most porteños have read some Freud, but there is even an area of Palermo – Villa Freud – named after him).

If you wish to properly observe this social fact, you absolutely must visit the bookstores of Corrientes, the famous avenue that bristles with the action of theaters, cinemas, cafes, shops, and people with their noses stuck in used copies of anthologies of Argentine history or poetry.

Buenos Aires’ bookstore hotspot

Every bookstore has its own history and character, but all of them proudly display extensive collections of works by Argentine and Latin American authors and artists, as well as North American and classical European works, calendars, and CDs. Very few of them have any English language sections, although if you dig around you should find a few English offerings.

Most of the bookstores deal primarily in new books, but you’ll find some used books as well. With books scattered here, there and everywhere, presentation is not a priority – very different to more upscale bookstore chains in Buenos Aires like Boutique del Libro or El Ateneo.

If you don’t read Spanish, it is still enjoyable to peruse the stores simply because they are unique in their atmosphere and awesome in their vast quantity of texts. You could always get a children’s book or calendar as a souvenir. Or maybe it’s about time you learned to read Spanish… after all, it’s a language that is truly rich in expressions and has hundreds of years of literary heritage.

A typical Avenida Corrientes bookstore

Here are some excellent spots for book-hunting on Corrientes. The best way to visit them is to start at the Obelisco (subway station Carlos Pellegrini, on Av. 9 de Julio) and walk up Corrientes going westward (towards Av. Callao). The places listed below go in order from east to west so you can follow them like a walking tour. You could spend thirty minutes briefly poking your head into them, or an entire afternoon going through the immense selections.

Obel Libros

This modest bookstore has been in operation for about a decade and is run by a friendly middle-aged man who will be excited to practice his English with you. The special items you will find here are encyclopedias for students, books focusing on Latin American social and economic matters, and used novels.

Cuspide Libros

If you want professional guides for things such as computers, culinary arts, tourism, and hostelry (in Spanish, of course), Cuspide offers a wide range of these books. It also has the usual offerings of cheaply produced novels and non-fiction books.

Libreria Lucas

Liberia Lucas bookstore on Avenida Corrientes

At Lucas you will find a good selection of well-kept used books, which might interest collectors or book sellers. Also here are plenty of children’s books.

Libreria Hernandez

There are two Hernandez locations on Corrientes, within a few blocks of each other. A very extensive selection of books is offered, with topics such as Latin American revolutions, Che Guevara, economics, politics, Peronism, Argentine history, religion (you may notice that there are a lot of books about Judaism, a subject Argentines are fascinated by, due to the large Jewish population here), self-help, and psychology.

Are you looking for a gift?  Pick up one of the colorful cookbooks with recipes for traditional porteño favorites. You may even find a few cookbooks in English, or even one that explains methods for the traditional Argentine asado (barbeque). Also at Hernandez is a great collection of art books, with a focus on artists from Argentina and Buenos Aires.

Liberia Hernandez bookstore on Av Corrientes

Libreria Libertador

Don’t miss this classic Corrientes bookstore, with its unbelievably cheap classics by Spanish and Latin American authors, poetry collections, children’s books, and offerings by Shakespeare, Kahlil Gibran, Henry James, and more. The prices are low enough that you might buy books even if you can’t read Spanish.

If you are traveling around Argentina, you might also look for the nicely done travel guides published by the newspaper El Clarin. They can come in handy and are much lighter than the Lonely Planet you are probably lugging around.

Also at Libreria Libertador there are random items such as dollhouse parts and furniture, calendars with themes of Argentina and Buenos Aires, old magazines that will delight collectors, heaps of crossword puzzle books, CDs by composers such as Beethoven and Vivaldi with booklets providing information about the music, and, if you dare, a backroom full of dirty magazines and videos.

Magazines and Puzzle books also abound

Posada Libros

This enormous bookstore stretches back into a building big enough for two businesses. You’ll find the usual suspects here: cheap novels, books on the humanities (philosophy, anthropology, religion), CDs (Latin and classical music), and so on. Mainly it’s worth visiting Posada Libros just to see so many books in one place.

Between the Bookstores

Once you’ve tired of the Corrientes book-walk in the Buenos Aires City Center,  you most definitely deserve a break. If you get hungry, head to Pizzeria Guerrin (touted as one of the best pizza restaurants in Buenos Aires), or for a mid-day coffee break, to El Gato Negro (a beautiful old cafe and spice shop).

