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Trip Report Trip Report- Eating our way through BA- an amazing adventure

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Thank you to all of the fodorites who were very helpful in planning my trip, especially avrooster. As background, I traveled to Buenos Aires with my two young boys who were 22 months and 4 months. We spent a little over four weeks in an apartment in Puerto Madero and went to Mendoza for three days & Punta Del Este for four nights (see my other trip reports). We went sightseeing at a very leisurely pace- one site a day (about all that you can handle with two little ones) and ate out lunch/and or dinner. After we had seen the sites, we just enjoyed the city- walking through different neighborhoods and eating our way through Buenos Aires. Warning- this is a LONG report.

We booked our apartment a little late and had problems finding all that I wanted- 2 BR, balcony and a pool for a time frame that would last over the Christmas & New Year's holidays. I tried all of the agencies that had been recommended on this forum and was surprised at the lack of responsiveness. We ended up booking through bairesapartments.com as that had the only apartment that fit our bill. It was located in Puerto Madero and initially, I was disappointed with the location. If this was a trip for just my husband & I - we likely would have been happier on the border of Recoleta & Palermo or in Palermo Soho (though I may have then spent a lot more shopping! :); however for us, having kids, it was nice to be able to take a walk along the harbor in the morning or evening (on nice sidewalk without missing pieces and holes). For us, having a pool was necessary. My toddler loves the water and it was great to have at the end of the day. Our building had 3 outdoor pools and 3 hot tubs - so we usually had our own pool. There was also an indoor pool for bad weather. It was a nice way to end each day after walking around in the heat. In the end, I think it was the right decision for us. However, the balcony wasn't all that necessary. Our unit overlooks the ecological reserve and with the mosquitos- my dreams of drinking Malbec out there at night were shortlived. I don't know if it's any better at night in other areas- but we really didn't use it all that much.

Renting an Apartment- We had never rented an apartment for a vacation and it was nice to travel with a family to have the extra space for an extended period of time. I was surprised that many things didn't work in the apartment. Obviously, it's just luck of the draw with an apartment, but I recommend checking the following at your check in: cable tv, internet if provided (bring a hard wire cable- our wifi never worked- we had to get a cable to get it to work), phone (make sure it works and ask for your phone number). If any stains on carpet or anything looks broken- bring it up while someone is there. Do a walk through for damage. If you aren't fluent in Spanish and your building has a doorman- you may want to ask if the doorman speaks English. Ours didn't and it would have made life easier when we needed help or something didn't work.

Travel

Portenos (locals) dress up. I never saw sweat pants- the worst dressed people were tourists. That being said- I wished I had some better footwear. The sidewalks are terrible and there are large hills. For women- I'd get a cute pair of sneakers or shoes w/a good rubber sole.

We often strolled our two sons around- one in an umbrella Maclaren and one in a rickety snap & go. It was hard but doable. You will see many strollers from locals- I would avoid rubber wheels- more likely to pop. If you have a baby carrier and your baby will fit in one- it's the easiest option.

I wasn't aware that bugs were such an issue here. In summer, the mosquitoes were awful. Bring bug spray and cream- you will get bit. We also had issues w/ants. As ant traps were very prevalent- seems to be pretty common. They are especially bad at the Recoleta Cemetery and you are warned to spray.

Cash is king- many places do not accept credit cards. We hit the atm more than we thought. We were annoyed to find citibank had a $19US charge for withdrawal that was insane. If you use Citi- you may have to upgrade your account before going.

If you are planning to do laundry in apartment- check to see if your building takes coins or cards. If coins- hoard your dollar pesos. We had a hard time getting change in pesos- often we'd be handed 10 10 cent pieces!

Taxis- We never had any problems with them. If you flag off the street- there's no difference if you go radio taxi or non-radio taxi as it was not called in. Most taxis were very friendly- we never felt unsafe or all that ripped off. We did find some drove a longer way home or doing a little loop to get to a location but it wasn't worth arguing and my Spanish wasn't good enough to argue. Expect to pay an extra dollar or two- though when one or two taxis made real errors we were surprised to find they took it off the fare on their own. Also, they give you back the change and don't expect a tip. Make sure you give the intersection when you get into the taxi- point on a map because shockingly if you don't pronounce exactly as it supposed to be- they have no idea. Even for streets like "Costa Rica" or "El Salvador".

