Weekend in Buenos Aires!
First stop in our trip to South America – Buenos Aires!
Loved the vibe and loved the city. With beautiful parks, monuments, European styled architecture all around the city, no surprise it is called the Paris of South America.
We strolled around the cool neighborhoods of Palermo, Recoleta, Puerto Madero, sometimes even at 1am without fear as the city was bustling with people any time of the day!
Argentina and South America itself seem like an enigma to me as you don’t hear a lot about the continent and culture (except for Brazil, of course). So we decided to take walking tours for the first time and loved them. We met fellow (hard core) travelers, got to listen to the history of the country and walked around like locals.
Buenos Aires is very unique and feels like a world in itself. You see quite a bit of European influence but really, a world in itself now. Everyone uses local items as the government does not allow import of foreign goods in order to support their economy. No Apple products, no Beats/Bose headphones and no imported wine!
I learnt a lot from the political and aristocratic tours. Here are a few interesting and cool discoveries I made about Argentinians and the Porteños (people of Buenos Aires) – with pictures!!
- 11pm is about the right time for dinner. A lot of restaurants do not open until 8pm and close at 3am! They are probably influenced by their Spanish roots. 😉
- Standard way of greeting – hug and kiss! Consider how long it takes to say goodbye to a group at a party! Weird in the beginning but you get used to it 🙂
- Argentinians love their politics and everyone has an opinion. It is mandatory to vote in the country or pay a fine. It was fascinating to hear everyones’ views and how they respect each other’s opinions. Picture of the Congress.
- Pizzas and Parillas (BBQ/grill/steakhouses) on every street corner. Meat, bread and cheese everywhere, I kinda found it hard to find vegetables in restaurants! Argentina is also famous for its mouth-watering Dulce de Leche. We also found several juice bars in Palermo though!
- A tidbit to anyone who wants to visit Argentina: Do not exchange currency at airports or banks. Research blue dollar vs official dollar. Our tour guide explained that in Argentina, people save their money in US dollars as the value of Argentinian Peso is vey low. When the economy was in shambles, the Argentinian government banned people from possessing US dollars meaning they cannot exchange currency officially. But US dollar is essential to Argentinians not just because they save in US dollars but tourism is big in the country. So a blue (more like black) market was created. The official rate is ~10pesos for $1 but you get ~15pesos when you exchange with locals. Although it is not legal, it is widespread and very open.
- Argentina has been a democratic nation for 30 years now and this is the longest period of democracy in the country’s history! Our guide told us some stories about how people were treated in a military government. Stories like those reminded me how we take our freedom for granted.
- You see trees, beautiful parks everywhere in the city.
- And beautiful monuments. Some were gifted to Argentina in their golden days.
- A lot of rich people in the 1920s build European style palaces. They are now being used as consulates, embassies, government offices etc.
- Consider this theatre that is now a bookstore! There are more bookstores in Buenos Aires than in whole Mexico country. We found a bookstore every block..
- Or this water works building.
- Apparently, it is cool to see a psychiatrist in Buenos Aires! 9 in 10 people visit one. So is getting plastic surgeries. 😉
- 90% of the population is Catholic with Spanish and Italian roots. Imagine their joy when Pope Francis was made the Pope. This is the Cathedral Metropolitana where the Pope was the ArchBishop before he was anointed.
- People are very friendly and try to help you in everyway even with the language barrier. Their spanish is slightly different from the typical spanish and they talk really fast too. A little spanish knowledge is very helpful. But I soon realized that you can ask questions but cannot understand their answers!! My most used phrase was ‘no entiendo’ (I do not understand) after hola, si and gracias, LOL. Download the ‘google translate offline’ app, it is very useful in restaurants, for travel etc. Point the camera at the menu and it translates the words in English for you!
- Palermo is the trendy, hip neighborhood, Recoleta is the affluent neighborhood and Puerto Madero is the new, posh neighborhood. Puerto Madero was built to be a port and later transformed into this cool neighborhood.
- No one ever is in a rush. You don’t get coffee or food to-go. You sit, have your coffee even if you are in a hurry. And no one is in a hurry to kick you out of the restaurant. We had to ask for the bill almost every time. Something to learn!
- There are 20-30 protests on an average in a day! Some of them set up tents and live there for years, like the one below!!
Wish we had more time to explore the beautiful city. Stay at least a week if you plan to visit and explore the theatre, tango, fairs that we missed!
I am Aswani Kurra. I am an engineer, dreamer and part-time wanderlust, writer and wine lover. I always had an urge to write, create and travel. So I created this space to satisfy my creative itch and combine all my skills to help you plan your Charming Escape.