Buenos Aires 1

The guy at the markets at Recoleta making John’s belt

 

Bon with a ‘bon bon’

22-25 December

Our day getting to Buenos Aires was a VERY long one. We left our digs in Cusco at 6:30am and didn’t arrive at our apartment in BA until about midnight. Our flight to Lima was all fine (even got the emergency exit row), but once in Lima where we were supposed to get our connecting flight, we discovered that our flight was cancelled due to a strike in BA (the plane didn’t come from BA, so was not there to turn around and go back!). We were put on a plane to Santiago, and had a connection there for BA. When we finally arrived at the apartment, Sam was patiently waiting on the front door stoop. We rang the number of the person who was supposed to be in the apartment to meet us, and he was literally just around the corner at a friend’s place. We signed our little lease, threw our stuff on the floor and went for a short walk to get water. It was well past midnight, but people were still out and about (some just finishing their dinner). Got to bed around 1:30am. Damned long day!

Nic and Sam buying supplies….I mean, groceries!

Sorry for the food neglect in the photos – here’s something sweet

Pretty cherubs guarding a balcony

First thing we did the next morning was visit one of the local bistro/cafés for a late breakfast. It was very nice sitting at the outdoor table under a gigantic and ancient Moreton Bay fig, eating a tomato sandwich for breakfast. It costs more to eat at the outdoor tables in BA. Makes sense – most pleasant out there. Second priority was grocery shopping. Stocked up on crisps, Argentinian wine, Verve for New Year’s Eve, cheese…oh, and some breakfast supplies!

One of the many lovely monuments in Buenos Aires

No pressure, Sam, just try on the cream leather jacket!

Murals galore!

Our next focus was finding a nice restaurant for Christmas lunch. We checked our trusty guide books and found ‘Orviedo’ which was a relatively short distance from our flat. We locked it in and went shopping. La Florida is the shopping street to visit in Buenos Aires. Yes, it is overcrowded with tourists and locals and lined with hawkers and is a bit intense, but we had to experience it. Sam found some amazing lizard skinned shoes (but resisted the stunning Grace Kelly-esque handbag to match), John drooled over a linen jacket and ‘Homer-Simpson-as-Che-Guevara’ T-shirt, and Nic drooled over…well…EVERYTHING! Leather and stylish clothes abounded, not to mention the national delicacy of ‘alfajordes’ (pronounced ‘alfa-whor-es’) – scrumptious cookie sandwiches with dulce de leche (caramel) in the middle, covered in chocolate…bliss! We were made many lovely offers on a variety of leather jackets, but we weren’t ready to commit, just yet, so we just toyed with them…’maybe mañana.’

There is gorgeous architecture like this all over Buenos Aires

The stunning Swarovski Christmas tree

While shopping, we also secured our treat for New Year’s Eve. We booked in for a dinner and tango show, complete with NYE party afterwards. It was definitely aimed at tourists, but we didn’t care – we wanted to experience both the tourist ‘cena’ shows, and a locally visited ‘milonga’ as well (more details to follow). Enjoyed a few moments watching some street tango performances – can EVERYONE in Buenos Aires dance??

Catering to the tourist market

The dome of the National Congress building

After our shopping expedition, we visited the Cheese Room at the Park Hyatt Hotel. Now, this divine establishment was fully booked for the evening, but they allowed us to indulge in their delicacies, reclining in comfy leather lounges in the dining room, instead. Which we did. The staff was as divine as the establishment – Sebastian, the Maitre D’, Maria Belen, the Cheese Maitre D’, Adriana, the Deputy Sommelier, and Federico, the chef, were all top-shelf. Yes, we are on first name bases with these people because this visit was not to be our last! After soaking our brains in seven different Argentinian cheeses (of the 35 on offer…and a mighty fine pinot noir from Patagonia), we booked into the restaurant, ‘Duhau,’ for Christmas Eve dinner. In Argentina, the focus on the celebrations at this time of year is Christmas Eve, so we got with the program and slotted it in – 6 courses with matching wine. NOW we’re talking!

Pretty light – it’s impossible to tire of this architecture!

Intense, studious statue

Our cheese tasting only took us 3 hours! There was none of this piddling smidgeon of a taste for each of us – honking great slabs of dairy were melting on a platter before us. Extraordinary flavours from another planet. And we savoured every…single…mouthful! So much for thinking of this as an arvo snack – it definitely became dinner (especially since we didn’t roll out of there till nearly 10pm!).
The only thing to do after a day like this was to come back to our tiny flat and watch Love Actually – which is what we do every Christmas! ‘Yay’ for cable!

Ready for Christmas Eve – bring it on!

Christmas Eve was very special. Our day began in a very civilised way with a sleep in, followed by a nice walk along Avenida del May, admiring the gorgeous architecture and historical places of note – cafés where famous writers smoked their cigarettes, and dance halls where the tango was first danced. We admired the Hotel Castelar where Spanish novelist and playwright Federico Garcia Lorco lodged (second year Theatre Nepean throwback moment!).

Ahhh….my precious!

Interesting graffiti

As the days have been quite hot (like ‘Penrith-hot!’), we headed back to the flat for a siesta (which quickly became our daily routine) before showering and glamming up for our posh dinner. Looking mighty fine, we walked the couple of blocks to the Park Hyatt and had one of the most wonderful Christmas Eves in memory. Chef, Federico, took much time out to chat to us regularly in the dining room. He even gave us extra wine, one of his favourites, which knocked our socks off. Have no idea what it was – but there is SO MUCH great wine in Argentina. We do remember that it was unique to the region, white, dry, but fruity – basically, bliss! Sam and Nic asked for vegetarian options in the courses, and were gob-smacked at the truly magical, melt-in-your-mouth grilled salmon. John had Argentinian beef. Oh…my…God! We both agreed to go ‘halvies’ and, yes, all of the stories are true – Argentinian beef will turn a vegetarian to carne! It was phenomenally delicious! We haven’t strayed since then – we could never eat anything of an inferior quality to this, so why bother? John says, the truffle sauce was like a fuse on a bomb!

Park Hyatt dining room – Pumpkin brulee entree…O…M…G!

…And dessert!

At midnight, we went onto the terrace to watch the fireworks, but couldn’t actually see any because of the lovely big trees shading the garden. We spent the rest of the evening miming our way through a conversation with an Italian man and his gorgeous Argentinian wife. Much fun. Walked home and slept like the dead!

The girls outside the Park Hyatt, Buenos Aires

About bontaks

Nic is the the ‘Bon’ part of ‘Bontaks.’ Together we are Nic and John – two travel-addicted teachers who enjoy every opportunity to go places, meet people and experience life.

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