Buenos Aires, Argentina

So having spent a bit of time in Buenos Aires earlier in the year, I was going to forego the option of writing another post about my visit to the city this time round, however having visited the city three separate times during this particular trip to South America, I certainly have enough to write about and recommend. Here therefore goes Buenos Aires part two, and three, and four….

 

I flew to Buenos Aires from London, one Friday evening after work. It was a bit hit or miss for a while as to whether I would actually get on the flight, but thankfully luck was on my side and I made it on the plane. As surreal as it felt, Buenos Aires – I was en route!

 

The flight took about 13 hours, however we were slightly delayed flying into Buenos Aires due to a massive storm overhead (or below head I should say). Our plane had to circle for a good 40 minutes above city before making quite the rocky landing. I love flying but I must say, I even felt my fingers clenching hard to my seat as we came down. Funnily, the crew came over the tannoy once we landed and said ‘well, I think we’re all pleased we survived that…’ – not exactly the sort of thing you want to hear, but truth be told, we all certainly were and it was good to be back on land.

 Back on land – yes. Dry land – no. The storm was AWFUL. I had to wait about an hour at the airport for a cab to take me into the city, but caffeined up I soon made it and arrived at my hotel HTL 9 de Julio.

 

This hotel was amazing! It was a little apartment hotel; one room with huge tall ceilings split in two by a mezzanine floor. I had a kitchen and a little living room with the bed up a flight of stairs where the bathroom was. It was super cool and very industrial feeling.

Having come straight from work, and not having slept particularly well on the plane, I decided to head out for a little wander to the shop to pick up some reserves, before heading back to the hotel for a little power nap. I must say, wandering around Avenue 9 Julio and catching a glimpse of the Evita building (particularly from my balcony) – was a pretty cool experience – even if it did feel a bit like déjà vu in the nicest possible sense.

That evening, Martin popped over to my hotel for a few drinks and a catch up before we took a wander into the city for some dinner which was lovely. 

The next day was a pretty special day of me in the fact that I officially qualified as a solicitor! I had gone for a wander in the morning, and sat in a little Starbucks when the email confirmation came through.

That evening, Juan and Mechi invited me round for dinner which was lovely to see them and so lovely to catch up. I met up with Martin first and the two of us wandered over for tapas and wine. Perfect way to celebrate with my Argentine favourites.

The next morning I was up and out of the city early for my flight to La Paz, Bolivia; ready for my South America trip to properly start.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and having visited Bolivia, Chile and Salta – we flew into Buenos Aires in the early evening.

We flew into the city’s domestic airport Jorge Newbery which is only about a 15 minute drive into the centre of the city. We were staying down off Avenue 9 Julio, close to the Casa Rosada, and close to where I stayed a couple of weeks previously.

We were staying in the 562 Nogaro Hotel which was actually really lovely. Again I lucked out and had a huge room to myself complete with a bath which was a dream after travelling the last few weeks!  By the time we got settled, showered and ready, it was very much dinner time, and Camilo said he knew a spot not far from the hotel that he recommended for pizza. As I’ve mentioned in some of my previous Argentina posts, pizza is somewhat of a national dish here. Particularly in Buenos Aires. 

We wandered along to El Caserio which makes you feel a little like you have been taken back in time a little. The waiters are all older males, with white aprons and shiny shoes. The restaurant, although not expensive, seems pretty grand with an open upper level you can look down from, white table cloths and gold gilding around the room. 

We all sat down and eagerly perused the menu, nibbling on delicious empanada was we decided. The Argentine pizza is huge; thick dough, tons of geese. It’s not half good. We had a fantastic meal washed down with lots of red wine – just what we needed. 

 

The next day, everyone went off on yours of La Boca etc with it being their first time in the city. I decided to take it much easier however and went wandering, shopping, eating. It was actually so nice to have a relaxed days after the busy few weeks we had already had.

I certainly made up for it in the evening however..

Something that Argentina has become particularly famous for in the last century or so; and in particularly Buenos Aires, is of course the tango.

When I visited Buenos Aires the first time, I did catch a glimpse of tango dancers whilst visiting the neighbourhood La Boca, and I of course spent a brilliant night with Juan and Mechi dancing the [x] I hadn’t however, had the opportunity to try out the, erm, romantic dance of Tango myself.

