Archive for the Argentina Category

Chubut Province – Comodoro Rivadavia

Posted in Argentina, Chubut Province, Comodoro Rivadavia with tags , , , , on November 19, 2015 by gannet39

I arrived in Comodoro Rivadavia after a five and a half hour bus trip from Trelew across the featureless Chubut landscape with not a hill in sight. It’s one of the most uneventful journeys I’ve ever made in terms of landscape (marginally more interesting from the air) but at least I got to write up large chunks of the blog in my comfy coach seat.

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Here’s my Google map with all the places mentioned and more I didn’t get to.

This was my second time in Comodoro (the first in 2004 and now again in 2014) and a lot had changed in the years between. It’s an oil town on the coast, the site of Argentina’s first major oil discovery back in 1907 and producer of about a third of the country’s current output, but other than that it has little going for it. If it weren’t for the oil there’d be no reason to be here.

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The centre is now dominated by tall buildings where there were only squat one or two-storey structures before. Lots of bland estates were also being built in the outskirts so it’s definitely expanding though I’d hate to live here myself.

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The first time I came I stayed at the Luciano Palazzo at 676 Moreno www.lucania-palazzo.com which was an oasis of opulence in the centre of a rough looking town. Now their prices have skyrocketed and my employer has been forced to use the Austral just over the road at 190 Rivadavia, entrance on Moreno, www.australhotel.com.ar.

The Austral is also relatively posh and expensive although I swapped two horrible little rooms (space only around the bed and no curtains) until I gradually traded up to a ridiculously large five-room suite with a sea view for the last two nights, courtesy of my employer.

Tunet, the hotel restaurant, is the best in town, according to Trip Advisor and the local teachers I worked with, but it was closed for renovations when I was there.

The best parrilla would seem to be La Tradicion at 675 Mitre (Tel. 446 5800). I had two very good meals here in the three days I stayed. It’s a formal restaurant of the type you usually find in Baires with waiters in white shirts and waistcoats.

If you can, try to get the old boy (thin chap, balding with salt and pepper hair and a gaucho moustache) who really knows his stuff (all the other waiters go to him for wine advice). His domain is the right corner of the restaurant as you go in, at the kitchen end. The waiters have their work cut out for them here but I wasn’t too impressed with the second guy I got.

On the first occasion he recommended the famous Patagonian lamb, Cordero Patagonico (B+) with an Ensalada Tradicion; lettuce, tomato and onion (B) and chunky Papas Fritas (B+). The lamb was a bit overcooked but that was my fault as I hadn’t specified ‘poco hecho’.

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To go with it an excellent (B+) bottle of 2012 Cab Sauv called ‘Trumpeter’ from Rutini www.rutiniwines.com, one of the best wine producers in my opinion.

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I finished with a decadent dessert and a glass of ‘licor nacional’ Reserva de San Juan cognac (B). The bill came to $600 with the tip, about £30, which was pricey but worth it for me.

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The second time I remembered to order a rare Bife de Chorizo (A) and had it with salad and chips again.

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With this a bottle of Malbec (Newen 2013 by Del Fin del Mundo), again very good (B+).

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I had to finish with something sweet again after this feast and ordered a Panaqueque de Dulce de Leche which hit the spot (B+) but was very expensive at $88 for a single pancake. The final bill came to $436 (£24), which was much cheaper than last time, mainly because I didn’t tip the inattentive waiter.

So a pricey place but with very good quality food that is otherwise hard to find in this town.

The only other place I ate at on this trip was Cayo Coco, around the block from the hotel at Rivadavia 102 and is TA#6 at the time of writing. It’s an informal pasta and pizza joint, both of which I avoid like the plague in Argentina. Instead I made the mistake of going for the ‘breaded langoustines’ after a positive review on TA (when will I ever learn?) but they were most likely out of a bag and were pretty horrible (C) though I finished them due to hunger.

With my waistline in mind I had the Ensalada Caya Coca with extra tuna after that. It was ok (B-) but nothing to write home about, although I am. The best thing was a good (B) Torrontes from Etchart Privado. The total bill was $300 including tip, about £16.

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Afterwards I had an average (B-) Augusta Cognac at Molly Malone at 292 San Martin It bears no resemblance to the stereotype of an Irish pub but was fine for a night cap.

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I was only here for 3 nights so can’t tell you much more. I considered climbing Chenque Hill for a view of the town and Argentina’s largest wind farm, or visiting the Museo del Petreleo in the General Mosconi neighbourhood (a taxi ride away), but tiredness/laziness took over and I never made it to either.

And this was my last stop on my 2014 Argentina tour! Flight back to Baires and then home for Xmas.

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Chubut Province – Tea and Cakes in Gaiman

Posted in Argentina, Chubut Province, Gaiman with tags , on November 18, 2015 by gannet39

I had a day off so I hopped on the bus to Gaiman, just thirty minutes away from Trelew. It’s a small Welsh town that has somehow found itself plonked next to the River Chubut in central Argentina. Signs of Welshness are everywhere.

Lady Di (or Lady Dee to the Argentinians) came here in 1995 to take tea at one of the several tearooms that dot the town. I was on a similar mission as I hadn’t had a decent brew for over a month. I arrived too early in the day though and most places were shut so I just wandered around for a while.

The town seems to be in quite an idyllic spot next to the river, surrounded by low hills of harsh steppe.

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The first thing a visitor should do is go to the Tourist Info on Belgrano, on the corner of Rivadavia where they will furnish you with a map of the town’s mildly interesting historical buildings, most of which, like the tearooms, are only open after 1 or 2pm. You can find it on my Google map.

Near the Tourist Office is a small tunnel that the Chubut railway used to go through but which is now a short cut for pedestrians to get to the other side of the hill.

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The railway finally reached Gaiman in 1914, thirty years after Trelew had been founded as a railway junction to connect the Chubut valley with the Golfo Nuevo. The old station is now the local museum.

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Unless you’re really interested in the heritage and want to visit all the buildings open to the public (entrance usually about $10/15, a pound or so, for each) you could probably see the town in a couple of hours.

I walked around and took a few snaps of the cottages and other Welsh buildings like the old school.

There were a couple of nice examples of Deco too.

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I also found a fruit and veg shop on the corner of J.C.Evans and Avenida Yrigoyen where the nice lady sold me half a kilo of these fantastic cherries.

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Finally I climbed the hill to get a view of the town.

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After all that it was time for tea. There are several ‘Casas de Te’ to choose from.

I opted for Ty Gwyn on 9 de Julio which is the Lonely Planet top pick. It’s a little oasis of Welshness with harps and lovespoons as decorative items. I had the place to myself for a while until a coach party of middle aged ladies joined me.

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I was served an excellent tea with cream cakes, scones and jam sandwiches for about £7 or so. It was heaven to get a decent cuppa after such a long time without, and the slice of custard tart (bottom left on the plate) was so good it nearly brought tears to my eyes (A+). Must find a recipe for it…

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Mission accomplished, I left a happy man.

You can catch the bus back to Trelew from the corner of the small park on Avenida Eugenio Tello. Tickets are available from the kiosk (sweet shop) with the blue front a few of doors along from the park. The bus company is called 28 de Julio and you’ll need to put credit ($12 per one way journey) on the card you got at their ticket window back in the bus station in Trelew. Keep the paper ticket too though as it is this that will be inspected.

While not the most exciting experience, it was an interesting day trip that really makes you think about what it was like to be an immigrant so far from home.

Nowadays it seems very little Welsh is spoken, mainly due to the government making Spanish compulsory in all schools in the 70s, but my ‘bore da’ raised a few smiles, possibly because I’d got the wrong time of day (it means ‘good morning’ in Welsh). The British Council does run Welsh language programs and student exchanges in the region so the culture lives on somewhat artificially.

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Chubut Province – Trelew – Places to Eat & Drink

Posted in Argentina, Chubut Province, Trelew with tags , , , , , , on November 17, 2015 by gannet39

Please see my previous post for things to see and do in Trelew.

Here’s a Google map with all the places mentioned, and more.

My best meal in Trelew was at La Casona (Intermediate B) on Lewis Jones street 155, opposite Plaza Centenario. It’s a parrilla that the hotel receptionist directed me to after I discovered that El Viejo Molino (Lonely Planet’s top pick) had closed down. I kicked off with a couple of favourites (B+).

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Patagonia is famous for its lamb and the chops I had here weren’t very photogenic but they didn’t need to be (B+). I was there for Sunday lunch and they have an all-you-can-eat parrillada, which I’m sure is fine, but I really wanted a change from beef.

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The bottle of 2013 Malbec ‘Altos de Plata’, recommended by the gruff but polite owner, was very good too (B+) as was the glass of Dulce Cosecha by Trapiche (B) I had with my (forgotten) dessert. My bill came to $495, about £35.

The only other place I would recommend is the historic Hotel Touring Club at 240 Avenida Fontana. It was Patagonia’s fanciest hotel when it was built in 1896, although you wouldn’t think that now.

The hotel rooms aren’t particularly nice according to Lonely Planet but there’s a huge old bar room that’s open to the public.

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I popped in for a glass of Reserva de San Juan cognac (B) and to look at the black and white photos of Trelew in the last century that cover the walls.

Apparently Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid stayed here once in 1901 when they were on the run. You can see Cassidy’s room but I doubt if the contents were really his.

Places I went to and didn’t particularly like:

In the same building as the beautiful Spanish theatre at 247 25 de Mayo is Sugar (Intermediate C), which at the time I went was the Trip Advisor #1 restaurant in Trelew. However that doesn’t mean much in a town whose culinary landscape is as bleak as the steppes that surround it. I don’t even usually look at TA but that shows how desperate I was.

I got great service but the Thali de Cordero I had (desperately seeking a change from bland Argentine food and hoping for a taste of home, thanks to a positive TA review) was kind of edible but I just couldn’t finish it. I wasn’t keen on the weird ‘rice’ and defrosted mini chapattis that came with it either (all C-/D). The strange addition of fresh bean sprouts on the top of the rice made me wonder about the chef’s knowledge of food geography.

