Guest travel editor Carine Buncsi recently touched down in South America to take in the sites, sounds, and steaks encountered on her Latin American junket as part of her Argentina and Brazilian Experience.
After kicking things off at a leisurely pace on the beaches of Buzios, taking them up a notch in Rio de Janeiro's favelas, stadiums and markets and then heading south to make like Left Eye and chase waterfalls at the incredible Iguassu Falls, Carine arrived in Buenos Aires, to do as the Porteños do. That is, raise the steaks, drop the bass and float downstream to file her final photogenic dispatch.
Following on from the incredible experience at Iguassu Falls it was time to say goodbye to the natural wonder and catch a flight to the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires. The city was everything I had imagined and more – it's passionate, vibrant, fun, cosmopolitan and fashionable; a fantastic fusion of Europe and Latin American culture, best described as the 'Paris of South America'. I found myself sipping lattes and eating buttery croissants whilst admiring the European influenced architecture and trendsetting passionate Porteños (inhabitants of BA).
I suppose I loved it so much because it reminded of my European stomping ground.
Buenos Aires is the birthplace of the sultry and seductive dance of the tango and before I could succumb to the mesmerising, fancy-footwork of this famous dance and its colourful dress, it was time to do a crash course in Argentinean history and explore the city sites - excited by all the places I would go with camera in tow.
Photo: via BOOMSBeat
EVITA: THE DARLING OF ARGENTINA
The history of BA is so tangible, this culturally diverse city is the epicentre of every major event in Argentina's dramatic and rich history.
Eva Perón (Evita) the darling of Argentina was the country's most famous yet controversial figures at the heart of national politics. Eva was a former actress and radio performer before she became Argentina's first lady and a Women's Rights Activist. The beloved and prominent national figure fought tremendously for women's suffrage and to improve the lives of the poor, but she was not without critics from the upper echelons of society and opposing army forces.
Since her death in July, 1952 the legacy of Eva Perón continues to fascinate the globe. There are countless books, plays and films in her honour - Andrew Lloyd Webber's and Tim Rice's musical Evita and the 1996 film starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas, who played the Argentinean born Che Guevara, being two such examples.
LA RECOLETA – THE GRAND NECROPOLIS
The cemetery of La Recoleta, in the affluent neighbourhood of Recoleta, Buenos Aires, contains the grave of Eva Perón and other notable figures. The Cementerio de la Recoleta was listed among the ten most beautiful cemeteries to explore on the globe and is simply striking from outside, with its tall neo-classical gates and grand columns.
It's worth taking a wander through the grounds and its tree-lined walkways, gazing at the the beautiful yet somewhat haunting statues and side-walks filled with elaborate tombs and others crumbling; with grand mausoleums serving as the resting place of generations past.
CUTE BOHO FINDS AT FERIA PLAZA FRANCIA
Close to the Recoleta Cemetery are weekend market stalls set-up at the Plaza Francia on Saturdays and Sundays, offering an array of exquisite artisan work and cute boho finds, with acrobatic street performers and food vendors galore. A great place to roam around and scout for souvenirs at fair prices.
PLAZA DE MAYO & FLORIDA STREET
Plaza de Mayo is the heart of the state power and has been witness to the major political protests and meetings since the birth of the nation.
The plaza houses the Presidential Palace, Casa Rosado, situated on its eastern end. When peering through the gates you can see the main balcony where politicians address the Argentinean populace - such as the Perón's, who famously made their address there.
Opposite the Casa Rosado is the Cabildo, the former Spanish Town Hall and a classic colonial building fronted by its grand arches. Today the building hosts the National Museum of the Cabildo and the May Revolution with pieces from the 18th century on display.
In the square, white scarves are painted on the ground to symbolise the mothers, Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, protesting the tragic loss and kidnapping of loved ones known as the Desaparecidos (the disappeared ones) during the Dirty War between 1976 to 1983, a bleak moment in Argentina's history.
On the square and in the surrounding areas there are numerous gatherings, graffiti and continued political protests.
Close by the plaza is the famous shopping district and tourist hub Florida Street (Calle Florida). This long street is lined with souvenir and retail stores, restaurants and street performers.
After absorbing all the hustle and bustle of Florida and wading through way too many football jerseys and cheesy Pope Francis memorabilia, I was absolutely famished.
The evening's program included an authentic Argentine meal with the finest steak and vino and a serving of culinary delights, followed by a BIG night out on the town.
THE ARGENTINE EXPERIENCE
Argentinians are big on their MEAT – and chimichurri sauce, all hail the king of sauces! Eating a ridiculously tasty cut of steak is a must-do on your BA list of things to sink your teeth into. For the wine lovers, Argentina also boasts the rich and exquisite wine region of Mendoza, producing the best bottles of Malbec, even the BA supermercados are stocked high with quality vino.
I knew I couldn't leave BA without partaking in The Argentine Experience.
You'll be greeted at the lounge bar with a delicious Malabeca cocktail, a concoction of (pisco, malbec and apple juice), a traditional chefs hat and an apron in preparation for your culinary journey. During the unique interactive dining experience, you'll indulge in a three-course gourmet meal, whilst preparing some of your own classic dishes [see image – my first intact, crispy empanada] and learning about Argentine cuisine, culture and etiquette, all while being entertained by the fun and friendly staff.
THE ARGENTINEAN LOMO
The Bife de lomo is the cut you'll be served at the Argentine Experience, known as the fillet or tenderloin in English. This is the highest quality cut around from the pasture raised meat.