On my return trip to Buenos Aires therefore, I couldn’t wait to give it a go.

The group of us decided we would be proper tourists and we booked ourselves in for an evening of a dinner, tango and even our very own dance lesson.

We booked into this at the Piazzolla Tango Theatre in the neighbourhood of San Nicholas. It certainly wasn’t the cheapest option,  however it was a super fun evening.

On arrival at the theatre we all loaded into one of the side rooms where girls and boys split in two to learn the basic moves. We then got together, in pairs, to test out our new skills. Safe to say, I was awful. It was hilarious. 

The development of Tango as we know it today started in the mid-1800s after Argentina undergone massive immigration. A mix of the people from Africa, Spain, Italy, England, Poland, Russia and native-born Argentinian created a very potent cultural mix that soon started forming new traditions and a new way of life. One of those newly created things came from the mix of European minuet dances, polkas and many African influences that brought rhythms and instruments that formed Tango, a dance that very quickly became very popular in the poor neighbourhood of Buenos Aires in the late 1880s where it was known as “music of the immigrants”. By mid-1800s, tango becomes a dance of choice during “conventillos ” gatherings (large houses owned by several families, which featured dance halls or open ground suitable for dance gatherings) in the booming city of Buenos Aires. Fuelled by closed codes of those houses, particular language used during a gathering, the dance became more and more popular, eventually starting to be danced by actors on the stages of the theatre houses.

By that point, the expansion of the tango’s popularity became unstoppable. The tango reached the core of the Buenos Aires and other large Argentinian cities, where people of all classes engaged in this dance that became energized with many more types of musical and cultural styles!

The popularity of the Tango grew in the 1st decade of 20th century, with over 1000 gramophone records and countless tango sheets being created in Buenos Aires alone. In the year 1910, history of tango was changed forever with the arrival of bandoneon from Germany to Buenos Aires, where it became inextricably linked with tango music from then on. In the 2nd decade, tango was featured on up to 5,500 gramophone records in Argentina.

Having learnt the basic steps, and me just being pleased that I hadn’t fallen on my face, we made our way into the actual theatre for  dinner and the show. Now I’m not too sure what I expected, but the theatre was absolutely beautiful! We all sat down on long tables in front of the stage with the wine flowin a’plenty. It was fab! 

Dinner was soon served; of course it wouldn’t have been a proper Argentine night had we not had plates full empanadas followed by all the steak! 

The show soon started and we were treated to over two hours of live music with an excellent set of dancing and singing. The name of the show was ‘Las Cuatro Estaciones del Tango” (the four season of tango) and was based on the music by Astor Piazzolla, a musician from Buenos Aires who was been dubbed as “the world’s foremost composer of tango music”

We had such a fun evening together and, as long as you don’t mind a pretty touristy evening, the tango dinner show is definitely worth a trip.

The next morning, safe to say we were all feeling a bit fuzzy from the night before. People wanted to do various things so I decided that I would head to Recoletta and visit a place I hadn’t quite made it to last time; the Evita Museum.

Now anyone who has read my posts before will know just how much I love the story of Eva Peron; I therefore couldn’t wait to learn more about the woman behind the legend.

As you wander around the museum, you start off at the beginning of Eva’s life, her humble beginnings living with her mother and her siblings in the town of Los Toldos As the exhibit goes on, you move with it and reach the era where Eva moved, age 15 to Buenos Aires in the hope of making it big as a start. You can watch clips of some of her movies, see the clothes that she wore in this era, and generally learn all about her escapades on the radio and the big screen. For me, seeing her clothes was the part I loved the most. Evita was obviously notorious for being kitted out head to toe in designer couture whilst she was married. These glamorous dresses this soon transitioned into power suits and dresses at the pinnacle of her political career.

 

The exhibit marks these changes incredibly well by showing you how her look evolved over time, most interestingly, starting with the simple tea dress she wore on heading to Buenos Aires.

 My official claim to fame now is that I took a selfie in Eva Person’s make up bag mirror.

 Not only do you learn about Eva and Juan Peron, their relationships and political ideology, it’s also a really interesting way of learning about what Buenos Aires was like during these times. The class differences between the people and an insight into how the people lived. There’s interesting exhibits exploring home life, social life and political life which I found really interesting.

