Falling in love with Buenos Aires

As Al told me when I met with him pre-tour to get a sense of what kind of experience he wanted from my tour: "I probably won't ever go there a second time, so I want to see some sights. I don't care if I dance a lot." Right from the start, part of his tour fell through when another member of the group decided not to go to Iguazu Falls, and that got cancelled. But Al persevered, and found plenty to do! Here you have his own words:

Notes from the tour

Buenos Aires. There was so much more to my visit than tango and milongas. I can start with saying I fell in love with Bs As. Don't ever think of it as a third world place. It's definitely different from here. Especially NOW with this freezing weather. The climate is subtropical and was just approaching summer south of the equator. I don't know about anyone else, but I didn't have any experience with mosquitos and I didn't use any repellants. And humidity wasn't a problem for me even in the Tigre delta. Or out in the pampas at the estancia. The weather was perfect, sunny and warm.

The Palermo barrio where we stayed was a great neighborhood, akin to the Pearl in Portland. I had most of my meals outdoors at sidewalk cafes and restaurants. The food was great and the portions were not skimpy. I had a difficult time finding a lite meal.

As for the milongas, I need to practice my cabeceo. It's nothing like in Portland where everybody is mixed together. Men on one side of the dance floor and women on the other side. Not being prepared, I didn't get to dance as much as I would have liked. And watching the Argentines tango was eye opening. It seemed as natural to them as breathing. Or walking down the street. And milongas seemed to be available everyday from afternoon to late night. I particularly enjoyed the outdoor milongas: la Glorieta in Belgrano, and La Milonga Gran Nacional in Avenida de Mayo.

Transportation was no problem. I even managed to learn how to get around on the subway (yes, they have a subway system) by myself. Cabs are plentiful and not hard at all to get. However, their sidewalks could use more maintenance. They are uneven and broken up in places. I walked a lot and there were street fairs all over the place, it seemed in every neighborhood, every few blocks.

The biggest drawback was the economy. I wasn't prepared for that. The inflation rate is 40% and some places wanted to be paid in US dollars and not Argentine pesos. However, I had no problems using my credit card or debit card for making withdrawals from ATMs once I figured it out. But once I got back to the US, I couldn't get my leftover pesos exchanged. They wouldn't take Argentine pesos because of the volatile exchange rate. So if you go, spend all of your pesos before you leave.

Prices there are reasonable. As I told everyone, should I ever hit the lotto or Publisher's Clearing House (LMAO), I would definitely have a winter home there. I don't imagine that would be a problem for rich people. I could go on and on, but I have things to do. So, hasta luego, todos.

Milonga reviews, Buenos Aires 2016

This is a collection of short reviews by the different members of the group. I did not attend all of the milongas with them, so I asked the dancers to send me short bits I could post as a collage of our experiences. All in all, we covered quite a bit of turf, especially among the afternoon milongas and practicas.

El Abrazo Tango Club

  • Location: El Beso, Riobamba 416
  • Fridays, 2:30-8 PM (lesson 1 PM)
  • Entrada: 80 pesos
  • FB page

This is a low-key venue with a nice intimate feel. The level of dancing is modest. I arrived early and was seated by the friendly hosts in an auspicious corner with good sight-lines. But really, the venue is so small, it would have been pretty easy to make eye contact from any table (at least with my glasses on). The mix seemed to be about 60% porteñosand 40% foreign tango tourists. This is a good place to get your feet wet, as it has a more casual feel than the bigger traditional milongas. (Stevyn)

Milonga After Office

  • Location: El Beso, Riobamba 416
  • Mondays, 3-8 PM (lesson 1:30-3 PM)
  • Entrada: 100 pesos for class and milonga (water 30 pesos)
  • FB page

This was my favorite milonga overall. I went there twice. I liked the instruction at the lessons. The place was tourist friendly. The seating arrangements were made with the intention of getting people to dance. I danced with ladies from all over the globe: Germany, Switzerland, Russia, Japan, Brazil and of course, several porteñas. The teacher, who acted as hostess during the milonga, was active in getting people dancing. At one point she suggested that I dance with a porteña who was not getting asked. I did and it was a good dance. Hopefully, some of the other gents saw her dance and kept her busy the rest of the milonga. As I had to leave for the airport to go home, I don't know how that went for her. (Larry)

Milonga de los Consagrados

  • Location: Centro Región Leonesa, Humberto Primo 1462
  • Saturdays, 4:30-11:30 PM (lesson 3:30-4:30 PM)
  • Entrada: 80 pesos for milonga
  • FB page

This is my favorite milonga to attend in Buenos Aires because I have been going to this venue since 1999, and dancing with some of the same guys for that long, too! For me, it's more of a social event than other milongas because I know so many people. I had my best tanda here both this year and last year (with the same guy). Last year, I had a blockbuster 6 hours of dancing without stopping evening here; this year, because I was with a group, I left a lot earlier. I enjoy having folklore, tropical and swing sets during the evening, so this is a good venue for me. (Elizabeth)

The ceiling fans were quite loud. It was a problem for the lesson, making it hard to hear the instructor, but not for the milonga. The class was good and the teacher invited the students to sit at her table. She was even kind enough to dance a tanda with me at one point in the evening. At the end of the second song, she deemed me to be a milonguero! I got so flustered that I completely screwed up the third song. I found it relatively easy to get dances with cabeceo and had several very good partners during the milonga. It was good that I've learned to dance in small spaces. (Larry)

I was uncomfortable in this venue and did not dance much. The music was too loud for my sensitive hearing, and the "air conditioning" (fans) was uncomfortably strong. The lighting was initially so low that I could not make eye contact. It got better later, but by then I was out of energy. (Stevyn)

Nuevo Chique

  • Location: San José 224, Casa Galicia
  • Tuesdays and Thursday, lesson 2-4 PM, dancing 4-11 PM
  • Entrada: 80 or 85 pesos (I have forgotten!)
  • FB page

This was my first experience dancing in Argentina. I was a little disappointed in that many of the dancers were tourists. However, that led to connections that made dancing at other venues easier. The length of the hall was a little hard to work. I mostly danced with the ladies directly across from me that I could make eye contact with. It was hard to connect with the women in the back seating area unless I got up and was "passing through the area." It was a good get-your-feet-wet dance. (Stevyn)

I often suggest Nuevo Chique as a place to dance for new dancers or people new to Buenos Aires. The level is definitely not super-high, but that means that intermediate dancers will be able to get dances. Also, the average age for afternoon milongas is a bit higher, so it's a good venue for older dancers as well. I had wanted to dance with my husband, but we were not in each other's sight lines. I had worried that he would not get dances, but he danced a lot; so I didn't need to worry about it. (Elizabeth)

La Viruta

  • Address: Armenia 1366
  • Days: Larry went Thursday night, but dancing most nights
  • Thursdays: 6:30-midnight classes, practica midnight- 4 am
  • Cost: includes class and practica

The first place I went was a late night practica at La Viruta. It was a total bust. I couldn't get anyone to dance with me. I was quite concerned that this would be the norm in Argentina. Happy to say this was not the case. (Larry)

