Interviews | Argentina Bolivia | 21.02.24

Harry Hastings’ Interview With Blaiz

Our Founder, Harry, was interviewed by the Latin American-inspired clothing brand Blaiz when they discussed making one of Latin America’s most vibrant cities home, tango lessons & what makes Argentina so special.

Find out how to spend 24 hours in Buenos Aires with Harry; where to find the best steak, discover hidden bars & how to dance the night away Porteño style.

You moved from London to Buenos Aires, what inspired you to move?

Adventure, curiosity, escapism. London is tough at 21 & I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. I enrolled at a Spanish school, found an internship at the Buenos Aires Herald & set about getting to know my new city. Argentina was beginning its recovery from the greatest financial meltdown in history. Young Porteños, who had escaped to North America & Europe for the worst of the crisis, were returning in droves to set up bars, galleries, cafes & restaurants. For a fresh-faced graduate, it was an intoxicating introduction to a new world.

What makes Argentina special?

Its geography is at the end of the world. Few places are as vast wild & sparsely populated. I love its blend of European & indigenous traditions, old world & new; the Andes mountains, which run the length of the country through 5,000km of desert & vineyards, deepwater lakes, glaciers & windswept plains before tumbling into Cape Horn; the gauchos & the romance, lore & pastoral wisdom they embody.

We have 24 hours to spend in the capital, what do you suggest we do?

It’s a warm Saturday morning in late November. The jacaranda is in bloom and the parks & plazas are filling up. You’re staying either at the Palacio Duhau in Recoleta or at Francis Ford Coppola’s boutique, Jardin Escondido, in Palermo Soho.

Find a nice cafe for breakfast – coffee & medialunas (sweet croissants). A table under the huge rubber tree in Recoleta’s Plaza Francia (traditional), or Villa Crespo’s Cafe Crispin (funky). Settle into the city’s morning rituals: the doormen hosing down the entrances to their apartment blocks, the professional walkers handling some 15-20 dogs at a time, the joggers, newspaper vendors & late-night revellers threading their way home to sleep it off.

Hop on one of the city’s ubiquitous buses and head to San Telmo antique market before the crowds descend, or explore the pretty residential neighbourhoods of Villa Ortúzar and Colegiales, great for photography and off the usual tourist beat.

Caseros is a favourite spot for lunch. Grab a table by the window, ceiling fans whirring overhead. Order a bottle of chilled Torrontes from the high-altitude vineyards of northwest Argentina. The menu is modern Argentine, fresh & light.

After lunch, head north along cobblestone streets, past colonial mansions, century-old cafes, shaded plazas & market stalls. It’s about a 4km walk through the old town, past the famous Plaza de Mayo & government Pink House (originally painted in pigs’ blood, pictured below), over 9 de Julio, the widest street in the world, before hitting Recoleta, the smart Parisian quarter.

You’ll be home in time for a siesta and a drink on the terrace.

Next stop: fail-safe parrilla, Don Julio. You’ll have an outside table for 9 pm. These suggestions may need editing for a vegan audience. Crisp, tender mollejas (sweetbreads) with lots of lemon, chorizo (sausage), morcilla (blood sausage), chips with garlic & parsley, a mixed salad, fillet steak, very thinly sliced crispy pork loin & the richest & juiciest cut of them all, entraña (skirt). Sides of chimichurri & salsa de criollo are crucial. As are a bottle or two of good Malbec.

Afterwards, a milonga to watch some tango. Catedral is a favourite. It’s not the purest or best dancing, but the venue – an old grain silo – is sensational.

It’s cocktail time and only a short taxi ride to Frank’s. We’ll give you the password to punch into the phonebox for entry. Those with gas still in the tank can head to Cocoliche around 1 am for the best underground music scene, or to Tequila for the glam set.

Harry, what’s the best place to eat and what should we order?

Occupying a pretty Recoleta street corner, Roux never puts a foot wrong. The service is excellent (rare in Buenos Aires) and the seafood – particularly the octopus risotto – is peerless.

iLatina’s sensational 7-step tasting menu through Latin America is also worth special mention.

Best place for an adventure outside of the capital?

For those looking for wilderness, there are few places wilder with more opportunity for adventure than Patagonia. Closer to the city, you can hop over the River Plate to Uruguay by ferry (1hr), to the sleepy riverside town of Colonia del Sacramento all bougainvillea, cobbled streets & tidy colonial townhouses. Or to a little house, we take in Tigre delta, a network of islands & tributaries, navigable only by boat. A friend once described the knot of jungle & overgrown waterways as a cross between Apocalypse Now & Dawson’s Creek.

Colonia del Sacramento and Carmelo

What are your top recommendations on Argentine culture (books, music, cinema..)?

We give all clients a culture pack before they travel – a collection of books relevant to their destination, some movie suggestions & a Spotify playlist of our favourite sounds from each country. I’d love to get an interview with Gilles Peterson and ask him to curate a PSA mixtape.

Argentina is producing great movies at the moment. I find watching work by Juan José Campanella, Mario Soffici, & Fabián Bielinsky – warmly nostalgic.

I recently enjoyed a collection of short stories by Mariana Enriquez, Things We Lost in the Fire, a dark Y surreal observation of contemporary life in Argentina. Living in Buenos Aires, I dipped into Sabato, Borges & Cortázar, but was always more drawn to Amerian and British authors writing about worlds that seemed, at the time, remote & reassuring.

Best travel anecdote?

The best ones usually involve a measure of disaster. On a road trip from Argentina to Colombia, we took directions from a drunk Bolivian man & drove the wrong way up a mountain pass to over 5000m altitude. The route was largely impassable so I walked ahead, clearing boulders from the road. After 6 hours of backbreaking toil, we reached the summit and found ourselves on the Chile/Bolivia border staring wide-eyed at messages daubed on rocks in white paint – ‘Peligro, campo de minas’. We didn’t have many disagreements during that trip, but the discovery that we had driven 6 hours in the wrong direction and ventured into a minefield prompted an explosive row.

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Finally, Harry, the BLAIZING questions…

Beach or city?
I love the sea, but get fidgety on the beach. So city it is. And if I’m allowed a coastal city, it’s Rio, in a heartbeat.

Caipirinha or Colombian Coffee?
Caipirinha. Caipiroska. Caipirissima.

Samba or Tango?
Samba! I was once teased by a tango teacher in Buenos Aires that I was the least promising student she had ever taught.

Dia de los Muertos or Brazilian Carnival?

Almodovar or Jodorowsky?
Almodovar. But your question prompted me to investigate Jodorowsky’s Endless Poetry, which I watched last night & thought joyfully weird & wonderful.

Dulce de Leche or Açaí bowl?
I’m going with the Argentine classic, panqueque de Dulce de Leche.

Penelope Cruz or Salma Hayek?
Am I allowed Alexa Chung?

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