Buenos Aires Day 2: Recoleta, Cafe San Juan & San Telmo

So late nights in Argentina usually mean late mornings. It took us a while to get ourselves up and out of the apartment, and into a cab on the way to Recoleta. Our first order of the day was to head to the cemetery and find Evita’s grave. Except before this, we needed coffee.

We got some coffees (cafe cortados, to be exact) to go from Havanna, (yes that’s 2 n’s ) which does coffees to go, in the strip of cafes and shops across from the cemetary. There’s also a random pair of red phonebooths from England.

Phone Booths in Recoleta, Buenos Aires

The cemetery at Recoleta is seriously one of the most interesting places I’ve been. It really is a small city of mausoleums that seems to go on forever.

Entrance to Recoleta Cemetery

Entrance to Recoleta Cemetery

The mausoleums range from beautiful to ordinary, to downright disturbing. Evita’s grave is somewhat austere compared to the others, specifically that of newspaper baron Paz.

 

 

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Grave of newspaper mogul Paz

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Evita’s Grave

After Recoleta, we headed to San Telmo to do some shopping and get lunch at 3pm at Café San Juan. I’d been told by many people how great it was, so I made sure to make a reservation earlier that morning for our late lunch. Thank goodness we did, because there were people waiting for an open table who didn’t have reservations, and even we had to wait 15 minutes for our table, although we had reserved.

It was 100% worth it. An amazing lunch awaited us: chorizo in red wine and 2 types of crostini/bruschetta for appetizers…

Bruschetta with Brie at Cafe San Juan
Bruschetta at Cafe San Juan

then three entrees between 4 of us: octopus, ribeye, and linguine. They were fantastic. We had no room for dessert, unfortunately, and even had to take a bunch of food home, even though we had 3 entrees between the 4 of us.

Pulpo at Cafe San Juan

After lunch, we shopped the antique markets and street vendors in San Telmo, bustling with activity and full of great deals for haggling enthusiasts.

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It was a Saturday, and so the big market was the next day, but it was still worth a visit no matter what.

Buenos Aires Day 1: Passport business & Palermo SoHo

Driving through the city from Retiro to Palermo, we passed a bunch of embassies and beautiful outdoor green areas.  I was staying in Palermo near the US Embassy, close to the Avenida de Libertadores and the zoo.

This was fortunate because my first order of business was to get more pages put into my passport at the American embassy. Apparently, there is a law in every country that says a customs/ border agent can deny you entry into a country if you have less than a certain number of pages in your passport blank for stamps. WTF, right? Read an example here: http://travel.latimes.com/articles/la-tr-spot9mar09

So, being an American can sometimes have its perks. Like strolling up to the embassy and realizing that the line down the street is for people who are NOT citizens, and the window for citizens has nobody waiting for it. So you bypass the line and go right on in. Score.

After paying my US $82 to get pieces of paper sewn into my passport that I had to pick up a few hours later, my #1 errand in BA was accomplished.

My new friends from Mendoza were arriving around 10pm that night and I knew the next day that we’d be going sight-seeing, so I didn’t do much. There was a great little café down the street where I got a quiche lorraine, salad and some mineral water called Voulez-Vous Café.  It’s on a corner with great outdoor dining. I sat against the wall on a pillow-covered banquette between two patrons working on their laptops. In fact, many people in the café had their laptops. This was strange to me, because I heard how dangerous BA can be at times and that you should be careful where you take your computer. But I guess since it’s a nice neighborhood and the clientele are fairly upper middle-class, porteños are comfortable here letting their guard down and Macbooks out.

After my friends arrived, we set out to the trendy neighborhood of Palermo SoHo in search of food. While we didn’t end up finding the restaurant we were trying to go to (damn you, Google maps and your wrong information!) we ended up eating at Romario‘s for pizza. A chain, it had a brick oven and the pizza was surprisingly good.

When we finished our pizza and beer we headed farther into the neighborhood of Palermo Viejo to Congo at Honduras 5329, an African-themed bar that was seriously cool. The back garden seems to go on forever, and the drinks were tasty.  For my first full day in Buenos Aires, it was a great end to a great day.

Taking the bus to Buenos Aires

Well, this post is only a few days late.  I am pretty sure this is something a lot of people who don’t live in Argentina don’t know about Argentina – you can take overnight buses that have accommodations extremely similar to a first-class section of an airplane.  There are several tour companies that provide this class of service, but I took the AndesMar bus from Mendoza to Buenos Aires and it was fantastic.

I booked my ticket earlier last week for leaving on Friday night and returning on Tuesday morning to Mendoza for $780 pesos. That’s roughly US $160, roundtrip.  The cheapest airfare I could find was US $360 roundtrip. My friends/coworkers convinced me to go a day earlier and helped me change my ticket. My friend called the bus company and asked if I could change my ticket, and he said yes but was all iffy about it, so we went immediately to the Terminal in Mendoza and went to the ticket office. The first chick we talked to said I had to change it online and couldn’t do it.

But my friend doesn’t take no for an answer, and I’m really glad she doesn’t. We went to another AndesMar office (yes there are several in the station) and she got the manager to change my ticket, no questions asked. I then had about 2 hours to pack for a weekend in BA (it was 430pm) and get back to the bus station with my stuff to leave at 7pm.

The bus ride to BA takes about 12-13 hours. You can choose to do this in a regular seat, or you can pay extra and spring for an Executive Suite. On some buses, the entire bus consists of Executive Suites (first class), and are double-decker buses. This was my bus. They have bathrooms and bars on board, with a bus attendant, televisions, radios, curtains and fully-reclining flat beds with pillows and blankets for your comfort. Sure, it may be way slower than flying, but if you’re not in a rush, why not be comfortable and even save a night or two in a hotel?

Comfy flat beds, plush leather and blankets? What’s not to love?!

You only need to arrive 10-15 mins before departure and give the guy standing next to the bus your bag to store underneath. He gives me a claim ticket and I get on the bus, finding my reserved seat. There’s a bag for your shoes that bungees to your armrest. Then we leave the station.

The bus attendant introduces themselves and we watch a safety video.

Then he hands out motherf*cking BINGO cards and I get to play Bingo! The prize being a bottle of wine.

The first movie starts. It’s in English (subtitled in Spanish) and it’s Grown Ups.

You get your meal served an hour later. But before the meal, you are offered wine and soda. Afterwards, you can have champagne, coffee or tea.  Anyone who knows me knows that I went for the wine and champagne. Non-alcoholic drinks are for plebes.

Another movie starts. This time in Spanish. I’ve lost interest, but amused that it features Kirk Cameron as the lead.

Bed goes back flat, curtains drawn. It’s sleeping time, biatches.

Wake up to honking like someone is having a baby and we’re in their way as they’re trying to get to the hospital. Turns out it’s just a traffic jam somewhere on the outskirts of BA. The sun is rising and we’re on a highway, but there are tons of buildings everywhere. This city is enormous.

We pull into Retiro station and park. It was cold and drizzling, but it was still so exciting to be in Buenos Aires that I didn’t care. I got my luggage (and the man really does check your claim ticket, which is a nice security measure) and wheeled it downstairs to the sign where it said to get a taxi. No line for a taxi. Yay!

Got in the cab, gave the driver the address and I was on my way to the apartment in Palermo. Cab driver was talking about Chuck Norris and the TV show Dallas, and I was just happy he understood my Spanish.

And so the Buenos Aires adventure began…