Posts from the ‘Argentina’ category

One Last Tango in Buenos Aires

Today’s Itinerary:

  • learn whether we can see Boca Juniors play in a local futbol derby
  • visit the strange world of Tierra Santa
  • find a hidden restaurant for a secret dinner
  • experience the passion of the Tango, first-hand

Today, February 14th, is Valentine’s Day.

We’ll be celebrating it with a night of passion and fire, but after a long night of partying in Buenos Aires last night, the last thing we feel this morning is any fire in our bellies.

And although our timing wonderfully coincides with the traditional day of romance and passions, in some respects it is also a little unfortunate.

One of the big highlights of any trip to Buenos Aires is seeing and sharing in the passion that they have for futbol (football to the Europeans, soccer to everyone else) – especially when Boca Juniors are playing River Plate in a local derby.

Yet ‘local derby’ is understating the matter, just a little. A better term might be the word given to these matches by the Argentinians themselves – Superclásico. Not just a derby, but a classic. Not just a classic, but a superclassic.

Why is the rivalry so intense between Boca Juniors and River Plate?

Although both clubs originated in La Boca, a working class dockside barrio in Buenos Aires, River Plate later moved on from these humble origins to a district of greater affluence. Since then, Boca Junions have been the team of the working class, and River Plate are disparagingly know as Los Millionarios.

Sadly for us the next Superclásico isn’t until May, so we’ll have to content ourselves, for now, with imagining the electricity of the atmosphere on game day. The Observer rated it the number one event in their list of “50 sporting things you must do before you die”, but it’s going to have to go on our list for another time.

If you do happen to be in Buenos Aires in time for a game between Boca Juniors and River Plate, and you’re wondering how to get some tickets, read this entertaining article about how one expat living in Buenos Aires went about procuring theirs.

Other Things To Do In Buenos Aires:

Some other things that we won’t have time to get to see, but that should make any list of things in to do in Buenos Aires;

Learn to Play Polo:

taking Polo lessons just near Buenos Aires, and learning more about this national sport.

Learn to Play Bike Polo:

If Polo atop a horse isn’t really your thing, why not try the cycling version? Read here on What’s Up Buenos Aires about participating in a Bike Polo Tournament.

The enchanting absurdity of Tierra Santa

There are very few theme parks in the world based on a religion. In fact, there are roughly two.

Tierra Santa in Buenos Aires is one of them. Some of the earthly delights of this heavens-gazing attraction are seeing nuns mingle with Roman centurions, an outdated animatronic show about the beginnings of Earth, seeing the toil of plastic Jesus washing feet, and trying to resist the sinful appeal of the waterpark next door.

It’s…pretty tacky. We’re happy to be walking around in the sun after last night, and the park is certainly not very taxing, so for that we’re grateful. As Emily Payne from the Guardian describes in this scene from her hilarious article, it has elements of pathos and unintentional humour;

…there are signs of genuine faith here – rolled-up prayers pushed into the fake Wailing Wall, and candles lit at shrines in the Saints’ Grotto…Afterwards, park-goers clamber up to pose next to plastic Judas.

The highlight of any trip to Tierra Santa is the hourly resurrection of Christ, as the video embedded below demonstrates for everyone playing from home.

 

Make the most of your vacation in Buenos Aires with a personalised itinerary:

If you’d like a personalised itinerary for your vacation (and to make sure you get to see all of the essential things to do in Buenos Aires, unlike us!) make sure you check out TripBod.com.

They offer the invaluable knowledge of local guides composing custom, personalised itineraries for your vacation. Check out Shafik, a local guide for Buenos Aires.

A Secret Dinner, A Hidden Door

As you would expect in a city with cuisines featuring gorgeous wine and a contender for the world’s best steak, Buenos Aires is full of gastronomic opportunity.

There are certainly cafes and restaurants throughout the city that will more than serve as Argentinian dining highlights, but for Valentine’s Day we’re looking for something a little more secretive; just that little bit more personalised.

We’re looking for a puertas cerrada.

These hidden restaurants, located in familial kitchens and dining rooms across the city, pop up and disappear like thieves in the night. Their proprietors, like the owners of a speakeasy, communicate in code and secret messages, gathering their diners together for one-night-only performances of bravura cooking, then scattering them to the wind to await the next clue.

As blow-ins, our chances of stumbling across one of these secret gatherings, of cracking the clues and knocking on the right red door, are slim to none.

Fortunately for us, there’s Google.

A quick search for puertas cerradas will that these secret dining experiences are not so secret anymore. If you can’t gather any inside tips from a local guide like we did, best to consult the oracle.

