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Tango and Buenos Aries:  Part 1

Professor Arnie Greenberg

Tango musician - click to enlarge
Tango musician

A great place to begin examining South America is anywhere in Argentina but especially Buenos Aires

Who thought the opportunity would arise. Well, it did and as I write this I am in Buenos Aires, Recoleta district, where it’s a balmy 80 degrees on Feb 12th. Not bad when I think of -15 in Montreal, my home town.

We flew out of JFK in New York and arrived here after an overnight flight. We entered a busy airport where3 our first preoccupation was to exchange US dollars for Argentinean pesos. The exchange rate we were offered was 30.5 to the dollar.

Our rental apartment boasted air conditioning, a balcony and a wide terrace where we could eat our breakfast. It was a great way to start the day. Since the apartment was fully equipped and secure, we went to the local market and studied the prices. We soon discovered that with the exchange rate, living here would be better than I had imagined. Let me give you an idea. Even the rent for 500sq feet was only $750 per month US.

We have been to various restaurants mostly for dinner. The locals only show up at 10 PM so we are usually there first. For me 9 PM is my outside limit. The first dinner I ordered was a chicken goulash on rice with a very large glass of wine. There was enough there to satisfy me and the cost for my wife and I (she had breaded veal & pasta) was 30 pesos which translates to just under $10 + a tip. I must confess for a non drinker the wine was quite nice. They say that ALL wine here is good. I am now a believer. Another night we went back with friends. Two of us ordered delicious tender steaks at 7.50 each served with wine and desert.

The national dish is grilled barbecue consisting of various cuts of meet. With steaks here, you can’t go wrong. Here, it’s eaten with a special sauce called chimichurri.

The local wines are world wide in quality and produced near Salta, L Rioja, San Juan, and Rio Negro, One can fine variations of Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet sauvignon, Malbec and more. I saw wine for sale at as low as $3.00 a bottle.

But not all restaurants were that cheap. One night we went to a Tango show. Entry was $25 American and food and drinks were extra. The show was worth the price as beautiful young people swirled to the sound of accordions and violins. The added attraction was a demonstration of Pampa Gouchos dancing with twirling bolas making sharp metallic sounds as they hit the stage floor. Add the duet of drummers whose magical sounds filled the room. It was worth the price of admission. The show was in a theatre below ground. Upstairs was the antique Café Tortoni which had the look of a large 19th century Paris bistro. There were people there from all corners of the world but the appreciation was universal.

Street dancers /  San Telmo  - click to enlarge
Street dancers /  San Telmo 

Speaking of Paris, Buenos Aires has the look and feel of Paris with similar architecture in the core and lovely parks and gardens. But you know you are in a Spanish haven as the language around you and the elegant Spaniards make you feel welcome.

I am not used to young men rising to give me their subway seats. Here it’s not Underground or Metro but SUBTE and a ride to any point in the gigantic city of almost 14,000,000 for just over a person or about 35 cents.

We took the Subte from Plaza de Mayo in the shadow of the government building made famous in the movie Evita. This building, now red brick was covered with red and white paint which were symbols of the two political factions. Their painted Pink House was their equivalent of the White House of Washington.

On Saturday there is a display of handicrafts in Plaza Francia. Everything from necklaces, paintings, puppets and traditional Mate Cups (gourds) were spread out over a huge surface. Mate is a local infusion made of hot water leaves of the yerba plant grown in Corrientes and Misiones provinces. One sips the hot mixture through a bombella (metal straw). A prepared ready to drink mixture can be purchased in grocery stores.

On Sundays the street sale moves to San Telmo, an older district dedicated to the Tango. Here, in the midst of the sale, Tango dancers do their thing. The music is infectious and all around, guitarists, accordionists and craftsmen entertain the throngs. For sale you can buy scarves, musical instruments and even hand painted chess sets for about $10. San Telmo is a vibrant old area filled with the magic of Argentina. We were first introduced to the colorful area on a city tour. The guide explained its influence on the city. Likewise, the old area of La Boca boasts souvenirs, statues of dancers or personalities on narrow streets with the houses painted many sharp colors.

In La Boca, we drove by the Football stadium where the locals become wild with excitement for their team. This was the home of Maradonna their world class hero.

 But of interest to me as a historian, I was floored that on the same street in 1960, Israeli agents kidnapped the infamous Adolf Eichman and brought him back to Jerusalen for trial. Yes, this was the famous Garibaldi Street.

 (See Issar Harel’s book The House on Garibaldi Street)

I have also visted the Fine Arts Museum with the excellent collection of South American & Mexical art. I particularly enjoyed the painting of gigantic people by the artist Botero. The self portrait of Diego River’s with Freda also interested me.

Argentina is a huge country extending south to Terra del Fuego. Unfortunately I can’t see it all but I will fly to the great water fall at Iguazu on the Brazilian border where I’ll spend three days next week. More then.

Evita’s buriel plaque - click to enlarge
Evita’s buriel plaque 

Arnie Greenberg

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You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at


Over the past few years, Professor Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the globe including Italy and most of China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters from St.Petersburg to Moscow. 

"He took a group to Greece and another to northern Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico.  His newly found spare time is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders..  "So You Want To Be A Tour Leader." 

Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.  Keep reading his web for travel ideas.  His next novel HELLSTORM'S Folly, will be available this fall. He now lives in British Columbia.

Go to: or contact him directly at

(More about the writer.)


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