On our 3rd day in Buenos Aires, we woke up just after 7:00am and, after getting ourselves organized for the day, we went to the included breakfast in the Duque Boutique Hotel and Spa. The breakfast consists of a complete buffet style venue with a large table stacked with yogurt, cereals and cold cuts, while a variety of egg dishes can be ordered from the kitchen. Another table offers natural juices, espresso coffee and exquisite teas - some unique to Argentina. I have to say that, while it is simple, the breakfast certainly met our needs and tastes for the two mornings that we ate here.
After breakfast, we took a taxi to the Japanese Garden, located in the north-east corner of Parque Tres de Febrero in Palermo. Parque Tres de Febrero is a massive urban park that encompasses nearly 1000 acres in the Palermo district. The Japanese Garden is administered by the Japanese Argentine Cultural Foundation in Buenos Aires, and is considered one of the largest Japanese Gardens outside the country of Japan. We arrived about 15 minutes before the Garden’s designated opening time of 10:00am and had to wait in a small queue of about half a dozen people for the ticket office to open. Once it did, we were able to get through fairly quickly and, because we were among the first to arrive, our walk through the park was serene and relaxing.
Inside the park entrance are a couple of simple but modern wooden structures that house a cultural centre, restaurant, greenhouse and gift shop. The greenhouse is well regarded because of its collection of bonsai trees. Just to the right of the cultural centre is the central lake which is seen throughout the park and is populated by carp and surrounded by various flora from Japan including sakura, katsura, momjii and azalea. Orchids are also found throughout the park.
One rather interesting feature of the lake is the steeply arched red bridge that crosses it. Known as the Divine Bridge, it represents the entry into Heaven. There is also another bridge that crosses the lake known as the Truncated Bridge, and it leads to a small medicinal herb garden located on one of the lakes islands. Among other features of the Japanese Garden are a Peace Bell and a Buddhist Temple along with numerous granite statues and stone lanterns that are central to Buddhist traditions.
We spent about an hour meandering through this very serene setting, although, if you wanted to sit and relax or spend some time in deep thought or meditation, it would be easy stay much longer. We also didn’t stop at the cultural centre or gift shop, so that may also add a bit of time.
When we left the entrance to the Garden, we were at one corner of the Parque Tres de Febrero. We had planned to visit another very popular part of the park, the Rose Garden, which is about a 20 minute walk. We stayed inside the park, keeping the Avenue del Libertador, a main boulevard which forms one of the park’s borders on our left. It was late morning and the sun was becoming quite hot, so we appreciated the shade from the expansive mature trees. There were quite a few people that were exercising and working out. We were also quite surprised at the number of dogs in the park. Many of the dogs were part of large groups that appeared to be obedience schools. We ended up referring to it as the “dog park”.
We finally arrived at the Rose Garden only to find out that it is closed on Monday - we were originally supposed to visit here the day prior but ran out of time and didn't realize it wasn't open every day. We weren’t able to enter through the gates, so we wandered around the perimeter to gaze from a distance at the roses and other flowers that were still in bloom. Although we were disappointed that the Rose Garden was closed, we had enjoyed spending the morning in a green, natural setting, despite being in the middle of one of the biggest cities in South America.
We took a taxi back to the hotel just in time to change and walk the 10 minutes to our lunch reservation at Don Julio restaurant. We had booked Don Julio when it came up on a list of recommended places for steak in Buenos Aires. It was selected as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world for 2019, and is normally quite expensive, but by choosing to go there for lunch instead of dinner, we were able to save a substantial amount of money for the same menu selections.
The experience at Don Julio starts before you enter the restaurant. We arrived at the restaurant just as it was opening for lunch, and there was already a queue of about a dozen people at the front door. A podium was set up outside the entrance and on top of the podium was a large bucket filled with ice and bottles of Sparkling White Wine. A hostess was filling champagne flutes and handing them out to the people in the queue. It turns out the queue was for those who did not have reservations booked in the hopes of a cancellation or no show. We checked in at the podium, were each given a glass of bubbly, and because we had a reservation, we were escorted to a spot beside the entrance while the main doors were being opened.
