Argentina: Buenos Aires

Evita Peron is everywhere in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Juan Peron in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Eva Peron in Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Pink Palace in Buenos Aires, Argentina
The architecture is a beautiful mix of Spanish and French architecture.
The Plaza in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Your safest and cheapest mode of transportation in Buenos Aires, Argentina a Radio Taxi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Argentina is becoming a travel destination for wine lovers from around the world.  Argentina is categorized as a “New World” wine country. Although the first vines were planted in Argentina in the 1550’s by Spanish explorers, commercial wine production did not become a reality until the 1800’s. An influx of European immigrants to Argentina, with a taste for European style wines and the knowledge to make these wines, propelled this country into the wine producing country that it is today. Argentina is ranked fifth in the world in total wine production. When most people think of Argentina as a wine growing region, they tend to think of Malbec as the predominant wine that is produced in Argentina.  But the country is growing many other red grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, and delicious white wines, such as Torrontes.

Something to keep in mind when planning a trip to Argentinian wine country, is that harvest time is during the month of April. Due to the fact that Argentina is in the southern hemisphere of the globe, the seasons will be opposite from what people are used to that live in the northern hemisphere. Therefore, if you plan to visit Argentina in your summer, be prepared for cool temperatures and a lot of rain. Depending on where in the country you choose to visit, southern parts of the country, which are further from the equator, will be cooler than in the northern areas that are closer to the equator. Of course, if you will be visiting areas that are at a higher altitude you should also then prepare for cooler temperatures and a more damp climate than in the areas of the country that are at a lower altitude.

For many tourists it is easier to visit wine bars and wine tasting rooms and wine stores, rather than visiting the wineries, themselves. The sellers of wines and those who work in the wine bars can give excellent advise on what wines are the best that are offered in their country. As with all countries, it seems that the best examples of Argentine wines will be found to be sold only in their country. The best examples are produced by small producers without enough production ability to make exporting their product to very large country with such enormous quantity demands, such as the United States, a reality. I guarantee you, the best Malbec’s that you will ever enjoy will be found only while visiting Argentina, making Argentina a worth while wine travel destination!

Not all wineries in Argentina allow visitors, but here is a list of a few that you may visit while on holiday in Argentina.

Wineries in Argentina:

Kaiken-The Montes family of Chile also owns the Argentine winery called Kaiken. Kaiken offers wine tastings and guided tours of their winery. No reservations required, tours given during normal business hours. Roque Saenz Peña 5561, Las Compuertas, Vistalba, Luján de Cuyo www.kaikenwines.com

Mendel Winery-Roberto de la Terrada 1863, Mayor Drummond, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza. www.mendel.com.ar

Pulenta Estate-Ruta Provincial 86. Km 6,5. Alto Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo, www.pulentaestate.com

Ruca Malen-Ruta Nacional 7, Km. 1059, Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo, www.bodegarucamalen.com

Tempus Alba-is located in the historic town of Maipu. Located just outside the town’s limits in the rural neighborhood of Coquimbito, Tempus. Carril Perito Moreno 572, Coquimbito, Maipu, www.tempusalba.com

Andeluna-Located near the town of Tupungato.  www.andeluna.com

Atamisque-RP 86 Km. 30, San José, Tupungato, www.atamisque.com

Salentein-RP 89 s/n, Vista Flores, Tunuyán, www.killkasalentein.com

O.Fournier-Located in Mendoza, O. Fournier is located at 4,000 feet altitude in the Andes, making it one of the highest wine-growing regions in the world. Los Indios s/n, La Consulta, San Carlos, www.ofurnier.com

The wines of Argentina-Torrontes in a fabulous dry white wine with strong floral notes. Malbec is the red wine that has made Argentina famous. Bonarda. Syrah.

There are some wonderful blends that you should definitely try while visiting Argentina. You will find blends made of Petite Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Cabernet Fran, that when blended with Malbec makes a much smoother, softer and slightly less tannic wine, than when Malbec stands alone. Malbec by itself is a fabulous wine for the meat that Argentina is famous for, but sometimes with salmon or chicken you may prefer a red that is a little lighter, then one of these delicious blends might be just what you are looking for.

Argentina is a beautiful county that produces excellent wines. The problem with Argentina as a wine destination is that the wine growing regions are a very long drive from the capital of Argentina, which is Buenos Aires. The wine producing areas of Argentina are actually easier to get to by flying in to Chile, however; there are more frequent flights from the United States to Buenos Aires, than there are to cities within Chile, so even though it is time consuming to travel from Buenos Aires to the wine region of Argentina, you may find that Buenos Aires may be the most convenient option for you. There are flights from Buenos Aires to Argentinian wine country.
Buenos Aires is a fabulous gateway city to begin your visit to the wine country of Argentina.

