Living It Up In Buenos Aires (A Christmas Special)
We spent two weeks in the heart of Buenos Aires cultural cool.
Palermo had everything, except Christmas cheer. We arrived in the high December heat with visions of Buenos Aires as a South American NYC, but the only tree we saw was the small plastic one in our Air BnB.
Our team of two had become three once again. This became four when Dave bought a fellow Antipodean home for Christmas lunch.
In Argentina, Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day’s like our Boxing Day. Your're either creating a new hangover, or nursing an old one by eating lots of leftovers.
As it was a backpackers Christmas, we satisfied the craving for home by eating crispy potatoes with bubbles in hand on the 25th.
It was a late start on the 26th. But that was ok, because time moves in a whole new way in Buenos Aires.
The earliest anything is open is 10am, but most things start to wake up around 11am. People stepping out for coffee, walking their dogs, catching up with friends, shopping - Palermo's urban living at its finest.
Dinner time in Buenos Aires is 10pm or later. Once you get used to it, it's easy to relax into never coming home before midnight, then sleeping in until 9 or 10am.
By the time New Years Eve rolled around, the midnight countdown felt like the beginning of the night. We didn’t get to the discoteca until 4am, then arrived home well past the early hours of 2018.
Even if you sleep in past midday, you don’t need to rush to get to the boutique clothing stores in Palermo.
They're open late selling unique clothes from local designers we’d never seen, or heard of, before.
We may of bought more than a few pieces for the night of bar hopping we’d planned for Ha-Days Birthday dinner.
The first bar we went to had a long pants-and-password only entry policy.
We got in on the second attempt. We’d deciphered the password after watching the Facebook video earlier in the day, but Daves shorts were denied at the door. Strict.
After a (resistant) wardrobe change, we were granted entry, given a code, then pointed towards a telephone booth lit up in the dark hallway like it was under a streetlamp.
Feeling like 007 (and dressed just as sharp), we punched the code into the phone. The wall next to us slid open, revealing a suited escort waiting to lead us to Franks Bar.
After slinging back some high end cocktails, we sauntered off to our reservation at Nicky NY Sushi, which we'd booked for a reason.
Deeming the sushi roll the best she's ever had, Ha-Day dropped a secret code to the waiter after dinner.
We were lead to the back of the restaurant, where the formica wall swung open into a small room, then shut again as soon as we'd stepped inside, cutting us off from the bustling diners.
The mystery was getting more intoxicating than the Argentinian wine we'd had with the ceviche.
After swearing us to secrecy, the waiter pushed open another wall behind her. Ragtime music floated out towards us.
Out the back of Nicky NY sushi, customers were standing around with champagne coups in hand, or sitting at small tables reading cocktail menus from old newspapers.
Bottles of spirits were lined up in front of a huge gilded mirror that reflected the buckle on the barmans waistcoat.
Art Deco lined the walls all the way to the exit that led out onto a different part of the street.
We sat down in a flush then spent half an hour deciding which cocktail to have first, even though we all knew there'd be more than one round.
We tottered out from The Harrison Speakeasy around 1am. That's still plenty of time for more bar hopping in Buenos Aires, before heading to a discoteca at (the earliest) 2am.
In between bouts of shopping and bar hopping in Palermo, we ventured out to discover more of Argentinas cosmopolitan capital.
We (I) satisfied my inner geek by getting lost in the aisles of El Ateneo Grand Splendid, an old theatre that’s been revamped into a bookstore, before finding out way to Cafe Tortoni, Buenos Aires' famous French-style cafe.
After paying the entrance fee we climbed some creaky steps to a warehouse space complete with an old dingy bar, ripped lounges and wooden table and chairs. The instructor was a tiny, upright man who spent the lesson correcting a minefield of mismatched backwards-forwards steps.
It's worth staying until the end to watch the professionals slip in and own the dance floor.
We took a tour through some grand displays of wealth at La Recoleta cemetery. The elaborate graves of families escalate from huge sculptured statues, to giant mausoleums made of imported marble, to entire alleys of dedication.
On the flip side is La Boca, a working class neighbourhood with pockets of growing gentrification. There’s steakhouses everywhere, as well as street artists surrounding Caminito, a small alley flanked by bright, colourful shacks from the areas early immigrant days.
There’s a number of attractions near the Riachuelo River, but the place really comes alive on match days at La Bombonera, home to the Boca Juniors soccer team.
We balanced two weeks of shopping, dining, partying and sightseeing in Buenos Aires with the RnR (binge watching Game of Thrones) of a private AirBnB.
The further south we went, the more western life crept back in like a slow transition to home. By the time we were packing our things to leave, it was well into 2018.
We were en route to crossing the border into the final country of our trip, an idea that had at one time seemed as far away as the New Year, but had come around just as fast.