Buenos Aires is one of my favorite cities in the world. Cosmopolitan, charming, with world-class hotels, restaurants and shopping, it is also where South American culture meets its European roots. Buenos Aires is vibrant and sophisticated as well, a place like no other.
The Argentine capital offers the same advantages of international centers like London, New York or Paris – for a fraction of the cost. The exchange rate (as of November, 2008) is 3 pesos for 1 dollar. To give an idea, dinner in a top restaurant, with a great Malbec wine, costs less than $10 per person.
The elegance and good looks of the Portenos, as the natives of Buenos Aires are called, add a lot to this city’s allure.
Not surprisingly, our Tango in Buenos Aires tour, last November, was great. We arrived in the Southern Hemisphere at the end of their Spring, when the hot Summer days Buenos Aires is famous for had not yet started. Coming from a cold end of Fall in New York, this sudden change of weather was most welcome – coats were off right on arrival at Ezeiza Airport.
Our hotel was excellent: five-stars, elegant and calm, yet in the center of Recoleta, one of the most prestigious neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. Surrounded by grand French-style mansions, embassies and upscale boutiques, we were near Patio Bullrich, an international shopping center offering from Chanel and Yves Saint-Laurent to the famous Argentine leather and wools.
The main attraction of our tour was tango, and the high point of the day was a dance class in the San Telmo studio of Maria Edith, a warm and friendly dancer of international acclaim. She and her dedicated team of dancers introduced us to the magic world of this dance that – in its theatrical movements and dramatic sounds -embodies the Argentine culture. Maria Edith taught us not only tango steps, but also that for women this dance means allowing our bodies to be led by our male partner, following his moves and control. A fascinating cultural experience…
People in Buenos Aires are fun lovers and seem to live by night; no self respecting citizen dines out before 9 pm, and the streets are full until late hours. We soon adjusted, and each night took us to a different great restaurant: for the famous Argentine beef we chose a traditional place in La Recova area; meat never tasted that good. For local flavor we drove far away to La Boca, a working class neighborhood where tango was born and still rules,to a restaurant that is also a ‘shrine’ to soccer team Boca Juniors, the leading team in this city where soccer is almost a religion.
The tango shows were simply fantastic! We discovered an off-the-beaten-path orchestra, Fernadez Fierro, which is starting to attract attention the way Astor Piazzolla did, before achieving international fame. The audience at this funky and far away place was mostly young people and Europeans, who seem to know where the special attractions are. This show was one of the best we saw.
Our excellent driver was a Porteno who knew his city well, and made sure we were always safe. With Mathias in tow we visited sophisticated Puerto Madero, hip Palermo Viejo, busy Calle Florida, the museums Evita and Malba, among many other beautiful sites in this culture-loving city.
On our last day we were lucky to attend the opening match of the Argentine Open Polo Championship, the major polo tournament in the world, as the Argentines are the undisputed leaders in the so called ‘sport of kings’. The opening of the polo season attracts a very international crowd, and nowhere else polo is played quite like in Argentina, as Matias explained, while introducing some of its rules. Nothing like a driver who knows his polo. Only in Buenos Aires.