Chiqué Tango Milonga

August 21, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Tango dancing in an authentic Spanish club

Tango Dancing at the Chique Milonga in Congreso, Buenos Aires

*If you want to check out some authentic tango salons in Buenos Aires, the easiest and most fun way to do so is on a private tango nightlife tour, where your personal guide will show you the local scene and explain everything that is going on to you, taking you to the best places on the night of your choice. For more information, click here.*

There are countless ways to experience the art of tango in Buenos Aires, the city where it was born. If you’ve already seen a flashy show and some impromptu street performances but are STILL not satisfied, attending a a tango milonga (a venue for dancing tango) where the dance is found in its natural habitat may be the answer.

Chiqué Tango Milonga is one such venue. Chiqué is held every Thursday afternoon on the first floor of Casa Galicia, a Spanish club in Congreso (near the city center). A Spanish restaurant is on the second floor. The hall consists of a very old wooden dance floor in excellent condition, which is surrounded by tables with tablecloths, women sitting on one side, men on the other, and couples at the end in the traditional manner.

There is a small stage at one end where the DJ does his thing. The other end of the salon has big windows with a balcony. There is no physical bar, but waitresses take all orders to the kitchen where they are filled by bartender just the same. There is a coat check, and a bathroom attendant. The organizers are always there to welcome their guests. Patrons are expected to order drinks, from bottled water to champagne. Snacks are also available.

The Dance Hall in Casa Galicia

A friendly, welcoming milonga

This milonga has a family feel – very comfortable and friendly. There are good dancers but people don’t go there to strut their stuff; they go to mix and mingle and have fun dancing. The Cabeceo (the inviting to dance with nods of the head) is strictly observed, but still the milonga feels informal and relaxed. There is no pressure or elitism.

A few foreigners attend, but the milonga is not dripping with them and those who prey on them. The dancers are well-groomed and well-dressed and generally between the ages of 50-80, but with younger exceptions. If a lady isn’t dancing much, the organizer himself may invite her.

Dancing up a tango storm at Chique

Strictly Tango

Unlike some other milongas, there are no tandas (blocks) of other types of music. It’s strictly tango (tango, vals and milonga) in Chiqué.

Chiqué used to be held at Club Español where it drew many more attendees due to the elaborate architecture. Many visitors would pay to go into the milonga just to gape at it’s beautiful gilt salon. This isn’t so in Casa Galicia, which is still very nice, but nothing extraordinary in terms of architecture. There is an image of Santiago el Major in a glass case on the wall, and several huge oil paintings of the homeland (which could use a wash). There are chandeliers and gewgaws on the ceiling, and air conditioning is rumored to be on its way.

Help support Chiqué

Unfortunately, with the move from Club Español, some people have gone elsewhere. And if more people don’t begin to frequent this new location, perhaps Chiqué will be in trouble.

However, as of now, Chiqué is a great place to spend a charming Thursday afternoon sampling the Buenos Aires milonga scene, before running off to dinner or to dance at a late-night milonga.

[Article written by Cherie Magnus]

Location of Chiqué Tango Milonga

Casa Galicia: San Jose 224, corner of Alsina, City Center

If you want to try Chiqué on your own:
Open Thursday afternoons 4pm-10pm
Organizer: Julio Auliel / DJ: Dany Borelli
Reservations: 4201-7199 or 15-6140-7830

Avenida Corrientes Bookstores

July 24, 2007 by · 11 Comments 

The famous bookstores of Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires bookstores on Avenida Corrientes

Buenos Aires is no doubt one of the most literary cities on the planet. The people here know the value of a good book, whether it’s poetry, fiction, art, anthropology, self-help, or psychology (not only can you bet that most porteños have read some Freud, but there is even an area of Palermo – Villa Freud – named after him).

If you wish to properly observe this social fact, you absolutely must visit the bookstores of Corrientes, the famous avenue that bristles with the action of theaters, cinemas, cafes, shops, and people with their noses stuck in used copies of anthologies of Argentine history or poetry.

Buenos Aires’ bookstore hotspot

Every bookstore has its own history and character, but all of them proudly display extensive collections of works by Argentine and Latin American authors and artists, as well as North American and classical European works, calendars, and CDs. Very few of them have any English language sections, although if you dig around you should find a few English offerings.

Most of the bookstores deal primarily in new books, but you’ll find some used books as well. With books scattered here, there and everywhere, presentation is not a priority – very different to more upscale bookstore chains in Buenos Aires like Boutique del Libro or El Ateneo.

If you don’t read Spanish, it is still enjoyable to peruse the stores simply because they are unique in their atmosphere and awesome in their vast quantity of texts. You could always get a children’s book or calendar as a souvenir. Or maybe it’s about time you learned to read Spanish… after all, it’s a language that is truly rich in expressions and has hundreds of years of literary heritage.

