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First 72 hours in BsAs

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Feb 8th, 2011, 01:00 PM
  #1
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First 72 hours in BsAs

After much planning and anticipation, we at last arrived in BsAs late Saturday afternoon, changed funds at Banco de la Nacion, took a remise car with driver into town, and got settled in. Then we walked around, a bit zombie-like, after about 20 hours of flying: New Brunswick-Toronto-Santiago-EZE. We like the barrio where our apartment is located (Palermo Botanico). It is a quiet, green neighborhood near lots of parks and gardens. We had dinner at the very nice Bella Italia Cafe & Bar on LaFinur and followed up the meal with delicious helado at the "new" Jauja at the corner of Cervino & Lafinur. They are the "new kid in town" having originated in Bariloche and the staff are eager to serve and to explain the different flavors to the uninitiated (like us).

Sunday, we walked a bit in the morning and then spent the afternoon with Norma, a cicerone (volunteer guide for visitors)--she was wonderful and gave us a great overview of the important landmarks in the city---we drove around in her car. We walked a bit in Recoleta with her and then had a bite at La Biela---overpriced, okay food, but a real traditional, old school place in the tony Recoleta barrio.

Sunday night we were invited by our new friends, Jill and Ken from Collingwood ON, to go to Puerto Madero where there is a restaurant featuring terrific opera singers, al fresco, on Sunday evenings. You get a table and a drink for 45 pesos. It was great. Joining us were Gonza, a U of Buenos Aires medical student and a few of his young friends. Later in the evening we all went to the true hotspot for street food, where the yellow parrillas wagons line up along the Costanera Sur, located on the far side of Puerto Madero Este, running its entire length along the canal and ecological reserve. We enjoyed a late night snack of choripan, bandiola al limon and beverages, then said our goodnights and all ventured home by taxi. Second day here, and we just broke our vow that there would be no late nights for us!

Monday morning, I had some dental work done. Peg was mortified that I would even consider such a thing, but Dr. Pelcman has a very solid reputation so I was not concerned about the care, and the cost is about 1/3, compared to at home so you could make the case that the savings in dental care paid for the trip!.

On the way home we got some groceries at the Disco and then had lunch at the Museo Evita Cafe. Very nice.

It started to rain in the afternoon, so we returned to Bella Italia, since it so close by and we again had a nice dinner, with that neighbor hood bistro feel. On the way home we stopped at Tatu Empanadas Salteñas and picked up a mixed dozen of empanadas (carne picante, jamon y queso, tomate queso y albahca, and pollo picante) to have on hand in the fridge for lunches and snacks. They specialize in the Salta regional dishes and they are situated directly across the street from our place.

Today we wandered around in the Jardin Botanico Carlos Thays designed by the French Argentine landscape architect. Thays was a French immigrant (1849-1934) who designed many of the famous parks and plazas throughout the city and in other areas of the country too. The botanical gardens is just a wonderful, well cared for space, and most of the specimens are identified.

So, that's our first 72 hours in BsAs.
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Feb 8th, 2011, 01:37 PM
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Great first chapter, hikerboy!

Keep up the good work!
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Feb 8th, 2011, 01:39 PM
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Sounds great!! Thanks for reporting.
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Feb 8th, 2011, 02:36 PM
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However, I must admit to being somewhat disappointed that you chose to post your great report several hours earlier on TA.

Just kidding. Go on having a great time, but try to post the next chapter here first. LOL!!!
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Feb 8th, 2011, 03:20 PM
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Hello again and I will repeat that I love getting to read about your visit, as it happens.
Looking forward to the next chapter ...
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Feb 8th, 2011, 03:21 PM
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And I will repeat here on Fodors that I am very glad that you chose to use a free Cicerone for your guide.
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Feb 8th, 2011, 06:14 PM
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avrooster, I promise to post my next report here first!

