Wednesday, January 21, 2015

On San Telmo and culture and stuff

"You can be sincere and still be stupid." - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

OMGYOUGUYS. I have had internet for, like, an entire 24 hours so far. I don't want to get too excited - last time it revived, it was for a short half-day - but IT IS REALLY HARD. I AM SO EXCITED. I am way behind on my huffpoeing buzzfeeding redditing jezebelling. WHAT HAS HAPPENED THIS MONTH?! Point me to the memes!

Speaking of being behind: THIS BLOG. My (internal, unspoken) goal of two posts a week was hopelessly derailed. Blogblogblogblogblogblogblog.

I've had coffee today for the first time this week and I feel high as a kite.

BUENOS AIRES! I swear this is my last post about that magnificent city before dragging youguys into guacho country.

Want to hear a fun fact about BA? THERE ARE BOOKSTORES EVERYWHERE. Really. EVERYWHERE. Like, entire STREETS of them. ANOTHER fun fact: Amazon dot com isn’t in Argentina.

I’ll leave you to interpret that as you will.

This particular good news became very relevant when my Kindle broke on Day 4. My treasured, ancient, six-year-old-full-keyboarded Kindle just decided to give up the ghost. At the beginning of a three week holiday in a foreign country. I thought we were better friends than that, but there we are. As a result, I found myself spending an entire morning scurrying into various bookstores, frantically looking for anything – anything! – written in the English language. I finally found luck at a small bookstore/cafĂ©/bar in Palermo called Crack Up. Here is a map for you:

You're welcome.

Also, they had FOOD. And COFFEE. And TORRONTES. If you're into that. (Not me, Grampa!) How sweet is this place? Someone! Open one in London-town. Except with English books. It will be a hit.

Now for THE LUNCH. After our blinding success getting books at Crack Up, we made our way to Freud y Fahler NC for lunch, where apparently the menu was designed by Kyle. I appreciated the illustrations of each dish, because how else would we know what we were ordering?

This totally clears it up.

Uncanny likeness, right? Well-drawn, friends! Also, you can tell we were eating nerdy-early, US/UK-style, since we were the first people there. This happened every night at dinner-time, too, when we showed up at 9 p.m. (when the restaurants opened) and ate in the emptiness until people started arriving around 10:30. Who ARE these people, and when do they sleep?! Even the kids! Families! 10:30 p.m. dinner time! MIND.BLOWN. Love and admiration here. I mean, I thought I was old-hand at these sort of cultural differences, having done the Europe-late-long-dinner-thing, but this was a whole new ballgame.

THE TANGO. Okay, so everyone says You Have to See the Tango when you're in Buenos Aires. Now, as far as I can tell, there are two ways to do this: go to the San Telmo square and watch the couples spin around for the tourists, or go to a tango club. We opted for the latter, BUT (see above note being about nerdy-early) things don't kick off until midnight or later. We got to Cathedral of Tango at ten (feeling VERY wild, I don't mind saying), and it was rocking out like this:
Out of control! 

We had a great table right up front (because practically first ones there), but knowing we'd have to wait at least three hours for the club to turn into Super Tango was just a recipe for napping under the table. It probably didn't help that this was also a Tuesday night, and who on earth tangos on a Tuesday night? Go there on a Thursday or Friday, youguys. Or head to San Telmo if going out at midnight isn't your jam. I will say this, though: we got to see some terrific dancers and an exciting part of Argentina culture in a venue that was cutting-edge. Also - and most importantly - eat more fugazzetta pizza.

THE RIVER. Can I tell you what I love about cities with rivers in them? Pedestrian-only, modern-design bridges, and old-as boats. London's got this, too. It's just too much. Does Chicago have this? I should know since I've been there a kazillion three times. But I spent most of my time with the bean, because #goodtouring.

Sidebar: bottom left is the pink governor's casa where Eva Peron did her Eva Peron thing. Cropped out: loads of scaffolding and construction works, which are apparently as permanent a fixture as the building itself. SEXY! Bottom right: if you want to know what this building is, why don't YOU be the tourist. (And then tell me what it is.)

