Travel Writer & Author

Month: February 2015

Número Uno – Buenos Aires

When it comes to meetings in the Americas, Buenos Aires tops the listBuenos Aires Business Travel

Travelers call Buenos Aires the “Paris of South America” for its broad boulevards, Belle Époque architecture and vibrant European lifestyle. In 2012, about 400,000 conference goers were among its 5 million visitors. As a meeting destination, Buenos Aires is número uno, hosting about 815 events in 2012 (665 meetings plus 150 fairs).

In 2013, the International Congress and Convention Association ranked Buenos Aires the No. 1 city of the Americas for the fifth year. Buenos Aires organized 20.8 percent of the total meetings in Latin America with more than 3,000 attendees and — between 2003 and 2012 — hosted 32.5 percent more 3,000-person events than Washing- ton, D.C.; Toronto; Montréal; or Vancouver. Bilingual MICE experts at the Buenos Aires Tourist Office and Convention & Visitors Bureau support every endeavor.

Meeting planners appreciate that two airports and 31 airlines provide ample transportation access. Buenos Aires lies just 15 minutes from Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, the regional airport, and 45 minutes from Ministro Pistarini (Ezeiza) International Airport. Aerolineas Argentinas, LAN Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are among the services. Getting around is easy with city trains, subways, 144 bus lines and 40,000 very affordable taxis to hail or call (phone numbers are valuable late at night or in the rain). Currently, two major exhibition venues provide 40 acres of exhibi- tion space and 500 conference rooms. La Rural, the flagship convention center, in prime Palermo, hosts more than 200 annual events in seven modern pavilions that encompass 860,000 square feet for up to 8,900 attendees. La Rural launched as an agricultural fairground in 1886, and its 107,000-square-foot outdoor expanse still hosts Argentina’s Exposition on Livestock and Agriculture. Centro Costa Salquero, the riverside trade center, opened in 1993. Conveniently located near the regional airport, it accommodates 6,000 in an area measuring 335,000 square feet.

A third venue, the Buenos Aires Convention Center, scheduled to open this year, illustrates the city’s commitment to invest ($41.3 million) in both the MICE market and the city’s Green Agenda. BACC features one divisible space for 4,500 attendees; another for 800; and indoor parking for 900 vehicles. This high-tech, mostly underground, 234,000-square-foot, tri-level space incorporates solar panels and rooftop greenery. It is designed to meet sustainability standards, enhance the quality of life and attract expo-tourism. According to La Nacion’s Angeles Castro, “BA’s visionary Urban Greening Plan will create another … 16 acres of public green space.” Its location, adjacent to Parque Carlos Thays in Recoleta — named for architect Carlos Thays, who designed the botanical garden and the terraced garden at Palacio Duhau — is within walking distance of 5-star hotels, the imposing University of Buenos Aires School of Law, MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires) and the impres- sive Recoleta Cemetery.

“The Culture Capital of Latin America” also provides event space in unique venues. Among them, the exquisite, horseshoe- shaped Teatro Colón seats 2,600; The Usina del Arte, a recycled former electric factory, holds 1,250; and El Centro Metropolitano de Diseño (IncuBA), a contemporary design center, accom- modates 200 to 800.

Outdoor stadiums have capacities ranging from 20,000 up to 74,624 (at the River Plate Stadium). The 20 existing sport sites will increase in number before Buenos Aires hosts the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.

Among the international corporate convention center hotels, the Hilton Buenos Aires in Puerto Madero is the newest and largest (71,000 square feet for 2,700 attendees) and convenient to the high-rise financial district.

A handful of exclusive 5-star hotels in posh, aristocratic Recoleta offer extraordinary settings, state-of-the-art meeting spaces, world-class dining and extensive wine programs.

Mirrors, bronze and marble decorate the grande dame, Alvear Palace Hotel. Along with meeting rooms, its ballroom hosts banquets for 700. Kosher meals can be provided for up to 400 people.

The Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires boasts seven newly completed salons including a 4,478-square-foot ballroom for 450; smaller groups gather in, or with a view of, 1930s-era La Mansión.

The art-filled Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt Buenos Aires hosts attendees within the formal Duhau Palace, circa 1934, in terraced gardens, in the elegant underground art gallery and in modern meeting rooms where 450 gather in its 3,200-square- foot ballroom.

Two ultra-luxe, boutique hotels in Recoleta welcome small, private groups. Algodon Mansion features 10 Argentinean-style suites, a restaurant and a covered outside patio plus a rooftop

pool. HUB Porteño offers 11 individually decorated guestrooms, two intimate living rooms, a rooftop terrace and restaurant Tarquino (accessed without disturbing hotel guests).

Across the river, Faena Hotel Buenos Aires — once a Puerto Madera grain warehouse — transformed into a Philippe Starck- designed hotel with meeting rooms and a 250-seat ballroom. Nearby, the Faena Art Center offers spacious special event space for 700 on each of two floors.

Beyond meetings, the delightfully green and monument- studded city lures visitors to its outdoor cafés and restaurants, which fill at about 9:30 p.m., and to tango salons to listen, watch, learn, participate and admire the fluid dance.

