Monday, October 29, 2007

family in Buenos Aires

This past week my parents, Judy and Richard, and my sister Amy and her husband George came to visit Buenos Aires! It was really fun.
I had a great time planning how to fit all of my favorite things and places into one week. I feel like I could write a tour guide now. Here's the general outline:

SUNDAY
we had a big brunch (fresh raviolis filled with cheese and nut, and squash, mmm!) at my house and then went out to San Telmo to see the Sunday festivities and the flea market in Plaza Dorrego. There were lots of great tango groups and dancers performing along Defensa.


After a little rest time, we had a giant steak dinner at La Cabrera, in Palermo Soho. Aside from the typically delicious Argentine steaks (especially the thyme-rubbed bife de lomo!) they serve a zillion little side-dishes, such as squash puree, couscous, vegetable salads, and candied garlic, with every meal.


MONDAY
we went out for coffees and medialunas con jamon & queso, and then set off on a self-guided walking tour (from this website) along Avenida de Mayo, starting at the Congress building and Plaza Congreso and continuing past the Barolo Building, across 9 de Julio, until Plaza de Mayo and the Casa Rosada.


We ate lunch, of course, at Cafe Tortoni.
After lunch we had some tasty dark-chocolate-and-candied-orange-peel ice cream! and then did some resting, shopping, and wandering.
We had delicious and exciting tapas for dinner at De Olivas i Lustres on Gorriti in Palermo Soho, near our old apartment.

TUESDAY
we went to Recoleta Cemetery and then visited the church next door, the Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar. There is a neat little cloisters museum upstairs with a nice view looking out over the cemetery.


We had lunch at one of the cafes on the terraza at the Design Center (but avoided going inside!) and then looked at a few of the many interesting contemporary art exhibits at the Recoleta Cultural Center next door. Then we squeezed in a quick trip to the nearby Decorative Arts Museum, housed in a historical mansion on Libertador, before heading to the Alvear Palace Hotel for a very very very fancy afternoon tea, served by waiters wearing white gloves.


Stuffed with 14 courses of dainty sandwiches and fanciful, divine desserts and champagne (and, of course, tea), we dragged ourselves to tango classes at Luciana's house.


I had never seen Judy and Richard dance, ever. As far as I know they have not danced in at least 30 years, probably more, but they seemed to have a great time at their first tango lesson with Luciana. This is an amazing testament to our dear Luciana's delightful enthusiasm and skill as a teacher.

WEDNESDAY
we got up early and took an 8:30 ferry across the river to charming Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay.


Most of the day was spent wandering the shady cobblestones and lunching in a leafy courtyard at El Mesón de la Plaza. After sitting by the water for a bit and climbing the lighthouse for a view of the town, we headed back to the ferry.
Back in Buenos Aires, we stopped at Milion for mojitos at the alabaster bar, and ended up staying for a very tasty dinner in the courtyard under the full moon.

THURSDAY
In the morning we went to the Japanese Gardens in Palermo, and then walked over to the Botanical Garden, which was a huge hit with Judy. It is pretty exciting to realize that we're way down in South America and all the plants and flora and fauna are completely different from what we're used to!
We had a disappointing lunch at Sudestada, while a wild rainstorm turned the streets into high seas. Amy and George explored the fancy shops in Palermo Soho and found a truly amazing suede jacket at the Mariano Toledo store. We had another great tango class with Luciana and a tasty vegetarian meal at Artemisia.



Then some of us went on to La Catedral, where Amy and George danced! There was a surprise tango music performance by two guys, one singing and one playing guitar, they were really good!



FRIDAY

on Friday morning we went for a walk in the Ecological Reserve. I thought it would be a great opportunity for everyone to enjoy some natural beauty and bird-watching without leaving the city - but in fact it was pretty hot and muggy even in the morning, and there's really no shade in the Ecological Reserve - it's all tall grasses and shrubs but not many trees. We enjoyed cool breezes when we could get them by the waterside - then made a premature retreat back to civilization, feeling rather wilted and beaten by the heat.

We decided to just drink tea and rest for the afternoon, then in the evening we had a dinner date at Casa Saltshaker, a "closed-door" restaurant in Recoleta. The chef is Dan Perlman, a transplanted New Yorker who concocts a menu and cooks and serves dinner in his home, two nights a week, to a group of about 12 people. We chose to do the wine pairing menu, which was a great choice, we really enjoyed the various wines with each of the six courses. I can no longer remember exactly what we ate!! But I do remember was a fun evening, the food was tasty and Judy and Richard really enjoyed the experience.

SATURDAY

We took a trip to Tigre, one of my favorite areas around Buenos Aires. We went out for a boat ride around the delta on one of the beautiful wooden tourboats, and had a nice wander about the market. We took the Tren de la Costa home, which is supposed to be the fancier, touristy option, although I don't really understand exactly what's so special about it (except that it costs about five times more than the normal commuter train). Anyway, it turned out to be a bad choice, because our train struck a motorcycle and rider at one of the street crossings! So we got stuck waiting in the train for a long while, as the police came and cleared the wreck. It was sad and a bit confusing because the train conductor didn't tell anybody what was going on, and all the train passengers were kind of freaking out while we were stuck there waiting. We finally got back to Buenos Aires later than planned, just in time for dinner in Palermo.

And then Sunday morning... everyone headed back to the USA! What a great trip! It was really really fun hosting the whole family here in Buenos Aires, I wish we could all do it again. Now that we've seen all the basics in Buenos Aires, next time I would definitely try to get out of the city and see more of the natural wonders that Argentina has to offer...

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