The Easter long weekend is here! The time off means different things for different people. If you, religious or not, found yourself travelling in Buenos Aires at this time, there are quite a few things you can do to make it a memorable local experience:
1) Join in on the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession
This has been a Semana Santa (Holy Week) tradition on Avenida de Mayo in Buenos Aires. As a matter of fact, the now Pope Francis used to be the person who led this procession for the last 10 years. This year’s procession will take place on Good Friday April 18, starting from Plaza Lorea (Av de Mayo & Luis Sáenz Peña) at 8:30pm towards la Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires in Plaza de Mayo. Choir and musicians will be accompanying the procession as well as actors who will be reenacting the 14 Stations of the Cross along the way. You can bring your own candles to be lit at the ceremony.
2) Visit Tierra Santa
Tierra Santa (Holy Land) is a religious theme park. When it was opened in 2000, it was first of its kind! The park is conveniently located just north of the Palermo neighborhood. It’s almost like an old Jerusalem town hidden in the city. We have visited and shared our experience at Tierra Santa on a regular weekend here, but Easter weekend is a special occasion where you’ll be in for a treat with a full program of once-a-year only performances and activities.
3) Eat Rosca de Pascua
Rosca de pascua is a brioche-like ring-shaped sweet bread traditionally covered with custard cream and candied cherries. It’s the cake we enjoy during Easter time. You can easily find them at panaderías (bakeries) and some might have their own recipes using other ingredients like whole hard-boiled eggs, dried fruits and nuts, chocolate, dulce de leche, etc. Check out this video from an Argentine TV program on how to make a traditional rosca de pascua step by step and get the tips on how to make it properly (Spanish only).
We have been getting a lot more rainy days in Buenos Aires than usual, as a tourist visiting the city, rainy days aren’t the best times to navigate around; however, your time doesn’t have to be wasted either. Here are some suggestions on places to check out on bad weather days:
Galería Pacífico – Located on the north end of the famous pedestrian Florida street in Microcentro. Other than being a mall inside a gorgeous building with many brand-name stores, it has a cultural centre, Centro Cultural Borges, situated on its top floor. It often has free art exhibitions going on at one of its various salas. There is also a tango school, Escuela Argentina de Tango, inside it too and has classes all day long.
Abasto Shopping – It’s currently the biggest shopping mall in Capital Federal. It has more than 250 shops, appeal to all ages, and a huge movie theatre. This site and building actually have an interesting history. This area was first established as el Mercado Central, a central wholesale market for fruits and vegetables, back in 1893. Over the years, as demand and population grew, the original building was torn down and was rebuilt in 1930′s, adopting the popular art deco style from that time. It remained as el Mercado Central until 1984 as it outgrew itself again and the market was moved to a much bigger space outside the city. It was not until 1999, that the city has restored this building, and has revived it and the neighborhood into the entertainment hub that it is today.
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes – Another pinkish building in the city. Located in Recoleta, this museum houses an amazing collection of classics by European masters from pre-Renaissance till present as well as many celebrated works from the 19th and 20th century by Argentine artists. You can easily get lost in time and spent hours in this huge place, admiring all the art and history room after room. Not to mention, it’s free entry! Keep in mind though it closes on Mondays.
El Ateneo on Santa Fe 1860, Recoleta – This particular location of El Ateneo bookstore company is probably one of the most well-known bookstores in Buenos Aires. What makes it famous is that this bookstore was converted from a 1920′s theatre named Teatro Gran Splendid. Its interior decor structure has been restored and preserved including the fresco painting on the ceiling by Italian artist Nazareno Orlandi. The balconies are now filled with shelves of books and seating area where you can read in privacy. Even if you are not much of a book person, the stage area is now a café that serves lunch, where you can sip your coffee looking out admiring the grandeur of this architecture.
Recent arrivals to Argentina may not be aware of one of the most incredible delights available at every corner store and bakery in and around the city of Buenos Aires. People know about wine, steak, pizza, and maybe even the nation-wide obsession with “dulce de leche”, but one thing that few discover until someone points it out to them is the amazing alfajor.
