the low down
What we did: One week in an
apartment in Recoleta, an upscale and trendy neighborhood in Buenos
Aires. We spent afternoons people-watching and walking around
the various neighborhoods. In the evenings we enjoyed late-night
dinners around town.
Overall: Buenos Aires seems
like a nice city to live in. It’s convenient and the standard
of living feels high (due to the pride and attitude of the residents)
even though the country is recovering from difficult financial
times. The upside of this, for now at least, is that it’s
a cheaper destination than some other countries in the area. Unfortunately,
the air quality is poor and after a half day of walking around
both of us had headaches.
Helpful: A little basic Spanish
goes a long way here and we recommend studying up (at least a
tad) on menu translation so that you don't end up eating the only
thing you know how to order all the time. Although the guidebooks
say that most Argentineans speak a little English, we didn't experience
that. And, they rarely tried.
Food: The food in the city
is generally okay. It is neither inspiring nor unpleasant. If
you go to the more upscale local places, the food is better though
obviously you pay a bit more. Ordering an ensalada mixta (mixed
salad) gets you an equal proportion of tomato, onions and lettuce.
Ordering a hamburguesa completa
gets you a pita pocket with a hamburger patty, slice of ham, tomatoes
and a fried egg inside. Yum.
Water: We read somewhere in
a guidebook that the tap water was okay to drink. We drank…
we paid… with three days imprisoned in the apartment and
many "unconfident" days to follow. We don't think the
water's contaminated but it's likely that there's something in
there that we're not used to. Also, we noticed that all the locals
were drinking bottled water, too. So buy bottled water, it's readily
available and very cheap.
People: In a word… stylish.
An overwhelming percentage of people are dressed up with their
hair carefully done (and make up, for the women). We felt like
slobs in jeans and tennis shoes. We give a lot of credit to the
people of Buenos Aires. They’ve been in a long depression
yet they’re still confident, full of pride and look as though
they have nothing to be upset about. They're mainly indifferent
to tourists, not particularly nice and not particularly mean.
And the young men have a serious macho thing going on. They’re
really good at looking like they couldn’t care less.
Cost of living: The Argentinean
Peso has plummeted in recent years so this is one of the only
places where the American Dollar is still strong. Food, taxis
and entrance fees to sites are cheap so you can really stretch
your pesos around town.
Daily budget: Hostels and
Hotels range from cheap (less than $10 US) to expensive ($100+
US) and the apartment we rented is around $250 US for the week.
Eating at local restaurants runs about 15 pesos/person for an
entrée and a few drinks while eating at bakeries and grocery
stores will cost less than 5 pesos.
Exchange rate: $1 US = 2.5
What's fabulous: Tango (of
course) and the wonderful nightlife. The great thing about nightlife
here is that it isn't just tourists and young kids; EVERYONE is
out at night (see buenos aires:
party peeps stay out late).
Weather: We're here in their
winter season and the weather has been raining on and off. The
temperature is mild.
Getting around: It's generally
easy to get around either by walking, taking the bus, or taking
a taxi. The only trick is that the taxi drivers don't speak English
so know how to say the exact name or write down your destination
for the cabbie.
at El Obrero
(The Worker) restaurant
Major difficulties: Mosquitos
that can sting you through your clothes (Susan’s allergic),
not much English spoken outside tourist restaurants, and the many,
many piles of dog poo and broken tiles on the sidewalks
Random translations: They
call their Spanish here, Castellano. Some things are pronounced
differently - for example, all "ll" are pronounced with
a "sh" sound so "pollo" (Chicken) is pronounced
"posho." To say goodbye they use "Ciao" instead
of "Adios" or "Hasta Luego." "Disco"
means supermarket, not, uh, a disco.
|Specific places we visited/things we
did: Buenos Aires is a great city to see on foot.
There are many nice parks, plazas, shops, museums and cafes
to enjoy, specifically:
||- Leisurely walk on our first day: First we headed down
down Avenida Florida (a pedestrian-only street) stopping at
a Parisian-style shopping center (Galerias Pacifico). Then
we continued downtown to the Microcentre, and on to the historic
Plaza de Mayo, where we also had a look at the Casa Rosada
(the Pink House), the old presidential palace and the spot
where Eva Peron (and later Madonna in the movie Evita) appealed
to Argentinians for public support. We finished by walking
through Parque Colon to Puerto Madero for a late afternoon
snack (since they eat dinner so late here, we needed something
to tide us over). Also in Puerto Madero, we visisted the tourist
information center located in an old crane and called, "The
Tourist Crane" – weird.
||- Recoleta: Our neighborhood was especially suited for leisurely
afternoon walks. We enjoyed afternoon window-shopping in all
the cute shops.
||- Cementerio de la Recoleta: An absolute must-see! You've
probably seen pictures, but it's still incredibly impressive
(and quite a bit spooky) to be inside this cemetery (see buenos
aires: dead blinger). Watch out for all the black
cats crossing your path.
||- Parroquia Nuestra Senora del Pilar: This impressive church
is next to the cemetery and definitely worth a look.
||- Centro Cultural Recoleta: Also next door to the cemetery
is a center that showcases local artists. It's free (donation
of 2 pesos) and worth walking through if you’re interested
in that kind of thing. It also has a lovely organge grove.
|| - Barrio Norte and Palermo neighborhoods: There’s
an area here called “Palermo Hollywood” that has
nice shopping (cheap to outfit a whole house), great street
cafes and parks.
|| - Tango show at Café Tortoni: Avenide de Mayo 829.
You can check out their website
for a show schedule. Be sure to make a reservation ahead of
the day and ask for a table by the stage. Otherwise, you miss
out on all the fancy footwork of the tango dancers. You can
order food and drinks here, too.
|| - San Telmo Antiques Fair: People sell all sorts of strange
things, from crafts to dubious antiques to legit antiques
– in general, we didn’t think the quality of the
merchandise and crafts was great, but it was still interesting
to look around.
Recommended way to find an apartment: Let's Go Argentina
phone: +54 11-4806-0717 or +54 11-4806-6874
Ask for Santiago - he's a gem (very friendly and full
of great advice)!
Recommended restaurant: El Obrero (The Worker)<<
Location: La Boca neighborhood, on Cafarena 64 (but
don’t expect your cabbie to know where that is
– ours didn’t)
This humble (but comfortable) place was packed with
locals, a line out the door. We finally ate around 11pm
and when we left (after midnight) there was still a
crowd outside waiting to get in. The food was pretty
good, but mostly it was interesting to experience a
truly "local" atmosphere. We ordered a Spanish
omelet, salad, steak and a small bottle of red wine
for only 30 pesos ($12 US).
Check out the buenos
aires gallery for pix of this great city!