Published: October 17th 2010July 11th 2009
We were going to go to England to visit my brother. 10 days before we were supposed to go we found out I needed a visa for England. Well, we discovered I needed a visa to go essentially anywhere in Europe. Well we also discovered that there are very very few countries that require no visas for both South Africans and Americans. The days went by and 4 days before we were suppose to leave we found cheap tickets to Argentina. And off were a couple days later.
The flight was actually not that bad. We got to BUENOS AIRES fairly early in the morning. Well first word of advice. Exchange money in Argentina. The exchange rate there is so much more favorable than in the US and they don't charge you any conversion fees. We stayed in these temporary apartments - CONCORD CALLAO BY TEMPORARY APARTMENTS. It is in the middle of the RECOLETTA DISTRICT and it is about $75 a night. Recoletta is probably the most famous area in Buenos Aires and most things of interest are within walking distance of these apartments. It is nice and has a separate little kitchen with free breakfast in the
In front of Evita's Casa
We immediately took off and explored. It was about 10 in the morning and the streets were dead. We were wondering what was going on since it did not seem like there were any life in the city. RECOLETA CEMETERY was just around the corner. The graves are incredible (think graves in New Orleans, but just 10 times bigger and better maintained). And there she was - EVITA'S GRAVE in the Duarte family grave. You can book tours of the cemetery, but we just decided to do our own thing and walk around. Recoletta is the upscale neighborhood in Buenos Aires. Lots of shops and it all is pretty cheap (comparative to US prices. We went to Argentina with really no clue as to what to do. We read about the Iguazu waterfalls so we figured we'll try and do that at some point.
Our first night we went down to the harbor area. It was probably around 7 and we were starving. Nothing was open or at least they were just starting to get the restaurants together. I was ready for that meaty, juicy Argentinean steak, but nothing was open. Again we were really taken aback
Mini-carnival in San Telmo
by the lack of activity going on around us. We almost started to question our timing of this trip (do all the Buenos Airians leave the city in May? We finally settled at an American type bar for mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and soup. Not your typical first meal in Buenos Aires and not what I had in mind. Turning vegetarian in Argentina? I could not believe this was happening to us. We wandered back to Florida street where things were just starting to come to life. We felt relatively safe walking the streets. There were a couple areas that were a little dark(er) where we looked over our shoulders a couple time, but for the most part we felt pretty safe. I think it is just like any other country where you just have to be smart about where you go at certain times. Florida street was picking up with all kinds of vendors selling things even more ridiculous than you will find in Chinese stores in New York City. But that is part of the attraction and I guess you can really get some deals on gifts if you want to. We finally sat down for coffee and dessert
Black and white bar photo
at around 11 and guess what. All the freakin people started coming in for dinner. Are you kidding me? Well there you have it. People eat at 9 or 10 at night (the early birds). Rookie mistake, but it's ok. For the first time we were truly experiencing Buenos Aires and its people and we loved it. Families were all out and about doing things together, having laughter filled dinners together. I asked the waiter to bring me his best dessert and what we got was not very good (the coffee was good though). Florida street is perfect for tourist shopping. Cheap and entertaining.
Sunday took almost the whole day to book our tickets to Iguazu for Monday morning. We like to do things spur-of-the-moment. Well I like to do things spur-of-the-moment so Nikkie unfortunately just have to follow. If you are not an Argentinean citizen you pay double for internal flights. What a rip-off. As a citizen we would have paid $120 round-trip. Instead it cost us $330 each for the trip. Sunday night we went down to the SAN TELMO AREA. It was crazy. Street parties everywhere, performers everywhere, food vendors and people selling everything from tango
Tango dude @ Plaza Dorrego
lessons to Argentinean flags. We ate at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that was packed so we figured it had to be good since all the locals were there. It was good and we finally had our meat (still not that fat meaty steak I was hoping for, but this was a start). Random bands just bust out all over the place and it just feels like a big old festival the whole time (a sort of a mini-carnival). PLAZA DORREGO is the place to be on Sunday nights. They bust out the tango for all the spectators. The tango is everything they describe it to be. Elegant, romantic, electrifying and HOT (oh yeah sexy too).
Next day it was off to Iguazu. You truly do not realize how big this country is until you get there. Everything is 2 hours flight away. We got to IGUAZU and decided to splurge so we booked a room at the SHERATON INTERNACIONAL. It was beautiful. We got out of the taxi and through the glass doors we saw the falls - only part of the falls (Iguazu has 270 different waterfalls - it is breathtaking). If you have the money stay at
It was so beautiful
the Sheraton. Your other option is the town of Iguazu about 10-15 miles away. We started exploring immediately. We just walked and walked (nothing new for us since that is what we do). We always joke that we take vacations to get exercise since this is the only time that we really get in any form of exercise. They have walk-ways connecting all areas and you can literally walk up against the waterfalls. All we can say is - walk and walk and explore. There is so much to see. From the second we got there we walked and walked. We explored every inch of the area. The views of all the different falls from all the different angles were spectacular. So many pictures to take. At times the sight just literally takes your breath away and all you can do is stand there in amazement and stare is almost disbelief.
