Buenos Aires is the capital and the largest city of Argentina located on South America’s south-eastern coast. It is the most visited city in South America beating even Rio de Janeiro and is often referred to as Paris of Americas.
As Buenos Aires was our starting point and we had few days to kill until our bike was sorted out through the customs (The bike was sent off to Buenos Aires about a week before our departure via a company called Motofreight), we thought it would be a good idea to relax and slowly ease into being in South America, We were quite laid back about seeing lots of sights as we will be coming back to Buenos Aires in the end of our trip to possibly get the same plane back to England. It is also quite hard to see lots of places over few days as anything worth seeing is scattered around the numerous neighbourhoods of the city and there is no proper city centre as in the majority of large cities. We chose to stay in Recoleta, quite an upmarket part of the city boasting some of the nicest architecture and impressive residences. To get a good idea of the cities neighbourhoods, here is a link explaining it all.
The first day was pretty much lost to as, as we arrived in the early hours of the morning and were so tired that the intended few hour nap turned into an almost full days sleep and by the time we woke up it was around 5 in the evening. We had to go and pick up some money, which Carl wired over whilst still back at home (he used a company called Azimo). The reason for doing this rather than exchanging money in exchange services, was the fact that in Argentina you get two exchange rates – the official one and the Black Market rate which gave us $20 for a pound rather than $14 as per the official rate.
The next day we got up bright an early to a beautiful sunny morning, which was a pleasant change from the usually gloomy English weather, and set off to explore the famous La Recoleta Cemetary situated less than a km away from where we were staying. La Recoleta Cemetary contains graves of many noble people, containing those of Argentinian presidents and Eva Peron (known as Evita).
From our past travels to warm countries we have quickly learned to change our usual routine to adapt to the rhythm of the life the locals lead. It usually means doing some sightseeing in the morning and early afternoon, having a few hour nap (or siesta) in the afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day and then getting ready for the dinner which usually starts only around 8 or 9 in the evening if not even later than that. Argentina is no exception – the dinnertime starts at 9 the earliest and usually stretches over the next several hours as they like to take their time and savour the food. It is also not uncommon to see even little cafes open till past midnight with some older people sipping on some drink and leisurely reading a newspaper. Any going out to the bars or the clubs begins only around the midnight and lasts until the early hours of the morning.
The dinnertime is my favourite part of the day as that is the time when I can explore new dishes, try new drinks and drink up the atmosphere of the city at the nighttime.
Buenos Aires did not disappoint with the food, or the atmosphere. We mixed it up with few smaller restaurants serving traditional Argentinian food and some trendier eating places, but nothing particularly stood out to write about it in detail, although, it was a pleasant surprise to find out that a wine order mostly comes in a form of a whole bottle unless you specifically ask for a glass, and costs roughly around 3 – 4 pounds at the Black Market rate.
Carl’s massive steak
Some vegetarian goodness for me
Over the next few days we ventured out of Recoleta to explore other neighbourhoods like Microcentro with our minds set on seeing the national monument Obelisco which was built to commemorate the fourth centenary of the first foundation of the city, and having a walk around the area.
One of the days was spent in the more quiet and relaxed area of San Telmo which always seems to host some sort of artisan craft market on the weekends and showed off a collection of old cobbled streets with, what seemed to be, remains of old tram tracks, surrounded by quaint old houses in array of different colours. At nighttime we ventured to the trendier, more edgy Palermo area, which is a popular place for the young crowd with lots of bars, cafes and bustling nightlife. I think, we will certainly stay in Palermo once we return to Buenos Aires for the second part of our trip.
Beautiful mix of old and new on one of the streets in Microcentro
Craft market at San Telmo
Buenos Aires is ridiculously easy to navigate as the majority of the city consists of straight streets and at each intersection of any given street there are big signs indicating the street name and the house numbers to the next street intersection. Even for a loony like me, it would be virtually impossible to get lost.
As for the means of getting around, we mostly walked or used the subway or SUBTE, as it is the cheapest form of transport in Buenos Aires (hear that London Underground!). It is possible to buy a SUBE card, which gives you cheaper tickets, but even without one the tickets cost next to nothing comparing to any other cities in the world. We did not attempt to brave the buses as they always looked rather full and it also seemed that the drivers are keen to live more dangerously then the ones in England. As the taxi driver who got us from the airport to the apartment explained – the bus drivers in Buenos Aires think they own the city.
Apart from the subway, the best way to get around the city is a taxi, which can be easily hailed from any part of the street 24/7. Apparently there are more than 40 000 taxis just in the city alone and you can see at least few on the streets at any given time of the day. It was recommended to us to use the Radio Taxi as they seem to do more thorough checks on their drivers. It is not unheard for some taxi drivers to try to give tourists fake money so it is advised to carry smaller notes with you when you think you might need a ride. In all fairness, we did not encounter any problems during our stay, but we only used the Radio Taxi.
The busy streets of Buenos Aires
All in all the few days in Buenos Aires left us wanting to see more and there certainly is more to see, but it was the time for us to leave the cosy apartment and get on the road to let the real adventure begin.