Ten Amazing Travel Days

Ten Amazing Travel Days

“It’s a perfect day, drank Sangria in the park, later on when it gets dark, we go home”  Lou Reed

A perfect travel day is when everything falls seamlessly into place. There are days when you experience amazing things because the world is an incredible place. I picked ten of my favorite days

Cappadocia , Turkey

Cappadocia could be among my favorite places in the world.  The dramatic landscape is the result of volcanic eruptions that happened millions of years ago. Wind and water eroded the land leaving these odd surreal land formations, fairy chimneys, caves and underground cities.

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Floating across the sky at sunrise, above the lunar-like, rugged moonscape of Cappadocia in a hot air balloon was one of the most incredible mornings of my life and should be on everyone’s bucket list.

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Dubrovnik and Peljesac Penninsula, Croatia

I had a great time in Croatia with my kids. A particularly beautiful day was spent exploring the Peljesac Peninsula with our tour guide Petar Vlasik http://www.dubrovnikrivieratours.com.  We stopped at a few different wineries for wine tasting. Ston is a fortified city from the middle ages with stone ramparts said to resemble a small great wall of China. Ston is known for their lush oyster beds and salt pans and is a great place to eat the freshest oysters and buy salt.

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That night we attended a really good jazz concert at the Old Rectory Church in Dubrovnik. It was a great family memory.

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Onsets and Ryokans, Japan

Ryokan are Japanese style inns found throughout the country in hot springs resorts. Ryokan are a traditional Japanese experience, incorporating elements such as tatami floors, futon beds, Japanese style baths and local kaiseki ryori (eight course typical Japanese meals with local and seasonal specialties).

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The main activity besides eating is bathing. The geothermal springs located throughout the country( onsens) provide hot mineral-rich water for indoor and outdoor baths. The chemistry, temperature, pressure, buoyancy, sulfa and magnesium of thermal baths have curative properties . The meals show all that is beautiful about Japanese culture. Kaiseki is a multi course meal rooted in the Buddhist idea of simplicity. I have been fortunate to visit a few ryokans in Nikko, Yufuin and Iso Nagaoka. Each one has been special.

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Marajo, Brazil

Marajo is an island in Brazil in the state of Para at the mouth of the Amazon. It is the size of Switzerland and home to many beautiful birds and water buffalo.

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The story goes that a ship laden with goods and water buffalo from India hit a reef and sank off the coast of Marajo. Some of the buffalo escaped the wreck and swam to shore. The buffalo are descendants of this shipwreck though now more have been brought in. There are large herds of domesticated water buffalo on the island. At Fazenda Sanjo you can experience life on a farm in the Amazon. There is piranha fishing, riding and milking buffalo, canoeing and horseback riding through the river with the buffalo. We did the riding with the buffalo. It was definitely the most different thing I have ever seen up close and pretty amazing.

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Edinburgh, Scotland

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a summer theatre festival that includes cutting edge theatre, interesting comedians, and everything else. It is a festival where anyone can perform and my daughter’s high school took advantage of that and had a three-week summer program in Edinburgh. My son and I went to see her perform. It was my first time at the Edinburgh Fringe. Being a theatre person, I loved every minute of it and have been back a few times.

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My son worked there the following summer. The Royal Mile is the definitive part of the fringe. This road is packed full of street entertainment, groups doing excerpts from their shows (mainly musicals) and lots, lots and lots of acts trying to flyer you to get you to see their shows. There’s not really any equivalent to this anywhere else. Theatre goes on all day and all night. We had a blast.

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Cartagena, Colombia

The heat in Cartagena gives it a sleepy feeling which kind of makes it okay to sit on the wall, browse through shops and street vendors, buy fresh fruit from a woman carrying it on her head and not go to a museum.

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La Boquilla is a poor fishing village twenty minutes outside of Cartegena. It is a peninsula at the end of a beach with the Caribbean Sea on one side and a lake with mangroves on the other. The guide takes you on an old canoe through mangrove tunnels with flocks of birds and fishermen fishing for crabs ,shrimp and small fish.

