Some of My Favorite Trees in Buenos Aires

Feliz Primavera!

It seems like a good time to make a post about trees.

Not that there’s a bad time to post about trees, honestly.

First off, though, this is not a comprehensive list of every rad tree in the city.  In fact, one very rad tree is absent, although I will add it whenever I make it to Recoleta and photograph the famous 200-year-old Grand Gomero.  The following trees aren’t so well known; they labor in obscurity, providing shade and bird housing and sometimes even brilliant floral displays.

Please note–I am not great at identifying tree species, but I’ll do my best where I can.

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If you thought I was bad at photographing small things in museums, wait til you see me try to fit huge trees into frame.

This stately guy here gets to go first because the Supreme Court building is in the background and this is the last landmark you’re going to see in this post.  This tree lives in the Plaza Lavalle, and if you’re visiting the city, you have a good chance of seeing it.  It’s one block over from the back of the Teatro Colon, right on the D subway line, so if you’re seeing any of the sights of the area, stop by and tell it that it’s doing a great job.  I haven’t the foggiest idea what kind of tree it is.

LOOK AT THIS ABSOLUTE UNIT.

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This chunky beast is an ombú.  I think.  Shading several chess tables and then some, this expansive benevolent overlord stands at one end of the Barrancas de Belgrano, a large park that slopes a bit and therefore earned the name of “Barrancas” (cliffs) because people have given a slight incline far too much consideration.

As a bonus, these two are at the other end of Barrancas and I like them because it looks like a tree and its pet tree.

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Speaking of residing in Belgrano, here are two trees in Barrio Chino, very close to Barrancas, that might only be noticed in the spring.

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Kinda lied about the Supreme Court building being the only landmark; that’s the arch at the entry to Barrio Chino there on the right.

These sweet little things bear white and red flowers and are practically hugging, so it looks like one tree with two colors.

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I guess that’s sort of cheating but this is my list and I can do what I want.

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A tree of high comedy.

This is a monkey puzzle, which wins best name for a tree species.  It looks like a twirling weirdo, and therefore I empathize with it strongly.  This particular monkey puzzle provides a home for roughly a jillion monk parakeets in the Parque Centenario.

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speaking of comedy trees

There are a lot of palo borracho trees in the city, but damn if this one (on the grounds of the Museo Historico del Regimiento Granaderos a Caballo General San Martín) isn’t just extra.  “Palo borracho” means “drunken stick,” but the more dignified name for the species is the silk floss tree.  There’s a lot more to this tree than its sexy curves.  The flowers are big and bright pink and the fruits are eight inch long capsules filled with cottony floofy fluff.  There’s just a lot going on there.

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I don’t know anything about this situation, but I find it utterly delightful.

Finally, I give you this little unassuming guy.

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This is a young jacaranda, and it is not shown in all its glory.  There are also many far grander jacarandas in the city.  But this one is right outside the window of a burger joint in Microcentro that I often find myself in when I need a quick bite before hopping on the subway.  I usually sit next to that window, and I’m looking forward to watching my small tree friend bloom in the next month, even if the burgers are decidedly subpar.

So there you have it.  A collection of my favorite trees in the city.  I’ll add the Grand Gomero at the end when I can, but for now, here’s the sign for a shop that combines two things I love most about this city: the trees and the book shops.

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Museo Casa de Yrurtia [Yrurtia House Museum]

HELLO HI

I AM BACK

And for today I have the long-closed-for-renovations-but-now-open Casa de Yrurtia!  And it is looking pretty nice after years of closure.

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Quaint!

Rogelio Yrurtia was an important Argentine sculptor in the early 20th century.  As a talented young man in 1899, he was awarded a scholarship, on which he traveled to Paris.  He would spend his career moving between Paris and Buenos Aires, where he would be known for his large scale, public works.

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The man’s own tools, and a really nifty table about the sculpting process that visitors can put their grubby fingers all over.

The museum is in the home of Yrurtia and his wife, the also very important artist Lía Correa Morales.  The couple donated the house to the country to establish as a museum.  It opened to the public in 1949; Yrurtia died the following year. Lía Correa Morales then served as the museum’s director.

 

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The house side. 

The house rooms include the some of the couple’s own art collection, which I guess is a big plus to having a lot of artist friends.

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Yeah well *I* have a bunch of pretty cool postcards.

The collection on display isn’t really extensive, but it is really interesting and frequently huge.  Stands to reason; Yrurtia was a big deal in public and monument art.  Maybe you think it’s kind of a juvenile assessment, being stuck on the size, but that’s probably because you haven’t been in the same small room as stuff that was designed to be viewed from far away.