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The soggy Manzana Tatin (apple pie) with a scoop of Dulce de Leche ice cream (usually a favourite) also failed to satisfy (C). With a Quilmes beer the bill came to a cheap $224. You might have better luck if you stick to local dishes.

Le Petit (Intermediate C), the TA#2 at Moreno 445 (open Monday, hallelujah!) isn’t much better. Their star dish was basically a meat sandwich of overcooked Bife de Chorizo containing sun-dried tomatoes, pancetta and cheese. Yet again I couldn’t finish it.

The recommended red was drinkable enough though (B-). With a couple of mediocre limoncellos (C) my bill came to a paltry $234, or £24. The service was pleasant enough and the surroundings are ok and it seems very popular at the weekends. Again, you might fare better with different choices.

Miguel Angel (Intermediate C) at Avenida Fontana 246 (TA#3, LP and teacher recommended, closed Monday) had similarly pleasant service and décor but the Milanesa and salad I had were unimpressive (C). The bottle of Malbec, Postales del Fin del Mundo was ok (B). The bill came to $228. It’s handy for Hotel Touring Club which is right next door.

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Places I didn’t get to try:

I did walk past La Bodeguita (TA#5 at Belgrano 374) but its harsh lighting and an unfavourable review put me off.  LP also recommends El Quijote, a parrilla at Belgrano 361, and Venezia bakery and heladeria at 25 de Mayo 21, and for drinking Margarita Bar at Fontana 230 and San Javier at San Martin 57. They might be good places but somehow I doubt it…

Accommodation:

I spent one night at the Residencial Rivadavia (a hostel at Rivadavia 55) in a cramped room with basic shower facilities and intermittent wi-fi. The ladies working there were nice enough but I didn’t like the young guy who is the night porter. Maybe he needs to get more sleep because he was miserable as sin when I was there. Breakfast involves a bland coffee and a couple of medialunas (Argentinean croissants). Continue reading

Chubut Province – Trelew – Stuff to See

Posted in Argentina, Chubut Province, Trelew with tags , , , , , , on November 17, 2015 by gannet39

With a population around 100,000, Trelew is the second largest urban area in the province of Chubut, after Comodoro Rivadavia.

It’s the principal town in the area settled by Welsh immigrants in 1865, They were escaping an economic depression and religious persecution at home and were hoping to set up ideal religious communities in the hostile landscape of the Patagonian steppes.

Their early years here were pretty hard by all accounts and they would have starved if they hadn’t been saved by the local Indians who gave them food.

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The name of the town is pronounced tre-ley-ooh in Spanish, the ‘tre’ part meaning ‘town’ in Welsh and ‘lew’ being short for Lewis Jones, its founding father.

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Nowadays there isn’t that much evidence of the town’s Welsh heritage. To experience that you’d be better off hopping on the bus to neighbouring Gaiman (see my Gaiman post).

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Trelew is a jump off point for tourists going to see the nature of the Valdes Peninsula, or the penguin colony at Punto Tumbo, or whale-watching at Porto Madryn.

I’m not really a believer in paying a tour operator a large chunk of cash to go and harass some local wildlife but I do regret not jumping on the bus to Porto Madryn, as a friend did, to sit on the cliff tops and watch the whales in the bay. Or maybe see the odd Orca intentionally beaching themselves to snack on a seal as they do in the documentaries.

It was a long bus ride there though and I needed to take it easy in preparation for a full day’s work the following morning. Damn job gets in the way all the time.

 

However I did make it to the Museo Palenontologico at Fontana 140 (entrance $140 for foreigners in 2014), which is famous for its dinosaur exhibition, thanks to the rich fossil deposits near Gaiman.

Particularly impressive is the large skeleton of a Titanosaurus in the front entrance which I think is the largest carnivorous dinosaur ever found in South America.

As usual, please click on any these photos for a better view.

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There are lots more skeletons of all kinds of pre-historic creatures inside but the dinos, such as the sauropods Tehuelchesaurus and Patagosaurus, are the most remarkable.

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It’s also a natural history museum and there were a few, more recent skeletons. I’m guessing these were a dolphin and a seal.

It’s a modern museum and all the exhibits are well presented. It would have been nice to have a few more of the explanatory texts in English, but there were a few.

I timed my visit well as the strong gale that arrived out of nowhere, just as I entered the museum, had blown itself out when I emerged into the sunshine again two hours later. The Patagonian weather is notoriously changeable but it seems these mini storms blow themselves out pretty quickly. It’s best to come prepared though, especially if you do decide to go on a boat trip.

The only other thing I saw that was of interest was this huge political mural called ‘El Transporte‘ by Ramon Cura, on the corner of Fontana and Gales.

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Other than these activities, there’s very little to see or do in Trelew itself. In terms of architecture there are a couple of pieces of unloved Art Deco along Avenida Fontana but the nicest thing for me was the old bandstand in Plaza Independencia and the colonial architecture of the Spanish theatre that faces it.

Salta – Places to Eat

Posted in Argentina, Salta, Salta Province with tags , , , , , , , on November 16, 2015 by gannet39

Please see the previous post for things to see and do in Salta. Here’s my Google map showing all the places mentioned. Please click on the place marks for more info.

Salta is famous for its empanadas and as I was under orders from my friend Anthea in BsAs to procure her some, I set out to find the best Empanadas Salteneos in town.

A good starting point according to my web searches was El Patio de la Empanada, on Avenida San Martin on the corner with Esteco.

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The patio is a collection of seven vendors, each with a numbered stall, grouped around a pleasant courtyard filled with sun umbrellas and tables covered in brightly coloured cloths.

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I managed to sample the wares of four of them, slaking my thirst on a very hot day with chilled bottles of Salta lager (B) at each stop. Here are the results:

At Vendor 7 I began with the classic Empanada de Carne (minced beef) and the also very common Empanada de Pollo (chicken), both of which were deep fried as opposed to being baked, the more delicious option in my opinion, especially doused with tomato salsa, flavoured with salt and aji chilli. They were the best I’d ever tasted (A+ and A respectively), which was a promising start. I wasn’t keen on the unsmiling lady who ran the place though as she tried to overcharge me, albeit just a few pesos.

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I liked the people at Vendor 5 much more and their Empanada Charqui (dried beef) and Empanada Picada a Cuchillo (diced beef as opposed to mince) were also excellent (A and A+).

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Next at Vendor 2 I sampled the Empanada de Arabes (a special spice mix) and the Empanada de Matambre (a specific beef cut), opting for the baked versions for a change (both A).

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Finally at Vendor 3 I had a fried Empanada de Carne and an Empanada de Queso (cheese) also very tasty (A- and A) if a bit hollow. The Arabes won it for me though and I came back on my last day for a half dozen (along with three Carnes and three Matambres) to take back to Anthea, to much acclaim.

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It was quite a pleasant way to spend a hot sunny afternoon, watching the funky vehicles passing on the street out of the door and fending off knife and baby guitar sellers. There were a few musicians amongst the clientele who seemed to be writing songs over lunch and would burst into song every now and then.

This place also came up in web searches and local recommendations as a good spot to eat Empanadas Salteneos:

La Criollita (Intermediate B), 306 Zuviria, Tel. 431 7342

I was first brought for lunch here by the local teacher I was working with. The restaurant specialises in local foods and we had the classic trio of baked Empanadas Carne, Pollo and Queso, all excellent again of course (A).

I came back one evening and tried a couple of the classics of Andean cuisine; Tamales (maize flour shells filled with Charqui dried meat) and Humitas (mashed maize), both of which are steamed in little parcels made of maize husks. They were fine but not something I’d go wild for (B).

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I also had Locro, the famous Andean stew which the menu said was made of sausage but in fact had chunks of beef and rings of intestine instead. Again it was ok but I wouldn’t have it here again (C+) although I’ve had other versions elsewhere that I’ve enjoyed.

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The local Nanni red wine was similarly unremarkable (C+) as was the well-known dessert Quesillos con Miel de Cana (thin slices of tasteless cheese in sugar syrup (not honey despite the name). This all came to a very cheap $259.

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I wanted to give Andean cuisine a proper try though, so I went to this more upmarket place on another evening:

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Restaurante Jose Balcarce (Advanced C), 912 Mitre, on the corner with Neochea

Things started well with the Llama Carpaccio, which involved wafer thin slices of the rich red meat piled high with curly lettuce leaves and an oil dressing. It was ok (B) but the taste of the meat didn’t really make it through the other flavours on the plate.

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Next I went for the Pejerrey, a sea fish used in Andean cuisine, battered and fried and served with a small maize and goat cheese ‘pie’, and a cauliflower puree. I sent it back though (D) as the fish was very dry, the pie was singed and the unpureed cauliflower just tasted horrible.

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My young Glaswegian waiter (!) was very apologetic though and asked that I wait while the owner (also a chef) taught the kitchen staff to make the dish again properly so that I could taste how it should be. The results were much better and I enjoyed it a lot more although I still found the fish quite dry and the sweetness of the corn wasn’t a good marriage with everything else on the plate (C+).

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The local white Piatelli Torrontes I drank with the food was ok (B) but not as good as others I’d had. Total cost $349, not too bad I suppose.

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After these disappointments I needed to eat well to restore my good humour and as usual it was a parrilla that did it:

La Monumental (Intermediate A), 202 Entre Rios

Don’t confuse it with the big restaurant with the same name that’s on the other side of the road.

I like this place so much that I came here three times in four days! I even got on first name terms with my friendly young waiter Fernando as we practised our rudimentary knowledge of each other’s languages on each other.

To start you always get a few little dishes of accompaniments; black beans, butter beans in a sauce, mayo flavoured with a local herb , stewed aubergine and coleslaw, which are all ok but nothing special (B for the beans, C for the rest). You won’t get Chimichurri or Provencal sauce in this region.

