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A much needed detox!

March 16, 2011 7 comments

The trulli temple at the Eco Yoga Park

The Eco Yoga Park near Buenos Aires is a retreat aimed at those who are looking to leave the city life and experience relaxed, meditative few days on a farm, as well as give up meat, alcohol and anything else deemed to be ‘imblalanced’ including onions and garlic.

Onions and garlic? Are they joking? OK, I am enjoying the cleansing and detoxing experience but do I really have to do without onions and garlic when I am only going to eat vegetables anyway?

The day begins at 5am at the trulli with chanting and clapping after which everyone gets dressed in their farming rags to work on the vegetable gardens for a couple of hours before being served the first meal of the day. The breakfast usually consists of a bowl of semolina with a fruit salad and freshly baked bread.

Then it’s back to the gruelling work at the farm for another three or four hours toiling the earth! This is followed by a meditative yoga class. We are served lunch at half past one – vegetable curry with chapati or rice and chick peas (always sin spice!). Then it’s time to relax or walk around the ample five acres of the park. At half past four, their is a hatha yoga class which physically demanding and stretch the muscles and tendons which worked hard in the morning.

Dinner is at eight thirty after a philosophy class around seven to wonder at the thinking behind hare krishna. After a hard day it’s usually straight to bed for most after dinner thought here is a cinema room where if you wish to you can watch more dvds about eastern philosophy.

More photos and detailed report to come once we leave the park in ten days. Almost no internet access til then! Adios.

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!

Carnaval de Buenos Aires

March 7, 2011 1 comment

This is a long weekend for the porteños – Monday and Tuesdayoff to say goodbye to the Carnival. Since beginning of February, there have been dozens of street parties across Buenos Aires. Pretty much every neighbourhood puts on a show in their local plaza. Local teenagers are drafted into learn the drums and dance moves and the grandmothers sew up their costumes. Large stages are set up and bands booked to play carnival music. Choripan (Argentine hot-dog) stands provide food whilst vendors sell canned foam to kids who spray it on anyone in their periphery!

So when friends on Tripadvisor sent over details of the local carnival’s, we picked out the one in the neighbouring barrio – Collegiales – and trotted up last night with a bottle of rose and two plastic cups in my handbag. We heard the sound before we saw the plaza and knew we were headed in the right direction. This particular plaza has some amazing graffiti all around the walls and the stage lights really showed it off. A stage was set up with

Foam sprays

five microphones and people were beginning to gather. A sound system played S American rock and vendors flaunted their wares to the dozens of kids who arrived with their parents.

The first hour was for the kids – from small ones to young teenagers, persuaded their parents or broke their piggy banks to buy foam spray in cans in order to douse others in it. Never seen this anywhere before so was surprised because surely foam coming out of an aerosol can held and sprayed a centimetre away from someone’s face can’t be good for them? What do I know anyway – the children did all seem to be having a great time!


A few minutes later, several dozen people dressed up with their faces painted started to gather up a little distance away from the stage. We headed up there to find two groups lining up – one with mostly men was a group of drummers, the other, mostly girls, a group of dancers. A frisson ran through the crowds as they learned that the parade is about to begin.


With great fanfare from the presenter on the stage, the lights were on the band 40 metres or so away. The drumming started, the children squealed and the parade was on its way.

It was a fantastic time and we will go again tonight, to another barrio, to celebrate the last of the carnival shows!

Konex – La Bomba de Tiempo

March 1, 2011 1 comment

After nearly three months living in Buenos Aires city, last week has seen us saying goodbye to one friend or another and today there are just a handful left. Mostly, people are heading to other destinations or heading home after a few weeks’ travelling schedule.

Last night, our Norwegian friends (Camilla & Thomas) who are leaving to go to Mendoza proposed a farewell night  out at Konex – a cultural centre in the Abasto area.

Someone created headwear with the plastic cups!

Every Monday night this former factory opens it’s doors to an ensemble of around 20 percussionists who beat their drums for two hours and entertain 2,000 odd revellers paying Ar$30 to get in. The space is open air, quite large with a massive stage at one end, a huge sculpture of an ant hanging mid-air and a sign announcing ‘The End’. The space reminded me of places I have visited in east side of Berlin.

