Day 1 – 08 Nov 2016 – The Paris of the South
When we first learned that Buenos Aires means good air, we became really curious where this name is coming from. So we have been looking forward to finding out the air of this city. When we were descending to Ezeiza Airport, we have realized that the airport area has dark tones of green with a lot of trees. It was a cloudy day but the temperature was pleasant with no rain. Ezeiza airport was busy where we waited around half an hour for immigration checks. It was the first time in our life where we get into a country without a visa, which is a very very very good feeling. After immigration, we went to baggage claim and we could not find our bags on the belt that they were supposed to be, but luckily they showed up in another belt. The next thing we needed was getting some pesos in case we need any cash. Citi bank had an ATM inside the terminal. The ATM did not give us more than 2000 pesos and it charged around 90 pesos for withdrawal. Our bank also charges around 40 pesos (2.5 dollars + 1% of the total that we withdraw). So ATM is not the optimal way but since we are on a long trip with many different currencies this was the suboptimal solution for us. Then, we tried to get a ride for the city. We had two options: prepaid taxis (560 pesos) vs. bus 180 pesos per person. Then, we realized that we should also check Uber to see if it is working. And we got a ride to the city for 250 pesos. You go through a big highway where there is not that much to see around into the city. We hit some traffic, but it wasn’t too bad. Our driver was really nice and he gave us a city map at the end of the trip and recommended some neighborhoods to visit. Our hostel (Carlos Gardel) is in San Telmo area. This area is scenic and famous with its antique shops and a market for antiques (only on Sundays, and we have been told by many people that it is worth seeing, so we’re sad to miss it). It has typical architectural style for the old Argentinian buildings. Our hostel was also in an old building but everything was working properly and we had access to a balcony as well. Once we settled down in the hostel, we decided to go out to have some walk.
The famous main avenue, Ave 9 de Julio, was walking distance to our hostel. Once we approached the avenue we have realized that it was definitely the largest avenue we have seen in our lives. There was a protest going on in the avenue for workers rights. We have quickly realized that protests are a routine part of Argentinian life. One of the most significant buildings on the avenue is the health ministry building. This tall white building has Eva Peron’s (Evita) images on both sides.
Then, we walked to Plaza del Congreso to see the congress building. Betul tried to speak English with the guards but she was not successful until they found someone can help us. Luckily, there was a free tour at 5, so we decided to come back for this tour later. While we were walking, we passed the Palacio Baralo building. In this building there is a tour with tango show or cello concert and you can visit the top of the building for some nice views, sadly we could not do this.
On our way to Plaza de Mayo, we stopped at Cafe Tortoni. This is a famous cafe which reminded us the cafes back in Paris, especially Café de Flore in Saint Germain. Here, we tried the drink Fernet Cola, Quilmes (beer) and ate Miga Triple Simple Anchoa and Huevo (Anchovy & Egg Sandwich) and tartas de jamon y queso (Ham and Cheese Pie).
Then, we visited Plaza de Mayo where Casa Rosada government building. We knew that this square is the place where Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo come together. It was also interesting to see that there were a lot of police presence and blockages with some checkpoint areas. This might be due to recent protests in Buenos Aires. Another interesting observation was almost all monuments was surrounded by some fence where it was not possible to get closer. After this, we went back to Plaza Del Congreso but they told us that tour has been cancelled. We were sad to hear that, but kept going.
We walked to Obelisco and also seen the Teatro Colón building and got some information for the tours and then went to Galerías Pacífico to have some coffee. The paintings on the ceiling was impressive however we did not have any space in our bags for shopping. We instead had a coffee and rested a bit here, enjoying the ceiling paintings. The ups! of this day appeared when Murat wanted to pay for the coffee and realized that the card was missing! The only place that we could have left it was Cafe Tortoni, and luckily, we were not that far from it. We walked on Calle Florida, which Betul was happy about. This part of the town really resembles the buildings of Paris, and gives us an idea why Buenos Aires is called “the Paris of the South”. The happy news is that the credit card was waiting for us at Cafe Tortoni. After this excitement, and with all this walking business, and jetlag, finally, we passed out without having dinner at our hostel.
Day 2 – 09 Nov 2016 – The day we danced tango in Buenos Aires
Our jetlag was not that bad and we had great sleep to start the new day. In our hostel we had our breakfast and had a chance to try dulce de leche. This is a sweet jam and you can find it almost everywhere if you want to bring back some of this to your home. We went to Teatro Colón first thing in the morning and found out the English tour at 11 is already full and there is some availability for 3pm. We got our tickets for 250 pesos and decided to go to Racoleta neighborhood while we have some time till the tour. We needed to use the public transport for the first time. For this, you need to buy a card called sube which works for busses and subways. You can buy this card at subway stations and put more credit into in the same place.
We took the subway, subte, to the Racoleta cemetery first. There were incredible graves in this cemetery some of the was almost as high a two story house. We also visited Evita’s grave here. It was definitely one of the highlights of the day.
Then we went to visit the Floralis Genérica. This is an art installation where a mechanical flower closes its petals during night and opens them slowly during the day. Before we head back to theater for the tour we stopped at Costumbres Criollas (only locals can find this place =p) to eat some Empenadas. We had some Empenadas before but this was completely different with a lot of different varieties — we got some even with zucchini. On our way, we also visited Plaza San Martin which is next to the Retiro train station.
