**This is a trip report in the daily style I liked to log for my personal blog. I’ll also post reviews and the like, but this is how I generally like to provide an account. Hope you enjoy.**
The capital of Argentina is a lovely place. Buenos Aires has a cosmopolitan and European feel, so much so that it stands in contrast with other parts of Latin America. Not to mention the rest of its own country. It’s an interesting dichotomy.
During our four-day visit to Buenos Aires, my daughter and I were able to explore some of the rich history that has resulted in the eclectic and varied city we see today. Our first day was spent exploring the primary monuments and locations, taking in as much of the city’s history as we could. We ended up doing both a bike tour and walking tour later in the trip, and I wish we would have opted for either of these our first day instead.
Technically, our arrival into Buenos Aires occurred the previous day, but the transfer to the hotel took a bit longer than expected. This meant we really didn’t get settled until after 2:00 p.m. By that time, we just wanted to relax, spending the rest of the day at the pool and keeping up with school. Bed came early after a long travel day (SEE: American Airlines 777-200 Business Class Review).
So, while that was technically our first day in the city, this was the actual first day we got out and enjoyed Buenos Aires.
Morning Walk in Puerto Madero
The jet lag hit me hard this time around. I’m normally able to sleep well into the morning when heading east, as morning comes too early compared to home. But I had difficulty both falling asleep and staying asleep. I finally threw in the towel at 6:00 a.m. and got up to shower. My daughter was sleeping soundly. I’d let her catch a few more Zs while I enjoyed a coffee and a walk in Puerto Madero.
The early morning drizzle worried me. Would our first day be a bust due to weather? But my fears were never realized. It ended up being the only real precipitation we saw during our stay. Considering that April can be one of the rainier months in Argentina, this was very good fortune.
April in the southern hemisphere is technically autumn, and there was a bit of a chill in the air. Buenos Aires experiences all four seasons, albeit mildly. My walk took me up and down the old port before the chill got to me and I headed back to the Hilton for a cup of coffee in the lounge (SEE: Hilton Buenos Aires Review).
School Before Sightseeing
I woke my daughter when I figured she’d slept enough to recuperate from our long travel days. It had been quite the journey, starting with a flight out from San Francisco on Tuesday (SEE: American Airlines A321 Economy Review), a long 7-hour layover, and then an overnight flight into Buenos Aires. I’m all about getting out to see the city as soon as I arrive, but with kids, taking it easy is the better choice.
We had much to do. This trip was longer than the previous, and my wife and I decided that we’d have her keep up some core studies during our adventure. Even with a couple hours of school each day, we would still have plenty of time to explore.
La Plaza de Mayo
Once the books were closed and we were free to sightsee, we made our way over to the Plaza de Mayo. The main avenue, Avenida de Mayo, terminates at this central square. It is the heart of Buenos Aires. La Casa Rosada, the primary government office for the nation, sits at the far end overlooking Puerto Madero beyond.
We were forced to enjoy views of the building from a distance, as it was surrounded by a fence. I was reminded of the White House in Washington D.C. Later, we’d find out that this *isn’t* normal. You can typically walk much closer. But the reason became apparent: there was a taxi protest starting across the plaza. The fence surrounding La Casa Rosada is locked during any civil demonstration.
Before the protest could start in earnest, we crossed the plaza and entered the Cabildo.
El Cabildo: Where It All Started
Buenos Aires was founded way back in 1536 before being abandoned just a few years later. The Spanish would re-found the city in 1580. It was an ideal location for a settlement in a South America dominated by the Portuguese. Buenos Aires would be used as a port for goods transported overland from central and western South America transported. The alternative was the treacherous sail around Cape Horn. A name like “good airs” would make it attractive to immigration.
A tour guide would later tell us that it only takes three buildings to found a Spanish city: a fort, a town council (the cabildo), and of course, a Catholic church. While the other two original buildings are long gone, a portion of the colonial cabildo still remains. There is very little from the Spanish colonial period left in Buenos Aires, which is a tragedy.
