Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Buenos Aires - my favourite city.


Buenos Aires is like an old friend - but it wasn't always that way. The first time I visited Buenos Aires I was jet-lagged and groggy from trans-Pacific flying. Bursting at the seams, BA was brash and arrogant. The road from the airport was jammed with cars, trucks, buses and taxis, all of them blasting their horns in a deafening, demented, symphony; none of them constrained by the rules of the road. In the back of the cab I clung to the seat belt wishing I'd never left home.


The familiarity of a Hilton Hotel did little to suppress my panic. Even David looked worried. We hid in the safety of our suite and ordered room service for dinner. With three days to survive I resolved not to set foot outside the hotel. David knew better than to try to reason with me. Our stunning view of the city skyline made it not such a bad place to be holed up and, of course, when morning came the city looked a little less threatening and we found the courage to venture out.

Since that first, frightening afternoon we have returned to Buenos Aires again and again. We now have our best-loved restaurants, cafes and markets and many fond memories.

San Telmo

By far my favourite place in the city, San Telmo is one of Buenos Aires' oldest neighbourhoods and a wonderful place to immerse yourself in the culture and lifestyle of Portenos (residents of Buenos Aires). Go on a Sunday, have lunch at one of the outdoor cafes surrounding Plaza Dorrego and watch the Tango dancers performing their craft.

Tango in Plaza Dorrego

The Tren de la Costa and the Delta

The Parana River runs into the River Plate at Tigre, 35 km north of Buenos Aires, spreading out in a wide-ranging flood plain. Many of those living in the myriad waterways of the Delta occupy stilt houses clinging precariously to pockets of swampy land.

The Tren de la Costa, tourist light rail, runs from Maipu station in BA to Delta station at Tigre. For the cost of a single ticket you can stop at any of the stations en route. San Isidro, an upmarket residential area is especially worth exploring. Sadly the train has become run down in recent years so check it is still operating before you go. Alternatively catch the ordinary rail from Retiro station or take a tour. Many of the tour operates give you the option of returning to Buenos Aires by boat. Once you arrive at Tigre don't just wander around. Whether you catch a public boat or take a tour be sure to explore the waterways and have lunch at one of the cafes only accessible by water.

Don't go at Easter! David and I made this mistake the first time we visited. With only pigeon spanish and no real idea of what we were doing the crowds almost completely overwhelmed us. We purchased a public boat return ticket and lunch voucher. Getting to the cafe wasn't too hard but after lunch the return boats were so crowded and difficult to get on we began to see the Delta as more lifestyle choice than afternoon visit.


Lunch at the Delta

Public transport in the Delta at Easter

La Boca

Chances are you have seen a photograph, painting or postcard somewhere of Caminito street in La Boca. The brightly painted terrace houses entice artists and photographers from around the world.

Despite the proliferation of cheap souvenir shops La Boca is well worth a visit but stick to the cobblestone strip of El Caminito and its immediate surrounds and don't arrive without knowing how you will leave. We arrived by taxi then found there were none around when we wanted to leave. We got one eventually but only after an anxious half hour or so.  The surrounding districts are not safe enough to walk through. Either take a tour, arrange for a hotel car or taxi to pick you up or use the hop on hop off  bus.




The colours of La Boca

Recoleta 

Recoleta is exclusive, fashionable and affluent. The streets are dotted with old stone mansions and the Recoleta Cemetery with its impressive stone crypts is a great place to wander. You can't miss Eva 'Evita' Perons' grave - just follow the crowds.

Crypts in Recoleta Cemetery

Eva Peron's family crypt

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

Colonia del Sacramento is a former Portugese and Spanish colony just across the River Plate from Buenos Aires. A World Heritage Site rich with narrow cobblestone streets, quaint little churches, ancient defensive walls, cafes, restaurants and museums it is the perfect place to come to recover from the bustle of Buenos Aires.

The Buquebus Ferry takes about an hour from Puerto Modero in Buenos Aires and berths within five minutes walk of the Historic District. Try to avoid weekends and Argentinian public holidays, especially Easter. For more information read my post on our visit to Colonia.

The old town walls

Colonia's Central Square 

There is so much more to Buenos Aires than the few places I have described but most of all it is not a 'tick off the guide-book sights' kind of city. Take your time, soak up the atmosphere and don't worry about what you might miss, then follow our example and return again, and again until Buenos Aires settles down in your soul like a much loved companion.

And if you are thinking of going and have any questions drop me a line - I would love to help.

4 comments:

  1. Wendy Holdenson10 March 2014 at 14:02

    There is no doubt about you Lyn. And here I was, thinking I was active!!

    Wendy

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  2. Hi Wendy,
    Thanks for the comment. So far we have been to the easy bits of Sth America. Stay tuned for more off the beaten path travels.
    Lyn

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  3. I love BA too. The history and the food both took me by surprise. We lived in a Chile for a few years and went across to BA a few times. Here are a couple of posts I wrote about BA then -
    http://www.freezecheese.com/buenos-aires-part-2/ and
    http://www.freezecheese.com/mid-flight-buenos-aires/

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  4. Hi Lani. I hope you got to Valparaiso when you lived in Chile. I just love the murals - http://www.thetravellinglindfields.com/2014/04/the-murals-of-valparaiso.html. And did you get across to Colonia del Sacramento? The trip across the River Plate was great.

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