Buenos Aires (Part II)

This post is part of a series called Latin America
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While in Buenos Aires we got to experience a lot of the cities famous art, culture, and festivities. As the days got longer and warmer heading towards summer, the city came alive with various events, parties, and rallys. From enjoying the beautiful Jacaranda trees in full bloom and participating in a once monthly ‘bike party’, to touring a wide range of interesting museums during the annual ‘Night at the Museum’ and taking in a variety of epic architectural sites. We even had the chance to check out a huge political rally and I also would spend a day touring some of the cities famous  worker self managed co-ops, known as recovered factories or businesses. Below you will find just some of the things we saw and did during November in Buenos Aires.

Museum of Modern Art / Tango Lessons / Columbus Theatre

Night of the Museums / El Ateneo Grand Splendid

Parks, Sculptures & Monuments / Gallery Night / La Boca Tour

Museum of the Malvinas / Evita Museum & Recoleta Cemetery

Buenos Aires Bike Party 

 

Latin American Museum of Modern Art

Maggie and I really enjoyed our visit to the Latin American Museum of Modern Art in Buenos Aires, known as the MALBA. Housed in an interesting contemporary building on the boarder of the Palermo and Recoleta districts, the museum exclusively focuses on 20th and 21st century Latin American art.

 

Featured movements include modernism, kinetic art, minimalism, social realism, surrealism, destructuve art and hyperrealism. The main exhibit focused on Latin American life through geography, politics, and the city. It was right up my alley and one of the best museum experiences I’ve had. It’s a fairly small place with just three galleries, but the quality of the content makes up for the size.

 

Tango Lessons

Maggie convinced me to take some Tango lessons with her, and it ended up being a really fun experience. Tango was in Buenos Aires and is a huge part of the culture. There are actually two versions you will see, the romanticized version that you see on tv and can be found in the more touristy areas, often as shows, or the more traditional version where people get together at Tango Halls, or Milongas, and dance the night away.

 

While walking through La Glorieta park in the Barrancas de Belgrano neighborhood one evening, we came across and gawked at a large group of locals dancing the Tango in a gazebo. It looked like they were having a lot of fun and we decided we should try it ourselves, so Maggie did some research and found a lesson for us to learn some moves.

 

We met Alejandro Puerta for our private lesson. It was an awesome and fascinating experience as he taught us the very complex and interesting history of the Tango, and then moved on to teach us some basic moves. We would listen to different examples and then practice either together or with him. It wasn’t easy, but I think we did pretty well. The way you dance with emotion, with me having to lead and Maggie completely letting go was a fun challenge. We were having so much fun that our time was up before we knew it. We would practice with each other throughout the rest of our stay, but never did have the courage to try it in public. I think it would have taken a few more lessons, for me anyway, to get there.

 

Teatro Colón

I toured the beautiful Columbus Theatre along with my parents when they were visiting.  Located in the San Nicolás barrio, better known as El Centro, it is rated as one of the top 3 opera houses in the world and also ranked as one of the top 5 concert venues for acoustics. The theatre took over 20 years to complete before finally opening in 1903, the hard work and craftsmanship surely paid off.

 

The Night of the Museums

This was a special evening, and something that we just happened to stumble upon, although it was hard not to as it was truly city wide. The Night of the Museums is a once yearly event where streets and sidewalks of the barrios are offered to the people to go around the city and search for diverse cultural experiences. With the official support of the city and public transportation, there are no fees charged for anyone.

 

We had decided to go to the Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art (MAMBA) in the late afternoon after walking around the historic San Telmo neighborhood. Inside the old tobacco factory turned museum, we glimpsed at the over 7,000 pieces of art on display, including some by artists like Wassily Kandinsky, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso. Once we were done though, we stepped outside and the real magic started to happen. In front of the museum the Buenos Aires Philharmonic Orchestra had set up and began playing a free show! We then headed down the street a bit and stumbled upon a parade of kids and teens drumming and dancing down the street. That’s when we asked some people what was going on, and found out it was the Night of the Museums.

