My beloved Buenos Aires (my interpretation of 48 hours in Buenos Aires)
“My beloved Buenos Aires, when I get to see you again” Carlos Gardel sang in his immortal tango. And with this song in my mind, I return to my homeland after a long absence. I am going to rediscover my city in a short but intense experience. In 48 hours I am going to visit Buenos Aires as a tourist. I want to search for new attractions, visit my favourite sites again and the new hotspots. “I return, without mourning I return and I see it has rained so much during my absence on my streets and in my world” says the neighbour Uruguayan poet Mario Benedetti.
My stay- Alvear Palace Hotel
Classics are eternal; that is why they are classics. I am staying in the Alvear Palace Hotel, known by porteños as “The Alvear”. This Grand Dame is still the best choice for luxury travellers. Opened in 1931 to accomodate the Argentine aristocracy, The Alvear is situated on and named after the most elegant avenue in the city. It smells like greatness and elegance. It has been modernised with the latest technological requirements, respecting at the same time its sumptuous style. When I enter, I am immediately transported into an era in which Buenos Aires was a world power. I check in and and I am upgraded to the presidential suite. I feel the magic of the unexpected and, like a child in a candy store, I start to discover my petit palais.
The suite combines chandeliers with original works of art displayed in four rooms: a reception area with marble floors and flower arrangements prepared with superlative delicacy, an L-shaped living-room with upholstery from Europe, a dining-room with a table for up to 10 guests and an ensuite bedroom with Frette linens and a hydro-massage bathtub. The suite has two additional bathrooms for visits with bath products from the prestigious French house Hermes (situated only a few steps from the hotel in case you would like to purchase something)
Somebody knocks on my door. It´s the butler who offers to iron any garment that requires pressing, to adjust the pillow menu or book a table in one of any of the best restaurants in town. Details and care, distinctive stamps of the hotel.
First Day: Making my way as I walk
I walk along Alvear Avenue and I´m transported to Paris. The great mansions gather designers, jewelleries, antique shops and luxury hotels. I stop at the small and sophisticated Patio Bullrich shopping mall and at Elite Chocolates (you´ll find there the most exquisite Cericetes-cherry liquor filled chocolates- in town). I am anxious to walk around the Buenos Aires Design to stay updated with the latest in home design. My favourite store is Eugenio Aguirre. In his two stores, he offers an innovative look in furniture using fine materials.
For lunchtime the fans can choose the Hard Rock Cafe, situated in the same complex. I prefer to visit Florencio, a tiny restaurant owned by the Chef María Laura D´Aloisio, situated a few blocks away in “la isla”- “the island” ( a small area in the heart of Recoleta where its inhabitants are said to live isolated from the world). As I walk in I feel the cosy home atmosphere. Fresh flowers embellish a counter where desserts are displayed. The daily speciality written on a board is my choice. I enjoy lunch with the habitués of the area. The lasagna, served on a hand-painted plate, will not let you down. Every flavour has the quality of the simple and the well seasoned. The chef is petite. She walks around the small place and interacts with clients in a cordial and relaxed way. Time to run errands.
I visit Celedonio Lohidoy, the famous goldsmith whose romantic style has conquered Hollywood stars and even Màxima Zorreguieta, newly crowned Queen of Netherlands. Celedonio is tall and naturally charming. His showroom is situated on the first floor of a block of flats from the beginning of the twentieth century. Everything is white and daylight accentuates his creations, which include not only jewellery and accesories but also lamps and chandeliers with butterflies for the most audacious homes. I have known Celedonio for many years but there is no difference in how he treats his clients: everyone who visits his shop is welcomed as an old friend.
I want to make the most of my stay. The city enjoys our reunion and so do I. I take a taxi to get to the Museo del Bicentenario, situated underground next to the Casa Rosada, where the Aduana Taylor from 1855 was originally located. Innagurated on the occasion of the bicentenary of the May Revolution, the museum contains objets that show 200 years of national history displayed with the latest technology. Rooms with glass and steel ceelings provide an interesting personality for the historic bricks. I find from a handkerchief that belonged to Hebe de Bonafini, one of the Madres of Plaza de Mayo and the chair of the first president, Santiago Derqui, to the famous painting of President Perón and his wife Evita. But undoubtedly, the highlight is the mural by the Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros, which was commissioned by the then millionaire director of Crónica newspaper, Natalio Botana, during the thirties. The work comes with a guide who invites me to lie down on the floor and contemplate it from the ground. The vision is overwhelming. I cannot describe it. That might be the great virtue of what I am looking at. I invite you, the reader, to have your own experience.
I am sorry it is not the weekend since I could have visited the Casa Rosada to see the presidencial office and the famous balcony from where Eva Perón spoke. The sun is going down. I walk around Plaza de Mayo and I see the religious fervour gained by the Buenos Aires Cathedral after the election of the new Argentine Pope, Francisco. The Cabildo is starting to light. I remember the school visits to those buildings during my childhood and, unintentionally, my eyes water with the memory.
