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.

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.

 

Food, tango shoes and dancing: who needs more?

Life is GOOD gluten-free

Sintaxis

 

  • Nicaragua 4849
  • Totally gluten-free restaurant, with goodies and bread for carryout

I had scrambled eggs with sundried tomatoes. It came with two (small) slices of bread, and a selection of cheese: swiss, blue, and something else. The breakfast specials are served until noon, and come with a drink. I had a wonderful cafe con leche, my first coffee in over a year. Yum! It didn't look like much food, but I realized after I felt full, that comparing it to traveling in Texas last week was silly: Texas meals were MUCH too large.

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. I have the list of when they are open over the weekend and for the holidays (Monday and Tuesday are holidays), so that I can go back. It's a nice walk from where I am staying, 3-4 km., depending on how lost you get (I took the longer route because I became obsessed with documenting the new bike lanes).

The waiter seemed both surprised and pleased that I wanted his picture, so here he is:

 

El Ateneo

  • Av. Santa Fe 1860
  • Books, books, books!

I love bookstores, but this one takes the cake. You walk in, and you are in an old theatre, and it is FULL OF BOOKS. There are people drinking coffee on the old stage, and guys sipping tea in several of the old boxes near the stage. I love this place. I could have just moved in. Argentines seem to read a lot more than Americans. In seven visits to Buenos Aires, it took me until now to visit, but I plan to go back each visit after this!

 

Comme Il Faut shoes

  • Arenales 1239, staircase 3, Apt. M
  • translation: go all the way down this little street-like area, take the 3rd staircase on left, and go upstairs

I had never visited the store before, as I don't wear Comme Il Faut. However, a few friends asked for shoes, so I went to get shoes for them. It's a beautiful building.

 

 

I would say they were very friendly, but they were very business-like. I gave them my list, they found shoes in the right size, with the right height heel. They didn't have the colors that my friends wanted, but other shoes were suggested and bought. They ARE very Losshoes. If they came in wide enough styles for me, I might even get some; but my heart belongs to Neotango.

 

My feet hurt, but I'm happy

Milonga de los Consagrados

  • Centro Leonesa, Humberto Primo 1462
  • Saturdays at 4:30 PM
  • Entrada 60 pesos (does not include a drink)

I went to Los Consagrados because I agreed to meet people I knew for dinner afterwards. My hostess thought I was crazy to go there (pretty far, and most of the folks are older than I am). I had a great time: I danced for 5 1/2 hours without stopping. Each time I tried to stop, someone came up to my table to cabeceo me. In the end, I had to leave the room, put on my street shoes, and wait for my friends. I was just too tired to keep dancing.

I danced four tandas with a guy who finally confessed to 10 years of training and a certificate from the Dinzel's training school. Fabulous! We did tango, then milonga, then vals, then more milonga: heavenly! He made the entire evening for me. I wish I could remember his name. I hope his girlfriend isn't mad at me for hogging him.

I also got to dance chacarera with a good dancer. It was put in a tanda with paso doble, which I faked my way through. I did the tropical tanda (2 cumbias and a merengue) with a guy who openly told me he was faking it, but we had a blast.

What can I say? Life is good! I need to go to sleep, as it's 1:18 in the morning!

 

 This flowerstand was just beautiful to look at on such a lovely day, so I took a picture of it.   

This flowerstand was just beautiful to look at on such a lovely day, so I took a picture of it.

 


Shoe repair, pedicures, and an easy way to use the bus if you are done walking

Cromo for shoes

After buying shoes the other day, I waited to go to the shoe repair. I had used one I liked last year, but my friends said her prices had doubled (40 to 80 pesos per pair of shoes) for putting suede (cromo) on the bottom of the soles. So, I waited to try out their new guy, who reportedly charges only 50-60 pesos per pair.

No such luck: he is now charging exactly the same price as the other lady. He was fast, efficient, but not friendly. Still, it's useful to have more than one choice:

  1. Ayacucho 284 (the one I used this year)
  2. Sarmiento 1882 (the one I used last year)

Given the prices, I think I'm going to try to find the shoe repair one of my students recommended in Portland: it couldn't cost that much more, could it?

