Buenos Aires is a city that takes you captive as if by some intense sensually infused magic stroke. Avenida Indepencia is lined with 16 lanes of traffic, the sidewalk cafes of Palermo are bursting with a vital energy, noises fused by busquers and choripan (hotdog) vendors in the centre loses you in a cocophonous daze, San Telmo reminds you of a charming world gone by with a myriad of antique stores, while La Boca with its colourful canvas of caminitos transports you to the origins of this city as well as the world famed Tango.
Where to start? Dive straight in. It's what porteños (as the locals from Buenos Aires are known) would do. In a country which has been hit by several economic crises in the past few decades, locals tend to pass their time firmly rooted in living in the moment never knowing what to expect next. This feeds their passion for late nights, where you'll quite easily find yourself masking your eyes from the radiant morning sun as you exit one of the nightclubs in Palermo Viejo. A famous haunt for students and carnal beings in general, Palermo Viejo is a charming barrio which holds the best of the city's bars and restaurants. The square, Plaza Serrano, often plays the prelude to the night, with any would be rockstar displaying his musical wares to punters imbibing the local brew, Quilmes.
Once you've arisen and shaken off the effects of the previous night, a stroll through the quaint streets of San Telmo will serve as a window to eras gone by. With nearly every street lined with antique stores you'll be sure to find that often sought, but seldom found antique camera, a Bridget Bardot styled dress, a 19th century brooch and even ancient African relics. While you in and around San Telmo head over to the Plaza Dorrego Bar for a cortado, which is as good as any you'll try in the world with loads of traditional charm added for extra measure.
The locals are also famed for their friendliness and it is through one such encounter that a friend and I found ourselves with an invitation to be voyeurs at one the local tango haunts, Villa Malcom, in Cordoba Street, Palermo. Far from being an elaborate, heavily orchestrated affaire, this was an enclave of locals expressing themselves in a manner so sultry, that as a viewer, you're left dumbfounded by the palpable passion that sweeps the air as the dancers gently caress the floor with their delicate, yet punctuated steps. A visit to La Boca and the National Tango museum puts an interesting spin on the art form. A city built by migrant workers from Europe, there existed a distinct shortage of women. Given this state of the nation, brothels formed an important part of society. Even then long queues would be commonplace at these houses of pleasure, so to pass time the would-be customers would practice dancing to the local migrant music. The twist in the tale here is that often it would be with each other. It's also interesting to note that tango only gained widespread acceptance amongst the upper classes of Argentina after being popularised in Paris, so the dance is firmly routed in the hearts of migrant labourers of old.
Polo is another attraction which resoundingly resides within Argentine culture. It is a game which requires immense horseriding skill, including the ability to chase after and connect with, what seems from the stands, a microscopic object which is the ball. Very popular amongst the high society with the players being reknowned playboys who lavishly travel the world enjoying the fruits of their labour. Once you've had your share of polo viewing it is customary to head off to one of the famed parillas. In a culture which prides itself on its knowledge, production and consumption of bovine meat, options for eateries of this meat-based local favourite are endless and close to unavoidable.
While my experience in Buenos Aires was a quickfire, in and out affaire, I was somehow left with a feeling that given the leisure of more time it's a city that had much more to offer than the stereotypes I've presented here. What it has done though, is to open a sweet wound of pleasure. Somehow I feel that Buenos Aires hasn't seen the last of me.