I had a big problem trying to communicate to taxi/remise drivers when booking to go to the domestic airport for flights. The name is Newbury Airport- but it is called by the locals "Aeroparque". I found that if you ask how much- you will get a higher flat rate for a taxi. When we went by meter - it was much cheaper. We had early morning flights 2x and the radio taxi I reserved never came. I would wait to call till just before leaving unless your hotel/doorman can do it for you.


Travel with children- Kids were really welcomed and doted on- whether on the street or even in restaurants. However, we didn't take them anywhere very fancy or inappropriate.

In traveling w/kids, expect the unexpected and be flexible. There is no routine- things changed from day to day. They won't nap when you want them to- if you get a stroller nap- take advantage of the time to see something you want to see or eat. We found we revised our "schedule" every few days and tried to go with what worked best for our family. Our son was young enough that we didn't need to take him to special museums or things just for him. He was at an age that he was happy just to run around in a little area. However, that also meant he liked to run out of restaurants. We tried a lot of outdoor restaurants in our neighborhood but even that proved to be too hard. Eventually, we learned to just wait until he fell asleep in the stroller to have a more relaxing lunch. We'd just walk in circles around the restaurant we wanted to eat at until he was asleep- had a nice lunch and tried to do something or arrive at the next destination while he was asleep. Some days were better than other with the boys and

TOURIST SITES
***Tip- if you want to book an English tour - many places require booking a week or two in advance. Ocassionally, things are just not open when they are supposed to be & tours aren't scheduled where guidebooks or the websites say they are. If you have limited time, go to the places you want to see most first so if not open or the tour is a different day- you'll have time to go back.

Recoleta Cemetery- if you have a guide book- you don't really need the map there- if not- helps you find things. Your stop will only take you an hour at most. Go along the back wall as most dignitaries are buried there. Evita is #26 and make a left at the middle statue. Follow the people. Look for Rufina Cambaceres tomb- she was buried alive at 19 (near Evita). You can tour the cloisters- and go up through the church for a nice view of the cemetery. It wasn't opened the first time we went- not sure how often it's closed. Worth a quick look. We had lunch at La Biela (just across from the cemetery)- one of the oldest bars in Buenos Aires- used to be a hotspot of autoracers. It's a nice spot to be near the beautiful 200 year old ficus tree. Food was just ok and overpriced bc location. There were several restaurants next to it- I'd check out the menus to see if there was anything better.

Museo Evita- small museum - nice to see- would have liked more in English. I noticed they had an audio guide which may be worth looking into & I didn't realize there were guided tours you can book in advance. The garden cafe was very nice- good crepes & nice lunch specials. We walked the botanical gardens afterwords which was nice- but if you are short on time- not a necessary stop. If roses are in bloom I would highly recommend going there instead or the Japanese garden (with lunch either at Museo Evita or the Japanese restaurant in the Japanese gardens). Good ice cream at Volta on Liberatador near the parks.

Manzana de las luces- I had read in frommers that there were English tours on the weekend. When I went there on a Sunday- it was only Spanish. Their site says you can reserve 15 days in advance. I went really just to see the tunnels. I didn't understand much from the tour- but you can read up after in English. The tunnel system was fun to see.

Casa Rosada- I was surprised to see people just walking in the front gate on a Sunday- so one day I just followed them. I wasn't sure how much you would see. There was an exhibit about tango, an exhibit about famous women and then they took you through many elaborate rooms as well as some which had a desk that looked like it had mail on it (not sure whose that was!). I was surprised that there was access to so many rooms. I was told that it is open to the public Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. and federal holidays

Plaza de Mayo- I was most surprised at it's condition right now. Graffiti everywhere and just looked rundown. I'm sure it's being spruced up for the bi-centennial- but not while we visited.

BA Free Tour- is a great concept and a good thing to do - especially if you are looking to save some money; however our group was 32 people and everywhere they stop is near traffic so we really couldn't hear much; we went on a week day in summer- so it may be better in winter

Cathedral- I would suggest going a little before 5- at 5 the guards leave the San Martin crypt- it was fun to see the guard come marching in & relieve the soldiers

Zoo- good if you have kids- there's a great playground where my son spent most of his time; there is food to feed the animals; you can buy a pass to see a movie, go on a boat ride and see the reptiles and a few other houses. Unless you are spending your whole day at the zoo- I'm sure the regular pass will be fine. I also saw a sign about night at the zoo which could be fun. It is a bit run down and a little smelly- but it's a zoo! Right down the street from the zoo on the 3000 block of Liberatador is Un Altra Volta- if you need a gelato break. It was great! The Japanese gardens- are just across the street as well- nice for a walk around- if you only have time for one- this or the Botanical Gardens (though there is a 8 peso fee) I preferred these gardens. There was a cafe that looked like it had nice sushi as well (we were quite sad we were starving at the zoo).

