Don't cry for me Argentina ...
So, after a whirlwind two weeks exploring Peru it was time for a new country and another culture. After some cancelled flights, reshuffling itineraries and a severe lack of sleep, we had finally arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina. We were completely shattered after our overnight flight and could think of nothing better to do for the morning, than to sleep for a couple hours to refresh ourselves. Unfortunately, due to our early arrival, our hotel room was not ready so we just had to push through the exhaustion. Flor, our local guide organised for us to have some breakfast in a local café, which was a little more like an English high tea with cakes, and small sandwiches but regardless it was delicious and hit the spot. Of course, coffee helped too. We wandered around the local area, making our way past the Obelisk on 9 de Julio Avenue and wandering down Florida street. Around midday we headed back to the hotel, hopeful of getting some shut eye and we were in luck. We spent the next few hours dead to the world, fast asleep in our room, before freshening up for an evening in San Telmo. After de-zombifying ourselves we regrouped and headed to the San Telmo district, the oldest neighbourhood in Buenos Aires. We started our evening in a local empanada café, where we all stood out like sore thumbs amongst the locals. We enjoyed traditional beef empanadas with local beer, the size of our heads whilst enjoying the atmosphere and ambience of the family-run café. The café we visited has been a family business for generations with the main chef being the owner’s grandmother, who everyday handmakes the empanadas. They were honestly the best empanadas I’ve ever had in my life, and I need to somehow get back there for more! After getting quite full we were off again to continue dinner, but at a different location. We walked through the barrio to a Parrilla (pronounced Pa-ri-sha) restaurant, known as the local steak house, serving incredible grilled meats. We continued to enjoy our evening in San Telmo with Malbec wine, great company and never ending grilled meats. If we weren’t already full after our empanadas, we were definitely bursting after our Parrilla dinner. But of course, when you walk past an ice cream shop on the way home, it would be rude not to stop wouldn’t it? There is always room for dessert, and somehow there was. We enjoyed a dulce de leche ice-cream, the popular creamy caramel treat in Latin America. Now at this point we were absolutely bursting, so we rolled ourselves all the way back to the hotel. Not really, but we did take a cab when we probably should have walked off all the food. Oh well.
Our next day in Argentina was a Sunday, the only day that hosts the San Telmo markets. We caught the metro to Plaza de Mayo and then followed the stall lined street of Defensa to the main market square. There were lots of unique trinkets and antiques at every stall, as well as tango dancers and local music to add a great atmosphere to the event. We enjoyed some more empanadas in the area, although at a different café to the previous evening. Unfortunately, they were nowhere near as good; the standard the previous night was just too high. After the mornings explorations, we headed north of the city to collect some bikes and ride around Palermo, Buenos Aires’ largest neighbourhood. We rode past the English Tower, the main train station, Floalis Generica, the winding residential streets of Palermo and Bosques de Palermo. The finished the bike tour with a brief cycle down 9 de Julio Avenue. Having a free afternoon to explore we headed to the shopping district of Florida street, where we didn’t have much luck with shopping and I had a near pickpocket incident. For our second evening in Buenos Aires we headed to a tango show, with a delicious dinner and included tango lesson. Of course, the Argentinian wine was flowing and the dinner was happily and quickly consumed. Argentinian food is beyond incredible, unless you’re a vegetarian, then Argentina might not be for you. As for the tango lesson, well it was interesting to say the least, but it was a good ol’ laugh. We headed out to experience the local nightlife, starting at a local craft beer bar before heading onto a local club. After hearing rave reviews about the Argentinian nightlife, we were a little disappointed. Where we ended up wasn’t too great, the music was quite average and the dance moves we saw were very questionable. It was an experience for sure, but one that was short lived. There was still so much more of Buenos Aires to see, and we had a coach tour of the city scheduled for the next morning. We visited La Recoleta Cemetery, where we visited the grave of Evita, as well as the colourful neighbourhood of La Boca, a highlight of mine. La Boca, literally meaning the mouth, was the original port of Buenos Aires, and remains to be a working-class neighbourhood regardless of the tourist hotspot it has become. Colourful shanty houses line the streets with numerous markets stalls located in the El Caminito area. We were advised not to wander too far off from this region, due to the area being unsafe, however this is not a vibe that we encountered at all during our visit.
In stark contrast to La Boca, one of the poorest neighbourhood of Argentina, we visited the nearby neighbourhood of Puerto Madero, one of the newest urban barrios. Before the end of the tour we stopped in a quite park and shared in an Argentinian cultural experience with our local guide. Flor told us about Mate (pronounced ma-t-eh), a traditional herbal drink made from dried yerba mate leaves and water of between 70 and 85 degrees Celsius. It is a social drink that is prepared but one individual and then shared with friends and family all using the same straw. We shared the local beverage within our group and also enjoyed Alfajores, an Argentinian biscuit filled with Dulce de Leche.
Our evening was looking to be exciting as we headed to The Argentine Experience, a dinner party with empanada making, traditional cuisine and local wine. It was an incredible evening and easily the best meal I ate in Argentina. Empanadas are super fun and surprisingly easy to make, and one day I will try and recreate them at home; key words … one day. We enjoyed a Malabeca cocktail whilst putting on our Empanada chef hats, and as quickly as we devoured the delicious cocktail, our wine glasses were filled with a delicious dry white wine. After making our empanadas and sending them off to the oven we were served a tapas style appetiser comprised of chorizo in onions and cider, freshly baked bread, grilled provolone cheese and salsa criolle. It was heavenly, I definitely ate more than my share, because well, everyone else was just too slow.
I even managed to find the chorizo recipe on their website, so I will definitely be making this on the regular. Once we, or really, I, devoured the appetiser, our empanadas were back from the oven and our wine glasses were empty. But without a second to waste we were served red wine in new glasses to be enjoyed with our own empanadas.
Although I still believe the granny in San Telmo made the best empanadas, ours were a very close second. We learnt how to order steak our way in Spanish and then enjoyed our perfectly cooked beef steaks with roast veggies and delicious red wine. You could say we were in food heaven!
But of course, we weren’t done … yet. Dessert was still coming. We enjoyed DIY alfajores and mate once more before entering our food comas and calling it a night. It was definitely one of the best nights on my trip! Yes, food is life and the key to my heart!
We had one more day to spend in Argentina and a group of us signed up for a local experience out of the city, A Day at the Polo. We drove out of the city to escape to the countryside, where we were met with empanadas and red wine; what else! We watched a game of polo and practiced our skills before getting up on the horses. Before playing the game ourselves, we enjoyed a delicious lunch, rivalling the incredible meal we had the previous night. The steak was cooked incredibly and paired with delicious salads and roasted vegetables. Game time! Well polo definitely looks easier than it is. I mean it’s probably easier if you’re confident riding a horse, but hey. My horse wasn’t really a fan of running around, rather he wanted to just observe and occasionally got involved. I definitely have a new appreciation for Polo and the complexity of the game.
After we finished our game we rode the horses around the property and then enjoyed some ice-cream and a swim in the pool before heading back into the city. After an intense but amazing few days in Buenos Aires, it had come to an end. Off to Iguassu Falls!