My apartment has been painted, the floor sanded and treated, the sofa bed and fridge have arrived and tonight I am spending my first night within my own four walls. I have at last got electricity and gas. It will be two weeks before the telephone line is installed and probably two weeks more for the broadband, so for now I am camping out between here and Carlos’ place, but I am writing this in my very own new bed in my very own little home in Buenos Aires. I have just drunk a delicious coffee on the balcony, counted the stars I could see in the sky, listened to the sounds of the city below. I am at peace.
In the last few days I have been getting to know my ‘barrio chico’ – Las Canitas. I have walked the ten blocks between my flat and Carlos’ home countless times, and every time I try to walk in different streets. Las Canitas is a tiny barrio sandwiched between Palermo and Belgrano. It is home to the polo fields, many restaurants, cafes and small shops of character. Two blocks from me is the boutique hotel ‘Casa Las Canitas’ and four blocks away is the telo ‘La Fusta’ (the riding crop!) – yet to be sampled. Today the weather was beautiful with the temperature in the mid twenties and I started the morning with coffee and medialunas outside in the sun. I took the number 15 ‘colectivo’ (bus) to my tango class in Villa Crespo, danced milonga for an hour with Ariel and tonight began to move my belongings into the new apartment. My new life begins…
In the interests of understanding how the Argentines in my neighbourhood spend their nights, I have tried a couple of more local Milongas during the past week. I loved them. How different they seem to the tourist hot spots such as Canning and La Viruta. On Wednesday night we headed to ‘Estilo’ in Palermo. This is a Milonga in a restaurant and I have been there once before with Carlos in our early days together. It was good to return. I suspect I was the only non-Argentine there. I love the dance floor in this venue – tiled and perfect for pivots. The music was a lovely selection with all my favourites: Pedro Laurenz, Miguel Calo and D’Arienzo, and later in the night there was plenty of space to dance. As I was with my man I was not practicing the ‘cabaceo’, however this would be a place to do so. There were areas for singles to be seated as well as for couples or groups, and I watched the tangueros changing partners all night long.
On Sunday night Carlos took me to ‘Club Ciudad’ in Nunez, beyond Belgrano, in Avenida Libertador. Arriving in the taxi I found myself outside a grand entrance to the grounds of a large sports club. We walked in the dark through iron gates and up the drive towards the tango music. This too was a very argentine venue, and much larger than ‘Soho Cabrera’. Once again I could have been the only ‘tourist’ on the dance floor. I spotted a few famous milongueros relaxing with their friends in the grand salon. The food available looked great. The atmosphere was romantic with small potted trees hung with fairy lights, and white leather sofas lining the walls behind the tables. We danced until the final tango, as always ‘La Cumparsita’, announced the end of the night. This Milonga starts at 9pm and so by 1.30 it was thinning out and by 2.30 there was only Carlos and I on the dance floor with one of the waiters, still wearing his long apron, and his chosen partner. After some of my recent experiences on crowded ‘pistas’ it was a dream to have a bit of space to ourselves.
These two Milongas were very definitely ‘porteno’ and on both occasions Carlos tactfully suggested that I wear something less ‘sporty’. I was glad that I listened to him. I don’t want to stand out in places like this. I want to blend in with the local people, respect their lifestyle and thus understand better how they enjoy their tango. I did not feel it appropriate to take photographs either. These are Argentines enjoying the privacy of their regular Milongas and I am their guest. I see how Carlos loves to take me to these venues. He is more comfortable here than in the chaos of the more famous and more centrally located salons. To my surprise I feel more comfortable in them too. The initial excitement of the more public tango experience is wearing off. I was wowed by the crowds in the beginning, but now it is the more private argentine experience that makes my heart beat faster. I am seeing a different face of tango now, and I like it. Also I know I am lucky to see it. With my Argentine at my side I can slip in unnoticed. And I am not sure that I would have tried these venues alone. Should you? Well, yes I think so. The welcome is always warm. Tread quietly and respectfully and the reward of a greater insight into how the Argentines enjoy their tango will be yours.