Thursday, February 11, 2016

La Plata: The capital of Buenos Aires province

La Playa is a city about an hour by bus out of Buenos Aires and is actually the capital of the province of Buenos Aires.

The city itself is an example of a fully planned city and like our capital, Canberra, has the feeling of being a little too planned out. All of the streets are set out in a grid with a plaza at each intersection. Each of the main streets are lines with trees and some have a wide tree lined promenade down the centre.

Street with a promenade

The city also boasts a very impressive Gothic style cathedral - which I was told was the "grandest cathedral in the country".

La Plata cathedral
The main altar in La Plata cathedral
Stained glass in La Plata cathedral

The cathedral commenced construction in 1884 and was finally completed in 1999. It is an impressive structure - much more like the styles of the cathedrals in Europe, rather than the smaller cathedral in Buenos Aires.

In addition to the cathedral, La plata boasts a very impressive park, known as el bosques (the woods). The park centres around a canal and artificial lake.

The canal
The lake

Despite multiple signs warning of contamination, the canal and lake were very popular fishing spots.

Dotted around the park were a number of outdoor food "restsurants" which were basically outdoor parillas (grills) with a few plastic tables around them.

As it was only lunchtime, I only had a steak from one called "El Museo" (next to the museum, funnily enough) and it was the best steak I've had so far.

In fact, it inspired me to go a full parilla later that night.

This parilla consisted not only of steak, ribs and chicken but also grilled kidneys and chinchulines (cow intestines). It was a bit of a meat overload but delicious nonetheless - even the chinchulines ;)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

La Bomba de tiempo, Buenos Aires

The Ciudad Cultural Konex

La bomba de tiempo is a weekly gig at the Ciudad Cultural Konex. The group is primarily percussion but other musicians join them on stage to add guitar, sax and even some jazz flute.

La bomba de tiempo with guitarist
La bomba de tiempo percussion

The music is energetic and the crowd atmosphere is amazing with a lot of dancing and cheering.

The gig lasts about 2 hours and costs $AR110. After the gig, the party continues up the street

The party continues
Dancing in the streets

Led by some of the percussionists the party winds through the city streets with people selling beer out of eskies to keep the party going - much to the annoyance of local motorists.

Not everyone likes the party

La bomba de tiempo is on every Monday and has become a bit of an institution which thankfully has not become too touristy. Locals and tourists alike converge in one big percussion fueled chaotic party.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Wandering Recoleta

Recoleta is a largely residential suburb of Buenos Aires sandwiched between the super trendy Palermo and the gritty Centro and San Telmo districts. However despite this, Recoleta has several interesting features that make it worth a visit.

The most famous landmark is the Cemetery (which I have written about in a separate post) but around the Cemetery are several parks and monuments.

Next to the Cemetery is a 17th century basilica which is architecturally interesting albeit not as impressive as other basilicas that I've visited. The cloisters of the basilica have been converted into a museum, telling the story of the church.

The basilica from the Cemetery
The main altar of the basilica

Further down from the basilica is the Plaza Francia. The monument in the Plaza was a gift from France to Buenos Aires celebrating the independence of Argentina.

Plaza Francia

Close to Plaza Francia is Plaza Mitre which has a large statue of Bartolomé Mitre, 6th president of Argentina and an important military figure in the history of Buenos Aires.

Statue of Bartolomé Mitre

Next to Mitre Plaza is another park with a monument to Eva Péron - another important, if controversial, figure in Argentine history.

Monument to Eva Péron

The parkland continues towards the railway and is crossed by several major thoroughfares until it reaches a small park with a major piece of public sculpture - Floralis Genérica.

Floralis Genérica
Another angle of the Floralis Genérica sculpture

The giant stainless steel flower which opens and closes during the day/night was a gift to the city by architect Eduardo Catalano in 2002. It is an impressive piece of public art.

All of these plazas and parks surround the Cemetery and make for a very pleasant wander around Recoleta, topped with a relaxing beer and epanadas.

Beer and epanadas

But if beer is not your thing, up on Avenue Santa Fe is an excellent coffee shop in an incredible bookshop (they also do very tasty epanadas).

