Buenos Aires Trip Report (long)

Old Sep 2nd, 2007, 10:19 PM
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Buenos Aires Trip Report (long)

This is a copy of a trip report I posted on another forum under a different screen name. I copied it here because I wanted to thank AVRooster, whose advice and archived posts on TA were invaluable. THANKS, AV!


My wife and I, and our two boys, ages 15 and 8, spent three wonderful weeks in late July and August in Argentina, accompanied sporadically by my sister and her husband. We visited Buenos Aires, Iguazú, Ushuaia, Salta and the Estancia El Bordo de las Lanzas in Salta Province. Here's the Buenos Aires portion of my trip report.

RECOLETA AND PALERMO
For a family of four, it made little economic sense to stay at a hotel. Few, if any, hotels had the two king bed-style rooms you commonly find in the US. Who wants to share a room with kids anyway? So, we rented apartments - avoiding the 20% tax on hotel rooms.

For our first week, we rented a two bedroom apartment at Callao and Quintana in Recoleta. A clean, safe and reasonably quiet neighborhood, convenient to Alvear Avenue, the Recoleta Cemetery and the Recoleta Village. There are tons of great inexpensive restaurants in the area - with the not-so-great and not-so-inexpensive restaurants clustered around the cemetery. The cemetery itself is fascinating, and it helps to have some grounding in Argentine history. At the very least, you'll be able to match up names on the graves with major streets in Buenos Aires.

From Recoleta, we could walk downtown. Each time we took a different route. For example, we walked down Libertad, amidst the beautiful plazas and theaters between Santa Fe and Corrientes. I came back up Suipacha and other side streets on the east side of Av. 9 de Julio, soaking up the architecture and atmosphere. Even Calle Florida has a certain charm, especially on the northern end near the Galerias Pacifico and the Harrod's building, although the solicitations got annoying. From our apartment, I also could walk to the Museum of Bellas Artes (a nice collection, especially of late 19th Century French and Italian artists) and the beautiful El Ateneo bookstore on Santa Fe near Callao.

Our last week, after returning from Iguazu and Ushuaia, we rented a very inexpensive apartment at Charcas and Coronel Diaz, although it sat empty for four days while we were in Salta. Coronel Diaz is, I believe, the official boundary between Recoleta and Palermo (Alto). I loved this neighborhood, which was full of restaurants, cafes and clothing stores, frequented almost exclusively by locals. Friendly and atmospheric. The nearby Alto Palermo Mall was nothing special (Abasto and Gal. Pacifico, at least architecturally, were much more interesting). From here, we could walk to Palermo Soho.

I liked Palermo Soho, largely a collection of trendy stores and restaurants in low-rise buildings on cobblestoned streets. However, I didn't find it as charming or beguiling as older areas of the city, especially around Avenida de Mayo, San Telmo and parts of Retiro.

We bought leather on Murillo Street, about a mile south of the center of Palermo Soho. An extraordinary collection of stores at jaw-dropping prices. The prices, selection and quality were superior to what I saw elsewhere in the city, especially Calle Florida.

BIKE TOUR - Puerto Madero, La Boca, San Telmo: "A Different Buenos Aires" bike tour.

One of our favorite activities was a bike tour with Ana and Ariel from Lan & Kramer, www.biketours.com.ar. I selected the half-day "A Different Buenos Aires" tour, which originated in the Plaza San Martin. The tour continued past the Hotel de los Inmigrantes and through Puerto Madero, La Boca, San Telmo and back via the Plaza de Mayo. To the extent possible, the tour was on bike paths.

When we were on city streets, the Guides posted themselves at the front and the back of our six person group (I assume to absorb the first blow from the taxis). This was not as dangerous as it sounds. Traffic moves very slowly - if at all - on these streets.

Ana and Ariel, who both speak excellent English, were extremely knowledgeable about Argentinian history and politics. This was probably the best possible way to spoon feed some history to my kids, who refused to read a book or listen to a history lecture from me. College-aged guides on bikes, on the other hand, are much more credible and hipper authorities. At various points along the way, the guides stopped to explain the significance of the site, and how it fit into Argentinian history. A painless way to learn history.

The tour was US$25 per person, and included bike rentals and helmets. It was not at all strenuous. According to the website, you can simply show up at the designated times for the tour, but I called in advance the previous day because I needed a tandem bike for my younger son. I would have loved to do the bike tour to Tigre, but we ran out of time.

