Palace Barcae

Congress, Divine Comedy and Palacio Barolo in Buenos Aires

That evening I meet up with Nico again and we go look at the Congress - where parliament convene. A beautiful and intricate wedding cake of a building. Then we decide to descent Palacio Barolo on Avenida de Mayo – a neo gothic building based on Dante's Divine Comedy. The entrance hallway is supposed to represent hell with its stucco dragons keeping guard. 

After six flights of stairs which leave us both wheezing we get to the rooftop and sit inside the lighthouse whilst the tour guide (in brown fedora and white shirt) explains the mechanics and its representation of God and Salvation. We are able to move out onto the stone balconies and see the views over Buenos Aires. The sun is just setting casting the sky a delicious cherry pink.

In the distance Avenida de Mayo lights up a runway to the Casa Rosada where the government reside. The building also bright pink - it used to have flesh coloured walls from the paint they used that was mixed with animal blood. Now they light up the building a bright hot pink at night so it looks more like a gay discotheque. I don't know why they don't just go the whole hog and add a mirror ball. 

Somehow I can't imagine Cameron agreeing to stay in a building that looks like Barbie's boudoir. 

We also pay a visit to the second most beautiful bookshop in the world (as nominated by The Guardian.)

It's been created on the site of an old theatre and has two semi circles of books and shelves lit up. Nico is disappointed – thinks it looks better in the photos -but I like it. What's not to like about a pretty bookshop... 

At around 7.30 we go to a cafe. “what are you eating?” I ask Nico. 

“i don't know maybe a croissant “he says. I think – that's very light for dinner...then it clicks. We aren't having dinner yet – we are having a pre dinner meal to tide us over until about 11pm when we will sit down properly to eat. Oh God. At about 9pm We go for steak and wine and have a traditional asado (argentinian bbq) ... 

"do you want to share any vegetables?" I ask. 


"What are you having with your meat?" 

"Meat. When i'm eating meat, i'm eating meat." 

It's a wonder any one lives past thirty in this city. 

Later in the cab he looks so sad I say – you are a typical Porteno aren't you...malbec,...malborough...malaise. We are a sad city he says. Nostalgia....tango....he just looks like the saddest song that hasn't been sung.

The next morning and I wake up thinking about my moral compass. Its in perfectly good working order I decide..its just happens to have different settings to everyone else right now... 

I rush out at lunchtime to find a tango lesson with a teacher that has contacted me via facebook. I arrive at Palace Barcae at 2pm and realise I have got the time wrong – the lesson is this evening with real live orchestra followed by a Milonga – (where the class ends and you can stay and wait to be asked to dance by a man) - in a lovely old fashioned dance hall. 

I wander around the palace anyway as the building is beautiful and cool and dark. Low slung chandeliers and deep recessed fireplaces and a leafy shady courtard just off Avenue Cordoba. 

I go get a manicure and ask for the only colour I know how to say in Spanish – Rojo. 

Back at the hostel I meet Tracy – a very laid back New Yorker. "Vegetable Gate" has reached crisis point – if I don't eat something green soon I think i'll contract scurvy. Together we go in search of supermarkets and the little vegetable and fruit shops that line the road. We make a salad together. It is the best salad i've ever tasted in my life. 

I meet Nico at around 10 and we go to see a local band play. He's a music journalist for the newspaper Clarin and has recently interviewed The Ting Tings who are also playing tonight -however they've only sent him one ticket rather than two – because - he thinks – they didn't like his review. So we go see a band in a local music club which features the drummer from La Bomba- a percussionist and drumming performance piece that's popular with locals and tourists and takes place every Monday night. 

We eat empanadas, drink red wine out of tumblers and kiss. Its perfect