Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The First Adventures!

Well, my friends, now we've actually done some stuff I can tell about.

On the 23rd we landed and had a day of rest, basically, no real action. On the 24th, however, we walked down to the Abasto. This big building used to be the public market and it was nearby that the great tango singer Carlos Gardel grew up, the reason he got the nickname "el morocho del Abasto". When Buenos AIres grew bigger the place was shut down, but when there was a threat of tearing it down the city decided to turn it into a shopping mall. The ornate exterior was cleaned and the inside was completely gutted and rebuilt into a huge, modern mall. We saw some of the outside and went in to see an exposition called "DaVinci: The Genius". There were models of many of his inventions. Some you couldn't touch, but some actually worked and you could play with them. There were complicated systems of levers and pulleys to lift heavy weights, ball-bearings to reduce stress on wheels, and a room with mirror walls that reflects you infinitely, as well as musical instruments of all kinds. There were also a couple of videos, one on his life and one on the Last Supper.

Last but most impressive to me was the series of digital photographs of the Mona Lisa taken by a French photographer, which range from ultraviolet to infrared. He digitally peeled away layers of old varnish and paint to disclose the original colors Leonardo used. There were huge enlargements of sections in infrared, ultraviolet, current color, and true color, and finally a wall with the picture in real size, in the same series of color. The Mona Lisa now seems almost monochromatic - greens and yellows predominate. It wasn't always so. The sky, painted with lapis lazuli, is a gorgeous blue; her dress is a vibrant red with gold undersleeves; her hair, too, is shining dark red, which surprised me. Her face is rosy and fair, not the rather yellowish tinge it has now. If you think the Mona Lisa's beautiful as is, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Hopefully this exhibition, which is traveling the world, will come to St. Louis. It would be great to have it at home for a while. It was well worth the thirty pesos each (about ten or twelve dollars) for the Mona Lisa pictures alone, if you ask me.

Then today we walked to the Botanical Garden - pretty, but very small; the Zoo, with ducks, geese and things that looked like big rabbits wandering everywhere; the Planetarium, which we didn't go into; the beautiful Rosedal, which simply means rose garden, with a profusion of different roses and a nice big lake with boats (we considered renting one, but decided not to in the end); and last, the lovely Japanese Garden, with streams and waterfalls and curvy bridges. In the middle we stopped for lunch at what would be a hot dog stand in the US, but here we had the most delicious bratwurst, or chorizo in our terms, for little over a dollar apiece and well worth more. We have another path all planned out with the Cathedral, the Pink House (Argentina's Presidential Palace), and some other buildings nearby, but I think that's for Friday; so we shall see what we'll do tomorrow!

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