September 26th, 2007 – by: trhoades
Nuestra Senora del Pilar
Recoleta, Barrio Norte, and Palermo are the neighborhoods in BA that make most foreigners say "wow, I could live here". That's because there is nothing particularly foreign about them to an American or European. Barrio Norte reminded me of my old neighborhood in Madrid, called Moncloa. Recoleta looks very much like the more posh areas of Madrid. And depending on which Palermo you are in, you see glimpses Barcelona, Paris, and New York. But the great part of touring these seemingly familiar places is that it's dirt cheap compared to what you'd expect to spend in those other cities.
Many of Argentina's most famous people are buried in El Cementerio de la Recoleta. That made me think of the question, who is the most famous Argentino? Most Americans would say Evita Peron.
Cementerio de la Recoleta
But I've always wondered if Andrew Lloyd Webber is more responsible for that than anyone. I would think the rest of the world might be split between revolutionary Che Guevara and soccer star Diego Maradona. You can actually get a t-shirt with both Che and Maradona on it, but no Evita. So I'm guessing that's where Argentinos stand on the issue. As for Evita, she is buried in the Cementerio de la Recoleta. Cemeteries aren't really my thing but I must admit these were some of the most impressive grave sites I've ever seen. They weren't so much grave markers as individual mausoleums. Many of the names were recognizable if only because famous streets or landmarks in BA were named after them. After a quick tour of the cemetery we grabbed a coffee at La Biela before walking around the rest of the polished blocks on Recoleta.
Grave marker for Eva Peron
I found a leather shop where I got a custom-made suede jacket, my one gift to myself.
Our tour of Palermo actually spanned several days and nights as that's where we did most of our shopping, eating, and boozing. There are actually several Palermos, each carrying its own distinct name. There is Palermo Viejo, Palermo Chico, Palermo Soho, Palermo Hollywood, and just plain Palermo. Apparently other neighborhoods in BA are calling themselves Palermo in order to drive the property values up. Plain vanilla Palermo has some gorgeous parks that are straight from the old country. The Parque Tres de Febrero reminded me a lot of the Retiro in Madrid, but it also had a Japanese garden inside it. Immediately across the street was the Patio Andaluz.
Bridge in the Japanese Garden
Though under construction at the time, it was a dead ringer for the Parque Maria Luisa in Sevilla. Just a really nice string of green spaces strung together in Palermo all around.
For lunch we headed to El Trapiche, a BA institution where we had a monster-sized Matambrito de Cerdo. It was more like 3 pork flanks on one plate and I believe we had yet another provoleta. For dessert I had quite simply the best thing I tasted in South America: natilla. Wikipedia claims this is a Spanish dish, though I had never tasted it before. Regardless, it was a custard made with milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon served in a chilled glass. I could've eaten four of these things with no problem whatsoever. Who cares about the calories when you can have chilled magic like that?
The aptly named Palermo Soho is home to many boutique shops, and sidewalk cafes.
I found it to be very peaceful during the week, though it's a complete zoo on the weekends. We found a lot of good gift ideas in this neighborhood including a lot of silly Ramones t-shirts. I had heard the Ramones were more popular than The Beatles in Argentina, and it's all true. Though this should come as no surprise. The Ramones are unrefined, combustible, quirky, yet just cute enough to be accessible to anyone. Can't think of a better way to describe Buenos Aires.
Palermo Soho also featured several drinking spots which kept us coming back night after night. There Gustavo introduced us to the unofficial national drink of Argentina, the Fernet Branca with cola. Fernet is a strong grape liquor made with a blend of spices.
It's native to Italy but Argentinos have made it all their own. It's definitely an acquired taste, and we did our best to acquire it, believe me. For a good article involving Fernet and its many mysteries, read this: http://www.golf.com/golf/tours_news/article/0,28136,1652947,00.html
Our last meal in Soho was at a parrilla/sidewalk cafe. They served us red wine of year 2007 Vintage! Wow...that's the freshest red wine I've ever had :) It's Argentina though, just go with it. Why wait for the wine to age? Double digit inflation will make that wine very expensive in a few years anyway.