A typical Avenida Corrientes bookstore

Here are some excellent spots for book-hunting on Corrientes. The best way to visit them is to start at the Obelisco (subway station Carlos Pellegrini, on Av. 9 de Julio) and walk up Corrientes going westward (towards Av. Callao). The places listed below go in order from east to west so you can follow them like a walking tour. You could spend thirty minutes briefly poking your head into them, or an entire afternoon going through the immense selections.

Obel Libros

This modest bookstore has been in operation for about a decade and is run by a friendly middle-aged man who will be excited to practice his English with you. The special items you will find here are encyclopedias for students, books focusing on Latin American social and economic matters, and used novels.

Cuspide Libros

If you want professional guides for things such as computers, culinary arts, tourism, and hostelry (in Spanish, of course), Cuspide offers a wide range of these books. It also has the usual offerings of cheaply produced novels and non-fiction books.

Libreria Lucas

Liberia Lucas bookstore on Avenida Corrientes

At Lucas you will find a good selection of well-kept used books, which might interest collectors or book sellers. Also here are plenty of children’s books.

Libreria Hernandez

There are two Hernandez locations on Corrientes, within a few blocks of each other. A very extensive selection of books is offered, with topics such as Latin American revolutions, Che Guevara, economics, politics, Peronism, Argentine history, religion (you may notice that there are a lot of books about Judaism, a subject Argentines are fascinated by, due to the large Jewish population here), self-help, and psychology.

Are you looking for a gift?  Pick up one of the colorful cookbooks with recipes for traditional porteño favorites. You may even find a few cookbooks in English, or even one that explains methods for the traditional Argentine asado (barbeque). Also at Hernandez is a great collection of art books, with a focus on artists from Argentina and Buenos Aires.

Liberia Hernandez bookstore on Av Corrientes

Libreria Libertador

Don’t miss this classic Corrientes bookstore, with its unbelievably cheap classics by Spanish and Latin American authors, poetry collections, children’s books, and offerings by Shakespeare, Kahlil Gibran, Henry James, and more. The prices are low enough that you might buy books even if you can’t read Spanish.

If you are traveling around Argentina, you might also look for the nicely done travel guides published by the newspaper El Clarin. They can come in handy and are much lighter than the Lonely Planet you are probably lugging around.

Also at Libreria Libertador there are random items such as dollhouse parts and furniture, calendars with themes of Argentina and Buenos Aires, old magazines that will delight collectors, heaps of crossword puzzle books, CDs by composers such as Beethoven and Vivaldi with booklets providing information about the music, and, if you dare, a backroom full of dirty magazines and videos.

Magazines and Puzzle books also abound

Posada Libros

This enormous bookstore stretches back into a building big enough for two businesses. You’ll find the usual suspects here: cheap novels, books on the humanities (philosophy, anthropology, religion), CDs (Latin and classical music), and so on. Mainly it’s worth visiting Posada Libros just to see so many books in one place.

Between the Bookstores

Once you’ve tired of the Corrientes book-walk in the Buenos Aires City Center,  you most definitely deserve a break. If you get hungry, head to Pizzeria Guerrin (touted as one of the best pizza restaurants in Buenos Aires), or for a mid-day coffee break, to El Gato Negro (a beautiful old cafe and spice shop).

While you are bookstore-hopping, watch out for the plenty of artisans who set up their displays on the sidewalks of Corrientes. Also you’ll walk by some of Buenos Aires’ famous theaters – inquire there about the latest spectacles.

Location of Avenida Corrientes Bookstores

Various stops along Avenida Corrientes, between Avenida 9 de Julio & Avenida Callao, City Center

I hate Buenos Aires when…

July 18, 2007 by · 19 Comments 

Sometimes Buenos Aires can be a bitch

Diva specifically requested that this photo wasn't rotated

With great honor, Diva, of Buenos Aires Through My Eyes (AKA Bitchtours) fame, is welcomed to the blog as a guest poster. She loves Buenos Aires, but sometimes, like all cities, it has its annoyances…

1. I order a dish from a menu and they don’t have it

This is not something unusual here, even in fancy restaurants. You spent 10 minutes deciding what you’re gonna have and when you order the waiter gives you this look like you’ve pronounced a forbidden word and then says: “I’ll check if we have that”.

How come? It’s on the menu, the only thing I would eat right now is that damn dish and you don’t have it? Give me a break.

2. I buy something in a kiosk and they give me candy instead of change because they don’t have coins

Mr. or Mrs. kiosk: I’m buying a pack of Lucky Strikes and a diet coke, do you think I really want candy? Maybe we should do what a friend suggested the other day: Keep all the candy in a jar and then try to buy my cigarettes with them.

3. The taxi driver tells me that he doesn’t know the street I’m trying to get

Taxi driver: Corrientes and Anchorena? Hmmm… I’m not sure where that is.

