Thursday, March 24, 2011

La Boca Neighbourhood

Before becoming one of the main streets in this neighbourhood, Pedro de Mendoza was a settler who, in 1536, founded the city Santa María de Buenos Aires.  He would never know he had cast anchor in what centuries later was to be one of the continent´s main harbours towards which immigrants from Europe far and wide would set sail in the hopes of making the "American Dream" come true one day.

From this moment, the port in the area around the Riachuelo (literally Little River) became the home for passing sailors and the famous "barracas", humble constructions that served as export good warehouses.  These were also used to house slaves brought from Africa.  The population spread beyond this part of the city already known as "La Boca del Riachuelo" ("Little River´s mouth") or "Puerto de Tachos" ("Port of Bins") since it was surrounded by shipyards and warehouses, over the following centuries.

During the last years of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th La Boca became once again a focal point of immigration for thousands of Italians and Spanish people who put into this beautiful port in hopes of making a better future fot themselves.  In spite of this, an overwhelming number of Genovese settled in the area and became bold enough to found the La Boca Republic.  The intervention of Argentina´s president Julio A. Roca put an end to the wild scheme.

But La Boca has more to it than port, immigration and football.  La Boca is art, art that comes alive on each wall in every house in the area.  The painter Benito Quinquela Martín gave Caminito, which is the neighbourhood´s heart, its soul.  It was here, in 1959, where he envisioned a walkway of colourful houses, cobble stone and craftwork fairs which is a turistic hot-spot for foreigners and locals alike.  Cafe´s, streets, museums, bridges... All of them blend in to give shape to this typical "porteño" (meaning of the port and of Buenos Aires) tableaux known as La Boca, the neighbourhood most filled with history in the city.

Keys to moving round La Boca

Location: To the south of Parque Lezama and Puerto Madero, bordering the Riachuelo.
Main arteries: Pedro de Mendoza Ave., Almirante Brown Ave. and Suarez.
How to get there: buses 64, 86, 152, 168.
Best time to visit: Saturdays or Sundays during the daytime.
Neighbourhood corner: Caminito and Pedro de Mendoza.

Accommodation: Buenos Aires Apartments, Hostel Buenos Aires

Friday, March 18, 2011

Recoleta Neighbourhood

A Cementery opposite to bars, discos, and restaurants? Weird but very nice...Welcome to Recoleta.

It´s not as old as La Boca or San Telmo, but it is as historically relevant as those two first city corners.  In mid 17 th century, while the Southern neighbourhoods welcomed merchants, this was an unpopulated area used for the raising of cattle.  The first settlers in the area were the fathers of the Recoletos Congregation, who founded a graveyard, later expropiated by Bernardino Rivadavia in 1822.

The flourishing of Recoleta and Barrio Norte as the most exclusive spots in the city took place around 1871, when a yellow fever epidemic caused the aristocratic families of San Telmo to forsake their beautiful mansions and raise newer and more sumptuos ones around the Alvear avenue and in the area of Callao avenue, right up to Santa Fe avenue.  Since then, these neighbourhoods have never ceased growing.

Many historic places and shopping areas have establish themselves as places that mustn´t be missed on this part of the city.  Undoubtedly, the "Cementerio de la Recoleta" is one of these: Argentina´s emblematic figures, such as Evita and the former president, Domingo Sarmiento, have their resting place right here.  To the side stands the "Del Pilar Basílica", the second oldest church in the city, and further ahead, the "Centro Cultural Recoleta", where art is displayed in all its diversity.  Meantime, during daytime, one might walk along Alvear avenue, where the most important international clothing and jewelry stores have their headquarters, and if in search of national vanguard design objects, don´t hesitate to visit the Buenos Aires Design Complex.

Moving further along, around Callao avenue and on Santa Fe avenue, all the way from 9 de Julio avenue, "Barrio Norte" displays its more commercial side.  Two spots that can´t be missed on this articular tour are the "5ta. Avenida" and "Bond Street" galleries, renown for their shops dealing in vintage or punk style clothing.

Keys to moving round Recoleta

Location: Between Santa Fe, Pueyrredón and Del Libertador avenues.
Main arteries: Santa Fe Ave., Callao Ave., Pueyrredón Ave., Alvear Ave. and Quintana Ave.
How to get there: Buses 17, 61, 92, and 130.
Best time to visit: Sunday during daytime, so as to go by the Plaza Francia fair.
Neighborhood corner: Quintana Ave. and Ortíz st.

Accommodation: Buenos Aires Apartments, Hostel Buenos Aires

Friday, March 11, 2011

Palermo Neighbourhood

One of my favorite neighborhoods in Buenos Aires City is Palermo. Actually I used to live there. But why Palermo is so popular? What´s the big deal with this place?

If luxury and great international stores are La Recoleta´s signature style, its residential atmosphere and the wide cultural and gastronomic offer are the three most attractive features in the area of Del Libertador Ave., Las Heras Park and Alto Palermo. The swanky flats ranged along Del Libertador Ave. and the residential homes in Barrio Parque are, according to many, the most exclusive in the city. In Barrio Parque, designed by landscaper Carlos Thays in 1912, flourish many trees, native of the North of the country, such as "jacaranda", "lapacho" and "ceibo" varieties. In the area there are numerous mansion built by patrician families in early 19 th. century; today most of them house embassies or have become museums.

