Tuesday, December 11, 2012
While we were walking Buenos Aires on a self-guided tour of architecture, we stopped for refreshment at Café Tortoni, an historic café that surpassed our expectations. The waiters were all middle-age men who knew their trade. We later noticed a picture of the staff taken in the mid-80s, and recognized our waiter. He also must have taken pictures for many patrons. When he saw David taking a picture of our food, he materialized and offered to take a picture of the two of us, which was not only the best picture of us taken by a stranger, but also very nicely showcased the dining room.
We split tea service (David was going to order something in addition to Lana’s tea, when the waiter stopped him to explain that one tea service was adequate for two, bless his heart). Instead, he ordered just a submarino to go along with the copious amounts of sandwiches and pastries that we got. A submarino is a mug of steamed milk, and a submarine-shaped bar of chocolate which you plunge in, stir up, and enjoy. Very tasty. It’s generally served with sugar packets alongside the chocolate bar, but is perfect with just the milk and chocolate.
While we were there, Lana noticed that the café offers tango shows in the evening, which was on our to-do list for the city. It was a small venue, and the show at 8:30 rather than 10:30 or later, like most of the larger venues. Perfecto! We made reservations for the following evening. Apparently that was far enough in advance to get front-row seats, which we didn’t know until we were seated directly in front of the stage.
While we had a great view of the dancing, we also had a great view of the musicians, who were fabulous in their own right: bass, piano, fiddle and Bandoneón (a type of concertina). We’d never seen a concertina in action up close, and it was hypnotic. There were several styles of tango dances, each with a costume change that accommodated the kinds of leg movement required. The lighting was low enough that it was hard to get many photos without flash, which was not allowed.
There were also two solo malambo dances (a kind of gaucho boot tap dance), one with boleodoras. The tango was fun and pretty, but these two solos were technically amazing. Some of the stomping seemed like it might actually break through the stage it was so fierce. But it was awesome to see (and feel in your chest).
It was a wonderful evening, and although most Porteños (what people from Buenos Aires call themselves) were just going out for dinner, we were glad to be headed home at the “reasonable” hour of 11:00. After all, we both were in the throes of the never-ending head cold, and we had to catch an early boat to Uruguay the next morning.