Puerto Madero, La Boca and San Telmo:

The bike tour also gave me an opportunity to consider which neighborhoods and attractions I wanted to revisit. Puerto Madero, for example, was very attractive and well-restored, with dozens of mostly upscale restaurants and shops in rehabilitated warehouses lining a canal. To the east of the warehouses, there were many modern office buildings, many under construction. However, nothing in Puerto Madero felt like Buenos Aires not even the "Hooters Buenos Aires" or TGI Friday's. I could credibly claim that our pictures from Puerto Madero were taken in Baltimore or Milwaukee. Nevertheless, I'm glad I saw this barrio, but I'm also glad I didn't spend any more time there.

I felt similarly about La Boca. The tour included a 25 minute break at the Caminito. This was more than enough time to visit the over-priced T-shirt shops. I felt the area was touristy, seedy and tedious. Again, glad I saw it and glad I didn't go back. I did enjoy biking around the fútbol stadium. I regret (I think?) that we weren't able to attend a Boca match.

San Telmo, on the other hand, was delightful. Although not fully-restored, much of it was thoroughly charming, with cobbled streets, beautiful19th Century buildings with elaborate balconies and architectural detailing, and interesting shops and street vendors. The farther one got from Defensa, the less well-tended some of the streets seemed to be. We returned for the Sunday fair, which has been described extensively on this board, and is well-worth a visit. Despite the relative cold, several eight or nine-piece tango bands rolled their pianos into the street. Touristy, but in a good way.

TANGO SHOW

For the obligatory tango show, we went to Esquina Carlos Gardel, which I selected largely because we could walk from our apartment on Charcas (although it was an unrewarding walk until we got near Abasto). We did not have dinner there, on the entirely correct theory that the kids would not tolerate that much time at the theater. The band and the dancing were terrific, but I think the tango singing might be something of an acquired taste (and one I didn't acquire).

RESTAURANTS
Rodi Bar - Recoleta, possibly the best lomo I had on the trip. We stumbled upon this by accident, unaware that it was being discussed at the time on the TA board.

Juana M - an eclectic restaurant near the Recova at the northern end of 9 de Julio at extremely reasonable prices.

Sotte Voce - The best Italian food we had, also in Recoleta down the hill from the Alvear Palace.

Jugo (I think) The best "local" in -town parilla, cash-only, Ayacucho between Vincente Lopez and General Heras (down the street from the Rodi Bar.

Charca de Andres in Haedo. Yes, Haedo. This restaurant is owned by the aunt and uncle of a friend in Los Angeles. We hired a remise to take us out to Haedo, about 10 miles from downtown BA. I went with no expectations, but this neighborhood parilla may have been the best meal we had in Argentina. I also enjoyed traveling through the ordinary working and lower middle class neighborhoods in the remise. Out here, you can see the extent to which the economic crisis still lingers. I'm glad we did this.


Other random thoughts:
- Loved the dog walkers, guiding perfectly-groomed groups of pampered dogs. Of course, this bit of local color leads to the often-discussed poo problem, but..hey...it's a trade-off.

- On my next visit, I want to visit Tigre and the riverside suburbs in between. I think I'll stay somewhere south of Corrientes, such as San Telmo or Congreso.

- I could have spent another week in Buenos Aires walking, then eating, then walking some more, then eating again, followed by a bit more walking, and then some serious drinking. And then, a cab ride home.

- I didn't think that Buenos Aires was particularly noisy, polluted, unsafe or dirty. Maybe that says more about my hometown of Los Angeles than Buenos Aires. Have my standards been degraded?

- I also didn't think there was any problem at all with customer service standards in restaurants, at the airport, and in stores. Again, maybe that says something about Los Angeles?

- If Christina is going to plaster her face on a poster all over town, she should have selected a better picture.
Sorry this is so long. I'll write later about the rest of our trip.

Also, here's a link to my other post about some practical advice, for what it's worth:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic...Argentina.html
FauxDoors is offline  
Old Sep 3rd, 2007, 12:56 AM
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fauxdoors, thank you so much for your delightful report here and the comments on trip advisor.

we have rented an apartment with the other oft mentioned agency as we will be in Bs As at the end of december when i feel it will be very hot ( hot we don't have here in Victoria BC) and felt the need for complete ac and a pool! The apartment is at Guatemala and Armenia which I hope will be a good location,. Unfortunately I've had no luck here in gettting locals or those in the know about my location choices and in the end just booked as the supply of apts dwindled for our wee.

