We woke up early to our second day in Buenos Aires and our last morning on the ship. It had been an exhilarating and adventurous cruise for 14 days on Celebrity Eclipse from Santiago in Chile, along the Pacific coast of South America, then rounding Cape Horn and sailing north along the Atlantic Coast of Argentina and finally making port in Buenos Aires. We had our final breakfast in the Oceanview Cafe then waited in the Martini Bar until 9:50am when our disembarkation number was called and we were able to leave the ship. When we left the Eclipse for the last time, we only had a short wait for the shuttle to take us to the terminal building. After going through the terminal, we walked out to get a taxi. We were surprised to find that port taxis are not metered and drivers can seemingly charge whatever the like. One driver asked for $30 dollars US to drive us to our hotel in Palermo which was about 8 kilometres away. We settled with another driver at $20 US dollars.
Our hotel was in the Palermo area, a trendy barrio (neighbourhood) located in the north of the city that is known for its restaurants, cocktail bars and fashion stores. It is also known as the Polo capital of the World and hosts the annual Argentine Polo Open, also called the Palermo Open. Our home for the next two nights was the Duque Hotel, a lovely boutique property with only 12 rooms and a small but serene courtyard at the back of the hotel that has a garden area with a pool. It also has a cafe and sitting room where a breakfast (included in the rate) is available. As we had arrived around 10:30am, we dropped off our luggage and ventured out to the trendy Palermo Soho area where we would spend the rest of the morning.
Palermo Soho, along with Palermo Hollywood, is one of the trendiest and most visited places in Buenos Aires. While many tourists and locals alike come here for the exclusive boutiques and chic restaurants, we came for something totally different. Palermo Soho is one of the best places to appreciate the incredible murals and street art that cover many of the stores, cafes and restaurants that line both sides of the narrow, mostly cobblestone streets in and around Calle Santa Rosa. It is like walking through a vast outdoor art gallery. Usually this area is teeming with people, especially on the weekends. Because it was Sunday and we had arrived before noon, the streets were still relatively quiet, which allowed us to roam the neighbourhood at our leisure and take our time to admire the more detailed and elaborate works. To make the experience even more enjoyable, the temperature was quite comfortable at 25 degrees Celcius under bright blue skies.
After spending a couple of hours exploring the different alleys and side streets, we found a local outdoor cafe to rest for a bit and enjoy some of the local food. Because Kim had arranged for us to have dinner at a private wine tasting and pairing club later that evening, we decided on a light lunch consisting of a local pizza dish that came with a mixture of fresh greens. Mine was accompanied by an Argentinean beer while Kim opted for a glass of local Sauvignon Blanc. Considering the amount of food that we would be consuming over the next 2 days, we couldn’t have made a better choice for our lunch selection today.
After leaving the cafe, we went back to the hotel, which was about a 20 minute walk. We gathered our bags which we had checked at reception when we first arrived and went up to our room to change into our bathing suits. We took the stairs down to the main lobby and walked through the sitting room to the back of the hotel and the outdoor garden. We had the garden and pool to ourselves. Kim got into the very refreshing pool which was heated by the sun shining down into the courtyard. I got us each a gin and tonic, then settled into a very comfortable lounger in a shady spot at the side of the pool where I faded into a gentle and relaxing nap.
At least once on every trip, we try and find a unique eatery that features cuisine from the local region. Kim has a knack for finding the most exclusive venues that offer a sampling of food and wine and that captures the essence of the places we explore. One such venue is the Casa Coupage, a private wine tasting and pairing club run by Sommelier, Santiago Mymicopulo.
The closed-door, private restaurant which requires an advance reservation was a quick 10 minute walk from our hotel and is located in a narrow converted home on a quiet residential street. We rang the doorbell, and were greeted at the door by the hostess who presented us with a glass of chilled sparkling wine, then escorted us up a flight of stairs to the main dining area which is situated in a bright, narrow rectangular room with a long dining table that seats 12, taking up most of the space. As we were the first to arrive, Kim and I sat across from each other at one end of the table. We sipped our wine and snacked on an appetizer as the rest of the guests joined us - a couple from the UK and a group of 5 women from different parts of the US who frequently travel together.
Santiago introduced himself and gave us a bit of background on himself and the restaurant. He went over the menu and wines that we would be enjoying and emphasized the importance that both taste and smell have in the overall dining experience as well as how the wines express themselves in different ways when paired with various dishes. During the course of the evening he invited us to try several different scent exercises to test the abilities of our nose. It was loads of fun. He spent time exploring the regions of Argentina and explaining why a certain wine was paired with each course. We love to understand the consideration that goes into the pairing and the selection of the menu as it relates to the wine so this was amazing for us.
Our tasting consisted of 7 different wines (including the sparkling wine we had when we arrived) paired with a 7 course menu. While most of the wines that were served were reds, including a couple of different Malbecs from Mendoza, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Pinot Noir, one of the wines was a very aromatic and flowery Torrontés, the most famous white wine from Argentina. Kim was able to substitute her reds for additional Torrontés and Sauvignon Blanc. The food choices were fantastic. The chef was extremely creative and we enjoyed every course that was beautifully presented.