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That is a normal-sized doorway.

At a certain point, the size is kind of an overwhelming feature.

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A study for a big Moses.

Yrurtia created a monument to Manuel Dorrego, who had (stay with me here, Argentine history is kind of dramatic) opposed the government of the first president, Bernardino Rivadavia, and was named governor of Buenos Aires province following Rivadavia’s resignation.  Dorrego himself was not long after overthrown and executed in 1828.

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He’s interred in Recoleta cemetery.  And so is the guy who executed him.  And Founding Father José de San Martín, who had been in Europe, took one look at the whole mess, declined to get involved and went back to Europe.

Incidentally, Yrurtia also sculpted the tomb of Bernardino Rivadavia, which is in Plaza Miserere.

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He specifically asked that his body not be returned to Buenos Aires after he died (in Spain), but alas.

And here is a Justice (commissioned by super rich guy Carlos Delcasse for his tomb and copied in bronze for the national Supreme Court), depicted non-traditionally, without scales or blindfold.

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But also kind of like she’s going to strangle you?

The museum also shows how the sausage is made, sculpture-ly speaking, which I recall reading somewhere was part of the point of the museum’s creation (as the house was also his workshop) but now I can’t find the source for that.

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How to get a “head” in sculpture lololol
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These are videos of the process.

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The museum does have a room about Lía Correa Morales, which it should, as she was also an important artist and doesn’t even get her name on the museum itself.

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Finally, the house has a sweet garden, in which stands one of Yrurtia’s last works, The Boxers.

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Uh, it’s in the back there.

Like most (all?) of the small, state- or city-run museums, this one also hosts workshops and events.  The staff is very nice!  There wasn’t any English material on hand, so they printed out some translations for us.  The museum is in Belgrano, not terribly far from the D subway line, and open Wednesday through Friday from 10am to 6pm and Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 6pm.

 

San Antonio, TX: The McNay Art Museum

My, my.  Time to stroll down Memory Lane.

I spent January in the US, and managed, during my relentless pursuit of Tex-Mex and Whataburger, to visit the McNay Art Museum, a place that will always be special to me.

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“Expecto Patronum,” I shouted, as a silvery Spanish Colonial-Revival mansion sprang from my wand.  “After all this time?”  “Always.”

The McNay opened in 1954, with the home, collection, and an endowment of Marion Koogler McNay, as established in her will.  It was the first modern art museum in Texas, although the holdings expanded outside of that frame.

When I was a regular visitor, as a teenager, it was already a super cool place.  There was an auditorium and workshop space, the grounds were beautiful, and the museum was free.  I went often, and I got pretty familiar with the collection.

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She isn’t where she used to be, but I still found her.

 

In 2008, the museum underwent a heckin big expansion, adding 45,000 square feet of space plus a sculpture garden.  It isn’t free anymore, but it does have a cool gift shop and also lots of exhibitions.  I do feel a bit wistful for the smaller oasis the McNay was for me back in the day, but it has grown and it is thriving and one must be satisfied with that.

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Plus now it has this guy, who could hardly be less than an object of delight.

There were some dramatic sights back in January!

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Kehinde Wiley and Roy Litchenstein.

And the Mathews Collection of Art Glass is both seriously interesting and awesomely exhibited.

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BAT GLASS

I took a metric ton of photos, but I won’t subject you to them all.  Mainly, I was just very happy to visit some old friends.

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My girl here is obviously not modern; she’s 15th century German. But you could still say baby Jesus here is a whole #mood.

And meet some new ones.

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Is that a Munch moon or are you just happy to see me
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Julie Hefferman’s Self-Portrait as a Tangled Nest (2006), which is…a lot
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Mear One’s Revolution (2012), just saying what we’re all thinking.

The McNay also has a big-time theatre arts collection, some of which formed part of this exceptionally fun show:

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They did it for the lolz

Just a couple more pictures of the courtyard and grounds, I promise:

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Should you wish to explore the collection and temporary exhibits more, the museum has a robust online presence.  But do go visit if you’re ever in the area; you’ll be so glad you did.  The McNay is treasure of San Antonio.

The McNay Art Museum is closed Monday and Tuesday, and general admission is relatively steep, at least to me (as I’m used to the inexpensive entry fees of Argentina), but they have a pretty extensive free and discount list.  See the website for all the where, when, and how much nitty gritty.

 

Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires [Carlos Thays Buenos Aires Botanical Garden]

December is here, and despite my strenuous objections, spring is warming up the city.  These will be the last weeks to enjoy the parks and gardens without feeling super hot and gross the whole time.  It’s time to visit the plant museum.

Okay, technically, it’s the Botanical Garden.

