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A "newbie's" impression of Buenos Aires

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New Milford, New...
posts: 27
reviews: 64
A "newbie's" impression of Buenos Aires

Thought I'd let everyone know how our first visit to Buenos Aires (and South America, for that matter) went. Sorry for the length, but I'm trying to be thorough:

My son is studying abroad in Buenos Aires so we thought we'd visit him on our vacation. Flight takes a LONG time (16 hrs total from NYC, including the stop-over in TX), but we managed to sleep on the plane. Arrived at 9AM. There's a kiosk in the middle of the terminal as you come out of customs that provides vouchers for taxi's for 98 Pesos a ride. First thing I noticed is that you don't get change - apparently the metallic value of coins exceeds their monetary worth so everyone is always rounding up or down.

Hotel rooms are large by European standards, and bidets are commonplace (a feature my fiancee loves). It's dedinitely spotty getting someone that speaks English once you leave the hotel unless you're in Recoletta's high-end shops or restaurants frequented by tourists. But, everyone is universally friendly so pointing at things and broken Spanish worked just fine for us. Smiling and "gracias" are as useful as you'd imagine.

There is an enormous disperity between wealthy areas such as Recoletta, the "real" sections of B.A., and the countryside. My son, as befits idealistic college-age students, spoke most disparagingly of Recoletta and we spent a lot of time in other areas.

We had arrived on Sunday, so we wanted to go to San Telmo's flea market but my son took us to Mateodoras (please forgive mis-spellings here throughout) instead. Great choice. The weekend market in Mateordoras consisted of more crafts than San Telmo (which we heard was mostly "old stuff" being sold off), and had a central area with tango dancing, gaucho's, and singing. People in the crowd spontaneously broke out into their own dancing, and everyone was polite and engaged. Interestingly, our taxi driver warned us not to leave the fair area but we never felt threatened for even a minute.

We had been warned about pickpockets and such by almost everyone, but I can tell you that the streets of New York City can be a lot more dangerous than anything we encountered in B.A. as long as you obey the simplest rules of walking a city (no flashy jewelry, money broken up in front pockets, don't frequent marginal neighborhoods past dark, keep valuable cameras and "tourist" gear in front of you - not hanging in backpacks or purses). We walked through Palermo and Recoletta at night all the time, but used door-to-door taxis at night in other areas.

We had no problems with police at all - in fact, they were friendly and gave us directions several times. Taxi drivers WILL take you on long routes if you're not paying attention, but that's a common ruse in every city we've ever been to (only use radio cabs according to my son - which can be hailed on the street). B.A. is a large city, but taxis are cheap. We normally only use subways in a city, but we never even used the subway once in B.A.

Be prepared for some "hard sells" in areas like La Boca and Florida Street (the latter should be avoided if possible - there's absolutely nothing there that can't be bought elsewhere and it's a tourist trap environment of the worst kind). We liked Murillo Street better for leather, but the quality varies wildly.

We wound up buying more "expensive" goods (like boots, handbags, and briefcases) in the better neighborhoods than in "bargain" areas - the prices weren't as cheap, but they were still better than the US and the quality was outstanding. My advice is to shop on Alvear or Sante Fe first, so that you can see the best quality and then see what you can get cheaper somewhere else (that being said, we wound up going back and buying it from those shops because the cheaper places couldn't match the quality).

Food is almost obscenely cheap for the quality and quantity. If you like Dulche de Leche and/or meat, you'll be in heaven. Be aware that Argentinian's have a preference for meat done more well than a typical American. For the quality of the steaks available in B.A., I like my meat medium rare but you'll typically get it medium to what I'd call medium-well. Ask for "a punta" for what we'd call medium and "a juegoso" for medium-rare. The wines are decent to very good - you don't have to go overboard to get a good bottle, but you should let it breathe if you get a red because the tannics when you first open a bottle need some time to dissipate before you drink it.

There is considerable differences in the quality of the Dulche de Leche's available. Do yourself a favor and buy some of the good stuff (even in the Alfajores) even if you only try it once. It's like Belgian chocolates - you can get Dulche de Leche anywhere but the best stuff can only be bought and tasted at the source.

If I left anything out that you're curious about (from a first-timer - I'm certainly not an expert on B.A.), give me a shout.

Argentina
posts: 3,208
reviews: 23
1. Re: A "newbie's" impression of Buenos Aires

avy8r; Thank you for your review about Buenos Aires,...funny... I really enjoyed reading.

Beware... DULCE DE LECHE could be addictive!

Yuo have to come to the NW one day. I think you will really LOVE this area.

Giena

Oregon
posts: 4
reviews: 2
2. Re: A "newbie's" impression of Buenos Aires

Hi,

Thanks for your first visit impressions of Buenos Aires. I was particularly interested as I'm going to Buenos Aires/South America for the first time in late September. I will be going with my college age daughter and we will be staying at the home of one of my clients who has invited us to come visit. I'm very curious about the prices of the handbags and the boots you bought. Do you mind sharing what they cost you? And where did you end up buying your handbags and boots?

Thanks for your comments!

Ellen

Puerto Rico
posts: 2,409
reviews: 2
3. Re: A "newbie's" impression of Buenos Aires

Thank you so much for this report! I really enjoyed reading it and completely felt identified with you from my first trip to Buenos Aires a few years back!

I had no idea what to expect and frankly wasn't looking forward to it! You usually hear that people in Argentina aren't friendly at all and I guess that makes you not want to visit.

But I am glad I didn't listen, because whomever says that doesn't know the real Argentina!

