by adeline talbot

I am scrabbling around these parts getting ready to head out with Weatherspoon Art Museum director Nancy Doll on a WAM-sponsored trip to Venice and The Biennale---and I am so excited I could just about pop--but in the meantime one of my travel cohorts, Kristin Peterson Edwards, has been thinking ahead to our trip this fall to Buenos Aires.  The trip is a 'go'!--and we still have 3 spots left (...and definitely could budge in a 4th...) so read on about 'why Buenos Aires?' and see if you don't agree--it is positively irresistible...Oh and if you do find that you absolutely, positively need to come along let us know asap.  Time to finalize the plans and we'd love for you to be along for this wonderful saucy ride...

Why Buenos Aires?

Buenos Aires is often referred to as the Paris of South America.  And perhaps that is what is drawing me there.  I have always had the travel bug but Europe seems to be my destination more frequently than not.  I lived in Paris twice while in high school and college and it was a family joke that I was born in Paris.  Perhaps part of that comes from having been born on Bastille Day, the French national holiday.  So for me, any reference to Paris is enticing – whether it is a cozy French bistro in New York or a city that boasts the vast Parisian architecture contrasted with quaint neighborhoods with cobble-stoned streets. Thus, the pull to Buenos Aires… Like Paris, it is a vibrant city whose characteristics and culture are unique to the city – beef is to Buenos Aires as croissants are to Paris, and tango is to B.A. as fashion is to Paris.

A city of broad avenues, stunning plazas and charming side streets, much of Buenos Aires still retains the old-world charm that the nostalgic natives are proud of.  But it is truly a beautiful mishmash of architecture that blends influences from Italy, France and Spain and contemporary design. The European style architecture from the 19 th century combines aspects of Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Neo-Gothic and French Bourbon. But around the turn of century, the more simplistic Neo-classical and baroque styles became more popular. Skyscrapers first arrived in the city around 1920 and since then many modern high rises have continued to built including the Repsol-YPF tower by world-renowned architect César Pelli creating the modern skyline along the waterfront. Buenos Aires is divided up into distinct neighborhoods – each with their own personality - and all worth exploring – Centro, Palermo, La Boca, San Telmo, Recoleta, Puerto Madero, and Belgrano.

 Buenos Aires has a remarkable history of political unrest and economic ups and downs.  The city has been growing in popularity as a destination and has been romanticized since the opera-based movie Evita, starring Madonna, was released in 1996.  Known as Evita, Eva Perón became a national heroine in her short reign with her partner and husband, Juan Domingo Perón, which was dedicated to empowering the working class of Argentina.  She died young of uterine cancer in 1952.  Since then, the Argentinian government has been lead by dictators and civilian presidents, who have at times been over thrown by military coups.  Finally a democratic state, Argentina is still known for protests, rallies and national strikes by political activists.

 Porteños, as the locals are called, are big supporters of the arts.  Like Paris, it is a haven for artists, writers, musicians and dancers.  The city is known for its opera house Teatro Colón, with acoustics so good “that every mistake can be heard.”  This is likely due to the influence of the many Italian and Spanish immigrants that settled there in the 20th Century. Buenos Aires has several art museums including the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, which has a wonderfully curated permanent collection featuring works by some of the most important international artists.  The new Museo de Arte Lantinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA)  houses a historical collection of Latin American art.  The Fundación Proa has received recognition for many significant exhibitions over the last 30 years of international artists including Louise Bourgeois, Marcel Duchamp, Rosemarie Trockel, Mario Merz, Diego Rivera and Jenny Holzer, as well as many well known Latin American artists.  Buenos Aires now has a booming contemporary gallery scene and hosts arteBA, an International contemporary art fair, which is held annually in June.

Buenos Aires is famous for its steaks and wines, but the culinary scene has expanded well beyond that and porteños take their food quite seriously.  Café life is a large part of the city’s culture.  Café Tortoni is the most famous and has been serving espresso to the political, literary and entertainment worlds since it opened in 1858. 

Patagonia Sur in la Boca is chef Francis Mallman’s flagship restaurant and is likely Argentina’s most expensive restaurant.  In the neighborhood of Palermo Hollywood, Tegui, the ninth best eatery on the continent, offers up a fresh menu each week.  Diners can watch their meals being prepared in the open kitchen at one end of the contemporary space.  A feature unique to the Buenos Aires’ gastronomic offerings is the “closed door” restaurant, where local chefs have opened small dining rooms in their homes. This began in the midst of the country’s financial crisis over ten years ago.  These intimate venues quickly became popular and offer constantly changing prix-fixe menus that are often paired with local Argentine wines. One of the first of these puertas cerradas, is La Cocina Discreta. Reviews tout that each course is considered to be a culinary masterpiece.  There is an art gallery in the space, to boot.  Another “closed door” spot that comes highly recommended is Casa Saltshaker, with its eclectic combination of Andean and Mediterranean cuisines.   A meal in one of these extraordinary venues is a must when visiting BA.

 While in Buenos Aires, one must also experience Tango and spectate at a Polo match.  And we intend to do just that on our week long trip to Buenos Aires in October, when spring will be in full bloom.  Hopefully you have been teased enough like the carrot before the horse that you will want to join us on our Argentinian adventure.  We have a few spots left.  Please click on the link below to reserve your spot.