Sunday: A Quiet Day in Buenos Aires

Sunday is a quiet day in Buenos Aires.

Avenida Callao’s six lanes of frenzied traffic are less boisterous on Sunday morning and the sun is shining brightly as it rises from the east and crests the living room window in our studio. We must wait again today, the serviceman from Fibertel is coming to work on the net connection that has been newly installed in the apartment. He is scheduled to arrive between 1 and 3 pm. Scheduled is an optimistic word.

How Real Porteños Work and Live

We wait until 3:45 and don’t want to waste the rest of this beautiful spring Sunday afternoon and we head out. Our plan is to visit Louis and Fabrice at the Argentinean cat show that they are judging. We grab a cab (incredibly cheap here) and soon are in a neighbourhood that is not much traveled by tourists. We have the opportunity to see how real porteños work and live, for the neighbourhood is alive on this beautiful Sunday afternoon. It is also alive with the fans of the Boca Juniors and the River Plate, the 2 Buenos Aires football teams, who are battling it out in the River Plate stadium this afternoon. Men are jammed around the televisions sets in gas stations, ice cream parlours and anywhere else they can find a television to watch the game.

The cat show is truly a local affair, and we pay our entrance fee and wander around the quaint exhibition, checking out the breeds of cat. We spot Fabrice and Louis doing their judging, complete with translators. Between cats, they smile and nod at us in acknowledgment. I snap some photos and plan to email them to them. We have a very brief conversation and they invite us to join them tonight at Palacio for some dancing, and we agree. We head out into the late afternoon sun and take linea A, the oldest (and ricketiest) subway line in Buenos Aires, to the Plaza de Mayo, and do the tourist thing: the Casa Rosada, the Cathedral and finally a walk along the pedestrian shopping street, Calle Florida.

It is now after 7:30, and we walk south to the apartment, stopping to window shop along the way. When we arrive, we put our feet up and open a bottle of wine, before walking around the corner to our “local” haunt for a quick dinner before our 10:00 club date. We arrive about a half hour late and in true Buenos Aires style, we are only two of a handful of people there. This soon changes, and by 11:00 the place is full. We spot Fabrice and Louis in the crowd with their friends, and we have a couple of beers and a couple of dances before we walk home and our beds at a very respectable hour of 1:15!

A brief interlude concerning food and drink in Argentina:

Already we have been really impressed by the variety and quality of food and service being offered here in Buenos Aires. If these high levels and consistency remain the same elsewhere in Argentina, then they will receive the coveted reward for service and quality! All the restaurants we have been to, whether they are for lunch, late afternoon coffee, or dinner, have been a consistently happy, no-issue experience. White shirts, and black ties are the predominant uniform; occasionally we see a quilted vest or dark apron thrown in for good measure. All staff, whether they be front of house, wait or bussing staff, are neat, brushed, and scrubbed. You are always met with a friendly “hola” or in the better houses, “buenos dias”, “buenas tardes” or “buenas noches”. A table is found very quickly for you, there is never any harrumphing about lack of a reservation, and a basket of bread, a cordial (on the house) and a small “amuse guel” arrive immediately, and very shortly after that the bottle of water “con gas” is placed on the table. Even with a language difficulty, one is never made to feel the fool about ordering.

Service is quick and efficient and always impeccably timed. Courses come and go without you feeling rushed, the service has that subtle feeling of being there and yet being imperceptible. Clean tablecloths and napkins (always cloth) are always present. Paper coasters are a small but vital part of your cocktail or water glass. Your food arrives and in many cases, it is French service (which we never saw in France), the food arriving on serving dishes, and the waiter plating it at the table. Your meal finished, coffee and dessert are offered discreetly, unlike in France, where offense is taken if you do not partake (sorry François!!) in the after-meal sweet and caffeine being offered.

The bills arrive, and every time we are left breathless by them. With the level of service, the quality of food and the small niceties thrown in, we expect them to be huge. They never are. We have not eaten with this level of quality and service since we were in Asia.

Now all we have to do is find the right clothes to wear to dinner from our limited followsummer suitcases.

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