After a long, long bus ride across Chile and another across Argentina, I finally arrived at the less-than-glamorous Buenos Aires bus station, Retiro. I took a taxi and was immediately shocked at how expensive BA is compared to Salta! I made it to the Air B&B apartment we would be renting for the next three days and was met by Cynthia, our host. I had never done Air B&B before but my friend Kate had stayed in the same apartment and liked it, so I gave it a shot — highly recommended! It was amazing to have a ton of space to spread out, unpack and organize, cook, watch TV, and even do laundry! My mom arrived a few hours later from the international airport located an hour outside the city (and she made it by herself! So proud!). We relaxed for a little while and then set out to explore downtown Buenos Aires.
In addition to being shocked at how expensive BA is, I was reminded that I really don’t like it. Sorry, porteños. The city is just overwhelmingly large, it is hard to get anywhere quickly, downtown feels grungy and fairly unsafe, and most people are rude. Not even a little nice. Just rude. Sigh. The money exchange situation is also so sketchy in Buenos Aires but totally necessary. If you take pesos out of an ATM you get about 6.2 pesos to the dollar, but we were able to get 9.35 just exchanging on the street. That difference adds up quickly and even though there is a risk of fake bills and being robbed, if you speak Spanish and are smart about it you can change money successfully.
I was sad that this was my mom’s first impression of Argentina, but I think eventually we both found things we loved. Here are my top 6:
1. We went to the artisan market in the plaza near Retiro cemetery and bought lots of souvenirs for ourselves and our family members — it’s pretty authentic and the people selling things there actually made them — we both found that refreshing!
2. Buenos Aires has enormous old trees that flower in the spring and summer with pretty purple flowers, there is a lot of green space, and the architecture is quite lovely.
3. Palermo! We were happy to be staying in Palermo! It is definitely my favorite part of BA. I fell in love with the neighborhood and all of the little cafés and shops. We felt totally safe at night, it’s a great place to people watch, and everything (supermarket, metro, etc) is within walking distance.
4. We were also able to visit the Casa Rosada which was neat and something I hadn’t seen before. The tour was honestly horrible, they had no English tours available in the afternoon so I was translating the entire time, and the guide was boring. But we got to see the equivalent of the “Oval Office” which was very rare and interesting!
5. Food. We had several good meals in the city! I do not like the empanadas in Buenos Aires but we had some pizza that was to die for and several great pasta dishes. The Italian influence in Argentina is totally evident in their food 🙂
6. Tango. We were able to see tango in a plaza and it was cool to see that culture alive!
Other than that… I’ve got nothing. Chau, Buenos Aires!