Today is our last day here in Buenos Aires and Argentina as we fly back tonight on two back to back red eyes. Our flight to Bogotá, Colombia departs at 11:50pm which makes for an awkward setup when our hotel checkout time is the traditional 11am.
For $70, we were able to add a very late checkout (7pm) so we could spend the day exploring more of BA and come back to shower and pack before heading to the airport.
Last night we were craving Asian food, so we found a small sushi restaurant, Cherry Sushi. Not the best sushi in the world, but it was fun to get the Argentinian take on Japanese fare.
Before sushi, we popped into El Ateneo Bookstore, a spot that made my must-see list months ago. It’s an old theater repurposed as a massive bookstore selling everything from coffee table books to classics to DVDs, vinyl records and CDs. I purchased one children’s book in Spanish.
This morning we enjoyed the amazing $10 hotel breakfast yet again. #1Toddler devoured 5 slices of watermelon, 3 rings of pineapple an half a kiwi fruit. She’s become quite the breakfast fruititarian.
After breakfast we Ubered to the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano Buenos Aires (MALBA). We had hoped to get there during our first stop in BA, but couldn’t make it happen.
The current exhibit is by Earnesto Neto, a Brazilian sculptor who’s exhibits are biomorphic, made of soft stretchy fabrics, crochet and other natural fibers. They are meant to be touched, stretched and interacted with by visitors.
The first work we discovered was a red fabric heart that encouraged visitors to climb inside and strike a drum to initiate a heartbeat.
The next work we discovered was a set of crocheted curtains laced with bells and seashells, inviting young visitors to stroke and make sounds with their hands.
One of Neto’s largest installations was a white tunnel of nylon fabric that visitors enter and walk through. #1Toddler and I went together.
The permanent collection features works from Latin American artists from 1900-1970. Amir describes it well – the collection is “digestible” – small enough to explore deeply, but deep enough to gain an understanding of the artist era and its influences.
We are now back at the hotel after a pizza lunch and another tour of the “big park.” Time for another siesta before packing up for our long voyage home to Virginia.
After some more research last night, we learned Sunday is a great day for markets, art displays and carnival parades in the city. We took an Uber to Mercado San Telmo, the market named after the patron saint of sailors, St Elmo.
Opening in 1897 to cater to the new wave of European immigrants, Mercado San Telmo still bears the same steel beams and structure as the original although some stalls have been updated.
There are stalls of antiques, bakeries, toys, jewelry, spices, butchers, vegetables and record albums. It truly is “un poco de todo,” a bit of everything.
We came just after demolishing breakfast at our hotel, so we didn’t have much room for sampling things.
The market has grown so large over the years that it spills out of the original indoor space and radiates into the nearby streets.
Just off the main fair you can find the French Salon, a small offset of higher end indoor shops. It caught my eye online thanks to the display of umbrellas spanning across the street.
After an ice cream and coffee, we caught another Uber back to the park near our hotel as #1Toddler has been asking for a “big park” for three days straight. Apparently the world’s largest waterfall didn’t count since it didn’t have a slide.
After the park at Plaza Vicente López we headed back to the hotel to hit the pool. It’s 75 and sunny today, so the pool is chilly but tolerable if you stay in the sun. The pool attendant pulled out a water noodle for #1Toddler to enjoy, and she quickly named it “my rainbow.”
I’m starting to feel a tad exhausted, so I think it’s time for a siesta before dinner tonight and boating tomorrow. I want to rest up because tomorrow is going to be a bear. We have a whole day in BA before our flight home which leaves at midnight.
So I’ve already been corrected that when we head back to Buenos Aires (BA) today we in fact have two nights in BA, not just one. We opted to stay at Hotel Recoleta Grand for these last two nights which is slightly more northeast in the city and allows for easy walking to different sites we didn’t yet explore when in BA at the start of our trip.
I’ve already mentioned how efficient the airport checkin process is here in Argentina, but there’s more to it than that. I looked it up, but it seems that in 1998, Autopuertos Argentina 2000 was founded. It’s a large group with over 2300 employees that operates all aspects of Argentina’s 35 airports.
