Argentine quirks

Obviously each country in Spanish South America is different to the next, but none is as different as Argentina and its people. Whether in language, personality, reputation, there are a many quirks to Argentina that you’ll experience when you visit. Here are a few:

Language- It’s a little confusing, but the people of South America effectively speak Castilian Spanish (castellano) rather than regular Spanish (some people will ask if you hablas castallano so watch out with that one). This is Spanish from central and northern Spain, but bastardized a little. The people of Rosario, Buenos Aires and Montevideo speak Rioplatense Spanish, a dialect from the Rio de la Plata basin of Argentina and Uruguay. Each area has its own dialect within the dialect, but they’re all similar. This developed primarily from more recent immigration from Italy and Spain so if you meet a few Argentinians from this region you’ll see a lot of Italian surnames. Indeed the Italian National Football Team actually has a well known history of calling up Argentine players, linked through parents or grandparents. The most famous of these was World Cup Winner Mauro Camoronesi, who claimed “I feel Argentine but I have defended the colors of Italy, which is in my blood, with dignity. That is something nobody can take away.

Anyway, the Spanish of these region is as immediately recognizable as a Scottish or Irish accent is to an English speaker, and just as difficult to understand for foreigners.

– Voseo- (informal you singular) is replaced with vos, and usted (formal you singular) isn’t used. A few verb forms also change, but the most important is ser (one of the to be verbs), where the you singular form becomes sos, making you are, vos sos.

– Rehilamiento or sheísmo- This one is just pronunciation, and is the one most characteristic of this dialect. Effectively the ‘y’ and ‘ll’ in words becomes a sh sound (like in mission or measure). So Pollo (Chicken) is pronounced po-sh-o and playa (beach) becomes pla-sh-a. This one is a little confusing at first, but you quickly get used to listening out for it, and saying it. Bear in mind that if you ever go to Colombia, the Paisas, or people from Medellin, call their city Mede-sh-een, using this same principle.

– Speed- This is something that is immediately obvious when coming from somewhere like Bolivia. Argentinians all over the country speak fast, but working class people in this area, such as taxi drivers, are the worst at it, merging words they speak so fast. It’s really hard to get used to.

– There are a few others, and I found this site to be helpful. The ones above are the one’s I noticed most, but with a greater grip on the language I’m sure someone could notice even more intricate differences, and incur my jealousy. Something I didn’t actually notice that I thought I would was the use of ‘che‘, the nickname of Ernesto Guevara, that is used as ‘man’, ‘hey’, or ‘dude’.

Prices– The three most expensive countries in South America (outside of a World Cup) are Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. In Argentina I was paying twice as much for accommodation, food, and drink than in Bolivia. Obviously those two countries have vastly different HDI rankings, but still, expect to pay from a bit to a lot more -especially in eating out- in Argentina.

Development- Having just mentioned the HDI, it’s worth adding that Argentina is the second highest ranked South American country on the index at 45 in the world (Chile is at 40), and this is immediately evident entering the country. While it obviously still has many problems in dealing with it’s poor (all the big cities have their own Villa miseria, or shanty town, nearby), the infrastructure, transport, and feel of Buenos Aires impressed me (I can’t talk for much of the rest of the country). It feels very like a large European capitol, and has a subway, good buses, and is safer and a less chaotic than other South American cities- I’m looking at you La Paz. 

Reputation– Argentinians do carry a certain reputation among other South Americans. “Arrogant” and “Rude” were both words I heard before I came, especially directed at
Porteños (people from Buenos Aires) and to be honest I think both carry a bit of truth. Because it’s a big city, taxi drivers a little more curt, people are a little less friendly, and there’s less of a community feel, but this is true of my hometown London too. I also experienced real moments of kindess of people, so I think it really depends on the person and what kind of day they’re having, as living in a big city can be stressful. Saying that, there is a bit of a swagger, maybe arrogance, that people carry. They know they have a recent European history, and they flaunt it. Fashion is really big, as is looking good, and those that do know it. They’re also very very passionate about certain things. They like to talk, and talk at length. I once made the mistake of bringing up the Falklands to a Porteña friend who then gave me the riot act on why I was wrong (last time I’ll be doing that). I also witnessed an altercation in the street between a bus driver and motorcylist, which led to the bus driver stopping, getting out, pulling the guy off his bike and kicking him in the chest before calmly getting back on his bus and driving off.

