Let’s Tango…!


I don’t like the word “show” very much… It somehow says “artificial and superficial”. During our past trip to Argentina (Mac, Soñita, Paito, Andre, Kari, Moni, Dom – you are fab travel mates, by the way…thanks for an unforgettable trip!) our itinerary included the visit of a Tango-Show in Buenos Aires. I was keen to see the Tango and not the show, to be honest… It is common to combine Dinner & Tango (superb concept, by the way) and we chose the “Tango Porteño” at the Porteño Theatre on Corrientes, formerly a cinema-theatre owned by Metro Goldwyn Meyer.

The place is big (like so many things in Argentina…); all the tables are well laid (you can chose to either come just for the Tango, or include dinner); the food is delicious, wine good and the ambience perfect to immerse oneself back to the golden decade of the 1940s, when Tango had its heyday. For over an hour and a half, we are taken back in time, to a glamorous Buenos Aires, full of passion & love.

I am surprised by the staging, orchestra, dancers, singers, costumes, music – all is of fantastic quality – I am dazzled by the moves, the energy, accuracy, flow, dynamism, elegance, passion… There is this one scene, modern, where the performer dances blindfolded (!) with her lover… we witness the utmost perfect, and sensual, declaration of love of two top performers who seem to read each other’s minds constantly, not one movement has room for failure, a mastery of bodies that provokes in me pure admiration and stir the humble feeling of being so privileged to experience this breathtaking show. And wanting to share it immediately with my family, especially with my daughter, who is devoted to dancing, singing and spectacles of any description.

Tamara giving tango a try in San Telmo

Tamara giving tango a try in San Telmo

Buenos Aires and Tango: thank you for a more extraordinary encounter with my inner passion for music and dance. I´ll be back, that is a promise! I know that I have just had a glimpse of a great city and part of its culture, and crave more!

There are more Tango places, of course, that our office in Argentina recommends, such as Tango Gardel, El Viejo Almacén, and Rojo Tango at the Faena Hotel – what a place!

It is impossible to separate Buenos Aires from the culture of Tango: you can feel it, hear it and sense Tango on every corner… next time I´ll take lessons and give it a try myself!

By Tamara W. de Karolys, Commercial Director, MT Ecuador. tkarolys AT metropolitan-touring.com

Discover Tango in Buenos Aires, and wines in Mendoza, with Metropolitan Touring: http://www.metropolitan-touring.com/content.asp?id_page=2159

Wine-tasting in Buenos Aires


As the saying goes: “When in Rome…”

It would have been churlish of us not to have spent at least one night concentrating on one of Argentina’s finest, and probably most famous, exports – and tourist attractions – this was a ‘fam’ trip, afterall. Research, research…

So we descended the metallic spiral staircase of El Querandí restaurant (www.querandi.com.ar) in downtown Buenos Aires, to the wine cellar called La Cava, for an evening of deep appreciation of one of the finer things in life.

The evening was hosted by the affable, skinny and funny Sebastián, an Argentine sommelier in his late 20s who wore his knowledge lightly and had a Roman nose apt for his job.

With him, we tasted three wines in all, aided by a map of Argentina projected on the wall, which helpfully explained the three main wine-growing regions in the country: the North, the Centre and the South. Each region produces different types of wines – nearly all of them more alcoholic than other countries – with different-tasting varieties of the same grape in some cases.

To give you an idea of just how important wine is to Argentina these days, you need to know that it’s the world’s 5th-largest exporter and 7th-largest producer, generating an estimated $600 million for the economy every year, with over 1,300 wineries employing hundreds of thousands of people.

Now, to get an idea of how important wine is to the average Argentine, you need to know that they rank 8th in the world’s top drinkers (although Sebastián said 6th, I checked and it’s 8th – no surprise perhaps, in the porteño exaggeration), knocking back around 30 litres each a year. That’s quite a bit.

