Argentina / Travel

Buenos Aires: Take Two

Buenos Aires is the first place so far that we’ve visited twice, and it was really nice to return to a city that we not only really liked the first time, but that was familiar to us on arrival. One of the most stressful things I find when traveling is the first hour or so you’re in a new city. You’ve got to make sure you’ve actually arrived in the right place, then you need to figure out where you are and the best mode of transport to your apartment or hostel. Even when you’ve looked this up in advance it can still be pretty confusing (google maps loves telling you things are in the wrong place). We arrived back in Buenos Aires from Uruguay from the same ferry terminal we left from, and although we weren’t heading back to our San Telmo apartment, but to another apartment in Congresso (just behind the city’s congress building), we knew the metro and exactly how to get there. It was really nice to be able to have a completely stress free journey for once!

We came back to Buenos Aires primarily because it’s the easiest way to get back into Argentina from the part of Uruguay we were in, but we decided to stay in Buenos Aires for a further five nights to be able to do the things we had missed out on the first time. Here’s what we got up to on Buenos Aires Round Two.

Pottered around Palermo
Palermo was one of the barrios of the city we didn’t properly explore the first time around. We went to museums nearby, but we hadn’t explored the neighbourhood, which we’d heard was full of upmarket and quirky boutiques, colourful cafes and trendy bars. On our first full day back in the city we hopped on the metro to Palermo and it was imagepretty much exactly as I had imagined it. It was upmarket without being snooty and the streets had a shabby-chic, cobbled together look about them, with brightly painted facades and colourful street art. We potted around, looked in a few shops, and stopped in a cafe for some ice cream. It was a nice and relaxed afternoon, and a nice part of the city.

Botanical gardens
Also in the Palermo barrio, but closer to the main roads and metro stations is the Buenos Aires Botanical Gardens. Less iconic than the botanical garden of Curitiba, and smaller than the parks of Rio de Janiero, the botanical gardens are not overly impressive, but are a nice place to stop for lunch and for a shady walk, sheltered from the noise imageof the main roads (mostly). It’s completely free and has a few large greenhouses, interesting tropical species of plant, and a large red brick house at the entrance, which strangely had architectural models of famous Buenos Aires buildings made of matchsticks (I’m not completely sure why). The sun was shining and there were golden leaves scattered on the ground, and although it’s July, it was feeling wonderfully autumnal and mild.

Evita museum
One of the most famous Argentinians ever, you can’t go to Buenos Aires without seeing Eva Peron’s face everywhere. The Peron’s divide the opinions of the nation to this day, and the Evita museum gives a really interesting (if slightly biased) insight into the formidable imagewoman’s life and achievements. It’s got a large collection of exhibits, from handwritten letters between her and her husband, Juan Peron, and dresses she wore, to her fingerprints and footage from her life and after her death. I’d definitely recommend visiting, I learned a lot about Evita’s life, which to many Argentinians is a vital part of their history.

San Telmo market (properly)
I know I mentioned San Telmo market in the first Buenos Aires post so I’ll keep this brief, but when we returned on a sunnier Sunday, it was like a different place. There were musicians on most street corners, tango dancers in the main square, street food vendors everywhere, not to mention the vast market spanning from downtown San Telmo right up to the centre of the city by the parliamentary square. Having seen San Telmo market in full swing, it was my favourite thing to do in Buenos Aires (as long as it’s not raining!)

image

Cambio
And finally, a less exciting but very important part of our trip, acquiring cambio, or currency exchange. We weren’t aware of this the first time we were in Buenos Aires, but we soon realised that having US dollars in Argentina can be very beneficial. The argentine peso’s value continues to drop and Argentinians are keen to store their savings in either property or a more reliable currency, preferably the U.S. dollar. It’s technically illegal to sell your dollars to Argentinians for pesos, which is why we didn’t pay much attention to it before we arrived in Argentina, but it’s completely commonplace, with many shops and restaurants offering cambio, as well as many people on the street. We managed to exchange some dollars with someone our landlady recommended, and managed to get 50% more pesos than we would’ve done with the official exchange rate. This can make your visit to Argentina considerably cheaper, so I’d recommend anyone visiting to bring some dollars with them (we got ours from cash machines in Uruguay), and get them changed, but be careful for fake notes (especially in dark places like taxis or bars), ask an Argentinian for a recommendation of who to go to, and check the street exchange rate before you go so you know what to expect. It’s much easier and less dodgy than it sounds, I promise!
Buenos Aires is an excellent city, and I’ve probably missed out loads of things to do (and forgotten some of the things we did too!). It’s like Paris meets New York, but with its own Argentinian charm and style. I’d recommend it to anyone planning a trip around South America, and a I really hope I get to return one day.

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