Somewhere, buried in a whirlwind fortnight of fruitless trips to Migraciones, buggered laptop hard drives and testing nicotine withdrawals, was a perfect Sunday: Me and C. keen to hit the streets; beautiful late summer Buenos Aires; the recommendations of a friend who at that point, I hadn’t actually met. Other people’s favourite places are always music to my ears, and especially when they converge with budding ideas or desires of my own. Sometimes I’ve been meaning to do something or go somewhere for ages (let’s call it X) and then finally a mate saying, Hey have you tried X yet? pushes me the last inch and I get walking.
I’ve ridden past Parque (Park) Lezama loads of times on the way to and from one of my favourite viewpoints in Buenos Aires: the La Boca rooftop of Museo de Bellas Artes de La Boca Benito Quinquela Martín – just as an aside, if you visit La Boca, this art gallery and the views from its sculpture terraces are an absolute must. Anyway if you take the 64 or the 152 to get there, you will skirt around the bottom of the Parque as you turn in or out of the ‘gateway’ to La Boca, which is marked by a border of faded corrugated metal facades, fake windows and charicature-manikins mimicking the houses of Caminito. When you see that landmark, and the foot of a hill like park opposite, get off the bus. If it’s the weekend there’ll be a straggle of market stalls winding their way around and disappearing up under the trees: an extra bonus if you like bargain hunting, as I do.
As it turns out this park offers a few treats. For starters the gorgeous Art Nouveau cookie factory in the photo can be seen across the street: the biscuit colour of the walls made me hungry. Next, the park’s design offers tree covered strolls; glimpses of Roman style statues, urns and follies; a gentle climb towards the terracotta and white house which sits at the top of the hill, and which is home to the free to enter National History Museum (worth a look for the building’s interior and some well selected exhibits, plus it will be expanding soon to include a café). On our wander uphill we managed to encounter a huge slice of homemade pizza with a delicious crust ($4pesos a piece and one was big enough for two), buy a military button for the jeans a dear friend gifted me recently – perfect fit but missing a fastener, and splash out on a second hand hippy chic shirt… oh gosh, like I said I can’t resist local markets!
By the time we made it to the top of the park and the corner of Defensa and Brasil, I realised that I was almost in Plaza Dorrego, San Telmo, on a Sunday, and thus just a couple of blocks from the crowds. The peace of Parque Lezama however, gave no hint of that crush just up the road, and brought home to me how few tourists ever walk even a few blocks off the most beaten tracks. I was glad that on the border of La Boca and San Telmo, I finally had.
‘En la esquina de Defensa y Brasil’, Bar Britanico (well I had to pop in there didn’t I?) served us great coffee in traditional surroundings for a surprisingly low price. As we sipped our ‘dos cortados en jarrito’, it dawned on us we’d already been in there once before, on a winter’s dawn many moons ago, after spilling out of Parakultural at Peru 571 one Saturday – this is a cool 24/7 café that never closes its doors. Way back in those mists of my early days in Buenos Aires, as we waited for the bus after a 5am breakfast, it seemed to me that we stood in the middle of absolutely nowhere and definitely in a dodgy district. This time I knew where I was, noticed the stunning Italian style balcony next to the Art Deco apartment block opposite, spotted Torcato Tasso a stone’s throw away, couldn’t believe I hadn’t shared this particular corner of the city with my parents – next time for sure.
We checked our map, and I calculated that we were probably only half an hour’s walk from Barracas and the artistic haven that is Calle Lanín. So, fired up with enthusiasm for demonstrating my expert knowledge of Buenos Aires attractions, I dragged C. off up Avenida Caseros towards the tiny street Lanín. There he enthused about the ceramic art in a way that perhaps only plumbers who have seen the inside of far too many badly tiled bathrooms can, and promised me that he’d be knocking up something Calle Lanín style on our balcony pronto. I meanwhile, marvelled at the stillness of the place, and found myself wondering how many visitors to Buenos Aires just don’t bother or don’t know to make it to Barracas and this stunning pint-sized street with soul. Please promise me you’ll try.
We finished our afternoon and ourselves off by marching through back streets to Constitución Station (probably only wise in broad daylight, with a degree of purpose in your stride), where I snapped a few pics of the vast arches that remind me of the glory days of British Rail. Got to say that flashing big cameras (mine’s teeny tiny) might not be too smart in Constitución… just be aware and be discreet eh?
As we wound our way home towards Palermo on the Blue Subte Line C, and the Green Subte Line D my feet were throbbing, but I was chattering like a child about the treasures that had made up our perfect day. Whatever gave you the idea and the energy to do all that? said C. I didn’t even know you’d heard of Parque Lezama!
Well, I began, I confess I can’t take all the credit… and out of my bag I pulled the printed pages of the e-book I’d downloaded from the internet just a few days before:
Really, this neat little e-book by Jeff Barry at SoroDesign is exactly my kind of thing because it actually does enable you to create your own perfect days or half days in Buenos Aires: Jeff sends you off to an area of the city and then helps you discover it as you walk… architecture, landmarks, museums, cafés, parks, galleries. To create our perfect Sunday I picked just one of the book’s San Telmo starting points: Parque Lezama, made sure I found and tried all Jeff’s tips for the locality, and went home with a big smile on my face. OK, I admit I’ve got a bit of local knowledge and so I was able to add in Calle Lanín, but in the day I’ve described to you, straight out of Jeff’s e-book came Parque Lezama, the cookie factory, The National Museum, Bar Britanico, and Avenida Caseros. Not bad for a couple of small paragraphs of a guide book in my opinion. Plus, another section tipped me off to check out the architecture of Constitución Station. I’m glad I did.
The title might mention four perfect days, but actually there’s probably enough treats in its well organised and illustrated pages to keep you busy in Buenos Aires for a whole lot longer.
Having tried it out for myself, I think the book offers a good selection of the more well known and the less discovered. Yes, Jeff leaves out a few of my personal favourites, but instead he includes places that I have yet to explore, and for me that is a RESULT! What use is a guide book that only tells me what I already know? Even after two years here, I can learn from Jeff’s super suggestions. If you’ve never been to Buenos Aires, then I think he will get you off to a great start. I think the e-book’s got a cool price tag too: at only USD$8.95, it probably isn’t going to break your bank.
Best part for me is that if you buy the e-book, and you do it via Sallycat’s Adventures, then Jeff has agreed to give me a little bonus, out of his profits, for the sale. Thus over time we can all win: you can follow in my footsteps and enjoy your own perfect days in Buenos Aires, I can treat myself to a few licuados, and Jeff sells his book: win, win, win! Perfecto.
So how can you get your hands on this little gem? Well, just click any of the photo links on my blog (more will appear soon) including the one above in this post. Or, use this link instead:
Meanwhile, if you’re wishing you’d been with Me and C. on our perfect Sunday, why not head over to my One Perfect Sunday Flickr Photo Set where you can slideshow the gorgeous photos we took as we explored.
Sometimes, however well we think we know a place, it can be the fresh perspective of another soul that adds the possibility of new layers of discovery. If, on the other hand, we’re a first time visitor, aren’t we always after the inside track? If you like what you see in my photos, why not give Jeff’s ideas a try and treat yourself to the prospect of ‘4 (or more) Perfect Days in Buenos Aires.’
Here’s to exploring and adventuring with a little help from our friends. Enjoy!
After the fact, one of you sent me the link to this all the way from Milan, and because I love the BBC and David Bowie’s voice and the brilliant use of this tune in Trainspotting I’m adding it to this post. Here’s to every day being a perfect one. We have it in our power to make it so!