Saturday, April 30, 2011

Retiro Neighbourhood

San Martín Square
The Plaza San Martín is the entrance gate to this area, distinctive as is the park, for its elegance and tastefulness.  Everything related to luxury and art is gathered in the few blocks that make up the old Retiro neighbourhood.  This is why this park, with a hundred uses over its 400 years history, is the chosen spot from which to set out our journey of discovery.  At the very begining it was the site for a fort called "La Batería", which served the inhabitants as defense against pirates and corsairs.  As early as 1713, the land was purchased by a company in the slave trade; later, a huge bullring that held 10000 spectators was built here.  Nevertheless, the most important events to take place here were the battles during the British Invasions.  In tribute to this ladmark in history, the park was named "Campo de la Gloria" (Field of Glory).  Some time after, it held the barracks of General San Martín´s force "Granaderos a Caballo".  In 1878, in memory of the first centennial of the founding father´s birth, the park received its present name.
Torre Monumental

Around it rise sumptuos stylish buildings, which today serve as official branches and classy hotels.  Where Florida street is born, international design stores blend with shops dealing in exclusive objects of local manufacture.  Beyond, on streets Reconquista and San Martín, a populated bar district, specialising in different beer brands, appears as the best option at sundown, when happy hour blends to perfection with the chance of meeting people.  Another of the areas attractions stands on Arroyo street, on which a large variety of art galleries show pieces by renown contemporary artists.  In this area, last Friday every month the Gallery Night event is held.  On that evening, over 30 galleries stay open well into the night, blending art exhibitions with live music and champagne.
Kavanagh Building

Keys to moving round Retiro:

Location: Around Plaza San Martín.
Main arteries: Santa Fe Ave., Florida, M.T. de Alvear, Arroyo and Juncal.
How to get there: Buses 61, 93, 115, 130 and C subway line.
Best time to visit: Evening, to make the most of happy hour.
Neighbourhood corner: Marcelo T. de Alvear and Florida.

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

Friday, April 22, 2011

Abasto Neighbourhood

"Mercado del Abasto"
Manly men´s neighbourhood, if such exist, the Abasto treasures stories of tango slums, its roguish men, tango songs trilled by Gardel, at each of its corners.  If geographically it stands within the Balvanera area, habit led it to be acknowledged more than a century ago as autonomous and with an identity of its own.  Part of this is due to the disappeared "Mercado del Abasto", whose first construction dates from 1894.  Since then, and up to 1934, it was populated with whole-sale markets.  That year the imposing French style warehouse was opened, which was to become one of the largest gatherings of people and vehicles.  These days, a modern shopping centre rises in this spot.
Abasto Shopping Mall

Alongside this commercial growth, the tango spirit was begining to be shaped, the "gardelian" legend.  Even though versions are always controversial, the singer is supposed to have emigrated from France to Uruguay, with his mother Bertha, to finally become ensconced in this city neighbourhood.  There, the child earned his first coins as helper to a stall holder at the market while he started to fall in love with tango, and behind his mother´s back took part in evening serenades and tango duels.  His fame led him to travel the world and once success was in his grasp, he returned to the neighbourhood, where he purchased a house on Jean Jaurés street.  Today, the place is a museum that gives testimony to his life.
Carlos Gardel

Another of Abasto´s attractions lies in its ethnic and traditional local cuisine.  It was the Peruvian community, largely settled in the area, that lent it its character through restaurants such as Kosko Hatuchay or Los Trujillanitos, where "ceviche" (raw fish strips) is always the day´s special.  One may savour as well the specialties of macrobiotic and hindu cuisine at Reina Kunti.  Also in this neighbourhood, bohemian traditions were passed generation to generation, giving as a result a rich scene of halls for theatre and indie art, where plays and exhibits relevant to the off circuit are shown.

Keys to moving round Abasto:

Location: To the west of Pueyrredón Ave. and North of Rivadavia Ave.

Main arteries: Corrientes Ave., Jean Jaurés, Anchorena, Guardia Vieja.
How to get there: Buses 71, 124 and 26; B subway line.
Best time to visit: Daytime to sightsee, evening to attend a show.
The neighbourhood corner: Corrientes Ave. and Anchorena.

Accommodation: Buenos Aires Apartments , Hostel Buenos Aires

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Puerto Madero Neighbourhood

Today, Puerto Madero sinthetizes what is most modern in its vanguard towers, fashionable restaurants and five star hotels.  But only 15 years ago the area was desolated and frequented only by the people related to port activity.

In 1887, President Julio A. Roca was persuaded by the tradesman Eduardo Madero to have a port built in order to facilitate growing international commerce.  Up to that moment almost a hundred projects had been offered, including one by engineer Luis Huergo proposing to build a harbour at the moth of the Riachuelo.  But it was Madero who realised his plan of a port that became one of the most active in the American Continent.

Nevertheless, its moment of glory was short lived since in the beginnings of the 20th century, due to the increased bulk of the vessels, Puerto Madero became obsolete and Puerto Nuevo, used to this very day, had to be build.  Slowly the area became more and more neglected and for almolst a century closely resembled a ghost town.

In 1989, during President Carlos Menem´s term in office, works for space recovery and the development of its 170 hectares were started.  Soon cinemas, universities and restaurants were installed, the old silos were recycled to become luxury offices, many high-end hotels were opened and companies, including Repsol YPF and Mercedes Benz, made it their corporate headquarters.  Puerto Madero is today the most expensive district in the city averaging over U$S 4000 the square metre.

