6/16/08

Argentina Travel Story08

Buenos Aires – Honeymoon Heaven for city lovers

There are so many features of Buenos Aires worthy of a mention. The passionate tango, delicious mouth watering steaks, world class wines, high quality accommodation, sun drenched weather and of course, who could fail to mention the remarkable exchange rate of five pesos to one euro. It’s a busy, bustling noisy city, (rated fourth nosiest in the world!) and six hours drive from a decent beach, but there are many safe havens, glorious distractions and jaw dropping sights that make it a magnificent honeymoon destination for any fun loving couple.

The city is divided into twelve main districts – some more tourist friendly than others! The most interesting barrios are San Telmo, Palermo Soho, Palermo Hollywood, Palermo Veijo and Recoletta and getting around is surprisingly easy and refreshingly cheap! Taxis are about a tenth of what we pay in Dublin so hail to your hearts delight and know that once you’ve your destination written clearly on a piece of paper, even the most inept Spanish speaker will feel free to travel the length and breadth of the city without a worry, or without breaking the bank.


Shopping – Even on honeymoon!
Serious shopping happens around Ave Santa Fe, one of the longest avenues you will ever walk! It’s dotted with fashion boutiques and Malls where the guys favour better than the girls both in selection and quality.
If you’re looking for a more relaxed style of shopping teamed with a late night ramble, hit fashion conscious Palermo. (Soho, Hollywood and Viejo) Prices are more ‘European’ here, but the quality is better and the shops are in such close proximity it’s easy to navigate, safe and chic. (Shops open til 10pm)

For window shopping and weekend markets San Telmo is the most vibrant and diverse and it’s main vein La Defensa, is reminiscent of Las Ramblas in Barcelona. It’s chock-full of antiques (though that term is used loosely!) vintage clothing and art galleries and buskers of all persuasions pose and perform along the cobbled streets. It’s vibrancy is a testament to the artistic, creative and resourceful core of the Argentinean people. If only Temple bar was as effervescent!
Stroll along the cobbled streets, buy fresh orange juice from street vendors and window shop. Marvel at all the spectacular oversized antiques (and wonder where they all came from!) and have some fun imagining a few of the most ostentatious chandeliers hanging in your hallway!
Vintage store El Buen Orden (Defensa 894) is worth a look if silk Victorian top hats, vast rails of 1950’s handbags interest you. Another impressive shop is Galleria (888 Defensa) mainly due to the wild and wonderful owner of the vintage clothing concession inside called Charlie Brown’s. Pay him a visit but be prepared, he just might keep you chatting for an age about Argentinean art, theatre and politics! Sometimes these kind of spontaneous chats are the most informative, giving you your own inside track to what’s at the heart of a city like Buenos Aires. So if you’ve time, indulge him and others who will often just start up a conversation with you simply because they notice you’re a tourist. It’s generally harmless and often very genuine. Taking all that on board, opportunist crime is everywhere and being mindful your belongings is essential in this city. I’d compare the level of attention required on a par with Barcelona. I was cautious, but not overly so and I’m happy to say I had a hassle free trip.

For helpful maps, details on all stores, bars and restaurants see www.welcomesantelmo.com

Where to stay: There’s an astounding array of accommodation in Buenos Aires and some wonderful honeymoon extras on offer. Palermo would be my preferred area but San Telmo, Recoletta and Las Cantitas all offer diverse accommodation along with a great selection of deluxe apartments to rent. (highly recommended for longer stays)
If you are determined to spend a night in the heart of the city known as ‘Downtown’ then consider Rooney’s Boutique Hotel Sarmiento 1775 3º Piso (CP1041) It’s one of the nicest around, with faux renaissance style rooms, free standing baths and antique chandeliers. Prices start from an unbelievable 100 USD plus vat. Top it off with the fact that it’s been opened by a lovely fella called Kieran Rooney from Belfast and his Argentinean wife Gabriella, it just felt right to stay there and support them in their brave endeavour. If you like listening to stories of young couples selling up, moving to a foreign land and investing everything into a new business (in their case a run down period building) then stay here and learn how to do it first hand. They’ll also set you up with some great tango lessons! www.rooneysboutiquehotel.com
Rooney's Boutique hotel , Sarmiento 1775 3º Piso (CP1041) ,Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Argentina.Te. / Fax (54-11) 5252-5060

