The title of this post comes from a Spanish language television infomercial for Caribbean vacations that we see all. the. time. At the end of the infomercial, the pasty, over-stressed businessman backflops into the swimming pool and exclaims ‘Estas si son vacaciones!’ which translates to ‘Now this is a vacation!’. It’s wonderfully cheesy and it was our motto for the trip.
We have only been back for a little over a week and already we are planning out our next trip to Buenos Aires. Our little getaway was just what we needed. Even though it rained two out of the four days we were there and we definitely didn’t touch 2/3 of our ‘to do’ list we still had an awesome time. I’m going to break this post down into tour-guide-like parts for your easy reading pleasure. Just to mix it up a little bit.
I’m not the best flyer. I really love airports for the people-watching but the actual flying part shakes me up just a little bit. (A lot.) Generally while flying I can’t help but think how unnatural it is to be flying in the air, in a tight, crowded space like that. In the past I have had to hold complete strangers’ hands on takeoff and landing. Thankfully my husband was traveling with me this time so I didn’t have to freak anyone (else) out. Once we got into Argentina we had a little scuffle with the authorities because we hadn’t paid our entry fee in Chile. I would love to blame this all on the Santiago airport and our flight carrier but honestly, we were guilty too. We knew we were supposed to pay the charge (160 bucks each…damn you reciprocity of US immigration policies!) but thought we had to pay upon arrival in Argentina. Woops. After being detained in a little cement room at customs in which the guards were blaring CCR’s greatest hits at 2:30 A.M., we were free to go. As we were excited and felt pretty obligated to go out on our first night we shuffled down the street, found a lively little Irish bar and had a few drinks. Vodka for me and water and french fries for him.
I would have named this section Night Life but the only going out we did was the first night we were in town. Since hubs hasn’t had a drink in over 8 months now bars aren’t exactly our scene anymore. I think we did a bang up job with the whole partying thing last time we were in town so I wasn’t too worried about missing out. Instead, we chose to eat. Here are a few of my recommendations:
Cafe San Juan – San Telmo, 450 Avenida San Juan
On the recommendation of a friend, I checked out Time Out magazine as soon as we got there to see their picks for best new restaurants and discovered Cafe San Juan as one of their top choice spots. There was a line out the door and a waiting list at lunchtime on a rainy weekday so right away we knew we had chosen well. Plus the place was so cozy and intimate, open kitchen to watch the chefs do their work, seasonal menu on chalk board menus, etc. But the best part was that it didn’t feel artificial or forced. The owner’s mother was there, chatting up obvious regulars, and it just felt really genuine and great being there. So when the single guy sitting next to us started up a conversation by suggesting we share the two-foot-square chalkboard wine menu, we just pushed our tables together and our romantic meal turned into a threesome (ha!). Thankfully our new friend from Cordoba (Argentina) was really interesting and interested. The food was delicious, carefully constructed but not overly complicated. Everything is sourced using the best of seasonal ingredients too. And despite having seriously gourmet everything (service, ambience, food) the price was reasonable.
Filo – Retiro, 975 San Martin
My husband actually found this place about 7 years ago when he was finishing up his Master’s degree in Santiago (Chile). On a trip to Buenos Aires he stumbled into this Italian pizza restaurant and ended up going back two nights in a row. He showed it to me and my roommate when we were living there in 2008 and it quickly became our go to pizza place when we needed a slice (or 4). They are located off a huge touristy boulevard called Calle Florida so it’s a convenient stop for anyone visiting. Their pizza is as close as it gets to a gourmet slice from home (North-East U.S. style, which is to say the best pizza) as I’ve encountered in the Southern Cone. As an expat I’m pretty much constantly looking for good pizza so this is really saying something.
A Manger – Palermo, 4001 Charcas
Apparently the name of this restaurant means ‘let’s eat’ in French and this little Palermo restaurant/deli hybrid does not disappoint. Offering everything from fancy gourmet cheeses to creative tapanade and sandwiches, this locale is great for a cozy sit down meal or take away dining. (They are even open on Sunday evenings!) A Manger is a do not miss for hungry tourists looking for an elegant spread without the stuffy atmosphere and wait time of some of the other restaurants in the Palermo neighborhoods.
Aside from the obvious eating we did on the trip we also did a lot of walking (to make up for the eating?) and browsing. The San Telmo neighborhood, and calle Defensa in particular, is a bustling street lined with antique markets full of old treasures and vendors selling artisanal goods. Performers and artists flock to the area on the weekends to put on a show for the spectators while others set up impromptu barbecues hawking ‘choripanes’ (sausage sandwiches) and luring in visitors with the smell of greasy, delicious meat products. Grab a mate (the official Argentine hot tea) and spend the day taking it all in.
For a change of pace we wandered over to the Palermo SoHo/Hollywood area for cafe drinking and window shopping at some of the most upscale boutiques in the city. Reminiscent of Greenwich Village but more spread out, this neighborhood is home to some unique Argentine designer shops and international brands as well. Bring US dollars for a better exchange rate and check out La Escondida Parilla (4464 Costa Rica) for a filling lunch (with a legit salad bar!) to replenish your shopping energy.
For those on their first trip to Buenos Aires, I would recommend checking out the more touristy spots too like the Recoleta Cemetary, a Tango show in La Boca, la Casa Rosada (and nearby Puerto Madero) and Tigre (a great town on the Parana Delta about 30 minutes out of the city by train).
You really can’t go wrong in this city; there is something for everyone to enjoy. If you are in need of more suggestions just ask a Porteño when you get there! They are usually extremely proud of their beautiful city and would love to lead you in the right direction.
As always, I would love to hear your questions or comments and I hope you all are enjoying your week!