>I sailed on over from Montevideo to Buenos Aires post New Years in what was probably the easiest country hoppin’ I’ve ever pulled off. A couple hours on a luxury boat and you’re smack dab in the middle of the city? Yes, thank you. I had my ears appropriately all filled up with the nuevo tango group, Gotan Project, to get in the mood. Though based in France now, Eduardo Makaroff is an Argentine and their music is ultimately tango with lots of fun stuff like samples, beats, and breaks. Check it out.
This city complete took me up in its wonderfully chaotic whirlwind and although I managed to move on, I think I left my heart and my appetite there. Buenos Aires rocks. A few highlights and thought bubbles follow:
- On a recommendation from my wonderful friend Vanessa Paster I sought out a gem of a restaurant in the Palermo neighborhood, La Cabrera, and enjoyed the best steak dinner of my life. Hands down, amazing. Four of us splurged on two bottles of a fantastic malbec wine, delicious ceasar salad, fries and two huge steaks that only set us back $90. The tenderloin I ordered was served sizzling on a wooden platter, accompanied by a variety of little dishes filled with different delicious things to accompany the steak. Creamy mustard sauce, pears in wine, horseradish, applesauce, bleu cheese, salsa, sauteed onions, mushrooms etc. I wouldn’t ramble on so if this wasn’t the BEST steak of my life. It even beats this kobe steak that previously held that title. Thanks for the recommendation, Nessa. Not to be missed.
- I had the joy of meeting up with a friend from college, Kailani Swenson, while she was in Buenos Aires visiting her sister. Her sister, Tiffany Joy, is an amazing bilingual singer/songwriter whose powerhouse vocals front a local band, and whom I had the pleasure of seeing while I was there. Currently recording a new album titled, ”Real Joy,” Tiffany Joy was a pleasure to see and hear, especially after nothing but constant reggaeton action in Uruguay.
- La Bomba del Tiempo. Is the bomb. This purcussion orchestra puts on an amazing show every monday in the Konex Cultural Center, a huge warehouse with outdoor and indoor spaces and bars selling liter beers. For the show, I met up with Julia Eisen-Meyers and Justin Ford, old friends from Portland who are midway through their 10 month stint in Latin America and were conveniently in Buenos Aires at the same time. Check out their travel blog by clicking here. La Bomba is an amazingly organized drum circle, with a variety of perucussion instruments and a conductor leading the group, as to emphasize ciertain sounds, patterns, cresendos etc. At one point a foxy singer channeling the Pink Ladies of Grease came out and added her wailing vocals to the mix. Badass.
This is short video of La Bomba. Sorry for the poor video quality aka Im drunk.
- Plaza Dorrego, which is located the sketchy-by-night, captivating-by-day barrio of San Telmo, is home to the most extensive and quality antique market I’ve ever had the pleasure meandering through. And by meandering I mean spending all afternoon oggling, touching, trying on and falling in love with precious items from different eras. Oh the joys of travelling solo, it’s hard pressed to find someone who would spend that kind of quality time in outdoor market during midday and midsummer heat. I was limited only by the fact that I had brought a small amount of cash, which ultimately was a blessing, since I spent every peso I had on me. Booths crammed with vintage clothes and lace, gramophines, jewelry, antique glass bottles in every color and size, pocket watches, cigarette tins, compact mirrirs, perfume bottles, fur coats, and trinkets and treasures for every taste, especially mine. I ended up purchasing super practical travel wear: An shimmery asymmetrical one-piece olive green bathing suit with Italian lace crocheted on the side and this divine cocktail hat from the 1940s covered in leaves made of crushed velvet, with a short black veil that covers the eyes and absolutely channels Evita. Super, super practical.
- I always have been slightly (and now am absolutely) obsessed with the aforementioned Evita aka Eva Peròn. Evita served as the beloved First Lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death in 1952. She had a classic rag to riches story; born poor and out of wedlock, she moved to the Big Apple of Buenos Aires at the age of 15 and gradually rose to stardom as an actress. She met and married the Labor Minister Juan Peròn and they scandalized the aristocracy by mixing politics with popular culture – and the people loved it. Evita played a powerful role in winning the hearts of the descamisados, the great working poor of the nation of which she had once been, and getting him elected to presidency. She championed for womens rights, spoke out on behalf of labor rights and won the heart of the greater Argentine population – which apparently she retains today. Her grave in the elite Recoleta Cemetary is still covered in fresh flowers, a museum in her honor is a bustling place, and her beautiful face with its perfectly coifed hair peers down from the walls of shops and restaurants, alongside the Virgen Mary. Evita is called the ”Cinderella of tango and the Sleeping Beauty of Latin America” and her passion, beauty and humanitarianism continues to live on in the hearts of many an Argentine. And in mine.
- Porteños, or people from Buenos Aires, are famously lovers of the night, of passion, tango, music, dance and theater. This city is so vibrant it is actually buzzing – through all hours of the night. But there also seems to be a deep melancholy here, an acknowledgement of unfulfilled potential as they struggle economically, and outside of the tourist areas of this so-called ”Paris of South America” you can see the rough realities of a third world country. A taxi driver explained his perpective to me on the way to a tango performance. He used to own a textile factory but lost it in the economic crisis that hit right before the millenium. Ten years later, he is still driving a cab, but he showed deep insight into the physche of his people as he explained that porteños have a deep inner pain from experiencing varying degrees of struggle. However, this pain turns them out into the night, to release it in the somewhat fantasy worlds of dance, theater, and drink. The passion of Buenos Aires as a byproduct of the struggle. Just watch the face of a tango dancer and see how pleasure and pain are two sides of a very sharp knife.