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dead blinger
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tango at Cafe Tortoni
Buenos Aires, Argentina; Apr 20, 2005

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 Argentinean Pesos

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 <<
website; email; 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!

© 2004-2012 susan & grace, all rights reserved

-- comments from readers --


Hi, i've been there and i thought the food was one of the best in the world. I def think that the icecream was the best i've ever tried before. I also thought the people were incredible nice and sooo help full. Not forget to say that people are really good looking. The culture of this people is hardly comparable with the american culture, but comparable with the european....I was really impressed.

--Jane (London, United Kingdom); Mar 18, 2006


I keep enjoying your magnificent trip and pics from here. Keep it up! Thanks for the comments about us. All the best and cheers,

--Santi (Buenos Aires, Argentina); Oct 13, 2005 [Santiago is the one who arranged our apartment for us.]

Hi Santiago! Thanks for writing and we're glad you're enjoying the site! We had a great time in your wonderful city and hopefully we'll be able to come back and visit again someday!

--Susan & Grace; Sep 20, 2005