Pretty soon we too joined the “Buenos Aires Fan Club” and fell in love with this marvellous city. It has so much to offer whether you’re a bookworm or dance fanatic, food lover or fashionista, there’s something for everyone.
Below are the highlights of our time in the city;
Walking around the tree lined, cobble stoned streets of Palermo
We were really lucky with the location of our apartment being very close to numerous trendy bars, restaurants, tango milangos and chic boutique shops. We took a stroll along the streets most evenings.
Living like Porteños
Staying in one place for more than a week really gives you a chance to settle and explore not only the city but the lifestyle too. We picked up a local mobile SIM card from a street kiosk and also a SUBE card which you pre-load with credit and use for subway journeys and get discounts on bus rides. It took a while to get our heads (and stomachs) around the eating habits of Porteños. Breakfast is usually a coffee and medialunas (sweet croissants) around 10am with lunch anytime between 1 and 3pm. ALL the shops close between 1pm and 5pm for siestas so no point going out unless you’re sightseeing of course. Between 5pm and 7pm you’ll see the locals flock to the café’s for coffee and Dulces – sort of cakes or biscuits and dinner time is never before 10pm! Once we got used to the routine, we took quite a liking to this lifestyle. Along with the late dinners come the late going-out times, nothing really happens before 1am in this city. We were given free tickets to a La Bomba del Tiempo night at the Club Groove. The tickets said doors opened at 11pm so we arrived around 11:30pm hoping to not miss the show. Doors only opened around 12:15am and the show started after 2am!
La bomba del Tiempo is a group of 14 musicians banging away on a variety of drums, bongos, percussions following the improvised movements of the “conductor” who constantly changes the rhythm and tempo of the music using different, hand, finger or even nodding signs so that no other performance is the same. It’s hard to stand still to this energetic, upbeat music and soon we were among others dancing like there is no tomorrow.
We tried to get involved in anything to do with this seductive and passionate dance. We took classes at La Esquineza Dance Co. and practised our routine at a milonga night at La Catedral which is set in an old Art Deco warehouse which has been turned in to a big tango hall with old chandeliers, rusty furniture and relics of a glamorous bygone era scattered around. Its friendly staff and intimate atmosphere is what made it our favourite milonga. We celebrated our anniversary there with a bottle of fine red wine. Later that night, a tango singer accompanied by a piano player took over the stage and like everyone else in the room we were lost in those sweet moments of time.
Established in 182 and set in 55 hectares, Recoleta cemetery is certainly nothing like we’d seen before! Massive marble mausoleums in a variety of beautiful architectural styles surrounded by high walls. It’s like a small city of statues and tombs that have been filled over the decades by the families of BA’s uber rich and famous. One of the attractions is the final resting place of Eva Peron where you always find a big queue of admirers.
The Steel Flower (Floralis Generica)
This fascinating sculpture made of stainless steel aliminium is a gift to the city by the Argentinian architect, Eduardo Catalano which stands 23m high and weighs 18 tonnes! What’s amazing is that it acts like a real flower which opens at 8 am everyday and closes at sunset.
Ciudad Emergente Festival the City’s Emerging Arts festival exploring and showcasing new trends emerging in the city in the world of music, street art, film, dance and stand-up comedy.
Just when we were having Glastonbury withdrawals symptoms by seeing all the Facebook updates of our friends in London getting ready for this year’s festival, we magically came across with a flyer advertising this 4 day festival on the same weekend as Glastonbury so it was a happy consolation. We saw some really good, and some rather weird, bands and dance routines along with lots of great art and photo galleries. And the bonus was that it was free and the sun was shining!
Tigre Delta is a popular place for Porteños to get a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of the city to peace and tranquil quiet. It’s within easy reach on a 50 minute train ride from BA’s main train staion – Retiro. However, we happened to go there on a public holiday Friday so peaceful and quiet weren’t the right words for that day. We still enjoyed our stroll by the river front on a glorious sunny winter afternoon though. The Peurtas Frutas market in Tigre is not to be missed also.
There are plenty of excursions up and down the delta available by the train station but we opted for a public ferry boat dropping people off at different jetties. We got off at the Noma Negra stop and spent the afternoon basking in the sunshine and having a little picnic by the river.
The Carlos Gardel Museum which was once his home was a touching experience for me as he and Astor Piazzola have been my most favourite tango musicians for years! I pretty much looked forward to this moment since we left London. Unfortunately I couldn’t get to see Astor Piazzola’s burial place as it was way out of town, sad face.
Book Worm’s Paradise
Buenos Aires is a magical land for literature enthusiasts. You can easily find a decent book shop on almost every corner. I spent a quite a bit of time in some of them and here are my two favourites;
Libros Del Pasaje (Thames 1762)
I came across with this little gem on a lazy walk around the streets of Palermo one afternoon. The cosy lay out and the friendly atmosphere had me hooked instantly. There is a good selection of English literature and a small cafe at the back where you can read, order some nibbles and in my case write up post drafts for this blog. Only 500m away from our flat, this place quickly became my most favourite spot in town and I made regular visits whenever I needed my literature fix.
El Ateneo (Av. Santa Fe 1860)
I had read about this book store in the guide book but seeing it with my own eyes justified why it receives so much praise. You find yourself lost in the world of words, and images as soon as you set foot inside the three storey building that was once a theatre. I met some amazing elderly Porteños (who fortunately spoke very fine English) in the cafe on the ground floor and enjoyed chatting about the politics and social events of Buenos Aires.