Monthly Archives: December 2010

A City of Rooftops: The West Village, NYC

This second installment of A City of Rooftops (an exploration of NYC from the roof deck of two CitySights tour buses) documents some of the architecture in the areas around the West Village—in the top half of the city, where eyes don’t always wander.

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The world’s shortest guide to the West Village:

West Side Highway: Walk south toward Battery Park and you’ll pass picnicking families, dog owners playing catch and New Yorkers catching some rays on a nice day. In the winter, you may even see some snowmen.

Bleecker Street: Once the bohemian center of Manhattan, the West Village has since become a family-oriented neighborhood famous for its restaurants and expensive real estate. Bleecker Street has become a slightly touristy stretch of establishments from the famous John’s Pizzeria to local favorite Murray’s Cheese, which offers wine/cheese and beer/cheese pairing classes.

Washington Square Park: Recent renovations, which included moving the center fountain a few feet to help the park’s symmetry, have left WSP more lively than ever, and full of NYU students, tourists and New Yorkers alike.

The West Village quick tour from TKGO

You Are Here, courtesy of Google Maps

And when you return to street level (or get hungry)…

There’s no shortage of great restaurants in the West Village. (Choose virtually anything that looks and smells good from the outside and you aren’t likely to be disappointed on the inside.) If you’re looking for a classic New York slice, head to Bleecker Street Pizza on Bleecker and Seventh Avenue, or, for a French brunch (and desserts!), stop in Tartine on the corner of W. 4th Street and W. 11th Street. When it’s time to let the food settle, catch an out-of-the-box flick at the IFC.

Tara for TKGO

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Shot of the Week

US Open 2007 draw leaderboardOne of my favorite US Open traditions is watching the application, by hand, of the winners’ names to the larger-than-life draw. This draw came from my trip in 2007, but TKGO also covered the 2010 US Open.

Tara for TKGO

Buenos Aires Beach Getaways

Friends and family in the Northern Hemisphere, I see you with your long coats and Facebook statuses about snow and hot chocolate. I am currently sitting in the air conditioning, while outside it is 93 degrees Fahrenheit on the first day of summer in Buenos Aires.

You might be planning ski trips right about now, but everyone down here is all about the beach. Christmas time marks the start of beach escape season, and it seems as though everyone and his/her mom (really, though) is discussing the various towns along the water they’re migrating to and for however long. The way people talk about it, you would think the entire city is fleeing to any nearby strip of sand for the month of January.

Punta del Diablo, Uruguay by Karina for TKGO

I was a little ahead of the seasonal curve and spent last week in the Uruguayan beach hamlet and fishing village of Punta del Diablo. It was picturesque in a way unlike any other beach I have visited, with its tiny, colorful houses, rolling dunes and blue, blue skies. I returned sunned and relaxed, and also set on returning to a beach again this summer.

Below is a list of some of the most popular summer beach destinations for porteños (those from Buenos Aires). Mar del Plata (aka MDQ) and Pinamar are both within Argentina, and locals pile into buses to get there. For the beaches in Uruguay, most people take a ferry then bus.

To give you an idea about the various beaches and how they differ, I included some quotes and insight, both good and bad, heard from friends and acquaintances over the past couple of weeks. Of course, it is all hearsay and everyone’s opinion differs, so if you are planning a trip of your own, I recommend doing your own research, too.

Seeing as I just had a relaxing beach week, I am thinking my next sandy destination is one of the beach party havens. I have to get the full spectrum of the beaches people here love, after all.

Punta del Diablo beach, by Karina for TKGO

Punta del Diablo, La Paloma, La Pedrera

Prettiest and most tranquil

The “real” Uruguayan beaches

Too tiny

Punta del Este

Should really just be considered part of Argentina, so many people from Buenos Aires flock there

Expensive, and people with lots of money

Overrated

Beautiful, stylish people and parties

Mar del Plata

Best beach for people 25-35 (ish)

Most “joda” (partying) out of all the beach towns

Crowded beaches, not the prettiest

Pinamar

Like Mar del Plata, but slightly older

Like Mar del Plata, but slightly nicer and more expensive

Other beaches to consider: Carilo, Miramar, Mar de los Campos and Villa Gesell, all in Argentina. Many are in wooded areas, too.

Generally, people agree Uruguay has the prettiest beaches between the two countries, but that is not to say people do not stand by their own country’s sand and waves.

Karina for TKGO

Shot of the Week

Palermo art, Buenos Aires

It seems every block in Buenos Aires has small artistic surprises, whether it is a building facade or street art. I had passed this times before, I’m certain, before noticing it last weekend. Stay alert on the streets for art! And sidewalk dog poop.

Karina for TKGO

SantaCon 2010: Christmas Anarchy in New York City

I don’t like the holidays. But I have finally found a reason to enjoy the entire month of December, and it has everything to do with the worldwide phenomenon known as SantaCon.

