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San Telmo’s Sunday Antiques Market

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How to Buy and Sell Antiques

On any day of the week, San Telmo is the best spot in Buenos Aires to go antiques-hunting. Dealers hawk everything from chandeliers to ancient books in shops which blanket the neighborhood. But the Sunday antiques market in Plaza Dorrego has become a phenomenon; all San Telmo comes out to party along with thousands of visitors in a celebration of curbside capitalism.

San Telmo Market Fair

Walking around the antique vendors’ stalls in Plaza Dorrego is a treat, even if you’re not planning on purchasing anything. Old soda bottles, copper cookware, matecitos, vintage telephones and collector matchboxes are just some of the treasures on offer. The prices are fairly high, but the quality is top-notch. Because there are more antique dealers in San Telmo than stalls at the market, a weekly lottery determines who gets the right to set up shop. Organizers are strict about their rules, which dictate that all actually be antiques, and that the owners be physically present at the stands.

The antique dealers are confined to the plaza, but shopping continues for at least six blocks down Calle Defensa, where artisans and craft-workers hock on the curb to sell their wares. We’ve found a number of great gifts here, including a hand-crafted teddy bear for a niece and individually designed t-shirts. And the prices are so good, you’d feel guilty about haggling. Tango bands play on the corners, and everyone’s hanging out and talking, drinking mate and bumping into friends.

Proceedings become more festive as the sun goes down and a group of bongo-drummers begins to parade up and down Defensa, encouraging onlookers to join in. I must not have any Brazilian blood in me, because I’ll never understand the whole bongo thing. Anyone can play bongo drums, and sound somewhat competent. You don’t actually need dreadlocks. But it doesn’t matter that bongos are relatively ridiculous, because man do the girls love them! Once those rhythms start, control goes out the window. So, guys, if you really want to impress the ladies, forget nice clothes and expensive cologne. Just grab a bongo drum, skip the shower, and throw on a ratty Bob Marley t-shirt.

Meters from the makeshift parade, a popular milonga gets underway around 9pm in the plaza. With great music and an ample floor filled with dancers of all skill levels, it’s the perfect place to show off your tango moves.

Plaza Dorrego on our Buenos Aires Map
Great Hostels in Buenos Aires

Soda Bottles
House Numbers
Pink Phone
Pink Silver
Angel San Telmo
Antique Market
Hang Girl
Argentina Pharmacy
Argentinian Bull
Bombillas
Boxing Gloves
COCK Fight
Foxes
Match Boxes
Pillow Angel
Pots and Pans
Sugar Spoon
Watches
Wooden Shoe
Tango San Telmo
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March 17, 2011 at 1:20 pm Comments (6)

The Carlos Gardel Museum

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Listen to Carlos Gardel

After our great experience at El Querandí, we were all about tango. So the next day we decided to visit the Carlos Gardel Museum in Abasto. We showed up at the perfect time: a free tango class was just getting underway in the foyer of the museum. As we lumbered into the middle of the group, grinning from ear to ear and looking for pretty ladies, shrieks of terror echoed through the hall.

Carlos Gardel

Carlos Gardel is the indisputable king of tango, and his face can be found everywhere in Buenos Aires, from street art and advertising, to posters in restaurants. Gardel was born in Tolouse, France in 1890, but his mother immigrated to Argentina when he was three. As a muchacho, he studied music and worked in a theater, finding success in his twenties as part of a singing duo with José Razzano. In the 1920s, Gardel took a tour around the world, and caused a sensation in cities from New York to Barcelona. Razzano would eventually become his manager.

Gardel was blessed with a rich, deep voice, as well as a gift for songwriting; he wrote the music to most of his tangos. And because he was so handsome, he became a popular actor in Argentine cinema, like a turn-of-the-century Will Smith. His last film was Tango Bar, wrapped just before his untimely death at the age of 45, when he perished in a plane crash in Colombia. The decades since his death have only seen him grow in popularity, though. How beloved does he continue to be? Well, this out-of-focus video of one his most famous songs has over a million views on YouTube.

The Museo Carlos Gardel occupies the house he bought for his mother, in his childhood neighborhood of Abastos, and provides a good overview to the singer’s life with a lot of memorabilia from his career. Not very large, you can get through it in a half hour, and it costs just a peso. We zipped through the exhibits extra-quick, because we were eager to join in the free tango course.

For two hours, we practiced the basics in the museum’s shaded walkway. Amazingly, there were more guys than girls in the class, so Jürgen and I had to share a partner: cheers to the game Chilean girl whose feet we made a bloody, bruised mess of. By the end of the session, we were both able to do the basic steps. Money.

Museo Carlos Gardel’s Website
Jean Jaurés 735
Tel: 4964-2015
Location on our Buenos Aires Map
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Mi Buenos Aires
Carlos Gardel Fashion
Carlos Gardel Museum
Old Typewriter

Tango Buenos Aires

Carlos Gardel Record
El Tango en Broadway
Tango Classes
Tango Carlos Gardel
Carlos Art
Gardel Buenos Aires
Carlos Gardel
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March 14, 2011 at 11:40 pm Comments (4)

El Querandí: Dinner and a Primer to the History of Tango

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There are a few ways to experience tango while in Buenos Aires. Milongas are probably the most popular option, where people of all skill levels join in the dancing. And there are recitals with excellent music, usually no dancing, but possibly the most authentic. Or, you can choose the full-on tourist experience of the dinner show.

