Recoleta Cemetery

When I'm trip planning, cemeteries aren't normally the first attractions to hit my itinerary. After all, they're not exactly known for their inviting, upbeat atmosphere. With that said, it's no secret that the best way to get to know a place is to make friendly with the locals, in which case you should set aside time to visit Recoleta Cemetery when you're in Buenos Aires.

El Cementerio de la Recoleta contains more than just a collection of ornate mausoleums; it contains the history of a nation. "In this museum of mortals, the personal ramblings of its inhabitants—famous or obscure—blend inextricably with Argentine history."1 A map of Recoleta Cemetery reads like a who's who of Argentina's elite: writers, politicians, war heroes, and the filthy, stinkin' rich [pardon the pun].

Without a doubt, the best online resource for information about Recoleta Cemetery in English is a site called AfterLife. For anyone with more than a passing interest in the cemetery, this site is the place to go to read about the symbolism, the history, and the many urban legends surrounding the great figures who are buried there, complete with stunning photography.

If you do visit, I suggest that you take a tour of the cemetery rather than just roaming about aimlessly all by your lonesome. While the sculptures and artwork are easily appreciated on their own, a knowledgeable tour guide will really bring the cemetery and its stories to life [sorry, I just can't help myself]. Oh, and please do more than just walk through the gates, make a beeline for Eva Perón's tomb and then leave; the other residents get offended when you do that.

If armchair travel is more your style, you can take a virtual tour using 360 Cities' panoramic shots of the cemetery including president, educator and writer Domingo Faustino Sarmiento's mausoleum, the beloved Evita's tomb, as well as the interior of Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, the 18th-century church adjacent to the cemetery.

Here's an example of what you'll see as you roam the "streets" of this 15-acre Buenos Aires necropolis.

Recoleta Cemetery | Cementerio de la Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Argentina by katiemetz, on Flickr [Recoleta Cemetery's many angels will watch over you.]

Spiritual Light [Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina] by katiemetz, on Flickr [A virgin lights a candelabrum representing spiritual light and salvation — La Bóveda de Dorrego-Ortiz Basualdo]

Cenotafio de los Tres Amigos | Cenotaph of the Three Friends [Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina] by katiemetz, on Flickr [Cenotafio de los Tres Amigos — read about it here.]

La Bóveda de José C. Paz [Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina] by katiemetz, on Flickr [The angel reassures the woman at her side of her place in heaven — La Bóveda de José C. Paz]

Life Among Death [Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina] by katiemetz, on Flickr [Life among death]

Take a look at more photos from my Recoleta Cemetery set on Flickr.

[1] AfterLife Read More......

Recognition Long Overdue

Those of you who've been following along may recall that my dad and his wife Deb came for a visit back in October of last year. During their stay in Argentina, we used two services that I feel were worthy of recognition.

Buenos Tours
In October 2008, my dad, stepdad, Daniel and I took a walking tour with Alan Patrick of Buenos Tours, which we considered one of the highlights of our visit.

My dad enjoyed Alan's private walking tour so much that as soon as he bought his plane tickets for Argentina last year, he asked me to book another tour for him and Deb. Alan happened to be unavailable, so he set up my folks on a tour with his fellow guide Jessica, an American expat living and studying in Buenos Aires. I only spoke to Jessica for a few minutes at the tail-end of my parents' tour, but she seemed very friendly. Dad and Deb both commented that Jessica gave a well-paced, engaging, first-rate tour.

I see another tour with Buenos Tours in the future!

Silver Star Transport
I'd also like to mention the excellent car service that we hired to take my parents to the airport. Fred, an American living in Buenos Aires, provides top-quality service through Silver Star Transport. He was punctual and personable, and the Lincoln Town Car he used was quite swanky (and most unusual for Buenos Aires!). He drove safely and with a cool head, which is no small feat when you consider the madness of traffic in the capital (or anywhere else in Argentina for that matter). Fred's prices were a bit higher than other services, but I feel they were an excellent value. I wouldn't hesitate to use Silver Star Transport again when my parents come to town.

[Please note that I'm not receiving any sort of kickback or compensation for recommending these services.]

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The Argentine Food Pyramid

The Argentines value simplicity when it comes to food. Salt reigns supreme as the condiment of choice on grilled meat; potatoes rule in the land of the side dish, whether they be mashed, fried, or roasted; and, nothing says dessert to an argentino like a rich scoop of ice cream.

Unfortunately, the Argentines have taken the concept of simplicity a bit too far. The astonishing quantities of these foods that are consumed—almost to the exclusion of all else—have led me to believe that there is some sort of New Food Order at work here. Friends, I give you the Argentine Food Pyramid:

The Argentine Food Pyramid by katiealley

If you don't believe me, just check out this post entitled "Argentina on Two Steaks a Day" at the blog Idle Words. The post is a few years old now, but in my mind it's a classic, quite funny, and I do believe it firmly supports my version of the Argentine Food Pyramid.

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Don't Worry, Bee Happy

The other day Daniel and I took a ride out to his grandmother's land in Quequén to see how the sunflower crop was coming along. As we neared the field, I was greeted by row upon row of smiling yellow faces swaying, bowing and bending in unison with the wind, all pointed eastward in the direction of their namesake.

Sea of Yellow by katiealley on Flickr [A sea of yellow]

[Nerdy side note: Did you know that one of the reasons sunflowers follow the sun is to please the bees? The sunlight warms the flower – and therefore its nectar – and it seems that bees and other pollinators have a preference for piping hot nectar.]

