05 May Buenos Aires
Our over-riding thought on Argentinia is that with few exceptions these people don’t know how to cook. There is a weird lack of essential ingredients, herbs and spices. Even finding black pepper was a challenge. And they have no clue what cheese is. The cheese in supermarkets is all plasticy stuff, and the cheese shops in the street ditto.
The one thing they cook maybe better than anyone else in the world is meat. So since we are quite carnivorous this is something we really appreciated! We didn’t carne too much but the few full-on meat meals we had were superb. Really good-quality meat, cooked to perfection with a fantastic, smokey char and only just cooked to a medium-rare-rare. Honestly struggle to compare.
We weren’t lucky with the weather and in fact our first night was a corker. Rolling thunder and cracking lightning and driving buckets of rain – not much sleep, it was that loud and constant. The next day we found some of the subway entries were closed and later learned it was because of flooding. Our apartment also flooded, because the previous guests had left a sliding door to the balcony slightly open and behind curtains we hadn’t noticed. So we spent the morning pushing water into a bathroom drain, and mopping with towels. Fun.
Our lovely AirBnB apartment was quite close to the San Telmo markets (opened in 1897 as a market) and that was a real treat. This huge old building is now a den of fresh produce shops, speciality shops (like the artisan dulce de leche shop that had about a million different types of dulce de leche) and intimate little neighbourhood bars and cafes, surrounded by narrow, cobblestone streets full of antique shops. We loved just walking around and soaking up the atmosphere. We did find a cheese shop that had real cheese and got some nice soft blue cheese, and were thrilled that they also had goat feta (maybe the only shop in the whole city to stock it) but then were disappointed to find the “feta” was a rubbery, bland mass of blah. So the bruschetta we knocked up for brekky was distinctly lacking.
Our neighbourhood was full of great bars and restaurants, and like most of South America the Argentinian locals seem to dine very late, around 9 pm and onward. So walking around at night felt very safe and friendly.
We also visited the city and the great Abasto shopping mall, dating back to 1893, which has to be seen to be believed. In older times it was mostly wholesale fruit and vegetables, but in more modern times it has been converted to a full on shopping mall with a lot of great fashion shops, a cinema, an amazing children’s playground/museum, games pavilions, and food outlets. They’ve maintained the original feel of the building and we really enjoyed the visit. It was fun ordering Japanese food in Spanish.
Although we really enjoyed the visit, we were hampered by the fact that it was a long weekend because of Labour Day and a lot of tourist attractions were closed. This included one of the most famous opera houses in the world, Teatro Colon, and also included the shopping mall on our first attempt!
On our first attempt at Teatro Colon there was a huge crowd plus a huge queue, but a sign indicated the main auditorium would be in total darkness and since that was the main reason for visiting we decided to try another day. The next day was closed for an unannounced “special event”.
However the Labour Day parade was a lot of fun to watch. The barbecues set up in main streets were also fun and of course tasted great. The rubbish left behind by the crowd was not so great but not so different to Australia.
A highlight we did get into was El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookshop, which was originally a grand theatre. This must surely be the most spectacular bookshop in the world.
Photo of book shop to go here.
Buenos Aires is a lovely city to visit, with a lot to see, but unfortunately web sites can be incorrect or vague about opening hours or days, so it probably pays to get some local knowledge on these matters before planning a visit if those things are on your “must do” list.
The metro was very easy and convenient to use, but the buses, like a lot of South American buses apparently, were a bit more tricky. The bus stops are frequently unmarked and a secret only the locals know. So you look for spots on the route where locals are standing and kind of guess that’s where the bus will stop. Also the buses seem to stop anywhere sometimes, and it might be that you stand just in front of an intersection on the route and basically hail it down.