A great place to begin examining
South America is anywhere in Argentina but especially Buenos Aires
Who thought the opportunity
would arise. Well, it did and as I write this I am in Buenos Aires,
Recoleta district, where it’s a balmy 80 degrees on Feb 12th. Not
bad when I think of -15 in Montreal, my home town.
We flew out of JFK in New York
and arrived here after an overnight flight. We entered a busy
airport where3 our first preoccupation was to exchange US dollars
for Argentinean pesos. The exchange rate we were offered was 30.5 to
Our rental apartment boasted air conditioning, a
balcony and a wide terrace where we could eat our breakfast. It was
a great way to start the day. Since the apartment was fully equipped
and secure, we went to the local market and studied the prices. We
soon discovered that with the exchange rate, living here would be
better than I had imagined. Let me give you an idea. Even the rent
for 500sq feet was only $750 per month US.
We have been to various restaurants
mostly for dinner. The locals only show up at 10 PM so we are usually there
first. For me 9 PM is my outside limit. The first dinner I ordered was a
chicken goulash on rice with a very large glass of wine. There was enough
there to satisfy me and the cost for my wife and I (she had breaded veal &
pasta) was 30 pesos which translates to just under $10 + a tip. I must
confess for a non drinker the wine was quite nice. They say that ALL wine
here is good. I am now a believer. Another night we went back with friends.
Two of us ordered delicious tender steaks at 7.50 each served with wine and
The national dish is grilled barbecue
consisting of various cuts of meet. With steaks here, you can’t go wrong.
Here, it’s eaten with a special sauce called chimichurri.
The local wines are world wide in
quality and produced near Salta, L Rioja, San Juan, and Rio Negro, One can
fine variations of Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet sauvignon, Malbec and more.
I saw wine for sale at as low as $3.00 a bottle.
But not all restaurants were that cheap.
One night we went to a Tango show. Entry was $25 American and food and
drinks were extra. The show was worth the price as beautiful young people
swirled to the sound of accordions and violins. The added attraction was a
demonstration of Pampa Gouchos dancing with twirling bolas making sharp
metallic sounds as they hit the stage floor. Add the duet of drummers whose
magical sounds filled the room. It was worth the price of admission. The
show was in a theatre below ground. Upstairs was the antique Café Tortoni
which had the look of a large 19th century Paris bistro. There were people
there from all corners of the world but the appreciation was universal.
Street dancers / San Telmo
Speaking of Paris, Buenos Aires has the
look and feel of Paris with similar architecture in the core and lovely
parks and gardens. But you know you are in a Spanish haven as the language
around you and the elegant Spaniards make you feel welcome.
I am not used to young men rising to
give me their subway seats. Here it’s not Underground or Metro but SUBTE and
a ride to any point in the gigantic city of almost 14,000,000 for just over
a person or about 35 cents.
We took the Subte from Plaza de Mayo in
the shadow of the government building made famous in the movie Evita. This
building, now red brick was covered with red and white paint which were
symbols of the two political factions. Their painted Pink House was their
equivalent of the White House of Washington.
On Saturday there is a display of
handicrafts in Plaza Francia. Everything from necklaces, paintings, puppets
and traditional Mate Cups (gourds) were spread out over a huge surface. Mate
is a local infusion made of hot water leaves of the yerba plant grown in
Corrientes and Misiones provinces. One sips the hot mixture through a
bombella (metal straw). A prepared ready to drink mixture can be purchased
in grocery stores.
On Sundays the street sale moves to San
Telmo, an older district dedicated to the Tango. Here, in the midst of the
sale, Tango dancers do their thing. The music is infectious and all around,
guitarists, accordionists and craftsmen entertain the throngs. For sale you
can buy scarves, musical instruments and even hand painted chess sets for
about $10. San Telmo is a vibrant old area filled with the magic of
Argentina. We were first introduced to the colorful area on a city tour. The
guide explained its influence on the city. Likewise, the old area of La Boca
boasts souvenirs, statues of dancers or personalities on narrow streets with
the houses painted many sharp colors.
In La Boca, we drove by the Football
stadium where the locals become wild with excitement for their team. This
was the home of Maradonna their world class hero.
But of interest to me as a historian, I
was floored that on the same street in 1960, Israeli agents kidnapped the
infamous Adolf Eichman and brought him back to Jerusalen for trial. Yes,
this was the famous Garibaldi Street.
(See Issar Harel’s book The House on
I have also visted the Fine Arts
Museum with the excellent collection of South American & Mexical
art. I particularly enjoyed the painting of gigantic people by the
artist Botero. The self portrait of Diego River’s with Freda also
Argentina is a huge country
extending south to Terra del Fuego. Unfortunately I can’t see it all
but I will fly to the great water fall at Iguazu on the Brazilian
border where I’ll spend three days next week. More then.
Evita’s buriel plaque
You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at:
Over the past few years, Professor
Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece,
Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of
Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the
globe including Italy and most of
China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters
from St.Petersburg to Moscow.
"He took a group to Greece and another to northern
Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour
groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They
winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico. His newly found spare time
is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His
current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders.. "So
You Want To Be A Tour Leader."
Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing
Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel
writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.
Keep reading his web for travel ideas. His next
novel HELLSTORM'S Folly,
will be available this fall. He now
lives in British Columbia.
www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at
(More about the writer.)