argentina

Recoleta: Cemetery, Museums and More

Recoleta is the Buenos Aires neighborhood that’s most often described as Parisian.В Though I’ve yet to visit Paris, I could certainly understand the comparison. Buenos Aires has a bit of a European vibe, in general, and it’s even more pronounced in Recoleta, one of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods.

Since I was staying in Barrio Norte, a sub-neighborhood of Recoleta, I spent lots of time wandering around the area. It’s springtime in Buenos Aires and I was happy just walking the tree-lined streets, admiring the elegant stone homes with their tiny terraces.

In addition to having cafes and shops on every block, Recoleta is also home to a number of museums and public art installations. Within a short walk, you can get to the Floralis GenГ©rica, a giant metal flower sculpture…

floralis

…the Museum of Decorative Arts

museum of decorative arts

…and MALBA, the museum of Latin American art. (In case you’re wondering, I didn’t actually go into any of those museums—like I’ve mentioned, museums aren’t at the top of my travel must-dos!)

Despite those institutions, the neighborhood’s most famed spot is probably its graveyard.В The Recoleta Cemetery is the resting place of Eva PerГіn and numerous other distinguished BA figures: politicians, writers, Nobel prize winners and the like.

I actually wasn’t planning to go into the cemetery. But one afternoon, after walking by its walls a few times, I felt compelled to see why it attracts so many vistors.

Once inside, I understood. It’s undeniably beautiful: row after row of stately marble mausoleums and statues. Workers seemed to be everywhere, polishing and repairing things—it’s not a wonder the cemetery looks as pristine as it does!

recoleta cemetery 2

I didn’t stay too long. I sought out Evita (of course), along with everyone else in the cemetery. There was a small line to get to her spot—which is why my photos are especially bad!

Evita’s buried under her family name, Duarte.

evita 1

evita 2

Afterwards, I just walked up and down the rows, enjoying the warm weather and the peaceful setting.

recoleta cemetery 2
recoleta cemetery

recoleta cemetery

My Buenos Aires Apartment

I’m back from my quick trip to Argentina—a week in Buenos Aires and Iguazu—and had a fantastic time! It went by too quickly, as vacation always does, but I managed to see and do a ton. Over the next few days, I’ll be posting some highlights—starting with the cute place where I stayed:

For my six days in Buenos Aires, I decided to rent an apartment rather than stay in a hotel. I wanted to feel like I was living there, rather than just passing through.

As it turns out, the BAВ Airbnb market is booming. A search on the site turned up dozens of cute, modern and stylish apartments at very inexpensive prices. (Like this, this or this.) Many were in the most sought-after BA neighborhoods: Palmero and Recoleta. (More about them later.) Best of all, theyВ were usually В in the $40-90/night range—much cheaper than a hotel.

I chose this studio, in Barrio Norte, which is part of Recoleta and very close to Palmero. The rave reviews impressed me. Plus, many were from female travelers, so I assumed safety wouldn’t be an issue.

It turned out to be a great choice. When my cab dropped me off on the tree-lined street, I was happy to see that the building was nice and well-kept. A few minutes later, the owner’s husband arrived to check me in, carrying a big bag of medialunas (Argentinean croissants) as a welcome treat.

The apartment was just as advertised—bright, airy and clean.

BA studio: seating area

BA studio: bed

Little decorative touches made the apartment feel like home.

BA studio: view

BA studio: kitchen

I was lucky to have ended up in such a prime location. The streets of Barrio Norte and Recoleta are well-lit at night, and I felt safe walking by myself. It was also easy to hop a cab, bus or subway to get anywhere around the city.В

barrio norte street

Every street had little cafes and shops. I started each morning at the cafe across the street from me. I tried to beef up my Spanish vocab by reading La Nacion…

la nacion

…over a typical Buenos Aires breakfast of a cafe con leche and three medialunas.

medialunas and cafe con leche

Off to Buenos Aires!

buenos aires

…thank god! To be honest, I’m feeling very much in need of a vacation. Life has been pretty nutty, and I haven’t had a full week off since January.

Which is why I haven’t scheduled too much to do, in Buenos Aires. Often, I’ll create detailed itineraries of everything I want to see and do in a place. But not this time. I figure I’ll pace myself leisurely and just wander around a little, each day. I’m hoping to discover places to see when I’m there, ideally from locals.

As it happens, the only set plans I have, so far, are all food-related—ones I had to make reservations for. Good thing I’ve been doing lots of ballet, and have a ton more to look forward to when I get back—because I’m really planning to indulge!

I won’t be posting while I’m away, but if you have any BA or Iguazu recommendations, please let me know. I’d love to hear!

(Photo of Avenida 9 de Julio, Buenos Aires via Image Juicy)

My Brief Foray into Tango

tango

After I booked my fall trip to Buenos Aires, I decided to learn tango.

The style originated in Buenos Aires and Montevideo, UruguayВ in the late 1800s. As a dancer, I felt there would be no better way to get to know a culture than through its moves. I planned to take several tango classes in NYC, В so I’d have enough basic knowledge to go dancing in BA. Plus, I thought it might be fun to do a social dance, for a change.

I took a free introductory class at TriANGulO, an all-Argentine tango studio, then signed up for a four-week tango course at Paul Pellicoro’s DanceSport, using a Groupon deal. (TriANGulO didn’t have any beginner classes that worked with my schedule.)