At face value, it seems to work extremely well. Simple things like a single WiFi network across all airports ensure when you get off your plane, you automatically connect to WiFi. Each airport uses the same signage and security processes (imagine if the TSA had the same expectations at every location). Things are integrated and fairly seamless across the different airports. It makes it predictable and more navigable as a foreigner.
We had an uneventful 1.5 hour flight from Iguazú to BA, grabbed an Uber and checked into our hotel. Tired and sweaty, we cleaned up and rested for a bit before heading to dinner at Rufino, a typical Argentinian restaurant just a few blocks from our hotel.
Amir ordered a 20 oz bone-in ribeye, and I opted for pasta. #1Toddler devoured yet another sausage sampler. We ate too much. Sorry, no food porn as the lighting was dim, but you can check out the restaurant here if you are curious.
Tomorrow we plan to checkout the boat tours of the Río de la Plata. We don’t have a reservation yet, so we might not be able to make it happened. Regardless, we are central to activities that will please everyone in this crowd.
Amir asked me this morning why I love Eva Perón so much… I had to stop and think… and correct him. Love isn’t the right word – it’s more that she fascinates me.
Eva Perón grew up a poor, illegitimate child and moved to Buenos Aires at age 15 to pursue a career in acting and television. She struggled for years until she met then Secretary of Labour, Juan Perón. They married a year later. He became president of Argentina in 1946.
“Evita” as the country would come to call her, was dichotomous in every sense. Elegant and underprivileged. Benevolent and self-promoting. Divisive and unifying. As a woman, she pushed her way (and coaxed people into inviting her) into social spheres and roles no other First Lady had. She even ran for Vice President. She was adored and despised. She was far from perfect but never claimed to be. Maybe I identify with her.
Today we visited her family grave at Cementario Recoleta. But first, let’s talk about our milanesas lunch and the delicious cookies we made.
Milanesa is a traditional Argentinian dish which borrows from Italian roots. They take a variety of meats – veal, pork, chicken – pound it thin and bread it. This particular restaurant, La Casa de la Milanesa, treated the milanesa like a pizza crust, offering a selection of toppings with a side of fries. Delicious.
Our next stop was at Andra Bakery to take a “clase de pastelería,” or a pastry class. We’ve come to enjoy the “experiences” you can find on AirBnB, so when we saw the chance to bake our own traditional alfajores, we jumped.
For $40 per person, you get very personal instruction from the owner. She limits each class to three people, so your lesson is essentially private.
Over two hours, you make three different cookies, each with a slight variation on the traditional alfajores.
You weigh your bowl as you add ingredients, taking care to tare the scale along the way. You mix the dough with your bare hands, then chill it in the refrigerator while mixing the next batch. The cook time is short, and the ROI high. We walked out with two whole boxes of cookies, new knowledge and the joy of a unique experience.
After cookies at Andra Bakery, we walked two blocks to enter El Cementario de la Recoleta. I never knew there was a list of Top 10 Cemeteries in the world, but Recoleta is on it.
Many famous Argentinians are buried here including Eva Perón, the founder of the Argentinian Navy and numerous past presidents.
While for most of its existence it’s been restricted to the notable and wealthy in society, for a few short years Recoleta was open to public burials. As a result you’ll find some very common people resting next to Argentinian greats.
Eva Perón is buried here, despite a huge push for her to be returned to the small humble village where she was raised.
Sadly Eva Perón died at the age of 33 from what most believe was cervical cancer. Her untimely death makes her rise to fame so much more interesting to me as I’m left wondering what she could have accomplished with more years.
After Recoleta and a brief siesta back at the apartment, we took an Uber to La Estancia, a meat lovers paradise. It’s akin to the Brazilian steakhouse, but is much more personalized and less mass market.
We started with a caprese salad, beef empañadas and some fresh bread.
For our main course, we ordered a mixed barbecue of lamb, pork ribs, sausage, suckling pig and beef.
It arrived steaming, snapping and crackling on a bed of hot coals. Our experienced waiter had covered my bag in the chair beside me with a yellow linen. When our dish arrived, it was then that I understood why.
