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Trip Report - 1 week in Buenos Aires

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Oct 31st, 2010, 03:33 AM
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Trip Report - 1 week in Buenos Aires

Thanks to all here who assisted in planning my trip to visit daughter while she is studying abroad in BA. I found BA exciting, beautiful in some areas, and with a fascinating present and past.

Travel - I flew AA BOS-MIA-EZE and was fortunate enough to fly business class due to husbands FF miles. No complaints; interesting to note that first language of perhaps 90% of passengers was Spanish - seemed to be mostly people returning home than vacationing. Arrived at 9 AM and was thrilled to see all significant signage in both Spanish and English. Simple and clear process thru paying entry fee, immigration, customs, baggage reclaim. Had been advised to take a remis - an unmarked airport transportation car for which one pays a flat fee depending on destination. Prices of each company were posted at baggage claim and I picked World Car, paid my fee,by credit card at the office window and was off to Palermo.

Traffic - unfortunately I arrived on day of unusually massive demonstration involving the killing of a railroad worker, and traffic on major highway and downtown was more gridlocked than usual. Traffic in general was similar to any major city - vehicles usually observing traffic lights, but don't get caught in a crosswalk when light changes or they will run you over (as unfortunately happened to friend of my dtr while I was there and she was swignificantly injured). Lots of horn beeping and yelling in Spanish, Portuguese and English.

Travel within City - You basically have 4 choices. Bus - which I did not take but dtr takes daily; subte (subway) which was like any major subway system, easy map, and cheap; taxi - which by US standards was also very inexpensive - all taxis were very clean and I found no driver who spoke any English. I ended up giving piece of paper to driver with address, feeling like a 6 year old. But it worked. And walking - a lot. Bring comfortable flat shoes. Had expected to see women in stylish shoes with heels, but everyone seemed to wear attractive but shoes for walking - even a fair number of sneakers among both tourists and locals (unlike Europe). (to be continued)
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Oct 31st, 2010, 03:41 AM
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super nice report so far Gail thanks for posting,
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Oct 31st, 2010, 03:49 AM
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Hotel - I chose Own Palermo Hotel, based primarily on proximity to dtr. It was wonderful - price was about $130 USD per night and for that I got breakfast, huge room, and incredible service. Breakfast was coffee, fruit, pastries, cheese - all served in small bar area near entrance upon request (no soggy US buffets!). Little touches were everywhere - on final AM while I was sitting at computer (for guest us) in lobby printing boarding pass, without even asking there was a cup of coffee sitting next to me. All staff spoke English and was knowledgeable and willing to offer help and suggestions. Decor is minimalist and modern - painted concrete floors and ceilings, spare furnishings, modern built-in furniture. Only negative is that there is construction going on across the street - no power tool noise, but hammering and talking, even on Saturday. Just ask for a room not facing construction.

Activities - As I mentioned, spent more time just visiting with daughter than regular tourists might. Enjoyed MALBA (contemporary art museum) a great deal. Also Recoleta Cemetary - had been warned that it is difficult to find way out, and it is true. If you want to see Eva Peron's burial site, this is the place. Took a city hop-on/hop-off tour bus to get city overview and stopped at several places, including San Telmo (I have been told not to go there after dark) and the Boca soccer/futball stadium - which seemed to be a source of great reverence for locals, so much that security had to chase tour participants out of the team shower room when they were tkaing too many photos. Sat on open upper deck of bus, enjoying the beautiful spring, dodging big tree branches as we drove thru the streets. Walked along the river, watched rowers, walked across a beautiful pedestrian bridge. Toured Casa Rosada, walked thru parts of Recoleta and Palermo soaking in the atmosphere. (continued)
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Oct 31st, 2010, 04:11 AM
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Food - I loved this part. My favorite was the small cafes everywhere. For less than $4 USD one can get cafe con leche, a huge plate of medalunas/pastries, a small glass a real fresh orange juice and sit forever. Service was professional everywhere - from these cafes to higher end restaurants. Many menus offer some English translations, and if one has passing reading skills in any Romance Language, one can figure it out. Tip 10% My daughter was there to translate which made it easy, but even if I had not been with her, I think I could have ordered (point to menu and smile method) something I liked. These cafes also were our lunch choices. For dinners we ate at 2 memorable places - La Cabrera - where we shared a salad and steak platter - menu even suggested diners share. This was my first night and I was shocked to look at wall clock as we were finishing our wine and discover it was almost 1 AM on a Thursday - dinner truly begins no earlier than 10 PM, a time when I am usually asleep. I learned to adjust. On another night we went to La Vineria de Gualterio Bolivar for an unusual but good tasting menu dinner. It is a tiny place with perhaps 10 tables and one is presented with 16 tiny courses/plates - all unusual (some a bit strange) - and there are suggested wine pairings, although I hope one is not expected to drink 16 glasses of wine - we each had 2 or 3. Dinner one night at apartment of dtr's host family - braised beef, root veggies, beet and carrot salad, wine - which dtr says is fairly typical of her home meals. I then was asked if I wanted to try mate - which is a tea-like beverage served in a decorated gourd. The leaves fill about 1/3 of the cup and are left in and one drinks thru a special straw with a filter. Unfortunately, I did not get full idea of taste, since I was later told by dtr that out of respect for my possible dislike of this beverage they loaded it up with many spoonfuls of sugar for me - so it tasted like muddy sugar water. Dtr is bringing some home, so I will try it again. Also went to wine tasting run by Anuva Vinos, held at Rendez Vous Hotel, but it travel to various sites thru the city - with tasting menu as well.