I could have spent hours wandering around the museum, admiring all the displays and the exhibits. There’s a super nice little restaurant at the end of the restaurant which, although pretty pricey, is a great place to stop off for a coffee, which is exactly what I did.

 

Having spent a little while in Recoletta I hopped in an uber and made by way across town to meet Grace, Elle, Bek, Georgina and Josh just in time for dinner. We ended up in this cool little burger place called Perez-H which certainly cured any lingering hangover. 

 

We then headed back to the hotel where we had a pretty chilled out evening, mostly watching Evita and sipping on wine in my hotel room. 

 

The next day, Elle, Bek, Grace and I decided that we would head out together for a bit of exploring, we decided to tread the pavements and I showed them around a few places that I had previously visited. 

 One of the first places we headed was El Ateneo Grand Splendid. The name says it all about Buenos Aires’ 1919 theatre-turned cinema-turned bookshop: It is grand and it is splendid, and it’s a stunning example of transforming a gem of an architectural space into a modern new use while maintaining its original charm and beauty. Once inside, it almost seemed as if a ticket-taker and popcorn machine would be perched by the front door.

It really is the stage that  draws you in, with ruby-red curtains hanging ever-so elegantly, ready for the show to begin. Frescoes in muted tones decorate the ceiling, and ornate theatre boxes and column-like pillars with gilded embellishments ring around the periphery. And amid of all of this early 20th-century wonderment are, of course, the books! The one thing I loved was how nowadays the boxes were filled with people dipping in and out of books prior; it was so romantic! Th Guardian Newspaper recently dubbed this place the second most beautiful bookshop in the world after Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen, a converted Church in Maastricht, the Netherlands. 

 

The stage now houses a super lovely restaurant where, of course, we couldn’t resist stopping for a bit of a break.

 What a place.

Mechi owns an amazing clothing store called Primo Mihi where she designs and sells all her own pieces alongside her business partner Pilar. I had looked at some of her stuff previously but hadn’t had the opportunity to visit her studio in Recoletta, On leaving the bookshop therefore, we all wandered across for a quick catch up with her and a peruse of all her amazing bits. I keep telling Mechi she needs to bring her store to London. This is her website, and of course, it is stunning. http://www.primomihi.com.ar/

Having left Mechi the girls and I went for a wander around the Recoletta cemetery which I have blogged about previously. It’s such a cool place and I would definitely recommend stopping by if you are in that area of town. 

We also wandered up to the square which houses the Casa Rosada and popped into the Cathedral for a mooch. Grace did a hilarious tour for all us…

We also caught a glimpse of the changing of guard at the tomb of (x)

That evening, we had all decided to have a big night out as the past few evenings had been a bit more chilled. I recommended that we headed to Palero which is most definitely the area you want to head to for the trendiest of bars and restaurants. I would liken it to areas in London such as Hackney/Dalston/Brixton – there is definitely a younger ‘cooler’ vibe here. 

We started off by having lots of pre drinks at the hotel with all the drinking games etc which was super fun, before heading out about midnight and ubering across to Palermo. We had such a fun night, even if some did end up making it home after 6am…

The next day we were heading off from Buenos Aires and getting the train to Iguazu. Luckily we had the morning and some time for lunch and its safe to say none of us were feeling that chipper after the night before. 

Seeing as it was close, a few of us wandered to [x] where we cured any remaining hangover with pasta and empanada. The perfect cure.

That brought the this leg of the trip to Buenos Aires to an end, although I did return, on my own, about 10 days later on my way back from Rio.

This time when I arrived, I didn’t want to stay down by Ave 9 Julio again, this place is super touristy and I would akin it to staying somewhere not too far from Leicester Square in London; I just wouldn’t do it.

This time therefore, I wanted to book myself into somewhere in the Palermo neighbourhood. This meant that I could spend my last couple of days in Buenos Aires taking it easy, wandering around the shops etc, whilst Juan and Mechi, who live in the area, would only be a stone’ s throw away.

I therefore checked myself into the Rendez-Vous hotel, which came complete with my own spa pool right on the balcony. I won’t lie, I was in heaven. 

That evening, Juan and Mechi came and picked me up from my hotel and the three of us wandered out for dinner. We went to this incredible tapas restaurant called [x] where we caught up all about my trip. It was fab and I always feel very lucky to have made such good friends with this incredible pair. My argentine besties!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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