Tag Archives: Bueno Aires

Coto not for everyone

Up early again, there is no sense to it. Then Viv drags me kicking and screaming to Coto. I have always hated this supermarket, long queues and you never find what you want.

Today though we managed to find a shoe rack that was perfect. So Viv bought some rubber gloves to make the queuing more worthwhile. Well when we got there , there was an empty till. So we got what we wanted and we did not have to queue. I still hate the place though.

Well it’s off to Nuevo Chique again today. It was an odd day, the men outnumbered the women and the men are not used to it. I had a couple of false cabeceos. When there are this few women all you can do is sit down again as quickly as possible. One man did not seem to appreciate this; I managed to cabeceo Angie, but when I got over there another man had beaten me to it. In fairness to Angie she told him she had already agreed to dance with me. He would not sit down though and held her had aggressively. I was worried for a while he was a big bloke, and the sort who shakes your hand with a grip to tell you how strong he is. Eventually he realized he was embarrassing himself and sat down. He was sat in the next but one seat to me and made a point of moving the seat between us to make it awkward for me to move. I just thought him very childish, but he never looked my way again.

We had a thoroughly good time again, Viv never missed a tanda, of course, I  missed one or two, but it is rare for a man to miss. So I was not too unhappy and just accepted it as one of those days.

When we left I said goodbye to out big friend. He grudgingly acknowledged me, but I was not letting it carry on. I just hope it is forgotten, we are here to enjoy ourselves, not to feud.

We stopped for a coffee before our return journey. Just as well because the bus was packed I needed a break before that.

We walked to the old lady (Guarda la vieja) but it was packed out and people were queuing in the street. This was not for us so we went back to Imaginario again for omelette salad and papas Imaginario. It was getting quite late by the time we had finished.

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Watching paint dry

The dietetica on Marion Bravo is open at last, a good 20% cheaper for oats that the nearest to us and half the price of the supermarkets. We asked about prunes but they have not yet re-stocked after their holidays. One of my favourite tricks for getting my ear in is to ask a question that I know the answer and so it was with their closure for January. Now more able to understand I asked whether they always closed January, she said not last year. I thought I had no recollection of it closing last year,

It was a big shop this morning with Viv directing things. Her knowledge of the streets here is not that good and it did somewhat slow me down, still we came back with bags full of stuff and even a picture of Bruno.(You can see him on my facebook page)

They are painting the building opposite, just the ground floor. It is strange, it has not even been daubed in graffiti but the top floors are looking shabby. Still it is keeping Viv amused, just watching paint dry.

Back to Nuevo Chique again today. Seems to be a different crowd again, but it is ok for me and I think Viv did better than she said, but she was not up for it from the start so maybe she put a little less effort in. We still stayed until seven though three hours of dancing is enough for anyone.

It’s February and everything is opening again. The dietetica, the kiosko in the subte and so we were hoping El Revolucionario. When we got there the girls were there but they said “Somos cerado” No date for opening they said so we caught our bus back home.

We bought tomorrows media lunas and then headed off to El Imaginario. We thought about the other bars in the area, but non of them seem to have cervesa negra. As we sit there, inside but outside sipping our beer, we know exactly what hits the spot. Viv though was not impressed with my pizza, boring omelette, I love a bit of Roquefort.

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You just can’t go back again.

I think I have found someone who can weld here. I went for a morning wander, unfortunately I forget it is the weekend. Twenty years of never having one myself, perhaps I can be forgiven. On Sanchez de Bustamente I saw an opening and three guys and a woman sitting drinking coffee (or maybe mate, I could not tell). There was workshop materials behind them and I spotted what I thought was a gas bottle “Puedes soldaro con gas ” I asked. The guy looked puzzled “Soldadero?” he said “No hoy”. Now one thing I have learned here is not to be put of, not today was the nearest I have yet received to a yes. “Puedes soldadero en la semana?” I tried ” Si que quieres” so I told him about our chair and checked the location. Something may well happen before I get here, but we live in hope.

On one of my previous wanderings I had found another opening full of furniture, so I wandered in for a good look around, nothing here I fancied so with a cheery wave I past the men at the door and left. Today, being Saturday it was shut up the sign on the door said “Fernandez Y Hermanos, Mundanzas y Guardar”. So I had been looking for furniture in Fernandez and Brothers removals and storage depot. At home somebody would have asked me what I wanted in there, not here, they just leave you to it.

