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A Delhi Market

February 16, 2012 2 comments

Having only recently returned from an almost a year long trip around S America and Asia, I came back to Delhi this week to attend my cousin Hina’s wedding. Coming to Delhi is always a pleasure, with the sights, sounds and especially tastes to behold.

My cousin Disha and me

As is the case, the wedding attracted a number of long-lost relatives from around the world. This time around I met a cousin, Disha, who I hadn’t seen for a number of years after she moved to Michigan, US. We hit it off immediately and spent an excellent time together.

Indian weddings are not only a drawn out affair, but also generally quite badly organised from the outset. The upshot of that is that there is a hive of activity just before the wedding week starts. I arrived at the start of this and with Disha, was sent out to a number of errands. One of these was to a bustling market in Delhi called Lajpat Nagar.

There is nothing you can’t buy at the Lajpat Nagar market. Indeed, much of wedding shopping from dresses to flowers to ceremonial paraphernalia is bought here. Shops, stalls and walking vendors compete for space and customers. Street food is dotted around so buyers aren’t left hungry or thirsty.

Of the most interesting things I was offered as I walked through the streets with Disha were:

1. A Washing Machine Cover – In India, washing machines are now popular and Dhobis are unfortunately going out of business. As there isn’t a dedicated space for a washing machine in the home, these are often placed in the sitting or bed rooms. In order to disguise an ugly thing, the Indians devised a pretty embroidered cover which sits at the top and converts the top of the washing machine into a useful table!

2. Narra – A long flat rope used for tying the tops of Indian trousers (pyjamas) and petticoats to your waist.

I didn’t have a need for either of the above but it did make me smile!

Categories: India, Shopping Tags: , , ,

These shoes were made for dancing!

March 8, 2011 4 comments

My first pair of Tango shoes!

Yesterday we had our first private tango lesson. Two blocks away from the apartment is a dance studio which our teacher rents by the hour to give lessons to couples who want to learn the traditional tango. Cristian unlocked the door to the studio whilst asking questions about previous dance experience and then without much fanfare, turned on the sound system, took hold of my hands in his and we were dancing the tango!

In an hour and a half he had shown us the embrace, the basic steps and even some adornos! He said we were good and that we can go and dance at a milonga this friday if we want!

So of course, my friend Kate and I decided to go shoe shopping today and we found ourselves at Comme Il Faut – a beautiful showroom of handmade tango shoes Just off Libertad on Arenales a few blocks from Teatro Colon. Today is a bank holiday in Argentina so I called this morning to confirm they were open.

You can see my purchase here – I am in love with these shoes! Can’t wait to wear them at the lesson tonight. Or perhaps I won’t – I’d be devastated if they got scuffed! Or then again – life is for living and shoes are for wearing – especially these tango shoes!

The teetering crates

February 14, 2011 1 comment

People in Buenos Aires tend to shop locally and at independent shops. For food, I am happy to report that the porteños have yet to give in to supermarkets. Supermarkets do exist, there is a Jumbo for example which as the name suggests is a hypermarket where you can buy anything from cheese to chihuawawas. The french supermarket Carrefour is testing the water with a number of stores around the capital and some local supermarkets such as DISCO have opened a few stores mainly in the upmarket areas such as Palermo.

But the average porteño goes to his local Chinese shop or local butcher, fruit & veg man (Verdularia) or bakery. The chinese mini-markets are popular and plenty. There is at least one in every street. You don’t have to walk more than 5 minutes to come across one. Evidently their prices are often better than the supermarkets as they probably have some sort of a cartel buying in bulk.

The local Chinese mini-markets always have a small space in the front which they sublet as a Verduleria. As fruit & veg is quite a different commodity to refrigerated, frozen, canned, bottled varieties of stuff, I assume they want to keep it separate. In the heat of Buenos Aires the fruit and vegetables, which are mostly organic go off much more quickly and I wonder whether this is the reason that they sublet this part of the business to someone else.

Almost always, the mini-markets’ staff are Chinese but the Verdulerio is a porteño. Unlike the UK supermarkets, there isn’t a huge variety of fruits and vegetables available, but that’s because people here still eat seasonally. The Verdulerio has a small space in which to operate from as he basically has the entrance to the mini-market so it needs to be clear for customers to walk in and out.  All day the Verdulerio must tend to his fruit and vegetables and make sure they look fresh. This means he has to peel and throw out the browning outer layers of lettuces; he has to pick out the dying stalks from the bunches of herbs; and he has to turn the rotting tomatoes so they all look perfect in the crate.

The lack of space and a constant stream of people buying the fruit and vegetables means that the Verdulerio must replenish his stock often. Outside every mini-market you will find fruit and veg crates piled up and teetering seductively at each passerby, inviting them to dare touch in case they all topple over!

The most beautiful bookshop in the world?