MALBA- beautiful building- small museum- can be seen probably in less than 2 hours; a nice Andy Warhol exhibit is there until the end of February

Buenos Aires Design- just design stores- I thought it was a museum

Ecological Reserve- very buggy- but nice for a walk around- entrance at Dique 2 and Dique 4- make sure you walk a route to go down to the water- nice shaded area for a break. I hadn't seen this mentioned before- but we loved the Parilla stands along the park- similar to a cheeseteak type stand in Philly. It was always filled with locals (construction workers during the week and families on the weekend) and we wished we had discovered it earlier in the trip. We kept going back- great sandwiches. Our favorite- "Mi Parilla of Mi suenos"- one of the first ones near dique 3 or 4. You can cool off at Fortebat Museum in Dique 4- a private collection of art in a very modern building.

Aetno Bookstore- beautiful theatre being used as a bookstore-very unusual- nice to walk around- can have a coffee in the cafe- there is a Volta ice cream a few doors down

Recoleta Cultural Center- Please Touch Museum $15AR next to the church near the cemetery- nice break for kids- my toddler was a bit young for most of the exhibits- but we all had fun there and had a nice break in some air conditioning; right now they have a butterfly chamber as well

Cooking Class with Teresita- we had a very nice day on the BBQ class- but I hesitate to call it a cooking class. As the "students" we didn't do ANY cooking. We took a trip to the butcher's and then watched Teresita combine items for her creole salad, chimichurri and salad dressing. As to the barbecuing- Buddha the asador gave us an introduction to grilling when he started, but no real learning as to timing/what to look for, etc. Also, this class if for the real meat lover. You are fed ALL parts of the cow- from intestines, liver, etc. to flank steak, etc. I didn't realize this and it was a little much for me. Tiny the dog ate well that day from me. Additionally, she is located in Adrogue- which is an hour outside of the city- and a bit of a pain to get there. We called a remise for the trip out that she recommended- it costs about $20 US. We took the shuttle home which took about the same amount of time. If you have a little extra time- I would just take the shuttle or train there. We had a nice group of people and enjoyed the afternoon with them, Teresita and Buddha but it really was enjoying a BBQ as opposed to a cooking lesson. I asked for the recipes and it took 2 weeks for her to email them to me.

Water Palace- Edificio de Agua- beautiful building to walk around- only open 9-1 Monday & Friday- weird collection of toilets in the museum. I wouldn't kill myself trying to get in there. We thought there was a tour of the building- but only the small free museum. It is worth walking around- it is nearby Aetno Bookstore. I would try to see both the same day.

Palacio Paz- at Circulo Militar - Santa Fe above Florida- HIGHLY RECOMMENDED- beautiful old residence that used to be privately owned and is now used by a club and tours are held a few days a week. I believe we went on Wed at 11. The tour is in Spanish but the guide spoke very slowly and in simple words as there were many different language speakers there. The tour was very small- about 10 people and they don't get many tourists. I was told about this by a local- I never knew it existed. You tour the bottom floors - there is a smaller Hall of Mirrors like Versailles, and a beautiful room with a rotunda. The woodwork is amazing and it was the only place like this we found.

Sarmiento- On Dique 2- we toured one of the big sailboats- fun for kids

El Rosedal- The Rose Garden- was very pretty- go early or late in the day as it was very hot in January during the day and we couldn't stay as long as we would have liked. The roses are beautiful and there's a lake with paddle boats. It would be nice to bring a picnic (though most areas you can't sit or walk on the grass- you can sit on the benches).

