Ah, where to start!
We spent 2 relaxing weeks in Buenos Aires. Most of you reading know by now that I spent a semester (really 3 months) in Buenos Aires in college so this part of our trip was much anticipated by me! I also had been hyping it as the land of good food to the kids, so was hoping that would pay off.
In part due to their somewhat dire economic situation (their peso v. $ has been falling tremendously) we were able to get a lovely 2 bed, 2 bathroom apartment in a high end residential neighborhood near everything for a song. After some pretty dive hotels off and on in Peru/Ecuador this was a welcome posh respite. (We don’t even have 2 full bathrooms at home – lol) The view was lovely.
It was also relaxing to be in a much more developed city, where, for example, the buildings are all complete, and the sides of the buildings have finish. Also, Buenos Aires is HUGE (on the scale of NYC) so there is everything you can want or need available. Many subway lines, light rail, all major US chains, etc. Even though we didn’t use all that many of the amenities, it was nice to know they were there. We did go to a Wendy’s (tasted quite like home) and an American-themed diner with real pancakes (not a normal thing here) as treats. The diner was even was decorated for Halloween (another rarity here).
We got the kids hooked on a local empanada shop (it was amazing) so it wasn’t all US food. If anyone happens to be reading this and are heading to BsAs, try Pini Empanadas, you won’t be sorry (near Bulnes on the D green line). I think we ate there 6 times. The fact we could get a full meal and a bottle of wine for $10, total for us 4, didn’t hurt. Unhealthy fact – restaurants don’t have wine by the glass in Argentina and only very occasionally they have half bottles. Yikes! (Then again local wine is insanely cheap, we say bottles in the grocery for less than $1?!?! A decent local malbec is like $3-4 at a store.)
We enjoyed a lot of relaxing days at the apartment, partially to get some substantial hours of schoolwork in, and a bit because there were quite a few rainy days, many with torrential pours, and some with crazy lightning storms! Being on the 13th floor meant we had a great view of the light show a couple of nights. I sleep through everything, and even I was awoken by the thunder (and wind) one night.
We did most of the main tourist things – walked around Plaza de Mayo (main square), saw the Casa Posada (presidential palace), Recoleta cemetery, crossed Avenida 9 de Julio (the widest street in the world, with about 20 lanes of traffic) and viewed the Obelisco (a large monument). We went to the San Telmo antique market on a Sunday etc. We went to the lesser-visited Tram Historico which is a very short free tram ride open on weekends. We showed up on a Sunday about an hour after it opened and after waiting 30 minutes we realized there were too many people in line ahead of us to be able to get on that night! Luckily the following day was a holiday so it was open on the Monday, as well. We showed up 30 minutes EARLY this time and got on as the second group:)
In other transportation-related items (we really should do a guidebook of transportation museums;), we were lucky enough to catch the National Railway Museum a couple days after it reopened after many months of closure. It was relatively compact, but full of interesting things and had a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide (I think he was likely the director?). The craziest thing was an enormous arc rectifier with 2kg (?!) of mercury still in it. (let’s not break that!). I personally thought it was a beautifully designed space. It felt a bit like a Scandinavian museum or something (building was all white and black inside which really showed off all the brass and old wood).
A kid favorite was the museo de informática (basically a computer museum) where we caught the last day of an exhibit on the history of video games! They had quite a collection and you could even play some. The staff was super friendly and really knowledgeable as well.
We also had 2 bigger outings. The first was to a touristy (but fun) estancia (aka ranch). It is still owned by the same family that ran it as a ranch for 100 years, though being only 1 hour from downtown the land is surely worth too much to use as a ranch anymore. Instead they have gaucho (horse and dancing) demonstrations, horseback riding, carriage rides and a big traditional lunch. It was a pricey excursion for us, but a nice day out. Being on day-trips with a tour company also often lets us talk to some other travelers which is nice, too. We met a nice young woman on a Fulbright and her visiting mother and a fun, retired English couple.
Bizarrely, we went on the same trip during my study abroad. I had a hunch when I saw the picture on line, but was obvious once I was there.
The males of our group went horseback riding, all for the first time we think? (I passed having ridden daily at summer camp as a kid and never much caring for it). We all took a carriage ride as well. Luckily we were there off-season and on a weekday so we had plenty of time to do any of the options. There was about 40 people there with us, and the lunch area fit probably 200!
Our second longer trip was to Tigre, an area in the river delta just outside the city that is a weekend getaway for porteños (residents of BsAs). Many people have small cottages along the canals, which you can only access by boat! One of the larger islands in the middle, does have walkways and an elementary school though. It was a nice calm cruise on a gorgeous day.