Oh, What a Circus - Buenos Aires Day 3
April 19th, 2014
Oh what a circus, oh what a show
Argentina has gone to town
Over the death of an actress called Eva Peron
We've all gone crazy
Mourning all day and mourning all night
Falling over ourselves to get all of that misery right
We both knew yesterday was mostly a lost day. I mean, we did eat like champions, but we didn't see much of our surroundings. So we had to start today out right. The plans were set and we were ready. After we had breakfast first.
Our room is right above where they are cooking or something, because as we we'd getting ready for the day, we really smelled something lovely happening downstairs. We were probably early for when most people were getting breakfast. 830a in Buenos Aires seems like a time that everyone has heard about in passing, but no one has ever seen in person. But we needed to see everything we could in the three full days we have. So a jump start was necessary.
As we sat down, we were greeted with a glass of orange juice and a basket of pastries. In the basket were the Medialunas I had heard about. Think of them as a smaller and sweeter cousin to the croissant. The server brought butter, homemade jam and dulce de leche to the table for the Medialunas. And with the first swipe of the dulce de leche on the pastry, I asked myself why this had never occurred to me before. I think when I bring back dulce de leche, I may have to hide it from myself. It's going to be the same story as Nutella. Once that baby is open, all bets are off. I will go into shame based eating.
Our hotel is a 20 or so minute walk from the subway on the D Line. Once we were on the subway, we took four or five stops to the area where the Recoleta Cemetery was. This cemetery houses the family monuments going back generations. Apparently, it was the "see and be seen" cemetery location. And to get in now to this cemetery is all based on family names - those who already have a monument inside the gates. Money can't buy you space here.
The first thing I noticed as we entered is it had a very Pompeii feel to it. The streets all fanned out and it was easy to lose yourself in the area. What I didn't expect/realize was this is still a working cemetery. People came by with flowers. There was room for family members to open the monument and sit and kneel. Many of the monuments had a lower level. My assumption (could be 100% wrong) was the recently deceased in the family would have their coffin on the upper level - many coffins were visable. Once someone new passed away, the previous coffin would be sent "downstairs" with the remaining family members.
The big draw for tourists is to see the monument for Eva Peron. There are apparently many stories surrounding her burial, and one is that her body was missing for a while?? I don't even know how to react to this one, but in a nondescript aisle towards the back of the cemetery, a mostly unadorned monument inscribed "Familia Duarte" stands. There were a few flowers attached to the monument doors. And several plaques were tacked on after the structure was erected. Rumor has it the coffin of Evita is encased in concrete so it is not stolen. The monument really is so different from all of the other highly adorned pieces in the rest of the cemetery.
We knew outside of the cemetery was an outdoor market. Feria Hippy started once we walked past the people selling tourist trap items on blankets on the street. These guys, pass them by. Once you start smelling incense, you've found the right place. And seriously with all of the incense?? Come on...it's just gross.
There were plenty of items to choose from at the market. You want jewelry, you can find options. We are normally drawn to jewelry. I was ready if something really caught my eye. It didn't. Adele found some leather bracelets. The sun was beginning to beat down, so we made our way to the number one place on Adele's list. Comme il faut. A shoe store.
Comme il faut is not just any shoe store. It is the place to pick up tango shoes. Walking through the streets of Recoleta, we noticed a difference between the neighborhoods. Recoleta is definitely where the old money lives. The buildings have a more European feel. The graffiti is less pronounced. The city itself reminds me of New York. Very reminiscent. But the shoes. Sorry. I digressed a bit here...
We walked up the stairs to the store and buzzed in. The shoe store was one open room. You could try on shoes. You could practice dancing. There was one rule. No pictures. Adele said they have no pictures of the shoes online because they don't want anyone to reproduce the styles. Adele gave her shoe size to the owner and we sat down. Within minutes, 20 boxes of shoes appeared at our feet. Adele had found her bliss. I marveled at the beauty of the shoes while staring down at my very used Converse. This was a whole other world. But Adele explained later, these shoes should never be worn outside or anywhere other than a tango place. With Adele's purchase, she was given shoe bags for storage, but she was also given a bag to take the shoes to tango. You wear your regular shoes to tango, then change into your new shoes while tangoing. Interesting.
