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Argentina, Buenos Aires - Jan-Mar 2010
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Part One | Part Two | Part
There are lovely parks throughout
the city where families sit in the shade under
magnificent trees or on the grass basking in the sun.
During January and February, bright yellow umbrellas and
chairs were a familiar site in Parque Las Heras (guess
they must rent them).
There is a plethora of hair salons
from which to choose. Since we will be returning to the
same neighborhood next year, we narrowed our search. The
Uriburu 1625 caught our attention. Actually it was the
friendly smile of owner Gloria which lured us in. Her
right hand man Walter did his magic and we are happy to
have our locks in good hands while in BA.
Have I mentioned that Linda makes
fabulous spaghetti bolognese? With a cold bottle of
Quilmes Stout (a delicious dark beer), it's a splendid
dinner at home.
When I reported the sidewalk
hazards I failed to mention the other area for caution.
There are deep gutters running along the curbs for
drainage purposes. This creates a crater as you step from
the sidewalk to the roadway which can result in turned
ankles if youre not careful. Pay attention!
Buenos Aires is not an ideal city
for driving unless one is familiar with the one-way
street pattern and is comfortable driving surrounded by
buses (who take no prisoners) and taxis that fly, troll
or stop abruptly. Public transportation is the best, most
If youre in the mood for a
very good burrito head over to the pedestrian street
Lavalle. At number 441 is California Burrito Co. When we arrived there was a long lineup
inside so we opted to have our burritos assembled at the
front take-out window and then luckily found a table
inside. We chose from a good variety of veggies which
were generously piled on a large round tortilla and
tightly wrapped. These two-handed missles were a joy from
top to bottom.
From there it was a short walk to
Puerto Madero and stage two of our lunch. Crossing Puente de
la Mujer we found our way to the promenade along Av.
Costanera Sur Intendente Hernán Giralt and the lineup of
yellow parrilla stands where the taxi drivers go for
choripan (grilled chorizo on baguette). Although the
burrito was still being digested, the aroma of grilled
meats made it impossible for us not to indulge. Those
taxi drivers know their choripans!
The world wide economic problems do
not seem to have reached Puerto Madero as the
construction of high rise apartment buildings, hotels,
and businesses continues unabated.
On our way to Sunday lunch in San
Telmo we stopped by the magnificent Parque Lezama which
borders the 1400 to 1700 blocks of Defensa. Huge magnolia,
elm and cedar trees shade the pathways, where well worn
benches are available for relaxing.
The Italian family Lezama bought
the property in 1858 and built their summer home with
observation tower, several patios, and lush gardens. In
1897 it became a museum housing the Museo Historico
Nacional. This pinkish red beauty houses 33 elegant rooms
and 3 galleries filled with 400 years of Argentinean
history. The collection includes military artifacts,
clothing, maps, furniture, flags, art, photos, etc. There
is enough to see and read to gain a good insight into the
history of the country.
It is thought that Pedro Mendoza
was the founder of Buenos Aires and that the city was
established on this site. A monument of the man is
located at the northwest corner of the park. The Iglesia
Ortodoxa Rusa overlooks the park across from the monument.
Defensa al Sur, Defensa 1338, a
cozy bistro, was just as we remembered it from last year.
Our welcoming waiter and the happy kitchen staff are
perfect for the warm, friendly environment. Owner chef
Mariana Hernandez has a deft hand in running all aspects
of her business.
The house made breads, rolls,
flatbreads and hummous were fine munchies while we
perused the menu, which offered various tempting choices.
Linda beat me to the tres cortes de cordero in tre
cocciones con risotto de radiccio (lamb prepared 3
different ways with radicchio risotto decorated with
berries). Can you see why I was deflated? Not to worry
Don, terrina de pato confitado con puree de higos al vino
tinto y ensaladita de brotes (carameled duck terrine with
figs in a red wine puree) will make you very happy.