Culture lovers flock to opera (Teatro Colón), theater (Teatro Cervantes) and museums (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes). History buffs head to Plaza de Mayo to see the Casa Rosada, the president’s mansion. Photographers flock to La Boca, the historic port, to capture its multicolored tin houses on La Caminito and to the boat-shaped Fundación PROA art museum. Sports enthusiasts play or watch soccer, pato (basketball on horseback) and polo. Gourmands relish grass-fed Argentinean beef at parilla barbecue restaurants and vinotecas for wine tastings in Palermo SoHo. Shoppers value the advantageous exchange rate and tax-free status in designer boutiques in Recoleta and independent design stores in Palermo Viejo. On Sundays, they leave their jewelry in the safe and browse the vendors at the open-air San Telmo market and the side streets leading to the open-daily El Mercado.

The LGBT community extends throughout the neighbor- hoods in the first country in Latin American to legalize same- sex marriage (in 2010). And between the multitude of pasta and pizza outposts; the avant-garde design options; and the exquisitely crafted leather bags, shoes and jackets for sale, it’s no wonder some Porteños say, “We are Italians who speak Spanish.”

meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions
by Irvina Lew
Full article .pdf

Spectacular Saint Petersburg

Home to fabled art collections, architecture, food and culture

In Saint Petersburg, from the moment the white nights arrive in late spring, crowds FA_March15__0002_stpetersburggather along the canals fronting 18th century pastel palaces to watch ships passing through open bridges. This goes on until 5am. The enchanting 80-day period from late May through July sees twilight linger long past midnight and allows the throngs at the Neva River to marvel at the reflections of pink, peach and lavender clouds. It’s a wonderful time to visit the city. On one riverbank, the golden spires of the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul appear in duplicate, as if to underscore the importance of the site where Peter the Great, three Alexanders, Czar Nicholas, Czarina Alexandra and their children are all buried. On the opposite bank, the gold-plated dome of the 19th century St. Isaac’s Cathedral—the largest Russian Orthodox basilica in the city and the most ornate—looms behind the equestrian statue of Peter the Great, the Bronze Horseman. Catherine the Great’s memorial to her predecessor is an imposing sculpture that dominates the riverside park in Senate Square and attracts locals, tourists and entrepreneurs hawking cruise barge tickets.

MI_March15__0007_stpetersburgSt. Petersburg is one of those world destinations where architecture, art and history trump politics and forever lure visitors, including my friend and me, for its bewitching blend of classic culture and modern innovation. At the Four Seasons Lion Palace the concierge gave us walking directions to nearby sites: The State Hermitage Museum, the canal cruise, the hydrofoil to Peterhof Palace (Peter the Great’s waterfront summer palace with extravagant fountains and gorgeous gardens) and the hop-on/hop-off tour bus. The bell captain instructed a series of taxi drivers, who appeared on successive days, where to take us and when to pick us up, and even helped us broker a full-day trip to MI_March15__0005_stpetersburgCatherine Palace— Catherine I’s dazzling, pastel blue and gold, Rococo summer home in Pushkin. Like many visitors to St. Petersburg, we longed to take in the vast collection of 19th and 20th century European paintings at the Hermitage—one of the world’s greatest art museums. Canvases by Cézanne, Derain, Gauguin, Monet, Picasso, Vlaminck—and my favorite, Matisse—are housed in the Baroquestyle, green and white Winter Palace, the former residence of the tsars.

Between 1895 and 1914, two prominent Russian collectors, Ivan Morozov and Sergei Shchukin, amassed huge collections for their private museums. Shchukin, a pre-Soviet businessman, individually collected 258 paintings for his palatial Moscow home. His holdings included Monets, Renoirs, Cézannes, Van Goghs, Gauguins and an astounding 50 Picassos. After the Revolution in 1918, comrades Morozov and Shchukin “donated” their collections to the people. The paintings were put on display until 1948 when the works were declared counter-revolutionary and locked away for decades. Many artists and art appreciators risked their lives and their freedom to preserve the masterpieces until it was safe to once again put them on display. Today, the Hermitage—still full of opulent rooms and a stunning marble staircase—is a fi tting shrine to the dedication of those preservationists. And although the black-clad guards—many of them elderly women—don’t speak much English, they are clearly earnest in their desire to safeguard their cultural icons from visitors’ fingerprints. Speaking of cultural bastions, few things compare to ballet on the historic Mariinsky stage. We purchased tickets (online) for Les Sylphides, entered the pale green neoclassic theater and took our red velvet seats adjacent to the Tsar’s Box. Around us the men were dressed in elegant black tie garb and gowned women balanced atop towering five-inch heels. Staring at the architecture during intermission rivaled the extravagance of the performance itself.



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Author: Irvina Lew
Irvina Lew is an author and freelance contributor to guidebooks, magazines and websites who shares intriguing stories about the world’s best destinations including hotels, restaurants, spas, cruises and safaris.

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