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Postcards from Argentina

Updated on February 13, 2011

El Ateneo Grand Spendid

El Ateneo Grand Splendid, La Recoleta
El Ateneo Grand Splendid, La Recoleta

A fascinating bookstore

Rated #2 in the list of The World's 10 Best Bookshops by The Guardian, El Ateneo Grand Spendid is just that, an unbelievable bookstore where one is uncertain whether the books are the protagonists or the spectators of a perfectly staged show.

This magnificent building is located at Santa Fe 1860, in La Recoleta district, and it used to be a grand theater a la Scala de Milano, or Barcelona's Liceo. The building as a theater opened in 1919, and was reconverted into a bookstore, preserving all original paintings, boxes, everything, even the stage, in 2000.

Being the book worn that I am, and in spite of my recent year's tendency to give in to the comforts of online shopping, I've been to a significant number of bookstores all over the world. I've visited quaint little businesses seconded in either corners of big cities or small towns that have a very personal touch and treat customers as old friends; I've visited mega bookstores that aren't particularly appealing to my eyes but that I frequent anyway because they pride themselves in carrying anything ever published, and they aren't lying; I've visited specialized bookstores that carry, or can get for you, absolutely everything ever published on a specific subject matter....

I, however, had never before been as fascinated, actually as dumbstruck, for lack of a better word, in any other bookstore I even visited. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but really, I don't think so. Seeing and experiencing first hand are two different things in some instances, and this is one of them. To be sure, I'm not even certain what this bookstore carries, from what I saw they have a bit of everything, including CDs, postcards, and other memorabilia, but I couldn't really focus much on what was actually IN there, I just couldn't get over the THERE itself, and kept looking around like a totally unsophisticated tourist, camera in hand and all.

The boxes have been turned into reading spaces, and some armchairs and coffee tables are arranged close to the stage for the same purpose. One can just grab a book and sit there –I realize this isn't unique, I just never had the pleasure of having a reading space it in a more delightful atmosphere. The stage itself is a coffee and restaurant, you can also take your books to browse them there, or you can simply sit down to have a bite and see the show. You'll be on a real stage, curtains and all, but you'll never feel watched, because the real show happens off stage, in the orchestra and mezzanine.

If you're ever in Buenos Aires be sure not to miss this bookstore. Buying a book there is a plus, it will be a great reminder of a fabulous space, not that it'll be easy to forget it even if you walk out bookless.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid, La Recoleta
El Ateneo Grand Splendid, La Recoleta
El Ateneo Grand Splendid, La Recoleta
El Ateneo Grand Splendid, La Recoleta

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu falls, close up from the Argentinean side
Iguazu falls, close up from the Argentinean side
Iguazu falls, seen from Brazil
Iguazu falls, seen from Brazil

Nature at peak performance

There aren't words to describe this display of nature. I don't even know why I'm trying, except to express the extreme happiness I feel at having experienced this magnificent spectacle of nature at peak performance.

These falls can't be explained, can't be witnessed through any lens expect one's own eyes, and ears, and all senses put together. And don't let National Geographic tell you otherwise. These falls are so enormous, so grandiose, that they can't be captured nor understood unless in their presence.

How to explain the roar of the water falling down at full force, splashing down in gigantic sprays that create picture perfect rainbows every few steps? How to explain the views of the river up and downstream and its apparent calmness that will make almost impossible to believe what awaits the flow smack in the middle of the way? How to explain the violence and magnificence of the eighty feet Devil's Throat fall?

These falls span over yards and yards vertical edges that have been there for millions of years and will be there after we're all gone. The number of falls one can actually see varies depending on the water level, it could be anywhere between 150 and 250 falls. The air is foggy in some areas where falls are abundant and specially violent, one gets sprayed even from a safe distance, and outright wet in those areas where close proximity is allowed.

The Argentinean side of the falls is where one can be closer to them, walk by them, see the little precipices from the very edge and be completely face to face with it all, 80% of the natural park is in Argentina. However, Brazil can be very proud of its 20%, because that side of the border displays the most picture perfect panoramic of the immensity of it all. From Brazil one can see the miles of falls one next to the other, all the water falling down as if for one's personal enjoyment.

Nature is splendorous down there in Iguazu. If you're ever in Argentina, be sure to visit Iguazu. If you ever visit Iguazu, be sure not to miss the Brazilian tour.

Iguazu falls, from the river
Iguazu falls, from the river


Plaza Dorrego, San Telmo
Plaza Dorrego, San Telmo

More than a dance

Beehive hose. Longest legs, compliments of those fabulous heels. Dress that opens where it counts, allowing a glimpse but not entirely revealing what's underneath. Strong hold on the partner's shoulder. Being strongly held and expertly led to a tempo that stops and starts defying the senses.

Tango is I want you, I'm hot for you, tango is sex in the brink of exploding but never quite doing so while the music lasts. Tango is the hottest mating ritual in the form of a dance, the most sensually complex set of movements that can happen at daylight without anyone getting arrested.