THE PROTEST. Youguys. Apparently outside the governor's casa there is always a protest happening. Isn't that awesome? MAKE NOISE, HUMANS! This one is about Someone lying to Someone if that banner is any indication:
I felt like a photo-journalist capturing Change in a war-torn country. Except safe. And not endangered. And ignorant of the issues. I can see why people do this. What a high!

LUNCH! Okay, so originally we tried to go to Hierbabuena or La Casera for lunch, but the power was out on the entire street. Because That's Just What Happens Sometimes and Maybe It's Planned But We're Not Sure Quit Asking Questions Go Away.

That said: they could still sell bread and produce from their side market! WIN!

So rustic and millennial and organic and perfect I wanted to punch myself in the face. Also, buy everything and put a cross-process filter on it.

Having given up on the perfect lunch, we decided to take our chances at Any Random Place in San Telmo, because obviously it has a square lined with cafes boasting identical menus in three translations so clearly it'd be impossible to go wrong*. We crossed the street, prepared to walk the five blocks over to the square in the stifling mid-day heat, and BOOM. We spot this place. Bacan! Youguys. I know I'm easily woo'd by open shelving, chalkboard, and black-and-white tiling, but this place was good stuff. If you ever find yourself shut out of Hierbabuena or Casera, go here: 

 I'm pretty sure this is also where the mob hangs out.

SAN TELMO. We wandered around there after lunch. Because old and historical and stuff.


Um. Culture. Colonial. Jazz. 

Doppelganger. Awesome bar. Totally for everyone. Culture. Unpretentiously Hip. Jazz.

Dinner at Aramburu. Two of about twelve courses. Designer food. Eating art. Jazz.

And we've done it! Buenos Aires is a WRAP.

SIDEBAR: just now the doorbell rang and it was an Amazon** delivery guy and I totally didn't remember ordering anything on Amazon so right away I'm excited and then I opened it and it was a book I had ordered centuries ago that was out of stock and apparently it came back in stock because there I was holding it and anyway, it has made my day because it feels like a gift, like when you find money in the pocket of something you haven't worn in forever. DAY WON!

We're off to France tomorrow to start knocking down walls and seeing what's under them! We're also hoping to get some wifi hooked up, but that could be a drama for another day. P.S. Anybody who speaks French fluently is invited down with us anytime. ANY.TIME.***

Big hugs and lots of love,

**Don't judge me! I shopped at a bookstore in Argentina!
***No, seriously. PLEASE COME WITH US. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

On le internet, Buenos Aires, and eyebola

Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes. - Annie Dillard

OMGYOUGUYS. We have no wifi. We have had no wifi since we got back from Argentina. It is TORTUROUS. I can't blog. I can't Facebook-stalk you. I can't check my email without racking up a huge data charge on my mobile phone bill. I don't even know who I am anymore.

Between that and eyebola*, it is like I have retreated into the Dark Ages. HOW DOES ANYONE LIVE LIKE THIS?! I reject this version of the world! They say t'internet will be back 'in our area' by the weekend, but I'm skeptical. It's already been three weeks. VIRGIN MEDIA YOU ARE UNRELIABLE SACKS OF GRAMPA-DISAPPROVED-LANGUAGE.

So now I'm at the pub next door, where they have wifi and a sense of common decency. Also, beer coffee. Obviously not a long-term solution, but hey! It's Tuesday afternoon, let's call this a thing.

Now back to the holiday, when life was sweet, easy, and uninfected. Buenos Aires, part deux!

First, let's talk about BA hipsters. Did you guys know that no matter How Unique Like a Snowflake a hipster is, THEY ARE THE SAME EVERYWHERE? Just LOOK at them. This Argentina Campari party could be any Street Feast at Dalston Yard. Except with sun. And skin. And Campari. So, way sexier.