My SantaCon New York began at 9 a.m., when I met two friends in Union Square, pulled a santa suit over my clothes in the middle of the park and headed to the nearest subway stop. Between these activities, the three of us were stopped by a group of Argentinean tourists for a photo, countless pointing and screaming six-year-olds, three grandmas, and one lost and drunk SantaCon participant who went from “oddball” to “BFF” in the time it takes to fall down the stairs to the subway.

SantaCon 2010 NYC

SantaCon 2010 NYCFor more photos, check out the TKGO Facebook page!

To meet up with the rest of the santas, the only way is to follow the @SantaCon Twitter feed, which announces the intersection whose bars will soon be overrun, or the part of Central Park in which the santas will be playing reindeer games.

@SantaCon 2010 Twitter Highlights from TKGO

In a santa suit, it’s impossible not to make fast friends. Going to an ATM, buying pumpkin bread at the farmers market, crossing the street—all result in ridiculous conversation, laughter and Christmas carols.

This weekend, all the lucky residents of Las Vegas, Toronto, Reykjavik, Tokyo, Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle and even my hometown, Appleton, Wisconsin, will get to witness SantaCon firsthand. If you plan on crashing, don’t forget the essentials: sneakers, gloves, ID, cash, and a Kleenex pocket pack for when the toilet paper inevitably runs out.

Find your nearest SantaCon location and buy your $10 suit—’tis the season!

Tara for TKGO

Side Note: For those of you in Chicago, you’ve missed your chance at SantaCon this year, but don’t miss the equally obnoxious Chiditarod in March, 2011! (Registration required!)

Shot of the Week

Walking on the streets in Johannesburg, South Africa, mothers commonly carry one of their youngest children on their backs by wrapping towels around their waists, like this one supporting a baby in a little pink hat.

Tara for TKGO

Joining a Gym in Buenos Aires

Between all  the delicious food I expected to be consuming regularly — empanadas, helado and choripan to name a few — and being accustomed to regular sweat sessions in the U.S., I knew I would need to find a gym in Buenos Aires. I had heard less than stellar reports about gyms in the city, but I held out hope. My elliptical-ized, Body Pump salvation came in the form of Always Club, (as the Argentines pronounce it, “Aaaahl-weys”) a very travel-friendly three blocks from my apartment.

Always Club Palermo

Always Club, courtesy of the official site

It was almost comically easy to join, and I recommend anyone spending at least a month outside the U.S. and looking to work out inquire about a membership at a local gym. Though I cannot guarantee it works everywhere else as it does in Argentina, there are no activation fees, no signing contracts for a minimal amount of time and no penalties for ending your membership whenever you want, because you’re paying month-to-month. Always Gym, which is on-par with other “nice” gyms in the city, runs about $35 USD per month, or $25 USD if you opt for the year-long payment plan, which has you pay the total amount for the year in the first four months. (It makes sense in Argentina…)

I’ve found the gym experience here to be pretty similar to that of my times at Evanston Athletic Club or Gold’s Gym in the U.S. in that there are classes, cardio machines, stretching areas, weights, etc.; the standard you would expect from the gym. One key difference: If you are joining a gym in Argentina, be prepared for a mandatory EKG to determine if your heartbeat is regular. Do not miss the appointment either, because this is one thing they take very seriously.

As for other differences — the more subtle, enjoyable, humorous or at times slightly annoying differences — I’ve compiled a list below to give you an idea of what to expect from a Buenos Aires gym, based on my couple months so far as a member of Always.

  • The gym is a show. It’s like a procession of peacocks, and you bet the girls are dressed in tanktops they could wear out one night and walk the treadmill with their loooong hair loose and flowing. The men are in their most stylish sneakers, even if they’re not the most sensible for working out, and walk around with chests puffed. At Always, I say it’s allowed. It’s a pretty good-looking bunch of clientes. Speaking of which, can I put in a special request to organize some Always Gym social functions?
  • The teachers and trainers are called “professors,” and they will greet you with a kiss on a cheek. Even if there are 30 people in class, everyone gets a “hello” kiss. They also will not hesitate to playfully call you out in class if you’re slacking, even a little. Which leads me to my next point…
  • The most jacked women at the gym are the older ones, and they all take Body Pump. At least from what I have seen at Always, this is true. We’re talking six-packs and everything. For the longest time I thought no women knew how to really sweat it out and work at the gym, because all I was seeing was girls walking on the treadmill or pedaling with no resistance on the bikes. It’s because they were all in classes getting down to business.
  • The gym makes the city a smaller place. You see the trainers walking their dogs in the neighborhood and begin to recognize regulars. You also might see that person you gave your number to out last weekend. Just a warning.
  • There are no water fountains and no towels. The gym probably also lacks central air, even if it’s one of the nicer ones. Brace yourself to get sweaty.
  • Everything’s a party. The gym, too, is on the Argentine schedule and opens later in the morning than most in the U.S., and also stays open pretty late into the night. If you take a class (note: my gym offers Body Pump and Body Combat, how international) the music will be loud and probably techno, and “professors” will be singing/dancing along. There’s also a good chance the lights will be dim, and that there will be some variation of multicolored strobe light going off. It’s a good time, to say the least.

Enjoy your workout!

Karina for TKGO