I've already written about the hotel La Faena (sexiest hotel I've ever visited), but stayed at Alvear Art Hotel (alveatart.com) on the way back from Antarctica (the ultimate male ego trip destination) and was given a tour of the city by the excellent guide Elizabeth Georges (email@example.com). Re Elizabeth, I strongly recommend you hire her when you go there for the half or full day. After all the male testosterone puff puff of male daring do and conquering (both historically and on the ship), it was good to redress the balance. BA started to do that.
She picked me up at the hotel which has incredibly friendly and charming staff and lovely bedrooms which are conducive to a brilliant night's sleep rather than the rooms at La Faena which are incredibly stylish in their red and mirrors and dark hues but so sexed up it's difficult to sleep in them unless you are exhausted or with a partner you utterly detest. The hotel is situated close to the colonial architecture of San Telmo to the Plaza de Mayo, where the Casa Rosada (pink palace) is situated. It's from the balcony Eva Peron told her people to not cry for her. Learning more about her as I did on the trip, she did a lot for women. Made abortion and divorce legal and was a strong role model. She didn't get to the top and ignore them, she got to the top and supported them but kept her sexy, telling women to look good because it makes a good impression the right one. The stories she told were fascinating, none you will find in the guide book. There were armed police there with barricades waiting for the daily protests. I was told how they are sprayed with water which contains blue ink and 'collected up' later. At the moment they are complaining about the lack of electricity and the regular cuts (they have one electricity company which has a monopoly, opposed to the UK which erm..doesn't have a monopoly, doesn't cut off the electricity but continues to put up the prices so you want to cut yourself off). When Eva died (her spirit much stronger than her body), the military took over, and the laws on abortion and divorce revoked. Divorce only came back in the 1960s, legalised abortion never did. She was before her time.
In 2001, the currency pesos was seriously devalued (ie was 1 for 1 for the US dollar, became 1 for 6 overnight). Women had to go out to work and were respected for it (not sure the UK has done the same). The very rich as all the very rich do in any country, knew of it before hand and kept all their money overseas. The poor didn't have money any way, so the middle classes were squeezed and are continuing to be done so. The gap between rich and poor in BA and Argentina is now vast, much wider than people realise she said. There are so many parallels with the UK it's remarkable, not least the argument over the Falklands which is a neat trick governments play in detracting from domestic issues. Focus on something that will increase patriotism, bring people together but most importantly stop them from focusing on what is really important. Our politicians would never do that would they? Nahh.
There was dancing in the streets when I visited (not alas because I visited), which was wonderful to watch and even better to take part in. Originally, the men would dance the tango, their bodies stuck together. Originally a dance of the underground, an act of revolt against establishment, though not quite sure how, it didn't become 'public' until the Parisiens got hold of the dance and introduced women into the mix and made it mainstream. The BA wealthy then felt it was OK to dance tango and it went overground, but the intimacy is still there. Strictly Come Dancing variations have nothing on it. The real thing the man and woman are stuck together like glue. Some sex doesn't get that close.
We visited the Avenida de Mayo, the Place of Congress, the trendy neighbourhood of Palermo, the habour, which I'll cover in the articles, but it's a place I will definitely absolutely return to. If you are using BA as a gateway, give it a week. You will need a week for the steak (best in world, sorry Texas, try it even if you are vege. I did, makes mouth water just thinking about it), San Isidro and Tigre, learning to Tango and watch the experts, buy leather bags and belts, drink Mate tea out of the pumpkin gourd and get one specially cut for you in the antique market held on a Sunday in Palermo, go to Polo and admire the beautiful stallions and the wonderful horses they ride, and the football where you will find the best footballer in the world (my 15 year old told me that). Although like the UK, Elizabeth told me 'they all behave like prima donnas and don't team play.
Loved it, loved it, loved it. But there is a NB. The queues at BA airport customs and passport control are horrendous. Please note before you travel there and on route back home. Take computer games, soft drinks, light snacks, really good books and camping chair, and mini fan. Think refugee camp.