First impressions do go a long way anywhere in the world, but after two busy days in Buenos Aires, I’ll add and expand to my impression list.
- There is quality food all round, even in the tourist ghettos of Florida St. The Marriott happened to be at the end of this long pedestrian corridor filled with tourist shops, street performers, sidewalk vendors and heaps of different languages. No matter where I went and sampled, the meat and sausage was pretty much spectacular, the juices fresh squeezed and tons of porteños were gorging on meat, sweets and wine.
- Drinking coffee is not one of my favorite things to do, since I’ve never really gotten into the whole Starbucks liquid confection culture (good lord, how much fatter would I be, if I did like those stupid “triple espresso, venti, super fat-skinny, tall-short lattes” ?). However the Argentines have this very good practice of serving you plain coffee with a little bar of chocolate. Adding chocolate to coffee is just a good idea… now one would ask, “How is this different from drinking another hot liquid confection?” … well it isn’t, but I would just rather have a good cup of coffee in another country while sitting on the sidewalk, than running between 6 meetings with 5 cups of coffee in between.
In drinking coffee in Buenos Aires, every country seems to have its own coffee culture, terms and idiosyncrasies; BsAs is no different. As I learned from a native porteños, she ordered a “submarino”, of course I thought it was a sandwich, but it really is Submarino is a tall glass of hot milk, served with a chocolate bar. I also learned that there are certain rules to consuming this drink, in order to look like a porteños
- Break the chocolate bar up into smaller pieces
- Drop it into the milk
- Let it melt
- Then stir it in to the milk, basically making a thick and creamy hot chocolate drink
How NOT to take a Submarino
Eating and ‘dunking’ the chocolate bar, like the English do with biscuits in their tea (awwhh, the English!), is the way forward for taking this beverage correctly. Avoid looking like an uncultured, mis-informed swine at all costs when supping at an Argentine coffee house on a submarino. This is very important as coffee, to the Argentines, ranks as highly on their list of cultural customs as beef and wine.
- This food talk leads to my next point…either the Portenos pray to be slim all day to make up for all the food and drink that they seem to consume without stopping. If Trinidadians ate like porteños, we would have bigger pot bellies and die the typical diabetic death by age 35. For culture that is seemingly obsessed with appearance and vanity, they do love their food. Even the high levels of sports, seem to contradict what I see people eating here, especially since they eat very very late here. Dinner is truly served after 9pm, but more likely 10pm , so that unless they’re going to bed at 5am – there is no hope of digesting a meal of sweets and meat with 3 glasses of wine. However, it seems to work for them. Amazing!!!
- On weekends, it appears that the city is overrun with craft fairs. After one bus tour yesterday, we passed four different areas that each had their own craft fair. I stopped in Recoleta and there was the craft fair (Feria Artesanal de la Recoleta), the cemetery (Cementerio de la Recoleta) and the Basílica Nuestra Señora Del Pilar
It is considered to be one of the most beautiful works of Buenos Aires Colonial architecture. It is a second oldest temple in the city and of the few that keeps all its imagery, ornaments and a series of historical pictures. It owes its name to the patron saint of the city of Zaragoza in Spain. A very rich trader, Juan de Narbona was born there and was authorized in 1716 by Royal Decree to build on this land. The first chapel was started in 1732 by Italian Jesuit architect Andrés Bianchi and it was completed by Juan Bautista Premoli.
The order of the Recollections (Recoletos) was expelled in 1821 by Governor Martin Rodriguez and his Home Minister Bernardino Rivadavia and their property expropriated. In 1834 the convent was assigned to be a mendicant’s home and then and old people’s home. Pope Pio XI declares it a Basilica in 1936. May 21 1942 it was declared National Historical Monument.
- After the craft fair, it was on the bus and we passed the Floralis Genérica sculpture. Although they are completely different, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Atomium in Brussels : the picture I took was from far away of course. I’m hoping to take some shots of the flower at night, but I’m not sure how safe it is!
Of course, they are only similar in that they are shiny, but hey that’s how my brain works. The flower “sculpture” is cool from the aspect that it begins to open at dawn and closes at dusk, when the setting sun turns its mirrored surfaces a glowing pink.
- After the bus tour, it was on to Plaza de Mayo. This is possibly the main square in BsAs and it is close by to the National Bank, Metropolitan Cathedral as well being the cross point between Hipólito Yrigoyen, Balcarce, Rivadavia and Bolívar streets.
Of course, one should take the tour of the Casa Rosada. There are some of the guide who spoke English, which was quite useful as my Spanish is what it is……
- After the Casa Rosada tour, I wandered over to the Metropolitan Cathedral. Definitely a must see once in the Plaza itself, but strangely enough, it wasn’t a stunning piece of architecture, since I expect Cathedrals to have more stained glass, domes and more ornate decorations. I was not surprised to discover that this is partially the result of design changes that happened during the multiple renovations and actual rebuilding that the Cathedral has undergone.
- Finally after Plaza De Mayo and wandering around, it was back to the hotel down the Florida tourist ghetto (Calle Florida)…..
Overall, not a bad second day introduction, I am looking forward to bit more of BsAs later tonight and then my trip to Iguazu 😀