On the way to the shoe store for Adele, we passed a small patisserie called Smetterlings. Which was excellent as they were on my list of places to eat in Buenos Aires. We had just finished bowing down to the beauty of shoes, so it ya was only fitting we spent some time bowing down to the glory that is pastries. The patisserie was small. The desserts were in the he front of the store, looking out into the street. We walked in and saw an open bar. A couple from the UK were there, drinking tea and eating something lemon-based. And we decided (maybe I did the deciding) we should follow suit.
We ordered our tea, and I asked for the Dulce de Leche mousse. Because, dulce de leche. It was here when I realized I would probably be judged by this worker for the rest of the day. She said, "you guys are sharing this, right??" Ummm...yeah?? The sad part of Adele and my travels is Adele's lack of interest in sugar. Which, I do not understand. Never have. Never will. And as we found out this morning, Adele does not like dulce de leche. I. Do. Not. Understand. So suddenly, I am feeling judged over eating this cake by myself. Ultimately, I did eat most of it. But this stop was only a pre-lunch snack. The next stop was for real eating.
The woman at Smetterlings mentioned a restaurant that she would recommend for lunch. We walked in that direction to see what was what. The recommended place looked tasty, but it was all heavy meal foods. Considering I had just consumed 30 Weight Watchers Points in mousse about 15 minutes ago, I was less interested in a BIG meal. So we walked a little longer to see what was what.
La Cholita caught my eye because of the little cow logo. I was just adorable. Then we noticed other important words. Parilla (meats). Choripan. Adele had said many times she wanted choripan. Ok. Here was a place that was busy at 2p (everything really shifts here by two hours) and had choripan AND an adorable cow logo. Let's do this.
Choripan is a traditional sandwich in Argentina (possibly in South America as a whole). It's a chorizo sausage, split, put on a bun with chimichurri sauce. And it was seriously everything it was reported to be. Mine came out plain. No sauce. No nothing. Which...perfect. I seriously need to detox after this trip. And we are only on day two.
Walking south from our area in Recoleta (I'm assuming at this point, cause in reality, I never quite know where we are), we were stopped in our tracks as we reached the Avenida 9 de Julio. Twelve lanes of automobiles (and busses) whiz past at all hours of the day. The Rough Guide calls it one of the world's broadest avenues. And it's also the place where you can find the Obelisk and the Teatro Colon.
We didn't get too close to the Obelisk, cause there were a ton of teenage hooligans (I'm assuming...aren't all teenagers hooligans??) congregating around the base of the obelisk. Too much screaming for us to deal with. And the Teatro Colon is a theatre in the heart of Buenos Aires. It has been recently (2010) renovated and is beautiful on the outside. I may see if I can convince Adele to come back here on Monday for a tour. Who knows?? I was actually hoping to see a concert or something here. But that might have to wait until next time.
We knew it was time to make our way back to the hotel. We had plans at 5p and knew we couldn't be late. We made it back to the hotel with just enough time to drop our crap, then walk another 20 minutes to our next location. A wine tasting event.
One of the top things to do on TripAdvisor was a wine tasting/tour called Anuva Wine Loft. On an unassuming street, behind a black door with no sign, we walked upstairs to a beautiful loft space. The owners do wine tastings with tapas on a a daily basis. For $52 (USD), we sampled five different wines and parings. And when I say sampled, I want to make very clear that this was a heavy, heavy pour. We drank as much as we could and asked him to open additional bottles. So this is not a tasting if you're a bit of a wussy.
The tasting was stewarded by our host, Diego. There were three couples total, plus a single traveler. Diego was adorable and funny and would basically cheer when we asked for more wine. We had a sparkling white, a second white, then three different malbecs. At the end, we could buy wine to be shipped home or to take home. Shipping, please.
