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Published: February 8th 2019
How does one do justice to Buenos Aires (BA) when visiting the city of 15 million people in only 4 days and nights? My answer: hire a private tour guide! Prior to arriving in BA, I googled "BA private tour guide" and up came TripAdvisor.com with choices. I wrote to highly rated guide Marcelo Mansilla and he responded right back (he gave me permission to use his whole name if I wrote positive reviews about his tour business, Ha!). It was the best decision I made for making the most of my limited time in BA. I hired him for ½ day right after checking in to my hotel room. This was crucial for me as he showed me the ropes of navigating the city using taxis, buses and when walking alone, especially at night. He told me to dress down and not look like a tourist. That meant not wearing one of my Hawaiian shirts, no flashy watch or jewelry, no expensive camera, no iPhone, no backpack, etc. WTF??? Ahh, might as well send me back to Los Estados Unidos! Teasing aside, this is no different than any large city, I am sure.
First, I had him walk with
Hotel Arc Recoleta
My private street side balcony (that's a privacy mirror reflection behind me).
me 3 blocks to a mall with a money exchange booth. Did not want to be alone exchanging USD to Argentinian Pesos. Right now, the exchange rate is $37 ARS (pesos) for $1 USD. So, a $100 USD bill is equal to 37 $100 ARS bills. Yikes! I had a huge stack of Argentinian pesos, each $100 ARS = $2.69 USD! So, we walked back to my hotel and put most of them in my room safe. A cautionary note: They are VERY particular on what USD bills they will exchange. They want only crisp, perfect, in shape $50 and $100 USD bills. One of mine had a slight tear and another had a small ink mark, both were rejected. Marcello explained that many Argentinians save money in USD as it is more stable than ARS. And if they are going to keep them, they want them is perfect shape. Also, found out that the "Blue Money"(Dinero Azul) exchange business that I read about (private with better exchange rates) is no longer allowed by the government as of 3 years ago.
Let the tour begin! Marcelo walked with me to the renowned Recoleta Cemetery where the famed "Don't cry
Tour Guide and Porteno Marcelo
Marcelo at Recoleta Cemetery in front of former First Lady Eva Peron's mausoleum.
for me, Argentina" First Lady Eva (knick named Evita) Peron is buried. The Rich People's cemetery reminded me of the cemetery I toured in New Orleans, kind of old and creepy, totally full, wall to wall mausoleums. I saw another tour guide with a whole slew of patrons huddled around and thought to myself how much better it was having Marcelo as a personal guide. Next, we walked to a beautiful, large cathedral and walked inside in awe. We toured the city's second largest open market, walked through the famed Rose Gardens, Japanese Gardens, MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano Buenos Aires or The BA Museum fo Latin American Art), the BA Law School (where they were having a large Venezuelan protest against the current dictator), the Mexican ambassador's palace, Swiss Embassy, and the Floralis de Generica (huge stainless steel flower that opens and closes at sunrise and sunset daily). We took a taxi back to the hotel and parted ways. I went up to my hotel room and flopped onto my bed exhausted after 24 hours of travel and a four hour tour of BA. No rest for the weary, I walked down the street to Cala Pizza and Bar
Eva Peron's Final Resting Place
Many of her maiden name family are buried here. The oldest are in caskets on the main level. Subsequent burials are in the floors below that. Eva's coffin is two stories below and sealed in cement to prevent looting.
and had the best onion, tomato and ham pizza with the most oozing cheese ever on a pizza. When I pulled the first piece onto my plate, the bottom soft cheese oozed out and the top mozzarella cheese's endless strings had to be cut. I had to eat it with a knife and fork. Delicioso! I went back to my room and collapsed, not waking up until 9:30 the next morning.