I wandered around Plaza Almagro as I was passing. On a Saturday the locals all set up store here and sell anything that they have, sort of boot sale without a car. You simply would not believe the things they sell. There was a water-cooler without the cooler and even a no-weld plastic 30mm bend, why would anyone come here looking for that? Still it entertains me.

We found out that the organizer of El Arranque is now running a milonga at Club Gricel so we are off there today in the hope of meeting up again with the old crowd. The lady on the door welcomed us with the lowest entrada yet and asked if this was our first time. I said that it was but we used to go to El Arranque. She said that they have been here since September, time enough to get things going.

It all seemed a bit flat though. True the old couples were there and causing a riot in the bit in the middle, but few of the old singles were there. I danced mainly with foreigners and so did Viv. I have never been to a milonga where I have danced with so many ladies on numerous occasions. We decided to call it a day at six thirty and head for home.

There was no sign of the man himself, but when the interval came with the announcements she said “Juan Carlos esta mejorando” so if he is getting better, I suppose he must be ill. I have checked his page and there is no mention, although there is talk of him loosing weight.

We thought about walking but when I realized we were eleven blocks for Rivadavia and five from Columbres, well twenty-four blocks was too much, so we took to the subte. Trouble was, when we got there, there was no way in. It seems that H line entrances are closed on Saturday, so we had to back track onto the E line just to get below. Viv was right annoyed from all the up and downing by the time we got on the train.

Time for some cervesa negra I think.


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Our first full day back

Nothing ever really changes here. Yes I know that not a shop will be the same and the milongas close and open at random. But the city in general is always the same and Wednesday is a good day to get things done.

I had pre ordered some money, in case my money here was not yet available, so I needed to pick it up. Doing business here is never easy so I prevaricate. Too much time on facebook, make coffee, just mooching. In the end I had to grasp the nettle and head on out.

I was cheerily greeted at the door by Sebastian’s Wife (Must find out her name). As I walked up Bulnes a guy in a doorway shouted something to me, I just responded “No” “solo la hora” he said. I apologised and gave him the time. It becomes a habit fending people off, they are not all begging, it seems.

At the money office there were no numbers on the roll, no one waiting either. So I was out in no time at all. New notes as well $200 denominations, easier to break into than the $500’s. Over the road to pay my city tax and the doors were locked. Then I saw the door at the end was open. Inside and I again took my number “07” the counter was showing “84” . Could be in for a long wait, but no, it seems they are not using that here today either. Straight in and out again.

I went back to the dietetica again, but it was still shut up. All the stock is inside, but there is no sign of when it is open. Ah well TIA again.

Our first dance outing is to be Salon Canning, seems to be starting earlier. 3:30 start but we arrived nearly an hour later and there was hardly anyone there. Argentines are a conservative lot “It’s always started at four and we are not having it any different”. Mind you it never got crowded maybe the high price is putting them off.

Apart from this mornings top up, we are living on old money. The exchange rate has gone up from $20 to $25 to the pound so until the old money runs out we are feeling the pinch somewhat. Canning are now charging $140 entrada, we will see how it goes but £7 is a bit much.

Had some good dances and Paloma and Hubert were there as well. We seem to have been moved back down the pecking order though, so Viv struggled a bit for dances. She said she was not bothered as it was our first, but after three hours she had had enough and it was time to head home for some food.


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Can’t keep us in, we’re British

Did I mention that Friday is our day off?

Viv wanted to go to the end of the H line again and do some more exploring, so that is what we did. We carried on until the final end of the line at the Faculty derecho. Unfortunately we were sort of cut off at this point. We literally could get nowhere without passing through building sites.

So we came back across the bridge and headed for the Mercedes building. This was new to me, last time we came here it was Ferrari. Same expensive prices different logos, so we passed.

Across the road again we came into the United Nations Plaza, and we got a closer look at Flor this time.


I didn’t get all the details but it was built by Lockheed in 2002. If you look closely at the construction you can sort of see the aircraft hereditary in it. We sat for a while in the shade and read a little. Already it was getting too hot.

At the far end of the plaza we went to the gate but it was locked. Some other people did the same thing and we saw them walking off shaking their heads.  Our birth certificates may add our years up to over 110 years but our minds are still in their teens. So it was eight foot high, we can climb over. We got some good natured abuse from the passing traffic, but we are British  and if we want to go that way, well, we jolly well do.

As we walked further on we passed some big fancy places and many Embassy’s. This was no place for us to stop, we would need a mortgage just to pull up a chair.

