Tag Archives: San Telmo

Cuban Night

Thursdays seem to have become our late nights, I don’t know why that should be particularly, it just happens that way.

Nuevo Chique today and we expect it to be a long one. Paloma has asked us to come to a club later for some musica Cubana, and it starts at nine.

The subte was packed, but the streets had little (motor) traffic. People were everywhere though, with banners and drums. It is 40 years since the Junta, so everyone who can make a noise is out celebrating, demonstrating or just making a row. Avenida de Mayo was completely blocked, I did not think we could get through, but in the end I just followed Viv as she charged. I tell you, all those cavalry charges that failed, they did not have Viv at the front, we just never broke step.

The crowd today is almost completely different. While I struggled not to be a “Bad Man” again, Viv was getting few dances. I asked Paloma about eating tonight and understood not a word. We asked her husband for help. Franglish, Espanglish, Franish, and I was still no wiser. She told me we were getting picked up in a Mercedes at quarter to nine, then it turned out we were meeting Mercedes at quarter to nine, but we were no wiser about food.

Meanwhile the noise outside was constantly intruding into the milonga. At times I did not know which rhythm I was dancing to. Every time I got to the end of the room I would say “qual compas?” It amused the ladies, anyway.

At seven Viv had enough, so we said we would meet them there and left. We took a left then another straight into Moreno. We walked down through crowds of banner carriers across a traffic free 9 de Julio but there were no bars or restaurants open. Eventually we found our place with a very smart foodie place next door, too rich for us, so we wandered on.

We found a place on Defensa and Independencia but we could not get the door open it was full of people, but when someone came to our aid she said “Es cerrado” so we carried on.

When we got to Mexico, we decided we had gone far enough and turned right. Then on the corner of Bolivar there was a group of police talking to a lady in a doorway. They broke apart and all but corralled us in. “Hay comida?” I asked “Si empanadas” she said. Well that will do for us. So we went in and ordered stout and empanadas.

The place looked new and freshly painted so we asked about it. She was particularly proud of the mural around the walls. She said she did not like the demonstrators as last year they broke her windows and she had not even opened yet. Then she told us of her life; She was from Tucaman, so the empanadas were the same as we get in 1810, then she married a Dutchman. “Ik prat een klien betje nederlands” never thought I would be in a bar in San Telmo talking Dutch to an Argentine.

Looks like we have found a friend here, she brought us other Tucaman delicacies to sample and gave us constant attention. Her able assistant did not seem to be doing much to help except changing the music all the time. Getting towards leaving time he put some salsa on, so there we were, me (Half Dutch) and a naturalised Dutch woman dancing Salsa DJed by a Columbian in a San telmo bar. The night had not yet got interesting.

We walked back along Bolivar crossed Independencia and soon found Moreno again. As I turned into Moreno I heard my name called. There were our dates for the night. If you had tried to arrange a meeting on the street it just would not have happened, yet here we were all met up a block away frome where we were going.

I should have known who Mercedes was, I have danced with her many times, a lovely dancer and now I meet her Husband. A multi talented man Jorge sings, speaks French and English, unfortunately he does not dance tango.  Still he leaves me his wife to dance with. Good man.

So there we were on the street walking towards this club, but we did not get there. Remember the smart foodie place next door, too expensive for me? Well we walked in. Everyone, it seems knows Mercedes and Jorge. After we had been greeted and kissed everyone (all the waiters, staff cashiers) we passed through. It seems the club is attached to the restaurant.

Seems it is called The Bebop club. We passed down the stairs; at the bottom was a desk to pay your entrada. All they got from us was a kiss though. It was all getting a bit strange for me.

It was a small cabaret room, with tables arranged in semi circles to get a view of the stage; the staff were at great pains to arrange the tables to give us the best view. To then we got the menus it was more like tapas to me than meals. Then the wine came, obviously as the only guy in VOS to get it right, it was down to me to taste it. (If only they knew).

A small band arrived on stage, drummer, flautist and pianist, and they began to play. After one number the Big Cuban singer arrived. It was a brilliant show, he even sang a Tango number (to a Cuban beat). It is now driving me crazy trying to recall what it was.

We were not allowed to pay for anything, even money I tried to leave for a tip was deemed too much, so we simply accepted and went upstairs to the restaurant for postres.

The night was incredible, good food, great music and brilliant company, and all so unexpected. I must give Mercedes extra dances next time I see her.

