I took my first trip to Argentina back in November of 2007. I had recently gone to Chile a few years before and fell in love with its South American charm. I was mesmerized by the rugged, untouched, end of the earth beauty of Patagonia and had to see more. But this time it would be in neighboring Argentina, the second largest country in South America which borders Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia and Brazil. It is a land of tango, multiculturalism, wine, mountains, fashion, leather and sea. Furthermore, it shares part of Patagonia with Chile. A place that has remained sacred in my heart and always will. I had to go and check it out.
The trip was as planned as follows. We would spend a few lovely days in Buenos Aires and then head south to the Patagonian Lakes District. We would only have nine days which wasn’t a lot considering the ground we’d have to cover. But I was set to make the most of each and every day and experience Argentina to the fullest.
We spent the first couple of days of our trip in lovely Buenos Aires known as the “Paris of South America” and loaded in history, excitement and fun. Upon landing in Buenos Aires (or “BA” as some call it) I instantly fell in love. It was gorgeous and yes, it did remind me of Paris, my favorite city in the world where I lived and studied french at the ripe age of 21 and will never forget. Except it wasn’t the least bit French.
We landed safely after a ten-hour flight from Atlanta, feeling tired but not jet leg thanks to only a couple of hour time change (the luxurious benefit of flying south!). We drove the long distance through intense tight-knuckle driving in the back of a taxi cab, thankful to arrive in one piece at our hotel an hour later. The Argentines drive like mad, zipping in and out of traffic, and using their horns like it is an extension of their body. It was quite nerve-wracking especially for one’s first encounter in a new country. Would all of Argentina be as nuts as the driving? I certainly hoped not! After the stressful, awakening cab ride, I easily made a promise that I would never drive in Buenos Aires and was thankful for the endless supply of adequate, albeit aggressive drivers.
Like most big cities, Buenos Aires is divided into many different, unique neighborhoods each with their own character and charm. There is upscale, high-class Recoleta with its Chanel shops and Parisian charm, the famous city center Plaza De Mayo, the port hood of Puerto Maderno, the downtown Microcentro, the cafe filled, authentic and old San Telmo, the touristy Little Italy La Boca, and the up and coming district of the different “Palermos” which include Palermo Hollywood, Soho, Chico and Viejo. We decided to spend our two days in BA checking out the different hoods and getting a feel for the Paris of South America.
After much research, it went without saying that we had to stay in Palermo, the previous warehouse district that was recently gentrified into the latest and greatest neighborhood in BA. The Internet provided a wealth of information and resources on all the cool, trendy boutique hotels that have sprouted up throughout Palermo over the recent years. It was hard to choose from all the fabulous choices but when push came to shove, we ended up staying at the Malabia House (as shown below):
Scanned postcard of our boutique hotel, the lovely “1555 Malabia House” in Palermo Viejo, Buenos Aires.
The entryway to 1555 Malabia House, an incredibly lovely and charming boutique hotel/Bed and Breakfast located in the trendy, chic Palermo Viejo part of Buenos Aires. Located in the northern part of BA, this up and coming neighborhood encompasses both Palermo Soho (or quite simply “Soho”), Palermo Chico, Palermo Viejo and Palermo Hollywood, and contains some of the most hip and trendy restaurants, bars, clubs and pret-a-porter designer shops in town. It is almost unthinkable that this part of BA was once an ugly outcrop full of warehouses and unattractive buildings. Since it has been gentrified , it has become one of the best places in BA to live, especially for the up and coming generation. Quite frankly, it is simply lovely and I could not get enough of the gorgeous tree-lined streets, cobblestone roads and parks filled with creamy magnolias, dropping willow trees, fresh smelling pines and tropical palms. It was the hood I felt most at ease and the place I wanted to be. It is fabulous!
Photo of peaceful water fountain inside the hotel.
I only wished I’d taken more photos of the inside as the hotel was fantastically decorated yet not over the top. It had a gorgeous entry-way and classy lounge with huge white cushioned sofas, brightly colored, fluffy pillows and loads of books and magazines on Argentina. At 5 pm, there was a free happy hour with only the best Argentinian wines available and dishes of olives, plates of salami and cheese and quiet, relaxing music. I could have sat there all night. Except the town was waiting.
Photo below taken in Palermo Soho…the new up and coming hood full of trendy designer shops, restaurants, clubs, cafes and boutique hotels. I had to take this picture below for my daughter whose name is Sophia.
There is never a dull moment in Soho. Great people watching, crowds and as many types of excellent restaurants and shops as you can find. It was the perfect area of town to have our base. Plus the shopping was out of sight and the price at the time was just so right.
The tree-lined streets like the one below reminded me of Paris. We ate at the restaurant on the corner, a parrilla, or Argentine grill, twice. It was outstanding. We also ate at the chic french restaurant Cluny’s for out of sight food and ambiance. Generally, we preferred the liquid lunches outside with a gorgeous bottle of Malbec and the indoor quaintness in the evening, when the sun went down. You could eat your heart out in Buenos Aires, just like in Paris. It was a food lover’s paradise!
The next morning we headed downtown to get the full city view and tour. We saw dog walkers with their assortment of 10-15 dogs per walker, nicely dressed men and women on their way to work, school children dressed in crisply pressed uniforms and hardly any tourists. My dad and I got lost at one point and were delighted at how helpful the locals were, even in a huge city, at stopping to help us find our way. The Argentine’s are warm, friendly people who truly enjoy life.
Photo below of central BA. The old French-styled buildings reminded me instantly of Paris.
Of course we had to visit delicious San Telmo, the old, historical part of town loaded with very old, traditional cafes such as this one. San Telmo is the oldest neighborhood in BA and home to the Tango, romance and cafes galore!
San Telmo is quite charming as well. I could have spent an entire day walking its lovely, storied streets but we only had so much time.
After we took the modern metro system which was clean and inexpensive (a rare treat with subways) to Microcenter where we entered the crazy, touristy Calle Florida, the main drag in BA. It is where most people do their shopping and in my opinion, was way too crowded and annoying for me to like. This photo below is taken at the entrance to Calle Florida. I loved all the blooming, purple Jacaranda trees. They were heavenly!
We walked for hours that day, going through all the different neighborhoods and snapping pictures. I fell in love with the beautiful, french-inspired architecture as well as the liveliness of BA. What an incredible, vibrant city!
We ended our day in Recoleta, where all the five star hotels and expensive shops and restaurants remain. This area is also most known for the cemetery where Eva Peron is buried. The cemetery is lined with gorgeous, parisian-styled cafes where you can drink cafe au laits until you are blue in the face.
After an exhausting two days walking, eating, drinking and exploring lovely Buenos Aires I was ready to board the plane heading south. For the Patagonian Lakes District was next and I could hardly wait…..Stay tuned for mountains, blue waters and gorgeous scenery!