After a rather eventful couple of days in Iguazu, we ventured back to Buenos Aires. This time we decided to situate ourselves in Palermo. A little bit further out of the city centre, but a great area with lots of bars, restaurants and shops.
One of the things you really take for granted back home is the ability to do your own laundry. What also makes it a bit more difficult is the fact that we know some basic Spanish, but our vocabulary doesn’t extend to laundry. So when we went to have our laundry done, it was a bit of a struggle. It didn’t help that sometimes the little Italian I know is mixed up with Spanish and I end up saying the Italian word and having the locals look at me weirdly. We got our point across in the end and even understood when to pick it up. I’m sure this is just the first of many experiences like this. Just means we will need to get better at Spanish.
Our first point of call was to check out the San Telmo Fair. San Telmo is the oldest part of town and they have a massive antique market on Sundays. It used to just be antiques but now it is a collection of souvenirs, art, some antiques and a fair amount of bric-a-brac. There are so many stalls there – as far as the eye can see and there are mass amounts of people. Everyone out and about on a sunny Sunday. It was a perfect day so you couldn’t really blame them.
A little bit away from the stalls, is the Mercado de Central (or the central market). This is more of the food market. Where locals go to buy their fresh produce. The fruit and vegetable stalls have bright stacked displays of whatever is in season. This was also where we had out first coffee of the trip at Coffee Town. We had cold drip with tonic water. Which sounded a bit strange but actually paired really well.
There is also an amazing burger place in the market, The Market Burger. We ended up having lunch here twice because it was so good.
As we were also keen to wander around the neighbourhood, we booked in with a parilla tour to explore the food side of the area. Basically, parilla is Argentine grill. We started off at a small family run restaurant just outside of the Mercado de Central for a delicious empanada. After that they took us to try choripan. Argentina’s answer to the Bunnings sausage sizzle but with chorizo and a salsa verde to add on top. It was delicious, but very rich.
We continued walking around San Telmo and learning a bit about the area and the food. We saw the house of the writer and creator of the much beloved, Mafalda. Malfalda is a comic strip character created in the 50s, orginally as part of an ad, but developed into a character to challenge the government and it’s policies in an innocent way.
For lunch we went to a typical steak restaurant, Gran Parilla del Plata. The same one that Michelle Obama ate at when she visited in 2016. The skirt steak is by far the most delicious cut of meat in Argentina and we had plenty of Chimichurri served with it.
Argentina is known for its delicious homemade ice cream so a traditional heladeria was the last stop on the tour. It was delicious I had a coffee flavour and dulce de leche. Dave and I pretty much rolled out of that ice creamery. It’s always an amazing experience getting to know a city better by the local/traditional food.
Wandering through Recoleta Cemetery is incredible. The craftsmanship of the mausoleums and crypts is like nothing you have seen before. Stained glass windows and fresh flowers adorn a lot of the crypts. It shows a lot of respect for the dead.
Recoleta isn’t the cemetery of every day Portenos. It is for the diplomats, politicians, sports people and wealthy. Evita is buried here.
Being a cemetery, of course there are some ghost stories and urban legends. We did a bit of research before going and each website has a slightly different story. The one I found most disturbing was of Rufina Cambaceres. After she was buried, grave diggers heard screams throughout the cemetery but didn’t know where they were coming from. Upon investigationg, they noticed that Rufina’s coffin lid had move. Inside, there were scratch marks on the coffin, like someone was frantic to get out.
The story goes, is that Rufina’s mother used to give her daughter a mild sedative each night so that she could have an affair with Rufina’s boyfriend. While everyone thought she had died, Rufina was in a coma when she was buried. Her mother, feeling the guilt then built her an incredible mausoleum which resembled her bedroom.
I really enjoy Palermo as a neighbourhood. Plenty of bars and excellent restaurants, plus amazing shopping. I didn’t get to go shopping as much as I would of loved to, mainly because I had 6+ months ahead of me and my backpack didn’t have that much room for purchases. Although I did buy a snazzy backpack which I quite like. Made in Buenos Aires so that was my souvenir of the city.
For Dave’s birthday I booked La Cabrera. A well-known parilla restaurant and one I had been to 7 years ago when I was last in Argentina. With fingers crossed that the restaurant was still as amazing as I remember, we walked down from our Airbnb. It was even better than I remembered. We had dry aged angus t-bone for two plus enough sides we had no more room left on the table. It was incredible and we paired it with a Malbec of course. The steak itself was served on a salt board which gave so much flavour. I might need to pick up one when we get home and try to recreate the meal. Although I don’t think we would be able to purchase a top shelf Malbec for only $30 in an Australian restaurant.
For dessert, I had gelato and Dave had a nip of whiskey. However, being in Argentina, the nip was more like 80mL.
Not wanting to end the night after dinner (although we both could have rolled home quite happily), we checked out another bar in the area. Called Parque, the interior was all plants and wood. Once again we benefited from Argentina’s lax RSA and ordered 2 cocktails. I had a earl grey one and Dave had a martini. Both definitely packed a punch.
La Boca, the birthplace of tango. One of the poorest areas of the city, is a haven of colourful buildings, eccentric characters and the Boca Jr stadium. All of the street dogs are dressed in shirts or coats to keep them warm, with even a few in jeans and caps, with their own SUBE (metro) card. Strange folk live in La Boca.
We took a tour through the main parts and learnt of the artist, Quinquela Martín, how he helped shape La Boca and provide much needed infrastructure such as schools and medical facilities.
The colourful buildings are called caminitios. Basically, they are that way as they would take scrap material from the port and spare paint and use it to build their houses. Some of the caminitios would house up to 200 people with 1 bathroom. While there were shift workers, it was incredibly cramped and unsanitary.
La Boca was a cultural hotspot with so many immigrants coming to live as it was the most affordable place in the city. With the different languages spoken, music was used to communicate. From here, tango emerged as a dance. Initially it was a very masculine fight dance between 2 males. It then evolved into the dance you see today, however, the dance is still performed with 2 males as well.
Street art has been embraced in this area and there are some great murals from famous artists. Some culturally and historically relevant, others just to fill an empty wall with beautiful colours.
The tour concluded at Boca Jr stadium. Unfortunately, the football season was on a break so we didn’t get to go to a match. But hearing about it from our guide, I think it would have been a bit hectic. The stadium was constructed so that it moved with the crowd, so you can feel it swaying when the games are on. There are people seated on all the stairs, as they sell too many tickets for the amount of seats.
At one stage in history, fans would bring along live chickens to throw at the referees when they made a bad call. Security started searching bags, so they swapped to eggs. They are very passionate fans and we were told it was a very intimidating stadium to play as the opposition. There is even a museum from a retired referee, which showcases all the strange things that were thrown at him.
After a great stay, we had to say goodbye to Buenos Aires and get ready for another long bus ride to Mendoza.