A great opportunity has come up for me in Uruguay, my money problems kept me in Santiago for a few days longer than anticipated; and the sleeper bus took 2 days rather than the advertised 18 hours*. All these factors have limited my time in Argentina’s capital to just two days and a night; but I’ve set my hopes on a trip to Antarctica with G-Adventures in 2018/19 so I know I’ll be back to revisit Buenos Aires before driving down through Patagonia en route to Ushayia before boarding a boat to the Antarctic.
*anyone thinking of catching a Ahumada Internacional coach from Chile to Brazil, don’t. Great food options on board but a complete lack of customer service and gringo upcharging combined with the slowest ever border crossing formalities.
I had to be meticulously time efficient, so if you’re ever here and ridiculously strapped for time and money, you can just follow this template!
Breakfast at: Coffee Town in San Telmo. Because of the bus delay, I had another ‘flight style’ breakfast on the coach, but if I had been in the city I would have grabbed brunch (I can’t afford both!) from a cafe I would later spot whilst walking through the markets. Breakfast options are pretty similar wherever you go in the city but Coffee Town had the most stomachable prices. You’ll usually get a selection of small pastries (bizcotchas), some wacky marmalades (banana and peach has become my favourite) and some great coffee, although nothing will top Central America’s. Dulce con leche is a firm favourite of tourists and locals alike to spread over a bizcotcha, which is made by boiling a can of condensed milk until it caramelizes. The coach’s offering of a pack of biscuits and an apple didn’t compare.
Get lost in: Cemetario de Recoleta. I’ve never seen such an extravagant graveyard as the one that sits in the middle of Buenos Aires. It’s like it’s own town, with ‘street names’ and peddlers offering maps to help you navigate around the one-storey high maze of magnificent family tombs. I chose not to pay for a map and instead let myself get lost; wandering around, aimlessly taking lefts and rights until I eventually ended up back at the gates. There are guided tours available which is probably more insightful into the celebrity bodies that lay inside the grounds; but I had a nice wander anyhow. (Stay away from the cats, they literally sleep amongst the skeletons: finding holes in the coffins to catch their nightly zee’s – and probably fleas!).
Take a lunchtime pint in: Temple Bar, Recoleta. A quirky craft beer pub, that wouldn’t be out of place in hipster London, breaks up the walk back from the cemetery to whatever stop comes next. It looked like they have locally brewed and guest beers on rotation with some interesting flavours and aromas: I opted for a refreshing (quite ale-y compared to my usual lager-y) pint of La Mercada: brewed in neighboring Uruguay, smelling of cinnamon but tasting strongly of infused apples.
Don a blue and yellow jersey at: Bombalero stadoum. I planned to run to the home of the world renowned Boca Juniors (I remember a great friend, Dickens, and I staying up as children to watch them play on some obscure sports channel during ‘sleepovers’) on my second morning in Buenos Aires as it was a nice 10km round trip. Unfortunately the previous day’s ferry was unable to complete the crossing to Uruguay due to high winds and I was advised to run there instead to guarantee my ticket, putting riddance to my plans. However, any football fan in Bs.As should take 90minutes to go and soak up the incredible atmosphere that the ground kicks out- just be wary of pickpockets in the surrounding La Boca area!
Drink in: Palermo district. This is the up-and-coming area of Buenos Aires where the young professionals gouge on posh burgers and sip expensive cocktails: too pricey for my budget (The people I dormed with paid $10 entry for the bars!) but worth a visit for anyone on holiday/in Buenos Aires without it being part of a 7 month trip.
Dance in: Domilongo Tango bar. Argentinians and Uruguayans bicker over who invented tango dancing, and I agree with the Argie’s: it’s widely assumed to be part of the bigger countries culture, specifically from the working class inhabitants of San Telmo. A professional couple were advertised to be dancing at Domilongo club and we forgot how late everything starts (Argentinians don’t go ‘out out’ until 3am!), making the classic gringo mistake of arriving at 10pm. We killed the time with a dance class for an hour and then practised with the locals until the pro’s took to the stage. Domilongo has its own bar and kitchen too, so we didn’t get too hungry/thirsty!
Sleep in: Voyage Recoleta on Calle Junin. At just $10 a night, which seems expensive for a dorm but is actually pretty reasonable in an expensive country like Argentina, I’m greeted by classic Spanish architecture. With the ridiculously high ceilings and sparse layout, I can see why some Hostelworld reviews describe the place as “pokey”, but I make a conscious effort to make as many friends as possible to make my time in Bs.As as enjoyable as possible. The story of my week without money, surviving on rice and the generosity of strangers, attracts the attention of a core group of an Irishwoman, two Aussies and a Dutch lad- and my experiences of Voyage Recoleta provides a counter argument to the previous ones declaring it “antisocial and lonely”.
Breakfast at: the hostel! My budget was always around $6US for a bunk in a hostel, but I can stomach going over it when breakfast is included. It’s only bread and jam, but I can eat it until the cows come home.
Dinner at: Communinad de Cisne. Talking of cows, the steak in this cosy restaurant-cafe was excellent value for money. “When in Rome…”, I whispered as I broke my 2017 travel promise of ‘no more meals out’- but the Aussies were right, you can’t come to Argentina without eating steak! At only $150pesos (£7.50), the portions were incredible and the medallions of rump were so tender they almost fell apart after prodding with a fork. ‘Slightly too medium’ was the verdict from my side of the table, but not everyone likes their meat ‘still moo’ing’ rare; and if we were going to go looking for steak connoisseurs we would have had to pay three or four times more. Communinidad de Cisne (Community of Swans?!) was perfect for 5 backpackers.
Buy souvenirs at: San Telmo market. Every Sunday, the streets of San Telmo are lined with market merchants selling everything from padlocks to miniture models of the Pope, from llama hats to llama hooves. I was particularly tempted by a mate (a herbal tea with added caffeine that every Argentinian daren’t leave the house without clutching a litre of!) cup fashioned out of an cows leg -complete with fur- but unfortunately my budget can’t stretch to such treats. I’m sure my mum would have loved it in the kitchen? The Aussies and Dutch guy splash out on some goods to take back home.
A whistle stop tour of a huge city (largely on foot with a morning run thrown in for good measure!) has left me absolutely shattered with an aching knee, and I catch some sleep laying down on the carpet of the BuqueBus ferry as it takes me across to my next watery border. Heading to Uruguay!
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