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I came hungering for meat in large amounts and asked for a parrillada for one, but the waiter flatly refused to accept my order as it was too much! (I’d confused the restaurant with Viejo Jack, another parrilla recommended by Lonely Planet where a parrillada for one is allowable but rejected by the local teacher who’d two bad experiences there). At Monumental the parrillada (only $202) is meant to be for two people so to assuage the waiter I enlisted the help of Martin, a passing German tourist from Munich.

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The parrillada involved chorizo, morcilla, butifarra (a Catalan sausage), mollejas (sweetbreads), chinchulines (small intestines), corazon (heart), ubre (udder) and indeterminate steak. Despite Martin’s assistance though there were still a few leftovers due to the enormity of the task.

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My favourite from the parrillada was the Chinchulines (intestines), so I had a whole plate of them to start on my second visit.

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They were still great but oversalted and too numerous to finish (B).

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To follow I had the huge Churassco de Filet (A-) which I asked them to butterfly as I wanted it rare.

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On another occasion I had the equally large Bife de Chorizo (sirloin) with chips and an Ensalada Tradicion (lettuce, tomato, white onion) (B+). Both these steaks were recommended by my teacher friend.

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In terms of wine, on the teacher’s recommendation, I tried the 2013 Don David Malbec (B) www.elesteco.com.ar , and the San Pedro de Yacochuya (A-) yacochuya.com.ar , the latter a bit pricey at $320.

My favourite wine here however was a fantastic 2007 Laborum Malbec (A) www.elporvenirdecafayate.com which was around $200 I think.

Acqui Me Quedo Yo (Intermediate A), 421 Santiago del Estero, Tel. 471 4901

This was a favourite lunch spot for me and my teacher colleague as they serve healthful salads made with super fresh ingredients (B+). I also really enjoyed their corn pie (A) which was like a cottage pie but made with mashed maize rather than potato.

They are open all day 07.30 to 24:00 Monday to Thursday, 07:30 to 13:00 Friday, 09:00 to 13:00 Saturday and 11:30 to 15:30 on Sunday. It might potentially be a good spot for vegetarians.

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At the weekend the top end of Balcarce is the place to be, with all the restaurants opening up their pavement terraces, including…

Café del Tiempo (Intermediate B), 901 Balcarce, Tel. 432 0771

I quite like the old world ambience of this place, but not the small shot glass ($40) of very strange tasting ‘El Abuelo’ Limoncello (C). Not sure what the food is like although the teacher said it’s best for emapanadas.

La Estacion Bebidas, 983 Balcarce

The biggest wine shop in town, so in theory a good place to come to look for local wines. However they didn’t have the ones I wanted as they only carry recent years it seems. It’s the same business as the restaurant of the same name just down the street which is a LP recommend, although I didn’t like the impersonal feel and expensive wine list.

Well I hope I weeded out the bad places and dishes for you! There are lots of restaurants I didn’t try on my Google map above.

Salta – Things to See and Do

Posted in Argentina, Salta, Salta Province with tags , , , , , on November 16, 2015 by gannet39

Please see the next post for places to eat in Salta.

On November 10th 2014 I took a two hour flight from BsAs to Salta. It was my second time in this small north western city and I got a warm welcome.

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When I first came in 2004 I didn’t get to see much as I was trying to write up my MA thesis at the time and spent most evenings in the hotel. Unfortunately the same was true this time as I was working every day of the five days I was there, and rain stopped me doing very much on a couple of evenings. So, as ever, please don’t consider this an exhaustive guide, it’s just a brief sample.

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This time however I did manage to get to the Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montanas (MAAM), at 77 Mitre in the central square, Plaza 9 de Julio (open 11:00 to 19:30, closed Monday). Entry for foreigners was $40 in 2014.

The museum is the home of the famous mummies, the Children of Llullaillaco, three young children who were sacrificed to the Inca gods 500 hundred years ago. Although in an incredible state of preservation, only one mummy is shown at a time and they are swapped around once every 6 months. By displaying exhumed bodies of indigenous Indians the exhibition has generated a lot of controversy but it does bring in the tourist dollars for the city.

The glass of the display case was covered in fingerprints when I went and you actually get a better view by watching the video showing in the next room. Generally it’s quite a basic museum and once you’ve seen the mummy there’s not a lot else of interest, unless you’re interested in Inca sandal making. A lot of the displays have Spanish explanations only. It’s something to do for an hour or so though.

Just along from the museum is the Centro Cultural America. The French style building is quite nice (built in 1916 I think) and they had an exhibition of cartoons and some quirky artworks on the ground floor, although technically it’s not a museum or gallery.

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There are a few other quirky buildings with unusual features around Plaza 9 de Julio.

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The most striking though is the bright pink confection of the cathedral in the main square. It had recently been repainted when I was there and this was the original colour according to the renovators.

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Another gaudily painted church is Iglesia la Viña at 485 Alberdi, five blocks south of Plaza 9 de Junio.

There’s a few other bits of colonial architecture around.

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Just a block away from my hotel was the police headquarters at 750 General Guemes which looked like a small fort, perhaps for good reason.

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Opposite is a pleasant park, Plaza General Manuel Belgrano, with a broken ornamental fountain.

I only saw one bit of Art Deco, the San Juan shopping centre on Calle Alberdi.

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And then there was this purple oddity on Avenida San Martin.

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I also found it quite interesting to walk around the central market at Avenida San Martin. It’s a hive of activity in the mornings (08:00 to 14:00) but due to work I could only get to after the siesta at 17:30 (closes at 22:00) when it seemed much quieter. There are displays of unusual spices and herbs to see, including big sacks of coca leaves.

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I picked up a bottle of Miel de Cana Azucar from the market to take home. Despite the name it isn’t honey but sugar cane syrup, a local speciality. There are lots of other sweet things in bottles you could get like Dulce de Coyote, a local Andean fruit that is often eaten with walnuts for dessert.

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I was staying at the Ayres de Salta Hotel which is okay but nothing special. The view from the roof is great. The nearest supermarket to the hotel is at 459 Mitre.

If I’d had more time I would have liked to take the cable car up San Bernardo hill for a nice view of the city, or even better, take the ‘Tren a las Nubes’ (Train to the Clouds) to the Chilean border with spectacular views of the Andes along the way. The train leaves Salta every Saturday at 07.05 and gets back at 24.00. It takes 8 hours one way on the train so many people return by road.

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Buenos Aires – La Boca

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, La Boca with tags on November 14, 2015 by gannet39

La Boca and San Telmo are the oldest barrios in Buenos Aires, and the birthplace of tango.

La Boca, the port area, was populated by Italian, and in particular Genoese, immigrants. For this reason fans of Boca Juniors, the football club the immigrants founded, are known as ‘Los Xeneizes’.

Some say that La Boca got its name from a part of Genoa called Boccadasse (I’ve been there, see my post). In both cases ‘la boca’ refers to ‘the mouth’ of a river.

The area has a militant political history as well. In 1882 after a General Strike, the barrio seceded from Argentina and formed the ‘República Independiente de La Boca’ over which they raised the Genoese flag (the St. George cross), until the revolt was put down by the President Roca and his army.

In 1904 the barrio elected the first Socialist member of the national congress and in 2001 it was the scene of big demonstrations over the economic crisis.

The neighbourhood is famous for its brightly-painted multicoloured houses. The story goes that this came about because the inhabitants were using up leftovers from painting the ships in port. This paint would quickly run out so they had to use another colour, or several colours, to finish the house.

On my last night in Buenos Aires in 2014 I went out with a group of friends to this famous restaurant in the neighbourhood.

El Obrero (Intermediate A), 64 Agustín R. Caffarena

This is a down-to-earth parrilla (El Obrero means ‘The Worker’) that has heaps of character, a must do in my opinion.

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The walls of the restaurant are covered with football scarves, pennants, posters and pictures, including some choice ones of local hero Maradona.

We kicked off with some Calamari rings and grilled Proveleta, both of which were fine (B).

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As it was my going away do, I got to have a platter of offal; sweetbreads, liver and kidneys (all B), although my companions didn’t give me much help with it.

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Three kinds of steak were on show. I ordered Vacio (flank steak) as I’d never had it before, and never will again (C).

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Thankfully my friend Nicky couldn’t manage all of her excellent Bife de Lomo (A), so I came to her aid.

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Anthea went for the Asado which was so big she took half of it home with her.

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The six of us got through three different bottles of Malbec. Can’ t remember how good they were but they went down a treat.

Despite being a bit of a rowdy crew we got excellent service from our lovely waitress. She showed us a few pictures on the wall of her and some Hollywood stars and members of European royal families who’d popped in for a steak.

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Finally we all got a shot of real limoncello, homemade and served ice cold as it should be. This was definitely evidence of a strong Italian influence as nowhere else in Argentina seems to be able to serve it properly.

So, a fantastic evening. Good food and a great atmosphere. I really can’t wait to go again!

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At night you should get taxis to and from this restaurant as walking around the side streets in La Boca isn’t a good idea after dark (or in the daytime either for that matter) as it’s a very poor area. Please see my La Boca comments in my post on Staying Safe in BsAs.

Buenos Aires – Palermo Soho – Restaurants & Bars

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Palermo, Palermo Soho with tags , , , , , on November 13, 2015 by gannet39

Along with Palermo Hollywood (see separate post), Palermo Soho forms what is still sometimes called Palermo Viejo. For me it’s the biggest, and best, entertainment district in BsAs.

La Cabrera (Advanced A+), 5065 Cabrera, Palermo Soho, Tel.4832 2259, lacabrera.com.ar

For my colleagues; La Cabrera is just 25 mins and $60 in a taxi from the Hotel Sileo, so you need to meet in the lobby at 6.15.

This is my favourite steakhouse in Baires, an example of a restaurant that has got everything right, down to the last detail, as far as I’m concerned anyway. The fact that they’ve had to open an annex on the next block (La Cabrera Norte at Cabrera 5127) to cope with demand demonstrates how successful they’ve been.

