Saturday, July 2, 2011

Buenos Aires 2009 Part 3 - Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dear V,

I had a horrible time trying to sleep on Wednesday morning.  Even with the air conditioning at full blast it was so humid I was sweating all night.  Man Yung, on the other hand, slept very well - snoring along despite my tossing and turning and going to the bathroom and insomniac fiddling with the computer.

Finally I was able to get some hours of sleep and we slept until 11 a.m., missing our free breakfast entirely.   We dropped off our dirty laundry in a little Laundromat at the back of the block (15 pesos for a lot of t-shirts and underwear - much cheaper than the hotel). We decided to walk to Comme Il Faut without breakfast.

The streets around our hotel are great to wander around.  It’s like walking through Bayview Village as opposed to Scarborough Town Centre - it’s safer, and the shops are nicer, and there are lots of rich people and dogs.  The dog walkers are always out in full force around this area - the young ones with the big dogs, the old ones with the little dogs.  We took photos along the route - including ones of a very big tree in a very tranquil park, and the streets as well.

Callao and Arenales

Parque Vincente Lopez

Man Yung relaxing (no, posing like he is relaxing) under a big tree in Parque Vincente Lopez

Fancy apartments surrounding the Parque Vincente Lopez

After a leisurely walk, we finally reach 1239 Arenales, home of Comme Il Faut.  We saw a policeman giving a driver a ticket on that section of the street - there's always a policeman there on the corner, did someone bribe the police force to ensure the security of the shoes?  He didn’t bother to go over to the car and ask for license and registration.  He just copied down the license plate number. 

Relaxing and taking a break outside Comme Il Faut HQ...who am I kidding - I want to rush right upstairs to buy shoes!

It was noon when we reached Comme Il Faut - it had been open for a bit and it was busy.  Well, not really “busy” but half the showroom was littered with the shoeboxes of one undecisive statuesque blond tourist, probably from Eastern Europe.  She had a entourage of two women and an effeminate yet muscular young man who were no help with the shoe selection.  Times are a-changing’ - the young lady was not one in which to be undecisive over ugly beige and black shoes.  Her dilemma was that she simply couldn’t choose between a black and yellow pair with a rubbery yellow fringe at the back that looks like someone peed on some toilet paper and stuck it on the back of her shoe, and a blue and black pair with a strip of ruffly vertical ribbon at the front that looked like a bandaid soaked in bile.

Is business worse?  We saw Alicia, the owner, and she seemed more friendly than we remember from last time.  Maru the redhead was on vacation.  Silvana the blond one is now an airline stewardess.  The assistants are now all pretty, young brunettes in tight black t-shirts.  Elizabeth, the one who helped us, had very limited English.  But she soon found out that helping us was not a pain in the ass.  We went through the selections very quickly - no dithering and wasting time - and this time it was even faster and easier because I am only buying shoes with low 3 inch heels, and I know which styles are more comfortable.  Man Yung asked for some shoes but Elizabeth told him that they only have the 4 inch heels for men ;-)  I chose a sparkly green pair, a black and beige pair that looks exactly like my orange and black pair (I know, black and beige? Man Yung says I’m getting old so I have to start getting shoes that fit my “age”) and a higher pair that is striped pink and gold. 

The person who took our payment was Raquel!  The one I communicated with by email about the broken orange and black pair two years ago, and who sent me a free replacement pair even though I didn't ask for one (yes, kiddo, a FREE PAIR. This is why I am a Comme Il Faut fan forever).  She is so nice, and she actually remembered the incident and our email correspondence.  The prices on the shoes have gone up.  It was 300 - 330 pesos per pair last year.  Now it is 400 - 420 pesos. 

We were so tired and hungry from all that shoe excitement (yipee!) we exited out to Santa Fe to eat.  We went back to the restaurant that we went to the last couple of days of our visit last year - the Libertad Plaza.
Libertad Plaza - Good Restaurant, great "Revolutionary" decor

It is about one block from 9 de Julio on Santa Fe, and has that lovely old world style we like.  The restaurant is on two levels and there’s lots of mirrors and early 19th century décor, plus panels and artwork celebrating all the revolutions in history - except, oddly, the big important American one.  Service was great.  Service is great everywhere this year - the waiters are friendly and jokey.  Man Yung ordered exactly the same thing that he ordered last year - the “Manchester” steak with salad with Roquefort spread on the bread, and I ordered a “seafood” spinach linguine.  Man Yung’s lunch was delicious, just as he had remembered it.  Mine was “ok”, I was surprised that they don’t put calamari rings in their seafood pasta, but “brown” reconstituted squid (we have the same thing in Chinese cuisine - they dry the poor suckers and then soak them to restore their size just before cooking) and shrimps the size of capers.  But for me, I’m not finicky - any food that doesn’t make me want to investigate the bathroom (I'm still feeling queasy and under the weather - but yes, I still have energy to shop for shoes) is good food.


Every revolution in history - except the American one.  Look, menu!

