Feb 13, 2011

Buenos Aires

My friend and I went to Buenos Aires for a recent long weekend, and we were totally enchanted by the beautiful city. The city is a special blend of old and new, and European and South American. The city was planned like a European city, with a wide street (the widest in the world – Avenida 9 de Julio) resembling the Champs-Elysees, beautiful architecture, and many well-kept parks. Other areas of the city had impressive modern skyscrapers.

It was nothing like Brazil, but certainly not unaffected by their neighbor. More Brazilians than any other tourists make it over there (they don´t require a passport). In fact, many locals asked me if I was Brazilian--even before I opened my mouth and started speaking Portanhol (a mix of Portuguese and Spanish).

Our first evening was spent walking and dining in the modern neighborhood of Puerto Madero. This is a newer area of the city, by the river with many chic restaurants and modern architecture. It´s gorgeous and reminded me a little of Yaletown-False Creek in Vancouver.

Puerto Madero

Later that night, we walked over to a Milonga (a tango club), where we watched all these couples dance tango. It was so interesting to watch them dance. They were all so graceful and intense. Most of the women danced with their eyes closed. One gentleman asked me to dance and when he realized I was a foreigner, he gave me a dance lesson. 

The next day we had an early start to beat the tourist crowds at Café Tortoni, the oldest coffee shop in Buenos Aires. We had submarinos (steamed milk that you stick a bar of chocolate in and stir).

We walked over to the Congresso Nacional building where we joined a free city tour that we found out about on trip advisor www.bafreetour.org. The tour took us along the famous Avenida del Mayo, stopping at special points, until we reached the Casa Rosada (Pink House) where Argentina´s National Government works. I had been wanting to see the Casa Rosada ever since I was a little girl, when I discovered that Argentina had a pink parliament building while playing Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego on the computer.

Casa Rosada
Afterwards we had lunch and walked around San Telmo (an old neighborhood famous for restaurants and tango). We also had some dulce de leche ice cream at Fredo´s (their best ice cream chain). And then we took a taxi to La Boca, the most touristy part of town. All the buildings are very colorful there and you can watch tango on the streets, eat outdoors, and buy souvenirs. Almost a little too touristy with all the people trying to sell you something, but still one of those places you have to see.

The colourful buildings of La Boca
The rest of the day was spent shopping on Florida Street where our hostel was (Hostel Suites Florida). It´s not the recommended area for shopping (Santa Fe Street is) but we still found some good deals. And we had dinner at a Parilla (steak house place). It was very expensive but it was the best and biggest steak I´ve ever had. And it went great with a glass with some local malbec red wine. Muy rico.

Steaks here are bigger than in Texas
On our final day, we visited the Recoleta Cemetary, where Evita Péron and many wealthy people were buried. It´s not your typical cemetery. It´s filled with small buildings containing family coffins, many buildings of which had statues of angels and other magnificent decorations on them. Quite a site.

Recoleta Cemetary
We next made it to the Japanese Gardens, which unfortunately were not very zen. It so happened that day that there was a cosplay –a competition to see who could have the best animé character costume. The garden was filled with mobs of teenagers posing in strange costumes.
We then walked over to the zoo, which was awesome. And then it was time to catch our flight. And now I´m missing Buenos Aires…But at least I have a bottle of malbec and some alfajors (dulce de leche between two cookies) to help me remember.

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