We were introduced to the Torrontés grape , which I hadn’t tasted before. The one we had was La Pumila, a green-tinged white wine that was refreshing when combined with a nibble of meat, but too acidic for my linking. Interestingly, when we were in the Salta region later on the trip, we were invited to try a different Torrontés and it was sweeter. I preferred the second one.

Then came a Pinot Noir called Malma, which had some body and some kick, and would gone down all-too-easily on a sunny day for lunch. It comes from the southern Patagonian wine-growing region, from the NQN bodega, which can be visited in the famous Neuquén wine region.

Passing along via another nibble provided by an excellent waiter, we moved on to my preferred territory of the dark, richer reds: Finca Intimayo from the Mendoza region, the central part of the country that produces really what many now regard as the world’s best Malbecs. This was the highlight of the night for me. Excellent bouquet – you can’t help get into the terminology…  — not too sharp, not too heavy, an astringency that played on the palate, leaving you with a delicious, lingering taste. Following a glass of that, we then passed on to the main course, a fine – and almost mandatory in Argentina – steak.

Gabriel Nicolai, Manager of Metropolitan Touring Argentina showing us how it's done

All in all, an excellent way to pass an evening among friends: a bit of learning, a bit of tasting, good food, cool decor, fine wine. Salud!

By Dominic Hamilton, Head of Communication, MT Ecuador. dhamilton AT metropolitan-touring.com


To experience ‘tango and wines’ with Metropolitan Touring, see: http://www.metropolitan-touring.com/content.asp?id_page=2159

For more images of wine-tasting at La Cava, see our Flickr gallery

Useful info:  www.winesofargentina.org

Buenos Aires – Aires y Gracia


Calles de Caminito Porteño: el adjetivo con que se conoce a la gente de Buenos Aires, es también la palabra clave para entender esta ciudad, que parece tener una urgencia de lanzarse de cabeza al Río de la Plata.  Sus congestionadas avenidas, todas, apuntan hacia el río y el Puerto.  Y sus grandes edificios compiten unos con otros por la mejor vista del “océano de plata” (de allí el nombre).  Puerto de entrada…  Nexo.

CaminitoLa ciudad enviaba toda la producción de los alrededores del continente a través de sus puertos.  A cambio, distribuía los bienes manufacturados que llegaban del sofisticado mundo de ultramar, a lo largo de las pampas, las montañas y las planicies.  Aquí, las influencias de París, Londres y Madrid desembarcaban de los barcos a vela o los vapores.  Aquí, las riquezas de América del Sur se transportaban, tasaban, estibaban y vendían.  Es como un punto de intercambio que uno puede entender el carácter de Buenos Aires y sus singulares cualidades.

Yendo cronológicamente por la historia de la ciudad, se debe empezar por los antiguos muelles y el Barrio de La Boca.  Desde aquí creció la ciudad.  Las casas construidas con zinc corrugado y trozos de madera y pintadas en los coloridos tonos de los botes de pintura que se podía conseguir, están dilapidadas y turísticas, es un área que vive de su pasado y no de su clase trabajadora actual.  Sus calles se ven polvorientas y estropeadas, pero amadas, y mantienen un significado casi religioso para los fanáticos del cercano Boca Juniors.  El ríspido respiro del acordeón con sus tangos, canciones y lamentos, emana de las casas y almacenes, donde se venden recuerdos que los visitantes se ven obligados, si no a comprar, a admirar detenidamente.  Es brillante, colorida y divertida, quizás la imagen que más tiempo perdura en nuestro recuerdo de la ciudad.

Las Calles de San Telmo.  Un poco más hacia el norte están las calles y casas de los períodos colonial y republicano, más ordenadas y adornadas: el Barrio de San Telmo.  Sus calles principales empedradas se llenan de puestos de venta los fines de semana, compitiendo con los almacenes llenos de antigüedades, cachivaches, y peculiares diseños de muebles y ropa.  El ambiente es bohemio y desordenado, un poco como la versión criolla del mercado de Portobello en Londres.  Tiene un aire de caos organizado.

