New Galapagos Blog contest!


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We invite all our readers to take part in our great Galapagos blog contest. Simply write a 300 to 500-word essay about “Why I want to travel to the Galapagos Islands” and you can win a cruise to the Galapagos Islands, courtesy of Metropolitan Touring.

For more information, visit www.galapagoscontest.com

La Experiencia Amazónica-Viajando como un Rolling Stone!


Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica

Viajera: Cristina Bustamante

Marketing manager en Metropolitan Touring Peru

La Selva Amazónica es para mí es uno de los lugares más asombrosos y mágicos que he podido visitar en el Perú; y es que una vez que la visitas, te atrapa el calor de su gente, los sabores exóticos de su comida, y sobre todo los brillantes colores de sus paisajes; lo que hace que solo quieras volver una y otra vez.

En esta oportunidad decidí ir a Puerto Maldonado; hogar de una de las reservas naturales más importantes del mundo gracias a su gran biodiversidad, la Reserva de Tampobata, donde está ubicada Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica. Recientemente este eco-lodge a recibido al famoso músico Mick Jagger, por lo que podríamos decir que visitar la selva del Perú es viajar como un Rolling Stone!

Día 1

Salimos de Lima a las 5.20 en un vuelo de 2h 45 min a Puerto Maldonado, con escala en Cusco. A mi llegada nos esperaban los representantes de Inkaterra, quienes  nos trasladaron hacia la Casa de las Mariposas donde nos recibieron con un fresco jugo de maracuyá antes de hacer el check in. Luego, tuvimos tiempo de visitar el mariposario y ver toda clase de mariposas revoloteando a nuestro alrededor.

Después de un viaje de 10 minutos llegamos al Puerto Jetty para realizar un viaje en bote de 45 minutos hacia el albergue, donde el personal nos recibe nuevamente con una bebida helada; y nos dirigen hacia nuestra cabaña.

La habitación era realmente hermosa, contaba con todas las comodidades y amenities de primera sin perder el toque local, y siempre cuidando los estándares ambientales.  Luego de refrescarnos, descansar y disfrutar del almuerzo, empezamos con las actividades….

Al ser primer día, decidimos hacer una caminata de reconocimiento por los alrededores del lodge. Aquí pudimos  conocer muchas de las plantas y árboles de la región, mientras el guía nos contaba el uso que les da la comunidad. Luego de la caminata; decidimos descansar un rato  en la zona de hamacas del albergue, con una vista impresionante, frente al río Madre de Dios.

Por la noche; nos embarcamos en una paseo más emocionante, una excursión por el río de noche. Preparados con nuestras linternas en mano; y cámaras de foto atentas, recorrimos los márgenes del río buscando búhos, ronsocos y caimanes. Nosotros no tuvimos tanta suerte ésta vez; y solo avistamos unos pequeños caimanes. Lo que si vimos con claridad fue el cielo totalmente iluminado con las estrellas del hemisferio Sur.

Al final del día, disfrutamos de la cena y nos dirigimos a descansar y disfrutar de la paz y tranquilidad de nuestra habitación.

Día 2

Nos levantamos muy temprano a disfrutar de un delicioso y energizarte desayuno; para luego  dirigirnos nuevamente al bote que nos llevaría hacia la Reserva Nacional Tambopata. El viaje de 30 minutos nos permite tomar muy buenas fotos del paisaje. Al llegar, realizamos una caminata de hora y media por la selva, donde logramos ver loros, guacamayos, mariposas entre otros hasta llegar al Lago Sandoval.

Desde aquí tomamos una canoa y rodeamos el hermoso lago, observando aves como el shanshos y garzas, monos aulladores, y hasta un caimán en el centro del lago! El paseo dura alrededor de hora y media bajo el sol; por lo que es recomendable llevar bastante agua y utilizar mucho protector solar.

Regresamos al albergue para refrescarnos y disfrutar del almuerzo.