Me: That’s the Abasto.

Taxi driver: Abasto? Is that the place where there are horse races? Excuse me, but I’ve been driving this taxi cab just for 3 days and I don’t know the city very well…

That’s the oldest trick in the world, dude, at least in Buenos Aires. I know what you are doing. You are testing if I know where I’m going. I do know, and I also know the fastest way to get there so cut the crap and drive.

And then you are going to tell me that you’ve just started your shift so you don’t have any change. Don’t worry, I have lots of candy…

4. The TV in the subways

Oh my god, that’s annoying. Maybe you are visiting and you don’t have to take the subway like most of the locals do (anyway you won’t escape from the taxi drivers). They have these TVs all over the place repeating the same crap every 5 minutes. From stupid music videos to political propaganda, from fashion shows to a coach teaching people how they should dress in order to get a job. All kinds of uninteresting programs that last 30 seconds.

I would get a taxi cab if it wasn’t that they probably won’t know the address I’m going to.

5. Bad graffiti

Hey you, the guy that paints the walls in such a messy and ugly way: If you are going to damage private property, at least do it with some class. Haven’t you seen all those wonderful stencils around Buenos Aires? Those guys try to add something to the world, they carefully design what they are going to paint. What you do is just stupid. I hope the police caught you while you are damaging another wall. If you have things to say, go get a therapist, because nobody wants to know what you have to say.

And that’s it. I could go on and on, but this is not my blog so…

About me: Buenos Aires Through My Eyes

Dear readers, what do you hate about Buenos Aires?

Cafe El Gato Negro

July 15, 2007 by · 4 Comments 

This black cat in Buenos Aires might not be so unlucky…

El Gato Negro Cafe and Spice shop

On a chilly fall or winter day in Buenos Aires, there is nothing more likely to give you warmth and a big smile than having a delicious spiced tea or coffee in El Gato Negro, one of the city’s most historical establishments. The cafe was originally a spice store founded by a Spanish settler in 1929 who spent years traveling in Asia and Siberia, collecting exotic spices and flavors. He brought them to Buenos Aires and named this cafe El Gato Negro after another famous cafe back in Madrid.

Now El Gato Negro is a reminder of the city’s European roots, and a wonderful place to read a newspaper or the book you recently bought at one of Avenida Corrientes’ many bookstores, or even to enjoy a gourmet dinner in its elegant upstairs dining room.

Teas and spices on the shelves of El Gato Negro

Heady aromas of teas, coffees and spices

As you walk into the cafe, you are instantly overcome by the mixtures of aromas. Freshly ground coffee, cardamom, black and green teas, and ginger swirl together in the air, hovering over the people sitting at tables or buying bags of spices at the counter. You almost have the sensation of being in an Arab market in the middle of Buenos Aires. Grab a seat and be prepared to relax for an hour or two in the company of a hot drink.

The truth is that El Gato Negro does have rather daunting prices for its offerings, partly due to the fact that it is a fairly touristy environment these days (as with most historical locations), but also because its coffees and teas are mostly imported and of high quality. A delicious delight like the cafe al jengibre, with freshly ground coffee, cream, ginger, honey and cinnamon, may cost more than a cafe con leche across the street, however,  El Gato Negro is worth a visit if only to experience its lovely old world atmosphere.

El Gato Negro, Buenos Aires City Center
[Photo Credit: adapar]

Try delicious treats like Irish coffees or vanilla-cinnamon infused teas

Other treats to try here are their Irish coffees, which offer a bit of alcohol to warm you up on a chilly day, and their loose leaf teas and infusions, such as vanilla-cinnamon, green tea-orange, green tea-ginger, and mint. Don’t miss specialties such as the cafe cardamomo with fresh cardamom seeds or their delightful cappucino. To accompany your bevarage, El Gato Negro has some tempting desserts and pastries, such as brownies, medialunas, and alfajores.

If you come to El Gato Negro for a light lunch, you could order a sandwich with ham and cheese,  some picadas (ham and cheese platters), or one of their gourmet sandwiches with steak, chicken, or cheese .

El Gato Negro is an acclaimed cafe notable, recognized for its historical importance in Buenos Aires. Most of the original wooden furniture has been preserved, and its a fabulous place to sit and watch people come in to relax after an afternoon of dizzying shopping on bustling Avenida Corrientes in the city center of Buenos Aires.

Inside El Gato Negro Cafe

An interesting range of food, but at a price

El Gato Negro also has a restaurant area upstairs that serves full-course dinners at rather lofty prices, not pleasing to travelers on a budget. Here you will find unique bistro-style dishes and a full wine-list that should please any palate. Among their starters, El Gato Negro has caesar salads with shrimp, regular salads, and a spiced mushroom tart. Main dishes range from the scalloped pork with curried corn pudding, to fish in almond sauce over herbed couscous.

