After spending the previous evening mourning the loss of my camera, today I thought it best just to carry on. We spent the day retracing some of our steps, and me getting used to a new camera. We went straight back to Plaza de Mayo and the downtown area (carrying the backpack in front, not behind me) and back to the Casa Rosada.
Tango runs this city. It is the money maker and the motivator. It is used to sell anything and everything. And if tango is the heart and soul of Buenos Aires, then Carlos Gardel is the voice and face of tango. After the Plaza de Mayo we walked into the neighborhood where Carlos Gardel grew up and where his old home, now a museum, is located. It is not a touristy part of the city, which now makes me feel more comfortable than the busy tourist streets.
Gardel’s museum was closed but the area surrounding it is practically a shrine to him. We passed many buildings with his likeness painted on the side and a statue in his honor. The streets around his home are very colorful, some buildings painted with his likeness and music notes.
My sister stopped to purchase some tango clothes, while I found some of the shop windows very entertaining.
More tango for this afternoon as we headed to the Confiteria Ideal, where they have a dance at three. Unfortunately it is every day but tues, so we had to be content with lunch and no dancing. Two more repeats, the Café Tortoni and the National Tango Museum and Academy. Alas, the photos are not the same, but we had a good day.
Back to the hotel to rest until the evening activities, dinner and a show/dance at 11 pm.
Our last evening in Buenos Aires began with dinner at Don Julio’s, just two blocks from our hotel. Don Julio’s is listed in just about every guide book as one of the best restaurants in Buenos Aires, especially known for steaks, but they had good vegetarian options as well. The wine list was extensive, with very good reasonably priced wines by the glass. We had an excellent glass of Malbec for 35 Argentine Pesos, around $3.50. The service was speedy and professional (not always the case in Argentina), and the atmosphere was friendly. We sat down to dinner at 10 pm.
After dinner at Don Julio’s we walked to one of the top rated Buenos Aires milongas, Salon Canning. My sister had danced here the night before and reserved a table for us for tonight because one of her favorite tango bands, Color Tango, was scheduled to play. The cover charge for the night was $6 each. This was only my second milonga experience, the first being the Sunday night milonga in San Telmo’s Plaza Dorrego.
I’m learning quite a bit about tango on this trip, despite not being a dancer. It is my sister’s passion, so I’m along for the ride in this respect. The dance is fun to watch, and since a lot of the action is in the feet, it is a good excuse to watch for beautiful shoes. According to my sister, tango in Argentina is all about the embrace, while in North America, it’s all about the steps.
The dance started at 11 pm. You can see how tango fuels the economy here. It brings in tourists and locals alike to the tango classes, dances and shows, and supports the shoe, clothing and trinket industry. We saw many groups of tourists from all over the globe. The place was packed on a Tuesday night, always a popular night. The band didn’t start until 2 pm, but they really were wonderful, and so much better than the recorded music. I thought Lonely Planet put it best when they wrote, “…as the beat up sound system plays tango classics.”
Due to an early flight at 10:20 the next day (that is early for Argentina) we left the dance at 2:30 am. My sister got her one last Buenos Aires dance in, although not the last milonga for the trip as they do have some in Mendoza as well. As we passed Don Julio’s on our way back to the hotel at 2:30 am, patrons were still relaxing at the tables.
As a non-dancing spectator, I enjoyed the outdoor milonga in the historic Plaza Dorrego the best.
NOTES ON BUENOS AIRES
The City: Despite having my camera stolen, I like the city. It is often called The Paris of South America, and we would agree. With a little more money invested into restoration and sidewalk repair, and the removal of the graffiti, it would be as beautiful as any European capital. It is a beautiful city with great parks, historic buildings, churches and a vibrant downtown. Pick-pocketing can happen in any big city and it would be wise not to carry a large camera in any busy city downtown area.
The People: Everyone we had personal contact with was courteous and helpful. The staff at the Bobo Hotel were stellar, and I would highly recommend staying there. The location was good; Palermo is a greener neighborhood than many, within walking distance to many of the popular milongas, and surrounded by trendy restaurants. Every day we saw examples of common courtesy: a young woman on the subte gave up her seat to an elderly man, an older woman gave up her seat to a woman carrying a baby, people stopped to ask if they could translate for us, strangers stopped to warn us about carrying the camera in view. At Don Julio’s when we got our bill, they had not charged us for two glasses of wine we had while waiting for our table. We brought this to their attention and they left to fix the bill. When they returned with the corrected bill, they also brought us two more glasses of wine. When we protested, they smiled and said “for free, for free”.
Dogs: We saw dogs everywhere, all accompanied by their people and being treated well. We also saw the dog walkers in the park, but the maximum number of dogs we saw with one walker was 6. Dogs seem to have a good life style here and are treated as part of the family. Dog boutiques were numerous.
Graffiti: The city’s biggest detraction is the graffiti on the buildings and monuments. My sister was here 7 years ago and noticed a marked increase since then. We saw graffiti on historic buildings, monuments, store fronts, doors, everywhere except the tile mosaics in the subte stations. We spoke with some locals about it and were told that “Americans associate graffiti with gangs, but here it is all political.” Also, there is no consequence for the vandals. If you are caught, there is no fine, and the police will walk right past and do nothing.