El bailongo de la Glorieta

  • Location: Echeverría 1800, in the park at the bandstand
  • Time: Class from 7-8:15, dancing 8-11:30 PM
  • Days: Dancing happens here a lot, but we went on a Wednesday
  • Cost: seemed to be by donation

I had not been to La Glorieta since 1999. It is mostly the same, but I enjoyed the warm summer weather, as I used to go in the winter, all bundled up! They put everyone's belongings in the center of the floor and danced around them; a good way to avoid theft! (Elizabeth)

This is a beautiful outdoor venue. It is like the one in the Peninsula Park Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon, but much larger. The sound was good, the floor was good and the dancers were willing to dance. I had probably the best dance of the trip with a lovely dancer from Buenos Aires. She tried to say I had a good ear for the music, but she couldn't think of the word in English (haha). (Larry)

La Marshall

  • Location: Riobamba 416 (El Beso)
  • Fridays, class 10:30, dancing 11:30
  • Cost: 90 or 100 pesos (can't remember!)
  • FB page

This is a wonderful late night venue, mostly queer, with a surprisingly good mix of both gay men and lesbian women, but obviously welcoming to all comers.  The level of dance was high and a bit intimidating, but I really enjoyed myself and look forward to going again. (Jessica)

I went to the lesson with Jessica, and stayed for the milonga. There were only five women, and I danced with all but one of them. Last year, there was a lot of dancing between the men and the women, but not this year. Because no one is entirely sure who is dancing with whom, cabeceo is really difficult at this venue (Are you leading? Following? Both? confusing). The lesson was good: there were total beginners up to advanced dancers, and Augusto managed to provide a two-level lesson, with additional things to try for those of us who were advanced; I know as a teacher how challenging that is, so good work! (Elizabeth)

Muñecas Bravas (Laboratorio femenino de tango)

  • Address: Tucumán 3428 (La Maleva)
  • Mondays, 5-8 PM
  • FB page

This is a very special fun event and hands down my favorite. It is a very small afternoon venue, 10-15 women, with a focus on exchanging lead and follow. It was very friendly, with shared mate during brief rests in between lots of dancing and a ton of fun. (Jessica)

 

Canal Rojo Tango (Salon Canning)

  • Address: Av Raúl Scalabrini Ortiz 1331
  • Wednesdays, 4 PM - 1 am
  • Entrada: I forget :-) I think it was 80 pesos

I went to Salon Canning twice. The second time I went to Canal Rojo with my wife and I was able to get dances after she left to go to the opera. (Larry)

I went to Canal Rojo after a few friends reminded me that they had not seen me at Canning yet this year. Although we left early to go to another venue, it was fun to go and dance for a few hours. The level is definitely lower than it used to be, but I think it's because the guys I know are aging and have less mobility than before. One guy I had met at Los Consagrados this year, came and grabbed me for a few tandas of really nice music and those were my best dances of the afternoon. The woman sitting next to me wanted to talk about the political situation in Argentina to the extent that I finally left, because I couldn't cabeceo and hold a conversation at that speed and complexity in Spanish, at the same time. (Elizabeth)

 

La Gran Milonga Nacional

  • Location: on Avenida de Mayo, between Avenida 9 de Julio and the Casa Rosada
  • Cost: free!
  • Three stages of live music, tango performances, etc.

We went over later in the evening. The venues were far enough apart to keep the sound separate. The dance floor space was very limited, but I did get a dance with Elizabeth on the asphalt. There is video so it did happen. LOL. I really enjoyed some of the orchestras, but it was the kind of place that you probably had to bring your own partner if you wanted to dance. (Larry)

I went over to the festival earlier in the evening with my husband. We listened at the various stages, and danced in the street together. I returned later in the evening with some of the other dancers and did some more dancing. Unlike other years, I didn't go up on the stage to dance; because the other women didn't want to dance, I couldn't dance with all the guys at once ;-) (Elizabeth)

Parakultural (Salon Canning)

  • Location: Av Raúl Scalabrini Ortiz 1331.
  • Tuesdays, 7-9 & 9-11 PM, classes; dancing 11 PM - 4 AM.

I went by myself and I couldn't get a dance, but the class was good. (Larry)

I went to a very cliquey milonga yesterday at Salon Canning. It was still fun. The women and the dresses were gorgeous, the skill level was very high. I took the class prior for intermediate and advanced dancers and it was tough but fun! I only danced with [the friend of a friend who took me there]. I certainly tried to cabeceo others, but guys were avoiding prolonged eye contact with me. I still enjoyed the people watching. (Felicita)

 

 

Running, opera and bikes: a first trip to Buenos Aires

Thanks to Jim, another tour member, who is guest-writing today's blog entry!

Running in Buenos Aires

After a half-century of being an avid runner/cyclist/hiker, it was with great excitement that I hit the pavement in Buenos Aires. This effort is made a little easier in Buenos Aires than at home, because just prior to sunrise, one hears the most strange (and beautiful) bird call, awaking me at the proper time to suit up and get going.

My first run was a several kilometers around Palermo, the neighborhood in which we were lodged. First reaction: Estoy contento porque estoy corriendo en Buenos Aires! (I am happy to be running in Buenos Aires!) Not knowing the lay of the land, I stayed close to the hotel. Given that it was about 5 am, I was astounded by the number of people still on the street! Most seemed to be party-goers who were heading home.

The following days, my runs took me farther afield, and with even a little uphill; going uphill is the runner's friend. During the daytime, I noticed many runners, even during the hottest parts of the day. This was very encouraging, because when I come back, I'd like to have a partner or two and take a running tour of the town.

Speaking of tours, let's switch gears and talk about tours en bicicleta.

Biking in Buenos Aires

First, let me digress for a few sentences. I am not a "tour" type of person, but I was indeed fortunate that Elizabeth ran this tour, because she designed the tour so that I was able to be myself and do things my own way: 1. stay physical; and 2. be independent.

A bike tour for me means a 50-km ride at a pretty good clip. However, the tour that Elizabeth found for us did not conform to this expectation. Instead it was at a very leisurely pace. Guess what? Did I ever find this relaxing! I was able to talk with my fellow riders, including Megan and Anna, our tour guides. I was actually able to "see" things that I would otherwise have missed. I learned a lot about the history of Buenos Aires. So, here we learn again the important life lesson: eschewing "my" way and following another's way, often leads to delightful results!

Teatro Colón

OK, I admit it: I love the opera. As mentioned before on these blog pages, the opera house in Buenos Aires, is rated the third best opera house in the world. With this in mind, I was more than excited to attend an opera here. Gershwin's Porgy and Bess was playing. Having seen operas in Portland, Seattle and San Francisco, I had some previous data about opera halls, with which to compare Teatro Colón.

First, the actual structure, both inside and out, is stunning. The paintings on the ceiling inside Teatro Colón reminded me of the Sistine Chapel. Second, the acoustics were very good. I felt as if I were almost right next to the singers. Some of the other venues occasionally had a “washed out” sound. Not so here.

The actually performance was outstanding and made me happy, thinking about this good advice: I got plenty of nothin’ and nothin’ is plenty for me. I thought that the opera troupe, from South Africa, was excellent. Excellent singers in an outstanding venue make for a great experience.