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After the canoe they pull out a fresh coconut and make a hole for a straw with a machete. I walk for a long time on the beach with my feet in the Caribbean Sea. I have lunch on the beach of fresh fish, plantains and coconut rice.

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez became a writer in Cartegena. His novel Love in The Time Of Cholera Is set here. It is one of my favorites. I see Fermina riding in the horse and carriages and Florentino wandering everywhere in despair. You can see how much of Cartegena is in his books.

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Hoi An, Viet Nam

Hoi An is one of the most charming cities in Viet Nam .Hoi An’s Old Quarter is lined with two-story old Chinese buildings that now house shops with elaborately carved wooden facades and moss-covered tile roofs.

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The food market reminds visitors of another era when it was filled with goods from all over the Asia. (mangos, rambuchan, snake wine) Hoi An is a place where you can get clothes and shoes made at a reasonable price as long as you have a picture. It is also one of the best eating cities in Viet Nam and known for cooking classes and especially delicious food.

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After spending the day in the hustle and bustle of the busy streets of Hoi An, i head back to the Nam Hai all-villa resort on quiet Hoi An Beach. The contemporary architecture is welcoming and eye-catching as feng shui mingles with strong modern lines.

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The Spa at the Nam Hai is truly something wonderful. Composed of 8 villas, floating around a lotus pond, it is the ideal location for a relaxing massage, steam shower and herbal tea! The people who work there are most helpful and always want to practice their English.

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Venice, Italy

Every corner you turn in Venice ,you walk deeper into some real-life watercolor painting that a camera can never do justice. It’s like no place else I’ve ever been.

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It’s  a maze of canals and small streets, whimsical bridges, and colorful buildings. And as with all mazes, you should prepare to find yourself lost a time or two. I was there with my kids and a friend,  It was during the Art Biennale in the summer.

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We got to see incredible modern art from all over the world in the morning and explore the city in the afternoon.

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An important Venetian holiday is held on the third week in July. It is the Feast of the Redentore commemorating the end of the plague that killed fifty thousand people including Titian. The fireworks display is so extensive and significant that the re-election of the mayor is contingent on their quality (sort of like us picking a governor based on his movies) I have to add that they were the most incredible fireworks of our lives –I hope that mayor got re-elected.

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Buenos Aires, Argentina

It started in Tigre, a port a half hour from Buenos Aires. We sailed through the different rivers of the Delta Del Parana.

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At lunchtime, we went to Tres Esquinas in Barranca, a working class barrio in Buenos Aires for steak and empanadas. I love outdoor markets but the Sunday antiques market in Plaza Dorrego  in San Telmo is a phenomenon. The antiques are around the plaza but the shopping continues with arts and crafts vendors for many blocks. It is curbside capitalism at its finest.

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La Confiteria Ideal did not start as a tango hall but as  a pastry café in 1912. In the nineties it became a tango hall. Its faded glamour was a perfect background for the faded glamour of the tango dancers I saw that day. Dance has been a big part of my life. Andres Miguel my tour guide is a tango dancer.  tango@culturacercana.com.ar  Everything we did that day was related to tango  –  a boat on a river, good food and shopping, a milonga and always tango stories. He was the perfect tour guide for me and gave me a gift of the perfect day.

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Krueger National Park, South Africa

My daughter and my new son-in-law  were married on a safari In South Africa with sixty-five of their closest friends and family. A game park in Africa is an unlikely wedding destination. (We Love Pictures)

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You know that word that we Americans overuse for everything – awesome? i didn’t expect to have the feeling of humbleness and awe I had when seeing the African animals in the wild up close. There are moments of joy in your life. Watching your daughter get married to the right guy   in the peace and beauty of the African Bush is a distinctive moment of happiness. Watching your son officiate the wedding with intelligence, humor, kindness, sensitivity and even a bit of spirituality  (albeit in the form of animals)  makes it perfect.

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Fly safe,
JAZ

A Perfect Day In Buenos Aires

A Perfect Day In Buenos Aires

“Without the streets nor dusks of Buenos Aires a Tango cannot be written.” Jorge Luis Borges

Every morning is a new beginning.   Sometimes, when you are fortunate, it is just another perfect day.

