The plane landed safely from Sao Paulo at the beautiful Buenos Aires airport. Our luggage never appeared. But, that didn’t stop us as we took a taxi to the famous ‘Tango district” of Buenos Aires, San Telmo, where our apartment waited for our arrival. We knew in time, the luggage would be found and we would be fine.
This was the first time in South America for both my wife Maria and myself.
We were told that Buenos Aires is the “Paris of South America.”
The area we were staying in is similar to Greenwich Village, bohemian and graffiti-laden walls amongst the numerous large, impressive antique shops and steak houses that occupy every corner.
It was like bohemian paradise for non-vegetarians in the late 60’s.
It was Sunday, the day San Telmo shines.
The street was alive.
It felt like Mardi Gras. Plaza Dorrego, two blocks from our apartment, is the center for activity this Sunday.
It is the second oldest square in the city. Tango dancers and musicians vie for dominance at each corner of the Plaza.
The cross street, Defensa, is the home of the flea market. Over 40 blocks of stalls offering everything from antiques to BOCA soccer jerseys dominate.
After an hour of wandering through the market, we see a sign that La Scala de San Telmo is serving food. We enter a spacious room, full of paintings and a Steinway piano.
Neatly tucked away under the arches, so as not to spoil the décor, is a “mom and pop” (in this case plus a son) food vendor.
Empanadas that look like quiche tarts are covering the counter.
Our antennas focus in.
We order four to share, two with creole, spiced meat, a zucchini and a spinach and cheese empanada. Add a bottle of water with gas, I say to the young son.
Within five minutes, we are both in love with the food. We inquire “when will you be open, so we can buy more?”
“Not until Thursday” was the reply.
We depart, stomachs full, and walk the next thirty blocks to the end of the market. We find a hotel, use the facilities and inquire with the receptionist as to how do we travel to the Recoleta district of Buenos Aires.
He suggests a bus (55 cents) and directs us.
We find the bus, speak my broken Spanish to the courteous bus driver and after twenty minutes, we are left off at Quintana street, only a few blocks from the center of the chic, Parisian-like area of Recoleta.
The shops are closed.
This is Sunday, the day of rest and the day the locals watch soccer on television.
BOCA Juniors play tonight.
We walk to the center of Recoleta, see amazing trees that are three-hundred years old, stately mansions and a cluster of museums.
We duck into the “Nacional Museo de Belles Artes” (free) and join the crowds, viewing two of my favorite artists, Monet and Renoir.
We also see Van Gogh, Dali and Monet.
Buenos Aires is alive with art.
We leave and are in search of a restaurant for late afternoon snacks. We find an amazing looking sidewalk café named “La Biela.”
We sit inside.
It is 43F (5C), raining and windy.
La Biela is opposite the mythical 18th century gum-tree, the Church of Nuestra Senora del Pilar and the cemetery of the “Recoleta monks.”
We order. Maria: café con leche and three croissants. Me: a large Argentine Brandy, Reserva San Juan.
The waiter brings our order, pours boiling water into my snifter, pours it out and then pours in the brandy.
For thirty pesos ($5), I was in heaven.
We people watch and realize that we are part of history.
La Biela has that reputation.
We spend an hour plus at La Biela, hoping never to leave.
It is a truly magical experience.
We finally leave and follow the sign to the “Buenos Aires Design Center.” We join the crowds and view the latest design arrivals in South America.
After about an hour, we realize that we better catch a taxi (our first since the airport) to “Esquina Carlos Gardel,” home of Tango and Carlos Gardel, the first and foremost Tango vocalist.
We have tickets for an 8:30 p.m. dinner and Tango show, arranged for us by our Argentinean wine friend, Nora Favelukes.
We arrive at Esquina Carlos Gardel and are quickly seated, upstairs at a VIP table (thanks Nora) overlooking the turn-of-the-century stage.
Owner Juan Fabbri’s son, Christian greets us and joins us at the table.
The waitress pours three glasses of Chandon Champagne.
We toast Carlos Gardel and this beautiful theater.
After a few minutes, shrimp from Patagonia are placed in front of us, with two glasses of Rutini Sauvignon Blanc 2011.
The pairing works well.
Our eyes light up.
Our glasses are refilled and our order for a main course is taken.
When in Buenos Aires, eat steak, my mentor Bill Marsano tells me.
It is grass-fed and tastes magnificent.
I order a steak and so does my wife.
We switch to red wine. A 2010 Rutini Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon blend appears. The wine is velvety, soft, complex and concentrated.
We finish a glass before the steaks are served.
The Tango dancers appear on stage.
We are lost in the world of Carlos Gardel and never want to come back!