Traveling in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires is a city of almost 3 million people (14 million in the metro area!) so my first impression wasn’t that great: lots of concrete and traffic like any other metropolis. However, after doing a city tour with the group, I found many places worth seeing.

Buenos Aires with mom, dad, and the fiance

Buenos Aires with mom, dad, and the fiance

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To hit many landmarks at once, we headed to Plaza de Mayo, a city square that celebrates the 1810 Mayo Revolution, a movement that started the independence process. There, once a week, the moms of Madres de la Plaza de Mayo still meet to protest against the disappearance of children during Argentina’s Dirty War in the 70’s.

Facing the plaza is La Casa Rosada, Argentina’s White House. This not where the president lives, but it is where she works. Christina Fernández de Kirchner has been involved in a lot of scandals lately, so she did not make an appearance at Evita’s famous balcony when we were there. Speaking of Evita, the late former first lady is celebrated everywhere from murals on buildings to statues on plazas.

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Also near Plaza de Mayo is the Catedral Metropolitana, Buenos Aires’ main cathedral. Inside it’s just like any other church in South America, full of sculptures and gold, but outside it doesn’t have any towers, but a classical colonnade. This is a very historical building as well: it houses the mausoleum of independence war general San Martin and it’s the church Pope Francisco came from.

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An unexpected tourist attraction in Buenos Aires is a cemetery. La Recoleta has beautiful mausoleums and graves and one can get lost looking at all the details of each. It is also the home of late presidents, Nobel Prize winners, and Evita Perón, who is buried in the Duarte Family mausoleum.

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As far as shopping, Buenos Aires has many options. Calle Florida is a pedestrian street with lots stores, including shady money exchange places: all you hear is “¡Cambio!” (“change”) all day long. Nearby is Galerías Pacífico with high-end stores and murals from famous artists like Antonio Berni. Then for some culture, it is good to check out El Caminito in the neighborhood of La Boca, where its colorful buildings give an exciting feeling to the area, which is packed with street artists.

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Argentina is also a synonym for tango. This sensual Latin dance was born in Buenos Aires in the 1890s and exploded in the world in the 30’s with Carlos Gardel. Many places in the city have traditional tango houses called milongas, but we went to a dinner and a show option at El Querandí, where several couples and a live band went through the history of tango while a three-course dinner was served. We only had a few days in Buenos Aires, but I feel we experienced the best the city has to offer.

Cheers to Argentina!

Cheers to Argentina!

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Eating in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Argentina has a huge Italian influence, so some of its best food items are pizza, pasta, and gelatos. Of course we tried all of those things. The fiancé’s top choice for Italian was Filo, near our hotel, but the best pizza I had while there was actually a “fuegan” lamb one in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the country.

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Buenos Aires is also known as the “Paris of South America”: it has lots of cafes full of delicious pastries and empanadas (a mini calzone). You can’t go to Argentina without having alfajores, which is dulce de leche (caramel) between two cookies and then dipped in chocolate and/or coconut flakes. There is a coffee shop chain called Havanna that sells some of best, but we also tried some from Café Tortoni, a coffeehouse opened in 1858 by a Frenchman and that is now a historical (and touristy) monument of Argentina.

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The fiancé had been a vegetarian for over 2 months when we went to Argentina, but he broke his streak when we went to a parrilla, an Argentinian steakhouse. Argentines are said to eat the most meat in the world and always boast about the quality of their beef. Asado (or barbecue) is a way of life that comes from the gauchos (cowboys). Of course our meal was accompanied by some wine: Malbec is also an Argentine way of life.

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Running in Buenos Aires, Argentina

We arrived in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina in the morning and met some of our fellow Antarctic marathon runners right way. They already had a group run scheduled for that afternoon, leaving from the Plaza Hotel where we were staying and going 2-3 miles toward Puerto Madero, by the waterfront. As tempting as stretching my legs after a 15-hour flight was, I was more excited to spend time with my parents who had flown from Brazil to see us. We ended up walking all the way to Puerto Madero together and some of the runners passed us by. They looked like the serious kind! Oh my, would I be able to keep up with them in Antarctica?

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Puerto Madero is now one of the poshest neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. The waterfront by river Río de la Plata has seen a renovation in the last few years that brought high-risers and lots of restaurants to the area. Another landmark, Puente de la Mujer, is a beautiful harp-like bridge that links both sides of the docks.

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Walking a little further east, the four of us also made it to a natural reserve called Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur. This a huge marshy area with a large sidewalk perfect for strolling on a nice afternoon. Buenos Aires is the second largest city in South America, behind only São Paulo (Brazil), so this green area full of birds and trails is a welcome escape from the busy streets nearby.

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Knowing that my marathon was approaching, I did go on a jog a few days later. Although humid, it was an incredibly satisfying run, watching the sunset from the Women’s Bridge and passing steakhouses in Puerto Madero. Hmm… the juicy smell… time to write about eating!