Category Archives: culture

Rainy Day Activities in Buenos Aires

It’s a rainy Monday in Buenos Aires. Luckily, there’s still plenty to do. Here’s our list of “Rainy Day Activities.” Many of these activities are the sort of luxuries I don’t usually allow myself when traveling since I’m on a budget. But a little treat on a rainy day is always welcome. Some of the others are free or cheap, for those counting their pesos.

  1. Catch a Movie
    I love watching movies in other countries. Moviegoers around the world have different customs. For one thing, you can order your popcorn (popchocle) either sweet (dulce) or salty (salado) and you can also have a beer with it. But the main reason I like seeing movies in other countries is because our culture determines how we react, or don’t react, to different parts of the story.  I’ve often found myself laughing out loud when everyone else is silent and scratching my head when the people next to me are cracking up. You can find a list of cinemas in Buenos Aires at Time Out Buenos Aires.Another reason to go to the movies is that it’s a great way to practice your Spanish (castellano). If the movie is in English, it’s typically subtitled in Spanish. It’s two hours of entertainment and a language lesson all in one. And if you really want to test your language skills, check out a local film.
  2. Visit the MALBA
    Museums sometimes make me sleepy. I think the maximum amount of time I can spend looking at art is about two hours. This is why I love the MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires). The collection is just the right size for me. After wandering through the rooms, I could have still seen another room or tow. I wanted more because I got to see works from artists I’ve long admired like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and because I’d never even heard of some of the other artists like Antonio Berni, Jorge de la Vega, Joaquin Torres-Garcia (from Uruguay). The size of the collection meant that I had the time to stay, observe, take in, and enjoy the works without rushing to the next room because my niece was going to run out of steam. Even my 15-year-old niece loved the art.

    The MALBA Museum in Buenos Aires

    The MALBA Museum in Buenos Aires

    She did run out of steam before the rest of us. So, she went to the cafe to catch up on her summer reading. We found her there pretending to be a local and sipping hot chocolate. She couldn’t stop talking about how it was the best hot chocolate she’d ever had in her life. Then she begged us to stay there for lunch.

    Lunch at Cafe des Arts

    Lunch at Cafe des Arts

    I was skeptical because museum food is often touristy and, well, bad. Not the Cafe des Arts. The chef, Jean Paul Bondoux, is from Bourgogne in France. Not suprisingly, every plate was fantastic. From the sandwiches with fresh salad and crisp french fries to the plate of pasta with mushrooms. It was all delicious.

    Arab Lamb Sandwich

    Arab Lamb Sandwich

    Croque Monsieur at Cafe des Arts

    Croque Monsieur at Cafe des Arts

    Penne con Funghi

    Penne con Funghi

    The museum is open from noon to 8PM, Thursday to Sunday and from noon to 9PM on Wednesdays when entrance to the museum is free (they ask for a 5 peso donation). Otherwise, it costs 15 pesos to enter. MALBA is closed on Tuesdays. From Thursday to Sunday, MALBAcine shows artsy films starting at 2PM until midnight most days.

  3. Hit the Mall
    I’m not much of a shopper, but shopping in Buenos Aires is a cultural experience and I’m all for cultural experiences. If it’s raining outside, you’ll probably want to take shelter in one of the many shopping centers. Here are the two I’d go to because you could spend the whole day there even if you don’t like to shop.
    I’d probably start at Galerias Pacifico because the turn-of-the-century building is gorgeous. The frescoes on the ceiling were painted by five Argentinean muralists.

    Fountain at Galerias Pacifico, by lrargerich on Flickr

    Fountain at Galerias Pacifico, by lrargerich on Flickr

    You can sit in the cafe down near the fountain and people-watch all afternoon, but the main reason I’d choose this shopping center is because on the top floor you’ll find the Centro Cultural Borges. There are art exhibits, live performances of music and dance, and showings of independent films. It’s open from 10AM to 9PM, Monday to Saturday and from noon to 9PM on Sundays. Tickets cost 10 pesos.

    The second shopping center I want to mention is Abasto. While I would prefer to go on a sunny day so that I could wander the streets of nearby Once, if you’re short on time and it’s raining, Abasto is a great option. I like Once, the nearby barrio, because it reminds me of the huge market in Cairo, although it looks nothing like it. But there are blocks devoted to textiles, others devoted to electronics, or to houseware, or to handbags. It’s lively haggling and full of energy. And there are some great Jewish delis in the neighborhood (try the empanadas arabes). Ok, so now that I’ve sold you on Once, let me sell you on Abasto.