Although not the grandest, or the most expensive hotel I stayed in, HOME Hotel, (Honduras 5860 Palermo Hollywood) was by far the most comfortable, enticing and exciting. With a list of investors as cool as the hotel itself (Nick Seymour from Crowded House and U2’s producer Flood for starters) HOME was destined for uber chic success from the get go. It’s a credit to owners Patricia O Shea (pr chick extraordinaire) and her DJ husband Tom Rixton who set up HOME in 2005. They’ve managed to make everything feel personalised and well thought out. I loved their unique breakfasts and my favourite touch was the ‘HOME sweet HOME’ message on the sugar sachets. The furniture is cool, designer vintage, but still comfortable and I had the best cocktails of my entire trip sitting at their little bar, over looking the ‘country garden’ & pool area. I have to add that HOME was the first hotel to give me that ‘giddy’ feeling, the one that makes you want to open the presses, check behind every door and bounce on the bed!
The pool side suite is one of the best I’ve seen and that includes comparisons from some five star hotels in Buenos Aires. You can enjoy the seclusion of your own private pool or join up with the rest of the guests in the main pool area. Their in house spa offers deluxe honeymoon specials like dual massage with champagne and a sandalwood and jasmine rose petal bath all in the comfort of your own room!
I tried to imagine who wouldn’t enjoy HOME and I could only think of couples who have their heart set on colonial style grandness with high ceilings and sweeping hallways. You don’t have that in HOME but what it lacks in space it makes up for in clever design. It’s cool – but don’t think it’s too cool for you! Read some reviews on line and take my advice, believe the hype!
Hotel HOME Buenos Aires, Honduras 5860 - Palermo Hollywood
(5411) 4778-1008 www.HOMEbuenosaires.com, info@HOMEbuenosaires.com
Pool side suite 335 USD with vat

For the ultimate in grandness try The Alvear Palace www.alvearpalace.com It’s all you d expect from a top 5 star hotel and is situated on the very swanky Alvear Ave. Recoletta. It’s so plush you’d think you’d have to re-mortgage the house to stay there but be prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

Tourist Must Do’s!
Let’s face it- Buenos Aires is a romantic city, not least because tango is a national, passionate pastime. Therefore, you may want to catch a live tango show and La Boca Tango, (Brandsen 923 La Boca ) just might be the most impressive on offer, not least because of its unique setting in a preserved La Boca street called a Conventillo (rows of authentic vintage houses, filled with ancient household items). It also houses an impressive velvet clad theatre, offering full dinner and a show for 80 USD. Collection and return to your hotel is also included, which is a blessing as La Boca neighbourhood is not the safest place to go for a stroll! Even if you don’t want to do dinner and a show, you can still visit the village during the day. BOCA TANGO Brandsen 923 www.bocatango.com

Or for something completely different, why not try the radical Café: Te Matate Ramierz. I didn’t attend this unique cabaret show myself, but I’ve checked out their impressive website and heard glowing reviews : ”The ambiance has an erotic theme but its not a sex show. It is somewhat romantic but not overwhelmingly so, more provocative than sexual. The food is great”
Café: Te Matate Ramierz, Aphrodisiac Restaurant with show – Jazz and Bossa
Gottiti 5054 Palermo www.tematareramirex.com