 

Pedicure

I went back to the same place I used last year, Claudio Zapulla Peinados (Ayacucho 57). The same woman did the same fabulous job on my feet. They feel no fear of the razor here: my person at home would never shave that much dead skin off my feet! It cost 100 pesos, up 25 pesos from last year.

 

City buses

Although I have been mostly walking places, I just found an awesome site that replaces the ancient bus map that I carry around: City Buses in Buenos Aires. What used to take 10-15 minutes to look at two different pages, compare bus routes, and then look up the route to figure out what street it went down, took less than a minute online. Yay!

 

Changing prices and Buenos Aires

Despite huge changes in the price of living in the past two years, people are surviving. I have seen fewer street people, and folks seem less upset than last year. The Abasto mall was stuffed with families shopping. The stores alongCorrientes were full. The sidewalks were full. It was great to see so many people out enjoying their city. I walked for about two hours, shopping and strolling to get back into my big city mode (I LOVE Buenos Aires: have I mentioned that recently?).

Many items that used to be cheaper here now seem to cost more than in the United States. For example, I am shopping for a watch, having lost mine a week before coming to Buenos Aires. The cheapest watch I have seen so far cost about $30 US, with most costing $50-500. The self-winding watch I have been coveting at Sears for $150 seemed high, but a woman in a watch shop here quoted me about $400 for that kind of watch. Wow.

Shoes

Shoes have gone up slightly in price. Two years ago, most of the shoes cost about $110. Last year, they were $140ish. Today, I paid between $130 and $150something a pair. However, some stores have posted very good prices for paying in dollars (either 4.84 pesos to the dollar officially, or up to 6 pesos, which is almost up to the "alternative" money market price), so it makes sense to bring cash.

I bought shoes at Artesanal (Jean Jaures 465) and Neotango (Sarmiento 1938).

SAM_0618

Artesanal has a new shop, but it's only about a block away from where it was before: right near the Abasto subte stop. The woman there is friendly and truly awesome about finding shoes for people who are not in the shop. Bring her the outline of a foot, and she has never failed me yet (cross your fingers!) in finding shoes that will fit that person well. The stock is small, but the shoes are well-made and last a long time.

Artesanal_1

At Neotango, the folks recognized me. I was surprised that they remembered, although between us, Gayle and I probably bought ten pairs of shoes there last year (or more). What nice people! They deal all day with uppity shoppers, and still smile. There was a very rude lady complaining that they had told her the wrong price and needed to speak more clearly (she didn't speak Spanish), and they were very nice to her. Nice salespeople go a long way with me.

Stay tuned for the new shoe repair place. I am told it's much more reasonable in price than last year's place, but I haven't been there yet.

 

Clothing

I stopped by Tango Imagin (Tomas de Anchorena 606). The people who run it also make the clothing, so they are very helpful about fabric, colors, etc. Also, if you have time, they can custom-make stuff for you and/or alter the clothing in the store. I had planned to buy something there this year, but none of the halter tops were available in a 3 that day (let's just say that a size 2 looks like a sausage on me), and the skirts, while very beautiful, didn't flatter my shape. I would check here first if you were looking for performance gear: beautiful, flowy things!

Tango-imagen

 

Right next door to Tango-Imagen is Tango Ocho. I didn't go there this year, but in the past, I have bought a lot of things here. The attitude amongst the sales staff varies from somewhat friendly to completely disinterested. Unlike all the other stores I've been to in Buenos Aires, the shopgirls have no opinions, no ideas to improve your tango image, and don't want to help. On the other hand, there is one man who works there who is wonderful with fitting shoes.

Tango_8

 

 

 

Plaza Bohemia, a lesson, and a shopping frenzy: what a day!

Lesson with Oscar and Georgina

I had my first lesson of the trip today with Oscar Mandagaran and Georgina Vargas. Oscar has been my main teacher since 2000, and Georgina for the past five years. They rock, which is why they are my teachers! At least here I don't have to argue with everyone that they are stage dancers. Here, people know that they dance social dance milonga. Yes, they also dance on the stage, but they are not stage dancers. They are simply the best, in my humble opinion.

For the first time ever, we didn't start by working on my walk! I guess that means I am starting to get there. It's nice to hear your teachers say things like, "Wow! You haven't lost very much in the year since we've seen you! Ok, let's get to work!" instead of "What happened???" which is what they asked last year.

