After several months of junk food (especially in Paraguay & Uruguay), homesickness is beginning to be felt. Fortunately, we have planned a week in Buenos Aires, a version of Paris (for the better)
Reminder: In the previous episode, we were in Uruguay, in Colonia del Sacramento exactly. After a very hard night because of many bites (of unidentified insects), we get up at 8 am to take the boat to Buenos Aires at 10:30 am (it is necessary to be at the terminal at 9:30 am to pass the immigration controls). I notice that the bites are swollen. Neither one nor two, we go directly to the hospital next door to make sure that I am not going to die from it. The verdict falls: allergy to the shots. But bites of what? The doctor won’t say. But after a long search, we sincerely think that they are bed bugs -> EL VIAJERO HOSTAL, to RUN! Miraculously, we manage to pay the doctor, buy the medication and get to the terminal on time. OOF! Because I don’t want to stay one more second in Uruguay.
Boat Colonia del Sacramento => Buenos Aires
So it is with a martyrized body, swollen arms and legs that I pass the immigration control in Colonia del Sacramento. The two customs officers are sitting side by side, so we can have a Uruguayan exit stamp and an Argentinean entry stamp at the same time. Posters on the zika are available all over the terminal, I read the symptoms carefully to reassure myself that I am not concerned (at the same time, this morning’s doctor would have told me if I had any suspicious symptoms). So much the better, otherwise I don’t think they would have let me take the boat
The trip takes only one hour. We are with Uruguayan supporters who have come to watch a game. They sing during the whole trip, it’s very festive
On arrival, we decide to take a cab. A guy is in charge of calling cabs for us (we are very numerous to queue), it isn’t an official or employee of the terminal. As soon as the cab arrives, the driver gives him a tip. Our hostel is only 3km away as the crow flies, but there are MANY one-way streets in Buenos Aires, we end up paying 200 pesos for the ride (12€) – meter rate. Note: never take a cab here again
Traumatized by our last experience in dormitories, we decide at the hostel to change our reservation to a private room. I’ll stay in this room for 2.5 days in a row (yes, the doctor gave me a pink cream to put on the bites, I have fluorescent pink skin, how can I go out like that?)
If you have never been a victim of bed bugs, let me describe how I feel: there are some who don’t react at all to the bites (JB is an example), and there are others who feel like they are dying from them (me). When they are swollen, the stings hurt a lot and I have very bad nights, between the pain and the fear of being stung again or of carrying the fleas with me to Buenos Aires. All our things were sent to the laundry with the instruction to be dried in the machine, as hot as possible. The bags are rinsed with hot water and what is disposable is discarded, without mercy
I will stay in “traumatized” mode like this for 2 and a half days while JB takes care of the “administrative” steps to exchange the dollars, buy the metro cards (SUBE), a SIM card and attend two soccer games
On the 3rd day, I look like a human again. It is only from that moment on that we visit Buenos Aires. Suffering from bad food for several weeks, we close our eyes on the exorbitant prices of restaurants in Buenos Aires to eat
- The best Argentine steak at Don Julio (the best steakhouse in Buenos Aires). The snag: we had to pay 60€ for the meal for two, but it’s worth the cost!
- Peruvian ceviche (it’s been a long time) and Sushi: it’s funny, the Japanese restaurants here are also Peruvian, maybe because the recipes have one thing in common: raw fish
- Artisanal ice creams: the vaso at 40 pesos is enough for two. Ohlala, I love home-made ice cream in South America !!!
- Argentine beef tartar: I had to wait 3 months to find (finally) a French restaurant serving tartar. I recommend the Brasserie Pétanque.
- Bibimbap + bubble tea at the Barrio Chino in Buenos Aires (Chinatown): a little Asian touch is never too much.
After that, I’m ready to face junk food and no salad until the end of my world tour (i.e. for 1.5 months)
Note: We will then change our accommodation to spend 3 days at Babel Plaza, a hotel that is finally cheaper than the hostel, as we are exempt from VAT and accept payment by credit card
In terms of cultural activities, we must obviously attend a tango show. But not just any tango show! Being ruined because of many expensive restaurants, we miraculously find a 1.5 hour show that costs only 30€/person at the Tango Porteño. There are only 8 dancers (hence the low price, vs. 85€ for the others), but we like the show very much. Argentine tango is very different from the tango ballroom I learned a few years ago. It’s sexier and the footwork is very impressive
We also visit La Boca, a poor neighborhood of Buenos Aires but known for El Caminito street, with lots of restaurants for tourists and street dancers who don’t hesitate to do an improvised show (for tourists). To make the neighborhood a little more welcoming, the houses are painted in bright colors. It is very touristic but it has its charm
In the surroundings of Palermo, a place of particular interest to us: the museum of Evita (Eva Peron née Duarte), former first lady extremely loved by the Argentine people. I heard about this lady for the first time thanks to Madonna’s song “Don’t cry for me Argentina”, which was part of a musical named Evita co-produced by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber
Andrew Lloyd Webber, does this speak to anyone? The Phantom of Opera? We watched this musical on Broadway during our trip to New York. What great memories!