And because one can't possibly attend a bottomless-aperitivo garden party without proper entertainment: Vik took the stage. I kid you not. Apparently being an artist and business-owner isn't enough - she also SINGS.
This is the point at which I grabbed a bunch of hot dogs and a bottle of Cynar and headed for the bushes.

Then that night, we had an asado (that's Argentina-speak for BBQ) on the roof terrace. Look at Pablo, grilling all that meat. Steak! Ribs! Blood sausages! Regular sausages! MEEEAAAAAAT!

Tabasco: bringing cultures together since 1962.

The next day we went to Malba - the Modern Art museum - and the Japanese gardens. Now youguys. I confess that coming from San Francisco, I could be a *little* bit biased, but THIS JAPANESE GARDEN WAS TERRIFIC.  It is beautiful. It is charming. It has Japanese stuff in it. It is also the size of a postage stamp. This is the entire thing:

There is a pond with a path around the perimeter. There are a couple of bridges over the pond. There's a restaurant at one end, a gift shop at the other. In total - and nailing all the bridges and walkways if you're feeling whimsical - you can walk around the entire thing in less than ten minutes. TEN MINUTES. This is WONDERFUL STUFF. Nothing makes my spine retreat into my neck quite like the feeling of an unfinished-thing and this garden DOES NOT GIVE ME THAT FEELING. I left here a whopping fifteen minutes later feeling 100 percent satisfied with a job well done.

Even this left me feeling good, and it's clearly fake.

And at the MALBA's Antonio Berni exhibit, they've got what has to be History's First Photo Bomb: 
A painting bomb? Totally has to count. Hilarious stuff, Berni!

And then, because the previous evening's asado was clearly not enough meat, lunch at The Burger Joint
Burgers: bringing cultures together since 1962.

It was an epic two days. And next time I find myself with wifi, I will tell you even MORE. That's right. WAY MORE. We've got San Telmo. Salta. Iguazu. YOUGUYS WE HAVEN'T EVEN SCRAPED THE TIP OF THE ARGENTINIAN ICEBERG. You're lucky we didn't go to Patagonia or we'd be here all year.

In the meantime, wish me luck with this wifi dra-ma - I miss you and I miss this space!

Big hugs and lots of love,

*OMGYOUGUYS. Alan gave me pink eye. PINK EYE. My right eye is swollen shut and grotesque and I haven't left the house without sunglasses in the past week - in rainy London, even indoors, even at night - which means I totally look like That Girl. Over New Years in Scotland, Alan's niece Lauren dubbed it 'eyebola' because it was brought over from travels abroad and it spreads like wildfire. So at least it sounds cool. Slash terrifying.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Oh Buenos Aires, you.

OMGYOUGUYS. I have too much content today. I have FOUR DAYS of Buenos Aires to cover. This will be impossible - there is not enough coffee in the world, and I can feel the sun on my ankles - it is a delightful burning - and also it is only a matter of minutes until the Kitty Patrol comes and sits on my computer. Oreo and Melita are the Holiday Enforcers, the Vacation Guard, and if there is one thing they will not stand for, it is the presence of a laptop on a sunny balcony when you clearly  have two hands capable of more than tapping away at a keyboard:

Like rubbing tummies.

So for now, in this brief window, I will attempt - perhaps in vain - to at least cover the weekend. Here we go!

First, let us start with our friends who are hosting us, Palermo-style. This is them plus their Lily-Allen sister, Pia:

Meet Vik and Pablo. They are artists, influencers, and socialites to the nth degree (more on this soon). They are also warm and funny, and they know EVERYTHING. We've loved them since we met in London many moons ago. I should add that Vik, in addition to being a famous illustrator, is also a singer. We will also see this in action soon.

This is their shop, Monoblock. They have two of these in Buenos Aires - one in Palermo, and one in the Galeria Liceo, which is pictured below. Everything in their shop they have produced in collaboration with local artists (and one from Londres, woot!). It is awesome: 

Sidebar: can I tell you how weird it is to celebrate Christmas when it's a million degrees outside? There we are, walking down the streets, sweating and dusty and wondering where we can find a lemonade, and there are baubles and reindeers and glitz in all the shop windows. Feliz Navidad? YOU ARE MOCKING ME.

