Buenos Aires in Review

Throughout 2014 and 2015, I have been busy seeing the world and not spending much time in Nova Scotia. I am officially nomadic as I have no home and keep on moving. However, I’m not a full time tourist. Don’t be fooled! I work throughout the week as a travel agent and then I explore when I can.

During my stay in Buenos Aires other people often told me I ‘needed’ to see so much more. They are used to tourists who arrive for a few days and try to jam in all of the history and sight seeing they can. Those tourists are on vacation and have little time and no work to do. It is a very different situation than living in a place for four months and needing to make a living while you are there. Can you imagine 120 days straight of full-on sight seeing and then going home to work for six to eight hours each night? Phew! Talk about exhausting. And that’s why I spread my excitement out!

Sometimes I look back at my four months in Buenos Aires and get a little sad that I didn’t do more … but then I look at this list of what I did do and I’m back to being content.

Street Art Tour – Early in my stay I joined Travel Writer, Yvonne Gordon, on a wonderful Street Art tour with Graffitimundo. If you haven’t read my blog about it, check it out!
Tren de la Costa – Costal train stopping at several communities, with a final destination of El Tigre.
El Tigre – A lovely community boasting the National Art Museum and lovely boat rides along the delta.
Lujan – Known for it’s beautiful basilica. They happened to be having a community mural project that weekend so I got to meet lots of great street artists who were painting large canvases of their own pieces to be displayed together around the city.
San Telmo Market – Blocks and blocks of street vendors, artisans, dancers, performers and musicians that takes place every Sunday in the bohemian district of San Telmo.
House party with Karaoke – Does it get more local than a 2am house party with Spanish karaoke?
Bar – no name – The bar actually did have a name, although I’ve forgotten it, but it was not displayed on the outside of the building.
Trip to Fray Bento – A couple of locals offered to do a road trip with me to Uruguay to withdraw US money. We ended up driving several hours, crossing a large bridge and stopping in Fray Bento, Uruguay. The saying, it’s all about the journey and not the destination is very fitting for this. The road trip was a lot of fun; Fray Bento, well … not much to see here!
Gallerias Pacifico – A high end mall in a historic building with beautifully restored original art work.
Samba – One of my local friends was a member of a Brazilian Samba band. Not only was I invited to attend for the experience, but I was encouraged to participate. My instrument of choice … the cowbell.
Samba Percussion Show – Although I didn’t quite fit the bill for performing in the Samba band after practicing for one song, a few weeks later I attended one of their live performances and was treated to lively Samba music, along with my first live Samba dancing.
Plaza Serrano – A lively plaza in the heart of Palermo filled with tourists and locals. Boutique shops, bars and an artisan market make it a great meeting place for people day and night, all week long.
La Boca – Known for it’s colorful history, literally, with brightly painted buildings and a multitude of different artists. La Boca as a whole is a very poor area of the city and one of the highest crime areas. The tourist section has been revived and consists of two small streets. Talk to anyone and they highly recommend not leaving the tourist area. In fact, most locals avoid it as well.
Puerto Madero – A beautiful port area with higher end bars, shops and restaurants.
Feria de Mataderos – A travelling market straight out of the countryside. They bring their artisan crafts and delicious foods to different communities throughout Buenos Aires Province and do dance, singing and percussion performances as well.
Cafe Tortoni – One of the city’s oldest and best known cafes with history back to the 1800s.
Costanera Norte – An area along the edge of the river with yacht clubs, a university and museum. Well known for the delicious food (it was too busy for us to get in to eat) and nice walks along the coast.
Vos Spanish classes – For one week I attended Spanish classes at a school in Recoleta called Vos. It restarted my motivation when I felt it was failing. The staff and teachers were very welcoming and I met a couple of great other students.
Trip to Iguazu Falls – A short flight (or a very long bus ride) from Buenos Aires, you have easy access to the beautiful Iguazu Falls that has a tri-border with Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. Known as soon of the largest falls in the world.
Trip to Colonia, Uruguay – I did a full day trip on my own to Colonia, Uruguay in pursuit of US money. Some people love Colonia and speak very highly of this quaint little town. Personally, I found it a little lack-lustre and was glad to be headed back home on an early afternoon ferry.
French Food Market – My friend Holly invited me to a French Food market one weekend which was tucked away by the train tracks about 10 blocks from Raul Scalabrini Ortiz Street. With street food trucks and pastries, along with some French live music and the biggest glass of wine ever served, it was a delightful afternoon.
Family Asado / birthday party – One of my friends had a family and friends get together one evening to celebrate her birthday. It took place in the upper kitchen of the house, made especially for cooking for family gatherings. The asado (barbecue of sorts) was filled with chorizos, churipan, pop, chips and pickles, not to mention the tasty chimichurri!
Plaza Francia / Recoleta – One Sunday afternoon while wandering around Recoleta, which is known as one of the rich areas of the city, I stumbled across Plaza Francia and another lovely artisan market. Handicrafts, street food and musical performances. Grab a spot on the grass or stroll the walkways and enjoy.
Don Silvano Estancia – A Sunday visit to the Don Silvano Estancia on one of the coldest days of winter in Buenos Aires turned out to be a joy. Despite the fact that it was too cold outside to watch the full horse demonstration, the asado was delicious, the cultural show was great and we even had a very short crowd participation / tango lesson.
Live Radio show – Late one evening a couple of friends took me for the experience of seeing one of Buenos Aires’ famous live radio shows. I didn’t understand much, but it was great to sit in a live crowd and feel the energy. To me, it felt a bit like something CBC would do back home. They had a little politics, a little comedy and then live acoustic musicians at the end.
Food tour  – I had a great little food tour in the Recoleta area one evening that included such yumminess as empanadas, a variety of asado meats and salad and delicious ice cream.
Volunteer tour – I traveled with a group to the outskirts of the city to visit a not for profit organization for kids in a very poor area of the city. The organization provides a hot meal and a safe place for the children to be after school when often their parents aren’t home. We played soccer with a few of the kids and helped prepare the meal for the evening.
Mushka – A musical theatre about a prostitute who fell in love with one of her callers. It was a short performance, but well done and I happened to see it on it’s closing night. It was at the Gallerias Pacifico in the Borges theatre which is small, but cozy.
Night bike riding through the parks – Despite the heaps of traffic in Buenos Aires, lots of locals use bicycles for transportation from point A to point B. They even have free rental services for locals for one hour at a time. For many others though, cycling is a form of exercise and relaxation. Late one evening I went cycling with a friend from my apartment in Palermo to the parks nearby. Amazing to me that there were still tonnes of people out walking and running right up until we headed back to my apartment after midnight.
Marketing Class – One of my friends thought it would be interesting if I went to a business class with him one night at a small school. The topic was social media for your business and although I didn’t join in any discussions, I was excited that I understood almost everything that the instructor said.
Casa de la Fondue – I’ve never been to a fondue restaurant before, so why not try it in Buenos Aires with their amazing cheeses. A couple of platters and two different pots of cheese was a great way to share time with my new friends before I headed back home to Nova Scotia.
Cuba Mia – I had great plans of going out salsa dancing regularly while in Buenos Aires, but that didn’t happen. Instead, I went out only one night and that was for my going away party. Cuba Mia is a great dance club with live music and was packed the night we were there. It’s definitely somewhere I would check out again!

