To the Home of the Tango!

Trip Start Mar 02, 2011
Trip End Jan 25, 2012

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Where I stayed
Palermo Viejo B&B

Flag of Argentina  , Capital Federal District,
Saturday, April 23, 2011

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Saturday, 23 April 2011
We got up, had a quick breakfast in the hostel and caught the city bus to the airport to head to Buenos Aires - South American's European city.

Buenos Aires is a first world city of 15 million people - nearly a third of all the people of Argentina.  It's the second largest city in South America; the largest is Sao Paulo.  Buenos Aires is comprised of 48 neighborhoods from the colorful, tango-filled La Boca to the Bohemian San Telmo to Recoleto - the monument-filled city center to the trendy Palermo with the cobblestoned streets of Palermo Viejo (Old Palermo) at its heart.
The city is the capital of Argentina, and it's located on the Rio de la Plata - a huge river that drains much of South America below the Amazon.  Where Buenos Aires is located, the river is over 40 miles wide, and it's still fresh water.  Uruguay, on the other side, is too far to away to see at all.  The ocean is over 120 miles downriver, so the river was nicknamed "Dulce Aqua" for "Sweet Water" since it feels like the ocean, but it's fresh.

Our goals for Buenos Aires were to:
1) see some of the famous city sights
2) eat (and drink) well - lots of great restaurants and Mendozan wines
3) tango at a milonga
4) shop a bit (mostly Gretchen's goal)

We arrived by plane from Bariloche, and being the seasoned travelers that we now are, completely forgot to get the address or phone number of the hostel we booked.  We did know the name - Palermo Viejo B&B.  So, we headed for an internet cafe to get the address.  It was too far to walk, so we looked at the buses but they defied figuring out in a timely manner.   We resigned ourselves to a taxi.  Not bad since we had our big backpacks, and it's nice to get a ride all the way to the place we're going to stay.  But they do tend to be expensive, and you never know if you're being taken when you first arrive in a new place.

And of course, to make matters worse, we transposed two digits in the address somehow when getting it off the Net and giving it to the cabbie.  So, instead of 4629 Niceto Vega.  We went to 2649 Niceto Vega - which as fate would have it, doesn't exist.

Of course, the cabbie didn't speak a word of English, but we soon figured out the problem.  He offered to go to his house to get a map (off the meter), but I suggest an Internet Cafe instead.  "There's one. Stop here."  I get out in traffic and go into the little cafe.

"Estoy perdido. (I am lost).  Hotel address esta malo.  (Wrong address for the hotel).  Puedo uso wi-fi busco hotel. (Can I use your wi-fi?)"

They give me the password, and I search for the hotel.  I see our mistake and run back to the waiting cab.  15 minutes later, we arrive at the hotel.  It has no signs at all, so it's a good thing we got the exact address.  We pay the cabbie the full fare plus a nice tip and get out at Palermo Viejo B&B.

I immediately go for a nice hour long run around our new neighborhood while Gretchen relaxes at the B&B (likely contemplating how she managed to screw up the address - or was it me?)  I head for the biggest city parque - Tres de Frebrero Parque.  Named after my birthday.  How could I not go?  Along the way, I see about a dozen men playing chess in a small square and some break dancers on a corner as well as a troupe of guys juggling at a major intersection and collecting tips when the light changed.

The park is enormous - full of lakes and statues and trees.  People are everywhere doing just about everything you can imagine - running, biking, skate boarding, roller blading, slack-lining, yoga, dog-walking, picnicking.  It was quite impressive.  There were stalls everywhere as well, renting and selling things.  What it didn't have was a place to go to the bathroom.  Damn,  Why didn't I go before I left the hotel?  Right.  So I direct my running to likely spots.  No luck.  After about 20 minutes, I was becoming more imperative.  Lots of trees, but too many people to really use one.  Finally, I see it.  Down a long road is the world's most reliable restroom provider… McDonalds!

I run there and head upstairs (yup, it's two stories).  The restroom is in the back.  There's a long line of women (of course), but no one at the Men's room.  Wait!  The cleaning guy is heading for it with a sign and a mop and bucket.  I cut him off and slip in just ahead of him with a quick "Perdon. Emergencia!"  Whew.

That solved, I head back outside to run back to the hotel.  Damn.  Which way did I come from?  In my hurry, I made quite a few turns, and now I'm a bit lost.  I could retrace my steps back to the park, but it's a long way.  I'm sure Gretchen is getting hungry. 

So, I pick a likely street and head along it.  20 minutes later, I cross a familiar avenue, and I'm found.  I run back towards the hotel passing through a great cobbled neighborhood full of packed bars, restaurants, and even a street fair.  I make it back at the B&B 10 minutes after that.

Ariel, our host gives us a recommendation for a nice place to eat, so we drop off our bags, clean up a bit and head out for dinner.  We found the street, but he couldn't quite remember the address, and we now can't quite remember the name.  Sound familiar?  After looking for about 10 minutes, we give up and head for the nice area that I'd run through.  We find a great, colorful restaurant called Lele de Troya and checked out the few tables with food.  It all looked pretty good, so in we went.  Had a great dinner and a nice walk back through the bars to the hotel.

