By Robert Wyld
Buenos Aires (BA) is a city to be savoured in all its glory. It is large (14 million inhabitants), it is loud (traffic, music, dancing and people) and it is sexy (the Argentine male, the tango and testosterone abounds).
I visited BA for 10 days and had plenty of time to experience the sensuous passion of the Argentine male and savour the hospitality that resonates throughout the city.
It is a tolerant city with useful gay guides, books and newspapers (see the free map at www.mapabsasgay.com.ar and the local website www.gay-ba.com for what’s on). The main barrios to visit on your gay list should be Palermo and San Telmo.
On arrival at Eziza International Airport in BA, a good 40-minute drive into the city centre, a pre-arranged car driver is a must.
I stayed at Hotel Bobo, a fabulous boutique hotel in Palermo Soho, a fashionable barrio (suburb) about a 20-minute taxi trip from the downtown area (visit www.bobohotel.com ).
Palermo is a delight for shoppers, diners and party animals, with great boutique shops, excellent restaurants and seriously good clubs.
The Bobo has seven rooms, all themed — mine was Pop and was coloured iridescent orange with red furniture and green cushions.
The bar staff were great, friendly, fluent in Spanish, Italian and English and the guys behind the bar made a wonderful espresso and wicked martinis. The restaurant in the Bobo was good and its signature dish was, as you might expect, local Argentine beef.
For the first-time visitor to BA, it is essential you have a local to show you around. It is a vast city and far too big to cover by yourself.
To the rescue came young Gustavo Burgos, a sexy local who provides personalised tours (visit www.2portenos.com). Gustavo met me at the Bobo and planned my weekend.
On Friday evening, Gustavo had organised a 90 minute massage for me, with Alvaro Rios (email firstname.lastname@example.org ), a sexy guy with magic fingers.
Gustavo’s walking tour on Saturday was a seven-hour kaleidoscope of colour, noise and smells. Between the barrios, we hopped into taxis to cover large distances cheaply.
Recoleta showed us the city parks, the mansions of the wealthy and the most famous of all tombs, that of Eva Peron.
A coffee break took us to the famous avenidas which, like pumping human arteries, criss-cross the city and move the incessant traffic. BA traffic is an eye-opener. Traffic lights are generally obeyed, but road marking and speed limits are optional extras.
On to Retiro and the downtown area of BA with offices and the fabulous Teatro Colon (shut for renovations). Outside the Presidential Palace (La Casa Rosada), in the Plaza de Mayo, is the white circle made famous by grieving mothers lamenting their lost loved ones, taken from them by past dictatorships, never to be seen again.
From Retiro, we walked to Puerto Madero, the waterfront barrio facing the Río de la Plata, full of cafés, restaurants and elegant sailing vessels. We caught a taxi to one of the sporting monuments of the world — La Bombonera, home to the famous Club Atletíco Boca Juniors.
Dinner in Latin America does not normally kick off until at least 9pm and most restaurants are still humming well after midnight.
Generally you can eat well for a reasonable price. Meat and Malbec rule in BA — the steaks are seriously good, the local Malbec, from grapes grown primarily in and around Mendoza in the plains and lower foothills of the Andes, is excellent.
Saturday night was the night out, and armed with Gustavo’s recommendations, off I went. Dinner was at Cluny in Palermo, a 10-minute walk on a balmy evening from the Bobo.
The Flux Bar in Avenida de Alvear 980 (visit www.fluxbar.com.ar) opened about 11pm. I thought this might be close to Latin heaven. Guys would chat, but no one bothered you if you just wanted to chill out and admire the locals.
After a cocktail, the clubs to head to were Amerika or Km Zero, with Amerika considered the better choice for a first-time visitor. I was not disappointed. The crowds were heaving, like Arq, Stonewall and the Shift all rolled into one. The guys were generally young and gorgeous, happily showing off their sculpted bodies.
On Wednesday night, Gustavo and I visited some of the gay milongas (tango dance clubs). The evening started with dinner at Milion (visit www.milionargentina.com.ar). .
The milonga was an eye-opener. Tables were against the wall with a dancefloor in the middle and a four-piece band on a raised stage. The crowd was well-dressed and almost all male. The dancers, most of whom were young men, were locals with tanned skins and dark hair, wearing elegant dress.
My travel agent, Reece at Out Travel (visit www.outandabouttravel.com.au), also got me a day room at the famed Axel Hotel, the first fully gay luxury hotel in Latin America (visit www.axelhotels.com).
The week was not enough for BA — I only touched the tip of the city. It should be on your list of places to visit before you are too old.
info: For your South American adventure, contact Out Travel for escorted small group tours. Visit www.outandabouttravel.com.au