The other city that never sleeps.
Trip Start Aug 25, 2008
50Trip End Dec 16, 2008
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Take the energy and vibe of Manhattan, add architecture and cafes straight out of Paris... but sprinkle some ultra modern architecture here and there. Add hip boutiques, unique restaurants, and one of a kind art galleries. Next, remove every chain restaurant and store (except a McDonald's or two). Then permeate everything with a vibrant artistic sense. Finally make everything 1/3rd the price of NYC and you have Buenos Aires.
Buenos Aires literally means "Good Air" but I interpret it as "Good Vibe".
I stayed in a cool little guest house in the Microcentro neighborhood; the financial and government hub of the city. The guest house was built in the 1800's and remodeled loft-style. Steel, wood, exposed brick and many of the original features like mosaic tile floors and an antique elevator with a gate you pull shut. Plus it had a cool courtyard in the middle of the building and roof-top bar and balcony with killer views of the city ($15 per night if you're willing to share a bathroom).
Microcentro has the most Manhattan feel - the architecture is definitely European but the streets have a NYC edge. Buskers and street performers vie for spare change, artists spread blankets make jewelry as fast as they can sell it. Every third window is a European style pastry shop or cafe with people lingering over a cappuccino for hours. Coffee boys run up and down the streets delivering trays of cappuccino - how cool is that?
Argentina admittedly designed their capital similar to ours - and they have their own version of the Washington Monument. There are 40,000 taxis in this city - so (unlike NYC) getting a cab is a cinch, and $4 will get you across town.
Walk ten minute south and the streets turn to cobble stone, the buildings become shorter and life slows down. San Telmo is a neighborhood of antique stores, art galleries, and of course coffee shops. One antique store only sells cameras. Another only has antique watches. Another is filled with ivory carvings. I found one of those old fashioned bicycles with the huge wheel in front that I absolutely had to have... but shipping was going to an ordeal, so I passed.
Another ten minutes south and I arrived in Boca - home of brightly colored buildings, tango, and football. Boca was a ship building neighborhood and the shipyard workers constructed their homes out of corrugated steel painted with left over ship paint - so one building might have a bright red wall with blue doors and yellow trim. Another is lawn green. The colors are vivid - and being ship paint, it holds up to the elements.
And Boca is the home of Buenos Aires football (soccer). The mustard-yellow stadium is here and every corner seems to have a group of kids playing a pickup game.
North of Microcentro is the Retiro neighborhood - with fancy shopping, fine dining, and is where the Buenos Aires elite live (and die). Retrio has one of the coolest cemeteries I've ever visited with amazing mausoleums housing the Buenos Aires elite.
These mausoleums are massive - probably 12 to 20 feet tall and as you wander, you see past presidents, generals, and the very wealthy. If you peek in the doors, the mausoleums have stairs going down and you can see caskets of the entire family stacked neatly (and sometimes not so neatly) below.
Eva Peron (made famous by Madonna in the movie Evita) makes this her final resting place - and people line up to take their photo in front of her grave. Google Evita if you want to know the history.
Buenos Aires has the widest street in the world - with 16 lanes of traffic and a strip of park in the middle. At first, it was pretty cool - but it takes 2 light changes to cross the entire thing - and that's only if you are brisk. The novelty wore off after the second crossing and it became a little annoying :).
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