For desserts, try the parfait de Cassis or the chocolate mousse with walnuts. All in all, El Gato Negro is a place for fine-dining in a unique setting, and it’s worth the prices if you really need to eat something besides bife de chorizo con pure de papas for a change. The wine list has good Argentine favorites like Benjamin Nieto and Santa Julia, or opt for a more economical glass of house wine.

Take a little of El Gato Negro away with you

If you are souvenir-shopping, El Gato Negro has lovely little spice tins and boxes with their signature black cat over a lush red background. Or, if you are staying long-term in Buenos Aires, this is a good spot to find things that can be difficult to obtain elsewhere in the city, such as exotic spices, soy sauces, couscous, dried mushrooms, fresh and dried spices from all over the world, spice mix for making asado, or dried candied fruits such as kiwis, pears, and pineapples.

Spices for sale at El Gato Negro
[Photo Credit: aardvark]

Location of El Gato Negro

Avenida Corrientes 1669, between Rodriguez Pena & Montevideo, City Center

Tel: 4374-1730

Thelonious Jazz Club

July 11, 2007 by · 2 Comments 

Jazz in Buenos Aires

Thelonious Club Jazz Cocktails - Keyword stuffers are alive and well in Buenos Aires!

If you are looking to spend a night in a setting of utmost Buenos Aires cool, check out the famed Palermo jazz club, Thelonious. This bar features live jazz bands Wednesday through Sunday nights, starting at 9:30 pm. On Friday and Saturday nights there are two bands in the line-up. Thelonious, named after the legendary American jazz pianist, is not a place to hear second-rate jazz. The performance on any given night will enrapture you with the energy, talent, and improvisational skills of the musicians.

Cover fees vary depending on the night: you can check their website, call for more information about that night’s particular show (see below for contact info), or stop by Thelonious to pick up the current month’s schedule.

Jazz performance at Thelonious Club

Reserve a table for a night of elegance and spectacular jazz

In order to make sure you have a space to sit and view the musicians, you should call ahead and reserve a table. They will hold it for you until 9:30pm, when the music is supposed to start (but remember, this is Argentina and nothing starts exactly on time).

If you come with a date, you’ll get a cozy table for two; bigger groups get couches and coffee tables; otherwise you can pull up a stool at the bar or even hang out on the stairs leading to the upper level. The place is small, so get there early if you don’t have a reservation. Your experience will be much more enjoyable if you have a seat, as the jazz sets are often quite long (an hour and a half on average).

Sip on a cool cocktail in the color of your choice

Located in a fairly posh part of Palermo, near Plaza Guemes and its lovely Our Lady of Guadalupe church, Thelonious club is usually packed with smartly-dressed Buenos Aires hipsters, old-school jazz fans, and foreigners visiting the city. It’s okay to be casual, but if you are looking for somewhere to show off your trendy new Palermo boutique finds, this is the place.

Everybody checks each other out, wondering who is going to be having drinks with the band after the show. So make sure you order a fashionable drink, like the local-standard Fernet and coke, or one of Thelonious’ colorful cocktails, such as a daquiri, or a frozen mojito.

Daquiri cocktails at Thelonious Jazz club

Thelonious offers a very complete list of cocktails, and some creative ones, like the Keith Richards: vodka, lemon, and sugar. Of course, if you are on a budget, be glad that you are in Argentina and you can share a bottle of Malbec with some friends for a reasonable price. And if you’re just a regular beer guy, grab a bottle of Heineken or Guinness.

Thelonious, a recycled building decorated with a special touch

The atmosphere alone at Thelonious is reason enough to stop by. As with many modern restaurants and bars in Buenos Aires, Thelonious is a “recycled” rendition of an old house. One special feature of Palermo architecture that you will see at this club is the bare brick ceilings. Above the stage hangs a light fixture consisting of subdued yellow light bulbs twisted every which way like an unruly nest of wires.

The place is designed to be a live music venue, with low-wattage spot lighting placed strategically around the premises. The sturdy bar seems to be made of adobe, and it has built-in lights that cast a glow on the face of your date as he or she absorbs the frenetic bleeps and bloops of the trumpet or the whirring drum rhythms.

Enjoying Jazz from the bar of Club Thelonius

Whatever act is on at Thelonious, you can be assured that it’s a respected, nationally or even internationally acclaimed group of artists who dedicate themselves to their instruments. Depending on the artist, the songs may be original compositions with influences from classical jazz, modern rock, and Latin American musical genres, or they might be renditions of standards from the likes of John Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie. The late-night bands on Fridays and Saturdays are more the dance-and-groove types, while the weekday night bands are better for listening and watching attentively.