Recoleta Cemetery(At Plaza Francesa, Recoleta) is another great afternoon stroll. Buy a map from the pushy sellers outside because you’ll need it to navigate your way around what’s probably the most densely populated area of Buenos Aires (and probably the most expensive real estate!) Find the famous Irish hero s like Father Fahy (originally from Galway County) and the Duggan Family and of course visit Eva Peron’s tomb which is situated along side the rest of the deceased Argentinean who’s who!
Free entrance (map 4 pesos) www.recoletacemetery.com

Food Glorious Food.. a carnivore’s paradise…
I mentioned steaks in the first sentence and no matter what guide book you have, it’s sure to recommend La Cabrera (Cabrera y Thames Palermo Soho Ph 47774601) Expect huge portions of spectacularly cut steaks with more sauces and trimmings that you could possibly polish off for about 30 pesos. A good wine list great service and lots of outdoor seating make it a winner all round but be warned - it’s always busy so booking is essential.

If you miss a table in La Cabrera then all is not lost. I stumbled upon Lo de Jesus (Gurruchagaa 1406 Plaermo Viejo) only a few feet and it had great steaks, good wine and the best Morcilla imaginable.(Morcilla is a local delicacy of black puddings which is surprisingly delicious!) www.lodejesus.com.ar

On a final note, I would urge you not to believe everything you read in Time out or Lonely Planet as I was disappointed more than once after following their glowing restaurant reviews. Use them as a guide but not gospel! Admittedly, consistency is hard to monitor but keep in mind that the food is generally excellent so it’s unlikely that you re going to get it wrong more than once!
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FOOD
Here are a few more worthy mentions: Nica(Humboldt 2006 Palermo Hollywood ph 47720664) is recommended by HOME hotel, also Maat(Sucre 2168 Belgrano ph 48961818) for more up market deluxe dining. Sushi is big in BA so for one of many good quality places try Little Rose (Armenia 1672, bell 1 Palermo Soho ph 48339496)

SPA TREATMENTS:
There are many spas offering pedicures, botox, facials and massage. Expect to pay about 100 pesos for a one hour massage in the Evian Club and more if you are in your hotel. (HOME starts at 200 pesos)
Evian Aqua Club and spa
Cervino 3626
Palermo
Massage – 110 pesos
www.aguaclubspa.com

HAIR DRESSERS
There are many high street places that will charge you extra for just being a tourist. This is a safe haven and fabulous funky décor to boot:
Juan & Fin Pelos de Autor, Honduras 5174, Palermo ph48313015


GET CULTURED:
Museum Museo National de Bellas MNBA, Ave Figueroa Alcorta www.mnba.org.ar

GET CONNECTED:
Almost everywhere has wi fi with good connections. Internet cafes are plentiful and cheap (less than 1 euro per hr). A local sim for your phone is about 20 pesos so it might be an idea to buy two so you can save a fortune on texting each other!

GET SHOPPING
A few worthy mentions are Felix (Gurruchaga 1670, Palermo Soho) and Bolivia (Gurruchaga 1581) for men and Divia (Armenia 1498 Palermo Soho) for woman’s shoes.

IRISH ROOTS:
Don’t be surprised when you meet people called Lynch, Ganly and Kenny speaking English with Irish accents. I met a few in the Irish Embassy on St Patrick’s Day and discovered their accents came from learning English from their parents who were both Irish. It’s very cool to be Irish in Buenos Aires!

GET SPORTY:
You can do yoga classes in English or Spanish!
Valle Tierra Yoga Centre
Costa Rica 4562 info@vallerierra.com www.vallerierra.com


RENT AN APARTMENT:
www.stayingbuenosaires.com

GET AWAY
If you are going to take a short internal flight while you are there fly south, it’s the better part of Argentina. www.aerolineas.com.ar
Alternatively, just go 100 km outside Buenos Aires to any number of ranches that offer wonderful restful escapes from the city life.
See La Candelaria Polo Club for a great example of what ‘s on offer for a mini holiday within a holiday!
La Candelaria Polo Club02227-424404 / 494132Cel.: 02227-15503654eventos@estanciacandelaria.comwww.estanciacandelaria.com

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