Wow. What a city!!
We returned yesterday from 10 days in and around BA. We were travelling on a bit of a budget at first, and secured incredible flights on an open-jaw (Madrid to BA, then BA back to Heathrow. We got an easyjet flight to Madrid for £50 and the total cost inc the BA flights was £370 each. Well done Tam Air (decent planes too).
We stayed in the San Telmo Loft self-catered apartment with 2 friends. Really great building on Paseo Colon, although it's not the most picturesque part of BA. Great hospitality from Angela at San Telmo Lofts, which made a huge difference to us in getting to know the city quickly.
ALL of this report should be taken in the context of our very lucky timing on the exchange markets. We exchanged almost all of our dollars 11 days ago at 9.5 to 1 in a recomended estate agents off Florida. The remainder were exchanged at 9.3 to 1 on Saturday. That stretched our "bit of a budget" holiday into a "let's go all out, once in a lifetime" kind of a holiday! I think we probably hit the very top of what was available on-street in terms of peso to dollar rates. We also had incredible weather, with sun out every single day.
So.... San Telmo..... We LOVED! "Our scruffy wee San Telmo" as my friend described it after a few days, was a great place to stay, away from the super-touristy places except for every week's Sunday markets. We loved the bars, the restaurants, the shops, the late night tango in the square, the drum circles. Coming from some "edgy" areas of London, we were quite happy not to be in the very upmarket areas all of the time and San Telmo ticked a lot of boxes.
We did some great touristy things. Recoletta Cemetary was incredible, but largely because we bought the iphone app, which gives a tour through 25 of the most interesting graves with some history, some impressive tombs and some comedy moments. Well worth having, as it give ssome focus to a visit, without having to employ a guide.
We went up to Tigre for a day on the train, and then took a boat back to BA via a tour of the delta. A beautiful place to be on a sunny day and a nice chilled out vibe.Boat trips are getting rarer though as the season draws to an end and most of the places on the Delta islands have shut up shop for the Winter.
We went to Boca for a morning, and had lunch on the roof terrace of the PROA gallery. What a great spot!! Amazing food, and an incredible place to spend some time in the sun. We weren't too impressed with the gallery exibition on at the moment but as both our wives were artists, we're probably harder to please than most. We also headed a bit further into BOCA to visit a little bakery run by an incredible woman who employs some of the "harder to deal with" young people from the neighbourhood and teaches them to bake, cook and general life skills. We were very impressed with her and the operation, and think she was probably a bit surprised to see a 300% tip when we paid for our coffees and Alfajores. Another afternoon we returned to Boca to El Obrero for lunch. My favourite meal of the trip in an amazing restaurant with great, friendly staff.
We spent a day in Colonia, taking the Colonia Express boat over and coming back late. It was a very choppy crossing and a few people were sick on the boat. Not nice. Colonia was beatuiful though, and we walked our legs off including a trip up the lighthouse and a lovely time watching the sunset.
We spent a day in Palermo, doing some shopping (our exchange rate made shopping a very popular pursuit). We loved seeing the number of independent designers who have set up shop in the area and the quality of some of the clothes on offer. We also visited the leather area, which was seriously dissapointing (standard, unimaginative and not great quality stuff), although didn't detract very much at all from our day! We kept wondering what would happen if the awesome creative design of the Palermo area could be matched with some of the skilled leatherworkers, although we did see a few examples of that later in the trip.
We went to the Ecologia Park, which is well worth a vist if you have some time to kill and fancy some exercise. The market across from the entrance is good quality and decent value compared to others if you go on a Saturday. We spent a fair bit of time in Puerto Madeira (spelling) or the flash part across the new port, as we fell in love with the library lounge at Faena. We went twice for cocktails, and the wife and I went back for champagne afternoon tea on Monday. It's a strange, Philip Stark designed hotel in one of the old Mill buildings, but the library lounge is a beatufiul bar area with incredible cocktails (try the San Telmo, it's awesome!).
Dinners. Wow! We ate a lot of different things, but as with the cliche, a LOT of steak and red wine! However, two stand-out experiences were the closed-door dining at Casa Felix (5 course menu with wine pairing for 230 pesos) and the 8 course taster Menua at El Baqueano (230 pesos plus wine). The latter included such delights as Lama Carpaccio and crocodile served three ways!
Lunches ranged from Choripan in a car park to El Obrero depending on how rich we were feeling and how full from the night before
In general, we found BA to be accomodating, vibrant, engaging, interesting, massive and many other things. We moved around predominantly by bus, and were hugely impressed with the frequency (and price) of the services. 1.6 pesos (about 10 pence to us) got us to most places using our SUBE card and often as quickly as the taxis would have been able to. Taxis were reasonable when used and never tried any funny round-trip detours.
Shopping was incredible value in general, but moreso on the market where we bough quality leather goods, silver jeweller, wooden boards/utensils, hand bound books for less than we'll ever pay for them again. Friends bought trainers from the Nike store and Levis from the Levi store etc purely because the rates made them so cheap. We tended to go for things we couldn't buy at home (plus some booze) and that would last forever. We nearly bought a beautiful vintage rug in a posh shop in Palermo for 2,400 pesos only to discover an almost identical one on an old lady's stall in the market for 300 pesos!
Safety-wise, we found that hanging around in the less touristy areas actually meant we were less susceptible to crime. We never really felt in any kind of danger and never experienced any bird-poop. fake notes or pickpocket attempts. We didn't take any flash stuff with us, I wore a monmey belt under my jeans/shorts and we didn't carry too much stuff. Avoid taking back-packs that look full of goodies and you'll avoid any unwanted attention. Only on our second money-changing experience when we ended up on the 2nd floor of a dar, dingy office block with a guy described by my wife as "twice the size of my husband" did we think that maybe we'd gone on an adventure too far! But even those guys were pleasant enough when haggling, gave us 9.s to 1, and then happily let us examine every single note before escorting us back to the (locked by a lookout from the outside) front door!
I'm sure i'll think of more stuff, but wanted to post whilst it's all still fresh in my mind. We LOVED Buenos Aires, and i hope we'll return one day. Thanks to ALL on here who helped me out in planning our trip and continue to help others.