Hardly managing to sleep fearing our bags would be riffled through again resulting in missing items (Argentinian buses are the worst), we approached the outskirts of Buenos Aires, where the road widens and the buildings grow taller with women sporting the platform shoes to match. Sat next to the free coffee machine there’s nothing of it but to jack up on sugary caffeine like a patient on the morphine button to wash down the sugar laden dulce de leche breakfast.
Needing a small mortgage to spend any decent amount time here, we’re lucky that two weeks previously friends of ours had set up shop in Buenos, and were kind enough to put us up for a week. In early morning the easily negotiable metro system transports us to the Barrio Palermo, known for its shopping along Santa Fe, in close proximity to the sights, main shopping and restaurant/bar areas.
You look so skinny!
was the response from our friend as we entered the lofty, spacious apartment.
We’ll soon fix that!
Ola and Robert, a Polish couple, instantly render the fridge empty of the night before’s leftovers whipping them in the oven thus starting our road to love handles (that continued for the next 4 months).
Chilling out for the afternoon we find that our hosts have been attending tango classes, so putting on the ritz we’re out for lessons at a local school followed by more of Argentina’s famous steaks with dinner at Parrilla Don Julio. Finding the slipperiest shoes available makes absolutely no difference to the pair of us, as we take on a style more stumbling Bambi then Fred Astaire.
This dancing lark is hard work, with sweat beading in hard concentration, though eventually we manage to connect a few feeble steps and have a good laugh. Ola and Robert make much better work of the fancy footwork. With the lack of coordination it’s decided that we well and truly need to stick to the dance style we both know, drunk dancing, the best kind there is.
Acclaimed as the one of the finest steak houses in Buenos Aires, Don Julio had been talked up by our hosts and after the tango lessons the sound of steak has stomachs rumbling in anticipation. Being popular there’s the wait out the front for a table, no big deal when presented with complimentary bubbles. The eclectic interior reeks of the sort of decor you’d expect for a carnivorous cavern.
To enjoy the rib eye steaks partnering it with a local Malbec would be grossly understating the succulent deliciousness, though we still rate the llama steak from Zig Zag in Arequipa to be the best. Being of pale gringo complexion we’re surprised that, in a classy joint as this, the waiter feels he doesn’t need to bring back the 100 Pesos ($8USD) change.
This we’d expect from a lesser establishment and having to request our change back we surprise the waiter that we can all speak Spanish. Leaving a tip half the amount of what our waiter decided he was worth, drinkable wine at the shop for around $3.50 means it’s dead cert that we’re going back to the house for additional consumption.
Again Ola and Robert feel that since we’re on a roll to fattening bliss, they should put on a breakfast spread that has us wondering if they’re not plumping us up for Christmas! After one too many bread rolls we gather for the bus to Barrio La Boca, a 45 minute ride away. Retaining it’s European flavour mostly due to the Italian immigrants from Genoese, the neighbourhood area of Caminito is lined with tango memorabilia and dancers accompanied by music, adding an atmospheric grace like that of no other South American city.
Hopping back to the safety of the bus, next stop is the boho area of San Telmo. Known for its various antique markets we find ourselves in and out of stores talking cameras, and find it hard not to purchase a Rolleiflex twin lens reflex camera.
A stroll further along Florida rewards us with the best exchange rate in Argentina (USD$1 – 13.3) and sees us chomping down on a choripan (chorizo sausage in a fresh white bread roll) on Lavelle for 23 Pesos! (USD$2). Bread and Sausage, what more does one need?
Out past Casa Rosada (where Evita and Madonna gave their famous balcony speeches) and the National Theatre, we spend time strolling the creepy ‘streets’ of ornate La Recoleta Cemetery before eventually locating with Evita Peron’s grave. Afterwards we head to what has to be the most impressive of Buenos Aires sculptures, Floris Genérica. The flower automatically opens and closes its petals depending on the time of the day. Each night the flower closes, emanating a red glow from inside, and reopens the following morning.
Discovering that a Pink Floyd tribute orchestra was playing Dark Side of the Moon in the city’s Galileo Galilei planetarium, we lobbed up a good hour and a half before seating time and were stoked to find there wasn’t much of a queue. Waiting patiently for over an hour past kick off time we eventually start to move in. Getting closer to the building we notice something, though hope it’s not true. From our vantage point it starts to look like people have pre-booked tickets. Now we know some may think we’re thick, though on this occasion we searched everywhere on the internet for signs of whether we needed tickets beforehand.
Yep, as a pair of American girls confirmed, you had to attend the planetarium that morning to secure your tickets.