Worth an after-dinner visit, for an evening of musical bliss

Even if you aren’t a jazz aficionado, Thelonious Club is pretty much sure to guarantee a unique and interesting evening. The service is not especially warm but it is certainly professional and efficient. It’s best to eat before the show (or after, at the café on the corner of Salguero, which is open late), but if you come hungry, you can order simple pizzeta (personal pizza) or a tabla de quesos (cheese plate).

Thelonious also offers desserts, making it a great place to bring your date after an early dinner. Try their gooey chocolate brownie with walnuts and vanilla ice cream, or simply a coffee or tea. Possibly one of the best after-dinner drink choices on the menu is the Irish coffee, which is deliciously sweet with a kick of liquor. Or for an even more elegant dessert, cozy up to a bottle of Chandon champagne to enjoy the jazz in true style.

Jazz in Palermo, Buenos Aires at the Thelonious Club

A place like Club Thelonious could exist in any fashionable international city: New York, London, or Paris. But in the tastefully decorated upstairs space of Thelonious, surrounded by eclectic people from all over the world, sipping Malbec with good company, you will be glad you are watching a jazz show in Buenos Aires.

Location of Thelonious Jazz Club

Jeronimo Salguero 1884, corner Guemes, Palermo

Tel: 4829-1562   Website: www.thelonious.com.ar

Club Boutique (ex Club Museum)

July 8, 2007 by · 5 Comments 

Buenos Aires After-Office

All the shiny disco balls you could ever need - Club Museum, Buenos Aires

(Note: Museum has now been renamed “Club Boutique”)

(But most people still refer to it as Club Museum, so it’ll stay that way for most of this article!)

[Article written by Alan Epstein]

In a late-night city like Buenos Aires it isn’t hard to find a club that stays open until the crack of dawn, or an “after hours” party that will keep you dancing until 10am the next day. This is what makes Club Museum / Boutique in San Telmo so special: on Wednesdays, the people come pouring into this massive three-story club early, at around 7pm, for their “After Office” party.

Wednesday has traditionally been the midweek choice for “After-Office” parties, when the businessmen of downtown Buenos Aires loosen their ties and down a few cocktails. You don’t have to have a suit, tie and briefcase to attend Museum’s Wednesday night affair, but do come dressed the part. Shorts and sandals are frowned upon at the door.

Party revellers having a good time at Club Museum

Club Museum – Two-for-one happy “hour”

Happy hour begins at 7pm, and then until 10pm selected drinks are 2-for-1, with the food reasonably priced as well. Unusual for Buenos Aires nightclubs, there is no charge for entry at Museum until happy hour is over.

A wide variety of dining options… and sushi!

The variety of food is decent – you can have picadas, pizzas, capresse salad, or of course sushi, as this is Buenos Aires’ trendiest option. The sushi here is about as good as it is anywhere else in Buenos Aires. It’s the same-old-same with sushi in Argentina, everything is salmon and cream cheese, salmon and cream cheese… or you might get their version of a tuna roll, where they actually stick tuna from a can inside the sushi rice. It’s actually not that bad, but it’s a shocker to see if you are a real sushi connoisseur.

For a more typically Argentine choice, there is the Tabla de Quesos y Fiambres, which is a platter of meats and cheeses, including jamon crudo (cured ham) – unbelievably tasty and large enough for two to pick on, and a good amount to eat to not get bogged down for dancing.

Eating and drinking at Club Museum's after office party

What do Club Museum and the Eiffel Tower have in common?

The building is quite striking, and it really stands out from the rest in this part of San Telmo. The sheer size of Club Museum is  nothing short of overwhelming, having been designed by Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame! This old style French influence is apparent outside and in.

There is a huge cluster of giant disco balls hanging from the ceiling and large projection screens playing a mixture of liquor and fashion commercials, and also street scenes from across Europe. The floor is wide open in the middle with tables in the front and in the back. There are also tables to sit on at the perimeters of the second and third floors, which you need reservations to get.

Club Museum's big projection screen

Live Bands – first sit down and enjoy the show…

Club Museum puts on live bands most Wednesdays from around 9pm to 10pm. During this time it is probably more comfortatble to sit either on the second or third floor balconies so you can enjoy your food and the music simultaneously without losing your voice attempting to talk to your friends over the speakers. To ensure that you have a decent seat you can reserve a table in advance (see below for details), though to do so you should have at least 6 or 7 people in your party.

…then get on the dance floor

Once 10pm rolls around make your way down to the dance floor where the DJ will surely play every song Madonna has ever recorded. It may be true that Madonna sings about 15% of the songs played in Buenos Aires nightclubs, and Museum is no different. The mix at Museum is mostly 80s music and electronic, with some latin favorites thrown in.

When you are downstairs, remember that the Argentines require less personal space in general than in the United States (and perhaps in Europe too). Everybody is bumping into each other and amazingly nobody gets upset about it. It’s just the way it is in Buenos Aires. Restrain from getting angry and pushing back – this is just a cultural difference to get used to.

