Hernan, our taxi driver in Buenos Aires, one night after a dinner flowing with wine, offered a resonant assessment of his town.
"There are two things I love," he said, looking at us in his rearview mirror. "First, the weather. Second, it doesn't matter where you come from."
I can't agree with the former. We expected summer warmth during a February trip to the Southern Hemisphere, but it rained most of the seven days my fiancee and I spent in Argentina.
But the truth of the latter point - Buenos Aires welcomed us, as it seems to welcome all newcomers - wiped out any chill and left only pleasant memories of my new favorite city.
The most cosmopolitan of Latin American capitals, Buenos Aires oozes beauty - from its European-infused architecture to its soaring monuments to its stunningly good-looking inhabitants, who call themselves porteM-qos (people of the port), to the passion and luster of the tango. I did double-takes everywhere, at animate and inanimate objects alike.
It also is a city of perpetual reinvention - navigated by the Portuguese, settled by the Spanish, attacked by the British and influenced by the Americans.
The reinvention continues now. After emerging from a financial crash in 2001 in which the national currency lost 75 percent of its value, Argentina and its capital city are clawing back.
The country's tourism ministry has embarked on an ambitious pitch for visitors, promoting Argentina as an attractive alternative to Europe - offering urban sophistication at a much lower price. The nation is stable, but the peso is weak.
Buenos Aires is now rife with chatter in several languages, and daily nonstop flights from New York are crowded. We encountered travelers from Germany and various spots in Latin America.
Thankfully, we found that in a region of more than 12 million people, there are enough places to avoid touristy klatches.
Part of that can be traced to our decision to rent an apartment, even though visitors seeking a comfortable hotel will find many that don't cost much. Our one-bedroom flat in residential Recoleta totaled $245 for the week and was cozy - deceptively so, considering how large it looked in a picture online. The neighborhood, about a 20-minute walk from downtown, is home to upwardly mobile professionals and families as well as cafes and bistros and Parque Las Heras, a park famous for its dog walkers.
A strollable city
We got our exercise through marathon strolls around Buenos Aires, an eminently walkable city, which, like those in Europe, is clearly divided - in this case by wide avenidas, and smaller calles.
Neighborhoods aren't clearly marked but can be distinguished by differences in architecture - soaring towers give way to quiet, residential blocks, which in turn give way to crumbling tenements. Still, everywhere a visitor turns are hints of Europe: a clock tower replicating Big Ben, a cobblestone street out of Sicily, an apartment building beckoning Paris.
The downsides are a paucity of street signs, especially in neighborhoods outside of the downtown, and a glut of dog excrement. Picking up after pets seems to be lost on most animal owners.
Our first real walk, on a Sunday morning, took us to Palermo Viejo, Old Palermo, now the new "in" neighborhood, comprised of what the locals call Palermo SoHo and Palermo Hollywood.
The area is rife with funky clothing stores and their wafer-thin patrons. Despite the influx of the young and the rich, the Old World lingers at Plaza Palermo Viejo, lined with cafes and speckled with artists and their wares.
Over brunch, we eavesdropped on old men chatting, and watched a peddler selling hunks of cheese and salami by the kilo to passers-by. Picture a quainter version of a hot dog vendor.
We took in more of traditional Argentina later that sweaty evening at the Feria de Mataderos, an outdoor market and urban rodeo that's open December through March on the outskirts of the city, an hour by bus from downtown. We sauntered among stalls of gaucho (Argentine cowboy) clothing amid the sultry strains of tango music. Later, we marveled like awe-struck kids as gauchos raced their steeds at full gallop down a roped-off city street.
We stayed closer to downtown on subsequent days, taking in historical Buenos Aires and its abundant venues for art, shopping and culture. Our first stop was the Cementerio de la Recoleta, a vast necropolis that houses the remains of the city's richest - who, even in death, seem to have continued their opulent lifestyle.
Evita's burial site
The remains of several ex-presidents and business leaders lie in marble mausoleums, all sleeping eternally in varnished coffins behind locked glass doors. You can take a peek into many of the crypts and find faded photographs, wilting flowers and generous tributes from their families, friends and lackeys.