And then we did the really fun part. The BOAT RIDE INTO IGUAZU FALLS. It's about $35. First they soak you under a small waterfall and boat you up the canyon to get a good look at the big fall. Then they slowly make their way over to
Go if you ever get the chance. That's the fall we went under!!!!!
the other side of the little island and they give you a view of the second largest waterfall. And then before you even have time to get your thoughts together they take you under the second biggest fall (literally under it). Water plunges from above right onto you (and I'm talking pretty big waterfall here). It's just an incredible rush. You get scared and yet at the same time and you are incredibly excited to do this. They back you up a little bit and give you a good look at what you just "survived" and you almost get scared all over again. And then without warning they take you under again. The best thing we did in Argentina on our trip. Worth every penny and then some. And then to finish it all off they take you on a 7 mile boat ride through the rapids. It was incredible. The drop you off a couple miles down the river and take you back while giving you some background on the area.
Afterwards we walked to GARGANTA DEL BIABLO (the main fall). There's a little train that takes you from a visitor center to a drop-off point at which
Peace and quite and then....
time you have to... that's right - walk. Miles and miles of walkways connect everything and you probably cross 3 different rivers before you hear the roar of the thunder. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water tumbling down. There is this constant mist in the gorge/valley. We were reaching the end of an incredible day at what to date is probably the most beautiful place that we have been to. We slowly walked back to the hotel as the shadows started getting longer. There are butterflies everywhere. There are little lizards everywhere - stalking the butterflies. We saw a couple tucan's but we were not able to get real close. The spiders looked like small children (just joking but they were pretty big). The night was spent on the hotel's terrace looking at the falls in the distance with a good glass of malbec in the one hand and fresh, fresh fruit in the other. It truly is a sight. Our room faced the falls (the extra $40 is worth if for an upgrade to a room that faces the falls) and even late at night it was a magical experience sitting outside, wrapped in a blanket, hearing the
falls, and seeing the stars as clearly as ever.
In the morning we recharged our batteries on a feast of a breakfast buffet. I swear there were probably 20 different kinds of cheeses. We headed back down to the river and took the boat across the river to San Martin Island. The island has a little "beach" and many people were just lying around tanning. We kept going and started climbing the stairs and climbed the stairs and... climbed more stairs. There were lots of stairs to climb. We walked over to this little area where there were these big vulture-like birds. We got some good pictures of these birds. We made our way over to the fall (that we went under the day before) and all we could really do was stand there and try and figure out how we survived. We have hundreds of pictures of all the falls. Sadly it was time to get back to the airport. We had an incredible time at Iguazu. We kind of wished we had a couple more days to stay since it is just such a beautiful area.
Back in Buenos Aires we explored. And this is the
part where I am going to bash Buenos Aires a little bit. Before going we had really, really high expectations of this city. We have heard so many stories and seen so many pictures. We WANTED to be enchanted. We wanted the city to blow us away. We wanted to fall in love with it. Sadly it did not happen. We left Buenos Aires with mixed feelings. The following couple paragraphs will detail why. We tried to walk as much as we could (cabs were pretty cheap, but you see so much more walking). We took cabs a couple times and after a while found that cabs charge us double because we are foreigners. Nikkie speaks fluent Spanish, but I guess her accent is totally different so we still got screwed over (and this did not sit well with us especially after the whole - "you pay triple for a flight just because you are a foreigner"). We figured out the subway and started taking it everywhere.
We met up with Diego who was recommended to us by a friend from Albuquerque. Diego just started a company that takes people on walking tours of the city. Nikkie majored in
Vulture-like creature hanging around
Latin-American history so we figured we should do a couple tours. It was incredible to see the different areas, neighborhoods, the history, the stories and Diego was just the man for this. We did a couple tours with Diego. It was interesting hearing about the history, the influences, the splits in governments, all the uprisings. It was also very surprising how the architecture of the city was influenced by so many cultures - being able to look at a building and then hear the story behind the construction. Some of the sites we visited were PLAZA DE MAYO, PLAZA SAN MARTIN, and THE OBELISK. Diego was an awesome host and even gave us a send-off with a gift of "matte". Matte is a type of tea that everybody there drinks. The jury is still out on the fact as to whether it is a mild stimulant or not.