Dessert selection was much easier,
tarteleta tibia de chocolate, helado de chocolate amargo
y ensalada de frutas frescas (thick chocolate mousse in a
cookie crust with dark chocolate gelato and a fresh fruit
salad), beautifully plated and delicious. Excellent
coffee to finish. Defensa al Sur will remain on our
After lunch we strolled through the
famous antiques fair in Plaza Dorrego (it was Sunday) on
our way to the colectivo for our return voyage home. As
usual a mob scene of earnest shoppers, locals having fun,
tourists and entertainers.
Finally Slum Dog Millionaire made
its way to BA. We hustled to the 13:00 showing at the
Recoleta Cinema. It was a first for us to be able to
select our seats in advance. The seats were nicely
upholstered, very comfortable with lots of leg room. We
expected a big crowd. We had a private showing, with 3
others. Guess it was the time of day. It was in English
with Spanish sub titles. The Indian language portions had
Spanish subs but no English. Terrific film!
Inflation is slowly creeping in.
Our 11 pesos laundry spot now charges 12 pesos, but still
less than the usual 14 or 15 in most places.
We were joined by
our friends Sue and Joe (whom we had met in Rodi Bar) on
a visit to the lovely green suburb of San Isidro, about
20 kilometers outside the city. It was raining a bit when
we boarded colectivo 60 on Las Heras y Junin for the one
hour trip (there are many #60 buses and each has a
different route - be sure to give the driver your
destination and he will tell you if you are on the right
bus). By the time we arrived at our destination the light
rain became torrents. Up with the umbrellas, we would not
be deterred. Since it was lunch time we hurried to find a
restaurant hoping it would clear by the time we finished.
With the help of a few shopkeepers
we sloshed our way to Café de la Biblioteca, 25 de Mayo
387, adjacent to the library. The friendly atmosphere and
cheerful staff were a welcome respite from the miserable
weather. The lunch menu included a main dish, choice of
water or wine and dessert. Three of us chose pollo con
salsa de verdeo hojas verdes y papas bravas while Joe
opted for ensalada de salmon rosado, camarones, palta y
hojas verdes. We were all very pleased.
There was a short break in the rain
as we headed to Plaza Mitre, the pretty and charming
central square. Across from the plaza is the splendid
Gothic Cathedral of San Isidro. Just behind the park is a
multi-level outdoor shopping center and railway station.
The rain inhibited our ability to roam the town other
than the lovely narrow boutique shopping streets we
passed on our way to the homeward bound bus. We will get
back eventually to see the picturesque views of the river
and the streets with stately old mansions weve
heard so much about.
Off to San Telmo to swap books at
Walrus Books and lunch at Manolo,
Bolivar 1299. What a find! A family-run neighborhood
eatery plying loyal regulars and those of us lucky to
find our way here with quality home cooking at very
reasonable prices and helpful, friendly service. The
restaurant is spotless. The waiters wipe the serving
pieces before placing them on the tables. The walls are
filled with football memorabilia, photos of guests,
awards, and letters of appreciation.
The menu features parrilla naked or
with toppings and fillings. There is a long list of pollo
and pasta dishes along with popular standards and daily
specials. A house offering of marinated eggplant, green
peppers and onion was sooo good we ended up taking an
We are addicted to bife de lomo
naked, grilled "jugoso" (juicy, medium rare).
The two medallions, first cuts of the tenderloin, perfect
for sharing, were incredibly tender and delicious.
Classic versions of puree de calabaza and Russian salad
were perfection. Budin de pan, a favorite dessert of ours,
passed with honors. Manolo will see us regularly.
Sue and Joe joined us again,
fortunately on a gorgeous sunny day, to visit the Feria
de Mataderos. The full version of the fair takes place
April to December, weekly on Sundays from 11:00 to early
evening. Closed in January, there is a reduced version
during February and March (no live performances by
We boarded bus 92 at Las Heras and
Pueyrredon and got off at the junction of Av Directorio
and Av Le Sandra de La Torre. Ask the colectivo driver to
tell you when you arrive at the Feria de Mataderos. Mataderos means "slaughter houses",
referring to those in nearby Laniers. The neighborhood
has a cultural mix of gauchos, Porteños and migrants.
This is one of the city´s poorest neighborhoods.
