I think of Buenos Aires as my second home, and love to share it with friends and family whenever I can. For 9 full days in January, 2011, I accompanied two friends from Chicago, Fran and Z, around and beyond the city. I hope this summary of their trip whets your travel appetite!
We toured a number of barrios(neighborhoods) in the city: Recoleta, Barrio Norte, San Telmo, La Boca, Congreso, Palermo (in all of its variations–Palermo Viejo, Chico, Soho, and Hollywood), as well as places outside the city, such as Tigre, and Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay. Z got to fulfill her desire to take a tango class, go to a milonga (local dance hall) to see local people dance it, and we spent an evening at the intimate Bar Sur where we experienced tango in all its variations—played, sung, and danced.
We shopped our way through the ferias (outdoor markets) in the San Telmo neighborhood (the largest of the ferias these days) alongside countless antique shops, in Recoleta (my personal favorite), and in La Boca. We toured the Japanese Gardens, visited the Museum of Latin American Art (MALBA) in Palermo and the Museo de Quinquella Martin in La Boca.
I helped them choose the apartment they rented for their trip; it was a convenient 5 blocks away from my apartment. It
offered them a unique view of the Recoleta Cemetery, where Evita Peron’s grave is located, with its marvelously old tombs.
One day Z captured this wonderful photo of a double rainbow, from their patio overlooking the cemetery. Their more-affordable-than-a-hotel-room apartment had AC, a washer/dryer, cable TV, wi-fi access, and a great view of the cemetery.
We had a full agenda. We walked–a lot–took taxis (Okay so I had a little misunderstanding with a taxi driver one
day!), road the high speed ferry boat to and from Uruguay, also rode a smaller aquatic colectivo (water bus) on the river, and rode the colectivo bus system. We ate great meat, fresh pasta, empanadas, had our share of ice cream cones at Freddo’s, and drank a variety of excellent Argentine wines. We spent some of our downtimes (ok a few siestas too) playing Scrabble and Angry Birds.
- A home version of a parrilla (barbecue grill).
All of us, but especially Fran, worked on improving her knowledge of Spanish (Castellano as the Argentines say)
by watching American TV and reading the Spanish subtitles. She learned so much, so quickly. It was impressive! She proudly used all that she learned the following days. In their search for the perfect chandelier they took me to the Mercado de las Pulgas (literally the flea market), an outdoor junker’s heaven and a place I’d never visited before, but sure will return to next year. [Later another friend introduced me to the local Ejército de Salvacíon (Salvation Army), but that’s a story for another post.]
What I enjoyed most was being able to have these friends from Chicago meet my friends from Buenos Aires. Everyone was so welcoming, gracious, generous and fun. Visiting Jose and Ana at their country home outside of Colonia, Uruguay, was a special day for us! They welcomed us into their lovely place, shared their beautiful gardens, fruit and olive trees and swimming pool with us, along with offering us delicious food and Argentine wine. We walked along the Rio de la Plata, talked and together watched the sun set, with the city of Buenos Aires in the background–laughing and chatting in English, Spanish, and Spanglish — Castellano style, of course.
We spent a Saturday evening with Grizelda, an Argentine friend of mine, who teaches English at the University. She generously hosted a welcome dinner for all three of us. There I met some new people and renewed friendships with others, widening and deepening my circle of friends here.
Fabiana, a friend who used to drive a taxi, guided us to Tigre, a small town at the mouth of the Paraná Delta, 17 miles north of BA for a day-long excursion on the Paraná River. There we rode a big Seacat boat along the river, stopping at a small parrillada restaurant, with an outdoor barbecue (parrilla) along the shore, passing homes built on stilts along the river. After a long, relaxing lunch on a smaller island there, we headed back via the water colectivo to Tigre, where we walked around the old Puerto de las Frutas outdoor market. Oh, yeah, and Fran and I peeked inside the Trilium Casino there, too, but only long enough to use a restroom and take in the usual casino slot machine madness. And we didn’t wager anything, really.
The week passed too quickly, I think, even though I counted each day and night separately– as my Dad recommended, since, he claimed, one uses time on vacations more wisely—filling each with daytime and nighttime activities separated by an afternoon siesta (which we took, religiously, every afternoon during the hot January days). So while their visit to Buenos Aires
lasted only nine calendar days, using Dad’s method of counting, we expanded their vacation time to eighteen! And in
some ways, their vacation was timeless–as all good vacations ought to be. Come see for yourself!