Buenos Aires 2009

Our overall impressions of Buenos Aires were that the food was fabulous, the people really nice and the shopping fantastic.  We had a wonderful time there but Stephen and I agreed we would not rate it above any European city we had been to.  Stephen described it as “shabby chic”!!

We stayed at Miravida Soho in the Palermo Soho neighborhood and really loved it (read my review of Miravida Soho here).   Had a great feel to it and tons of excellent restaurants and the best shopping in town.  We had planned on using the subway, but we ended up either walking or taking taxis everywhere.  Taxis were really inexpensive, particularly with four of us.  Sometimes we had the hotel or restaurant call one, but we often hailed them on the street and never had any problems with them.   Just note that if you have someone call a taxi  for you then the minimum cost is eight pesos.  We learned this the hard way when the fare came to 6.50 so Stephen handed him 7 pesos as he got out of the car.  The driver started yelling at him.  I went and retrieved the hostess in the restaurant to help interpret and she explained that if you call the taxi it was a minimum of 8 pesos – ahhhh!!!  Lesson learned.  Also, note that the driving is absolutely crazy in Buenos Aires.  Those white stripes to delineate the lanes are apparently merely a suggestion, and keep in mind the pedestrian NEVER has the right of way!!!

BIKE TOURS:

We did two bike tours with www.urbanbiking.com.  They had been recommended by someone on fodors and also the company that the Miravida Soho recommended.  We first did their Buenos Aires tour of the south.  I had booked a private tour for us – which turned out to be a REALLY good thing.  I was sure that the website said all tours started at 10am, but that morning before heading down to breakfast  I looked at my receipt and it said starting time was 9am and it was 8:45am and we had not eaten breakfast yet and some of us were still getting ready.  I had the hotel call them immediately and they said “try to come as soon as you can, but they would wait”.  We arrived about 9:50am and there was Santiago patiently waiting for us.  This was a fabulous way to spend a morning and early afternoon and a great way to see different parts of the city.

We first biked down to Puerto Madero – very calm, pretty and quiet, and one of the nicest parts of the city.

From there we rode to the ecological reserve (it was one of Argentina’s many holidays so there were a ton of joggers there), and stopped for our first tastes of mate and alfojores.

Alfojores are an Argentinian sandwich cookie made with dulce de leche (similar to caramel) inside.  Mate is a form of tea that Argentinians drink all day! Next we rode past the Boca Juniors stadium and then on to La Boca.  I know a lot of people had said that La Boca was super touristy but it was interesting to see and learn the history of this area.

From there we rode through San Telmo and then to Plaza de Mayo where they were preparing for demonstrations that day due to the holiday.  Back to Plaza San Martin where we began around 2pm (so if you start when you should at 9am you’d be back around 1pm).  Santiago was a great guide and he gave us a lot of history along the way and was happy to answer any questions.  The riding to Puerto Madero, reserve, and La Boca was great because there was not a lot of traffic.  It can be tight riding from San Telmo-Plaza de Mayo-Plaza San Martin with the traffic, but I never felt in danger.  I would recommend not taking very young kids.

Our second bike tour was to the Tigre Delta, which also included kayaking.  I have to admit I originally thought we would be taking the train all the way to Tigre, then biking around there, and then doing some kayaking.  But we actually got on the train with our bikes and got off about ¼ of the way there and biked the rest of the way.  We biked through some beautiful neighborhoods with big homes, and beautiful overhanging trees provided just the perfect amount of shade.   Very interesting how in these neighborhoods on each street corner there was a little structure – looked like an outhouse but with windows.  And inside each one was a security guard.

We also made a quick stop at an ecological reserve that was right on the river and gave a stunning view looking back at Buenos Aires.

We biked on, stopping in San Ysidro (the oldest town in the greater BA area).  It was beautiful with cobblestoned streets, trees and nice homes.  We enjoyed a break with mate and alfajores.  Then off for another straight hour of biking.  We did have a minor injury when Stephen’s bike pedial hit the top of a bump and he had a bloody gash.  However, our guide Javier had a proper first aid kit and was able to clean the wound and get it properly bandaged.

At one point we did bike through the town of San Fernando, which was a bit rough with the narrow streets and big buses.  We arrived at Tigre about 2pm and stopped for lunch with the sandwiches Javier brought for us.  He offered to let us walk around but we were ready to head to the kayaking.

