An Exciting Start to a Month in Argentina

We hit the ground running in Buenos Aires because we were both excited about going to a place we had never been. I had a huge list of things we should see while in the capital, so we got started right away. Our trip consisted of a week in Buenos Aires and then a tour around the country, followed by a final week in Buenos Aires before returning to Mexico.

Starting Our Visit

Our arrival in Buenos Aires through Panama City was delightfully uneventful even though we had about 10 hours of flying. Checking into our apartment was simply a matter of being given the keys.

On our first morning, we spent some time checking out the local grocery options for coffee and breakfast. After that, we tried to get familiar with our neighborhood, which was called SoHo Palermo. In addition, Mike wanted to get an Argentinian hard SIM for data.

Mike made a solo excursion to a nearby mall because he was looking for the Claro mobile service provider store. Once there, he found he couldn’t buy the SIM because he had forgotten his passport. So, we tried again later that day. First, we went to the SIM store, then outside and across the street to buy the card activation and the. Then we went back to the store to get it all working together. All in the cause of getting a month’s worth of data for $5. Mike thought it was a worthwhile use of time given it was a month.

I must say, it was more than a little challenging. We also figured out the metro and bus system and purchased a Sube card to pay for public transit. The only weird thing was that when you got on the bus, you had to tell the driver where you were going so the price could be set. So, we never really knew how much a trip would cost or whether we had enough on credit cards for the return trip.

Apartment in SoHo Palermo

Before traveling to Argentina we asked lots of people where we should stay. We usually got one of two answers, either Palermo or Recoleta. Since we were spending two separate weeks in Buenos Aires, we decided to try both. SoHo Palermo was first. The only downside to this apartment was the laundry downstairs, for which I had to buy coins.

We also figured that we should discover all this neighborhood offered while we were there. The apartment was very compact as many city apartments are. Still, there were lots of bars and restaurants within easy walking distance. It was only a few blocks to a large grocery store if we didn’t get lost coming back.

Money in Argentina

Money is a big topic in Argentina because they have more than 20% inflation per ‘month’. I’m not joking. So, the instructions we got before we arrived told us that we should bring new $100 bills and take them to a cambio to be exchanged.

The Cambios give you something called the Blue Rate, which is better than the official rate of exchange. There are many articles on the internet about the blue rate in Argentina, so I’m not going to try to tell you more about it.

The first morning we also went in search of a cambio so we would have local currency. The largest bill is $1000 Argentinian pesos. But because the exchange rate is roughly 900 to 1, one hundred dollars gets you about 90000 pesos, i.e. 90 bills. My point is that it is a huge wad of bills, which frankly was a big pain to carry around.

About $25

We also learned that the credit card rate was better than the official rate and worse than the blue rate, but not by much. As a result, we charged as much of our daily expenses as possible. Overall, I think we managed the money issues pretty well.

City Tour and Neighborhoods

In our first week, we were able to enjoy two city tours. One on the Hop-on Hop-off bus and a private through the organized tour we started at the end of our first week. The Big Bus tour was useful for getting us oriented but the historical information provided was difficult to follow.

There are a number of notable neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. At least, these are the ones that we know something about. Palermo, is very hip and has a lot of flashy bars and some of the city’s best restaurants. Recoleta is supposed to be one of the nicest places in town to live. La Boca, where the city started, is interesting and colorful by day but we were told not to go there at night. San Telmo is a small old neighborhood that is known for its Sunday market and charming streets. Puerto Madero is a newer area near the port filled with high-rise apartments and office buildings. We spent at least a day exploring each of these neighborhoods.

On our official city tour, we went to the Pink House which was the first fortified structure in Buenos Aires. During a coup attempt, some Argentinians actually blew up part of the building. But it has been rebuilt with a huge square in front. Today, the building is the office of the President.

We also spent an extended time in La Boca looking at the colorfully painted buildings constructed of corrugated metal.

Eco Park and Zoo

On our second day, we headed out to catch the Hop-on Hop-off bus. After walking a long way to get there and finally finding the bus stop, we were told that it was a really bad day to ride the bus because there was a protest in one area that restricted the bus routes that day. So, we decided to spend some time wandering in the Eco park/Zoo.

The weather and climate made for a beautiful day and the animals and “follies” were fun to see. For those of you who don’t read historical romances, a folly is a small building or gazebo designed in a unique style to be interesting to ladies of leisure a century ago. After we read the history, sure enough, the fanciful little buildings were built in the 1920s for ladies visiting the zoo.

Evita Museum

After the zoo, I consulted my list of things we should do and found that we were a few blocks from the Evita Museum. Other than the movie, we didn’t know anything about Eva Peron. Her history is very compelling in that she made a name for herself in the six years before her death at the age of 33.

The museum had interesting clothing exhibits and newsreels from Eva’s time as a public figure after she married Juan Peron. Before she married, she was very involved in the struggles of the poor. After marrying Peron, she was able to do more about the plight of the poor. But she and Juan made lots of enemies before and after he was elected president in the 1950’s. Their socialist views weren’t always embraced.

Eva died at the age of 33 from cervical cancer. Juan Peron’s first wife died of the same disease. Modern medicine sheds light on what happened but at the time nothing could be done. Eva was revered by the working class, like herself, whom she spent years helping. Overall, it was a small but interesting museum that I’m glad we took the time to visit. Argentinians can’t seem to get enough of her.

Malba Museum

The Malba Museum is a fairly new museum dedicated to contemporary artists from all over South America. The collection is extensive and interesting and some of the commentary was in English. There were quite a few pieces from each of the artists but I must admit that I had never heard of them before.

The Argentina Experience

I would have to say that the evening we spent at The Argentine Experience was one of the most memorable on our trip. The experience was advertised as dinner, which was fabulous, we also learned a lot about Argentine culture. We learned how to make empanadas and about traditional Argentine foods like provoleta and mate.

Dinner was a six-course affair including plenty of wine. The main course was a braised short rib and a rib-eye steak with potatoes and vegetables. The main course was followed by assorted tiny desserts.

Learning how to make and drink mate and understanding how important the drink and sharing is to the Argentinian people was one of the most interesting things about our visit. After learning about mate, which we didn’t care for, we could recognize the unique cups, straws, and thermoses of hot water that many Argentinians seemed to be carrying within everywhere. They are also crazy for a sandwich cookie called Alfajores, with dulce de leche in the middle.

Local Food in Palermo

Palermo has lots of restaurants, mostly casual. We did notice a few things just on our walks around the neighborhood. First, places that sell pizza almost always have empanadas too. Then, they really like their dessert and coffee. There are several coffee shops with pastries in nearly every block. One of the most famous is Cafe Tortoni. We went there but decided we didn’t want to wait in the long line. There are also a lot of ice cream shops. Finally, everything left is a Parilla, which means they serve meat, especially beef. Nearly every restaurant serves a beef milanesa also but without anything on it, like sauce or cheese.

On our first evening out we went to an excellent parilla restaurant called Calden del SoHo. It turned out to be one of the best meals we had in Buenos Aires. For ice cream, Rapa Nui was recommended. Rightly so, it was exceptional. There are also lots of Italian restaurants because there were a lot of Italian immigrants in Buenos Aires. Pasta is available everywhere.

What kind of food do you think of when you think of Argentina?

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