It started in Tigre. Tigre is still an important timber processing port about a half hour outside of Buenos Aires. The “Puerto de Frutos” (fruit port) is now a crafts fair located in the old fruit market by the riverside.

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I looked at the brown murky water (it is clean but filled with sediment not pollution) and lush foliage and really wanted to explore.  Andres, my tour guide said his boat was nearby. (unplanned). His boat is named Juan D’Arienzo after a famous tango orchestra director.

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We sailed off through the different rivers of the Delta del Parana. It was Sunday and many people were out in their rowboats. We passed the supermarket boat bringing supplies and also the public bus boat.  We saw the church and school and many of the homes on the islands.

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I loved being on that river, It was a calm and peaceful day but I knew it could change in a minute  with a rainstorm, wind or dry spell.  Are we like that also? Always moving and then  changing when things happen?

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Tres Esquinas means three corners and is named after a famous tango.  The restaurant is located in Barracas, a working class barrio in Buenos Aires .  It is definitely a local place to have steak and empanadas. It was filled with families having their large midday meal. We had a couple of empanadas each.  They were muy sabroso. I think it was about two dollars. (I am bad at conversion) delicious and economical.

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I love outdoor markets but the Sunday antiques market in Plaza Dorrego  in San Telmo is a phenomenon. The antiques are around the plaza but the shopping continues with arts and crafts vendors for many blocks. It is curbside capitalism at its finest.

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There  is so much to see – vintage soda water bottles, old telephones, mate cups and  kitchenware  are on display everywhere.  There is also a produce market. Tango dancers are on every corner. It seems as if everyone in Buenos Aires is here, shopping or hanging out. It was overwhelming even for a professional shopper like myself and so much fun to see.

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La Confiteria Ideal did not start as a tango hall but as  a pastry café in 1912. In the seventies it became a venue for concerts and many famous people performed here. But it the nineties it became a tango hall. It has been the location of many tango scenes from movies. Its faded glamour was a perfect background for the faded glamour of the tango dancers I saw that day.

I was there on a Sunday afternoon . They dance from three until nine. This is  very early for a milonga (place where people gather to dance tango) which doesn’t usually start until eleven. The dancers were mostly older and seemed to know each other. They had come here for many years. The men sat on one side and the women on the other.  The men signal silently for a dance across a crowded room with the nod of their head, a wink, or a raised eyebrow.

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The older generation danced with the awkward sensual grace of people whose bodies no longer moved the way they used to but their soul remembers.

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Tango is about emotional connection and trust. There’s a saying in Spanish that captures the importance of the embrace in tango: “El abrazo es mas importante que el paso” (The embrace is more important than the step) ). In the embrace there is trust without intellectual analysis.

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There was a lesson in watching these older people completely submit themselves to the dance and the moment. There was no before and no after  -simply dancing.

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The music of the tango is from the orchestras of the thirties fourties and fifties. It is the music of Buenos Aires. It is also some of the music of my childhood. My parents were folk and ballroom dancers. I learned the tango steps when I was five.  I can  play a few songs on the accordian. I never thought I would ever admit to that.  Watching the milonga tango dancers, brought back many memories of my childhood. It’s amazing how much you can remember with a few notes of a song. (Juan D’Arienzo , tango orchestra-I love this video)

Dance has been a big part of my life. Andres Miguel my tour guide is a tango dancer.  Everything we did that day was related to tango  –  a boat on a river, good food and shopping, a milonga and always tango stories. He was the perfect tour guide for me and gave me a gift of the perfect day. Muchas, muchas gracias Andres. tango@culturacercana.com.ar

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Buen Dia and Fly Safe

JAZ

White Walls Say Nothing – Urban Art In Buenos Aires

White Walls  Say Nothing – Urban Art In Buenos Aires

“First day of Advanced Art, my teacher said “I bet none of you know an artist who is currently alive” I raised my hand and said “Banksy” he shook his head and said he wasn’t a real artist, that is  when I knew he wasn’t a real art teacher.” Ariel Dennis

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Streets are the world’s biggest gallery and in Buenos Aires,  graffimundo are the curators.  graffitimundo is a nonprofit organization that promotes street art in Buenos Aires. They have group tours every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at  3 :00 PM and private tours available. It is a great way to see the street art of Buenos Aires. Contact them at http://graffitimundo.com/.