Such is the case of the Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo which stands in the Palacio Errázuriz and holds, as its patrimony, paintings by Fragonard, sculptures by Rodin and imposing furniture of french style. Other dwellings turned over to the arts are the Museo José Hernández, devoted to showing Argentine traditions, and the Ocampo residence, current seat of the Fondo Nacional de las Artes. But the most prestigious works, for their validity and origin, are those displayed at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum) - the foremost in the country - and the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), of a more modern construction.

If willing to spend a day as a bona fide neighborhood dweller, the perfect plan is to have breakfast at one of the sidewalks tables on Del Libertador Ave., then, take a walk to the National Library , read some volume in the sun, at Las Heras Park, and then return walking down the same avenue, until midday arrives. Then, you might enter one of the ethnic restaurants in the area and cap the afternoon by having an ice-cream outdoors, and end the day walking around some of the shopping galleries.

Keys to moving round Palermo

Location: Between Pueyrredón Ave., Santa Fe Ave., Sarmiento Ave. and Figueroa Alcorta Ave.
Main arteries: Las Heras Ave., Del Libertador Ave. and Coronel Díaz Ave.
How to get there: buses 59, 41, 15, and Subway line D.
Best time to visit: Daytime, to wander down its long avenues.
Neighborhood corner: Del Libertador Ave. and Coronel Díaz Ave.

Accommodation: Buenos Aires Apartments, Hostel Buenos Aires

Friday, March 4, 2011

Buenos Aires Travel Information

First of all, just a little bit of information about Buenos Aires City...

The city of Buenos Aires was founded by the Spanish conqueror Pedro de Mendoza in 1536, on the banks of the embankment where the Lezama Park is now located. Over the next 500 years, this small settlement by the river continued to grow until it became the capital city of Argentina, a metropolis where over 3 million people live.

Of its many districts, the most picturesque, undoubtedly, is the neighbourhood of La Boca. A "must" stroll to taste Italian dishes, walk along the colourful pedestrian street of Caminito, and visit the Boca Juniors Club Stadium where Diego Maradona played.

The neighbourhood of San Telmo has its roots deeply set in Buenos Aires and this is not just a coincidence, since Mendoza founded the city on the embankment here. Its streets have preserved a unique architectural heritage with historical bars, "tanguerías" where diverse tango shows are performed, antiques stores, small trendy restaurants, centennial convents and the Plaza Dorrego street fair, that on every Sunday becomes the unavoidable meeting place for all travelers who might want to get to know the soul of Buenos Aires.

On the banks of the Río de la Plata, the old port gave away to Puerto Madero, one of the most modern districts of the city. Three luxury high rise towers have been constructed and the old docks, that had been abandoned for decades, were recycled and these days constitute one of the most interesting gastronomic districts. It is and ideal place to eat and the take a stroll by the river. On the river, the Ecological Reserve is a 350 hectare natural open space from where some of the most surprising panoramic views of Buenos Aires can be obtained.

Plaza de Mayo is the historical center of Buenos Aires. It is here that Av. de Mayo is born, an avenue with an european spirit, that was the center stage in the lives of the inhabitants of Buenos Aires known as "porteños": the famous Tortoni Cafe, where Jorge Luis Borges used to drop by, the Castelar Hotel where the spanish poet Federico García Lorca once lived, the Barolo Palace and the 36 billiards bar known as Los 36 Billares, are some of the testimonies that are left from those times.

A few blocks away, Corrientes Avenue is considered the Broadway of Argentina because of its many theaters, movie theaters and bohemian cafes. One of the famous arteries of Buenos Aires is the pedestrian Florida Street, undoubtedly a "must" place to stroll along with large commercial galleries and endless stores catering for all tastes. Florida crosses through the financial areas of the city, that ends in Plaza San Martín, where the only building of the city was once located, two hundred years ago. Nowadays, there are several pubs in the area, with well attended happy hours, ideal to call it a day and share beers with friends.

Recoleta is the most aristocratic district of Buenos Aires, with its luxury shops along Avenida Alvear, an interesting circuit of museums, art galleries and the lordly cementery where the remains of Evita Perón and the other prominent argentine personalities rest. At night, the area is transformed and the sepulchral silence gives away to a noisy and colorful night life.

Palermo used to be a neighbourhood of tango loving "tangueros"
and canteens that, over the last couple of years, has become the "state-of-the-art" district. The whole area is now highly attractive for travelers to visit: the old Palermo Viejo that still maintains the spirit of the 1930´s; Palermo Soho, with small stores of young designers as well as ethnic restaurants; Palermo Hollywood with fashionable bars whose parties overflow onto the streets and sidewalks, the gastronomic district of Las Cañitas and the green Palermo Verde, something of a city lung with its parks and lakes.

Accommodation: Buenos Aires apartments,
Hostel Buenos Aires ,
Residencia Universitaria Buenos Aires