El día domingo que lo visitamos, ríos de gente local y turistas fluían en ambos sentidos por las calles, y uno tenía que navegar entre ellos, los kioscos y muchas personas que vendían alimentos en sitios improvisados.  Parece que los residentes locales habían decidido vender la mitad de su almuerzo a los paseantes para ganar unos pocos pesos.

Antiquarian tango, Buenos AiresAccordion friendsFuera de un almacén de antigüedades en Plaza San Telmo, un artista del acordeón sacaba notas a su instrumento al tiempo que conversaba con un amigo, mientras que dentro, nos brindaron un show de un trío de tango, cuya edad promedio debían estar bordeando los 65.  El refinado bailarín, inmaculadamente vestido con un traje gris a rayas y sombrero, debió haber sido un inefable seductor en su juventud.  Guiñaba el ojo a las chicas de nuestro grupo y las hacía sonreír.

La anomalía en esta histórica narrativa es el área de Puerto Madero.  Estos antiguos muelles, que perdieron su razón de ser en el siglo XX, hacen que uno retroceda una década, cuando las autoridades decidieron regenerar el área.  Las bodegas de rojo ladrillo visto, funcionales y simétricas, recibieron una nueva oportunidad de vida, aprovechando al máximo los dos kilómetros de tierra que la ciudad le ha robado al río a lo largo de los años.

La Parolaccia, Pueto Madero, Buenos Aires

Actual, el Puente de la Mujer diseñado por Calatrava, proveen un elegante punto por el cual cruzar a la parte más nueva y más sofisticada de la ciudad, donde se alzan edificios de apartamentos de 50 pisos y se han inaugurado hoteles de lujo.  Las viejas bodegas alojan ahora a los mejores restaurantes de Buenos Aires, repletos el día domingo que estuvimos allí, y disfrutamos una comida fantástica en el bistró italiano La Parolaccia  (www.laparolaccia.com).

Streets of Recoleta and Alvear PalaceA medida que avanzamos al norte, saltamos a fines del siglo XIX y comienzos del XX, Recoleta definitivamente se siente europea.  No como el París que algunos pensarían, pero ciertamente una amalgama de un puñado de ciudades europeas.  Los techos de estilo mansardo color gris pizarra y las paredes de piedra color crema de muchas edificaciones, son indudablemente elegantes, mientras que los almacenes en las calles que rodean al famoso Hotel Alvear Palace, son en verdad chic.  Hay paseadores de perros y cochecitos de bebés, esquinas con puestos de revistas, alquitraves que se envuelven y se enroscan, y una agradable simetría y formalidad.  Aquí se encuentran hoteles famosos como Four Seasons, Caesar Park (www.caesar-park.com), Hyatt y Recoleta, una excelente base desde donde explorar.

Los parques de Palermo continúan hacia el norte, un bienvenido contraste para el bullicio de la ciudad.  Estos son parques formales, ordenados y delineados, con inmensos y cansados árboles de Gomero y museos como el impresionante Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA – http://www.malba.org.ar).

Los barrios de Palermo están siendo atomizados en distritos más pequeños por los periodistas y quienes se benefician de los bienes raíces.  La gente local ahora habla de Palermo Soho y Palermo Hollywood.  Sus casas, con frentes bajos, son transformadas en exclusivas boutiques, bares, hoteles, restaurantes y cafés.  La “juventud dorada” se reúne en las terrazas, calentadas por tubos metálicos, para ver pasar a la gente y disfrutar del sol en un día feriado –lunes, una bendición para disfrutarla luego del intenso frío que han soportado los porteños este invierno.  Quizás aquí la influencia es más norteamericana, mas Sunset Boulevard que Boulevard Saint-German.  Y sin lugar a dudas, la ciudad más temprano que tarde, encontrará una nueva identidad para adoptarla como suya.