We walked the four blocks back to the hotel, looking for the place where Man Yung bought his belt last time.  We found the store - but the belt he wanted was not in his size, either too short or two long.  Next we looked for the Carrefour Home store where we bought a cup last time for use in the hotel room.  Too bad - the storefront was there but the store was closed and out of business.  It was nice strolling up Santa Fe back to the hotel without a tight schedule to adhere to - we did most of our “dutiful” things on Tuesday and got them out of the way so we had a nice free day to just do whatever.  While walking out in the sun was too hot, walking in the shade was very pleasant.  We even went to the supermarket for water and instant noodles, and to the bank machine which actually let us take out 400 pesos !!!!!!!!!  Last year we couldn’t withdraw even 300 at a time, so it was like a big shock.

It was 4 p.m. when we got back to the hotel so it wasn’t like we had a big heap of time before we had to hike it to Lo de Celia which starts at 6 p.m.  We arrived about 20 minutes in - not a lot of people at all.  More people came eventually but only enough to pack the first two rows of tables on any side.  The standard of dancing was “high” in a milonguero sense - everyone doing their two or three figures to the music and not bumping into each other, which was nice and made the floor orderly and pleasant.  The music was pretty amazing.  Man Yung asked me what I thought about DJ Dany’s music compared to Toronto music.  I said, “He has more music and better experience in how to combine it together”.  He plays only music that is pre- 1950’s, which means that the big Pugliese and Di Sarli with Florio and Duran and even the later instrumentals were out.  But Dany is a genius with the limited time period he was playing.  All the music has been engineered to sound great with the noise and defects eliminated.  He didn’t fuss around with cortinas - there was one good rockin' Cortina all night long and it was enough.  Dany is especially good at Canaro and combining different orchestras for vals and milonga tandas - he has a wonderful ear.  By the way, Man Yung said he really thought the Poema tanda was way better than the tandas with Poema we have heard in Toronto. Both Man Yung and I think that the choices DJ Dany made were excellent.

The people were great.  There was only one girl that looked like a tourist who came - tall and amazonian but with European features - like if J and C [two tangueras from Toronto] had their DNA combined.  The rest were locals just having a good time, and not trying to win a dance competition.  We were seated at the second row perpendicular to the bar - all the women were seated in the row in front, and in the row in the opposite side facing.  After dancing a little bit the old old gentleman (they are all old but this one was even older) came over to “congratulate” us.  The lady sitting nearest to him hurried over to translate, they were both very nice and gave us some compliments.  The lady said that the gentleman who was talking to us was a “very good dancer”, and I gave him an indication that we can have a dance later (he asked, “are you sure, your husband is not jealous?) 

So I danced two tandas with the very very old gentleman, who despite his oldness was still pretty strong when dancing.  No, I didn’t have my wrist twisted inside out, nor was his embrace so constricting I couldn’t move - I just relaxed and very quickly I learned all of his two figure repetoire which he dances to all the orchestras and all the forms of tango dancing ;-).  Another gentleman also came to ask me to dance to Calo more towards the end of the evening, and his embrace was more open and he had 50% more figures than the old old gentleman (which means total of 3 figures, wow!). 

But the excitement of the evening was really Man Yung.  He cabaceo’d all the women in the row in front of us (they soon learned that all they needed to do to get a dance is to turn their heads and look at Man Yung), and some women seated in the next section as well. The lady that Man Yung danced with last year recognized us and was happy that we recognized her - and Man Yung danced with her the most. But not the women at the opposite side of the room, because Man Yung can’t see that far.  He danced with all the women many many times, which means in "codigo" terms that he wants to invite them all back to the hotel.  We changed our shoes under the table, which means we are hardcore gringos.  In general we were pretty uncool.  But we had a nice time, and people liked us.  Even the washroom attendant was nice (but maybe it was the peso I gave her). 

Towards the end of the night someone who looks like Osvaldo Centeno came and sat with another gentleman and had coffee, but he didn’t dance at all.  We are not sure that he is Osvaldo Centeno.  We didn’t bother to find out because N (the expat blogger lady) is mad at him and we don't want to piss her off too by going over to introduce ourselves.

It was wonderful that the milonga ended at 11 p.m.  The regulars (happened to be all the women seated in front of us) started smoking and talking and they were pretty friendly, a lot of them spoke in English.  We all said that DJ Dany was “the best” but surprisingly, he was very humble and said “no, no, no, that’s not true”.  We promised to return again next time.  We’ll have to work it in between the festival classes and the festival milonga at Dandi (Puke!  I'm sorry, I have never liked that venue) next Wednesday.

After that we took a taxi back to the hotel, changed and went out to eat.  Man Yung said it was just really great that the milonga ended so early, gave us time to do other things and not have to stay up so late.  Man Yung had his “Parisienne” pasta and I had a Matambre with a “Russian salad” at La Madeleine - the waiter was super friendly, I think the rumour has gone around that we tip good.  He mentioned that the “fat one” was sick so he was serving us today.  We were like “which fat one?”  I don’t know whether he was talking about our regular waiter from last year or the waiter from Tuesday.  Anyway, the service was really good, the waiter even spontaneously appeared with a glass of water when Man Yung went into a coughing fit.  The Matambre was delicious and made in the shape of a heart.  I wasn’t too keen on the Russian salad though - much starchy potato.

Right now (Friday) we are waiting for Alberto’s call about tonight (he might be too sick to go out) and then we are off to Lanus to visit Osvaldo and Coca.  I hope we can find his house and also… that we can find transportation back!  If you don’t get anymore email updates it’s because we are still lost somewhere in Lanus….

Have a great Friday,

Irene

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Alberto Dassieu

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