Monday, January 25, 2010

Argentina, Day 1

I left Uruguay today. I felt like I could have spent another day in Colonia – or more – but my time is short now, and with my work having resumed I wanted to be “settled” where the final leg of my South American journey will unfold. In any case, I had a ticket on the express ferry from Colonia to Buenos Aires this morning, and I needed to be at the ferry terminal an hour before it was scheduled to depart. I grabbed a quick breakfast at the patio of my hotel, where I met a friendly cat that decided my foot would be a fun thing to attack.

It chewed on my shoelaces until I was done eating, and then I left for the terminal.

The ferry terminal was quite nice, though it was difficult for me to determine which lines to stand in for customs and boarding. There weren’t any signs anywhere, and my ticket didn’t provide much information. But I managed to get on the 11:15 ferry, where I was immediately greeted by people offering glasses of champagne. I passed on the morning alcohol and then took a seat in the first class seating area. (Tourist class was sold out, and anyway, first class was only $19 more.) I was pleased to discover that the ferry had free wi-fi, so I got a little work done while crossing the enormously wide River Plate.

I picked up my bag after disembarking, changed money at a cambio, then paid a taxi 30 pesos (~$8) for a ride to my hotel in the Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires. By the time I checked into my hotel, it was a little past noon (Argentina is an hour behind Uruguay), so I went back out, in the 90 degree heat, and found a nice restaurant called Cala Pizza a block away.

Once seated, I ordered a mazzazo, a sandwich made of steak, ham, and cheese, and lettuce and tomatoes. I also ordered an orange and peach liquado, a refreshing drink blended with milk. For how simple it was, the sandwich was excellent, especially the thin, focaccia-like bread holding it all together.

My entire lunch cost 37 pesos (~$9.70). Cala also has free wi-fi, and I was probably the only customer there not taking advantage of this.

Cala is located at the corner of Junin and Pena streets. They do delivery within a limited area. Tel: 4805-2005.

Following lunch I went back to my hotel to do a bit of work. However, by mid-afternoon I needed a break, so I headed a couple blocks up Junin, which is at the corner of where I’m staying. Here I came upon a restaurant called Del Pilar.

They were apparently finishing lunch service, as a number of tables were being stripped of their white tablecloths. Wanting something halfway healthful, I ordered a fruit cup, which combined fruit both fresh and canned. I also ordered a double espresso, as I felt half-dead from the heat and thought the caffeine would give me a jolt.

Both did what I needed them to do – refuel me – but the most satisfaction I got stopping here was from the place itself. It’s a nice place to sit and watch the world go by through the long windows.

Del Pilar is located at Avenida Las Heras 2001. Tel: 4803-7733/4762.

It was way too hot to explore Recoleta, so I waited until late afternoon to visit one of the most famous sites in the immediate area, Cementerio de la Recoleta. This cemetery, located at the intersection of Junin and Guido streets, is where many of Argentina’s most famous dead are buried, including prominent politicians, former presidents, military persons, doctors, and other important people, including Maria Eva Duarte de Peron (otherwise known as Eva Peron, or more popularly as Evita, and buried alongside other Duarte family members). It’s a beautiful cemetery – and free to enter – where one can wander along the well-kept paths and see many impressive statues, monuments, crypts, and sarcophagi (not to mention stray cats). It’s definitely worth spending an hour or so here, and guided tours in Spanish, Portuguese, and English are all available.

Tel (for guided tour reservations, especially): 4803-1594. Hours: 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Right next door to the cemetery is the Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Pilar, a baroque colonial church that was built in 1732. It’s definitely worth a trip inside, though if you do enter, I hope you find fewer people smacking lips and trading saliva inside than I found. Why do I keep finding amorous couples in South American churches? (This time, however, I didn’t take their photo…)

When dinnertime rolled around, I stuck close to my hotel. A restaurant called L’ecole was only a block away, so I decided to give it a try.

When I saw they had patio seating in back, I asked for a table there. It was a nice setting, too, as the roof was open and I could actually see starts overhead. And the English-speaking waitresses were a bonus for me, as I had trouble reading the menu selections.

I ended up ordering from the menu de la noche – an entrada, a plato principal, and two glasses of wine for 51 pesos ($13.37). For my starter I opted for the ensalada de vegetales cocidos con oliva extra virgen, tostadas crocantes y pimienta negra molida, which was basically vegetables cooked in olive oil and served with pieces of toasted bread and pesto. It was very good, and had they served more of this I could have left the restaurant happy without bothering with my entrée.

But I had an entrée coming, too: mollejas con crema de dyjon sobre colchon de hojas verdes y champis feliteados. From what I understand, mollejas refers to meat from a cow’s cheeks, which is extremely tender. The entrée, too, was good, though the cream sauce it came with was quite rich, and by the time I’d finished I was really happy to have had two glasses of wine to wash it all down with.

I recommend this place for anyone staying in the Recoleta area of Buenos Aires. The price was right, and the service very good.

L’ecore can be found at Junin 1460, between Pacheco de Melo and Peña streets. Tel: 4807-0706. Email:

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  1. I will have to revisit Ecuador, Chile and Uruguay but for now, I had to see what happened on your first day in Argentina. Your meals all look delicious but the one from Cala Pizza would really hit a spot for me.

    I'm normally quite superstitious about cemeteries but perhaps because Recoleta is more like a 'city' with its mausoleums, I don't think I'd feel as if I were trodding on someone's resting place as it would be in the park-like cemeteries here.

  2. Tangled Noodle: Ah, it's so great to see the photo of your boxer on my blog! :) One of these days I'll need to go back and revisit the different places that I blogged about on this trip. Right now, all five countries seem so utterly different to me. As for the cemetery in Recoleta...I know what you mean. I think it helps to visit it on a bright, sunny, very hot day. When it's as hot as it is now, there's no room for the notion of "creepy" to enter your mind. Really, though, it's worth visiting for the historical significance and also for the sheer beauty of the architecture and layout. I hope you can visit Buenos Aires some day. It's an amazing city!

  3. It looks that you had fun the 1st day in Argentinia!!

    thanks for shring this with us!