I have quite a list of things I want to accomplish in ten days of lessons, but it's nice when they say I am entering a higher stage of dancing. Yay!

 

Shopping frenzy

Georgina has started her own line of clothing, so I've already spent most of my clothing budget without going to any stores. I have some new skirts; two top/skirt outfits; a new top/pants outfit; and a dress cut down in the back so far that it's almost indecent, in a lovely blue print that I'll wear as soon as I figure out a way to keep it on better.

Don't worry, shoppers! I will still wander through the stores and give you a what's-hot list, but I probably won't buy much more myself.

 

Plaza Bohemia (Alsina 2540)

I used to go to the Friday afternoon dance at Centro Leonesa (Nino Bien). If you remember from last year's blog and the year before, that was always my favorite milonga. It moved, apparently because of the cost of the room rental. Now, it is called Plaza Bohemia, and is at Alsina 2540. Definitely not as high-class in terms of the space, but a lot of the same folks go, so the level is fair.

The price is lower than at Lujos, which cost 35 pesos. This milonga cost 25 (and the water was 12, instead of 14 pesos).

I got there later than I had planned, about 8 PM (it runs from 6 PM until 2 am, but when I left around 11:30, it was starting to thin out). Apart from sitting out a tanda to find the waitress and get water, I danced the entire time. I got a nice spot at a front table. It did not let me see behind me, but I had a good view of the rest of the room.

The music was really good, a nice mix of 1930s and 1940s music, but a tanda of Pugliese cleared the floor. Age-wise, I was probably almost the youngest person there, but there was a mix of middle-aged and elderly folks. I have seen many of the same people at Salon Canning in the afternoons. If you want to do the "scene" for tango, this is NOT the place. If you want to just go and dance, with none of the "Here's my card, I teach tango" or the "Hey, Baby!" comments, this is a good place.

 

 

 

 

Bits and pieces that haven't fit in anywhere

Good massage place

Marta Rey does reflexology, massage, facials, moxibustion, etc., and has those strange but very nice Korean massage beds that roll your spine for you. I tried it once, and Gayle is back getting everything loosened up for the flight home. Both of us really liked how our backs and feet felt afterwards. Marta speaks some English. You can reach her to set up a time (you will need 2.5-3 hours for the whole works) at 4951-6755; 4953-7223; or 15-4061-3232. All numbers that start with 15- are mobile numbers. The other two are her work phone and her home phone; I am not sure which, but try the first one first. She is at Rivadavia 1966, 3rd floor, Apt. A (in Congreso). We got a deal for being friends of friends, so I am not sure of the price, but I think it's around 120ish pesos. Tipping is nice.

Good pedicure and hair place

Claudio Zappulla, Ayacucho 57 (also in Congreso) was hopping when we went in to schedule pedicures: we had to wait two days! Some friends get their hair done here, too, and vouch for the stylists. I don't know if they speak English, but the pedicure person did not. They aren't afraid to remove callus here. If you haven't had a pedicure outside the USA, don't panic when they start shaving callus off (last year, at another place, the girl broke open a disposable razor and used a blade from it; at this place, at least they have the right tools!). The little sander-like tool made everything supersmooth, but I'm very ticklish, so it was a bit of a torture for me. However, my feet felt GREAT afterwards. I think it was 75 pesos for the most thorough pedicure I've ever had. Telephone: 4953-6584.

Nice leather products

We wandered into a few leather stores, as my handbag started to disintegrate a week into our stay (it's "Ecoleather" aka vinyl). Camila Cueros, Lavalle 741, had pushy salespeople, but very good quality leather. The prices seemed high to me because I don't buy leather in the USA, but Gayle assured me that the prices were really good deals, compared to prices at home.

Good ice cream

Cadore Gelato Artigianale, Av. Corrientes 1695. I already mentioned this place last year, but I went back. I REALLY like their gelato!

Shoe repair

I think I already said this, but I'll put it here, too. Sarmiento 1882, half a block away from Neotango Shoes. They can get stuff done fast: they put croma on Gayle's shoes between yesterday afternoon and 9 am today. Fast, good service and repair.

