Thursday and Friday in Buenos Aires were just as busy and today, Saturday, we are off on another adventure. Our Spanish lessons continue - and continue to remind me of everything I have forgotten. Clearly we need longer, but a little is better than none and it will inspire me to continue when we return to Oz. On Thursday evening's event was Nuevo Chique in San Jose. Very popular and very warm friendly - and our evening was made special because tonight I met TangoCherie! Any followers of this blog will know that Cherie also has a tango blog - and she writes about Buenos Aires. We had promised each other that we would get together in BA and tonight we did. It was like meeting an old friend - and we had a fabulous night of dancing, talking and drinking champers!! Nuevo Chique also has the best DJ (in BA I am told) and the music was excellent - Golden Age, and some great pieces I haven't heard. The night ended abruptly when the lights went out! And my trusty little torch came into its own.
Friday was a working day! Silver Fox and I spent the day checking out hotels in BA... Travel agents do this sort of thing so they know the hotels personally and can choose the right hotel for their clients! (Not something you can do on the internet!) I go along to take photos and notes and today we visited 7 hotels of all types! Then a Spanish lesson - of course.
A quick kip and we took ourselves off to Confiteria Ideal to catch up with the rest of the group. It is an easy walk from our accommodation and it an amazing tango icon. Dancers of all types take advantage of the marble floor - visiting this venue is a must for every visitor to BA. Later in the evening there would be live music but we knew we wouldn't last that long - and we were on our quest to find good food!
And we did! Earlier in the day we had been in Reconquista and we spotted a number of restaurants, this was one of them. Al Carbon is now on our favourites list. Excellent pasta - I had ravioli stuffed with salmon and trout - Silver Fox had penne with stir fried vegetables and almonds, a delightful bottle of Rose from Mendoza, and a degustation plate of glace local fruits was a superb way to end another great day in BA.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Friday, April 9, 2010
My first Spanish lesson in about 3 years - this morning. It is amazing how much you forget when you attempt to learn a language as an adult and then don't practise it. Of course there are words you don't forget but much that you do, particularly in my case the conjugation of verbs. I will do 10 hours of Spanish while I am here (part of my travel package) and hopefully find a way of maintaining it when I return to Oz, ready for my next visit.
The lesson was punctuated by huge noises of explosions. Common in BA it seems when there is a demonstration on, which seems to be at just about every corner. Rather frightening sound, but apparently harmless!?
Today was a beautiful sunny day in Buenos Aires - temperature between 10 and 21 deg. C so we took a long walk after the lesson and arrived back at our hotel with more CDs (no surprise) and another pair of shoes (not mine this time!)
I had decided to take a local's recommendation of a Spanish restaurant for tonight's meal - mistake no. 1. I am very fond of this person, but I now know that food is not something they know about. It was the worst meal I have had since school lunches! and closely resembled those amorphous plates that were frequently served in school canteens some decades ago. The flavour was similarly bland, salty and bore little resemblance to the way the food was described on the menu! The only up was the little glass of sherry offered at the start of the meal.
A taxi took us to La Garufa (picture) where 2 bands were playing - and I was particularly keen to hear Sexteto Milonguero. An interesting space half open to the outdoors, La Garufa has a high stage, concrete floor and tables around the floor. We arrived in time for the support act - Conjunto Falopa (a band of 4-5 guitars/ukeles and a singer) whose style reminded me of Caceres. Entertaining but not tango.
This meant we had a table when the milonga started...and it was interesting to watch the dancers - local and tourist. One is always nervous at a new milonga and I watched eagerly to see if I felt my stand was up to the locals. But I needn't have worried the standard was various - as it is in Australia - and it was a crowd of every age and stage (my favourite). Sadly we never got to hear the band. Walking across two barrios of this big city does not prepare one for a late night and by 1 am I was falling asleep - still no sign of the music. So my critique of Sexteto Milonguero will have to wait for another time.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Just in case you didn't read the headline! today we shopped. Part of the options with the package we are on is that we have a guide and a driver for one day's shopping = what a way to go. A local who really knows their way around this great, big city - and a driver who drops you off where you want to shop and picks you up when you've finished. Shades of Julie Roberts shopping with Richard Gere in 'Pretty Woman'.
First stop was shoe shops in BA. Check the links on TangoAustralia = at over 8,000 visits it is our most popular page - and you will find some of them...
We are very close to Suipacha so we skipped those as we can walk to them and they are not what we wanted anyway and headed to Tango Brujo, then NeoTango, Tango Leike and Comme Il Faut. Our other mission was to buy Tango CDs. As a tango DJ I need to keep my collection fresh and there were a number of titles I was looking for... so we visited the Source (not its name but it is a producer of many of the great CDs), Atenio Grand Splendid in Sante Fe in(worth going just for a coffee as the shop is in an old and very beautiful theatre) and Zivals (because it is also Tangostore.com). We also checked out leather shops on Sante Fe - all in all we totally indulged our shopping Needs... and got what we wanted.
I am now the proud owner of 4 new pairs of Tango Shoes and at least a dozen excellent new CDs at what to us are bargain prices (around $5 Aus! each)
It was a long day and it wasn't over!