Overall Tour Impression

I came back from Buenos Aires, hoping to return as soon as possible. This old Puritan came away utterly charmed. (In more colorful terms, as I tell my friends, the December 2016 Puritan Siege of Buenos Aires was a massive failure – thank goodness). I have to give a lot of credit to Elizabeth for designing a tour that took into account my many idiosyncrasies. She went way out of her way to make the tour a memorable experience. I doubt if any other tour would have been as successful for me, and for this, I am thankful.

Isla Macondo

Bed and Breakfast place in the Tigre delta

Susana and her husband are friends of Argentine friends of mine. The last time I visited their house out on the Tigre delta, they were still building it. That was in 1999 or 2000 (Silvana and I can't remember exactly when we went there, and neither of us took pictures). When members of my tour group asked what else there was to do in Argentina besides tango, I thought of Isla Macondo, and wrote to them.

The Caraguata River is not a happening place: this is the place to go in order to do nothing! Think the opposite of the bustle that is Buenos Aires. Think RELAX! This is where people go to just hang out for a few days. You can swim in the river, take a canoe out and paddle around, or use the river taxi to check out the various restaurants and bars that dot these waterways; but that's about it.

We took the local train to Tigre, about an hour away from where we were staying in Palermo. Unlike my last trip, you can now just use your Sube card (subway/bus pass) and get on the train! It think it was 12 pesos for the ride. It was a holiday weekend, and the train was packed to the gills with folks escaping the city for a few days.

In Tigre, we only had time for lunch before boarding a river taxi. We ate at Vivanco Restaurant (General Bartolomé Mitre 74, Tigre). The flan was magnificent, especially as I had not yet had flan during this visit, and it is my favorite dessert! Connie had some sort of prawn dish.

To take the river taxi (lancha colectiva), you have to know the address for your destination. "Caraguata 1098" got us the right tickets and they put us on boats depending on our destination. Then, as we went up the river, the guys on the boat made sure that they had a list of where everyone needed to go, and stopped at each place on the way. They managed to snag each dock, pull the boat close, off- or on-load people, and off we went, with barely a pause.

Susana met us at the dock for Isla Macondo. She was surprised to see us an hour early: apparently, they had added extra launches because of the holiday weekend, and we could have had a bit more time in town. She offered us tea and mate, and homemade fruit bread, fresh from the oven. The group settled into their rooms, and the island had its inevitable effect: people kept dozing off in comfy chairs!

From what I hear, dinner and breakfast the next morning were very yummy. My memories from 1999 are of a scrumptious outdoor barbeque, good wine, and excellent coffee and breakfast the next day. Susana is lovely and eager to please. Her husband is building another house for vacation rentals nearby, to add to their capacity.

My husband and I were going home that evening, to make sure that the other tour participants in Buenos Aires were OK. It was quite a journey for one day: almost 3 hours on the boat total, plus 2 hours back and forth to Buenos Aires on the train. Plus it was so relaxing out on the river! I wish I had stayed overnight, too! They have three bedrooms available, great food, and very good hosts.

To book at Isla Macondo, you can contact them at susana@islamacondo.com.ar and ask for details. They do not speak much English, but I do, so that was not a problem for the group. I appreciate that they were very flexible with the changing travel plans of my group in a way that a larger business would not have been. They are open December to May for the summer season.

 

A day trip to Colonia

I helped Felicita set up a three-week trip to Buenos Aires in November, as she could not fit her schedule around the tango tour in December. Her main focus was improving her Spanish, in addition to dancing as much as possible. She took a day off to visit Colonia, Uruguay, and agreed to write it up for the blog. Thank you, Felicita!

Colonia de Sacramento, Uruguay

A day trip to Colonia de Sacramento, Uruguay is a perfect day trip to get away from the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires. Hop on the boat and you are there in about an hour. I was lucky in that the weather was perfect and all the flowers were blooming. 

I arrived about 10 am and left at 7 PM. One day is plenty to visit the historic town with your two feet. However, I wish I had rented a scooter to ride up the coast a bit. I guess I'll have to go back! If you aren't a scooter person there are golf carts and bikes.

I recommend the lighthouse, the oldest church in the country (Iglesia Matriz Church, built in the early 1800s), walking up and down the Calle de los Suspiros window shopping and simply walking around this historic town with a significant Portuguese history. While walking around you will see beautiful architecture and art.

I was really curious about the tile museum. It never became clear to me why none of the museums were open. I hope that I will see it next time!

Logistics

Getting There

You can get from BA to Colonia in about an hour via Boque bus (https://www.buquebus.com/english). Buy the tickets online prior to your departure. My "there and back in a day" ticket was $125 US Dollars. It was the Friday of a holiday weekend, so I'm guessing this is a little more expensive than normal. Get to the terminal at least an hour early, as going through customs takes a long time; plan accordingly. Apparently, there is a cheap boat ride to Colonia but is 3 hours long.

Money

I was told by several people that no one in the city would take Argentina pesos, which isn't entirely true because the lighthouse did. You can exchange your money at the boat stop in Uruguay, but be warned that you need at least 100 to exchange back. 

Tourist Office

Once you step off the boat head outside and veer to your left. There is a tourist office with maps and helpful people.

Connie's non-tango tango tour

Connie was my only non-tango-dancing tour member. She dances, but not tango. Her husband is an enthusiast, so they compromised by doing a lot of tourist things, but scheduled so that he could go out dancing, too. The result: Connie gently prodded me to include a lot more touristy things for the tour, and as a result, it was much more fun. Here are HER tour highlights. Thanks for guest-writing, Connie!

Buenos Aires Adventure

I had many firsts on this vacation. First time traveling: to the southern hemisphere; visiting South America; and exploring Buenos Aires. Argentina in December is warm because it’s the beginning of summer. During our visit, we had temperatures of 85-95 degrees. Luckily, we had low humidity, with only one afternoon of rain. It was pleasant for walking in the morning and evenings. Most of my afternoons were spent in a very relaxing ways, reading, eating ice cream, and drinking my favorite aperitive, the Aperol Spritz.

Of course, there are many more delights I saw in Buenos Aires, but these are my favorites.

Colonia, Uruguay

We took a fast (1 hr.) ferry ride to Colonia del Sacramento, a city in southwestern Uruguay, by the Río de la Plata, facing Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is one of the oldest towns in Uruguay and capital of the Colonia Department. It has a population of around 27,000. We spent a lovely time walking around the old town and eating a unique brunch in an outside café. It is renowned for its historic quarter, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tigre Delta

 

At 5,405 square miles, the vast Tigre Delta is among the world’s largest, and it is one of the only major deltas in the world that does not empty into a sea or ocean. It flows into the Río de la Plata, which separates Argentina and Uruguay, after the Río Paraná splits into several smaller rivers and forms a multitude of sedimentary islands covered in forest and grasslands. With its islands and canals, Tigre is what Venice might have looked like before development.

 

Isla Macondo

We had an excellent time on an overnight trip to a wonderful B ‘n B in the Tigre Delta area. We took a train to the city of Tigre (35 km north of BA). Then, we took a 1 hour water taxi ride into the surrounding delta region to reach our BnB. Floating on the latte-colored waters – rich with iron from the jungle streams flowing from inland South allowed us to view the local stilt houses and colonial mansions. All along the shorelines are signs of water-related activity, from kayaking to wakeboarding, canoeing to sculling.

