Two lovely days in Buenos Aires

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! 


A day in Colonia del Sacramento


It was my second trip to Argentina and my third trip to Patagonia. For some reason, I could not get enough. Patagonia is one of the most mystical, magical places in the world. Its remoteness (Patagonia is one of the most remote places on earth and literally at the end of the world), rugged beauty and wild extremes in climate make it like no other place on earth. Perhaps that is why so many others, like me, have fallen in love with the place. There is something otherworldly about it.
My obsession with Patagonia began eight years ago when my husband and I spent ten amazing days trekking and exploring Chile’s national jewel, Torres del Paine National Park. It was a trip of a lifetime that changed my mindset and made me decide that I wanted to travel by foot as much as possible. I realized during that trip that there is truly something unique about going to the middle of nowhere, where there are no phones, no cars, no airplanes, no noise—only silence and nature. It was the first place that I ever truly felt like I was able to escape and relax, as if nothing else mattered in life except the rising and setting of the sun and the song of the birds. The landscape was so wild, so extreme and so above one’s imagination, that it felt like I was on another planet. The splendor and hardship of hiking several hours a day in sometimes extreme weather conditions made me feel at one with nature and with my own inner being. It was almost a spiritual journey. So perhaps that is why I’ve become so obsessed with Patagonia and always want to go back.
November of 2009 was my second trip to Patagonia with my father. The first trip we visited the vibrant, multicultural Buenos Aires and then headed to the Patagonian Lakes District, San Carlos de Bariloche. The trip was wonderful and the beauty was supreme. However, Bariloche was not the wild, intense, extreme Patagonia that I experienced in Chile’s Torres del Paine and I ended up being slightly disappointed. Thus, we had to go back and we had to go further south, deep into the real Patagonia.
This time, after much research, we opted to spend a few days in Buenos Aires (since it is such a fantastic city), do a day trip to Colonia del Sacremento in neighboring Uruguay, and then take two more flights south to the almost the end of the road: El Calafate, the heart of Argentina’s Patagonia.
The flight to Buenos Aires from the States is not bad. American Airlines flys non-stop from Atlanta and the flight was a little over ten hours. One of the pleasures of flying south as opposed to east or west is that there is little change in time. Thus that dreadful jetlag is almost completely avoided, which is a huge bonus in my mind. I find jetlag to be very difficult so I was happy that this time we would hardly feel a thing. Only a two hour time change for me.
We landed in Buenos Aires the next morning, feeling ready to go. I remember seeing the verdant green pastures and fields of Argentina, calling my name, from far below. It was approaching winter in Minnesota and everything at home was brown, bare, and dead. The brilliant green rolling hills below were like a magical shock to my eyes. My heart beat faster as we made our final descent. I couldn’t wait to get on the ground, feel the warm, gentle breeze on my skin and not be bogged down with a heavy winter coat and cap.
The airport was exactly how I had remembered: Big, busy and chaotic. Yet this time I was prepared and the endless swarm of people holding up white signs and placards in the Arrivals Lounge did not overwhelm me. Of course it took over twenty five minutes to find the one man holding the sign that said our name, but we found it. We had our driver and were on our way to our lovely hotel in Palermo Soho, a trendy, newly gentrified neighborhood on the northwestern side of Buenos Aires.
Driving in Buenos Aires takes some series guts. Cars speed in and out of lanes without a skip of a beat and sometimes three lanes of traffic suddenly become five. You feel like you are going to get in a major accident almost every second of the ride and horns are used constantly. When we asked our driver how he does it, he said it takes a good pair of “white knuckles”.
Palermo Soho is a wonderful neighborhood full of hip, boutique hotels, restaurants, designer shops and bars. The streets are tree-lined and full of outdoor cafes and bars. It is a young, urban neighborhood that is so full of energy and excitement that it is impossible not to feel alive. You can find anything you want to eat, whether it be a traditional Argentine Parrilla (grill), café food, or any kind of multicultural food possible. It was the perfect place to unwind after a long day of sightseeing and enjoy an outrageously delightful dinner and bottle of Malbec at a good price.
Since it was our second time in Buenos Aires, we decided to do something different. I had heard a lot of talk about neighboring Uruguay, the second smallest country in South America that has its own unique culture and is a rather unknown hidden treasure to most tourists. Argentina and Uruguay are divided by the brackish Rio de la Plata, and daily ferries, buses and flights are available between Buenos Aires and the three main Uruguayan tourist destinations: Colonia del Sacramento, Montevideo and Punte del Este. We decided to take the morning speed ferry to the tiny gem of Colonia del Sacramento, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The ride was short but sweet, lasting only forty-five minutes from port to port. The only downside of the trip was that we had to go through customs on each side. But other than that, it was a pretty easy way to visit another country in only a day. Being so close, you would think that Uruguay and Argentina would be exactly the same but there were not. Despite a shared language, a land of gauchos, and a love of football, Argentina and Uruguay are quite different. Although I only had a few hours there to explore, I found Uruguay to be a very intimate, peaceful, easy-going place. There was almost something lackadaisical about it, and it felt like it was set back in time. Here are some of my favorite pictures from my short stay:

Beautiful tree-lined cobblestone street:

For some reason, I just couldn’t get enough of all the old cars. Especially the broken down ones that probably have been here forever.

View down cobblestone street of the river separating Buenos Aires and Colonia:

Pastel painted buildings and colonial architecture:

Plenty of beautiful outdoor cafes. Yes the Uruguanian wine is delicious too.

Another picture of café life. Quiet, relaxing and excellent ambiance. Felt like you were in a long-forgotten world from the past. Very removed from the rapid pace of Buenos Aires. Quite a lovely place.

Argentina TRAVEL BY REGION Uruguay