Buenos Aires. Meaty Mecca for overdosing on chargrilled cow. The capital of mate, of the mullet, and of dancing to the most melancholy music in the world. The only city in the world where staring at strangers, joining a picket line, feasting at midnight, multiple dog walking, drumming up drama, weekly therapy, and cheat nights (that would be Thursday) are the norm.
So, what other surprises could possibly be hidden within the city that never even naps, let alone sleeps?
Want to dance to an Hasidic Jew electro outfit, learn aerial combat or ride a lion? These activities will make your friends stutter “You did what?!” when you tell them about your time in the capital of Argentina.
The Barmitzmidis – Holy Moses, this isn’t like going to temple!
Photo by Franca Salerno on Flickr
ESKIMO KISS A TIGER
Fancy rubbing noses with a predator (and I’m not just talking about the Argentine men)? A world away from the giraffes overlooking Buenos Aires Zoo is the controversial Luján Zoo, where you can hang out with performing monkeys and, yes… ride a lion. Hmm. More animal-friendly is wildlife zoo Parque Temaikén where pygmy hippos, white tigers and meerkats roam freely around natural enclosures. And who doesn’t love a meerkat?
PRE-RETOX DETOX AT BOOT CAMP
BA late nights are stamina-testing but not as hardcore as Boot Camp – intense personal fitness training, US style. I took a couple of visitors there fresh from a gay club at 10am, and watched as they questioned owner Katrina: “Has anyone been sick? Oh god, I’m going to be the first to be sick!” They weren’t – but after admiring her toned bum, they did both question if they might actually be straight.
TELL TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED
Let it all out at Second Story – these spoken word nights held at non-profit arts organization JuaneleAR have included themes such as ‘Stalker’ and ‘Secret and Lies’. If the thought of public speaking makes you sweat more than an hour of Boot Camp would, attend a monthly workshop. We all love an over-sharer.
FLY LIKE A SUPERHERO
Hurl yourself through the air with aerial theatre, dance choreography and intensive stunt courses at Cuerda Producciones School – the guys behind Fuerza Bruta and De La Guarda team. They specialise in superhuman fight sequences – and who doesn’t want to run up walls? Next thing, we’ll all be kissing upside down.
Fight or Flight – how about both?
Photo by Cuerda Producciones School
BIZARRE BOUTIQUES & TRIPPY SHOPPING TRIPS
WRAP YOUR TOES IN TRIPE
Can man live on steak alone? The offal truth is that he can (sorry!) Argentine designer Chicco Ruiz designs one-off handmade shoes, including beautiful ballet pumps and platform shoes from stomach lining (cows obviously, not humans).
Want to imagine you’re in Patagonia with Darwin circa 1832? You can in Palermo Viejo’s Fueguia, a serene scent laboratory and tribute to naturalists and writers. Flare your nostrils at 100+ nature identicals from rose to rum and design your own fragrance. You too can have your place smell like a gaucho’s pub with a ‘Pulpería’ candle; or go for ‘Borges’ – leather and paper have never smelt so divine.
Come into my laboratory, you know it makes scents
Photo by Lisa Goldapple
INHERIT SOME RETRO
Step back in time in San Telmo’s La Herencia (Santa Fe 1216). Sift through collectors toys, tin boxes, old books and comics to find Spice Girls dolls, Spiderman figurines, a rare misprinted Goldfinger soundtrack (misprinted as Dedos de Oro – Goldfingers) or a reminder of that incredible Barbara Streisand and Donna Summer collaboration.
For an alternative to Feria de San Telmo, hit Caballito’s big flea market, Feria Parque Centenario, for a mix of true vintage and comedy trash. Circle the park and dip in, allowing the bizarre local rock bands to provide the soundtrack to your second-hand shop (you might wish they weren’t).
VISIT A BEATLES MUSEUM
‘Los Beatles’ have their own museum. It houses the largest collection of Fab Four memorabilia in the world – including a brick from The Cavern Club, an adjustable wig, and condoms (unused) with John’s and Yoko’s names.