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But for real what’s a garden if not a plant museum

The Buenos Aires Botanical Garden is, objectively speaking, the best place in the entire city.  It’s one good soundproofing and a few shady hammocks from achieving empirical perfection.  These are just the facts.

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Luscious, green facts. 

And there is a small sort of museum on the grounds: the main building, where garden designer Carlos Thays lived while he was director of parks and walks, so there’s a nice perk you don’t see in city governments much today.

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Inside, you’ll find some models of the gardens and structures and antique prints and maps.  The whole thing is very picturesque.

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The museum/administration building is the center of the activities for the Garden, and there’s also a wee children’s library, which is adorbs.

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The Children’s Library of Nature

The Garden itself has QR code labels for some of its collection, which is very handy for an outdoor museum (just go with it okay), as you see here on the artwork circuit.

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I don’t remember if this one had a QR code, but c’mon it’s a gimme.

And like many large public gardens, you can find contemporary art installations, too, such as “Instalación Mesológica” by Didier Rousseau-Navarre, which is meant to “question our relationship with the earth in the Anthropocene Age.”  The seeds are made from the wood of their species.

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The Botanical Garden hosts many workshops and activities and is a goddamn delight.  It’s in Palermo, near the Rural, the Japanese Garden, the former zoo, the Museo Evita, and lots of other stuff.  It’s a nice place in the city to find some birds; I saw a really pretty green hummingbird.  It’s free and open every day except Mondays, and closing times depend on the season; check the website.  It’s accessible via the Plaza Italia stop of the D line of the subway and a whole mess of buses.

 

Museo de Arte Popular José Hernández [José Hernández Museum of Popular Art]

Oh. Em. Geeee.

An art museum!

I get to coast into the weekend on this one, because not only is it an art museum, it’s also small and the exhibits change every few months.  I’m going to show you the three current exhibits, but your mileage may vary, and that’s kind of awesome.

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Tucked back from the very busy Ave Libertador is the José Hernández Museum of Popular Art.  It is not as imposing as it appears here.

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Bit easy to miss from the huge avenue just out of frame.

The museum is dedicated to what might be more broadly recognized as folk art, an art of the people–it has a collection of art from native peoples of Argentina and criollo art, such as items associated with gaucho culture.  It also has a bunch of contemporary pieces as the museum is active in organizing art shows, so it has a pretty neat collection, sort of both niche and diverse, if that makes sense.

Let’s rub our eyeballs all over the current exhibits!

First up are the jewelry creations from 2nd Bienal Latinomaericana de Joyería Contemporánea:

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Now THESE are statement pieces.
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This is a necklace, and it is amazing and I would wear it, and the object I didn’t quite get in the photo is an earring, but I am not 100% sure how that would work.
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STATEMENT.

While the majority of the pieces are very dramatic, there is also a solo exhibition of the works by Nuria Carulla, and they are delicate and dreamy.

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Like flower echoes!

Next up: “El Mate y El Facón: De la Poesía Gauchesca a la Colección Criolla.”  It includes mates and gaucho knives from the 19th and 20th centuries.

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A variety of interesting mates.
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What

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From one of the many, many editions of consummate gaucho epic Martín Fierro, written by museum namesake José Hernández.

 

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Fancy bombillas, the straws used with mate.
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This extraordinary mate gourd was made by “prisoners in jails in Argentina” in the early 20th century.

And, my personal favorite as a textile nerd: the Salón de Arte Textil (pequeno y mediano formato).  This exhibit was a damned delight.  There was everything from sculpture to traditional decorative techniques.

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I love this one.

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The one at the bottom is called “Creature” but it looked like a sheep to me, and if I owned this work I would keep it on my desk and pet it often.  I’d call it Seamus.

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LOVE. IT. ALL.

The museum also has a nice patio with metal sculptures:

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Martín Fierro, I presume.
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This gal is by the door to the library and archive. I love her.

The museum has also centered itself as place of culture for the community, hosting numerous workshops and classes.  With the frequent change of exhibits, I will certainly be back soon.

The MAP isn’t the easiest museum to get to; it’s a good 20 minute walk from the nearest subway station–but it is near other, larger museums, so if you’re in the area already, it wouldn’t be difficult to add it to your itinerary.  No English materials or signs, but free English tours on Wednesdays at 2pm. It’s open Tuesdays through Fridays from 1pm to 7pm and Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays from 10am to 8pm.  Admission is 30 pesos (about a buck US) and free on Wednesdays.

 

Museo de Arte Español Enrique Larreta [Enrique Larreta Museum of Spanish Art]

Among the many small but charming museums in Buenos Aires is Museo Larreta. Bearing in mind that my Spanish is, let’s say, “raw,” my translations aren’t super awesome and might be corrected as I, you know, learn more stuff.

