Category Archives: Visiting Mendoza

Bienvenido a Mi Querida Buenos Aires

Welcome to my dear Buenos Aires. 

I think of Buenos Aires as my second home, and love to share it with friends and family whenever I can. For 9 full days in January, 2011, I accompanied two friends from Chicago, Fran and Z, around and beyond the city.  I hope this summary of their trip whets your travel appetite!

We toured a number of barrios(neighborhoods) in the city: Recoleta, Barrio Norte, San Telmo, La Boca, Congreso, Palermo (in all of its variations–Palermo Viejo, Chico, Soho, and Hollywood), as well as places outside the city, such as Tigre, and Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay.  Z got to fulfill her desire to take a tango class, go to a milonga (local dance hall) to see local people dance it, and we spent an evening at the intimate Bar Sur where we experienced tango in all its variations—played, sung, and danced.

We shopped our way through the ferias (outdoor markets) in the San Telmo neighborhood (the largest of the ferias these days) alongside countless antique shops, in Recoleta (my personal favorite), and in La Boca.  We toured the Japanese  Gardens, visited the Museum of Latin American Art (MALBA) in Palermo and the Museo de Quinquella Martin in La Boca.

I helped them choose the apartment they rented for their trip; it was a convenient 5 blocks away from my apartment.  It
offered them a unique view of the Recoleta Cemetery, where Evita Peron’s grave is located, with its marvelously old tombs.
One day Z captured this wonderful photo of a double rainbow, from their patio overlooking the cemetery. Their more-affordable-than-a-hotel-room apartment had AC, a washer/dryer, cable TV, wi-fi access, and a great view of the cemetery.

[Photo: Carol Zmuda]

We had a full agenda. We walked–a lot–took taxis (Okay so I had a little misunderstanding with a taxi driver one
day!), road the high speed ferry boat to and from Uruguay, also rode a smaller aquatic colectivo (water bus) on the river, and rode the colectivo bus system.  We ate great meat, fresh pasta, empanadas, had our share of ice cream cones at Freddo’s, and drank a variety of excellent Argentine wines.  We spent some of our downtimes (ok a few siestas too) playing Scrabble and Angry Birds.

A home version of a parrilla (barbecue grill).

All of us, but especially Fran, worked on improving her knowledge of Spanish (Castellano as the Argentines say)
by watching American TV and reading the Spanish subtitles.  She learned so much, so quickly.  It was impressive! She proudly used all that she learned the following days. In their search for the perfect chandelier they took me to the Mercado de las Pulgas (literally the flea market), an outdoor junker’s heaven and a place I’d never visited before, but sure will return to next year.  [Later another friend introduced me to the local Ejército de Salvacíon (Salvation Army), but that’s a story for another post.]

Antonito’s Fruits and Vegetables in Palermo

What I enjoyed most was being able to have these friends from Chicago meet my friends from Buenos Aires.  Everyone was so welcoming, gracious, generous and fun. Visiting Jose and Ana at their country home outside of Colonia, Uruguay, was a special day for us!  They welcomed us into their lovely place, shared their beautiful gardens, fruit and olive trees and swimming pool with us, along with offering us delicious food and Argentine wine.  We walked along the Rio de la Plata, talked and together watched the sun set, with the city of Buenos Aires in the background–laughing and chatting in English, Spanish, and Spanglish — Castellano style, of course.

We spent a Saturday evening with Grizelda, an Argentine friend of mine, who teaches English at the University.  She generously hosted a welcome dinner for all three of us.  There I met some new people and renewed friendships with others, widening and deepening my circle of friends here.

Fabiana, a friend who used to drive a taxi, guided us to Tigre, a small town at the mouth of the Paraná Delta, 17 miles north of BA for a day-long excursion on the Paraná River. There we rode a big Seacat boat along the river, stopping at a small parrillada restaurant, with an outdoor barbecue (parrilla) along the shore, passing homes built on stilts along the river.  After a  long, relaxing lunch on a smaller island there, we headed back via the water colectivo to Tigre, where we walked around the old Puerto de las Frutas outdoor market.  Oh, yeah, and Fran and I peeked inside the Trilium Casino there, too, but only long enough to use a restroom and take in the usual casino slot machine madness.  And we didn’t wager anything, really.

The week passed too quickly, I think, even though I counted each day and night separately– as my Dad recommended, since, he claimed, one uses time on vacations more wisely—filling each with daytime and nighttime activities separated by an afternoon siesta (which we took, religiously, every afternoon during the hot January days). So while their visit to Buenos Aires
lasted only nine calendar days, using Dad’s method of counting, we expanded their vacation time to eighteen!  And in
some ways, their vacation was timeless–as all good vacations ought to be.   Come see for yourself!



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On language, culture and friendship

I am so proud of my growing bilingual abilities.  I started learning to speak Spanish in my 50’s, taking classes, working with a tutor here and there, and spending time each year immersing myself in the language and culture of Buenos Aires.  I was reminded of how my Spanish skills have grown when I visited with my friend Maria Teresa back in January ’11, and we ate lunch in her apartment.

When I was introduced to her in August, 2002, I understood less than ten percent of what she said. She speaks quickly, has a very thick Argentinian accent, and uses lots of colloquial phrases that even other non-Porteños like me may not know either. Despite my almost non-existent Castellano (how Spanish is referred to here) Maria Teresa reached out to me. We spent an afternoon going to a museum and for a coffee in a well-known, very old Buenos Aires cafe, El Gato Negro. We both struggled to understand what each other was saying, and we both persevered.

