Tango ruined my night in Buenos Aires!

My first night in Buenos Aires was ruined by a tacky tango dinner and show. They also served tough-as-a-leather steak and my expectations of a delicious, melt in your mouth, Argentine beef were lowered. But as a consolation, the included tango lesson enabled me to at least tick off “learn to dance the tango in Argentina” in my bucket list!

A poet once wrote, “only the dead goes further than Patagonia.” It is, after all, referenced as the Ends Of The World. A trip to Patagonia is enough to acknowledge this said title. It took us a full day to get there and another to get out. On the day we left Patagonia Camp, we embarked on a six-hour drive to Calafate, the border town between Chile and Argentina. To reach Buenos Aires from Calafate is another four hour flight. The airport in Calafate was pretty basic with just a couple stores and a restaurant. But getting into Jorge Newbery Airport in Buenos Aires was the complete opposite: it was chaotic, loud, and had more familiar spots (yay for Starbucks and if you know about my obsession collection of Starbucks mugs, you’ll probably understand my frustration upon finding out they didn’t carry a Buenos Aires mug 😱). Two hours later, our luggage have not shown up yet and out of frustration, people started clapping, screaming, and making all sorts of noise.

Our hotel, Hotel Clásico, is located in the swanky Palermo area, walking distance to many shops and restaurants. Breakfast in the hotel was amazing but after the first morning, we realized they typically serve huge servings so we were full for the rest of the day everyday, which was a shame because I wasn’t able to explore the many amazing restaurants in Buenos Aires.

Our tour guide came to pick us up in the morning for our three hour private guided tour. Driving around the city of Buenos Aires, I can see why it was nicknamed as the “Paris of South America,” mainly because of the European influence in its architecture.

Our first stop was at the Recoleta Cemetery, the final resting place of the most famous Argentinian, Eva Peron (aka Evita). Wandering through the cemetery, I was in awe at how grand and luxurious each tomb was but understandably so. Famous and notable people were buried there—past presidents of Argentina, Nobel prize winners, and even a granddaughter of Napoleon! We saw some very ornate and intricately detailed structures but surprisingly, Eva Peron’s was among the simplest.

From the cemetery, we proceeded to San Telmo, the oldest residential neighborhood in Buenos Aires. We explored on foot the vibrant neighborhood of La Boca, the place where tango originated from. Walking along the colorful Caiminito Street, there were people dressed as tango dancers asking tourists to take photos with them for a few bucks. For only $5, I had my pictures taken with a tango dancer plus they gave me a costume to wear. Hey, you’re in Buenos Aires once, so who cares if this is a touristy thing to do. My friend didn’t want any pictures taken of her which I honestly didn’t understand why. She must’ve thought it was too cheesy but seriously it’s not like you’re in Buenos Aires everyday.

I really enjoyed playing dress up and pretending to dance the tango. My pictures were so much fun and worth the five bucks I paid. Caiminito Street is what I had envisioned Buenos Aires as a city— energetic, flamboyant, and colorful! Touristy but not too tacky (in my opinion).

From La Boca area, we visited the beautiful Metropolitan Cathedral, where Pope Francis led mass as Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Besides that, this church is best known for housing the mausoleum of General San Martin, the liberator of Argentina, Chile, and Peru from Spain.

Plaza de Mayo is the site of Argentina’s most important historical events. I’m not going to lie though, if there’s one thing I could remember from our guide’s historical babble was this balcony (where Eva and Juan Peron stood to wave at the people) and its significance to the movie Evita (yes, embarrassingly so, but at least I’m honest 😄). During the filming of the movie Evita, the producers asked permission if they could use the same balcony but the government had declined. There were speculations that Madonna’s sweet talk about the president, citing him as, “not only kind and generous but also very handsome,” in one of her interviews. This obviously charmed the president and eventually allowed them to film in the actual balcony. All I can say is never underestimate the power of a woman!

Our guide dropped us off at a shopping area where our city tour concluded. My friend and I decided not to eat lunch since we were looking forward to tonight’s activity: to watch a tango show that also included dance lessons and dinner. I found this company online that offered all three and had great reviews on TripAdvisor. They also paid for our taxi to get to the place which was great. As soon as we arrived we were directed to a room with other tourists. The instructor paired the women without male companions with men also without female companions. I was paired off by this quiet man from Michigan and he and I learned the basic tango dance steps. It was quite awkward because we were told to look at each other while dancing but I was too shy to make eye contact. He, however, intently stared at my face the whole time we danced.

