Guide to Peru

Ok so firstly, I’ve written a few posts about Peru already: Cusco, Peru: The Navel of the WorldThe Orphanage (not the movie)Machu Picchu and final days in CuscoMachu Picchu: Part 2Final days in Cusco, and Lake Titicaca, although I wrote them more as blogs to update people on my progress rather than guides. I thought that because I’d spent quite a bit of time in Peru (just over 2 months) I am qualified to provide a bit of information on it, even if I haven’t travelled everywhere.   When people make the decision to ‘do’ South America, Peru, mainly because of that big town on the mountain, is generally top of their list. For this reason most places are pretty crowded with tourists young and old, long term and short term, which is fine. I’m not going to get all travel hipster on this, as you want to meet other tourists while travelling, although when we were volunteering in Cusco, living in a beat up area far away from all the tourist places, we did get a little snooty over them. Come to think of it however, most volunteers didn’t do anything touristy in there time there, and a few didn’t even do Machu Picchu! They took being a local a little too far. Anyway, every country in South America is diverse, but Peru is super diverse. From the amazon jungle surrounding northern Iquitos to the white beaches of Mancora through the vast, wealthy city of Lima down south to the desert oasis of Huacachina, Nazca lines, Colca Canyon, Incan Jewell of Cusco, Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. It has everything, but can be taken slowly or quickly, depending on your time frame and what you want to do… So lets start with

The North:

Image   Now northern Peru is vast and seems overwhelming, but isn’t, it all depends on how long you want to take going down. Now I don’t actually know this area, so what I’m going to recommend is based on what friends have told me:

Mancora Mancora has made its name in Peru for specializing in three things, sun, surfing and soirées (just wanted an excuse to keep the alliteration going. I meant parties). Located right at the tip of Peru, 85 miles from the Ecuadorian border, it’s a tourist hub and is very aware of that. Expect some great nights out, time chilling on beaches and if you’re into surfing, some great waves. Stay at Loki.  

Stock beach photo that could be anywhere in the world. Trust me, google images said it was Mancora.

Los Organos Pretty similar to Mancora but a little less well known, it will doubtlessly provide the same experiences, although apparently is a better place for first time surfers to learn, as the water’s a bit more forgiving. It is also home to Pacifico Adventures Ecoturismo, a company that allows you to head out into the ocean and view humpback whales, dolphins and other marine life in their natural habitat. Trips last about three and a half hours and tickets cost S/. 120 for adults and S/. 100 for children.

Poser

Chicama I’m merely including this for surfers. Chicama is a tiny town that also happens to have a stretch of coast line that has created the longest wave in the world, at 1.6 miles. Pretty narly.

I’m sure someone has come up with some cool Chicama pick-up lines (“That wave’s actually not even the longest thing in town ;D”)

Huanchaco A little north of the city of Trujilo, this beach town is a bit more low key than Mancora, but still has some nice beaches.

You can get photos like this too if you come to Huanchaco

Trujilo- While I’m sure this is a really charming, nice city on its own, it is also close to Northern Peru’s best Pre-Colombian (pre-European influence) archaeological monuments, Chan Chan, the largest adobe (mud-brick) city in the world and Las Huacas del sol y de la Luna (temples of the sun and moon).

Chan Chan (no influence on the can can)

Huarez- Huarez is home to the less expensive and alternative (hipster) trek to the Machu Picchu Inca trail, the Santa Cruz trek. The pictures I’ve seen of it look really awesome, and I think I’d like to do it when I come back to Peru, but here’s an article by someone who did it without a guide. I’d recommend doing an organised trek though, and through this agency http://www.huascaran-peru.com/, it seems 3 days is the minimum. If you have the time and money it looks stunning. Iquitos The best way to visit the Peruvian Amazon rainforest, Iquitos is actually the largest city in the road inaccessible by road, although to be honest, getting there from other parts of Peru or Colombia would be a week long bus ride anyway. So you either have to fly in, or get a boat (fly, it’s relatively cheap). The attraction of the city is obvious, go there to take an Amazon tour, but while there, expect certain things. First, it’ll be hot and humid all year round, with humidity averaging at 90% (that’s very humid). Second, as there are no roads, the city is dominated by motorcycles and motorcarros/rickshaw, so watch out for that. Third, as there are no roads, it’s amenities are also very basic, so don’t expect luxury here. Apart from an Amazon tour, which you can book from your hostel (although this- http://www.dawnontheamazon.com/ looks the best), maybe also check out the Amazonian Manatee (sea cow) Orphanage, and the Monkey island (included in a Dawn on the Amazon tour), but Wikitravel has some useful info on ithttp://wikitravel.org/en/Iquitos, as will lonely planet.