 

Tours of Estancia El Ombu and San Antonio de Areco

We escaped the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires for a a close-up look at traditional living in the pampas. We were driven through Argentina's sprawling pastoral landscapes, the pampas. We saw never-ending fields of waving grass and scrub-covered hillsides until we reached the quaint streets of San Antonio de Areco. We strolled around the historic town with a knowledgeable guide. He told us stories about the area's history as a meeting place for the local gauchos. Then we headed to a local estancia (ranch) to ride horses and/or take a carriage ride with the rugged gauchos. We wrapped up our adventure with a delicious freshly prepared barbecue and singing and dancing with the gauchos and Elizabeth.

 

My adventures within Buenos Aires

Teatro Colon

 

I toured the beautiful Teatro Colón, the main opera house in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is ranked the third best opera house in the world by National Geographic, and is acoustically considered to be amongst the five best concert venues in the world. As of the year 2010, the Teatro Colón boasts a building restored to all its original glory, giving an air of distinction to its productions. I was also lucky enough to spend an evening in one of the opera house’s upper level boxes watching Porgy and Bess.

 

El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore and Music Shop

 

I visited this wonderful bookstore that was built in 1919. It served as a performing arts theater, then as a cinema, and now a bookstore. It retains its original frescoed ceilings, ornate theater boxes, elegant rounded balconies, detailed trimmings, and plush red stage curtains. The interior of the building remains as stunning today as when it was first built. I reveled in this wondrous monument of a bygone era. While the selection of books is a standard chain store fare and mostly in Spanish, bibliophiles will find the staggeringly opulent display of books to be reason enough to visit El Ateneo Grand Splendid.

 

La Recoleta Cemetery

 

This cemetery is in the Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires. It contains the graves of notable people, including Eva Perón, presidents of Argentina, Nobel Prize winners, the founder of the Argentine Navy, and a granddaughter of Napoleon. In 2013, CNN listed it among the 10 most beautiful cemeteries in the world. The cemetery contains many elaborate marble mausoleums, decorated with statues, in a wide variety of architectural styles. The entire cemetery is laid out in sections like city blocks, with wide tree-lined main walkways branching into sidewalks filled with mausoleums.

Of course, there are many more delights I saw in Buenos Aires, but these are my favorites.

Home, home on the estancia...

San Antonio de Areco

Driving to San Antonio de Areco from Buenos Aires made me feel that Kansas is hilly. It is FLAT out there in the plains! At one point, our driver stopped and we could see the flatness fall away on both sides: can you see the curvature of the earth? If yes, then we saw it.

San Antonio de Areco is a sweet little town. It is chock full of BnBs and restaurants, and is often full of people from Buenos Aires, getting away for the weekend. It's only 100 km from the city, and we had a perfect day for a tour: sunny but not too hot.

First, we met Juan Manuel (think Robin Williams in a burly version of Kevin Kline's body) at la Esquina de Merti (corner of Arellano and Bartolome Mitre), and had coffee, juice and a snack. The city was asleep, except for the people attending mass. Juan Manuel said there had been a folkdance event until very late, and so many people were sleeping in that day.

He told us about the city's history. Then we toured the main square, took a look into the beautiful church there. I have already managed to forget most of what we learned. The main takeaway for me as an anthropologist, was that the Spanish considered the indigenous peoples to be sub-human and so there was a crisis of identity when Spanish and indigenous people intermarried. The criollos wanted acceptance and status, but were considered inferior. The gauchos, living in the provinces and working the land, raising horses, etc. created a culture that was more polite, gentlemanly, more elevated than the Spanish manners, in an attempt to put themselves on a more even playing field with the ruling classes.

I learned a new term: la gauchada: a favor. Because the gauchos valued how people treated each other, you can ask a favor. You are basically asking them to follow their gaucho code of keeping your word, being respectful and doing the right thing, it is almost impossible for someone to say no to this. I haven't tried to use it, although I asked some friends about it. Even the ones who are porteno-porteno, felt you should grant favors asked this way.

La Olla de Cobre

Then we visited a chocolate factory, La Olla de Cobre (The Copper Pot). They are apparently famous for their alfajores, YUMMY cookies filled with dulce de leche (or something else) that I can no longer eat because I can't eat gluten. The others had samples and seemed to really enjoy them.

They also make their own chocolate. I bought some dark chocolate and some chocolate-dipped candied lemon slices to bring home. I like a bit more POW in my chocolate. This was a bit smooth and not as dark as I usually eat. However, I barely got any of it because my son liked it so much, so I know it's good!

The Draghi museum and workshop

For me, the high point of the San Antonio de Areco part of the tour was the Draghi workshop and mini-museum. It was very cool to see the amazing silverwork that the Draghi family has created, and even cooler to see partially finished objects that were works-of-art-in-progress. Wow and wow. I also enjoyed looking at the traditional silver pieces for personal adornment, for display of wealth on your horses, and for the home. I would have liked more time to look around, but three different tour groups were trying to not get in each other's way.

 

Estancia El Ombu

 

 

After visiting San Antonio de Areco, we hopped back in the car, and jolted our way to Estancia El Ombu. Apparently, the road to the ranch is SUPPOSEDLY paved: the government has produced funds to pave it twice, but it is a dirt road. That money disappeared into someone's pockets, and the proof was the dusty, bumpy way to the ranch. And we think we have graft here in the USA!

El Ombu was lovely. You can rent rooms there, and there is a swimming pool, horses to ride, and great food if you want to get away from Buenos Aires for longer than a day.

For us, we had time to have a snack, a leisurely amble around part of the ranch on horses, a long lunch with three salads, drinks, and more meat options than any of us could eat; and very good dessert (they made me something special because the regular dessert had wheat: VERY yummy).

After lunch, there was gaucho guitar and song, folk dancing, and a Indian horse whispering show. We ended up as part of the show. I am not adding the video in (although thank you Connie for the footage!), but I may change my mind later on.

 

Tour review

I was skeptical about the price of this tour, but I have to say, I feel they did a great job. As I am less than excited about driving in Argentina, the thought of being picked up and dropped off right from the hotel was very attractive. Luis was early (Argentine and early!), a good driver, and a very nice person on top of it all.

Juan Manuel is one of the chattiest people I have ever met. I have never had Monty Python and Shakespeare quoted to me in almost the same sentence. He lives in San Antonio de Areco, but is from Buenos Aires and has traveled extensively. For the people in my tour who didn't speak Spanish, having a tour guide who is completely fluent in English was helpful. He was almost as excited about participating in the tour as we were, and he does it a few times a week.

Guillermo and the tour office were very fast in replying to inquiries. They sent very specific, clear emails, and are clearly well organized. I still don't quite understand why most of the payment had to be made in U.S. dollars at the tour (it felt like a spy mission), but we were able to pay the reservation fee online.