I love everything about the place; the waiters in flat caps and leather aprons, the dish clothes for napkins, the food porn on the telly, the mobiles of toy cars and other amusing artworks, the pics of gorgeous female Hollywood stars in the gents (also vice versa I’m sure) and the soundtrack of accordion covers of Spandau Ballet tunes. It’s the little details like these that add so much to the experience and in my opinion it’s everything a modern parrilla should be.

Naturally a place of such quality is not particularly cheap but another great thing is that everything you order between 7 and 8pm is 40% off the asking price on the menu, including the wine. This of course is great for people who like to eat early, like the English. You should aim to arrive at about 6.45 to snag an outdoor table. The terrace was full by 7.10pm when I arrived (on a week day) so I had to sit inside. By 8pm other latecomers were queuing down the street.

While you’re waiting for you food to reach the table you’re provided with a small dish of gorgeous liver pate (B+) and a basket of different kinds of excellent bread (B+), which comes with some nice mayo (B) and delicious cherry tomatoes (A).

The half portion (still huge) of Mollejas Grilladas I had for my starter were the best I’ve ever tasted. Euphemistically known as sweetbreads (as opposed to sweetmeats), perhaps due to their sweeter taste relative to meat, they are usually just the thymus gland (found in the neck) of the cow, but here included the slightly tougher pancreas as well (A+ and B+ respectively).

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The perfectly seasoned and cooked Ojo de Bife (ribeye) was fantastic too (A+).

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Another thing I love is the multitude of little pots of extras you get with the steak which offsets the potential boredom of eating so much meat. On the tray put in front of me there were small pots of potato puree (A), pumpkin puree (A), another dish using more cherry tomatoes (A), a miniature zucchini soufflé made with parmesan and cream (A), mustard sauce (A), grilled red peppers (B+), couscous and sweet corn (B+), baby pickled onions (B+), apple sauce (B), lentils (B).

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My friendly waiter suggested a very reasonably priced Malbec by Reto www.vicentinfw.com.ar which was also excellent (A).

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To finish the Volcan de Chocolate involved a chocolate fondant with Chantilly cream studded with blueberries and ice cream and a berry sauce, which was visually stunning and tasted divine (A). This was ordered after the 8pm watershed however so it cost me $112. Given the quality I was quite happy to pay that though.

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With the bill came a tree of lollipops, as if to sweeten the blow, but it wasn’t too bad. It should have been $541 but with the 40% discount it was reduced to $324.60. The experience pressed more buttons than I knew I had. In fact I decided this could well be my favourite restaurant ever!

Don Julio (Advanced C), Guatemala 4691, Palermo Soho

According to many blogs and guides this place is also a contender for best parrilla in the city but I think many of the reviews were written before La Cabrera opened. They have got many things right but sadly the food just doesn’t score highly with me.

Arriving at 12pm without a reservation for Sunday lunch, my friend Nicky and I were surprised when we got a table outside after just a short wait of a few minutes, which had been made more tolerable anyway by a complimentary glass of fizz. The service was very efficient and polite and in no time at all we were tucking into a slab of grilled provelta (B-) and a bottle of good Malbec by Tempus (B) www.tempusalba.com.

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The Tabla de Achuras (offal platter) was ok, but the kidneys were overdone and we couldn’t finish the intestines (B-).

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My butterflied Bife de Chorizo, although usually a tough cut, was chewier than others I’d had and disappointing in flavour (C+).

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The accompanying Parrillada de Vegetales was unimpressive too and lacked any finesse (C). Another blogger who loves the place did say that the veg wasn’t great, but I didn’t listen. (Btw, his tips are to get the ribs and avoid the marrowfat peas).

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The Panqueque Dulce de Leche with vanilla ice cream rescued things a bit (B+) and the glass of 2012 Malbec Dolce from Achval Ferrer we had with it was excellent (A), but too expensive at $85 for a tiny glass.

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The final bill was $675 each, about £55, not good value as far as I was concerned.

The ambience inside is nice enough (impressive displays of wine bottles), the service is impeccable and I like the leather tablecloths but I’ll be going back to La Cabrera next time.

Cabernet (High Intermediate B+), 1757 Borges, Palermo Soho, Tel. 4831 3071, www.cabernet-restaurant.com

This is a nice spot with an open air courtyard and reasonably priced food. I came on a work outing and had the Bondiola Braseada a la Miel de Jengibre con Arroz Pilaf Oriental (roast pork loin with honey and ginger sauce with a pilaf) as I wanted a change from beef and was craving rice. It was fine (B). I also enjoyed the Bonarda from La Madrid which made a nice change from the more full-bodied Malbec (B).

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Burger Joint (Elementary B), Borges 1766, Palermo Soho www.facebook/burgerjointpalermo

This is a branch of an American chain of hipster burger bars and it’s certainly doing well in BsAs as the crowds of customers demonstrate. It’s a great business concept that presses all the hipster buttons with its graffiti covered walls, collections of Star Wars characters and other plastic dolls on the walls, menus written on old bits of cardboard suspended above the service bar and a band of buskers playing on the pavement outside.

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The one thing that lets it down is the crappy bread buns they use, which is a shame because the burgers are pretty good. I had the Mexican Combo with Papas Fritas (B-) with a plastic glass of draught Pale Ale for $90 (£4.50). I guess they’re keeping things simple to keep the prices down but if they just got a few more details right, like the buns, it would be the perfect antidote to Mac D’s.

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Post Street Bar (Elementary A), Thames 1285, Palermo Soho www.poststreetbar.com

A dive bar with walls covered in graff and street art. The best thing is the large outdoor terrace they have on the first floor. My friend Damian and I put away a few pitchers of draught beer up here one hot Spring evening.

Isabel (Advanced A), 1664 Uriarte, Palermo Soho barisabel.com

This beautiful bar is at the other end of the scale from Post Bar above. It’s one long room with a list of good cocktails and an excellent sound system and a DJ with good taste (at least when I went). I’m sure it’s packed at the weekend but I went very early on a weekday just to check it out. The door to the unisex loos is invisible unless you know where it is and once inside the mirrored walls make you even more confused. A great bar but I can imagine it would be difficult to get served once it gets busy.

Victoria Brown Bar (Advanced B+), 4827 Costa Rica, Palermo Soho victoriabrownbar.com

This place is pretending to be a secret bar (a trend in BsAs) but as soon as you enter the doorman pushes a handle and the wall moves away, revealing a very large jam-packed room, and you just walk right in. There are seats around the sides and one long bar, with about five mixologists all working at full stretch. I didn’t get served as quickly as I’d like but the cocktails were decent.

Buenos Aires – Centro – Places to Eat

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Centro with tags , on November 12, 2015 by gannet39

You’ll need a pit stop after working up an appetite from walking around nearby Plaza Lavalle (see separate post) so here are a couple of suggestions. Here’s a map of the Centro to help you get your bearings.

Pizzeria Guerrin (Intermediate B+), 1368 Avenida Corrientes, www.pizzeriaguerrin.com

I’ve mentioned my dislike of Fugazetta, the local style of pizza, elsewhere (see my review of El Cuartito in my Recoleta post) but this place isn’t actually too bad. They make a thin crust ‘a la piedra’ pizza as opposed to the thicker pizza ‘de molde’ at El Cuartito. The buzzing atmosphere also adds to the experience.

I went for the classic combination of Fugazetta and Farina , a chickpea pancake with its roots in Genoa (both B). Some locals put the Farina on top of the pizza and eat them together. Apparently you’re supposed to have a glass of sweet Moscato wine with it as well but it was a bit early in the day for me. If you find the ground floor too frenetic there is the quieter Sala Familial upstairs. Guerrin has been an institution since 1932 and is definitely worth a visit.


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La Pasta Frola (Intermediate B+), 1365 Avenida Corrientes, www.la-pastafrola.com.ar

Rather than have dessert in Guerrin I dashed over the road to this Italian pastry shop immediately opposite and treated myself to a Sfogliatelle Ricce (B+). The shop has been around even longer than Guerrin, since 1917.

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Buenos Aires – Centro – Plaza Lavalle

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Centro, Plaza Lavalle with tags , , , , , , , on November 12, 2015 by gannet39

Plaza Lavalle is the heart of the theatre district in the centre of BsAs.

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This was the last walking tour that I did. More details here. See my separate post Centro – Places to Eat.

For me the highlight of this walk was viewing the beautiful interior of the Teatro Colón at Tucuman 1171. It’s a popular tourist sight so there are tours in English every hour, on the hour. You can buy tickets ($180 in 2014) from the ticket office inside by going in one of the side entrances on Tucuman or Viamonte.

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Opened in 1908, the theatre has been ranked as the third best opera house in the world by National Geographic. Highlights for me were the statues and the marble work of the grand staircase in the main hall and the stained glass windows and electric chandeliers upstairs in the Salón Dorado.

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In the auditorium itself the guide pointed out the hidden gallery reserved for widows in mourning who shouldn’t be seen and the musician’s gallery high up in the ceiling. The acoustics are fantastic and we were invited to sing if we wanted to, although thankfully no one did!

The theatre was renovated fairly recently (finished in 2010) and was shut for many years due to the work was being done and because all the money for it mysteriously disappeared. The tour was very informative but the guide judiciously ignored my thorny questions about the corruption and the love triangle that led to the death of the first architect!

Next door to the theatre at 581 Libertad is the Escuela Presidente Roca, a school that many people confuse with the Teatro Colón because of its Greek revival architecture.

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On the other side of Teatro Colón at 621 Libertad is the Byzantine-style synagogue Templo Libertad, built in 1897.

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Next to that in the northeast corner (where Libertad meets Cordoba) is the Teatro Nacional Cervantes, built in the Spanish colonial style.

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In the opposite southwest corner of the square is the monolithic Palacio de la Justica (Supreme Court). Also known as Tribunales, the building is defended by police barriers due to the many protests that take place in front of it.