We caught our first taxi of this trip, it sounds churlish to complain about the price, but really it is more of an observation. The driver was very good, he took the route that the bus would take, straight up Rivadavia and into Salguero, but I was watching the meter $130 a few years ago would have got us a taxi for the night, now just a trip from San Telmo. In time the taxis will just price themselves out, but then I have been saying that for years.

Bebop2

He dropped us off right on the corner middle of the road. Viv walked through the workings where they are lowering the pavement. Like a fool I rushed after her. The orange netting they use to fence off was on the floor, it lifted as I walked over it, caught my back foot and left me sprawled over the workings. Nothing hurt but my pride, but even at two in the morning there is always a sage leaning on the fence, “you should have gone around” he said.  No kidding Einstein.

 

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Stupidity tax

We decided to do our annual visit to San Telmo today. On the subte we heard rich Americans and young English with public school accents. They were all heading off to San Telmo. Some got off too early, some milled around at the subte exit. No seemed to have a map, and non thought to ask the two English who seemed to know where they were. So we did not volunteer. We saw the public school English with their I phone on public display, obviously in GPS mode. I wonder if they still have it.

We walked to Plaza Dorrego, passed all the painters and were drawn to the tango music. The show had just ended as we arrived so we waited and soon there was second show. We were promised milonga and the guy got everyone clapping a milonga beat. It did not quite work as all the tourists had little idea, but it was a good start.

The girl was heavily pregnant and the danced apart, we thought at first her bump was the problem but they soon moved into close hold. I can Viv had danced with him there. It seems unlikely he will be back, but you never know.

We decided to stop for a coffee and I made an error. Viv wanted media lunas so we asked. The waiter just mumbled. He came back with the coffee and said “Media lunas no tengo” .he said we could have a sandwich though. Never order without some idea of the price, that has always been my motto. It should be listen to your own advice.

We asked for the bill, it came to $248 that is about one bottle of beer less than we paid for a king sized meal last night. OK I was caught with the stupidity tax again, so perhaps I was not the person to be giving advice.

Fulgor again tonight. The old crowd are back and there are muchos besitos. The big guy still won’t kiss me, he said I was too ugly, fair enough then.

Viv was up for the tropical, I guess all the cervesa negra is finally working. I pulled some merengue moves that did not quite work. Viv was pulling down and I was pulling up, Marianna seemed to love it though. She was in stiches, well we made someone’s night, at least.

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San Telmo

You have to do it once, well for me once per trip. San Telmo is a must for the tourists, but it gets a bit passé after a while. We came down on the 24 Collectivo because the B subte is still not running on the weekend. Then we got off in Bolivar and walked to Plaza Dorrego. The place is still full of tat and the tango dancers, and puppet shows, but we dutifully scanned all the stalls.
Then we headed off down Defensa and the street is lined all the way to Plaza de Mayo with more stalls. It seems if you write Tango on it, you can sell any rubbish. This place has nothing to do with real Argentina and there are more Janquis than Argentines here. Still it kept us entertained for a couple of hours.
The trouble is we had walked so far my bus plan was no longer going to work. We crossed 9 Julio and into Sarmiento. There was no sign of a 24 parada, but a 124 was coming. It said on the sign Bulnes, then Potosi. That meant it had to pass Plaza Almagro so we jumped on. The bus turned along Pueyrredon and up Peron so we had an extra block to walk, but I still congratulated myself for having worked that bus route out.
It is Sunday night, so it must be Fulgor again. Elsa and Bob are back but the numbers are otherwise down, I am not really sure why. Elsa is a real live wire and poor old Bob never gets a rest. We seem to be getting on better now with the big guy, not sure what his name is. We made a bad start, as I misunderstood him in the early days. I think he is warming to us again now though.
When Roberto made the announcements, he made reference to los galeses chacarera and everyone clapped. That was nice, but he mentioned the war again, I think we got away with it this time though.
Despite the low numbers I never won the sorteo, so I had to make do with my stout. We were ready to go by half eleven, as most of the others had filtered away. Still it was, as usual, a good Fulgor night.

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Hasta La Proxima Fulgor

Sunday

I had promised Viv a scarf from San Telmo and time was pressing. Today would be our last opportunity and we had also promised to meet Roger for lunch.