La ciudad-puerto de Buenos Aires parece estar constantemente en movimiento, cargada con esa energía nerviosa que he sentido en muy pocas de las ciudades que he visitado.  Su pasado y su presente están inexorablemente unidos a su rol como el cauce por donde pasan las modas, los negocios, los gustos, el comercio, los estilos y las ideas – como una marea que fluye y refluye desde su corazón.  Continuamente, y algunos dirían obsesivamente, se transforma, se modifica, se reinventa y hoy en día, lanza sus creaciones híbridas y su irrefrenable creatividad hacia el mundo, como nunca antes.

por Dominic Hamilton dhamilton@metropolitan-touring.com

Para visitar Buenos Aires con Metropolitan Touring, ver http://www.metropolitan-touring.com/content.asp?id_page=1797

 Las Calles de Caminito.

Ver fotos de Buenos Aires en nuestra galeria Flickr aqui:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/metropolitantouring/sets/72157624609709491/

Argentinian Charm


Metropolitan Touring (Ecuador office) fam trip to Argentina at Iguazu Falls

Besides the fact that when we think of Argentina what first comes to our mind is Buenos Aires – a magnificent city, by the way!!!! – during a recent trip I discovered a couple of things.

It is common in Latin America to refer to the Argentinians as “the ones that know it all”. The ego of the Argentinians is something we always talk about. But travelling in Argentina for 11 days completely changed the way I think.

I found the most amazing, charming and friendly people, from the bus drivers we had, to MT Argentina´s General Manager who travelled with us throughout the trip, it’s no exaggeration to say I now have tons of new Argentine friends now!!!!!

We travelled to the northern part of Argentina, the province of Salta, quite Andean. Our local guide Miguel Angel was so proud of his culture and ethnics, showing us around and telling us about the famous Humahuaca Carnival (held in February), we all felt the irresistible urge to book a trip in 2011 so we could be part of the fun too!!

And then there was Diego our guide in the Salta region, full of good humour and with a great ability to hold ones attention. And César our guide at Iguazú Falls, was something out of this world, a young man with so much knowledge of his rainforest, you just had to love him!

All in all, I have found my preconceptions of Argentinians swept away: surely one of the best reasons to travel there is!

Andrea Swigilsky, Division 8 Commercial Manager, Metropolitan Touring.

Join us to discover Argentina and meet the ‘charming Argentineans’: http://www.metropolitan-touring.com/content.asp?id_page=1299

Buenos Aires – Airs and Graces


Streets of CaminitoPorteño: the adjective used to refer to people from Buenos Aires, is also the key word to understanding this city, which seems almost to rush headlong into the River Plate. Its congested avenues all point to the river and the port. Its high rises vie with one another for the best view of the ‘silver’ ocean (thus the name) beyond. Gateway… Nexus.

Streets of Caminito The city funnelled all the produce of the continent’s hinterland out through its docks. And in exchange, distributed the manufactured goods of the sophisticated world beyond back across the pampas and mountains and plains. Here, the influences of Paris, London and Madrid disembarked on the clippers and steamers. Here, the riches of southern South America were transported, taxed, hoisted and sold. It’s as a point of exchange that one can understand Buenos Aires’ character and unique qualities.

Working through the city’s history chronologically, one has to start at the old docks and the neighbourhood of La Boca. From here the city grew. The corrugated zinc and patchwork wood houses, painted in colourful hues from scavenged paint pots, are dilapidated and touristy, an area that lives off its past rather than its working class present. Its streets are dusty and worn, but loved, retaining a quasi-religious significance for the fans of nearby Boca Juniors. The accordion wheeze of tango songs and their laments emanate from its houses and shopping arcades, turned over to selling the souvenirs which as visitors we all feel obliged to, if not buy, then at least peruse. It’s bright and colourful and fun, perhaps the most lingering image one has of the city.

