Thursday, February 27, 2014

Relaxing and Exploring in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires had always been a part of The Plan.  I would go and stay there for a month and rent an apartment and get some much-needed rest after months of hopping from city to city, crossing borders, sleeping in dorm rooms, and constantly unpacking and packing my backpack.  I hadn't exactly planned on spending another couple of months lounging around Europe afterwards!  So, the result has been a number of months of very slow-moving travel on my part, but I still highly recommend finding *somewhere* to relax and stay for a while along the way.

So, back to Buenos Aires.  I found a great little apartment in Palermo through AirBnB, set up the rental agreement online from afar, and even made sure it was an easy walk from a CrossFit gym that had been recommended to me.  It was a bit further walk than I would have liked to the cute cafes and shops in Palermo Soho and even further to Palermo Hollywood, but it was still a nice location, and the walks weren't terrible outside of the hottest parts of the day.  I had my own bed, a TV, a small kitchen, and a sweet German neighbor named Tobias who let me into the building upon my arrival after a mix-up with the renter left me stranded without keys momentarily.  

I lucked out in that many of the friends I had met along the 'Gringo Trail' were also stopping through Buenos Aires from the day I arrived.  Brent and Annelise, the American couple I had met in Ushuaia, were already in town and had an incredible apartment with a rooftop deck, pool, and grill in the heart of Palermo Hollywood.  I happily joined them on a couple of occasions to enjoy the deck and make use of the grill.  One particular night, we (they) made fresh mojitos and put together a traditional asado - grilled chorizo and beef, with grilled vegetables and fresh bread.  We ate sitting on the wood floor of the rooftop deck, enjoying one of the most vibrant red sunsets I've ever seen, taking in the surrounding view of the neighborhood.  

Rooftop mojitos in Palermo Hollywood

Tobias was also a major help in showing me around the city and being an incredibly wonderful neighbor and friend in general.  A ballroom dance instructor back in Germany, he was spending a month in Buenos Aires to immerse himself in tango.  In my first weeks in Buenos Aires, we ventured to the sprawling San Telmo Sunday market, something I would visit multiple times during my stay, he showed me the best spots for empanadas, ice cream, and changing money, and we went to a tango music show just around the corner from our apartment building.  When we arrived at the show, we realized that the power in the entire block was out - a fairly common issue with the temperatures getting as high as they were that summer.  We were seated in a back room with a stage surrounded by small tables, the room bathed in candlelight.  The staff apologized for the lack of power, but the show must go on, so the first set of musicians came down from the stage to perform unplugged - strumming acoustic guitars and letting their voices fill the room.  They were followed by a small orchestra consisting of a number of violins, an upright bass, cello, piano, baritone saxophone, and a pair of accordions, who played modern takes on traditional tango music.  While the room was a bit hotter than we would have preferred, the lack of electricity lent a magical, etherial element to the performance that was just beautiful. 

San Telmo neighborhood

San Telmo Market

My friends Nick and Frances, the South African couple I had met in Bariloche and hiked the W with, were the next set of people to make their way into town.  Admittedly, it was nice having some people who were in town for such little time, because they wanted to check out some of the major sites and I could tag along, following their agenda, knowing I had plenty of time to visit certain sites again or see anywhere I had missed later on, but it definitely got me motivated to get out during the day and actually see the sights!  We first met up for a reunion dinner with Frederick on his one night in Buenos Aires - meeting for a couple of drinks and a feast at famous steakhouse La Cabrera in Palermo Soho.  Every night, La Cabrera offers a steak "happy hour" from 7 to 8 pm - 40% off EVERYTHING on the menu, but you only have the one hour to eat.  The meal - I ordered a "half portion" of a tenderloin (still massive) with a selection of sides, and we shared a bottle of Malbec - was absolutely fantastic - even with the discount, I couldn't finish everything on my plate.

Feast at La Cabrera

I also joined Nick and Frances to shop around Villa Crespo (a neighborhood near Palermo known for their extensive selection of leather goods) and to explore the Recoleta neighborhood another day.  Our primary stop was the Recoleta Cemetery, a strangely beautiful place with massive above-ground graves creating a maze of stone and iron, with statues of angels and Mary and the deceased looking down from various corners.  We observed the older designs mixed with the modern, family names we recognized from road names around the city, and managed to find Evita's grave hidden amongst the rows.  Afterwards, we explored a market set up in the greenspace adjacent to the cemetery, slowly walking through the meandering rows of stalls looking at the knickknacks being sold.  Eventually we picked up sandwiches from one of the stalls and sat in the grass to enjoy the sun and the cool breeze before wandering a few blocks to visit the Florialis Generica in Plaza de las Naciones Unidas, a giant metallic flower sculpture with mechanical parts that allow it to open each morning and close up each evening.  We made a long walk back to one of the metro stations, passing a Santa's village (admittedly a bit odd to see "elves" dressed in shorts and a "North Pole" when it was nearly 90 degrees), a railway museum with odd bits of sculpture out front, and eventually the Torre de Los Ingleses (English Tower) across from Plaza San Martin.  On our final day to hang out together, I made a return visit to the San Telmo market, wandering up and down the busy streets as we sought out gifts for friends back home and treats for ourselves.

Recoleta Cemetary

Recoleta Cemetary

Florialis Generica

I also did quite a bit of exploring on my own prior to my parents' arrival.  I joined CrossFit Unidos, which kicked my butt and nearly gave me heat stroke nearly every time I visited, but I always went back!  And I fell in love with the Palermo Soho neighborhood with it's adorable cafes, cute boutique shops, and charming alleyways full of street art.  Some of my favorite spots were La Panera Rosa, an air-conditioned cafe (sometimes a necessity) with delicious pastries and sweet and savory crepes; Libros del Pasaje, a beautiful bookstore with a little cafe tucked away inside; and Cafe Barola, an eclectic "shabby chic" cafe that's perfect for sitting outside and enjoying a cool breeze and a refreshing ginger-mint lemonade.

With some of my incredible coaches at CrossFit Unidos

Cafe Barola in Palermo Soho

Next Up:  Spending the holidays abroad, and a visit from Mom & Dad!


  1. 40% off menu items! Daym. Missed out

    1. I think Miles gave us the tip on that one - it was so good! I actually made a return trip with my parents later on :)