One of the great things about living in São Paulo is that you are a short flight from some fabulous destinations. We took a long weekend over the Easter holiday and went to one of these places – Buenos Aires.
Before we went we gathered advice and ideas from friends and other expats in São Paulo. But we also took some of the trip into our own hands. As with most cities we visit for the first time, we did some things that worked and some things that didn’t.
First, I’ve never seen more dogs lounging around in the sun napping than I did in Buenos Aires. Granted, our visit took place during a holiday, so the city had an unnatural quietness to it that I’m guessing doesn’t exist during a regular work week. So perhaps the dogs were taking advantage of the lull in people activity. But I swear, nearly every open, green space has a few dogs sunning themselves.
Every open, green space also had at least one family living in a make-shift tent – the sad result of a severe recession. This reality of poverty set against the elaborate architecture and monuments that represent wealthier times made our tour even more surreal.
We arrived on the Friday afternoon before Easter and the streets around where we stayed, at a boutique hotel within the Galerías Pacífico Shopping Mall’s building, were deserted. Except for the garbage. I was surprised and disappointed to find the roads littered with trash and disrupted by construction. Upon first impression, I didn’t see what the big attraction was to the city. But soon we wandered outside that neighborhood and I understood why Buenos Aires is such a popular destination.
Our first night, we attended a dinner and show put on by We Are Tango. Ok, is it for tourists? Yes. But is it “touristy”? Absolutely not.
The event took place in an artsy, little space near our hotel. Unfortunately, we used the directions on the website and not the new address information we received in our confirmation email, so we arrived late. But the package offers a welcome cocktail, a darn good meal that you select in advance, all the wine you can consume, a dance show that spins the history of tango and a lesson. The atmosphere is quaint and intimate as they don’t take more than 20 people per seating.
The staff was extremely accommodating and the host and hostess spoke perfect English. Highly recommend this as a kick-off to a Buenos Aires trip if you are visiting for the first time.
The next day we toured the city’s historical buildings and parks. We stopped at a wine shop I had read about located in San Telmo. While Vinotango no longer offers wine tasting and Tango singing due to an overload of inventory crowding their space, the owner, who lived in NYC for years, made some recommendations that proved to be excellent. We walked some more and ended up at Puerto Madero to enjoy drinks and appetizers at one of the waterside pubs. This area reminds me of New York City’s South Street Seaport, complete with ships full of tourists hanging out on the river. We were literally so tired from our day of walking that we didn’t even hit the town that Saturday night. Instead, we conducted our own private wine and cheese tasting in our hotel room. All was right in Buenos Aires.
But here is what we did wrong. Despite reading how the attraction had deteriorated over the past decade, we took the Tren de la Costa “tour” on Sunday.
Unless you like to spend hours rummaging through stalls of “antiques” or sipping coffee, the train line and its stops offer little of interest and are mostly deserted. The end of the line, the Delta stop, promises a casino, amusement park and shopping. But the area reminded me of a South American Coney Island, which is cool if you are in the mood for that, but we were not. We spent more time on trains that off during the route.
The only other thing we did wrong was overpay for a couple of mediocrely made leather shoes at a tourist shop.
However, after the train tour, we enjoyed a delicious seafood lunch and wine at Fervor, which was the only restaurant we could find open at the odd time we landed back in the city that also had good reviews. Then we wandered through more of the historic settings to Volta on Santa Fé for some excellent ice cream.
We accomplished quite a lot in the few days we spent in Buenos Aires. It is such a beautiful city, yet the current condition of the economy has left its scars. All those sleeping dogs must be a metaphor for something, right?
I look forward to a trip back one day.
For more weekend trips from São Paulo, check out American Exbrat in São Paulo: Advice, Stories Tips and Tricks for Surviving South America’s Largest City.