Friday, September 27, 2013

Buenos Aires: Teatro Colon

One of our tourist stops was the amazing Teatro Colon. This theater has been around a long time and was recently renovated. We took a tour of the place and got to see the amazing architecture, carpets, paintings and here a little of its history. Unfortunately, they were running a lighting rehearsal for the Marriage of Figaro opera that was performing that evening so while we got to see the actual theater, it was dark. Thanks to our awesome camera and its nightshot setting, we still got a glimpse of how beautiful it is. Here are a few highlights.

 They have their own workshops and make most of the costumes and sets themselves. Some of the costumes were displayed throughout the theater.

 Even the floors were amazing.
Note the three colors of marble on this staircase - yellow, rose and white. Gorgeous!
 One of the reception halls. Way back this was the place to see and be seen by rich Argentinians from Spain, Italy and France. Patrons would come early to mingle before the performance.
 The best view I could get of the side box seats with the lights off. Too bad we couldn't have seen it with the lights on.
The dome inside the theater. In some performances, they put a small group of musicians up here to represent heaven or angels. Can you imagine?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Buenos Aires: Some REAL tango!

Buenos Aires is a beautiful city with a lot of culture and charm. One thing we wanted to experience while there was some tango. We considered some of the touristy tango shows, but decided instead to visit a little bar where the tango was more authentic.
The tango bar was called the Crumpalista and was a tiny little place that was certainly open to tourists, but wasn't really frequented by them.  We were very warmly welcomed and shown to a nice table in the back but with a good view of the 'stage'. Oh, "in the back" also means the second and last row. I mentioned the place was tiny, right?
Here's a good shot of the band. Bass guitar, electric piano and accordian ... squeezebox I mean. The music was wonderful! If you've never listened to tango, give it a try. The best part was that Seb (Argentinian) recognized most of the songs as he grew up listening to tango. Such a cultural experience for us. I always thought of tango as this professional ballroom dance for competitions or something, but it's what families in Argentina listened to and danced to. 
I'm so disappointed to realize I didn't get any photos of the professional tango dancers - too mesmerized to mess with my camera I guess! But, Kevin and Seb took a turn with the lovely lady. I know you're all shocked to find out that neither Brian nor I wanted to try it! (We barely danced at our senior prom) :) Kevin had actually taken some lessons and Seb, well, he's Argentinian so has it in his blood.
Quite a few of the patrons got up to dance, either with the professional couple or on their own. This was clearly a place the older locals (Portenos) came to dance tango and have some wine and catch up with friends. We felt a bit like we were intruding on a special party of friends, but it was really great. The main singer thought it was so nice that we were there and experiencing 'real' Argentinian culture, and of course, he applauded Seb often for bringing us along.
This guy is 91 years old and still comes by to sing a few tangos! I think we left around 1:00am and it seemed the party was only getting started. Things start late and end early morning on the weekend in BA.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Buenos Aires: Welcome

Our South American adventure continued with an evening flight to Buenos Aires. This was really the highlight of the trip as our whole purpose was to visit my brother, Kevin, and his husband, Seb. We arrived without any trouble and settled into our new home for the week - a beautiful old building in the Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires. We rented a one bedroom apartment so we could cook a bit and have some additional room.

Kevin and Seb met us outside our apartment building and the reunion was officially begun! It had been over three years since we'd seen each other and to say we gave each other big hugs, is an understatement.

 Okay, this isn't actually a photo of Kevin giving me a hug, but since it kind of looks that way and always cracks me up, I decided to include it. :)
 Dinner during our Asado (meat dinner is the best translation I can think of).
 My little brothers - such cuties!
One of our last days - a fabulous steak lunch with all the trimmings.

More to come on our specific adventures in the next few posts.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sao Paulo: City Tour

Yep, we took the city tour. Maybe we're getting old, I don't know, but we're finding more and more to like about city tours. You get to see and learn so much in such a short period of time. Somehow, it makes me feel lazy - like I should be doing all that research and finding my own way to all these great spots, but oh well, maybe I am just getting old!

Anyway, here are a few highlights of our tour.
Statue outside Ibuerapuera park representing the discovery of the Americas and the conquering of the native South American indians.
Brian enjoying a short break in the park.
This is the back side of one of the cathedrals. Traffic is terrible in Sao Paulo so we never did see the front.
This is mile 0 of Sao Paulo where everything is measured from. The top of the marker is shown below and shows the 6 other regions that border Sao Paulo.

