From the roof of death, the unstoppable force of life sprouts. Sheltered by the wings of angels, a multitude of flora creates new life in the Recoleta Cemetery, defying the fixedness of stone and mocking all notions of the permanence of life or death.
What delicious little packages empanadas are! A hand sized pastry pillow encasing a tasty savoury filling. Every part of Argentina and South America has their own signature variety with different fillings, some baked, others fried. I don’t know if there is a specific Buenos Aires empanada, but I would agree with other gastronomers that El Hornero in the San Telmo market has the best empanadas in the city. For the princely sum of 120 pesos (AU$3), many a time I satisfied my hungry stomach with two delicious empanadas. The different shapes indicate their filling, and I have a particular soft spot for the melted perfection of cantimpalo y queso (spciy sausage and cheese), and the carne salteña frita (fried with meat and potatoes), with a delicious red pepper and chilli sauce.
I always get a kick out of learning something new, and this month in Buenos Aires has been like a giant kick up the bum! I’ve learned to get by in Spanish, negotiate a new city and dance a new and very difficult dance. I still have a an awful lot to learn, but I’m making progress. I danced my last dance in Buenos Aires this evening, and even though ladies are not really allowed to ask gentlemen to dance (it’s always the other way around), I asked my teacher, Juan-Pablo, for my last tango in this fair city. He kindly obliged and danced me around the floor with expertise, playfulness and love.
There is a sense of completeness in closing the cover of a book after reading the last page. The reading experience continues as you digest the words, pages, ideas and stories, but the actual reading is done. For me there is always a calm that comes with that closure, as I won’t start a new book for a few days. The tiny moment of literary inertia between what has been read and what will be read next is a lovely bubble of accomplishment and hope.
This morning I finished Amanda Palmer’s Art of Asking (for the second time). It’s an excellent book. And yes, I know I’m crazy for taking real books travelling, but I like the feel of a book and a device doesn’t have that.
Shape, form, texture, colour, perspective: I’m always drawn to sculpture. The Museo del Arte Moderno has a fabulous and large collection of sculpture (as well as 2D works) from the turn of the century through to today. My favourites were the early 20th century cubist sculptures and the indigenous works, which is no coincidence as they share an aesthetic of full shapes. I love being able to walk around a work and look at it from different angles, but I’m always reigning the urge to touch, to feel the form.
I confess, it’s late. 3am to be precise. That’s what you do here in Tango-land on Thursday nights, and I left early! The day began early with a tango class at 11:15am, included a concert in the early evening of top notch tango music, and finished after a lovely night of dancing with fellow students and teachers from tango school. My feet will enjoy a good night’s sleep.
El Ateneo is usually described as ‘the most beautiful bookshop in the world’ and I cannot argue. It is certainly the most beautiful bookshop I’ve ever set foot in. Housed in the stunning and well kept Gran Splendid theatre (which first opened in 1919), it is an absolute treat to be surrounded by books as well as a glamorous old theatre. The domed ceiling is painted with celestial scenes, the private boxes are now reading rooms, and the stage is home to the cafe, where you can study the set mechanisms and enjoy the performers view. It is a truly wonderful repurposing of a classic building.
I love a seat at the bar in an open-kitchen restaurant. Casa San Juan has one of these and I had the pleasure of sitting there this evening. Not only were wine and food delicious (an oaked Chardonnay followed by a Pinot Noir by Salentin in the Valle de Uco in Mendoza, accompanying the gnocchi with tomatoes, beetroot, broccoli, bocconcini, mushrooms, garlic, pesto and cheese) but I watched it being cooked. My chef, Juan, was skilful and cooked with precision and care. He was also smiley and answered all my culinary questions. I sat there mesmerised by the theatre of the kitchen for hours (and to be honest, I enjoyed it more than a film or play!).
In the face of a looming election and economic crisis, the Argentines are hitting the streets with protest. The tango dancers are doing it to, in a gentle and connected way. Yesterday they held another Milonga Contra la Neoliberalismo (Dance Against Neoliberalism), outside in the Plaza Unidad Latinoamericano. All afternoon and into the night a lovely bunch of left wing dancers came together to dance, share mate, hear live music and watch some incredible tango dancers. The weather was chilly for October, which made it even nicer to be sailing around the floor close embrace. My Spanish is still rudimentary, but I understood when someone gave an address on the importance of keeping tango alive in the community, not just as a tourist show, and that dancing is way to connect, understand, and build community.