I picked this tour because everything was included in the price. Other tours had you show up at San Antonio under your own steam; or got you to the estancia, but didn't seem to drive you home. Tips and the drinks we had in San Antonio while Juan Manuel gave us the history of San Antonio de Areco, were our only expenses for the day. The only question that we could not answer: were we supposed to tip the driver and the tour guide? At $200/person, we decided that we had spent enough and left it alone.

Bike tour of Buenos Aires

Biking in Buenos Aires, where the lines on the street (including the double yellow) seem to be more of a suggestion than a traffic regulation, seems insane. However, when I sent out an email to see who would like to bike, I was surprised to see that most of the tour group wanted to do it, so I signed myself up, too! I am SO glad that I did! For me, it was the high point of this trip.

I booked a private tour, as the youngest in our group will not see 40 again, and most of our group was 65-75. That way, we did not have to keep up with a group of younger people. This turned out to be a good idea, as we managed to do about 2/3 of the originally planned tour. It was really hot and sunny, and we chose to go a bit slower and take a bit more time at each stop.

Biking Buenos Aires is a great company to work with: enthusiastic, young bikers who love Buenos Aires and want you to love it, too. Their location in San Telmo is only a few blocks from where I used to stay in the neighborhood. They made sure that we were provisioned with water during the entire trip, had sun screen in case we did not, and included a lunch stop at a great food cart AND a lesson making and drinking mate!

Anna, our local guide, and Megan, our American guide, worked really well together. I was amazed at how much Megan has learned about the history of Buenos Aires and Argentina! We learned about the beginnings of Buenos Aires, colonial history, the background of La Boca, Peronism, the dictatorships, the Desaparecidos, modern economic history, development of the city--even I learned some new things, and I studied Buenos Aires and tango for my M.A. in anthropology!

 

Buenos Aires restaurant reviews 2016

Staying in Palermo Soho allowed me to try a bunch of new restaurants with my tour. Of course, I have a few favorites from other years that I revisited, but I don't usually stay in this area of town, so I have some new favorites!

Lobo Cafe

Honduras 4730, C1414BML CABA (Website: http://lobo.cafe/)

Food was not cheap, but it was plentiful. Here's Al's lunch the first day he got to Buenos Aires. I think he went there every morning for breakfast. The waitresses would tell me if they had seen him when I walked past! The waitress picture is Laura, who was there every day and enjoyed practicing her English when Spanish fell through for folks.

By the way, this is supposed to be a slide show, but I can't get it to work correctly. If you click on the photo, the next one comes up. I'll fix it as soon as I learn how :-)

 

Ninina

Gorriti 4738, Buenos Aires (Website: http://ninina.com/)

Ninina was Jessica's favorite hangout. Again, not cheap, but wow! Here is where I learned that the Argentine word for "kale" was...ready for it? "Kale." They had amazing juices of veggies and fruit that knocked my socks off. Their coffee was great. Their salads were great. As I can't eat wheat, I have no idea how yummy all the beautiful cakes and pastries were, but they were gorgeous. Wifi meant that a lot of Argentine dot-commers were there with their computers, downing coffee and chattering away.

If anyone else took pictures here, I will add them in. I guess I was too busy drinking kale, ginger and whatever else was in it, juice!

 

Almacén Purista

Juan Ramírez de Velazco 701, C1414AQO (website: http://www.almacenpurista.com/

I ate here last year as well, but I don't think I reviewed it. Where in the USA can you eat lunch for three hours without the waitresses trying to get you to pay and leave? I love Buenos Aires.

The waitpeople were very "on" it about whether there was gluten in each item on the menu. I felt very confident that I was not eating wheat, which makes me enjoy eating out a WHOLE lot more than other places.

This place has a focus on natural food. It has a huge menu of all kinds of food, which is a bit unorganized. Yummy, and halfway between our hotel and Silvana's, so it was easy for everyone.

 

Calden del Soho

Honduras 4701, C1414BMK CABA, Argentina (Website: http://www.caldendelsoho.com.ar/)

I only ate here once, but it was a favorite of the more carnivorous of our crowd (being married to a vegetarian has changed my eating habits!). Again, there was more food than should be eaten at once, but that did not seem to stop us.

The waiter can recite an entire table of people's orders and drinks from memory. Impressive! We also got free champagne at the end of the meal because he liked us. This is another slide show where you need to click on the photo until I learn how to do this. Sorry!

El Patio de Montevideo: yummy, yummy, yummy!!

Montevideo 387 (right off of Corrientes)

We went to this place with our friends Sara and Kent. Amazingly huge portions for great prices seems to be the aim of this place. We had sausage appetizers, salad, squash puree, rice, potato tortilla (for the vegetarian) and large steaks for three, for $51. We were too full to have dessert and could barely finish what we ordered. That is for FOUR people! Go there!

Sans Armenia Tapas Bar and Restaurant: gluten free beware!

Costa Rica 4602, C1414BSJ CABA (website: https://www.facebook.com/Sans-Armenia-Deli-Drinks-142825765788273/

This was somewhere that many of the tour members ate. They enjoyed it. I had a hard time here, as I told them I was celiac, and they brought me a meal they said did not have wheat in it. Just before I took a bite, I smelled it, and it smelled like soy sauce: WHEAT! They agreed that it had soy sauce in it and offered to replace the meal. After insisting that I couldn't eat wheat and then avoiding eating it by luck, I decided not to eat. Not a good night for me.

 

La Popular de Soho: 3rd choice for evening, but good

Guatemala 4701 (Website: https://www.facebook.com/lapopularfutbol/)

We got off the train from Tigre very tired and hungry. We tried to eat at Sintaxis, but they were full until closing. We tried to eat at Don Julio's, but they had a waitlist. Very low blood sugar by this point (as in crying), my friends dragged me across the street to La Popular. We had a fabulously large dinner. I had a roasted chicken quarter, "rustic" potatoes and some wine, along with salad that other people couldn't finish. Yum. By the end, I felt very happy and back in one piece. Note to self: eat sooner!!!

 

MezCal

Costa Rica 4502, C1414BSH CABA

On the corner of Costa Rica and Malabia, overlooking the Plaza Armenia, MezCal was a before-dinner drinks favorite with some of the tour members. Great people-watching (and probably great food, but I never ate there) if you sit at the outside tables. When I ordered a Campari, it came in about a 12-ounce glass. Eek.

 

Gluten-free happiness

Sintaxis

Nicaragua 4849, 1414 Palermo (Website: http://www.sintaxispalermo.com/

As I have already waxed poetic about Sintaxis in last year's posts, I won't go on here. I ate here a few times over the two weeks of the tour, and took munchies with me each time to tide me over between trips.

I tried some new meals here. The empanadas were very good. The torta pascualina was excellent. The ravioles were exquisite. I think I tried every limonada they had, with my favorite being the maracuya (passion fruit) one. I discovered that they had savory rolls and little cheese biscuits to go that were super-yummy.

 

Almacen de Pizza

C1414, Malabia 1825, C1414 CABA, Argentina (website: http://www.almacendepizzas.com/2012/index.php)

GLUTEN FREE PIZZA! Ok, most of what they had was not gluten-free, BUT:

This was the only place where they came out with specially wrapped plates and utensils to ensure that they had not been contaminated with wheat!!!!! Those of you who are not celiac or gluten-sensitive have no idea how much this means to me. I accidentally got "glutened" at least twice during the trip, despite taking gluten enzymes at each meal. I didn't eat for about 24 hours because I was afraid to get glutened again. Sitting down to a clean plate and utensils, and a little pizzeta, made my stomach relax enough to feel hungry and enjoy eating.

