Our whirlwind adventure in Uruguay ended at 21:31 as the boat pulled away from the dock, but honestly I don’t know when to “start” our Argentine adventure, it certainly didn’t begin on the bumpy boat ride at 21:31. If there is one country we’ve been looking forward to to the most in South America, it has been Argentina. Tango, yerba mate, chocolate and Patagonia, every time we opened the guidebook to Argentina we found another “must do”. Really our adventure started the first time we opened the guidebook and fell in love with our idea of the country.
We had very high expectations of Buenos Aires, but then again, who wouldn’t? Joined by Danny’s parents for a week of beef, tango and shopping, we were excited to finally be there. Called the “Paris of South America”, it truthfully neither feels like Paris or South America. Buenos Aires has it’s own distinct character. You can’t put a finger on it, but it doesn’t feel like Paris, Rome, Madrid or London and yet it feels very European. And then again, you can close your eyes and feel the rhythm and feel only the Latin America. If you go expecting Paris or South America you’ll be disappointed. Buenos Aires is Buenos Aires.
Modern and yet traditional, the city seems to function in a grey area. Grand European architecture sweeps through the older neighborhoods and yet a few blocks away a modern minimalist high rise towers over the old port. Delicious and enormous cuts of steak and yet no sidewalk cafes to be seen. One of the oldest subway systems in the world, still running wooden cars, and modern “art”-chitecture like the women’s bridge. Colorful indigenous patterns and well heeled socialites. At times it felt like being on the streets of Montmartre in Paris; artists, musicians, puppeteers and incredible markets enticing you to spend the day with them while the next moment you’re on a train car with a very vibrant salesman selling gym socks, gum, hooks for the bathroom and toilet paper. It was an incredible confusion of old and new, of European and American cultures clashing together to form this place called “Good Airs.”
So it wasn’t Europe and it wasn’t South America, which in the end was very good. Danny’s mom and I spent countless hours perusing the markets, buying way more than we had space for, but feeling like every purchase was a bargain and very “worth it”. We taste tested the ice cream shops and decided that Volta had better texture but Freddo’s had better flavors. We walked from end to end probably half a dozen times, even getting caught in a never ending thunderstorm before giving up on staying dry and hoofing it back to the apartment. It was a week of delicious food, incredible wine, great shopping, and oh yea some very interesting attempts at Spanish.
Watching the requisite Tango show, which truthfully I was very excited about, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the dance. Sexy and passionate like meringue or samba and yet so crisp and precise, Argentine Tango is all about the tension. In the span of one song, the dancers fight, they play and they make love. Maybe the dance is more than just a symbol of the city. Maybe the city itself is a tango, a dance of passionate tension.