Tucked in the Paseo La Plaza on Corrientes Ave, the “street that never sleeps” and a center of theater and tango, is the Cavern.
Named for the Beatles’ frequent venue, it’s a Beatles-themed complex that includes a cafe, a club, a theater, performance spaces, and a museum.
The Museo Beatle belongs to one of the most charming categories of museum, “personal collection that got way out of hand.” In this case, Rodolfo Vázquez began collecting Beatles stuff at the age of 10, and by 2001, he had the Guinness Book of World Records certified biggest damn Beatles collection (re-certified in 2011 by Guinness as having 7,700 items).
The museum is organized chronologically, and how else would you start, but with the Fab Four’s frickin’ births?
Don’t worry, Pete Best fans, the museum’s got you covered.
I’m not actually a big Beatles fan; I don’t know much about them. I was surprised by how meteoric their rise really was. They added Ringo and recorded their first album in 1962, released it in 1963, and by 1964, the merch production was insane.
Continuing on through Beatlemania…
…and on to Sgt Pepper’s something something.
I understand Beatles memorabilia, not unlike their aesthetic, gets weirder from here.
There are various records, advertisements, and autographs of anyone even tangentially related to the band throughout the museum. All that is well and good, but you want a photo op. Of course you do.
You do, eventually, come to that point on the timeline when things, as all good things do, come to an end.
But as I’m sure every other person on the planet knows, because I know this, the Beatles didn’t just vanish in 1970. They all had solo careers!
Visitors will find nooks dedicated to each man’s solo efforts and life decisions.
Ringo…well Ringo did some things I was entirely unaware of until five seconds before I took this photo.
After visiting the museum, you can walk across the courtyard to the cafe and have a typical and filling Argentine lunch for 250 pesos (about US$5.50).
If you’re a Beatles fan or just want to see a bunch of Beatles stuff, you’ll find The Cavern in the San Nicolás barrio at Av Corrientes 1660, inside the Paseo La Plaza, which is a actually a really lovely complex of shops, restaurants, performance spaces, and trees in the middle of a busy place. It’s close to the D line and B line of the subway, Congress, the Obelisk–a thousand ways to get there. The museum entries are 250 pesos (about US$5.50) for foreigners, 200 pesos for Argentines and residents, and free for kids 10 and under. Check the website for the hours.
There are two museum ships in Puerto Madero: the ARA Uruguay and her more famous yet less interesting sister, the ARA Presidente Sarmiento. But just because she doesn’t have the very cool history of the Uruguay doesn’t mean the Presidente Sarmiento is boring.
The Sarmiento was a training ship for the naval academy. It was English-built and launched in 1897. Retired in 1961, it’s been a museum since 1964.
Lots of stuff to see from the glory days:
The sign wasn’t super clear on the origin of the taxidermied Lampazo here, but it seems like in 2014 they decided that he’s probably Buli, owned by Lt Calderon and ship’s pupper on the 37th voyage. I don’t know how he came to be taxidermied and under glass on the Sarmiento, and I didn’t see anything on board to shed light on that. Such pressing questions remain mysteries.
The crew dining room now has a video you can watch, and going on through it leads to the officers’ digs, which are nicer.
The Captain’s quarters are off-limits to visitors, presumably because the naval personnel currently assigned to the ship have taken over the best space for offices. But there’s a nice little model of it.
You can climb up on the decks, too, which afford a nice view of the Woman’s Bridge and other ship stuff.
The Presidente Sarmiento is open seven days a week, 10 am to 7 pm. It’s 20 pesos to get on board (at the moment!) and located in Puerto Madero, kind of across the street and to the right from the Casa Rosada. It’s a very short walk along the river to the ARA Uruguay, so if you’re super into museum ships, you can hit them both.
Established in 1810, the library inaugurated its current building in 1992, thirty years after it was first designed (because Argentina). There are a few things associated with the National Library that I will be including here, such as the Museo del Libro y de la Lengua, which is actually more of a small space for temporary exhibitions and events–not quite enough to do a whole post on.
Currently, there’s a couple of exhibits up, one of which is on scientist, novelist, and impressive prizewinner Ernesto Sabato. You might remember him from a really life-affirming subway display I found awhile back.