Safety and Security:

Buenos Aires is a high crime city. Please use your best street sense when visiting. The people of Argentina are some of the nicest in the world. However, Argentina is a poor country with a very small middle class and an even smaller upper class. There are many poor, unemployed people, so most of the crime on the street is crime of desperation. You can have a very nice time in Argentina, but you need to always be aware and alert, to ensure that you are not one of the victims.

  • Do not wear jewelry of any type.
  • Do not walk the streets in bad neighborhoods, especially at night.
  • Ladies, you may not wish to carry a purse.
    (I carry a plain cheap tote bag, and I never put all of my money in one place, I put some in my bra, I put some in my front pocket, and sometimes I may have a small amount if I need to in a tiny change purse in my tote bag.)  I always keep a small amount of money handy, with the rest of my money and credit cards well hidden. I always have it in my mind that if attacked I will hand over my small stash of money, and then run. Perpetrators of crime in Buenos Aires typically want money more than they want to hurt you. Of course, if you resist you are more likely to be injured
  • Have your hotel or restaurant call you a cab when possible, rather than hailing one on the street, although you will find many times where hailing a cab on the street is your only option. A cab is almost always safer than walking on the street, especially at night. However, there have been unethical taxi drivers who will pass fake bills as change, or there is a known scam that the taxi driver will switch your good bill with a fake bill that they are holding and then claim that you gave them the fake bill. If you are a victim of these scams it is best to just pay them a small amount of extra money and see it as part of your travel experience. Fighting with them is dangerous and often they will involve a police officer who may be getting a cut of his scam, and so the police officer will side with the taxi driver. It is best if you ever find yourself in this situation to give him some extra bills until he is satisfied, and get out of the cab as soon as you can.I never wear earbuds, I make sure I am always aware of my surroundings.
  • I try to look like a local as much as possible. (As much as a blond can, however if you are blond, expect more attention that you may wish to have.)
  • I carry a map and hotel card of where I am staying, but never look at it on the street, I always step into a business to look at it. Argentinians in the businesses are incredibly nice, helpful people. Many times when looking for a certain business, I have had people offer to look up the address on Google Maps for me and then give me directions, to the business that I am looking for.
  • When booking a hotel, ensure that they have a safe in the room, and always use it, even when you are in your room, sleeping. Make sure that you keep all extra cash, electronics and travel documents in your safe. Please stay in a safe hotel in a safe neighborhood. Your safety is worth spending more money on a hotel in this city. Don’t go cheap, go safe.
  • Wear flat soled shoes. There are two reasons for this.  You can run from your assailant and The condition of the streets and sidewalks in Buenos Aires, is very poor. The city’s sidewalks are crumbling and there are many uneven surfaces that you will walk on. Also, keep your eyes down for the most part, so you don’t fall into one of the many big holes.  

Changing Money:

At one time there was a black market for changing money in Argentina. The bank rate was very low compared with the rate that local businesses would give you. This was known as the “Blue Rate”. The government got wise to the illegal black market transactions that were being conducted. In order to combat the black market, the government raised the official exchange rate to what the black market was offering. Some stores and restaurants still accept US currency, but you should ask what exchange rate they will offer you. Sometimes it is better to change your money to Pesos first, because all stores and restaurants do not offer the same rate. Some restaurants will have a price list for US Dollars, but often it is not as good of prices as the regular menu prices in pesos. At the time of this writing On May 1, 2017, the official exchange rate is 15.50 Pesos to one dollar. If you have cash you should ask if there is a discount for using cash as opposed to using your credit card.

Some business do take US Currency. Some will not. Some will give you a discount for providing them with US Currency. Most shop owners prefer, for large purchases, for you to pay them with larger currencies of $50 or $100 dollar bills. Most business also take major credit cards, such as Visa and MasterCard. Most do not take American Express.

You may change money at your hotel, but you all get one of the worst exchange rates at the hotels.

There are businesses such as various shoe stores and tailor shops on Florida Street that will change money for you. This is illegal, although I do not know of any tourist that has been prosecuted for changing money illegally. If you wish to change money this way, listen for people saying, “Cambio”. These people on the street are hired by the businesses. If you agree to change money with them they will then take you into a shop where you will change money. It is a way to change money, and most are honest and they will give you a much better rate than what you get in a hotel. I prefer to go to an official currency exchange like the one at 142 Florida. At this currency exchange there is a window, you walk up and give him your US Currency or Euros, and they tell you the rate you will be receiving. What I like about this currency exchange is that the cashier uses a machine and the money is counted out right in front of you. Just a note, if you are in Buenos Aires on a Sunday, almost everything is closed on Florida Street. The only way to get money on a Sunday is by going to an ATM. Incidentally, almost everything on Sundays in the entire city of Buenos Aires is closed, including many restaurants. Sunday morning is a fabulous time to take pictures in this city, because the streets are almost deserted!