I hopped out of the car and walked along the perimeter of the field between the flowers and the barbed wire fence, looking for the perfect spot to start snapping away. I expected Daniel to join me, but when he didn't appear I figured he'd decided to wait in the car.

Busy Little Bee by katiealley on Flickr [Mind the bees, please.]

The field was absolutely teeming with bees in their signature black and yellow suits. Their collective buzz filled the air, and they whizzed past me hurriedly in the search for their prized nectar. At one point I saw a single sunflower with 5 honeybees on it. Though I momentarily contemplated a shot, I decided that I didn't like the odds of 5 on 1, so I lowered my camera and waited a few minutes until they'd flown off.

Sunflowers | Girasoles by katiealley on Flickr[Each flower has its own personality.]

Up until a few years ago, a Japanese beekeeper used to bring his colony to Daniel's grandmother's land to pollinate the crops. The bees would make loads of honey, some of which the beekeeper gifted to Daniel's family. At the time, there were caretakers living on the land, and so there was always someone to keep an eye on the bees. These days no one lives on the land, and so the beekeeper stopped bringing the hives for fear that someone would steal them (!). Yep, that's right – there are idiots out there that would steal giant wooden boxes filled with bees.

Sunshine by katiealley on Flickr[Different flower, different bee]

At any rate, not ten minutes had passed since we'd arrived when Daniel came zooming up in the car. He hollered to me in a panicked voice from the open passenger-side window, "I've been stung by a bee – on my forehead!" It had been many years since he'd last been stung, and he wasn't sure how he might react. We didn't take any chances; we headed straight home. The sunflowers and I didn't get much face time, but at least I managed to press that shiny silver button on my camera a few times before I was whisked away. After all, I needed a couple of pretty pictures to go along with my story.

Just in case you're wondering, Daniel came through the incident unscathed. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the bee.

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Black Vinyl Seats in Summer

This morning at the breakfast table, as I bemoaned the sweltering heat and lack of air conditioning, as well as the fact that my thighs were nearly fused to the faux leather covering on my kitchen chair, I was suddenly transported back to my childhood.

When I was about 5 or 6 years old, we had this beater of a 1978 Toyota Corolla. That car, with its pumpkin orange paint job, was seriously hideous; I knew it even at that tender young age. Punky, as we affectionately named the family vehicle, looked like this:

Toyota Corolla [Do your best to imagine this car painted jack-o'-lantern orange. I know it's a stretch.]

While my parents didn't have a lot of money at that point in their lives (hence Punky), they did afford us the luxury of a family membership to the local swim club to while away the hot and humid Philadelphia summers. Many carefree memories of splashing and playing at the pool still replay in my mind, but there is one dark passenger that I just can't shake: the dreaded black vinyl interior.

After an entire afternoon of baking in the scorching sun at the swim club parking lot, Punky's jet black interior would heat up to a temperature not far from that generated by nuclear fission. My mom always instructed my little sister and I to lay our pool towels across the backseat to avoid getting burned, but I swear that the dampness in the towel vaporized immediately upon contact, merely resulting in a pair of steamed thighs instead of dry-heat roasted ones. Even after the seats had cooled to an acceptable temperature, I'd still have my legs glued to the vinyl as beads of sweat rolled down the backs of my knees. And don't get me started on the branding irons otherwise known as seat belt buckles.

My dad eventually sold the car – with 135,000 miles on it – to one of the secretaries at the college he taught at. Punky went on to provide several more years of first-degree-burn-inducing yet faithful service.

Do you have any memories of your family car growing up?

Image credit: Toyota Reference

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Project 365: In the Home Stretch

I'm pleased as punch to report that I have passed the nine-month mark in my quest to snap a photo a day aka Project 365!

In my last update, I vowed to edit and upload my photos in a more timely manner. Let's just say that I didn't quite fulfill that personal promise. Frankly, since about the halfway point of Project 365, I find myself battling an aversion to Flickr. As is often the case with any enjoyable activity that we're "forced" to do (wait, who twisted my arm?), it begins to lose its appeal after a while.

My interest in the project isn't flagging, but I'm finding it more challenging by the day to find a worthy subject to point my lens at. This problem is compounded by the fact that I work at home, and on particularly busy days, I may not venture much further into the world than the corner store to pick up some fruits and veggies.

On a more positive note, I've been loving my new Fuji Finepix S2100hd camera that I was given as a Christmas gift! The zoom and macro capabilities of the Fuji blow away my previous camera, a point-and-shoot Kodak. I'm still learning how to use all the features, but I'm very pleased with the new camera. Thank you, Mr. Christmas!

Project 365 Mosaic Project 365 Mosaic Project 365 Mosaic

On New Year's Eve I snapped my 300th photo. It feels so good to be in the home stretch!

Click here to view my entire Project 365 set on Flickr.

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2009: An End and a Beginning

"For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning."
- T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"

2009, I barely knew you. At this time last year, I was preparing for my impending move to Argentina and saying goodbyes to friends and family. Just two months later, on March 1st, I touched down in Buenos Aires, and life hasn't been the same since. The tremendous adjustment entailed by conducting my life within the boundaries of a new culture, a different language, and a markedly-changed lifestyle seems to have blurred the passage of time. Yes, it's 2010, but frankly I'm not sure how I got here (or maybe that's a side effect of last night's champagne?).

Thankfully, I feel comfortable with my place in the universe, or at least, this tiny corner of Argentina. I'm hoping the same for all of you, wherever you call home. Peace, love and blessings to all in 2010.

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