My new favorite clothing store for tango: Tango-Imagin

Tango-Imagen Anchorena 606, tel,. 4864-3847, email: jazmin.tangoimagen@gmail.com, is next to Tango 8, and I hadn't seen it before. However, the nice ladies at Susana Artesanal steered us that way after we couldn't find what we wanted at their store. What a nice place (both). At Tango-Imagen, three people do the cutting and sewing and selling, so they know the fabrics, they know what they have, and they can take special orders. They have a mix of performance stuff, going out to dance clothing, and practice clothing.

The man who helped us makes most of the pants they sell, but he was able to look at how one outfit fit Gayle and suggest another one because the fabric was stretchier. It only came in one size fits all, but that stretchier one was perfect, and she bought it. Pretty designs, nice fabrics--how can you lose? Check them out! Buy their clothing!

Favorite seafood restaurant

La Gran Taberna, Combate de los Pozos 95 (esq. Hipolito Yrigoyen), has things from quite cheap to very expensive. We went on the less expensive side, and stuffed ourselves. What I really like about this place: the waiter took our order, and then said, "Look, that's too much food for the two of you. What if you share one order of the fish, along with your salad and sauted asparagus?" Where else would they suggest you order less of the most expensive part of your meal? Also, we ordered two glasses of wine, and the waiter brought us a bottle: he said that, if we shared a third glass of wine, it would be the same price as the whole bottle. Now that is service! We helped the waiters with their English homework, too. They have a second door on Combate de los Pozos that is their take-out service. Yum! Reservations: 4951-7586.

Slightly cheaper, nice place

Puenta Cuore Restaurant, Rivadavia and Ayacucho (in Congreso), had nice salads. I had an excellent merluza (fish) and steamed veggie meal. Gayle had yummy pasta. The restaurant is on a corner, and it was fun to people watch. The waiter was attentive.

Vegetarian possibilities

There are a lot more vegetables in restaurants than ten years ago. Also, I found three vegetarian restaurants in the area between Lavalle and Corrientes; between Callao and Junin. I didn't try any of them. Sorry, Geofrey! I know you wanted more information.

Gluten and life in Bs As

If you don't eat gluten, eating out is almost impossible if you are also a vegetarian. I opted for eating more meat than usual, and went off my gluten-free lifestyle. Thank goodness I'm not allergic! Many people said they had heard that some people can't eat gluten, but I didn't meet anyone who said they were gluten-intolerant or allergic to gluten. They don't eat in restaurants here, I bet!

Miscellaneous thoughts

1. Song I don't have that I wish I had bought: Di Sarli's Volver a Sonar. At least that's what the DJ Sunday at Canning wrote down for me. Hey, I still have a few hours!

2.  Our taxi driver one night would need to change his name to emigrate to the USA: on the placard showing his license, etc., it claimed that his last name was Moron. I kid you not.

3.  I think American milongas would be better if we kept the idea of a set or two of something different, interpersed during the evening. I love having a chacarera set and a set of "tropical" (cumbia, salsa, merengue) during the evening to relax my body, take a break from concentrating, and enjoy the other dances that I love. I would accept a set of "rock 'n roll" as long as it wasn't all Dixieland jazz (a bit overplayed here) or Elvis (don't get me wrong: I love him, but too much is too much).

 

Street fairs: San Telmo, Recoleta, and the non-existent Plaza Italia fair

After seventeen years in Eugene, I feel pretty much "done" with Saturday Market artesanal fair and street fairs in general. However, on a sunny day, wandering around the city by perusing blocks and blocks of street vendors is a nice way to spend some time.

San Telmo

Our first Sunday was sunny and warm: perfect for going to the street fair.The fair is a combination of artesanal objects for sale (clothing, jewelry, art), antiques, tourist gear (magnets, Tshirts, tango CDs)  and made-in-China things sold by Bolivians.

I didn't end up buying anything, but Gayle had a lot of fun with artwork. In fact, we had an epic search for a bank machine, as the only one I knew in the area (at Plaza de Mayo) was down for repairs. Even the sellers had no idea where to go for money, as they didn't live in the area. In the end, we identified several in walking distance of the fair with help from Gayle's iPhone; got money; and made several artists happy.