Ataneo bookshop in a converted theatre
The old second level of the theatre
The stage (coffee shop) from the second level

The bookshop is a converted theatre, and to their credit, they have kept all the original fittings of the theatre which gives the bookshop a nice atmosphere. There are several reading sections in the stalls and the stage has been converted into a very nice coffee shop - a perfect place for a seriously hipster brunch :)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A walk around reserva ecológica costanera sur, Buenos Aires

The Buenos Aires reserve is a 3.5 square kilometre park close to the city on the banks of the river plata.

It consists of several lagoons, teeming with animals, navigated by many trails which are excellent for biking or jogging. There are also a large number of scenic picnic spots both by the lagoons and by the river.

I went on a sunny Saturday and it felt like most of Buenos Aires was either jogging, biking or picnicking in the reserve.

Camino de los lagartos
Puerto Madero from the Reserve
One of the lagoons

The trails follow along the lagoons until they eventually converge on the coast of the Rio Plata

The lagoon
Birds in the lagoon
Rio plata picnic ground
Coast of the Rio Plata

Sadly once I had walked to the coast, the walk down to the river was closed due to an over abundance of snakes. Things being closed due to dangerous animals is something I'd expect from Australia but not really here.

Basically - Don't go down, there are snakes

It turned out that the sign was accurate because a little further down the trail I met one of the critters contributing to the closure of the river walk.


Continuing along the trail I encountered several other animals, including a capybara which sadly did not hang around for a photo. However several other creatures were happy to pose.

Birdlife in the park
A black and white tegu
Another tegu hiding in the grass

The trail makes a grand circuit of 8 km back to the entrance of the park where there is a wide boulevard with many food trucks where you can replenish on grilled meat after a healthy walk around the park ;)

The lagoon from the boulevard outside the park - not a bad view while eating asado

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Buenos Aires: Ricoleta cemetery

Ricoleta cemetery is a historic cemetery situated in the Buenos Aires suburb of Ricoleta. It houses a veritable "who's who" of famous Argentinian families, including military figures, academics, politicians (such as Eva Péron) and other notable people.

The family vaults are enormous and it is difficult to show the scale of these amazing pieces of architecture in photos.

One of the original vaults from the 1840's
The church from the cemetery
One of the "streets"
Alter in the church

The reason for these huge vaults was that prominent people didn't want to be buried in the "public" cemetery - so they built their own private spaces.

The cemetery is an interesting few hours walk, if only to see the incredible architecture of the vaults - although it is a little eerie seeing the coffins on full display...

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Segovia: The castle, the cathedral and the aqueduct

Segovia is another common day trip from Madrid - about 30 minutes by high speed train (AVE) or an hour on the bus.

The AVE leaves from Chamartín station (not Atocha) and drops you about 6 km from the centre of Segovia, however the Number 11 bus meets all the train arrivals and goes into the centre of Segovia.

The No.11 trip is about 15 mins of travelling through the very ugly outskirts of Segovia until it winds down the hill to give a spectacular view of Segovia's famous aqueduct.

Looking down to the bus mall
Another view of the aqueduct
Aqueduct from the bus stop

The aqueduct was built in 1CE by the Romans and remained in active use until the 19th century.

The aqueduct terminates in the "Well room" of the Segovia Alcázar.

The Segovia Alcázar was originally a Roman fort, however, several newer constructions on the site have all but removed the original Roman structure. The current distinctive construction of the Alcázar is from the 16th century - the slate roofed spires being inspired by northern European architecture.

The inside if the Alcázar houses a museum and several artefacts from its time as a Royal residence up until the 19th century.

The original throne room
Restored hall of amor
Original armoury

Unfortunately, many of the artifacts were destroyed in a fire in the 19th century, but some still remain while others where restored from detailed contemporaneous drawings.

The Cathedral from Plaza Mayor

The other landmark that Segovia is famous for is it's cathedral. In the 15th century its tower was one of the highest in Spain and it still commands impressive views of the city.

The Cathedral from the bellringers quarters
Segovia from the bell tower
Another view from the bell tower
The Cathedral from the bell tower
The bells in the bell tower

Climbing the 300 odd steps to the bell tower is quite exhausting and calls for a calorific lunch - luckily the local specialty is suckling pig's head which is just the thing after a day of wandering around Segovia.

Mmm suckling pig

Segovia is my last entry in Europe - next I am on to adventures in South America...