Museum is definitely the place to be on a Wednesday. Start at 7pm, leave before 3am (closing time), and still get up for work the next morning!

Dancing through the evening in Buenos Aires

Club Museum: Reservations

For advance reservations, you can contact Club Museum using the following details:

Online contact: Click here to inquire about the club online
Phone: 4611-5657 or 4632-9381 (between 10am and 6pm, Mondays to Fridays)

Location of Club Museum

Peru 535, between Venezuela & Mexico, San Telmo

Boutique del Libro – Bookstore and Cafe

July 7, 2007 by · 4 Comments 

Buenos Aires, a city of book lovers

Boutique del Libro Bookshop - Palermo Soho, Buenos Aires

As one of the most literate cities on the planet, Buenos Aires will not disappoint a book lover. You can spend hours just browsing through the stacks and shelves of novels, academic theses, art and photography collections, and poetry anthologies in shops across the city here. Of course Buenos Aires is best for book-shopping if you read Spanish, or don’t mind captions in Spanish, but most places do also have an English-language selection.

One very attractive and alluring bookstore in Buenos Aires is the Boutique del Libro, a combined bookshop and café tucked away in the streets of Palermo Soho.

Boutique del Libro: Unsurprisingly, full of books

Indulge the bookworm inside you at Boutique del Libro

Boutique del Libro is the kind of bookstore that makes you hold your breath in awe as you walk past the shelves full of enough books to satisfy any intellectual thirst. If you want to find art, photography, or design collections, especially ones that are specific to Argentina, this is a great place to look. Boutique del Libro also boasts a pretty decent collection of English-language classics and new novels, which are located by the front window. They also have a small collection of CDs by Argentine and international musicians.

The bookstore staff are friendly and happy to point you in the right direction to help you find a book. Everything is well-labeled by section, so you can always just go straight to a specific category and peruse. The bookstore is usually filled with foreigners and locals alike, enjoying the atmosphere and lounging around in the café.

Look smart with a novel by Borges or Isabel Allende

The café is an ideal spot for quiet reflection with a recently-purchased book, or if you need to get some studying done. There is free wireless internet so you can read your emails in this high-ceilinged, spacious area. The décor is tasteful: large white-and-beige modern style paintings adorn the muted walls, and the furniture is a mix of antique low-slung patio chairs and sturdy wooden seats. Each table is creatively topped by a miniature cactus plant. You’ll find yourself among people happily lost in a novel, or in thought, or in their studies.

Lounging around in the Boutique del Libro cafe / bookshop

Maybe just a coffee or tea in the café: it’s better for mood than food

If you’re on a budget, it’s probably best not to come to Palermo Soho hungry, because by Argentine standards places like Boutique del Libro are overcharging for their food and drinks. The Boutique offers standard fare such as steak sandwiches, salads, baked chicken, hamburgers, and tostadas, which are grilled-cheese sandwiches (usually jamon y queso – ham and cheese). It’s got an espresso bar and alcoholic drinks.

Boutique del Libro is actually a chain in Argentina, but the Palermo location has a special air of sophistication that is worth checking out. If you are a book lover you will understand the aura that radiates from a really good bookstore. Come here just to see the place and admire the simple decoration in the café, or to get some reading material in either Spanish or English. And while you’re in the area, across the way you’ll also find a very cool store called Objetos Encontrados, full of interesting antiques, toys and other random stuff.

So, in an afternoon of strolling or shopping in Palermo Soho, it’s definitely worth your time to visit Boutique del Libro, even if just for a look or a quick coffee with some cookies. And if you are actually in the market for books, you’ll almost certainly enjoy the variety of their selection.

Cafe and bookstore life come together

Location of Boutique del Libro Bookstore and Cafe

Thames 1762, between Costa Rica & El Salvador, Palermo Soho

Mataderos Fair

June 26, 2007 by · 11 Comments 

All the fun of the gaucho fair

Feria de Mataderos, Buenos Aires

One of the best-kept secrets in Buenos Aires is the Feria de Mataderos, a weekly event that takes place during the fall, winter and spring months (approximately March to December) on Sundays, from about 11am and into the early evening (during January to the start of March a cut-down version of the Mataderos fair is held on Saturdays nights, from 6pm). You may already know about the ferias (street fairs) in San Telmo or Recoleta, but if you want a real South American experience, come to Mataderos to see the gauchos (Argentine cowboys) and friends, who come from the countryside with their displays of horsemanship, handicrafts, live music, folk dancing, and delicious foods.

The Feria de Mataderos

The fair has an upbeat and jovial atmosphere, despite taking place in one of the poorest sectors of the capital. Mataderos, and its neighboring neighborhood of Liniers, were where cattle were traditionally brought in from around the country, slaughtered, and then shipped out as meat to other parts of the capital (in Spanish, Mataderos literally means slaughterhousesand the area is also often called Nueva Chicago, because of the cattle-killing heritage it shares with the ‘Windy City’).