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There are several other nice buildings around the square.


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And a few others I stumbled across in the streets around it.

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Leading off the square is the pedestrianised Avenida Presidente Roque Sáenz Peña which gives excellent views of the Obelisk, the iconic symbol of the city. I’d like to have seen it in 2005 when it was covered with a giant pink condom to commemorate World AIDS day!

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Buenos Aires – Monserrat – Getting Fed

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Monserrat with tags on November 11, 2015 by gannet39

Chan Chan (Intermediate B+), 1390 Hipólito Yrigoyen

Out of the back door of Palacio Barolo (please see my Avenida de Majo post) you’ll find this affordable and authentic Peruvian restaurant.

It’s highly rated by Time Out who suggest trying the Ajiaco de Conejo (rabbit and potato stew), Arroz Chaufa (Peruvian-style fried rice) and a pitcher of Chicha Morada (a sweet fruity drink). The Guardian suggests the Ceviche and sides of Papas a la Huancaina (sliced potatoes in a thick cheese sauce) or fried Yuca (cassava).

Upon arrival you get a bowl of Choclo which are large kernels of toasted and salted maize. They’re okay but are often quite hard and crunchy (C). This comes with two sauces which I guess were Salsa de Aji Amarillo (yellow pepper sauce) and Salsa Verde (coriander sauce). To drink I had a stellar Pisco Sour (A).

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I ordered the Degustacion de Ceviches (B) which included Tiradito, Ceviche, Ceviche Mixto and Ceviche en Crema de Rocoto, which was served with sliced red onion, lettuce and cold potatoes.

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Tiradito reflects the influence of Japanese immigrants as it is sliced and served raw. The indigenous Ceviche however is cubed and marinaded. Crema de Aji Rocoto is a salsa made with the hot Rocoto pepper.

To be honest I struggled to finish the whole plate as it was so large and I wasn’t really in the mood for cold food. Generally I’m still learning to appreciate this cuisine which is why I always try to come to a good place like this to try it. It’s not on the level of Osaka (please see my Palermo Hollywood post) but it’s much cheaper.

Buenos Aires – Monserrat – Avenida de Majo

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Monserrat with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2015 by gannet39

This is another architecture walk I did starting from from 575 Avenida de Mayo and finishing at Plaza Congreso, all in the barrio of Monserrat.

At 575 Avenida de Mayo you will see the Casa de Cultura (the office for culture in BsAs) which used to be the home of La Prensa, an important newspaper. Frommers describes a tour of the interior (weekends only) as ‘a must do’ but it looked closed up on the day I went. On the exterior though I loved the ornate lion’s head door knockers.

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At 825 Avenida de Mayo you’ll find Café Tortoni, the most famous café in the city. It’s so popular that you’ll probably have to queue to get in. I was up for a coffee and a medialuna but the service was so poor that I just took some snaps and left.

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Continue along Avenida de Mayo and cross over Avenida 9 de Julio which is the world’s widest avenue. It can take quite a while to cross the five sub streets, maybe two or three flashing green men, but I have managed to sprint across the whole width in one go. If you go more slowly though you can take in the fountains and the Don Quixote monument.

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At 1152 Avenida de Mayo is the architecturally unimpressive Hotel Castelar. Once one of the most important hotels in the city, this is where Lorca the famous Spanish poet lived for six months in 1933. Apparently his room has been kept as a shrine and can be visited by arrangement.

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On the north side of Avenida de Mayo where it meets Santiago del Estero you’ll find the Hotel Chile, another formerly important hotel. The Art Nouveau structure has Middle Eastern influences with round window tops decorated with faience (ceramic glaze).

At 1333 Avenida de Mayo is my second favourite building on this walking tour, the Art Deco Federal Police HQ. I adore the ornate statues on the façade. Frommers suggest just wandering inside for a look but it was always closed whenever I went past.

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At 1370 Avenida de Mayo is my favourite building; the highly eccentric Palacio Barolo, which was once the highest building in South America. Its Italian freemason designer Mario Palanti intended it to be an architectural celebration of Dante’s Divine Comedy (the poet was also a mason). I snuck in for a look at the lobby which, with its light bearing dragons and condors and coiled snakes in the corners, is meant to symbolise Hell.

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I came back on another occasion with my friend Nicky and took the guided tour. The middle floors represent Purgatory and are relatively unadorned although the cornices have faces if you look at them from a certain angle. From the 14th floor you ascend narrow stairs into Heaven, which is represented by a lighthouse.


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From the upper levels you can get stunning views over the city and Plaza Congreso. Actually sitting in the lighthouse with your backs to the glass windows can be quite vertigo inducing though! Originally the parabolic mirror sent a beam of light to a sister building, Palacio Silva in Montevideo, (please see my Montevideo Centro post).

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You can join an English speaking tour (at 5, 6 and 7pm most evenings, more times at the weekend) by reserving first (Tel. 4391 1885 or 5027 9035) and then paying for your tickets ($135 in 2014) at the small Art Nouveau ticket booth on the ground floor. The tour is one of my top tips for experiences to be had in Baires.

Continue up Avenida de Mayo and on the south side between San Jose and Peña you will see La Inmobliaria, an Art Nouveau office block with an ornate tiled sign at the top of the façade. This building marks the end of Mayo and the beginning of Plaza Congreso.

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In the Plaza you can see a copy of Rodin’s Thinker aka El Pensador in Spanish. Next to it is the Kilometro Cero from which all distances from BsAs are measured.

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Next you’ll see the fountains of the Monument of the Two Congresses. I’m not a fan as I think it obstructs the view of the Congress itself.

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I’m told the guided tours of the Congress building are quite interesting. Ask about them at the Rivadavia entrance.

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To the right of the Congress is another favourite building, the sadly derelict Confiteria de Molino with its windmill tower. Once the informal meeting place for all the politicians from next door, the Art Nouveau café was closed in 1997. There are plans to renovate and reopen it one day but the state of the Argentinean economy hadn’t allowed it at the time of writing in 2014.

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Buenos Aires – Centro – Calle Florida

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Calle Florida with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2015 by gannet39

Leading from Plaza San Martin is Calle Florida, the BA’s most important shopping street. It’s kind of the equivalent of Oxford St in London except that it’s a pedestrianised.

It starts at Plaza San Martin in the Retiro and goes through the barrio of San Nicolas before finishing at Avenida Rivadavia in Monserrat. Together San Nicolas and Monserrat are known as the Centro.

There are heaps of fantastic buildings along the length of Floridabut its easy to miss them unless you look up. Most people are too busy avoiding the numerous buskers, salesmen and money changers pestering them at street level.

I managed to see a few thanks to this architecture tour.

Coming from Plaza San Martin, the first stop is Centro Naval at 810 Cordoba, where it meets Florida. Unfortunately the sun was too bright for me to get a good close up of the golden statue that sits above the doorway on the corner. It’s of a naked sea god blowing a conch while sitting in a Spanish galleon. The cast stone façade is also very impressive.

As always please click on these pics to get the best view.

Next stop is Galerias Pacifico (on Florida between Cordoba and Viamonte), BA’s most famous shopping mall, built in 1889. It was inspired by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan and has quite a history, some of it quite dark.

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The cupola in the basement level has some frescoes that were painted in 1946 and the upper levels house an art gallery.

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Next at 460 Florida is the Sociedad Rural Argentina with its beautiful Belle Epoque doorway and balconies.

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On the west corner of Florida and Corrientes you’ll find was has to be the world’s most beautiful Burger King. Go inside, walk up the stairs and look up to see the stunning stained glass ceiling of the rotunda. The ornamental plaster ceilings in the other rooms are beautiful as well.

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Midblock on the eastern side between Corrientes and Sarmiento you’ll see Galeria Mitre. The building was designed in classic colonial style and has an astonishingly ornate frieze above the doorway.

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Not sure what building this is but the balconies are great.

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Midblock on the west side before Peron is what used to be an optician’s shop, as alluded to by the pairs of spectacles on the bronze plaques.

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If you look up at the tower on the western corner of Peron you’ll see the name Gath & Chaves, as the building was once a British department store.

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On the other side of the road there’s a Spanish Gothic building with a big bronze door.

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At 165 Florida you’ll find Galeria Guemes which looks like nothing special from the outside but has a stunning interior and beautiful ornamental elevators. It was designed by the same architect who designed the Confiteria del Molino (see my Avenida de Mayo post).

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At 99 Calle Florida (on the corner with Diagonal Norte) there’s another Spanish colonial building with bronze doors made in England. The cupola is one of a row of five that mark the intersections along Diagonal Norte.

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In front of the latter is the Art Deco monument to Roque Sáenz Peña who was president of Argentina between 1910 and 1914.

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This statue marks the end of the walking tour I was following but on other occasions I’ve found some other gems on the streets around Florida.

Such as the Art Deco Teatro Opera at 1860 Corrientes, built in 1936.

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Also Iglesia San Miguel Arcangel Bartolomé at 886 Mitre.

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This stunning statue of Ophiuchus is in a square nearby but I can’t remember the address for the life of me.

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Buenos Aires – Retiro – Plaza San Martin and around

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Plaza San Martin, Retiro with tags , , , , , , on November 10, 2015 by gannet39

Plaza San Martin is my favourite square in Buenos Aires, mainly for the beautiful trees that grow in it, but also for the impressive buildings that surround it.

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Several types of tall exotic trees shade the southern end of the plaza. My favourites are the purple flowered Jacarandas that are a symbol of Buenos Aires and can be found all over the city.

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The south-eastern side is dominated by El Edificio Kavanagh, the Kavanagh Building, which was South America’s highest skyscraper when it was buiilt in 1936. The architects took a Rationalist approach to a combination of Art Deco and Modernism which has resulted in a beautiful, slender construction. It has quite an interesting history.

