Perplexed and Proud in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Perplexed and Proud in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Perplexed and Proud in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Why I went here?  I have not been to Buenos Aires, much less to South America. From what I read, it was the best city to immerse myself; firstly, as a single female traveler and secondly, as someone who has traveled within much of Western Europe. The city is very much like Europe in many ways and the people themselves have plenty of Italian and Spanish customs, however, the Portenos (people who live in Buenos Aires) are quite the characters in their own unique ways.

Best time to visit?  Spring and fall are the best times to visit. The weather’s best during this season, especially since summers are hot and humid and winters are cold and wet. Polo season is in spring (starting in October) and the world tango competition is held in late summer (August).

Best way to get there?  There is a direct flight daily from DFW to Buenos Aires via American Airlines. The main international airport is Ezeiza (code: EZE) and it is 37 km southwest of the city. The easiest way to get from EZE to the city of Buenos Aires is to take the Manuel Tienda Leon bus service. It will bring you to their main station on Avenida del Libertador (just across from the Torre Monumental). The cost is 70 pesos but for an additional 15, you can have a direct hotel transfer.

Perplexed and Proud in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Recoleta Cemetery

What to see/do?  Buenos Aires, Argentina is very much a melting pot of a city with plenty of sights to see and experience, however, for a first timer, my suggestions will include those attractions and activities synonymous to the capital city and to an extent, the country of Argentina. When in Buenos Aires, you ought to do something involving politics, tango and football. To begin with, walk down Avenida de Mayo beginning at Plaza del Congreso and ending at Plaza de Mayo. This mile long stretch contains about 150 years of Argentinean history. The iconic dome of the National Congress sits on one end, and the infamous Casa Rosada sits on the other. In between, you will pass beautiful art deco buildings, Avenida 9 de Julio, the country’s widest and busiest avenue, and the oldest and once political and social hub nub that is Café Tortoni. You will also pass the Cathedral of Buenos Aires where General San Martin, whose claim to fame was helping the country liberate itself from Spain, is buried. Next, get lost in the area of San Telmo, the oldest neighbourhood in the city of Buenos Aires. This part of town hosts a huge antiques fair every Sunday and is a great place to watch locals perform tango outdoors. San Telmo is likely where you will end up taking tango lessons within the city. We Are Tango offers a show and a lesson that is relatively inexpensive. It is held at Hotel Bolivar and just what I expected a tango show to be: intimate and sensual. And because the audience is small, the lessons are more personal. Adjacent to San Telmo is the infamous La Boca, a part of the city that has been neglected over the years, but remains on a tourist’s must do list because of a couple of attractions. First is Caminito, the street lined with colourful houses, where Italian immigrants first settled into. Second is the stadium of the revered Boca Juniors football club. It was the home club of Argentina’s most famous footballer, Diego Maradona. Across town sits Boca’s fiercest rival, River Plate football club. A match between these two teams can be chaotic to say the least, but a scene to experience nonetheless. Both stadiums offer museum like tours. If time permits, head into Recoleta, the city’s cultural center. It is home to a cemetery that can pass as an outdoor sculpture show and where the beloved Eva Peron is buried, as well as the Museo Nacional Bellas Artes, and the National Library.

Bean Soup

Bean Soup

Food and drinks:  Vegetarians beware because when you are here, you ought to eat meat. Argentina is known for its beef quality and I can honestly say that the Argentinians had us Texans, beat when it comes to steak (albeit just with a very slight margin). Order an asado to try the sampling of meats offered although I do not recommend trying this alone because the amount of meat served can quite possibly feed a family of four. Empanadas are just as popular a food item as steak. La Continental is a popular chain for a quick snack (get the carne). If you want to try regional Argentinean cuisine, seek out La Querencia in Recoleta. This cash only joint is so popular with the locals, families themselves eat here. Their empanadas are probably the best ones I tasted in the city and their locra (beef stew with beans) just had the right balance of flavours. For desserts, head to any Havanna branch and get yourself an alfajor. It a biscuit like substance often layered with dulce de leche and dipped in chocolate. If you fancy ice cream, try Freddo. Argentinean ice cream is comparable to Italian gelato and this Italian run “heladeria” lives up to it. As for drinks, it helps to accept the fact that red wine rules the table. Argentina is one of the foremost wine producing countries in the world and malbec is the king of Argentinean reds. If wine is not your preference, try Fernet, a type of liquor often mixed with Coke and ice, and Quilmes, the most ubiquitous beer sold in the country. Last but not least, try mate. Its contents are very much like tea and it is often drunk socially. Some cafes have it on their menu, but it is best to experience it with the locals themselves.

Hotel Pool at El Duque Hotel and Spa

Hotel Pool at El Duque Hotel and Spa

Where to sleep?  For budget accommodations in Buenos Aires, Argentina, my suggestion is Estoril Terrazzas hostel. Its location is ideal (on Avenida de Mayo) and the price cannot be beat for what it offers. The staff is friendly and accommodating and the hostel itself was relatively well kept. The prices start at $15 for a bed and it includes basic breakfast, linens and towel rentals. If you want a bit of pampering, book with Duque Hotel and Spa. It won the TripAdvisor 2012 award for service and rightfully so. The rooms are on the smaller side and its location in Palermo Soho requires a longer commute than the accommodations from downtown, but if you are looking for a quiet escape after a long day of sightseeing, this hotel fits the bill. Rates averages around $90 a night with breakfast and the use of spa amenities included.

Perplexed and Proud in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Polo Day at Puesto Viejo

Daytrips:  Polo is the second most popular sport in Argentina after football. Argentina’s dominance is exemplified by the fact that seven of the nine best polo players in the world are Argentineans. Puesto Viejo is an estancia and polo club approximately 75 km southwest of Buenos Aires that offers polo days for locals and tourists alike. Polo days include transportation to and from Buenos Aires, a lesson with a professional 2 polo player, a match (if you go on certain days) and an asado luncheon served at the hotel. The price is $150 with a minimum of two people per lesson.

Why I would go back?  The city is the main entry port for Argentina and since I would like to explore more of the country—visit Mendoza and the Patagonian region, perhaps play a bit more polo given the opportunity, it is natural to stop and spend a few days here. Buenos Aires, Argentina is a perplexed city to me, and oddly enough, that’s part of its charm. The city is beautiful (mostly) and it was difficult not to compare it to others I have previously visited, but it is truly the Portenos themselves that makes this city quite unique. These charismatic characters are passionate as they are proud, and being around them is invigorating. “An Argentinean is someone who speaks Spanish, looks like an Italian, acts like a Frenchman, but secretly wishes to be British” said Sol, my tour guide. I think that sums it up quite nicely.

San Telmo

San Telmo

San Telmo
Recoleta Church

Recoleta Church

Recoleta Church
Estancia

Estancia

Estancia
Boca Juniors

Boca Juniors

Boca Juniors
Bean Soup

Bean Soup

Bean Soup
Polo Day at Puesto Viejo

Polo Day at Puesto Viejo

Polo Day at Puesto Viejo
Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery
El Duque Hotel and Spa Pool

El Duque Hotel and Spa Pool

El Duque Hotel and Spa Pool

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