Gosh, the parks in BA are lovely, numerous and large, perhaps none more lovely than Parque 3 de Febrero just beyond Plaza Italia in Palermo. There’s the lush Jardín Botanico (previously posted). The oddly closed-off but intriguing Eco Parque where we spotted capybaras roaming free (looking rather bored actually, with kangaroo-like paws) just beyond the park fence (leather jacket anyone?). The Jardín Japonés, requiring entry fee to what is supposed to be the largest Japanese garden outside of Japan (we didn’t go in, we’re in South America). Then the sprawling Bosques de Palermo, which has so much green space it’s hard to work out what’s what. For instance, not only is there BA’s major horse racing park, the Hipódromo Argentino de Palermo in the middle of the park, a massive open-air swimming pool complex on the shores of the Rio de la Plata but also, rather surprisingly, a full-scale International airport, Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, one of three in BA.
Then there’s the Rosedal. I’m not normally one to gush over rose gardens, but this is something else (inspired we played and sang “I beg your pardon…” etc last night. Great song – Ant). The air is heavily perfumed, the colour almost blinding in vividness and variety. A truly stunning garden. Originally the private retreat of 19thCentury dictator (South America, ever thus) Juan Manual de Rosas. After his fall from power in 1852, it eventually become public parkland and was then redesigned by Carols Thays, a French landscape architect heavily influenced by London’s Hyde Park and Paris’s Bois de Boulogne. You see the name Thays a lot around these parts, he must have been a very busy man.
This whole wonderland is surrounded by the extremely elegant barrio of Palermo. Now Palermo has many iterations, some firmly established as distinct areas with obvious characteristics, whilst others are less obvious and perhaps made-up by eager real estate agents looking to hype a previously down-at-heel area. So, first up we have:
Palermo Hollywood – an imposed aura of glamour after the TV station in the area. It’s packed with cool restaurants and bars that spill out onto the jacaranda-lined streets – all in a grid formation, like a US city, as is much of BA mind you, so it’s hard to get lost.
Palermo SoHo – even more cool restaurants and bars, possibly ‘the’ hippest spot in the hood. This place goes off at night. We’re coming back to BA in January and staying in this barrio so looking forward to exploring this area more.
Palermo Viejo – designer-shopping central. Cobbled tree-lined streets and very upmarket label stores with narrow pasajes running between, all adorned with colourful street art.
Palermo Chico – ‘millionaires row’ apparently – leafy and salubrious, dripping with old money and capybaras, as it’s opposite the Eco Parque. Think upper east side Manhattan and you’ve got this area (the many many apartment buildings here must have incredible views out over the urban vegetation – Ant).
Then it gets a tad contentious as there are any number of so-called Palermo areas such as:
Palermo Nuevo, Alto Palermo, Palermo Botánico, Palermo Pacífico, Palermo Boulevard, Palermo Sensible (so called because of the high concentration of psychoanalysts in the area!), Palermo Rojo (the ‘red-light’ zone of Palermo where transvestites apparently ply their trade). Then there are probably completely made up names (as if the others aren’t) of Palermo Queens, Palermo Dead (around the cemetery) and Palermo ‘Fatherhood’ – no idea on that one I’m afraid. And the latest one, Palermo Tango.
Anyway, all up Palermo in BA is a very happening place (huge, a third of Manhattan – Ant) and quite the contrast to San Telmo where we’re living. It’s as if this place is in an entirely different city – modern, bold and trendy – whilst the other, old-world, slightly down-at-heel shabby-chic.
We took the Subte across town in the morning for the princely fare of 0.40c each, which by the way, with run-away inflation, has more than doubled in the past few months, so whilst we laugh at the cheapness of travel, porteños are reeling in horror at spiralling costs. The cruel irony being that whilst the peso continues to plummet against the US$ and inflation soars above 40%, locals are finding everything more and more expensive whilst foreigners find everything cheaper and cheaper.
We finally made it to MALBA, the Latinoamericano Gallery in Palermo. This is a private collection housed in a purpose-built large glass fronted building containing a rather modest, I have to say, assemblage of Latin American 20thCentury Art. Whilst the collection is interesting with some bright spots, the main draw here is focused on just two artists, and even then, one main picture by each. Frida Kahlo’s ‘Self Portrait with Monkey and Parrot’ and Diego Rivera’s ‘Dance in Tehuantepec’. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice collection but I would have imagined a much larger, much more impressive collection for a city of this stature. Perhaps it’s out there somewhere, I just have to find it.
Lunch over in Palermo was the usual fare of a perfectly cooked steak – a Bife de Chorizo, possibly the best cut. Cooked to delicious perfection for A$10 and washed down with a bottle of Malbec at a table on the street, so a perfect people-watching spot. A half-hour taxi-ride home down endless elegant boulevards to San Telmo cost just A$7. I like this town.