Sexy Tango

We arrived at El Querandí at 9:30, and were promptly served dinner: salads, empanadas, steak and wine. While eating and awaiting the show, we met our table companions. Everyone in the restaurant was a foreigner; German, American, French, Japanese. That would usually be a turn-off, but not tonight. The crowd was happy and energetic, and besdies, you wouldn’t go to El Querandí if you wanted to be surrounded by locals. The show is an overview of tango’s history! Hardly a lesson most Argentinians would need.

Once the lights went up, idle chatter with our new friends immediately stopped: our attention was entirely captured by the show. Two hours of top-notch dancing and singing, with incredible music performed by an odd quartet consisting of a piano, violin, bass and accordion. Some of our favorite moments in the show were actually just the band playing by itself.

The initial acts were set in the outskirts of Buenos Aires in the late 1800s, when roughly-dressed workers and the immigrant women who worked in brothels were inventing a new art form. The way it turns out… and I had really suspected as much… and perhaps especially when it’s performed by young, skilled and beautiful people… and, yes, perhaps especially when they are dressed as rough-n-tumble dock workers and prostitutes… well, the tango can be … let’s just call it “passionate”.

There was singing as well, with a tribute to Carlos Gardel who popularized tango both at home and around the world. As the show moved into modernity, when tango found acceptance among all walks of Argentine society, the sets became more professional and the dress more genteel. The grace and timing of the dancers was amazing, and there were a number of beautiful moments. The dancers struck a lot of classic poses, which was well-appreciated since photography was permitted during the show.

Fine, it’s not the most authentic way to experience tango in the city, but El Querandí provides a wonderful evening of food and music. And anyway, “most authentic” doesn’t necessarily mean “most enjoyable”. We were amazed at how well-staged the show was, and how much fun we had. If you’re looking for an entertaining evening out, and a solid tango show, you won’t be disappointed in El Querandí.

El Querandí’s Website
Peru 302
Tel: 11 5199 1770 (Reservations Necessary)
Location on our BsAs Map
Travel Insurance

Tango Cena
Tango Salad
Tango Steak
Tango Singer
Music Buenos Aires
Tango
Tango Argentina
Tango Dance
Tango Classes
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March 10, 2011 at 12:50 am Comments (3)

Vesre: The Crazy Reverse-Talk of Buenos Aires

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Spanish Learning Tools

“Revés” is Spanish for reverse and, if you say its syllables in reverse, you get vesre: a strange little word game that has worked its way into the normal speech of Buenos Aires.

Vesre

Pizza becomes zapi. Café is feca. Baño is ñoba. Theoretically, you could do this with any word, but a lot of the combinations have become so widely-used, that porteños often don’t even know they’re doing it. And the “vesred” words can take on a slightly different connotation: Hotel = a hotel, but telo = a hotel for sex. Mujer = woman, while jermu = wife. You don’t take your jermu to a telo.

As might be expected, vesre isn’t considered proper Spanish, and not used in formal settings at all. It’s street language, and popular in tango lyrics. In the 1926 tango ¿Qué querés con eses loro? (What Do You Want from That Hag?), the singer tells her ex-boyfriend that his new girlfriend has the profile of a “llobaca”. Llobaca = caballo = horse.

Fun! But I think I’d better concentrate on my regular Spanish, before attempting to say anything in vesre.

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March 3, 2011 at 1:15 pm Comments (7)

Tango, Desaparecidos, Maradona

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“What do you know about Buenos Aires?” That’s the question posed to Barcelonan detective Pepe Carvalho at the beginning of Manuel Vázquez Montalbán’s excellent crime novel Quinteto de Buenos Aires. Carvahlo’s response mirrors what mine would have been: “Tango, desaparecidos, Maradona”. I suppose I might have added Evita. Not much else.

Buenos Aires Tango

Neither Jürgen nor I had ever been to Argentina before. Or South America, for that matter. I can’t say exactly why we chose Buenos Aires for our next three month stay; for some indefinable reason, the city has always tempted us. The words “Buenos Aires” conjure images of smoky tango clubs, chaotic street life, and beautiful, rotting decadence. The very idea of the city is alluring. Maybe it was the promise of steaks and pizza, or the reputation which Argentines enjoy of physical beauty. Whatever the reason, we arrived in February of 2011 to find a huge metropolis teeming with culture and history laid out before us, just waiting to be explored.

It’s a bit daunting: our last two stays were in the smaller cities of Oviedo, Spain and Savannah, Georgia. Our experience in Buenos Aires would be massively different. There was no chance we’d ever get to know this megalopolis as intimately as we did Savannah, or as thoroughly as Oviedo. The idea of comprehensively experiencing Buenos Aires in three months is ridiculous. Instead of our normal maturation from “bewildered newcomers” to “almost locals”, we’d never progress further than “slightly less bewildered newcomers”.

But our education began quickly. Within our first couple days in Buenos Aires, I became addicted to both mate and Carlos Gardel. By the end of the first week, I was using the word “Che” with the newspaper vendor, pronouncing my “ll”s like “zsa” and comfortable with the various cuts of beef at the parrilla down the street. Basically a local already.

Whether you’ve lived here for years or never been, we hope you enjoy our pictures and the accounts of our experiences in Buenos Aires. As already mentioned, we don’t yet know much about the city, so if you have any great recommendations, we’d love to hear them… shoot us an email, or contact us via Facebook or Twitter. Our 91 days in Buenos Aires is underway!

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February 7, 2011 at 10:00 pm Comments (10)
San Telmo's Sunday Antiques Market
For 91 Days