The streets were filled with
handicrafts vendors and food stands. The smell of
grilling carne and chorizo filled the air and as the day
progressed the costumed dancers and entertainers took to
the streets and stage to perform native singing and
dancing. A fun day was had by all.
What do Graciela from Florida, Ana
Maria from Patagonia, Joe and Sue from Florida, Linda and
Don from Canada have in common? Correct, we are all Ziners and we were all visiting Buenos Aires. Time
for a "get-together" and what better venue than
lunch at Rodi Bar. So over plates of fresh pasta
bolognese, brains, grilled salmon, meat ball stew and
pork chops we talked travel and shared our BA experiences.
Most importantly, we became friends.
We happened to turn on the TV when
the President of Argentina, Christina Fernandez de
Kirchner, was making a speech to open the new session of
the Argentinean legislature. We were significantly
impressed with her ability to captivate. She spoke for
about an hour without a teleprompter. She referred to
notes only when reciting statistics. Quite a performance
to keep us glued to the TV without even knowing what she
was saying. Exiting the magnificent building after the
speech, she exchanged handshakes, hugs, kisses and lively
conversation with her adoring fans for quite some time
before departing in her limo.
Pippo, Montevideo 341 is
celebrating its 71st anniversary this year and it appears
nothing has been done to tamper with its formula for
success. The pink walls and open large parrilla are the
decor for this sprawling eatery. Porteños flock here for
parrilla and pasta (especially the vermicelli Pippo) at
very reasonable prices. We had bife de chorizo (a very
large sirloin steak) and vermicelli (thick spaghetti)
with tomato sauce. Very good value.
This block of Montevideo is very
interesting. There are many restaurants to choose from
and just behind the west side of the street is the cozy
Paseo la Plaza. Green lined laneways and multi-level
walkways are home to restaurants, cafes, shops and
theatres. Shaded patios make for an ideal spot to sip a
beverage or have a meal amidst the trees, shrubs and
has many interesting attractions, one of which is El Gato
Negro at #1669. Beginning life in 1929 as a spice store,
this historical beauty has evolved into a cafe featuring
coffees, teas and spices from around the world. Walk into
another time, a long wooden counter and back shelves
laden with jars and cans emitting an exotic blend of
aromas. El Gato Negro is the kind of cafe where you can
sit for hours reading a newspaper or a book while sipping
coffee or tea in a totally laid back atmosphere. There is
an upstairs restaurant, which we did not visit. Pop in
even if just for a photo.
Another San Telmo classic
neighborhood parrilla is Gran Parrilla del Plata at the
corner of Chile and Peru. The sidewalk tables help create
a picturesque setting. Inside is an eclectic mix of green
paint, white tile and wood walls, shelves of wine and
condiment bottles and black and white tiled floors and
seats. The house offered marinated eggplant, red pepper
and onion mixture was just okay. We started with the
ensalada de la plata, a mixture of spinach, lettuce,
hearts of palm and raisins topped with a divine creamy
blue cheese dressing.
The bife de lomo was excellent
quality, grilled with a crispy exterior, jugoso as
ordered. We had batatas fritas (sweet potato fries) which
were wonderful even if our clueless waiter failed to
order them on time and they arrived too greasy and had to
go back to be reworked. He was also guilty of not
clearing used serving pieces which caused him problems in
setting down the steak and fries. We will return for the
food and value, not for the service.
We discovered a panaderia-confiteria
that offers home made goodies, Pia Dolce, Av SanteFe 2549,
near Ecuador. We filled a bag with delicious potato
knishes (light dough around potato and onion mash);
ricotta and fresh spinach rolls in heavenly dough, baked
golden brown; a couple of meaty onion rolls; classic
budin de pan; and a ricotta cheese square topped with
strawberries. Eating at home ain't so bad.
On a subsequent stop at Pia Dolce
for a sandwich for lunch, a lady customer told us that
while this was a good bakery for some things we should go
to Confiteria Del Valle, Av Sante Fe 2340 for what we
were looking for. It was only a block and one-half away
and she was right. There was a substantial appealing
selection. We chose a large wrap of chicken, spinach and
egg whites. The dough was perfectly baked and the filling
was fresh and generous. There is a small park a block
away on the north side of Sante Fe where we sat at a
table and shared the treat. We now have two outstanding
choices for home made goodies fresh out of the oven.
