Dia de los Muertos y Noche del Tango

Boy we were out of it with that jetlag. Rather than wake up at a reasonable hour after sleeping yesterday evening out of the way, we proceeded to sleep through the morning until the ripe hour of 1 p.m. Whoopsies.

It’s all OK though because we built in some buffer time knowing that we are both quite terrible at managing jet-lag despite what we confidently tell others. We managed to get ourselves out of the apartment to actually see some of Buenos Aires within a half hour and soon enough we were sitting down at a restaurant for lunch. We quickly learned that knowing “queso” and “pollo” only gets you so far. So, with the help of Google Translate (which seems to be much better here than in Asia) we were able to get the gist of the remainder of the menu. This did not help, however, when our waiter appeared to take our order and then replied with a very long question which we gleaned none of. It turned out just fine since we got 3 out of the 4 items we ordered (maybe they didn’t have lemonade?). Doug feasted on some fried chicken while Lynn had a chicken with a very delicious tomato sauce. This made us VERY excited for all the yumminess to come over the next few months.

Yum!!
Yum!!

With our tummies sufficiently full (Doug’s maybe overfull), we headed off to Recoleta to visit, believe it or not, Buenos Aires’ top attraction: the cemetery. Yes, that is correct, folks, the #1 thing to do here is visit a bunch of tombs. Well, we had to do it, of course. A short walk later we were greeted by the brick wall that surrounds the cemetery. This was not the entrance, unless we wanted to scale the 1-2 story wall. We followed it, 180 degrees from where we were until we reached the single entrance to be greeted by row upon alley upon row of stone tombs. We roamed for a while, noting that some were indeed ornate while others looked brand new. Still others appeared to have been broken into… or out of… yikes. We had hoped to come across the crowd that would ultimately be by Eva Peron’s tomb, but were unsuccessful in that endeavor, so instead we returned to the map once… then twice… to find the exact location. We finally found it down an alleyway, where others were taking pictures, a very nondescript Duarte family tomb. At this point, we realized we may have missed all the fuss, so Lynn pulled up a random website providing 10 tombs to visit within the cemetery, one of which was Eva’s. From this list we chose 3 more to visit: the largest and most majestic, the one with the creepiest story, and the one with a dog (of course).

Yup, that's a lot of tombs.
Yup, that’s a lot of tombs.
Doug may be overwhelmed.
Doug may be overwhelmed.

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Large & Magestic: The pantheon of the Dorrego-Ortiz Basualdo family which features a virgin lighting a candelabrum.
Large & Magestic: The pantheon of the Dorrego-Ortiz Basualdo family which features a virgin lighting a candelabrum.
Creepy: The tomb of Rufina Cambaceres. She was pronounced dead from a coma at the age of 19. After her burial, cemetery workers heard screams from her tomb. It was opened to reveal scratches on her face and coffin. Her mother then had this tomb built with a statue in her honor (or as an "I'm really, really sorry for thinking you were dead.").
Creepy: The tomb of Rufina Cambaceres. She was pronounced dead from a coma at the age of 19. After her burial, cemetery workers heard screams from her tomb. It was opened to reveal scratches on her face and coffin. Her mother then had this tomb built with a statue in her honor (or as an “I’m really, really sorry for thinking you were dead.”).
Dog: Liliana Crociati de Szaszak was killed in an avalanche in Austria. Her mother brought her home to be buried and had a statue of Liliana in her wedding dress to adorn it. When Liliana's beloved dog, Sabu, passed away, a statue of him was added.
Dog: Liliana Crociati de Szaszak was killed in an avalanche in Austria. Her mother brought her home to be buried and had a statue of Liliana in her wedding dress to adorn it. When Liliana’s beloved dog, Sabu, passed away, a statue of him was added.

Finally completing the tour, we set off on another mission: to find Doug shoes he could wear to our tango class that evening (Ahhhh!). His flipflops and sticky hiking shoes were just not going to work. Visiting the nearby mall, we were unsuccessful, but planned to do a bit more later that evening.

Instead, we chose to make a stop at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes for some culturing. We spent a good hour wandering the chronological exhibits, still positive that we don’t fully appreciate most modern art. It did feature some works by famous artists such as Monet, Manet, Degas, Rembrandt, etc. but none of which were known to us (possibly for good reason).

