The first time I’d really heard of Buenos Aires was after it was destroyed by a massive meteorite sent hurtling towards the earth after being knocked off course by a huge ball of plasma squeezed from the butt of a giant bug-creature many millions of miles away.
For those of you who haven’t watched “Starship Troopers” that might have sounded a little odd.
After a 14-hour bus journey from Mendoza we arrived in Buenos Aires a little sore and confused. We did pay for the top-dollar full-CAMA experience but it still didn’t rub too well with me, normally I really enjoy sleeping while being automatically moved around the planet but not on this bus journey.
We were dropped off in Retiro bus station, it was raining and we needed to take the SUBE (metro) only 4 or so stops down the line until it hit Avenue de Mayo. Unfortunately we completely failed at this. After being told that we couldn’t buy a SUBE card in the station itself (I mean WTF?) and our Spanish being particularly poor, we followed directions from various vendors pointing in different directions to all sorts of places without seeing a SUBE card anywhere. Eventually we took a cab.
The cab was actually a pretty good idea as the driver somehow managed to communicate to our English brains a few of the major attractions on the way – such as the Teatro Colón and the Great Obelisk on the 9 de Julio. These would prove to be handy markers for our next few days in the city.
Day 1 in Buenos Aires – Sleep, La Bomba de Tiempo, Drinks
As we were knackered after our overnight bus journey, we had a bit of a sleep after we checked in to our hostel.
That night we made our way via SUBE (after finally figuring out where to get a card!) to Once where we disembarked and made our way through the night streets of the Balvanera District (there are nicer districts to be sure) towards the Konex centre for La Bomba de Tiempo!
La Bomba de Tiempo is a superb drum show that takes place every Monday in an old warehouse style “cultural center” called Konex. We didn’t know what to expect when we turned up in the pouring rain, on one of the coldest nights Buenos Aires has ever experienced. It was so cold in fact, that Sarah had to urgently steal my socks for fear of losing both feet to frostbite (or so she said).
Once Sarah was slightly warmer (and I had gotten used to an unusual breeze around my ankles) we made our way into the “factory” to enjoy the show.
Day 2 in BA – Walk around Plaza de Mayo, Puerto Madera, Steak Dinner, Freeze
The night before was a warning sign that the weather was taking a turn for the worse. Day 2 which I believe was Tuesday, 6th September was perhaps the coldest day of the year for Buenos Aires. Worse still, it was absolutely pissing it down all day.
In standard British style, we stuck our middle finger up at the elements and wrapped up warm for a wander around the city closest to our Hostel (Montserrat). We walked down Avenida de Mayo (famous for it’s neoclassic architecture inspired by Paris & Madrid), passed the Casa Rosada (famous for being pink) and made our way to Puerto Madera (famous for being new and expensive).
I believe we made it to the canal before surrendering to the elements and seeking solace in a nearby McDonalds (when in Rome…).
That night we tucked in to some food in the interesting San Telmo area. The steak was pretty good so I’ll share the restaurant – Don Ernesto. They have scribbled writing on all the walls and quite a nice Flan + dulche de leche (or so Sarah says…). Buenos Aires at night is a sight to behold, and we enjoyed the monuments and buildings lit up in all their glory on the walk back to the hostel.
Day 3 in BA – Japanese Gardens, Museums, Tango!
On Wednesday the weather was starting to pick up a little so we decided to take a walk through the Museum area of Buenos Aires. I’m not entirely sure where it is, but it’s somewhere between Palermo and Recoleta. We took the SUBE to Plaza Italia and decided to walk to the Japanese Gardens before hitting the museums. This was a mistake.
The walk wasn’t the issue, it was the dog-shit. For some reason, residents of this area don’t believe in picking up after their dogs. Walking alongside the Zoo, instead of keeping our heads up for a quick glimpse of some strange animal, our eyes were constantly focussed on the ground 2 feet in-front of us. Fortunately we made it all the way to the MALBA without incident.
We were treated to another form of dog-shit when we turned up at the MALBA, the entire permanent collection was under refurbishment and unavailable to the public. Fortunately the Yoko Ono collection was available for a small fee. If you’ve never been to a Yoko Ono exhibition be prepared to have your head twisted off and your ears ripped-out by the absurdity of it. I’m not saying that in a bad way.
After MALBA we walked a few more blocks towards the Recoleta District in the hope of finding more museums. On the way we spotted the famous Floralis Genérica. A metal flower that opens and closes with the sun. It’s pretty epic to look at and, more importantly, free.
The final museum we saw was the “Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes”. It was OK.
That night we went to a Tango show. We’ve read elsewhere that “you should just go to the show” and “the food is shit but the dancing is great”. We ignored this advice and paid for a small meal with our show (2nd tier price – not the unlimited alcohol one). It was around £40-50 each and consisted of a group Tango lesson, dinner and show at the famous Piazzolla.