The upstairs currently houses a show on Sara Gallardo.
Like I said, not a whole lot to the museum itself, but as it’s at the back of the library complex, it can easily included in a visit to the whole shebang.
At the moment, the building is dedicated to the 90th anniversary of Patoruzú, who looks VERY QUESTIONABLE to me but is still an icon here, and widely considered Argentina’s first super hero (he’s got super strength and he’s also rich, which is Batman’s sole power, so Patoruzú already has one up on that guy).
Right now, there’s an exhibit on the books of Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s pretty fun.
I can absolutely feel the librarian’s giddy enthusiasm for being able to create this room.
If I don’t get a haunted mirror for Christmas this year, why do I even have a family.
There were a few of these pictures that were activated when you walked close to them. This whole thing was neat.
At the back of the library’s complex, near the Museo del Libro y de la Lengua, is an adorable little shop.
It’s the National Library’s bookstore for its publications, where you can also get sweet library merch, like a coffee mug or poster. There’s also this TINY BOOK VENDING MACHINE SO BRING 20 PESOS IN COINS OK?
So if libraries are a thing for you (as they are for all quality people), you can roll a visit to the National Library into your Recoleta meanderings, as it’s a couple of blocks from the Recoleta Cemetery, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, and the Las Heras subway stop on the H line. There’s a cafe of the basic snack and coffee sort on the first floor of the main library building (second floor by US reckoning), but obviously plenty of other places are around. Check the website for the hours of all the various elements mentioned here.
Welcome to the first entry in the Cemetery Series! Things will be slightly different in this series–for one thing, I will be including cemeteries that I have visited not-super-recently, which I don’t do for museums because exhibits change, etc. Cemeteries tend to be a bit more consistent.
I did visit this one, recently, however: El Cementerio La Cumbrecita. La Cumbrecita is a small pedestrian village in Cordoba, Argentina, that relies entirely on tourism. It was founded in 1934 by German immigrants who missed the scenery of the old country. It was rocky, treeless hillscape at first, and there were no roads, but slowly it was transformed into an Alpine-style town surrounded by the pine and spruce trees they planted. The town went from German-immigrant-summer-home village to a tourist spot, where visitors can now have the slightly dissonant experience of a European village widely populated by green parakeets.
The cemetery is not very easy to get to.
While I found it on Google Maps quickly enough, it is at the top of hill, necessitating a long, occasionally steep walk. As I discovered later, the cemetery path off the main road is no longer marked. That’s it on the right there. I continued left.
Eventually, I ran out of road. But it was a very long walk, and I wasn’t in the mood to give up. Looking around, I saw a plank. Must be a reason for it, right?
I walked carefully across it. It was readily apparent that there was no path on the other side of the plank, so I hugged the hillside on the right for a couple minutes and then ran out of place to walk. But, there was a gate, beyond a lame-ass fence up the incline on the right.
Seemed like an unorthodox way to get into a cemetery, but I didn’t see a more legit looking entrance, so I climbed up the hillside and wiggled under the fence, as you do. Maybe it was the back gate?
It was in fact the front, and only, gate.
The cemetery yard is a very small place, laid out on the hillside. I have to think that most of the graves are for ashes (or are only memorial plaques), because they’re rather teeny. It’s a peaceful, overgrown spot, full of wildflowers and buzzing insects.
It only takes a few minutes to walk though the whole place, which you might or might not find gratifying after the long hike up, depending on how into quiet, hidden graveyards you are. I discovered on the way out that there was a path that did not require wiggling under a fence that led to the main road. So that was nice.
You can find more information on La Cumbrecita here; it’s a lovely little place to relax and hike and dip your feet in the river.
You might recall I have visited a bank museum before, that of the Banco Ciudad. It was a very interesting look at the bank’s founding and role in society, and I was slow to add any other bank museums to my list when I found another one. I assumed it would be similar.
BUT IT WASN’T.
Banco Central is the national bank of Argentina, and its history is of course tied to the economic history of the country, which is, to put it generously, bonkers. The museum, officially known as the Museo Histórico y Numismático Héctor Carlos Janson, takes an entirely different course than that of Banco Ciudad and focuses on the history and development of currency. That history is also bonkers.
