Crazy and the City

I am not sure why I could never describe my favorite faces or places. My words suddenly stumble and get stuck in a doorway of my brain. In any case, I had a fabulous time in New York over the past weekend. The weather was perfect and the city welcomed me with its usual creative spirit.

Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work was still in MoMa and I got to discover the world through his photographs taken decades ago. The exhibit shared a floor with a woman interrupted,  Marina Abramovic, who’s work I believe scared me for life. The “Sex and the City” episode where Carrie and Petrovsky meet at a gallery to check on a starving artist appears almost romantic in comparison with the Abramovic’s current state of affairs. The woman cuts herself, burns herself, takes pills to induce a catatonic state, massages her breasts continuously on a video as part of an ancient rain-making ritual… the list is endless. And she calls it art.

As if I did not have enough of craziness during that day I decided to check out Fuerza Bruta in Union Square.  Perhaps, if I were heavily infused with drugs, I’d really get the point behind the plot-less show. A few mimosas simply could not awake my futuristic imagination, so I stood in the middle of the dark theater-club room guessing who was having the most fun. Probably the DJ in a crazy Victorian wig while spraying the audience with water.

Later that evening D. and I had chocolate and wine at Ayza and set the mood for dinner at Asia de Cuba. The night turned out to be quite poetic – the city, the full moon, bridge and a light kiss of a fresh river-side summer breeze.

It’s already summer, I thought and smiled. Time doesn’t wait. Doesn’t stop even for a second. I suddenly wanted to hold on to this very moment of romance and the city.

Next morning fresh bagels (I do love bagels!) and coffee at a local shop woke me up as I was getting ready for a stroll in one of my favorite neighborhoods.  Local galleries, boutiques, and artists on the intersections of Mercer, Prince, Spring create a dreamy atmosphere reminding me to learn how to paint.  When the heat calmed down and the sun started heading west, D. and I rented bikes for a ride around Central Park.

That’s what I like about New York – anything is possible – it’s a constant progress, constant change. And you just never know what or who is waiting for you around the corner.

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Anxious

To pain my heart selfishly dooms me,
My senses have devoured my soul.
This cruel love tortures, consumes me,
Love I know I will never control.

Mad with passion, I bow before you…
I despise and adore you…

~ Phantom of the Opera


I run through centuries, years, days, and countless minutes to you. To your passion, your fire, your drive. Your anger and happiness. Your tears and joy. Your constant progress, creativity and strive. Your wisdom.

You move me. You motivate me and give my soul everything it could ever dream of.

The minute we met, I felt I could fly freely without turning back. It was my point of no return as I realized you were what I was longing for. Your endless energy that fills wide streets and every skyscraper is what I need to live a grand carnival and not a gray existence. It’s my addiction.

Decades ago you opened your arms to millions of immigrants who were looking for a better life because you knew that their diversity and aim will evolve your essence, develop you, and create who you are today. You. New York. Full of art, amazing restaurants, fashion, intellectual debate…. You are the heart of the finance industry and the minute it stops pulsating, your global roots spread around the Universe start dying.

You harbor the voyagers, the speakers, the pilgrims. You host conferences, competitions, shows. Regardless of the disasters you went through, you carry your pain buried in your deepest corners with eternal optimism. Because you know that tomorrow is a better day. A day that brings new beginnings and opportunities.

And because of that, my darling, you make me feel alive.

This past month and the distance separating us has been a torture.  With so many things happening lately, I barely can sit still because I know that in two weeks I’ll inhale your warmth again and taste your spring kiss in Central Park. And like a Suzie on her very first date, I’ll get butterflies in my stomach. I’ll sing and run smiling with my eyes wide open.

Restless, yet inspired I anxiously await our date on May 28th.

“What longing in tears for you – You – my Life – my All – farewell. Oh, go on loving me – never doubt the faith fullest heart of your beloved. Ever thine. Ever mine. Ever ours.”