We found that for a lot of the restaurants mentioned online, whilst very good, they tend towards the more commercial-kitchen end of the scale. Try to ask around, and find a truly ‘hidden’ restaurant.

The Passion of Tango in Buenos Aires

Photo by Paco Romero, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Paco Romero, Licensed under CC.

“Please,

just for me, forget the steps…

Hold me, feel the music, and give me your soul.

Then I can give you mine.”

Night has fallen. We have feasted; dining with companions who were strangers. We all have a gleam in our eyes. On the streets, the air is fresh and the sound of laughter and whispered secrets fills the streets, and in the distance there is the unmistakeable sound of the stamping of heels.

Tonight, we tango.

“When the tango took hold of me, it was as if I had found the ultimate lover. “

Photo by prayitno, Licensed under CC.

Photo by prayitno, Licensed under CC.

We arrive at a milonga, based on recommendations we found on Gringo Buenos Aires (you should also check out  for Tango tours).

We’re in luck tonight. The tourists are very few in number and the community hall feel of the milonga extends to a real feeling of community. The people here tonight dance the tango not because they are paid to, but because they love to do so. On Valentine’s Day, in general a crassly commercial holiday, we’re privileged to witness the dancing of young people in love with one another and with their way of life.

“The last man I danced with, I know more intricately in many ways than his lover: I know that he perspires in a tiny spot above his brow; that when the dance slows and our connection is tight, his breathing almost stops; that when my leg sweeps his, he arches his neck imperceptibly upwards; that when another couple got too close he subconsciously enclosed me in a protective embrace; and that his hand rested so delicately on the flesh of my back.”

Tango, made popular by French sailors who presumably knew passion when they saw it, is a cultural experience that you must experience in Buenos Aires. Feel the passion, and know that you’re truly experiencing life in Argentina.

Prefer to Watch?

If you can’t take the heat and passion (and, admittedly, the hard lessons) of learning to Tango, you can see the professionals in action at El Querandi, a well-respected dinner and tango show.

(Note: quotes above are courtesy of VeryTango.com)

Photo by Luc Viatour, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Luc Viatour, Licensed under CC.

What more can we tell you of Buenos Aires?

We can’t say it better than Robert Elms in the Guardian

Buenos Aires is one of the great American cities precisely because it tells the immigrant story, a place so potently yearning for the lands left behind. And through all its tribulations of military juntas and economic collapse, it has been left behind, missing out on much of the materialism and homogenisation of recent years, therefore preserving an old world charm which has largely vanished back home. It’s as if you’ve travelled back in time to a more stately, much less expensive and extremely alluring outpost of a gracious age. If you’ve come here to learn tango, you’ll do that too. You’ll dance and dance and dance.

Photographing the Streets and History of Buenos Aires

There are some cities that sneak up on you.

When we’re travelling, it’s easy to get lost in the routine and details of logistics – got to be here by eleven, forty-five minutes then the 305 bus to the museum, don’t forget to grab a photo of that monument…this rush to see and experience everything you’ve been told to see and experience leaves you feeling a little like a game hunter bagging trophies on sight.

You own but you don’t understand.

Coming into Buenos Aires, we feel a little like the trophy hunter. We never realised how important Buenos Aires is, how large, how culturally diverse, and how many facets there must be to this ‘trophy’.

So on the way to Buenos Aires from Paraguay, we conduct a quick review of the quite hectic itinerary that had been meticulously mapped out, and free up some space to let Buenos Aires show itself to us.

Today’s Itinerary:

  • be guided by locals around lesser-seen streets for photographic trophies
  • visit the site of Argentina’s inspiring and bloody modern history
  • indulge in the cuisines that Argentina is famous for – wine and steak
  • head off into the good night air of Buenos Aires for late-night celebrations

Trophy Hunting in Buenos Aires

Photo by (M), Licensed under CC.

Photo by (M), Licensed under CC.

Photo by Ignacio, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Ignacio, Licensed under CC.

There are over 3 million people living in Buenos Aires, and over 15 million people living in the greater province that contains this city. With that many people, and this much history, there are sure to be interesting stories to find.

So whilst we are still going to be trekking around the city of Buenos Aires bagging photographic trophies, we’ll be doing it in a much more local fashion, and paying closer attention to the rhythms of this city.

We’ve organised a custom photography tour of Buenos Aires with Foto Ruta. They hold weekly tours that involve puzzles and clues, aimed at making you look at the world a little differently and inspiring your photographic ‘eye’.