When we had completed the museum’s circuit we pulled up some of its steps for more Googling. This time it was to find some stores that sell Paez shoes for Doug, his ideal shoe for tangoing. If you are unfamiliar with Paez, you can imagine a Tom’s shoe, called an alpargata. Unfortunately after following Google, though, we were first led to an apartment complex then a bookstore. You aren’t helping here, Google.

Rather than waste more time dealing with finding a Paez location on our phones, we chose to return to the apartment to do more extensive searching after a brief stop at a grocery store for some breakfast supplies. This side-trip may have continued to reveal to us that we would need to know a bit more Spanish than “Donde esta el bano?” when the check-out lady had to run back to the produce section to weigh and tag our apples and grapefruit when we could not understand her whatsoever. Time to commit to some morning Duolingo.

We returned to the apartment and Doug did some quick Googling to learn that there was a Paez a 10 minute walk away at a nearby mall so we were quickly off again. Arriving, we completed a sweep of the mall then searched the directory before being disappointed once again. No Paez. Well, shoot. With one last burst of hope, we considered that it might be a kiosk and we were ultimately right. We found it just outside where Doug was able to purchase his salmon (not pink!) and white striped Paez (not Tom’s) shoes for the evening’s activity. We also got a nice empanada snack for dinner at a nearby stall.

Doug's new kicks.
Doug’s new kicks.

A brief time later, we were off again on the subway to our group tango evening with Lucia and Gerry. Let’s just start out by saying, if you are ever in Buenos Aires, this is a MUST-DO activity. Not only do you learn the national dance of Argentina, but you get to watch some experts strut their stuff at the post-lesson Milonga while you completely embarrass yourselves. It sounds like we’re saying this sarcastically, but we’re totally not. It was a complete blast. During the 1 hour of class, we, along with 8 others, learned to parallel step, cross-step, figure 8, etc. with the help and encouragement of Lucia and Gerry in their studio. By the end of the hour, the two of us were fairly confident with our skills once Lynn learned to let Doug lead and Doug learned to do said leading. Doug even had Gerry compliment his new shoes (possibly with sarcasm since Gerry was wearing spectator shoes). After our hour was up we took a quick taxi to a nearby Milonga, a pop-up informal tango club. We were seated at our group’s private table next to the dance floor where we got to see some incredible dancing from the other amateur dancers (it helps that good people stick to the outside of the circle, while us newbies got the inside). At some point a 10-person band replaced the records and more and more people joined in on the fun including the two of us. It is at this point that we realized that we had completely forgotten everything we learned and use the remainder of our time on the floor laughing hysterically at our inability to get it right (this time it was mostly Lynn’s fault). But, all was well and good because we had a blast. The evening, for us at least, ended with the floor cleared and an exhibition put on by two professional dancers (we learned earlier in the evening that the guy was the son of one of Argentina’s best dancers) which most certainly put the rest of us to shame. The Milonga would continue on, but we were exhausted so we hailed a cab with the help of Gerry to our apartment.

Look at us having a great time.  We may not have been very good but we certainly enjoyed it.
Look at us having a great time. We may not have been very good but we certainly enjoyed it.
Look at the leg action! Gerry even asked Lynn if she had taken tango lessons before.
Look at the leg action! Gerry even asked Lynn if she had taken tango lessons before.
The whole tango class! Ole! (is that a tango thing?)
The whole tango class! Ole! (is that a tango thing?)
At the milonga.
At the milonga.
The band was phenomenal.
The band was phenomenal.
Lynn dancing with Gerry.
Lynn dancing with Gerry.
Doug dancing with Lucia.
Doug dancing with Lucia.
The evening's Milonga.
The evening’s Milonga.

Daily Walking/Dancing Mileage: 8.9

Fun Facts:

  • Restaurants include a “cubierto” in Argentina. This is suppose to include some water, salt, and (mostly stale) bread, though some restaurants charge it without offering any of these items and some others charge it and offer more extravagant items such as champagne.
  • Evita’s body was removed by the Argentinian military from the Duarte tomb in 1952 after the coup that deposed her husband. From there it spent multiple years on a worldwide odyssey that included Italy and Spain before returning to Recoleta Cemetary in 1976.
  • Gerry and Lucia met on the tango dance floor 13 years ago. How adorable.

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