I also discovered some handy tricks from the meat trade, as told by the professionals at Argentine Experience:
With only the best grass-fed beef, leave the steaks uncovered in the fridge for 24 hours to allow the outside of the meat to harden, this will lock in one-hundred percent of the flavour and resulting in the juiciest steak possible.
And these are the things to look forward to after your warm and crispy empanadas and main course of thick cut fillet steak:
Your own tasty alfajores: a traditional Argentine dessert with a smear of dulce de leche in-between the two biscuits, with the grand topping of chocolate fondue.
You'll also prepare, serve and drink a maté, (pronounced mah-tey) a traditional South American tea made from the dried leaves of yerba maté.
The Argentine Experience
Fitz Roy 2110, Palermo Hollywood, Buenos Aires, Argentina
THE 2AM BA BAR CRAWL
With the divine wine and conversation flowing, the crowd wanted to carry on for a post-dinner dance and cocktails. The party in Buenos Aires doesn't get started until 2am, where you can dance until sunrise, or later.
My favourite barrio for a bar crawl and boogie with the porteños is Plaza Serrano located in Palermo Soho [Beware of not-so-friendly bouncers in the clubs]. If you fancy the idea of exploring the hidden underground, try the best Secret Bars of BA:
Address: Arévalo 1445, Buenos Aires, Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires
Website: Frank's Bar
Address: Thames 878, Buenos Aires, Capital Federal, Argentina
Phone: +54 11 4773-1098
LA FERONA SOCIAL CLUB
Address: Humboldt 1445, Cabrera y Niceto Vega
Phone: 011 6722 6784
Hours: Restaurant 9.30pm - 12.00am; Bar 12.00am - 4.00 am Wednesday - Saturday.
Website: La Ferona Social Club
Let me know if you ever stumble upon The Clubhouse, a pimped out house (in a secret location of course) with a classy courtyard, screaming to be taken over by LiLo and her entourage. Awesome for a Pisco Sour by the pool with friends.
LOCA IN BOCA
La Boca is a colourful, working class barrio where the dance of tango was born by lonely immigrants. It's located in the city's south-east, close to the old port. The neighbourhood still retains a distinct European flavour, famous for its fútbol stadium - popularly referred to as La Bombonera (Estadio Alberto J. Armando) owned by Argentina's world renowned club - Boca Juniors.
The barrio also houses the Fundación Proa (Museum of Contemporary Art). The charming and pocket-sized pedestrian street of Caminito beckons tourists to its brightly coloured artistic surroundings.
The brightly coloured painted houses – as seen on postcards - and cobbled roads are buzzing with street tango, Maradona impersonators and lively street markets.
When immigrants poured into Argentina from the late 1800's to the 1930's, the majority of Italian immigrants, many of whom were from the port town of Genoa, Italy, began a new life in the barrio of La Boca and also worked at the local port. They built their houses from discarded or found materials in the shipyard. One of their old traditions was to paint the outside of their houses with leftover paint from the docks; as they had very little money and there was not much available, they had to make do with the paint leftover. As the years passed by it became a tradition to use different colours, a symbol of the colourful history that we see today.
If you would like to learn more of the seductive dance of the tango, you can make a full night of it at Complejo Tango. They offer a pre-dinner tango lesson, three course meal with unlimited wine and beer and a traditional tango show, as dancers move through the decades with plenty of lifts and high kicks.
Address: Av Belgrano 2608, C1096AAQ Buenos Aires, Capital Federal, Argentina
Phone: +54 11 4941-1119
Website: Complejo Tango
LOST IN TIME AT SAN TELMO
The charming cobblestoned street of San Telmo barrio are some of the best attractions in town and absolutely perfect for a lazy Sunday stroll. At the San Telmo fair, held every Sunday in the Plaza Dorrego, you'll see professional tango dancers mesmerising onlookers and rub shoulders with the bohemians, artists and craftsman lining the streets with an array of amazing hand-made finds. The boho enclave also boasts an amazing antiques-market, where you can wade through the history. I was so lost in time I almost missed my flight back home.
The market of San Telmo is the ideal spot to pick up the ultimate kitsch for your mantelpiece and snap up beloved keepsakes. You'll be flooded in choice when it comes to finding a souvenir maté calabash gourd.
DAY TRIP AT THE TIGRE DELTA
Tigre is ideal for a watery laid-back weekend away from the bustling city. The municipality of the Delta of Tigre is located approximately 30 kilometres from the city, made up of hundreds of islands divided by an array of inter-connecting canals, rivers and backwaters.
I managed to squeeze in a day trip cruising along the water, admiring the picturesque views with its lush vegetation and gazing at the cute riverside houses. There are all sorts of activities to enjoy on the delta countryside such as hiking, canoeing, trekking, cycling and horseback riding or just blending in with Porteños by the port and spending a lovely afternoon sipping maté.
Stay away from the tourist trap eateries especially by the port, with their obnoxious hidden charges. For example, the cubierto is a 'cutlery' charge - a cheeky way of charging the customer something for nothing.
There are several options of getting to Tigre from BA. Certainly the fastest, cheapest, less comfortable way to get to Tigre via public transport is by rail. The Mitre Line leaves from Retiro Station, terminates in Tigre and takes approximately 50 minutes. Alternatively, take a pleasant, pricier scenic ride on the Tren de la Costa.
For a more relaxing and touristy experience sail along the delta's waterways on board a catamaran from the port.
There's still so much more to discover of this vast land and everything it has to offer from picture postcard views, to twisting tango moves and mouth-watering culinary delights. You can take me back to BA any day!
Check out more travel snaps and wanderlust moments on Instagram @delinquent_valley