After the dance lessons, we went to the showroom where we would eat our dinner before the show starts. I chose the steak even if I don’t eat beef as much because everyone told me I must eat steak in Argentina. The dinner included a bottle of wine but it was a very mediocre red wine. It took them forever to bring our dinner and when mine came, it was well done (I asked for medium). I would not send it back if it was good enough to eat but it was tough as a leather so I had to ask for another and made sure they bring me a steak that was cooked medium and not well done. It took them a whole hour to bring in the replacement and by then I was no longer hungry. The show also began very late (at least over two hours after we ate our dinner) and I can tell everyone in the room was getting very irritated with how slow everything was. I heard from the table next to us that their meal was awful and I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt that way.

When the show finally started, we were no longer enthusiastic about it. Although if it had been a great show, then we could at least forget all the mishaps and enjoy ourselves for the rest of the night. Unfortunately, the show was not quite as entertaining.

My first night in Buenos Aires was ruined by this tacky show but at least I can tick off learn to dance the tango in Argentina (or…okay just the basic dance steps) as it had been in one of my bucket lists.

Travel the world with my Starbucks mugs

I used to collect Hard Rock Cafe t-shirts mainly because they had the names of the cities they were from on the front of every shirt. It was my way of letting people know that I have traveled to that particular city. When I visited my friend in Israel many years ago, I asked him to take me to a Hard Rock Cafe for dinner on the first night. He lived in Rishon LeZion, a few miles from Tel Aviv. He was perturbed at the idea of going to an American establishment to eat instead of us trying one of the acclaimed local Israeli restaurants in the city. I told him, without being embarrassed, that all I was after were those Tel Aviv Hard Rock Cafe shirts. (Of course I didn’t eat at every HRC I went to. In later years, I just bought the shirts and left).

One of my few remaining Hard Rock Cafe t-shirts

Looking back, I now cringe at my shallowness and lack of sophistication. But because I was still young and naive, I can point the blame on my age (although young people in this present generation are a lot more worldly than I ever was). Dozens of unworn Hard Rock shirts later, I eventually stopped collecting them (what was I thinking—I didn’t even like wearing T-shirts in the first place!). Plus I realized how many good local restaurants I have missed out on whenever I opted to eat at a Hard Rock Cafe.

We have about more or less 40 Starbucks mugs
My favorite designs are from Japan.They are intricate and beautiful .

However, after many years have passed without any collections to boast, I began to collect travel memorabilias once again. This time they are more useful and definitely more worthy of praise—travel mugs from Starbucks! But I still kept my annoying habit of going out of my way just to find a Starbucks location wherever I go. When my mom and I went on a tour to Eastern Europe, I had to ask every local guide if they had a Starbucks. To my disappointment, they didn’t have it in Budapest or Slovakia (back then). The people in our tour group soon learned about my strange obsession with Starbucks (after the many times they heard me ask, in desperation, for a location). When the guide in Prague informed me there was a Starbucks in the city, everyone in the group cheered for me. Unfortunately, after breaking away from the tour and going out of my way to find it, I almost fainted when I was told they didn’t sell the mugs! I wanted to protest and cry miserably inside the store, hoping they will magically find me a ‘Prague’or a ‘Czech Republic’ Starbucks mug. To compensate my heartbreak later, I found a couple Starbucks locations in Vienna. I heard they now have Starbucks in almost every city in Eastern Europe (lucky me!).

The “You Are Here” collection is my favorite size. They are shorter, wider, and stackable.

Recently the United States has started improving its relations with Cuba. Everyone I’ve spoken to about Cuba told me I better visit it soon because it is still frozen in time. God forbid, once the doors open up, American chains will start popping in. McDonald’s, TGI Friday’s, KFC, and others will shamelessly come and ruin the country with over-commercialization. I totally agree. They should forbid all those awful restaurant chains from entering Cuba but I am fine with allowing only one—just one! Because seriously, I must have….I got to have….can’t live without….well, okay, it would be really nice to add a Havana mug to my collection 😉

Although my United Arab Emirates is chipped, it is still actively in use in our household

I can’t decide which mug is my favorite. Every city or country has an interesting design. Each one has given me so much pleasure whenever I make myself a cup mug of tea. In solitude, I quietly sit in our kitchen table every morning drinking my tea. My Starbucks mug takes me away to a destination and allows me to escape from my dreary life.

Actually this New York mug may be my favorite because of the embossed design. It is different from all the others.