There are still some experiences that I missed out on and will save for my next extended visit to Buenos Aires. Here are a few that I would recommend if you are heading that way.

Theatre, theatre and more theatre – Although I went to one theatrical showing – Mushka at Borges – this city is filled with theatre performances of all kinds – one of the top theatre destinations in the world! I would love to see a symphony, a ballet and a really amazing tango show. Cirque de Soleil would have been amazing as well, but they were not performing during my time there. Fuerza Bruta is supposed to be a great show. It started my last week there, but tickets sold out incredibly fast and I was not able to get in before I left. There is also the Ciega Theatre where you take part in shows completely in the dark while both blind performers and others provided interesting shows for your other senses. From comedies to monologues, dance to musicals, there is something for everyone!

Bomba de Tiempo – Monday nights in Almagro there is a high energy percussion show that I hear is really fantastic. It runs from 7pm – 10pm (so they say). Would have loved to have gone but it just didn’t pan out. Next time.

Ecological Reserve – For weeks I planned on going to the beautiful, open, green space near the river in the central area of the city. For weeks, I couldn’t drag my butt there on my own. It is a great space for walking, cycling and bird watching, but I couldn’t get motivated to explore it on my own. So, next time it’ll be top priority when I need some nature-time to recharge. I swear, alone or with a friend, I’ll make it there next time.

Rose Park – I can’t believe I missed this one. Well, in all honesty, I didn’t miss it, I did circle it on my night city bike ride and saw the potential beauty. But, next time, I will enjoy this park with all of it’s scents and sights.