The South:

Image  The South is more my area of Peru. The only bit I didn’t do was the Colca Canyon, but obviously do that if you get down here (I didn’t because I was being good and working so hard at my orphanage).

Lima If you want a bit more of an in depth review of Lima, I have one here. Effectively, while it is a vast, sprawling city, its best bits, and where most tourists go, is Miraflores. An upmarket neighborhood situated on the coastal cliffs that overlook the Pacific, most of the hostels surround Kennedy Park, a large and pleasant park that usually has local music and dancing going on in the evenings, and a large wild (but not feral) cat population. Stay at Flying Dog Hostel if you want to be beside the best sandwich place in Miraflores, or Parawana for a large, well-run party hostel. There’s also some decent paragliding off one of the cliffs, and surfing below on the beaches. Try out ceviche at La Mar on Avenida La Mar. Don’t stay more than a few days though, as there’s not a huge amount to do and it was cloudy all the time I was there. Pisco/Paracas Urgh, Pisco. This complete dive of a town is where I had my passport and camera stolen, so try to spend as little time as possible there. From the bus stop it’s a 15 minute taxi to Paracas, the coastal town which offers boat tours to what Peruvians call the ‘Little Galapagos’, some rock formations that have wildlife and similar geography to the Galapagos. I did the tour and it was pretty cool, but nothing to write home about. I got a cool picture of a sea lion doing an awesome pose, but then my camera got stolen, denying the world some great photography. Go if you’ve got some spare time, and stay at Kokopelli. Ica/Huacachina Ica is similar to Pisco in that it’s effectively a gateway to something more interesting, and what a place Huacachina is. It’s really the closest thing I’ve seen to an oasis, although upon closer inspection it’s a little… artificial. However it’s not the town that makes Huacachina interesting, it’s the desert. You can book a sandboarding/dune buggy tour from your hostel (I stayed at Bananas Hostel, pretty sweet), for about 35 soles, which is about 8 pounds, and it is pure awesomeness from start to finish. The buggies are driven by local guys who evidently get a little bored of what they do, so to spice things up generally seem to drive in a way that the ride feels like a rollercoaster- slowly ascending the dunes before dropping suddenly and careering downwards. Eventually he’ll stop and give you an opportunity to attempt some sandboarding. I’ve never snowboarded so was pretty terrible, but our group quickly worked out that belly-boarding was a lot more fun, although a little painful at times. Advice: Go for the later one, I think it was 4pm, as then you get a sunset at the end. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10152261352773052&set=vb.710168051&type=3&theater Link to a video of it.

Bananas Hostel

Nazca– This depends on if you enjoy seeing far off shapes in the ground. I didn’t have the money to shelve out $80 for a plane ticket to see the lines, but a friend did and gave me the pictures, which is the equivalent of actually doing it.