We biked over to one of the many rowing clubs.  Lauren and I shared a 3-man kayak with Javier and Stephen and Michael shared a 2-man kayak and then there was another guide in a 1-man kayak.  If you are not a strong kayaker you might want to be sure you are in a kayak with a guide.  Javier was able to row us with only minimal help from the two of us, while Stephen and Michael had a harder time.  Let’s just say they were pretty tired by the end.  It was very peaceful and quiet and we were able to go down some canals where the larger boats and catamarans cannot .

After the kayaking we headed back to the city on the train.  We arrived back about 6:20pm.

SITES:

I had signed up for a guided tour of Buenos Aires through Ana-Luna.com.  Unfortunately, our guide was really only a driver and not a tour guide.  Nice to have the driver as sites were a bit of a distance from each other, but I was looking forward to learning about the history.  I am glad we did get some history/information on our bike tours.

Recoleta Cemetery

This place was truly amazing – not like any other cemetery we had been to before.  The family mausoleums are quite interesting and ornate whether in a more traditional or modern architecture.

You almost feel as though you are walking  through a small town.

Of course, Evita’s (Eva Duarte Peron)  is the most popular mausoleum with many flowers placed there.

Plaza de Mayo-

Sort of the “living room” of Buenos Aires and where much political history has taken place.  The Casa Rosada is there, where Eva Peron famously came out on the balcony.  I just always find it exhilarating to be in a place where so much history has taken place.  While we were there they were getting ready for more political demonstrations later that day.

Evita Museum

This is a small but very interesting and informative museum with several exhibits.  Lauren and I particularly enjoyed the ones of her clothing.  Please note the museum is closed on Mondays.  The first time we tried to go it was a Monday, so we learned that the hard way.

RESTAURANTS:

First off, we did not have a bad meal in Buenos Aires (actually in all of Argentina!!).  Every place we ate was quite good and I would not hesitate to recommend.  Below is a list of all the places we ate, with comments if warranted.  Starred places were particularly good.

*Bar Uriate (1572 Uriarte, Palermo Soho) – we had a great lunch and dinner here.  Nice hip design and great food.  Just 4-5 blocks up from Miravida Soho

*La Cabrera (JA Cabrera 5099/corner of Thames, Palermo Soho)  – I must say with all the hype around this place I really was not expecting that much, BUT,  I have to admit that it did not disappoint and it really was as good as everyone says!!  The restaurant opened at 8:30pm and that was when our reservation was, but I think you can arrive a bit earlier as many were already seated when we arrived.  There was already a line forming for those without reservations– if you have a reservation just go to the front of the line and tell them and they will seat you.  We were actually seated in La Cabrera North just ½ block up the street.  Due to great advice from James at our hotel we ordered the ½ order of chorizo for appetizer and one order of the ojo de bife for all four of us.  We also shared a caprese salad.  It was the perfect amount of food for the four of us to share.  The chorizo was fabulous and the steak excellent.  The caprese was good, but we have had better.  The little sides were great, each one a new surprise.  Michael fell in love with their applesauce.  The lollipop tree was a fun surprise at the end.

El Trapiche (Paraguay 5599, Palermo Hollywood)– This place was good, but we learned our lesson -do not have parilla at lunch – just too heavy, at least for us.  Also, the menu just had so many options ( it was about 20 pages).  Sometimes too many choices can be overwhelming.  We all thought Michael’s ribs were the best dish any of us had there.

Azema Exotic Bistro (Angel Carranza 1875, Palermo Hollywood) – This was recommended as a place to go if you are tired of steak, and that was true.   We all enjoyed meals of duck or fish.  The appetizers were particularly interesting.

*La Cupertina  (Cabrera 5296/corner GodoyCruz, Palermo Soho) – well it only took us three times to finally get in here, but worth being persistent.  Just keep in mind they are closed on Sundays for lunch and all day Mondays, and they close at 3:30pm for a break between lunch and dinner.  On our third try, we arrived about 3 pm and they almost did not want to serve us, but we sort of begged (as best we could – no English spoken here).  We were only able to order empenadas, which was no problem as that was what we wanted.  We tried all the different kinds that they had and they were all fabulous but our top votes went to the chicken and the ham and cheese.  We went back here two more times after that (with more time) so we could also have their tamales and incredible stews.  But really and truly they also have the best desserts!!  I love rice pudding and they had the best rice pudding I have ever had, also an incredible crème caramel (better than anything we had in Barcelona).  This is a casual inexpensive place run by very sweet people.  Enjoy!

