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Fodor's Buenos Aires
Calle Florida Review
Nothing sums up the chaotic Centro better than this pedestrian axis through the Microcentro, which has fallen from grace and risen from its ashes at least as many times as Argentina's economy. During the week it's a riot of office workers, fast-food chains, boutiques, bookstores, and vendors selling (and haggling over) leather goods. You can wander it in less than an hour: start at the intersection with Diagonal Norte; a bench or patch of grass in shady Plaza San Martín will be your reward at the other end. A huge bronze statue of San Martín on horseback rears atop a plinth in the center of the square, and temporary outdoor art exhibitions often line its perimeter. It's overlooked by several ornate Italianate buildings and South America's tallest art deco structure, the Edificio Kavanagh.
Nestled in among the shops and offices are several noteworthy buildings. At ornate, cupula-topped Edificio Bank Boston (Number 99), attention tends to focus on the building's battered and paint-splattered 4-ton bronze doors—unhappy customers have been taking out their anger at corralitos (banks retaining their savings) since the economic crisis of 2001–02.
The restoration process at historic arcade Galería Güemes has left the soaring marble columns and stained-glass cupola gleaming. The tacky shops that fill it do nothing to lessen the wow factor. Witness Buenos Aires' often cavalier attitude to building preservation at Florida's intersection with Avenida Corrientes, where the neo-Gothic Palacio Elortondo-Alvear is now home to Burger King. Buy a soda and drink it upstairs to check out the plaster molding and stained glass.
Milan's Galleria Vittorio Emanuele served as the model for Galerías Pacífico, designed during Buenos Aires' turn-of-the-20th-century golden age. Once the headquarters of the Buenos Aires–Pacific Railway, it's now a posh shopping mall and cultural center. Head to the central stairwell to see the allegorical murals painted by local greats Juan Carlos Castagnino, Antonio Berni, Cirilo Colmenio, Lino Spilimbergo, and Demetrio Urruchúa. The Centro Cultural Borges, which hosts small international exhibitions and musical events, is on the mezzanine level.
- Address: Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires
- Metro A to Plaza de Mayo, D to Catedral or B to Florida (southern end), C to Plaza San Martín (northern end).
- Location: Centro and Environs
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The last leg of an eight month rtw which started in Japan, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Germany and Austria...details about our other legs are at www.greenleycoffeebreak.com.
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