But if I were to be honest, it took a couple days for Buenos Aires to grow on me,
but after I have left, I can’t seem to shake it off. It is WEIRD. BA is busy, dirty
even in some parts. It was a confusing mix of Paris-esque 19th century buildings
straddled between nondescript, plain concrete buildings. It’s Latin America but
people were so white. It’s reminiscent of Europe yet it’s also chaotic and somewhat
disorganized that if something goes awry, like a flight being horribly late, you
forego all your right to complain because that’s just how things are in Latin America.
People speak beautiful Español and hardly any English which is already confusing
enough in itself but why must people say “Shoy Trish... Me shama Trish” is beyond my
comprehension. The exciting selection of food was amazing, and I’m not just referring
to just steak either (or dulce de leche everything). Although a massively cosmopolitan
city, there are parks and green spaces everywhere. The people are distant enough
that total strangers don’t attempt to converse otherwise, but the cab drivers who do
will send you off in the Argentine besos. Its recent political history has been dark and
fascinating (Google “Dark War”, “the Disappeared”, and “Las Abuelas de Plaza de
Mayo”) - and I want to educate myself more about it and how it has shaped the
Argentina of today.
I always thought that the ability to be surprised and to be caught off-guard
is a beautiful, if not precious thing, especially in the context of travel. Buenos
Aires was nothing like I expected and that was freaking disarming. And there’s
something about that that really I love.
IF YOU GO
The shortest route I found from the West Coast of the US is on Latam Airlines for a mere ~13 hours with
just one stop in Lima. Latam Airlines also flies direct from Miami (~9 hours) and 1 stop flights out of
New York and San Francisco.
From the airport, you can take a cab. Note that most cabs only take cash, not credit cards. So if you have not
figured out the currency situation upon your arrival in Buenos Aires, there are prepaid taxi services at the
airport that take credit cards. Just prepare to pay premium. Once in BA, Uber works (just not from the
airport). But don't shy away from public transportation. Load a Subte card and you can board
the public bus and the metro on the same card. Google Maps could direct you which lines
take and which stops to get off at.
Steak, empanadas, Malbec, alfajores, and dulce de leche everything pretty
much sums up the food experience for me in Buenos Aires. Grilled meat served at a traditional "parillada"
is a must and Don Julio at the Palermo district comes highly recommended. Order a bottle of Malbec and
have a crepe with dulce de leche for dessert and that will have you muttering "que rico" on repeat.
There are many traditional cafes in Buenos Aires. This is an offshoot of Italy and Paris of sorts, after all.
The coffee will be decent, but for specialty coffee with a nuanced taste, there is no place like LAB
in Palermo. Go on a weekend and you're sure to run into the quirky outdoor market at Plaza Serrano.
La Alacena in the same neighborhood serves high quality Buenos Aires version
of Italian food and the muffuleta is la bomba, como no.
"Puerta cerrada", or "closed door" in English is our favorite dining experience in BA.
There is nothing in the world like it that I know of. These dining establishments are not
restaurants per se, but rather a house (sometimes it's the chef's house) where chefs host
a small number of people on select days of the week. We lucked out since Ocho Once
ran by young and extremely talented Chef Gonzalo Bazterrica were taking reservations on
our last night in BA, in the neighborhood of our AirBnb. It was a five-course prix fixe
where Chef Gonzalo himself brought each plate out and explained what each one was.
The food was Latin inspired but with hints of modernity and in some cases, molecular gastronomy.
The food had sophisticated tastes and textures and hands-down, the best meal we've had in Argentina.
Teatro Colon is one of the best opera houses in the world and if you can, try to watch a
ballet or an opera when visiting. There are a range of tickets available and if you end
up at the "hen house" where it's standing room only but the tickets are the cheapest,
don't feel too discouraged because that area actually has the best acoustics in the entire
theater. You can also watch live rehearsals and the best part is they are totally free. You just
have to know when they are. If you miss any performances, at least try to go to a guided
tour. It's a marvelous theater and knowing about the history can educate
you about BA's history in the process.
Because we are short on time, we missed the chance to experience tango. You have
the option to go to a tango show (pretty expensive), but also a milonga or a tango club
is a more enticing and local option. Our Airbnb host highly recommended
Salon Canning in the Palermo area.