Buenos Aires

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Buenos Aires was the first city on our trip that one of us (me) had the opportunity to visit previously. My last visit was just a quick stop-over with my brother and father in 2012, while we were on our way to (and when we returned from) Antarctica. We only stayed a couple days both times, but we found the city pretty fun. There was a lot do and we ate very well, so I was a little sad we didn’t get to spend more time there. Given that, I was extremely excited to return with Maja.

Based on my previous experience there, we decided to stay for about 2 weeks. This would be a much longer stay than any of our other landings so far. We figured the time was right for an extended stay somewhere, to spend time relaxing and to plan the next leg of our trip. We also wanted to slow down and do more things without having to fit so much into only a few days. We missed having time to read, time to watch TV, and generally enjoy vacationing.

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Our room came with a cat.

We arrived on March 31st, which now feels like ages ago. From EZE (love that airport code) we took a taxi to the Palermo Hollywood district for a short stay at Home, a small boutique hotel that Maja booked for us. We (she) decided to splurge a little and so we booked The Garden Suite, a little bungalow with it’s own little pool and spiral staircase to a rooftop patio. It was so lovely, and the staff was amazing. After staying in a mix of hostels and budget hotels, it was really nice to be somewhere that felt like vacation.

After spending a few nights there, we transferred to an Airbnb in the adjacent neighborhood, Palermo Soho. It was a lovely studio apartment on the 17th floor, giving us great sweeping views of the city that let us truly appreciate how big the city really is.

Being such a huge city, there was tons of stuff to do. We mostly just ate and drank a lot, but we did some other sightseeing too. Here’s a list of some of our places:

(Hey guys. This is Maja. Patrick attempted a list of the stuff we did, but it included items like “That dumb pizza place” and “The cool bars??” so I’m jumping in to add some details.)

Restaurants

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  • Las Cabras – Classic Argentine food in generous portions at low prices. We got the bife de chorizo a Las Cabras – a steak with side dishes all piled onto a wood plank. Amazing.
  • Las Pizarras – So good we went here twice. Inspired cooking beyond the classic steak. Different menu every night. Very friendly and helpful (and English-speaking!) staff. The first night we went their credit card machine was down, we didn’t have enough cash to cover the bill, so they told us to “just come back on Tuesday to pay.” An absolute MUST for dinner.
  • Muu Letcheria – After two friends independently sent me the same photo of this highly-photographable diner, we decided to check it out. Themed as a 1950’s diner, but with artful graffiti and chandeliers made of retired cutlery (?) this place has seen brighter days. It’s open 24/7 so it would be perfect for a grilled cheese at 4am after a night at the clubs.
  • Don Julio – One of the most famous parrillas (traditional steak restaurants) in Buenos Aires. Constant two-hour wait (appeased by free champagne) for the quality beef and exemplary service. We snagged a wonderful sidewalk table and ordered half-portions of steak (which we still couldn’t finish). Olé!
  • Pizzeria Kentucky – One hangry afternoon we stumbled into this divey pizza chain (open since 1942) because we didn’t have the brain power to research somewhere better. We were surprised by the delicious fugazzetta – just simply dough with cheese and onions.
  • Osaka Sushi – After eating mostly steak for a week, we decided to switch it up with some sushi. Osaka had great recommendations, so we gave it a go. We found it to be totally meh.
  • Casa Felix – This puerta cerrada (closed door restaurant) was written up by the NYT a few years ago and has been booked ever since. The idea behind puertas cerradas is talented, passionate young chefs open their own homes to cook a set tasting menu showing their creativity and signature style. Patrick managed to get a reservation (amazing) and we enjoyed a long evening of fabulous food in a beautiful house with 16 other tourists. Well worth the effort and price tag.
  • Perón Perón – Uncomfortably delicious ossobuco empanadas set in a small restaurant plastered with Peronist imagery. Best empanada in Buenos Aires.
  • Las Cabreras – Touristy parrilla that we LOVED. A giant restaurant made up of tons of tiny adjoining rooms, with eclectic art, tchotchkes on the walls, and cool grandpa waiters. The steak and wine were delicious (they gave us a free bottle to take home!), but even better were the seemingly endless parade of tiny side dishes that kept arriving. Very fun evening, and great for groups.
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There are a lot of tiny bowls at Las Cabreras
  • Blanch – Allegedly spectacular brunch but we accidentally went during restaurant week so we were served a weak Asian-inspired pre-fixe lunch. I found the food to be boring, and the restaurant was oddly dark. Good Aperol spritz though.
  • Fervor – Classic old-school Parilla. A bit formal and dated, but the people-watching was incredible. We went for a late lunch after visiting the Recoleta Cemetery.
  • Fukuro Noodle Bar – The best ramen I have EVER HAD, even including Japan. Super funky, cool, small space, with walls plastered in manga. If they don’t have space for you when you arrive (no reservations) you’re invited to sip sake as you wait in their twinkle-light lit garden. Spectacular evening.
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Fukuro has manga all over it’s walls. Never be bored.
  • Olsen – This place would bring even the hippest of designers to their knees. Very modern Scandinavian influenced food with a beautiful garden and deck area. Set off the street behind a giant wall, this place is a totally isolated oasis. Perfect for a cappuccino wile you lounge in the sun, or a long multi-course lunch with your designer sunglasses-bespectacled comrades.
  • La Fabrica del Taco – A good attempt at Mexican food. My favorite part was the walk-up taco bar built into the restaurant’s exterior. Perfect for a quick nosh after a night at da club.
  • Casa Cavia – A multi-concept store set in a refined 1920’s house right next to the park. This place was a lifestyle blogger’s dream come true. It includes a parfumerie, flower shop, book shop, and an excellent restaurant in the courtyard. Everyone here was uncomfortably chic and looked very hungry. I enjoyed watching the skinny skinnies on their lunch breaks gawk at me as I ordered a lemon tart.
  • El Bistro at the Faena Hotel – Designed by Philippe Starck in collaboration with the famous hotelier Alan Faena, this place feels like walking into a Kubrick film. We were the only people in the giant white dining room adorned with unicorn busts. Definitely a trippy experience.
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The sundial bridge near Faena is beautiful at night.
  • Dean & Denny’s – An impressive Shake Shack rip off (same menu, fonts, icons, everything). The dulce de leche milkshake is everything.