We were already running late and so we jumped onto the subte, changed at Diagonal Norte and jumped off at. Independencia(anyone who has spotted the deliberate mistake, hang on all will become clear) As we came out above ground nothing looked right and we headed off in the wrong direction. A block later and I realised we were the wrong side of 5 de Julio. So we turned again. It seemed to take ages to get to Plaza Dorrego, but once there I knew exactly where to go.

It took some time for Viv to decide which colour scarf she wanted, even though I let her have two. When we had finished she wanted to hurry on, but I was not so sure we needed to rush. Everywhere we go we are early and we were in danger of being early again.

Still we hurried up to the subte, and then I realised my earlier mistake. We had got off the train one stop too soon; we should have got off at San Juan not Independencia. It was no wonder I did not know where we were and recognised nothing.

I got further confused as to where we were to get off this time. We were on the C line and had to get off at Av de Mayo, I thought we had to change to the A line to get off at Lima, but all we had to do was walk underground to Lima station.Limabeing the same station as Av de Mayo. Viv wanted to head straight for the salida, but I insisted we head for the A line.  Once there I knew where we would come out of the ground and we would be only one block from our final destination.

The trouble was now we were half an hour early. We stuck our head in the restaurant and said “tienamos una reserve” and this is where we got stuck. We tried “Mirta” blank faces, “Roger y Mirta” still blank. “Mirta Gamboa” nope; “Quantas personas” the guy said, “no tengo ningun idea” I said. Stalemate, nothing left but to stand and wait.

Fortunately, like us Roger and Mirta are always early, and when they came in they told us the reservation had been made in the name of their friends Ruth and Gustavo, and that there would be just the six of us.

When finally Ruth and Gustavo arrived we sat down ready to order. Roger and I in the middle, Mirta and Viv to my left, and Ruth and Gustavo to my right. I did not think this was going to work and sure enough Roger insisted he change places with Mirta. Now he said he would not be deafened by Mirta speaking to Ruth across him. It also had the advantage of putting all the Spanish speakers together and the English speakers at the other end of the table.

So now we were happily ensconced in El Globo and all that was needed was the food. It is a tradition, apparently of Roger’s to have the Puchero on his birthday, it was a couple of days late but never the less it was his birthday lunch.

Never heard of a Puchero? Well neither had I. What arrived was a massive plate of boiled vegetables and another plate of boiled meat. There was a huge variety on both but the meats were my favourite; boiled beef, ham, pork, chicken, lamb, chorizo, black pudding and more that I could not identify.

Not enough chorizo and black pudding for us, so they brought more. After all that Roger said “anyone fancy pudding” “but we still have the cake” we all said. Roger had made the cake himself and Mirta had iced it, so it was going to be a treat.

Gustavo is another engineer, and we had some very interesting discussions. Well those bits I understood anyway. He spoke no English and it was good to, at last, truly test my castillano. Engineering in Spanish is somewhat different to “dos cervesas por favour” yet some how we understood each other. His political views we shared as well, it seems not everyone in Argentina believes it is right to sell a company and then steal it back. Although we never got onto the Falklands issue. Repsol and Spain are neutral for me; I think The Falklands would be a bit too close to home. We exchanged emails and promised to get in touch next time I am here.

The lunch had carried on far longer than any meal we normally eat and it was time to depart. Gustavo and Ruth left us at the first corner, as they only lived a block away. Likewise Roger and Mirta could walk to their hotel, although it was the other side of 5 de Julio, so they left us as we disappeared underground again. I must find out what moles are called in Spanish.

(Mole is Topo, thanks to Google translate).

The station we were at was again Peru and I was not sure if from here we could get to the C Line. Now emboldened after talking so much Spanish, I asked the girl in the ticket booth “Si al fondo al la isquierda” she said. Very pleased with myself I said “Gracias” and told Viv we just head down there and it is to the left.

After this it is all plain sailing, as I now know the route home intimately. We went back for a couple of hours sleep before the night time festivities.

We had a table booked at Club Fulgor for our despidida and I texted Roger to tell him as I knew he would be again early.

We were relatively early at eight, for Fulgor, as usually nothing happens until about nine, but Roger Mirta and Jantango were already there.

Janis commented on the way everyone greeted us as we entered, but I don’t know if she was ready for all the extra greetings as all the others entered the place.

Viv was still suffering, but somehow the atmosphere of this place brought her out, almost forgetting the pain. I think though the beer we were consuming helped, we went through three litres of Quilmes Negra.

