The Sights, Sounds, and Sensations of Buenos Aires

 

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Buenos Aires is a city that I have been fascinated since I heard its internet status as “Paris of South America.” A romantic, European sensibility coupled with Argentine pride, fashion, and music, there is so much to do and enjoy here. Getting into the city’s beautiful international airport, we feel completely under-dressed.

When we arrive to the Lennox Hotel, we discover it is surrounded by music shops. It’s on the music store street apparently, and, being a musician, I am naturally thrilled.

We’re early for check-in so we walk to a nearby hipster coffee place and have our first experience in the city. The people at Negro Cueva de Caffe are also impeccably dressed, and trendy music bumps out of the speakers. This is just the kind of place where I like to relax and drink a cup of coffee. Since we’re in the land of dulce de leche, we try their latte with it. It is tasty, but pretty sweet. After a lemon bar and a rest, we are headed for some food.

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Food and wine at Mamma Rosa.
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Old-school Italian-Argentine bistro.

We take a cab to Mamma Rosa, an Italian-Argentine restaurant that is about as old-school as it gets. They adore Italian food here. Like America, you can pretty much call it Argentine food. We order raviolis and the classic milanesa con papas, pounded and breaded meat, in this case chicken, fried to perfection. This time we get it served with french fries, but there are plenty more milanesa experiences to come while we are in Argentina. We drink red wine and are served ice with it. We laugh at the idea of it, to us it is totally absurd to drink red wine even cold, let alone with ice, and we use it for our waters. In such a wine-ridden country, we learn later that the quality control was very low until recently. The elderly Argentine family looks over at us suspiciously, the sign that we are not in a place tourists typically frequent. For me, it’s a win.

Next up we walk through Capital Federal and take the subway, where street musicians play in the humid underground, to El Grand Ateneo, a bookstore in an old opera house. The English selection is nil, but the sight of this place is worth the trip. It is beautiful and inspiring. There are plenty of other bookshops in the area, Argentines love culture–you will never be short of art here in Buenos Aires.

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Capital Federal.

After checking in and freshening up in the hotel, we’re ready for our evening out. We want to enjoy music, but instead of doing the typical tango show, we are going for some Argentine jazz. In the modern Palermo district, the Thelonious Club, named for the jazz master Thelonious Monk, is just the place. But first we stop for some gelato at Ladobueno. There is plenty of good gelato in the city, but this place is special. Beware, they will expect you to buy inordinate amounts of ice cream, and you will want to, it is magical.

Though there are tons of breweries and bars around the hidden Thelonious Club, we go straight in and drink beers from Patagonia Brewery and wait for the music to start.

When the guitarist begins the set with mellow scales, we are taken to another place. It is a great set, and we go home sleepy from our first day in Buenos Aires.

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We sleep in because we’re tired after flying in and having a day of adventure. Waking up, we’re headed to Recoleta Cemetery, which is known for its extravagant gravestones, sculptures, and monuments to the dead. First we need fuel.

We stop by an empanada place and have a variety of the continent’s favorite pastry. Ham and cheese, chorizo, and criolla, or mixed, we eat standing up, the way an Argentine would on the way to work.

Between the empanada joint, which you can find everywhere in Buenos Aires, and the cemetery is a coffee shop we’ve seen around, Tostado, which looks great but it is slightly underwhelming. Still we enjoy a cortado and conversation before mourning the dead.

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Entrance to Recoleta Cemetery

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The cemetery is beautiful. Surrounded on one side by a beautiful park and restaurants and on the other by what could only be described as the Projects, it is an incongruous mix of life, desperation, and death.

The monuments are mostly dedicated to generals, politicians, artists, writers,  and other elites. This is not where the average Porteño comes to rest. We walk around for a while, really contemplating, elitism, life, and death. It is beautiful here, but we’re our stomachs are empty.

 

We walk to a parilla nearby, an experience you definitely need to have when coming to Buenos Aires. And get ready for meat, and lots of it. Argentines are known more for their barbecue than their Italian.

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Monument in Recoleta Cemetery.

At Clark’s we order morcilla, or blood sausage, rib eye, and gnocchi con bolognese. We drink wine, eat on the patio, and get stuffed.

We have such a great time I forget to take any photos of the awesome food.

Near the parilla is Buller Brewery for a tasting of beer. We leisurely drink their selection of IPAs, which the Argentines endearingly call “ipas”, and stouts.

We’re relaxed but even more leisurely than us are the waitresses, who take forever to get us beer and our check. This is typical in Argentina, especially in Buenos Aires.

A little buzzed, we take Uber to the Museum of Modern Art. They are featuring Aldo Sessa, the Porteño photographer known for his 60’s mod work. Some of the photos are amazing, some not so much. But we are more disappointed in the second-level photographs. I can’t remember the photographer, but the description included “trite” and that pretty much describes it. The third exhibit, another group of photographs, is much better. I can’t remember the artists name, but the photos include contrasting photos emphasizing black identity and history.

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Beers at Buller.

Although we are disappointed overall with the museum, we see that it is under construction, which may be why there are only photographs right now. Go check it out if you’re in the city and let me know how it is.

We head back to the hotel and eat at a classic cafe nearby. We order Quilmes beer, milanesa napolitano, un porcion de pizza, and tagliatelle con pomodoro. The milanesa is veal this time, topped with tomatoes, tomato sauce, and the ever-present ham. It is tasty, and we walk back to the hotel to enjoy the sauna, the jacuzzi, and capirinhas from the hotel bar. Not too shabby for two days in Buenos Aires.

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Aldo Sessa photographs.
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Argentine Cafe.

 

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