 

So these are some things I picked up while I was there. After saying all this, I still maintain that Buenos Aires was my favorite city (partly due to the people I met there, some Argentine), and a place I will always have a soft spot for.

 

Something I can’t fit into another post: stupid stuff I did there…

– Spraying aftershave at pharmacies. Pharmacity, a big chain there, has stores large enough that you can wonder in, pretend to be checking out the aftershave section, and spray a bit on for a night out and leave. I find carrying aftershave around while travelling a bit of a hassle so this helped!

– Call Taxi drivers muchaho. They love it, will give you discounts and offer to pick you up when you need to go to the airport.*

– When you have to give your name at a restaurant, choose something stupid but easy for the waitress to understand. Maybe the name of the local football hero (Messi, Ronaldo, Radamel etc) or famous figures (Ernesto, Evita, Fransisco). Get creative, it’s fun seeing people in the restaurant look around when they hear the waitress call out “Messi!”

 

Random pics from BA:

Lovers in Recoleta

Long Exposure shot

Runners in Bosques de Palermo

Long exposure of a Tango show.

Area of Palermo near MALBA art gallery.

*This is a joke, do not do this.

Uruguay

I will never not remember Uruguay for this Simpson’s scene, but when a friend at a hostel said he was going for the day and asked me to come along, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.U R GAY. I love the simpsons. I guess we know where justine beiber was born.. Still fascinated with the Beeb, right?

To get to Uruguay from Buenos Aires requires a ferry either to Colonia or Montevideo (the capital), and costs about 40 pounds. We got ours at 12 midday and arrived there at 1, giving us about 6 hours before the return at 7pm. As we began to check out the town, we found that while I’m sure it would be beautiful in warmer weather, it was not only a little miserable in May, but also devoid of most of it’s citizens (I assume many people have summer houses there). The Old Town has a few decent restaurants, a church, bike and buggy rentals, some old colonial walls and a viewpoint from a lighthouse, but the lack of sun and people was rather depressing.

But anyway, we were hungry , so we decided to get some local Uruguan food. The Chivito (“little goat”) is a meaty sandwich filled with churrasco (grilled, thinly sliced beef), ham, bacon, lettuce and tomato, mozzarella cheese and a fried egg. Try beating that for protein. There are a few extra options, such as piccles, onions, fries and others, although the “fungi” type stuff we had with ours tasted like feces. You can also get it without bread, loaded onto a plate, as ours was. Although stuff is a bit more pricey in Uruguay than Argentina, which is pricey already, the Chivito is a relatively quick and cheap way to fill yourself up, plus it’s really tasty.

 

 

After this we still had about 4 hours left in the city, so decided to hire bikes for about $10 each for a few hours. We left the old town and cycled along the coast to the nearby town(ship) of Real de San Carlos, whose main attraction is a decrepit bull-fighting stadium named the Plaza de Toros. Although it’s forbidden to go in, we left a dog that had run the whole way with us (for no reason) to guard the bikes, and sneaked in through the unguarded fence to view the inside. You can really feel the history when you enter. Designed in Moorish style, it would once have been a vast, grand structure capable of containing 10,000 spectators. Opened in 1910, it hosted a mere 8 fights before bullfighting was banned in Uruguay in 1912, and since then has been abandoned. Parts of it are crumbling, and walking on the concrete seating feels a little bit dodgy. However it does seem that someone’s been keeping it from complete disrepair, as the grass is obviously mowed.

The coolest bit about being inside is that it feels very similar to a gladiator arena, so naturally we did some reenacting of scenes from Russel Crowe and Ridley Scott’s epic film Gladiator (“ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?”).

Afterwards we decided to enter the countryside a bit, and came across beautiful, vast fields of varying crops, which, with the sunset approaching, merely added to the dreamlike Gladiator quality of the place.

Long exposure of the sea and distant lights of Buenos Aires.

We arrived back to the bike rental place, and had enough time for a beer before getting on the coach and heading back to Buenos Aires for about 10pm.

