Touristing Like There’s No Tomorrow

Our time in Buenos Aires is almost coming to an end and we’re starting to enter panic mode: there’s so much we haven’t seen yet! We try to squeeze as much as possible into our remaining days but there is simply too much to do. Apparently once you enter panic mode like that, your judgement gets somewhat impaired as well. That’s the only way I can explain how we ended up at ‘Caminito’, a little road that passes throug the La Boca quarter and which is well worth a miss if you ever come to Buenos Aires. To give you an idea: imagine, if you will, the lower part of the Ramblas in Barcelona. Already full of tourist touts and restaurant owners who try to lure you to one of their overpriced tables. Now multiply their persistance by 10, divide the area in half, add garish colors, suffocating heat and you have an idea of what the Caminito is like on a good day. (On a bad day one of the pickpockets makes off with your wallet.)

The La Boca area is one of the poorer neighbourhoods of the city and usually not a very touristy quarter but the residents of the Caminito started painting their houses back in the 1950’s to spruce things up and now they host mainly tourist restaurants, tango shows and mediocre street painters. We sped through the area trying to rid ourselves of tango posers, waiters and painters and when we came out on the other side we immediately started looking for a taxi. There was really nothing fun about the place, it just seemed like one giant tourist trap, painted in primary colors to hide the dirt.

Also, creepy note on the photos – there’s a papier-maché doll looking from a window or balcony in all the pictures below. What’s up with that?!

Caminito was definitely a bust but to balance it out we had a very pleasant experience in a place that we expected to be much worse: a tango show.

There are so many different tango tours advertised for tourists that you just have to assume it’s going to be sleazy and disappointing. But our visit wouldn’t have been complete without it, would it? So Conor did some research on the different shows and finally settled on the Piazzolla Theater. We weren’t allowed to take pictures during the show but their website has a good selection so you can get an idea of what it’s like. The theater isn’t very big so when the music starts to play it really takes over the whole place and pulls you into the show. I had expected a guy with an accordion and some shady dancing but what we got looked more like a full blown off-broadway production with an 8-piece band, 6 dancers and 2 singers. There was dancing (du’h), singing, music and mixes of all of the above. Even though everything was extremely stylized we still enjoyed it very much and walked home humming Carlos Gardel tunes.

Another ‘very Bs As’ experience – and a good one – was our visit to a puerta cerrada restaurant, literally a closed-door restaurant. Although restaurant is a bit of a misnomer because you’re actually going to someone’s house. We found a couple of listings for different puerta cerrada restaurants in the local Time Out guide so we picked one with an Asian flavour, Cocina Sunae, and made a reservation. Once your reservation is approved – since it’s someone’s house there are usually only a few spots available – you’re provided with the address and directions on how to get there. We felt very hush-hush and exclusive but in the end it’s really just a restaurant. A small and secluded one but nevertheless a restaurant. Sure, there was a TV in the corner and some toys stuffed behind a curtain but there were also 5 tables (2 for larger parties, 1 for four and 2 for two), a wine list (scribbled on a napkin) and two waitresses. But the food was very good and its Asian twist provided a welcome relief – spices, mint, lemongrass! – from the usual meat and potato options on offer.

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