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Monday, May 21, 2012

Buenos Aires, the Sequels

After nine months or so, I had another chance to visit Buenos Aires again for the second and third time. Pretty much the same set of SOP in getting a visa (9-month old blog here) and the means of transportation so there’s no giant leap whatsoever. If there’s anything unique in this leg, it must be the fact that both travels were film-related.

For the second visit, I caught Raya Martin’s “Buenos Noches, España” for the third time. There was a film festival last April 11 to 22 and there’s a Pinoy film in there (in fact, two). For the third visit, it’s more of a collaboration with Mike as he wanted to watch Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers” in a really nice cinema (if IMAX is too much to ask).

Anyway, very briefly, here are the highlights (and album links) of the back-to-back trips to Buenos Aires:

1. BAFICI. Or Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente (very helpful website here) is Argentina’s version of Cinemanila with focus on indie films. The other Pinoy film, which is in competition, is Marlon Rivera’s “Ang Babae sa Septic Tank” but I can’t fit the given time slot in my weekend trip. It wasn’t crowded when we went to C.C.C. Teatro 25 de Mayo (they have a lot of venues all scattered in the city). Tickets can be bought in the venue or in advance. Roughly, there were 50 people in the cinema (outstanding audio) but a small percentage walked out. As expected. Glad that my Argentinean friend managed to endure the film. He even quipped that the film has a script (contrary to what the detractors say). Ferry trip pictures here and in and around Buenos Aires here.

2. El Ateneo and Gran Café Tortoni. Right after the film (my first Argentinean cinema experience, by the way), we went to two interesting spots in the city. First is a branch of El Ateneo, a book store, which used to be a live performance venue. It’s fascinating to see the place with the original look of a theater while a dozen book shelves are placed in what used to be a space for the audience. From there, we moved to Gran Café Tortoni (pictures here) to have hot chocolate and some churros (really, really good). The coffee shop is more than 150 years old already and it’s awesome that they maintain its charm (dim lights, some paintings here and there, etc.). There was a short queue when we reached the place but the experience was really worth it.

3. Jardin Botanico Carlos Thays. Consider this the Central Park of Buenos Aires only far smaller. The purpose is exactly the same though, a breathing space for city dwellers, students and lovers. Surprisingly, its greenhouse in the middle boasts of some carnivorous plants including the famous Venus Flytrap. When we visited the park, there’s a tango/ballet performance in an open area. That complements the sculptures of some Greek gods/goddesses that are installed in selected corners. More pictures here.

4. 38th Feria Internacional del Libro de Buenos Aires. The fact that the event is older than me, the book fair is really something (proof here). I’ve been to some similar fairs back home but this one is really huge. To elaborate, imagine four or five World Trade Center halls (in Pasay City). It is that big. Also well attended as proven by the queue and there are a lot of interesting stuff to see and explore. They even have a booth for a book launch that is broadcasted live over a radio program and a cultural show like this one.

5. La Boca. We’ve visited this colorful neighborhood before and it was still refreshing to see it again. This time around, we had lunch at El Paraiso with some parrilla (usual asado but equally sumptuous, chorizo, morcilla and some lamb). We’ve checked out the place before only to go to the toilet and to take pictures of the interior. Before heading back to the place where we parked the car, a staff working in the stadium of Boca Juniors offered to borrow my camera and take pictures (check the album here) of the football field and the bleachers.

6. Casa Rosada. It was my first time to get in to this presidential office (equivalent to the White House or our very own Malacañang. There’s a free tour ongoing on that Saturday afternoon but it was in Spanish. I enjoyed it nonetheless. The iconic balcony was not open during that time but we went into some similarly interesting rooms, from receiving area down to the actual room where the president is holding his office. It must be noted that one hallway boasts of pictures of the famous celebrities including football player and even a cartoon character. More pictures here.

7. DOT Baires Mall. This is where we caught the screening of “The Avengers” at 1:40am (a first for me). Almost everything in there resembles a mall in the Philippines. The lay-out is like Robinsons Place in Malate and the crowd, especially those who were chilling out at the food court and cinema area, is very close to home (pictures here). It was my second time to visit an Argentinean movie theater and the attention to sound quality and projection is just fascinating.

8. Tigre. We went to this town by car and reached the place in 30 minutes (through a highway that could go straight to Montevideo). There are a lot of things to do in there. It has an amusement park, a casino, a series of shops (mostly furniture and house decor) and the Parana Delta which can be best explored through a 1-hour boat tour. From the dock, the river looks bare but when the boat reached the canals, the residential houses, which are not accessible by land, became visible. Locals need to commute by public boat (or their own pump boat) to reach home. For daily needs, a floating grocery store is roaming the area selling a wide range of stuff from portable gas tank to water and beers. The tour is also in Spanish but at least I got a glimpse of that unique community. The rest of the pictures here and a short video of the river cruise here.

9. Palermo Neighborhood. When I think of food in Buenos Aires, I always associate it with Palermo. It’s like Malate with more shops (from Gola to not-so-usual store names like De Puta Madre), a feria, bars and a thousand restaurants. For the record, all the restaurants that I tried are all satisfyingly good. For La Baita, I had stuffed pasta cooked in olive oil while I had an Argentinean beef from Bar Abierto, both classic and fusion (yes, with a dash of dulce de leche, a really delightful innovation) sushi from Itamae Sushi and a red velvet cupcake from Muma’s (quality is like Sonja’s). During our last night in Palermo Soho, I tried playing billiards while having a drink then hopped on to the nearby bar to get a glass of Jack-Coke. Two albums here and here.

The rest of the pics here.

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