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It is not exactly illegal to paint on the outside walls in Buenos Aires.  As long as the artists have the consent of the building owners,  it is fine.  There are many unoccupied spaces  and dividing walls between buildings. This gives  plenty of  locations for artists to bring a wall to life. IMG_0155 IMG_0157

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It is possible to come across artists painting during the day on the walls.  This is unheard of in most other cities.  Urban artists come from all over the world to paint here. They don’t have to run in the night and have time to create some beautiful thought-provoking pieces.

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I love graffiti art.  My dog is named after a graffiti artist.  It is the art of the community.  People have always written on walls-from cave paintings to love hate propaganda to murals of epic detail and size.  You have to be really committed to paint on a wall knowing it won’t be there forever. The paint will fade, cracks will form or someone can paint over it.   It’s a product of the moment. It is art for art’s sake and not for sale. IMG_0145

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I don’t even mind the writing graffiti. It is some form of communication. When I used to see the freshly painted writing on the trains in NY (I thought it looked great), I would think – another person who has a found a  way to express his anger without a gun. Of course, I’m not the woman in Buenos Aires who washes it off her walls every day or the people who clean up hate crimes of “art”.  There was one street  where a father kept writing I love you to his kids. I wonder what he did that he had to write it all over the walls. There are always stories.

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Johnny Robson was my tour guide and founder of graffitmundo. They started it because they thought the  urban art scene in Buenos Aires was amazing. There was no information about it. graffitimundo was formed to help  share what they had learned with anyone  who was interested. It was their way to support people  who were incredibly talented and under appreciated.

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Johnny is passionate and knowledgeable about the art, artists and their style of painting on the streets of BA.  Every artist and every picture tells a story and Johnny is only too happy to tell them all.  Halfway into the tour , I find myself recognizing artists and styles. The pieces are dynamic. Some express political and social messages and some  may just express emotion.  They are filled with energy, color and life.

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You get to see streets all over Buenos Aires as well.  On the tour we visited walls in Palermo, Villa Crespo, Chacarita and Colegiales.

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I loved the collaborative pieces. In the early graffiti years, Crews (art gangs) have always worked together to paint on the subways and streets. This gave way to Collaboratives  – sometimes political -that could do more than an individual artist. According to Johnny, the artists are happy to share the walls with other talented artists. Another reason  urban artists like to paint in BA.

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We stop off at Hollywood in Cambodia (great name for a gallery) an urban art gallery located on the first floor above Post Bar in Palermo with a rooftop terrace. Americans would probably call it the second floor.  It is run by a few art collectives.  I want to buy everything, but settle on a couple of pieces that I can carry. IMG_0189 IMG_0191

There is not an empty space of wall in the bar below either. IMG_0201 IMG_0199 IMG_0194

The title of this piece is also the title of a documentary that will be out soon. “White Walls Say Nothing” is a feature documentary, produced by White Wall Industries in association with graffitimundo. It is the story of Buenos Aires Urban Art Scene as told by the artists.  I can’t  wait to see it.

I highly recommend this tour in Buenos Aires  if you are interested in modern art or street culture.  For hipsters and scenesters it is the coolest thing to do (unless you are  actually painting on the walls)

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I’m  still amazed by the amount of street art and quality of some of the pieces I saw that day.  I  turned a corner and I saw a painting that I wanted to look at for a long time . I watched people walk by and not even look up.  It’s crazy that they didn’t  see  what they were missing.    Because art , like luck is where you find it.

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Viaje con cuidado,

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JAZ

Things I Have Learned In Buenos Aires

Things I Have Learned In Buenos Aires

“The two elements the traveler first captures in the big city are extra human architecture and furious rhythm. Geometry and anguish.” Federico Garcia Lorca

Recoleta Cemetery is the final resting place of the good, the bad, the beautiful and the rich people of Argentina’s past. It is a remarkable necropolis of tombs and mausoleums.  It is proportioned like a miniature village with its stately Greco-Roman crypts lining the narrow walkways. They believed “the bigger the mausoleum, the closer to God. “ It is less expensive to live your whole life in Buenos Aires than it is to be buried in Recoleta.

