Buenos Aires

The first time I visited Buenos Aires, I remember standing in front of a Monet painting in the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes and thinking how nice and odd this was. I was in exotic Latin America but at that precise moment it was like being in Paris. Buenos Aires is a city of opposites and this is one of it's attractions. It can be grand when walking along the Avenida 9 de Julio - one of the widest avenues in the world - and intimate when walking around the streets of Recoleta. Borges, the foremost Argentinian writer, in one of his poems thinks of the city as being as "...eternal as the water and the air".

The sense of insecurity in Buenos Aires changes from time to time. The normal precautions you would take in any city you don't know, also apply to Buenos Aires. Walking around most of Buenos Aires during the day is usually safe, though it is not recommended in Boca outside of Caminito. If you want to take a taxi, get your hotel to call for one. If you have to stop one in the street make sure it's a "radio taxi". Radio Taxi Blue and Radio Taxi Premium are long established companies.

There is a wide choice of hotels in the city. I have stayed at the small and traditional Meliá Recoleta Plaza in Recoleta and at Hotel Madero in Puerto Madero which is a larger "design" hotel. I enjoyed my stay in both.
Casa Rosada in Plaza de Mayo
Climbing in Puerto Madero



Dante, Leonardo, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, BotticelliGalileo, the Medici and you. What a feeling, to walk the same streets as they did, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. To talk of Florence is to talk of power and of art.

The Piazza del Duomo will be our starting point where the enormous dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiori raises above Florence as a symbol for the city. The dome was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi and was the largest in the world at the time.

From here you can walk to the Piazza della Signoria, named after the Palazzo della Signoria, the centre of power during the Florentine Republic, which today houses the Town Hall. The statue of David by Michelangelo is a copy but you can see the original at the Galleria dell'Accademia . Around the corner from here we find the Galleria degli Uffizi, containing the Medici art collection. Here you will find a wonderful collection of works by Giotto, Piero della Francesca, Fra Angelico, Botticelli, Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Caravaggio and many others. I would advise booking your ticket over the internet or reserving your ticket at the ticket office. It will cost you Eur 4 more per ticket but you will avoid the long queues.
After the Uffizi you will need some fresh air and I suggest you walk towards the Ponte Vecchio.

This 14th Century bridge over the river Arno, is today occupied by the goldsmiths and silversmiths of Florence. The Vasari Corridor, is a raised passageway above the shops connecting the Uffizi with the Pitti Palace, built by Vasari in 1565 so that the Medici could move conveniently between their palaces. Visiting is limited. By now you must be famished, not to worry. Once you cross the Ponte Vecchio turn right, walk for about 15 minutes and look for Antico Ristoro di Cambi a family run restaurant with great food and reasonable prices. Try the the bistecca alla fiorentina, if you dare.
On this side of the river there are a couple of places you should visit. One is the Palazzo Pitti, built in the 15th Century by Luca Pitti, a wealthy merchant and rival of the Medici, which  around a century later, was acquired by the Medici.The palace has different collections, including paintings, gold and luxury objects. The gardens, Giardino di Boboli, are worth a visit. The other is the Piazzale Michelangelo for a superb view of the skyline of Florence.

I have already mentioned the Galleria dell'Accademia where you can admire Michelangelo's David and the unfinished Slaves. The Museo Nazionale del Bargello is also worth a visit. for Renaissance sculptures, including masterpieces by Donatello and Michelangelo.

Besides Santa Maria del Fiori, there are at least three churches that should be visited in Florence: Santa Croce, which besides being the final resting place for some of the most famous Florentines, is famous for what has become known as Stendhal's syndrome, after the French writer was overwhelmed by the beauty of the place and suffered dizziness; Santa Maria Novella with its unforgettable façade; and the Basilica of San Lorenzo which houses the Cappelle Medicee Museum and the mausoleum of the Medici family.

To end, a note on two places which you may wish to visit. The first, for a snack, a coffee, a glass of wine, or all three, if you are in the area of the Piazza della Signoria is Cantinetta dei Verrazzano. The other is Alle Murate, for a romantic dinner in exquisite surroundings under
restored 14th Century frescoes.



When I think of Lisbon, I can´t help remembering the scene in the film Casablanca where Rick tells Ilsa: "We'll always have Paris..."  whilst on the airfield the engine of the plane to Lisbon turns over and the propellers start turning. Walking through Lisbon today, it feels as if the city has not changed since then and that is one of the reasons why, I think, it retains that old world charm. Having said that, Lisbon has become "the" place to be, or at least visit, in Europe. It's Bairro Alto and Chiado are buzzing with cafes, restaurants and designer shops.
Chiado and Elevador Santa Justa

The best way to see Lisbon is to walk or, at most, to jump on one of it's trams and elevators. Just off Avenida Liberdade you can take the Elevador da Gloria that climbs the steep hill to the Bairro Alto. Further down Liberdade you come to the Elevador Santa Justa, designed by a disciple of Eiffel. You can also take the No. 28 tram or the electrico that starts at Martin Moniz and takes you up to Castelo de São Jorge for a marvellous view of Lisbon, but be very aware of pickpockets.

If you want to rest from all the walking you can sit down at one of the many cafes you will find around town. A Brasileira, in Chiado, opened in 1905 and became a favourite spot for artists and writers. Outside the cafe there is a life size bronze statue of Fernando Pessoa, Portugal's foremost poet, sitting at a table waiting for all of us tourists to come along and sit down for a chat.

As regards museums, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is a must. The Museu Calouste Gulbenkian houses the eclectic collection that Calouste Gulbenkian assembled during his lifetime. The collection is made up of over 6,000 pieces from all over the world, dating from antiquity until the early twentieth century. The Museu do Centro de Arte Moderna houses the modern art collection, especially Portuguese art. It has an extensive collection of the cubist paintings of  Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso.

There are another two modern art museums in Lisbon: the Museu do Chiado and the Berardo Museum at the Belém Cultural Centre. To get to Belém you can take trams nos 15 or 18 from Praça do Comércio and once there you can also see the majestic Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, the Torre de Belém and the Monumento dos Descobrimentos. You must also try the custard cakes from Antiga Confeitaria de Belém.

Fernando Pessoa by Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso
If you like wine, you will like port and if you haven't tried it before, be careful because it's generally sweet but strong. You may decide to ask for one if you to go to listen to a fado in one of the many restaurants or clubs in Bairro Alto.

Now that I mention restaurants, I would particularly recommend Restaurante Eleven, set in it's own building in the park Eduardo VII  with great views and where Joachim Koerper really merits the star the Michellin Guide has awarded the restaurant. It is expensive but, in my opinion, worth every euro.

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