06 December 2010

tucumán, argentina

Everyone raves about southern Argentina, but we found northern Argentina to be lovely, too.

Tucumán impressed us with its varied and beautiful architecture, and it's where the Argentines declared independence from the Spanish in 1816 (which Spain finally acknowledged in 1862), where legendary singer Mercedes Sosa (now that's a voice) was born, and is the home of a vibrant arts and culture scene and the prestigious National University de Tucumán. They have a huge music festival in September, attracting folk and rock musicians alike from all over the world.

And in case you aren't familiar with Mercedes Sosa, here's a video (with a nice acoustic guitar accompanist) to get acquainted with her work:

There isn't much to look at in this video, but it's a beautiful rendition of "Todo Cambia" (Everything Changes) to listen to, with acoustic guitar and flute. My father-in-law, a Bolivian musician, would often have Mercedes Sosa playing in the house, and my Bolivian partner has kept up the family tradition. She quickly became one of my favorite singers, and it's funny to compare the simple beauty of her music to other popular musicians, especially in concert: no fireworks or sets, no fancy costume changes, no huge entourage of musicians and producers, all she has is her powerful voice. And if you're wondering how popular she is, this live version of "Todo Cambio" or this video of "La Maza" performed with Shakira gives an idea.

But, we all know why we look at blogs, so without further ado, here are the photos of Tucumán.

Plaza Independencia, a square lined with gorgeous buildings, each more impressive than the last (and all quite different, too):

Just walking around town, I loved the colors and the variety. There really was a bit of everything.

Argentine jerseys were everywhere, of course.

It's funny, too, how markets around the world often look the same:

And unfortunately for my tall partner, most of the world isn't designed for tall people:

You can visit la Casa de Tucumán (officially la Casa Histórica de la Independencia), where they actually declared independence from the Spanish, and it's quite lovely on its own merit, even without its important place in history.

I don't know why there were people in costume hanging out, but there they are.

And when we left, we saw a full circle rainbow, which I'd never seen before. It was pretty spectacular.

I'm still catching up, so next up: Bolivia!

05 December 2010

the luxurious 17-hour bus ride

It sounds like an oxymoron, but it really was the most luxurious bus ride I'd ever experienced. And for a seventeen-hour bus ride, it was actually pretty enjoyable. We left Buenos Aires in the evening, enjoyed a pink sunset from the large and clear windows and were then served soda and a tray of snacks.

The idea of a server on a bus was nowhere in my consciousness, and it was such a nice surprise. We were even offered a box with chicken and rice, but we'd just eaten, not knowing we'd be served dinner on the bus.

We slept in comfortable reclining seats with foot rests equivalent to first-class seats on a plane (complete with blankets) and enjoyed seeing the Argentine countryside on our way to Tucumán.

15 November 2010

how globes are made

I love globes. I've even given a fancy globe plus 101 Most Romantic Places in the World as a wedding gift. (This was back when I was just out of college, and I think I secretly wanted that almost-$100 globe and book for myself...)

Anyway, this video showing how globes are made is pretty awesome. If you like to know how things work, then you'll be as tickled by the process as I was.


08 November 2010

buenos aires ii

Buenos Aires has both the most beautiful bookstore (converted from an old theater) and the most beautiful zoo I've ever seen. It doesn't even look like a zoo, and the animals seemed more like accessories for the beautiful buildings.

Architecture and art that would look ridiculous in other places seemed to fit in perfectly here. Including their Venus de Milo.
The Argentines are known for their meat-grilling prowess, and the construction workers outside of the zoo were no exception:

La Recoleta, B.A.'s famous cemetery where Eva (Evita) Perron is buried, is also the most beautiful cemetery I've seen (showing up even Paris' celebrated Père Lachaise Cemetery, home to the likes of Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde).

Even your shopping experience is amplified in Buenos Aires. When trendy women's clothing is sold in stores that look like this:

And mall food courts look like this:

You just can't help but feel the style and everyday luxury that seemed to come so naturally to the creators of Buenos Aires.

Their answer to the American White House is la Casa Rosada (the pink house).

And if you ask nicely, you can take pictures with the guards in their fancy hats and uniforms.

When you walk around, you see beauty everywhere.

The grave of José Francisco de San Martín, an Argentine general honored as the liberator of Argentina, Chile and Peru, has a huge Argentine flag cascading down perfectly (yet oh-so-casually).

And no visit to Buenos Aires is complete without seeing live tango, and we were lucky enough to be treated to one of the best dinner shows in town. The place had an old Hollywood feel, the dancers looked like they were enjoying themselves (always a plus), and our steaks were actually pretty good, too.

And for those of you who like street art, B.A. has something for you, too.

I'm sure it isn't true, but it seems like, during the day, everyone shops, and at night, everyone eats out.

Speaking of food, there was a lot of good food to be had. Dulce de leche desserts, for starters, graced every bakery shelf.

I'm not sure if I've had fresh homemade pasta before, but what we had in Buenos Aires was fresh and handmade and amazing. It wasn't cheap, but you don't need much of it.

As a lover of fine penmanship, I also fell in love with the Argentine signs and the flourishes they used.

So, I could go on and on about Buenos Aires (already did), but I'll wrap it up. The quick version: it's vibrant, beauty is crammed into every nook and cranny, and I'd go back for the gelato alone (Volta is the best).