Por la tarde, elegimos visitar el canopy; un sistema de puentes colgantes a más de 28 metros de altura! Caminamos sobre las copas de los árboles, disfrutando del aire fresco y las maravillosas vistas. Esta actividad no es recomendable para quienes temen a las alturas, ya que los puentes se balancean de una lado a otro mientras uno camina. Desde aquí logramos ver a la tucaneta y algunos monos que saltan tímidos de árbol en árbol ante nuestra presencia. Luego de sacar unas buenas fotos, volvemos al lodge.

En nuestra última noche en el albergue, decidimos relajar y solo disfrutar de una exquisita cena y de las bebidas amazónicas preparadas por el barman, donde conversamos con una familia que también se hospedaba en el lodge. Los niños estaban admirados con la cantidad de insectos y animales que vieron en sus excursiones.

Día 3

Llegó el día de despedirnos de Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica. Antes de partir, nos embarcamos en una última excursión a la quebrada Gamitana. En ésta oportunidad, compartimos la excursión con un grupo de simpáticos españoles, con quién compartimos bromas y experiencias del viaje. Luego de caminar por aproximadamente 1 hora por una chacra modelo, donde vemos monos; plantas, frutos, etc, llegamos al punto donde debíamos elegir si íbamos en una sola canoa, acompañados por el guía, o si nos aventurábamos a remar solos…y decidimos claro ir por un poco de aventura! A pesar de que el agua estaba tranquila y el nivel no estaba muy alto, mantener la canoa derecha fue más difícil de lo pensado, quedándonos encallados en más de una oportunidad. Sin embargo, valió totalmente la pena, fue una experiencia única.

Para terminar, regresamos en bote al albergue; a refrescarnos, recoger nuestros últimos bolsos y trasladarnos de regreso a la civilización.

Con mucha pena, pero con la felicidad de haber estado en una de las zonas naturales más preciadas e importantes del mundo, regresamos a la selva de cemento, a la ciudad de Lima; pero con muchos lindos recuerdos y maravillosas fotografías de éste mágico viaje!

The Amazon Experience-Travelling like a Rolling Stone!


Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica

Traveler: Cristina Bustamante

Marketing manager at Metropolitan Touring Peru

The Amazon Rainforest is for me one of the most amazing and magic places I have visited in Peru; since once you visit it, the warmth of its people, the exotic flavors of its food and the brightly colors of its landscapes catches you, making you want to go there over and over again.

On this opportunity I decided to travel to Puerto Maldonado, home to one of the most important natural areas in the whole world because of its huge bio diversity, the Tambopata Reserve, where Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica is located. This ecolodge has recently hosted the famous musician Mick Jagger! So now I might say that visiting the Peruvian Rainforest is travelling like a Rolling Stone!

Day 1

We departed from Lima at 5.30 in the morning on a 2.45 min flight towards Puerto Maldonado, with a stop in Cusco. Upon arrival, staff from Inkaterra was waiting to transfer us to the Butterfly’s House, just a few minutes away from the airport, where we received a fresh passion fruit juice before we checked in.

Then, we had some time to visit the butterfly’s house and see all types of butterflies spinning around us.

After a 10 minutes-drive we got to Jetty’s Port to start our journey going dip into the rainforest. We went on a 45 min. boat trip towards the lodge, where once again we were received with a fresh made drink, and directed to our room.

The room was certainly beautiful; it was comfortable and has first class amenities without losing the local touch, and always caring about the ecological standards.

After we freshened up, rested a little, and enjoyed a delicious lunch, we began with the activities.

Since this was our first day here, we decided to make a recognition walk around the lodge, where we got to know lots of plants and trees from the region, while our guide told us about how the local communities use this plants.  After the short walk, we decided to enjoy of the impressive view from the hammocks area, facing the Madre de Dios River.