Strangely, what started off as an average day had become something I’ll remember really fondly, but maybe it’s because I got on so well with the guy I went with, PJ from California (you can’t not get along with people from Northern Cali).

Iguazu Falls

After about 2 weeks in Buenos Aires, I at last made the decision to go to Iguazu Falls, realizing that I had to leave the city and do something. I booked a ticket through my hostel with Via Bariloche, probably Argentina’s best bus company, for the equivalent of about 60 pounds, pretty good considering it’s about an 18 hour journey.

The falls, which divide the Upper and Lower sections of the Iguazu river and runs along the border between Brazil and Argentina, although 80% of the water flows over the Argentine side.

For this reason, and if Visa’s are not too expensive, you can do 2 day trips, one to the Brazilian side, one to the Argentine. I timed my coach ride so that it would arrive at about 8:30am the next morning, meaning I would have a full day for the Brazilian side (despite its lack of water).

The bus I took was easily the best bus I’d had in South America. It was effectively a business class seat on a plane, with ample leg room, almost fully reclining chair, air con, blankets provided, and movies in English. After leaving Buenos Aires Retiro station at 2pm, we were given lunch, and at about 8pm given dinner, and breakfast before we got off the coach the next morning. Effectively plane food, it was still much preferred to the pringles and biscuits that made up most of my other bus journeys, plus it came with wine.

Once I arrived at my hostel in Puerto Iguazu (Timbo Posada- decent), the town nearest to the Falls in Argentina, I dropped off my things and got a bus through the Brazilian town of Foz do Iguaçu to their side of the falls. The walk they recommend takes about an hour, and takes you along a ridge beside some of the falls, but mostly looking down on the Argentine side, with people in boats having a good time. At the end of the walk you reach one of the larger waterfalls, and a wooden walkway takes you along to the edge of it. The whole experience is rather short, but has pretty amazing views and being able to walk so close to the drop off from one is special. You can really feel and hear the full force of their power as you get soaked by the spray.

I got back to my hostel at about 3pm, and caught up a bit on this, added some photos to facebook, and got an early night. The next morning I got up early and got a bus to the Argentine entrance to the falls. Due to the vastly higher percentage of the area that Argentina owns, there’s a lot more to do, with various walks, boat rides and even a train to take you round.

I’d recommend taking the Nautical Adventure ride into some Iguazu’s most ferocious falls (it’s safe), and if you have a go-pro or waterproof camera, as someone on my boat did, you’ll get some awesome footage. This is seriously one of the more awesome things I did on the whole trip in South America, as the spray reduces you’re visibility to near zero, and the boat brings to you to brink of the falling water.

Another great part of the Argentine side is the Devil’s Throat, La Garganta del Diablo in Spanish. I have to say, this is definitely in the top of 5 of things I did while away. It completely blew me away. I did a walk from the main restaurant area to the walkways which take you there instead of taking the train, so all in all it took half an hour or so to get there, but that felt like a build up to something special. The walkways are also pretty spectacular, giving you a view of the river pre-falls, and on my way back I actually saw an alligator resting on a rock. You can hear the Throat before you can see it, a cacophony the result of half of the river’s water falling in one narrow U-shaped chasm. It’s the purest expession of water’s power you can experience without being in a Tsunami, or an extra in the Film The Day After Tomorrow.

What I wrote shortly after going: “The Devil’s Throat. Quite simply one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. An expression of the pure power of water, and as if to display this, I watched a butterfly flutter calmly into the falls, attempting to help me realize man’s lack of power over nature, probably.” It was magical.

If you’re in Argentina or Southern Brazil, you have to go. It’ll blow you away.

Nightlife of Buenos Aires- Clubs

 

OK, so I did go to a few clubs in Buenos Aires while I was there, but this isn’t a definitive list of places to go, just my recommendations and a couple from friends. For a longer and more comprehensive list, check out http://www.gringoinbuenosaires.com/buenos-aires-boliches/

Clubs

Niceto ClubNiceto Vega 5510, Palermo Hollywood

I went here on a saturday when they were hosting DENGUE DENGUE DENGUE, a trance group from Lima, Peru, so the night was kind of themed around them (it was a great night). It’s electronic music most nights, although on Fridays indie-rock also makes its way in to the playlist.

