The Pink House, The Obelisk, and The Chocolate Box. Where am I, Vegas?

Buenos Aires Travel Blog

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Multi-colored buildings in La Boca
Actually, no.  Those are just the names of three of the famous landmarks in Buenos Aires.  And unlike Vegas, the food was cheap, good, and you didn't have to lose ten grand at the craps table in order to get good service.  We did see a lot of mullets though.  So it was entirely unlike The Strip.

Breakfast in BA must be done right.  That means sitting down at a cafe, ordering from a waiter, taking your time, and enjoying it.  No Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts in sight.  Coffee is served European style, from the press.  Add a few medialunas (croissants), and that's all you need.  It's a simple breakfast, served in the same fashion all across the city.
  But it forces you to slow down.  Why be in such a hurry to go to work anyway?  

After the first of seven identical breakfasts we had in BA, we headed straight for La Boca.  Birthplace of Tango, La Boca is an old immigrant neighborhood down by the riverside.  It equates roughly with the Lower East Side in New York, thought it's bright, multi-colored buildings tend to liven the place up.  Honestly, we thought it was a fairly overrated tourist trap if it weren't for its legendary soccer stadium.  La Bombonera (the chocolate box), is one of the great cathedrals of the beautiful game, and home to Boca Juniors.  Part Wembley, part Fenway, part San Quentin, La Bombonera appeals to all senses (whether you want it to or not).
Provoleta. Though this was much fancier than the one we had.
  This place deserves its own entry, so I'll stop there.

For lunch, we headed to another older part of town, San Telmo.  At a restaurant called El Desnivel, we were introduced to two other great Argentine food inventions.  First, the matambrito de cerdo, which is a pork flank steak.  Though it really just tastes like a thin, salty pork chop.  Second, the legendary provoleta.  Provoleta is a provolone cheese, only, you guessed it, grilled on the parrilla.  No bread, no butter, it is quite literally a grilled cheese.  It's hard rind on the outside protects it from the heat while the whole thing melts on the inside.  It's as if someone tasted provolone cheese and said: "Wow, this tastes good! The only thing that would make it better is if it were grilled".
Street corner in San Telmo
  As I told you, I like the way these people think about food.  We share the same values.  They even drizzle olive oil on it.  How could this not work in the US?  Seriously, it couldn't be better.  

Not much to see in San Telmo (another tourist trap) so we moved on to a famous BA landmark, the Casa Rosada (pink house).  The US has the White House, Argentina has the Pink House.  See what I mean about this place being slightly tongue in cheek?  Evita and Juan Peron used to hold court at the Casa Rosada, and it's still a presidential residence today, right in the middle of downtown.  It doesn't look anything like it did in Evita (my only image of it before arriving in BA).  There were also legions of riot police in position behind the barricades, waiting for all hell to break loose.
Another look at the Casa Rosada
  It was perfectly calm. But when things go wrong in Argentina, they tend to go wrong quickly, and in spectacular fashion.  When their economy collapsed in 2001, they went through 4 presidents in 11 days, over Christmas holiday no less.  That's still a world record I believe.  And if anyone ever breaks the record, Argentina would be the odds on favorite.  I asked Gustavo if football and politics were the only thing Argentinos took seriously.  He said "you forgot sex and reality TV shows".  My point exactly.  Argentinos live in the moment.  They seem as if they are waiting for something bad to happen, because it usually does.  It's not a negative outlook on life, more of a "who gives a f__k?" outlook on life.

The final landmark of the day was El Obelisco (the obelisk).
El Obelisco
  Seems all great cities need a gigantic phallic symbol as its centerpiece.  Paris has the Eiffel Tower, New York has the Empire State Building, and Buenos Aires has El Obelisco.  It stands in the middle of Avenida 9 de Julio, and looks very much like the Washington Monument in D.C.  It's probably the most recognizable monument in BA, highlighting the fact that what BA really lacks is that one must-see landmark attraction.  If you think of Buenos Aires on a postcard, what do you think of?  It's probably tango, or soccer, or some other activity.  You don't really think of any one place.  After having been there, I still don't think of any one place either.  It's the spirit of the place that makes BA great.  So have a provoleta, the taxi drivers or soccer riots will kill you before the cholesterol will.
binky says:
Bringing back memories, though it was only a few months ago. I have to agree on La Boca, made me uncomfortable on many levels...
Posted on: Nov 07, 2007
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Multi-colored buildings in La Boca
Multi-colored buildings in La Boca
Provoleta.  Though this was much f…
Provoleta. Though this was much …
Street corner in San Telmo
Street corner in San Telmo
Another look at the Casa Rosada
Another look at the Casa Rosada
El Obelisco
El Obelisco
Customs House
Customs House
Back of the Casa Rosada
Back of the Casa Rosada
The Casa Rosada
The Casa Rosada
Argentine flag with government bui…
Argentine flag with government bu…
Famous corner in La Boca
Famous corner in La Boca
Painters in La Boca
Painters in La Boca