Brief trip report (wiill post some photos when I get the chance) on a 10-day stay on BsAs with my 18-year-old daughter....
* Trip started off badly, with my American Airlines flight to Miami being canceled. Managed to switch to United and get there only a little later, but my luggage did not, for reasons unrelated to the switch. United gave me $50 to get clothes for the day. That really didn’t go very far; clothes are not a great bargain in BsAs.
* Stayed at SOCO hotel/B&B at first. Somewhat down-scale but nice hotel in good, non-touristy area (Abasto) with access to Subte and some sights. Breakfast is continental, heavy on cabs and sweets. Hotel staff particularly nice and helpful.
* Later moved to Marriott Plaza (on business), the oldest hotel in town. Nice facility, very traditional, but nothing special. Again staff very helpful, especially concierge. Avoid using “transfer” desk – costs for cars are way marked up. Breakfast and other meals very expensive. Nice location, though, on Plaza San Martin, and right at top (bottom) of Florida, so easy to walk out for a stroll on Florida.
* Took lots of taxis, both radio and non, never a problem. I sometimes worried was “being taken for a ride” but that never proved to be true, as our destination soon came into view. Some taxi drivers also played tour guides, pointing out buildings and areas we were passing.
* Subte was cheap, convenient and easy to navigate. During rush hour it is extremely crowded, and more than once, someone attempted (unsuccessfully) to pick-pocket us.
* Traveled with laptops, cameras, etc. with no problems, except as noted above. A dozen times, strangers on the street stopped me to warn me about watching my camera (fancy-looking SLR), but never had a problem. To thwart pick-pocketing, I used safety pins to “lock” all zippers on my camera back-pack. I also pinned my pants pocket where I kept wallet and iPhone, so opening was narrowed: I could get things in and out, but only with difficulty, and there’s no way someone could reach in and get something without my feeling it (or their hand getting stuck!). My impression is that this worked well (though it embarrassed my daughter), and I would recommend to others.
* Had dinner at Casa Felix – a ‘restaurant’ in Diego Felix’s home. Food was excellent, and very creative, as was atmosphere and conversation. Recommended.
* Otherwise, contrary to what I read here, I found the food unremarkable – even the steak, and even at high-end restaurants recommended for parilla. Maybe I’m just jaded.
* Wine was really, really good, and very, very cheap – a bottle often cost what we would pay for a glass in a US restaurant.
* Took Garffitimundo tour of graffiti sites. Unusual, fun, and recommended. Tour guide is very knowledgeable about different artists and styles; it’s like a docent tour at a museum. Tour includes van to reach different sites, and drink at end at a graffiti-studded bar.
* “Free BA tour” was also good – knowledgeable and interesting guide. Be aware the guide makes living off tips, so this is not quite as free as it sounds, but worth it.
* Walked around Puerto Madero. Suggest skipping it – very band modern development with restaurant after restaurant but no character at all.
* Boca is cute and photogenic because of its brightly-painted buildings, but very, very, very, very touristy. You’ll be accosted by people wanting to charge US$5 to have your picture taken with someone dressed up for tango – tacky! Could easily be skipped.
* Went out to Tigre and delta for kayaking with El Dorado Kayak, which is basically a small group of 20-somethings that like kayaking and run kayak trips out of a rented property on one of the islands. They have good kayaks, and provide safety equipment and instruction as needed. Be aware it takes a long time to get there: an hour on train to Tigre and another hour to their site on “bus boat” (interesting in itself; they drop people and cargo off at the docks beside their homes). Trip includes parilla lunch they cooked specially for us. Guides were very nice; it was like visiting a friend of a friend. They were also helpful. It’s more of a kayak outing than a guided tour, but that’s what we wanted. Recommended.
* Went to a futbol match (River vs Hurrancan) with Vamos a la Cancha. Was fun to see the fan enthusiasm and rituals, which include singing songs (no idea what they were) and jumping up and down (feels like the whole stadium is moving). Tour includes cheap greasy hamburger – they could have skipped that part. Tour basically provides transport, not much else. If I were doing it again, I might just buy tickets and go, but tour was easy, worry-free way to experience futbol.
* Museums were excellent, both MALBA and Bellas Artes. The latter has audio tour in English, which were excellent. I learned a lot about art history.
* Went to Tango show at Centro Cultural Borges (surprisingly, in an upscale mall on Florida). This is just a show, without dinner (my preference), and was very reasonable at US$15. Performance was good, but ultimately kind of boring – too scripted, I think, and not conveying real passion. I suspect this may be true of all these shows.
* Tried to see “real” local tango at a milonga, and went to La Viruta on a recommendation. My luck – the night I went, they were doing swing dance, not tango – nice, but not very unique. Lesson: call ahead to be sure what’s on.
* Centro Cultural Borges also had an exhibit of Steve McCurries’ photos (you’ll be familiar with his iconic image of an Afghan girl with piercing green eyes looking right at the camera) – absolutely spectacular, and worth a trip out to the Center if it’s still there.
* Went to La Bomba de Tiempo ... quite a happening. High-energy music by large percussion ensemble. Large crowd of teens and twenty-somethings (at most) with much drinking and smoking (of all kinds) going on. Great energy, but not for everyone.
* Fun shopping for my daughter in Palermo Soho. Some stores very expensive, but bargains can also be had in other stores. Merchandise not particularly Argentinean, but some nice stuff.
* Bought a leather jacket for myself at Mario & Silvia, near Marriott, which has been recommended on TA. Can’t really judge pricing relative to others, but goods seem well-made, and they made a jacket to order for me, to my measurements, with my choice of colors, in 1 ½ days. Discount for paying with cash or check. People were very nice and helpful, too.
* Went to both Recoleta arts fair and San Telmo antiques fair. Both fun. Merchandise not too different from what we would see at our local crafts fair, with exception of specific items like mate bowls. But atmosphere and people watching definitely fun. We had great weather, too, so was nice just to be outside.
* As others have said, BsAs is very European in feel. This was a mixed bag for me, as it didn’t feel so different from being home at times (though I live in the US), and I hungered for something more exotic feeling. I suspect getting out to other cities or the countryside would have provided more of that.
* BsAs is a very sophisticated city, especially in the arts, and merits spending some time there.