 

Buenos Aires Tango Tour: designed for YOU!

Not your normal tango tour!

This is not your normal group tango tour! This tour is designed for people who don’t want to go to Buenos Aires alone, but don’t want to be shackled to a group 24-7. As folks are signing up, I am incorporating their requests into my plan. If you want to go everywhere together in a group, this is probably not the right choice for you. If you are more adventurous, or looking for something really special, this is for you.

This tour will be limited to twelve people. I feel that you deserve quality work from me, and that means individual attention and help. One spot has already been reserved. There is no minimum number of people: we are going!!

What do YOU want to do in Buenos Aires?

I have been going to Buenos Aires since 1999. Those visits have provided me with a lot of local information, friends, contacts, knowledge of the dance scene, and love for the city. I am putting all of that experience to work for YOU!

This is a tour tailored to your personal goals for Buenos Aires:

·        Do you want to dance every day/night? I can help you choose the best places for you to dance, based on your level, your dance goals, etc., and help you make reservations to get decent seating.

·        Do you want to find group or private tango lessons? I will help you make appropriate choices, get you there, and even help you locate a practice partner/dance partner if you want one.

·        Do you want a “taxi dancer” (Buenos Aires dancer who accompanies you to milongas)? I have several good sources for great folks who won’t cheat you on prices.

·        Do you want to see the sights? I will organize daily excursions to fun places that you can choose to do, or do your own thing. I will also be organizing trips to folk dancing, museums, Teatro Colon, and other cool places you don't want to miss!

·        Do you want a Spanish tutor? I will find one for you!

·        Do you want to a cultural exchange? My friend (who is an English professor) is coordinating with me to give her students chances to practice English, while YOU get a native tour guide around the city.

·        Do you want to shop until you drop? I can aim you in the right direction, go to shoe stores with you and translate for you, etc. The “outlet mall” area and wholesale district are nearby!

The dates: Dec. 2-12

I am timing the tour to coincide with the National Day of Tango is December 11 (Carlos Gardel’s birthday). To celebrate, they hold a huge street party between the Congress building and the Casa Rosada (the president’s house), with live bands, dancing in the street and performances. I went in 2012 and 2015, and had fun both times. As it occurs right before summer solstice, everyone is out celebrating the start of summer as well. If you want to come a day early, or stay after the tour, etc., that is up to you; the dates can be semi-flexible.

Cost

Last year, I spent two weeks in Buenos Aires, researching hotels, locating the best current milongas, trying out teachers, and finding a good neighborhood for us to stay. I will be available 24-7 during your ten days in Buenos Aires, as well as making shoe shopping trips, milonga excursions, etc. available each day for you! It’s a lot of work, but I am excited to share my favorite city and dance with all of you, and I want you to have the best possible experience of Buenos Aires, so that you want to go back on your own!

The cost is $1200/person for my services during the trip, my pre-planning, and any individual scheduling and help that you need before and during the trip. You will pay the hotel, airfare, food, tango shoes etc., on your own.

If cost is an issue, please talk to me before deciding not to go.

Flights

I usually fly through Houston, as that is the fastest flight time. Usually, Economy is fine. However, I suggest that you DO NOT buy Economy on the United Dreamliner: I upgraded to Economy Plus on the way home, which was OK. I know some of the people planning to go have miles saved on various airlines. I willmake sure you get from Ezeiza Airport to the hotel, but it's up to you to get to Argentina :-)

Visa

There is no visa needed to visit Argentina as a tourist for under 90 days, BUT it is now required that you pay a reciprocity fee before leaving the USA. Luckily, this is much easier than it used to be. You can buy it via the Argentine Embassy online. The cost is $160 USD, and it is good for ten years. You will need proof of buying your visa in order to board the plane to Argentina. Lots of information is available from the U.S. government online.

Airport transport

I will make sure you get picked up at the airport by a reliable person. If you can arrange to fly at the same time as someone else, you can split the cost. It cost $45 in 2015, and will probably be about that. You can pay in dollars or pesos.  I will also set up your return trip to the airport when you leave, unless you prefer to do so yourself.

The hotel

I will be staying at 5 Cool Rooms in Palermo. I suggest you also make reservations at 5 Cool Rooms (Honduras 4742, C1414BJV Buenos Aires, Argentina) via Expedia or another travel website. It is air-conditioned, has free breakfast (which can be gluten-free), a Jacuzzi and 24-hr. front desk security. It is near Starbucks for those of you who need your American hit of home (& second free WiFi spot). We can walk to 5-6 milongas in the neighborhood. There is a gluten-free restaurant/bakery nearby, and tons of little restaurants! If you prefer something more exclusive (there are some very lovely, very expensive hotels nearby) or something cheaper (AirBnB), I can help you make good choices about locations.

Next year: come with me to Buenos Aires!

Next December, I will be returning to Buenos Aires, but not by myself. I am organizing a tour.

 

Why a tour?

I have lived in third world countries and traveled by myself to several continents. I am not brave by nature, but I have found that buying a non-refundable ticket prevents me from freaking out and cancelling my trip. I have been lucky to have had many opportunities to step out of my comfort zone.

I studied in Germany during college, and traveled around Europe by myself afterwards. I found that I could survive on my own (even if I mainly ate tangerines, cheese, bread & chocolate as a poor student). Starting off with a group and studying German, gave me a focus and some practice before I headed off alone.

I signed up for Peace Corps on a whim, and spent two beautiful years in Morocco. Again, being with a group, receiving orientation and language training, and knowing that, if anything bad happened, someone would help me get home--helped me on an adventure that I would not have tried alone.

I traveled to Buenos Aires for the first time in 1999. I went alone, but I knew several people who would be there. A friend picked me up at the airport and let me stay overnight until I found a pension. Another friend went to milongas and classes with me until I felt more relaxed.

I returned to Buenos Aires on my own, and then ventured to England and Spain by myself. Now I tend to travel by myself, but going with groups and then with a helping hand, aided my globetrotting.

I learn languages easily, which helps me meet people during my travels: if you like to talk as much as I do, not being able to communicate is way more frustrating than tripping through a new language. It has helped me meet new friends on each trip I have taken.

Many people are hesitant to venture into a new place by themselves. Whether it is a language barrier, a preference to travel with other people, food issues--it can be scary to just into an adventure alone. Going with a group of people can ease the stress of a new place, giving you more time to enjoy your trip.

Why with me?

I love this city! I love these people! I love tango!

I have now been to Buenos Aires seven times. This tour will be my eighth trip to the city.

This city is mine! The first day I spent in Buenos Aires, I just walked around all day, feeling at home. This city runs the same speed that I do. Each time I visit, I try out new milongas, go to new cultural events, walk to new neighborhoods, and have new adventures. There is always something new to do in such a large place. I don't get bored.