SIDE TRIPS:
Colonia- LOVED it- see my separate post on this

Tigre Delta- we really did not enjoy this trip at all. We have traveled around the world and really thought it was nothing special. We were lucky it was a coolish weekday and was still very hot. Much has been discussed on the forums regarding the 2 trains. We left at 10:30 a.m. and did not make it back till 7:30 pm for what we hoped would be a half day excursion. We took the local suburban train from Tigre at 11:30 and it was packed. It took about an hour to get to Tigre. Since I didn't find any great lunch recommendations online- I decided to just ask in tourist information. Note- tourist info is the building next to McDonald's (we took a bit of a walk to find it). They recommended going to 3 bocas b/c there were 3 restaurants. After another 20 minute wait- we were off. The boat ride was nice- just the right amount of time for 2 small ones- but there wasn't a whole lot to see- just some houses along the water. We ate at the first restaurant off the boat- La Riviera. It was not good & overpriced. There was a circuit you could walk around the but it was hot & we only went about a half hour & didn't really see all that much but some houses on a small canal. The trip back was horrible. We waited about 40 minutes for a boat to come, it stopped at 10-20 spots to pick up people, which was charming in the beginning, but then took forever to get back. We decided to take the Tren de la Costa back- it is a further walk and were very disappointed to find it would be another 20 minute wait for a train. The train itself was less crowded & went a more scenic route but it left us in Maipu (which I'm still not sure where it was). You can take the mitre train back but we couldn't bear another train. We took a $60AR taxi back and there was a lot of traffic. I wish we had just taken the suburban train. I must be missing something as people have summer homes there- but it just wasn't for me. I did find there were tours down here- maybe that would be less hassle- as it would be a much quicker trip and it would coordinate w/boat times, etc.

I wanted to go to an estancia but decided it would be too much w/the boys. Those who went enjoyed it.

FOOD:

ICE CREAM- Helado- I was in LOVE. Ice cream is one of my favorite things and we made it my quest to find the best. We sampled many places and found we liked some that haven't gotten as much play on these boards. (Also loved a haagen dazs flavor at our little market here of Midnight cookie- never saw at home- YUM!). Most deliver depending on where you are staying- definitely fun to try. We ate helado almost every day we were here. My son seems to miss his helado afternoon snack - now he's only getting pretzels! Many of those I tried came from saltshaker.net. He also has lists of best empanadas, etc. Great site to check out.

TIP- you queue up to pay (don't bother telling your flavor- just the size) then you go to another area to order flavor (it took me a few times to realize this as I stood by while others were getting ice cream in front of me :) Many give free toppings

Rankings: (Keep in mind that once we found chocolate amagro & fruitilla de agua- we didn't experiment as much and stuck with them)
1. Cadore, Corrientes 1695, Centro Heladaria- Dark chocolate chocolate amagre was amazing as was the granazida (chocolate chip)
2. Persicco- one opened in Microcentre- chocolate amagre & fruitilla great, chocolate w/almonds & chocolate chip good- but not as good (had several times), there's even one at the airport on the 2nd floor- many locations
3. Un Altra Volta= there are several locations- very good at the Liberatador location, fruitilla and chocolate w/almonds were favoritesa at Recoleta- chocolate amarge & fruitilla good
4. La Venciana- got delivery helado- very good chocolate amargo & fruitilla- I highly recommend getting delivery- we waited till the end when I felt more confident in my Spanish to order- we should have tried earlier on. You can get as small as a 1/2 kilo.
5. Froilan- in Puerto Madero on Dique 2- pretty good- free toppings of nuts & candies
6. Scannapieco- I was very excited for this one as I thought it would be be best- but was very disappointed- out of the 3 flavors- only one ended up being the one we ordered- Sandia- watermelon- it was not great; we had 2 other chocolates & they were not as intense in flavor
7. Freddo- decent but flavors were not great- chocolate, vanilla, mint chocolate chip (tasted like toothpaste)
8. Ice cream in puerto madero outdoor kiosk- our least favorite- but highest points for ambiance on the harbor; chocolate w/almonds- very few almonds

Las Violetas- we took a VERY long walk here (didn't look so far on the map) not the best ice cream but wins for presentation- Copa de Helado Violetas- is a gigantic sundae; they had plates of assorted pastries that looked very good

RESTAURANTS- These are not in ranking order- but in the order I ate them. Two nice restaurants I wanted to try but didn't get to: Social Paraiso & Oveido for dinner- heard great things about that

Puerto Madero- we stayed here so we tried MANY of the restaurants here. Note that all restaurants are closed if you are looking for dinner between 3 and 8 p.m.
Il gato- a bit of an overpriced tourist trap- italian- food wasn't great.

Xcaret- in Puerto Madero- ok pizza- nice staff- spoke English- only place that was open on a Saturday at 7 p.m.

Sottovoce- great bread basket & plate with garbanzos, sundried tomato, spaghetti tomate was good, gnocchi just ok

Central market- great sandwiches and very nice brunch- a great breakfast special (for the area) a very pretty plate of mini medialuna (croissant sandwiches), some with meat, some fruit or chocolate tarts, orange juice, fruit cup & tea or coffee for about $10 US. We ate here often- I think there is a 2 for 1 happy hour drink special as well during the week.

