The next day I had a super leisurely morning, sipping coffee, wandering around and popping into the little shops and stores around the centre of the city.
At around about midday, I headed towards San Nicolás where I had organised to meet Juan, following an employment tribunal he had been working on.
Juan took me on a little walking tour around nearby Plaza Lavalle; three blocks of beautiful parks which house some of the city’s most important buildings.
The first site that Juan wanted to show me was the famous Teatro Colón; the city’s worldwide renowned opera house. This impressive seven-story building is one of Buenos Aires’ landmarks, and greatest sources of pride. The theatre’s opening night in 1908 was a presentation of Verdi’s Aida, and visitors have continued to be wowed ever since. After all, the acoustics are considered among the top five of the world’s concert venues! Occupying an entire city block, the Teatro Colón can seat 2500 spectators and can provide standing room for another 500 – it was the southern hemisphere’ s largest theatre until the Sydney Opera House was built in 1973. It was super cool to see. Next time I come to Buenos Aires I would love to attend a performance, or at least take one of the guided tours around this incredible venue.
Juan also pointed out the Palacio de Justicia; the beautiful beaux arts structure which is home to the Supreme Court, built between 1904 and 1949.
Juan explained that this area was very much the legal district of city, where lots of law offices are based, situated around and about the Supreme Court.
With all that walking it was definitely time for lunch and Juan mentioned that he wanted to introduce me to another Buenos Aires specialty; Milanesa!
We headed to a little restaurant called Bodegon La Pipeta; which opened up down in a basement into the most incredible traditional little eatery. This place was certainly off the tourist track which is something that I absolutely loved!
As soon as we sat down we were given some small plates to nibble on; pickled aubergine (my favourite!) and mini empanadas (my new favourites!).
Juan set about ordering us a beef Milanesa, which soon arrived and looked absolutely incredible.
This savoury meal made by frying breadcrumb-coated meat and coating with tomato sauce and melted cheese, is present in every Argentinian local household. It is believed to have originated in Germany (known there as the Weiner Schnitzle). Others argue that it actually came from Austria and that it was a Baroque concoction seeking to simulate the gold covered furniture and decorations of the time. Another version states that the original Milanesa was from Milan; this story states that in the 1800s an Austrian marshal travelled to Italy and encountered the Italian version of the staple, claiming it to be true original.
Whichever it’s original may be, one thing is certain, and that is that Milanesas are delicious! They are also a very important, and traditional, part of Argentine cuisine. In fact, on an online poll in 2011 that sought to establish the Milanesa as the true Argentine food over the traditional asado, 72% voted in favour of the Milanesa!
It can’t be denied – it was absolutely delicious!
Having sampled, and approved of, the Milanese, Juan asked whether I would like to try a traditional Argentinian dessert – of course, I jumped at the chance.
Juan set about ordering two portions of Vigilante – safe to say I had no idea what was coming, nor was I any more enlightened when the interesting looking dish was put in front of me…
This is a very simple two part desert which consists of one slice of cheese, almost similar to a Gouda, and one slice of sweet paste, most commonly made from sweet potato – ‘dulce de batata’. The desert isn’t intensely sweet given the savoury taste of the cheese, but the dulce de batata also doesn’t necessarily taste overpoweringly of potato, it literally melts in your mouth and is totally delicious. For someone like me who doesn’t have a huge sweet tooth, this dessert was totally up my street.
After we had finished our dessert we rounded the meal off with some super strong Argentinian coffees whilst Juan translated the history of this interesting little restaurant from the blurb in the menu. Apparently, in around about the 1940s this little bodegon was a place where, erm, men would come and meet ladies of the night… super interesting!
Full to brim, Juan and I walked off our meal and headed towards [x] so that I could have a little tour of Juan’s office and meet his two brothers [x] and [x]. It was super interesting to visit a law firm in Buenos Aires and having visited here I totally tried to sell my entire trip as a networking exercise back to the partners at my firm. Safe to say I wasn’t all that successful in that feat.
Juan very kindly set up his laptop and helped me organise my trip across to Uruguay the following day which was an amazing help, particularly as I was pretty clueless as to which boat company to use, which port to head to etc. He made it all super easy for me which was a dream.
After a short while at the office, I said goodbye to Juan. We had organised to meet for dinner that evening which gave me a little more time to do my favourite thing, hit the pavements and get exploring.
Just around the corner from Juan’s office stands the imposing former Central Post Office building. This impressive building was designed in the neoclassical beaux arts style by French Architect Norbert Maillart. Construction started in 1899, and after several long pauses and changes to Maillart’s original design, was finally opened in 1928. The building was declared a National Heritage site in 1997 due to its architectural style, historical relevance and the artworks inside the building.
Obviously given my interest in all things Evita I was pretty interested to learn that during the first term of Juan Peron, he and his wife had their offices in the Central Post Office. The Eva Peron Foundation also used the building as its headquarters.
The building became inactive in 2005 and the president at the time, Néstor Kirchner saw the opportunity for the abandoned building to become a major cultural centre. After nine years of construction it opened in 2015 as the Néstor Kirchner Cultural Centre.
Just down from the former Central Post Office stands the famous Luna Park Stadium. This stadium was opened in 1932 and originally was used as a boxing stadium before being expanded in the 1950s to host stage shows and concerts. Luna Park Stadium was the exact place where Eva Peron met Colonel Juan Peron on 22 January 1944 when a gala was held at the stadium to raise money for the victims of the earthquake that occurred in the town of San Juan on 15 January 1944, killing some 10,000 people. Juan Peron and Eva were seen leaving the gala together at two in the morning and shortly after Eva promptly became the Colonel’s mistress.
Having wandered for a little while, I made my way back to the hostel, to shower and change and get ready for the evening ahead.
A little while later I hopped in an Uber and made my across to Palermo to meet Juan and Mechi for a pre dinner drink at another of the craft beer bars; Santa Cebada. We sat outside on the pavements, catching up about our days and soaking up the evening atmosphere.
After a quick drink, we continued onto a little restaurant called Los Remanseros, where we sat about having the most delicious (and meaty!) of meals. All washed down of course with a bottle of Argentine Malbec.
Juan ordered for us and soon enough the most huge two plates of meat arrived at the table. Mechi is vegetarian so that’s right – this was all for me and Juan…!
Juan ordered the hugest piece of beef I have ever seen in my life, along with chorizo sausages and a side of intestines (!). It’s got to be said, the food was delicious! It was all served with a pepper and onion salsa and chimmichurri.
Stuffed to the gunnels we decided to have a couple of night cap cocktails at a cool little bar called Verne Club. A couple of negroni’s later it’s safe to say we were all feeling a little tipsy – it was such a fun evening!
These two! What a fab evening