City of Tango, Fútbol, and Faded Elegance

March 12, 2010

Buenos Aires, Argentina, is surely one of the most fascinating cities in the world. In terms of history, architecture, and culture, few places can match it. The two weeks that I spent here left me wanting more, and if there is anywhere that I have traveled in South America that I can see myself living one day, it has to be here.

Many distinct and picturesque barrios create the fabric of the city. From Palermo, to La Boca, to Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires is full of interesting places to explore. My hostel resided in the historic San Telmo neighborhood. For about $25 a night I had my own room with a queen bed and a private balcony, in a charming old building with friendly staff. My stay at "Hostel Ayres Porteños" was undoubtedly a large part of why i fell in love with Buenos Aires. I really can't say enough good things about this place, and recommend it to anyone looking for cheap accommodations in the city.

San Telmo is a wonderful place in which to wander. The cobblestone streets make it seem as if you've stepped back into 19th century Europe. The famous Sunday open-air market brings everyone out to shop, stroll through, and soak up the ambiance of this pleasant neighborhood.

My first taste of Tango was captivating. In an intimate San Telmo club, a youthful live orchestra passionately played tunes while an equally youthful but very talented audience hit the dancefloor. Watching high-level tango dancing is a mesmerizing experience...there cannot be a more seductive dance on Earth.

Now that I had been introduced to the great art form of Buenos Aires, I was ready to experience its great sport: Fútbol. Buenos Aires has the greatest concentration of professional soccer teams of any city in the world, with no fewer than 24 teams! Can you imagine if New York or Los Angeles had that many baseball teams? Probably not, and that's proof that soccer is worshiped in Latin America with a passion unknown to most sports fans in the United States.

River Plate is one of the two most famous clubs (teams) in Buenos Aires, and their stadium is massive. However, the match that I saw there lacked intensity and left me wanting more. In a few days, I would have the opportunity. But first, it was time to visit friends in "Mar Del Plata", a popular beach town (well, more like a city!) 6 hours by bus from BsAs.

Central Bus Terminal, Buenos Aires

The Buenos Aires central bus terminal is enormous. Add to this the crowds of a Monday morning, and catching your bus became a chaotic experience. The beaches of Mar Del Plata are no less congested, in fact, without a doubt they are the most crowded beaches I have ever seen. There's a common saying that half of Buenos Aires (population: 13 million), takes their summer vacations here. But that doesn't detract from the fun, and my friends Gabi and Lujan were excellent hosts; they kept the conversation running and the mate flowing!

Sipping Mate: An Argentinian way of life

After saying goodbye to my lovely friends, I hopped on the night bus and headed back to the capital. One major barrio of the city remained to be explored, a neighborhood that epitomizes the title of this blog post: La Boca.

"Caminito" is the touristed part of La Boca and consists of a playfully colored tapestry of old buildings that seems to create a giant painting. I caught some memorable live tango here, performed by a pair of skilled dancers accompanied by two guitarists.


The true heart of working-class Boca is fútbol. Their local club, Boca Juniors, is the most popular soccer team in all of Latin America. To see their team play live at the famed "Bombonera" stadium, is a highlight of any trip to Buenos Aires. The match which I attended was marred by a torrential thunderstorm that turned the stands into an open-air shower and the playing field into a swimming pool. Yet, this did not deter the passionate supporters club, who chanted, sung, and danced in the driving rain throughout the whole match. With every Boca goal in their 3-1 victory, they were sent into an absolute frenzy and rushed the fortress-like fence installed to keep them off the field. My clothes would take days to completely dry, but it was worth it for the memories!

Two weeks had only given me enough time to scratch the surface of this great city. After all, there is so much more to Buenos Aires than nice buildings, soccer, and tango music. Although I didn't see everything I would have liked, its always nice to have reasons to return to places that you love!


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