Wanderlust: Besos de Buenos Aires (BsAs)

Opinion by Johnny Bartz
May 18, 2011, 12:27 a.m.

Wanderlust: Besos de Buenos Aires (BsAs)I arrived in Buenos Aires last Thursday deranged from a couple flights of little-to-no sleep and groggy from the in-flight fiesta prompted by a rather instigating stewardess, causing me to fall for the biggest trick in the book: charge the gringo double for the taxi ride.

It was the quintessential multi-man, foreigner stakeout, pay up front kind of operation. I of course didn’t fall for the: “Oh you only gave me $150 instead of $250” trick, at which point I probably should have become belligerent, demanded the money back, taken out the bags and scolded the man for being dishonest when he had a rosary hanging from his rearview mirror, but my Spanish was rusty and my tongue not quite sharp as usual. Bienvenidos a Argentina, I guess.

(For reference, a current taxi fare from the Ezeiza airport into the city of Buenos Aires should run around 150 pesos, including the tip).

While I was quick to point out to my new Argentinian friends that this kind of discriminatory taxi scam had never happened to me upon arrival in Brazil, they were quick to quip something about losing a day earlier in the last World Cup. We’ll see who wins 2014.

Crime in Buenos Aires is equal to that of any Latin American city, so take care not to overtly display your valuables. A prime example was when a thief grabbed the Blackberry of the woman sitting next to me on the bus as he ran out the door. Lucky for her, my unconscious instincts grabbed the phone out of the thief’s very hands, returning it to a very stunned lady from a very stunned, newly formed Argentinian hero.

So I’d say thieves .5, Johnny 1.

There is much to see in the city of Buenos Aires, and it’s a cheap-skate’s dream with 30¢ bus rides, cheap markets and food, and even a taxi practically anywhere in the city is less than $15 USD.

There is plenty of sightseeing in BsAs, but for that I would suggest a good guidebook! Pay your respects to the women in Plaza de Mayo on Thursday who mourn the loss of their children during the dictatorship, take a photo in front of La Casa Rosada and walk along the brightly colored buildings, tango dancers and well-fed stray dogs of the Boca area. The Sunday market in San Telmo is great for take-home trinkets.

At Puerto Madero the walk along the canal is nice. Check out Puente de la Mujer, designed by the famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, which is supposed to resemble a woman performing the tango, though this may be quite an abstract interpretation. I will let you decide if the beam stretching into the sky is supposed to be the arm or leg, however might I suggest posing in different tango-inspired positions with the bridge in the background.

The Porteño fare is delicious to any 20-something meatlover, however vegetarians beware. You can hit up street cafes all over the city, and I suggest you try all varieties of empanadas and milanesas to determine which you like best. Just be prepared to eat a lot of fries, and forget about counting calories — you’re on vacation. I’ve decided that I’m an empanada de pollo and milanesa completa (fried/breaded veal with two over-easy eggs on top) kind of guy. Café de Los Angelitos (Rivadavia 2100) is frequented by the rich and famous, and it won’t break the bank. Even if you feel like the milanesa is rejecting your body, a few minutes of rest and perhaps a café con leche usually solves the problem.

For dinner, I highly suggest Desnivel (Defensa 855). The interior is unassuming, however the food is exceptional at a reasonable price. My beef tenderloin with mustard sauce could have been cut with a spoon, though I didn’t really need to as I inhaled it on account of its deliciousness. Washing down the generous piece of meat with several glasses of Malbec, I was satiated, but not overly so that I couldn’t nibble on some flan for dessert. The full dinner for 5 came in at only $88 USD.

Buenos Aires has a very late schedule to say the least, and its best that you just embrace it to get the full experience of the city. After a leisurely dinner between 9 and 10 p.m., you may want to go get some dessert or coffee. The bar scene starts up around this time as well, and while there are hundreds to choose from, you may want to start with The Alamo (Uruguay 1175) or Milion (Parana 1048). The Alamo is frequented by expats while Milion is a trendy cool bar that is inside of an old mansion. You may want to make Milion a later destination, as the drinks are relatively expensive.

It’s unthinkable to arrive at a boliche (club) before midnight, and they really don’t get started until 1 or 2 a.m. The Palermo Hollywood neighborhood is full of cool places to dance the night away. Check out Kika (Honduras 5339) or Esperanto (Juan B. Justo 1625), and be ready to get down to some reggeaton or some awesome Lady Gaga cumbia remixes.


Johnny wants to know your favorite empanada/milanesa combination.  Let him know at [email protected].

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