Buenos Aires | Argentina

Posted by on May 29, 2006

We arrived in this teaming southern hemisphere metropolis in the early morning, after a long flight from New York to Miami, and Miami to Buenos Aires. We were thrilled that we could get in to our hotel room right away, and we made a massage appointment for as soon as possible. This kind of luxury is almost a necessity, after almost missing the flight from Miami, (nerve-racking) and the overnight flight, (body-racking).

Buenos Aires is a long way from Dutchess County.  But you’d probably be surprised, at how many of our local riding and fishing and climbing enthusiasts have been to Argentina.

The obvious, and probably only, entry point by air to Argentina is Buenos Aires, and that’s where we landed after many too many hours in the air.  I must say that American Airlines made it fairly pleasant.

One blessing about a trip to South America is that, while you will have fatigue, you will not have jet lag.  Believe me, that is a blessing.

I want to tell you about Buenos Aires, because I think it’s a place where a lot of people will decide to go. What with the current high price of the Euro, the British pound, and oil, the destination of choice for the next few months should be South America, and most especially Argentina.

Buenos Aires is a marvelous place to start.  It is an unusually cosmopolitan, European city. Therefore, it eases the culture shock for norteamericanos traveling out of our own part of the hemisphere.  Except for the fact that a lot of people all around you are speaking Spanish, you might at times think you were in New York City, or Paris, or, especially Madrid.  In fact, there is a much quoted adage that Portenos (as Buenos residents are called) are “Italians who speak Spanish, dress like the French, and wish they were English.”

The food and wine in Buenos are first rate and so is the shopping.  Even better, the prices are staggeringly cheap.  As a rule of thumb, you can assume you will pay one-third of what you would pay in the state of New York for almost anything.

High-end hotels are an exception, as they simply charge everything in dollars.  If you do a bit of searching, however, you can get incredible bargains in hotel and apartment accommodations.  Right across the street from the admittedly superlative Alvear Palace, where we stayed in abject luxury, there is a suite hotel named Ulisse, where one could get a very nice suite for $160 double.  Another well priced hotel in a great nearby location is the Plaza Francia, with about the same prices for suites.  These hotels are all in the best area of the city, which is called Recoleta.

The area is named for the Recoleta Cemetery, where the famous Evita (Eva Peron) is buried. The cemetery is said to be the most expensive real estate in Buenos Aires, and consists of a small city of mausoleums, where one can fairly easily get lost. It’s a major tourist attraction, though a bit creepy. And the rest of Recoleta is mostly very chic and beautiful, with lovely trees along the wide streets, most of them flowering.

Buenos Aires is a vast city, so I would heartily recommend at least a half day tour, which we did, to give ourselves an overview. It is the eighth largest city in the world, with three million people in the city and twelve million people in Buenos Aires Province. Our morning tour was extremely worth while, as we got to see the Central area, Palermo, San Telmo, and La Boca, and Puerto Madero, all very different areas, each one worth a day or two of exploration on its own.  Seeing all the different areas gave me an appreciation of the very special qualities of each area of the city.

We spent a lot of time in Recoleta, I must confess, since there were many stupendous shopping bargains there, a lot located in shops in the Patio Bullrich, a major upscale shopping center just a couple of blocks from our hotel.  On Florida Street, (a pedestrian street) there are also many wonderful shops, including Casa Lopez, where the most beautiful leather goods can be bought at a fraction of their price in New York. My only regret, in retrospect, is that I didn’t spend more time in some of the other less familiar areas, where I might have learned more about how Portenos really live.

We had some extremely good meals, many of which were accompanied by Malbec wine, for which Argentina is famous.  The most popular dishes in Buenos Aires are beef, beef, and more beef. Even the empanadas are usually full of beef, or maybe cheese, which is another national taste. A surprise to me was the fact that pasta is also a great favorite in Buenos Aires, and there are superlative Italian restaurants.

At places like Cabana das Lilas, a modern version of a Buenos Aires institution, now located in the newly refurbished port area of Puerto Madero, we had marvelous food and wine, at about one-third of the New York prices.

I think our favorite restaurant was one called Tomo Uno in the Panamericano Hotel on the widest street in Argentina, called the Nuevo de Julio, which is most often seen in photos of Buenos Aires. This restaurant has been in the same family for generations, and service was excellent, as were the food and especially the Luigi Bosca wines.  We later learned the Luigi Bosca is a middle range wine in Argentina, but it certainly tasted wonderful to us.  In fact, we had trouble finding bad wines, and we had even more trouble finding overpriced wines, – (another good reason to go to Argentina – but more about that in a later column.)

There is just no way to really describe Buenos in a short column like this, and each person comes back from a place like Buenos Aires with a different impression.  My impressions are so good that I’m willing to suffer the long flight to go back soon.  And I hope you are intrigued enough to consider this fabulous affordable city.

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