Jan, 2016: Buenos Aires is an easy city to love. It has a pulsating vibe, delicious food, amazing culture and beautiful people. We started 2016 off with a visit back to this gem of a place and it was easy to rekindle the love affair. Whether it was strolling the streets of Palermo, eating smokey choripans in San Telmo or sweating it up at La Bomba del Tiempo, we loved every minute of our time in BA.
Palermo and Recoletta
Our first day was spent moseying around the streets of Palermo and Recoletta. We spent our first morning walking around Palermo eating ice creams and taking in the the cafes and boutiques which line the leafy avenues. In the afternoon we ambled over to Recoletta to check out it’s famous cemetery containing many of Argentina’s rich and famous including Eva Peron. While I’m not mad for cemeteries it was interesting to see the various mausoleums in all their grandeur and in some cases decay. After an hour in the cemetery we found ourselves sprawled out on some grass listening to a young ‘Porteno’ (Buenos Aires local, literally translated as someone from a Port town) butchering a series of grunge songs. Despite his most valiant efforts to keep us awake, the heat, comfort of the grass and the chilled atmosphere lulled us into a most enjoyable hour’s nap.
Arguably the highlight of BA was our day spent in the awesome old district of San Telmo. We explored the massive antiques market on Avenida Defensa taking in all the random bits and pieces on offer while also observing some cross dressing theatre! I found a cracking coffee at ‘Coffee Town’ in the San Telmo market before taking a tour of the El Zanjon de Granados museum (1730’s merchant’s house) featuring beautifully restored red brick walls, built in subterranean rivers and water cisterns. We feasted on deliciously smokey, grilled chorizo covered in chimichuri and wrapped in crusty white bread (Choripan) at a pumping local hole in the wall grill restaurant (Nuestra Parilla) before watching the quintessential (if not slightly staged) BA experience of open air tango in Plaza Dorrego. We drank perfectly chilled rose at Cafe Rivas and then malbec at Cafe Poesia before deciding that one Choripan really wasn’t enough so headed back to Nuestra Parilla for more. On reflection, our day spent in San Telmo contained so many things we love about Buenos Aires. If / when we go back to Buenos Aires I think we would definitely want to spent more time back in that awesome old district.
La Bomba del Tiempo
On a particularly steamy Monday evening we met up with an ex work colleague of Fi named Gaspar who took us to a night of drumming and litro beers at ‘La Bomba del Tiempo’. This weekly sweat-fest sees a group of drummers bashing out thumping tunes while 100’s of locals and tourists alike bump and grind and try not to spill beer on each other. Throughout the 2 hour performance, various members of the group come to the front to direct the rest like a conductor would a symphonic orchestra with extravagant hand gestures and contorted facial expressions. The cynic in me couldn’t help wondering if the conducting was all for show but it definitely worked a treat as the group were damn impressive. After 2 hours of our bad dancing and enthusiastic drinking we were soaked in sweat, exhausted and starving so Gaspar took us to another BA institution, the 1950’s look-a-like pizza joint. There we demolished a cheese and white onion pizza with another jug of Quilmes. While deep dish pizza isn’t really my thing this cheesy disk of deliciousness massively hit the spot and topped of an outstanding evening in BA.
After our night out with Gaspar we struggled to do anything of note but we did manage to get out for cracking few hours in the colourful but somewhat dodgy La Boca district. We strolled past the home of the Boca Juniors before stopping in at ‘El Obrero’, a culinary institution for a tasty grilled rib eye smothered once again in chimichuri and a juicy chicken supreme (crumbed chicken breast) with salad and home cut chips…..mmm. After this mammoth feast we could only manage a gentle stroll back to check out the slightly kitchy but still pretty cool Caminito (street sculptures and lovely old houses) before retreating home to take refuge in the air-conditioning.
Our final night in BA saw us catch up with a mate of mine named Fede (short for Federico) who Finn (my brother) and I had met 13 years previously in Mexico. At the end of that trip Fede had been kind enough to put me up for a few days in his BA flat so it was awesome to catch up after so many years. While we only went for a few dark ales and a bit of a nibble around the corner from our AirBnB apartment, catching up with Fede reminded me of how lucky we are to have so many random but awesome friends scattered around the world. It was a real pleasure to see that Fede had barely changed in the 13 years since our last meeting and to hear about how life is treating him and his new family!
Buenos Aires travel and feasting tips:
- The Feria de San San Telmo held each Sunday, 10am – 4pm in the blocks around Plaza Dorrego and Ave. Defensa is a great way to while away a few hours, sift through some antiques, watch some street performers or just to watch the world go by
- Coffee Time in the San Telmo market has some of the best coffee I tried in Argentina with rich, strong and well balanced espresso and silky smooth milk
- For the most ‘mindblowingly’ good Choripan head to Nuestra Parilla just up the road from the San Telmo market. Grab a Choripan and a tumbler of wine, then sit out on the street savouring the feeling of chorizo grease running down your chin while you’re eating one of the tastest things known to man!
- El Zanjon de Granados museum (www.elzanjon.com.ar/, 755 Defensa) provides a fascinating look back through Buenos Aires history with it’s beautifully restored rooms and subterranean labyrinths from an old merchants house dating back to the first settlements of the city
- Cafe Rivas (302 Estados Unidos) is the perfect spot to enjoy a few glasses of wine or a coffee in a lovely polished wood dining room / lounge
- La Bomba del Tiempo (www.labombadetiempo.com/en) is a raucous and sweaty way to get your dance on each Monday evening when a guest drumming group gets ‘conducted’ while a willing crowd bounces around like crazy people. We caught it at 3131 Sarmiento, at the Ciudad Cultural Konex.
- For old school charm and massive hearty portions of steak, milanesa and other meaty treats head to El Obrero in Boca (41064 Augustin R. Caffarena)