Monterey Bay Aquarium

I had the opportunity to go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium a couple weeks ago while I was in the area for a wedding. I stayed at a local motel and spent a nice Sunday exploring the animals and new exhibits at the Aquarium. I would definitely recommend a trip to the Aquarium. In my opinion it is the best aquarium in the U.S., with a great mix of animals, good signage, plenty of activities for the kids, interactive displays and touch tanks, and some nice art exhibits. Here are a couple memories from my visit.





These are called Lion’s Head Nudibranchs. I was excited to see a tank full of them at the Aquarium because my family and I saw these in the wild for the first time while kayaking in San Simeon last month.


Montevideo Museum Day

When my parents were visiting we decided to check out some of the museums that Montevideo had to offer. We started off the day by walking down 18 de Julio, the major street heading towards Ciudad Vieja (old town). The street hits Plaza Independencia, which contains the mausoleum of General José Artigas topped by a magnificent statue of him on a horse.

Palacio Salvo on one corner of Plaza Independencia

Statue of General José Artigas in the middle of Plaza Independencia.

From the plaza we took Sarandi Street, a pedestrian walkway, and wandered into the heart of Ciudad Vieja. Sarandi is full of shops, restaurants, and people selling things from stands. We made our way to 25 de Mayo which is apparently a street of museums.

Our first stop was the  MAPI (Museo de Arte Precolombino e Indígena) ,which contained precolombian and indigenous art from South and Latin America. The collection that was open was fairly small, but well taken care of. The building in which the collection is housed was beautiful with a marble stairway leading up to the second floor and skylights in the ceiling. It appeared that the museum’s collection was much larger than what was on display and that they were renovating the second floor to house the rest of the collection. Thoughts: Small, but educational, cost = $30 pesos.

Our second stop was Museo de Artes Decorativas at the Palacio Taranco. This collection is housed in a beautiful mansion that was constructed in 1907 by the Taranco family. It was converted into a museum in 1972, and in 1975 was declared a historic monument. The collection was composed of numerous paintings and sculptures, furniture, tapestries, and musical instruments mostly of a french style. Another part of the museum is a fine collection of classical art and archeology in the basement. The specific exhibit contained artifacts involved in the making and storing of perfumes. Thoughts: Lavish, free.

Our third stop was Museo Romántico housed in yet another old house. It doesn’t look like much from the outside but once you go through the doorway it opened up into a beautiful courtyard. The museum (or at least the accessible parts) are in the upstairs living quarters. The collection is very lavish and has a couple of things I was not expecting including: an old opened music box, an old toiletry kit for traveling, and some nice pieces of furniture with inlayed wood. Thoughts: Small, free.

Our fourth stop brought us back to Sarandi street and the Museo Torres García. Torres García is one of Uruguay’s most famous artists. Born in Montevideo, he and his family moved to Spain where he settled for a time in Barcelona and attended art school. He moved to New York for a period of time and eventually came back to Montevideo. He wrote numerous books about art theory. For more information on Torres García, check out wikipedia. The museum had a great collection of his sketches, water colors, paintings, and toys spread out over three floors. Thoughts: Interesting, bigger, cost = $60 pesos.

One of Torres García's most famous drawings.

By this time it was well into the afternoon and we were exhausted and happily museum-ed out. There are many more museums in Montevideo that we’ll hopefully be able to experience before we leave.

Wandering Alone in a Huge City

On monday Asa had some work that he wanted to do so I decided that I would go ahead and explore more of Buenos Aires on my own.

I spent a while reading reviews of tourist attractions and figuring out when things were open. I decided to head out walking toward the botanical gardens. It sounded like a nice quiet spot where I might be able to do some drawing. Monday was an Argentinian national holiday so everything was closed, but that didn’t stop the still numerous people on the streets from window shopping.

It took me almost an hour to walk from the downtown area to the botanical gardens, but the weather was nice and the walk was pleasant.

The botanical gardens are free, which I found can have its ups and downs. An up is that it’s free! A down is that anyone and everyone can get in. When I got there almost every bench was full and only the ones in front of mud puddles or in the sun were empty. There is a central building and a greenhouse, but the day I was there both were closed. There were several sculptures and water features, but none very impressive. It was just a nice fenced-in park. I walked through and went on my way.