Having lived in the third world, when things don't go smoothly in Buenos Aires, I can stay calm. The lights go out in the milonga because too much energy is powering the air conditioners? No problem! Let's go to a different milonga! The bus doesn't come, and then four come in 5 minutes? Yes, that's how it always is, so let's walk! The subway is inexplicably closed? OK, it's taxi time. This is not the first world in some ways, so a sense of humor is needed when things go awry, but I am used to it.

I want to foster a love of the city, of tango, in you. I would love it if you use this as a first step to traveling alone! I am not trying to build a group who will need me to take them every year :-) I hope this will help you explore things that would be too scary on your own (or more fun with me!).

December 2016: put it on the calendar!

For those of you who have been reading my blog, you will know that I just got back from a few weeks in Buenos Aires, which were for the sole purpose of setting up the tour in 2016. I have group classes set up, a hotel, cultural exchange with students who want to practice English, connections to set up Spanish tutors for those who want to polish their language, a list of places to visit, and a bunch of fun milongas to go to, either together or in small groups.

I have helped dozens of people prepare for their first trips to Buenos Aires. Now it's time to TAKE people there myself. If you want to have fun, go somewhere with someone who absolutely loves that place. The enthusiasm rubs off.

I am only taking 8-12 people with me. I am still figuring out the pricing, but I am aiming to make it as cost-effective as possible. I hope this weekend to sit down and hammer out the details more fully, so that you know what to expect. The plan is December 1-14, perhaps leaving the last day of November to make a full two weeks in Argentina.

Come with me!

 

La Gran Milonga Nacional 2015

I missed part of the Gran Milonga because I went . . . to a different milonga first! It looked like rain, and everyone said, "Oh, too bad, the milonga in Avenida de Mayo won't happen this year." So I made a backup plan: go back to Los Consagrados for a few hours, then see if the weather cleared up. The milonga was really empty compared to normal: some people had bet on the weather being better than I expected, and were off dancing outside.

Five hours later, I staggered out of Los Consagrados, having danced more than enough. That place is really good for my ego. On the way out, three men stopped me to ask my why I hadn't looked at them, and wouldn't I like to do one more tanda? Ah, fame.

Kent, Sara and I went to La Continental for a quick dinner because all three of us had just danced for about five hours. Then, we headed out to the milonga in the street around midnight. There were not that many people, but it HAD started four hours before (oops!), and the rain had only sprinkled, so nothing had been cancelled after all.

We listened to a few singers, did silly Rudolph Valentino imitations in the street, and then danced a bit. However, the choice of pavement or plywood stage, after hours of dancing on a really good floor, made us choose to only dance a little bit and to listen more. I joked that my minute of fame up on the stage in 2012 was enough for me!

However...

Next year, Portland, let's go wreck our shoes out there at the street milonga!!! Have I got a tour planned for you, and we will be out there dancing!

My video editing skills are still super-beginner, so please forgive the strange glitches :-)

A nice salesperson makes all the difference

Neotango vs. 4 Corazones

4 Corazones

  • Av. Callao 257 , Piso 3, Dpt. A

I went to 4 Corazones because the ladies at Neotango suggested that it as a place to find tango clothes for us middle-aged, middle-sized people. They seem about my age, and about my size, but I don't think they dance tango. I have since checked with women I know in Buenos Aires who dance tango, and they agree that only tourists would spend as much as the tango stores charge for clothing; they just buy nice things they find in regular stores.

4 Corazones is nicely laid out, with two dressing rooms and a pretty salesgirl. I told her what I was looking for (matching tops and skirts, which I prefer for teaching). No, we don't have that. Well, can I see what you do have? She showed me a few skirts and some tops that were not anything like what I wanted. I picked up a much more conservative, pretty top, and asked to try it on in size 3 or 4. No, we only have size 1 and 2. Nothing "big" in that style.

Well, what DO you have in size 3 or 4? "I don't know." Well, what about in dresses? I picked out a few nice ones. "No, we only have that in small," she told me. She did find one dress that was big enough to fit that was pretty, and I bought it despite her attitude because it fit perfectly.

I wear a size 8 in the USA, so although I am not small, I am not large either. I asked her where tango dancers who are bigger go, because not all the Argentine women are teeny, skinny folk like her. She shrugged and walked off. "You will have to look around." No *^#%. That's what I have been doing.

I am not going back there. Ever.

Neotango

  • Sarmiento 1938
  • 10:30 am - 7 PM Monday-Friday; 11 am - 4 PM Saturday

I went back to Neotango to tell the ladies what had happened. and tried on the clothing that had seemed too small before. I found a lovely dress that I bought. It was a bit over my budget, but I appreciate their smiling, cheerful help. What other store would have suggested other stores? Nice people.

 

More sightseeing in Buenos Aires

Recoleta Cemetary

  • Address: Junin 1760
  • Hours: 8 am to 6 PM (each website said something slightly different, but this is close)

I don't know why I like this place so much, but I tend to go every time I am in Buenos Aires. It was beautiful on Sunday. I went early, so there were almost no people. Just beautiful. It did seem strange to be walking around in 90 degree weather, listening to the churchgoers singing Christmas hymns. I have spent three Decembers in Buenos Aires, and I am still not used to Christmas being in summer.

20151213_125356.jpg

 

Centro Cultural Kirchner

Entrada: Free.

Hours: 2-8 PM Thursday-Sunday.

Tours: Thursdays 3-6 PM, every half hour; Fri-Sun. 2:15-6 PM, every 15 minutes. The tour takes about one hour. There seem to be huge numbers of workers available to direct you to get tickets, find the bathroom, follow the tour, try to answer questions, and lurk in groups in corners.

My friend, Silvana, and I met at the new cultural center. It was the central post office for 90 years, and just opened this year as a cultural center. All the activities are free to the public, so check out the website to plan when you want to go. It's pretty impressive. It was worth going on the guided tour, so I suggest doing that.

 

The building is on the historical buildings register, so they returned it to its former beauty. It reminds me of East Coast train stations: beautiful windows, marble, wood, careful craftsmanship.


The back section, ten floors high, has been gutted, and completely remodeled. Suspended in the center is La Ballena Azul (The Blue Whale), a state-of-the-art concert hall with incredible acoustics. It is so large that I couldn't find a way to photograph all of it from where we were allowed to go.

This next picture shows how large this building really is. The bluish structure at the top is called La Lampera (The Lantern), and houses an art gallery. The large mesh thing below it, is the outside of La Ballena Azul. This inside is the photo above this.

 

You can get free tickets online for concerts, according to our guide. Three disgruntled tour participants told the tour guide that they were unable to do so. Tip from the guide: when you can't get tickets online, come down the day of the concert, stand in line, and pick up tickets that people have not claimed. Apparently, there are always unclaimed tickets.

