2012.1.7Buenos Aires was the last stop of our entire trip. It’s certainly cannot be called “the last place on earth”, as it is the most visited city in South America. This is what the consul told us as we applied for the tourist visa at Los Angles, “Buenos Aires is different from other Latin America cities. It’s a little bit Spain, a little bit Italy, ….”. Argentina was one of the richest countries in the world back in the beginning of the 20th century. Its prosperity attracted large amount of immigrants from Europe. They brought in their cultures and greatly influenced the growth of the city. From the grand buildings and broad avenues, to lovely sidewalks, cafés, bookstores and parks., no wonder Buenos Aires is often referred as the “Paris of South America”.

However, Buenos Aires is not immune from the problems of big cities. Especially after the collapse of Argentina economy 10 years ago, unemployment, poverty and economic inequality led to high crime rate. Ten years after, the economy is recovering and street is much safer, but crime is still a big obstacle of Buenos Aires.

We got to our hotel, Esplendor Buenos Aires, well after the midnight. The hotel is one of the oldest hotels in the city and located at the heart of the Microcentro district. It’s right next to Galerías Pacífico mall. Florida Street, Plaza de Mayo, Plaza San Martin and Obelisco are all within the walking distance.

Painting Decor in Esplendor Buenos Aires
Painting of Che Guevara in Esplendor Buenos Aires

The next day morning, the street was still very quiet at 10am. We first walked to Plaza San Martín. The plaza has a park and several monuments and memorials within its perimeter. It is surrounded by some beautiful buildings, including the famous Kavanagh building.

A Café at Plaza San Martín
Torcuato & Regina at Plaza San Martín
Monument to José de San Martín, Plaza San Martín
Monument to José de San Martín
Palacio San Martin, Plaza San Martín
Palacio San Martin
Monumento a los Caídos en Malvinas and Kavanagh building, Plaza San Martín
Monumento a los Caídos en Malvinas and Kavanagh building

Returned to where we lived, we went to Galerías Pacífico. Compared to the noisy Florida Street jammed by stall shops, Galerías Pacífico offers a more elegant shopping environment. Centro Cultural Borges can be accessed from the second floor of the mall. Besides art exhibitions and auctions, it also hold year-round tango shows in very low price.

Galerías Pacífico
Galerías Pacífico

After a short break at the hotel, the plan for the afternoon was to see the other side of Microcentro district. We first went to the Florida Street (Calle Florida). It’s so famous that we felt we were obliged to see it as least, however, neither the environment nor the style of shops were what we like, so we just walked through the street without making any stop.

Florida Street in the morning
Florida Street in the morning

We then spent sometime around Plaza de Mayo. In the height of summer of Buenos Aires, it’s a hot and humid day. We stopped at a Café on Ave. de Mayo. As we just sat down, my wife found her iPhone was not in her bag. Knowing pick-pocketing is quite common in Florida Street, we almost left everything in the hotel, but the only thing my wife brought couldn’t survive being stolen. My wife understandably got very upset, so we returned to the hotel directly.

Plaza de Mayo
Plaza de Mayo
Plaza de Mayo
City Hall and the Catedral Metropolitana at the corner of Plaza de Mayo

Our evening program was the Tango Show at La Ventana. Argentine tango is originated in Buenos Aires. From the tango school to the tango shows, from the street dance to Milonga filled with locals, this city takes tango to her heart. I am specially attracted by the tempo of tango music. I originally talked to one of services that would take guests to several popular Milongas to experience more authentic tango, but eventually, considering that we were the first time visitors without any tango knowledge, we chose the more entertaining tango shows. It’s a little touristy indeed, for example, the part that actors sung “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and waved the Argentina flags in the middle of the show, however, I could see the passion and pride they put into the program. I was deeply moved when the old man who created and run the show for many years was introduced. He played accordion on the stage for the rest of the show. Since then, I was particularly fascinated by elder Argentine men when they are singing, dancing or playing instruments, as I can perceive a sense of elegance that can hardly be found in Argentina’s turbulent recent history.

Tango Show at La Ventana
Tango Show at La Ventana
Tango Show at La Ventana
Dish tray used in the crowed restaurant, La Ventana

The tango show started at 10pm and ended at almost midnight. To Porteños, this is only the beginning of their night lives. Leaving the theater, walking on the cobblestoned street, I began to comprehend the magic of the city. Our taxi drove along the Puerto Madero. The light decorated the building and the river, the dark concealed the graffiti and trashes on the street. Buenos Aires is a more beautiful city to watch while riding a taxi.

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