As promised (or did I? can’t remember!), a less depressing angle on Buenos Aires, to balance the last post..
So, as well as seeing street tango, I did actually get to dance myself – which was a pretty big deal. I went out for tango purposes 3 times in the space of a week; not much considering you can tango from 3pm to 5am basically every day in BA (and there’s a choice of 30 milongas in greater Buenos Aires on Saturdays..). But that’s 3 times more per week than I’ve been managing for the last few years in London! I of course aimed to do more, but realised there was no point dragging myself along in the days when I was just too hot, bothered and tired from daytime wanderings (but it means I have no photos, as I was going to take them next time).
I’m not a beginner but I am very rusty, and this was Buenos Aires, so I thought it would be wise to head to a beginner’s class before risking a milonga, and the DNI school offer your first class for free so I went along to that. It was good quality teaching with a focus on the fundamentals – very similar to many of the classes I’ve taken in London, in fact. It was also incredibly well attended with marginally more leaders than followers- quite rare in my experience! I got some useful pointers from one of the assistants and got a childish who boost to my ego (sorry) from being more experienced than some others -Argentinian – in the class who were actual beginners. So feeling a little more sure of myself, I decided to head to a milonga on Friday night that’s more relaxed than some of the very traditional ones and is known for being welcoming to beginners: La Viruta (It’s only a short walk from the hostel I’d moved to so I knew I could get back easily in the early hours). The atmosphere was loud and social and I think they have salsa happening before the pre-milonga tango class at 10.30pm. They split all the attendees for the class into several ability levels (with lots of people sitting around the edges just watching/drinking/chatting). I joined the very beginners class again but it started to feel like not the best use of my time so I *promoted* myself to the next level up 🙂 Incidentally the teaching here is basically like a fun warm up meant to get people on the floor – certainly in the beginners’ classes, you wouldn’t really learn how to dance if that was the only teaching you had.
Once the milonga started I could tell I was in the right kind of mood, which was promising (and quite elusive for me), and I quickly got to dance with a couple of people, all the while trying to keep a lid on my ohmygodImdancinginanactualmilongainBuenosAires nerves. After a while I was ‘adopted’ by a local, an older milonguero who invited me to his table and shared his champagne with me (that is a standard drink order at a BA milonga..). I obviously wasn’t going to say no..Though I realise he was more or less a *tourist shark*, and by sitting at his table no one else would invite me to dance, the chance to practise my Spanglish, to dance on tap (even with the same person) and of course the champagne, was a bit of a winner. I made my escape sometime after 5am (with the milonga still in full swing), declining the opportunity to go off into the wilds of greater BA for an asado (BBQ), and made my way back to the hostel. At that point of course, as I passed staggering (but good humoured) post-party porteños, the crumbling Palermo mansions silhouetted against the lilac pre-dawn sky, Buenos Aires was the greatest city in the world 😉
So, it wasn’t all bad…
[I steeled myself to go to one more milonga – Parakultural at Salon Canning – and knowing it’s one of the most renowned in Buenos Aires, wasn’t expecting to actually dance, just observe. That was about right, it was a lot of couples and groups of friends and you’d struggle to dance much without knowing people. I had one really nice tanda and watched for a bit, then called it a night].
creepy dolls & quality meat for sale in the mercado de San Telmo:
Maté gourds for sale in the street -drinking this stuff is the national past-time, besides football (tango is actually a minority interest, even in Argentina..):
On Sunday after strolling through San Telmo (where I had a great choripan -chorizo sausage in a roll- from a hole in the wall by the market), I came across a samba band in the street. Wrong country? In any case, loads of people were watching, some were dancing (not sure if they were with the band), and the atmosphere was brilliant.
Speaking of choripan, it seems that Argentina has 4 major food groups. Meat – nose to tail is the way here and blood sausage and intestines are very popular as well as the famous bife. White flour based products, and cheese, make up two more. Empanadas (pasties) and pizza are ideal and beloved by the Argentinian as they often combine 3 of the quartet at the same time! (Argentine pizza has alarming amounts of mozzarella but features only homeopathic traces of tomato). For breakfast, the standard thing is a café con leche with a couple of medialunas -croissants – which in this country are small and have a sweet glaze. And finally, sugary sweet things. For example the famous dulce de leche – milk caramel – which you can spread on anything or find sandwiched between biscuits to make alfajores. And not forgetting ice cream, which is immensely popular and ubiquitous (betraying the strong Italian influence in Argentina).
the four Argentine food groups:
If you ever tire of those (why would you!) – or have some obscure dietary requirement, like being a *vegetarian*, there are green grocers on every corner, or in Buenos Aires, there are lots of good Peruvian restaurants if you’re in need of fish, rice or indeed vegetables. (Argentine food is great as far as it goes, but for the best quality/diversity in South America, I’d say Sao Paulo and Lima are far superior).
I actually ate at a Peruvian restaurant almost as soon as I arrived, and it wasn’t until I’d been in the city a week that I managed some proper meat – maybe that’s why I’d been in a bad mood?? I went to a place in San Telmo and ordered what turned out to be enough for two, or maybe even 3. By the time I was ordering a salad to go with it the waiter practically yelled at me ‘Enough!’. I had a morcilla – black pudding basically and amazingly good – and an entraña which I think is skirt steak. By the time it came out, 3 large pieces on a platter, I was terrified that I’d be spending the rest of my life eating the thing. (No pics as I was trying not to be a vile tourist..).
In moments that weren’t taken up with eating, thinking about tango, or being hot and bothered….I saw a demo for I’m not quite sure what (it was a couple of days before the global anti-Trump/women’s marches).
I mooched about in the fantastic Ateneo bookshop, in an old theatre and had lunch in the restaurant which sits on what used to be the stage:
And I went for a couple of walks in the Costanera Sur nature reserve, a big green space that forms a buffer between the city and the huge mouth of the Rio de la Plata (River Plate – another one that sounds much better in Spanish, right?). I saw leaf cutter ants, some birds that may have been quite exotic, and these things,
whatever they are?? which I looked up later and realised are coypu (also known as nutria or river rat – currently found on the menu of Moscow’s hipster restaurants..). It was very calming!
And on a final, note, Buenos Aires has loads of brilliant street art – here is just a tiny sample…