The hotel bar opened at noon and I did not waste time having my first glass of the famed Argentinian Malbec red wine in the courtyard right out back...okay I had more than una capa de Malbec, okay more than two! Very attentive Dario waited on me while I blogged and billed to my room. I tipped well and he brought me out cheese and crackers appetizers at no charge. I asked if I could take a picture of him. He was confused (my poor Spanish, no doubt, God knows what I asked him! LOL) and wanted to take one of me. Finally, he understood, blushed and obliged. Hey, I want memories of these fun moments! Sunny and hot, I am in heaven in shorts, flip-flops, all by
Eva Peron Grave Plaque
One of several plaques on each side of the mausoleum doors. She is not buried with her husband. He is buried outside the city at a private site. Long story.
myself, very private. After an exhausting first day and wonderful tour with Marcello, I am taking a day off for myself and I am planning on taking advantage of the spa with massage, Jacuzzi and rooftop pool...and of course, updating my blog. I have a full day with Marcelo tomorrow.
As recommended by Marcelo, I made dinner reservations at the nearby "El Burladera" Spanish restaurant for 8:00 PM (most do not eat dinner until after 10:00 PM). The highly recommended El Burladero was a wonderful experience! The ambience was perfecto. I was immediately greeted and shown to my table. In Spanish of course, a waiter asked me if I wanted beer to start out with and said no, I wanted una capa de Malbec por favor. He came back with a glass of beer and what turned out to be a cup of gazpacho. I said, "No Malbec?" The waiter seemed irritated that I did not speak very good Spanish, and he left abruptly. He actually went to get the English speaking waiter Luis to be my waiter. Luis was one of the best waiters I have ever had! He was extremely attentive. He explained that the first course
Unusual Italian Catholic + Jewish Menorah Mausoleum .
of the meal, was a bread & cracker basket, a glass of beer and (the best ever) orange colored gazpacho. (Okay, now I understand the beer thing but still weird as a first course.) Luis suggested the most delicious tapas and the best local Malbec. I have to laugh about it now, but Luis tried to convince me to have a glass of wine but I said no, I wanted a bottle. He explained that a bottle would have over 4 glasses of wine. And I said I knew that but I wanted a bottle and that I was not driving but walking. He finally conceded. Obviously, he doesn't know me!!! LOL. The wine was out of this world velvety, muy delicioso. And I am not a red wine drinker. The "chipirones y patatas encebollados" (squid and potatoes with onions) was superb as were the "huevos estrellados con jamón de jabugo" (starred eggs with jabugo ham) and "gambas al ajillo" (Shrimp Scampi). My wine glass was never empty. When the bottle was empty, the first waiter that waited on me asked if I wanted another bottle of wine and I said no thank you, I did not like it. We
both laughed. And at the end of the meal, limoncello was complimentary. Food portions were generous. I could not finish all of my food. You will not go away hungry! My total bill, including a bottle of the best Zuccardi Q Malbec, was a very reasonable $2,300 pesos ($62 USD). Salud! Per Marcelo, tipping is 10% if you received good service. Luis gladly let me take a photo of him. I stumbled back to the hotel and slept well.
The next morning, guide Marcelo met me at the lobby again, this time for a full day tour. (I will fill this in with more detail when I have more time in April). He wore my ass out! One barrio after another, taxis, buses, lunch at a wonderful restaurant and lots of walking. We parted back at the hotel after hugging twice! What a nice guy! Can not recommend him enough. I covered BA in four days and four nights and did justice to this picturesque city by hiring a private guide for a day and ½. I was totally exhausted and ended up going to bed early.
The next morning, after breakfast in the hotel, I walked around
Huge three door mausoleum of a famous 19 year women. Story goes she was buried alive as they found her coffin had moved a bit. Thinking someone robbed her grave, upon reopening, found that she had clawed the inside of the coffin and tried to get out. The doors are allowing her spirit to come and go freely. After that, they tied strings to the toes of the dead that lead to outside bells. "As the bell tolls" saying came from that, notifying the sexton to save the alive person.
the downtown area opposite the cemetery and found a wonderful outdoor cafe under a huge tree. I told the waiter I wanted a cold local dark beer and asked what light lunch would he recommend. I agreed with whatever he said in Spanish and he came back with a huge liter bottle (bigger than a fifth) of the best dark beer...and ½ a cow steak with papas fritas (French fries)! Light lunch??? You have to try the Argentinian steak toward the rare side! They are so proud of their beef!
"Where we go one, we go all." - Skipper from the movie "White Squall" 1996
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