 

Good restaurant in Puerto Madera: La Parolaccia

 

  • Address: Pierina Dealessi 260
  • Salad with seafood on top (146 pesos), Caesar salad with chicken (125 pesos), 2 coffees & table setting charge: 400ish pesos

We were starving by the time that we finished going through the cultural center, so we headed to nearby Puerto Madero to eat. This is NOT my part of town: our lunch cost what a steak, salad and glass of wine cost in Almagro. However, it was air-conditioned on a very hot day; and although I couldn't eat most of the food because it is an Italian restaurant specializing in pastas, other people's food looked marvelous. The assortment of breads that I couldn't eat looked marvelous, and Silvan said the flatbread was still hot when it came to the table. The waiter was bored, as it was after the usual lunch hour, and chatted with us. He brought us complementary limoncellos, perhaps because we were so friendly? Ah, it's fun to be female in Buenos Aires :-)

Puerto Madero was being built back in the late 90s when I started coming to Buenos Aires. It is so strange to me to see tons of ritzy hotels, huge skyscrapers and restaurants, a yacht club, etc., where it was abandoned land. I agree with Silvana that it's not right that the coast area does not belong to all of the people, but instead is private property.


La Marshall: relaxed milonga and great performance!

  • Riobamba 416
  • Entrada: 80 pesos (including the lesson)
  • Bottle of water: 28 pesos

"Celebrating 12 years of the milonga. Dance performance by Augusto Balizano & Claudio González."

La Marshall is one of the gay milongas. There is a mix of young gay men, older women in couples, and people who like to switch lead and follow. Note to the Portlanders: the Lumbersexual style has hit Buenos Aires, but I only saw it at La Marshall: full beards, suspenders, work jeans and checked shirts!

The dance performance was FABULOUS! Two excellent dancers, good choreography, and very touching as a theatre piece. Two seemingly old guys, shuffle out on stage, take quite a while to adjust themselves, figure out who is leading, etc., and then dance a tango in the grotesque tradition: moves just slightly out of control or staggering, catching themselves at the last minute from falling, etc. I know how hard it is to dance like stiff old men when you are a good dancer, so this was impressive.

THEN, when I thought it was over, they played a romantic song that several of the guys (the lumbersexuals) next to me sang along to, with a chorus about remembering a year of love. While the music played, the dancers took most of their clothing off, wiped the old-guy makeup off, and put stretchy muscle tees on.

And THEN they danced an incredible, acrobatic duet. WOW. Lifts, boleos, lightening fast turns. WOW. As a dancer, I know how much work went into that choreography. It looked seamless, beautiful, and muscular at the same time. It didn't seem just sewn together like a lot of tango performances do to me. I'll just keep saying WOW.

 

Why are all the Tshirts here in English?

Looking for a shirt in Spanish...

OK, a few shirts I saw today were in Spanish, but most were in English. Some examples:

  1. Love me!
  2. It's only Rock 'N Roll but I like it
  3. Brooklyn
  4. Married to the mob

And the winner is...

And my favorite today? Standing in a bank line a full block long:

IN [blank space] WE TRUST

I think that just about sums up what Argentines have told me about life here. Especially with a change in government coming, there is a gallows humor about the economic situation that makes this the perfect shirt for today.

Perhaps problems are just more open here

Bank Lines

With the four-day weekend/holiday, everyone was out of pesos by today. The banks were out of pesos on the weekend, and everyone was desperate to get cash. There were waiting lines at all the banks and places that changed money. In fact, some places weren't marked as cambios, but the lines outside gave them away.

We don't have an unofficial exchange rate in the USA, so I'm not sure what this could correspond to. It reminds me of the lines at gas stations in the 70s, and only being able to fill our car with gas on odd-numbered days. I was really little, but that memory has stuck in my head.

Police

Last night on the way to the milonga in the rain, I passed a circle of policemen, surrounding an older man who was on his knees on the ground. At first, I wondered if he was ill, It was not clear at all what was going on, but everyone passed the scene as if nothing was happening. It felt really scary to me.

One taxi driver told me that the police just help the mafia, and that he had been threatened at the airport to leave a certain area by the police and the mafia.  He said, "The police are supposed to provide public safety, not mafia safety." As I walked away, I kept worrying about the guy on the ground. You don't need seven policemen to deal with one person.

As is obvious by what has been happening in the United States with the police, perhaps here there is just a wider swath of the population who distrust the motives of "public safety" officers. Here, it's probably going to be a long time before police have car or visor cameras.

Crony-ism

According to a friend, the day that Macri won, the stock in one of his friend's companies rose by 8%, and the other stocks declined about 10%. "Everyone knows who is going to benefit from this government," he said. "The people already knew it on the day Macri won."

But this happens in the USA as well, whether we are willing to admit it. If (goddess forbid) Trump becomes the next president, I could see exactly the same scenario happening all over the place. Of course, I'll be moving to Canada (it's going to be crowded).

 

I think I know what a sardine feels like now

I spent the day rushing around, trying to get too many things done. On the way home, I squeezed into a subway train at the first stop from the terminus. Each stop, more people shoved into the car. Each stop, someone with a loudspeaker had to ask people to let the doors close; each stop, there were people left on the platform who couldn't get in. At one, the announcement happened three times, and someone called, "Attack them!" and everyone in the car chuckled. It is interesting to be surrounded by people, pressed MUCH tighter together than couples on the dance floor, buttocks to other people's fronts/sides/backs/handbags/shopping--and to politely ignore that we are all packed like sardines into this metal box. It was really a relief to fight my way out of the car and get back up into (relatively) fresh air.

Most of this trip, I have walked places. I find that it helps me remember my geography better. I also feel better when I absorb sun. When I am running late, I'll hop into a taxi to get the rest of the way to where I am going if traffic is good. I have been avoiding the buses because most of the time, they don't go all that much faster than walking! The subway is my choice for public transportation if possible because there is so much street traffic that the buses idle in place, with sweating people mopping their brows inside.

I can see why I did not play tourist the first six times I visited Buenos Aires: I am just too tired sometimes to go dancing. Before, if you had given me the choice, I would have stared at you. Of COURSE dancing comes first! However, since I am trying to organize everything I will need for bringing people with me next year, I am spending a lot of time looking at tango hostels, hotels and apartments. I am spending a lot of time doing cultural/touristy things that I should have done before; and I am dancing a lot less.

Right now, I am supposed to be at La Milonguita, a milonga I LOVE, but I never managed to eat today after an early breakfast, so I am eating now. Also, I promised to call my son, and right after school is great for him, but means I miss out on getting to early milongas on time.

Part of why I am late, is that there was a huge demonstration/gathering to hear the outgoing president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, give a speech. On the TV, I could see probably thousands (maybe hundreds) of people jumping up and down, waving flags, chanting, etc. CFK was already speaking when I got home. I watched a bit, fielded a call from my son, and then watched the end of her speech. She was losing her voice by that time.

My hostess was watching the speech, and consequently probably arrived late for the class she teaches. As she got up to leave, I said we would never have this in the USA, that this seemed more like a telenovela than politics--an impassioned speech basically admonishing everyone to take responsibility on themselves for the nation, implying very strongly that a. she will be back in four years ("I am listening to you, I will always listen to you, etc." and b. that the incoming government will be awful--she laughed. She said that, unless one understands the entire history of Argentina, that this speech would seem overly dramatic. Also, we would need to know all of Argentine history to understand that CFK is not a psycho. My hostess seemed very moved by the speech. "We are very Italian," she shrugged. On the other hand, we have Donald Trump doing pretty much the male imitation of what I just saw, so maybe I should not be so shocked.