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Sunday, 18 December 2011

Finding the fun in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is like an onion with layer upon layer of fun things to do - you just need to know how to peel it. Here are four things I recommend giving a go...


1. Eating at a closed-door restaurant

The beauty of dining at a closed-door restaurant is that you get the intimacy of a dinner party without the hours of preparation and mountain of washing up at the end of the night. Chef, Dan Perlman and his partner Henry invite 12 dinner party guests to Casa Saltshaker, their cozy, one bedroom duplex in Recoleta on Friday and Saturday evenings each week.

dan  3455

Half the fun is not knowing know who you'll be sitting next to and the other half is letting your tastebuds ride on a ferris wheel of fancy new flavours. The food is served as a creative 5-course tasting menu and each dish is paired with a specially selected wine. I went on Friday and as the wine flowed, so too did the conversation with my new dining buddies. It began at 9pm and finished up around midnight, at which point we kicked on to a wine bar down the road. Here is the menu from Friday night:

Salad: Ensalada Olivier (traditional quail egg and potato salad recipe from the 1800s)
Gazpacho de mango (Cold tomato soup with yellow peppers, mango and chili)
Panqueque saraceno, sugo de championed (Buckwheat pancake, ricotta and mushrooms)
Pollo picante, polenta de quinoa (Chicken with quinoa polenta)
Helado de risotto, fruitillas y higo (Risotto icecream, figs, strawberries and pink peppercorn.)

A sparkling, a white, a rose, a red and a sweet wine were paired to each course to create the perfect food, wine marriage.

Check out more snaps of the evening here: /galleries/gallery.aspx?id=3087#11


2. Going on a photography treasure hunt

The first few days in BA I was incredibly trigger happy on my camera, it seemed everywhere I looked there was an amazing scene that needed to be captured. But what is the difference between recording the moment and creating a photographic piece of art? The lovely ladies at Foto Ruta run a photography workshop in different neighbourhoods in BA to teach you just that. We met at a cafe Nucha in Recoleta where we were put into teams and given 10 photo assignments.


The idea is that you get 10 clues, for example: 'jobless and wealthy' and then you interpret that clue in one photograph. (See santa above.) Expat duo Joss and Becky gave us a crash course in the basic principles to consider when composing a shot and then we were off.


We returned 2 hours later with 10 photos per group and over a glass of wine we watched a slideshow of the best photographs. It was so interesting seeing different interpretations of the same clue and I felt myself begin the transition from point-and-shoot to a more conceptual photographer. (The clue for the monkey shot of me in the tree was 'bridge the gap'). Whether you're shooting on an iphone or a big SLR, Foto Ruta gives tourists a unique way to experience Buenos Aires and teaches skills that can be put into practice in all of your travel photography.


3. Cycling where jaguars used to roam

Buenos Aires is a beautiful city but sometimes the pace gets a bit hectic for me. If you're craving a lungful of fresh air a great option is to vist the Tigre Delta by bike. To avoid the madness of the city traffic we took our bikes on the train for only 1.25 and got off at La Lucilia and cycled through the burbs down to the water. We saw a lot of stencil street art by an artist called Alex Lange and a whole series of stencils of giant elephants. 

3431  3434

The view looking back to the city was my first glimpse of the Buenos Aires skyline. Our bikeit guide, Chiara showed us photos of local wildlife and maps of the area, explaining why the sediment makes the water so dirty looking. We noticed a young boy running between cones and his bootcamp father yelling instructions at him. The kid was clearly not happy and eventually he ended up vomiting into the river, adding to the murky liquid already in there.

City  Sick

We carried on to San Fernando and then to Tigre - a small port city until the beginning of the 20th century, when it became a poplular city escape for porteños. It's named after the tigres (jaguars) that inhabited the delta until they were hunted to extinction. (See a pic of them here.) The port is a great spot to stop for lunch, do some shopping at the markets and watch the boats unloading wood carried down from the Delta. We took the touristic route along the river to check out the stunning art museum and I got told off twice by the security guard, first for riding, then for sitting. Then we caught the one hour train back to BA. It was a great day out, Chiara from bikeit was a fountain of knowledge and enthusiasm and I'm glad I went on a weekday as I hear it gets pretty packed on the weekends.


4. Drinking Malbec on stage in a theatre

Imagine a gorgeous old theatre that has been restored to it's original glory and now imagine it's full of books. That's El Ateneo, a worthy recipient of the number 2 spot on The Guardian's list of the world's best bookshops. What was once the Teatro Gran Splendid on Avenida Santa Fe is now the home of a forest of books, the stage is a cafe and you can sit in the private theatre booths and read until your heart's content.


I met a friend there and enjoyed a glass of local Malbec on the stage and listened as a classical pianist let his fingers dance along the grand piano keys. I couldn't find many books in English so settled for a children's farm animal book. It was the appropriate reading level for this clueless gringo and probably the first time someone has drunk red wine while learning the Spanish word for sheep. (Oveja if you're wondering.)

Latest Poll Results
New York: What will Indiana June do in the big apple?
21% Track down and visit Oliver Jeffers:
Renowned Children's storybook writer & illustrator
11% Walk the High Line:
A linear park built on a 1.45-mile section of the elevated NY Central Railroad 
11% Be a NYC detective for a day: 
Part game, theatre and tour to discover some of NYC's most off-the-beaten path spots
13% Explore the City Hall Subway Station: 
Abandoned & hidden from the public for 60 years
12% Flying trapeze class:
Hone her circus skills learning how to fly on a trapeze 
30% NZ Flag + Statue of Liberty:
Bodypaint the NZ flag on her body and go up the Statue of Liberty
2% Go to Queens and find a 'Nanny' sound-alike:
Video someone with the nanny accent saying "noo Zealand, i love that place"
Voting closed | 204 VOTES
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