Pizzeria Pirilla- our favorite find Indpendencia & Defensa (it was not on the corner- I think it was a few doors in on Defensa)-HIGHLY RECOMMENDED- the best pizza - no place to sit- you get it by the slice and wait for more to come out. It was really great.

Guerrin- 1500 block of Viamonte- really great pizza- one of our favorite old school pizzas- highly recommended- we got the especialidad of the casa pie which was good- ham, cheese, tomato; you can get a slice or two at lunch time at a table and they are filling- we got the grande size and it was too much for two- but did have some leftovers

La Bistecca- Dique 4- 1800 Block of Alice M Justo- parilla/buffet- very reasonably priced- good with kids- waiter came over with a balloon- food was pretty good- meet, pasta, pizza, salad bar

La Estancia- Santa Fe- Parilla- had a good value lunch special- was pretty good (though we ended up having to take ours to go since our boys acted up)

Spell Cafe- Alice M. Justo- possibly worst meal i've ever had- ordered a grilled fish sandwich - received "chicken"- it was inedible- as was my husband's nachos. So disappointing as it was the first meal in a long time that both boys were sleeping at. Terrible service as well. Avoid.

La Despensa- Barracas neighborhood- outside of the main city area- great local place that Avrooster took us too- great steaks!

Las Cuartetas- 800 block of Corrientes- great deep dish pizza- we got El Especial w/champinones (mushrooms) had ham & olives- delicious- toss up whether we liked Guerrin or Las Cuartetas better- this had a bit more space

Rodi Bar- papas fritas provencal- a must, w/garlic & parsley, merluza lunch combination #9 was very good- like fish & chips, DH liked the lomo sandwich

Grappa- nice lighter lunch - grilled pizza & salad- a bit out of the way in Palermo Hollywood but we enjoyed it

Las Cabras- we had walked by this restaurant in Palermo Viejo when we went to Grappa and it was always packed. We were excited to try it. Good humito empenada- we had quesadillas (came with fries, guacamole and caesar salad). It was a bit disappointing- the salmon was terrible- very tough- and lomo just ok.

El Palacio de Papas Fritas- in Barrio Norte- had a good lunch special- nice lunch- "papas souffle" was not what I expected- I was thinking more souffle- was just airy fries

La Bougogone- we did have a great meal here though the service was terrible starting with the making of the reservation. We got called back the day after reserving telling us they overbooked and it took a few calls to change to another day. We were seated 15 minutes before getting menus or anyone to come over and never received a wine menu. Asking what the menu was for the tasting menu caused another 10 minute disappearance and still no real answer. We did do the tasting menu- substituting more seafood for game and we had the wine pairing. The food was excellent- thoughtful and beautifully prepared and presented. I did not really enjoy the wines and would have been happier with just a bottle of wine (and would have saved a bit of money). My husband did not wear a jacket and he was never given one. About half of the males in the restaurant did not have jackets though we saw one unhappy man returning one to the maitre de. The restaurant was just a stuffy hotel dining room. The food can't be faulted, but it is expensive and service was really poor for a five star restaurant. If you only have one or two special meals- I would go elsewhere.

La Placere- part of a chain- good empanadas and light fare

La Vineria de Gualterio- 15 course tasting menu for 150 pesos- very fun playful menu with a lot of molecular gastronomy used; this meal would have cost 2 to 3 times as much in NY. Everything very creatively prepared. Some courses were better than others- but they were all small but you will leave stuffed after your 3 hour meal. It is a very small restaurant- we sat downstairs but would have preferred to have been upstairs. They give you the menu with the breakdown of what everything is when you leave. A fun meal (not really traditional foods- but a unique experience)

SHOPPING-
There are so many outposts of most shops- it seems you will find them in almost any area.

Ver- on Florida- For inexpensive casual women's clothes

Toy stores:
Sopa De Principe Thames 1719- funky fabric stuffed animals
Recursos infantiles- fun toys and they even have a cafe you and your kids can eat in- w/small sized tables- JL Borges 1766
Ufficic- JL Borges 1733- found lots of great wooden toys in here that were very inexpensive- lots of great stuff

Plaza Coltazar in Palermo Soho- Perrovaca- cute tshirts for kids

Palermo Soho for women's clothing- fun and funky- inexpensive to very expensive

All in all- an amazing experience- wonderful people, wonderful food, beautiful city. Hope this is helpful as you plan your trip to BA.

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