The museum is in the home of Argentine writer Enrique Larreta, and the collection is principally his own, because when super rich people spend time abroad they often return with a lot of Renaissance-era tchotchkes. Larreta was born in 1875 to a wealthy family, wrote a book I understand to be an important piece of Argentine Hispanic modernism called La Gloria de Don Ramiro set in 1500s Spain, was ambassador to France from 1910-1919, and wrote some other stuff that does not get near the play that Don Ramiro gets. It might be charming-sized for a museum, but for a house in the middle of the biggest city in South America (when it was built), it’s damn near palatial.

Incidentally, this is one-third of Larreta's homes.
How palatial? Half-a-city-block palatial.

The museum is mostly items from Renaissance and Baroque Spain, as Larreta was really into the Spanish Golden Age. He brought back furniture, paintings, carvings, and even curtains.

He’s at the door, reminding you not to touch anything.
How do you even buy Baroque cathedral curtains? Are there cathedral rummage sales?
Curtains from Jaca Cathedral, 17th-century Spain. Velvet, silk, and metallic threads. How do you even buy 17th-century cathedral curtains? Are there cathedral rummage sales?

 

Oh this old thing?
Arcón [chest], 16th-century Spain, wood and iron, definitely not a coffin.

 

The museum includes rooms devoted to Larreta and his life, as well. The family’s chapel room, the dining room (where those curtains are located), and the writer’s study are set up for visitor perusal.

The main room of the house. Cozy!

 

Projection show of the museum’s history.

 

 

Look at this glorious chapel lectern.

 

 

This chapel room, a common feature in ritzier houses, could host weddings, baptisms, and masses. Here’s the very understated altar.

 

 

It was Professor Plum in the study with the candlestick!

 

 

The study bookshelves have the Larreta and Anchorena family crests carved on them.

 

 

If Larreta never used these as snack bowls while working, I don’t even know what we’re doing here.

 

The museum has incorporated some multimedia elements, including the floor show pictured above in the main room. The best use of multimedia is the touchscreen information display for a large altarpiece in the Sala de Infancia de Cristo.

The room dedicated to Larreta’s most famous work also includes a decorative media element.

 

First editions must be pretty scarce if the dude’s own museum couldn’t score one.

 

 

The novel was widely translated at the time, but it’s not easy to find an English copy these days. You can download the 1924 English edition here.

 

 

Other notable views for looky loos are the amazing Andulsian patio:

 

You can’t go out there, just take a peek.

 

And the impressive, Moorish-influenced bathroom:

 

Check out that light fixture.

 

 

Bidet on the left, and yes, they are totally normal bathroom equipment in Argentina today.

 

 

Deep, yet narrow.

 

 

All that space, and it’s still a tub-shower combo.

 

My favorite part of the whole shebang, though, is the garden. Full of paths and lovely features and also cats, it’s great for meandering.

 

The dark blotch in the middle is a cat.

 

 

The garden views inspire reflections, such as: How much money did these people have? Was it all the money?

 

The garden has a contemporary sculpture exhibit throughout, often incorporating living elements of the garden:

The best part of the garden is the ombú tree. Planted about 100 years ago by Larreta’s son, the ombú is enormous. It’s hard to get a sense of its scale from a photo.

So here’s the garden map, to give you an idea of its size.

So let’s get down to brass tacks:

LOCATION: Juramento 2291, Belgrano neighborhood

COST: 30 pesos ($1.50 USD), free for students, seniors, kids under 12, people with disabilities; general admission is free on Thursdays

HOURS: Tuesday-Friday, 12-7; Saturday and Sunday, 10-8

CLOSED DAY: Monday

TIME: 1-2 hours

LANGUAGES: Only the bare minimum of the signage includes an English translation, but the photo function of the free Google translator app or the Microsoft translator app work pretty well; you will definitely get the gist.

TOURS: There are scheduled guided tours of the museum and garden in Spanish.

SHOP: There is no shop, but you can purchase a nice booklet of the museum for 80 pesos ($4.00 USD) or a fancy edition of La Gloria de Don Ramiro (for much more than that).

HOW TO GET THERE: The museum is very close to the Juramento stop of the D line of the subway and a yellow tourist bus stop.

KIDS: Not recommended for little kids. There’s nothing particularly interesting for them, pieces are out and easy to reach, and if they’re short and run off in the garden, you’re gonna lose sight of them.

FOOD IN THE AREA: There’s a nice cafe attached to the museum and several types of cafes and restaurants within a few blocks.