As we all sat around the table (for three hours!!), the participants of the tasting started to loosen up and chat. It was at this time, I realized the difference between Travelers and Tourists. Now, I've gone on the record that I hate the Traveler/Tourist debate. One is not worse than another. So I'm not going into this discussion. But what was nice was the conversations had around the table. There was a couple from Scotland, another from San Paolo, and the single guy was from New York. And we spent an hour or more talking about what we had seen in the city so far. Then the conversation turned to other trips. And everyone in the room was able to keep up. "Oh, when we went..." "The next time you're in..." These are great conversations to have anywhere, but over bottles of amazing wine in a loft in an unassuming street, it was the best decision we could have made on this trip. The people in the room were Travelers.
Once we made it back to the hotel again, we collapsed on to the bed. Shoes flung in every direction and we pondered (ok, I pondered) how we were going to keep going for Tango. At this point, I pulled out the Fitbit to see our damage for the day. Now, I've been annoying people for the last six months about my sheer love of the Fitbit. It's a little gizmo that attaches to the bra or goes in your pocket and counts steps (amongst other things). I brought it along to Iceland, but we didn't do as much walking there as in other places I've gone. Buenos Aires was going to be the real test. We walked out the door at 9a this morning, and it was after 8p now. We walked a lot. Pre-Tango, we were in the 20,000 step range. No wonder our feet were ready to disattach from our legs, give us the finger and scamper away to heal. I will desperately need a pedicure when I get home.
A friend of Adele had mentioned a Tango joint for us to find. La Virtua Tango was close to everything we've been finding this trip. A 15 minute walk from our hotel, and around the corner from the wine tour we had today, and around the other corner from dinner last night. It was purely accidental we ended up in a hotel in this neighborhood. It really does make it much, much easier. A worker at our hotel called and booked us a table at the place, which was the best idea ever.
It should come as no surprise that I am not a dancer of any kind. Yes, some people will refer to the company's Christmas party of two years ago when I was dancing. I was also really drunk, so do the math. My feet were also so very tired. I made a fatal error in my shoe choice on this trip. I have a pair of Birkenstock clogs and a pair of Converse. Neither option was wise. So honestly, I just wanted to hold down a table and watch the dancing happen. Which is completely what I did.
I mentioned to Adele earlier in the day that I was surprised at the lack of English spoken anywhere. I mean, we are in a foreign country. I didn't expect English to be spoken everywhere as we walked around. But it is the complete lack of English that made me pause. Waiters and other people in the service industry (because that's who we've met so far) do not seem to speak English as much as in other countries. This is not a bad thing. Please don't read it as such. But it just makes it harder on my end. I understand some of the written things in Spanish. Conversations, less so. Communicating myself, not so much. Which is why I'm thrilled Adele can do it for me. Hah!!
The reason I went down this tangential road was because La Virtua was a local (though Adele said later, more international) Tango hall. No English. None. The room looked like what I would expect an Argentinian VFW to look like. I sat back, drank some water and some cider, and watched the world twirl around me. I never had to change shoes and I was happy as a clam. Adele did dance. She ended up being the preferred partner with some local man, who really didn't seem to want to let her go. I think I even ended up being her excuse, "See my friend sitting alone over there, I need to go back to her now." I really did enjoy seeing the variety of life on the dance floor. There were not as many young people, but a range of ages from the 30's through the one old guy who had to be in his 80's. He could barely walk, but he did Tango all night. There's hope for us all. Well, except for me, as I kept the table protected.
We made it home around 230a. For me, this is an epic event. I am in no way a night owl. Which I have been concerned over, since this is much more of a nocturnal city. And as we walked from the Tango Hall to the hotel, we really saw how alive this area gets at night. Lines of people waited outside of clubs trying to get in. The thumping of the music. The meats on a rotating stick, ready to soak up the ill-effects of heavy alcohol consumption. These were the sights at 230a in Palermo Hollywood. And hell, these are the sights, I'm sure in any major city. I just don't see these sights often as I am in bed by 10p (after taking my 9p nap, of course).
Neither of us talked about the plans for the next day. We didn't have the energy to. It was all we could do to take out the contacts and out on jammies. Tomorrow was a later start anyway. It's Easter. We have brunch plans. Tomorrow could wait. It was time to sleep.