Buenos Aires: Beautiful and Passionate with a Deep Soul
Where We Stayed
We had stayed in Buenos Aires before on our way to Ushuaia, in Hotel O-Baires. This time I decided to change to Hotel Ayres de Libertad. The decision was made purely on location. Hotel Ayres de Libertad is more centrally located so I thought for a few days exploring it would be better.
The hotel was great. We had a little kitchenette, continental breakfast was delivered at a time of our choosing and the staff were so nice. I think that we got exceptional service from the guys on reception, even telling us that we shouldn’t pay tax on the bill so saving us 20%.
Our Buenos Aires Tour
We divided our time between the different suburbs of Buenos Aires, whilst also managing to catch up with Fiona (Inca Trail) again. This will be our 3rd and 4th country with her, having met her on the Inca Trail (1. Peru) then again in Arica and San Pedro de Atacama (2. Chile). Number 3 will obviously be Argentina and ****plot spoiler alert**** number 4 will be Uruguay.
Hotel Ayres de Libertad is within the Recoleta district. This area of Buenos Aires was previous home to the middle and upper classes of Buenos Aires so there are stunning buildings everywhere. It is perhaps most famous for Recoleta Cemetery where the national hero, Eva Peron (Evita) is buried in her family (Duerte) tomb. So, first up, off to meet Fiona outside Recoleta Cemetery.
I thought that Buenos Aires would be a bit edgy, but initial impressions are the opposite. Recoleta itself has a real air of sophistication. We easily spotted Fiona, funnily enough there aren’t many over 6ft, ginger Scots in Buenos Aires. It was a lovely reunion. Our itineraries weren’t supposed to overlap again, but fate made it so!
Recoleta Cemetery is a strange place to visit. The top echelons of Buenos Aires society are buried here. The family tombs are very elaborate and I’m sure if you are Argentinian, it’s a fascinating place to come. There are tours around but we 1) couldn’t afford it and 2) weren’t sure that it would mean much to us where the mayor of Buenos Aires 1910 – 1923 was buried!
We walked around and found Evita’s grave. It was less impressive than you may imagine. I thought they could at least have “Don’t Cry for me Argentina” playing as you approached. Greg, Fiona and I spent probably an hour walking around. Fiona and I got creeped out by the tombs that had fallen into disrepair. Some of the tombs looked like the contents may have escaped!
There was an artist’s market outside the cemetery so we walked around, then stopped for lunch and a travel catch up.
Cool Book Store
Greg and I also visited a book store on Fiona’s recommendation, which is in an old theatre. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name but it’s on Av Santa Fe by the junction with Av Callao if you ever find yourself there. It was very cool. Such beautiful surroundings and it was nice to see a book shop that was so busy.
The concierge at Fiona’s hotel (Hotel Madero is perhaps (or definitely) a tad classier than ours!), recommended a visit to the Japanese Gardens in Recoleta. So off we went. We grabbed a taxi as we were all feeling a little beat. The gardens were quite expensive but enough people were willing to pay to enter as it was pretty busy.
Japan is one of Greg and my favourite places (it was our favourite until we came to South America) so I guess we had quite high expectations. These expectations weren’t really met, although it was a nice serene place in the middle of the high rise, energetic city of Buenos Aires.
After the Japanese Gardens the three of us took a taxi to Paloma. This district is one of the liveliest in Buenos Aires being home to many great restaurants and bars. We spotted a pub called Sullivan’s, and given I have good friends called O’Sullivan it seemed rude not to! This area of Paloma is locally known as Soho in the vein of London and New York’s Soho areas. I would recommend it for a night out.
Fiona, Greg and I also came back on Fiona’s last night for steak and red wine (great for a vegetarian like me). We went to La Cabrera. Greg and Fiona had a great meal apparently. I had salad and chips (fries), so pretty standard Argentinian fare for me! The restaurant had a great atmosphere, although mainly tourists. A word of warning the waiters try to upsell you (big style) on wine, so choose the price bracket you want first. We then went onto a nice bar for a few drinks and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Greg had decided that he wanted to watch a live football match being shown on the TV, on our second day, a Sunday. I had decided that I would stick around with him but then received a message from Fiona who was at a Sunday market. Ditching Greg, I went and met her. The market in Dorrego Square was really nice, a mix of antiques and unusual gifts.
Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t playing ball. We did what any other self-respecting British women would do and sort out a pub! Actually, it was a little more cultured than that, taking shelter in Tortoni Café. This is the oldest café in Buenos Aires, famous for the poets that have frequented there over the years.
