- 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 super–classic.
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:
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
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. “
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)
What more can we tell you of Buenos Aires?
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.