Part Three: Day Two Continued…
This is part three of my series on Buenos Aires. I’ve chosen to publish my photos here in black and white to reflect the charm of the city. Each thumbnail has been cropped, but will expand to full size with a click.
The next morning I enjoy a bit of a sleep-in. I’ve chosen to stay at the OWN Hotel Palermo location this time, where I have a large studio on the top floor of the hotel, with an ample wrap-around private balcony with commanding views of the parks and apartment buildings nearby (no views of the beautiful, historic downtown core from here). When I last stayed there in 2010, my room rate was around $160 a night. My latest check shows that this room is now $230 a night, with junior suites with no balcony running around $160. Not as cheap as it once was, but still more affordable than many big cities, and there are more than a few options from which to choose.
Today is Sunday and I head back towards Centro, starting with Calle Florida, the busy pedestrian shopping street. Near the start of Calle Florida are a couple of green, park-like plazas that are worth seeing, one of which is the Falkland War memorial—careful when you are in Argentina, the Argentines still consider the islands their own and they are called the Islas Malvinas. The area has some interesting building facades and architecture such as the Circulo Militar, not unlike a smaller version of Central Park South and the area around the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.
After walking along Florida for a while, I move off into the old district of San Telmo. It’s a Sunday and the day for the famous flea market. I wander among the countless stalls and shops selling books and posters and LPs and leather goods and trinkets and, of course, antiques. Antique silverware, including complete sets of century-old Christofle dining cutlery can be found for far less than in Europe, a relic of Buenos Aires’ proud European heritage. I pause for a moment to watch as couples tango in the street to music coming from a portable stereo. I wind up slipping into some art galleries and find myself enchanted by the tango art of Mauro Moreno and purchase two works of his to take back with me (no small feat considering that on this occasion I had a month in Brazil ahead of me, including time spent kayaking and sleeping in a hammock in the Amazon rainforest).
My walk, in photos:
From old San Telmo I walk down to the brand new area by the river called Puerto Madero. I get a quick bite to eat in a modern, New York-style cafe/deli (think Dean and Deluca) before paying a visit to the fabulous Faena Hotel, an imposing brick structure from the outside, the inside hall is worth a stop just to see the soaring ceilings and rich, red interior design.
At this point, I head back to the hotel to change and head out to a milonga for a professional tango show accompanied by dinner. There are plenty of options on this front, or if you’ve had enough tango from the night before, going to watch a soccer match is a nice option as well. I’ve done both. The soccer options are also plentiful, with Boca Juniors and River Plate being the two most famous clubs, but there are other options as well, such as Independiente, which may have cheaper tickets or be easier to attend. I do recommend that if you are attending a match for the first time you use a soccer tour operator that is reputable, just to ensure you are transported to and from the match safely. If you’ve been to matches in Latin America before and are fully comfortable with the environment, as well as getting to and from a match, then go right ahead and have a great time.
Monday is a take-it-easy day for me. I take a good book and head to find a patch of grass in the many beautiful parks of Palermo. Alternatively, one can head back into the center of town to do a bit of shopping or find a sidewalk cafe for some empanadas and a cocktail or two. The afternoon comes, and it’s time to head home via the red-eye back. Make sure to leave enough time to budget for a two-hour traffic jam just in case from town out to the airport. For single male travelers, there is an upside to arriving at Ezeiza Airport too early: the duty free cosmetics department boasts a staff that has to be the most beautiful of any of the 200 or so airports globally that I have been to.
Ultimately, Buenos Aires is a city of contrasts. The Recoleta, with its gorgeous Baroque crypts set against square, modern apartment blocks, Sundays spent with street tango and art in San Telmo, just a short walk from the modern development and converted warehouses of Puerto Madero, and Palermo where I choose to stay on my visits, full of wonderful bars and restaurants and experiences, cool boutique hotels and beautiful parks, but littered with graffiti and broken glass on many corners. It’s a city that boasts a rich history through its splendid avenues and magnificent architecture, but where the future is much more insecure for many. And it makes for some wonderful photographic opportunities. Best of all, it is accessible from most of North America in the span of a long weekend.
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