It had the feel of an old Parisian café. Fiona and I treated ourselves to a bottle of bubbly with a cheese board. Yummy! Greg joined us after the football had finished and we all left again to explore. Unfortunately, the rain persisted so we had to keep taking shelter, “hic”.
Later on in the week, Greg and I returned to San Telmo for the Comic Strip Walk. It’s a really cool walk around a few blocks where there are paintings and sculptures in homage to famous Argentinian cartoonists and comic artists. I really enjoyed this walk, something very different in this hip city.
Across the La Plata River from Buenos Aires lies Uruguay. As it was only a short boat ride away we decided that we would hop across. Fiona sorted out the tickets with her posh concierge. Bright and early we met at the ferry terminal, which was akin to a small airport. The ferry was the same as every ferry I’ve taken, but with air con set so high I thought I might arrive actually frozen.
The small town of Colonia is pretty and the architecture is different to Buenos Aires. We spent the day walking around enjoying the scenery. I think that the town survives on tourists’ day tripping across as all prices are in Argentinian Peso and US Dollars as well as Uruguayan Peso.
With another country ticked off, we returned to Argentina.
This artisan area was recommended to me by Graciela our Spanish teacher in Salta (here’s the links to our two blogs on Learning Spanish and North West Argentina). The photos of the area really peaked my interest.
The area was home to the first migrants that came to Buenos Aires, mainly from the Genoa area of Italy. The artist Benito Quinquela Martin was responsible for the regeneration of the area in the 1950s. He encouraged the painting of the houses in bright colours and the area became renowned for its artistic flair.
Greg and I came via taxi as we had been warned that the walk to La Boca wasn’t safe. We had arranged to meet Rachel and David (Antarctica) here as well.
On arrival we quickly realised how touristy La Boca is. We were greeted by a Maradona looky-likey selling photos with him. Greg just could not resist the “Hand of God” (Mexico City, World Cup 1986).
Diego Maradona also managed to make this area even more famous due to his time at Boca Juniors, one of the two most famous Argentinian football clubs. The other being across the river, River Plate.
The Painted Houses of Caminito
The street area of Caminito is like an open air art gallery with cobblestone passages and colourful tenements plus many stalls selling art.
It Takes Two to Tango
La Boca is also the birthplace of the most Argentinian dance, the tango.
We met David and Rachel and went for some drinks in a local bar playing traditional music. Later on, we were treated to a tango show, which quickly turned into a demonstration with David. He did so well, it was very funny. It was then my turn, apparently! Clearly, in my sandals and cut-off jeans I looked like a natural (mmmm maybe!). I may take up this tango’ing lark for a living!
We then visited the local art museum, which was a tad underwhelming.
After the museum Greg fancied a barbecue sausage sandwich so we found a local asado. It was a cool and friendly place just off the main La Boca hub. Sadly, I seem to have picked up a stomach bug so I’m a little discombobulated and cannot eat.
From our very conveniently located hotel, we walked to Buenos Aires’ historical quarter. Mayo Square is the capital of this quarter with the Casa Rosada, the Cabildo, the Metropolitan Cathedral and City Hall. The architecture has a real European feel to it, which wouldn’t look out of place in Madrid or Paris.
There were demonstrations taking place in Mayo Square that I believe are Falkland Island (Las Malvinas) war veterans protesting over their treatment by the government. Sadly, there was also a lot of anti-British graffiti around, but as with everywhere else in Argentina I haven’t felt this from anyone that we have met.
Greg and I had a lovely day wondering around Buenos Aires’ downtown area. There you get to see the Obelisco, which took some time for the locals to learn to love. I can kind of see why, as it’s just a tall needle structure!
Then there is the conifer topiary of the BA. This was rammed full of tourists but we managed a quick selfie before moving on.
This is Buenos Aires answer to Canary Wharf (on a much smaller scale). Old port buildings have been given a second life as restaurants, hotels and bars. This is home to Woman’s Bridge, where the architect imitated a female tango dancer’s leg. A nice place to sit, if a bit sanitised (like Canary Wharf).
So, this spells the end of our South American adventure. I have absolutely loved this city and it seems fitting to end here. The experience that we have had for the last 3 months in this wonderful continent (plus the Antarctica) is something that I will never forget. Maybe I’ll do a separate blog on what I’ve learnt. We’ve made new friends for life, learnt new skills and had an absolute ball.
Homeward bound is exciting though, we can’t wait to see our parents and of course Juno (our working cocker spaniel). Then onto our new skiing adventure. Wow, this grown-up gap year lark is a lot of fun.
Let us know if you have been to Buenos Aires and think that we missed too much. Any thoughts, comments or jokes will be gratefully received!