Viv was still missing a few dances though and sent me off to play (as she puts it). Janis said she had seen this in my blogs and did not realise that Viv actually said this.

Well there are so many ladies here and so little time. As we were leaving Marianna said “all those old ladies will miss you”.

Again as everyone left we were kissed goodbye and wished “Buen Viaje” over and over.

There is no better way to say “Goodbye to Argentina” than a night in Club Fulgor. I think it is the one thing that convinces Viv to return with me year after year.

Hasta la proxima Club Fulgor.

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Hoy Touristas

The weather has caught me out somewhat today; it is always warm in our apartment but it was not so warm on the street. I had to do some strategic sunny side walking to keep my body temperature up when walking about today. It is still not cold, you understand but my summer clothing is less than appropriate now. Long sleeves I think tomorrow.

Up until now we have done little of a touristy nature. This is just our home in Buenos Aires and there seems little point in even getting my camera out, in what after all is my back yard. So today we thought we would head down to San Telmo, see some of the colour and mix with los touristas.

We left the subte at San Juan and just sort of meandered until we came across Carlos Calvo. Something stirred in my memory “wasn’t Carlos Calvo the street with the café that made its own bread?” Viv confirmed my thoughts so we walked down until it was crossed by Peru and there on the corner was El Federal. It is quite a big place, but always full of customers. We managed to find a seat by the window and we were given the menu. This particular menu, I think was written by Tolstoy, slightly longer than War and Peace but a mouthwateringly good read. I think we spent longer on the menu than the food. We elected for a sandwich each on their pan caseros. We saw so many other dishes served up that looked equally delicious but I could not come to San Telmo without tasting their bread.

After this we went a wandering again. We wandered around the indoor market and found something else for our practica. Then we found our way back to Plaza Dorrego. We hardly got in the first street before we were accosted by a guy trying for all he was worth to get us to buy his paintings. (For all he was worth, was not much judging by his art work). As always down here, the artistry ranges from grand master ability to something only a mother would pin to the fridge.

Anyway I took the precaution of not bringing much money out with me, that way nobody can con me out of it. (remember I said that) I love the life and colour of this place, despite the fact that most of it is here solely for the tourists and you get accosted on every corner “algo para comer senor?” “good leather, cheap, we take dollars”, not a lot different to Florida really just more colour.

Later we found the passage artisanal where we bought some Tango 8 shoes last year. Defensa 1575 or there abouts.Tango 8 seems to have gone from here, but there was still a lot of places to look into. Window shopping free entertainment for pobrecitos.

There is an upstairs to this passage and a café there so we thought we would stop and have a beer now the sun was shining. They also had a tango show and Viv insisted I gave them $10 for a very short show.

We had a litre of quilmes between us and when it was time to go I asked for the bill. This is how it went; “La cuenta por favor” “Si treinta y sinco” (35) “TREINTA Y SINCO” “Si” “es una broma no?” (It’s a joke) but she was not laughing. I rarely ask the price in Buenos Aires, because in the main they are always fair. True some places are a bit more expensive but you can usually tell, there are clues like table cloths and posh waiters. But sitting outside on a rough balcony with tango dancers doubling as waiting on staff that does not count.

The trouble with ripping people off is you never can tell who they are, how often they would have returned or how many friends they will tell to avoid the place. That is perhaps why this place was almost empty and El Federal was full.

Enough of the moaning we are off to Fulgor again, for another great night. Everyone welcomed us again as old friends and nobody mentioned we were missing last Thursday. Viv is still suffering with her neck, so she sent me off to dance with all the old dears. They all seem to do unled crosses here, and I have to be very careful not to trip them up when I try to secada. Still it all makes for more experience.

For some reason they now play bingo on a regular basis, but at least Roberto calls the numbers “muy rapido” so we can get on with the dancing. Unlike the old sorteo I seem to have no luck with bingo, I guess  the game knows I don’t really like it.

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Wet weekend.

For some reason this was never published. I wrote it on our penultimate weekend in Buenos Aires.  It popped up as a recent draft, a nice reminder of our time there this year.

Plans are always a bit fluid here. We had planned to go down to the Casa Rosada and then over to San Telmo for our house sign. This morning though, it is raining, not heavy, but enough to worry about the ferria being on.