At one side and the back are bar areas selling beer, wine, vodka or the porteño favourite Fernet Cola. You can’t take drinks out onto the patio so either you watch the drummers and dance like crazy or you stand at the bar area and chup (the slang Argentine verb to drink alcohol meaning to suck!) up! We did the latter of course and listened to the drummers from the bar and watched them on a specially set up projector screen.

The impromptu crowd dancing in the streets

The experience is quite different and you will enjoy it if you like head-banging to drum music. Later, as we left, a crowd had gathered around an impromptu performance from a couple of the drummers. The crowd spilled out onto the street causing a traffic jam, but both the dancing crowd and the car drivers were in no hurry and enjoyed this little performance.

A dinner at a Peruvian restaurant ended the evening perfectly and I was once again reminded of my pact a few weeks ago when visiting Chan Chan to eat more Peruvian food.

Not so wild!

February 23, 2011 Leave a comment

I haven’t been to a zoo since I was a child. It’s not that I am not fond of animals, but I don’t have any particular memories of having visited one, even though I am sure I must have. It’s possible then, that I must have buried those memories under a cerebral rock.

A couple of days ago, when reading a blog which recommended the BA zoo, I decided to head there because 1) I have run out of [places to see now that I’ve been here for over 2 months; and 2) the zoo is a few blocks away from where I live.

A rhino tries to stay cool under a shed

Buenos Aires zoo is like any other I expect. Lots of animals look out of place – not just because they are in S America, but also because they are in the middle of a city! The zoo boasts no less than 45 acres of land right in the centre of Palermo – itself an expensive real estate. Sure there are swathes of fields covered in grass and ponds which might give you the impression at a distance of wild animals roaming freely. But on closer inspection, there are high fences, electric wires, deep ditches. Don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to come face to face with the only leopard or the solo elephant in the zoo, but I did think they all looked rather sad.

At one end of the zoo, there is the water park which shows half hourly performances by seals. This was evidently popular because the queue was so long, I gave up. Don’t seals get tired jumping through hoops every half an hour?

The other end of the zoo was a large building which has been turned into an indoor rainforest with a walkway created to go up through the obviously false trees and waterfall.

A snake desperately trying to stay submerged in water escaping from the tank

Further along from the seal show is the entrance to the reptiles house. Of all the caged animals, I thought these poor snakes and reptiles were the worst off. The conditions didn’t seem great – lights were off in some tanks which obviously had animals in them, there was water escaping from some of the snake tanks so thew were languishing in a bowlful of water on a hot day.In the centre of the zoo were the showcase animals – a tiger, a panther, a lion, an elephant, a polar bear – all looking miserable in there solitude.

I don’t know what else I should expect of going to a zoo – for all I know, this was probably the best example in the world but I left with a sad feeling and a knot in my throat.

Leaving the zoo, I saw a cat sitting at the entrance eyeing the inside of the zoo. So perhaps I was wrong and animals actually want to get in to the zoo instead of out!

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!

Seafood in the ocean of meat!

February 11, 2011 2 comments

I miss fish and seafood. Though  the sea is only a furlong away, Buenos Aires never tires of beef! Our friend Alena invited me to a strictly girl’s afternoon of lunch, shoe shopping and wine drinking. How could I refuse. So four girls met at a Peruvian restaurant called Chan Chan in the microcentro.

I arrived early and had a chance to read through the menu and was pleasantly surprised to find it brimming with fish and seafood choices. I wanted to try several things so when all arrived we chose different things on the menu to try as many dishes as possible. Alena ordered some ceviche to start which was lovely and fresh with oodles of sliced red onion.

I ordered Mariscos Piccante which is a seafood stew with rice with a hint of chilli. Camilla ordered a fish stew which was creamy and bright orange and was also accompanied by a bowl of rice. But my favourite was the deep fried langosutines with a chilli sauce which the waiter initially got wrong and gave to me (but was Alena’s order) so I tucked into it happily. I had to give it back 5 minutes later but I was glad I had tasted the gorgeous morsels of fresh langoustines in the lightest batter with the chilli mayonnaise!

We washed our food down with some vino blanco which came in a cute little bottle and served in beautiful little cut glass copas.

The afternoon we spent shoe shopping in two distinctively different stores – more about it in another post to come!

Chan Chan – Hipólito Yrigoyen 1390, Buenos Aires

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