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Misconceptions about Buenos Aires

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Hamburg
posts: 17
reviews: 37
Misconceptions about Buenos Aires

1. The scare stories re crime. We feel we owe Argentinians an apology as we read so much about crime before going there that my husband and I left our good watches at home and I took only junk jewellery. What an insult! Portenos turned out to be some of the most cultured, sophisticated, civilised and elegant people we have come across in over 40 years of travelling the world. I doubt that violent crime is anywhere near as high as it is in New York or that pickpockets or other opportunistic thieving is any worse than it is in London, Paris or Sydney etc etc. We saw local residents leave their belongings (handbags, mobile phones) casually on the table or chair in street cafes in Recoleta... we saw women wearing the most wonderful jewellery walking just with a friend or a person who appeared to be a maid late in the evening... we even (stupidly) left our hotel room safe wide open one day with cash inside to return and find it all there after the maid had been in to clean.

Of course, you have to be aware of your surroundings as you would anywhere in the world and there are definitely areas in which you'd be stupid to stroll around in a tourist uniform, wearing your Rolex.

2. Taxi drivers rip you off? Rubbish! Taxis are metered, fares are a bargain and we even had one taxi driver tell us our (10%) tip was too large. And in how many cities of the world do you find a taxi driver who can talk about Belle Epoque architecture? Well, one of ours did in BA.

3. Unfriendly people?... total nonsense. We met with nothing but friendliness and courtesy. And how polite... just watch them queue for a bus (even the English don't do that any more & they claim to have invented the queue). We even saw men stand aside and let women behind them in the queue board first... no pushing & shoving as there is here in Germany!

4. Getting a bargain on leather goods by going to the Murillo area? Can't agree. I looked in several shops there and while the leather itself was lovely the standard of manufacture was very poor. You are better off looking in the main shopping districts like Florida or, for a better bargain, along Santa Fe. There'll you'll find better designs, whether it's handbags or clothing, and still bargain prices - at least compared to Europe.

5. La Boca & San Telmo are among the highlights of BA? Again, can't agree. I'm afraid we tourists have turned them into sideshows with annoying touts and poor quality souvenir rubbish for sale. Go once and then spend your time exploring Recoleta, Belgrano, the Microcentre and perhaps all the Palermo districts (although we didn't get time in 12 days to do more than take a taxi tour thru the latter). There is just so much to see in BA that you will never run out of beautiful tree-lined streets to explore, boutiques and bookshops to marvel over, and wonderful buildings to photograph.

Sit at the tables outside La Biela in Recoleta on Sunday and just watch the locals.

6. Eating out in Buenos Aires is a highlight? Sorry to say but in 12 days of eating our lunch & dinner at different places (from so-called top restaurants to cheaper options) we found the food to be mystifyingly bad. Yes, steaks (lomo) were wonderfully tender and cooked just as they should be but that was all... and we can't eat steak every day. Vegetables were almost non-existent or obviously tinned. Once we had almost raw (boiled) potatoes. Salads again used tinned ingredients, plus large white-centred tomatoes with no taste and very green but almost "tough" and bitter leaves. (We even checked a couple of supermarkets and street stands and were amazed to see rotting, bruised fruits and vegetables for sale and not at discount either.)

Anyone who has eaten German or Austrian cakes, bread and pastries will realise that unfortunately the Argentinian versions are hopeless... rubbery, foamy and oversweet. Even the icecream seemed to be rubbery! And that's without mentioning the pizza... doughy indigestible base and the so-called mozzarella like a bright yellow glue. I could go on (and I will check the Forum's dining advice for our next trip) but it's enough to say that we look forward to returning DESPITE our bad food experiences... and usually poor food will put me off a place completely. That's supposed to be a compliment to Buenos Aires!

Toronto, Canada
Destination Expert
for Toronto, Isla de Vieques
posts: 2,975
reviews: 22
1. Re: Misconceptions about Buenos Aires

Thanks for helping skewer some of those miscinceptions floating out there.

In our own experience, we would completely agree with you on points 1,2,3,&5. We can't comment on your leather observations, #4.

However, on point 6, eating out, based on our experience we must TOTALLY diasagree with you. Every meal we've ever had there, from a simple lunch to a fancy dinner, has been of good quality. We also cook in a lot when we travel, & we found the produce everywhere we shopped in BA to have been perfectly fine. The only thing we've ever noticed is that produce shops or departments will occasionally not have something you want because it's not in season. In our books, that's a policy we appreciate.

And helado- don't get us started LOL! It beats any gelato we've had in Italy, including Sicily which is supposed to be the Gold Standard!