At night, we embarked on a more exciting activity, an excursion along the river by night. Prepared with our flashlights and the cameras ready to take pictures, we went through the river searching for owls, capybaras and alligators. We didn’t have much luck this time, we only got to see a few small alligators. What we got to see clearly was the sky fully illuminated with twinkling stars from the southern hemisphere.

At the end of the day we had dinner and went to rest and enjoy the peace and tranquility of our room.

Day 2

We woke up very early to enjoy a delicious and energetic breakfast beforegoing back to the boat that will transfer us to the Tambopata National Reserve. Once in the reserve, we had to make an hour and a half walk through the forest where we spotted some parrots, macaws, and butterflies amongst others, until we got to Sandoval Lake.

From here we go into a canoe and surround the beautiful lake, watching birds like the “shanshos” and herons; howling monkeys, and even a big caiman in the middle of the lake. This excursion lasts about 1 and half hours under the hot sun; so it is very important to bring lots of drinking water and sunscreen.

In the afternoon we did the Canopy Walk, a hanging bridges system of more than 28 meters high! We walked over the tops of the trees, enjoying the fresh air and the amazing views. This is not recommendable if you are afraid to heights, since the bridges swings  a lot while you walk. From here we saw a tucanet and some monkeys jumping shyly from tree to tree upon our presence. After taking some good pictures, we went back to the lodge.

On our last night at the lodge we decided to just enjoy an exquisite dinner, followed by some drinks served at the bar; where we got to talk to a family also staying at the lodge. The kids were thrilled with all the insects and animals they saw on their excursions. 

Day 3 

The last day on Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica has come. Before saying good bye to the jungle, we went on our last excursion to the Gamitana creek.

This time a friendly group of people from Spain joined us, with whom we share jokes and trip experiences. After walking about one hour through a model farm, where we saw monkeys, fruits, plants, etc, we got to a point where we had to decide between going all in one canoe driven by our guide, or to go on a separate canoe, paddling by ourselves. Of course, we decided to go for some adventure and go alone on one separate canoe. Even though the water level was not so high, keeping the canoe straight was more difficult than what we thought, leaving us stranded on more than one occasion. However, it was totally worth it, it was a unique experience.

At the end, we returned by boat to the lodge to get our bags and get back to the civilization.

Very sad for leaving, but with  great happiness of having visited one of the most precious natural areas in the world, we went back to the concrete jungle, the city of Lima, but with many good memories and wonderful pictures of this magical journey!

Rapa Nui – Outdoor Museum


Te Pito o te Henua….. MAGICAL! There is no other word for such a special Island, full of mysteries and unknown history. It is so tiny that everything turns so cozy and chill, people go-by saying “iorana” as if they`ve known you your whole life.

 Rapa Nui my friends… where giant statues of rock (moais) lie as silent judges in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Where the ocean is a paradise for divers: 70 meters of visibility; where unsolved mysteries are still being solved and where only 5% of the islands treasures have been discovered!

 

The trip to Easter Islands starts in Santiago with a long flight (5 hours aprox.) of just ocean! Thankfully the plane has entertainment on board and lots of movies to choose from; the one that caught my attention was “Què Tan Lejos” an Ecuadorian movie absolutely recommended.

 Finally, a piece of land at sight, it was b e a u t i f u l l, coned volcanoes, white sandy beaches and the whole island in the palm of your hands. It’s difficult to express the feeling; kind of when you are arriving to Machu Pichu after walking 4 days, where you just want to sit there and think of nothing, you know… Have your moment!

 Everything here is so artisanal; the airport has one waiting room with some shops, the Lan Airlines counter, some police infrastructure and a small bag belt. Houses are full of flowers and typical Polynesian music sound on the background.

 I stayed at explora Rapa Nui which is called Posada de Mike Rapu after the owner, mike (meeke) who is a local descendant of the Rapa Nui’s. My time there was dedicated to test land services, inspect hotels and evaluate restaurants. I have to say there are two ways to enjoy Easter Island: one is with explora and the other is with the rest. Definitively a once in a lifetime experience with team explora that deserves a brand new entry.

