Bellagamba, meaning "beautiful leg," and also the name of our new favorite bar in Buenos Aires. Tucked into a cozy room on Rivadavia in the Congresso neighborhood, this bar is lit by colored lamps remniscient of 1960s design that also brings to mind shag carpeting. Thankfully, the bar is not clothed in shag carpeting, but rather hardwood floors and tables made from old-fashioned, foot-pedaled sewing machines, making for a quaint and retro atmosphere. The ceiling is lined with shelves holding empty, antique looking beer and wine bottles, and the music that plays is all Argentine rock, with the occasional U2 smash hit thrown in there. It is lively without being overwhelming, and the perfect place to meet friends for a drink...If you live in Buenos Aires, or are visiting, I definitely recommend Bellgamba...On the 2100 block of Rivadavia. You will be smitten!
This weekend was one of the best, and included a trip to Bellagamba with Leonor and Elsa. Our cozy drinks at Bellagamba were precluded by a delicious Peruvian dinner off the corner of Rivadavia on Calle Matheu. Dinner was at an unnamed lively restaurant that played regaton loudly as you ate your spicy Peruvian cuisine and drank from cold Quilmes liters as you sweated through the 36 degree Celsius humidity. It is impossible to beat the heat these days, but cold Quilmes definitely helps take the edge off...And Peruvian is so good it helps to make any discomfort bearable! I think Peruvian food is one of my favorite discoveries of this time in Buenos Aires...From corazon de vaca (cow heart) to spicy broths poured over fresh seafood to plump papas fritas with crispy pollo...It doesn't get much better than that. Again to the Argentine traveller, make sure to go to the corner of Rivadavia and Matheu for a tasty insight into Peruvian cuisine.
Saturday also opened up a world we have not yet seen in Buenos Aires: an outdoor concert in Vincente Lopez, a beautiful suburb just outside the city limits. There we sat as the sun set, stretched out on the grass listening to Kevin Johansen, an Argentine and North American singer who switches without accent between Spanish and English, making the audience laugh with his jokes and his goofy plays on words in his lyrics. He had the audience dancing, and the people in the crowd ranged from elderly couples clapping along, to dads dancing with their toddlers bouncing on their shoulders, to young groups of friends moving in groups, and everyone in-between. Our friend Laura brought thermoses of screw drivers, and we sipped strawberry vodka and orange juice from plastic cups as we clapped along with the rhythms.
Finally, on Sunday, we became tourists again, taking a guided walk through the Manzanas de las Luces, which literally means "Apples of Light." However, "manzana" is the word for apple, but also the old-fashioned term for "blocks," so the conotation of this term is a metaphor for blocks of intellectual light, as it is the old Jesuit-established College of Argentina, a highly-esteemed center of education visited by everyone from Albert Einstein to Carlos Gardel, Argentina's most famous tango singer.
The tour was in Spanish, so it was all we could do to catch a few words, but it was a great language lesson, and also an exciting tour. The blocks are old buildings constructed in the 1600s, and have been used as Jesuit residences, markets for flour and produce, houses for orphans, military headquarters, and now, the National College. Most remarkable is that underneath the buildings stretch a winding web of tunnels, originally built by the Jesuits, but added onto by Presidents such as Juan Peron as an attempt to create an escape-route in case of a coup (yikes!). The tunnels now stretch to the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace, just in case. I wonder if the Jesuits ever thought their tunnels would be used for such a thing...
After the Manzanas de las Luces tour, we walked over to the San Martin tomb and cathedral, a place we visited on our second day in Buenos Aires, when we were wide-eyed new arrivals. We entered the cathedral with such a different feeling this time, with a more intimate relationship with the city and all it houses, and a better sense of the history that is preserved in this place. It felt so good to delve into the history and the culture behind the walls erected downtown, to gain a deeper insight into this place...Sometimes I feel we could be here forever and still scramble to see all there is to see! It is a wonderful feeling to take advantage of your time and visit places that offer you insight into the place that is your temporary home.