The International Writers Magazine: South American Way
Paris of South America
Buenos Aires, the sprawling cosmopolitan capital where Pedro de
Mendoza first settled his colonists in 1536, is a century older
There are a few
surprising echoes of Paris and Milan in the architecture, making Buenos
Aires unique from its sister cities in South America. With the collapse
of the Argentine economy three years ago, the exchange rate is three
to one for Americans. Everything is amazingly affordable from high-end
hotels and restaurants to quality leather and silver.
Aires is a city that truly never sleeps. With the dinner hour just
beginning at 9 pm, night clubs open all night, and a thriving theatre
scene, you wont ever run out of things to do. Its a
city of forty eight distinguishing barrios. San Telmo, characterized
as an artists colony where the tango is mostly identified,
is one of the most visited barrios.
On Sundays, along
the cobblestone streets and belle-époque architecture is a large
outdoor antique market. While meandering through the many booths, I
came across everything from antique maps from the 1700s to well
worn cowbells. Couples dancing the tango near the market drew crowds
of tourists and locals. The tango remains a daily presence in the lives
of the Portenos, as the locals are called. Its common to come
upon an impromptu dance in the streets closed off to traffic. Reserve
one night for a tango show, they range from modest to extravagant productions.
I went to Senor Tango, a dinner show in one of the southerly barrios.
It was impressive, with horses opening the show on a smoke filled rotating
stage. Dancers executed intricate steps to the melancholy compositions
of Anibal Troilo and Astor Piazzola.
On a Friday afternoon, Calle Florida Street is bustling, the main commercial
shopping district in downtown Buenos Aires. The intense southern summer
heat in early March might slow your pace, as you peruse the endless
windows of leather shops. Throngs of people from Portenos, to cell phone
toting businessmen and shoeless children begging for pesos populate
this area. This is just the place to purchase leather goods, from jackets,
purses, hats and boots. Artisans crafts made in the Northern provinces
as well as silver are sold in abundance. Head over to the elegant Avenida
Alvear in the Recoleta barrio where the best known designers are located,
like Louis Vuitton and Giorgio Armani.
are plentiful in the fashionable Puerto Madero, a string of fine
eateries are housed in renovated riverside docks with outdoor seating.
Youll find some of the best pampas grass-fed beef at Cabana
Las Lilas where its most celebrated.
On a weekend night
I found the restaurants to be empty at 7:00 p.m. By 9:30 p.m. there
were lines spilling out of most of the restaurants. This is a popular
area to dine where the main sport appears to be people watching. But
for the best dining, the Recoleta barrio is exceptional. It is one of
the capitals prime dining and nightlife areas. For fabulous Argentine
food, try Munich Recoleta, a faux German beer house.
Buenos Aires is a great walking city. There is no need to rent a car.
Metered taxis will take you anywhere in the city. "Radio Taxis"
can be seen all over and in great numbers. The alternative is to hire
a remise, a private taxi from your hotel. They are not metered and charge
an agreed upon rate. Hiring a remise from the "Ezeiza" Airport
to the city, about a forty minute drive, is generally 48 pesos or $
16.00. For an average of seven pesos, a taxi will take you to any of
the distinctive barrios where you can explore on foot.
Set aside an afternoon for the internationally known Cementerio de la
Recoleta. This miniature city of decadent marble mausoleums is the resting
place of Argentinas tycoons and many of its first presidents.
Ask a caretaker, and you can find Evitas too.
The theatre season is from April to early December. The ornate Teatro
Colon fitted with Verona and Carrara marble, plush red velvet seats
and gilt boxes. The 2,500 seat house was 30 years in the making before
its 1908 opening with a performance of Verdis, "Aida."
Until recently, the worlds most gifted performers graced its stage;
now exceptional local talent performs over 200 events a year.
Leave a day for a respite from the city. Only an hour away by hydrofoil
across the Rio de la Plata is the charming town of Colonia, Uruguay.
All of the sights are within the colonial historic barrio where youll
find many shops selling local artisans wares. Todo Uruguay, sells
everything from ceramics to mates, the traditional South American tea
served in a carved out gourd. For the best workout, climb the 118 stairs
up the Faro de Colonia, a 19th century lighthouse. On a clear day Buenos
Aires can be seen in the distance.
© Susan Fogwell September 2005
Susan Fogwell in Big Sur
Susan Fogwell in Germany
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