After a relaxing week on the coast we headed into Argentina’s biggest city, Buenos Aires, home to 13 million porteños (“people of the port” – residents of BA). With an interesting political history (which is a dangerous topic to begin with) and a huge economic crisis in 2000 – BA has become one of the most touristed cities in South America even more so with the US dollar getting an exchange rate of 3.8 pesos making it a rather affordable cosmopolitan destination.
European architecture mixes with Latin vibrancy, descendants of Italians, Spaniards, Ukrainians and Jewish to name only a few intertwine to create a very diverse population in this massive city. Argentine Spanish is spoken with an Italian lilt to it and throughout the city you will hear snippets of expressive and passionate outbursts adding to the unique flavour that is Buenos Aires.
I have been waiting to see this city from the moment I read about it and the “Paris of South America” did not let us down. To make our trip to the city even better my parents dropped in for a two-week vacation to help us celebrate the end of our drive to the bottom of the world.
Buenos Aires is bursting at the seams with things to do and see so we compiled a few of our highlights:
Argentinians are mad about futbol (soccer)….perhaps obsessive is a better word. One of the first things you get asked by locals is “what team are you?” meaning which team are you a fan of. We bought tickets to take in a game at the River Plate stadium, one of BA’s largest stadiums. Arriving early to get seats we thought the stadium might remain pretty empty as the game being played wasn’t one of too much importance. Turns out it doesn’t matter whether it is a play-off game or not people come out to support their teams. The away team fans were sequestered in their own section complete with their own exit, barbwire fencing and security guards – they take this futbol thing very seriously. Loads of inappropriately worded songs were thrown back and forth between opposing fans – my folks asked if we could translate but sadly (or thankfully) we could only explain that they involved rather unsportsmanlike words.
Although cliché for Buenos Aires we were wowed at the quality of El Viejo Almacen’s tango show. Tango shows are advertised everywhere and I had figured that it might be overdone but watching six dancers and their complicated footwork perform on a stage not much bigger than a large dining room table was very impressive – we left suitably satiated by the tango.
LA BOMBA TIEMPO
Ok, my parents might not agree about this but the Cuidad Cultural Konex, BA’s cultural centre, hosts a fantastic drumming show every Monday night for 20 pesos/person. La Bomba Tiempo is a group of about 12 percussionists who show up and perform to a very cool crowd of under 30s – neo-hippies, highschool kids and foreigners fill in as the evening wears on and dance to the drums as long as the guys will play.
Buenos Aires is abundant with small, locally designed clothing labels. Even better , the clothes are priced really well for those of us travelling on North American currencies. I had been starving for fashion and after months of wearing the same clothes Palermo was little piece of heaven. The neat thing about Buenos Aires is that one store will house around 20 or so individual designers who rent a small bit of space to showcase their labels – so each rack you look through belongs to someone different. There are a few questionable fashions happening in BA at the moment (like a horrible MC Hammer/harem poop pant combo and toe-less boots) but there are definitely some great longer t-shirts, funky belts and amazing leather goods to be had. In fact the ‘rents bought 3 custom tailored leather jackets for less than $600!
Tom and I are big city walkers…probably because I love to people watch and wandering around BA gives you a great insight into how porteños live. In La Boca you see the futbol team’s colours worn proudly by all the residents, in Palermo ex-pats mix with upper middle class locals in trendy cafes and restaurants, in the city centre suits rush by on their way to the office. Down in Recoleta the rich retire to posh apartments and visitors take in the amazing cemetery searching for famous (or infamous) Evita’s grave and San Telmo’s Sunday antiques market brings out the hordes of those looking to find a hidden gem along the cobble-stone streets.
MEAT and other tasty treats
Yup… bring on steaks that can feed a family of four. We ate our way through Buenos Aires from huge cuts of beef for about ($7 or $3.50 per person because they are big enough to share) to morning café con leche, croissants, picadas (snack plates), deli sandwiches, ridiculous amounts of ice cream and, of course, a LOT of wine.
For a really good steak we recommend La Brigada in San Telmo – order your steak en punto (“on point” which is medium) and enjoy a great meal, great service and very nice wine, the Argentine Malbecs are great!
Tags: argentina, buenos aires, driving to the end of the world, el viejo almacen, ice cream, la bomba tiempo, palermo, paris of south america, recoleta cemetary, road trip, san telmo, shopping, steak, tango, wine