My favorite was Oscar Divito, from whom Gayle bought a beautiful painting (acrylic on canvas). Check out his work on his link. Warmhearted, gracious, nice person AND art. He is usually at Defensa and Alsina (a bit towards the Casa Rosada from Alsina).

This street fair is huge compared to ten years ago: it used to stretch a few blocks in all directions from Plaza Dorrego at Defensa and Humberto Primo. Now, it starts at Defensa where it meets the Plaza de Mayo in front of the Casa Rosada (the equivalent of the White House, but it's pink), and continues all the way to Plaza Dorrego. Wow!

SAM_0517

Recoleta

Recoleta street fair is at Plaza Francia: it's not actually on a street. Instead, booths are set on winding paths starting in front of Recoleta Cemetary and stretching down the hill. This fair reminds me a lot of Saturday Market in Portland and Eugene: there were Brazilian drummers, a smell of pot, hippie girls, etc.

The offerings are similar to Saturday Market, too. I saw a LOT of crocheted tops, leather handbags, ceramic mugs and jewelry. However, there were some very beautiful handcrafts. The most beautiful were the handcrafted marionettes, which I would have bought to take home if I had had any money left by that time; after the bank search the weekend before, I didn't want to repeat the forced march around the neighborhood.

Sublime Cueros had a nice selection of leather boxes and knickknacks. They also very fun jewelry boxes shaped like mini chests of drawers in bright colors. Pretty! There were many other leather workers as well.

Recoleta

Recoletastreetfair

Plaza Italia

Ten years ago, Plaza Italia had a big street fair. I hadn't checked it out for ten years, so we hopped in a taxi and went across town to check it out. The other street fairs have decimated the population of this fair. Can you call something a street fair when there are only ten booths, and only five are populated? Very disappointing.

There is a street fair here, but it is only used books. If you are interested in used books, you could probably spend all afternoon wandering through the booths. It strikes me as much smaller than the book fair along the Seine in Paris, and it is not nearly as picturesque. However, if you want used books, there they are. Personally, I would choose to hit the used bookstores around the Corrientes and Callao area.

My friend Alejandro from college recommended a huge bookstore, El Ateneo for my buying pleasure, but as I found out about it Saturday night, and it was closed Sunday, and Monday was a holiday, I don't think I'm going to make it over there today :-(

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Five and Six: Shopping!

Monday was an orgy of shopping. First, we went to Tango 8 (Lavalle 3101 near the Abasto). I think we tried on 10% of the store!

Tango 8 does not organize by size at all. Much of the tango clothing available here is "one size fits all" and the assumption is that stretchy fabric will accommodate to your body. Most of the clothes were divided into skirts, dresses, tops--but that was it. There was one section of plus sizes that was not there in 2010. I found that many of the clothes "fit" for here in Buenos Aires, but would be considered revealing in the United States. Also, I've learned to look at how great silver snakeskin lycra looks on me--and not to buy it.

The service is almost non-existent, despite the fact that we went early and had the shop to ourselves most of the time. in fact, the salesgirls stood at the counter and watched from a distance while we waded through all the clothes.

We made an appointment at Asignatura Pendiente (Corrientes y Junin). They no longer have a shop, but instead have a showroom where they can concentrate on clients one at a time. I don't think that made it more efficient for us, since we ending up trying on a LOT more clothes that way. We both found some nice clothes, and they are well-made and pretty. At the end, we spent an hour trying to see if my credit card had gone through because their machine acted up, and they couldn't get any technical support to address the problem. In the end, we left with the understanding that, if it had not gone through, they would call me and I would pay them in cash. A very frustrating experience, but I can't think of any business at home that would have trusted a complete stranger to give them email and check back later on $150 of clothing. Nice folks.

Neotango (Sarmiento 1938), visit #2 (or is it #3?). I went to buy shoes for my sweetie and amused the salesman by trying them on because we wear almost the same size. In the end, I bought two sizes and I'll sell the other pair. Same as the their shoes for women, I think these are well-made. The cost is the same, and I'm sure these take a lot more leather; perhaps the difference is in time to make the fancy strappy shoes?

Shoe repair (Sarmiento 1882): How convenient that the shoe repair place is a block from Neotango! We can buy shoes, drop them at the shoe repair to put suede on the bottoms, and go out for coffee, all in one block!