At the most basic level, an alfajor is two (or three. or more.) cookies with a sweet filling in-between each one. The alfajor comes from southern Spain and was brought here along with the colonists a few centuries ago, and the word “alfajor” comes from a hispano-arabic word “al-hasú” meaning “the filling.”
Many alfajores are covered in chocolate, a sugar glaze, or powdered sugar, and the filling is most often dulce de leche, but you can also find chocolate mousse and fruit fillings. Today many alfajores are made with cake-like cookies, but the maicena (cornstarch) cookies (pictured above) are the most traditional type, and often come with a light coating of coconut around the dulce de leche filling.
Different parts of the country specialize in different kinds of alfajores. While Buenos Aires has a bit of everything with a focus on dulce de leche fillings, the nearby city of Córdoba is known for having alfajores with fruit fillings, such as membrillo (quince).
In Santa Fé, their alfajores always have no fewer than 3 pastry-like cookies, filled with dulce de leche, and covered with a sugar glaze.
Mar Del Plata – Havanna and Balcarce originated in “La Feliz”, so the next time you sink your teeth into one of their sweet treats, you know where it came from.
Hopefully during your travels, you’ll get to try a different kind of alfajor in every place that you visit.
As everyone here in Buenos Aires is getting excited for BAFICI 2014 (Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente de Buenos Aires), the most important film festival in Argentina, it got us in the mood for some good movies too and we came across this great infograph which we’d like to share with you.
This infograph shows the best movie (according to their ratings on IMDB) of every Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking country in Latin America, except for El Salvador. Representing Argentina we have “El Secreto de Sus Ojos” (The Secret in Their Eyes), directed by Juan José Campanella. This movie has won many film awards including an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 2010. While this might not be the best nor easiest movie to practice your Spanish with, it is definitely a must watch!
Click to enlarge the infograph:
Argentina actually has one of the most prolific movie industries in this region. Even though not a lot of them received international recognition, there are many that are worth seeing. Check out our Top 3 Series on Argentine Film blog and our Argentine comedy blog for more recommendations on movies from Argentina!
As summer comes to an end here in Buenos Aires, the weather gets cooler, everyone is back from vacation, students are back at school, and the city has returned to its hustling and bustling self. This also means the city activity calendar is full again with many cultural events and highly anticipated annual festivals. Here is a brief look at the upcoming noteworthy events in this 2014 fall season and mark your calendar!
Buenos Aires Market
This organic and healthy food market has been growing in popularity and size exponentially since it started a few years ago. From once a season at 2 different locations to almost once every month at a different neighborhood. Not only you can enjoy freshly made food and drinks there, you can also do your shopping on a wide-range of health food and organic products which are otherwise hard to find at normal supermarkets.
The next one is on Saturday March 22 and Sunday March 23, 2014 in the Caballito neighborhood.
Buenos Aires International Film Festival - BAFICI – April 2 – 13, 2014
A 12-day huge event for movie-lovers! The schedule will be jam-packed with 400 movies from all over the world, most of them are ticketed shows but there are free events for general public too, like the outdoor movie screenings at the Parque Centenario and Planetario. You can find the program online at their website but we prefer flipping through their program book which you can find at one of these participating locations.
Feria del Libros – April 24 – May 12, 2014
It’s one of the biggest and most prominent annual events in the Spanish speaking literary world. This book fair will be celebrating its 40th this year, for sure we’ll be in for something special!
Arte BA – May 23 – 26, 2014
It is an important yearly event for the contemporary art world in Latin America. Hundreds of galleries from all around the world will be showcasing works from artists they represent.
Feria PuroDiseño – May 20 – 25, 2014
This fair brings together all types of designers from Argentina and other countries. The exhibitors are categorized into a variety of areas like clothing, accessories, kids, jewelry, home decoration, food, eco-friendly, and so on. Many of these designers will be launching their new products at this event. If you love design and appreciate new creative ideas for everyday life, this show is for you. It’s a great opportunity to do some shopping too whether you are looking for a gift for that special someone or just for yourself.
Note: Some of these events are still a month or so away, their websites might not have all the details yet. More information will become available as we get closer to their start dates.
