This is the tenth post in the Hello Argentina Series detailing my week-long trip in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Other posts include Hello Argentina, La Cabrera, La Rambla, Empanadas, Tamales, and Beer, Oh My!, Cabanas Las Lilas, Buenos Aires - Three Most Famous Ice Cream Shops, Chila, Elena, Oviedo, and Foto Ruta.
One nice thing about staying in a single city for an entire week is that you have lots of time to get to know it. Even though I was nervous about Buenos Aires when I first landed (I even hired a tour guide to take me around because I was afraid of traveling by myself), I got much more comfortable with the area by the end of the week. By the end of the week, I knew which neighborhood were pretty safe, and I even walked through several neighborhood by myself, exploring the vibrant city while checking out ice cream shops.
However, my last day in Buenos Aires, I decided to call the woman who had been my guide on our first day. We'd gotten to know Mariana because we spent the whole day together exploring Tigre and Delta Terra in Argentina. She was the one who had shared with me what it was like to be living in a place whose economy is tanking.
Since it was my last day in Buenos Aires, I had a very specific list of requests for me. This is what I wanted to do.
1. Have a choripan, a traditional Argentinian sausage sandwich that's typically served on the street.
2. Visit La Boca for the photos. This is one area of town that's not as safe, yet it is super colorful, vibrant, and great for photography. After enjoying photography so much with Foto Ruta a few days earlier, I really wanted to go back and try to photograph it some more with a different eye.
3. Visit the famous cafe, Cafe Tortoni, for churros.
Immediately called one of her drivers and asked him where his favorite choripan place was.
And then we were off.
1. Get a Choripan
We walked about 10-15 minutes from my hotel and stumbled upon a long row of outdoor grill places. It was fascinating to see. So many open-air places grilling up all sorts of meat.
The smell was intoxicating.
After walking a few minutes, we came upon the place that she said was highly recommended. It looked very unassuming from the outside, but the line that formed afterwards indicated and affirmed its popularity. (We came around 11AM so it was still early when I took this photo).
The choripan was phenomenal. I can't even exactly describe why it was so good. The spiced chorizo sausage was juicy and flavorful, and the topping had all sorts of exotic spices. Overall it was just really satisfying.
2. La Boca
Getting to La Boca took awhile. We ended up taking a taxi in order to save time. I was a bit nervous because it wasn't one of those more reputable "radio taxis" that they always recommend foreigners get. However, Mariana could speak the language and she seemed to know what she was doing, so it turned out alright. It was cheaper, though I didn't appreciate the fact that the driver basically chain smoked the entire ride.
Anyway, we finally arrived at La Boca.
It was mid afternoon at this point, and the sun was beating STRONG from above. Even though Emma had told us not to be afraid of direct sunlight, I still struggled to get good pictures. I've included a few of the better ones above, but overall I think I was hoping for more interesting backdrops, like the ones I'd seen in San Telmo during my photography workshop.
2. Cafe Tortoni
Cafe Tortoni is one of the most famous cafes in Buenos Aires. This Parisian-style cafe was opened since 1858 by a Frenchman.
It was a place where people came to philosophize, talk about politics, and debate. Many famous people have stopped by here, including Albert Einstein, Hillary Clinton, and the King of Spain, Juan Carlos de Borbón. The interior is huge and beautiful, with tall chandeliers, antique style chairs, and a really warm and authentic atmosphere.
Note: I went at an off time when there weren't any tour buses. I think it sometimes fills with tourists, and the line can go out the door.
I ordered one of their signature dishes, the Churros with a Café con Leche (espresso with milk). Everything was good. Most importantly, it was the combination of the grand space, the storied location, and the delicious authentic food that made the experience very special.
Mariana and I ended up walking back to my hotel, which took about 30-45 minutes. I appreciated her willingness to walk such a long distance in the hot summer sun while chatting with me.
It was a fun afternoon, and I'm glad I didn't do it alone.
When we parted, it felt like I was saying good-by to a new friend.
"I hope to be back someday" I said, "and I hope things get better in Buenos Aires."
I sincerely meant it.
Our front and center mezzanine seats at the Tango show (can you see Bryan?)
Mariana Jimenez is listed in the Frommer's Guide as well as the New York Times as a recommended private tour guide in Buenos Aires. She took us to Tigre for a day trip and also set us up with an excellent Tango dinner show (not to mention she got us a great discount for the tickets + the best seats in the house).
I found her prices to be very reasonable, especially compared to other tour companies who take a chunk off the top before paying their local tour guides.
You can reach her at mariana.v. [email protected].
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