What really makes Niceto special is ”Club 69”, a weekly party which combines transvestite strippers, b-boys and breakdancers, and techno music. It sounds pretty awesome, and something I’m definitely going to check out on my return.

Only arrive after 1am.

 

 

MOD Variete Club- Hip Hop Culture Club– Balcarce 563, San Telmo
MOD Variete Club hosts three regular nights. On Friday it’s house, on Saturday it’s rock, pop and indie, but on Thursday it’s Hip-Hop. The night starts with DJs playing a variety of artists from across the genre, with impromptu breakdancers occasionally showing off their moves in the crowd, then when I was there two rappers came on and spat some of their stuff for about an hour (that’s hip-hop lingo for those of you not brought up in the Hood). I went with two people who weren’t really into hip-hop, so they didn’t particularly enjoy it, especially because it’s filled with guys pretending they’re from Harlem (unlike those of us who really are). So go only if you’ve at least got some Jay-Z on your iPod.

Jamming Radio Fiesta Bar– Loyola 788, Palermo

Great reggae place. Really weird, you may remember my post on my trip to Uyuni from La Paz in Bolivia, and so may also remember that I spoke to a French guy for a while on the bus before I threw up my very essence in the toilet for the following 8 hours. At this club, in the club toilets while a drug dealer was trying to convince me to get some of his stuff, I met the very same French guy! Crazy coincidence, pretty pointless story.

So yeah, if you want to listen to reggae, don’t mind the strong smell of weed (or enjoy smoking it), and want to reconnect with lost travel companions, this is your place.

Also there are large cigarettes walking around, or maybe I was reeeeaaaaallllllly high (just joking grandpa).

 

Rosebar- Honduras 5445, Palermo Viejo

… Pending comments from the person who recommended it!

Update: ”Rosebar is a bit fancy, but the play cool music and the structure of the place is quite nice.” …. And that’s why I do the writing, and she does the lawyering. Just joking Laura. Go to this place for the structure, you’ll be blown away.

 

Club 74– Av Pres. Figueroa Alcorta 7486, Belgrano

club 74 -3

Disco Club that sounds awesome, recommended by Frances: http://buenosaireslocal.wordpress.com/2014/05/03/club-74-the-best-club-in-buenos-aires/. Incidently just in case you were wondering, she’s not the traditional and contemporary Irish Singer. Although sometimes I wonder…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nightlife of Buenos Aires- Bars

Buenos Aires is indisputably one of the world’s best cities for partying, so here’s a little guide on where I did mine, starting with my favourite bars.

 

Bars

Puerta Roja– Chacabuco 733, San Telmo

Strangely I’m starting with a bar I haven’t been to, but this is on high recommendation from a porteña named Laura (she appeared in the previous article). It’s popular among locals and canny tourists, avoids the pricey cocktails you’ll find in Palermo and also serves great food (go for the Super Nachos). There’s also a pool table.

What to order: Their special, the chili-bomb. They’ll take a bottle of smirnoff, add some chilis and leave it for a while so it begins to taste like jalapeño, then serve it in a ‘bomb’ with red bull.

chili vodka

 

Cerveza Artesenal Antares– Armenia 1447, Palermo

The premier place to get craft beers and ales in Buenos Aires. Get there pretty early, as queues begin after about 9pm, but even so, it’s worth the wait. The atmosphere is pretty chilled, in a comfortable setting located in Palermo Viejo.

What to order: We had the Honey Beer and Barley Wine, both local creations, both really rich and tasty.

Franks-Arévalo 1445, Palermo

Frank’s is a strange paradox in that it’s a secret bar that has a website, facebook and twitter page, and permanent address, but I guess it’s mainly a secret among tourists. WELL THE SECRET’S OUT PEOPLE.