Argentina has the 5th largest Irish community in the world and no doubt St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the capital city, Buenos Aires, is one of the most highly anticipated annual events. March 17 is the famous date but since it falls on a Monday this year, it is been causing some confusions as to when the festivities will actually take place. After some searching for reliable sources, we believe we have straightened it out and here are the information so you can prepare yourself!
The organized markets, parade and shows will take place on Sunday March 16, 2014. Beginning at 12 noon, Plaza San Martin will turn into an Irish fair with food vendors and artisanal arts & crafts stands. At 2:30pm, there will be an historical reenactment with more than 100 actors to pay tribute to the 200th Anniversary of the Martín García Battle which was led by Admiral William Brown (or Guillermo Brown in Spanish), who was an Irish-born Argentine Admiral and founder of the Argentine Navy.
At 6pm, the traditional parade will commence at Arroyo and Suipacha towards Plaza San Martin. Among all these, there’ll also be a costume competition of “leprechauns” (gnomos) and “faires” (hadas), and cultural music and dance performances. All the bars and pubs in that area will also join in on this yearly celebration.
If you are a traditionalist and will only celebrate on the actual date of March 17, all the Irish or non-Irish bars and pubs will definitely have some type of party and promotions going on on Monday. Check out this list here.
Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh!
In a city not known for changing too quickly, or doing anything quickly for that matter, something is hitting the streets of Buenos Aires fast. Every day more and more Argentines, young and old alike, are foregoing the crammed colectivos (buses) and the sweaty subtes (subway) for the freedom and convenience of two wheels. As an avid biker myself, I’ve been able to watch the transformation of Buenos Aires’ bicycle culture over the past 2 years. Once an almost underground “scene”, bikes are now rampant on the streets of BA with packed rush hour bike lanes, city bike tours, bike shops springing up left and right, and La Masa Critica a twice-a-month (a day-time ride and a night-time ride) mass gathering of cyclists in the city.
While the hill-less streets, mild climate, and Argentine eye-candy may make biking quite an appealing option, there are a few things you should know before hopping on the saddle. As an Argentine friend of mine put it to me when I first started out on la bici, “Siempre andas como si todos fueran a chocarte.” (“Ride like everybody is about to hit you.”) After a close call or two, I bought myself a helmet and always heed this advice. There’s no doubt bikes are becoming a staple on the streets of Buenos Aires but still many motorists and pedestrians don’t seem ready to share the streets with their new counterparts: mindless pedestrians cross bike lanes without even the slightest glance and your everfriendly taxi driver will just as soon run over you rather than brake or, heaven forbid, use their turn signal. These are just a few of the dangers you’ll encounter on your way. So, as my wise friend told me, take it easy and safe, you’ll probably beat the colectivo (bus) anyway!
As the city adds more and more bicicendas (bike lanes), there are a couple tools that exist to help you navigate the city and get you started with your vida de la bici! Buenos Aires’ official website now has a section exclusively for their project “ecobici”. Argentines and foreigners now have the option to rent a bike (free, just bring a copy of your passport) that can be used for an hour and then returned to one of their numerous stations around the city. The site also shows you the current network of bike lanes and many of the bike shops and places that offer discounts for bikers throughout the city. Another similar page is La Vida en Bici. Basically providing the same information but also gives you recommended streets and streets to avoid when you’re not blessed with a bike lane. Smart phone users also have a couple more resources to navigate the city. Buenos Aires’ Ecobici has an app that will show you the bike lanes and also has a “find the closest bike lane to me” option. Also, the Como Llego app from mapa.buenosaires.gov.ar that so many of us love and depend on now includes an option for cyclists.
Biking has given me a new view of the city and a unique experience I would never have gotten otherwise. The occasional glance out the bus window never came close to comparing to the all encompassing sensory experience of la bici (dog poop included). Moreover, it doesn’t do this beautiful city justice to sit on a bus and stare at your cellphone screen. Get on a bike and go! Just please heed my friend’s advice and wear a helmet too!