As Tim wrote for the BBC;

For example, I joined Foto Ruta for one of their excursions on Halloween weekend, so all the clues had to do with Halloween. By following a clue called “haunted and holy”, I recognized the decaying and eerie characteristics of some of the older buildings in Monserrat (the chosen neighbourhood for this Foto Ruta event) and concentrated on capturing their “haunted” essence.

(Make sure to check out the great articles on Gringo In Buenoes Aires, his very detailed travel blog on Buenos Aires).

Photo by Nicolás Ancheta Curbelo, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Nicolás Ancheta Curbelo, Licensed under CC.

Today we’ve organised a custom tour because we’re in Buenos Aires midweek, and we’ve asked Foto Ruta to show us around the upmarket streets of Palermo.

The barrio (neighbourhood) of Palermo is worth a visit in it’s own right, featuring tree-lined streets, fashionable neighbourhoods, and the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA) containing hundreds of art works from twentieth-century Latin American artists.

Today, however, we’re interested in it for its stories.

Our clues have us scurrying about the streets, brows furrowed, and engaging the locals of Buenos Aires (called porteños for “people of the port”) in our quest. It’s a fun way to meet the people who live in the city, however briefly, and enjoy trying to bridge some of our respective cultural barriers.

Photo by Nicolás Ancheta Curbelo, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Nicolás Ancheta Curbelo, Licensed under CC.

Exploring the City

Although Argentina has a rich cultural history of immigration from European strongholds like Spain and Italy, and the respective architectural and cultural qualities to reflect these origins, its modern history is understood by the rest of the world to be linked to two main people, and to one of them in particular…

Madonna, as she is known worldwide…just kidding.

We all know Evita, even if the political history is a little more hazy than the lyrics to the song from the Evita musical.

We head down to the Plaza de Mayo, the main square in Buenos Aires.

It is in front of the pink house in this square, the Casa Rosado, that the working classes rallied in their hundreds of thousands to demand the release of Juan Perón in 1945. It is from this balcony that Evita rallied the people to the support of her and her husband, and it is from this balcony that the Juan made his last acrimonious public appearances.

The history (and frequently, the blood) of the people of Argentina is soaked into the stones of this square. Chillingly;

the plaza, since 1977, is where the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo have congregated with signs and pictures of desaparecidos, their children, who were subject to forced disappearance by the Argentine military.

But why is it pink?

An Argentinian president ordered it painted so as to symbolise the unification of warring political opponents – whose colours were red and white. Local legend states that the first coat of paint was made by mixing whitewash with blood from a bull.

The Argentinian Experience. Steak.

We’ve had many friends visit Argentina, and there’s one thing they won’t stop talking about.

The steak.

With recommendations from people who been there, and eaten their way across the countryside, this is one item that has to be on our agenda for the day.

The other is Malbec.

Along with Australa, New Zealand, and Chile, Argentinian wine has fought its way into the ranks of new world winemakers who are setting palates aflame in Europe. They’ve even been making Malbec icecream in London.

We head to dinner at The Argentine Experience. Don’t be put off by its initial appearance as a mass-produced tourist attraction featuring bad wine and tough steak. This experience grew out of the passion of four people who wanted to show and tell Argentinian culture, and began doing so in a tiny flat, before outgrowing that venue thanks to its popularity.

We’re in for a guided tour of Argentine cuisine and culture, including making our own empanadas, devouring steaks that have been specially prepared over 24 hours, and sampling some Malbec, then sampling some more Malbec, then sampling some more…did we mention the Malbec is unlimited?

The steak itself is ridiculous. Grass-fed beef is the right choice in general but the taste and texture of this steak, and the care put into its preparation, ranks it as absolutely one of the gastronomic experiences you have to try in life.

Main courses down, and with the table getting more raucous (the Malbec is unlimited, remember) our guides take the time to answer our questions about life in Buenos Aires and Argentina’s past and future, as they show us how to prepare Maté, and fill the last few gaps in our bellies with Dulche de Leche.

Dinner at 9:30, then the party starts at 12!

In Buenos Aires, they eat late. 9:30PM late. So prepare yourself with some snacks in the afternoon if you’re used to an earlier dinnertime – and a cheeky kip wouldn’t go astray either, because things don’t really get moving until around midnight.

Our hosts from The Argentine Experience point us in the direction of some local nightclubs, and wave us off smiling into the “good air” of Buenos Aires.

It’s going to be a good night.

Photo by Tiago Cata, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Tiago Cata, Licensed under CC.