The past year has seen many people across the world grapple with a very specific type of loss; the sadness of a trip not taken, the mourning of exploring new cultures, the yearning for experiences beyond the anomie of the supermarket. As that strong desire for, and impulse to, wander the world fell prey to the pandemic in a turbulent 2020, we seemed at one point to be surging toward an anticipatory dystopia. Who were we without travel? What do we have to look forward to when there is no international holiday booked for summer?
Over the course of the past 12 months, we’ve been commissioning artists, painters and illustrators from different cities all over the world to paint a picture of what they see out their windows – either real or imaginary. Most artists have been confined to these cities during the global lockdowns, and all have a close connection to the place they have illustrated. Each artist has a “GRAZIA At Home City Guide” perched on their window sill, insider guides to the cities you need to visit and recollections of moments past in these nooks of the world; how they drank in the palaces, how they wandered through the parks and how they ate and ate and ate. There’s recommendations too – local dishes, phrases and lessons – so you can start imagining your own itinerary from the comfort of your own home. Today, we’re headed to La Plata in Argentina.
Unlike nearby Buenos Aires, whose crooked street pattern is difficult to navigate, La Plata is a perfectly planned grid; 36 blocks by 36 blocks of (usually) bustling pedestrians, cafés and market stands selling clothes, shoes, books and trinkets. Splitting the grid is two main diagonal streets which converge at the city’s centre. “The city was designed by the architect Pedro Benoit and his objective was to plan an ideal city, where everything was rational, orderly and where human beings were in permanent contact with nature,” artist Mariana Ardanaz says who calls La Plata home. “It is known as ‘The City of Linden Trees’ because those were the trees chosen to afforest the layout of its main streets.”
At the heart of this custom-built grid, a neo-gothic cathedral stands tall. “I lived part of my life very close to her – exactly five blocks – and I would always look at the cathedral out my window,” Ardanaz says. “This city connects me with my childhood; my grandparents’ house, the games we would play in the squares every six blocks, the smell of the linden tree,” Ardanaz continues. “As many students from different provinces of Argentina come to study at the university, the city is full of life. That is why its cultural and artistic activity is enormous and wonderful.”
Many film students study here and can be seen filming projects in the streets all the time. According to Ardanaz, the perfect 24 hours in La Plata would see you visit “Charola” for homemade cakes and breads on 51st street. A long walk along the boulevard would take you through the city’s forest before arriving at the Museum of Natural Sciences. “In the evening, you used to go and see the rise of the full moon in the Rio de la Plata before dining at one of the restaurants on the waterfront,” Ardanaz says. “At midnight, my recommendation is to return to the centre of the city and visit all the thematic bars and beer halls on diagonal 74. You can have a beer at a table on the sidewalk and enjoy a warm summer night. We always go to ‘Futther’, a brewery on 47 and 11 street.”
Follow Mariana Ardanaz @maruardanaz
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