Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Buenos Aires: My Experience

Hola hola! Remember that time I went to Spain for almost two months and I blogged religiously about my experience? And that time four years later I went to Argentina and I didn't even touch my computer? Major regrets lugging that thing around. But the point here is, my blog posts are going to look a little bit different this time around. Instead of going back day-by-day and recounting what I did, I'm going to hit the high notes. Focus on the things that you MUST DO should you ever get the chance to visit this incredible city. And I hope you do. Because it's one full of culture and history and fashion and nightlife and food and wine and a whole lot of beauty and unique experiences. I absolutely loved my time in Buenos Aires - probably eight days in total - and I would jump at the chance to return. Buenos Aires became a kind of home base to me, and by the end of my time there, I was a pro at navigating those streets. It had such a European feel to it, yet there was something different about it as well. And while there are so many incredible things to do and see and eat in Buenos Aires, I'll stick with just my very favorites. Otherwise, this post could go on forever.

Next stop: Buenos Aires

  • Teatro Colon - Y'all. This place was absolutely beautiful. I love the Hobby Center, but Teatro Colon kind of puts it to shame. It opened in 1908, and is said to be one of the top five concert venues in the world. Located in the very heart of the city, this eclectic building has seen many important composers, singers, dancers, and orchestras perform on its stage. I didn't see a show during my time in Buenos Aires, but the guided tour was plenty of time for me to admire the beauty of this historic and well-known opera house. 
  • Palacio Barolo - This was hands down my favorite place in all of Buenos Aires. This probably has something to do with the fact that it pays homage to Dante's "Divine Comedy", and the English teacher in me absolutely ate it up. When the building was completed in 1923, it was the tallest building in South America, and I had the opportunity to experience Buenos Aires from 100m up - one meter for each canto in the poem. We started in Hell, moved onto Purgatory, and finally, ends in Heaven. No detail went unnoticed, and I have an entire note on my phone that explains every building-poem connection. I'll spare you guys, but I will tell you that I even learned a little Latin. There are guided tours available in the afternoon and evening, but I would recommend doing the Extraordinary Night + Tango Show tour. You get the full experience, the nighttime adds a spooky effect, and you get to enjoy a tango show with wine post-tour. Tours are in both English and Spanish.
The lighthouse
  • La Bombonera + Calle Caminito - I had the La Boca neighborhood on my list of places that I had to visit, however, everything I read about this neighborhood said something to the effect of, "Don't visit this neighborhood alone." Well, I was traveling solo, and I really wanted to see both the soccer stadium and the colorful street that you see in all the guide books. So, I compromised, and I walked as far as I felt was safe before hailing a taxi that dropped me off right in front of the soccer stadium - La Bombonera, home of La Boca Juniors. And I love the story of La Boca Juniors. These kids are taken off the streets of a rough neighborhood, and given an education while at the same time, honing their incredible soccer skills. What teacher/coach doesn't love a system like that? And Calle Caminito was everything I thought it would be. Bursting with color and tango and art, I can understand why this street is at the top of every tourist's to-do list. And let it be stated that I never once felt unsafe in this neighborhood, though I did stay on the main tourist street. I read enough horror stories to know not to wander off the beaten path, but please don't let the rumors prevent you from visiting this historic little neighborhood.
Fun fact: The stadium got its name because it was said to look like a chocolate bombon
  • Cafe Tortoni National Tango Academy - You will read in all the travel guides that Cafe Tortoni is a must-visit. And I'm sure the tango shows are out of this world. However, instead of dressing up and watching the show taking place on stage, I decided to try my hand - or my feet, rather - at the tango at this hidden tango academy. For 80 pesos, I experienced two hours of fun. There were four of us in the class, and after mastering the 8 basic steps, we moved onto some more advanced moves. I was way out of my element, but my instructor was fantastic, and I really loved experiencing such an integral part of the Argentinian culture. I highly recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and getting your groove on.
  • Cementerio Recoleta - I visited this place on a dreary weekday morning, and I think that added to the overall spooky feeling. Though tours are offered, I chose to wander the "city of the dead" all on my own. It's a maze of everything Buenos Aires has to offer - history and art and flowers and beautiful, loving headstone inscriptions. The architecture is incredible, and wandering through this cemetery was a very moving experience. It's magical and spooky all at once, and a quiet hideaway in the middle of the hustle and bustle of a major city.
  • Empanada Cooking Class - This was my very last Argentinian activity, and one of my very favorites. After looking around on the Internet, I stumbled upon Norma's home-based cooking class, and not only was the time right, but the price was right, too. I felt so at home in her precious apartment, and she had all of the ingredients purchased and prepared as she walked us through a lentil stew creation, delicious carne empanadas, and easy-peasy dulce de leche alfajores. This class was very hands-on, we got to enjoy the fruits of our labor - accompanied by the most delectable Malbec, and we got a recipe book to take back to the States with us. Norma is warm, inviting, and full of interesting stories. It was a fabulous way to wrap up my time in Argentina.

  • El Ateneo - Calling all bookworms! You cannot miss this place. It's a theater-turned-bookstore, and I think I visited this place no less than four times. It has actually been named the second most beautiful bookstore in the world, and if this got second place, I've got to see the one that holds first place. The only words I can think to describe this place are magnificent, splendid, grand, and a place you have to experience for yourself. Of course, most of the books were in Spanish, but I had a wonderful time wandering row upon row of my favorite books. I spent a number of rainy days curled up in a theater box reading one of the six books I completed while abroad.
  • Olsen Restaurant - I stumbled upon this dreamy little restaurant while walking through Palermo one day, and I later learned that it's quite the Buenos Aires hotspot. It's in a very trendy part of town, and I was able to enjoy a sunny Sunday brunch on the most charming patio. It was a little bit pricier than the other meals I ate in Buenos Aires, but the food and atmosphere were definitely worth it. Olsen is what I would call an Instagrammable restaurant, and I certainly recommend it if you find yourself in the area.

I don't know about you guys, but this post just made me one step closer to booking a flight back to Buenos Aires. I loved everything about this city - except for maybe the paying for water thing, and the fact that every other person I passed on the street smoked - but there was always something to do and see. I loved the walkability of this city, and that there were always so many people on bikes and rollerblades. The architecture was so unique, the food was outstanding, and the generosity and hospitality I experienced was second-to-none. Counting down the days until I get to experience this most wonderful city again.

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