    Abasto at Night, by Concepciones Relativistas on Flickr

    Abasto at Night, by Concepciones Relativistas on Flickr

    First off, you’d likely be the only tourist in the mall. Secondly, the building is amazing. Abasto is in the old tango district of Buenos Aires and the shopping center is housed in the old market, El Mercado de Abasto. It’s a very creative way to preserve old buildings whose purpose needs to be reinvented.

    Abasto, by puroticoricoon Flickr

    Abasto, by puroticoricoon Flickr

    Years ago you’d find produce, meats, and flowers. Today, in this beautiful example of Art Deco architecture from the 1930s, you can find Nike, Puma, and many other brands. There are over 200 stores, likely the most diverse shopping center in the city, so there’s something for everyone. For more on the history of the area and the building, read the Buenos Aires Argentina Guide.

  4. Get Pampered
    Well, why not? I’m the kind of person who puts off pampering myself. I say I’ll go, but I really only treat myself when someone else gifts it to me. That said, the only massage I’ve had in Buenos Aires was at Valle Tierra (it was a gift from my swamp sister, Natalia). The massage was excellent. I also liked the decor. It was calming, but not sterile. The furniture, rugs, and pieces of art come from the northern regions of Argentina (think Santa Fe, New Mexico). Lots of earthy tones.

    A couple the stayed with us a few weeks ago on their honeymoon spent a day at AquaVita. After months of planning the wedding and a weekend of serious celebration, a spa was what they needed. They had very good things to say about AquaVita. But I found a review from the Times Online where a commenter had a less favorable opinion. Since the complaint was about the customer service, and since I know that the idea of customer service here in Argentina is very different from the US and the UK, I’d take that complaint with a grain of salt. Or better. If you’re going to a spa, focus on the facilities and the quality of the massages. Ignore the service because you may not be able to relax unless you do.

  5. Have a Tea Party
    Indulge yourself at the Alvear Palace Hotel, one of Buenos Aires’ most beautiful hotels, for afternoon tea. this is a seriously decadent, albeit hoity-toity, experience. L’Orangerie is the restaurant in the hotel that serves high tea. Rule #1: ignore the snobby socialites looking at you because you are clearly nobody they recognize as important (besides, you are important, they just don’t know it). However, if fitting in matters to you, get dressed up and be sure to wear your pearls. Rule #2: only order one full tea for three or fewer people. One is plenty for three people.

    The Spread

    The Spread

    Rule #3: take your time. Just when you think they’ve brought all the goodies to the table and you’ve stuffed yourself full, out comes another plate.

    And then theres the cake

    And then there's the cake

  6. Browse Bookshelves
    I love books. My sister’s attic is full of boxes of books I just can’t part with. One day she’s going to make me decide. To keep my book collection manageable, I now check the book out thoroughly before buying it.  I can spend hours browsing the bookshelves, flipping the pages, asking myself if I can live without this book. My favorite bookstores for a rainy afternoon are El Ateneo, in Barrio Norte/Recoleta, and Boutique del Libro, in Palermo. They offer very different experiences.
    El Ateneo is the most beautiful bookstore in the world. I’m not exaggerating. They took an old theater where tango was once danced and turned it into a massive bookstore, leaving the balconies, the stage, the lighting for the most part, and the magic.

    El Ateneo Bookstore in Recoleta, by longhorndave on Flickr

    El Ateneo Bookstore in Recoleta, by longhorndave on Flickr

    You can have a coffee or tea at the cafe on the stage. I don’t recommend ordering food though. It’s mediocre, and that’s being kind. Check out Argentina’s Travel Guide’s write up on El Ateneo (by the way, Argentina’s Travel Guide also has a pocket guide BA’s bookstores in .pdf format which you can download here).

    If you’re in a more chill mood and if you’re hungry, I’d recommend el Boutique del Libro. The food is much better and it has a grab-a-book-and-a-cup-of-coffee atmosphere.

    Boutique del Libro on Thames in Palermo

    Boutique del Libro on Thames in Palermo

    Plus, they’re usually playing great music. In fact, if you hear something you like, just ask the cashier in the music department what’s playing. The music selection isn’t large, but it is good. I could spend all afternoon here.

