Upon wrapping up a quiet hour at the Recoleta, I head for the Centro District for a late lunch. Here, I might opt for a visit to Cafe Tortoni, a bit of a cliche perhaps, but it ticks a tourism box if you have never been. It’s the most famous old cafe in Buenos Aires, and it has a nice classic feel to it with high ceilings and old posters and photographs. The food is okay, but you aren’t really visiting here for a gourmet experience anyway.
After lunch, I stroll along the grand, Parisian-style avenues of Centro, including Buenos Aires’ own obelisk on Av. 9 de Julio (one of the world’s broadest avenues, incidentally), and looping in the Evita theme, I pause to snap a few pics of the Casa Rosada (Pink House), and the balcony where Perron once stood to speak to her people. The streets nearby are covered with the sky-blue-and-white flags of Argentina while many signs of protest are posted next to them. Political and economic protest is very common here. I spend a couple of hours walking around and admiring the architecture I head back to my hotel in Palermo Hollywood in the late afternoon to shower again, change, and prepare for the evening.
I kick my first evening off with a cocktail at the lobby bar, killing some time until dinner. This is where the locals are separated from the tourists. Argentines don’t go to dinner on weekends until after 10pm and seldom make reservations. Tourists usually wind up making a reservation around 9pm thinking they’ve booked themselves a late dinner and will fit right in. I’ve booked in at a parrilla (Argentine steak) house in Palermo despite this knowledge because I have a schedule to keep and plans for afterwards. If you like a good steak and are in Argentina, well, obviously you are not going to leave the country without enjoying a meal at a steakhouse, with good reason: parrilla is simply amazing.
La Cabrera is filled with tourists at this time, and English is the predominant language spoken at the tables around me. Although local Argentines will likely tell you you can do better at other, more authentic places, I think this is over-stating the gap between them/. La Cabrera has a great ambience for a Saturday evening out, with exposed brick walls, good music and nice artwork, and the excellent steak (try the ojo de bife—the ribeye– a great choice, even for one), nice selection of Argentine malbec from Mendoza, ample sides and condiments (steak comes with 5 or 6 sides and garnishes so don’t order any extras!) are worth writing home about.
I also chose La Cabrera because it is also in a great neighborhood for crowd-watching for some of the famed beautiful people of Argentina. After dinner I head over to a couple of bars around the square in neighboring Palermo Viejo and when the time is right, I head to the Armenian Cultural Center, located on where else but “Armenia Street.” At night, this place houses La Viruta, where a nominal cover buys you entry to tango night in the basement, with free lessons for all levels including total beginners, and then free dancing with what you learned the rest of the night. On this occasion I lined up across from a beautiful, young, blonde woman with mischievous hazel eyes, who of course turned out to be from Sweden, for the first dance. La Viruta isn’t just limited to tourists, however. There is a fairly even split with locals as well and, to my surprise, not all of them know how to dance the tango. Many young Argentines are there to learn for the first time so it is a great place to interact with locals, whether you are in the city alone or with a friend or partner. It is also wonderful to watch some of the old folks glide across the dance floor so gracefully, putting the rest of us to shame.
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