Returning to Evita, she is the type of woman who will stop at nothing and do everything to achieve her goals. But, coming from a modest background, she also thinks of women who have suffered like her. And then, the vote given to women is also thanks to her. I have a deep respect for this woman and since I also loved the musical, it is only natural that I return to the places that marked her life: the Museo Evita, an old house bought by her foundation to house women in need of help; and the Casa Rosada , where she gave her famous speech, transformed into “Don’t cry for me Argentina”, sung by Madonna
We went to say hello to her at the cemetery in Recoleta where she is buried. Her coffin is buried 5m underground, for security reasons. And even if her grave is a bit difficult to find, we just have to spot groups of tourists, they necessarily stop in front of it. It is incidentally the most beautiful cemetery in South America. Frankly, if my apartment is as big as their tomb, I could consider myself lucky
The current pope is the national pride, and especially souvenir stores. One can buy stickers, postcards, key rings… with his effigy. The huge cathedral next to the Casa Rosada was “his”. It is very beautiful, with superb stained glass windows and trompe-oeil paintings
Buenos Aires = Paris of South America
I feel particularly good here because I find a part of Paris here. The architecture, the fake obelisk, the subway/bus system, the possibility to find any kind of food..
We often come across, especially at the Micro Centro, buildings that could have been placed in the center of Paris without any worries. We often hear accordion too, but often it comes from a restaurant where tango is played
There are even Carrefour supermarkets everywhere. Moreover, Carrefour is adapting well. Here, we have small supermarkets like the Carrefour Market (where you can find everything except vegetables & fruits), and places where you can only find vegetables and fruits. That way, Carrefour doesn’t kill (too much) the local trade
The subway in Buenos Aires isn’t always air-conditioned (it depends on the lines in fact), like in Paris. You can also hear music and some shows in the subway, but the level is really higher than in the Parisian subway. I’m also very surprised to see that one person out of 3 gives money, sometimes they jostle each other to be able to reach the artist and give him the 2-3 pesos. I confess that I also gave, when a musician gets on the train with a harp and plays 2 pieces of Amélie Poulain (I told you I was homesick)
The subway network is less dense, that’s why people still prefer to take the bus. Google Maps lists all the bus lines and schedules in Buenos Aires (with a few minor errors though), which makes getting around super easy. Each trip costs about 6-7 pesos. And everyone buys a SUBE card that they recharge in KIOSCO or newsagents. When we get on the bus, we have to announce our destination so that the driver charges us the right fare
Argentines drink less than the French, I think we met only 2 drunk people. We feel seriously safer here than in Paris (even if we take care to leave our passport & a big part of our cash at the hotel)
The weather is very nice too: 25°C mid-March, no wind, no excessive air conditioning in the buses or in the shops/restaurants. We eat late (restaurants open at 12h and 20h), we get up late (breakfast at 8h or even 9h at the hostel)
After so much praise, I still have to explain to you why we can’t live here: it’s too expensive! I thought Patagonia and Uruguay had finished us off, but no, Buenos Aires has emptied our wallet. A good steak costs 400$AR here (vs. 250$AR in Patagonia), the cab is out of price. When the hotel tells us that the cab to the airport will cost us 600$AR (38€), for us it was the deal of the century (Uber makes the same trip for 60€). All the tourist activities are pretext to ruin us slowly but surely: 200 to 300$AR a tour where we have to do everything on foot, 100 dollars for a soccer match, 85€ a tango show of 1h30… and I pass by
Of course, cheap food options exist (empañadas at 25$AR for example), but it’s hard to eat just this every day. The cheapest menus (with a lomito or milanesa i.e. something fried at 3000 calories) are in the 170$AR + 10% tip (mandatory)
JB points out to me that even in Paris, we don’t spend as much
It’s time for us to go… To Rio de Janeiro! Youhouuuuuuu