Eventually we arrived at MALBA  and fortunately for us the top of the Obelisco is still there. You can walk inside and get an idea of the view from the top as there is a screen where each window would be, showing a running film of both ways on 25 July and Corrientes. Most people were standing outside a bit nervous about going in, they missed a great media event.

Obelisco without the top

Don’t worry it was all a trick, they never took the top off.

We stopped off at Carrefour and bought some lunch and sat eating in the shade, then we went off further down Salguero. I found that it is almost impossible to reach the river, but there is a huge industrial/ shopping park in between. I looked it up later, it is massive. There is football there, golf, go carts and a massive conference centre and events and entertainment. Seems strange that I have heard nothing of it before. google “Costa Salguero” if you are interested.

Back at Carrefour we were looking for a comfort break and it turns out that there is another shopping complex behind and above the supermarket. They do not sign the toilets well here and we had all but given up when somehow we found ourselves in them. It was like some magical doorway. “I wish we had a toilet” then suddenly we were in one. Must have been magic beans in that empanada.

There was no point in heading back to the subte, it was almost as far as home, so we set off up Salguero again, eventually stopping at one of our old watering holes San Martin for a coffee break.

Got back at about four thirty and the temperature was 36 degrees. I have no Idea how hot it was when we were trudging in that sun, but we were drained when we got back. Time for some beer methinks.




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You are unique, just like everyone else

We all worry about what we look like on the dance floor. We also worry that our partner will be pleased with us. It is only natural. The fragile egos of tango dancers are easily damaged.
So we see women sitting waiting to dance and men to frightened to go and ask them. In the past I have often blamed the men for not having the guts to just go and ask, but I wonder, are the ladies also to blame; I have been dancing long enough now to realise that the women who criticise my dancing are themselves unsure of their abilities, but many men are put off from asking again.
I will never forget my first tango festival in Amsterdam, so many women picked on me and made me feel useless that in the end I would not dance with anyone else, even in the classes.

Tango is a great dance, but also a great experience. We dance the music, we dance close, and we dance every dance differently.
So next time someone criticises your dancing, forget the obvious arrogance that they think they are better than you. Forget that this is a milonga and they are not your teacher. No just remember this; Do they really want the same dance with you as they had with the last person they danced with? Or do they just want every dance to be the same?
You are unique and so hopefully is your dance. For anyone who wants to dance every dance the same, or just wants you to conform, I can recommend some very good sequence dance classes.

I saw her sitting alone, and as no men were asking I walked over and asked her to dance. Strange that someone young and attractive should not be dancing, so I explained that I choose to dance with women that I have never danced with because that is how the community grows. After the first tune of the tanda she criticised my embrace, “too close” she said. “I do my dancing in Buenos Aires” I told her that is how we dance there, “It is called Argentine Tango, the clue is in the name”. I think she wanted me to dance at a distance and lead with my arms, that was not going to happen. So she spent the rest of the tanda with a face like thunder and left without a “Thank you”.
She got other dances, but I suspect that they were all people she had done some open classes with. I never saw her in close hold again. I also noticed a lot of men sitting out when there were women who just wanted to dance.
How sad that men are put off by women like this and that both sexes are denied a good dance by a few thoughtless people.


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Worlds apart

It’s the weekend and Viv wanted to root around all the market stalls in Palermo, so as we were up early (for us anyway) we set off in the sunshine for our old stomping ground.

As we walked down Garuchaga (I think) we passed a mens clothing shop, and right at the back was an old Corvette, beautiful with gleaming paintwork and chrome.  It was too much for me, I had to go in and look. Now I am not so naive that I do not realise that they put these things there for a reason; Draw you in then hopefully you will buy something. The sales staff pounced, but the way he pounced was as if to say “if you don’t intend buying, then bugger off” so that is exactly what I did. Viv said it was obvious that we did not intend buying, but the point is, we may well have just seen something, after all, what harm were we doing. The point is, outside we would never become customers but inside, well there is always a chance.

We wandered on as we do. We wandered down Gorritti and saw what looked like a garden in a passageway. Not put off, but now with a little more trepidation I set off to explore. The whole passageway was a sort of City garden centre, trees shrubs and plants all in pots ready for your balcony. Obviously we would be buying nothing here, but nobody was pressurizing us, so we looked and enjoyed and made the place look a little more busy. There was a surprise though; at the end of the corridor were more units, a sort of  “passage artisanales”.