Sunday, 24 April 2011
We got up, had the typical breakfast of bread, butter, fruit, and juice and decided to run for a bit and then sight see afterwards.  On Sundays, there's a famous market area in the Bohemian area of the city (Defensa Street) that is not to be missed, so we decided to walk to it (about 4 miles I guess) through the city center.

Along the way, we saw the grand avenues, some of the tree-filled plazas, and quite a few of the famous buildings that pepper the city.  We walked down embassy row as well, which is filled with some of the older, well-kept buildings in the city.

We eventually found ourselves down at Puerto Moreno - the new port that was built in the early 1900s (and then abandoned 10 years later).  Now, it's been renovated into a half business, half restaurant area along the old canal.  We found a great Italian cafe and had an amazingly authentic Italian meal.  Turns out that over half of the city's population is of Italian descent.  Who knew?!

We continued our walk to the Defensa market and were overwhelmed.  Defensa Street is a street full of quirky shops (mostly antiques).  On Sunday, the street is closed to traffic and the whole place becomes a sea of booth and blanket vendors selling their wares.  Defensa Street is easily over a mile long.  The whole street is consumed.  People also set up little areas and do the tango (for tips).  It was quite a sight.  After about a half mile, we had to leave the street before I killed somebody.  There were way too many people doing random, stupid things.

We opted for the subway home as it was getting late and we wanted to get to an 8:00pm tango class that we'd discovered on the internet.  We worked out the subway, bought some tickets, and got our our first train.  We had to switch trains at the center - Diagonal Norte.  Once there, we had to wait for the second train.  It arrived, and I started to get on.  Someone was crowding me from behind, and the woman in front of me just dropped her coat in the train doorway.  Wait.  I know this one.  Stop the mark (me), and then pick his pocket.  My hands immediately go for my pockets, and I stepped over the woman trying to pick up her coat.  Sure enough, I hit someone's hand in my pocket as my arms drop.  I take a seat, and Gretchen gets in just after me.  The man behind me and the girl with the coat quickly get out of the car as the doors close.  The little man (the one pushing behind me) was shaking his head as they got off.  Luckily, I still have my wallet, although even if they had gotten their hands on it, it was my decoy with only $20 and a canceled credit card in it.  We discussed the whole event with the other people in the car as the train pulled away.   

We got back to the hostel, cleaned up and went to the tango club.  Our address woes struck again.  We got there, and the doorman said (in Spanish) the lessons were at 5604 Cordoba' Ave.  Right. 10 blocks away.  We quickly walk to there, and there's nothing.  We try 5704.  Nope.  Damn.  What is it with this city and addresses?  We give up and head for the famous Don Julio's parilla (steakhouse).  We get a nice little table and have a wonderful meal complete with a fine wine from Mendoza.  The steaks in Argentina are everything they say they are!  Afterward, we return to the room.  I look up tango clubs to find another one.  I find it - at 5064 Cordoba'.  We actually walked by it on our way to the wrong address.  We decided to go to it the next night.

Monday, 25 April 2011
We planned to do a bicycle tour of Buenos Aires today, so we headed across the city again to Plaza San Martin.  Along the way, we toured the Recoleta Cemetery, resting place of the wealthy and powerful including several presidents and Evita Peron. Many of the crypts were quite impressive.  Some were run down and a few were even unlocked.

From there, we headed to the bike tour.  The bikes were single speeds but worked well enough as there are no hills in Buenos Aires.  The tour was great.  We learned a bit about the history of the city and some of its buildings.  We also cycled to La Boca - the self-proclaimed birthplace of the tango.  Everything there is painted in bright, lively (and different) colors.  It started out as a poor area that used leftover paint, and it quickly became a theme for the area.  We cycled there and then walked around for half an hour.  The whole place was pretty touristy, but there were tango dancers in every cafe and some in the street.  We intended to go back but never made it.

The cycle tour finished in Plaza Mayo - the original center of the city.  The plaza is ringed by large city buildings - all with their own unique history and architecture.

We took the subway home again, had a nice dinner and head out for our tango class.  We arrived in time for the class, but it was in full swing when we got there- and clearly NOT for beginners.  We watched for a bit and then headed to the somewhat famous Salon Canning milonga for the 10pm lesson listed on the internet.  Nope.  Wrong again.  The lesson was on Tuesdays (tomorrow) from 7-9pm.  Sigh.  One more mix up, and we might end up leaving Buenos Aires without every trying to Argentine tango.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

We parted ways this morning and agreed to meet up at 2pm at the Belle Arte (Fine Arts) museum.  I went for a 4 hour run around the city.  Gretchen went for a shorter run and then went shopping back in San Telmo.

We met at 2pm and toured the (free!) art museum: nice, but the European gallery (of Van Goghs, Monets and such) was closed for some reason.  We had a quick lunch and walked home to get ready for our last chance at a tango.

We got to Salon Canning at 6:30pm, and what a surprise, they actually were going to have a 2 hour beginner class!  Woohooo!  Oh, in Spanish. 

We had a blast and impressed the other students with our amazing abilities to make stuff up (as we really couldn't understand most of the instructions).  9pm came way too fast, but we did learn quite a bit and now want to take more lessons.  Guess we'll be returning to Bs As one day.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011
We got up around 7AM, had an early breakfast and caught a cab to the airport to head to Iguazu' Falls - one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World!
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