Scarlett, the Cicerone program is wonderful and I highly recommend it http://www.cicerones.org.ar/index_eng.php

BTW, I hear that the roosterman is sometimes a good and faithful Cicerone and Buenos Aires ambassador, under the right circumstances---and he proudly shows his home town pride by always asking "how soon shall we expect you back? lol!!" Now that is devotion to the cause!
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Feb 8th, 2011, 06:53 PM
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You should already start planning your next visit, hikerboy! LOL!!

Considering what I have read from you so far and the fact that you address the said roosterman as "sir", I believe the "circumstances" should be right for you and your DW.

After the post of over a couple of years ago titled BsAs-Beware of the "Offer you can't refuse" I am EXTREMELY wary of "the circumstances".

I'll be back home in a week or so and I'll be in touch.

When is the second chapter due? Well, never mind when it is due, as long as you post it HERE first! LOL!!!
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Feb 8th, 2011, 07:59 PM
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Great start! Can't wait to see what happens next.
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Feb 9th, 2011, 08:33 AM
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I hope kevin wasn't caught in the rain we just had ..
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Feb 9th, 2011, 02:10 PM
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Scarlett, we were indeed caught in the rain today, down along Corrientes!

Let me pick up again with our account from yesterday when we left the Jardin Botanico Carlos Thays.
We headed west from the gardens into Palermo Soho, one of the developing barrios with lots of shops and great restaurants. We carried on into Villa Crespo to Sarkis, an Armenian restaurant that serves wonderful food. We had some of their special dishes, as recommended by the waiter and various reviewers we had consulted in our research. We started our meal with kepke for me and stuffed zucchini for DW and then on to cheese bourek and a kafta brochette. We finished with probably the best baklava we've ever had, topped with creamy vanilla ice cream and accompanied by thick, rich cafe orientale. It was more than we would normally have but, fortunately, we had a long walk home!

On the way back we passed the building housing the apartment we had originally booked 6 months earlier with Reynolds Propiedades in the Palermo Uno Tower on Uriarte. That is a beautiful place with great amenities, and I think we got suckered by Reynolds and/or an owner who had a chance at a 6 month tenant at a higher rate and used the "story" that there was a "plumbing problem." Checking the Reynolds listings today, one sees that the unit is booked out until the end of July. Cancel the 6 weeks and substitute with 6 months. In the short term, it may make good business sense. We were not impressed.

When that deal disappeared and we didn't like the alternatives being offered by Reynolds, we started scouring the already depleted inventory (given that we were only 3 weeks from D-Day). The place we settled on was acceptable though not ideal, and I must say that on balance ByT gives me a better impression than Reynolds. And in the end, we really like our current location better, so that's a decent compensating factor!

Also off-putting was the great difficulty I had getting Reynolds to return the US$264 that we sent them last July. I sent repeated requests that were continually dodged and deflected, until, after 3 weeks, they finally returned my cash through Western Union (and I had to pay a fee to get it). I found that quite stressful.

But that's all history now, and I'm getting side-tracked!

Following a little down time and some journaling we took off up and down the side streets of Palermo Botanico, and all the bustling night life at the cafes, shops and restaurants.

It was trash night, and we were at first startled to see hordes of trash pickers rifling through garbage bags and abandoned or thrown away articles at the curbs. Then we remembered, when we saw the pickers wearing special uniforms with reflective tape, that we had read about this program organized by the government that brings in the trash-pickers from General San Martin, Argentina, a suburb of Buenos Aires, where almost all of the neighborhood's 60,000 residents earn their living through trash picking and recycling. It seems a pretty innovative approach to the recycling challenge. And on Tuesdays, it adds to the hustle-bustle on the streets.