There was a place full of  rather expensive niknaks, we looked around but I can’t bring myself to pay $50 or about £10 for a candle. Then there was Tealosophy. I wandered in and they pounced again, but not in the aggressive way of the clothing shop, more gentle and just enjoy our scents and flavours. The girl brought various teas in baskets a waved them under my nose, I enjoyed all the scents and we enquired of the prices. Again it was all a bit expensive, but the flavours were so good, I think we will return and bring some Argentine tea for our practicas.

It was not just the shop service that was miles apart: We wandered over to Parque Centenario, there was a market, of sorts there as well. Not the pristine stalls with the most expensive tourist tat or hand-made jewelery here, no it was more a gigantic garage sale. People had just spread blankets on the ground and were selling their old toys, cameras, tools, anything for which they no longer had a use. Most of the stuff here we would have consigned to a skip, but this is a complete opposite to the throw away society in which we live.

Nobody throws anything away here, there is a repair shop on every street where you can get anything repaired or exchanged, buy second-hand or get rid of your old appliances. If you do throw anything out, the cartoneros will grab it and make use of it. Talking of which I saw something today that really surprised/disgusted me. A boy, no more than twelve or thirteen was walking along the street and saw some dog shit wrapped in paper. He unwrapped the shit, tossed it on the street and put the paper in his pocket. I wait for the day when they find a use for dog shit, no doubt if they could sell it, that would have been in his pocket too.

Tonight we are heading out for Associacion National Italiana, I don’t think we have been there since 2004 so it will be almost like a totally new experience. Jantango said she will meet us there so we should have a good night.

The journey down was almost uneventful, apart from a drunk wanting to give us directions, when we missed Alsina and had to back track, and we had taken the subte rather than the collectivo as I wanted to check how much money was on my Monedera card.

It takes some time to get into the dancing here, the Portenos lack the discipline of european dancers, in that they change lanes, go backwards and generally invade your space, if you let them. All contrary to what is taught in Europe. It is, afterall their dance and I often wonder how these European greats would cope. Me ? well I was not coping that well, but I should be able to by the end of my month here. I had one funny incident; as I led Viv into an ocho milonguero (cortado) she looked at me as if to say “why have you stopped” my leg which was behind me was now tangled with the leg of another, I never did know who it was, I was too busy just retaining my composure and trying to look cool.

I had Jantango quizzing me all through the night on the orquestas, why does my mind go blank when she asks me? Perhaps it is the fear of being wrong, I should be better by now.

We are not yet ready for a late night, after all two o’clock here is still six at home and in my head, so we set off into the night. Janis apologised that she wanted to stay, it was no real problem as we would probably be headed in different directions anyway.

I had the route home worked and it was all clear, then as we approached the bus stop we saw our 168 disappearing into the distance, perhaps we could run across congresso and catch it the other side, then maybe not. So we waited. I had ignore another drunk as he kept calling after me “excoos me excoos me” still we were unacosted at the stop.

Our route home was preplanned so we expected to have to wait for the next 168, but Viv said “Isn’t there another bus we can catch?” we looked at the sign on the parada and I reconned that the 151 also stopped near us, so when one passed we jumped on. As we pulled our ticket out of the machine a 168 came up behind “bugger”. Still we were on another mini adventure.

The sign said Salguero and Cordoba so it would stop about two blocks from us, good enough. When we turned off Rivadavia down Salguero I knew it would pass right by our appartment. Viv wanted to get off at Corrientes but I stayed put, got up and pressed the bell as we crossed Corrientes and it stopped right at our door.

Chuffed I am getting the hang of this collectivo thing at last. Door to door service only $2.20 that is less than 40p things may have gone up here but you cannot beat that for service.


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No homogenization here

Being bank holiday today left us at a bit of a loose end. The centre of Palermo is usually buzzing at a time like this so we headed over to soak in the atmosphere, sup  a coffee and see if there were any bargains to be had. Not much chance of the latter but we enjoyed looking anyway. The only thing I bought was a learn spanish karaoke CD from a girl representing a charity that brings laughter to hospital wards. No, I have not become a soft touch, my normal scepticism is still there, but the daughter of a friend of mine is involved in the charity, so I was already aware of its existence.

It was another glorious day again, so much so that after a few hours we needed to get out of the sun. I was not sure about an early milonga on such a lovely day, but we do come here to dance, and you can only take so much sun in your first few days.

So we headed off to El Aranque on the subte, we arrived there just before five. The dance had already been running two hours so there was quite a crowd there.