Getting in: clues are posted twice weekly on the facebook and twitter pages (in Spanish), and they also have a built in facebook password checker so you don’t get turned away at the door. Dress smartly, as there is a dress code, although they let my friend Frances in and she was looking terrible that night (huge joke, she was looking fiiiine- I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans but I charmed the doorman). The address is as above, and you’ll see a small plaque, nothing in neon or anything, above a rather unassuming entrance. Knock 3 times, then wait 5 seconds and knock another 5 times and the doorman will open up and exclaim, “I heard you the first time why the #$”@ did you just knock 8 times?” This is all part of the theatrics of it, so just play along. He’ll ask for the contraseña (password), you provide it, and then you’re ushered inside to a dark, shabby little room with a phonebox in the corner. A woman standing nearby will tell you a sequence of numbers, which you’re expected to key into the numberpad of the now ringing payphone. Once you’ve done this correctly, the wall of the phonebox will open and you’re in. Now this is probably one of the coolest bars I’ve ever been to.

It looks, sounds (most of the time) and probably smells like a swing/jazz bar from the twenties, with dolled up bartenders, expensive cocktails and everyone else looking the part to boot. There’s also a sex shop near the entrance if that’s you’re thing (another blog post will be put up on request).

https://www.facebook.com/FranksBar.ar?fref=ts

 

Milhouse hostals

Ok, these aren’t bars, and it’s pretty hard to get inside without a wristband, but if we’re counting bars as places to drink and meet people, Milhouse surely meet the criteria. There’s a party every night at one of them, with drinking games and cheap beer, and then they wisk you off to one of the many clubs nearby. On Sundays they also have intimate live music performances, which are cool.

 

Any more suggestions welcome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food of Buenos Aires

Argentina is famous primarily for its steak, Italian food, and wine, and in Buenos Aires you can sample some of the best of each.

Eating

Steak

While its struggling economy means prices have risen in recent years, you can still get a world class steak for around $15 or less, and I had about 4 of these in my 3 weeks there, each at different restaurants across the city, each delicious.

While I’ve forgotten these places (I didn’t choose travel writing, it chose me), I do know of great one that friends sampled.

La Cabrera– Located in the heart of Palermo (José Antonio Cabrera 5099), this restaurant is often so popular there’ll be a queue outside, so it’s best to make a reservation beforehand. Because of it’s allure, they offer a deal where if you leave within an hour of arriving, 40% is knocked off your bill. This can mean saving quite a bit of money on a top class meal.

I recommend the Bife de Chorizo or Ojo de Bife.

Best steak I’ve ever had, hands down.

 

Choripan

Another traditional delicacy, choripan is basically just a chorizo sausage cut in half long-ways in between two slices of bread, with some chimichurri sauce on the side. It’s generally a lunchtime meal, eaten as street food or at football games, and is pretty cheap, around 10 pesos or $1 (approx).

Choripan in a restaurant outside of Boca Juniors’ stadium.

 

Bondiola

On recommendation from BA native Laura, I am adding this street food without having had any. photo 2

Here is a blog talking about it better than I can, but it’s first on my list of things to get when I return: http://pickupthefork.com/2013/08/13/buenos-aires-street-food-a-bizarre-bondiola-in-the-woods/

 

Italian Food

I have to confess, I’m not a connoisseur of Italian. I don’t know my gnocci from my felucca (I just made that word up), and although many of my Uni meals contained pasta, they were mish-mash of whatever sauce was on offer at Sainsbury’s and maybe some tuna for a bit of luxury (although I’m now going to call new creations felucca). The lasagna I had in Buenos Aires was sumptuous, creamy with just the right amount of crisp, and my favourite pizza at the place next door to my hostel (Estoril on Avenida de Mayo) wasn’t oversaturated in cheese, the way I like it. The place I frequented for easy and cheap meals was La Continental.

I’d also recommend the tuna tart, which had a pizza base but was filled with tuna (strange that).

Another Latin American favourite (although originally Italian) is ‘milanesa’, effectively a piece of breaded meat or chicken. On my first day in BA I made the mistake of ordering a plain milanesa, no sides or sauce. I didn’t do it again. Even in a sandwich or with plenty of sauce, I found it incredibly dry, although I suppose it’s relatively cheap (maybe $2) and a source of protein.