Our Teatro Colón tour started right on time. This theater is in a magnificent building. Our guide told us about the tragic story of the first two Italian architects who died at the same age 44 and could not finish the building. Finally, a third, Belgian, architect, finished the building. This building is a great example of belle epoch era where Argentina spend time and money on replicating European style buildings all financed by strong exports. Sadly, they were working on a new play and they did not have any lights except the stage area. So we could not see that much but we tried to use our imagination. Our guide told us about the golden ring around the large chandelier where they can fit 15 musicians (up in the ceiling) for special occasions. And we learned that this theater has the best acoustics for opera plays. We are hoping to come back this theater to watch a play.
Our next stop was the famous bookstore, El Ateneo Grand Splendid. They turned an old theater into a bookstore. You can see bookshelves where you were supposed to have ground floor seats and more shelves on the first and second floor. Also, they had a cafe where they used to have the stage. We could not help ourselves and decided to have a coffee here with some Helado (ice cream) while watching shelves and people wandering around them.
We have been looking for an opportunity to watch either a tango show or find a place to have some tango lessons. We have been advised by Clara (whom we met on the plane on our way from Turkey) that La Catedral Club is a great venue for this. We went to this place by getting some help from Google Maps. However, once we get to the address we did not even see sign on the building. You can only read Tango at the entrance of the building. Once you get in, you will realize slowly that you are at the right place. We made our way to upstairs and on our left we saw bunch of people practicing tango. We were standing at the door and immediately instructor (Pablo) called us in. They were practicing the very basics and some of the students for real first timers. We practiced around 1.5 hours and towards the end of the lessons Pablo showed us more advanced moves. Getting into La Catedral costs 100 pesos and all lessons for that night is included. They have a small room for lessons and a much bigger venue for lessons and shows. You can also enjoy some food and drinks or learn how to paint.
Luana suggested us to visit El Boliche de Roberto to watch milongas. We went there but the first show was at 10:30 and we were quite hungry while we were debating on what to do an old man in front of the bar approached us. We told him that our Spanish is almost ‘nada’ and he switched to “English” for us. He asked where we are coming from and invited us to stay. We told him that we are coming from Turkey and we will walk around to see other alternatives. He was quite interested in the fact that we are from Turkey. While we were talking, he started giving us his home address and invited us to his place. He wrote it down to a paper and mentioned that his house is our house and we are always welcome :)
Once we left the bar, we found a place called Don Ignacio with some help from Yelp. We initially thought that it is just a bar and not serving food but we were completely wrong. All its walls were covered with the album covers and concert posters of mostly rock musicians. We ordered a Milanesa, and Bife de costilla (rib steak) served with potato puree. We paired our meal with some Argentinian red vine. Everything was really delicious. Then, exhausted but delightful we head back to the hostel with another Uber ride.
Day 3 – 10 Nov 2016 – Different faces of Buenos Aires
Our day 3 was the best amongst the three days we have spent in Buenos Aires. Not only because we woke up to a beautiful warm sunshiny day, but also, we have met a wonderful woman, Teresa Velasquez, randomly at the bus stop on our way to La Boca. She came to the stop saying something, and we said our usual mantra: “No hablo espanol” and she asked what languages we speak. As we get on the bus we told her we speak english and turkish, and she started talking with us in a language that is mostly spanish with some english. She came with us to La Boca. The next thing, she was singing to the lyrics of a song about Caminito. She walked with us in the streets of Caminito between the colorful houses of the neighbourhood. She told us that the houses used to be owned by the artists.
As we were randomly walking by, she went into one of the shops and bought a mate cup for us as a gift! In another restaurant, she asked the dancers to dance tango for us, and she tipped them with us. She was talking to everyone, and she was constantly telling us stories about the place, Argentina, politics, life, some of which we understood and some others we missed…
Then, we left ways for a little bit, while she was visiting the contemporary art museum, we strolled in the streets for a bit longer, and finally went to the restaurant, La Perla, that we have decided to meet. We ordered a chorizo and different types of Quilmes beer while we were waiting for her. The restaurant was by the water front, and there were a lot of nice old pictures and souvenirs as decorations. As Teresa later said, one could easily imagine that back in the day, the sailors would come to this restaurant after they have docked their ships nearby; some tables even had the names, the captain, the first officer, the second officer…
Afterwards, we walked up to La Bambonera, the stadium of the team Boca Juniors, full with colors of blue and yellow.
Then, we have moved on to visit CCK cultural center. The building is impressive, and we have visited some of the exhibitions there. After resting for a coffee, and exchanging our contacts, she walked with us towards Puerto Madero. As she left for the train station, we were quite sad that we didn’t speak enough Spanish to talk more in depth with her. She has made our day beautiful…
La Boca has a different face of Buenos Aires, with colorful small houses, while Puerto Madero has another face, where the old port being transformed into tall glass buildings. After walking a bit by the Reserva Ecologica, we walked back to the canal and decided to sit in one of the restaurants. We have decided to taste Bife de chorizo and Ojo de bife, of course with a jarra of Quilmes! Then we walked back to our hostel, passing through the streets of San Telmo, to take back our bags. We took Uber back to EZE airport (for 385 pesos this time because of the surge price) and are waiting for our flight to Ushuaia now :)