The Cabildo houses a nice museum that takes you from the founding of Buenos Aires through the fight for independence in the early 1800s. It will give you a good feel for what the original city was like and how modern Argentina came to be. There are some interactive exhibits and a lot to read and see. I highly suggest it as an early stop during a visit to Buenos Aires.
Unfortunately, our experience at the museum was colored by the taxista protest going on outside. This was the first of multiple we would see that day. The near-constant honking and the occasional firecracker made it hard to concentrate on the museum. Glad we weren’t driving! You couldn’t go anywhere.
Lunch at the City’s Oldest Cafe
We wrapped up our time at the museum and headed down the Avenida de Mayo to Café Tortoni, the oldest operating cafe in all of Buenos Aires. Walking through the doors is a step back in time to the previous century. Café Tortoni has operated for 161 years, and it maintains the character of a time long past.
The waiters are dressed sharply, and they are all older gentlemen from what I could tell. It isn’t at all fine dining, yet the place has a finer air about it. Whether you want a full lunch like we did, or just stop in for a quick coffee, make sure you give Café Tortoni a visit (SEE: Visiting Cafe Tortoni, The Oldest Cafe in Buenos Aires).
A Confusing Metro
Our stomachs satiated, we headed down the street to the metro station. The next stop was several blocks away. My daughter’s feet were already tired, a perennial point of tension between us. I’d spend all day out and about on foot if I could. But a level of compromise is necessary traveling with kids.
I figured riding the metro would be as easy as purchasing two single tickets and hopping on, but I was wrong on both counts. After reading various signs and trying a couple kiosks, I finally gave up and asked how to ride. Apparently, the only way to do so was to buy a $90-peso card. Then things got interesting.
I asked for tickets to the Congreso de la Nación. Rather than sell me a card, the attendant directed me to the other platform. This made no sense. I was sure I’d come down on the correct side of the street. A quick glace over at the sign left me puzzled, though. He was right. The direction of travel was to Catedral, near Plaza de Mayo. We were heading in the opposite direction. Shouldn’t the trains run according to the right-hand traffic, just like the cars above?
The arrival of the train a moment later cemented the fact that they do not. Bewildered, we exited, crossed the street, and headed down to the correct platform. Turns out that the British built the railways and light rail. No wonder everything is confusing.
The rest of our day included seeing some of the various iconic and unique important buildings on foot. First up was the Congreso de la Nación. From there it was an easy stroll down to the Palacio Barolo, a unique building along Avenida de Mayo.
Buenos Aires reminds me so much of Paris, but with a more interesting mix of new and old buildings. The tree-lined boulevard of Avenida de Mayo has a quintessentially old-world feel, you can often spot a modern steel and glass structure.
We did encounter a second protest. It wasn’t the taxi drivers, however. Even after reading the signs, I could not make out the purpose, but there were obviously two different groups. Political unrest in Argentina isn’t uncommon. At last these demonstrations were peaceful. Turning off the main avenue, we left the noise behind.
We slowly headed north and made our way to the Obelisko and Teatro Colón. The theater in particular is an impressive building with beautiful bas-relief art in its facade. The theater is considered one of the best performing venues on the continent.
These were our final sightseeing stops before heading back to Puerto Madero on the metro, our feet tired from the several miles of walking we’d done. I made sure to deliver on the ice cream I’d promised my daughter for keeping up with me all day. Luccianno’s is an excellent pick. Maybe a bit pricey, but it is a short distance from our hotel in Puerto Madero.
Old City, New Friends
Our day concluded at the pool back at the Hilton. We’d been there for maybe 15 minutes when a family of five joined us. Their three boys were outgoing and had soon engaged us in playing a game of tag together. Their parents and I quickly struck up a conversation. We’d end up having many more enjoyable times with them during our brief time in Argentina with our new Irish friends (SEE: The Unexpected Best Part of My Trip to South America).
Day one in the bag, we looked forward to three more in Buenos Aires.