 

Desserts

While most sensible countries reserve sticky substances like caramel for rarities such as sticky toffee puddings and banoffee pies, Argentina includes it in pretty much everything. It, in this case, is dulce de leche. Effectively it’s caramel except they use milk instead of butter, so you can kid yourself and pretend it’s healthy. In one of my hostels (Estoril) we were given huge tubs of this for breakfast, and I certainly made the most of it, coating it in everything I ate.

Another delight I was served at breakfast at this hostel was the medialuna (half moon). These are small, heavily glazed croissants often served as part of deals with coffee at cafes, and are just as delicious as they sound.

Traditionally Argentina. Medialunas covered in dulce de leche.

Another dessert I sampled in BA was the rogel cake (pronounced ro-hel). This I had at a restaurant that is famous in the city for its quality in tortas (cakes), Como En Casa, in Palermo. It is effectively layers of wafers and dulce de leche with a cream topping. I am ashamed to say the piece I received (about $5) was too much for me, and I couldn’t finish it. When I want to beat myself up, I sometimes look at this photo wistfully and wonder why and how I couldn’t finish it. It´s on my bucket list to return to it.

(staged photo).

 

Drinking

Wine

I feel incredibly unqualified to talk about Argentine wine. Before I came out I knew nothing about it, and going back my knowledge will not have been added to, except that i now know Malbec is a good one. It’s a bit shameful but the only times I actually had wine were on the bus to and from Iguazú Falls, and at a tango show on my last night, where we were supplied with unlimited bottles for the duration, hence this red-cheeked photo of my mate Matt:

Doubtless these were two low quality Argentine wines, but I enjoyed them nonetheless.

Fernet

Another classic Argentine drink is fernet, a bitter spirit, often served after meals at posh dinners, with coffee, or in a mixer with coke at clubs. I recommend not taking it in a shot, unless you’re some kind of hipster bartender who over-describes things, like this guy off wikipedia: ”The easiest way to explain the taste is to imagine Jägermeister without the sugar. You shoot it, immediately getting a strong hit of mouthwash – drying the mouth out, stinging the tongue. Its kind of like getting hit in the nose. Your brain hurts, your eyes sting and water, you cough a bit. Then, as soon as it begins a warm wave of relief washes over and you are left baptized in Italian herbals and golf ball eyed awake”.

That was actually an quite entertaining read.

Anyway, fernet and coke is a worse mixer than than rum and coke, or vodka and coke, so I don’t think it’s going to take off elsewhere.

 

Next post will be on nightlife, or museums, or whatever I want it to be on, because this is my blog alright?

Hostels of Buenos Aires

I am now in Bolivia, which, despite its charms, lacks decent internet, which means no images I’m afraid. However it does mean that I can pick a topic that doesn’t really require pictures, hostels of Buenos Aires. Now of course this isn’t TripAdvisor, HostelWorld, or Bookings.com (incidentally the best websites to book hostels on)  and I’m not going to list out a load of hostels and their merits and faults. In fact I stayed in 4 or 5 different ones in Palermo in my first 4 or 5 days in BA and don’t really recall the names or differences between them. No, I’ll just try to explain the differences between staying in Palermo and Central, and between a party hostel and a more relaxed one.

When I arrived late at night in Buenos Aires I actually stayed at a really grimy, rubbish place that felt more European than all the others put together, but the next morning I quickly checked out and moved to Palermo. As I said before, I don’t particularly remember the difference between the hostels in Palermo. I’m sure they’re great, especially for visiting the bars, restaurants and clubs or Palermo, but unfortunately I found them pretty bad for meeting people. When you’re travelling, I’d say what’s worse than bad buses, getting ill etc is loneliness.  You don’t see that on the Facebook timelines or photos, and most of the time people won’t talk about it when they get home, but for a solo traveller its  n inevitability. Dinners alone, drinking a beer alone, bus rides alone, all kind of suck, and done for too long leads to homesickness and maybe even depression. So meeting other people is a necessity, and being able to do this quickly is a useful skill also very helpful for wider life. This is why I don’t have amazing memories of the Palermo hostels, while the Central ones still call me back!