Back to Monoblock! Remember the Lily Allen Sister? She is a chef and this is her deli, snugged away in a courtyard behind the shop and full of tattooed hipsters. Her food is gorgeous, leading me to believe that between her and her sister, there is a bit too much total talent for one family. But that's why I am not in charge. 

You want to go to here:

After lunch, Alan and I finally quit stalking our hosts (me, pawing Vik's hair, murmuring nonsense) and headed to La Recoleta Cemetery. Youguys. You know my history with cemeteries: they do not want me in them because I Know What's Going On. For the most part I am happy to oblige, but sometimes, rules must be broken. I will tell you now, though - cue foreboding music here - just because I am willing to compromise, doesn't mean the graveyard will. Our understanding is in place for a reason, and this will become apparent very soon.

But first, let's start off when things are good and happy and I am merrily skipping about the mausoleums. Aren't they stunning? Aren't they spooky and magical? *click click snap snap* I wonder where Eva Peron's is? I hope these pictures capture the atmosphere. Why is it that cemeteries always look gloomy? Can the sun not penetrate here? --Ooh! Look at that angel statue! *click click snap snap*

Then, we turn down one of the teeny tiny labyrinth-like paths, and:

I see this for the omen it is - because Not My First Graveyard - and turned us down a different path to get away from his Curse. And am immediately confronted with this sky:


I turn and look back at him.

In that half-moment when my back was turned, the sky grew to this:

STOP IT, KITTY! You are summoning the overlords! 



I lingered long enough to photograph This Graveyard's Wrath - because some people never learn - and that is when THE HAIL BEGAN.

An angel dispensing doom like so much salt over fried potatoes.

This was the gate leading out. It took me years to reach it. 

The graveyard clearly won. We had to take refuge in a cafe across the road, attempting to dry off with the warm comfort of Malbec, as the rain lashed the windows, still trying to get at us. When at last we could move again, I got close enough to shoot this church and then got out of there as fast as I could. I knew my place.

This is clearly not it.

Then to Floreria Atlantico! This is one of those super-hip cocktail bars that looks like a flower shop on street level because So Secret but then they open the magic door and you go underground and ooh la la So Dark and Sexy and Look at That Typeface and This Cocktail Menu is Written in More Than One Foreign Language and I Don't Care What It Is, I Want to Drink It and Is That Eucalyptus Infusing in That Bottle? 

In short: exactly right.
I don't know about you, but the more steps I have to take for my negroni, the better it tastes.

And then dinner, wherein we take a full 180 from the sophistication of Floreria and head to El Cuartito. It is the whole package: flourescent lighting, full of locals, and home of the squidgiest gooeyiest pizza you have ever put in your face. Also, that guy:

My new favourite pizza is the one on the bottom left - yes, I was so hungry I took a bite before I photographed it, don't judge me - it's called Fugazzetta, and it's basically crap-tons of mozzarella and onions. At El Cuartito, they also stuff the crust and add cream cheese. I WILL TAKE IT ALL, PLEASE.

And Oreo just sat on my arm. Apparently I have been given enough time. I got Saturday done, though! Progress!

I will now leave you with the view from our roof terrace - pictures of rooftop asado coming soon! - and take my leave. Today is San Telmo Day! 

Big hugs and lots of love,

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

On brain pickings, high art, and much much lower neurosis

Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining. - Anne Lamott

OMGYOUGUYS. Have you discovered Brain Pickings yet? If you have, don't judge me, I'm a little late to the game on this one. (And I owe it to Kyle that I came across it at all.) Don't think for a second of following that link unless you're prepared to lose the next hour(s) of your life, because each link leads to ten more interesting links, and those to ten more, and next thing you know, the sun's gone down, you're fumbling for your glasses, and you feel a strange urge to go to a poetry reading and hug people.