Overall impression - I was terrified to travel to BA alone, even though I was meeting my daughter. I live near Boston, grew up near New York City so am comfortable in large cities. It was fine. Without exception, everyone was tolerant of my lack of Spanish language skills and would summon up any English they knew to try to help me out. I had heard warnings of non-violent street crime from my daughter and was careful but never felt unsafe (although I was often in a taxi at night and not walking alone). The city shows evidence of both past economic difficulties - vacant buildings, some shoddy construction, sidewalks are sometimes in poor repair - plus more recent economic growth in some newer and more attractive construction. Scattered green space makes it seem less city-oppressive, and some of the park land is quite beautiful. Beautiful old buildings, both public and private; cleaner than many other cities, especially in the absence of paper and other food wrappers in the street - people sit to eat and I do not think I ever saw one person walking or driving and eating at the same time. I left the day prior to Census Day where everything shuts down and 36 hours before city began mourning for past-President Kirchner (husband of current Pres) - would have been fascinating to be there for either but as a tourist glas I was not.

Thanks again to all who helped me plan.
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Oct 31st, 2010, 05:33 AM
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Thank you for a great report, Gail!

Should we expect you back any time soon?
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Oct 31st, 2010, 06:54 AM
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I enjoyed reading this, gave a good insight to someplace I've never been and unfortunately, most likely won't ever get to. Thanks.
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Oct 31st, 2010, 07:18 AM
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So glad you enjoyed your stay in BsAs - really nice Trip Report, Gail.

How fortunate to have the benefit of visiting with a daughter with Spanish skills and the family with whom she is staying. You get some more intimate views and notions of this intriguing city.

Next trip, you might want to add a side-trip to another part of Argentina.

Best,

~Marnie
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Oct 31st, 2010, 08:07 AM
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I am happy that your week here was a good one, that you got to see as much as you did and that your impressions were good.
I know after our first visit, I came home numb from all the impressions, love it/hate it/noisy/wonderful people/music/traffic noise/ etc ... I will remember your recommendation for the hotel, we will have visitors in the summer ..
I cannot stand mate .. I have tried it more than once but it seems to taste like dirty sugar water no matter what ! lol.

I hope you can come back again..
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Oct 31st, 2010, 02:40 PM
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Thanks for the report. We'll keep your hotels and restaurants in mind for planning our trip this spring to visit our son studying at an IES program in BA. I'm curious how your daughter is doing with the program. Is she hanging out with argentine or american kids? Has her spanish improved a lot? What trips outside of BA would be reasonable if you had a few extra days? Any decent beaches nearby? Did you have a fodorite GTG? Sorry for all the pesky questions, and thanks again for the report.
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Oct 31st, 2010, 03:19 PM
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My daughter is a student at Elon University in NC and their Argentina program is thru CIEE which then involves FLASCO while in Argentina (check out websites of each if you are not familiar with them). Upon arrival each student is tested in Spanish and then given info/permission on what mix of classes and where to take - FLASCO is an accredited international university and is the "homebase" - where she receives mail - and she takes several classes there. She is also taking a class at University of Buenos Aires (a huge multi-site school) which had a prolonged student strike this semester, messing up everything, including schedule, credits, etc; plus another class at a different BA college, but I don't remember name.