Next door is the Plaza Hotel. The restaurant in the basement was the top spot for the elite to dine and socialise for more than a hundred years. The bar is a good spot to treat yourself to a posh cocktail in classy surroundings (see my post on eating and drinking in the Retiro).

In the north-western corner is the imposing Circulo Militar, a club for retired military offices. We tried to sneak in to get a glimpse of the interior but were ushered out straight away. I think you can get in when the cafe is open.

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Part of the building looks like it should be in the Loire valley.

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The square has many allusions to Argentina and Britain’s love/hate relationship. In 1807 (the square was created in 1883) the land was the site of Britain’s defeat when it made a second attempt to conquer Buenos Aires during the Napoleonic wars.

At the southern end of the square is the Falkland’s memorial; a long wall bearing 645 names of the fallen. Argentina lost more than twice as many men as Britain during the conflict.

Opposite the memorial is the Torre Monumental, a clocktower that was a gift from the local British community to commemorate the centennial of the revolution of 1810. It was once know as Torre de las Ingles but was renamed in 1982 after it received minor damage from an angry anti-British mob.

Beyond the memorial is the Retiro Railway Station with its three terminals. The most historical is the Retiro Mitre Station, built by the British in the early twentieth century. The steel frame, like many similar structures in South America, was cast in the UK (Liverpool in this case) and shipped over.

As ever, please click on the photos for an enlarged view.

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I find it hard to believe (as I think it’s quite ugly) but for a long time it was considered an engineering masterpiece and one of the most important buildings in the world.

I do like the station’s beautiful cafe though and it’s a good place to stop after a fair bit of walking around. The station also appears several times in The Secret in Their Eyes, an excellent Argentinian movie which one the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2009.

I did this architectural tour which gives a lot more detailed information about all these buildings.

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For a few days in November 2014, Plaza San Martin hosted this amazing outdoor exhibition of alien figures made entirely with plastic water bottles.

This seems to be a major art form in Buenos Aires as I’ve seen ingenious plastic creations on numerous other occasions.

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Buenos Aires – Retiro – Places to Drink, Eat or Avoid

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Retiro with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2015 by gannet39

Floreria Atlantico (Intermediate A) 872 Arroyo, www.floreriaatlantico.com.ar, Tel. 4313 6093

This is the kind of place I’d like to open at home. They should sort the décor out but the space itself and the concept are great. To the outside world it just looks like a florists but down in the cellar it’s a whole different world.

The flower shop assistant is actually the bar greeter and the solitary customer is in fact the security guard in casual clothes. Just go in as if you know the score (with just a ‘hola’, no password necessary) and one of them will open the secret portal (a fridge door) that allows entrance to the bar below.

Downstairs there is just one long room with a very long bar and high stools, and on the opposite wall there are tables that seat four that can be reserved (a good idea, do it with the greeter for next time). I’ve been here several times and have tried a few of their cocktails. They are a bit expensive (around AR$100) but top quality.

My favourites were firstly the bar’s version of Agua de Valencia, made with fresh orange juice, triple sec and gin I think (A+). Secondly, the ‘smoked’ Negroni, made with the bar’s own distilled yerba mate gin ‘Principe de Los Apostoles’ (I bought two bottles from the bar it was so good), Campari, Amaro Averna (unusual, it’s usually vermouth), Agua de Mar (no idea), Eucalyptus leaves and pine nuts, aged and served in its own little bottle. I was told the gin had been put in a bucket on the grill so that the smoky flavours could infuse into it. For a lover of Negronis this is all very original and highly delicious (A+). The gin cocktails served in a mate gourd with a metal straw were also a nice touch.

DaDa Bar (Interemediate A), 941 San Martin, Tel, 4314 4787

This is another little spot that I adore. The downside is that, as it deservedly gets great write-ups in all the guides, it can get crowded and queues can form at peak times. It’s a small place, about 30 seats, so go before 9 if you want one. In 2004 it was just over the road from the Dazzler Suites San Martin where I was staying, so it became my regular after-work haunt.

The walls are covered with period paraphernalia, particularly surrealist and pop art and there’s a swinging, jazzy soundtrack. The bar staff are really on the ball and highly attentive to their customer’s needs, which isn’t always the case in BsAs.

Mattias the mixologist in 2004 was a master of his trade and knocked me up ‘the best Pisco Sour in the South’ (A+), even if he said so himself. However, his personal recommendation of a ‘Mexico City’ with tequila, curacao and lots of lime juice was ok but didn’t blow me away (B).

The tipple of choice in this town is Fernet, an Italian bitter (amaro) with Coke, which to my mind would be totally unappealing, but I decided to try it here to see what all the fuss was about. It’s basically alcoholic coke with a bitter aftertaste, refreshing but it’s nothing to write home about (C+), although I am.

They have a good selection of wines too and I had a glass each of Malbec (B) and Cabernet Sauvignon (A), both from bodega Ruca Malen, one of the better cantinas on their list, to go with my Caesars Salad (B+). In 2014 I came for lunch and had the lomo which was fantastic (A+). A great little bar that should definitely be experienced.

Marriott Grill (Advanced A), Marriott Plaza Hotel, 1005 Florida, www.plazahotelba.com

For a posh cocktail in nice surroundings there’s nowhere better than the Marriot, where they have been serving the rich and famous for over 100 years. I can vouch for the G&Ts and Negronis. They aren’t cheap at about US$18 a pop but you do get plates and plates of nibbles to go with each drink. I’m sure the grill restaurant is good but I’ve never tried it.

Irifune (Intermediate B), 426 Paraguay, www.irifune.com.ar

A decent bit of fish is very hard to find in Argentina so I came here to get my fix before shipping out to the provinces. They have a good rep for Japanese food and apparently are one of the few places in town where you can get tuna. I’m not keen on the ambience (C) as it’s very brightly lit and not particularly attractive but the food is okay (B+).

I had the Chirashizushi and loved the rice (A) as I’d been craving it for a while. Also the Salmon ‘Geisha’ with Philadelphia cheese and tiny avocado was okay (B), as were the Kimchi (B+) and Misoshiru (B+).

There’s another Japanese place called Sipan just down the road at 626 Paraguay www.sipanrestaurants.com which also has a good rep. I just popped in for a look and haven’t tried the food. The atmosphere is darker and more intimate, and the staff seem nicer, but it’s more expensive. Eat Like A Girl recommends it.

Dora (Advanced B), 1016 Avenida Leandro N. Alem, www.dorabaires.com

A very good, if slightly expensive, traditional restaurant with old waiters in black and whites and an air of formality. I came here in 2004 for one of my first meals in BsAs and hopefully it’s still okay. I remember having a good steak and bottle of wine.

And some places I’m not so keen on…

Filo (Intermediate B+ or D!), 975 San Martin, Tel, 4311 0312

Just a few doors down from DaDa you will find this trendy modern pizzeria that’s plugged in many guides. It’s massively popular with office workers and you’ll find it hard to get in at midday due to their business lunch deal. I used to be a big fan (modern decor, live DJ playing chilled tunes while you eat) but then they poisoned me with their Patagonian mussels when I first came in 2004 and I still haven’t forgiven them. Stick to the pizza (thinner than elsewhere) and you should be ok.

Fervor (Advanced B), 1619 Posadas

This is a posh high end restaurant that seems to attract richer tourists. I came for the seafood grill, supposedly the best in town, but it was too expensive. I ended up with half a grilled chicken, Pollo a Las Brasas (A), and some rice as I’d been craving it. On the plus side the Alamos Torrentes was one of the best I’ve ever had (A), even if it wasn’t cheap at $139. The glass of Santa Julia Tardia (late harvest) dessert wine I had was okay too (B). Total cost $463 which priced me out of going again.

La Dorita (Intermediate C), 798 Avenida del Libertador

20141119_213437I ended up here after discovering the place I wanted to go to was closed. It’s very popular with locals, perhaps because it’s fairly cheap. I wasn’t keen on the Ribs de Ternera y BBQ con Papas Fritas (rack of veal ribs with fries) that I had, although I did eat it all out of sheer hunger (C). The Imperial Lager was a new one on me (B).

Broccolino (Intermediate C), 776 Esmeralda, www.broccolino.com

This Italian place was recommended to me by a school director who loves his food and a personal friend, so I was really disappointed when I had one of the worst meals ever in Argentina.

20141120_205834I started with the house special their ‘most famous dish’, Calamaretti Broccolino; a huge portion of squid flambéed with white wine and onions. It was absolutely rank and I couldn’t eat it (D).

I drank the wine and left as I’d lost my appetite but they were generous enough not to charge me for the food. When I reported back to my friend she said, ‘Oh, you should never eat seafood in Baires’. Well thanks for telling me…

And so to finish, here’s my rant…

I’ve been to Argentina three times and have never been overly impressed by the standard of cuisine anywhere I’ve been in the country (or in Chile and Uruguay for that matter). In Argentina you’d think that a society of people predominantly descended from Italian and Spanish immigrants would know how to cook but it’s almost as if these two great national cuisines cancel each other out.

The chorizos have no spice, the pasta is never al dente, the Fugazza pizza is horrendously thick and drowned in gloopy ‘muzzarella’ (and is never the ‘real’ buffalo milk version), the limoncello is always warm and good chocolate and decent coffee are really hard to find (thank god the Kiwis have arrived). The national dessert Dulce de Leche (made from caramelised milk that has been browned very slowly) is far too sweet and is seemingly used in every single dessert, although admittedly the ice cream and pancake versions can be quite nice.

Obviously there’s no disputing the quality of some of their ingredients, the beef (from the North) and the lamb (from the South) are fantastic but they’re always overcooked. If you want a rare steak (vuelta y vuelta, muy jugoso) it will come medium rare (poco hecho), although if you know this and order one level down from what you actually want, you can get round it. However, decent seafood doesn’t happen and vegetarians will struggle.

My advice is to keep your choices simple and generally avoid anywhere with pretensions. If you stick to what they do best, parrilla, it will mean eating a lot of meat which can get quite samey when you come here for a month or more as I do. Thank God the wine is good!