In the evening our tour included a tango show - tonight it was La Ventana. I have been to at least 5 Tango Shows in BA and for me the highlight is always the musicians. For the last Tango Championships at the Opera House in Sydney we brought out musicians from Buenos Aires - led by Daniel Ruggiero. They were world class and some of them were playing at La Ventana at the time. The standard is high - and so I found myself looking past the fast moving legs of the dancers to the musicians pumping out D'Arienzo classics and finishing with La Cumparsita. These shows come with a meal and the food was good. It was a great night out - our day finished at midnight - as our driver dropped us at the hotel door.
Tomorrow a new adventure - as we explore another option in Buenos Aires.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Sunday dawned as another bright and sunny Buenos Day with a morning temperature of 10 degrees. Our plans for the day were a tour of the city for those who hadn't been before - and those who hadn't been for quite a while. We started in the Plaza de Mayo, the main square in the city which is surrounded by beautiful buildings that are part of the city's heritage, including the famous pink palace - the President's palace - where Evita greeted the crowd from the balcony. Our tour took us to La Boca (now a real tourist spot with its unique corrugated iron brightly coloured buildings), Recoleta, Palermo and Puerto Madero (the port) - before we finished at a special restaurant for lunch. The lunch took most of the afternoon - and by the time we returned to our hotel at 5 we were all ready for a quiet evening.
Come Monday we once again set off in the crisp early morning this time for the studio of Andrea Uchitel for 3 hours of tango classes. We took the Subte line A and travelled on the old wooden trains to Primera Junta, a barrio to the west of the city. This line is the oldest underground railway in South America, opening in 1913. Glorious old wooden trains, a little the worse for wear, with windows down, packed with commuters and inquisitive tourists like ourselves, pull into the old tiled stations.
Our lesson with Andrea was excellent and we all came away feeling we had learnt a great deal about our bodies as they dance, and our feelings for the dance - we did not come away with steps, which pleased us all as none of us feels that steps are what improving is all about.
The afternoon we spent 'at leisure' - and now we are off to eat Chinese in Recoleta - will let you know how it is!
Update on Chinese Restaurant... This was a foodie's trip back in time. The food reminded us all of Chinese restaurants in the 60s in Australia. Heavy on sauces, low on vegetables - but on the plus side it was run by Chinese who spoke as little Spanish as they did English - fortunately we had a Cantonese speaker in our party. We enjoyed the meal of pepper beef, hot and sour soup, crispy fried fish, chicken with chilli and stir fried mushrooms and greens, it is simply that in Australia we are so spoiled for good Chinese and anyone who has eated at Golden Century, East Oceans, Marigolds - or any of the other excellent Chinese eateries in Sydney would feel the same. An interesting experience and - I love to investigate food options when I travel.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Saturday we leave Calafate. Sadly because we had all enjoyed our stay enormously - the area's wild beauty, our extremely comfortable hotel and the friendly locals made our stay. We flew LAN from Calafate to Ushuaia (a place I visited about 7 years ago and found rather sad and boring - but perhaps I overstayed!) and then to Buenos Aires. And back to the excellent Hotel 725 Continental, a seamless transition given the hotel transfers.
A number of Aussie tangueros/as had organised our Saturday night - which was just perfect. Originally we had planned to go to Los Consagradas - but it was closed - so the new agenda was Plaza Bohemia in Maipu until about 9.30 then Club Bohemios in La Boca. Plaza Bohemia (see picture early in the night) I found a soul-less. I will certainly give it another try, but it lacked ambience and I felt sorry for the women sitting like birds waiting to migrate along one wall... I know there are those who think I am a heretic when I say that I think using the cabaceo in this old-fashioned way is not conducive to a good night out (for me anyway).
About 14 of us then went on to Club Bohemios. An old-style milonga in an insalubrious area, it is run by a friendly couple who were so delighted to have a table of Aussies they gave us all a present. It was fun to catch up with friends we hadn't seen for a while as we enjoyed the asado we shared for the mighty sum of 25 pesos! each including wine, potatoes and salad! And it was good food.
Those who had arrived that day were ready for their chariot at midnight so we organised three taxis and left just after midnight! It was a great night!
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Friday was another crisp, sunny day what better way to spend it than to explore more of the Los Glacieres National Park. We organised* a car and a driver, Javier, and set off for the Perito Moreno Glacier by land. The drive is about 80 km from our hotel through the rugged often harsh alpine country, passing estancias, caracara (falcons) gorging on roadkill and arriving at the 'balconies' for a walk to the edge of this magnificent mountain of ice. Our aim was to walk from the glacier round to the tourist centre, a distance of just over a kilometre along the edge of the lake. It was a superb walk, interrupted by the occasional pause as we heard the pistol crack of the glacier, sometimes calving in the lake, sometimes deep within the glacier.
On the way back we stopped at La Usina for afternoon tea. An outdoor activity centre and tea house, it is set in beautiful grounds beside a bubbling mountain stream.
We spent the evening in the hotel, having decided that the food there was better than the meal we had the evening before at the local 'top' restaurant, La Tablita.
* Why organise a car and a driver? It was only 50 pesos more than hiring and we didn't have to worry about following road rules or maps and could just enjoy the day. So good when you have someone who can organise these things atg the drop of a hat ( shameless promotion for travel agent!)