Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Tourists in Buenos Aires.
Pablo and Cesar have given some thought to our day which started at El Ateneo, one of the most well known bookstores in the city. Move over Barnes and Noble, this takes bookstores to another level of style and elegance and in 2008 came in second on the list of the World’s Best Bookstores. Designed by architects Pero and Torres Armengol, it first opened as a theatre named Teatro Gran Splendid in 1919. Many of the most famous tango stars like Carlos Gardel, Francesco Canaro and Ignacio Corsino performed here. Bought in 2000 by the group Tematika, who own more than 40 other stores, it was renovated and the EL Ateneo Grand Splendid became their flagship store. When you walk through you can still feel the grandeur of the original theatre. Although all the seats have been removed in lieu of bookshelves, the ornate carvings, theatre lighting and the stage with its crimson curtains are the same. The orchestra pit now houses a café where you can buy a myriad of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages as you wander the three tiers (floors) of books. The dome ceiling which has the original beautiful fresco painted by Italian artist Nazareni Orlando and the architectural detail are all original. Elevators take you to the second and third tiers, where shelves are filled with books but the still intact red velvet covered theatre boxes are available to read, have a drink and people watch. Comfortable sofas and chairs are also scattered throughout the store. We could have spent hours here but we need to move on. Next stop was San Martin Plaza, which is Cesar’s most favorite of the city’s parks. Named after General Jose de San Martin, the plaza is a sprawling, tree-filled park. Although the good general died in exile, in 1862 French sculptor Louis-Joseph Daumas was commissioned to create the equestrian statue of San Martin as a hero from the Wars of Independence and in 1878 the plaza was named in his honor. Now numerous mature trees shade the park and benches. The beautiful flowering jacaranda, magnolia and the yellow flowered tipa (rosewood) trees in addition to two hundred year old fichus and trees invite visitors passing by to sit and contemplate the statues and nearby monuments and buildings. Located in the park is the Monumento a los Caídos en Malvinas (Monument for the fallen in the Falklands war). Built in 1990 to honor those who fought for Argentina, this was the second memorial that we have visited (the first was in Rosario) that commemorates the 1982 Falklands War with England. Although much has been written about this war, precipitated by Argentina and General Galtieri who mistakenly thought the British would not respond, the war tragically took 907 lives, 258 British and 649 Argentine. Visible from the park and memorial is the renamed Torre Monumental, although most still call it Torre de los Ingleses (British Clock Tower). This Renaissance clock is set on a platform 35 meters (115 feet) high. On top the tower is an octagonal dome that is covered with layered copper. A weather vane that represents an Elizabethan three-mast ship crowns the peak. Surrounding the park are buildings of gorgeous examples of neo-gothic architecture that what were once mansions and now various government offices. After lots of photographs, it was off to our next spot, the older barrios of Buenos Aires.