Archive for the Recoleta Category

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 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. You could of course change money in the street at any time but with much less security. Walking down Florida (or any main street in big towns) you’ll be assailed with chants of ‘cambio, cambio, cambio’ but I’d only risk changing very small amounts with these guys, if at all.

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.

Cementerio de la Recoleta

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Cementerio, Recoleta with tags on November 15, 2011 by gannet39

This is the most amazing cemetery I’ve ever been to, a must visit if you ever come to Buenos Aires.

It’s the final resting place of many of Argentina’s great and good, including Eva Peron (Evita) and several presidents, generals and writers. It’s like something out of Gormenghast, a huge necropolis with hundreds of mausoleums in many different architectural styles, predominantly Gothic but with lots of Art Noveau and Art Deco, in various states of repair. Many are falling apart and filled with rubbish, the coffins exposed to the prying eyes of the hordes of tourists who come to pay their disrespects every day.

There are many beautiful statues by famous scupltors, one of my favourites is the  Tomb of Liliana Crociati de Szaszak who died tragically in an avalanche on her honeymoon in Austria. The poem on her tomb by her father is really sad (click on the link to read it).

Here is the cemetery webpagesome more info.

Please click on these photos to go to an enlarged slideshow.

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