I don't know what I expected, it's not like I'd never seen tango before, but when it happens right in front of you it seems the heat of it reaches and envelops you, it's completely mesmerizing. I think what adds to the fascination is the complexity of all movements, it simply doesn't look humanly possible to ever learn to move that way.

If you're even in Argentina, be sure not to miss street tango in Buenos Aires, and as a plus treat yourself to any of the hundreds of tango shows that go on every night in every corner of every major city.

Caminito, La Boca
Caminito, La Boca

Jacaranda Tree

Jacaranda tree, Spring in Buenos Aires
Jacaranda tree, Spring in Buenos Aires

Sensory delight

Was I ever lucky to visit Buenos Aires in the spring. I was (insistently) told before going that the Jacaranda trees would be in flower and it would be a very pretty sight. I kept thinking, so what, it's not like I haven't seen flowers before, either on or off trees. I guess the city bird in me wasn't precisely inclined to feel anything for this particular tourist attraction.

Not that I don't like flowers, I do like any self respecting woman would (HA), but geez, what was up with so much propaganda about some trees in the streets of a huge city? Well, now I know, and I feel a bit ashamed at having so promptly discarded the wonders of all Jacaranda trees in flower.

First of all, it's not one or two streets in the downtown area, it's not even a lot of streets in a lot of areas, it's all over town, and a big town at that, where sidewalks are shadowy with rows of Jacaranda trees in flower. After the visual magnificence comes the jasmine like smell which in many areas, specially close to parks and squares, overpowers that of the city's abundant traffic. Finally, the impression all Jacarandas left with me was a rich and brilliant reflection of a city that is otherwise quite run down in many of its older quarters, but that managed to preserve these trees as guards of a past splendor and abundance.

If you ever visit Buenos Aires, I recommend you plan the trip for Spring, November to be precise.

© 2008 Elena.


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    • Elena. profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Madrid

      They are a true sight to behold, Nomascus, I hope you get to see them some spring!

    • Nomascus concolor profile image

      Nomascus concolor 

      6 years ago from A Country called Earth

      Nice hub! I did not see any Jacaranda trees when I went... I'll try spring next time :)

    • Elena. profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Madrid

      My pleasure, Frieda! If you can dance tango, I will take you!! Laugh! Jokes aside, I'm glad you liked this one, when I look at these photos I'm taken back to spring in BA :-)

    • Frieda Babbley profile image

      Frieda Babbley 

      9 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      Beautiful! I want to go there and I want to dance there! Maybe one day? I'll bookmark this hub as a reminder. Thanks for sharing Elena. Wonderful piece.

    • Elena. profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Madrid

      Hi Jerilee! If you ever go, don't miss Iguazu, it's one hour and a half flight from BA, but really, it's the most impressive display of nature I ever saw :-)

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 

      10 years ago from United States

      After reading this wonderful hub, I'm ready to add it to my list of places to go.

    • Elena. profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Madrid

      Yes, that bookstore was just from out of this world --difficult to believe it's "only" #2 on the list of top ten. Guess what? We're planning a trip for next spring and we will visit #1 in Maastrich, which is just a couple of train hours from Amsterdam! I can't wait!

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 

      10 years ago from St. Louis

      What great pictures and travelogue! God, how I would love to go there. The bookstore would kill me. I love bookstores anyway, and that is just beyond anything I have ever experienced in a bookstore. You have captured and conveyed to feeling of these places so well. The bookstore has filled my imagination and now has me spending my days there, sipping coffee, reading some obscure writiing, and watching the unbelievable show!

      Thanks, dear.

    • Elena. profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Madrid

      Hey, R! You can say that again about the bookstore! Then there's Iguazu and tango and.... :-)

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 

      10 years ago from Wisconsin

      This sounds wonderful. I have not travelled much outside of the US but this is tempting. The bookstore would be worth it all by itself. Wow! Thank you for sharing this.

    • Elena. profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Madrid

      My pleasure, happyexplorer! I'm sure you'll enjoy it, it's unbelievable! I'm of a mind to take a trip to Maastricht just to see the bookstore that was rated #1 by The Guardian!

    • happyexplorer profile image


      10 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere

      I loved Buenos Aires, and I can't believe I missed this bookstore when I was there! How could I have walked around La Recoleta and missed this? I'm a book addict myself, and I'm adding this to my list of reasons why I need to go back to Argentina... Thanks for the tip!!

    • Elena. profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Madrid

      Thank you, Robie! Say hi from me to all these attractions if you ever hop down for a visit! :)

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 

      10 years ago from Central New Jersey

      I love your Argentinian postcards, Elena. That bookstore sounds amazing and you paint such beautiful word pictures of both Iguazu Falls and the Tango that I am ready to pack my bags and get going to Argentina. Thanks so much for this and thumbs up up up!


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