Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Buenos Aires, Argentina

After a very long mess of a flight leaving Miami that included a 3 hour initial delay (until 2am), departing, and then having to come back because of an engine problem, we finally arrived in Buenos Aires on a Wednesday night, about 9 hours later than planned. Not surprisingly, our bags took another 12 hours to join us, but despite all of this we were in good spirits! After a very short months of planning and a few hectic weeks of packing and moving, I was just happy to finally be on foreign soil!

About 2 days before we left I had found us a place to stay in the heart of the city and we had been in touch via Google Talk to reserve our room. Ada y Valentyn Bed & Breakfast had suggested we hire a fixed-rate taxi, a “remis”, and we happily forked over $40 for a 45 minutes cab ride from the Buenos Aires airport directly to their front door. Completely erase your mental image of a stand-alone cottage with wrap-around porch B&B. This was a huge door on a typical large city street, with about 20 buzz-in buttons. It didn't look like much from the outside, but once Ada buzzed us in and we walked down a 20 foot long and very tall hallway we were greeted by a winding marble staircase an an old-fashioned metal door style elevator. We took the small stairs and arrived on Piso 2, Apt. B. finally finding our home for the next two nights. The foyer was grand with 12 foot ceilings, antique furniture and a beautiful light fixture. Ada, a lovely woman from Buenos Aires greeted two very weary travelers and happily showed us around. Her and Valentyn, who is originally from Europe, have remodeled this apartment into a guesthouse while they live a few stories above. It was meticulously clean, had charming antique furniture in each room and was perfect for our two short nights in Buenos Aires.

Since we now only had one day in the city we played complete tourists. We walked to Plaza de Mayo, one of the main squares and then strolled through San Telmo, the old town part of Buenos Aires. To be completely honest I wasn't as impressed with Buenos Aires as I thought I would be. Maybe because it was a weekday and the area was not as alive as I've read it to be on a Sunday during the market or a Saturday night when Tango is everywhere in the streets. We did find one square that is known for having Tango and there were a few dancers displaying their skills. We sat to enjoy a quick show and our first Argentian snack – a Quilmes beer for lance, a refreshing water for me, and a bowl of french fries. I don't even order fries when I'm in the states, but it was the best snack-like item on the menu. They came with two amazing dips though, one creamy garlic creation and one spicy tomato.

After walking for a few hours we jumped on the every-big-city-has-one double decker tour bus to see the rest of the city. We were tired, and there was no way to see so many things in just one afternoon and there wasn't any one thing in particular that we were dying to see. We wanted to get an overall feel for the city and with the time constraint this was the best option, and it was lovely. It was fairly cold since its just the beginning of Spring here, but the sun was shining and the view from the top was well worth the chilly wind. We plugged in our guide headphones and learned all about the city through the voice of an English gentleman. The neighborhoods drastically changed every 20 blocks or so and the evolution of the city was evident from the old construction in the Boca neighborhood to the shiny new glass buildings in Puerto Madero. After riding along for a few hours, we walked around the city center, and found another snack. Our mealtimes were completely off schedule, but a coffee for Lance and empanada de humito (like a cream corn) for each of us were perfect.

The bed and breakfast had a few other guests while we were there, a couple from Germany and a guy from South Africa. He was kind of stuck in Argentina because his country wouldn't let him back in without a Yellow Fever vaccine. His overdue stay worked out well for us though because he had several restaurant recommendations. We bundled up with coats and boots and walked about 6 blocks back to San Telmo to a restaurant called La Brigada. The d├ęcor was filled with historic sports memorabilia, but in a historic way more than in a casual sports bar kinda way. Finally I could have some great Argentinian wine and Lance could discover if all the rumors about Argentian meat were true. We ordered what turned out to be a wonderful Argentian Malbec – Cabernet blend, it was really delicious. I had 2 small plates, a grilled eggplant dish that was served cold and drenched in olive oil and delicious spices. It literally melted on my tongue. And a house salad which was a huge, and very pink, with a mix of spring greens, celery, beets, potatoes, hard boiled eggs, green beans, peppers and just enough oil and vinegar. Lance had what we now know to be a common side dish, a cold potato salad with celery and carrots and a sirloin steak. He didn't quite cut it with a spoon like they do on Food Network, but he said it was quite delicious. So it was a quick stay in BA, but just enough to get a taste, and we had a great time.