The first hostel in Central BA was Hostel Estoril. This is located on Avenida de Mayo (May is an important month for Argentinians due to independence from the Spanish declared on the 25th 1810, and for me because it was my first month in the country!), a street that runs between congress and the presidential building. Its not got a huge amount of great restaurants or bars, but has the money changing street, Florida, running off it, and is between San Telmo and Palermo and near to the sea, bus and ferry station, and has loads of subte (subway) stops running down it. My hostel was great because it was near the central subway stations (meaning changing lines was easy), right beside an amazing pizza place, and was really well run. The receptionists are all students or working to pay accommodation, so are all pretty young and helpful, and I actually made friends with a couple of them. There’s also a great lounge containing a big TV with a hundred mostly English channels, good internet and a nice relaxed atmosphere. The rooms are all not too cramped, and I found most of the people willing to chat, a few of whom became great friends. The breakfast is especially good. I haven’t covered food yet, but the breakfast was primarily made up of medialunas (half moons), effectively small glazed croissants, and tubs of Dulce de Leche. Fattening but it filled me up and saved money for the rest of the day. There’s also a top floor terrace where a barbeque is held every Thursday evening.
So Estoril was a great place to come back after a night out, or just chill out, and also allowed for a great platform for tours it activities.

Once I returned from Iguazu Falls (covered later), I had four nights left, and as it was a weekend, decided to go to the party hostel, Milhouse. This was my first experience of a South American party hostel (located in all the big cities. The chains are Loki- La Paz, Cusco, Lima, Mancora. Wild Rover- La Paz, Cusco. Milhouse- Buenos Aires, Cusco) and what an experience. As soon as I arrived I was met by an incredibly friendly and flirty receptionist (evidently part of the job) who gave me a massive list of the activities and of course parties held by the hostel. What also strikes you is the organisation, cleanliness and pleasantness of the place. Based in an old apartment building, it has an army of receptionists, bartenders, cooks, security guards and cleaners on hand, as we’ll as a pool table, incredibly fast computers, a laundry service and a great breakfast. What more could you want? Well, sleep I suppose.
The people in my room were all really great as well. A guy from Luxembourg, two guys from Germany (who got an incredible steak with me), a couple from Southampton and a guy from Denmark. Each day and night I did something different with them, as well as meet people from my previous hostel and my friend from back home, including a walk in Palermo’s parks, Argentine ale with the Danish guy’s Buenos Airen girlfriend, a steak dinner and a tango class and show. This of course doesn’t include a couple of great nights out. Maybe I just got lucky, but my experience at Milhouse was nothing but positive.

So there are my two recommended hostels in Buenos Aires. Estoril for chilling (and sleep!), Milhouse for partying and getting out there, although maybe sacrificing some touristy stuff.

Chau (note this is how South Americans spell it).

 

Me at a Milhouse pre-drinks with some of my roommates.

 

Districts of Buenos Aires

This is based solely on what I have done in the city, and so I‘m not going to list out every barrio there, as that would defeat the purpose of this.

Of the barrios I have been in, I will talk about Palermo, Recoleta, Retiro, Puerto Madero, San Nicholàs, San Telmo and La Boca.

Palermo:

The biggest barrio of central Buenos Aires, and probably the most upmarket, it is split into plenty of sub-barrios, including Palermo Hollywood, Palermo Queens, Palermo Viejo (old), Palermo Alto and Palermo Soho. Palermo Hollywood was named for its radio and TV stations located in the area, but is also a great district for bars, clubs and restaurants. Palermo Queens, otherwise known as Villa Crespo, isn‘t actually in Palermo, but just outside, I suppose like Queens is to Manhattan in New York, and I believe is an up and coming area in the city. While Hollywood and Soho contain most of the happening places in Palermo, Viejo is quieter, and has more of a Spanish feel. Palermo Alto is in the northeastern area, bordering on Recoleta, and contains a huge shopping mall that I believe is the biggest in the city. Last but not least, Soho is, similar to Hollywood, a trendy, hipster area, containing well dressed, possibly up-themselves people, nice cafes, clothing stores and yoga-yogurt bars. OK screw that they are up-themselves.

