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Trip report: March 2013

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Northampton...
posts: 130
reviews: 132
Trip report: March 2013

I spent 10 days in late March in mi Buenos Aires querido, and I missed it as soon as I left! This was my 4th trip, and I’m always struck by how different each visit is. I’m in the process of posting separate reviews for each of the tours and establishments I mention below. Some highlights and observations:

• Accomodations: I stayed at Bed & Breakfast Ada & Valentyn, in Microcentro. In the last 4 years, I’ve stayed in 3 B & Bs and 3 hotels in Bs As, and this has been the absolute best place.

• Food: This was an “eat to live” trip, unfortunately, rather than “live to eat.” I was simply too busy doing other things to make time to get to my favorite restaurants (as I’m a vegetarian, most of them are in Palermo). The best meal I had, with the owners and guests of the B & B, was a dinner at Brasserie Petanque in San Telmo. I also had several vegan fast-food lunches at Picnic on Calle Florida. Both are wonderful eateries for those who want a break from steak (or in my case, ñoquis). I also had gelato a number of times, mostly Freddo – again, no time to seek the independent helado shops. Freddo is delicious for those of us starved for great ice cream in the US, but one tip: do not buy it from those little fast-food windows on the street. It’s not kept at the proper temperature and humidity levels there, and it does destroy the texture and flavor rapidly. When I bought Freddo in shopping malls, it was fine.

• Tour: I’d been wanting to take a Graffitimundo street art tour for a couple of years, and I’m very glad I finally did – wonderful guide, a wealth of information, and a whole new way of looking at those scrawls and paintings on the walls.

• Feria de San Telmo: I’d been twice on past trips, so I knew the layout and was able to drop in, chat with the wonderful man who sells his son’s photographs, find the jewelry vendor I recalled from last year, do a quick survey of the other stands, buy the T-shirt I wanted, and get out fast. This year I went with only the pesos I needed and my camera in my pants pockets, so I didn’t have to contend with thieves unzipping my backpack to look for goodies. And my Spanish was better, so I had a really nice conversation with the T-shirt vendor, Javier, who ended up giving me a special bag for my shirt AND one of the empanadas he and his young child were eating for lunch. My fast trip to the feria ended up making my day!

• Tango: I can’t dance, but I love the music and the scene(s). Our B & B owners are tangueros, and they bring their guests to various milongas many nights of the week. Sin Rumbo, in Villa Urquiza, is their traditional spot on Friday nights, and I got to go – a great delight to visit a non-tourist milonga. On my own I went to see/ hear the Orquesta Típica Fernández Fierro, a contemporary tango orchestra with about a dozen musicians on double bass, cello, violin, bandoneón, piano, and vocals. I liked them so much, 3 nights later I returned with a friend from the B & B. This is not pretty, happy tango; the vocals are a bit raw, with political lyrics, and these guys play their hearts out. One of the highlights of my trip, and I came home with one of their CDs.

• Money: As my wallet was stolen in Córdoba last year, and I read up on the dólar blue on TripAdvisor before leaving, I decided to use Xoom to send cash to myself. I didn’t realize the only pickup location in the city was on Libertad, so I wasted time stopping at an office in Once, but it was an interesting mistake – I wouldn’t have been in that neighborhood otherwise on this trip, and it’s the hub of immigrant activity in Buenos Aires. Vibrant, diverse, chaotic, fascinating. I’d had no idea there were so many Senegalese immigrants in the city. I eventually took a taxi to the Xoom location; the driver was familiar with it, and the pickup process was quick and painless. Just remember to bring with you/ memorize your address and phone number in Buenos Aires. I got 7.3 pesos to the dollar, a perfectly acceptable rate.

• Security: I carried the same backpack from which my wallet was stolen last year, but kept my valuables in a pocket close to my body. I also used little metal double-gated S-carbiners to clip together all the pairs of zippers on my pack. Worked like a charm – it’s a visual deterrent to thieves who want to do a grab-and-run. (See: http://www.rei.com/product/771121/nite-ize-s-biner-size-2) I took the subte many times, alone and with other B & B guests – although I avoided the rush-hour sardine crush – and had no problems.

• Film fest: For the 2nd consecutive year, I attended the Festival Internacional de Cine Político. I was very impressed last year – saw perhaps a dozen films, and came home with a full-color, 100-page festival guide, a T-shirt, and a lapel pin. I wonder if government funding or major sponsors dropped out this year, because none of these items were available, the film descriptions were only on the website, and the festival was scattered around at 7 different venues. I found this hard to navigate, and made it to only 5 films and a panel discussion. Most of the films I saw – from Argentina, Belgium, Spain, and Venezuela – were well-produced and interesting, but one, about deceased former president Néstor Kirchner, was cheesy government propaganda. I would go to this festival again, but it was a disappointment this year.

• Spanish school: I took a week of classes at Verbum School, for the second year in a row, and was pleased. The school’s organizing more extracurricular activities this year – a real plus, as nearly all of the students are in their 20s and from everywhere from Europe to Japan to Russia.