So, what are your favorite rainy day activities in Buenos Aires? Did we miss something? I’m sure we did.

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New Digs… La Cupula!

It’s a holiday weekend and what weather we are having! I’ve just come back from a trip home to Louisiana where it was cooler than here in Buenos Aires today. I love it!

So, what have we been up to? Well, besides visiting the family back home, I’ve spent the past few months looking for an apartment, getting it set up and learning more than I ever wanted to know about the art of getting stuff done in Buenos Aires. By stuff done, I mean things like getting the Internet hooked up, heaters working (which we don’t even need yet), hooking up the hot water, sealing leaks in the roof, finding a technician to work on our fridge which was freezing everything… really fun stuff like that.

Long-term apartment rentals here don’t work the same way they do in the States. They aren’t painted and readied up for the new tenants. Your phone may or may not work. Your toilet may spray water at the wall when you flush it. It’s quite an adventure. I went through it two years ago in the last place I rented. And here I am again, spending my days on the phone with the operators of the various companies to see just when they think they may come by…

“You’re on the list.”
“Great, so they’re coming today?”
“They’ll call you.”
“But my phone doesn’t work.”
“They’ll ring the doorbell.”
“That doesn’t work either. This is why I’m calling you to see when they’ll come.”

We haven’t had Internet for about two months even though we placed the order the first week of April. Seriously! We’ve been waiting for seven weeks for the guy to bring us the modem. One day, they called us just to let us know that they would be calling. They didn’t call. Then we learned that you can actually pick the modem up yourself. Ah, but there’s a catch. If you’ve already ordered Internet and you’re on the list, you cannot come by to pick it up. You have to cancel your order and then order it again 72 hours later and tell them that you want to come to pick up the modem yourself.

Ok, I don’t have that much to complain about because I love the new place. It’s in the same building as the Loft and the Pad, the two apartments Natalia, Gonzalo and I rent out. In fact, since we had no hot water and our fridge was freezing everything, we stayed in the Loft for the first week.

Here’s what sold me on the new digs…..we’re on the top floor and we have a dome! A dome! (On our Flickr site you can see our process–still ongoing–of making the Cupula a home.)

THE DOME!

JB hated the place when he first saw it, but I begged him to give it a chance. I mean, when will we ever live in an apartment with a dome again in our lives? It’s taken a lot of work to make it livable, but JB and I have hosted our first guest. His sister made her first trip overseas and we may have even convinced her to see if her company would transfer her to Buenos Aires. Now, that’s a successful visit!

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La Peña del Colorado

Where do you take a newcomer to Buenos Aires to show him the grittier, more rustic, and way romantic side of the music I so love? La Peña del Colorado of course (we mentioned it in our list of Ten Things to Do in Buenos Aires). The live shows are great, but I also recommend staying later to see the spontaneous guitarists and drunken singers that stick around until dawn. Plan for a late night.

 La Jury

Last Friday we watched La Jury sing her heart out for over two hours. La Jury, whose real name is Luciana, is from Buenos Aires. She sings in the style called “canto criollo.” Here are the names of a few famous criollo singers from Chile, Argentina, and Mexico to help you get familiarized with the style should you want to study up on the style before getting here (Violeta Parra, Mercedes Sosa, Lhasa del Sela, Chango Rodriguez, Oscar Valles, Chavela Vargas). 

At first, La Jury was accompanied by Carlos Delgado on guitar and vocals. 

Midway through her performance, master guitarist, Carlos Moscardini, joined her. Amazing. Truly amazing. 

 Carlos Moscardini

My memory stick was full, which was a total bummer because Carlos Moscardini’s guitar playing coupled with La Jury’s amazing pipes was truly spectacular. But here is Carlos Moscardini on guitar. Wow!

La Peña del Colorado is located in Palermo/Barrio Norte on Guemes, 3657. Call for a reservation and ask for a table close to the stage. The show was scheduled to start at 10:00 but really began closer to 10:30 (as is to be expected in Argentina). It cost 25 pesos for the show, and we had some dinner, too. Now, let me say that I would not go to La Peña del Colorado for sophisticated dishes or the best of Buenos Aires (here’s the menu). But I love that it is so very typical. Typical parrilla fare. Very good empanadas salteñas. Yummy casseroles of pumpkin with quinoa and goat cheese. Traditional guisos or locro. Tablas of cheese, meats and olives. It’s not creative; it’s traditional. As it should be.