I actually stayed most of my first week in the city in various hostels in Palermo, and despite it being the party central, the hostels were more focused on chilling out, so I didn‘t really meet anyone or go out when I was there. I enjoyed being there though, and had this Bife de Chorizo (steak) at one of the restaurants.

mmmmm

Having been back to Palermo Alto, which contains the great MALBA (museo Americano Latino de Buenos Aires) and other attractions, I‘ve rekindled a bit of day time love for Palermo.

Law School in Palermo Alto.

Recoleta:

Pretty much the most affluent and arguably best looking area of the city. Parts look incredibly European (so maybe it truly represents the European feeling Buenos Aires), and its main tourist attraction, the Cemetery, is pretty incredible. A huge walled area, it is free to enter and walk around in, and surprisingly isn‘t packed with people most of the time. This means you can achieve complete peace away from the hustle and bustle of a big city like BA, and also enjoy looking at graves! It may seem weird but is actually quite nice, as many of the mausoleums are beautifully designed in Gothic styles. Sometimes a former famous face peers out at you, sometimes it’s an Angel or Greek adonis of some kind, either way it’s very tempting to peer through the glass and see the coffin’s lying inside.

There is as well the grave of Eva Peron, former actress and heroic first lady of Argentina (Madonna made a movie about her), who still is revered in these parts.

It was in Recoleta that I also saw the incredible Fuerza Bruta show, but I‘ll get to that at a later date.

Retiro:

Hmm, I don‘t quite know why I included this area in this, as there’s nothing to do here. Effectively it is where the bus station is, and you get a taxi to here and from here whenever you need to get a bus to somewhere in Argentina. Maybe because it’s next to…

Puerto Madero:

I kind of feel like this place is like the Isle of Dogs in London, where Canary Wharf is. This is where the big high rise offices and apartments are, and juts out into the Rio de La Plata (River Plate- body of water outside BA and between Argentina and Uruguay).

There‘s also an area between the city on the mainland and the island which contains some nice restaurants and old ships to look at.

San Nicholàs:

One of the central barrios of BA (I mean really central, where governmental stuff goes on), it contains some of the bigger avenidas in the city, and therefore is a decently big shopping and eating area, as well as where most of the big hostels are at, shared with Montserrat, the barrio right next to it. One of the streets inside it is Calle Florida, Florida Street, where money changing takes place. A walk down here will take about 25 minutes, and within that time you‘ll hear at least 100 ‘cambio’s, from people offering to change you dollars to the weak Argentinian peso. I have actually done this a couple of times, but it feels kind of dirty and shady, and I prefer using an online system, Azimo, where you just pick up money you send here from a bank. It does kind of get annoying getting shouted at multiple times by the same person, despite the fact you clearly don’t want to change money, but fortunately there’s not much pulling me to Florida Street.

San Telmo:

This barrio feels like it should be really expensive to live in, but I‘ve heard its not. It has a kind of understated Palermo feel, which is nice, and has a really big art museum and huge market on Sundays, as well as loads of cafes and little book stores. So there’s enough to do. Don’t think I have a picture of this on Facebook yet (as this is where I draw my pictures for this) but I’ll be heading there on Sunday for the market, so I’ll get some then.

La Boca:

Well I certainly had an experience here. Recommended by a friend, I decided to take my camera and just walk around. I was immediately struck by the roughness of the area. High council estates and run down shops populate much of La Boca, and judging by the dirty looks I was getting from people, I quickly realized I may have made a mistake coming here. At one point I saw a guy riding his bike with a handgun stuck in the back of his shorts, and by the time I was stopped by a police man telling me to get out, I had got the point. I managed to get into Caminito (little walk), a touristy street where you can eat and watch a tango show, and from there made my way to the Bombadera, the stadium of Boca Juniors, one of the two favourite teams in BA (including River Plate). Everywhere in the east of the city, especially in La Boca, are murals and graffiti depicting people‘s love for Boca, and I hope to catch a match the next time I’m in the city, as while many of the fans are undoubtedly criminals, their reputation for passion for their team precedes them.

The two passions in La Boca: Tango and Football.

 

Well I hope that was an interesting look at some of the main barrios of Buenos Aires. I don‘t think that I have a favorite, as each has their merits and drawbacks. Saying that, I’d say living in Palermo, maybe in Alto, or maybe in San Telmo, wouldn’t be such a bad life.

Chau