Seoul Searching or a Korean Spa Adventure

At the age of modern technology, there is no longer a need to travel across the world to experience something new – I thought to myself and teleported to Seoul in a search for inner peace.

Located in the questionable neighborhood, King Spa & Sauna unquestionably rejuvenated my body and cured my brain.  For only $18 entrance fee, I traveled through nine distinct sauna rooms absorbing the traditions of the far east.

Somewhere between the Yellow-Soil Crystal Room and the Gold Pyramid sauna, I ordered dumplings (I must have been Asian in my previous life) from the King Spa cafe.  The evening ended with the acupressure massage offered by the bath house for $70. The massage is designed rather for a stressed body and tense shoulders, so I would not recommend it for relaxation purposes. I felt like my body was deconstructed and reassembled into a collage of muscles in pain. Comforting the sore spots at the Oxygen Room around 2 AM I decided to call it a night and travel through time back to my bedroom.

Shoe Theory

We all fall for the prick. Pricks are spontaneous, they’re unpredictable and they’re fun. And then we’re surprised when they turn out to be pricks. ~ Up in the Air

Quite often we experience the strangest concept of life – when I am nice, he/she is bored; when I do something bad he/she is all over. We cannot help but wonder why can’t it be easy and straight-forward? No games involved?

The answer is quite simple – because we are human. It is in our nature to be attracted to a forbidden fruit, a thrill of a hunt, a feeling of a victory.

People, relationships, feelings, emotions… it’s all like shoes.

Case 1

You see a pair of beautiful shoes and you immediately want to own them. You imagine how fabulous they will look on your feet.  You must buy them. No matter what. Regardless of the sacrifices you are about to make.  When you finally get them, you are in seven heaven. A few days later, the infatuation is over and shoes are added to the list of the past adventures. Peacefully sleeping in their designated box, they are no longer exciting.

Case 2

Everyone has two pairs of shoes – slippers and shiny stilettos.  Slippers are extremely comfortable and always serve their purpose. You never take good care of slippers. Yet, you have completely different relationship with your stilettos.  They hurt your feet, make you cry. They are total assholes. Creative, spontaneous, and confident in their powers. And you forgive this deviant behavior because they make you feel ohhh soo good, soo adorable. You only act surprised when at the end of the night you get a blister on your big toe.

The point to remember is that slippers will last for a long time, whereas stilettos will shine only for a few nights. Eventually, you stilettos will exhaust your energy and you will want to put on cozy sleepers.

Don’t Cry for Me Argentina

– Why do you travel? – asked Expat in BA

– To learn, to explore, to better relate to people and to discover what it means to be human… – I replied without the slightest hesitation.

Cliche. I know. But…

…frankly, I don’t get those who live within the boundaries of one state (by choice). How can you not be interested to walk by the Casa Rosada where years ago Evita Peron moved the Argentinian nation by speaking from its balcony? Even today, fresh flowers always decorate Eva’s grave at La Recoleta Cemetery.

The cemetery is considered the most upscale one in BA and is a city itself. A ghost town full of stories left behind by famous, influential or simply rich. Like the story of Rufina Cambaceres, who was buried alive after suffering a cataleptic attack. She was only 19. Rufina woke up in her coffin and began screaming. Security guards heard the screams, but by the time they were able to rescue her she had died of a heart attack. Rufina’s mother built a new tomb made of Carrara marble. It is carved with a rose on top and a girl turned to the side as if watching Rufina. The marble sits behind a glass pane, so if she wakes up she can be rescued.

Leaving the past and joining the present, I walk outside to a square in front of the cemetery. I ask a concierge at Intercontinental to reserve tickets for a tango show. These shows are similar to Paris’ cabaret at Moulin Rouge and many may consider them tourist traps. Personally, I enjoyed it – costumes, choreography, music, and the whole tango theme. Watching street tango is fun, but seeing professional dancers on stage turned into a great evening in BA.

There are a few theaters in the city that host tango shows. I recommend booking a show only and having dinner somewhere else as there are tons of amazing restaurants in BA.