For this reason there is an interesting mix of cultures: gauchos, porteños, and migrant workers from Bolivia & Paraguay. The fair represents this colorful combination of traditions, dancing and artwork.

Dancers from the La Rioja province of Argentina, at the Mataderos fair

To get to the fair from other parts of Buenos Aires is about a 45-minute-plus bus ride on one of the following colectivos (city buses): 55, 63, 80, 92, 117, 126, 141, 155, and 180. Of these, the 55 and the 92 are the ones that bring you closest; with the others you may have to walk a little bit. Just ask the bus driver to let you off at the fair (if you are following your map, with the 55 and 92 buses, the exact intersection you need to get off at is Av. Directorio and Av. Lisandro de la Torre).

Mataderos can sometimes be a bit of a rough neighborhood, so be sensible and keep an eye on your belongings – leave the Rolexes, pearl earrings, and mega-expensive cameras at home. Of course it’s fine to bring a camera and some money, but always be aware of where they are on you, and don’t flash either around carelessly (this is of course also good advice for all tourists visiting any city in the world) – especially as the fair is usually very crowded.

The crowds enjoying the Feria de Mataderos

Traditional Argentine Folk Music & Dancing

At the Mataderos fair, you can spend a few hours taking in the gaucho culture by watching the locals do folk dances known as zambas, accompanied by live musicians on a nearby outdoor stage. The zamba (not to be confused with the extremely different Brazilian samba) is a pleasure to watch. It is danced in pairs, a staged routine of flirtation in which the man and the woman dance toward each other and then quickly whirl away, waving scarves or handkerchiefs in flirtatious gestures. The dancers wear traditional Argentine costumes from the countryside, often in bright colors. My favorite part is when the men break into rhythmic step dances, which is akin to tap dancing with gaucho boots: very impressive!

With the live band playing folk music on accordions, traditional bombo legüero drums, folk guitars, and vocals, it’s a true fiesta, a street party, and people might grab you by the shoulder and laughingly try to pull you into their dancing circle. Feel free to join in!

Folkloric dancing at the Feria de Mataderos

Picking out a bargain at the fair

There are plenty of beautiful handicrafts at the fair, and in fact you might find some of the best deals in Buenos Aires here. Specialties of the Mataderos fair are leather goods, mate gourds, stone and silver jewelry, trinkets and good-luck charms molded from clay or other natural materials, key chains, wind chimes, and other fun objects that make great souvenirs or gifts. Usually the price the seller gives you is what you are expected to pay, although if your Spanish is good and you are accustomed to bargaining, you can try to get a deal for buying more than one thing. For example, if you buy five necklaces, the seller may give you five or ten percent off the price.

Market stall at the mataderos fair

If you are on the lookout for a souvenir that is purely Argentine, keep your eyes open for something known as a duendito. These are little clay figures that look like miniature garden gnomes, and you can always find them in any Argentine craft fair. The figure is supposed to radiate the spirit of the mountains and nature, and it is often wearing a big floppy hat and something like elf shoes. Some artisans make them with plaques where your name or a message like “Luck of the duendito” can be engraved to personalize your gift.

Got the Mataderos munchies?

As you walk around the Feria de Mataderos, which covers four long blocks in the streets, you may want to grab a choripan or a pancho. These staples of Argentine street cuisine are grilled sausage sandwiches and hot-dogs, respectively. The greasy treats are obscenely cheap and also not the healthiest choices, but there’s nothing quite like munching on a choripan while sitting on a bench people-watching on a Sunday afternoon.

Cooking up some delicious chorizo sausages on an Argentine grill
[Photo credit: Paul Keller]

If outdoor food, or greasy sausages for that matter, aren’t your style, then take a look at this Argentina Travel Guide blog, which has a review of an interesting place to eat in Mataderos – that is, if you like the choices on offer of empanadas, empanadas, or… empanadas! However, if you like variety and trying something new, there are many other cheap restaurants and stalls, most with outside seating, lining the fair, offering up delicious Argentine regional treats such as locro, asado, tamales, and torta frita.

See some remarkable gaucho horse riding skills

For many people, the most interesting event at the Feria de Mataderos is the Carerra de Sortija – the “Race of the Ring”. This usually starts at about 3.30pm along a stretch of the road Av. Lisandro de la Torre, and it is where gauchos race their horses at breakneck speeds towards a small ring hung onto a raised metal frame overhead. The gauchos stand up in their stirrups as they race, and try to spear the ring, which is no larger than a normal piece of jewelry, with a small pointy stick. Everytime a gaucho is successful in spearing the ring, the crowds go wild, and the gaucho is extremely happy to milk the applause for all it’s worth as he trots back on their horse through the crowd holding the ring above his head.