Buenos Aires – Changing Money in Recoleta

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Recoleta with tags on November 9, 2015 by gannet39

The first thing that you will need to do when you arrive in town is to change money. Due to the devaluation of the Argentinian peso, there were two exchange rates when I last went in 2014. In December that year the official government-set rate was AR$8.4 to US$1 whereas the ‘blue’ rate fluctuated between AR$14 and AR$12 to the dollar, quite a significant difference. You can of course use your credit and cash cards but then everything would be a third more expensive as they use the official rate.

October 2018 update:  the current rate is a very high 39.47 per US$.

October 2016 update:  the difference is very small now, just 15.40 per US$ as opposed to 15.00 in normal exchange places.

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Despite government clampdowns it was still possible to go to semi-secret ‘Casa de Cambios’ which will give you the blue rate. I went to two during my stay in BsAs. The first was in a small shopping arcade at Posadas 1564. As you enter on the right you will see a door with a picture of a cow on. Ring the bell to gain admission to the waiting room and then wait your turn to go through to the exchange windows. It was very busy on the morning I went. They also changed sterling here which was stronger than the dollar at the time (about AR$19 to £1).

The second place was at 938 Florida in what looked like a residential building. Breeze past the concierge with a ‘hola’ and take the lift on your right to floor five. Ring the bell of flat 5B and when tell them you want ‘cambio’ on the intercom when they answer (they don’t speak English). They will buzz you through into a small secure room where business is conducted through a small hatch. I got AR$14.4 to the dollar here when the official rate was AR$8.5.

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Both establishments were honest and felt safe but only seemed to be open in the mornings. Walking down Florida (or any main street in big towns) you’ll be assailed with chants of ‘cambio, cambio, cambio’. These guys will probably take you to a casa de cambio but they might change small amounts on the street. Personally I’d avoid doing that as there’s much less security.

Many restaurants will also provide exchange services, although the rate will vary greatly. For example, on Junin Street in Recoleta (facing the front entrance of the cemetery), Clark’s offered a rate of $11.4 to the dollar, whereas Montana (the place with the plastic cow outside) offered $12 and the black guy outside the Freddo ice cream shop $12.2.

Some business minded hotel concierges might also be able to help you out if you are discreet, i.e. don’t ask them in front of colleagues and cameras and conduct the transaction in your hotel room.

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In all cases you will get a better rate for lower notes ($1s, $10s, $20s) than high dollar notes ($50s, $100s). So, how much to change? This will of course depend on your spending habits but personally I reckoned I needed 500 pesos for taxis to work per day on average in BsAs, and another 500 pesos a day personal spending, but then I’ll happily use all of that on a single meal with wine. In the provinces I’d spend half that amount, so it really depends on your appetites and where you are.

Buenos Aires – Recoleta – Stuff to See and Do

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Recoleta with tags , , , , , on November 9, 2015 by gannet39

Recoleta’s main attraction is of course the famous cemetery which I have given its own post. I’ve also written a separate post on places to eat and drink.

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After traipsing round the mausoleums you might feel the need to reaffirm life with a spot of shopping. Next to the cemetery you’ll find Buenos Aires Design www.designrecoleta.com.ar; a whole shopping mall dedicated to modern design, which is my idea of heaven.

On Saturdays there’s a flea market in front of the cemetery in Plaza Francia with about a hundred stalls selling handmade artisan products.

Over the road from Plaza Francia, in Plaza Ramo Carcano, another sight to see is the huge rubber tree (Ficus Elastica) known as El “Gran Gomero,” with its multiple trunks and formidable root system. It’s thought to be over 220 years old.

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There’s a huge wine shop called Winery on the ground floor of the Recoleta Mall at 2030 Vincente Lopez www.winery.com.ar which is usually my last stop before I fly home.

Not strictly in Recoleta but not too far away in Barrio Norte (Avenida Santa Fe 1860 between Callao and Riobamba) is Ateneo Grand Splendid, a huge bookshop located in a former theatre. It frequently appears in a high position on lists of the most beautiful bookshops in the world. You can sit and read in one of the boxes or have a coffee in the cafe on the stage. An amazing space!

Recoleta has some nice architecture, especially along Avenidas Alvear and Arroyo where many of the buildings were inspired by the French Beaux Arts and Art Nouveau styles.

These Belle Epoque mansions once belonged to wealthy Argentinean families who fell on hard times during one of the many economic crashes that have blighted the country. The state subsequently stepped in to buy these houses and use them as embassies, notable examples being the Brazilian and French embassies.

When Avenida 9 de Julio was being expanded the plan was to demolish the French embassy but the French government refused to move, which accounts for its strange position jutting out towards the avenida.

More details about this architecture walk can be found here.

Buenos Aires – Recoleta – Places to Eat and Drink

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Recoleta with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2015 by gannet39

This post is primarily for my colleagues who are usually billeted in Recoleta at the Hotel Sileo at Azcuénaga 1968, www.sileohotel.com It’s an excellent hotel with helpful staff, a decent breakfast and big rooms that overlook the back of Recoleta cemetery (for which see my separate post). The best views are from the roof which also has a postage stamp sized swimming pool.

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Generally after a hard day’s work we just want to go to the nearest place that’s any good. The problem is there are so many restaurants in the area to choose from and many are either expensive tourist traps or aren’t much cop in terms of the food they serve. So where to go?

All of the places mentioned in my posts on Buenos Aires can be found on this Google map.

Rodi Bar (Intermediate B), 1900 Vicente Lopez (four blocks from the hotel)

This is an old school, traditional place that’s very near the hotel. It’s very popular with locals living in the area so arrive early or reserve. The food is good value and unpretentious, nothing amazing but fine for every day dining.

On my last visit I had the unattractive but nutritious Sopa Verduras Mines (veg soup) followed by the simple Bondiola con Guarnicion (pork loin with salad and chips), both of which scored a B. With a bottle of Norton Classico (B+) for $75 and a glass of Bols Limoncello (B) the bill came to $335 or £17.

Roux (Advanced A), 2300 Pena (four blocks from the hotel) rouxresto.com

To get to this place turn right out of the Sileo Hotel and keep walking straight. It’s on the far left hand corner of the fourth crossroads you come to.

Also popular with locals, this is a small bistro with excellent service offering beautifully-crafted French-inspired dishes at a very reasonable price considering what you get. Two of us had three courses with a bottle of wine and a digestif for $500 each, about £40. Of course you could eat and spend less but we pushed the boat out as the food was so good (unusual in Argentina).

The croquettes (chicken, cheese and mushroom I think) were some of the best I’ve ever had (A+) and my twice cooked saffron squid risotto with alioli was a work of art and completely delicious (A). My friend’s humita stuffed quail with crispy cannellonis also looked great. There were a couple of my favourite Torrontes white wines on the menu but we went for a new one (Crios 2014 for $150) which was excellent (A).
My dessert involved Quinotos (kumquats) with a pineapple sorbet and a very delicate slice of crystallised orange. Once again pretty as a picture and very tasty too (A). My friends apple and cinnamon crumble with apple sorbet was great too.

To finish I finally got to try the hard-to-find Hesperadina ($85 a shot), an Argentine liqueur made from orange peel and served in a chilled glass without ice. Originally created by Italian immigrants, it’s considered a drink for the older generation and so is quite hard to find. I loved it; the kids are definitely missing out.

El Sanjuanino (Intermediate B), 1515 Posadas (six blocks from the hotel) www.elsanjuanino.com.ar

A regional restaurant specialising in cuisine from the province of San Juan, which is apparently slightly spicier than elsewhere, although I didn’t notice this. The food is hearty and simple, again nothing amazing but filling and inexpensive. They specialise in empanadas which I can definitely recommend (B+). My lentil and chorizo stew and accompanying salad were also fine (B) if rather too large to finish. We enjoyed the Alamos 2013 Malbec too. (B+). Upstairs was full when we arrived so we were put in the slightly gloomy basement. The friendly service made up for this though.

Cumana (Intermediate B+), 1149 Rodriguez Pena (nine blocks from the hotel)

This is a very popular place that attracts a fairly young crowd of locals, perhaps due to the well-priced food and wine and the modern atmosphere. There are bowls of crayons on each table so you can doodle on the paper tablecloths while you wait for your food!

I tried the Locro , an interesting Andean stew (B) originally from Ecuador but also popular in Peru and Argentina. It’s made here I think with cannellini beans, pumpkin, chunks of chorizo and pork on the bone and topped with a spoonful of Quiquirimichi, a mild red sauce made from red peppers and paprika. Great comfort food and very tasty. The Ensalada de Tomates y Bocconcinos (small balls of mozzarella, covered with shredded basil was ok (C+) but half the tomato was unripe and the mozzarella didn’t have much flavour. I also had a Pinguino (a typical Argentinian penguin-shaped wine jug) of house red, which was rough but drinkable (C). Total spend $72.50, about £11, which is very cheap for BsAs.

La Cholita (Intermediate B+), Rodriguez Pena 1165 (nine blocks from the hotel)

This place is right next door to Cumana above and is apparently owned by the same people. Five of us had a delicious mixed grill here which was very good value for money (B+). As next door, the house wine was pretty ropey though (C-) so I splurged on something better. Worth a visit if you’re on a budget.

There’s a decent bar on the first floor of the building exactly opposite La Cholita called Casabar at 1150 Pena www.casabarargentina.com. You’ll recognise it by the round window above the door.

Milion (A), Parana 1048 (ten blocks from the hotel) www.milion.com.ar

This is a great bar and restaurant in a beautiful old villa. You can sit outside in the garden to eat although I’ve never dined here. My friend’s cocktail ‘Yo No Tengo Un San Valentin’ (made with Bacardi) was nice (B) but the Pisco Sour (D) was the worst I’ve ever had! Don’t let that put you off though, it’s a beautiful spot. Cocktails were $95 to $75 when we went.