Newcomers to Buenos Aires are always eager to head to the nearest parrilla to grab a steak, but don’t forget that there’s a lot more on the menu that you’ll want to be certain not to overlook:
First thing’s first: if you’re new to Buenos Aires and want to try everything, your best bet is to try the “parrillada” – this is often available for 2 or 4 people, and will include small portions of quite a few different cuts of meat. Every place is a bit different and what they give you depends a little on what they have on the grill at the time. Usually you’ll get chorizo and morcilla (sausage and blood sausage, respectively), chinchulines (intestine), riñones (kidney), pollo (chicken), tira de asado and vació (two popular cuts of steak), and you may get cerdo (pork), entraña (another cut of steak), mollejas (sweetbread) and grilled vegetables as well. This will be a great introduction to what’s popular here so you can have an idea what to order in the future. Some people might feel a little squeamish about trying the other parts of the cow, but the parrillada brings them in fairly small portions so you have the opportunity to sample just a little and then decide if you like it or not.
In addition to the parrillada, here are a few other things that you’ll want to be sure to try:
- Choripan (chorizo + pan, sausage on bread) – Now I’m sure you’re thinking “sausage is nothing new, why should I care?” You should care because as soon as you put a chorizo on some bread and some chimichurri (the sauce we use for parrilla food), it is transformed into one of the most magnificent snacks under the sun: the choripan. It sounds mundane, but trust me: after one bite, you’ll be converted.
- Provoleta (slab of provolone cheese) – a very thick slice of cheese it put on the grill – it gets a little bit melty and parts of it get toasty and crispy, and it’s often served with a sprinkling of oregano and other herbs, and it is fantastic. But it can be a lot for one person (especially if you want to leave room for something else), so plan to share.
Finally, a quick translation of the different cuts so that you know what you’re ordering:
Asado – Ribs
Asado de Tira – Short Ribs
Bife de chorizo – strip steak (NY Strip)
Bife/bola de lomo – Tenderloin
Colita de Cuadril – Tri-tip
Cuadril – Rump Steak
Entraña – Skirt steak
Matambre – Flank Steak (long, thin cut)
Ojo de bife – Ribeye
Pecho – brisket
Vacío – Flank
Finally, if you feel that your meal won’t be balanced, nearly every parrilla has a salad option so you can add some veggies into the mix. A common option is to pick any three ingredients for a fixed price, although don’t expect to have a lot of options for the dressing.
Since pizza is one of our favorite foods and a popular staple in the Argentine diet, we have written about this very topic offering our knowledge and recommendations in some of our past blogs before like “Eating Pizza in Buenos Aires 101 Part 1” – covering the different sauces, cheeses, and toppings you’re likely to run into as well as it’s Part 2 “Where to Eat” sequel that includes a list of some popular places to grab a slice. I’m touching base again with a few quick updates:
Fainá – You’ll see this all over at a variety of pizza places. Fainá is made with garbanzo (chickpea) flour, olive oil, water, salt, and pepper. It is originated in Italy and was preserved in the local culture here when it was brought over by immigrants. It’s typically eaten by placing one slice on top of the other. When the pizza is placed on top of the fainá, it’s called “pizza a caballo”.
Mustard – It’s fairly common for people here to put mustard on their pizza. If you’re a fan, don’t hesitate to ask and they’ll bring some over to your table.
We also have a few new discoveries to add to the list of excellent pizza places to try in Buenos Aires:
Güerrín – this is a truly porteño pizzería that is well-loved by locals, located right in the heart of Microcentro on Av. Corrientes. They tend towards a thinner crust and plenty of cheese, and has been voted as one of the best pizzerías in Buenos Aires more than once.
Siamo nel forno – this is a truly Italian pizzería. The owner and chef went to Italy to learn their craft and returned with an authentic clay oven. He makes a great thin-crust pizza and isn’t afraid to use plenty of tomato sauce! For those nostalgic for Italy, a trip to Palermo Hollywood is as far as you need to go.
La Más Querida – this hidden gem is located near Barrio Chino in Belgrano, and they specialize in pizza a la parrilla – which, you guessed it, means it’s cooked not in the oven, but on the grill. With a variety of creative toppings, you’ll get to watch the chef prepare your meal right before your eyes!
Angelín – One of the oldest pizzerías in the city, they use a wood stove to prepare their incredible pizzas. You can travel out to Villa Crespo to sample this little slice of history.
