A Rough Guide to Buenos Aires
Trip Start Jan 13, 2010
91Trip End Dec 20, 2010
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Having spent just over a month in Buenos Aires and in anticipation of moving on to our next place we thought it would be fun to pull together our own little rough guide to the city including all the highlights and the quirks, some of which you will not find in the Lonely Planet Guide. So here goes, in no particular order:
1) Money / Dinero: The Argentine Peso is a strange beast. Very hard to actually get a hold off in the UK before you arrive here, once here however there is no problem what so ever in changing your US dollars. The quirky, and sometimes annoying thing about the Argentine currency is the total obsession with change (Cambio). This is due to the fact that the metal used to make the coins is actually worth more than the value of the coin. This has resulted in a shortage of coins across the country. This quite astonishing fact (who makes money out of a metal valued more than the coin you are making) results in every vendor across BA hoarding these precious coins like it was gold dust. The look of disgust you get when you hand over a note to pay for something and say "No Cambio" is priceless and also a bit scary.
Another thing to note about the money here is that the ATMs very rarely give anything other than 100 peso notes (roughly about £20). No-one, and I mean no-one, wants you to give them a 100 peso note to pay for anything - they hate giving change. An example of how ridiculous this can get was when I went into a popular high street clothing store in the centre of the city to buy a top priced at 24 pesos (roughly £5). When I went to the till I handed the lady a hundred peso note to pay for the thing and she told me that she wouldn't except the 100 and I would have to go and get change if I wanted to buy the top. You can imagine my reaction to this, however my vocab was limited to a reply of "bueno" (fine) and I walked off cursing in English that she should get her own blinking change being a shop and all. Go figure, eh! Having told this story to others I have found it's a very common occurrence.
2) A Love for Dogs: The Portenos love dogs. Everywhere you go you see the Portenos walking their dogs. One of the bizarre sites of the city is the dog walkers who are walking other lazy peoples dogs around the city or Palermo Park. They literally have up to fifteen dogs of various sizes and breeds strolling along. It's pretty cool to see. The downside to this love of canines is their poop on the street.
3) Ice Cream: Buenos Aires has amazing ice cream. And I mean seriously good ice cream (on par with stuff you get in actual Italy). This obviously stems from the Italian immigrants who settled here in the past but was a lovely little surprise for us who of course sampled a lot of ice cream for comparison purposes.
4) Asado: Argentina is famous of course for its Beef and in Buenos Aires the famous Asado (barbecue) grill is used in hundreds of Parrilla's across the city. You will have seen from previous blogs a few pictures of the steaks we have had while here. Absolutely amazing! So tasty and also incredibly cheap. One thing, they do here however that we didn't enjoy as much was the Parrilla platter which is basically different parts of the baca (cow) including mainly offal. We tried it, but have to say, it wasn't really to our liking (a bit rubbery to be honest, yuck). Our top two recommendations for steak in Buenos Aires would be El 22 & La Cabrera, both in Palermo.
5) Jamon y Queso: The Argentine people have an absolute obsession with ham & cheese. Unfortunately, this obsession is with processed ham slices and tasteless plastic cheese (such a shame). It is a rarity if you can find a sandwich in this city that doesn't have ham & cheese in it. Seriously, this gets old very quickly. They took this too far when on a recent bus journey then gave us a jam rolly polly without the jam. You guessed it, it was filled with ham & cheese!!!!!!!! Why oh why would would you do this??????????????
6) Food: I have above mentioned the fabulous steaks that you can get in the city. Unfortunately the rest of the food here tends to be pretty bland. Supermarkets in particular do not stock a wide range of foods (which means you have to be pretty creative when making your dinner) and a regular stable appears to be pizza and pasta (again the Italian influence coming through). You can find some good chinese restaurants around but there are only a small number of Indian restaurants and other cuisines to be found (and you have to really look for these).
7) Calor / Heat: Buenos Aires is a hot place to be in the summer. We visited in one of their hottest summers on record with regular daily temps in the mid to late thirties. Take note though, when it rains here, it proper rains with rivers flowing down the street kind of rain.
8) The widest streets in the world: One thing that the guide books won't tell you is how wide the roads are here. Buenos Aires officially has one of the widest streets in the world (9 de Julio). When walking around the city, it is not uncommon that you will come across a street that has 10 or 12 lanes of traffic flowing down it. To cross the road here (really its more like a motorway) you only have a wee green man to help you. Initially, quite a scary proposition when you are used to the traffic coming another way. Its a case of walk as fast as you can and hope for the best.
9) Cerveza / Beer: I take my hat off the Argentinian people for the big daddy gangster litre bottles of beer that you get here. One of my favourite things about the city. It is one of life's pure delights to sit in a beautiful city, sitting outside a lovely cafe, watching the world go by sharing a tasty, gold bottle of Iguana with some good company. We made it our mission to sample as many different varieties of cerveza as we could and here is our list of our favs ranked in order of wonderfulness: 1) Iguana, 2) Imperial, 3) Schnieder, 4) Quilmes & 5) Isenbeck.
10) Havana Alfajores: I think an institution in Argentina and loved across all of Buenos Aires is the little cake like, chocolate like, biscuit like alfajores made by Havana. The Portenos go made for them, seriously mad. They are nice but unlike anything that we have back home.
So there you have it. Ten random observations from our visit to Buenos Aires interlaced with our remaining photos that we have taken while here. We have had a brilliant time in this great city, which will hold some great memories for us. We now head west to Mendoza (the wine region) and then south to the Lake District and Patagonia for some more adventure!!!!!!!!
Chau for now!