We loved the food and everything associated with it in Buenos Aires. When I say this I mean it in the context that food is a reason for people to get together - it's not just something that has to be done. Every time we sat down to eat somewhere we
We did not get very close
were amazed at the fact that there were so many families out and about sitting in restaurants for hours and hours enjoying each other's company. The food was ok. It reminds me a lot of South Africa where the food is good, but there is a lack of spices/ color in the food. It's almost as if the food is just very plain/ simple/ basic. Regardless we loved it. We ate as much meat as we possibly could. Every chance we got we sat down and had coffee with some type of sweet thing - I loved, loved the desserts in Argentina since they are all extra sweet. At the one place I had a crepe that was literally "stuffed" with cooked condensed milk. We both are caffeine addicts so we absolutely loved the coffee. It almost feels as if people try and find a reason to just sit down and have coffee and a snack. The whole time we were there we asked ourselves - when do these people work because it seems like all they do is hang out in restaurants. Just sitting down with our coffee and dessert was definitely one of our favorite things to do.
One of the hundreds of waterfalls
We would just park ourselves on the sidewalk outside a cafe and watch people. We went back to Plaza Dorrego for some more tango Saturday morning. It's better and more "real" than the shows - and it is free. We read countless reviews saying that the shows were just not authentic anymore and that the only real tango left is what you find out on the streets.
We also went to the Palermo area. This was really the only day we just did nothing. Our feet were really, really hurting at this point. We walked through a couple parks and a little Japanese garden that they have and made our way to the centre of Palermo. We sat at a cafe in the square for hours and just ate and talked. It was our "laying on the beach and do nothing". The shopping in Palermo is much more upscale and it looks like a much younger and hipper neighborhood.
While we were walking around the city we always got the feeling that we were followed or being watched. On our way to Palermo square we got our welcome from the locals. They always work in teams of 3
Just to put it all in perspective!!
- 4. One of them will just stand there and pretend not to pay any attention to you - by the way they do this on the busiest of streets and also at times when you are all by yourself with no one else around. They especially target people with backpacks. They have this nasty mixture that they put in a catch-up bottle and when you don't look one of them will follow behind you and spray this mixture on you - mostly targeting your backpack. It's supposed to look like a bird just flew overhead and crapped all over you. At the same time the other members "just happen" to be on hand with newspapers and rugs to help you clean the mess from your backpack. They appear very friendly, but all they are trying to do is get you to put your backpack down so that they can get whatever they can while you are not looking. We also got our little camera stolen from our backpack while we were on the subway. You get hassled at every chance by the locals for change and there are all these schemes to take your stuff. Every single time we
Cabana Las Lilas
We had some really good Argentinian Malbec
sat down outside at a restaurant we would get bombarded by people. They either want change or they want to know if they can have your food or they bring over a box of things that they are trying to sell or they just put something on your table - "so you can look at it" - and then come back a couple minutes later wanting to know if you want to buy it. It just really becomes a pain in the ass after so many times. Just having to deal with all these things constantly kind of just ruined the whole experience for us. To me personally it just seemed like there were so many poor people. The city just kind of gave me this vibe that the majority of people are very poor. But I guess you have that in most major cities, but it just almost seems like it was a just a little more present here.
We were really bummed about getting our little camera stolen. It happened on our second to last day there and we had hundreds and hundreds of pictures on it. It also happened that at the end of the trip
Cabana Las Lilas
we only had one or two pictures of us together. The night before we left we walked down to Recoletta for - you guessed it - coffee and dessert. This really old guy was walking around taking pictures for people. He took a couple pictures of us and we gave him probably a hundred pesos. He told us we can pick up the pictures in 2 days - we flew back the next day. We gave him our address in the states and by this time we just stopped caring and we figured that we just threw another 100 pesos down the drain since there is not a chance that we will get the pictures. We got them probably 2 weeks after we got back. It kind of restored our faith in humanity. We had a picture of us together in Argentina. Thank you old man.
We saved our favorite thing for last. LA CABANA LAS LILAS. Apparently one of the best steakhouses in the world. Before our trip I read some horror stories about people getting ripped-off so we were pretty alert. Apparently they will just put things on your table and say "it is free", but by
Cabana Las Lilas
The steak was too big for the plate!
the time you get the bill you get charged for it. Or they will put something on your table and just disappear for a long time and so eventually you either just start eating it because you are starving anyway or they will come back and say you have to pay for it anyway because you did not say no when they dropped it off. They bring you an anti-pasta plate of food when you get there - we just politely declined. The wine we ordered was awesome. The service was great. By Buenos Aires standards the steakhouse is very expensive - most expensive steak was $25. Our food came and... Nikkie got a T-bone steak and I got a juicy fat house specialty steak. Nikkie's fell of the plate because it was too big (and the plate was huge). The steak was the best we have ever had. It melted in your mouth. This was the reason we came to Argentina. We left happy and very satisfied.
Argentina was a fun trip. We had our problems, but the food was awesome and we both feel that Iguazu was the most beautiful place we have ever been to. On
Cabana Las Lilas
... and then it was all gone
the trip we managed to do 6 things from our books including Recoletta Cemetery, La Cabana Las Lilas restaurant, watching tango, Iguazu waterfalls and eating meat at a parilla. 49 down and 3,273 to go. Yeay - less than 3,000 to go. Crazy but we are going to give this a shot.
Til next time
From a meateaters paradise