The tango lesson was fun, the instructors were fantastic and the group (of around 30 people) had a blast stamping on each others feet. The dinner was shit, or at least the food was – we had a choice between a bottle of water of a bottle of wine included in our meal. You can guess what we chose.
The show was fantastic. Seriously, it made up for the food and lasted over an hour with singing, musical solos and over 4 pairs of tango dancers (including our instructors). We definitely recommend it, but as we heard previously but ignored – just go for the show and lesson if you can!
Day 4 in BA – Coffee, Recoleta, Walking around Palermo
Even though we were in Recoleta the day before, we decided to leave it until the following day due to the weather. I believe the sun came out this day and the relief was etched into the face of every tourist and local in the city.
We decided to hit a coffee bar for breakfast – it’s quite a famous one called Cafe Tortini and was only 2 minutes walk from our hostel. The coffee was nice and the place had quite a bit of character (especially the stuffed ones in the corner). There’s a little museum piece hidden at the back too, to show off the history.
After this we decided to WALK from Café Tortini to Recoleta Cemetery. Maybe it was the sun, maybe it was the coffee but either was a 45 minute walk was begun.
We decided to go through Plaza del Congresso, the other end of Avenida de Mayo that we hadn’t seen – the buildings there were pretty impressive, nice little square, some fountains and riot police. Yep, riot police.
While we were in Argentina we must have seen around 4 or 5 public demonstrations, 3 of them in Buenos Aires. I think it’s something to do with the economy and maybe the government sneaking some cash away or cutting back on public spending. Either was it pissed off quite a few people. Sarah and I had to quick-march past quite a few protesters, flinching as firecrackers and other explosives were detonated just yards from where we were walking.
Am I making Buenos Aires sound like hell? I don’t mean to, it’s probably the best city in South America (or so far as we’ve explored) and we really like it – unfortunately these things just happen in any major city.
Recoleta Cemetery is amazing, go there it’s free (or you can pay a few pesos for a map). It’ll take around an hour to see all the best graves & tombs (that sounds weird). Just be respectful and don’t go digging around anywhere.
After the Cemetery we hit the streets nearby for some food, got ripped off for a burger that cost us extra for every topping (read the bloody menu Rob!) and then decided to hit Palermo – a hipster area of town. We had a nice walk around here and some (cheap!) drinks at a nice café.
Day 5 in BA – La Boca, Tango, Asado & Wine
La Boca is a place that you do not walk to. We read many reports of this online while we were researching how to get there. It’s only just south of San Telmo which is only just south of Montserrat (where we were staying). I was tempted to chance it but Sarah was immovable. We got the bus.
The bus was cheap, fast and full of tourists. We were dropped off at the harbour right outside the main square and spent a good hour or so looking at all the buildings and shops. It reminded us of Camden (all those big shoes sticking out of walls etc) and the vivid paint-jobs applied to all the buildings (Proper-hipster-like).
We were still a little stung from our last rip-off meal near Recoleta the day before but decided to chance a restaurant on one of the main roads. A couple of beers only. As it happened, we were treated to a tango show and musical performance for over an hour. And were only charged for two large beers – exactly as we had hoped!
The tango was great and as a bonus, a member of the audience got up and sang a local Argentinian number. A great way to cap-off our time in La Boca.
On the way back on the bus, we decided to get off early and walk through San Telmo from the south – visiting the Antiques and food market. Feeling quite proud of ourselves from our value-for-money beers in La Boca we decided to visit a cheap cafe for some lunch. Somehow, this again cost us around £30 – when we were thinking more like £20. Restaurants and Cafes really are backpacker budget killers of epic proportions.
Dinner was cheap at night, for our sins we had asado and beer at the hostel, it was much better and cheaper than the cafe.
Day 6 – Shopping District, iPhone Cable, Meet our Tour Group
Our last day solo in Buenos Aires. We were due to meet our tour group later in the day at around 6pm so we had a whole day to visit a few more areas. We spent most of the time in the shopping district near our hostel which is pretty much Avenida de Florida and surrounding areas.
We had to make an important purchase. For some reason when you travel, knock-off iPhone cables seem to just give up on you. We had 2 knock-off iPhone charging cables and they both broke on the same day. I believe this is a conspiracy by Apple. They make their own cables (£40) to last – and I believe they own every other knock-off company out there and engineer those cheaper brands to fail after either a certain amount of time or through different voltages.
I have no evidence for this but I’m pretty confident.
Anyway, £40 down the hole for one cable we then went looking for backpacks. Backpacks in Buenos Aires cost a fortune. For the cheapest, non-brand 20-litre backpack you’re talking nearly £45. As a Brit, it really makes you appreciate those cheap Sports shops back home.
So there you have it – an interesting stay in Buenos Aires. A very nice city and one I’d definitely think about going back to – making sure I have plenty of money and time to do it all over again!