While traveling in Argentina, Sarah read a book called The Tango Singer. She found a few of the passages about Buenos Aires fitting to describe the ‘city of fury’.
I was surprised that Buenos Aires was so majestic from the second or third story upwards and so dilapidated at street level, as if the splendor of the past had remained suspended in the heights and refused to descend or disappear.
There are no reliable maps of Buenos Aires, because the street names change from one week to the next.
It was a bit jarring to switch from the relaxed pace and thick wildlife of the Amazon to the bustle and paved surfaces of Buenos Aires. But the empanadas helped with the transition.
The first part of our visit, we stayed in the Art Hostel, which had a fun vibe and, true to its name, lots of art on the walls.
They also had free tango lessons, which we tried out. ‘Try’ being the key word.
Afterwards, we went to see some real tango dancing at a nearby milonga (tango dance hall). The live music, played by La Orquesta Típica El Afronte, was incredible. It was fun to watch all the couples show off their moves. Afterwards, they had an exhibition with professional tango dancers.
If you’ve never seen tango before, here is another quote from The Tango Singer, describing the intense dance.
Then the dance began with a somewhat brutal embrace. The man’s arm encircled the woman’s waist and from that moment she began to back away. She was always on the retreat. Sometimes, he arched his chest forward or turned sideways, cheek to cheek, while his legs sketched tangled figures that the woman would have to repeat in reverse. The dance demanded great precision and, most of all, a certain talent for divination, because the steps didn’t follow a predictable order but were either up to the one who was leading to improvise or choreographed from infinite combinations. With couples who understood each other best, some of the dance’s movements mimicked copulation.
After a late night of tango, we woke the next day to explore Buenos Aires by bike. Buenos Aires has free city bikes (!) and lots of bike rental places.
We started out by visiting the Reserva Ecológica de Buenos Aires on the southern edge of the city. This space was created in the 70s and 80s, by land-filling areas around the water’s edge with demolition debris.
We got to see a little of the BA wildlife.
We stopped to try out their exercise equipment.
Then we biked a circuit around the city. Buenos Aires built bike lanes about five years ago, which was very exciting to hear! However, while some bike lanes are well-marked and easy to use…
Most of them are narrow 2-way bike lines that are often filled with obstacles and rough terrain.
Others are completely disregarded.
But it was still a great way to see the city. Including the art.
We ate some delicious hazelnut ice cream in fancy Palermo, which felt a lot like Hayes Valley SF.
There was homage to Borges and Eva Perón everywhere.
Also, lots of interesting graffiti and murals.
And much election propaganda. We were there during the elections, which are still being sorted out.
We also saw lots of exasperated dog walkers.
And the fanciest bookstore we have ever seen, El Ateneo Grand Splendid, in Barrio Norte. It used to be a theater. It made us think of the Borges quote: “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
After our bike ride – and almost every day we were in the city – we ate a typical Buenos Aires meal – delicious bife. This place was amazing. As was this place.
While there was lots of delicious food in Buenos Aires, there was also a lot of food frustration. It was often impossible to tell when businesses would be open. Three times we tried to visit this parrilla, at three different hours of the day, with no luck. This made for a very sad Jason. Here’s a picture from our final attempt to catch this place while it was open.
We were also disappointed to discover that Argentina rarely offers black pepper (one of Sarah’s favorite seasonings!) And they did not have the hot sauce variety that we found in Perú. They do love their golf sauce, however – a mix of mayo and ketchup created by Argentine biochemist Luis Federico Leloir at a golf resort. [Photo courtesty Flickr.]
We ended our stay in Buenos Aires with a toast to the poetic city, from the balcony of our apartment in Montserrat, the oldest neighborhood in Buenos Aires. Onward to Uruguay…