Though I liked the instructors at both places, I wasn’t having as much fun as I expected. I chalked it up to a few factors:

  • Tango is an intimate dance!В More so than I expected. Much of dance is an unspoken conversation between you and your partner. Leaders (men) “tell” followers (women) which steps to take by shifting their weight and moving their bodies. Followers are able to understand this, because they’re dancing with their hands on their leaders’ chests, or are in an open or closed embrace. Since I wasn’t coming to the lessons with a partner, I initially felt a little awkward dancing closely with people I’d just met.
  • Going along with that—it takes two to tango.В I really enjoyed dancing with the instructors who guided me into talking all the right steps. But in beginner tango group classes, there’s a lot of blind leading the blind—as in, dancing with partners who are just learning how to lead. Which translates into bumbling around awkwardly with strangers!
  • I signed up for tango classes at the worst possible time.В 8:30 p.m. on Fridays. It was the only session that fit my schedule.В But it was directly following my favorite ballet class. And after that class, I’m exhausted from the week, starving and ready for a quiet night in. Going to tango afterwards was tough!

I thought I’d enjoy myself more if I had a good dance partner. Or if the class were at a different time. Or if I progressed to the point where I knew a lot more steps. But finally, on the subway ride home from a tango class, I realized what the real problem was: I just wasn’t loving tango, itself.

Dance is an art, and, like any art form, there are styles that speak to you more than others. For me, ballet feels natural. The movements feel right and I love every minute of it. (Even when I’m sore or tired or my feet are hurting.) I’ve danced other styles over the years—modern, jazz, hip hop, tap, African—but I never felt the same affinity towards them. Not enough to pursue them, or even take classes for fun.

And that’s how I feel about tango. It’s a gorgeous (and sexy!) dance, and there are thousands of people who love it the way I do ballet. And I know they’re thrilled every minute they can dance it. But it’s not a natural fit for me.

Knowing that, I’ve put tango on hold until I go to Buenos Aires. Maybe being there will inspire me to take a class, or attempt dancing at a milonga. Or maybe I’ll just watch a tango show. I’ll see in a few weeks!

(Photo via Pinterest—though I would love to know the original source!)

So What Happened to Patagonia?

perito moreno

For the past month, I was fixated on going to Patagonia. Whether they wanted to or not, anyone I spoke to during that time had to suffer through hearing heard my plan:

LAN was having a fall fare sale, so I was going to fly into Santiago and spend one day exploring the city. Then, I’d fly to Punta Arenas in time to meet up with a group that would be hiking the Torres del Paine “W” Trek for five days; there, I’d see the picturesque Valle France, the massive Grey Glacier and the iconic, granite towers that give the park its name. (And since I was planning to go in October, the park’s shoulder season, the tour was 30% off.) After that, I’d fly back to Santiago and spend three days bumming around the coastal towns of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. Then, I’d take a red eye back to NYC and show up for work that morning.

Pretty sweet, right? So what made me change my mind?

The night before the LAN fare sale ended, I mapped out my trip: how much it would cost me, how much time I’d have at each place. Even with the discounted airfare, trek and staying at inexpensive hotels and hostels, the trip would cost about $3,000—more than what I was hoping to spend. But that wasn’t the dealbreaker. It came down to how I really wanted to experience Patagonia.

In an ideal world, I’d spend a month…or two…or three…traveling Chile from top to bottom.В Unless I quit my job (insanely unlikely, at this point), that’s not happening. So next best case scenario would be having a little over two weeks to explore southern Chile and Argentina—not just Torres del Paine, but also El Calafate,В Los Glaciares National ParkВ and the Perito Moreno glacier;В Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego; the lake district to the north, and more.

I may not have enough vacation time for that next year, or even the year after, but I think it’s worth waiting for.

In the meantime, I will be more than consoled with my time in Buenos Aires and the many other shorter, but just as amazing trips I plan to take in the near future.

(In case you’re wondering, I actually chose BA solely because it was another option on that LAN fare sale. I figured going to Santiago would remind me of what I wasn’t able to do this time around, but a BA trip wouldn’t have any of that baggage! And now that it’s booked, I can’t wait to go.)

(Perito Moreno photo byВ Jordi Oller MaciaВ via 500px’s Pinterest)

Fall Trip, Booked: Buenos Aires

buenos aires

I am so excited to have a fall trip to look forward to: At the end of October, I’ll be going to Buenos Aires!

Like last year’s Guatemala adventure, this is another solo jaunt. But unlike last year, I only have one week off from work. I’ll be squeezing in as much as I can, without exhausting myself!

I can already tell that’s going to be tough. Thanks to fellow bloggers, my wish list of Buenos Aires activities keeps growing. So far, I’m hoping to:

  • wander around various neighborhoods and parks:В This itinerary has some appealing suggestions!
  • take a cooking class: Maybe thisВ empanada-making one?
  • eat at a puerta cerrada, a “closed-door” supper club
  • go tango dancing! (Of course!)
  • take a ballet class:В This is something I’d like to do in every city I visit, though it’s not always feasible—ballet studios with daily, open classes for adults don’t exist everywhere in the world. (I couldn’t find one in either city I visited in Guatemala, nor in La Paz, Bolivia.) But it looks like I won’t have too much trouble finding a studio in BA.
  • take a day-trip to Colonia, Uruguay. Just so I can say I’ve been to Uruguay, as well. It’s only an hour away by hydrofoil. (Montevideo isn’t all that far, either, but I know I won’t have time to go there.)
  • see the Iguazu Falls.В I need some nature while I’m on vacation! I can’t just go from one major city to another without a little green respite.

In the meantime, I’ll be brushing up on my Spanish and taking a few beginner tango classes, here in NYC.

If you have any recommendations about what I should see or do in Buenos Aires, please let me know—I’d love your suggestions! Especially if you know a good place for tango. 😉

(Photo by Taylor Moore via 500px.com’s Pinterest)