Euro Records (Lavalle 2039, piso 1) is also the home of the Buenos Aires Tango Club, a non-profit dedicated to the preservation and diffusion of traditional tango music. I got a tip from a British dancer who had been there when I told him that I couldn't locate Donato and Lomuto CDs in the stores. WOW! The music historian who runs it knows so much about the music, the orchestras, the history of each disc. His helper runs the computer side of things and also speaks English. I hadn't meant to buy any discs, but I bought five or six: Lomuto, Donato, Rodio, Buzon . . . I had to stop. If you are going to buy music, check this place out. They are open 12-6 Monday-Friday. It has a poorly marked door with a buzzer, and all you can see is a security door and stairs, but you are in the right place.

 

 

Day three: Shopping, dancing and cab drivers

Shopping

Today we wandered over to Zival's (Corrientes y Callao). I wanted "Noche de Cabaret" with Varela's orchestra, which I found on a nice double CD. Gayle wanted Donato's "El Gato" milonga, which was not there. The guy at the information counter said, "It's not our fault we don't have it! If it isn't produced, it's not available." I already had the Donato CD that was there, and so did Gayle. No Lomuto at all :-(  We agreed today was not the day to browse in the store: we will save that for a rainy day when we have nothing to do.

We dropped our shoes off at the shoe repair to get cromo (suede) on the soles on two pair a piece. I have some plain and some with cromo, so if I go somewhere where the floor is sticky, I take leather soles, and for slippery floors, cromo. We will get them back by Tuesday, which is way better than the place I found last year that took a week. I forgot to photograph them before they were dropped off, but I promise to do that ASAP Tuesday.

Grr...I wrote six more paragraphs, and the internet went down when I pressed save.  Grr.

I bought practice shoes at Fabio Shoes for leading. My old men's ballroom shoes have finally worn through the leather after about fifteen years of use. These have a Cuban-style heel, but a bit higher than a man's Cuban heel. I am not sure if I like them; I may sell them. I am so used to using men's shoes for leading, that these seem a little frivolous!

Dancing

Tonight we went to Cachirulo, but in a new location. Last year, it was a short shot down Corrientes to get to Maipu. Now, it's a twenty-minute taxi ride (30 pesos) to the Villa Malcom Sports Club (Cordoba 5064). Since it was pouring rain, we abandoned our walk to the subte and grabbed a taxi.

When we arrived, the ration of men to women was perhaps 1:15 or 1:20, and it did not improve much. We were seated in the second row and on the end, where it was almost impossible to see the men for cabeceo. Given those odds, it's probably a miracle that we each danced six or seven tandas. There were a lot of women who we never saw get on the dance floor, and who left early, only to be replaced with more women.

The level of dancing was higher than at Nino Bien or Entre Tango y Tango. It wasn't that there were better dancers per se, because a lot of the same guys were at Friday and Saturday dances. However, there were fewer lower-level dancers, both male and female, so the entire room looked good dancing (apart from some scary dresses, but that's another story). The musicality was more evident because the whole room moved better together. A few guys crashed in the middle, but most danced competently in two rows around the outside.

When we left, a guy teased us about leaving early. Gayle decided to give him a hard time back, and made me tell him she had waited all night to dance with him. He promised to dance with us tomorrow, as we are going to the same place. Then, a salsa came on, and I danced in my street shoes right there in the back of the room with him. I needed that! I often play hooky from tango in Bs As and go salsa dancing one night while I'm here (Azucar Club is good).

Cab drivers in Bs As

I am fond of cab drivers here in Buenos Aires. I don't know if they are as well-spoken and educated in other places because I usually walk places or take the bus when I'm out of Portland. Here, get them talking, and watch them go!

On the way to the dance, we got a cab driver who talked about the traffic and how it's changed in the past ten years. On the way back, we hit a gold mine of economic information. It's amazing how commenting on the weather, or the traffic, or the temperature morphs into an interesting discussion.