Mataderos Fair Information & Guides

If it rains, the Mataderos usually still goes ahead. However, on holidays, such as election days, the fair is not held. You can find up to date information at the official Feria de Mataderos website (Spanish). You can also call to ask questions: 4687-5602 (on Sundays) or 4374-9664 (Monday through Friday), but of course your Spanish will need to be pretty decent for that.

So grab your camera, friends, hostel-mates, significant others, children, or parents, and head out to the Feria de Mataderos to experience provincial Argentine culture and relaxation; this is an activity for everyone, of any age and personality. Enjoy the colorful music and dance, try some of the foods, take some great photos, marvel at the gaucho horsemanship, and don’t forget to get a souvenir to take home as a memory.

[Article by Rachel Singer]

Location of Feria de Mataderos

Av. Lisandro de la Torre & Av. de los Corrales, Mataderos

Cochabamba 444 Tango Milonga

June 22, 2007 by · 7 Comments 

An authentic milonga in San Telmo

Red Hot (Leggings) on the Tango Milonga Dance Floor

*If you want to check out some authentic tango salons in Buenos Aires, the easiest and most fun way to do so is on a private tango nightlife tour, where your personal guide will show you the local scene and explain everything that is going on to you, taking you to the best places on the night of your choice. For more information, click here.*

For an authentic tango experience in Buenos Aires, there are many options beyond the professional Argentine Tango Shows. For a different side of Tango, head to Cochabamba 444, the San Telmo milonga where the city’s best tango dancers come to strut across the dance floor with people of all ages, walks of life, and nationalities. The bar is dimly lit by chandeliers with yellow bulbs, giving an aura of antiquity that takes you back to Buenos Aires in its Golden Age of high-society and sizzling tango bars. It’s located on a quiet street just three blocks from Plaza Dorrego, where the Sunday antiques fair is held.

Tango dancers at the Cochabamba 444 milonga in San Telmo

Buenos Aires tango lessons

If you’d like to try out your dancing shoes, tango lessons are offered Thursday and Friday nights at 8pm at Cochabamba 444 (arrive a little late and there’ll be no problem – this is Argentina, after all). The teacher gives the class in Spanish, but if your Spanish isn’t great have no fear, because there is bound to be some English-speaking expat or even an Argentine who will happily translate for you as you whirl around the floor (or trip over your own feet, as the case may be). There may be better places in Buenos Aires for instruction on dancing tango than Cochabamba 444, but this milonga is really known for is its atmosphere and music.

Dance the night away, or just watch and enjoy

If you just want to come to watch the dancers and enjoy the music, you can show up around 10pm or 10:30pm and grab a table near the modest bar in the back. The bar serves bottles of cheap wine and things to munch on like empanadas, and picadas (plates of meats, cheese, olives etc), all at very low prices, even by Buenos Aires standards. Overall, the bar is populated by Argentines who are serious about tango, but there are certainly some foreigners on the scene too.

Once the music starts, even the most unassuming of patrons will whisk out on the dance floor and dazzle you with their grace, covert sensuality, and intensity. There’s a method to the madness, though: the culture of tango is outlined in strict rules that you can only learn from being a part of it. For example, the men always ask the women for a dance, and sometimes it’s done subtly with just a raised eyebrow. And once a couple is dancing tango, they will continue as partners for an entire song set.

A traditional Tango band belts out some classic tunes

Cochabamba 444: a performance worth coming for

Toward the end of the night, Cochabamba 444 will typically offer some sort of performance. It’s usually a traditional live tango band, who will bang out classic tunes with style on a stand-up bass, bandoneon (the type of accordion used in tango), and piano. Sometimes, however, you might get lucky and see a hilarious puppet show or a singer belting out some soul tunes.

Make note that Thursday night is arguably the best night to go, although you will probably also see some spectacular dancing and live music on Fridays too.

Make note, dress is casual but it’s best not to wear jeans and sneakers, as tango culture is somewhat more refined and traditional. You may not easily meet other travelers or Argentines at Cochabamba, but you will certainly observe a beautiful dance, authentic tango culture, and stirring musical performances.

[Article written by Rachel Singer]

Location of Cochabamba 444

Cochabamba 444, between Defensa & Bolivar, San Telmo

« Previous Page

Choose your currency:

Close
Converted prices are for reference only - all orders are charged in $ US Dollars ($) USD.
  • USDUS Dollars ($)
  • EUREuros (€)
  • GBPPounds Sterling (£)
  • AUDAustralian Dollars ($)
  • BRLBrazilian Real (R$)
  • CADCanadian Dollars ($)
  • HKDHong Kong Dollar ($)
  • NZDNew Zealand Dollar ($)
  • CHFSwiss Franc
  • ZARSouth African Rand