Cafes

  • In Bocca Al Lupo – Italian barista owner, deliciously creative coffee concoctions coupled with warm coffee cake and a peaceful inner courtyard.
  • Ninina – We went here at least four times. This bakery is the pride and joy of the youngest generation of a renowned family of local bakers. Clean lines and modern details make this place a Instagrammer’s paradise. They serve breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. We kept going back for their blueberry-raspberry scones and welcoming environment. Everything is incredible, I just wish we could have tried more.
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The counter at Ninina is no joke. Neither are their raspberry/blueberry scones.
  • La Panera Rosa – Generous portions and indulgent combinations like waffle sandwiches make this place a gem. They even have smiley face hashbrowns! We went for afternoon tea which included a full grilled cheese sandwich and enough pastries for a small army.
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It’s not pink it’s rosa.
  • Bar du Marche – I wanted to tuck this place in my pocket and take it home with me. Very tiny and very French cafe with delicious food, cheese and wine. Absolute gem.
  • La Biela – Historic restaurant/cafe on the park in the Recoleta. We enjoyed cappuccinos outside while writing postcards and people-watching. The perfect place for an afternoon pick-me-up.
  • LAB – This coffee shop is hip AF. Multiple kinds of beans and multiple methods of brewing. Patrick got a Kenyan bean through an Aeropress and was in heaven.

Activities

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  • MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires) – A beautiful building and gallery full of contemporary works. We saw the Jorge Macchi exhibit, which according to Patrick was, “super cool”. The lovely outdoor cafe has delicious medialunas and horrible service.
  • Planetarium – Wacky 60’s architecture that looks like a UFO landed during the Cold War. The inside is bananas, with a tubular elevator surrounded by a spiral staircase running through the center of the building. We wanted to explore every inch, but were sadly restrained to just the planetarium show, which was hilarious due to the school group of 7-year-olds screaming out the names of the planets they knew.
  • Recoleta Cemetery – Of course, no visit to Buenos Aires is complete without a visit to the Recoleta. We actually visited twice – a quick stop 20 minutes before closing, and another day to take a guided tour. The tour was super useful – it was great to hear the stories and explanations behind a lot of the tombs.
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Blah blah blah, these people are dead.
  • FOLA – Photography museum in a warehouse connected to an outlet mall on the outskirts of town. Beautiful space, and beautiful shows.
  • Botanical Garden – This place looked INCREDIBLE but was closed due to rain (?) when I tried to go.