While you are bookstore-hopping, watch out for the plenty of artisans who set up their displays on the sidewalks of Corrientes. Also you’ll walk by some of Buenos Aires’ famous theaters – inquire there about the latest spectacles.

Location of Avenida Corrientes Bookstores

Various stops along Avenida Corrientes, between Avenida 9 de Julio & Avenida Callao, City Center

Un Altra Volta Ice Cream

July 16, 2007 by · 11 Comments 

The best Helado / Gelato / Ice Cream in Buenos Aires?

Cuarto Kilo of Gelato from Un Altra Volta in Recoleta

Out of all the ice cream parlors in Buenos Aires, Un Altra Volta in Recoleta is certainly up there in the cream of the crop. And this is in a city where the ice cream is some of the best in the world, due to the heavy Italian influence here. If the picture above does not convince you, read on for more information on Buenos Aires’ grand ice cream tradition.

Buenos Aires and the Italian Connection

The entrance to Un Altra Volta, RecoletaIn related articles reviewing Banchero Pizzeria and Caminito street, both in the ‘Italian’ barrio of La Boca, you can read more in depth history regarding the huge amounts of Italian immigration into Argentina around the turn of the 20th century. Of course, they brought with them Pizza and Pasta, two staples of both the diets of Italy and Buenos Aires, but also Ice Cream, or gelato (the version more common in Italy), the third prong of the proud Italian food triumvirate.

It has been dared to say that Un Altra Volta (known by most simply as Volta) boasts better ice cream than anywhere in Italy… though that is a bold statement. At this point, it must be clarified that Volta serves gelato, and there is a slight difference between this Italian concoction and your common ice cream or helado.

Ice Cream v. Gelato

So what is gelato anyway? Here, Buenos Aires foodie Saltshaker clears things up in his own review of Un Altra Volta:

“…the nutshell difference between gelato and ice cream…? Gelato has no air whipped into it, even top of the line premium ice creams have some, and lower quality ones have lots. Gelato does not generally contain cream, it uses whole milk, and contains more eggs. This results in a treat that is lower in fat (generally 3-6% versus ice cream’s 11-15%) but denser in texture, more intensity of flavor, and it’s served at a slightly warmer temperature to make it soft enough to scoop, yet, because of the egg versus cream thing, it doesn’t tend to drip all over as quickly.”

For the ice cream fanatic, Saltshaker also has an excellent page dedicated to an overview of Ice Cream Parlors in Buenos Aires.

Counter at Un Altra Volta, Recoleta

Another well-known Buenos Aires foodie, La Otra Dimension, adds the following about the difference of gelato

“…gelato flavours are often wonderfully intense thanks two factors. First of all, gelato has a lower fat content than ice cream; and fat, by nature, coats our tastebuds and dulls our perception of flavour. More importantly, gelato is made with a much higher proportion of fresh and natural flavouring agents such as ripe fruits or nuts.”

Note that the lower fat content in gelato makes it less filling, so you can eat a lot more, and make up for the fact that it is less fattening than regular ice cream.

Gelato from the gods

Dulce de Leche flavors at Un Altra VoltaWhatever your choice of flavors, Volta does not disappoint. If you’re looking for a real taste of Buenos Aires, try the extreme sweetness of dulce de leche flavored gelato. Mix in contrasting strong flavor like chocolate amargo (dark chocolate) to balance the flavors. Both of these choices are just heavenly at Un Altra Volta.

Futuristic ice cream at Un Altra Volta

The ice cream parlor is also a fantastic place to slowly enjoy your gelato, with a very white, futuristic, clean-looking interior that makes you feel like you have been transported into the future where the secret of 100% perfect ice cream has finally been cracked.

It is also a great place for a coffee with friends, especially on a nice spring or summer day when you can sit out in the lovely shaded patio at the back. There is always a nice mix of people there, always quite busy, with a chatty atmosphere, typical of the cafes in Recoleta. Plus, the staff are extremely courteous and attentive. And if you don’t feel like ice cream, then a nice alternative is coffee with a few of their finely crafted chocolates, which although they don’t quite reach the heights of the gelato, are certainly very tasty.

Coffee and chocolates in the outdoor patio at Un Altra Volta

Location of Un Altra Volta

Avenida Santa Fe 1826, between Av. Callao & Riobamba, Recoleta
[see website for other locations]

Delivery Tel: 0810-88-VOLTA,  Website: http://www.unaltravolta.com.ar/

Tour del Gelato

Tour del Gelato – discovering the world’s best gelato.

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