Day 1: Walking around BA & Cafe Tortoni
Trip Start Dec 02, 2008
33Trip End Dec 26, 2008
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Where I stayed
Art Suites, Wednesday, December 3rd
We've arrived! Using our frequent flier miles on American Airlines was terrific and worth saving up for; we had an overnight flight with sleeper beds. With a dose of the sleeping pill Ambien, we were able to get about 6 hours of sleep. We could have gotten longer if we had passed on the meal and just went straight to sleep, but the menu looked so good and it was only 8:30 PM Eastern Standard Time. We had some Argentinian Malbec wine and toasted our upcoming trip! Then followed a surprisingly good meal of shrimp and salmon appetizer, fresh salad, onion soup and medallions of lamb. We were woken up 45 minutes before landing for a light breakfast. Uneventful and comfortable.
Our luggage promptly appears in baggage claim, much faster than it would for flights arriving in Miami. Following TripAdvisor advice (www.tripadvisor.com), we pass by the currency exchange booth within Customs and go to the Banco Nacional on our right. Here we get a substantially better exchange rate. Then before the arrival hall, look to your left. There are at least three remise companies (Tienda Leon, World, VP) located there who will provide private car transport to the city. From TripAdvisor we knew that all accept credit cards, the price will be around 100 pesos (the prices keep going up) and all have cars readily available. We choose one, pay with credit card, and are quickly shepherded to a well cared for private car. The driver is very friendly and we have an opportunity to try out our Spanish here in Argentina. We have arrived!!!!
The Art Suites, in Recoleta, is a very friendly place. We found out about this apartment through a recommendation on TripAdvisor and it is a find. We immediately feel welcome and comfortable. Angelina is ready with our paperwork and offers advice on the areas to see, including the address of Movistar (similar to AT&T) for getting a sim card with a local phone number and minutes for our international unlocked cell phone. Segundo offers to help us find places for guitar music in the evenings
Before this trip, Harvey & I had talked about hiring a concierge to help us coordinate finding music for our week, or a private guide for seeing the city, but we had decided that we would be spontaneous and search these things out while here. So, things are falling into place!
As we are working through possibilities with Segundo, our apartment is being readied for us. And now, we get our bags into our apartment and head off to find a Movistar location that is closer to our location than going to the Movistar main location in the Microcenter business district. We walk and we think we find the intersection that Angelina has marked on the map, but no Movistar! In the hustle and bustle of Sante Fe Street, with lots of everything - shops, people, bus and car traffic - sites and sounds - we decide to duck into Staples and see if they carry sim cards
Time is moving on and we have to be at the Alvear Hotel at 2 PM for the city tour that I have pre-booked with Eternautas; I had reserved this via the internet from home (www.eternautas.com). The concept is to get an overview of the city and its history, before going off exploring on our own. We need to get a bite to eat before the tour and we need to find the Alvear! We will get the sim card tomorrow, no big deal.
We walk across town and find the Alvear, then a café close by for a light lunch. It seems that no matter where you turn, in your field of sight, you will see a café, confiteria (sweets), bar or restaurant! No worries about ever finding a place to eat! At this café, the salads on the menu didn't have lettuce. Okay, let's give this a try...so we choose one with apples, walnuts, and pineapple. We decide to share this as well as a mini pizza. I'm going with "agua con gas" (bubbly water) and Harvey is getting "coca cola dieta" - see, we're getting a hang of this. Harvey takes out his handy dandy Spanish to English dictionary that he downloaded before the trip to his iphone. This is one handy application on this trip and highly recommended!
At lunch, we talk about some first impressions. First, the weather is fantastic -sunny and in the low 70's. People are wearing everything - from jeans, slacks, skirts and look "normal" - I mean that we had had the impression that portenos were very fashion oriented and stylish
It's 1:50 PM, local time, and we step into the lobby of the Alvear Hotel
Harvey says, let's go to Movistar and get the cell phone sim. We decide to try to find that Movistar store on Sante Fe again, which we do in front of the Alto Mall. We are getting to know Buenos Aires by walking and walking and walking some more! We are told that we have to go to the main location of Movistar in the downtown business center by taxi.
Well, we can now give our feet a rest. We look for black and yellow radio taxis with a sign on top of the car and a visible meter and wave one down. The driver is very friendly and we have a bit of conversation in Spanish as we go to the very busy downtown area. We are dropped off in front of the Movistar office and as we walk in a greeter with a blackberry in hand asks us what he can do to help us. And with such patience, he listens and we get across that we need a sim card - and no this i9 that we have, that looks just like an apple iphone is not an iphone. We wait for our name to be called, and this next customer service person speaks very little English also, but hand gestures and with the i9 in hand, we all understand each other. He sets up our account for us and sends us over to the cashier to pay. The cashier is really nice and gives us his email address should we have any questions about the phone service! He tells us that we can buy a recharge card at any time and that once we are customers we should get text messages with special promotions for minutes. Today, the special promotion was buy 50 minutes and get an extra 40 minutes. The young German guy who was just ahead of us at the counter overhears the news about the special (since of course we have struck up a conversation with him while waiting). He is upset that he did not get the special because he only bought 30 pesos of time
We are now back at the Art Suites. Whew! With our working cell phone, we call Eternautas and tell them that we will take the 2 PM city tour tomorrow. We are text messaged back shortly with our confirmation and the name of our guide. It is convenient to have the cell phone!
Next, I look over my list of BA possibilities that I had prepared at home for a place we can go to tonight for some music. We decide on Café Tortoni as it is an historical location with traditional tango music and dancing, not a large spectacle or modern show. We like to go to small unpretentious places and it seems like if we go here we will know that we have arrived in Buenos Aires! We are now very tired and want some help in making the reservations. We do not trust our broken Spanish to clearly communicate over the phone for reservations. We ask Sergio, the doorman and concierge at Art Suites, to make the reservations for us and to arrange for a taxi
Founded in 1858, Café Tortoni is the oldest coffee shop in Argentina; it has lots of wood, glass, pictures and beautiful lighting. We are seated at a small table in a small theatre in one of the side rooms off the main café. Zoey from British Columbia is seated with us. Zoey is a Canadian who has spent the last six years traveling the world. She moves from country to country as her visa expires. We enjoy the show, which has a male singer, and two tango dancers gliding gracefully across the stage. All & all, a pleasant way to end our first day in Buenos Aires!
We are overtired and ready for bed. Signing off!
See our photos for today!