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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Monday, July 26, 2010

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Please click on any picture to see the larger version.

Travel Dates 28th April - 5th May 2010.

Also see On My Way Again for my first day in BA.

The first thing that struck me about Buenos Aires as the plane circled to land was the size of the city. And the smog.

I planned to end my South American trip with a week in Buenos Aires partly because of Australian quarantine restrictions. As I cannot have a yellow fever vaccination and I had spent a few days in the YF-endemic Iguassu district there was a possibility that I would have to spend six days in quarantine if I had gone directly home. In any case, it was a lovely, enjoyable and relaxing city to spend a week in.

BA is sometimes called "The Paris of the South". There were Parisian influences obvious in some buildings and street styles, but I found BA was also very similar in many ways to the inner suburbs and central business district of Melbourne. The exchange rate meant that restaurants and transport were cheap by Australian standards. 100 Argentine pesos is about AU$28 and US$25; I ate very well for under 40 pesos most nights.

When I arrived at my flat in Recolata I noticed that the district, or Barrio, was wall-to-wall apartment blocks apart from the commercial centre, generally varying from eight to fifteen storeys high with occasional towers of 20 storeys or more. What surprised me was that, unlike Melbourne or Sydney, those multi-storey apartments continued out into the outer suburbs. Later, I took the Subte Linea A out to San José de Flores, many kilometres out of the centre and found the same style of cheek-by-jowl multi-storey apartment blocks out there. The first picture is my street in Recoleta, the second is in San José de Flores.

I always considered Australia to be over-urbanised, with more than half our population living in the principal cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. But Argentina makes us look almost bucolic by comparison, with more than half the population of over 36 million living in Buenos Aires and its suburbs. From my own observation a significant proportion of them appear to live in urban apartments. There are probably suburbs with individual houses on quarter-acre blocks, but I didn’t see any.

If you intend visiting this city for more than a few days I suggest renting an apartment instead of a hotel. For me there was the added advantage of being able to cook my own breakfast, but if I had not chosen to do that there were lots of nearby cafés and restaurants. I used BA Stays; the apartment was excellent and perfectly located and far cheaper than a hotel. I wrote a longer report on BA Stays here: Buenos Aires Stay apartment rental.

My Recoleta apartment was about five blocks from the Agüero station on Linea D and only a couple of blocks from the multitude of buses proceeding in both directions along Avenue General las Heras. I rarely needed a cab, but when I did I found them to be inexpensive. If you intend using buses when you visit this city go to any news-stand and buy a current copy of the Guia "T" de Bolsillo, the guide to buses. It fitted easily in my pocket and was easy to understand despite being in Spanish. It is well laid out and was invaluable in planning routes to see the city.

I did the usual tourist things such as seeing the main buildings, parks and attractions. That included the Obelisk and, of course, the Recoleta Cemetery which I’ll describe in the next post, but mostly I took life easy and wandered at my own pace on foot, in buses and on the Subte.

The regional railway lines have almost all disappeared, so the enormous rail terminus now appears to provide for infrequent trains to Villa Rosa. The city Cathedral is next door.

I like seeing the architectural styles and differences in the cities I visit. These are just a couple of examples; later I will write a separate post on a special building, the Palacio Barolo.

The Subte is the city's metro; five main lines, all underground, covering a significant proportion of the inner city but limited in the outer regions. All of the lines are separate but your ticket allows you to transfer between lines at the stations where they pass over or under each other. For more detail see this excellent description: Buenos Aires Subte. They have their own division of the Police Force - the Division Subterraneous.

Subte Linea A line is special. The other lines are reasonably modern, but the Linea A is a step back in time to the era of wooden carriages built and maintained by craftsmen. I believe that it is deliberately maintained in the old style and that there are no plans to modernize it; at least I hope so. I took it to the last stop, then walked around San José de Flores and spent a pleasant afternoon in the cafés and shops before returning on buses to see a different view of the suburbs.

I spent a day in Palermo, walking the streets and visiting the cafés and parks, and another in the San Telmo and Constitucion barrios.

Interesting sculptures appeared without fanfare in some of the streets.

