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Trip Report Trip notes for Buenos Aires

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Below follows our trip notes for 3 days in Buenos Aires:

Day 1

Arrived BA around 08:00 and wizzed through customs with no bags to collect as we travelled with hand luggage (carry on) only.
Took Tienda Leon (bus company) transfer at 09:00 for AR$95 pp (paid by credit card then, as hadn't exchange money yet) and made one connecting stop (no waiting time even) where we transferred from the large bus to a minibus before being dropped off at our hotel, NH Crillon.

Didn't request early check-in (would've been smart, but no need as it turned out) and they hotel already had our room ready - "upgraded" - nothing special but no less than we'd expect from a 4 star hotel either. Only one person at reception fluent in English, but free wi-fi and Google translate did the job where required. (The next morning was our first breakfast with fair variety, although not quite full buffet style - couldn't complain as breakfast was included at the price and we loved the fresh juices!)

Caught up with some flight sleep hours lost and ventured out late afternoon to Calle Florida with the goal to exchange USD into pesos. We originally booked USD with our GBP online through Travelex (minimum 4 hours before travel) and got a much better rate (15% savings) than if we showed without having booked and paid for the USD cash. So we ended up bringing USD over, making sure we got crisp, clean, unmarked $100 bills at Travelex (apparently preferred by the "cambio" agents selling pesos in the dollar blue market, although they didn't look extra impressed when I pointed this out).

Was offered 9.5 in the street and negotiated to 9.6 pretty easily (I was approached by at least another 15 "agents" in the next hour...huge demand for USD it seems) and didn't feel it was fair to push my price any closer to the quoted (I checked it live on my phone) rate of 9.80 bid for USD. We counted the money ourselves and checked every note for a watermark and threaded foil but turns out it was unnecessary (would still do it every time though!).

Walked up and down Calle Florida and explored the surrounding area by foot before we relaxed in our hotel with an "in-room" dining of cheese and sausage bought off the street and wine bought at a nearby shop, before we decided to go out to a club later that evening. Went to Crobar in Palermo which opened at 01:30 and we ended up back at the hotel around 5am. Too young a crowd for our liking but enjoyed it nonetheless (apart from the smoke - made me appreciate European laws banning smoking in public places all over again!) Drinks were slightly cheaper than European prices. The crowd were unpretentious (both dress and behaviour) and the music enjoyable. Obviously the clubbing bit won't be to everyone's liking, but I thought to mention it nonetheless. Taxi there cost around AR$50 odd, rounded up to AR$60. Taxi back tried us for a fixed AR$90 unmetred price but we refused and stubbornly got out straight away (I had a few drinks in by then - watch out, drinks are doubles by default, so me ordering double "doubles" made sure we got home earlier than we would have otherwise!) and easily found a metered taxi which cost just over AR$60 back...although can't seem to remember the exact price! :)

Day 2

Hard awakening early afternoon but a few bottles of water later and we got onto an open-top bus at 3pm at the top of Calle Florida (where it meets Av Santa Fe at Plaza San Martin). Wasn't the recommended Yellow open-top bus which was fully booked at AR$140 pp but instead another (Buenos Aires L'Open Tour) at AR$150 pp which makes 2 stops (20 minutes each, the first at Playa de Mayo, the second at La Boca) along a 90 minute brief city tour. Not a big fan of these open-bus tours normally but thoroughly enjoyed it (ended up going with a nice crowd of South Americans) as a helpful quick intro to the city. We did their "red" tour (as it's marked on their map, and follows next).
We departed Plaza San Martin and crossed Calle Florida before making it onto the Av 9 de Julio (broadest avenue in the world, apparently) past the Obelix and got off for 20 minutes around Plaza de Mayo which was just about enough. Until this point we were the only 2 on the bus (fun on its own) and were joined but a happy crowd of South Americans upon re-embarking. Travelled to La Boca where we got off and was escorted to an art gallery where we were to meet up 20 minutes later. We walked straight off to La Boca (not wasting time at the gallery - not our thing) and enjoyed the hussle bussle and tango dancers at the restaurants - 20 minutes wasn't enough and we decided to come back again if we could. En route back we asked to be dropped off near the Hotel Faene (apparently the classiest in BA and certainly lived up to such expectations). Had a light meal and a drink (European prices) and had a walk round the bar, corridor and pool (me in a T-shirt and jeans but they didn't seem to care too much about my severe lack of dress sense). Took a cab straight across town to Palermo's social hot spot where we had a drink at Madagascar / Brujas. Was promised free wi-fi (wi-fi didn't work in the end), was given the wrong beer (not too bothered) and my wife's pina collada was not "fresh" as promised - enjoyed the atmosphere but no tip for them! Asked for a proper Argentinean steak restaurant and was direct to Estilo Criollo around the corner. My steak was just fine (the waiter laughed when I asked for "medium", as it they wouldn't know that "medium" is the only way to prepare steak) but he was grumpy after I turned down his recommended AR$340 wine for a AR$125 wine. My wife's "Quinoa & goat's cheese salad" arrived without quinoa or goat's cheese, and the waiter was quite pushy on receiving a tip, tapping on the bill saying "servicio, servicio". Needless to say, he only got AR$10 (we handed AR$20 to the waitress outside who originally took us to the table and was friendly throughout the evening). Meal cost around AR$300 if I remember right.

Day 3

Got up to a rainy morning and cancelled our Fiesta Gaucha booking made the night before - the YouTube video which looked quite entertaining the night before played back in a much less appealing fashion in our heads...that, and avrooster's thoughts that we don't strike him as "the Gaucho kind of people". What a good call. Instead walked all the way to Recoleta Cemetery (nice discovering that's where Evita Peron was interred) and from there by foot all the way to Palermo's Japanese garden (very delightful, considerably helped by a group of models who dressed up in exotic Japanese outfits for a photo shoot) and from there, still by foot, to the Zoo and Botanical Gardens. We decided not to waste any time by visiting either (looked nice enough from the outside, but we have seen better in other countries and still had other plans for the day). Plus after 7km of walking we needed to rest our feet...and what better way than bus 64 towards La Boca for only AR$30 pp. Decided to get off at Parque Lezama before we got to La Boca, which was a peaceful haven within the busy city. Got back into walking mode from there all the way to La Boca (another 2km) where we had a very average lunch for AR$400 (service charge included by default) with ok food and ok service but overall a bit pricey (to be expected, of course) but with entertaining Argentine Tango dancers. Got back with bus 50-something (can't remember now), getting off at Plaza Mayo and walked along Calle Florida back to the hotel (another 2.5km). Rested at the hotel (deservedly, after what probably totalled at 12km of walking in total today) before heading out for a few drinks and a light meal.

Trip notes on El Calafate to follow...

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