A travelogue of our first trip to Buenos Aires

1/7/09

January 6 - Living in an Oven

Picture of the Day:



First off, we'd like to say that we know we're lucky to have the wherewithal to escape, however briefly, the current snow and ice in the US northeast, but holy cow it was hot here on Tuesday, January 6! Thankfully the humidity was not too high, but it was 95 F with a hot wind blowing. Not the best day to wander the streets of a sultry city in the southern hemisphere, but a pretty good one to be a footloose tourist.

We had to change our normal routine and get up in time to get out of the apartment so the cleaner could come in (there's that lucky part again). I left a badly translated written request for Josefina to do our laundry too (she probably laughed at it but she did the laundry), and we headed out early so I could shoot at the Recoleta cemetery with my beloved Holga. [A note about our photography - we are both committed amateur photographers, but Craig shoots mostly digital so all the photos on this blog were taken with one of his digital cameras. I shoot film with a Holga, a cheap plastic camera, which means I can't post any shots of mine because I have to wait to get home to process the film.]

Shooting a cemetery with a Holga is practically a cliché but the Recoleta cemetery is unique in its overwhelming-ness (is that a word?). We knew it was going to be hot so we got there early and it was great - still cool (sort of) and on a Tuesday morning in January, practically empty of people. We had a map but we never looked at it; we just wandered, avoiding the few living humans (and Evita's grave), preferring the quiet company of the dead in shaded corners, looking for interesting sculptures or mausoleum construction, sitting on benches or steps, trying not to think about how all the feral cats survive there.


Recoleta cemetery is a place that definitely rewards those who look to the sky...


















I loved the light on this statue.
















It was interesting the decisions that have been made by families about both the ornamentation and the materials of their mausoleum. Some of the biggest and most ornate were constructed of soft stone that has not stood well the test of time, perhaps an indication of ego over intellect, but there were some really beautiful statuary that kept their integrity, generally made of marble or granite or perhaps some hard indigenous material.


Mausolea at the Recoleta cemetery go from the sublime...


















... to the piteous.















Some of them were beautifully kept up, even when the most recent occupant of the mausoleum died decades ago, and some had obviously been abandoned. I suppose everyone believes their descendants will care enough about them to honor their memories as well as physically honor their remains, but it doesn't always happen that way. Wandering between Recoleta cemetery's ornate and expensive remembrances and forlorn and forgotten ones got us pondering ideas one normally doesn't on vacation.

But the rising heat chased us out of our heads and out of the cemetery and into our first average meal. La Biela is a cafe on Quintana at Ortiz in Recoleta, about a block away from the cemetery's main entrance, with a huge outdoor terrace under a beautiful old gum tree. There were lots of what looked like BsAs ladies-who-lunch sitting at the tables with demi-tasse cups in front them them, chatting away. We found ourselves a shady table and ordered cold drinks and just sat to cool off. After awhile, we decided to stay for lunch. The food wasn't bad - it was just ordinary. Cold proscuitto and cheese on pita, with what I thought were pretty good french fries but Craig didn't agree.

For those of you who've been asking what we look like, here we are at our table at La Biela:
















(Luigi, we have a picture of Craig shot especially for you on its way to your email).

After we cooled down a bit, we decided it was the perfect day for a museum, so we went to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes which wasn't far away. We understood they had a photography exhibit up, and were interested to see what was in their collection. The photography collection was small and, as expected, consisted mostly of Argentinian photographers, although there were a few non-Argentinians including Kertész, a Hungarian and one of our favorites. The subject matter of the Argentinian photographers was of historical events in Argentina - the mother's marches, campaigns, parades, etc. There wasn't much in the way of the photographers' individual oeuvres, and we found that a bit disappointing.

But the most disappointing part of the photography exhibit is that it was hidden on the top floor of the museum, up a poky staircase with no signage, and it was HOT up there so of course it was empty. At this museum at least, photography doesn't get much respect.

And to end the day? Italian, of course, in honor of all the Italian immigrants in BsAs. After some research, we decided to go to Filo in Microcentro, just near Florida. We were early again (for Buenos Aires) and at first were a bit put-off by the life-size mannequin near the bar wearing a negligée (top only), arranged in a very suggestive position. Plus the neighborhood was a bit different than what we had been used to Barrio Norte/Recoleta (especially the strip club next door advertising pole dancing and 'affairs'), but we soldiered on, having faith in our research and references. And boy, were we rewarded!

The menu was in both Spanish and Italian, but with the help of the Saltshaker food dictionary (an absolute must for any foodies coming to BsAs even though it's too big to put in a pocket) and our patient waitress, we had a great dinner. We started with a sort of stacked salad of arugula, tomatoes and brie on piadina, an Italian flatbread, with olive oil and herbs. Craig had ricotta gnocchi with a meat sauce and emiliano cheese - I can't find a translation but I'm pretty sure it's a hard salty cheese. Whatever, it was super. The gnocchi were soft and puffy (not potato) and the sauce was satisfying. I had ravioli with butternut squash, sage and parmesan. This was excellent - the pasta had the right feel to it, the squash was not overcooked, and there was lots of sage (one of my favorites). But it wasn't what I ordered - I ordered ravioli with a meat, mushroom and tomato sauce, and the waitress repeated it back to me. But she didn't speak English and I wasn't interested in going through a laborious back-and-forth when I had something in front of me that smelled great! And it was all accompanied by a Gascon malbec rosé.

We thought about taking a stroll down Calle Florida but decided we didn't want to and cabbed it home and to bed, dreaming about another great day in Buenos Aires.

2 comments:

  1. Hi kids,
    Your every post is a thrill for the imagination with beautiful pictures to support. Thank you for posting pictures of each other; you both look wonderful. Craig - soak up and remember the warmth for when you're in Antartica.
    Love,
    Mom

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have just installed iStripper, so I can watch the sexiest virtual strippers on my taskbar.

    ReplyDelete

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Eight Days in Buenos Aires by Valyn Perini is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.