Now while I usually don’t go back to a city twice in one trip, I made an exception for Buenos Aires. Repeating many of the sights I had seen the first time around, I may have enjoyed the second pass even more as this time I knew my way around, and managed to see even more of this amazing destination.
Of course it goes without saying that I frequented my usual restaurants several times over the weekend, “Serena’s” on Viamonte and Maipu St for the steak, and “Parilla el Carbon” on Independencia and Chacabuco for the empanadas. After going down to the south of Argentina and back, I can still honestly say that these two “hole in the wall” type shops are still my favorite.
The Shopping and Sights
I was also chuffed that as I’m slowly making my way out of the continent, I was able to get some shopping done… Silver lining…
So of course for the shopping I went to San Telmo, my favorite suburb for its weekly Sunday antique fair, stretching over almost 7 blocks of street vendors and artisanal shops. It was a busy day, full of chattering locals and amused tourists meandering through the small cobbled street.
It might have been even more busy had there not been a big local procession on the main street for the Memorial day of Justice and Peace. Large crowds of locals gathered from 9 in the morning to show their support for their heroes of the past, sporting banners and shirts and playing music of all sorts in the street.
I also made a scheduled stop in Rue de Artisans at the “Comme il Faut” boutique for the world’s most renowned tango shows. Tucked away in a pretty little alleyway, it is a little difficult to find, but once there, you’re invited into the showroom for a totally unique shoe-shopping experience. I was a bit confused as there were no rows of shoes on display, no fancy displays of any kind, just a large showroom with floor-to-ceiling mirrors, a large carpet, and comfortable couches. The concept is a personal one, where you let one of the attendants know your size and color/style preferences, after which she brings out 10-15 pairs of shoes for you to try. Incredible…
As the shop was conveniently located a mere 3 blocks from the suburb of Recoleta, I also managed to stop by the famous Pilar Church and Cemetery for a quick visit. The cemetery was large, and quite typical of others I’ve seen in South America, with its large familial headstones and peaceful atmosphere. I guess this one is the most famous as it hosts the remains of Eva Duarte, more famously known as Eva Peron, or Evita.
Apart from returning to Plaza Dorrego for the free street milonga on Sunday, I did see something different this time around. Noticing a gay couple at the plaza, I enquired about the gay scene in Buenos, only to discover that they were having a “Queer Tango” night on Tuesday, subsequently my last night in Argentina. So I went.
Set in a small ballroom complete with a stage for live music, a dance floor, and a modest bar for basic drinks, the night turned out to be casual and fun. The dancers were spectacular, and there was even a midnight show we were not expecting that was riveting to watch.
While considering what to do on my one free day, I was tossing up between going skydiving (even though I’ve been twice, just because it’s cheap there) or doing a gaucho fiesta day at a local estancia. I wound up choosing the estancia, and although touristic, it was a pretty good day.
The estancia of Don Silvano, located some 87km north of the city was tastefully decorated with antique furniture both indoor and out, in the traditional style of the gauchos from the 1800s. With spacious grounds for horse or carriage rides, we were constantly entertained by the numerous exhibitions put on by the team there.
To start, we learned about the concept of the traditional Argentinian mate, a strong tea made and drunk according to specific customs, as well as how to make empanadas and recognize the fillings from the folds on the pastry.
Following this we sat down to a scrumptious asado lunch, complete with all different types of meat and wine, while the dancers and singers entertained. Usually for events such as these the talent is mediocre at best, however I was genuinely impressed with the quality of the performers.
After I had eaten enough to pop a button on my pants, the group was invited outside to the games area, where there was a display of gaucho games demonstrated. This included a slalom race, used originally to test the speed and agility of a horse before purchase, as well as a round-up demo using a lead horse. In the olden days, the gauchos found it was easier to train the herds of horses to follow one dominant horse by attaching a bell on the lead horse. The other horses would simply follow the lead horse, recognizing it by its smell and the sound of the bell.
Finally, the most interesting game was the catching of the ring. Traditionally, at a gaucho fiesta, the women would put a wedding ring inside a larger ring to be hung from a post, and the gauchos would try to spear the ring and win the girl. Of course marriage and commitment is not the way of the gauchos, so this game evolved over time.
The ring is now much smaller, and must be caught with a short stick the size of a large pen. This was so the game became more difficult for the gauchos to win, taking more skill and precision. Also, when they get the ring, they offer it to a lady of their choice, in exchange for a kiss. It was their way of expressing an interest.
If, however, the lady was spoken for, the husband or boyfriend could dispute this offer by stepping forward and kissing the horse instead.
And an interesting story…
I switched hostels this trip, as while I really liked the other, I wanted to try something different. In the new hostel, I met a man with an interesting approach to travelling.
For the last 30 years (he is now 60), Martin has been traveling the world on a bicycle, taking at least one long trip per year. This year, he brought his bicycle from Holland to Buenos Aires, and travelled from there to Bariloche and Salta, then through Bolivia into Paraguay and Uruguay, and was on his way back out of Buenos, having completed 4 and a half months, clocking over 10,000 kilometers.
Quite a story really… makes me think about popping over to Holland on my next trip to join him for a month of travel on a bicycle.