Archive for January, 2007

Tren de la Costa

Sunday was far too nice to spend indoors so I headed north to the touristy but lovely Tren de la Costa. I took an ordinary local train from the main station to Olivos, where the coastal train starts. At the ordinary train station I observed the reason for the high number of level crossing accidents here: this guy overtook the stationary traffic and made to cross the railway, stopping only when he saw the train in motion.

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The Tren de la Costa is a light rail system, really, along the route of an old railway line. The tourist ticket allows you to hop on and off at intermediate stations, all of which are quite picturesque in a slightly manufactured way. I went first to San Isidro where a cobbled square leads to the cathedral. The quiet streets and low-rise houses felt a world away from the city.

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Another stop was close to Peru Beach which was watersports heaven. This looked fun:
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At another station there was an antiques fair, and nearby great views along the Rio towards the city in one direction and towards Tigre and the Delta in the other. Returning home, I hopped off the local train a couple of stops early and jumped on a bus, saving myself a bit of backtracking. The buses are fun but a bit scary and confusing at first as they criss-cross the city and almost never follow exactly the same route in both directions because of the one-way system in the grid-pattern streets.

All in all a lovely Sunday out.

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Sindromes del Amor

I had dinner with Jorge on Saturday night, at a good pizza and parilla restaurant called Babieca. Since the portions were big we shared a steak and a salad, before dashing off to The Titanic Club about four blocks away. We dashed to catch the start of a mini-musical starring Jorge’s friend and my almost-but-not-landlord, Christian Bravo. (Scroll down the club’s web page to see the advert for Sindromes del Amor.)

The actors, choreography and music were quite good, but the story line was far from original: the triumph of pure love over animal lust. One of the characters was meant to be a or the devil, and reminded me of Mephistopheles in Faust the Panto, but I don’t think it was intended to be a comedy! The advert says ‘a musical in the nude’ but in fact the furthest the actors get is g-strings in low lighting!

Unfortunately as soon as the play was over, nightclub-volume music took over, which for me rendered conversation in Spanish very difficult. I did get to meet Christian but only briefly, and since no-one seemed to be in the mood for clubbing, we went our separate ways.

None-the-less a fun evening out.

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Recoleta

Yesterday morning my objective was to visit El Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires or MALBA for short. According to Time Out it opened at 10am, but when I got there the truth was 12pm. I feel an email to Time Out coming on.

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I had a wee coffee and croissant at the museum cafe before strolling through the parks of posh Recoleta to its famous cemetery. It’s reminiscent of Pere Lachaisse in Paris but better kept and more compact, and undoubtedly worth a visit.

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The old church next door, Nuestra Señora del Pilar, dates back to 1716 as the site was once high ground on the marshy banks of the river.

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I only had fifty minutes to explore MALBA before heading off for my lesson. It’s superb, a lovely modern building with a fine collection of art spanning most of the last century, including works by Frida Kahlo and the Argentinian Antonio Berni. One to return to with Graham, undoubtedly. Unfortunately photography isn’t permitted, but check out this selection on their website.

During my walk I caught this typical local scene of a dog walker in action:

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Reserva

On Sunday afternoon I escaped the city by crossing Puerto Madero to the Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur. This nature reserve is the result of an abandoned land reclamation project of the late 70s / early 80s, which is now a mix of marsh, pampas and woods and home to a wide range of birds, mammals, insects and plants. Although the entrance is only yards from the nearest city block, once inside it’s like being in a different world.

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I saw plenty of birds, a small mammal scurrying across the path which might have been a coypu, and this flowering banana palm:

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In spite of the heat it was lovely to have a breather from the frenetic pace of the city.

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Arizona Sur

I’ve just been to the cinema to see Arizona Sur. I enjoyed it but it was a film of two halfs, or really two-thirds and another third. It started really well, great cinematography of Patagonian land- and skyscapes, a really off-beat storyline and a lingering, mesmerising pace. In the last third it turned into more of a conventional comedy and really lost its edge, with the exception of the young lead, Nazareno Casero, who gave an excellent performance.

My Spanish coped with the storyline but not with some of the dialogue!