 

This tiny triangle (180 km2) has a wide variety of activities to choose from, below my top ten.

  1. Rano Raraku: It is actually a volcano, but in one of the sides an impressive quarry is left behind. This is the birthplace of the Moai, where moais of 15-20 meters where carved right from the solid volcanic rock. You can actually walk trough almost 300 moias in different stages of elaboration.
  1. Anakena Beach: It is actually an Ahu (ceremonial place), one of the most amazing because of the settings. The surroundings are home to the last palm trees of the island and of course to the picturesque beach of Anakena. Nothing better that swim in turquoise water with palm trees and moais as lifeguards.
  1. Ahu Tongariki. This Ahu has 15 standing moais looking to the Rano Raraku volcano. The idea here is to visit this ahu at sun-rise with a magnificent colorful natural background.
  1. Diving in los 3 Motus: Start this amazing journey with a boat ride through the coasts of Hanga Roa until you reach the three Mouts area. Once there just dive into this underwater paradise and be prepared to discover the hidden treasures of Easter Island.
  1. Rano Kau: This volcano is home to a unique ceremonial site: Orongo. Here you can actually see how Rapa Nui`s lived and also understand the “Tangata Manu” or Bird Man challenge.
  1. Akivi: This ahu is inserted inside the island, in contrast to other ceremonial sites that are nearby the ocean. Another curious difference is that this ahu has the only seven moais looking to the sea. I’ll let you figure out the mystery.
  1. Hanga Roa: This friendly town is home to an only one of its kind culture; the Rapa Nui. Here you can interact with them, taste their exquisite gastronomy and enjoy a dinner show where folkloric groups take you through a journey into their culture. Don’t miss the handicrafts market and definitively try a cold “Mahindra” a local beer.
  1. Tahai Complex: The Tahai complex is the perfect trip after a good lunch at Hanga Roa. This complex is unique; it has different size moais, representations of the “casa bote” or the boat house where Rapa Nuis used to live. BE sure to enjoy the sunset. Just Amazing.
  1. Maunga Terevaka: This inactive volcano holds the highest point in Easter Island: 511 masl. From there you have a complete view of the whole island. In the surroundings you can enjoy the volcanic caves Ana Te Pahu. 
  1. Car Rental: There is so much more to see in the island that the best way is to rent your own car. Or maybe a motorbike or just a bicycle. Either way you will definitively enjoy, the best things in the island have not been discovered yet.

 The island is magical, be sure to enjoy it; you will definitively fall in love with this tiny triangle in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

For our online gallery please visit: http://bit.ly/RapaNuipics

For programs to Easter Island visit: http://bit.ly/gphFkb

Or contact us at: chile@metropolitan-touring.com

The Devil’s Nose


Ecuador is a small country which has everything: the Galapagos Islands, wonderful beaches, volcanoes and the Amazon. But what I always enjoy the most are the landscapes it offers.

My best recommendation to those who are interested in enjoying beautiful landscapes is the following: the train ride to the “The Devils Nose”.

 

 

 It is known as the “Most Difficult Train in the World” and it ranks as one of the biggest attractions in the country. Its name comes from the rock-face on the mountainside which the tracks descend as they zig-zag down from the Andes – the rock-face has shape similar to a nose.

 

Upon arrival at the small town of Alausí in the Central Highlands (about an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Riobamba), we took the original but reconditioned and refurbished railway which connects the Andes with the coast of Ecuador. From there, we wound down to the river at Sibambe, where people from the area received us with a traditional dance called “el baile de las cintas” (similar to a British May Pole).

 A small museum, cafeterias, a view point to enjoy the scenery and a souvenir market are the attractions at Sibambe, all very well restored or built from scratch by the Ecuadorian Railway Company.

 

Everyone who visits Ecuador should take a ride on the train!