On the way home, the cabbie sat in front of our destination for about five minutes, still talking about the past twenty years in Argentina. I tried valiantly to keep up the translation for Gayle while listening and converting it to English in my head. Here are the salient points for thought:

  • Because of recent events in Argentine history, Argentines are realists. They don't live in a bubble that is going to explode and make them face reality, as he feels folks do in Europe and the USA.
  • Since so many bad things happened to individuals in Argentina during the dictatorships, everyone knows that you need to work in solidarity with friends and family and other Argentines to fight for rights. He feels that Americans are concerned only with themselves, and can't work together like this because we haven't experienced enough crisis for us to mature yet.
  • With the hyperinflation in the 1980s of 300-400% per month, the current 10-15% is nothing. He said they can get through this with no problem because everyone remembers how much worse it was before.
  • He told us about how money was not circulating at all at one point, and people went to fairs and bartered goods in order to eat. He said only six people had work on his block, and each would get a different product and share, in order to survive.
  • In 2008, the government took steps to inject money into the local economy. He feels that they have been "immunized" to withstand the current global slide, and suggested that if Argentina took a leadership role, we could reduce the global crisis.

I find this impressive, as an "immature" American who does not know statistics for my own country's economic state during my lifetime. It's time to get educated!

Day Two: Shoes!

Thanks for all the comments on FB about what you all want to hear. I've made a list. Alisan gets first dibs because we went shoe shopping. Between the two of us, we bought seven pairs of shoes today.

Neotango (Sarmiento 1938) is near where we are staying, so we went there first. In 2010, they didn't have any shoes that fit me the whole time I was here, so I tried on a bunch and bought two pair (the pewter ones to replace the same ones I had already), and turquoise, which was NOT on my list, but fit perfectly. Last year, shoes cost about 420 pesos a pair. This year? 590 pesos a pair. Oy!

What a clusteryouknowwhat! There were a dozen people all trying to buy shoes at the same time, but then it cleared out and we had the salesman to ourselves. They were helpful and friendly (not the case in 2010). I'm going back before I leave to buy at least one more pair.

Artesanal (Anchorena 537) near the Abasto, appeared to have fewer shoes than last year, but they said they had merely rearranged the shop. I only found one pair that fit with the heel I prefer: black patent leather with polkadots on the front. I'm not a polkadot girl, but when things fit this well, I go shopping for outfits after I get the shoes! There, Gayle found a pair on sale for 380 pesos, but my new models cost me 620 pesos for the pair; I forget if that was the cash discount or not.

The saleslady remembered me and my quest for shoes for wide feet last year; it's nice to be recognized, even if it's for fat feet.

So, shoes are around $130/pair, instead of $110/pair like last year. Sigh. Perhaps I will buy fewer pair than I had intended.

We are going to photograph our shoes tomorrow, and post them with another round on shopping, so stay tuned! I danced my lesson in my new pewter shoes, and went to the milonga in the turquoise ones. I am going to buy more shoes!!!!!

 

 

Shoes, clothes and shopping in Buenos Aires: the quest

Sometimes, it is simply too hot to shop. That didn't stop me, of course, but it did limit how long I could coax my travel partner out to pound the pavement each day ;-) We were looking for the perfect tango shoes, the perfect tango outfits, and clothes cool enough to wear in 30 degree Celsius weather, with high humidity.

After trips to nine different shoe stores,I had found exactly ONE pair that fit me. Apparently, no one else who dances tango in stiletto heels has a wide foot! Did you know that? In the end, I returned to the shop where I found my new, favorite shoes, and tried on everything they had in the store: I now have two new pairs of favorite shoes that do not resemble any shoes I had on my prospective list when I arrived in Bs As.

I am now the happy owner of a pair of red, metalized "We're not in Kansas anymore" stilettos, and another pair of gold with sparkly animal prints and gold stiletto heels. So much for the all silver vision I had in my head when I entered the first store. I'd like to plug the store where I found both: Artesanal, T. de Anchorena 537, across the street from the Abasto shopping center, Carlos Gardel subte stop. Although I found many well-made shoes, these were REALLY well-made to my eyes; I will let you know how my shoes fare as they age! When you look at her site, remember that most of the shoe places do NOT put pictures of their stiletto heels or their new designs up, because of the constant pirating of designs that goes on.