Cusco At last we’re on to Cusco, the place I lived and worked in for 7 weeks and where the Incans started their vast civilization (no coincidence those two are connected). As well as being the place to visit Machu Picchu from, Cusco is also full of culture and fun. During my stay there for example, there was a festival held every Sunday for 4 weeks based on water fights. As in the entire city would have one massive water fight. Like it was urban warfare with water balloons. So. Much. Fun. Plus there’s some great museums located just off the Plaza de Armas. Check out the Inka Museum, which is in need of renovation but interesting nonetheless, but probably the two best are the Museo de Arte Pre-Colombino and the Centro de Textiles Traditionales del Cusco. The Chocolate and Pisco museums are a decent way to spend some time too. In terms of archaeology, something you’d hope to see when visiting the Incan capital, Cusco is a little weak. The Spanish managed to destroy pretty much everything when they sacked the city, meaning only a walled complex remains on one of the hills above the city named Saksaywaman, part of the attraction being the fact you’ve just been to see sexy woman. HA! Eating in Cusco: If you’re in the plaza and fancy a smoothie and quick sandwich, head to Yajuu! which is pretty cheap and very tasty, with loads of interesting combinations. Two great places for hungover (or otherwise) breakfasts are Jack’s Cafe, which is great but generally has a long queue outside, and Cicciolina, which is a block away. Both aren’t too pricey and serve up top quality food. Others- Chicha, MAP Cafe, Limo, Inka Grill, Greens Vegetarian Food. If you can try out some Cuy, or Guinea Pig. Loveable animals are so much tastier.   Anyway… Drinking: Cusco is a great, great place for nightlife. Did I mention it was great? It is. Pubs- Paddy’s and Norton’s. One’s Irish, one’s English, both were great places for the volunteers to start a night out, or just play some pool and shoot some darts. Bars- Ukuku’s. Wow, we discovered this off Tripadvisor and it immediately became our favorite bar. Decorated with some interesting murals and cool lighting, it begins by playing alternative and pop music in the early evening, before eventually hosting a local band or salsa night. The quality of these varied, but we definitely had some good times in there. There’s also the Muse, a good chill out bar and salsa club on fridays and saturdays, Km 0, El Pisquerito and London Town. If you’re English just go into London town for a laugh. In terms of clubbing, there’s Inka Team and Mama Africa for some Latin infused-pop (Inka Team also does free salsa lessons from 9-11pm) and Mushroom’s (below Mama Africa’s) for electronic. In terms of a rave, The Temple is the place to be. If you’re at Wild Rover, Loki or Milhouse, you should be taken here as part of a night out. If you’re a guy, watch out for over-zealous gringo-hunters. You’ll know when you see them. Booking Machu Picchu and other activities: For the best prices and loads of travel agents, head to Calle Plateros, just off the Plaza. If you’re going to do the Jungle Trek (the one I did, unreally awesome), don’t pay more than $250, for rafting included. I had a friend get everything- rafting, ziplining, biking etc for $170, and he said it was the same experience, so try to shop around a bit. Salkantay will probably be a bit more. From Cusco you can also visit other parts of the nearby Sacred Valley. From that same street you can probably book a general tour that covers most of the sites, but if you want to pick a couple, Ollantaytambo and Pisac are the best.   Cusco will always have a place in my heart for the times I spent at the orphanage there, it’s brilliant weather and the friends I met. If you are thinking of doing some volunteering in Cusco, you can’t go far wrong with Elim, sponsored by Original Volunteers, and run by Jeremy Cuba Escobar (his name on facebook). The work they do there is simply incredibly considering some of the stories of these kids.

Final photo from Cusco on Facebook had this caption: “My final day in Cusco with the boys of Elim, an organisation that takes in children from the street, broken homes, and orphans. It is hard to put into words the job that Jeremy and Nilda are doing, with the help of people like Yeicob, but the effect is evident as soon as you step through the door. These are some of the most happy, thoughtful, and inspiring children you can find, and it´s safe to say the effect they´ve had on me has been far greater than any material gift or entertainment I could bring to them in my 6 weeks. I would recommend anyone visiting Cusco to spend some time there if possible.”

Lake Titicaca The lake is actually split 60/40 with Bolivia, and although both sides are listed by Lonely Planet as essentials to do in South America, if you were to choose one, I’d recommend Isla Del Sol on the Bolivian side. Nevertheless, I had a great experience on my 2 day tour from Puno after a nightbus from Cusco. I think I paid about 180 soles, although you can probably get it for less. Lake Titicaca is a magical place, so serene and calming, and the different cultures on each island are really interesting. Don’t miss it.

So this was my guide to Peru. I know I’ve missed out Arequipa and the Colca Canyon, but I never went there and know everyone else has raved about it, so thought it would be a little excessive to say more. Peru can be a little bit of a shock to the system if you’ve come from the West, but its variation, beauty and people will not disappoint. Enjoy.