Like Osaka described by the locals as mind-blowing and truly lived up to that statement.  The restaurant captures Peruvian and Japanese cuisines into a whole new level of creative fusion and boldly introduces its evolutionary vision of sushi. Reservations are a must, otherwise, you will end up not getting in or, if you are lucky, eating at the bar.

While it’s rather inexpensive (due to the exchange rate) to dine and wine, it is costly to make such acquisitions as clothes, shoes, accessories. Especially, in Recoleta, BA’s the most upscale area. For good quality leather bags, belts, and polo boots, go to Arandu. It’s definitely not your 10$ place (maybe because Bill Clinton shops there), and yet I know that a handbag I bought will last for quite some time.

I celebrated my purchases at the Faena hotel together with ColdPlay (the band stayed there while touring Argentina) and had a few glasses of champagne at the hotel’s Library Bar. When you get tired of walking around the city or shopping in local boutiques, street fairs (San Telmo is the largest one), stop by Faena for a drink or have tea at Four Seasons. It’s not only a good break but a nice exposure to the Argentinian culture.

Speaking of culture, don’t forget to visit La Boca with its colorful houses and pedestrian street, the Caminito, where tango artists show off their sensual moves. I suggest spending no more than an hour there to walk around and watch street performances. Try visiting the neighborhood during the day as I’ve heard it’s not quite the same in the evenings.

From La Boca take a cab to the center of the city and stroll down Avenida 9 de Julio. This is one of the widest streets in the world with eighteen lines of traffic! In the middle of the street stands a 67 meter obelisk, a pretty generic column that, however, offers fantastic views of the city if you get to the observation terrace on the top.

You can even see the marching Mothers at Plaza de Mayo that gather there every Thursday afternoon in a silent hope to find their children who “were disappeared” during the Dirty War.

As an unidentified local gentleman pointed out (while I was minding my own business waiting for my travel-friend to get ice-cream), four days is not enough to truly explore the city. “It has too much history, too much passion, too much going on”. I found BA to be more in line with the European rather than South American style and culture.

It reminded me of Paris. And every morning, almost awake from my slumber, jumping around the poop on the streets, for a second I would get confused – is it really a city of tango, or… of dogs?:)

Buenos Aires continuado

After tangoing in the rain the night before, I decided to stay local and explore our area of Palermo. Often compared  to NYC Soho, Palermo Soho is the trendiest neighborhood in the city. Years ago French architect Charles Thays designed all gardens using the images of Paris’s Bois de Boulogne’s and London’s Hyde Park. Today, the neighborhood maintains a perfect harmony between greenery, old French mansions and modern high-rises.  Many ancient houses have been converted to galleries, boutiques, or even restaurants with roof top terraces under spacious umbrellas.

Like the Quimbombo restaurant hiding under white umbrellas and rising above the Yoga studio. I usually don’t strive to achieve Moksha, and yet this place became a temple for my soul. I wanted to meditate over the delicious brunch and accept the slow-paced environment. Dipping fresh fruits in a home-made yogurt, I attempted to read a Spanish newspaper and watch the craft sellers below in the plaza Armenia.

Only a few places are open for late breakfast as it seems that Argentinians prefer dinners and lunches over eggs and bacon.  Since I can’t speak before I have my coffee, I searched for a cafe to perform my morning ritual. Mott restaurant, where Maria Lancio’s kitchen does not lack creativity, quickly seduced my heart by its Third dish (french toast) and cozy white sofas. Clean and modern, with lots of natural light, wooden furniture, and a fireplace, Mott certainly dances well within the bohemian atmosphere of Soho.

Full of artists, intellectuals, designers, etc., Soho inspires one to not only feast but, among other things, to shop.  The futuristic collections are simply irresistible to pass by and I ended up severely damaging my bank account. The skirt I purchased from Digital Mixture (Pasaje Santa Rosa 4911) is adorable – I only need to figure out how to put it on (last time it took me 30 minutes).