Another way to get cash is by using your ATM card at a cash machine. As in every country, be very aware of your surroundings and watch for thieves loitering around ATM machines. It is always best to go into a bank to use the ATM, rather than using one outside. Also, look for anything unusual about the ATM machine, as “skimmers” have been known to be used to steal the data in your ATM card, and to potentially drain your bank account.

A word of warning: There is a problem with counterfeit money in Argentina. This is such a big problem in Argentina, that ATM machines have been known to give out counterfeit bills. Unfortunately, for the tourist, it is very difficult for us to spot a fake bill.

Known Scams:

There is a known scam where one or two people will stop you on the street and squirt something on you such as ketchup or mustard and then attempt to help you clean it up. While you are distracted their partner reaches into your pocket and takes your wallet. Be very aware of this scam. You would be surprised at how fast all of this can happen, and that even the most savvy of travels can fall victim to this scam.

I know that this is a very long list of warnings, but I promise you, you can have a fabulous time in Buenos Aires, despite all that you have to look out for.

These are some great neighborhoods:

San Telmo
Recoletta
Palermo
Palermo Hollywood
Palermo Soho

My Recommendations of Wine Bars and Wine Stores:

San Telmo

El Seddon-El Seddon is a beautiful, old wine bar. They have a fabulous selection of wines by the glass. They also have an extensive food menu. They have delicious sandwiches, salads and entrees.

Wine stores are every where in Buenos Aires, and I find that the merchants in the wine store in Buenos Aires are some of the most helpful and friendliest people in the enitre world. They absolutely love to discus with you your preferences and they are very good at making recommendations to suit any budget.

Here is just a small list of some of my favorites. You may also wish to inquire if they have tasting available. Often for just a small fee you can taste some wonderful wines.

My Recommendations:

Things to do:

The Argentine Experience

I highly recommend everyone book an evening at The Argentine Experience. The Argentine Experience is a wonderful introduction to the culture of Argentina. You will be in a small intimate group of other tourists, and enjoy a fun night a drinking, eating, laughing, and learning. There are two options available to you, and I highly recommend the “cocktail hour” before the even begins as an add on. It is well worth the extra money.

If you pay for the additional cocktail hour, your evening will start with a guessing game using wine essences, so this is just right for the wine tourist! Everyone is given paper and pen, and you have to identify scents found in wines. It is a great exercise for a wine lover, and much harder than you may think.

Next you will go to the bar, where the bartender will teach you to make three different types of cocktails that are typical of drinks that Argentinians drink. Everyone is paired up with someone and you must then make each other the cocktails that he just made, so pay very close attention. Then of course, you get to enjoy drinking your cocktails.

Next, you move upstairs and the evening of food and fun begins! You will learn how to make your own empanadas, and then of course, enjoy eating them. Next you will learn all about the cuts of meat and enjoy an actual, traditional parilla. If you do not know what a Parilla is, it is a meal of grilled meats and vegetables, which is absolutely delicious. You will also be introduced to the tradition of sharing “Mate”. In all of my years of travel this evening at the Argentine Experience is one of the most fun and most informative evenings I have ever had. Book this fun evening on line in advance. I promise, you will not regret it!

Flamenco

Many nice shows are available, however, I have found most of them to be quite expensive and very touristy. You are better off seeing free shows in the Doringo Plaza in San Telmo, or on Florida Street. If you stop and enjoy street performer performances, please give these people some money. These people are artists and have very little income. Tipping and payment for things like this can be confusing because there are so many bills in Argentine currency that have so little value. Keep in mind that a 20 peso bill is barely more than a dollar, so you can toss a pile of bills into a tip jar and it still may only be a couple dollars to you.

The Opera House-An excellent tour is available.

The Pink Palace- A tour is available on Saturdays, Sundays and on holidays.

La Recolletta- The cemetery where Argentina’s most beloved dictator, Eva Peron, is buried. It is a must see. Maps are available upon admission to the cemetery.

Shopping:

6W-A favorite shop of mine is called 6W. It is located just off of Florida Street on Paraguay Street. 6W specializes in locally made items all handmade in South America. My favorite gift items are Alpaca silver items with goat, deer or cow horn handles. They offer a variety of wine pourers, trays of all sizes and price ranges and even matching candlesticks. 6W also has hand made rosaries, jewelry, baskets, nativities and even small pieces of furniture. They do not take American Express.
Florida Street is a very long street of shops ranging from chain clothing stores to jewelry stores.

There is a nice mall on Florida Street called “Galleria Pacifica.”

Tours:

Mendoza Holidays is a company that offers wine tours. I have not used this tor company, but in this country, for non spanish speaking travelers, a tour company may be very helpful to you. To contact them email them at: tours@mendozaholidays.com.

 

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