Cartagena

The city of Cartagena, where I flew to celebrate both my 22nd birthday and start of the Brazil World Cup, is in the Northern tip of Colombia, and is everything you’d imagine of a city that is both Caribbean and South American in flavor. White beaches, mostly Afro-Caribbean populated, and with year round temperatures that average 31 degrees and 75% humidity, the city was the perfect place to end my stay in South America.

A bit of Carta-techture. Get it? 😀

The whole reason I went to Colombia, elongating my trip by a month, was based on the recommendations of other travellers, and the reason I went to Carta was because a volunteer I had met in Cusco, an Aussie called Jade, was working there. I figured there was going to be sun, friends and it’d be a good place to party it up on my birthday, so I booked a ticket from Medellin (plane- darling I gave up using buses in Peru. So primitive) a couple of days before my birthday and set off for my final stop.

The days preceding it, and the start of the World Cup, were spent mostly finding the best bar to watch it and various items in preparation, such as an England shirt for me and 2 other English people I was with (vital importance) and some face paints. Those two English people were a couple, Nick and Eve from London (if you’re from London and travelling together that’s enough), and every morning Nick would wake up to ‘Football’s Coming Home’ by Frank Skinner and David Baddiel (Euro 96′ version). We’re talking serious supporter here. Eve secretly informed me that she was relieved she didn’t have to keep discussing football with him 24/7.

After much searching and asking around, we found a pretty good bar with air-con, lots of people (and a few Brazilians) and a big screen to watch the opening match of the World Cup in. The search for an England shirt was a lot harder however. We met one guy, who happened to speak perfect English as he used to be a dope dealer in New Orleans, called Josephus, who took us around pretty much every shirt seller in Cartagena Old Town, each one promising so much but delivering so little. Eventually Nick settled for a red one from 2013 for about 10 quid. He wasn’t happy, but as the Rolling Stones said, you can’t always get what you wa-unt.

The next day was my 22nd birthday. Hooray. In the morning we beached it up. I thought putting on factor 30 sunscreen on my arms and face would be enough, but I ended up looking like a bit of a lobster. A sexy lobster mind. I have a picture that I sent my brother that’s far too compromising to put on here, but shows much of the extent of the burn. We then had a huuuge sandwich of avocado, tuna, mayo, salad, and tomato and watched the epic Spain Netherlands game, where the Netherlands put 5 past the World Champions. After this was the Australia Chile game, and as Jade was on shift, we decided to stay at the hostel, and felt her paid as the Aussies fought bravely but fell to the impressive Chilean organisation and lost 3-1. Then came some prinking (pre-drinking) of some tasty rum and coke (o cola) while we waited for another friend from Cusco, a Belgian named Pierre (top guy) and some of his friends to arrive from Medellin. Out in the outdoors seating area of the hostel I was then given a birthday cupcake, completely unexpected, and sung happy birthday to. Maybe you don’t care about this but it’s the little things that make stuff like this, and even now, a week later, I’m still smiling while I remember it.

Great sandwich. This is the stuff you come to this blog for.

The night out consisted of a trip to a salsa bar, where I was offered coke (caine) by a dwarf, we saw some pretty unconvincing transvestites and split off. Most of the Belgians went off with another group, so we went into town to look for a club. After passing some dodgy looking places, we went into a completely empty place on the promise of some cheap drinks. There epicness ensued, as the lack of people meant we could control the playlist, meaning not only did a lot of old favourites get played, but so did Football’s Coming Home!!! 5 of us were English, and we belted it out at the top of our voices, while the others just sat back and laughed. As this was happening, various other drunk English people came in and joined in, so the club filled up for the 3 minute duration of the song. But what a 3 minutes.

The three Cusqueñan amigos, reunited.

“It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming!!!”

The next day, exhausted and hungover, we all dragged ourselves out of bed to be ready for the Colombia game that would begin at 11am. In the course of the evening I had been informed that there would be public televisions, so Nick and I did a reccie to go and find them. After being misdirected by 10 different people, including policemen (this is common in South America), we eventually found the perfect place, so ran back to get the others. At 11am, in front of a 40″ plasma, Colombia’s World Cup kicked off for about 300 people and 10 gringos. They won their first match against Greece 3-0, with each goal being celebrated wildly by all the supporters. Our group had newscasters and cameramen filming us, and at one point I was told to repeat the phrase ‘Viva Colombia’ about 5 times into a microphone. The atmosphere there was something else.