Over the past nine years we’ve been to a wonderful Rep exhibit at MALBA, the Museum of Latin American Art in Buenos Aires, to a sculpture exhibition at the Museum of Decorative Arts, to countless lunches and dinners together at Leda’s and both of our apartments. We’ve made pizzas together–she’s an excellent cook!–and traded recipes, her pizza dough with my mother’s sage stuffing for turkey. I cooked her first-ever North American thanksgiving dinner, my Christmas Eve menu of calamari and spaghetti and shrimp cocktail. We saw performances of tango musicians and of a classic tango singer in some of the Cafes and Bares Notables (government-sponsored cafes and bars that are more than 100 years old), drinking a beer or a coffee or glass of vino tinto (red wine) and eating cheese and olives.

Maria Teresa has been my “go-to” person when I wanted information on how to get some place in the city. She gave me her personally-guided tour taking me beyond El Caminito and into the streets of La Boca where the locals live, and where she worked as a social worker many years ago. She explained the conventillos, apartment-style buildings formerly situated in this barrio. Just yesterday she told me about the Parque de la Memoria, a sculpture park created in 1998 to honor the more than 30,000 killed during the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina during what is called “The Dirty War” from 1976-1983. I want to see this place, with its monument to the victims of state terrorism–the desaparecidos–including the statue of Pablo Miguez, the14-year-old boy thought to be the youngest of them, which stands in the river itself, the Rio de la Plata, a common dumping place for the bodies of the junta’s victims. 

 We also talked about her recently deceased mother, about the current mayor and his policies and projects, about food (okay we both enjoy food, cooking and eating it), about the weather, the well-being of our common friends, about what buses I could take and where to board them to return to my apartment. We confirmed our plan to see a new sculptural exhibition when the Kosice Museum reopens in two weeks. We laughed. We talked. For two and a half hours. In Castellano.


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Tango Energy

Tango stirs my spirit.

Video of Argentinian tango dancers at La Viruta, a local milonga (dance hall) setting for tango lessons and dancing!

While I’m not a tango dancer, I am a tango lover.  I am energized by listening to the music and the vocalists, and watching the dancers weave their bodies in and around one another.  I especially love listening to and seeing the bandoneon being played, its melancholic sounds stirring me.  I think my love affair with the bandoneon actually began when I was 14 and I studied the accordion.  Although that phase of my life only lasted a few years–it was uncool to play the accordion in high school–I always liked the way the instrument felt and sounded.  But the bandoneon!  That love affair has just begun.


I first saw professional tango in August, 2002 at the famous Confiteria Ideal, a bar-dance hall-restaurant where even today tango classes happen most evenings.  My introduction, however, was listening to live music with a beautiful singer, dressed in a long black sequined gown with over-the-elbow white gloves, and wearing a long black feather boa.  A sultry passionate performance
welcomed me to this uniquely Argentine musical genre.  I was soon to learn that in addition to tango, the dance form and musical genre, is the related “milonga”—itself a musical genre similar to tango and also the name of the place or event where
people dance to both tango and milonga music.

Since that first experience, I’ve seen tango on a big theatrical stage, in the intimate setting of the Alfonsina Salon in the famous
Buenos Aires Café Tortoni, on the streets of the La Boca and San Telmo neighborhoods.  I’ve been to tango lessons at the milonga La Viruta, at the Torquato Tasso Café, and I listen to the all-tango radio station whenever my soul longs for tango.

My favorite is electronic tango, a fusion of electronic elements on top of a tango groove.  There are a number of groups that have terrific CDs of electronic tango, including Tanghetto, Carlos Libedinsky, Gotan Project, Bajofondo Tango Club or my favorite group, Otros Aires.

I’m inspired every August in Chicago because that’s when tango comes to town!  The Sixth International Chicago Tango Fest’s Tango on the Town is set for August 24-28, 2011.  Two free events coming up are especially fun to attend.  The Tango on the Town Festival features the Argentine group Tangata, in concert at The Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave., on Wednesday, August 24 at 8:30 pm.  This is a free ticketed event.  $5 suggested donation. Chicago SummerDance will also host Tangata on Thursday, August 25th , starting with a tango dance lesson at 6:00 pm, with the group’s classical tango concert to follow.

Visit for more details.


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See Buenos Aires With Me

I will celebrate 10 years of visiting Buenos Aires in 2012!  Back in August of 2002 when I visited Buenos Aires for the first time, I had no idea how large a part of my life it would become.  Little did I know I would fall in love with the city.  Now I am eager to trade Chicago’s harsh winter for the Argentine summer.  In the past decade I’ve made a new life for myself  there, along with learning a new language and culture  (Spanish, or as the Argentinians call it, Castellano), and, most importantly, a group of wonderful Argentinian friends.  I continue to enjoy sharing my knowledge and love of the city with everyone who I can help convince to visit.   I will be in Buenos Aires from January through April. of 2012.  [Photo:  Puerto Madero at Night]

See Buenos Aires With Me!

In this blog I will share with you some of the experiences I have had as I’ve made my way in the city.  We’ll visit Buenos Aires’ neighborhoods, each with its own character, but all embued with the flavor–el gusto–of the city. I hope you’ll enjoy seeing the city with me as your personal guide.  I invite you to join me in 2012 (January-April) for your personally designed and guided visit to the Paris of South America.

My tour schedule is starting to fill!  Family will be joining me for a few weeks, four Chicago area friends plan to stay awhile after their South American cruise concludes in Buenos Aires for a few days in late January, and a small group of friends are starting to consider what days in March will be perfect for their 2-week visit.  Where will you be at the start of 2012?

Please join me here–and in Buenos Aires!


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