 

Wishing at this point that we had preparred, we decided to just keep walking and see what we stumbled upon. It wasn’t hard, as there were literally events and musuems to be found everywhere. We first stopped at a display and museum inside of the Department of Agriculture, then headed to the waterfront in Puerto Madero and toured a nautical museum aboard the frigate Sarmiento. Just down the road the main Plaza de Mayo was a buzz with activity, as all the surrounding government buildings and museums were open to tour. We decided to stop in the City Hall as well as the City Legislature buildings, both beautiful classic Baroque and Renaissance inspired structures.

 

Next we stopped by the National Train Museum to tour an elegant 19th century steam train that had allowed people to travel what was once one of the world’s largest rail networks, in style. Inside were somewhat chaotic exhibits, covering walls, ceilings, and every inch of the space over multiple levels. It was pretty amazing the amount and quality of items on display, even if there wasn’t much context. Finally, to finish the night, which would last just beyond 3AM, we climbed the five story Museum of Architecture and Design. The museum is situated inside of a former water tower that was a part of the nearby railway complex and a great example of Argentina’s railway architecture, while many of the displays showed how the city has grown and expanded over the years.

 

In all, it was a great night that we were lucky to experience. With over 150 institutions open and various events to discover, it was fun to see the passion for history and culture by the locals, as they played tourist in their own city along with us.

 

El Ateneo Grand Splendid

Another architectural gem that we made sure to visit, the El Ateneo Grand Splendid. Buenos Aires is home to more bookstores per capita than any other city, and this has to be one of the most beautiful. The bookstore is located in the old Grand Splendid Theater, which still retains all the decadence of an Italian opera house.

 

In the back is the main stage, now a cafe encased by thick burgundy curtains where you can look out at the 120,000 plus books on display. Looking up from the center of the space is a large dome with an original Romantic-style fresco celebrating the end of the First World War. We enjoyed browsing the titles as we ascended thourgh each floor, a perfect reuse of a former 1,000 seat theatre.

 

Parks, Sculptures & Monuments

We enjoyed taking in the many elegant and diverse parks and monuments found around Buenos Aires, but our favorite part was seeing the lavender Jacaranda tree which blooms every November and can be found all across the city. While they are not nearly as well known as Cherry Blossoms, they are just as beautiful and spectacular as they bloom for just over a month each year. Apparantly it’s a love-hate relationship though with the locals, driving some people mad as the leaves permanently stain everything that they fall onto, including doing damage to car paint.

 

Palermo, where we stayed, is home to a majority of parks so we had quick access to a small Japanese garden, impressive and beautifully laid out rose garden, an attractive recreational lake, and the botanical garden full of cats. Interestingly, the citizens had recently voted to close the nearby city zoo, as they decided it was not a humane place for animals. Walking by we could still spot some of the animals still roaming around as they were still waiting to be rehomed. There was also plenty of open space for people to just relax or play football (soccer).

 

Recoleta and the Retiro barrios had impressive green spaces full of grand monuments and sculptures, we especially enjoyed listening to local performers playing music while watching people enjoy their Mate tea on the weekends. One particularly impressive sculpture that we saw was the Floralis Generica, a 105 foot wide and 18 ton metal flower that blooms each day with the sunrise. It took about 20 minutes for the six 43 foot petals to close as we watched at sunset. At sunrise the petals ope nback up, mimicking the actions of a real flower.

 

Lastly, in Parque Lezama located between San Telmo and La Boca, we came across an African heritage festival after visitng the nearby Museum of National History. The park was full of booths each representing a different country in Africa where you could try different native foods. While eating and drinking we watched as dance performances and music lit up the area. We saw some really impressive traditional dresses, and enjoyed being a part of the celebration.

 

One thought on “Buenos Aires (Part II)

  • Andrea J Mckinnie November 16, 2016 at 7:22 am Reply

    Wetting my appetite!!! I especially love the beautiful parks and gardens. Hope the Jacaranda trees are still in bloom when we arrive on Sunday. Have never seen these trees before. Love the color…WOW

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