In fact, I loved it so much I decided to break the "norm" for studying abroad and ditch Europe, I'm moving to Argentina in July for my abroad studies!

New Milford, New...
posts: 27
reviews: 64
4. Re: A "newbie's" impression of Buenos Aires

In reply to ornate_wrasse:

I bought Kathy a pair of "fashionable" (as opposed to gaucho or working) boots in Recoletta at MULE ZAPATOS DE COLECCION. They were like nothing she had seen in SOHO or the better districts of NY, the quality was excellent, and we were told that they only made one pair for each size so once those were sold there were no more. I paid 725 Pesos.

The best quality boots I found were in the shops in Recoletta off of Alvear and Sante Fe, particularly CARDON (cross street at Santa Fe and Uruguay, I believe) and a large shop whose name I can't recall but I believe it was between Alvear and Quintana on Ayacucho. In both cases I was looking for gaucho boots in buffalo, and in both cases they ran about 1300 Pesos (give or take 100 pesos or so). What made these shops stand out were the craftsmanship and quality of the boots and products.

As for handbags, I'm not the expert but Kathy says that the best prices for bags were at the Matedeoras market on Sunday and on Murillo Street (everyone says that 666 is the place to go there, but some of the smaller shops off of Murillo have particularly good wallets at exceptional prices). For wallets, she says they were running about 100-120 Pesos for better qualities. Handbags were running anywhere from 300 to 1200 Pesos. She also says to mention that there was a store in La Boca (of all places) near the back of one of the small two-story "malls" (the one that is more Kitschy) that had excellent prices for decent quality handbags (not great, mind you, but decent).

I bought a leather briefcase/computer bag from a place calls Los Robles for 835 Pesos (believe it or not, at the airport, although they have shops in B.A. itself). I had absolutely no intention of doing so but the softness and quality of the leather was so superior I couldn't help myself.

The trick, really, is to know the product. You can certainly buy things much cheaper than we paid, but the leather and workmanship is not that good. We wanted the best quality (as you'd find on Fifth and Madison Avenues in NYC). As an indication of equivalent prices, the boots and briefcase would run $1000 or more in NYC for the same quality.

Branford...
posts: 2,233
reviews: 48
5. Re: A "newbie's" impression of Buenos Aires

Living in the tri-state area you can continue to indulge your new found love of Argentine cuisine. New Jersey and New York (Queens) have a ton of good Argentine restaurants, bakeries and butchers as well as load of Argentine canned, bottled, boxed and packaged goodies. I recommend the Boca Juniors Steakhouse in Queens, the Rio de la Plata bakery in Queens. Across the street is El Gauchito bakery and parrilla. A C-Town in the same block has everything from alfajores to dulce del leche to mate to frozen Argentine gnochis (spelling).

Thanks for sharing. Great report.

NYC
posts: 64
reviews: 73
6. Re: A "newbie's" impression of Buenos Aires

Hello

Thanks for the great review.We are from NYC,and will be BA in Nov.Did you take any day trips?Did you go to any Tango Show?

THANKS--Fred

New Milford, New...
posts: 27
reviews: 64
7. Re: A "newbie's" impression of Buenos Aires

Meatman102:

We had intended to go to a Tango Show, but my son convinced us that the "street" tango shows (particularly when the crowd spontaneously joined in) were as good or better. Not having gone to the paid shows, I can't say but I CAN say that there was an abundance of "street" or open-air tangos at Mateadoras (spelling), La Boca, and at various points in our travels. We didn't feel starved for tango and, in addition to that, there was also what we came to call "gaucho" dances which were more like Greek or Russian dances performed by men than anything else.

BTW, I'd highly recommend that you view the movie "Assassination Tango" with Robert Duvall before you go. The movie plot is thin but there's a lot of Tango (apparently Duval is a big fan and got the movie made more to show the tango than the bigger assassination plot). There's one sequence towards the end where Duval is dancing with a remarkable woman that just blew us away. She was ballerina-like and as smooth as silk. It's an amazing scene.

Toronto, Canada
posts: 937
reviews: 94
8. Re: A "newbie's" impression of Buenos Aires

This was great to read! We're planning to spend a week in BA next (using ff miles, so we had to book really early). I'm really looking forward to it, and even more after reading this. Thanks.

Buenos Aires...
Destination Expert
for Buenos Aires
posts: 16,353
reviews: 14
9. Re: A "newbie's" impression of Buenos Aires

Just a little note about Robert Duval .. he has a home in Argentina and that dancer ( from Argentina) is his wife / partner .. he has danced in DC and a few places.. he , I think, is a very good or at least very good to watch, Tango Dancer..

I liked the movie, even before we considered living in BA and I agree that it is fun to watch when you are planning a trip here.

I believe the performers at the Mataderos vary , we were there 2 weeks in a row this past year and the dancers ( on stage) were different .. but equally enjoyable. I love the way the people in the audience start dancing .. when we were there once, they all were doing a gaucho dance , every single person looked like a professional, they were so good.. and these were the people in the audience :)

Abilene, Texas
Destination Expert
for Buenos Aires
posts: 7,073
reviews: 64
10. Re: A "newbie's" impression of Buenos Aires

Duvall's wife (they married after living together four or five years) is 40 plus years younger than Duvall...They met when she approached him on the street and asked him out. She says she had no idea who he was at the time. I am not buying this story, probably because I have never had a women 40 years younger than myself try to pick me up :)

In any case, Duvall appears to have found the love of his life....and she is certainly "easy on the eyes."