Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Mi Buenos Aires Lindo

"El gaucho más infeliz
tenía tropilla de un pelo,
no le faltaba un consuelo
y andaba la gente lista..."

-El gaucho Martín Fierro, Jose Hernandez

A fantastic example of the city's
architecture: this building housing
the main offices of the municipal
water works.
Taking the plunge to adventure back to the ancestral lands of one's forbears is a natural story setting for the seasoned traveler. Following a manual of quickly jotted notes on memorable locations and shaky memories of individuals' names harks back to the plot of an Indiana Jones film. Nonetheless, there is plenty to appreciate from the historical and modern preservationist perspective. Buenos Aires has a look and feel of New York City before Bloomberg: the streets are clean, Beaux Arts architecture abounds, artists and activists still inhabit a variety of corners and are found in plenty along the streets, and cafes and shops of interest are on many corners.

In stark contrast to the American experience, the Argentinean preference for signage is an art form recently decreed a piece of national heritage known as 'el filetado'. One of the most frequently seen phrases is the title of this post "Mi Buenos Aires Querido" [My beloved Buenos Aires]. A typical example is seen below (artist unknown.) In it are some very characteristic images from Argentina: the horse to represent the gaucho - symbol of creole culture, and 'el albiceleste' - the blue and white of the national flag.

El fileteado porteño
The artwork became such a popular theme immediately after the acknowledgement around the month of October that when I arrived in December nearly every book on the theme had sold out of all the exceedingly busy bookstores in the city center. Luckily, Amazon contains several copies of good material.In a grand throwback to theories that the secretive organization of the Masons have been stealthily planning city traffic patterns and icons for centuries, Buenos Aires has its very own obelisk, dedicated to the 400th Anniversary of the founding of the city. The statuesque construction sits currently at the center of the municipal bus hub, and is a frequently utilized site for political gatherings and cultural events. The view below is from Calle Corrientes looking up from the direction of Puerto Madero towards Avenida del 9 de Julio.

El Obelisco
Avenida 9 de Julio con c/Corrientes
Speaking of Puerto Madero, the entire harbor section of the city has undergone a complete remodel. Not unlike my native New York's West Side development during the Bloomberg administration, the area has become home to upper scale restaurants and stores catering to a more expensive clientele. There are very lovely areas and some fantastic meals to be had in this section of town, but that is for the next trip's record.

From Puerto Madero one can book passage on the Buquebus that will ferry you across to Montevideo in Uruguay in just a few short hours. This is a popular trip during the holiday season as there are quite a few beach destinations within reach of an easy trip from the city. Those familiar with the MTA's One Day Getaway packages will recognize the format.

'El Punete de la Mujer"
Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires
Adding to the area's new chic is the salient 'Puente de la Mujer' by noted Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava - the same mind from whence came Puente Alamillo in Sevilla and NYC's own Occulus. The bridge spans the width of the harbor entry, and connects both side of the port. Clicking through the various links above you can see the similarities between the design styles of each piece.

Lastly, since this was a trip during the end of year holiday season, no adventure would be complete without a quick stop through the local shopping center, and in Buenos Aires there is no place like Galerias Pacifico for the holiday spirit! Don't skip the alfajores, they are delicious no matter from where you get them.

The video below is the ceiling of Galerias Pacifico. Enjoy, and dream about your next trip to Buenos Aires!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Stay on the Path

Ah, adventure! Traveling to far away lands to witness heretofore unbeknownst boundless beauty. Interesting individuals in unfamiliar situations...different languages, foods, smells, sights and sounds await. All these are crucial items that can be found crossing from one country to the next, or possibly as close as one borough to the next inside of New York City. Hailing from The Bronx and now living in Queens, going home is always an experience frought with nostalgia and wonder. Recently, there has been something of an enforced Renaissance, to follow the pattern of social and economic evolution found in the rest of the City, but the effect still has not reached every corner.

Hidden against the backdrop of the last stand of old growth forest originally covering New York City, and nestled comfortable between Fordham University and the Bronx Zoo is the respectable institution of the Bronx Botanical Gardens. This season's hearty display was an exhibit on Impressionism, and painting with flowers. The #GardensonCanvas tag saw considerable engagement, take some time to sift through the Twitter and Instagram posts, they're pretty amazing.

Diehard fans of Cake Boss will enjoy photos from one of the most amazing pieces of this exhibit. Nearly a dozen confectionnaires arrived on scene with tremendous cakes - all appropriately adorned to fit both the occasion and the location.
From Prince of Pastry, Bronx, NY
One cake showed perched atop an architecturally cantilevered layer cake, a delicately crafted red cardinal. Another showed a sculpted and foliage decorated face of Mother Nature. Still another sported a sugary replica of the Aenid Haupt Conservatory squarely atop its uppermost layer. See some of the standout examples below.

Within the Conservatory, the entire main section of the greenhouse was made to represent an Impressionist painter's canvas, complete with a mock up of an artist's retreat, and educational materials on gardens on artists' retreats.

The pictures will speak for themselves.

Once through the display, all of the confectionnaires handed out samples of their wares (not the competition cakes, but the small pieces we had were to die for!) The carrot cake was easily the finest I've had in my life. The coconut chocolate cake is something about which I am writing not only to mom, but the entire was that serious.

To cap off the impressionist era feel, some cosplayers in period garb - Steampunk, one might even say - ambled about the gardens - built around the same period - and even danced to the impromptu jazz band in the broad entry way to the conservatory.

Despite the overcast day and a spot of rain, all in all it turned out to be an afternoon full of color and sound! The exhibit goes on until the second week in September, easy transit directions on the Garden's website or via the MTA.

La Piñata Bakery
Yonkers, NY
Conti's Bakery
Bronx, NY