We landed in Buenos Aires and made our way into the city without any fuss...the only obnoxious thing being the "reciprocity" charge of US$160/each that we had to pay to get into the country. Its not a "visa" fee persay more of a "f-you" fee really; a response to the visa fee that Uncle Sam charges all Argentinian citizens who apply for visas to enter the US. The only good thing about it is the fee is good for 10 years...so we are good in that department for any future trips. Guess we gotta look at getting down here again in the next decade, its only economical.
Anyway, we booked a hostel in downtown for the night as we arrived a little later then was optimal for rendezvouing with our AirBnB host that night. We had arranged to rent an apartment off of "Ezequial" via the AirBnB website, and had exchanged several confusing emails with him in the last 24 hours...so, in the end we decided it would just be easier to hostel it for the night and deal with finding our way to the apartment in the morning. We cruised out for a bite of pizza, drop of wine (meaning huge, over flowing pours) and a late night stroll before heading back and crashing out.
In the morning we grabbed a cab out to Palermo neighborhood and found our way to Ezequial's apartment. We have used AirBnB several times and never had anything but awesome experiences, but we were both a little nervous about this one. Partly was that the communication had been a little confusing, partly was because we had arranged to make a cash transaction instead of paying through the website, and to be honest, part of it was that the picture of Ezequial on his profile made him out to look like a creep.
But, when we arrived...all was well. The apartment was great; 9th floor with view of the city, 1BR with kitchen and a gym on the roof floor and in Palermo, the cool hip neighborhood. Also, the cost at $40/night was cheaper then we could find any hostel or hotel in town for. In short, we were stoked. We initially booked 3 nights with 'Zeke', but within a day decided to extend it another night since Sunday was the opening weekend for NFL and we had found a bar that showed NFL and the Packers were playing....so, we werent going anywhere on Sunday. Anyway, Sunday is the day of rest right...well certainly during Football season it is.
The great thing about having your own place as opposed to being in a hostel is that you really get a sense of what it would be like to live in a city...and our experience in Buenos Aires leads us to believe that it would be a great city to live in. We hit the grocery store to shop for some supplies for the week, excited as ever to actually be able to cook for ourselves (a novelty after eating out almost nonstop for a year plus) and were double excited to see that not only was there a plethora of inexpensive, but high quality wine, but there was also good cheese and bread...something we have sorely missed. An additional observation was that Fernet Branca (a favorite liquor of ours) is also cheap and readily available. There is a myth that circulates around watering holes in SF that aside from Rome, SF drinks the most Branca as a city. I am here to debunk that myth...Buenos Aires has to take the crown...it is literally EVERYWHERE. We were starting to like Buenos Aires already.
We didnt have too much of a plan for Buenos Aires. Our first 48 hours in town were miserably grey and cold and made for less then optimal town exploring conditions, but on the morning of the 3rd day the sun came out and it didnt go away for the rest of our time in BA, it was great. We basically spent the days wandering different neighborhoods, checking out sites when they were there or just checking it out when there wasnt anything specific to see. Some highlights include the city bus tour (another hop on hop off affair), the Rose garden walk (eventhough the roses were not in bloom), the Japanese garden (eventhough we decided not to cough up the $5 each to actually go inside), the cemetery in Recoleta (even though we couldn't find Evita's grave), a couple of great meals in Palermo, and stumbling onto a cheese shop where we ducked in out of the cold and shared a cheese platter and bottle of vino. Awesome. We saw a super hip shopping boutique where clothing displays surrounded a fully stocked bar, so you could get your drink on while flipping through the hipster-matic gear and we strolled the super high end shopping "galleries" lined with high fashion labels and stupidly expensive boutique shops.
Now, it wasnt all wine and cheese gluttony for us as we did make good use of the gym in the building, diligently getting in a workout each and everyday before heading out for our often long and extended walks, but yeah...we did get involved with our fairshare of Malbec, bleu cheese and I found myself enjoying the 1 liter bottles of Quilmes beer a bit more then I expected.
The anology of Europe in South America when referring to BA we found to be pretty accurate. It was refreshing to be in a city, that was actually exciting and dynamic and not just in a "watch out you might get mugged, hit by a car or ripped off" type of way which is what we have been experiencing for the most part in Latin American capital cities (Quito and parts of Bogota being the exceptions). I think thats why we were so happy just to be there even having no real itinerary. There is something to be said about a place where old folks eating lunch on a chic cafe patio with glasses of wine on a Tuesday is commonplace.
On Sunday we headed to the bar early to make sure they would have the Packers game on and once that was confirmed we cruised out for a bite and to check out the street festival that was going on around the corner. Turns out it was a Rosh Hashanah celebration...and it was going off, complete with kosher food stalls and a band of dudes with yamukahs rocking out on the stage. We won't worry too much about the results of the NFL games that afternoon...except to say that G wasnt happy when we rolled out of the pub.
Monday came and we were both more then a little disheartened to be saying goodbye to BA, Zeke's apartment and definitely to be getting on an overnight bus again that night. The only saving grace was that we had booked ourselves in for 1st Class seats and apparently in Argentina that means good things. We hit the gym one last time, did laundry, packed up, and tidyed up Zeke's pad and then made our way out for a coffee and a little time at the Internet cafe before meeting Zeke to hand over the keys. We thanked him and then grabbed our gear and made our way to the bus station...
Its not all sad to be leaving BA...for starters we are flying out of here in about a month which gives us another opportunity to get a few more days in town...plus our next stop is Mendoza, aka: Argentinan wine country...exactly: dont cry for me, Argentina.