Oh well, let’s go grab a beer.
The area immediately south of Palmero is littered with bars and restaurants to everyone’s liking. We sit on the roof top of The Bowie and with Buenos Aires beer prices at that of Europe’s it a minor relief that happy hour is in on here, with two brews costing 66 Pesos (5-6 USD). With the beer not too inspiring we pop next door to Antares having known its brews from Bariloche. Being a Friday night of course there’s a waiting list to get an inner table and lucky for us the pavement position suits us perfectly, so we order the 10% Barley Wine and a Pale Ale.
Let it be learnt that in order to have your taxi driver arrive at the correct destination you need to give them the road and intersection, not the Metro station. Lesson learnt after three taxi rides.
The interior of Antares
They’re definitely fattening us up
Greeted with yet another massive breakfast, talk is of heading to the Caminos y Sabores food festival. An easy walk we encompass the nearby Botanical Garden’s into our stroll before we join the long Saturday queue for entry. Now typically at an Australian or UK food festival the samples are stingy, this is not the case at Caminos y Sabores.
Meats, cheeses, chocolates, wines and beers abound and the three of us find ourselves in and out of every stall offering their goods. After one too many beer and wine samples we flee with our bounty of meats, cheeses and wines ready for the evenings fattening session.
With our planned trip over to Colonia in Uruguay far too expensive for a two day jaunt, we choose instead to head where every tourist in Buenos should go, and that’s along the Tren de la Costa to San Isidro and Tigre. First disembarkation is San Isidro for its quaint market in the plaza under the church. The leafy suburb is Buenos’ affluent residents preferred location which is worth a stroll to try and peer through the high fences for a glimpse of the grandeur beyond. Missing the half hour service we waste time having a coffee at the station mall, loving the shitty service.
The harbour town of Tigre has a market full of tack and a casino of the same calibre, though the harbour front is pretty and is the departure point for us for the boat tour along the canals lined with the summer houses of the wealthy Portenos from town. The house in the glass box (Sarmiento’ Museum) in the middle of the delta is a little random. It’s a great way to relax and admire the different architectural styles in play, from old to new, gorgeous and hideous.
Leaving Tigre on a more direct train we’re entertained by a trio of talented youth with guitar, drum and voice, later a border line crazy old man bangs out a tune on the accordion. Liked so much we purchase La Fonola’s Latin Beats CD.
Our last day is spent chilling out venturing in close proximity up Santa Fe to the most dramatic of bookstores, the El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookshop. Set inside an old theatre much of the original decor, paint and fittings have been retained. To spend an hour or so here in the luxurious surrounds is a must.
If you are in need of ink of the needle persuasion, head further along Santa Fe towards the center of the famous Bond Street Gallery, filled with alternative shops along with some of the best tattoo parlors in Buenos.
The day has arrived to wave farewell to the Americas, the continent we’ve experienced for the last twelve months, from Toronto, Canada all the way to Buenos Aries, Argentina. Bus 8 from Peru Metro Station saves us an expensive taxi ride costing a mere 4.50 pesos each (USD$0.50) and to end on a good note a friendly Porteno was happy enough to tap us in on her bus card, again saving the anguish of having to find one at 6am in the morning.
Lobbing up to the Air Europa check in the flights fully booked and people in this part of the world can be complete inconsiderate arseholes. As the flight comes into the night and the lights are switched off for sleep, a trio of elderly Argentinians think it’s appropriate to break out into full volume conversation whilst constantly bumping or resting on our seats. For hours. Even a polite request to use the back of the plane goes unheeded. Sarah’s screen not working adds to the anguish and the cabin crew couldn’t give a shit. The food’s ok though the wines not forth coming enough, so to keep her happy Matt unselfishly swap seats so we both get to watch movies (Chappie and Focus, god Margot Robbie is H-O-T).
Farewell to the first leg of the trip that’s given us Porkchop, our wedding in Vegas, Kate and Kyles in Vancouver, a new language, many a new friend and plenty of mixed experiences. For those yet to tread the Americas why wait, life’s short, play hard.
For more great pics of Argentina check out our Flickr Page. Thanks for reading.
TIPS FOR BUENOS AIRES
- Be prepared – it’s expensive, comparable to European prices and sometimes easily exceeding that.
- We found that changing USD for the Blue Peso on Florida gave us the best rate. Our friends even found that the rate was better than their regular exchanger and have now changed.
- DO attend a tango class as this is the origin of the dance and you just can’t leave BA without giving it a shot.
- In order to have your taxi driver arrive at the correct destination you need to give them the road and intersection, not the Metro station or land mark.