Shopping

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  • El Ateno Books – The famous opera-house turned bookstore. Breathtaking interior with rows and rows of colorful books. Unfortunately the only books in English we could find were drugstore romance novels, but wandering through the stacks was totally worth it.
  • Kabinett – Carefully curated very hip design store. Reminded me of Canoe in Portland.
  • Editor Market – A lifestyle store providing the complete package: clothing, accessories, furniture, home wares, kitchen goods, gifts, kid stuff, and a healthy dose of hipper-than-thou attitude.
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The stores in Palermo Soho offer no end of weird stuff.

Bars

  • Frank’s – A glam speakeasy with amazing cocktails. A secret code is required to make it past the bouncers. If you make it past, the numerical code then must be punched into the number-pad of a phonebooth, which unlocks a door to enter a secret passageway into the bar. Worth the fuss.
  • Victoria Brown – Another speakeasy with slightly less hoopla to enter. Turns out the real speakeasy is actually inside the speakeasy, through a false wall in the back corner of the bar. The bergamot lavender gin martini was pretty wonderful.
  • Library Bar at the Faena Hotel – After our trippy experience in the Bistro, we moved over to the Library. My advice: skip the restaurant the head straight for the bar. Delicious classic cocktails, great bar menu, and awesome band. We bopped along to their entire set of American pop songs while sipping Zombies. Pretty spectacular evening.
  • Floreria Atlántico – Enter a flower shop, go through the walking fridge type door and step down into a cocktail bunker. The food was oddly horrible but the drinks and ambiance were fantastic.

(Ok, back to Patrick.)

While in BsAs we got visas for our next location: Brazil! It only took 2 visits to the Brazilian Consulate (one to drop off our passports, another to pick them up 3 days later) and about $500. Yikes.


Funny story: Getting a visa for Brazil is a pain in the ass. You have to fill out a huge online form, upload photos of yourself and your passport, go get passport photos taken, upload your itinerary and flight/lodging confirmations – yes, you’re expected to book this even before you have a visa, which seems a little like putting the carriage in front of the horse, but hey, whatever. Then you make an appointment online to visit the consulate, but when you arrive you still have to wait in a (standing) line for 15-30 minutes to see a clerk. Once the clerk looks at your application, they take your passport and give you a little card with instructions on how to pay the fee. This was somewhat weird: instead of paying it at the consulate, with a credit card or something easy, they make you walk to a local bank and deposit cash (cash only) into a numbered account. The bank then gives you a receipt that you can use to retrieve your passport from the consulate three days later. When you get your passport back it includes a glued-in visa on one of the pages with the passport photo you gave them. Nice.

Worth mentioning: This is the “easy” way to get a visa for Brazil. If you apply from within your home country, you can do so from home, you’re required to mail your passport to the consulate for your jurisdiction, and knowing which one is which is up to you. It can then take weeks or months to get your passport back.

Brazil-curious readers note: Brazil is waiving these visa requirements for the Olympics this year. This means US and Canadian citizens (as well as Japanese and Australians) can visit, visa free, from June 1st to September 18th, for up to 90 days. I’d highly recommend doing this, since as we’ll explain in the next post, Rio de Janeiro was incredibly beautiful and very worth visiting.


While we were waiting for our visas (as well as some items we ordered online that got held up in customs and are likely never to be seen again…) we decided to extend our stay a little longer and booked another Airbnb closer to Palermo Soho’s main drag. While it wasn’t as nice as the first, it was again very cheap ($54/night) and did the job well.

We left Buenos Aires the afternoon of April 18th, shortly after sending off a package of our own items we decided we didn’t need to carry with us for the rest of the trip. Our bags a bit lighter, we took a 4 hour flight past a thunderstorm to the next location on our list: Rio de Janeiro!

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