But as you said, you plan to return despite the food & hopefully next time you'll have a better gustatory experience :-)

Thanks for taking the time to share your observations,

B&J

Buenos Aires...
Destination Expert
for Buenos Aires
posts: 16,233
reviews: 14
2. Re: Misconceptions about Buenos Aires

I am so glad that you were happy with Buenos Aires, that even though the food you had was not to your liking, you would come back again.

I am really glad that you appreciated the people here, something that makes this place truly special.

I can't imagine where you ate that you had such terrible salads but you don't have to tell us... I have found my own places where the salads are excellent.. could the white tinned things have been Hearts of Palm? they make a salad of palmitos, tomatoes and a Thousand Island sort of dressing that are surprisingly good and addictive ..

I don't eat red meat so I do eat plenty of good veggies and salads.. so I am thinking you just didn't get lucky in that catagory.

And to defend the produce in the stores...

We are from the US.. we shopped in food markets like Whole Foods and Trader Joe and places like Fresh Market .. where none of the fruit or veggies look real, they are so beautiful, large and flawless. But I rarely found them to be as tasty as the vegetables and fruit here, which is grown in a sort of " organic" way - it might not be pretty, it might have a bruise or a spot but it tastes fantastic.

And coming from the US (NY) ... we haven't had a good pizza in years lol Living in Florida and then in Portland Oregon... pizza was not up to our "standards" ... but we have slowly gotten to love the pizza here and I even make my own now, so I guess we are slowly becoming Porteño :)

I hope you do return, between now and then, we will think of some places for you to try that you might like better :)

Chau & Gracias, Scarlett

Rio
posts: 1,513
reviews: 1
3. Re: Misconceptions about Buenos Aires

Yes, thanks for sharing your experiences. I am surprised that there haven't been many more replies to this - I was waiting for an avalanche of comments from the active contributors before chiming in with my 2 centavos.

1.Though you may not now agree, you were probably smart to leave your good jewelry at home much as it may have deprived you of the joy of wearing it. I don't think many knowledgeable people would disagree that the average Potrteno is pretty well educated, refined/civilized (except when driving) and dresses elegantly; however, as in any large city, there are a certain criminal element that prey on the weak and unsuspecting and they target tourists especially. I don't know how crime statistics are maintained in order to compare BA with other cities or even if they are a reliable measure of the danger awaiting visitors, but crtime does exist. That you were not a victim is probably the norm - most are not - but enough tourists do get victimized to justify precaution and the standard warnings. Be careful with your belongings at all times.

2. I would venture a guess that there are more well educated taxi drivers in BA than in any other city in the world and yes, taxis are cheap ( and so is practically everything else if you have euros), but, believe it or not , there are a lot of taxi drivers who will pass counterfeit bills to tourists. Again , that it din't happen to you is great, but it happens enough to justify the warnings.

3. I agree the average person on the street is friendly and polite, but I don't think anyone ever painted a different picture. This makes it all the more curious why the local drivers are so agggressive and inconsiderate. A real enigma.

4. I am a man ergo when it comes to shopping I only have 2 functions: to say yes and to pay.

5. Actually, I think San Telmo is a pretty interesting barrio with lots of good restaurants. It's getting gentrified, but still has an old world kind of patina.

6. I think BA is a great eating city though I prefer thin crusted "NY"style pizza and the emphasis on meat may make it difficult to find good seafood restaurants, a curiousity considering the city's proximity to the sea.

I realize that Austria has a reputation for fantastic pastry and baked goods (the Viennese dessert table, etc) so I can understand the partiality to your native fare, but I live 30 meters from Exposition bakery on Juncal and Libertad and their ricotta cheese cake is as good as the NY style cheese cake of my youth ( as well as the Little Italy ricotta style too) . For me that and an occasional flan con dulce de leche and crema chantilly is sufficient when it comes to sweets. Well, okay, maybe a tiramasu once in awhile , but I think the local variety is quite good. I do't think many will share your negative opinion about the cuisine available in BA. Hopefully, you just had a bad streak and will rebound next time around.

Buenos Aires...
Destination Expert
for Buenos Aires
posts: 16,233
reviews: 14
4. Re: Misconceptions about Buenos Aires

LOL

darmanad << 4. I am a man ergo when it comes to shopping I only have 2 functions: to say yes and to pay. >>

As a shopper, I think this sounds like a perfect man :)

Do taxi drivers always look at money and know if it is counterfeit ? I wonder how many just don't look and pass the bills on as they do all the rest of the money ..

I so appreciate the taxi drivers here.. much for the reason darmanad mentions, there are smart ones, funny ones, a lot of musical ones... and they are all patient and polite ..( at least so far in our experience)

Austin, Texas
posts: 288
reviews: 2
5. Re: Misconceptions about Buenos Aires

I don't believe a country with a significant part of its population of italian descent could have bad pizza, on the contrary , what happens is, it is different because is of neapolitan style, brought in by immigrants from southern Italy. Because is different it doesn't mean is bad, who sets the standards here?

