Let’s check in with our friend, Jim Williamson. I’m back. I haven’t decided if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I’m sure you are anxious to hear about my trip down to South America, to the beautiful and intriguing city of Buenos Aires. I guess I will begin with the words spoken by an elegant woman walking with her friend in the Recoleta neighborhood. (Some like to call it The Upper East side of BA.) People in BA do not walk like people walk in NYC—there doesn’t seem to be the same sense of urgency. You need to pack some patience. Anyway, as we exited our friend’s elegant apartment (built around 1916, I think, by Sir Ambrose Macdonald Poynter, who also built the Torre Monumental and other buildings), we saw the women. One of them is a friend of our host, and they greeted one another with joyous kisses on each cheek. He introduced as, and as I extended my hand to introduce myself she said, “In Argentina, everyone kisses!” And then she gave me two full kisses on each cheek. It was like a scene out of a Woody Allen movie, so I was immediately smitten. It doesn’t hurt that there are some truly gorgeous people in Buenos Aires. (By “people,” I mean men.)
It is a very beautiful city and very much like the Paris of South America. But like any big city, the traffic was wack! Staying within the lines is not something that happens in BA traffic. It is gasp, grasp, and hang on tight sugar. You think, “How do people drive like this? It makes no sense.” But somehow, with all the weaving in and out and round and round, you get where you are going eventually. But maybe skip any and all fluids before getting in that car.
We toured everything from the Evita Museum and her crypt to the Teatro Colon, where our young guide, Margarita, was giving her final tour before starting her career as a professional singer. You could tell that she was emotional, as she was very fond of working and training her craft at the theater for several years. It doesn’t hurt that it is also one of the greatest and most beautiful theaters in the world. She walked us around the incredible stage surrounded by all the gilded boxes and we experienced some of the acoustics. Of course, that consisted of lots of loud hammering and sawing while workers built sets for the next production.
As we were about to leave the grand setting, the hammering suddenly stopped, and the other guides gathered and asked Margarita to sing. You could tell she was surprised, but she then cleared her throat and sang a sweet tune with a lovely voice. The acoustics were indeed amazing. Then she began to cry, overcome with emotion. As she walked us out, she looked at me and said in perfect English, “I am so sorry I cried! I didn’t know it was going to be this emotional.” Again, it was another perfect Woody Allen moment.
We then toured palaces, museums, art exhibits (a must see: Anthony McCall), restaurants, and hotels (go to the Faena; you won’t be disappointed). We went to shop after shop. (Try Fueguia in the Recoleta for custom fragrances and candles. Lady Gaga and Elton John are big fans. San Telmo has some amazing furniture finds. Thanks, Dr. Calvaresi, for the tour of your fab shop.) I didn’t do much shopping, but I did buy a beautiful leather bag. They have great leather goods in BA, and with the exchange rate, I got a good deal. I will not go into how attractive the salesman—and owner’s son—was. But he was really quite stunning, and I may or may not have asked him to let me look at something that required a ladder for retrieval. Trust me, it was worth the experience.
Now back to the apartment building built around 1916. It was lovely, and I think it consisted of only five or six apartments. It has all the original chandeliers, which were gorgeous, and it was charming and elegant. Unfortunately, it also had one toilet for four grown men. So that was less charming and elegant. Our hosts were beyond gracious. They gave up their cozy master, with its king-size bed, in exchange for their small but well-appointed guest room with a full-size bed. They woke us up each morning with fresh squeezed tangerine juice and coffee so strong. And it was beyond nice. I mean, like so nice that I am not sure I could do the same. Give up precious sleep in your own bed? That is true friendship.
So you should go to BA. It is worth the long flight—even if you don’t get upgraded. Wine and Gladys Kravet’s nerve pills will come in handy. The exchange rate makes it super affordable, and the people were warm and friendly. Should you need an accommodating guide, I have a recommendation or two. If you should somehow make it to the Inside Bar, make sure and ask for pepper with your meal. It’s unlike any pepper I’ve had before.
Next week, we will discuss our weekend journey to Uruguay. I promise, you will like it Until next week, happy Friday!