We have failed to mention another
good reason to ride the colectivos - entertainment.
Drivers allow hawkers on board to sell their wares. Today
it was hand held mirrors, the other day it was pens, and
we´ve had long winded guys selling religious goods. The
entertainment is free with your bus fare (an average of 1.20
We were on our way
to Microcentro on bus #10 when we saw a colorful display
in Plaza San Martin that caused us to jump off the bus.
This park is gorgeous with magnificent trees, shrubs and
walkways, surrounded by some of the best architecture in
the city, a perfect venue for this awesome display. The United Buddy Bears have come to Buenos Aires. The bears had
their birth in Berlin in June 2001.These colorful boldly
designed bears are now traveling around the world
together hand in hand in a circle promoting peace and
charity. There are 140, each representing a member
country of the United Nations.
There was a group promoting this
day as "sin carne" (without meat) and here we
were heading to our favorite carne restaurant, El Establo,
on the corner of Paraguay and San Martin. Those green
posters would not stop us from having red meat. El
Establo is the model Argentinean steak house. Be greeted
by the flaming parrilla, pass the horseshoe shaped bar
where some regulars prefer to dine, and enter the non-smoking
dining room with lots of wood, wine, hanging hams and
cheerful waiters. There is another non-smoking dining
room upstairs and an adjacent room for smokers.
The menu is large as are all the
portions. Sharing is a good idea. A mixed salad with
roquefort cheese got us on our way. We were hungry and
ordered the full size bife de lomo backed up by half
portions of batatas fritas and papas fritas (sweet potato
and regular fries). As usual the carne was exceptional
and the fries the very best. They cut the potatoes thick
and fry them to perfection; the flavor of the fresh spuds
comes through loud and clear. El Establo is a winner.
March 24 is the National Day of
Memory for Truth and Justice commemorating this day in
1976 when a military junta overthrew the elected
government. Thirty thousand innocent citizens
dissappeared during this period. The nation has never
forgotten them with constant demonstrations in their
memory. We were headed for a restaurant near Plaza Los
Dos Congresos where the crowds were beginning to form for
the march to Plaza de Mayo along Avenida de Mayo. When we
left the restaurant the scene was enthralling. Thousands
were marching, to the beat of drums, carrying banners and
posters. It was well organized and peaceful. The people
of Argentina will never forget the atrocities that were
committed and will never let it happen again.
We went to a
Peruvian restaurant, Status, at Virey Cavallos 178. It
was lunch time on a national holiday and as expected it
was quite busy. We got one of the last tables. You come
here for fresh, wholesome well prepared Peruvian dishes
in a convivial environment, not for fancy decor. Seafood
is the hero, but the lamb and rabbit offerings were
enticing as well. Since it was our first visit we decided
to test it with the cebiche mixto especial. The waiter
assured us it would be sufficient for two, it was enough
for four. The platter was centered by 3 huge clams
covered and surrounded with a succculent variety of
shellfish and fish. Boiled potatoes, a slice of sweet
corn, and roasted corn kernels and onion slices completed
the feast. We had asked for medium heat which worked
perfectly with the traditional lemon and cilantro
marinating. Quilmes beer was the perfect partner. The
pricing is extremely reasonable for this quality and
quantity. Status is in our memory bank.
A coffee tip, Cafe La Rosita,
Talcahuano 959 has excellent coffee at the best prices in
town. We haven´t eaten there yet but the well priced
food looks very good. Next year!
Speaking of 2010, we have already
reserved an apartment for the same period as this year.
Everyday life in Buenos Aires is muy bueno!
Hasta luego and off to the airport.
We did web check-in the night before and were able to
take advantage of the special counter to obtain our
boarding passes and avoid the long line for those who had
not. There is a counter in the check-in area to pay the $16US
exit fee. To avoid the line- up we went upstairs to the
boarding area where there is another counter for the same
purpose which is usually not busy.
Air Canada flew us home on schedule
and since we had only carry-ons we were through
immigration and customs in short order and home an hour
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