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Grand Bar Danzon (B+), 1161 Libertad (eleven blocks from the hotel) www.granbardanzon.com.ar

The entrance is very easy to miss as it’s through a narrow doorway and up a staircase.

Not actually as grand as the name implies, but still a posh cocktail bar with a fantastic wine list (starting at £2 a glass) and a nice atmosphere with lots of comfy sofas. My only complaint is the candles and lights are so low you can’t read the menu.

On the cocktail front I particularly recommend the ‘Sourama’ made with Pisco (a spirit from Chile), maracuya (passion fruit), a dash of apple juice and served in a champagne glass with the rim dipped in sugar. Absolutely sublime! (A+). The food is supposed to be good too, although I haven’t tried it.

There are of course many other restaurants and cafes in the area, the most attractive being those opposite the cemetery entrance. Personally I think they’re all overpriced tourist traps, as the touts outside demonstrate, and the food is often sub-standard. But who cares on a sunny day when you want somewhere to sit in the sun with a drink and rest your feet while watching the world go by. The best place to do this is the terrace of La Biela at 600 Avenida Quintela www.labiela.com which rivals Bar Tortoni (see my Avenida da Mayo post) as the most iconic café in town.

El Cuartito (Intermediate A or C!), 937 Talcahuano (twelve blocks from the hotel)

Actually in Tribunales, a neighbourhood adjoining Recoleta, this is one of the oldest pizzerias in the city (since 1934). It certainly looks the part with a huge woody interior, pictures of football teams and old Buenos Aires all over the walls and towering stacks of pizza boxes.

Sadly though the pizza just doesn’t cut it for me but then I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to these Italian pies. I like my Margheritas very thin and simple and the local Fugazzetta (a style derived from Genoese focaccia, particular to Buenos Aires) with its cheese-filled dough topped with grated onions, is exactly the opposite.

The ‘Margherita’ I had here was small in diameter but very thick and smothered in a thick layer of ‘muzzarella’ (probably from cow’s milk and not the real thing, yellow and gloopy in the wrong way), no basil and a handful of unasked for green olives, very unsubtle.

Still, what do I know, the place was rammed by 11pm and it gets great reviews from everyone (locals, blogs, guides) except me. The big bottle of Patagonia ‘amber’ lager I had with it was ok though, much better than anything I had in southern Patagonia. Total cost, about £10. By all means go, you might like it. They do Empanadas too.

Buenos Aires – San Telmo – Stuff to See and Do

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, San Telmo with tags , , , , , , on November 8, 2015 by gannet39

San Telmo is my favourite barrio in Buenos Aires. Palermo has the glitz and the glamour but as the oldest neighbourhood, San Telmo has more atmosphere and culture in my opinion.

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Here’s the barrio website which has lots of useful info. Please see also my separate post San Telmo – Places to Eat and Drink.

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Perhaps the most famous building is the beautiful indoor Mercado de San Telmo which takes up a whole block in the heart of the barrio. It was built in 1897 by the Italian Argentine architect Juan Antonio Buschiazzo who also designed Recoleta Cemetery. Much of it has been given over to antiques now but there are still some fruit and veg stalls and a butchers.

For many tourists San Telmo is the place to be on a Sunday when you can go to the antiques market, El Feria de Antigüedades, in Placa Dorrego.

nice-tray When perusing the 270 stands I like to indulge my penchant for heavy glass ashtrays and usually manage to bag a couple of beauts. There’s lots of other affordable, collectable stuff too. It runs every Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.

As you’d expect there are heaps of human statues and other street performers here on a Sunday. I don’t usually stop to watch but I was blown away by Wind Man!

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wind-man

San Telmo, along with La Boca, is ground zero for tango. You can see live Tango on Calle Defensa on Sundays and on some evenings, after the antique stalls have closed and moved, there are free dances in Placa Dorrego.

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The best thing is to just walk around and take in the sights. You’re constantly bumping into things you wouldn’t expect to see.

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Like a troupe of Candombe drummers warming up their drum skins.

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There’s lots of beautiful and unusual architecture too.

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Like the Russian Orthodox church, Iglesia Ortodoxa Rusa de la Santísima Trinidad, at 315 Avenida Brasil.

I love the bizarre statues on this building (on Avenida Independencia I think). You can click on them to get a better view.

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You’ll find the smallest house in the city, the eight foot wide Casa Minima, on Calle San Lorenzo. It’s steeped in history as you can see in this article.

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Nearby, at the end of Calle San Lorenzo at Defensa, is El Zanjon, a beautifully restored nineteenth century house. They do guided tours but I didn’t get time to go.

Five blocks away at 272 Peru (technically in Barrio Montserat) you’ll find Manzana de las Luces (the ‘illuminated block’) which is a group of old cultural buildings. Historians believe this was the area that was first settled in 1536. manzanadelasluces.gov.ar

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Factoid: street corners in San Telmo were rounded to lessen the chance of bumping into someone with Yellow Fever, a disease which killed a lot of Porteños in several epidemics in the nineteenth century.

If you’re a fan of Mafalda (a cartoon about a little girl who makes highly observant comments about Argentine society, politics and life in general) you’ll find the neighbourhood store, Almacen Don Manolo, that appears in the cartoons at 774 Balcarce.

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So as you can see, there’s lots to see and do. Enjoy!

Buenos Aires – Cerviche and Sushi in Palermo Hollywood

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Palermo, Palermo Hollywood with tags , on November 23, 2011 by gannet39

Palermo is one of my favourite barrios in Buenos Aires and is probably where I’d choose to live if I could (I wish).  It’s also one of the biggest neighbourhoods and is subdivided into smaller areas as you can see on this map.

Palermo Hollywood and Palermo Soho (see separate post) together form what used to be called Palermo Viejo. The area is particularly known for its nightlife and many of the best bars and clubs are here, as well as lots of good cafes and restaurants.

Palermo wall

The following places are in Palermo Hollywood, so called because of the number of TV and radio producers who moved here in the 90’s.

Osaka (Advanced A), Soler 5608. Tel. 4775 6964

I was very excited to come to this place as I’m a huge fan of Sushi and had heard a lot about Cerviche but had never tried it. Both are specialities of this restaurant which is reputed to be one of the best in Buenos Aires.

Cooking crew

Cerviche is an ancient food originating from Peru, where it was further refined by Japanese immigrants. I sat myself at the sushi bar where I could get a good view of the action and chat with the chefs.

Place setting

Interestingly they use Japanese cutting and rolling techniques, and shout ‘sushi des’ when it’s ready but otherwise can’t speak a word of Japanese. I was here to treat myself and eat heartily and did so; obviously you could spend much less.

Tools of the trade

 While looking at the menu, I had the house cocktail; Caipi Osaka  (A) made with vodka, passion fruit juice and fresh strawberries with a sugar halo, yum!

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 For the first round, I had the Degustacion Cevi where you choose three different preparations from a list of six. I went for the Wasabi which was white fish, sea bass I think, in Leche de Tigre (marinade of key lime juice, fish and hot pepper), fresh wasabi (the traditional Japanese horseradish that is usually mixed with soya for dipping the sushi into), curly sweet potato and chulpi (sweet maize) popcorn.

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Also the hot and sour Indo (salmon with chilli jam, mango, coconut milk, scallons, togarashi (Japanese chilli) and topped with crispy quinoa).

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Thirdly the Classiche, (fish, cerviche base, peppers, herbs and red onion, served with glazed sweet potato and lettuce). All three were absolutely amazing.  (A+)

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The Torrontes white wine I wanted to try (Colome) had sold out but the waiter recommended another (San Pedro Yacochuya 2010) from the same grape which was perfect for the fish (A).

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Next, Terimaki Temaki, a nori seaweed cone of fried langoustines, slices of salmon and lime, Philadelphia cheese and teriyaki sauce which was heaven in the mouth (A) …Teriyaki Temaki

…especially when dipped in a little soya and wasabi.

 

dips-e1511169009513.jpgFor a bit of heat I was also given some yellow Aji chilli sauce, although the waiter described it as TNT!

VietnamitoAlso a plate of Vietnamito, salmon with chilli jam, ajies (chilli pepper variety), fish sauce and grated coconut. This is made in Teradito style, a Japanese-Peruvian method of preparation similar to Cerviche and Carpaccio but without onions and using Japanese fish cutting methods. Sadly this was my least favourite as I didn’t like the sweetness (C). Lots of other Teradito on the list to try though.

After this the 2 Salmon  Temaki, another cone of spicy salmon ‘tataki’ (seared with a gas torch) and avocado with ‘Osaka sauce’. Amazing again (A).

2 Salmon  Temaki

And Misoshiru (B) bean paste soup, which came in a square wide-lipped bowl. This offended my soup-drinking sensibilities as it needs to be in a small round bowl you can drink straight out of, so I sent it back to be changed. In Japan misoshiru is drunk instead of water at mealtimes.

Misoshiru

Finally, Centolla Nigiri, two pieces of rice topped with king crab and held together with a band of nori seaweed, again very nice (A).

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For dessert, Chees Maracuya (sic), a tasty passion fruit cheesecake with deep-fried basil leaves on the side (B).

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Sadly the limocello was served only slightly chilled again as it always seem to be in Argentina (D) and I had it changed for a Grappa (B).

Grappa

 

I was told I would need to reserve a couple of days earlier (and before 6pm) but instead I was on the doorstep when they opened at 8 and got in that way. As it turned out, there were empty tables anyway so maybe the hype has subsided a bit. My total spend with tip, $630,just shy of £100, but I would happily spend this again, it was easily worth the money.

caiparinhia.jpgAfter this wonderful experience I went to Congo at Honduras 5329 (open Wed to Sat from 8pm to 4am or 6am) for a Passion Fruit Caiparinhia (A) in their garden bar, which according to Time Out is one of the best outdoor drinking spaces in the city. This was my last night in Buenos Aires and perhaps my best. Really hope I can go again soon, love this town!

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