Vamos Colombia! Selfie had to be done.

For Nick, however, it was all build up to the big event, the England game at 5pm. After an afternoon’s rest, we and around 50 other England fans, and 1 Italian woman, crowded into a nearby bar with the best television in Cartagena, and an ITV feed! We were completely pumped, and when Raheem Sterling hit the side netting 3 minutes in the whole place erupted, beer in the air, chairs flying backwards, hugging and screaming, until someone pointed out that he’d missed, when everyone calmly sat back down pretending they hadn’t just kissed the person next to them. We did get an opportunity to celebrate, when Daniel Sturridge struck an equalizer, but the delirium couldn’t last, and we left completely deflated.

The disappointment in my eyes still cuts me to my core

Regardless, despite England’s defeat, I had an amazing time in Cartagena with some amazing people, and I will never forget it. The next day I was up early to board a plane to Miami, prepared for whatever cavity search they had in store for me for coming from Colombia.

 

Goodbye South America, Gracias por todo. it’s been fun. Pura Vida x

Medellín

The reason I never took my flight on the 23rd May from Buenos Aires was because I wanted to go to Colombia. It was a place so many travelers had recommended, yet one very few sites or guides when I was researching for the trip and advised going to. I had wanted to spend about 2 weeks there, travelling up from Cali to Cartagena with a friend from the volunteering in Cusco, yet when my passport was stolen, I missed the Cali flight, and found I would have to spend some time sorting out a Visa for the United States. When I researched this, I found that to get finger and eye scans, I would have to be in Medellin, and to have the actual (3 minute) ‘interview’ I would have to be in Bogota. I could have done the whole process in Lima, and at points when travelling between Medellin and Bogota and back again I wondered why I hadn’t done this, but I was so desperate to leave Peru and get to Colombia that I thought it would be worth it. I therefore booked a flight to Medellin, said my goodbyes to my friends in Lima, and headed for the most dangerous city in the world (circa 1990s).

I won’t go into the details of getting my visa, but it was a hassle to say the least, costing money in flights, fees and hostels. By the time I finished it all up in Bogota I was pretty mentally exhausted, so felt I needed a break back in Medellin. Bogota is a great city, and is really interesting (I recommend the bike tour), but was endlessly grey and cloudy when I was there, so I thought I would head to the warmth and sun of Medellin.

Murals in Bogota. I like to think it represents the ways you can confront dark times. Either you can wallow in the misery, or accept and embrace it for what it is.

Mural for Jaime Garzón, comedian, satirist, lawyer and peace activist murdered by paramilitaries in 1999. It shocked the country.

Medellin used to be known to the outside world as the stronghold of the infamous druglord Pablo Escobar, where murders would happen daily, and corruption was rife. Today however, modern, vibrant, youthful and most importantly safe.

It is also known as the city of the eternal spring, due its endless pleasant warm weather, hot but not humid. It is one of two places in South America I could consider living in (Buenos Aires being the second). The first hostel I stayed in was actually a meditation hostel (Hostel Secret Buddha- 100% on Tripadvisor for a reason) high in the hills above the city, something I didn’t realize when I booked it. It turned out this was exactly what I needed, as it got my head right after all the previous stress and anguish, and the previous months of travelling, and got me ready for my final week.

After this I went down to a bit more of a party hostel in the El Poblado district of the city, effectively where around 10 hostels are situated, full of gringos, as well as some fancy restaurants, bars and clubs. I’d really recommend staying here. I went to Happy Buddha hostel, but there’s also a place called Casa Kiwi, and I’m sure many others. I had a great dorm in this hostel, with people I really hit it off with who had arrived at the same time as me, and so my positive experience at the hostel was probably due to this. Indeed that night, when we were messing about with other people in the common area, one girl asked me and the German guy from my room how many months we’d been travelling together. Sometimes you just completely click with another person to the extent you could have known them for 20 years and wouldn’t get on better.