 

La Jury y Carlos Moscardini

If you really want to do things the way the locals do, order a penguino instead of a regular bottle of wine and ask for a bottle of soda to go with it. The penguino is actually the shape of the pitcher that the house wine is served in. Because it’s not the greatest quality wine, Argentines often add a bit of soda to it. It’s like a sangria without the goodies. If you’re picky about wine, you might want to get a regular bottle first to have with your food and then switch over to the penguino when your taste buds don’t care anymore.

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Polo in Buenos Aires

Dust Flies
The 115th Argentine Open Polo Championship is underway in Palermo. This is one of the oldest and most well respected tournaments in the world with some of the very best polo players. The matches are held on Saturdays and Sundays at 3:00 and 5:30 pm.

 Goal posts

There are two more weeks left, so get your tickets and spend the day in the sun hobnobbing with the hordes of socialites.

Rapido

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Noche de los Museos 2008

We’re back. After a very long hiatus, mostly due to vacationing (check out my photos of Hawaii), somewhat due to work, and greatly due to my holding my breath until Obama got elected, we’re back to blogging. And it’s just in time really. My favorite night of the year is coming up. La Noche de los Museos (The Night of the Museums).

 

Malba

That’s right, this Saturday, Nov. 15, the museums of Buenos Aires (and many other cities around the world, will be open from 7:00 pm – 2:00 am. It’s not just that visiting a museum after dark is fun, nor is it just that the museums are all free, nor is it that the city designates certain bus routes devoted to getting you from one museum to another, nor is it that the buses are also free. No, it’s that there’s champagne and music and dance and theater and really cool people and, of course, amazing art. Talk about a little slice of heaven.

So, how does it work? Well, you need a plan. There are 120 museums and galleries participating this year, so choose which ones you want to go to based somewhat on their vicinity to one another. If you’re familiar with the major museums, try those in places like Barracas, Boedo, Mataderos, or Caballito. There’s a list of possible itineraries to consider on the website.

How does one get around? Well, the city has doubled the number of buses running on the following lines: 29, 64, 78, 80, 87, 92, 100, 111, 127, 130, and 134. But make sure you print out your pass (Pase Libre) and carry it with you for free transport on these bus lines from 6:00 pm – 3:00 am.

My personal advice is to steer clear of the big guys like MALBA. There are too many people so you’ll spend the whole night waiting in line just to get in. Plus, the MALBA is free on Wednesdays anyway. Find an area with several smaller museums close enough to walk from one to the other. Then take a bus to another area that also has several museums you haven’t visited. Go with some friends and wear comfortable shoes.

P.S. La Noche de los Museos actually marks the beginning of my third year in Buenos Aires and the anniversary of the night I met the other two members of the San Telmo Loft trio, Natalia and Gonzalo. Two years ago, I met Naty and Gonzalo through a friend. They invited me to join them that night. We started at the Fragata Sarmiento in Puerto Madero. And many blisters later we ended up eating an asado in Belgrano after having visited the Casa de Yrurtia and Museo de Arte Español Enrique Larreta. We saw a live rock band, live tango dancers, a theater performance, a ton of history, amazing architecture, fabulous pieces of art, and a good bit of the city along the way. Now that’s how I like to spend a Saturday night!

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Cooking with Teresita

When my mom and niece came to visit at the end of July, I wanted to make sure they would leave wanting to come back again and again. Since my niece, who’s 15 years old, mostly wanted to shop and hang out in cafes people watching, and my mom mostly wanted to check out the architecture, eat delicious food, and see some museums and churches, I had to find something to do that would be a hit with both of them. Hmmm… what do we all have in common? Ah, yes. We all love to cook.

I researched online and found the options for cooking classes in Buenos Aires to be pretty scarce. Many of the classes in the city were oriented towards professionals. I was looking for something more informal, more fun.

Cooking with Teresita seemed to be the right choice. Apart from having a variety of options, I loved that she was located outside of the city. Taking the train from the Constitución station to Adrogué was easy enough. Trains depart every 30 minutes or so and Adrogué is about 30 minutes away. 

Adrogué is a colorful, elegant town. Its houses suggest it was inhabited by wealth families who wanted to get away from the city.

The Houses of Adrogué
We walked from the station to Teresa’s house where she teaches her classes. It’s clear Teresa was a school teacher for years before opening her B&B and offering cooking classes out of her home. Taught in English, the class was well organized and very hands-on and Teresa clearly loves sharing her knowledge of Argentinean cuisine.