I strolled back toward the cultural center and Recoleta cemetery. On my way I passed by the city’s central library and an impressively large sculpture of Evita in front of it. I wandered through the street fair in the park again and centered my sites on the cemetery, this time with the desire to do some drawing. I meandered through the rows of mausoleums and finally settled on some nice statues. About an hour later, with pictures drawn, I headed back to the hotel by way of the grocery store again.

The next day, a tuesday, the Museo de Nacional de Bellas Artes was open. I headed there after an adventure to the post office which was around the corner from our hotel. I was delayed there for about 20 minutes because I had to take a number and wait in line to send my 10 postcards to the states. For anyone interested, it cost about $1.50 US to send each post card and hopefully they will get to you lucky ones soon!

Anyway, back to the art museum. I was impressed with it’s collection. Although small, it was well-rounded and interesting. They had a very nice collection of small Rhodin sculptures (about 15 in total), and paintings by Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Degas, Gauguin, and Renoir to name just a few. They also had an interesting temporary exhibit featuring drawings and paintings from the “Claridad” magazine which featured prominently in the socialist and anarchist movement in Argentina in the 1920’s and 1930’s. This museum is well worth the free entry fee!

This sums up my tourist activities in Buenos Aires. Things that I would like to do if we get a chance to go back include a tour of the Casa Rosada (which are given in spanish or english), explore the sunday market/fair in San Telmo, and see the La Boca neighborhood with it’s brightly painted houses and street performers. Until next time!

Exploring Buenos Aires

We had another full day of exploring Buenos Aires together. The first thing we decided was that we weren’t really interested in figuring out how to take the bus or the subway yet and that we’d rather walk.

So we set off with the goal of going to the MALBA, Museo de Arte Latinamericano de Buenos Aires, which is suppose to have art from all of Latin America from 1945 – present. We walked down Avenida del Libertador which is lined by numerous green spaces and tourist destinations.

Our first stop was the Plaza Naciones Unidas which is park containing a very large metal sculpture of a flower standing 75 ft high called Flores Genérica. The flower was designed and donated by artist Eduardo Catalano. The flower opens and closes mechanically each day, mimicking a real flower opening and closing with the sun. It was quite stunning!

Our second stop was the MALBA. Their collection of Latin American art could be described generally as modern art. They had some cool pieces including: a wooden bench whose ends curved up and around and down the wall, a set of moving malleable metal circles whose shadows made intriguing designs on the wall, some painted metal figures, a seascape whose bottom portion was a functioning fish tank, and a work with large prisms.

Other sections of the museum were filled with special exhibits. One called “Bye Bye American Pie” which documented an American view of war in the U.S. (including the war on poverty, drugs, welfare, abroad, etc…) through the pieces of 6 U.S. artists. The other was an exhibit of work by León Ferrari depicting an odd mix of religious artwork with erotic and war based images superimposed. Both of these exhibits had warnings stating that children under 18 should be accompanied by an adult. I don’t think I’ve ever really seen such an odd mix of art under one roof before.

Nothing was planned after that so we just started to wander. We found ourselves playing on some exercise equipment in a park and wandering through a mesh of street vendors near the Cultural Center of Buenos Aires. They were selling everything from leather book coverings to jewelry, to maté paraphernalia, to clothes, to artwork. It was all very beautiful.

By the time we navigated all the little booths we found ourselves at the entrance to Recoleta Cemetery, the main cemetery in the city. It is filled with mausoleums, both old and new, made up of concrete and marble and any building material in between, and in various states of disrepair. The mausoleums usually had ornate iron doors with glass to protect the shrines inside. All the shrines were different, but most had some kind of religious ikon and decoration. Below these would sit the actual coffins or small urns. Each mausoleum had a staircase leading below-ground. I couldn’t figure out if this was for more storage, as each mausoleum could be for an entire family or set of families, or if it was for drainage purposes. We wandered around for a while, enjoying the relative quiet in comparison to the rest of the bustling city.

In front of the Recoleta Cemetery and the Cultural Center in the park is a magnificent tree. Its branches stretch out  about 50 m in every direction and are supported by large beams that keep them up off the ground. A fence of about 15-20 m in diameter surrounded the trunk. It was incredible, but alas no picture. You’ll just have to use your imaginations!

On the way back to our hotel we stopped by a grocery store and picked up some sandwiches which we later consumed in our hotel room as a reward for our new discoveries!