 

Pilar Albuja Ponce

Isla Corazon – An island shaped like a heart


Text and photos by JP Verdesoto – Metropolitan Touring Ecuador

An island shaped like a heart, with the heart and passion of its people

There are only a handful of places in Ecuador that make you wonder about how things were in the coastal shores of the Pacific back in the days before “we” arrived here, beginning a one-way process that can often be irreversible –in terms of progress and development– when there is no ethos of conservation or sustainability.  Nature will hardly ever give you a second chance.

One of these places is Isla Corazón (Heart Island) in the Province of  Manabi, about one-and-a-half hours’ drive from the provincial capital of Manta.  Isla Corazón is located near the the town of Bahía de Caraquez, in the estuary of the Chone River.  An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea. This magical place is full of life and friendly local people, who are the main characters in this play of environmental conservation.

The fishermen of the village of Puerto Portovelo, through the local Association of Naturalist Guides and Mangrove Conservation (“ASOMANGLAR”), aim to protect their natural resource in order to provide more eco-friendly economical alternatives to their communities.  Through their efforts over 12 years of management, the community has managed to reforest the area that was affected by many shrimp farming corporations that built their shrimp pools, pretty much cutting off the whole mangrove line along the estuary. Once the native mangrove forest began to be destroyed, the harmful effects on local wildlife and also on the low-scale artisan fishing taking place got worse. The local people realized that their catches were decreasing. They were faced with a choice: work for the shrimp companies or cut more mangroves to sell as wood and get some cash to survive.  But this would not be enough to make a living over the long term, as already the mangroves were already being decimated…

By 1998  “El Niño” came – El Niño is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific, an oscillation of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific having important consequences for weather around the globe. Among these consequences are increased rainfall across the southern tier of the US and in Ecuador, which has caused destructive flooding, and drought in the West Pacific, sometimes associated with devastating brush fires in Australia. This particular El Niño almost wiped the entire community off the face of the earth due to the heavy flooding.  Some of the wildlife, already affected by the consequent problems of the mangrove reduction, was on the verge of extinction.  Protecting the mangrove banks along the estuary and coast line is paramount because it forms a shield which stops erosion from flooding and also provides a refuge for many species in the area.

This tragedy awakened a new state of mind and consciousness in the local fishermen, who swore to protect what was left of the mangroves and make them grow for the benefit of all.  Today,  they have successfully achieved the growth of the mangrove from 50 hectares 200 hectares in the area of Isla Corazon since the project began in 1999.  This outstanding hard work has been done entirely by hand, and has considerably increased the numbers of marine birds, as both are directly related.  The frigate bird colony that lives on the island has more density per square meter than any other colony, including the Galapagos Islands.  The undeniable truth is that birds, mammals, reptiles, plants, fish and other species have found here, once again, a natural refuge, and this time with the help of the people, once their fiercest enemy and now its closest guardian and sponsor.

These natural elements and the personal stories told by the native guides as they take you paddling through magical mangrove tunnels, showing the wildlife with passion or visiting their community and its organization, will indeed have an impact in your life and they way of appreciating your surrounding.  It leaves you with the good sensation that we are still on time to save these and other spaces of life!  You will undoubtedly have a great experience…

But let’s add to this the good service provided by the local Hotel Casa Ceibo (www.casaceibo.com), with outstanding cuisine with the chef’s personal touch in preparing seafood and using the most flavorful local ingredients, great wine and spacious, cozy social areas that will make you think twice before checking out.  Add smiley, friendly staff and you will never want to leave this hideaway of peace and tranquility that everyone always looks forward to from time to time.

I cannot guarantee that you will experience exactly the same as I did, but I do guarantee that, if you have the chance to visit here, give yourself the opportunity to explore just a little bit further along the beautiful Ecuadorian coastline!  You will be pleasantly surprised.

Text and photos by JP Verdesoto – Metropolitan Touring Ecuador

Let’s Tango…!


