While not a big shopper here, sometimes I do stop to take a look at the arts and crafts made in the places I visit – usually hoping that something unusual catches my eye: either for a purchase or a picture. During my trip to Jordan I stopped at a store that had plenty to grab my attention. Here is one of my favorite finds (nope, I did not purchase it; no space!).
I wrote about Stockholm being a great city to visit in summer time (as probably any part of Sweden!). As I said then, it is likely a charming city well-worth visiting any time of the year. But summertime not only offers warmth and longer daylight hours. It offers better opportunities to observe life happen as I hope the photos in this post show.
Enjoy and let me know which is your favorite scene!
I am no fan of walking around shopping: I normally go to a store with a clear target of what I am going for – no strolling around for me. Online shopping also has had an impact in my shopping mall visits, sometimes eliminating heading to a store. So, in short, going to the mall is not something I like doing. Well, except The Mall in Washington, D.C., which is not really a mall but a collection of open spaces, museums and monuments – a great place for a walk or a run for sure!
But I digress. Malls are not my thing. Until I saw what is in the Mall of America (MOA). During my recent visit to Minneapolis I decided to park my mall bias and see what the MOA was all about since it is the largest mall in the U.S. With that qualifier, I’d thought the least I’d do is go to see what the buzz is about and get some exercise in with a good amount of walking.
Getting there is easy
The first good surprise was how accessible it was. If it had been too much of an effort, maybe my curiosity would have lost to my “laziness” but the MOA is on the light rail line which makes it a short ride from downtown and one stop away from the airport. I did some research and found out there was storage for luggage at the mall so I decided to go there straight after landing in Minneapolis. Sure enough, one of the places to leave luggage is located by the entrance to the mall closest to the light rail stop. Well done.
There are tons of stores from locally-headquartered Best Buy to Eddie Bauer (my favorite clothes) to tourist souvenir shops to large department stores to boutiques to Apple and Microsoft stores (that almost face each other across the aisle!). There is every kind of shop you could be looking for. But my favorite shop is the Lego store!!! Pieces and sets galore as well as some massive pieces hanging up high!
More than shopping
As I walked in, I first ran into an atrium area with a stage and two massive silver Christmas trees on either side of the stage. This is where I first confirmed that the MOA is not just about shopping. It is an entertainment center, not just a shopping center. Shopping is maybe the anchor business but it is just part of a series of entertainment options for young and old. Famous acts perform and other presentations, like book signings, take place at this stage.
The “corners” of the mall also have smaller atria and these also have music or other similar activities. Of course, the mall houses movie theaters. Finally, the top level has bars and clubs. I did not get to experience these entertainment options but I hope to some time.
Entertainment does not end with these. There is a nice aquarium, Sea Life, also near the entrance closest to the light rail. It has a long tunnel that goes under the tanks and it is fun to watch the sea life from below.
So what’s in a mall?
I don’t know what the answer is in general, but what is in THIS mall, its pièce de résistance, is what is at the center of the mall. As you may know, the center of the MOA has an amusement park: Nickelodeon Universe.
From a Ferris wheel to a carousel to a rope course to a roller coaster, this is an amusement park for real!
I definitely left the Mall of America completely understanding why people love going there, including people who come from other countries to experience it. It can easily keep a visitor occupied for a few days with a great range of options on what to do. And… I hear more is coming!!
I have had the opportunity to visit Buenos Aires, Argentina three times: in 1991, 2000, and 2010 (I don’t like the spacing between visits…). The first time was a weekend trip when I was living in Santiago, Chile and the second sent do co-deliver a training session for my company’s office there. The third visit was for a short business trip when I got work -again- in Santiago, Chile (yes, I am blessed!). I will write here about the trip in 1991.
Exploring Buenos Aires
Though we were entitled to be flown back to the U.S. from Santiago for Thanksgiving in 1991, we made a small “business case” to our manager that it would be way cheaper if they paid for us to go to BB.AA. (airfare, hotel and airport transportation). We worked with some Argentines in Chile who flew home every weekend (abt a 2 hr flight) so they encouraged us to go and hang out with them.
We booked a hotel in Recoleta which was a nice part of town. With our friends, we got to explore fantastic food. The well-known area of La Costanera [good eats] did deliver a fantastic steak meal. I remember that I wasn’t very hungry so I ordered half a steak. The steak was as big as the large plate it was served on – of course, to see it I had to work through the pile of French fries on top of the steak.
BB.AA. is a great city to walk around. The architecture (reminiscent of Paris) and the diversity of the people provide a lot of things to look at as you make your way between places to visit. We had to make the ¨obligatory¨visit to the cemetery where Eva Perón is buried, see the Casa Rosada (the president’s house), watch the mothers still marching many years after military left power in front of the Casa Rosada, walk down Calle Florida (a great pedestrian shopping street). Perhaps the most exciting thing we did was take a local bus to go to a colleague’s house. The bus (or ¨colectivo¨) never really stops to let you in nor to let you out so with coaching from our local friend, my other American colleague and I managed to be successful in these 2 maneuvers… A real adventure!
The thing we enjoyed the most though was a gelato chain called Fredo’s [good eats]. The gelato was superb and my personal favorite was the wine cream gelato. I think we stopped at a Fredo’s whenever we saw one.
Asado at a Friend’s
We enjoyed going around town with our friends and glad they were doing the driving. I recall the Ave. Libertador having about 5 to 7 lanes of traffic with no lanes painted on the road surface. I met chaos that night. The best part of the trip was the time we were invited to one of our friend’s parents’ house for a traditional Argentine ¨asado¨ (read, BBQ) [good eats]. True Argentine hospitality! When it came time for the main course, they brought a huge round piece of wood loaded with all the meat that had benn grilled. All the meat meant all of the cow. We were asked to choose a non-¨traditional¨piece of meat. I went for the kidney as I didn’t fancy some of the other crazier parts… Not impressed with the texture of the kidneys.
I flew Pan Am between Santiago and BB.AA. Flying over the high peaks of the Andes on my first ride ever on a 747 was exhilarating and unnerving. It looked as if the mountaintops were going to scrape the underbelly of the airplane. And yet, looking at the cabin of the airplane, I couldn’t fully comprehend how such an airplane managed to fly. On a semi-historical note, my flight back to Santiago was the last day Pan Am flew.
BB.AA. is definitely a town made to be explored and enjoyed. Back in 1991, the country was just enjoying economic stability after the hyperinflationary period and everyone’s mood was great. BB.AA. has changed tons since that first visit as I discovered in later visits – it has become even more exciting and interesting – an Argentines are still a heck of a lot of fun!