I called Alfredo Martinez. “Es en San Telmo” “Si, en el mismo lugar”. I kept it short, direct conversation is difficult, on the phone it is nigh on impossible so I quit while I was winning. The storm clouds were gathering and there was no point making a diversion and risking him going home before we got there. So we went straight down to San Telmo.

Ever reliable, the sign was there and beautiful, just as he had said. All the stalls were covered in plastic sheeting, they knew what was coming.

We set off along Defensa through the crowds of tourists and trades people, just looking for a way through. Then I saw a flash, it was some time before I heard the thunder, so I knew it was still some way off. Yet the rain started, slowly at first, but enough that by the time we got to Plaza de Mayo we had our waterproof’s on and the hoods up.

The Casa Rosada was covered in scaffold. The museum entrance was locked and chained. There was no way in apart from the gateway where an angry-looking policeman stood with his hand on his gun. Best not try to get in past him then. So as it was now raining quite hard we ducked down into the subte.

This was the A line, we could go one stop towards the C line and cross over to the B that way or we could head out and try the new H line. So that is what we did.  When we got to Plaza Miserere there were no signs at the station, only Salida. We walked across the platform then saw a sign H. We trotted off down the tunnels twisting and turning with no guidance. Then we saw the train we rushed and jumped on only to realise we were heading back the way we came. Ah well at least we know this route, and it is just as well we did not try this the other night when it would have been the last train. When we were waiting for the train at Idependencia a very pleasant youth asked if this was the right way to 5 de Julio, ironic as we had just got lost, still we put him right. Then even more ironic, he asked if we were tourists and said we should be careful with our bags.

We had some very nice cake that we had got in for just such an emergency. What emergency? Well a wet weekend that’s what.

Another Fulgor night, the music seemed lack lustre for some reason. As we cannot see the DJ I have no idea if it was the usual, but something was not the same. The crowd though were as friendly as ever, Viv and I both got a few dances with the locals. Viv even got a dance with a young lad visiting from “milonga 10”.

They all came to see us before the end and wish us goodnight, we had some fantastic spanglish sessions and much kissing and hugging. One guy even came over and gave us a long lecture on the meaning of tango, of which I understood little and Viv understood non. The whole crowd here are something special and we felt lifted by their hospitality.

We met Nora again outside as she waited for a taxi, she again warned us how dangerous these streets are. Why do all portenos do this? If this city were half as dangerous as they make out then their tourist trade would be dead.

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All tourista’d out

We took another trip down to San telmo, for our house sign. We know the guy who does fileteado (Alfredo F Martinez) is there on a Sunday, so despite the crowds, on a Sunday we must go.

We are getting good at this and the subte trip offered no problems even the disorientation when surfacing was short-lived and we were soon at Plaza Dorrego.We wandered around a while until we found him and soon we were discussing our needs. I never quite understand why they apologise for their English here, after all I am the visitor and it is up to me to make myself understood. Still we got across what we wanted and agreed to pick it up next Sunday.

Off for another coffee, these tourist crowds are too much for us. Our favourite cafe was crowded with people eating so we went across the road and supped our coffee while a guy on the television gave commentary on the people crowding into La Bomboneria to watch River Plate play Boca Juniors. Now this I don’t get River Plate? why not Rio de la Plata? and Boca Juniors? why not Juventas? there must be some history behind this Anglicising of football, anyone out there know?

Soon we were on the subte home again, wondering what to do next. You see we are all tourista’d out. I think we have seen all there is to see and get bored with the tourist traps. Now also we are so familiar with the city and its transport that it takes us no time at all to do the essentials. (Big mistake here, I can see us getting lost on the busses again as the city takes its revenge).

Nothing to do but visit our local confiteria and get something nice to eat, before the night out.

Another Fulgor night as it is Sunday, brilliant as always. My reputation is growing and Nora has a new friend who is also demanding a dance. Normal milonga rules do not apply here, as I have already danced with Nora it is considered OK for me to dance with other women as well. It seems she lived some time in Australia and wanted to practice her English, unfortunately there is little time between dances to chat so I will have to learn more of her story as time goes by.

More and more people are coming to welcome us now and mostly they are calling us by name, I am going to have to take a note-book with me to remember all of theirs. Even Roberto’s son Ruben now comes and welcomes us by name, we have a real feeling of belonging here.

Still the night must end and we have our weary walk home tired but very happy.

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