Book lover? This magical destination is a must for your bucket list.

This a story about a bookstore. But this isn't just any bookstore.

No, this place is borderline magical. If it sounds like a fairytale, it's only because it resembles one. (Looking at you, Belle.)

It's basically a paperback palace that will make you want to throw your e-reader into the sea. Or at the very least, get lost in a good book. Photo by Miguel Vieira/Flickr.


It's called El Ateneo Grand Splendid and you'll find it Buenos Aires, Argentina.

From the outside, it's a large but otherwise unassuming bookstore in the heart of the Barrio Norte neighborhood.

Photo by Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images.

But step inside, and you're met with breathtaking views of fresco ceilings, opulent plush curtains, soaring balconies, and all the trimmings that make this a store unlike any other.

Photo by Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images.

Oh, and you'll also find 21,000 square feet of books on books on books. And a few more books for good measure.

Even the beautiful building's backstory deserves a place among the shelves.

Built in 1919,  the original building (then known as Teatro Grand Splendid) served as a premiere performance space for the region's top tango talent. Dancers like Roberto Firpo and Francisco Canaro once graced the stage, dazzling audiences with the help of live musical accompaniment.

As the popularity of live dance waned, the building was transformed to a movie theater in 1929, making it the first cinema in Buenos Aires to show sound films.

Photo by Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images.

Popularity and use of the cinema ebbed and flowed, though. And by the turn of the 21st century, the Grand Splendid was in dire straits.

The building and its beautiful fixtures and trimmings were slated for demolition. But in the knick of time, popular Argentine bookseller Grupo Ilhsa leased the building and transformed the space into its flagship location of their Ateneo chain, keeping the historical integrity and spirit of the esteemed performance space intact.

Nearly 100 years after opening, El Ateneo Grand Splendid welcomes more than 1 million visitors each year.

Locals and tourists of all ages come to see the spellbinding space.

Photo by Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images.

It's filled with books and music you might find at a typical chain bookstore with most of the titles in Spanish.

Photo by Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images.

Many cozy up with a good book in one of the former theater boxes.

Photo by Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images.

Or get some work done amid the frescos. (Good luck going back to a coffee shop after this.)

Photo by Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images.

Speaking of coffee, if you need a bite to eat, look no farther than the theater's former stage. It's now a cafe.

Some visit the store with no agenda at all. It's the perfect place to rest, relax, and take it all in.

Argentina's love affair with books isn't limited to El Ateneo Grand Splendid, either.

Buenos Aires has more bookstores per capita (nearly 25 per 100,000 residents) than any other city in the world. Books are exempt from Argentina's 21% sales tax, and popular book sites like Amazon don't do business in the country, making brick-and-mortar bookstores an important part of the community.

"Culture is very important to the people of Buenos Aires," Antonio Dalto, business manager for El Ateneo told The Guardian. "Even young kids read books, we see them here every day. Books for teenagers are one of our biggest sellers."

Bookstores and libraries have the power to take you on journeys you never imagined.  

Back in time, deep in space, through history and faraway places, reading brings new ideas and concepts to life. That's why it's so important to celebrate literacy, the written word, and the magnificent spaces that stoke our imaginations.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less