Sunday, December 24, 2006

Post Argentina From Kansas

This post is penned from my home state, Kansas. I returned to Indiana on Tuesday from Buenos Aires, went to work on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and then flew out from Chicago home to Kansas on Friday evening. I know O'Hare too well these days.

Buenos Aires deserves several extensive posts. Right there on the back of the travel guide it says it all: "Paris of the South, cafe on every corner, thick steaks, and fashionable boutiques." And yet until you walk its vibrant streets and dine on great slabs of grilled meat that bring back your faith in the virtues of beef, you can hardly believe the jewel that it is.

We stayed in a wonderful little hotel called 1555 Malabia (which is also its address) in an area of town called Palermo SoHo. The streets are crowded with cafes, restaurants, and designer boutiques. In another part of town they have the high-end international brands (Armani, etc.). Our neighborhood had local Argentine designers and the style and price ratio are literally overwhelming. Avoid the gorgeous malls, head straight for Palermo.

Of all the wonders we engorged ourselves on during our brief few days there, one of the highlights was definitely our night of tango at La Viruta, which is located minutes from our hotel in the basement of a cultural house. This is where the Argentines go to dance, and where the ex-pats go to learn. We managed to reserve a table and ordered a bottle of champagne (a break to heighten our enjoyments of the Argentine Malbec, a hearty red wine). Soon six couples emerged and strutted across the dance floor to the boisterous introductions of the "leader." We don't speak Spanish. They danced a few numbers and then the whole room assembled into three learning levels for our lessons. We were absolute beginners. It was tense at times--trying to smile our way into a clearer example via body language. But we managed to get the steps with a bit of grace to spare.

After the lesson the regular dancing began. Happily the tango numbers were interspersed with American fifties-era style songs which we managed to fake our way through. It was a wonderful night that had only begun as we left the tango place at nearly 1 am.

The rain was a wall of water.

We slipped into a restaurant next door that promised a dry table and middle-eastern food.

We ordered a Malbec and a plate of cheese, soon to be followed by the best halva I have ever eaten (and we eat a lot of it!).

The best part of this new place: A private party of about 20 Greek-Argentines celebrating the end of the school year and the start of summer. We got there as the dancing commenced. This is a restaurant--not the kind of place a group of diners would take over in Indiana, let's say. And these Greeks could really, really dance. We stayed until almost 3 am sipping our wine, watching the Greek goddesses (and one god) circle, weave, dip and "oopah" the night away right before our eyes.

The Greeks could dance, no doubt. Still they didn't come close to the smoldering tango. If only I were Argentine.

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