Streets of San TelmoSlightly north come the streets and houses of the later colonial and republican period, more orderly and ornate: the neighbourhood of San Telmo. Its cobbled thoroughfares are lined with stalls on weekends, competing with the shops stuffed with antiques, bric-a-brac, funky designer furniture or clothes. The feel is bohemian and down-at-heel, a bit like a criollo version of Portobello market in London. There is an organised chaos feel to it.

On the Sunday we visited, rivers of locals and tourists flowed up and down its streets, and one had to weave between them, the stalls and the huge number of people selling small amounts of food in impromptu places. These looked like local residents who had decided to pick up half their lunch and sell it to passers-by to make a few pesos.

Accordion friendsOutside an antique shop on Plaza San Telmo, an accordion player eased the notes from his instrument as he stood chatting to his friend, while inside, we were treated to a tango show by a trio whose average age must have been 65. The debonair dancer, immaculately-dressed in a pin-strip grey suit and trilby hat, must have been a regular rake in his youth. He winked at the girls in our group and made them giggle.

The anomaly in the historical narrative is the area of Puerto Madero. These old docks, which lost their reason for being in the 20th century, make one jump to a decade ago, when the authorities decided to regenerate the area. The functional yet symmetrically-pleasing red brick warehouses were given a new lease of life, making the most of the progressively-claimed two kilometres of land the city has stolen from the river over the years.

La Parolaccia, Pueto Madero, Buenos AiresToday, the Calatrava-designed Puente de la Mujer provides an elegant point at which to cross over to the newest and swankiest part of the city, where 50-storey apartment blocks rise and a couple of top-flight hotels have been inaugurated. The former warehouses host some of the best restaurants in Buenos Aires, packed to the gills on the Sunday we visited, enjoying a fantastic meal at the Italian bistro, La Parolaccia (www.laparolaccia.com).

Streets of Recoleta and Alvear Palace
Jumping back to the late 19th century and early 20th century as one heads north, Recoleta undoubtedly feels European. Not entirely the Paris that some would make out, but certainly an amalgam of a handful of European cities. The slate-grey mansard roofs and the cream-coloured stone of many properties are undeniably elegant, while the shops lining the streets around the famous Alvear Palace Hotel are chic, to be sure. There are dog-walkers and baby strollers, street-corner newspaper stands, architraving that wraps and curls, and a pleasing symmetry and formality. Here one finds the Four Seasons, Caesar Park (www.caesarpark.com),  Hyatt and Recoleta hotels, all making fine bases from which to explore.

Palermo’s parks spread further to the north, a welcome counterpoint to the bustle of the city. These are formal parks, ordered and delineated, punctuated by huge, tired goma rubber trees and museums such as the impressive Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires (MALBA – www.malba.org.ar).

Palermo’s neighbourhoods are being atomised into smaller districts by journalists and real estate profiteers. Locals now talk of Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood. Their largely low-fronted houses have been turned over to trendy boutiques, bars, hotels, restaurants and cafés. A jeunesse dorée crowd hangs out on terraces heated by metallic tubes, people watching and enjoying the sun on a holiday-Monday, as a blessing to be savoured after the bitter cold that has chilled porteños this winter. Perhaps here the influences are now more North American, more Sunset Boulevard then Boulevard Saint-Germain. And soon enough, the city will no doubt find another identity to adopt and make its own.

The port city of Buenos Aires seems constantly on the move, charged with a nervous energy like few cities I’ve visited. Its past and its present are inextricably linked to its role as a conduit; fashions, trade, tastes, commerce, styles and ideas ebbing and flowing through its heart. It continuously, and some would say obsessively, transforms, reworks, reinvents, and today, sends its hybrid creations and its irrepressible creativity out into the world like never before.

By Dominic Hamilton – dhamilton@metropolitan-touring.com

Join Metropolitan Touring to discover Buenos Aires:  http://www.metropolitan-touring.com/content.asp?id_page=1797

Colours in Caminito

View photos of Buenos Aires on our Flickr gallery here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/metropolitantouring/sets/72157624609709491/