I know no Spanish, so can only go by her report as to Spanish fluency. Yes, it has improved, but was fairly good prior to her semester. I observed her conversing in Spanish with waiters, taxi drivers, her host family - and she appeared quite competent to me.

She is hanging out with primarily US kids - but from all over the US. This is partially because for most of the semester she had no classes at UBA.

Trips for students or you? I guess answer is the same, but I am hardly an expert - so seek advice from others here. She has traveled about 1 of every 2 weekends, taking advantage of having no classes on Fridays. There is apparently a decent inter-city bus system, but she has also flown; she has stayed at some decent hostels. There is a fast boat to Uraguay - that was a day trip to Montevideo and Colonia. Also flight to Salta (as part of her program) for the weekend. She also went to Iguazu Falls - on the Brazil border, a beef ranch, Cordoba for Oktoberfest and is planning trips to Mendoza to see wineries, a beach town in Uruguay and hopefully Machu Pichu in December prior to heading home. I do remind her periodically that this is called STUDY abroad, not travel abroad - but she has gained incredible competence in trip planning, navigating a large city, safe international travel - so it is all good.

Beaches - she tells me the nearest good beach is in Uruguay, but I have no idea where.

No Fodorite GTG, but several people here were incredibly helpful and supportive prior to my trip.

Other unsolicited advice - get the communication thing set with your internet and cell phone carrier prior to his departure. For us with Verizon it involved getting 2 new internationally-abled Blackberries, adding international data plans; I learned to skype and got a webcam. There is internet/wifi service widely available, but not in all homes. Mail service takes longer than USPS says it should, but you can mail small international boxes for a reasonable fee - although they also take longer than USPS says they should.

Most airlines allow coach passengers 2 50-pound suitcases, and as a fashion-conscious female, she had 2 49.5 pound pieces of luggage plus a large carry-on. I brought a lot of the weight home with me - mainly winter clothes she no longer needs.

Exchange rate makes it a relatively inexpensive place to live for an American. She gets breakfast plus one other meal/day at her host family and is able to feed herself the other meals, hang out in cafes, go out on weekends for about $100 USD a week - plus extra money for travel. ATMs are everywhere - ours charges $5 per transaction plus a percentage and we were unable to find a way around that.

When you visit, pick a hotel based on what neighborhood your son lives in - it is a big city. Mine worked for us because we could go to dinner, we could get one taxi which would drop me off at my hotel and then take her home - just more convenient.
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Oct 31st, 2010, 03:30 PM
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santamonica - if you have any specific questions about study abroad in Argentina, you can send me a message on TripAdvisor - I am gails09 there.
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Oct 31st, 2010, 05:07 PM
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Welcome back gail and thanks for the trip report!
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Oct 31st, 2010, 06:14 PM
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Thanks for reporting back
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Jan 7th, 2011, 12:23 PM
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gail, thanks for such a great report and follow-up. Our son is off tomorrow to visit his aunt in Bogota, and then in about a month he flies to Buenos Aires. We don't know yet what neighborhood he'll be living in, so we haven't done much planning yet. But your report and information on the schools, neighborhoods, beaches etc are great. Thanks again.
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Jan 7th, 2011, 12:56 PM
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Beaches .. Mar de Plata is in Buenos Aires ... about a 4 hour drive .
Uruguay, a ferry ride plus bus/rental car drive..
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Jan 7th, 2011, 03:02 PM
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Hi Gail!

I really enjoyed your wonderful trip report! Thank you.
Happy to learn of more restaurant recommendations, etc. Did you go to a tango show? Again, many thanks.
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Jan 8th, 2011, 07:39 AM
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Thanks, Gail. We are just beginning to research BA and Argentina. Your trip report is wonderful and informative. Thanks, again!!
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Jun 12th, 2011, 04:51 PM
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Hi Gail -

I'm planning an August trip to BA to also visit my daughter who will be studying there (CCIS)- will be traveling with her 15 year old sister - do you think there is enough to do for 8 days?
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Jun 17th, 2011, 11:39 AM
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Hi Gail thanks so much for you report.. Did you need reservations at La Cabrera? that was on my list..
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Jun 18th, 2011, 06:01 AM
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We made reservations for La Cabrera and highly recommend that you have them as well. Our hotel made them for us.
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