It´s growth is ongoing, with many projects which will add distinctive features to the city.  Among these, English architect Norman Foster´s stands out.  This same architect was the one to design "El Aleph", a 200 million dollar urban project, the floating mall on the Dock 2 waters belonging to the Hotel Faena and the eleven towers planned for the old grounds of the La Boca sport center.

Keys to moving round Puerto Madero:

Location: To the East of San Telmo and the city centre, skirting the Río de la Plata.
Main arteries: Alicia Moreau de Justo Ave., O. Cossettini, Juana Manso, de los Italianos Ave.
How to get there: Buses 130 and 152, and tram going from Independencia Ave. to Córdoba Ave.
Best time to visit: Daytime, to make the most of its architecture.
Neighbourhood corner: Pierina Dealessi and Macacha Güemes.

Accommodation: Buenos Aires Apartments , Hostel Buenos Aires

Sunday, April 10, 2011

San Telmo Neighbourhood

Plaza Dorrego (Dorrego Square)
The cobble streets, the picturesque colonial houses, the numerous antique shops are living symbols of the present day San Telmo neighbourhood, that treasures centuries of history in every nook among its blocks.  It all started in mid 18 th century, when a large number of aristocratic families flooded into the country and built their mansions on the narrow dirt streets of "barrio sur" (south neighbourhood).  In like manner religious orders erected several temples and convents in the area.  Thanks to the flourishing port activity and other minor industries, the immigrant upper classes were able to establish themselves in the neighbourhood until, in 1871, a yellow fever epidemic broke out and drove them to the northern part of the city (Barrio Norte, Recoleta, Palermo).  The working classes lacked the resources to leave the area and in this way, little by little, began to occupy the empty dwellings turning them into the famous "conventillos" (tenements).
Antique shops

As time wore on, having reached 20 th century, the area bloomed once again with the recycling of several bars of old, the opening of antique dealers shops and Plaza Dorrego fair, open every Sunday.  One of the neighbourhood´s historical buildings is the Mercado de San Telmo, which since 1897, serves as a general stores fair and preserves its architecture designed by architect Juan Buschiazzo.  La Casa de los Ezeiza (Ezeiza family´s home), the Galería del Viejo Hotel (old hotel come art gallery) and the Solar de French are further examples of the large houses of colonial times still standing and worth knowing.
Mercado de San Telmo

But, aside from guarding our collective memory, this nook has become, together with Palermo Viejo, one of the trendy areas in Buenos Aires: backpacker hostels, irish pubs, gay hotels, small ethnic restaurants, young designers shops, add new character to a neighbourhood worth going over in leisure.

Keys to moving round San Telmo

Location: Between Belgrano, 9 de Julio, Eduardo Madero and Garay avenues.
Milonga (Tango)
Main arteries: Independencia Ave., Defensa, Bolívar, Balcarce, Chile.
How to get there: buses 9, 10, 17, 70, 130, 152, and C subway line.
Best time to visit: Sunday morning while the fair is open.
Neighbourhood corner: Humberto I and Defensa.

Accommodation: Buenos Aires Apartments , Hostel Buenos Aires

Friday, April 1, 2011

Downtown Buenos Aires

Obelisk
With its almost seventy metres of height, the Obelisco rises like a huge eye which gazes at life downtown.  And sees, for instance, the long and imposing Corrientes avenue, dubbed the "Broadway porteña" (of the port side city), with its theatres side by side (from Florida to Callao avenue), its historical bars, like La Giralda or El Gato Negro, its large book and music stores, and the classic pizza places, such as Las Cuartetas or Güerrin, that might well be the aftermath of a night at the theatre.

Colon Theater
On the neighbouring streets to the great avenue spreads out the most important gastronomical and cultural offer in the area.  Upscale restaurants, like Tomo I and Zum Edelweiss, live along others, more reasonably priced moderate and informal, like Pippo and El Palacio de la Papa Frita.  At both ends of the business area, the Luna Park stadium and the Teatro Colón, image of classical music in all its expressions, are the perfect hosts to the development of cultural activities, both official and independent.  The Centro Cultural San Martín, the San Martín Theatre, and the Centro Cultural Rojas offer a wide variety of theatre and music shows, toguether with courses and workshops pertaining to different artistic disciplines.

Galerías Pacífico Shopping Mall
Beyond Corrientes avenue, having crossed 9 de Julio avenue, Florida street opens to the visitor as the great pedestrian walk.  Sportswear, leather clothes, books and clothing stores mingle with newspaper and magazine stands where one can stop before resuming the attractive walk, as well as the Galerías Pacífico shopping mall, where the vault painted by Antonio Berni and Juan Carlos Castagnino, among other native artists, can be admired.  A picturesque dash is added by the many street artists who show off their skills for music and performing all along Florida avenue.

Keys to moving round center area:
Headquarters government

Location: between Callao, Córdoba, Leandro Alem and Rivadavia avenues.
Main arteries: Corrientes Ave., 9 de Julio Ave., Córdoba Ave., and Florida.
How to get there: buses 59, 100, 152, and B Subway line.
Best time to visit: Daytime, avoiding rush hour.
Neighbourhood corner: Corrientes and 9 de Julio avenues.

Accommodation: Buenos Aires Apartments, Hostel Buenos Aires