Bar 6 (Armenia 1676, Palermo Soho) – we had a nice lunch here one afternoon.  The special salad was wonderful – filled with tons of yummy veggies!

La Parolaccia (Alicia Moreau de Justo 1160, Puerto Madero) – after being at Puerto Madero on our bikes we really wanted to go there for dinner and were in the mood for Italian, so headed here.  My honest review would be good but not great and a bit more expensive than other places we had been eating.  But the beef carpaccio was excellent!

Don Julios (Guatamela 4691, Palermo Soho) – we enjoyed a Get-together with a fellow fodorite and her hubby here.  We had a wonderful evening and the food was great, although we were still in the La Cabrera mode of ordering food and we had to keep ordering more food as the portions here were not as large!!

*Social Paraiso ( 5182 Honduras, Palermo Soho) – another great restaurant located close to Miravida Soho.  Everyone truly enjoyed their meal here.  The green salad was the best we had in Argentina.  I had an excellent cheese ravioli in tomato basil sauce (sauce was fabulous), Stephen had Patagonian lamb cooked two ways, Lauren had a wonderful pork dish and Michael had salmon cooked two ways.

*Oviedo (Beruti 2602, Recoleta/Barrio Norte) – everything I read about this place said it was a great seafood restaurant but expensive (by Argentine standards) – this was all true.  It was a very traditional restaurant with waiters in black vests and bow ties.  The food was fantastic.  We ordered an appetizer of Peruvian ceviche which was out of this world and my risotto with shrimp was fantastic.

*La Vineira de Gualterio Bolivar (Bolivar 864, San Telmo) – we went here for my birthday dinner.  This restaurant only serves a nine course tasting menu.  We really enjoy tasting menus so I thought this would be a great place to celebrate, plus it was our last night in Buenos Aries.  The dinner was fabulous, all courses were great except for one course that included rabbit – it was a bit dry.  They do not serve a wine flight but just bring you a new glass of wine when you are ready and pair it with what you will be eating.  Stephen ordered espresso after dinner and they even brought him three espressos to taste.  My favorite dish was an egg dish with toasts (I know does not sound that interesting but it was fabulous!) and the three dessert tastings  were incredible, and just perfect after a long meal.

SHOPPING:

Lauren and I love to shop and Buenos Aires was fabulous for this.  We particularly enjoyed shopping in Palermo Soho.  There were tons of fun, stylish boutiques there for men and women.  We had a great time exploring down all the streets.   Lauren was looking for a prom dress so we were shopping with a purpose and found all the people working there to be extremely nice and helpful.  Most of the boutiques will just sell stuff from one local (Argentinian) designer so you know you are getting something you would not find readily someplace else.   Keep in mind though that the season may be different.  All the new stuff they had in was all for the fall – lots of boots, coats, etc. and of course we are heading into the spring, but we were also able to find a few summer sales.

We also walked down Calle Florida, but frankly were not that impressed.

Galleria Pacifico:  Beautiful mall but with a lot of high end stores and a lot of stores that you can find in Europe and some in the states.

Patio Bullrich:  Another really nice mall with a mix of high end stores and some other local boutiques (some that also had locations in Palermo Soho).

Alto Palermo:  Largest mall, more middle of the road stores, particularly good for teens.  The day we were there was (one of the many) national holidays and it was PACKED!!  You would have thought it was a few days before Christmas!!  They did have a ton of stores and it was a good way for us to spend a rainy morning

Recoleta Feria:  Cool artisan fair with quite a number of stalls.  It was fun to look at the stuff and the kids did buy a few things, but I did not find anything I just fell in love with.  But, again, all the stall owners were extremely nice and it was amazing how many languages some of them spoke!!

San Telmo Feria:  We only made it here for a short time, and as everyone said it was mostly antiques for sale – but it was just a great place to be on Sunday afternoon as there were so many people out and about and they blocked off the main street for pedestrians only.  The day we went here was the day we arrived so a little tired, but really fun to see the city so vibrant!!

LAUNDRY  – there were a lot of laundries around the city and they would do your laundry for 10 pesos a bag!!!  It was a steal – drop it off in the morning and it will be done in the afternoon!!

We had a great time in BA but were anxious to move onto our next destination – Patagonia/El Calafate!!

Read about our time in Patagonia by clicking here.

Read about our night in Iguazu Falls here.

 

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