Buenos Aires - The Last City on Our Travels

Trip Start Jan 01, 2008
Trip End Dec 29, 2008

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Sunday, November 30, 2008

Our last day in Uruguay so we check out of the B&B in Colonia and heave our backpacks the 500m or so along the waterside to the ferry terminal and check in for the 1 hour ride to our "final" destination of Buenos Aires.  The immigration process is remarkably quick, in fact the quickest I have ever seen anywhere in the world!  On one desk there is the Uruguay chap who stamps us out of the country and immediately slings our passports along to his Argentine counterpart at the next desk who stamps us in.  If only crossing all borders could be this painless.

An hour later, on the very comfortable and spacious ferry we are across the Rio del la Plata and disembarking in our "final" destination of Buenos Aires.  A 20 minute cab ride later and we are in our apartment in Palermo checking in with the apartment owner Christine. Finally, after a year on the road we get to unpack completely.  It seems really strange to completely empty our backpacks rather than thinking - do I really need to change my clothes today or is it just too much hassle?  We are really glad we took the decision to spend our last month of traveling in an apartment rather than continuing to traveling around.  It is surprisingly cheap by comparison with hostels and guest houses, particularly when you factor in the fact that we now have the facilities to cook our own food. 

The apartment itself is in a great location about a 2 minute walk from Agenda Santa Fe and the Linea D Subtle station. We bought stored ticket Subtle cards @ 9 pesos for 10 trips and found the Subtle very easy to use and great for getting around town. The apartment is also very close to a lot of parks (including the zoo). One is only about 100m from the apartment and is populated by hundreds of cats which are apparently fed by old ladies in the district. The one negative thing I have to say about the area is that there is dog crap everywhere (nearly as bad as Paris!) so you really do have to watch where you walk at times!  Dogs are in great evidence here. Everyone seems to own one despite the fact that most people, at least in central BA seem to live quite small, high rise apartments (hence the reason for all the dog crap I suppose).

The Palermo area also has lots of shops in which to by groceries etc. and there are also a number of Carrefour  and Disco supermarkets where we can by pretty much most things we need. As we are here for a month we head off to the biggest supermarket in Palermo which is a 15 minute walk away and stocks a huge variety of foods and other stuff  (it even has an international section - in case you are missing anything from home! no English section though and hence no Marmite! ). As we have been on the road for over a year now (BA is our last stop on an around the world trip) it is nice to start living a comparatively normally life for a while so we hold back on the sightseeing for a while in favor of just wandering the streets and getting a feel for the city.

The Sunday after we arrive we take a walk through the deserted streets to Recoleta which takes us about 20Min's. We have a look around the Design Centre and continue our quest of visiting the Hard Rock Café in each country we visit.  This one was a an absolute disaster. After three attempts get our food served hot we gave up and walked out.   So much for the "Love all Serve All" signs you see in every one!

The walk through Palermo to Recoleta is nice as, being a Sunday, there is very little traffic around and we get the chance to have a good look around the streets . On balance we feel we have made the right choice location. Recoleta is nice and seems a bit more upmarket, but it seems to have a very high concentration of tourists (maybe it was just that day) and the prices in the restaurants seemed a lot higher in the restaurants. Our first impressions? What an amazing city!

Although we do intend to cook our own food a lot of the time we do not want to miss out on the gastronomic capital of South America.  At one restaurant we noticed the following dish on the menu on which they had kindly provided English translation;

"Aromatic tomato and cardamom flan with sauteed mushrooms and a parmesan tuile " written in Spanish was instead translated as:

"Aromatic tomato and cardamom custard warm skipped of fungi crispy of parmesan roofing tile."

Hmmm - maybe there is a business waiting for us in English menu writing? If only our Spanish was good enough.

One restaurant we have been to which is quite close to the apartment is La Payuca, a typical parrilla (meat) restaurant.  We decided to share a bife de chorizo (rump or sirloin steak) between us.  The steak was big, but not as large as some we have seen, but was quite simply the best steak we have ever eaten anywhere in the world. The waiter delivered the steak to our table and then proceeded to cut it into two with a spoon! Now that is just showing off!
On another day we visited the docks area of BA known as Puerto Madero - This is the comparatively new development which was modeled on London's docklands. It is a mixed used development of residential offices and restaurants it is very modern with lots of skyscrapers and is set between the docks (digues)on one side and an eco park and the river on the other. We spent a long afternoon here looking around and looking at some of the apartments for sale (very impressive!). In some respects it reminded us of our old home back in the UK and we felt very much at home here.

There are lots of very nice restaurants along the docks and strangely prices seemed lower than in places like Palermo. We did return the next day to look at some more apartments and stayed for lunch at Siga la Vaca (translates to 'Follow the Cow') an all you can eat parrilla restaurant (45 pesos weekdays). Like most all you can eat restaurants this is not Haute Cuisine, but the meat was excellent and provided the opportunity to sample the various different cuts and achuras (innards) at leisure. Included in the price is a bottle of wine - EACH!, water and a dessert. The place was very busy but service was good and my only complaint was that they did not provide a place to lie down after the meal! It would be wise not to eat for a week before visiting this restaurant.  I have never seen so much meat being eaten in one place.  The restaurant was very large  but was still packed and with a large queue waiting.  They must get through a whole cow an hour here!

Buenos Aires is a huge city, I think with something like 15 million inhabitants (i.e. twice the size of London).  Bus travel is cheap and buses are ubiquitous but the problem is finding out where each of the many routes go!  So far we have stuck to walking and the Subtle (underground) which, unlike the London Underground or NYC subway, has only 5 lines all of which end up in Plaza de Mayo in the Micro Centerer.  But the system is efficient, cheap and clean, but incredibly crowded in the rush-hour.  It is much the same as my old commute on the Northern Line in London, except that the people are a lot friendlier and more polite!  The men actually get up to offer their seat to women getting on the train regardless of age etc. Carolyn was particularly please to be offered a seat twice  in one day!  This was on our trip our on Linea A which is the one line remaining which runs the old wooden cars.  We get on at Peru and ride to the end of the line at Primera Junta and back all for 90 centavos - 20p. The cars are wonderful, all old wood paneling and seats and brass fittings. The plan is to replace them with modern carriages which seems a real shame. One interesting feature of these old cars is that whilst they close automatically, they have to be opened by the passengers which they often do whilst the train is still moving at speed!  This can be a bit disconcerting if you happen to be standing in the vicinity of the door in rush hour with people pushing all around!

Yesterday we decided to check out La Boca, home of the Boca Juniors that Maradonna played for (he is still worshiped here and is second only to Evita in popularity. We have heard many different reports on the area, most saying how touristy and overpriced it is. Not being a a great fan of "touristy" places we don't hold out too much hope of being impressed but we jump on the #29 around the corner from the apartment in Agenda Santa Fe. This is a great bus to use if you want to see the city on the cheap (1peso=20p), the journey takes 45 Min's and winds through Palermo, Centro, Once, Monserrat,Puerto Madero, San Telmo, most of the key areas of the city before we arrive at the end of the line in La Boca.

Touristy it may be but we really like this place, the buildings are VERY colourful and many have mannequins hanging out the windows, murals on the walls etc. There are tango dancers in the streets and cafes all very picture postcard and pretty much most peoples idea of what Buenos Aires is like I suppose. We are glad that we came on a Monday afternoon when it was relatively quiet and not at the weekend when I am sure it must be mayhem!

We head back to Palermo on the same bus but this time it takes a different route and twice as long as it is now rush hour. The bus gets really packed (and very hot) as we pick up passengers along the route and we finally arrive at our destination 90Min's later more than a little "moist"!
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