Well-fed and flying on cheese and bread bliss, I set off to explore the city for three hours of nonstop (no hydration) walking/exploring.
Let’s just say that the cemetery in Recoleta has finer real estate, shinier floors and better marbled roofs than most residences I have visited. Generations of families are buried here but alas, no guarantee that funds will maintain your plot in perpetuity. Hence it appears that granny’s urn could end up in the hands of Harrison Ford and your generational tomb could go to – gasp – successful immigrants!
I explored the Avenue Alvear and its many embassies including the remains of what was once the Israeli Embassy (destroyed in the 1990’s). The effort to bring peace among brethren is captured in the “Pink House.” It’s the Buenos Aires equivalent to the U. S. White House except the red party and warring white party, when combined make pink! The city design seems to be inspired by family feuds and expressions of political might that at times prompt the wealthy and connected to raise glass and chrome edifices where fine decorative brick buildings once graced the street.
Saturday was a warm-up for my four hour excursion on Sunday. San Telmo market, then Boca wandering the abandoned roads working my way to the waterfront and the new Marina area. Adventure complete! I collapsed into the highly recommended El Desnivel. I said the magic words, “American dollars” and had instant best friends, and giant dark beers and fried cheese and gooey hearts of palm. Oh, and the signature dish of … more meat?! Really. Doesn’t this country understand fish? I don’t even eat meat. Do watch out for the bowl of spice served with the basket of bread. Or at least don’t arrive as hungry as I did. I never ate a container of condiments before now.
A new day!. How many Palermos can one city have? Turns out the answer is three. Did you guess three? Can you name them? Let me help: Palermo, Palermo Hollywood and Palermo Soho. I explored all three neighborhoods under the guise of that tourist dictate “Thy must buy handmade boots in Argentina – and as many other leather goods as possible.” I did my part for the economy and confirmed the local preference for American dollars which they exchanged at various house rates in this parallel economy.
I confess to getting green on green made-to-order boots from the same shop that the Bush’s frequented. They are from Texas after all so that’s a good endorsement. La Casa de las Botas was a unique experience, conducted entirely without electronics which includes the paper notebook where my feet were traced, and my calf-size recorded. Even my left bunion got special mention. My receipt was handwritten, I didn’t get to pick the ink but I did choose the actual pieces of leather that would be used for my new botas.
I opted not to pursue tango shoes, though I dropped into a milonga .The live band included a piano, bass (cello?) four violins and four accordions. Dance music doesn’t generally conjure up images of accordions (at least for me), let alone four of them. And yet, the sound was soulful and sexy and the musicians’ heads dropped down in apparent sadness and in unison as they belted out sorrowful tunes in the darkened dance hall. The couples clustered throughout the dance floor moved with grace. The men wore shorts and sandals while the women flashed lots of leg in flouncy dresses and high heels. It was a surreal night capped by a torrential thunderstorm that returned me to my room soaked but feeling sassy and satisfied.
On my last day, I imbibed the “final Malbec” at the popular temple of meat, Don Julio. Kidneys. Sweetbreads. Fried Cheese (whew). And steak. You sign your wine bottle when you finish and the place seems to be held up by walls built on boozy, happy memories. My visit to the capital of Argentina was 3.5 days, included countless calories and many close encounters with cow hide rugs, mismatched china and super friendly people. There were miles of steaming streets and lots of laughter and kisses to newly made friends and squeals of “perfect!” It was indeed “perfect-o!”