Just returned from a fantastic trip in BA. There were 4-6 girls, all in our mid-late 20's. 3 from NYC, 1 from NJ, 1 from Philadelphia, and 1 from LA. 2 of us speak intermediate Spanish, which was very helpful, since many people didn't speak English.
We started the trip off horribly, with weather closing the Houston Airport, and missing our connection to BA. Continental was extremely unhelpful, disorganized, and unsympathetic, didn't put us up in a hotel or pay for meals since it was "weather related" and it was a mess. So the lesson learned is only direct flights from now on. Needless to say, we arrived 2 days late in BA to great friends and great weather.
We stayed in the Bel Air Hotel in Recoleta (Arenales 1462). The staff was great, they had 2 computers with free internet (which made keeping in touch with people back home easier), and up to date, large rooms. We also enjoyed complimentary breakfast every morning of eggs, different bread, ham and cheese, and fruit. The location was perfect. We learned that the city moves at a much slower pace than we are used to in NYC, but we enjoyed it, as we were on vacation. We felt very safe there. I also loved looking at the buildings. It reminded me so much of Paris, but then the balconies with plants and Argentinian flags seemed so much of what I expected an elegant South American city to be like.
The first day we grabbed some lunch on Santa Fe and went to the Cemetary. It was so beautiful and architectural, and we noticed the abundance of cats! We had a wine tasting at 6pm with Anuva Wines, so we headed over to Las Canitas in a cab. The wine tasting was informative, interesting, and off the beaten path. It was in an apartment, and we tried 5 wines with 5 food pairings. There was another couple there from Mendoza, but they were from the US and UK originally. After the wine tasting, we went to a bar on Baez.
The second day we saw La Boca, which was good for about an hour. Very touristy, which we aren't against, but more Disneyland than we like. We were glad we went though. We then took a cab up to Retiro and got on the commuter train to Tigre. It was nice to see the pretty northern suburbs out the window and compare the train to our impression of a train system. Pretty much the same. Once we arrived in Tigre, we walked behind the McDonald's and took the Interislenas commuter boat to Tres Bocas. It was budget friendly; about 20 $Arg to go from Tigre to Tres Bocas. The ride was beautiful too. We were greeted by a pack of friendly random dogs with no collars when we got off the boat. There were many random dogs in BA too. We decided on a late lunch at El Remanso, and it was by far the worst meal of the trip. The steak came out cooked, but cold on the inside, the pasta was doughy, and the caprese salad had some strange preservative-type cheese not at all like mozzerella or even provolone. It was right on the water though, so we had a nice view at least. It was getting late, so we decided to head back, and didn't get to walk around that much on the island. We got eaten alive though by mosquitos, and I'd recommend insect repellent. We returned home and went to Milion for dinner, which was beautiful inside, and good food. After that we went to Jack the Ripper on Calle Libertad, which looked like an old Parisian townhouse. The bartender was very nice and made homemade sour mix for me from fresh lemons and sugar. They played mostly Anglo and US music too, and had The Ramones and The Smiths records on the walls.
The third day, we went to Estancia Santa Susana, which I found through bsas4u.com. The bus picked us up from the hotel, drove us to the ranch about an hour away, and we enjoyed horseback riding, the ranch house museum, a tango show, a musical show, and a horseback riding show outside. We were welcomed by empanadas and wine, and could go back for refills. We also had lunch of salad, chorizo, blood sausage, steak, and chicken. So much food! The bus left around 4pm for BA. For $65 US, it was a great deal! That night we went on the Microcentro pub crawl (pubcrawlba.com), and for $60 Arg, we had free pizza, 5 shots at 5 different pubs, a cab to a club in Palermo, and were able to skip the line at the club. It was another great deal. We met a lot of nice people in their 20's and 30's from all over the world. Most were expats and backpackers.
By Thursday, our fourth day, we felt like our 2 missing days due to our flight disaster had left us with a quench to see more of BA itself, so we blew off our day trip to Uruguay. We had a good lunch with an established (older) crowd at Cafe La Biela. We went to the Trosman store in the Patio Bulrich mall (beautiful and interesting clothes), then hopped down to Casa Rosada and the government buildings. There was a protest going on with cannons, so it was interesting to see this, as it's rare for huge main streets to shut down in NYC to protest the government. We then walked up Calle Florida for a little shopping, and went home. We decided to have a glamorous dinner at Casa Cruz. The attire, which was typical to BA, was mostly flats and no heels, and trendy chic but not stuffy. Men would wear nice jeans with a button down and blazer. Women wore either dresses or flat booties, etc.. but not heels and not overdone. Again, effortless chic. Very similar to NYC except re: the heels. Casa Cruz was my favorite meal. We started with a drink at the bar, and I ordered the Alegra cocktail. I wish the nice bartender wrote down the recipe, because it was amazing. It had Grey Goose, Grey Goose orange, Cointreau, and some other ingredients, garnished with dried cranberries or raisins, I forget. We waited about 30 minutes for our table, at 11pm or so, and were seated. We had 2 bottles of wine, a round of cocktails for 6, a bottle of champagne, cake, 6 entrees, one appetizer and tip for about $40 US per person, which was amazing. I ordered the duck with truffle risotto and pickled peaches/plums. Friends had steak and patagonian lamb. Again, wonderful place and so chic. We then headed over to 878 on Thames, and had some cocktails there. That was nice, but again laid back.
On Friday, we had some time to kill before our 8pm flight, so we left the bags with the hotel and walked around Recoleta. I got my boyfriend a mate cup and bombilla from ARAR Artesanias Argentinas at Montevideo 1386. It was a little nicer than the Calle Florida cheap mate cups, and they were made by artisans deeper into the country. I also bought a beautiful leather purse for $520 Arg at La Curtiembre. They had some nice belts, purses, etc... They have 3 stores: Juncal 1173, Arenales 1793, and Ayacucho 1237. Again, I felt better buying something at the nicer Recoleta stores than the cheaper Calle Florida stores, and it wasn't SO upscale that I couldn't afford it. We returned to the hotel, and begin our long trip back to NYC.
I also have to mention that we went to a salon (Volumen) on Parana between Arenales and Santa Fe, which was great. It was $42 Arg for a wash, blowout, and style, and the stylists did a great job, very friendly. As a girl, it was nice to have good hair before going out on the town, since my straightener didn't work with my voltage adapter. We went two nights.
The other thing I have to mention is that we got stuck with a counterfeit $50 note somewhere, so I'd recommend finding out how to tell the difference before going. Many places don't make change of a $100 or $50 note, so it was a little hard getting by with smaller bills.
Overall, we had an amazing time. The buildings were beautiful, the drivers insane (lanes? what lanes.), we felt very safe, and the people were warm and welcoming. The exchange rate was particularly nice for the US, and we were able to see a new part of the world for a very reasonable amount of money. Gracias por todo, Buenos Aires!!