Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Can I Dance the Tango?

Surely, if we wanted to learn the tango, we should go to the source. The source is Argentina. Now, I really did not want to do the “dance”, but a trip to Argentina and on to Uruguay is right up my travel alley. Several years ago we had a lovely Argentinean high school exchange student live with us. It obviously created an interest in seeing the “Paris” of South America.

We have made two trips to South America in the last three years. It is a very long flight, but the good news is that nearly all the flights to South America are at night. You do get a chance to sleep, and the time passes quickly. There is also no great time zone change so you arrive relatively alert, if not exactly refreshed.

Our trip was one of the city visits we like, where we stay in the same place for several days and use the hotel as a base for exploring on our own. We were lodged in Buenos Aires in a nice small hotel (we usually avoid the large chain hotels) right on the 14 lane main boulevard through the downtown of the city. We visited in their spring season which was the fall in the U.S. The weather was beautiful. We explored on our own the first day and enjoyed a half day city tour the next day. Our personal exploring style is to check out the grand sites, visit the parks, get a feel for the culture, and learn how the people live.

We try to accomplish this by watching the people at play and at work. We visited the supermarkets, government buildings, shopping streets, boulevards, the grand hotels, cemeteries, subways, the main tourist sites, and where the citizens congregate. And do they ever congregate in Buenos Aires. Each day there were demonstrations in the park opposite the Presidential Palace and the streets fanning out from there. This was the same palace where Eva Peron had addressed her citizens. Public speech and peaceful demonstrations are a long held Argentinean tradition. We never felt unsafe watching the demonstrations or at anytime in Buenos Aires. It is a large city with a lot of interesting neighborhoods, but very walkable.

Before moving on to Uruguay, we did a day trip by train, bus, and boat to the Tigre River delta, north of the city. This is a major resort suburb of the city and consists of several islands with wonderful summer homes and weekend get-a-ways. The second part of our visit started with a one hour flight to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. Uruguay is the smallest country in South America, and an easy visit in conjunction with a trip to Argentina. Montevideo is situated on the eastside of the Rio de la Plata River as the river empties into the Atlantic Ocean. The city contains half of the nation’s population and is very laid back and provincial when compared to Buenos Aires. Montevideo is easy to walk and has a wonderful La Rambla pedestrian walk through the center of the city. There are wonderful Atlantic beaches making for great people watching. Our hotel was right on the beach, but also only five blocks from the city center, the best of all worlds.

We did take the half day tour of the city to get a feel for all the important buildings with a visit to the nation’s gorgeous capital building. Our one adventure out of Montevideo was by a guide driven car visit to Colonia del Sacramento, a two hour drive north of the city (but half way across the country). This small town is a UNESCO World Heritage City and dates from the 17th century. It is wonderfully preserved and fun to explore. Our tour was a bit unusual in that the guide spoke limited English, but the other passenger on the tour was a young woman from Brazil who translated for us. What a hoot!

The whole trip was a great visit and one which was safe and inexpensive. The dollar is very strong in South America, as compared with Europe, and this destination is a trip you should consider. Oh, by the way, I did not learn the tango, but we saw a lot of the dance, even on the streets. I don’t think being short and round is the proper body for the Tango!

Just thinking about the tango is exhausting!

(Published in the Spring  2007 issue of the ABA JD Record)

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