Señor Telmo – Down in San Telmo (as the name seems to indicate), is another great little pizzería worth visiting. They prepare Italian-style pizza a la parrilla and have a big menu to choose from.
I hope this helps you out on your gastronomic adventures around Buenos Aires!
Many people planning their trips around Argentina will quickly notice that Buenos Aires is the central hub, and that it can be difficult (or impossible) to arrange flights or buses between other cities around the country. For this reason, it’s often a good idea to plan trips around Argentina in parts: one to the south, one to the west, and one to the north.
But looking at a map, you may notice that one of the most famous destinations, Cataratas de Iguazú (Iguazú Falls) is located all the way in the most northeastern corner of Argentina. But even though it’s a bit of a detour, it is definitely worth it! It has been voted as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. And with summer drawing to a close, my partner and I decided that there was no time like the present to plan a last-minute trip – the story of which I’m sharing with you:
The trip was completely last-minute and time was a concern, so we chose to fly rather than take the bus. While the bus is more economical, the flight takes a mere 2 hours while the bus takes 17-18. The hotel we booked was located right by the Bus Terminal, conveniently enough, and was also right at the heart of downtown Puerto Iguazú, so there were a lot of stores and restaurants nearby.
We arrived late on Friday night, and didn’t worry about getting up at the crack of dawn the next day. Instead we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before heading to the bus terminal in order to book our trip over to Parque Iguazú. While you can book the paseos en gomón (boat rides under the falls) at the park, you can also book them at the terminal, which is what we chose to do. This turned out to be a good idea, since on a busy Saturday a lot of the earlier tours had already been filled.
We also received a map of the park, and the agent explained the best routes that we could take in order to be on time for our paseo. There are a few different options available for the paseos, and you can read more about them online here. We chose the Gran Aventura, which includes a tour through the jungle (by truck), and then a trip up the river and under the falls (this last part was the highlight!).
I was warned in advance by my friends to bring sneakers, and you can bet that by the end of the day I was glad I had brought them, since we did a LOT of walking around the different trails at the park. We spent the first part of the day taking the train up to the Garganta del Diablo. The ten-minute train-ride leaves you at the mouth of a trail that takes you over the river and hopping from island to island until you arrive at the top of the waterfalls. This is an amazing view over the top of the falls, but a lot of spray from the falls gets blown around, so you (and your camera) will get a bit wet (but not as bad as on the boat, of course). While crossing over the river, keep an eye on the water since you may see turtles or fish!
After the Garganta del Diablo, we cooled off in the outdoor showers they have available at the trail head (it was 40 degrees!), and then we headed back out and took the train down, and decided to tackle the Upper Trail (Circuito Superior). This is another path that takes you along the top of the falls, and has a lot of great views from above and also of the Garganta del Diablo from a distance. We spent an hour walking around over the waterfalls and taking pictures, and had time to spare for a break before the Gran Aventura.
We waited at the Central Station, and now seems like a good time to mention that there are bathrooms all over the place, and they were actually quite clean and stocked with toilet paper. When it was time for our tour, we went through the jungle with a bilingual tour guide, and then took a boat up the river and under the waterfalls. We had opportunities to take pictures and then to put our cameras away in waterproof bags before being taken in closer until we were right next to the waterfalls and, as you can imagine, we finished that part of our journey soaking wet. The boat dropped us conveniently off at the bottom of the Lower Trail (Circuito Inferior), so we were able to cover that part of the park as well, giving us plenty of time to dry off and enjoy some of the most scenic and classic views of the falls before we had to leave the park and take the bus back to Puerto Iguazú.
Each trail has its own unique and distinct views, so they’re all without a doubt worth doing. While there were quite a few stairs on the Lower Trail (coming from the water up to the main trail), most of the trails are fairly flat and make for easy going. Even though it wasn’t too difficult, we brought bananas and apples with us to snack on throughout the day in order to keep our energy up. There are convenience stores and restaurants within the park for those looking for more complete meals, and cold water and first-aid stands can also be found throughout the park.
We didn’t go to the Brazil side the next day, but instead decided to spend it relaxing by the hotel pool before the flight home – it was meant to be a vacation, after all!
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