Buenos Aires is a city with not a lot of must-see sights, but certainly a lot of explorations. In my 3.5 days, I was able to wander a good portion of the City’s very distinct neighborhoods.
On my first day, after checking in at the Intercontinental, I made my way down to one of the City’s main avenues, Avenida de Mayo, and grabbed a delicious “executive lunch” en route to the Plaza de Mayo, with the Government House (or “Casa Rosada”), Cathedral, and other sights surrounding it. The bustle of tourists and locals was palpable, and from there I walked over to Puerto Madero — a newly renovated waterfront area, with restaurants, a Hilton, and historic boats. From Puerto Madero, I continued my walk, where I saw the Torres del Ingles, Retiro Train Station, and Malvinas War (aka Falklands War) Memorial. From there, I swung back down Calle Florida, the hectic main shopping street of Buenos Aires, with clothing stores large and small, before a quiet night back at the hotel.
My second day in Buenos Aires was a Thursday, and I knew I wanted to see the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo on their weekly march around the Plaza. The Madres are a group of women who started protesting under the military regime in the 1970s when their children “disappeared.” Many of these women still do not know the fate of their children (and/or grandchildren), and although the government has changed and many are now elderly, a sizeable group still marches once a week. There are actually two separate groups now, as some have now devoted themselves to new political causes (largely seeking the return of the Malvinas). There was a ton of tourists and press watching their 3pm walk but I’m glad I got to see them.
Earlier in the day, I had wandered the other sights of the Microcentro, including the impressive main courthouse and Congress. Alas, the cool looking Jewish Museum is only open 4 hours a week, and I missed those 4 hours.
Once I switched hotels to the Palacio Duhau, I took a much-needed nap and got ready for a late, but fun, night out on the town with the gays of BA, preceded by an “early” (11pm) dinner at one of BA’s great Italian restaurants by my hotel, Sotto Voce.
Day 3 was devoted to exploring Recoleta and Palermo — and I was shocked how different they were from the Microcentro. The Microcentro feels like a Latin American city. It’s not poor, but the streets are narrow and crowded. Recoleta, on the other hand, feels like a wealthy arrondissement of Paris: wide avenues, fancy cars, expensive boutiques. I mostly just wandered, checking out some nice looking buildings, including the Evita Museum, and having a leisurely lunch. After lunch I headed over to the hipper Palermo district and checked out some off the hipper boutiques and clothing stores. Dinner was at an informal, old-school steak and empanadas place near my hotel which left me underwhelmed.
My flight back from Buenos Aires (via Santiago) didn’t leave until the evening, so I had most of Day 4 to explore. I started my day by heading to the Recoleta Cemetery, where Eva Peron is buried, and stood in awe of the size and garishness of some of the mausoleums – each of which was half the size of my apartment. After browsing a Saturday market in Recoleta I then grabbed a light breakfast in a lovely setting, before heading back into the Microcentro. On weekends, the Government House (or Casa Rosada) is open to the public, with guided tours through rooms that are currently in use by President Kirchner and her staff. It was very cool, although I somehow ended up on a Spanish-only tour with a ton of screaming children. So I can’t really tell you much about what actually happened on the tour. But the rooms looked cool!
On the way back to the Palacio Duhau to pick up my bags, I squeezed in what ended up being my best meal of the trip, though slightly rushed, at Sirop Folie. A delicious asado over a cake made of smashed squash. Nom. A hurried walk back to the hotel led me to a Remis which was already waiting to take me over to Ezeiza, Buenos Aires’ large international airport.
My LAN flight was scheduled to take me from EZE to Santiago, and then onward up to JFK, all with the same flight number and equipment. I arrived at the airport fairly early, and was faced with one of the most insane security lines I’d ever seen – with no priority for premium cabin passengers. The security line easily had 150 passengers, and only two x-ray machines and metal detectors! After clearing security and then immigration, and making my way through the duty free area, I headed to the American Airlines Admirals’ Club, which I’d been given an invitation to at LAN check-in. As with the Admirals’ Club at Santiago, the lounge was pretty disgusting. After a drink, I left to explore the rest of the terminal. While doing so I found the American Express lounge, which was a much nicer option. With my American Express Platinum card, I was given entrance into a separate room off to the side (there was a third separate room for Centurion cardholders). While certainly not a luxury lounge, it was neater, cleaner, newer, and had a wider variety of snacks and beverages).
After a short stop, I was on board for the short flight to Santiago in LAN’s premium business. Our departure was delayed significantly because there was a problem with one of the lie-flat seats and maintenance had to come on board (sensing a theme with these seats). Most of the passengers in the cabin were connecting in Santiago to various LAN destinations, and I was one of the surprising few continuing on to New York. I purposely grabbed a window seat, as the view was spectacular, flying over the Andes as the sun was setting. There was a small snack service, and the full in-flight entertainment system.
Annoyingly, I had to disembark the plane in Santiago, which was parked at a far gate, walk down a very long secured hallway, go through security, and then enter the main terminal. I tried to buy a bottle of wine with some leftover Chilean Pesos, but I was told it was too late since my flight was leaving in less than an hour. Since boarding time was scheduled to begin shortly, I didn’t have the opportunity to check out the LAN lounge in SCL.
The return from SCL to JFK was uneventful, and similar to the flight on the way down. The dinner menu was a bit different, and I was able to get my first choices on everything. There were only two things of note. First, as opposed to the flight down, the cabin crew did change overnight, and the breakfast crew was thus different from the dinner crew. Second, the mechanized lie-flat seat somehow crushed my netbook which had been on the floor, causing a giant crack in the screen. Oh, well. I didn’t sleep as well as I did on the flight down for some reason, but my 8am arrival meant I was home and able to get some sleep before starting my Sunday.
Overall a great trip, and much more lowkey and laid back than I’d anticipated. Plus my flight and hotel out-of-pocket costs were miniscule.
~$150 Taxes and Change fee for British Airways Business Class redemption
$230 for LAN Mendoza to Buenos Aires (grrr)
Hotels (nine nights total):
$236 for Hyatt stay certificate (for Park Hyatt Mendoza)
$60 for one night cash and poitns (Sheraton Miramar Vina del Mar)
Everything else was cash, or free. 296
Total out of pocket: $676. Not bad for premium air travel and 4* hotels.