I don’t like the word “show” very much… It somehow says “artificial and superficial”. During our past trip to Argentina (Mac, Soñita, Paito, Andre, Kari, Moni, Dom – you are fab travel mates, by the way…thanks for an unforgettable trip!) our itinerary included the visit of a Tango-Show in Buenos Aires. I was keen to see the Tango and not the show, to be honest… It is common to combine Dinner & Tango (superb concept, by the way) and we chose the “Tango Porteño” at the Porteño Theatre on Corrientes, formerly a cinema-theatre owned by Metro Goldwyn Meyer.

The place is big (like so many things in Argentina…); all the tables are well laid (you can chose to either come just for the Tango, or include dinner); the food is delicious, wine good and the ambience perfect to immerse oneself back to the golden decade of the 1940s, when Tango had its heyday. For over an hour and a half, we are taken back in time, to a glamorous Buenos Aires, full of passion & love.

I am surprised by the staging, orchestra, dancers, singers, costumes, music – all is of fantastic quality – I am dazzled by the moves, the energy, accuracy, flow, dynamism, elegance, passion… There is this one scene, modern, where the performer dances blindfolded (!) with her lover… we witness the utmost perfect, and sensual, declaration of love of two top performers who seem to read each other’s minds constantly, not one movement has room for failure, a mastery of bodies that provokes in me pure admiration and stir the humble feeling of being so privileged to experience this breathtaking show. And wanting to share it immediately with my family, especially with my daughter, who is devoted to dancing, singing and spectacles of any description.

Tamara giving tango a try in San Telmo

Tamara giving tango a try in San Telmo

Buenos Aires and Tango: thank you for a more extraordinary encounter with my inner passion for music and dance. I´ll be back, that is a promise! I know that I have just had a glimpse of a great city and part of its culture, and crave more!

There are more Tango places, of course, that our office in Argentina recommends, such as Tango Gardel, El Viejo Almacén, and Rojo Tango at the Faena Hotel – what a place!

It is impossible to separate Buenos Aires from the culture of Tango: you can feel it, hear it and sense Tango on every corner… next time I´ll take lessons and give it a try myself!

By Tamara W. de Karolys, Commercial Director, MT Ecuador. tkarolys AT metropolitan-touring.com

Discover Tango in Buenos Aires, and wines in Mendoza, with Metropolitan Touring: http://www.metropolitan-touring.com/content.asp?id_page=2159

The Iguazu Falls are awe inspiring!


Iguazu

Iguazu

Visiting Iguazu from the Argentinian side is just perfect. The panoramic views from the upper circuit are amazing, you can get pretty close to the waterfalls and nature as well (from the Upper Iguazu River).

You will be thrilled with the wonderful opportunities this place offers to get a zillion photos of different views every step along the trails (keep these lovely images and sounds in your brain as well!!).

When taking the train trip along the Upper Iguazu River a huge adventure is about to begin. It is certainly quite difficult to understand how the calm Upper Iguazu River that goes with you along the trail suddenly changes its form and takes shape of an impressive and massive waterfall -the Devil’s Throat- which is a mixture of noises, views and energy. An indescribable experience not to be missed!!

The Devil's Throat

The Devil's Throat

by Sonia Lopez, Metropolitan Touring

Discover Iguazu with Metropolitan Touring: http://www.metropolitan-touring.com/content.asp?id_page=1300

More images of Iguazu in our Flickr gallery

Las Cataratas de Iguazú son impresionantes!


Iguazu

Iguazu

Visitar Iguazú desde el lado Argentino es una experiencia única. Las panorámicas  desde el circuito superior son formidables, permite un acercamiento importante a las cascadas y la naturaleza (del alto río Iguazú).

Estarás fascinado por las magníficas oportunidades que este lugar ofrece pues podrás realizar innumerables fotos una muy distinta de otra a cada paso por el sendero (guarda estas encantadoras imágenes y sonidos en tu memoria también!).