Yes, I agree, there are a million things to do in this fabulous city as a tourist or as a local. As a city, it is one of my favourites. As a country, I love it. But, the economy and government need more than a little work. It is a difficult society to live in despite your best intentions.

I bid farewell to Buenos Aires in August after four months. It was officially the place I lived the longest in the past year, so it is as close to home as anything right now. I suspect I will return in 2016 as the launching spot for a trip to Patagonia and possibly to stay for longer. Since I’ve lived there for four months, it will give me a bit of the familiar home-like feel after another six or seven months on the road, waters and in the skies.

I hope that we will meet again Buenos Aires, my friend.

Tigre

Just 16 kilometres to the north of bustling Buenos Aires lies a small town full of life but at a much slower pace. Tigre sits at the mouth of the Delta and sprawls out from a grand riverway to a web like maze of smaller rivers and streams.

Rio Tigre
Rio Tigre

Serviced by two train lines, the Mitre and la Tren de la Costa, along with several bus routes, it is easily accessible for tourists, along with a great weekend day trip for locals.

Starting from the Maipu Station in the Olivos barrio of Buenos Aires, I hopped on the Tren de la Costa for the short ride to Tigre. This particular train route allows you the option of stopping to explore any or all of the costal communities along the way, then you hop back on the next train (approximately every 30 minutes). I made one stop at Barrancas and then continued on my way to explore Tigre.

At the Tren de la Costa station in Tigre you are met on the platform by a small market with a handful of local vendors and then more vendors line the streets to your right. Also on the right you’ll get your first glimpse of the amusement park. I headed left to find food as it was mid-afternoon and my tummy was asking for lunch.

I was traveling with a friend and we grabbed a spot at one of the first parilla (barbecue) restaurants that we found called La Isla. A parilla for two, with five different types of meat, a salad and two drinks totalled up to nearly $400 pesos. Yikes! On the bright side, the chimichuri sauce was devine and we were stuffed when we left. I’m sure the next few hours of walking did us good!

At this end of town, there isn’t a whole lot to see outside of the market and the amusement park. It was fun to watch the bungee jump-style ride from afar, but I didn’t feel the need to jump from a tower that day.

We followed the flow of people up the road and around a bend until we saw the river bubbling along, teeming with boats and the river banks filled with families and friends relaxing in the sun.

Rio Tigre, Buenos Aires
Rio Tigre, Buenos Aires

We walked up-river, dawdling along, people watching and checking out a few vendors along the way. I stopped to take a few photos, watch a bit of a busker show and poke through the market with the purple stalls. Then, we made our way to the bridge and crossed over to the other side of town.

The river banks were clustered with families and friends have picnic lunches, couples kissing, dogs and children playing and the elderly sitting on nearby benches over looking the river. A few vendors provided snacks and tourist trinkets along the way, but never once did any of them approach us to sell their wares. They just served those who approached them.

We walked to the bend in the river and followed the park-like path with even more people enjoying a lovely Sunday afternoon in the sun. It felt like one big picnic party, but I left my basket at home!

Relaxing by the Rio Tigre
Relaxing by the Rio Tigre

Along the way I marvelled at the beautiful buildings on both sides of the river and enjoyed the late afternoon sun. After all, we hadn’t arrived in Tigre until about 2:30pm, had lunch and then wandered for an hour along the streets before heading toward the Museo de Arte Tigre.

I had heard the the Museo de Arte Tigre was the most beautiful building in the city and it did not disappoint. Not only is it beautiful, but we timed it right to enjoy the late afternoon sun warming it’s outer walls with golden light. My only disappointment was that I didn’t have enough time to explore inside.

We did, however, get to take in a beautiful dance performance. It may have been tied into an election speech, but with my intermediate Spanish, I didn’t really know what they were talking about. I was just happy to see the beautiful performances.

We stayed around the Museo de Arte for about half an hour wandering the grounds and watching the performers before walking back the same direction in which we had arrived. After crossing the bridge, and my feet being sore, we decided to take the Mitre train line back to Buenos Aires. It was packed, but luckily I was able to hop on the train at the front of the line and nab us two seats rather than standing for the 20 – 30 minute ride back. The other benefit of this was that I was able to get off the train at the Belgrano station rather than heading all the way back to Maipu and needing to take an hour long bus or 1/2 hour taxi ride home.