All the barrios were slightly different in their architecture and style, all were interesting. Many of the parks had market stalls, some were surrounded by cafés and some had free public tango displays. I was warned by the locals to avoid Boca at the time I was there; apparently there were security problems at the time. However, I had no problems in the other areas or downtown no matter where or when I wandered. In hindsight I regret not going to Boca.

There was some graffiti, but not a lot by the standards of other major cities. I noticed that Las Malvinas was often the subject of the graffiti. It is a war that may have diminished in UK memories and been forgotten by the rest of the world - but the subject is very much alive in Buenos Aires. This memorial is in the Plaza San Martin.

On the other hand, some of the veterans of that war feel very much aggrieved at their treatment by the government and have camped for a couple of years in the Plaza de Mayo in central downtown. The soldiers who served on Argentine soil and did not actually face the British in battle received no recognition or benefits and they feel rather strongly about it. The government tries to ignore them - but is taking no chances. This was one of three armoured vehicles close to the protesters camp. More details are here and here. Recent oil discoveries near the Falklands have also rekindled interest.

While I was in the Plaza de Mayo there was a crew taking some fashion pictures. Love the shoes and the hat. The things women do to get noticed...Actually, I would have noticed this lady even if she hadn't been wearing the shoes or the hat. Or anything at all.

The food in BA was excellent; I didn't keep a record of the restaurants I tried, because I ate wherever I happened to be at the time, but nearly all had a good range on the menu and the food was tasty and properly cooked. Wines were generally good, but sometimes were more expensive than the food.

For lunches I often had food from small fast-food diners. There were several that specialised in choripan and morcipan. Choripan is a large chorizo sausage on a white-bread bun slathered liberally with a choice of salsas; delicious. Morcipan is a blood sausage served similarly. Unfortunately the one I tried was almost liquid in its interior; nothing like a UK black pudding. I'm afraid it will be the last one I try. Many of the Choripan restaurants also had various cuts of meat available on the Asado grill to be served in a similar way.

One of the unique businesses in Buenos Aires is dog-walking. I know other cities have dog-walkers - but nothing like these. It is a city of apartment dwellers who, for some unfathomable reason, like to own medium to large dogs that must be walked in the fresh air daily. Apparently the walkers, or paseaperros, get paid by the month on a per-dog basis. The more dogs you walk - the more money you make. I often saw walkers with packs of 20 or more, but I never seemed to have the camera ready at those times so this is just a small pack.

As a friend of mine used to say, if you're not the lead dog the view is the same. Despite tremendous differences in sizes and breeds I never saw any of the dogs misbehave or act aggressively to anyone or other dogs. Also, despite the laws on picking up after the dogs, I found it was very wise to watch where I stepped on the streets of Buenos Aires.

I thoroughly enjoyed my week in BA and I'd love to go back some day.

Cheers, Alan


  1. It looks like an exoerience of a life time. You made me laugh at dog poop not picked up.

  2. Anonymous12:32 pm

    Argentina is such an amazing country!
    I played polo in Buenos Aires with some friends and had a great time together!

  3. Federico4:05 am

    Glad you enjoyed your visit to our city. I thought it might useful to drop some comments.

    The veterans camping on the Plaza de Mayo Square have never been aggresive. The armoured riot control trucks you saw were there for another reason, probably the police was expecting a more conflictive demonstration from some other political group later that thay. It's only on those days when the riot control units appear. As a preventive measure, really, demonstrations can look scary to some outsiders, but they rarely get truly violent. But there are political demonstrations all the time in Buenos Aires, you probably noticed the blue iron fence cutting the Square in half. That's been in place for years now, in case of demonstrations considered risky the police puts the remaining panels into place on the streets on the sides, effectively cutting off that section of the square to contain the demonstrators.

    I have been a dog walker myself in my younger years, I can tell you it's good bussiness and dogs rarely misbehave. If you take any dog known to be aggresive, we just put a muzzle on him and that's it. The law supposedly says you can't walk more than 2 dogs at the same time, but this is not enforced.

  4. Thanks, Federico, for the interesting additional information.

    Cheers, Alan

  5. oh, my! 2010!
    did you ever come back?

  6. Unfortunately no, José, I have not been back yet. Too much of the world still to see; just back from South Africa and Zimbabwe yesterday. I do hope to return to South America some day.