This is the site of the first government building in Sao Paulo. This isn't the actual building, but this is the actual site.
And these two photos are a train station the rich English farmers had built to carry their crops of coffee, bananas, etc back and forth to the coast in Sao Paulo. A really pretty building.

This is another train station that now also houses one of the best auditoriums in the city. The National orchestra plays concerts there.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sao Paulo: Churiscaria

One of the things we knew we had to experience while in Brazil was a traditional Brazilian steakhouse. We asked one of our guides for a recommendation and he took us to a Churasciarria where we ate our fill of every cut of beef, pork, chicken and lamb you can imagine. Here are a few photos of the gluttonous event.

You start with a trip to the 'salad bar' which is a complete understatement. As you can see, the buffet was huge and has every condiment, salad, cheese and bread you could imagine.
And as if that wasn't enough, the gauchos kept bringing sides to the table, whether we wanted them or not. Garlic bread, cheese puffs, french fries, fried banana ...
The highlight, of course, was the cut after cut of beef they brought around to your table. You were given a little card with green on one side (showing you wanted more) and red on the other (to communicate you were resting). This gaucho let me take his photo - that's prime rib he's shaving off for us.
One would think that after all that food I wouldn't have room for dessert, but that would be to admit you don't know me very well. And as you can see, they served the desserts like everything else ... in excessive quantity!
The meat cooking and dripping fat in the front window - enticing visitors.
Brian laughed, but I just had to get a shot of the bathroom. Look closer and you'll see that there are two dental floss dispensers on the wall along with the Listerine. They really have thought of everything. :)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sao Paulo: Free Walking Tour

We signed up for a free 3 hour walking tour around the new downtown of Sao Paulo. It was very interesting and we had a super enthusiastic young guide from Sao Paulo. We're not sure all of his stories were completely based in historical fact, but they sure were entertaining.
Our guide Rafa in the red shirt telling us about the different residential areas of Sao Paulo.
A view of the electrical wires in the city. There's a high end shopping district where the cables are buried, but throughout most of Sao Paulo, this is what you see. 
Graffiti is EVERYWHERE and usually very ugly - just black gang symbols and letters. This area in a tunnel, however, was pretty cool. No idea who the guy is standing there, but I thought it was funny as it looks like he's showing off his work. For all I know, maybe he is.
Every Sunday, the city encourages Paulistas (residents of Sao Paulo) to get out and get some exercise riding bikes. They supply bikes for rental as you see here and block off one lane on the main streets for bikers to ride throughout the city.
A view from the end of Avenida Paulista - the main thoroughfare through the 'new downtown' and business district of Sao Paulo. This was the center point of our walking tour.
One of five original old houses on the avenue. As you can see, this one is neglected as were the majority. According to our guide, the government deemed them historical landmarks with the rule that the external structure could not be changed. The family who owns this house is angry because they could have made a lot of money selling to a developer and now they can't so they refuse to do anything with it and just let it rot with time.
Here's another one, but in better shape. I think this has been turned into a office building for a few small businesses.
This is the Museum of Art of Sao Paulo (MASP). The story goes that the city or the developer, I can't remember which, would allow a structure to be built as long as it didn't obstruct the view of the city from Trianon park which is just across the avenue (see previous post). So, they build the museum as you see it here - no obstruction of view. The tables underneath are a Sunday antique market.
This is an abandoned, and some say haunted, psychiatric hospital a block or so off Avenida Paulista. Rich family built the hospital and when the patriarch died, the kids squandered the money and the hospital fell into ruin. The place is locked up and guarded against the homeless and those guards supposedly told our guide that they hear moaning coming from the building on some nights. (probably just some crackheads that scaled the fence)
I just liked this shot of the older architecture in the foreground and the colorful TV antenna in the background.
This is a private hospital specializing in OBGYN - lots of babies born here. Beautiful building.
One of the old houses that hasn't been abandoned. It's called the Rose House because of the extensive rose garden out front. It's a museum now and they let you walk through the rooms to see what the house looked like.
This is a mural painted on the side of a building. The gentleman is a famous architect who designed a lot of the buildings in Sao Paulo.