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There are approximately eighty cats who live at the Recoleta cemetery.  They say that they are the guardians/ tour guides of  the 4800 tombs and have been taken care of for twenty years.  Everyone including me  takes photos of them.

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When you enter the cemetery through the neoclassical gates (designed by  the Italian architect Juan Antonio Buschiazzo.)  There are two messages in Latin. The message on this inside is from the living to the dead and says rest in peace. On the outside, it is from the dead to the living and says Wait for God.

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You have found Eva Peron’s flower strewn monument when you see people. She is buried among the rich people who did not like her.

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Outside the  cemetery on Saturdays is the Feria Artesanal Plaza Independente Alvear, Recoleta. It is a sprawling arts and crafts market.  They sell leather goods, indigenous products, art, souvenirs and snacks. I bought some really good gifts there. (artist Pablo Maino)

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Buenos Aires like Paris is a city of street markets on Saturdays and Sundays.

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Drivers in Buenos Aires love to break the rules. Six AM is a dangerous time to be on the road as many people are heading home from milongas and dance clubs.

It turns out that Argentina has great ice cream. (or helado in Spanish). The blend of Italian immigrants bringing their tradition of making gelato, with high quality and creamy milk, combine to make some of the best ice cream in the world. Un Altra Volta is always a good place to go and they have a few locations. The Dulce De Leche is really tasty.

La Boca means the mouth in Spanish. The La Boca barrio  is located at the mouth of the Riachuelo. It was originally a shipyard and housed the people who worked there. The houses were built with cast-off ship building materials, meaning that they were largely constructed of  planks, sheet metal and corrugated iron. They were painted in different colors because they used whatever colors were brought in on the ships.  There never seemed to be enough paint in one color.

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Caminito is the colorful artist/tourist street by the river.  In 1960, La Boca artist Benito Quinquela Martín painted the walls of what was then an abandoned street and erected a makeshift stage for performances. It attracted the artists, followed by the tourists, tourist hustlers and bland tourist restaurants.

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It is fun to see the open air tango display and I bought some nice photographs from an artist on the street. If you are going at night, take taxis to and from your destination. It is still a rough working class barrio. (artist Doralisa Romero)

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Throughout history and male dominated governments, women were supposed to suffer injustice in silence. During the reign of the military junta it is believed that 30,000 to 45,000 people “disappeared”.  These victims were sons and daughters. In 1976 a small group of mothers walked around the Plaza Mayo holding photos of their missing children. The protests were not legal. A woman’s place was in the home. The women said a mother’s place is to protect and find her missing children and so they protested on a technicality. Some of the early protestors went missing as well. The women began to wear white headscarves.  The movement grew throughout Latin America. Sting and U2 recorded songs about  them. In 2006 President Kirchner declared unconstitutional the laws used to imprison the Disappeared. Following this move, the Madres ceased their annual protest marches. (U2 on UTube)

Today the Madres de  Plaza de Mayo are the largest civil rights organization in Argentina. In addition to their initial work to find the disappeared, the Madres have tried to continue the work of their lost children.  They have set up a  newspaper, a radio station and a university.And they continue to fight for social justice. The march every Thursday afternoon at 3:30.

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MALBA (Museo de Latinoamericano Arte de Buenos Aires) has an interesting permanent collection and should not be missed by anyone interested in art.

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The building was designed to interact with art. A bench is not just a bench. (bench, bench continues)

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The gallery space is sectional yet fluid The permanent collection  consists of painting, sculpture, photography, print, drawing, and installations.  Visitors see major works by Xu Solar, Diego Rivera, Antonio Berni, Frida Kahlo and Jorge de la Vega, and a host of other modern masters from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Uruguay, and Venezuela. (Antonio Berni -love this piece)

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The Teatro Colon celebrated its hundredth birthday in 2008.  Its first performance in 1908 was Aida. The theatre is said to have one the best acoustics in the world. It is listed as one of the top five opera houses in the world.  It is the only stage that Pavarotti  was nervous to perform on. A massive  100 million dollar renovation was completed in 2010 and tours of the beautiful building are conducted daily in English and Spanish. Better yet, see a performance.  You can get tickets online before you go.

