Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Apartment #2 - Monserrat, the Neighbourhood

The neighbourhood of Monserrat is a mixed bag, featuring European architecture, 1970s scary architecture, a bit of dirt and grime and a slightly bigger bit of attitude. This emanates just as much from the streets themselves as from the very old and traditional bars on the street corners and the old characters (mostly men) that frequent them.  Things were very quiet on the Sunday these pictures were taken, allowing a different perspective to be observed of this otherwise busy down-town location.

There was some interesting text and lettering around, as well as stencils and pictures on windows and garage doors.  Some buildings were abandoned and boarded up, while others, through an open door, allowed a glimpse into a secret world of apartments and gardens.

Monserrat has a charm reminiscent of the more touristy San Telmo, but it´s a little more grungy and lacking in fancy bars in comparison.  The feature here are several large and traditional Spanish restaurants and cultural clubs that are home to the Spanish community, and many important buildings, such as the Buenos Aires Police Headquarters (see photo below).

Overall, it seems like an interesting place to live...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Apartment #2 - part 1

Ceylan lives in the barrio of Monserrat, which is often referred to as Congreso due to the nearby congress building.  It´s close to the centre of the city, but at the same time has a very traditional and distinctive neighbourhood-feel about it and avoids being just another chaotic part of downtown Buenos Aires.  Things do get a little crazier when there are protests and parades filling the large plaza and surrounding streets, but Ceylan says this is a small price to pay for the location and affection she feels for the place.

She has been in her apartment for almost a year and shares it with Camilla, a friend from Brazil who is studying in Argentina.  Ceylan originally came from Turkey to Buenos Aires two and a half years ago to work for a company who were starting a website in Turkish, and she has recently decided to leave Argentina and return to her native country next month.

The apartment she rents comes furnished and is a very comfortable size for two.  It´s internal, so away from the noisy street but still full of light from the shaft that is left between the buildings.  One of the nice features of apartments in Buenos Aires are the wooden floorboards; they really do create a sense of nostalgia and quality in the spaces they fill, and that´s definitely the case in this apartment.  The layout makes it a really functional and inviting space to visit and the decoration makes the experience complete.

One of the walls in the living room is completely covered in mirrors, giving extra depth and interest to a room in an apartment with few windows and no real view to the outside.  The wooden floorboards and antique furniture work with the mirrors in making the space cosy and sophisticated, aided by the combination of the dark wood and the golden couches.  The perfect place to enjoy a Turkish or Brazilian coffee...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Apartment #1

My friend Murphy has been living in Buenos Aires for about 4 years, originally coming to practice the Spanish he learnt while studying back in the US where he is from, and like most people who come for "a  while", he has not yet managed to leave.  (If you have never been to Buenos Aires, it has this addictive attitude that is hard to shake).

He currently lives in a studio apartment in Barrio Norte, located between the neighbourhoods of Recoleta and Palermo.  There are actually two separate buildings that make up his address; the second and smaller building is home to his apartment and was originally where the servant´s quarters were located for the apartments in the front building.

There are some decorative and stylistic features that seem to place the architecture from the 1930s or 40s, such as the stairwell, the light switches, the wall motifs and the lettering on the doors.  The entrance to the building is quite open and grand, and a long way for Murphy to come to have to open the door for his visitors!

His apartment is a good size for one person, full of light and nice and quiet, thanks to its location at the back and away from the street.  There is even a shared rooftop terrace that he never uses but is a lovely place to dry washing or enjoy a sunny afternoon reading the paper and drinking the Argentinian tea mate.

Murphy´s favourite thing about his neighbourhood is that you can conveniently access almost anywhere in the city, with the D-line subway nearby as well as many buses.  Walking is always a nice alternative when the subway is packed and sweaty during the summer.  There is a Starbucks a few blocks away that is situated in a lovely old building they have maintained in its original state, and a trip there once in a while for a coffee is a nice reminder of home.

While Barrio Norte can be pretty busy on weekdays, the weekends are a different story. Children gather to play soccer in the many small plazas and the streets are empty of the traffic that usually congests them.  There is some cool street art that can be found around the place too.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Finally, the Colon!

I finally made it to the Teatro Colon and it was AMAZING and totally worth the three year wait.  I heard that Mikhail Baryshnikov said it was the most beautiful theatre in the world that he had danced in, and while I have not danced in every theatre myself I think I would have to agree with him. When I arrived in Buenos Aires the theatre was closed for restoration and remained closed for years because of a fallout with the unions and the workers and the government.  Last year it opened briefly but then closed again, and it recently opened once more, so I snatched some tickets to see the ballet Sleeping Beauty with a full orchestra playing Tchaikovsky´s music.  It was like a three hour dream.  The theatre is unbelievable.  My next trip will be to see an opera...