Postcards from Argentina
El Ateneo Grand Spendid
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.
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.
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.
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.