(Buenos Aires, Argentina)
We had one “must see” sight left in Buenos Aires: the Teatro Colón (see photo above). This is considered one of the world’s best opera houses…possibly even *the* best. Apparently, Luciano Pavarotti said that the only problem with the Teatro Colón was that the acoustics were *too* good: the audience could clearly hear every single mistake.
There is an interesting pricing system for guided tours of the Teatro Colón: Argentinians pay about 85 pesos…while non-Argentinians pay about 250 pesos. It’s clearly designed to extract more money from tourists…but, then again, there are “tourist traps” the world over who do this unofficially. Here, the differential pricing is completely out in the open.
We decided to go on the tour anyway – we would not have a chance to see an actual show here, nor would we be passing through again in the near future. Talk about opulence! This place was shimmering with luxury.
The Teatro Colón was also designed for the elite of Buenos Aires to “see and be seen”. The luxury boxes for local dignitaries are right beside the stage: the view of the stage from these boxes is terrible, but that wasn’t really very important. The most important thing was that everybody in the theatre could see the dignitaries (and vice versa). Even outside the performance area, the theatre was designed to provide maximum visibility for its wealthiest patrons. The best seats, acoustically speaking, were actually in the cheap nosebleed section high above the floor.
We had the opportunity to sit in one of the other luxury boxes: this one had a perfect front-and-centre view of the stage. Although we were not that close, the on-stage piano was being tested while we were there. Even without amplification, the sound was crystal-clear. Given a choice, I’d recommend seeing a concert here rather than taking a tour.
This was not the only opulent place we visited. We also were stunned by the opulence of….a shopping mall. There were ceiling murals, just like the Sistine Chapel! The Galerías Pacífico is so exceptional that it has been named a National Historic Monument. Alas, for me, its exceptionality did not extend to its stores. The stores were almost entirely luxury designer shops (Christian Dior, Hugo Boss, etc.) that you could find just as easily in Paris, Milan or any number of cities around the world. Nonetheless, it was still enjoyable to walk around for a little while and escape the ferocious rain that was pounding Buenos Aires.
We felt much more comfortable in “Los 36 Billares” – a cafe/pool bar not too far from the Teatro Colón. It is probably the most famous billiard “room” (although it is much more than that; most of the 36 billiard tables are downstairs) in Buenos Aires but it is also a charming cafe with just the right balance between accessibility, quality, atmosphere and elegance.
I took the opportunity to order a classic Argentinian specialty called “el submarino“. You get a large glass of piping hot milk, along with a submarine-shaped bar of dark chocolate. You then plunge the submarine into the milk…and it becomes a delicious glass of hot chocolate! It is very popular with children but, after looking around the cafe, I confirmed that other adults were also drinking it.
Coming up: Back home!