29

Jul
2011

Our Lady of the Fair Winds

“Nice Air” – that’s what I thought Buenos Aires meant. Which just goes to show how ignorant I am. The truth is always more complicated. Especially if you consult your wife.

Allow me to explain.

The Argentine capital was founded twice. The first time round it was named Santa María del Buen Aire (“Our Lady of the Fair Winds”) by the chaplain who accompanied Spanish explorer Pedro de Mendoza. But the settlement was abandoned in 1541, after it was attacked by local tribesmen, who apparently did such a good job of scaring the Spanish settlers that it was 39 years before they returned to establish a second, permanent settlement. This time round they came via the back door, sailing down the Paraná River from Asunción, Paraguay. The new expedition was headed by Juan de Garay, who kept part of the name chosen by Mendoza, but decided to prevent new attacks by making the name so long and complicated that the local tribesmen would grow weary of shouting: “Let’s attack Ciudad de la Santísima Trinidad y Puerto de Santa María del Buen Aire!”

“You made that last bit up,” said my wife, when she discovered the above intro on my screen.
“No I didn’t. Buenos Aires really was called City of the Most Holy Trinity and Port of Saint Mary of the Fair Winds,” I said.
“I meant the bit about the tribesmen,” sighed my wife.
“Yes, I made that up.”
“That’s just silly,” said my wife.
“But it’s funny. Admit it.”
“Why don’t you just ask Daniel about his five favourite spots in Buenos Aires?” she asked.
“Daniel?”
“Mario’s friend. In Barcelona, remember?” sighed my wife. “He’s a porteño.”
“A what?”
“A porteño. That’s what they call inhabitants of Buenos Aires,” replied my wife.
“But then my funny intro will go to waste …” I said.
“You copied it from Wikipedia and then added lies,” said my wife. “No one wants to read that. But they do want inside information on where to go in Buenos Aires. Just contact Daniel.”

And so I did. And Daniel kindly replied. And if you don’t like his suggestions, contact my wife.

No. 1 – Cafe Tortoni, to drink coffee served by waiters in white jackets who look like they’ve stepped straight out of the 1920s (Avenida de Mayo 829);

No. 2 – Bingo Lavalle, to win some hardcore cash and engage in shameless smoking and drinking (Lavalle 842).

No. 3 – Ateneo, a former theater that is now a bookshop with a vast selection of literature. Have a coffee and an alfajor on stage while you’re there (Avenida Santa Fe).

No. 4 – Grab a choripan (local hotdog) on Costanera Sur in the Puerto Madero district and eat it in the nearby park, which offers a great view of the city’s skyline.

No. 5 – Plaza Dorrego and San Telmo (the Quartier Latin of Buenos Aires) on Sundays. To view antiques and watch professional tango dancers. If you’re feeling frisky, over-confident or just plain stupid, you’re welcome to join in.

Buenos Aires

Daniel leaving San Telmo after a long lunch on the terrace.

Richard de Nooy