It didn’t take us long to realize why Buenos Aires (BA), Argentina is aptly referred to as the Paris of the South. With its European inspired architecture and plazas, it’s easy to look past the graffiti and crumbling sidewalks and be absolutely enamoured with all of its charms. BA’s population (over 13 million) lends itself to a number of diverse neighbourhoods, each offering something quite different. Our seven days in BA were filled with pleasant strolls interspersed with breaks for cafes con leche and Mendozan wines.
On one of our first days in the city, we joined in on a free walking tour led by Jonathan, a Brit that’s been living in BA for the past 5 years. Not only did the tour take us through some of the city’s attractions, but it also gave us a crash course in using the bus and subway systems. The former was by far the most difficult system to navigate – BA’s buses are actually operated by about 95 different companies, hence there is no such thing as a transfer (or even a comprehensible system map). Needless to say that after our walking tour we relied solely on the subway, taxis and our own two feet.
Despite BA’s size, it’s actually quite manageable on foot. Our longest walk took us through the cemetery in Recoleta, into the downtown area via Santa Fe and Florida, and ending in Puerto Madero. The cemetery in Recoleta is where the elite are laid to rest – we figure some of the tombs rivalled the size of a studio apartment. Santa Fe Avenue is the major thoroughfare from the Palermo neighbourhood (where we stayed) to the central business district. Florida is a pedestrian only street linking the Retiro area (to the north) with the Plaza de Mayo (to the south). Florida was unquestionably the tourist street, we had plenty of offers for tango shows and unofficial currency exchange (cambio). Puerto Madero is probably the city’s chicest neighbourhood; it’s the old port area that was left derelict for years but has now been reinvigorated with swanky lofts, shiny apartment buildings and riverside restaurants.
On Sunday morning we met up for breakfast and lunch with Zoe and David, a couple from London that we had met earlier in the week. We thank Zoe andDavid for all of their advice and tips about the rest of South America (they started their travels in the north – Vancouver of all places). We also explored the San Telmo market together – a massive outdoor market spanning at least ten blocks. At its southern end was a plaza full of tables devoted entirely to antiques. It all made for very interesting sights and conversation.
Our evenings out were primarily occupied by late dinners, generally ending at around midnight. Later meals were certainly the norm in BA, in fact it was difficult to find a place that opened for dinner before 8:30. We also (of course) took part in a tango experience. We participated in a group lesson at a dance hall and then lingered around afterwards to watch the local experts show off their stuff. Finally, we also saw a futbol match on Sunday evening – River Plate beat the All Boys one to nothing in a rather boisterous atmosphere.
As we continue to evolve (and hopefully improve) our blogging, we thought we would start leaving a few parting notes for future reference and, potentially, for future visitors:
Where we stayed: An apartment in Palermo Norte – close to the subway and local shops/restaurants, but a bit of a walk to the larger concentration of restaurants in Palermo Viejo.
Best meal: Bife de Chorizo at La Cabrera.
Beat experience: Jonathan’s free walking tour: http://www.buenosaireslocaltours.com.
Best travel tip: Bring US cash – the black market exchange rate is much better than the official exchange rate.