The first room of the museum looks briefly at the history of currency in South America.
Anyway, back before Europeans arrived for their extended pillage-murder spree, frequently used currency items included cocoa beans, leaves, small metal pieces, and cowrie shells.
Next up are examples of colonial-era currency.
The colonial coins were minted in Potosí, in Bolivia, close to Cerro Rico, a huge silver mine that Spain spent years plundering. A stunning number of miners have died there over time, earning the place the name “the mountain that eats men,” because nothing in colonial history isn’t horrifically grim (mining the mountain continues to be horrifically grim).
Next up, the first currency minted following independence:
Money was minted by the provincial governments, which is why the gold coin above says “Provinces of the Rio de la Plata.” The Banco de las Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata was created with the aim of unifying the nation’s printed currency, but the other provinces were not cool with this so it did not happen (had a lot to do with economic troubles from the war with Brazil). So, money from all over continued.
Notes were printed abroad, and included portraits of important figures of independence in the New World, such as Simón Bolivar, George Washington, Ben Franklin, and William Penn.
Things got weird, as things tend to do, during the civil war. General de Rosas, blurrily pictured below, dissolved the national bank and created an administration to issue paper money and coins. These were monedas corrientes. I am not nearly as well-versed in Argentine history as the museum’s informational panels assume, so I can’t much fill you in beyond that.
You will note, possibly, two things about the following bill: One, its domination is 1000, which means it was rapidly devaluating, generally not at all a good thing; and two, it’s got palm trees and kangaroos on it.
The money was at the time printed in Buenos Aires, but the plates were engraved in London. The museum notes that printing houses at the time worked for several countries and contends that’s why the kangaroo and llama appear together on an Argentine banknote, but frankly I still have a lot of questions.
I also find the next phase of currency a wee bit confusing, something that can likely be attributed once again to my lack of knowledge of the nation’s history, but next you get “pesos fuertes” and “pesos corrientes.”
Here we take a small detour into a historical oddity. A French lawyer showed up in the west of the country and in 1860 declared himself “King of the Araucania and Patagonia.” He then created a constitution, a flag, and a national anthem, and started minting money.
He was arrested, declared insane, and deported, but he apparently took his claim very seriously and tried, for the rest of his life and without success, to really make it stick. He died childless, but people have claimed to be his heirs for awhile now, and they actually still mint (technically worthless) coins, I guess for the sole purpose of having them displayed at the Central Bank museum.
Now, I’m going to hop forward about 100 years, skipping a major financial crisis, to get to the financial crises of recent history. There was a substantial devaluation during the military dictatorship, which attempted to stabilize things, but, spoiler alert, did not.
The military dictatorship fell and democracy was restored in 1983, but there was still a huuuuge problem in the form of a massive external debt, currency devaluation, and serious inflation. The new government started whacking off zeroes, so that 10000 old pesos would equal one new peso.
It did not work. These were printed in 1983; by 1985, 10000 peso notes were back in circulation. That year, the president decided what the country really needed was to start from scratch. The peso was old and busted. The Austral was the new hotness.
The name “peso” made its return with the “pesos convertibles” in the 90s, when the peso was pegged to the US dollar at a 1 to 1 rate. This also didn’t work and led to the financial crisis of 2001, which many Argentines can tell you absolutely wild stories about. The president famously fled the Pink House by helicopter. Some of the bills from this period are still in circulation; I could dig some out of my wallet right now.
This time of utter economic collapse led to a widespread return to a barter economy, leading to the use of these barter network vouchers.
Things got…okay after that. And then less okay. That’s kind of how it goes here.
The current government, for political reasons I’m not going to get into, decided that the money needed a makeover, so now it’s all about the nature.
After the rooms of currency, the museum has some historical artifacts related to the history of banking in Argentina, including French scales used to weigh coins.
Eva Perón spent a few months working out of the Central Bank, and they have her office furniture.
I’m going to wrap this us with the museum’s most endearing feature, a selfie point.
The Banco Central Museum is located in the financial district of Buenos Aires, blocks from the Plaza de Mayo, at San Martín 216. It is open Monday through Friday, 10am to 4pm, and is free. There are some information cards in English for each room, although several were missing when I visited, and they are not particularly complete. The main signage is solely in Spanish. As it is located in the city’s heart, you can get to the museum in a million, billion ways.