If you wear lower heels, you will find better prices in Buenos Aires.  Almost all the sale shoes I saw had lower heels in droves. I found two pairs of classy, elegant, lower heeled shoes for a friend (the salesclerk looked at the drawings I had brought of her feet, and said in English, "bunion-friendly!" and ran to the back to find shoes for me to look at). Most of the lower heels cost between 170 pesos (on sale) to 300 pesos (not on sale). Most of the stiletto heels I saw were 400-450 pesos, with a few strange colors on sale for less.

Places that had good shoes/clothes/service:

Artesanal (T. de Anchorena 537, between Corrientes and Lavalle): As I said above, I was impressed with their shoes. They have heels that fit right in the center of your foot, so that your foot is well-supported. Only one pair I tried on did not do that, and they were very willing to have me try another pair of the same size to see if another pair fit better (with hand-made shoes, each pair is different). You can fax them outlines of your foot to help them size shoes for you. I wear a 39 in Comme Il Faut, a 38 in NeoTango, and a 40 in Artensanal. In terms of clothes, they had a sale going, and I bought a very sexy shirt for an excellent price. Buena gente!

Tango8 (Lavalle 3101, down the street from Artesanal): When I walked in, I was prepared to not like this store. It is very slick, with tons of young foreigners ransacking the fashions. However, the choice of clothing is one of the best I've seen, the staff are effective, and the manager found shoes for my friend in under five minutes. Bravo.

Scarpe Mahara (Suipacha 252): I used to buy all my shoes here because they last FOREVER (10 years average, teaching in them almost daily, but alternating pairs). Unfortunately, they have not moved with the times, and they have no stiletto heels, which is what I wear now by choice. For lower heels, they are great and I recommend them. This is a mom- and pop- kind of shop, and they are nice/good people.

Asignatura Pendiente (Corrientes 2176): We accidentally wandered by this shop, and I bought several nice pieces for reasonable prices (at last, a plain black skirt!!!), while my friend bought a lot :-)  The sales personnel were not terribly helpful, but they did help us find right sizes (still a mystery to me, can't find markings on my clothes!). Good prices, interesting fashions; not very many shoes.

Places that I did not like (remember that this is IMHO only):

Darcos Superstore (Sarmiento 835): The shoes have the heel WAY back on the foot, so that it doesn't feel as if it is supporting my foot. Also, the sales personnel were much more interested in chatting with each other than being helpful. All clothing came in one-size-doesn't-fit-most.

Tango Moda: The fashions were pretty, but almost nothing was big enough to fit me (and I usually wear a size 8). They had size 1 and some size 2s, but almost nothing bigger (I usually wear a 4 in Argentine sizes). OK, Americans tend to be big, but there are a lot of Argentine women out there bigger than me: what do they wear?? Hmm? Nice people, great view of the city from the 16th floor, but eh.

TangoLeike (Sarmiento 1947): I bought some dance clothes here, but the sales help were less than friendly (I considered not buying the outfit because of complete disinterest in selling anything). The shoes were pretty, but very narrow and didn't have much in my size (purple polkadot was NOT an option, sorry). Kinda rude.

In the middle or ??:

Neotango (Sarmiento 1938): I have three pairs of Neotango shoes that I love. I had already selected the colors and models that I was going to buy, before I got to the shop. However, the staff were not terribly helpful, and there seemed to be no shoes in my size available (I went back right before I left to try again, but no go). I did hear that one of the shoe makers was in the hospital, so perhaps the lack of shoes sizes was an aberration. The staff could be a bit more respectful and helpful. Frustrating.

Alana's (Av. Diagonal Norte 936): Closed both times I tried to visit the store. It's small, and didn't look like there were many interesting shoes, but it would have been nice to try some on.

Todo Tango (Suipacha 245): Nothing fit, but the salesperson was nice and helpful, without being pushy.

Tacondando (Arenales 1606): I didn't get to this store. Their stuff looks pretty, but I can't tell you the quality level; sorry!

Comme Il Faut (Arenales 1239): I don't like how Comme Il Faut fit my feet (the heel is way back, so it doesn't support my foot the way I like). We didn't go there, since we can always check out their new fashions here in the USA with Carrie.

We also went to two more shoes shops on Suipacha, but the names escape me. There were nice sales folk, but none of the shoes fit the way I like (again, the heel was further back like Comme Il Fauts).