Sorry, but I have never liked any pizza made in the States. And I have tried many, believe me, in several states. We enjoyed absolutely everything in Argentina, SPECIALLY the food !.

Buenos Aires...
Destination Expert
for Buenos Aires
posts: 16,233
reviews: 14
6. Re: Misconceptions about Buenos Aires

Andromache, do you think the pizza in Buenos Aires is more similar to the pizza in Europe than in the US?

That is what I think and why it took us a while to adjust.. We loved the thin crust pies in NY but also liked the deep dish type...

Now, I love the Margarita with the fresh tomatoes and green olives..

Living here, we had to adjust to our environment somewhat, so pizza was an easy adjustment :)

Wellington, New...
posts: 17
reviews: 4
7. Re: Misconceptions about Buenos Aires

Hi,

We just got back last week from 2 wonderful weeks in BA and a week in Rio.

Re point 1.....before going to BA for the first time I was apprehensive re the stories of crime but can say we felt totally safe the whole time we were there.

point 2.....No taxi drivers ripped us off and all were friendly.

point 3 ....BA people were so super friendly.The thing we noticed the most was how affectionate they were towards each other.

point 4.....We purchased a leather jacket on Florida.Was NZ$160. An identical jacket purchased here would easily be NZ$500.

point 5 .....loved La Boca!...ok it's a bit touristy but thats exactly what we were. San Telmo...loved it...full of character...can't wait to go back.

point 6.....The only thing we found was that salads were lacking in imangination and veges were rare but the meat was excellent and the desserts amazing. Ate at many places but loved Rodi bar!

Hamburg
posts: 17
reviews: 37
8. Re: Misconceptions about Buenos Aires

Thanks to everybody who commented on my comments. I'm sorry that my comment about the food seemed to outweigh all the other positives about BA... and I should have mentioned that the wines were great and it was a treat for me to order by the glass (as my husband doesn't drink wine) and be sure of getting a good red... in contrast to North Germany which doesn't have a wine culture (unlike South Germany) and so a bottle can be left open for days until the next unfortunate "by-the-glass" wine drinker comes along and gets the by then oxygenated horror.

I lived in San Francisco for a year many many years ago and have only had brief trips to New York in the interim so I can't comment on US food and pizzas etc but we spent many years in Australia which has wonderful restaurant food... many Australian chefs now head great restaurants around the world... and the Italian migrants there have contributed greatly to the food scene (as have migrants from many other countries). We could not see the evidence of this in BA's restaurant food. However, we were able to buy wonderful jamon crudo and great local cheeses in a little deli in Recoleta and so had a feast in our hotel room one evening rather than face another restaurant disappointment. And perhaps there is a fruit & vegetable market where better produce can be bought than in the supermarkets? Next time we visit we'll mix some home catering with the restaurants recommended in this Forum. Whatever the outcome, Buenos Aires will remain one of the highlights of 40 years of travel.

Buenos Aires
posts: 988
reviews: 10
9. Re: Misconceptions about Buenos Aires

Worst salad ever... in a restaurant on Callao... large plate of cold boil-in-in-the-bag type white rice, with half a tin of pineapple chunks and a couple of palmitos on top, and the juice from the tins swimming around the bottom. Foul! Luckily it was a friend who had ordered it, I was sticking to my 2 steaks a day regime.

But TravellingScribe when you come back, try some of the fresh pastas and the other bits of grilled meat available.

Solothurn...
posts: 555
reviews: 38
10. Re: Misconceptions about Buenos Aires

Have to agree with you in point 3: people in Switzerland are very rude and will try to cut in on the queue and play dumb or ignore you if you tell them something. Porteños are pretty well mannered in that sense and mostly respect queues.

Also agree about Murillo area. Whereas leather quality is good, the manufacture standard isn't.

Couldn't disagree more with you about point 6. I've eaten so many times in such great restaurants in BA! And the prices! (at least for us coming from Europe). Never had bad food in Argentina. But I do agree that salads are very lacking in imagination.

That is something I love in Europe but cannot find in BA.

Pasta in BA is also amazing and, regarding pizza, I understand you but I believe it has much more to do with not being used to the mozzarella and the sweets than them being bad.

I, for instance, I don't like Austrian and am really not into German's Kaffee und Kuche" culture (so much cream and greasy), but that is really down to "Essgewohnheiten".

I love the mozzarella in Argentina but my husband cannot warm up to it and takes always some off (which I eat happily). But letting aside the tons of cheese, argentinean pizza is to me one of the best I have ever eaten. Italians are VERY stingy with toppings and mostly will just put them in the middle, leaving about half pizza of crust. I don't really think pizza in europe is similar to it in BA (maybe the dough, but not the topping amounts!)

Pasta is also excellent there.