Thursday, May 9, 2024

Exploring Buenos Aires with a native son yields touring at its finest


Buenos Aires is known for its savory red wine, sultry tango halls and succulent steaks, and we found them all with a spirited local. He took us to hidden gems throughout the capital of Argentina, including a visit to El Mirasol (sunflower or sun watcher). This famed
steakhouse is a favorite with locals and a delight for tourists who have the advantage of a native son's expertise to tour the city.

 Keller, left, and our friend and exemplary
guide, Rolando, right, pose with statues
of famed writers Borges and Bioy at 
La Biela, a famed Buenos Aires eatery.


In early morning, cafe tables await customers who will fill
 the tables by late morning.  People watching and lingering
over a coffee are favorite rituals in Buenos Aires. 


A GUIDED TOUR of any city is best when arranged by a local. We were lucky in Buenos Aires, to get beyond the best known spots and into the real heart of the city. So we had the good fortune of enjoying the expertise and guidance of financial wizard and Buenos Aires native son Rolando on our recent tour of this fascinating city.
Sure, we also sampled succulent steakhouses, savory red wine and sultry tango halls.
But we welcomed the opportunity to tour with Rolando, reveling in his knowledge, insights and anecdotes of lesser known haunts.
ROLANDO'S PASSION for his native city is unmatched by that of any guide we've encountered.  
Keller, Cookie and Rolando
at Colon, the city's beautiful
and famous opera house.

He is a man of fine taste.  He is a gourmand, coffee aficionado, opera buff, lover of palaces and warm pastry, fan of chocolate and crema de leche. And, perhaps a minor inconsistency, Coca Cola.
He is devoted to literature and architecture, and enhanced our time with charming stories of artists, builders, poets and writers who share his love of one of the world's great cities.   

La Confiteria Ideal is famous for its beautifully presented
pastries, elegant coffees and teas. The two-story building
has hosted presidents, celebrities and is a favorite stop. 

BUENOS AIRES is known for its remarkable architecture, wonderful parks, top quality restaurants, and world renowned museums and concert halls, including one place you can’t miss: the Colón Theater, the city’s fantastic Opera House. We toured it thanks to Rolando, who booked us for a fascinating afternoon there. 
(We wrote about this grand concert hall separately.)Step inside a world class opera house
At La Biela, writers Borges and Bioy greet people
from the table where they sat to discuss their
writing projects. The sculptures immortalize
 the famed collaborators at their favorite table.

ROLANDO IS comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt, but he dresses up for world conferences and spent much of his career in suits. He served as the Assistant Director at the International Monetary Fund from 2003-2009 and still consults with high-level officials, in demand as a financial consultant. In world capitals he shares his extensive experience in public policy, research and publication, and discovers eateries and museums to integrate into his impressive "visitor's vocabulary." 
Our local guide Rolando took us to charming little
places down alleys and corridors, where people sit and enjoy.
OUR FRIEND'S private life is more casual, whether in his Washington, D.C. apartment, or his Buenos Aires apartment.  In D.C., he might take a break from a Zoom video meeting to share a coffee with his neighbor, my longtime friend and colleague, writer Cathy Healy. In Buenos Aires, he took time off from meetings to tour us through the heart of the city he loves. His Recoleta neighborhood is pleasant walking distance or a short taxi ride to most of the city's grandest sights and historical buildings, including a cemetery where  Evita lies in a heavily fortified crypt  five meters underground, to protect her remains. The cemetery is worth a visit for its grandiose array of peculiarities. 
Rolando grew up in Buenos Aires, with his European parents who fled Poland before Rolando was born. They brought their distinguished tastes in art, music and culinary finery to their new home in South America.
ROLANDO, naturally, grew up with refinement, surrounded by opera, art and fine food.  He knows all the city's historic concert venues and cafés, which are part of the soul of Argentina's capital and deeply imbedded in Rolando's soul as well.  The eateries were and are still frequented by artistic bohemians and celebrated writers. Some of Rolando's favorites are mentioned in guidebooks.  
Known for its prosciutto, pasta and desserts
is La Parolaccia, where we went for an
elegantly served early dinner with Rolando.
WE DELIGHTED in discovering Confiteria La Ideal, an historic landmark and one of Rolando's favorite places.  It houses a dramatic stage area with a vintage piano, an old-fashioned elevator, and elegant tables where sumptuous desserts, cocktails and specialty items are served.
The French Fleur de Lys is
the enigmatic emblem
of Confiteria Ideal.
This classic 1912 French- inspired building was closed six years to restore its elegant original beauty.  It once was a favorite of tango dancers, too. This city  claims to have invented the sultry dance known for its rhythmic  accompaniment and tricky, sensuous footwork.
THEN ON TO LA BIELA, the oldest restaurant in town. Opened in 1848, it has witnessed the transformation of Rolando's beloved Recoleta neighborhood.  Famed personalities Adolfo Bioy Casares and Jorge Luis Borges met often here in the northern part of the city, by the Rio de la Plata. 
The area was transformed from fertile farmland to upscale eateries, shops and that famed aforementioned cemetery where  Peron and other notables are buried. We hobnobbed with locals who, like writers Borges and Bioy, frequent the cafe to discuss art, literary endeavors and politics. The two famous writers are immortalized in sculpture at the table where they always sat. It remains now and forever "their" table.
Woman's Bridge behind Keller, Cookie and
Rolando, capping an evening in Buenos
Aires with a stroll on the waterfront. 
Elegant service is a
tradition at La 
Parolaccia, where
the city's best
prosciutto is served.

day with our enthusiastic local guide and with an early flight the next morning, we arrived early to dine at La Parolaccia. We were practically alone at 7:30 p.m. because most Argentines don't enjoy their evening meal until 9 p.m., 10 p.m., or even 11 p.m. We had fabulous service at this traditional Italian restaurant where Rolando and his late parents often dined, savoring the prosciutto which is said to be the best in town.
We capped the evening with a stroll to the Puente de la Mujer -- "Woman's Bridge"-- a rotating footbridge for a busy dock in the city's Puerto Madero commercial district, a pleasant stroll from our hotel . 
Thank you, Rolando, for enhancing our visit beyond measure. If you ever forfeit your day job, a tour guide spot awaits you.
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Poipu's beautiful green turtles, or "hono" are protected,
and a heavy fine understandably awaits for touching them.
UP NEXT: Turtles of Poipu greet us. These graceful sea turtles, or “honu” to the locals, top most travelers’ wish lists of wildlife to see in Kauai. Long considered symbols of good luck, the creatures’ kind faces and trudging gait are endearing. We watched them swim for a week, marveling at their will and endurance. The odds for a Poipu turtle to reach adulthood are slim. A newly hatched sea turtle is popular with predators as it makes its way slowly from its sandy nest to the sea. Then if they make it, hatchlings are a favorite snack of bigger creatures, and only one in 1,000 eggs survive to adulthood. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on the arts, travel, performance, family and more: and please share the link.


  1. New Yorkers in B.A.May 11, 2024 at 2:13 AM

    We wish we had a Rolando with us, but figuring it out alone and loving the city.

  2. We come to B.A. each year and enjoy the city immensely. Your Rolando is a gem and it's nice to see how you appreciate him.

  3. Everyone needs a Rolando to enhance our city's abundant history, architecture and gastronomy!