This will be a mini-post, just a quick look at Ischigualasto and its museum.
Ischigualasto Park, also known as “The Valley of the Moon,” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a hot, dry, wind-blasted rockscape that’s an absolute treasure field of paleontologic significance of the late Triassic. I have been dying to go for years.
Frankly, having to be on a guided tour isn’t that bad an idea, as if you were to get lost in the park you would absolutely die. The name of the park, according to the ranger leading the tour, is from a Native word meaning “tierra sin vida”–the deadland.
There are several famous rock formations to see on the tour, including this one:
Photographs really don’t do the place justice.
There is a small museum onsite!
The tour of the park takes about three to four hours with a break at a small building with a dig display and snack bar halfway; you ride in your own car (you can hire a local car if you don’t have one in a nearby town). The ranger picks a car from the line of tourists that has room for him and rides in it, so if you have a free seat, don’t be surprised if the ranger hops in. Check the website for hours, available tours (there’s a night one during full moons), and rates. The park does occasionally have to close on account of the Zonda wind, but I don’t think that’s very common. For the love of all that is holy, wear sunblock.
Recently, I was on a road trip to the provinces of San Juan and La Rioja. The main point of the trip was to see Parque Ischigualasto, Parque Talampaya, and guanacos.
But, there was an opportunity to take in one of my favorite type of little museums: a personal collection that got wildly out of hand. This is the Museo Piedras del Mundo:
The enterprising proprietor of the museum has put together three rooms of displays, which he will lead you through (Spanish only). The main gallery boasts a hell of a rock collection.
Pains are taken to give information on the chemistry of various minerals, which are indeed from around the world. There are also sections dedicated to the local geology.
A second room houses local archaeological finds (the region is rich in fossils and ancient human-made relics, as well as impressive rocks)…
…and also some truly alarming local creepy crawlies.
The third room houses the seashell, fish specimen, and photography collection (all the photos were taken by the museum owner).
You will easily burn more time in the museum than you thought you would. And it’s a fun little place! It is maybe just past the middle of nowhere, if you’re coming from San Agustín, closer to a very, very small village called Usno. There’s literally nothing around the place. It is, if I recall correctly, $100 pesos for entry, and it’s open from 8am to 7pm daily. He’s also got a little gift shop.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And meet some new ones.
The McNay also has a big-time theatre arts collection, some of which formed part of this exceptionally fun show:
Just a couple more pictures of the courtyard and grounds, I promise:
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.
Having been elbow-deep in various other obligations and pursuits, I have been a terrible blogger. But I’m actively scheduling some upcoming visits, so I had better work through my backlog here. I’m not going to say too much about the MALBA, as it is widely called, because…it’s really famous. If you’re an art-interested traveler touring Buenos Aires, it’s already on your agenda. As it should be.
There’s an impressive permanent collection, with all the usual suspects and more.
There’s also these amazing benches, probably my favorite museum seating in the world so far. It’s actually very comfortable.
I am very fond of birds.
What’s that? Fun, interactive pieces? Duh.
(Seven Unexpected Movements, Julio Le Parc)
The permanent collection is a real treat, but the MALBA also moves some pretty extensive temporary exhibitions through. When I visited, there was an exhibition of Pablo Suárez, an Argentine painter and sculptor with a pretty broad stylistic range.
You’ll burn a few hours in the MALBA, which is pretty much a can’t-miss stop in Buenos Aires if you’re at all into Latin American art and culture. Signage is in Spanish and English. There’s a nice restaurant with a solid menu, and a pricey gift shop. The museum is open from 12 to 8 (and an hour later on Wednesdays) except Tuesdays, when it is closed. General admission is, at the time of this post but haha Argentina inflation so do double check, $170 pesos (reduced admission for students, teachers, and local retirees is $85), except on Wednesdays when it’s $85 (and reduced admission patrons are free). Under 5 and disabled visitors are always free. Private group guided visits in English can be arranged by email.
The MALBA is located in Palermo, kind of between the Japanese Gardens and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, close to many other major museums and attractions. Fewer places in the city are easier to get to via bus, taxi, subway (D line), or on foot.