The maitre d’ escourted us to our table just inside the door. As we sat down, we took in the main dining room which consisted of a large number of heavy wooden tables set up for groups of 2, 4, 6 and 8 people. Racks of wine filled every wall and shelf in the restaurant. At the back of the dining room was a long wooden bar with a granite top that seperated the chefs from the brick covered grills that were on the back wall. The bartop was laid out with massive cuts of raw beef including filet mignon, strip loin, rib-eye and porterhouse. For a steak lover like me, this was paradise!
The maitre d’ introduced us to our waiter who gave us menus and took our drink order. As we mulled over the menu, the restaurant began to fill up and it was soon bustling with waiters and servers taking orders and delivering food, deftly maneuvering the narrow spaces between the tables. When our waiter returned we ordered a grilled provolone cheese appetizer which we ate with fresh hot bread. It was delicious and extremely filling. I checked out the steaks that were laid out on the bar and was still mesmerized by their size. We ended up deciding on the rib-eyes at the recommendation of the waiter. When they were delivered to our table, they barely fit on the plate. I had ordered mine with fries and Kim had chosen mashed potatoes. Each came with a side of vegetables. The sides alone were enough to feed 4 people. The steaks, at 400 grams each, were thick, tender and juicy - one of the best steaks I have ever had. We took our time eating our meal, accompanied by some very fine wine. I started with a glass of Pinot Noir with the appetizer and had a full bodied Mendozan Malbec with the steak. Kim had a Sauvignon Blanc and a Semillon with her main. The steaks were well presented, cooked to perfection (we both had medium rare) and very tender, but it was way too much to eat at one sitting. Fortunately we had thought ahead and booked an early lunch (12:00 PM) and a late dinner at 8:00 PM, so we had lots of time in between to recuperate.
When we left the restaurant it was just after 2:00 PM, and we walked back to the hotel where we spent the rest of the afternoon just relaxing (which included a long nap for me). Kim had booked a reservation at La Vantana Tango and Dinner Club, which is in the heart of San Telmo where tango was born. The dinner was scheduled to start at 8:00 PM followed by the tango show which consists of 32 artists including singers, dancers, bands and “gauchos”. The venue is an old historical conventillo, an urban tenement built in the 19th century. The tickets included a transfer from our hotel, which was late picking us up, and as a result, when we arrived at the dinner club, it was already packed to capacity. We were led upstairs to the main hall and squeezed into our seats near the back of the venue. The tables were set up in long rows with the seats all facing the stage. We were provided with a single page menu that consisted of pre-set meals with 2 options - pasta or steak. We ordered the caprese salad and pasta with a glass of wine. Because we were late and it was so busy, we actually didn’t get served until after 9:00pm, which in some ways was fortunate because we had such a large lunch. While the dinner was fine, it couldn’t compare to our food experience at Don Julio’s, but we weren’t expecting that either - we were here for the Tango show and that did not disappoint.
The show started at 10:00pm and was lively and entertaining throughout the evening, lasting until just before midnight. There were a variety of tango dances performed by couples and groups and their energy seemed boundless. Musicians accompanied the dancers but also performed solos and in small bands. When the last dance finished, ushers began directing people through the single exit that led to a small elevator and a narrow staircase. We managed to get out before the bulk of the crowd, because we were near the back. We could have taken a shuttle back to the hotel, but figured it would be quicker to take a taxi where we could go directly back as opposed to making multiple stops on the way. We hailed a waiting cab, and after giving him the name of our hotel, hung on as he pulled a U- turn and sped back towards Palermo. Thank goodness it was late and the streets were relatively empty since he was speeding most of the way back. We were thankful when he finally pulled up beside the Duque hotel and we quickly scrambled out of the car.
It had been a long, full day and we were exhausted. This was our last night in Buenos Aires, and we had packed a lot into the last 3 days, but we had enjoyed being here. This is a beautiful metropolitan city that offers history, culture, large open spaces, great restaurants and is very reminiscent of some of the great cities in Europe. Definitely a place we would come back to.
Continue to Day 18 & 19 - click here
Sharing Our Travel Dreams
Sharing our personal experiences onboard and on the road, along with tips and insight for creating memorable vacations.