For the hand-made jewelry I strolled down to Atipica and for the leather goodies stopped by Calma Chicha. Don’t waste your time on a trip to the leather district of BA – the quality of products is poor and the prices are a rip-off especially if you don’t speak Spanish. Less expensive things can be bought at a street fair on Plaza Serrano in Palermo or Sunday antique market in San Telmo.

To sweeten my shopping adventures, I treated myself (other than a venti latte from Starbucks) with a famous Argentinian dessert – dulche de leche.  La Salamandra cafe claims to offer award-winning products and I bought a few tins of dulche for my friends back in the U.S.

While my travel-friend was getting her hair done at a funky Roho salon, I wandered around the streets inhaling the wisdom of the centuries along with the wind of changes. I started thinking about my life, the big birthday and what it all means to me. Granted, I am not where I expected to be at this point, but I can’t not to feel lucky for the chances and opportunities I’ve been given.

Even the opportunities that I missed.

I suddenly wanted to stop time and block the noise about planning the next trip or looking forward to a new adventure.

I wanted to simply be.

Without a plan. Without a goal. Without a perception.

Drink a glass of wine by the pool and enjoy the stars above my head.  Blow a kiss to a stranger and walk in the rain (the rain part I had done the day before).

Until, of course, my ADD kicked in and I was ready to let the evening begin.  My big birthday was celebrated at Cabana Las Lilas, a lovely restaurant in Puerto Madero that serves beef from its own Argentine ranches.  On the terrace we dined savoring the colorful palette of meat, sweetbread, desserts, wine and champagne.  Puerto Madero itself was once the industrial docks area that now has been redone and transformed into an ultra contemporary spot of BA.

Later that night, we met up with friends at lounge V, where I was introduced to a Lion Tamer. Lions in BA? I was lost in translation but went with the flow and joined the circus as a fortune-teller on a mission.

Because tomorrow my mission is Patagonia!

Buenos Aires Dia 1

Day one turned into an interesting adventure in Buenos Aires.  I was finishing a tour (on a tour bus) of the entire city to figure out its layout, historical places and parts to be explored further when I noticed the rain drops….

Well, I got caught in the rain of the century. The city was flooded. The drainage system could not cope with exceptionally heavy downpours and I actually saw owners sweeping water out of their stores and restaurants.

After taking a shower in the crazy rain on the streets of Palermo Soho, I finally managed to get to my apartment only to find out that the entire area had no power. That did not kill my spirit of adventure and I decided to dine at Casa Cruz.  Electricity disappeared after a second glass of Argentinian wine as my newly acquired expat friends shared their experiences about the city.  Candlelight dinner, wine,  chocolate muss/cake – what a great way to start celebrating my big birthday!

P.S.

A few practical points about Argentina before you start planning your trip:

1. Entry fee of 132$ (effective January 1, 2010) is valid for 10 years and can be paid by cash or credit card at the entry point to Argentina (airport before passing through customs)

2. Cabs can be booked in advance or pre-paid at the airport. I used Remisesuniversal cab service.

3. Book your travels within the country in advance, especially if you are flying to El Calafate, Patagonia. In El Calafate, be prepared to pay the airport exit tax before you go through security.

4. Hotel or a short-term apartment rental is always an option depending on your preferences. I rented an apartment in BA and stayed at the Esplendor hotel in El Calafate.

5. Don’t over-pack – there are plenty of local shops in BA. Don’t also assume that it’s shorts and flip-flops only – it’s not a jungle but a beautiful European-like city.

6. A pair of comfortable shoes is a must – there will be tons of walking involved unless you are one of those people who uses a drive-through in Starbucks:)

7. In addition to pesos, dollars and euros are accepted in many stores/hotels/restaurants.  Some places even give you 10% discount if you pay cash.

8. Any country can be dangerous if you don’t follow the basic rules. Same with Argentina. Keep an eye on your wallet, but don’t act as if you are walking through an alley full of thieves. It’s a civilized country who’s economy was affected by an unfortunate currency collapse.

9. Watch out for fake money, especially when it comes to the large bills.