Beautiful Bridge in Puerto Madero

July 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

El Puente de la Mujer in Buenos Aires’s business district

Crossing the diques (docks) to Buenos Aires’s elite district of Puerto Madero, you’ll undoubtedly spot one of BA’s most iconic structures: El Puente de La Mujer, or Woman’s Bridge. A beacon to all pedestrians, this elegant and sophisticated homage to women is one of the city’s most contemporary structures, curving over the waters of the Rio de la Plata.

BA bridge of the woman

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

The bridge was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, a pioneer of the Cantilever spar cable-stayed bridge. Open for pedestrian passage only, it was completed in 2001. You may (like I have) spend hours contemplating the angles and shape of the bridge, wondering which parts correspond to a literal representation of a woman or if it’s simply a conceptual nod to womanly grace and elegance. But actually it was named as such because the streets of Puerto Madero are all named for famous and important Argentine women; the architect likens the structure to the synthesis of a couple dancing tango (aha, now I see it!).

White Bridge Buenos Aires

[Photo credit: shell belle’s photostream//CC BY-NC 2.0

Puerto Madero is one of the only places in the city where you can see and enjoy the river. So head down to the restored docks on a beautiful day, and experience the bridge for yourself! If you’d like to see how it opens, you could wait around until a ship shows up, but that could be a long while (Puerto Madero is not the city’s functioning port, see below); why not just watch a video of the bridge open! It is particularly lovely all lit up at night, or on a windy day, with the brackish river water rippling below.

Puente de la Mujer Puerto Madero at night

[Photo credit: verovera78’s photostream//CC BY-NC 2.0]

Puerto Madero: from rags to riches

Because the Rio de la Plata river is so shallow, docking cargo ships was a challenge in the old days. Boats used to stop off shore and small crafts would bring passengers closer in, where high-wheeled carriages (or in some cases, slaves) carried passengers ashore. Puerto Madero was finally constructed as the port of the city, commissioned by Eduardo Madero in 1887. It was soon made obsolete, however, by the construction of the New Port (further North, on the waterfront beside the Retiro neighborhood) in 1926. From this point on, the region fell into decay and became one of the most derelict sectors of the city.

In the 1990’s, however, the city and national governments joined forces, attracting major local and foreign investment, to revamp the old port into Buenos Aires’s most chic and elite neighborhood. Old warehouses were converted into smart offices, lofts, restaurants, and the new space for the private Catholic university, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Argentina.

Green Buenos Aires Puerto Madero
[Photo credit: David Sasake’s photostream//CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]

If it’s a hot day in Buenos Aires, this neighborhood is blessed with a revitalizing breeze. The docks are great for strolling, biking, or sightseeing; keep your eyes open for a crazy guy on roller blades, who skates up and down the block razzing tourists and making jokes. Next head into the Puerto Madero neighborhood itself, and saunter among the towers that house Argentina’s wealthy. Sip a luxury cocktail at the Faena Hotel + Universe before exploring one of our favorite regions of the city, the Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve.

Read more about the history of Puerto Madero’s development on Wander Argentina, or check out some of the most beautiful pedestrian bridges in the world as rated by Travel + Leisure.

Location of Puente de la Mujer

Juana Manuela de Gorriti between Azucena Villaflor and Macacha Guemes
Puerto Madero

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

Palermo Hippodrome Horse Racing

November 13, 2006 by · 14 Comments 

Palermo Hipodromo Horses Action Shot!

The ‘Hipodromo Argentino’ in Palermo

For fans of horse racing, the ‘Hipodromo Argentino’ (Argentina’s Main Racecourse) is definitely worth a visit. If you are here in mid-November, you may even be able to catch the most important event in the racing calendar, the ‘Gran Premio Nacional’, which is sometimes also known as the ‘Argentine Derby.’

You may expect the Hipodromo to be full of annoying, snooty, better-than-you upper class people, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Just like race meetings in the UK or US, there is a mix of all types of people there, including many families, enjoying the day out in the sun.

The history of Buenos Aires Hippodrome

Palermo Hipodromo winner

This beautiful race track was inaugurated on 7th May 1876, when a horse called Resbaloso took the honors in the first race, watched by 10 thousand people. These days, in addition to this sport being called ‘Turf’ here in Argentina, almost all of the horses have English names, which means it is often fun to hear the racetrack announcer try and fail with the pronunciation.

The main entrance and stand was built in 1908, with a capacity of 2,000, by a French architect named Faure Dujarric, in the usual lovely Art Nouveau style of that period that is seen all through Buenos Aires, especially in Recoleta and along Avenida de Mayo in the city center.

The Hipodromo has been privately owned since 1992. That probably goes some way towards explaining the over-zealous security guards there who will no doubt harass you not to take pictures.

Palermo Hipodromo Argentino - Main Building

Also inside that building are seemingly miles and miles of underground slot machines. There are in fact more than 2000 of these automated money grabbers – and they are more popular than the horses, in fact that part of the Hipodromo is open 24 hrs a day, 365 days a year. It’s one of those places where can’t tell what time of day it is if you lose track of time, or just lose yourself among the miles of slot machines. There is certainly a lot of money in this building, which again may explain the tight security.

The ‘Gran Premio Nacional’ of Argentina

The Argentine equivalent of the Derby is called the Gran Premio Nacional, running on a chosen Saturday every mid-November. It was first run in 1884. The best horses in Argentina compete in the race, for the honor of being the best in a country that has some excellent horses.

Another nice touch you may get to experience at a historic race such as the Gran Premio is the performance of the national anthem before the main race by the Granaderos, the Argentine horseback regiment formed by General San Martin, who is the main Argentine independence hero.

Granaderos playing Argentine National Anthem at Palermo Hipodromo

The Hipodromo – Getting there and getting in

The Hipodromo is not too easily reachable by public transport, but it is definitely doable. You can either get the subway Line D to the Palermo stop, and then walk about 5 blocks along Avenida Intendente Bullrich  (pass ‘Jumbo’ supermarket) until you reach Av. Dorrego, where you will see the Hipodromo across the street and to the left. Or you can get either bus 10, 36, 160 or 166, which all drop you off in that area. But it is probably easiest to get a taxi there and back.

Entrance to the Hipodromo has varying costs, depending on the day you go and the importance of the race. Not very much for what is a very nice, long day out – races usually start around noon and go right the way into the evening. You can check ahead when races are held by calling 4778-2800 (if you speak Spanish) or on www.palermo.com.ar – click ‘Informacion Hipica’ followed by ‘Calendario y Resultados’ for a list of all the race meeting dates, which continue all year round.

Location of the Palermo Hippodrome

Avenida del Libertador 4100, between Avenida Dorrego and Olleros, Palermo

Buenos Aires > Things to do Buildings and Architecture > Palermo Hippodrome

 

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