I quicken my pace and revise the history of the neighbouring Puerto Madero. Work started in 1897 but it soon ended due to the low depth of the area, which forced the harbour to be moved to the area of La Boca. In 1989, after the city had turned its back on the river for many years, the creation of an urbanist project, which includes trendy restaurants, shops and hotels, was decided: Puerto Madero. All the streets are named after Argentine women. The area of the old harbour deposits was the first to be restored. Opposite lie the grounds gained to the river by hyper modern constructions and the most expensive buildings in the city. The hyper trendy Hotel Faena is situated in this area. Built in an old restored warehouse and decorated by the renowned architect Philippe Starck, it breathes excess and tendency. The swimming-pool is the place to see and be seen during the warm months. I order a coloradito (a fashionable drink that mixes Campari and orange juice). I breathe, relax and, while enjoying my drink, I think about where to have dinner. It`s inevitable: Buenos Aires is a synomym of meat and the answer is immediate. El Pobre Luis is a traditional steak house for the family situated in the neighbourhood of Belgrano next to the porteño chinatown. Frequently visited by chefs and famous people, it offers the best meat cuts in town. What should I order? I immediately think of bife de chorizo. I am not mistaken. It´s delicious. They tell me in detail how it is prepared. I know that, even if I follow each step carefully, the result will not be as tasty. It doesn´t matter; it´s a good reason to come back. I accompany my meal with a glass of Angelica Zapata Malbec 2008. Pleasure exists!
Exhausted by the long walk I go back to the hotel. How pleasurable it is to be back! A surprise awaits me: rose petals are scaterred in the bedroom. Am I dreaming? No, it`s my city that welcomes me in style!
Second day- the best is yet to come
After the tremendous breakfast buffet, my second and last day in the city begins. I decide to visit the area originally known as Palermo viejo. During the first decades of the twentieth century, it was a marginal territory where the famous writer Jorge Luis Borges was raised and inspired. It was then a place of old houses and small factories until the end of the nineties when everything changed. The same neighbourhood is now divided into two: Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood, separated by Juan B. Justo Avenue. Palermo Hollywood is the home for artistic production companies and restaurants whereas Palermo Soho adds independent designers accommodated in houses or industries turned into super modern shops next to the main brands in the country. I visit the shop of the decorator Pablo Chiappori named after himself “Paul”: an old mettalurgical industry turned into a decoration shop. I enter through a long corridor which retains the rails of some old machinery used to move out goods. Everything shows good taste: incense plants carefully aligned, a big restored lamp and to the left Tealosophy, the spot of the renowned tea sommellier and designer, Ines Berton. I taste and smell different options to take back home. My favourite, the spicy Pu-erh. Paul´s shop has a double height. Jazz makes the shop more pleasant and invites you to join the different sections of the shop, which include aromatherapy, tableware, lighting, linen and furniture. It´s impossible not to buy something. Next to Paul, is El Burgués shop, a menswear brand with the best fabrics, impeccable cut and personal attention for middle aged male customers who value style. I go by Rapsodia, where women are enchanted by its relaxed style full of influences from Asia and the Middle East.
For lunch I prefer to leave the hyper fashion behind and go to “La Crespo”, named after the nearby neighbourhood Villa Crespo. Originally inhabited by the Jewish community. it is now an area of outlets of the same brands you can find in Palermo. The restaurant is small, simple and lively. The tables have coloured tablecloths and a mix of dried fruits and smoked seeds accompany the drinks. I am welcomed by Clarisa, its owner, who describes herself as a “Jewish princess”. Years ago she demanded that her son support her to establish her restaurant and today it is a success. She recreates typical Jewish cuisine dishes in an incredible way and swears her Hot Pastrami surpasses that of Katz restaurant in New York. I taste it and confirm she is right. It is impossible not to try her desserts. Her cheesecake stays in my memory forever.
I have left the afternoon free to keep up to date with the new visual artists. A car is waiting at the door to take me to María Casado`s Home Gallery, situated on the outskirts about thirty minutes away. Maria welcomes you at home by appointment only. She knows her art fluently and deeply. Her art space is far away from traditional structures. We have tea while relaxing in her living-room and she tells me her idea was to create an art expression place both for established and emerging artists. I am fascinated by her idea. While we walk around the house we observe the work of the artists that are currently exhibiting, Florencia y Sofía Bothlingk, under the title “ I will dominate you slowly”. I say goodbye to María with the pleasure of seeing somebody who has fullfilled her dream.
It´s getting dark while I return to Buenos Aires. The traffic is terrible because of the rush hour. I have a reservation to have dinner at Tegui, run by the incredibly renowned chef Martin Martitegui. I check the address. There is only a doorbell and graffiti. I doubt whether this is the famous restaurant of the moment. Somebody opens the door and I enter a classic, friendly and elegant space. It reminds me of the railway carriages of the Orient Express. The ambience and the music invite you to enjoy. To part from my city in style, I choose the tasting menu paired with Dom Perignon 2003. Each step is glory. It is said that In victory you deserve Champagne, in defeat, you need it. This has been a victory. The victory of a city that becomes eternal. Mi beloved Buenos Aires.