February 6, 2011 1 comment

El Alteneo is legendary amongst bookworms and people who like browsing in bookshops. Buenos Aires is full of bookshops and also have a healthy market in second hand bookshops, all down Corrientes in the microcentro. The second hand bookshops are the only place where you can get any English language books which are not international bestsellers in crime/mystery/thriller genres. OK, there are a couple of other bookshops, one prominent one in Estados Unidos in San Telmo which is quite good and eclectic, but generally there is  a dearth of good/independent books in the English language.

Having heard so much about El Alteneo, I was sure they will have a better selection of English books, besides the usual reasons for going there – it’s in an old theatre. We headed there one morning and it was everything I wished for minus the selection of English books.

Never mind!

Local shops for local people!

February 5, 2011 Leave a comment

I fancied visiting a new barrio in Buenos Aires so got my map out and zoned in on Once which is directly north of the microcentro and west of Palermo. I had heard that this neighbourhood is a local place where the majority of porteños (those who can’t afford the inflated prices of Palermo) shop. I had expected a Tottenham Court Road (London), a Lower East Side (NY), a Connaught Place (Delhi) but Once is something else. It has a slightly run-down, independent and must-haggle feel about it.

Today being Saturday, the Corrientes, Puyreddion and the junction they meet on was buzzing with thousands of people out with the entire family shopping. Shops usually specialise in one thing – socks, towels, phones, bras, shoes, calendars etc. After every few shops there will be a door leading inside what from outside looks like a residential building but if you poke your head around, you will find it opens up into an enormous gallery with dozens of indoor shops.

On the pavement too, there were stalls set up to sell everything from bikinis to empanadas. We came past a large crowd of women surrounding something and tiptoed to find they were all looking at the seller (a middle-aged woman) demonstrating painting her finger nails with a garish red nail varnish. She was selling just that one colour!

Further down the road we turned into another gallery which opened up into a number of shops at the end of which was a pizza place. I had a slice of Anchoa pizza, which had none of the horrid mozzarella all pizza places slather on to their pizzas. It had a lovely napolitana sauce and a large anchovy in the middle. Craig had a couple of meat empanadas and we were done with this district which more than Once reminded me of the League of Gentlemen!

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Christmas Eve – shops and malls in BA!

December 25, 2010 3 comments

Tea at Petit Colon, Plaza Lavalle

Not having been downtown yet, it seemd like a good idea for us to pay the microcentro a visit. As it’s Christmas eve and we don’t have any other plans, it was a nice way to while away the morning and afternoon. Towards the end, it got too hot and I decided to finish the trip at the Palermo Alto shopping mall in Bulnes!

What better way to start the morning than to have a tea and coffee with some medialunas (literally means half moon and are little Argentine croissants very popular at breakfast) and tostadas (usually ham or cheese but if you ask they will also make other varieties, I had cheese, tomato and onion!)! Took Line D on the Subte (what the metro is called in BA) from Carranza to Tribunales, about 6 stops. Tribunales is in the microcentro and the station exits onto Lavalle Square with the Teatro Colon on it. Right next door is the beautiful Petit Colon – a gorgeous bohemian cafe which opened decades ago and has that old opulent quality about it. As it was still early and Christmas Eve, lots of people were about last minute shopping but too busy to take a breakfast so we had the place pretty much to ourselves!

Pedestrianised Calle Florida

Cuddly toys iin Calle Lavalle

After breakfast, crossing 9 de Julio we entered the pedestrianised section of Calle Lavalle which is one of two pedestrianised streets with 100s of shops and stalls. Where Calle Lavalle meets Calle Florida, there is an intersection of pedestrianised streets with hudreds of people milling aorund and buying nick-nacks. Everything from cuddly toys to bombillas (what Argentines drink mate in).

As the heat got more intense, people walked on the shaded side of the streets which meant that there was a massive crowd on half side of the street trying to muscle past each other with the other (sunny) side of the street empty!

It was time to leave the mocrocentro for a spot of lunch somewhere with air-conditioning! So decided to try

Alto Palermo Shopping Centre in Bulnes

the supercool Alto Palermo shopping centre back towards home. Also Palermo is hip and trendy for the

Palermo crew with money so it has a number of brand shops. The top floor has a number of sports shops and a food hall. The food hall has everything from a parilla, chinese, sushi, pasta to McDonalds. Portenos were here in their masses to do last minute shopping and to take their kids out for Christmas eve lunch at their favourite shopping centre.

By far the biggest queue was at McDonald’s (almost seemed like it was hip to eat McDonald’s – very surreal!), which happily meant it didn’t take very long to get served at the other food places. All the food places at Alto Palermo are ‘fast food’ but even though there wasn’t a queue at my stall, the food was still freshly prepared which meant a wait of 15 minutes. Portenos, here as everywhere else, seem totally happy and relaxed when queueing!Poster in Alto Palermo Shopping Centre – Merry Christmas

Poster in Alto Palermo Shopping Centre - Merry Christmas

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