Adrogué - Jordan and Lorraine
We learned to make the filling for beef empanadas first. We sauteed the onions until translucent and then added the ground beef. Next came the spices. Here’s the full recipe.

 

Adrogué - Adding the Spices
Next we prepared the corn filling, which is called humita. It’s a combination of onions, bell peppers and corn off the cob.

Adrogué - Humita

While we let the fillings cool off in the freezer, my niece prepared the dough (while I talked, of course).

Adrogué - Jordan Makes the Dough
It took us a while to get our circles of dough as symmetrical as Teresa and her granddaughter’s were, but we watched and learned. 

Adrogué - We Roll the Dough

Next we stuffed the empanadas and closed them up. We used two types of closures: one for the beef empanadas and one for the humita.

Adrogué - Awaiting the Oven
Most places that serve empanadas will tell you which type of closure is used for each filling. In some places, they may have 12 different types of empanadas. Checking the way the dough is folded will allow you to pick the empanada you want. 

Adrogué - Baked Empanadas

Teresa explained that a lot of people prefer baking empanadas to frying them, but the fried ones are much tastier. She was right. Half of our stash were baked and the other half fried.

Adrogué - Fried Empanadas

While both were delicious, the fried ones, sprinkled with a bit of sugar before being served, were amazing.

We sat out in Teresa’s back yard, where she has a cottage that serves as a B&B for those who want to get out of the city and take some of her more advanced classes.

Adrogué - Setting the Table

A bottle of Trapiche Malbec, and a bottle of Trapiche Torrontés were served with our warm empanadas. The two women staying at the B&B joined us.

Adrogué - Enjoying the Fruits of Our Labor

Our day in Adrogué cooking with Teresa was the perfect combination of learning about the food, the culture, and the wine while enjoying wonderful company and fantastic empanadas made by our hands. 

Here’s a video that aired on German television Teresa teaching a group of Germans how to make empanadas.

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Argentinean Asado 102: How do you like your steak?

In May, we posted on the art of the Argentinean asado. Today we’ll look at how you can get your steak cooked to your liking. One would think that here in the land of exquisite meat, a simple medium, medium rare, or well done would do the trick. If only that were the case.

I find that Argentines typically overcook meat. Most people order their steak a punto (which should mean medium), but it comes out bien cocida (medium well). 

Image Courtesy of Asado Argentina

Image Courtesy of Asado Argentina

 

I like my steak medium rare. Argentine friends have told me to ask for it jugoso (literally meaning juicy which sounds so much better than medium rare). The problem is that there is really no consensus here in Argentina about what the terms mean. When ordering jugoso, I’ve been served anything from rare to well done. 

Image Courtesy of Asado ArgentinaImage Courtesy of Asado Argentina

A few months back, I went to a little-known restaurant I’d been to before with a group of friends. The first time I ate there (back in October when it first opened), I had an amazing risotto with rabbit and vanilla. Strange combination. That’s why I ordered it and it was delicious. Everyone else I was with also raved about what they ordered. So when I had visitors of the sort that want to experience the food and wine here more than anything else, I thought this place would impress them. Wrong.

Three of us ordered medium-rare tenderloins. The waiter and I had this discussion (below), which truthfully should have told me that we shouldn’t order steaks.

     Spanish version:

     “¿Y que coccíon querés?”
     “Jugoso, por favor.”
     “Sangrante entonces.”
     “No, jugoso. Entre sangrante y a punto.”

     English version:

     “And how would you like it cooked?”
     “Medium rare, please.”
     “Bloody.”
     “No, medium rare. Between bloody and well done.”

One steak came out medium rare. The other two were medium well to well. Imagine, one chef prepares three steaks all ordered jugoso in three different levels of doneness.

The meat here really is amazing, so if you’re like me, you will want it cooked the way you like. 

Image Courtesy of Asado Argentina

Image Courtesy of Asado Argentina

If your Spanish is strong enough, you might want to try describing how you want it prepared instead of using the terms for doneness. Here are some suggestions.

  1. rarerojo intenso y sangrante en el centro
  2. medium rarerosado con y bien jugoso
  3. mediuma punto pero todavia jugoso
  4. well donebien cocida

We’d like to thank Asado Argentina for giving us permission to use these beautiful photos. Buen Provecho!

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