November 2007

Another place gone

Part 42,748 in the City that Fades Away series.

Yesterday I walked over to the Easy in Barracas to buy a lamp for my writing desk. On the way I came across this corner (Jovellanos and Villafañe) where a building had recently been demolished.

Barracas - After

I was sad since I remembered taking the photo below just last month.

Barracas - Before

At the time I was concerned that the billboards around the house meant that it was going to be demolished. But then I thought, maybe the signs are just to keep people out. It looked like such a nice house.

From the city’s map site I found this photo of the house from a few years back.


Basílica Nuestra Señora de la Piedad

Amid the exhaust of traffic, tucked away on a side street in the center of the city is a glorious church that is likely visited by few foreigners (though Pope John Paul II did come by once).

Basílica Nuestra Señora de la Piedad

The interior is breathtaking and in astonishing good shape, practically perfect with polished columns crowned with gold, chandeliers, and the late afternoon light accenting the pink trim of the ceiling.

Basílica Nuestra Señora de la Piedad

Much of the ceiling, on a closer look, is trompe l’oeil and, perhaps, a little overdone. The figures of Adam and Eve rising over the nave is almost too much yet the church is crowded with locals on a weekday afternoon. The faithful coming in pray, the only sounds being the steps echoing on the floor and the diminished roar of the buses outside, a reminder of hurried lives.

As I sit in a pew near the entrance I hear a voice to my left, from over near a side altar, the one to St. Teresa I think. An elderly woman prays aloud, her words accompanied by the creaking of the door as a young woman enters, perhaps a parishioner or someone simply needing a moment’s reflection, or just a curious wanderer like myself.

You can find Basílica Nuestra Señora de la Piedad at the corner of Bartolomé Mitre and Paraná. Take a moment to admire the pasaje across the street. A few years ago the pasaje was opened to the public but I’ve noticed that the gates to the pasaje are always locked the last few times I’ve been by there.

Santa Catalina on the firetruck

Sitting home on a quiet Sunday reading the newspapers, then there’s all this noise outside…sirens, loudspeakers, drums…sounds like a demonstration of some sort, though Sunday is a strange day for that …wander downstairs out to the street to see what’s up…turns out to be a nice family event, kids celebrating their first communion on the feast day of St. Catherine, who rode a firetruck following the line of parents and priests.


The ugly & the beautiful along Av de Mayo

I was going through my photos from September to see if I had anything to share with you. I found this perspective of these side-by-side buildings on the 800 block of Av de Mayo…two shining examples of the city’s architectural heritage.

Architecture of Av de Mayo

What’s out of place in this photo?

Earlier this week I was giving Donald, a faithful blog reader and new friend from New York, a walking tour of Flores. We took the A line out to Caballito, then walked down Yerbal into Flores. Yerbal is one of my favorite streets in that area, filled with a number of nice homes as you can see in the photo below. That entire block is beautiful with one obvious exception. This is a good example for the City that Fades Away series.


Where is this nice street in Buenos Aires?

Clean streets, charming houses, shady trees….

in Buenos Aires

I suspect that most people would never guess the right answer: La Boca.

I’m keeping the exact name of the street to myself.

Modernizing Palermo

Ian over at GoodAirs has a good post about the demolition of old houses in Palermo to make way for more apartment towers. The post fits in well with my ongoing The City that Fades Away series.

Ian writes

Since we’ve moved to our PH in Palermo, at least four beautiful, albeit battered, old buildings have been sold. One has already been knocked down and replaced with a seven-floor anono-tower. Another two more are set to be demolished soon. So when I saw the signs for a auction of the interior finishings in the above building, I had to go.

See his post for more, including some photos from the interior of a soon to be gone part of Buenos Aires.

The Definitive Guide to Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery

Every visit to Recoleta Cemetery reveals a tomb, a statue, a plaque that I’ve not seen before. Just visiting the cemetery in the morning rather than afternoon creates an entirely different experience, the way the light enhances a stained glass window or throws shadows along the walkways. But every time I talk to Robert I learn even more about the cemetery and see details that I never noticed.

Robert has done a very nice map that provides an excellent tour of Recoleta Cemetery. Now, he’s gone even further and created what I think is the definite guide to Recoleta Cemetery: AfterLife, Documenting Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires.

Not only is it the best way to learn about Recoleta Cemetery but, as Robert says, it’s a “new way of looking at Buenos Aires” since so much of the city’s, even the country’s, history is contained within that cemetery.

Guides, Tours, & Sightseeing

Zipaquira, Colombia

You’ve researched the trip, planned the itinerary, booked the reservations, and now you’re ready for the onslaught: a week or two of rushing around trying to see as much as possible in a limited time. Hurry down to breakfast, hop in the van, snap those photos, first this side, then the other, walk around some centuries old church, then off to lunch followed by an afternoon of more fun. At some point you say to yourself, “I’m going to need a vacation after this vacation.

But what is the point? Why did you take this trip? Somehow, I doubt if most travelers can really answer those questions. Sure, there are the obvious responses: I want to visit South America, to see another part of the world, to experience another culture. But what does that really mean?

Okay, so now you’re back home with your memories and photos but what stays with you from the trip, what made it worthwhile? Perhaps it’s just the memory, the process of remembering, acquiring some sense of another place.

For a long time I’ve had a personal slogan that life is about creating memories. If travel provides a set of memories, then what can we do to make those experiences more meaningful?

Having a well-informed guide can reveal a dimension to a city that you might not otherwise encounter. Or, perhaps that guide comes in the form of a book or audio walking tour. My fifth trip to New Orleans was actually my favorite. I went on a walking tour of the cemeteries near the French Quarter (not sure why I hadn’t done that before), but the best part were simply the self-guided walks using Randolph Delehanty’s Ultimate Guide to New Orleans.

Tour groups are other options, particularly for those not comfortable with independent travel. My first trip to Europe, a week after high school graduation, was one of those whirlwind tours of 5 countries in 9 days! Still, it was an introduction that left me with a lot of memories, especially a strong desire to revisit Amsterdam. (Why did Amsterdam make such an impression on an 18 year-old boy?)

Of course, there are guides who are not so good and tour groups that herd you around like cattle.

Perhaps the most memorable experiences are those that are unexpected, even the small moments that stay with us. Maybe it’s not about seeing the sights but about appreciating a place; but that’s a vague term. In thinking of my own future travels, I’ve started to ask myself, “What do I want to get out of this trip?” And without falling back simply on a list of places to visits, sights to see, I find it a hard question to answer.

Borges in Ireland

Irish writer Keith Ridgway has a post on his blog about Borges in Ireland and how a 5 year-old Ridgway met the Argentine writer in 1971.

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