I’ve just come back from a short holiday in Argentina – the land that brought you Eva Peron, the Tango, Gauchos and so much more. I am using this occasion to share a post I wrote about Argentina seven years ago, when I last visited this magical country. The idea is to convince you why it might be worth your while to plan a trip there in the future, if you haven’t already visited.
To wit, here are five reasons to visit Argentina:
1. The food. When I say “the food,” I really should calibrate this by saying “the meat.” It’s no secret that Argentine’s consume an inordinate amount of meat. (They have the highest per capital consumption of beef in the world.) It’s not at all unusual for them to have beef for lunch and dinner – sometimes even for breakfast too, for good measure! And they have no concerns that this is at all unhealthy. So it was with some trepidation that I warned my husband – who fancies himself a Pollo-Vegetarian – that we would be consuming a lot of meat on our holiday and that there would be nowhere to hide. (Except pasta; because of their strong Italian heritage, Argentines also eat a lot of pasta.) But lo and behold! He loved it. Once our hosts started cranking up the asado (barbeque), he thought he’d died and gone to heaven. Lamb, pig, cow – you name it. They really know how to prepare it in the most succulent ways imaginable. (Shame that my daughter announced mid-way through the first week that she was a vegetarian. I told her that little experiment in identity-formation would have to wait until we got home.)
2. Tango. I’m sorry. I know that it may sound cheesy, but you simply cannot leave Argentina without seeing a Tango. You don’t need to go to one of the over-priced dinner-theatre shows in central Buenos Aires to do this. We saw our first Tango on a square in the middle of the Capital’s artsy San Telmo neighborhood one afternoon, and the second one performed by my friend’s 78-year-old parents in in her living room on Christmas Eve. There is something utterly captivating about the intricacy of the footwork, the dramatic flourish of the music and the smoldering, sexy undercurrent of the dance itself. Have a look.
3. Glaciers. After a week in Buenos Aires, we headed South to Patagonia. (While you’re there, get a hold of Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia. Great travel partner.) I’ll be honest. I’d never given much thought to Patagonia before, beyond the odd nod to those super-cozy, colorful fleeces we all don. But Patagonia is also home to the most amazing Glacier National Park. I’d seen glaciers years ago in the United States and Canada, and I thought they were pretty cool. But those paled by comparison. The glaciers in Patagonia were unbelievable – each one had its own shape, character and personality, almost – and extended on for miles. If you were lucky, you could witness a small piece crumble, break off and fall into the water – adding to the pool, which was truly spectacular.
4. Penguins. Even further South lies Tierra del Fuego, the self-described “end of the world.” We took a boat from the city of Ushuaia to check out some penguin colonies, along a route once traveled by Charles Darwin himself. (Thank goodness all that seventh grade social studies finally came in handy!) Particularly cool – if you ever make it this far South – is the Museo Akatushun on the Estancia Harberton, a working museum/laboratory on one of the little islands along the Beagle Channel where they dissect and display marine wildlife from the region. Check out the bone house – an olfactory wonder!
5. Psychoanalysis. I read somewhere not so long ago that Argentina has more psychologists per capita than any other country in the world. So when my good friend there suggested that I take my eleven year-old to see an analyst to deal with his asthma, I had to smile. My own view is that my kid probably needs a new inhaler rather than a shrink, but I love the fact that people there are so open about therapy. God knows they could they use some of that up here in the U.K.