• Under construction: As another poster has noted, Calle Florida was ripped up for blocks, making passage even more difficult than usual. Many blocks next to the Plaza de Mayo are also undergoing construction – as this is the “banking district” and not a tourist area, it can be avoided, but it was a pain on the night I was trying to get from my B & B to Luna Park. The administration of our dear friend Mauricio Macri is also building the infrastructure for bus lanes on Avenida 9 de Julio – this may be a good idea, but they’ve cut down many of the old trees on the avenue, which is a great offense in my book. Some porteños/as have noted that the buses will run where the subte already goes, but if you’ve been on the subte during morning or afternoon rush hour, you know it needs all the help it can get.

• Ferries: Took Buquebus from Montevideo – bus to Colonia, fast ferry to Bs As – late on a weekday afternoon. Stress-free, although I shouldn’t have taken an overpriced cab from the curb there to my B & B. I returned to MVD on Easter Sunday, when there was only one ferry. I wouldn’t do it again if I could avoid it – the boat was sold out, so I was unable to find a comfortable seat. It worked out OK – I sat at a café table and wrote on my laptop, and spent some time at the breakfast bar chatting with a young Israeli woman. But the chaos and time in lines waiting to disembark, claim luggage, and get the bus and a cab were a pain in the neck.

• Love: Finally decided that I no longer had to make excuses to my US friends about being totally in love with Buenos Aires. I’ll be back – perhaps not next year, but definitely within a couple of years!

San Diego...
Destination Expert
for Buenos Aires
posts: 4,374
reviews: 668
1. Re: Trip report: March 2013

Thanks for sharing that really great trip report. Certainly no need to make excuses for being in love with Buenos Aires. It's your friends that haven't visited it yet that are missing out on a fabulous city.

BA has that affect on people. I have friends and rental clients that keep coming back to Buenos Aires. Some each and every year or a few times a year.

Safe travels.

Boulder, Colorado
posts: 1,134
reviews: 213
2. Re: Trip report: March 2013

Isn't it always wonderful to return to a place you love?????????????????????

Me too.

Great report........and until the next time: you have the memories.

Charleston, South...
posts: 5
reviews: 2
3. Re: Trip report: March 2013

7 pesos to the dollar?? I was just looking at an exchange site and it looked to be closer to 5:1 now. Has the dollar lost value or am I looking in the wrong places?

Italy
Destination Expert
for Livigno, Lombardy
posts: 39,070
reviews: 125
4. Re: Trip report: March 2013

Great report, thanks for sharing and glad you're still in love with BA

Boise, Idaho
posts: 108
reviews: 35
5. Re: Trip report: March 2013

appreciate your report very much. thanks for your effort. we are looking forward to our trip to argentina in a bit more than a week.

have two questions for you. from eze airport to the town center, would taxi drivers or providers take usd with a more favorable exchange rate, i.e. 1usd to 5+pesos vs. 1usd to around 8 pesos? is the metro from the airport to downtown pretty easy to figure out, we are arriving around 10am?

San Diego...
Destination Expert
for Buenos Aires
posts: 4,374
reviews: 668
6. Re: Trip report: March 2013

mac613,

You're looking at the formal exchange rate. Argentina has a formal and informal exchange rate.

Check out ambito.com/economia/mercados/monedas/dolar/

You will see the informal rate is 8.34 to $1 US on the informal market. If you use your credit card or ATM card you will get stuck with the formal rate. Look on the TA forums..TONS of threads discussing this.

Northampton...
posts: 130
reviews: 132
7. Re: Trip report: March 2013

Hi Bangzi,

The metro (subte) doesn't go to the airport. I flew into Montevideo this year and took the ferry to Buenos Aires. For taxi advice, check any of the threads about taking a cab from Ezeiza (EZE) to the city.

Boise, Idaho
posts: 108
reviews: 35
8. Re: Trip report: March 2013

springbyker, thanks for clarifying the subte situation. i am trying to figure out if taxi drivers or operators will accept usd in cash with a favorable exchange rate. if they do i can avoid having to exchange money at the airport...

i did look up taxi threads. there was no mentioning about taxi accepting cash in usd with a favorable rate. asked the same at another thread with no success.

Buenos Aires...
posts: 328
reviews: 3
9. Re: Trip report: March 2013

Dear bangzi,

The situation at the airport is critical as they know you don't have many choices.

Reliable taxis like Manuel Tienda Leon would take the dollar in the official exchange rate. You certainly would be able to negociate exchange rate with a taxi driver, but taxi drivers out of the airport are not recommended.

I would suggest, either or reserve a transfer in advance (for example with the hotel you will be staying at, in the way they can put it into your account), change little money at the airport to have just a couple of hundreds pesos or- pay the taxi with credit card on arrival (at the official exchange rate) so that you dont have to make the line to change money.

Hope it helps.

Have fun in BA!

Veronica

Say Hueque Argentina Tours

Boise, Idaho
posts: 108
reviews: 35
10. Re: Trip report: March 2013

veronica, thank you very much for your help. i now know what to do.