Overall, it was a beautiful day. I’ll likely do the trip again in my next few weeks here. If the weather stays warm enough I may head back to Peru beach for some water sports. And, if not, I think a trip to Tigre just to wander the Museo de Arte Tigre would be worth the 30 minute train ride.

The Coastal train to Barrancas Station

If you find yourself for an extended period of time in Buenos Aires and are in need of a relaxing getaway, head toward Tigre where you’ll find a day full of wandering, meandering and treasure hunting waiting for you with la Tren de la Costa route.

It took far too long for me to get from Belgrano to the Maipu Station to catch the Tren de la Costa, but I chalk that up to a variety of bad luck, bad sense of direction and lack of planning. I took a bus to Plaza Italia (opposite direction) in order to catch the 152 bus that I needed to go the right direction. Sadly I wasn’t sure where else I could catch this bus, although I suppose I could have looked it up online. I’m sure it passed within a few blocks of my house.

With less traffic on a Sunday than other days, I was hoping that the trip would only take 30 -45 minutes. Over an hour in, we hit a traffic jam caused by construction and traffic was near a stand still. I hopped off the bus, walked one street back and hailed a taxi. I just couldn’t sit on a bus going nowhere any more.

The taxi took another 15 minutes to get to the Maipu Station, but eventually I arrived and followed the signs to the ticket booth, easy enough. I walked upstairs through a funky antique market, but only about a quarter of the stalls were open. The faint smell of dust and rust filled the air and there was a little of everything from old furniture to signs to trinkets and records.

At the end of the market you’ll find the ticket booth right at the edge of the platform. There are two fares, one for locals ($10 pesos one way to Tigre) and one for expats ($20 pesos one way to Tigre). You’ll receive a ticket, white for locals and purple for expats. You’ll need the ticket to get through the check point on to the platform.

Once on the train, there is a stop every two to five minutes. From the little map I had reviewed, I expected it to be five to ten minutes between stops, but I could hardly believe it when we stopped about one minute after the train started. At that pace I thought I could walk to Tigre! (well, it’s only 16kms) Ok, maybe a little stretch of the imagination, but none-the-less, the total train time was only about 30 minutes.

The main point of taking the Tren de la Costa (the coastal train) is that you can hop off at any of the 10 stations along the way and explore the station along with the small town or community. I had read about most of the stations, but decided that Tigre was my main destination so I would only stop at one other station along the way.

I hopped off at Barrancas Station where there was a lovely little antique market. Now, antiques aren’t really my thing, but none the less it was interesting to see some historical pieces of Argentinian history. Mostly trinkets and old tools, but a lot of historic television paraphernalia (action figures etc) and lots of old liquor bottles. It is literally a mish mash of everything. Some of the tables are organized, others are just piled high with treasures. All of them could use some dusting!

Once you are done wandering through the market, you can grab a croissant (medialuna) and coffee at the green and white Bikes and Coffee Cafe on the platform, or you can take a wander through town to grab lunch. I had wanted to try Parilla el Nandu restaurant for lunch, but being a Sunday it was particularly busy with a full house and over an hour’s wait to be seated.

A couple of blocks away you’ll find the entrance to Peru beach. Not quite sure where the name comes from as there is no beach, but it is a beautiful view of the water and the opportunity to try a number of watersports from windsurfing to kayaking to paddle boarding.

The small area was packed with visitors dining at the ‘beach’ restaurant, lounging on the grass soaking up the sun and taking selfies along the water with sailboats in the background. Sadly, I wasn’t prepared for swimming (in jeans and a t-shirt), so I gathered a bit of pricing information and decided another Sunday it would be worth the visit just to get out on the water for awhile.

Just to give you an idea of what prices to expect:

Kayaking – single – $150 Pesos per hour (about $15 USD) / double – $200 Pesos per hour (about $20 USD)

Windsurfing – 1 hour class $450 Pesos / 3 hour equipment rental $1200 Pesos / 5 hour equipment rental $2000 Pesos

Although I didn’t this time, I think next time I’ll rent a bike and take a peddle along the train-track-trail. The houses, scenery and art looked lovely from the train.

I wandered around Barrancas for about an hour in total. You could easily spend a morning, afternoon or full day there if you were to partake in some of the water sports, but if you are just stopping for a peek, a wander through the market and a quick bite at the Bikes & Coffee Cafe should have you on your way again in about an hour or hour and a half.

PS – the medialunas at the Bikes & Coffee Cafe are deeelish!