WITNESS THE RESURRECTION – AS MANY TIMES AS YOU LIKE
Fervent believers and godless heathens can pat a donkey at the kitsch Tierra Santa, a theme park mock-up of the Holy Land located on the Costanera Norte – where else can you see a 60ft Jesus resurrect every half hour?
Tierra Santa – it’s what Jesus would have wanted
Photo by Michael Ahillen on Flickr
LOOK FOR LIZARDS
… and snakes and toads at Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve. Embrace your inner twitcher with some innocent bird-watching. For a more porteño activity, shout piropos (sleazy chat-up lines) at another type of bird.
CHEER ON A LEGENDARY TEAM IN THEIR DARKEST HOUR
Argentina’s most successful football team River Plate has reached an unprecedented low: they’ve been relegated from the top division for the first time in their 102-year history. Show your solidarity as they take on Nacional B teams like Boca Unidos – the closest River will come to a Superclásico (derby match) for a while.
What do a straight razor shave, a classic cigar bar, a 5 generation-old hat shop and a lesson in drinking mate tea have in common? Why, the Buenos Aires Man Tour, of course. Perfect for any man-about-town with a love for the classic who doesn’t want to take another boring bus tour. It’s an unusual way to see the city with a touch of the traditional – and you can take your lady-friend too.
No Carne-val here. Go against the grain by… eating grain. At Siempre Verde you’ll often find yourself sharing the space with Buddhist monks, while the all-you-can-eat Spring, cute Arevalito, hippie dippy Krishna and closed door restaurant Jueves a la Mesa are flesh and fowl-free zones.
BRING HOME THE REAL BACON
Partial to a sublime slice of porky product? Baines Best Bacon deliver American style streaky bacon – not Argentina’s thin tasteless pancetta – to your door. For info mail email@example.com. In BA you can get everything delivered – from a bagel via QuieroBagel.com to a BK Whopper to a pack of condoms from badelivery.com.
FEEL THE HEAT – AND DO IT ANYWAY
For a country known for its fiery temperament, it’s shocking that Argentines don’t do picante food – even shying away from pimienta negra. However, it does exist. Check my previous post for spicy secrets.
TAKE HIGH TEA
Extend your pinky finger round an Earl Grey and posh nosh on some scones at Recoleta’s decadent Alvear Palace Hotel, timeless Art Deco restaurant Las Violetas or in the Library Lounge at designer’s dream Faena Hotel. I still want to know what Argentina does with the miga sandwich crusts.
Tea at the Alvear Palace Hotel – no mate, no bombilla straw necessary
Photo by Remy Scalza on Flickr
DANCE TO AN ELECTRO ‘HAVA NAGILA’
Gypsy electronica and Eastern European beats come to Buenos Aires every few months in the form of boisterous Balkan party Fiesta Bubamara. Do-si-do along to Hasidic Jew electro outfit ‘The Barmitzmidis’ at changing venues around the city.
TRAIN YOUR BRAIN WITH AN ENGLISH LANGUAGE PUB QUIZ
Get the blood flowing back into your brain at one of the city’s monthly pub quiz nights. The locals also love it – even if they find the concept of going to an ‘exam’ confusing. Challenge yourself at the Buenos Aires Pub Quiz and Beer Lingual.
PUT A NEW SPIN ON ARGENTINE DANCE
Dance same-sex tango at La Marshall. At the longest-running and most popular gay milonga, men dance cheek-to-cheek and straight women show off their fancy footwork away from the staring men – in the first Latin American country to legalise civil unions.
GET FRISKY IN A 5 STAR SEX HOTEL
Sex hotels or telos are big business in Argentina and are generally tacky affairs (literally); but one isn’t – Hotel Dissors. Choose a two- or four-hour turno – or an overnight pernocte if you’re up to it.