We will also visit Iguazu , Salta and Glacier NP/ el Calafate so look forward to the rest of your reports.

Thanks again

AndrewDavid
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Old Sep 3rd, 2007, 03:39 AM
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Thank you very much for a great report, FauxDoors/Almost-middle-aged!!!!!

I'm glad my ashes ("archived posts") were of help elsewhere! LOL!!!

I had expected or hoped that you would get in touch with me during your stay, but it was not to be. Maybe next time?

Please try to check here every once in a while, in case you get questions.

Now that you know our country, I'm sure you'll send us all your friends and relatives.

When should we expect you and your family back? For the XMAS holidays?

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Old Sep 3rd, 2007, 04:21 AM
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First question, FD/AMA:

Can you tell us a little more about that neighborhood parilla in Haedo which "may have been the best meal we had in Argentina"?

Maybe your friend in LA can furnish the info?
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Old Sep 3rd, 2007, 05:43 AM
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Bravo! Love your trip report and pretty much agree with every single thing you said

You are a braver man than I, Gunga Din!! Riding a bike here .... yikes lol...We are convinced that every time we cross the street, we can hear the taxis revving up their motors

Isn't El Alteneo just amazing? I sent friends postcards from there...it is difficult to read the books, I keep looking Up lol...

We had lunch at Jugo Parrilla and liked it a lot too..I think I was the only female at lunchtime that day..all men in suits and the cutest grandfather and grandson .. very atmospheric!

We were in San Telmo for a couple of days this past week ( much nicer than on Sunday with hordes of people)..and we think that someday it might be interesting to look into living there, I do like the idea of one of those houses behind a wall, with the courtyard etc? Talk about atmosphere!

Please post more details..the Estancia and Iguazú etc....I love reading about BsAs

Thanks for posting! Scarlett
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Old Sep 3rd, 2007, 07:08 AM
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I enjoyed your comments about Juana M. It was about 3 blocks from our hotel and we ended up going there twice. What a great find!
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Old Sep 3rd, 2007, 12:29 PM
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Next time, AV, we will definitely get together. And there will be a next time! I should mention that we also attended La Rural (the national agricultural festival) and enjoyed it immensely, especially the free wine tasting.

The full name of the restaurant in Haedo is La Chacra de Andres, located at Primera Junta 982, phone number 4650-4982. Haedo is not very far from the federal district border. My high opinion of the place is apparently shared by the locals, because there was a wait for a table at 3:00 p.m. on a chilly Sunday afternoon.

Thanks for your thoughts, too, Scarlett. Your posts on TA and fodor's were very helpful -- and your enthusiasm for Buenos Aires is contagious.

AndrewDavid, you're location is good (close to Palermo Soho). Check out the restaurants and "local" scene along Charcas Street, between Plaza Guemes and Coronel Diaz.

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Old Sep 3rd, 2007, 03:47 PM
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faux doors thanks for the feedback on our location. when you refere to archived reports on TA what exactly do you mean

cheers Andrewdavid
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Old Sep 3rd, 2007, 04:12 PM
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AndrewDavid, "archived posts" is just a fancy term for "old posts." Every message ever posted on Trip Advisor is searchable by plugging in your search terms in the green bar.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2007, 06:57 PM
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thanks for the clarification; like fauxdoors (very cute!)

A/D
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Old Sep 4th, 2007, 03:50 AM
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A/D: when FD/AMA mentions my "archived posts", which I call "my ashes", this is what he means: http://tinyurl.com/3bn3pd
If VERY lucky, you may find something useful. LOL!!!
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Old Sep 4th, 2007, 05:35 PM
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avrooster

I thought "the ashes" was a cricket term. Are you a bowler?

Andrewdavid
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Old Sep 4th, 2007, 06:39 PM
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The other forum's censors fried me in their electric chair mainly for criticizing them, plus various minor sins. That's what I mean by "my ashes". LOL!!!

And no, I'm not a bowler, but used to be a golfer.
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Old Sep 6th, 2007, 05:09 PM
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What about the portion of Salta ???
I hope you spent a good time.
F
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