My latest foray into BP was when I followed a link to Anne Lamott on Grief, which then led me to an article on how we keep ourselves small by people-pleasing, and then WHAM, there's Jorge Luis on writing, F. Scott on love stories, and Dani Shapiro on the Creative Life. It's all just too much, youguys. Get in there. When you're done, you'll want to create something wonderful. Or messy. Or anything. Because as Neil Gaiman will tell you, it doesn't matter, just do it.

I really like this stuff because while I'm not a producer of art, I really love people who are. I find what they do impossibly impossible.

Speaking of Jorge and Vik, Argentina is fast approaching! FRIDAY, youguys. That's how fast. FRIDAY. That is, like, three days from now. I have about a book's worth of google maps and flight confirmations and driving instructions and STILL I have the sneaking sensation that I am forgetting something. I lie in bed at night, mentally packing my bag. Virtual sandals, check. Virtual passport, check. Virtual camera--CAMERA! Tripod! BATTERY CHARGER! Where is the last place I saw the battery charger?? The living room socket behind the speaker?? WHERE IS THAT THING! WRITEITDOWNSOMEWHEREBEFOREIFORGET! I lunge for Evernote in the dark hours, tip-tapping away at a thousand lists, syncing and re-syncing, determined to start packing, like, yesterday.  I'll be so exhausted by the time I arrive, I'll probably sleep through the entire holiday.


Big hugs and lots of love,

Thursday, December 4, 2014

On hot sauce, yet more veg, and what are you reading?

Give a man a fire and he's warm for a day, but set fire to him and he's warm for the rest of his life. - Terry Pratchett

OMGYOUGUYS. I just made hot sauce with all those chilis I had to pluck from my dead chili plants. Well, I *think* I made hot sauce. I whacked them all into a pot with some vinegar and garlic and salt and in about half an hour I'm going to whizz it up and hope for the best. I didn't even bother deseeding them because who has got that kind of TIME and also what's the worst that can happen? It sets my stomach on fire? LET'S DO THIS CHILI THROW-DOWN.

Speaking of food, look at this gargantuan beetroot I got in this week's veg box. Isn't this ABSURD? I can barely palm it, which is a far cry from the ping-pongs I usually get:
Don't even get me started on the carrot. I almost photographed that instead, but I felt mildly uncomfortable just HOLDing it. 

And how is this for authentic? I actually washed off most of the dirt before taking this photo. I swear they put dirt IN the box, just to make me dig for my vegetables. Like an added bonus, a Look! You're a Farmer! experience, as you root around with your trowel, hands growing rough, hoping for a bountiful harvest.
My beets and carrots were pretty bountiful, alright. 

And now we've got the brussels sprouts. SOMEONE. TELL ME WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THESE BRUSSELS SPROUTS. I was going to make this flatbread pizza to get away from my usual method of FRYWITHBACONBACONBACON but if anybody has any better ideas, let me know. There are enough here to last me a MONTH.
Stop looking so innocent and baby-like. I know what you're about.

In other good news, NPR's Book Concierge for 2014 is out! I can't even handle it. There are so many books in there I want to eat. I love stuff like this, because my usual method of looking for books is either finding out what Cassandra's reading, or going to the library and hoping they've got ANYthing published after 1978. Speaking of, I was there yesterday getting some travel guides to Argentina, and since  'ANG' follows 'ARG' and my library has an impeccable cataloguing system, this book was right there. I couldn't resist it, immediately dropping all the Time Out Buenos Aires Guides that I knew I wouldn't read anyway. Any book involving prostitution and drugs in San Francisco is a day's win!
Some things just make you nostalgic.

Now if you'll excuse me, I clearly have a busy day ahead. Plus tonight is the Annual Dinner for the British Guild of Beer Writers* and it's supposed to be QUITE the fancy pants affair. I have even heard mention of SPARKLES, and that from the MEN. I've got to get to work - these sweatpants aren't going to bedazzle themselves!

Big hugs and lots of love,

*Of COURSE I'm in the guild! Look at all this beer I blog about! I'm also a Young Furniture Maker in the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers, because OBVIOUSLY.