It never ceases to amaze me, the variety here. There are some wonderful dancers, and some who are plain awful. The lane discipline is non-existent, in the UK they try to teach us that you stick to your lane, you never go backwards and you do not invade the space of the person in front. Well if that is Argentine tango, someone should tell the Argentines. English sensibilities are way off the mark here, but it is OK every one plays by the same rules and in all my time I have only seen trouble erupt once. (I don’t remember where that was but I don’t think it was in El Aranque).

The variety of styles is only excelled by the variety of holds, anyone who tries to standardise tango would have to kill all the old milongueros first.

Talking of variety, dress is optional as well. I mean that almost literally. There is an infinite assortment of clothing styles and as it is an afternoon milonga it is, I suppose, less formal but the lady who wore tights but had forgotten her skirt was, I think, taking things a bit far.

Wonderful the way Carlos, the waiter, remembered us. Dany as always provided a wonderful musical backdrop, so even though, for Buenos Aires we finished early we still had a great time.

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The teacher is not always right two

I get comments these days that are more like posts than comments. I am not complaining all comments are welcomed, good and bad, but I like to reply to them all. So for the second time I must do a post in reply to a comment.

I received a comment from Jantango in Buenos Aires Teacher is not always right and feel again that this deserves more than a quick answer.

I remember the first time I was at a milonga in Buenos Aires it was at Confiteria Ideal in the afternoon. We had been taken there by our guide for the trip, who educated us about the codigos where to dance and how to cope with what was a totally alien environment to us.

We fell out some time later, which was a shame, as I think she gave us invaluable information for times to come, and although we are no longer in contact I would gladly recommend her to anyone visiting for the first time.

She had the sense to bring us early, when the place was less crowded. This allowed us to get a feel for the room and to get up and dance in the time when people were still coming in.

So how does this relate to the comment? Well no teacher I had been too had ever been to Argentina, none of them knew the codigos, none could tell me how to cope.

As more people came to the milonga, we found it more and more difficult to move, and for some reason, I had yet to learn, and we were always in the middle of the floor.

We had couple of days of this before our first dance lesson. We had been signed up with a guy called Roberto Canelo. He was not milonguero in the true sense of the word, more a stage dancer. In his early days he had been embarrassed at his local club, Club Almagro by being asked to leave the floor and watch how the true milongueros did it. He soon learned how to navigate the floor and move to the music not just doing steps, so now he passes his knowledge on at his tango school. Nothing of this was known to me, of course, I was just passed to an Argentine who taught tango, and of course to me the fact that he was argentine was all that mattered to me at the time.

With him we learned to dance milonga, how to cope with a crowd how to navigate the floor, and importantly to me, why I always ended up in the middle. He told me that old milongueros will dance to the outside of the room, taking any space left to the right, forcing any principiantes into the middle. So now I must learn that as well as protecting my partner I must defend my right hand side, I do not let anyone into this space, it is mine alone. With this knowledge I can gloat at the show dancers, principiantes and yanquis who populate the middle of the floor. He learned all this by going to the milongas, he already was a great dancer, but could not cope with the milonga floor, not until he had experienced it himself and had the coaching of other milongueros.

So when I learn that a great show dancer with years of experience could not cope at a milonga, you should not be surprised that I greet with horror the thought that people who have less than two years tango experience want to teach. You should also not be surprised that I will not go to any teacher who has never visited a Buenos Aires milonga.

Too many spend their time learning steps. In the UK we learn boleos, ganchos , baridas, but rarely do we learn about the music. What we need to do is listen to the music, as it changes cadence, we need to be aware and change with it.

Often in beginner’s classes, we are so intent on learning that our movement’s bare little relationship to the music, this is Ok for beginners, but as we get more proficient we should be dancing to the music not just doing moves in spite of it. Go to almost any milonga in Europe and you will see them; they do all the moves, awesome routines, fancy footwork, but no musicality.

In the northern hemisphere we need to learn that dancing is not about moves, this is not Strictly, it is social dancing. Tango is the music as much as it is the dance, if you do not feel the music then you are not dancing tango. The music needs to be in your mind and in your soul. If you spend all your time learning more and more moves, you miss the point, your time would be better spent listening to the music, and trying to get to know the artists.

And don’t even think about getting me back on the subject of DJs playing non tango music.

Again all comments are welcome, good or bad. If you disagree tell me why, wealth of experience comes from exchanges of ideas not monologue.


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