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Arte BA one of the largest and most important art fairs in Latin America was held in Buenos Aires May 24-27. Eighty two galleries from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, United States, Peru and Uruguay participated. It was really fun and interesting and they seemed to have a lot of sales. (art by Marta Minujin)

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Eva Peron is a controversial figure in Argentine history. Museo Evita opened on July 26, 2002, the 50th anniversary of her death, in a mansion where her charity, the Eva Perón Foundation, once housed single mothers with children. The placement of the house here had been meant as a direct affront to the wealthy neighbors who hated Evita.

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The museum treats her history fairly looking at the good and the bad. Her things have been remarkably preserved by the military government that took power after Juan Peron. Whether you love her, hate her or  don’t care either way, she is an important part of Argentine history and  you should see the museum.

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Drink a cup of freshly roasted coffee  ( I like cortado  -small coffee with a splash of milk) with a crispy medialuna (Argentinian croissant) at Café Tortoni.  A good place to try one is the city’s most traditional café. It was founded in 1858.  Café Tortoni has doubled as both a Bohemian and literary joint over the years. It is touristy but I am a tourist . I like to mix the places I’ve heard about with the places only locals know.

I preferred La Biela , opened in 1950 near the Recoleta Cemetery.  Biela means the connecting hot rod of an engine. It was frequented by early car owners and race car drivers. Their  black and white photos decorate the walls. It went on to become popular with artists writers and politicians. It has life-size statues of Argentine writers Borges and Casares sitting at a table in the front of the café.

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Great steak can be had at many places. I had it at La Cabrera http://www.parrillalacabrera.com.ar/ in Palermo Soho.  It was the size of my head but buttery and delicious.

Palermo is the largest barrio ( neighborhood) in Buenos Aires. It has beautiful parks, polo fields and many subdivisions. The most well-known for tourists are Palermo Viejo – home to Jorge Luis Borges and Che Guevara; Palermo Hollywood named because in the nineties a number of radio and tv producers moved there. Today it is known for restaurants, clubs and nightlife. Palermo Soho, as with its London and NY namesakes, is a  trendy area for fashion, design, restaurants, bars and street culture. Its “alternative” reputation makes it popular with Argentine Yuppies and tourists.

The Teatro Grand Splendid  was built in 1919 as a theatre for top tier tango concerts. What a wonderful name for a theatre. Tango legends such as Carlos Gardel, Francisco Canaro, Roberto Firpo, and Ignacio Corsini performed here. Building proprietor Max Glucksman was a leading figure in the world of tango in his own right, as owner of the influential Nacional-Odeon record label. In 1929, the theater underwent its first transformation to become a cinema, with the distinction of being the first in Buenos Aires to show sound film. Glucksman’s love of tango carried over to the new cinema, with live tango orchestration accompanying the silent films projections.

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Its latest transformation is the El Ateneo bookstore.  The painted ceiling, detailed balconies, and stage are all intact. The private boxes are now small reading rooms. The stage is a café. The shelves fit perfectly around the theater’s original shape. The book collection is pretty standard and mostly in Spanish, it is an amazing place to buy a book or have a coffee on the famous stage.

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Going to a soccer game with one of the local clubs is a must do in Buenos Aires. I got to go to a Boca Jr, game at La Bombonera in La Boca.  The fans are as exciting as the game. They spit, throw garbage, scream at each other, sing and often dump water or urine on the people sitting below them if they don’t like what is happening. The Bocas tied the Newell Old Boys and fifty people got arrested. It was a great first night in Buenos Aires.

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I would  not have had such an amazing time without the help of tour guides Marcelo Mansilla (info@ciceroneba.com.ar ) and Fabian Ali ( fali@culturacercana.com.ar) .  Muchas gracias for all your great suggestions, insight, kindness and knowledge of your very beautiful city. (Marcelo)

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Buen Viaje,

JAZ

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