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Buenos Aires – The Pearl of South America

February 11, 2011 by Chelsea Slone

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Buenos Aires is the capital of the Republic of Argentina and the country’s largest city. Located in the front of Rio de la Plata this radiant city defines tango on the street and greets each and every visitor with a kiss on the cheek. The unique personalities of the different barrios in the city and the fascinating history spread throughout makes it easy for anyone to love. With the beautiful european architecture and eclectic culture it’s no wonder Buenos Aires is known as the “pearl” of South America.

During our time spent in Buenos Aires we stayed in the barrio by the name Palermo. With the one-of-a-kind trendy boutique shopping, sidewalk cafes, and posh restaurants I would say this area in Buenos Aires is much like the the Soho of New York CIty. We visited all the barrios in the city throughout our stay, but I can say Palermo was by far our favorite. There are two parts of the neighborhood; Palermo Soho filled with fashionistas and stylish boutiques, and Palermo Hollywood filled with the hottest new places to dine. A Parilla, the typical type of restaurant in Buenos Aires, mainly serves steaks and potatoes with portions much too large for one person. We went to a popular parilla “Las Carabas” where we tried the famous argentinean beef.. and it was pretty incredible! The restaurant also served about ten small sides for every main entree ordered. We ordered one steak topped with blue cheese that was to die for, but even one steak was too much for the two of us to finish here!

The people in Buenos Aires live for the moment. The seductive attitudes are evident even in their eyes, most people believe it is the tango inside of them. Tango was believed to have begun in Buenos Aires around the 1880’s. In those years there was a proliferation of brothels in Buenos Aires sustained by immigrant women from Spain, France, Italy, Germany, and Poland. The clientele were also immigrants who had left their wives and families for new opportunities elsewhere, these men were known as “guapos”. In the beginning a violin, flute, and guitar were used to mark the rhythm, but as time went on the Tango shows became more popular and started to become a form of entertainment for the people. The brothels eventually began to hire various brands and music groups to inspire more people to dance, and as these entertainment nights became very successful and popular it formed the beginning of the tango dance. Soon after, the first tango ballroom dances were organized at tango academics, for only men. The tango dance is known to be beautiful and showy spectacle. The dance also represents the beauty of the music with a step taken on every musical note. Tango cannot be danced individually, as they say the woman seduces and the man leads. The dance position appears to be a slight A frame as the women rests on the man’s chest for balance. The man is seen as the driver of the dance steering the woman clear of the other dancers as he leads. Tyler and I took a tango lesson, which taught us a lot about this type of dancing. The woman has no control, making the man responsible for giving proper directions. We learned different tricks to keep in sync with one another and ways for Tyler to communicate the direction to me without talking. It is easier for a girl to learn tango, as all she does is follow the lead. However, for a guy it is much more difficult to learn in the beginning.

When the locals tango they go to a nearby Milonga. There are many different Milongas suited for various age groups and music preference. The traditional tango dance and music is usually only seen in the older generations milongas, while modern tango dance with techno music is found in the younger milongas. At a traditional milonga the men and women sit on opposite sides of the room, and chose a parter by giving “tango eyes”. While visiting the local milongas, I got the feeling we were at a Jr. High dance when the girls and boys serrated to different sides of the room afraid to talk to each other, but as they began to dance it was very beautiful and intimate. We got up to try what we had learned from our lesson, which was definitely a good laugh! Needless to say we can tango at our own pace but need a few more lessons to tango with the locals.

Another barrio I took quite a liking to was San Telmo. On Sundays, this quaint historic neighborhood closes the doors to most of it’s stores and fills the streets with booths of small antiques, vintage jewelry, and local designer goods. The main square in this barrio, Plaza Dorango, is where the market begins and from there it extends to every street around the square and the streets sworm with hundreds of people throughout the day. Very similar to the antique market in Paris, it was a great way to spend our Sunday afternoon. We also decided to visit this area on a weekday to take a look at the incredible antiques they had in the stores. I am very glad we decided to do this as I made the very first antique purchase of my life. I bought a pair of 1910 baroque style bronze picture frames, and they were a steal!

The major BA attractions:

Plaza de Mayo, the famous square in downtown BA, is and has always been the political focal point of Buenos Aires. The name of the square represents the May revolution of 1810, which started the process towards the country’s independence from Spain. Located in this plaza is the Casa Rosada, also known as the pink house as well as the home of the executive branch of government. This famous house contains many interesting facts, including it being the place Madonna filmed her famous “Don’t cry for me Argentina” scene in the movie Evita. Madonna was actually one of the very few people allowed to visit the balcony where Eva Peron made her final farewell to the Argentinean people. Another interesting fact is the reason why the house is pink is because in 1873 when it was built, there were two main political parties; one was red and the other was white. After debating on what color to paint the building they reached a compromise to paint it pink, signifying unity to the country.

La Recoleta Cemetery, one of the world’s most famous cemeteries, is located in the Buenos Aires barrio Recoleta. During 1870’s, following the yellow fever epidemic, many upper-class fled the neighborhoods of San Telmo and Montserrat and moved to the northern part of the city, Recoleta. As it became a high class neighborhood, this cemetery became the final resting place of the greatest prestige and power in Buenos Aires. This beautiful cemetery contains a wide variety of architecture and is filled with marble mausoleums and decorated with statues. Each mausoleum is enscripted with the family name and La Recoleta Cemetery holds the tradition of engraving only the date of death never the date of birth. Some of the most important Argentieans are buried here including Eva Peron (Evita) who was considered the spiritual leader of the nation, and her death was greatly mourned all around the world. I was surprised to see she is buried in a relatively modest tomb compared to most of the others, however it is decorated with flowers and covered in bronze plaques commemorating her life.

Puente de la Mujer (Spanish for Women’s Bridge) is a pedestrian bridge located in the barrio Puerto Medero, where every street is named after women. Built by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava, this famous bridge is considered to be one of the most successful recent waterfront projects in the world. The bridge is abstractly meant to illustrate a couple dancing tango, the man towering over the woman who is leaning back horizontally. This new bridge is a symbol of a new era in Argentine history, and a new millennium.

Obelisk is another famed monument in Buenos Aires located on the widest street in the world, Avenida 9 de Juilo. The avenue has up to seven lanes in each direction and is parallel on either side by streets with an additional four lanes. The avenue’s width spans an entire city block. At a normal walking pace it takes an average of two to three traffic lights to cross. The Obelisk is a famed national historic monument of Buenos Aires, and was built to honor the four centenary of the first foundation of the city.

Buenos Aires was overall one of our favorite places in South America. Argentina as a whole country captured our hearts with the great wine region of Mendoza, the spectacular falls in Iguazu, and the eclectic culture of the city life in Buenos Aires. As our last stop in South America I don’t think we could have been happier spending it in any other country than Argentina.

Chao,

T+C

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4 thoughts on “Buenos Aires – The Pearl of South America

  1. Chelsea- So happy to see that in between the hiking etc., my girl is squeezing in a little shopping , too!! Glad to see you are making some one of a kind purchases to remind you of these fantastic places when you get home. Have you had any goat cheeses on your travels? Love you- Susan

    • Hey!! With our computer being down I completely forgot to post the picture of the frames I found… You would love them! I’ll add the picture to the album now. I thought I definitely deserved them after that hike =) We have had some goat cheese, but none as good as yours of course. I don’t know how I’ll live without that for a year! Miss you and love you! -Chels

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