We’re packing up tonight for our flight to Bariloche tomorrow. Bariloche is in the Patagonia region and from photos most resembles Switzerland meets Breckinridge. We’ll see if the photos hold true.
“Why don’t you save your money and travel when she’ll actually remember it?”
“Wouldn’t you rather have a romantic kid-free vacation?”
“Can’t you separate from your kid?”
We’ve heard and been asked them all. I want to give a little backstory on why we travel, and why we travel with #1Toddler on what can seem like daunting adventures.
When Amir and I were dating and having one of those talks where you feel the other person out for what’s important to them, what they want in life… travel, and more specifically international travel, surfaced over and over again.
Amir, half Egyptian, half English, was born in England. Thanks to his flight attendant mother with a worldly perspective and a degree in early childhood development, she placed a huge emphasis on ensuring Amir and his three brothers experienced all the world and its rainbow of people, history and cuisine had to offer. He grew up traveling and expected the same for his married life and future family.
I experienced my first international adventure at age 8 when my parents took my sister (7 years my senior) and me to Interlaken, Switzerland for a ski trip. Was I old enough to appreciate the full extent of the cultural experience – no… but that trip did involve my sister and I, while our parents were back at the ski lodge, getting lost in a snowy village and managing to find a doctor to stitch me up after a “J bar” ski lift went rogue and conked me in the head. Plus I’ll never forget the endless chocolate, tv commercials in a strange language and toys we didn’t have back in the US. After that trip, international travel became a big part of who I am, culminating with living in Madrid, Spain for 6 months back in 2002.
Amir and I agreed to escape the borders of the US at least twice a year. We take her with us because although she might not remember everything – or even anything – she lights up with new textures, colors, foods and smells. She understands the differences in languages, tempo of music and cadence of a big city vs back home. Even if she won’t remember it, her neurons are making connections – she enjoys it in the moment, and that brings us joy.
Today we walked East to see La Casa Rosada, “The Pink House,” which serves as the executive mansion for Argentina’s president. Built in the late 1800s, it’s seen many leaders, revolutions and renovations. It’s also where Eva Perón gave her famous speech on October 17, 1951. If you’ve seen Evita, then you likely know it.
If you want to tour the inside, you’ll need to come on a Saturday as the building houses government functions during the week and is only open to tourists one day. Book in advance if you can as slots reportedly fill quickly. We were here on a Thursday, so we settled for an exterior appreciation.
There is a small, free museum behind La Casa Rosada which features artifacts from prior presidents and details of an “Orient Express” type luxury train which used to be the preferred mode of travel for dignitaries.
Next we walked a half mile East to the canals in search of lunch. There were old ships and newer yachts, a mix of old and new that seems to match the rest of Argentina.
After lunch we hopped on the Subte, the metro of Buenos Aires, in search of the local Children’s Museum. Like most big city metros, you buy a card you can preload with trips then just swipe at the entrance.
Our destination was recommended by some well-travelled moms in an online forum I frequent. Museo de Niños is a 4 story kids museum located inside a gigantic shopping mall. Yes, we found a real life shopping mall filled with TONS of people.
They have some of the usual activities like grocery shopping and a tv station, but also some unique displays like the gigantic climbing toilet.
#1Toddler enjoyed the outdoor playground and making new friends with some “big girls” on the twirly ride.
After the kids museum, we stopped for what might have been our second ice cream of the day. I’ve never seen such an amazing display of popsicles. There was no way to walk past without getting one. Or two.
All the walking and climbing up and down to the metro sucked the energy from everyone. We had grand plans for a big Argentinian steak dinner tonight, but my pregnant back is aching and #1Toddler went down for the count early. Amir went down the block to Mostaza for burgers and fries. I have to say I was pretty psyched about our Plan B.
Tomorrow we have reservations at a small bakery where we’ll learn to make traditional Argentinian alfajores, little dulce de leche sandwich cookies. After that, we plan to explore Recoleta Cemetery which houses the tomb of Eva Perón.