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Finca Las Moras

First wine report. I’ve had a couple of bottles of good cheap wine, but on Sunday I spent a little more (all of £4) on a bottle of Finca Las Moras Reserva 2004 Malbec. Well made, very deep red, quite well oaked but the weight of the wine supported the oak. Very fruity and nicely aromatic with fennel flavours and aromas. A lovely addition to Sunday and Monday’s pasta suppers.

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French & Billinghurst

It’s a lovely sunny Saturday afternoon and after a sunbathe in the local Parque de las Heras, I have taken a few photos of the apartment. Locations here are usually given by the nearest street intersection, as in the title of this item, or by giving the two cross-streets either side: Bustamente entre Peña y French.

The entrance, next to the bakery. You can just see my balcony at the top of the picture. The main double doors lead to the posh lift which takes you to the front doors of each of the two apartments on each floor. The single door to the right leads to the back stairs and lift which take you to the kitchen doors. There is a small bedroom and bathroom off the kitchen so I guess in more affluent times, these would have been the servant’s quarters and stairs. Since we’re only on the second floor I usually use the back stairs!

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Two views of the living:
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My bedroom and almost-but-not-quite adjacent mini-bathroom, with shower over the toilet:

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If you’d like to rent the room (after I’ve gone!), check it out at: http://bytargentina.com/re/propview.php?view=1823

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La Paila

Last night Monica and Gabriel took me and Dan to a restaurant in Palermo Viejo where a friend of Monica’s was giving a folk recital. The music was excellent: two guitars, percussion and voice; local ‘musica folklórica’ spiced up with Flamenco.

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The food was typical of Northern Argentina. We had tamales made of a spicy mixture of ground maize and tender meat steamed in a wrapping of maize husks. The deserts were lovely. Mine was a goat cheese covered in a jam made from a regional fruit.

Also a chance to get photos of everyone. Monica and Gabriel:

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Me and Dan:

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Laboratorio de Idiomas

Lessons are going well. On Monday I remembered my camera and took some pictures of the old building.

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Our classroom is on the second floor, reached via the magnificent staircase:

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But the classroom isn’t nearly as swanky:

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Anyway classes continue to be constructive but some of the other students have drifted into 30 minute half-time breaks instead of the intended 10 to 15 minutes, and many of the same bunch arrive anything from 10 to 30 minutes late, which is starting to grate. One of our teachers said something about the breaks yesterday, we’ll see whether it makes any difference tomorrow. I’m not sure if they’re paying for their own courses or whether mummy and daddy are paying for some of them.

I took my first look at Buenos Aires’ docklands: Puerto Madero. Beyond is a nature reserve formed from a never-completed reclamation project, but the reserve is closed on Mondays so I will need to return.
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Other things I have been enjoying: delicious ice cream; La Razon which is the evening equivalent of Metro and is handed out free on the Subte; random wanderings through the streets of the city.

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Bife argentino

What a Friday!

After a poor night’s sleep, I didn’t think I’d be up for much today. None-the-less, I started with a swim at the gym, where the membership card which I’d left in the showers was waiting for me at reception. I lunched at the famous Cafe Tortoni, Buenos Aires’ oldest and well worth the trip. I took the wonderful old Linea A of the Subte, riding on wood-panelled coaches with hand-opened doors. I stayed awake through three hours of Spanish lesson.

Later, I dined at a local parrilla on the corner of Arenales and Sanchez de Bustamente, El Cayateno. In best tradition this was somewhat grubby but the food and service were super. I had my first piece of Argentine beef – a bife de chorizo or sirloin steak (nothing to do with chorizo sausage) – and it was excellent: tender, juicy and full of flavour. I wasn’t asked how I’d like it, but it came perfectly cooked at somewhere between rare and medium-rare. The steak, a salad, a half bottle of wine, mineral water and a coffee came to thirty pesos. You’ll just get jealous if I convert that to pounds.

After dinner I decided to take a walk, and ended up hopping on a bus to San Telmo. I got off too early but no worries, the stroll helped me digest before taking a beer at a table on Plaza Dorrego, where a flamenco group was entertaining the crowd at my chosen cafe. I managed to remember the number and route of the correct bus to get me back home, so now I’m setting it all down here before I finally crash out.

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