We stopped for helado at Persicco, but they were crowded and a bit disorganized there so we left and ended up at our "go to" spot, Jauja. Curious, I asked the manager about the pronunciation---I thought it was "yow ya." Wrong! It's more like "Cow ha," with a bit of a guttural thing. I need to work on it. We placed our orders and enjoyed our treats--the chocolate profundo is out of this world! Meanwhile we were asking about the various flavors, and DW was treated to a continous round of samples, so she was impressed. The sauco with passion fruit was another winner. They were very kind at Jauja, and as we were leaving handed us a colorful chart of the blossoms and fruits from the Andean region, used in their flavors. And to think that 5 days ago I had no idea what sauco was (Sambucus Nigra on the chart, and a beautiful blossom)

This morning started well, and we were enthusiastic about our plan to take the City Tour at Buenos Aires Free Tours http://www.bafreetour.com/english-home.

Yesterday, I had picked up a copy of the Guia T, which is a key to understanding the collectivo (bus) routes. I had mastered it pretty well, I thought, but we were hesitant to try the bus since we were pressed for time and uncertain of how long the ride would be. We decided to use the subway Subte D and hopped on at our nearest stop, Scalabrini-Ortiz, and settled in for the ride.

After 3 stops, we realized we were headed in the wrong direction. Off we got and changed course. The train was crowded and we were running late. At a certain moment, I realized the guys on either side of DW and me were working a little pick-pocket routine. Too close for comfort. I could see the deal unfolding. The guy on my right took off his jacket and draped it over his left arm. He moved a bit closer with the sway of the train. I pushed his jacket aside to reveal his sleazy hand making a move for my breast pocket, and I pushed away hard and told DW to stand back. I was thinking perhaps a sharp elbow to the head would emphasize the point, but then what does violence gain you? Not much. In any case the game was over, we were pulling in to the next station, the boys hopped off the train, and we were still in custody of all our possessions. We compared notes, and DW had had her pockets frisked, but they had been empty anyway.

It was getting close to 11 AM, the tour start time, and we decided to disembark at Av 9 de Julio and walk quickly from there to Congreso, the meeting place. We struck off at a fast pace amid the hordes, dodging right and left, but making excellent time. After about 10 minutes, we checked the map and realized we were headed in the wrong direction on Esmeralda! At that point, we threw in the towel and decided to kick back, take it easy, and take the tour another day---and get there early next time!

So, we wandered back to the Obelisco and Plaza de la Republica, and then over Corrientes to 1368---Guerrin Pizza!

We enjoyed a Fugazetta with jamon y queso and a couple of agua con gas. The pizza was great, but we will have to try the El Cuartito and compare, as many suggest that one or the other is the best pizza in town. I also really like the Villavicencio agua con mas gas. More gas is good!

The first downpour started while we finished our meal, but it was over when we hit the street. Our next stop was Confiteria Ideal, where tango lessons were underway on the upper level and some earnest students were attemting to master new steps. This place is dripping with a faded 19th C. belle epoque charm, in a strangely "Last Year at Marienbad" way. We ordered cafe cortado in the main floor dining room which was populated by a few old gentleman, one dozing at his table, and several young tourist couples. Behind the bar, there are coolers with wooden doors. They are the kind like the old "ice boxes" that, if you are old enogh to remember, preceded "refigerators." There is tango each night on the weekend, with a live orchestra. Confiteria Ideal is a faded rose. You can't help thinking that someone should save this place before it's too late---spruce it up,,sharpen the menu, and get the volumes up for meals and drinks. Then, of course, it would not be the same, but it seems a fragile relic, and one worth preserving.

On leaving Ideal, we did get caught in a downpour with no umbrella, so we ducked in to the nearest Farmacity to closely examine the ibuprofena and other analgesics until the rain stopped.

When it cleared we went to church.

First we went to the Paseo del Convento de San Ramon, which is a charming agglomeration of shops and restaurants facing on a beautiful interior courtyard. Next we entered the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Merced, for contemplation and prayer at the shrine to San Expedito, who it is said may intercede in just and urgent causes. We figured we needed intercession to get us off to a timely start in the coming days, and we doubtless need help to start in the right direction. Saint Expedito, help us!