Al tomar el recorrido del tren en el alto río Iguazú comenzarás una gran aventura! Es muy difícil comprender cómo aquel tranquilo río que circula junto a ti a lo largo del sendero de repente cambia su fuerza y forma, tornándose en una impresionante cascada gigante -la Garganta del Diablo- que ofrece una mezcla de sonidos, vistas y energía. Una experiencia indescriptible que no puedes perder!!

Por Sonia Lopez, Metropolitan Touring

Iguazu - Garganta del Diablo

Iguazu - Garganta del Diablo

Conozca Iguazu con Metropolitan Touring: http://www.metropolitan-touring.com/content.asp?id_page=1300

Mas fotos de Iguazu en nuestra galeria Flickr

Buenos Aires – Aires y Gracia


Calles de Caminito Porteño: el adjetivo con que se conoce a la gente de Buenos Aires, es también la palabra clave para entender esta ciudad, que parece tener una urgencia de lanzarse de cabeza al Río de la Plata.  Sus congestionadas avenidas, todas, apuntan hacia el río y el Puerto.  Y sus grandes edificios compiten unos con otros por la mejor vista del “océano de plata” (de allí el nombre).  Puerto de entrada…  Nexo.

CaminitoLa ciudad enviaba toda la producción de los alrededores del continente a través de sus puertos.  A cambio, distribuía los bienes manufacturados que llegaban del sofisticado mundo de ultramar, a lo largo de las pampas, las montañas y las planicies.  Aquí, las influencias de París, Londres y Madrid desembarcaban de los barcos a vela o los vapores.  Aquí, las riquezas de América del Sur se transportaban, tasaban, estibaban y vendían.  Es como un punto de intercambio que uno puede entender el carácter de Buenos Aires y sus singulares cualidades.

Yendo cronológicamente por la historia de la ciudad, se debe empezar por los antiguos muelles y el Barrio de La Boca.  Desde aquí creció la ciudad.  Las casas construidas con zinc corrugado y trozos de madera y pintadas en los coloridos tonos de los botes de pintura que se podía conseguir, están dilapidadas y turísticas, es un área que vive de su pasado y no de su clase trabajadora actual.  Sus calles se ven polvorientas y estropeadas, pero amadas, y mantienen un significado casi religioso para los fanáticos del cercano Boca Juniors.  El ríspido respiro del acordeón con sus tangos, canciones y lamentos, emana de las casas y almacenes, donde se venden recuerdos que los visitantes se ven obligados, si no a comprar, a admirar detenidamente.  Es brillante, colorida y divertida, quizás la imagen que más tiempo perdura en nuestro recuerdo de la ciudad.

Las Calles de San Telmo.  Un poco más hacia el norte están las calles y casas de los períodos colonial y republicano, más ordenadas y adornadas: el Barrio de San Telmo.  Sus calles principales empedradas se llenan de puestos de venta los fines de semana, compitiendo con los almacenes llenos de antigüedades, cachivaches, y peculiares diseños de muebles y ropa.  El ambiente es bohemio y desordenado, un poco como la versión criolla del mercado de Portobello en Londres.  Tiene un aire de caos organizado.

El día domingo que lo visitamos, ríos de gente local y turistas fluían en ambos sentidos por las calles, y uno tenía que navegar entre ellos, los kioscos y muchas personas que vendían alimentos en sitios improvisados.  Parece que los residentes locales habían decidido vender la mitad de su almuerzo a los paseantes para ganar unos pocos pesos.

Antiquarian tango, Buenos AiresAccordion friendsFuera de un almacén de antigüedades en Plaza San Telmo, un artista del acordeón sacaba notas a su instrumento al tiempo que conversaba con un amigo, mientras que dentro, nos brindaron un show de un trío de tango, cuya edad promedio debían estar bordeando los 65.  El refinado bailarín, inmaculadamente vestido con un traje gris a rayas y sombrero, debió haber sido un inefable seductor en su juventud.  Guiñaba el ojo a las chicas de nuestro grupo y las hacía sonreír.