But yeah, back to Medellin. The first day I was at this hostel, I went paragliding, which was a really awesome flight over some of the city from a one of the mountains that overlooks it (ask in your hostel. It cost about 35 pounds), and a lot more fun than the one in Lima. Before my afternoon activities, I managed to fit in a professional salsa lesson at Santo Baile Poblado, an excellent school that did an hour lesson for about $30. I did some basic steps and hip movements with a gorgeous Colombian woman, although I couldn’t look up as I was continually having to check my feet to keep time. So yeah, I did Colombia style salsa in Colombia! In the afternoon I took the city free walking tour, which was phenomenal. If there is one thing, just one, that you do in Medellin, do this. Pablo, the guy who takes each one (they’re about 4 hours, and there’s 2 a day) every day, is so passionate and knowledgeable about his city’s riveting and turmoil filled past that it’s impossible not to leave without the same passion for the city and it’s people. You see it with completely new eyes, and get an understanding about what its residents have been through over the past 20 years.

One of the best things about Medellin is its metro. Quite easily the best in South America (although doesn’t have much competition), it was built at the height of the violence in the city in 1995, and has therefore become a symbol of its past and future. Ultra modern, it rivals that of the best in the world, with both Spanish and English announcements, spacious carriages and regular service, and even little messages like ‘Smiling is good for the soul. We encourage you to smile. A smile is good for the metropolitan’, although that was a bit weird. It also never gets vandalized, because of its reverence among the paisas, or people of Medellin. You will never get mugged, will never see graffiti or broken windows, and won’t hear ‘youths’ playing loud music or shouting. There is a silent respect of the progress the city has taken since the metro was opened. It is almost like a reverse of the same symbolism as in the film Batman Begins, where the film starts with a young Bruce Wayne’s father explaining how the opening of the Gotham’s metro has made it a better place, and with his death, it, and the city, descend into darkness. A more recent addition to it are the cable cars, which run up the north of the city, and are treated the same by the residents. While we tourists all have our cameras out and are checking out the birds eye view you have over the people below, the paisas are listening to music, reading books or newspapers, and thinking about the day ahead.

The people of Medellin are known to be rather full of themselves, shall we say (there is a similar, if less incendiary, divide between Bogota and Medellin as Madrid to Barcelona). This sculpture shows the rise of the city’s wealth through gold mining.

A view over the city while paragliding

The Secret Buddha meditation hostel

Colombia is still mourning the death of Gabriel Garcia Marques, or ‘Gabo’, one of the great authors of the Spanish language.

Another thing Pablo explained to us on the Tour was why the paisas are so friendly to tourists. It is because they remember what the country was 10 years ago. How people used to live in fear, how 30 people used to die a day in Medellin, how there were 3 battling factions plus the drug trade all competing for power. Tourists aren’t merely gringos with cameras, they are symbols that things are starting to change, that the country is beginning to get back on its feet again after so much misery. That stamp on our passports is the most important one you can have, for Colombians, because it means you are contributing to this change, and are spreading the word that Colombia is safe to visit again. Pablo explained that if Colombians are happy, after all that, then we who haven’t had all this trauma can be too. It is so strange walking around Medellin, seeing laughing, happy people going about their day-to-day lives and knowing that many of these people have lost family and friends in the struggles over power and drugs, through bombs and bullets, and have seen their country and city at their lowest points.

This is why I am supporting the Colombian national team at the World Cup. The players in this team have never been to a World Cup before, and all of them grew up among the country’s dark times, but they play with such attacking verve, team spirit and passion that it’s hard not to get caught up in their optimism. They play with the same hope that their country is riding on at the moment, in the knowledge that while this is only the beginning, they’re in the right road to success.

The Colombian team do a traditional jig after star player James Rodriguez (centre) headed them into the lead against Ivory Coast. They won that match 2-1 in front of a stadium packed with Colombianos.

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=11108004 – US

http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/27930177 – UK

Colombia’s next match is June 24th against Japan. Now England have been knocked out, please give your support to them.

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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?