Our final stop was the Catedral Metropolitana, which has a stunning silver retablo and houses the mausoleum of the great Jose de San Martin.

We took the Subte back home. We knew we were headed in the right direction, since there's only one way to go when you're at the end of the line. We found seats, so there way no groping. Thank you, San Expedito!
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Feb 9th, 2011, 02:59 PM
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Great second chapter, hikerboy!

Where did you read or hear about "this program organized by the government that brings in the trash-pickers from General San Martin, Argentina, a suburb of Buenos Aires, where almost all of the neighborhood's 60,000 residents earn their living through trash picking and recycling."?
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Feb 9th, 2011, 03:06 PM
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I'm loving reading your reports -- makes one feel like they r right there with u in BA.

On the apt rental -- we had a similar thing happen with BAHabitat, but the timing was further out. We got cancelled out of a reservation we had made awhile back. We were told the owner planned to be in the apt during our time. Fortunately there was another property nearby that we thought would be fine. I'm no expert on apts in BA, but from reading this forum & TA, this canceling seems to be common practice in BA for whatever reason.
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Feb 9th, 2011, 04:14 PM
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avrooster, I first reade the background about the cartoneros on a blog, and I can't find the link now. The entry described the program and showed photos of a train which was reported to have been subsidized by the government. The cars had the seats removed to facilitate carrying the recyclables.

Here is a link to a related article: http://www.latinamericanpost.com/ind...cc=7&conn=5279

As you can see, the recycling challenge is a world-wide phenomenon as described in the Latin American Post article. You may know too that marine waste, for example, has resulted in the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is estimated to be twice the size of Texas, and that's big! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_P..._Garbage_Patch
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Feb 10th, 2011, 07:17 AM
  #15
 
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Did I miss it?...the name of the restaurant in Puerto Madero with the opera singers?...did you actually eat there? Very much enjoying this report...thankyou. Our trip is fast approaching and I am feeling for the first time after all our many travels,some anxiety over our choice of BsAs.Your report is helping assuage that 'doubt'. Sure hope we can manage without a Spanish vocab.Keep it coming hikerboy.
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Feb 10th, 2011, 07:21 AM
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minx, go get a little cheap Spanish/English dictionary so you can look things up.
Learn basics .. please, thank you etc.
Write your address down so you can show the taxi drivers and not have to try to pronounce things correctly.
Try to speak some Spanish.. I know a young woman who is Japanese, learning to speak English, when she came to Buenos Aires, she learned a bunch of Spanish phrases .. it is so appreciated by the people here when you at least try.
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Feb 10th, 2011, 04:23 PM
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I always bash on and try wherever we are.It's usually pretty grim.But then again one can always 'gesticulate'. I did that at a store in Italy when I asked for chicken breasts..it worked beautifully....lol
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Feb 11th, 2011, 06:28 PM
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minx, You will be fine here. I always say that when we arrived, I was a very fluent mime. Almost everyone has a great sense of humor .. if we can't be understood, at least let them be entertained
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Feb 13th, 2011, 11:28 AM
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hikerboy, your two vignettes are indeed interesting and exciting, and I am definitely enjoying reading about your adventures in Buenos Aires.

I hope to return to Buenos Aires in early October of this year and will use your information as a guide since it is new and fresh to me. Also, what is "TA" which someone referred to after s/he read your first post?

As an aside I had an ex-pat guide last May who's spent four years in Buenos Aires. He relayed to me that the bus system is one hell of a task for newbies to masster, but if you have the time and are game--I applaud you for the dare!!

<...have been to and in Buenos Aires 4Xs since 2008 but will not experience riding a bus while in this fabulous and wonderful city; I, personally, will stick to taking taxis and walking because I become too disoriented quickly!>
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Feb 13th, 2011, 12:28 PM
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TA stands for Trip Advisor http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForum...Argentina.html
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