Tango away the night in the cultured, elegant, eclectic and seductive metropolis nicknamed the Paris of South America. I lived in Paris for four years, and I disagree with the nickname. Although some building look like Parisian architecture, and there are sweeping wide boulevards, expansive parks and fine cafés, it is the flair and character of the passionate people that infuse the city with a mesmerizing energy.
Buenos Aires is home to many different worlds: traditional and retro, Argentine and foreign. It is a melting pot of cultures where we, the visitors, can easily live alongside or enter into the daily hustle, bustle and nightly magic.
Capital of Tango. Dance away the night. The locals defy all sensible laws of sleep and the city really comes alive at night.Don’t worry if you don’t Tango, locals also dance the salsa, samba and DJ mixes until the early yours of morning.
You may even feel compelled to spend an entire evening and a fair amount of money (up to $200 per person) to go to a Tango show if it’s your first visit. I did on my first visit. So the second trip to Buenos Aires, I was determined to experience something more authentic.
Milongas are where the locals dance. These unpretentious dance halls have tango dancing, live orchestras and even famous tango dancers. We went to Salon Canning on a Tuesday evening – don’t think of arriving before 11p.m. and don’t even consider dancing unless you know how. We felt like we had stepped back in time from the moment we entered the dance hall. We watched attractive, fashionable young and not-so-young women arrive with backpacks. When they were seated at tables by the dance floor they proceeded to unpack elegant, high-heeled dance shoes. Well-dressed men approached the women and with a nod of the head, they chose their partner for a dance and glided onto the wooden parquet floor. It is a place where you can appreciate how important the Tango is in the lives of many Argentinians. It was one of the highlights of our night life in Buenos Aires. Admission was $4.
Café Life. Social life is centered around the cafés where radio, TV and the daily newspapers attract men with pipes, mothers and daughters, or lawyers lounging under a tree discussing a case.
My favorite café was Biela in the Recoleta Area, across from the cemetery. The landmark café and pastry shop is a favorite meeting place for artists, debonair actors, media personalities, rich race car champions, intellectuals and socialites. Every day we sat at outdoor tables under the shade of an enormous 100-year-old gum tree, and enjoyed the show. One afternoon we were serenaded by an elderly white-jacketed musician playing an accordion.
People Watching. The Argentinians have been voted the world’s best looking citizens and you’ll see many drop-dead handsome men and beautiful, bejeweled women. The women are groomed and coiffed to perfection and wear the latest fashions from Paris and Milan. They deserve their international reputation for beauty. And they know they’re attractive. This is the land of plastic surgeons and personal trainers. Every neighborhood I visited had a dozen hair and nail salons. It is obvious that physical beauty, clothes, makeup and shoes are all-important. I was amazed that I didn’t see any fat people.
You’ll see women walk down the street and checkout each other — beginning with the shoes. The handsome men also put on a little show as they swagger and walk proudly by tables of women at the cafés. It’s a great show.
Shop ‘til you drop. With an average inflation rate of 25% since 2008, Buenos Aires is no longer the bargain shopping destination it once was. However, you’ll still find high quality silver jewelry, leather coats, boots, purses, and European style clothing at fashionable shops.
Cow Culture. The fragrance of slow roasting meat wafting from the traditional grilled restaurants is more mouth-watering than you can imagine. The grass-fed cattle of the pampas is so famous; the locals brag that it is the best beef in the world. I had several fabulous steaks, for sure. Get this statistic: Argentine inhabitant’s consumer 125 pounds (57 kilo a year) and the U.S. consumption is 97 pounds (44 kilo). The hors d’oeurves offered in restaurants is often beef chorizo, blood sausage, chitterlings and sweetbreads. The pastry turnover – empanadas – is filled with spiced ground or sliced beef.
Location and Luxury. Four Seasons was the perfect spot to stay within easy walking distance of many great shops and restaurants as well as the famous Recoleta Cemetery (with Eva Peron’s mausoleum). We had an outstanding dinner at the award-winning restaurant Elena and enjoyed the opulent breakfasts, and a relaxed lunch of grilled meats and huge prawns in the lush gardens near the outdoor heated swimming pool. The polo-themed bar, the hotel room, restaurant, concierge desk, service level and pool area were truly exceptional.