La anomalía en esta histórica narrativa es el área de Puerto Madero.  Estos antiguos muelles, que perdieron su razón de ser en el siglo XX, hacen que uno retroceda una década, cuando las autoridades decidieron regenerar el área.  Las bodegas de rojo ladrillo visto, funcionales y simétricas, recibieron una nueva oportunidad de vida, aprovechando al máximo los dos kilómetros de tierra que la ciudad le ha robado al río a lo largo de los años.

La Parolaccia, Pueto Madero, Buenos Aires

Actual, el Puente de la Mujer diseñado por Calatrava, proveen un elegante punto por el cual cruzar a la parte más nueva y más sofisticada de la ciudad, donde se alzan edificios de apartamentos de 50 pisos y se han inaugurado hoteles de lujo.  Las viejas bodegas alojan ahora a los mejores restaurantes de Buenos Aires, repletos el día domingo que estuvimos allí, y disfrutamos una comida fantástica en el bistró italiano La Parolaccia  (www.laparolaccia.com).

Streets of Recoleta and Alvear PalaceA medida que avanzamos al norte, saltamos a fines del siglo XIX y comienzos del XX, Recoleta definitivamente se siente europea.  No como el París que algunos pensarían, pero ciertamente una amalgama de un puñado de ciudades europeas.  Los techos de estilo mansardo color gris pizarra y las paredes de piedra color crema de muchas edificaciones, son indudablemente elegantes, mientras que los almacenes en las calles que rodean al famoso Hotel Alvear Palace, son en verdad chic.  Hay paseadores de perros y cochecitos de bebés, esquinas con puestos de revistas, alquitraves que se envuelven y se enroscan, y una agradable simetría y formalidad.  Aquí se encuentran hoteles famosos como Four Seasons, Caesar Park (www.caesar-park.com), Hyatt y Recoleta, una excelente base desde donde explorar.

Los parques de Palermo continúan hacia el norte, un bienvenido contraste para el bullicio de la ciudad.  Estos son parques formales, ordenados y delineados, con inmensos y cansados árboles de Gomero y museos como el impresionante Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA – http://www.malba.org.ar).

Los barrios de Palermo están siendo atomizados en distritos más pequeños por los periodistas y quienes se benefician de los bienes raíces.  La gente local ahora habla de Palermo Soho y Palermo Hollywood.  Sus casas, con frentes bajos, son transformadas en exclusivas boutiques, bares, hoteles, restaurantes y cafés.  La “juventud dorada” se reúne en las terrazas, calentadas por tubos metálicos, para ver pasar a la gente y disfrutar del sol en un día feriado –lunes, una bendición para disfrutarla luego del intenso frío que han soportado los porteños este invierno.  Quizás aquí la influencia es más norteamericana, mas Sunset Boulevard que Boulevard Saint-German.  Y sin lugar a dudas, la ciudad más temprano que tarde, encontrará una nueva identidad para adoptarla como suya.

La ciudad-puerto de Buenos Aires parece estar constantemente en movimiento, cargada con esa energía nerviosa que he sentido en muy pocas de las ciudades que he visitado.  Su pasado y su presente están inexorablemente unidos a su rol como el cauce por donde pasan las modas, los negocios, los gustos, el comercio, los estilos y las ideas – como una marea que fluye y refluye desde su corazón.  Continuamente, y algunos dirían obsesivamente, se transforma, se modifica, se reinventa y hoy en día, lanza sus creaciones híbridas y su irrefrenable creatividad hacia el mundo, como nunca antes.

por Dominic Hamilton dhamilton@metropolitan-touring.com

Para visitar Buenos Aires con Metropolitan Touring, ver http://www.metropolitan-touring.com/content.asp?id_page=1797

 Las Calles de Caminito.

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