The Casa Coupage was a wonderful way to spend an evening, and is particularly enjoyable in a small group setting where there is always lively conversation with people from different places. The wine tasting and food pairing is a great way to discover, in just a couple of hours, the best wines and foods that an area has to offer.
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PROFESSIONAL: Travel Agents work with people to understand their individual needs and desires. Our job is to make sure you get to where you need to go, at the best price and in the most pleasant way possible. We get to know you and what you value in your travel experience.
EXPERT GUIDANCE: Agents can provide assistance with understanding a destination – best times to visit, when you will have challenges with weather, is there a major festival taking place, will things be closed due to holidays? These are all important factors to understand to make the most of your holiday.
Next time you are planning a vacation, discuss it with an agent. With travel becoming more complex nowadays why not work with someone who knows the industry, vendors and promotions available. Your time is precious and your money is valuable – ensure you put both in good hands.
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After cruising from Montevideo overnight, we had arrived at our final port of call on the Celebrity Eclipse - the beautiful city of Buenos Aires. While this was the last port we would be visiting from the Eclipse, our disembarkation would not be until the next day, so we had the benefit of one final dinner and night about the ship.
The Port of Buenos Aires is the largest and busiest in Argentina resulting in a considerable amount of congestion around the port. This meant that we needed to take a shuttle from the ship to the main terminal building which resulted in having to wait around 20 minutes before an empty shuttle was available. At the terminal, we met up with our driver and guide Valeria, who would be taking us on a private city tour of Buenos Aires.
Leaving the terminal on route to our first stop of the day, the Recoleta Cemetery, we passed through the Retiro neighbourhood and the famous Floralis Generica, a steel and aluminum sculpture in the shape of a giant silver flower. What is unique about this sculpture, that was erected in 2002, is that the petals of the flower open and close depending on the time of day. Typically, the flower opens at 8:00am and closes at sunset when it emanates a red glow from inside. Unfortunately for us, the flower had not been working for the last 3 months and the petals were partially closed.
As we continued our drive to Recoleta, we passed by spacious parks with magnificent, mature trees and green space. Valeria told us that the city provides free exercise classes in the parks and we were able to see small groups of people practicing yoga and other activities as we drove by. The city has a very European feel and we were immediately reminded of Paris.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when we arrived at the Recoleta Cemetery. We have seen some pretty amazing cemeteries in our travels, including the St. Louis Cemeteries in New Orleans, the Mount of Olives Jewish Cemetery in Jerusalem and a little known but remarkable one in the town of Sete in Southern France. The Recoleta Cemetery is often referred to as “the World’s Best Cemetery”, and after spending more than an hour walking through the labyrinth of marble tombs and monuments, I can see how it got its moniker. It is unlike any cemetery we have ever visited. While the tombs are all above ground, like the famous cemeteries in New Orleans, Recoleta is far from gloomy. It resembles an elaborate city with stately pillars and elaborate carvings that is home to nearly 10,000 deceased patrons. Each mausoleum contains 7 to 14 people descends 2 levels underground.
The cemetery is the burial site of some of the most famous figures in Argentina, including the iconic Eva “Evita” Peron, who was Argentina’s First Lady while her husband, Juan Peron was President of the country. Eva Peron died of cancer in 1952, but because of military upheaval in Argentina at the time, her body went missing and was not buried in Recoleta until 1972. Her tomb is simple compared to many others in the cemetery, but it is one of the most visited. Her final resting place is 5 metres underground in a fortified bunker that is presumed to prevent her remains from ever becoming disturbed again. Recoleta is definitely a “must see” on any visit to Buenos Aires.
Leaving the Recoleta Cemetery, we passed by the Obelisca de Buenos Aires - a National Historic Monument, and the symbol of Buenos Aires. We also had a chance to see the Palace of the Argentine Congress which was constructed at the end of the 19th century and is currently being restored.
Not far from the National Congress we stopped in front of the Teatro Colon (Columbus Theatre), which is the main opera house in Argentina where Kim had booked a tour for us. I have to admit, I am not much of an opera person, but was willing to do the tour nonetheless. I was more than pleasantly surprised. This theatre is an architectural marvel, which was refurbished from 2005 to 2008 by more than 1500 workers at a cost of $100 million dollars. It has elaborate decor with carved columns, stunning stained glass windows and skylights and spacious ante rooms. The main theatre is horseshoe shaped and rises 6 stories above ground and 3 below. It is considered to be one of the top 5 performance venues anywhere on the globe and has hosted the top singers and conductors in the world. The acoustics are so precise that Luciano Pavarotti, the renowned tenor, found it the most challenging theatre to sing in because it amplified every mistake.
Following our tour of the theatre we stopped to walk around Plaza de Mayo which is surrounded by some of the most impressive buildings in Buenos Aires including the Casa Rosada (Pink Palace) which was originally the old Customs House, but now houses the offices of the Argentine President. We also got a chance to see Cabildo de Buenos Aires, a colonial style building that houses a museum of the Cabildo (post-colonial administrative council) and the May Revolution. Before leaving the plaza we visited the Metropolitan Cathedral, home of the Archbishop of Argentina, the most famous being Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who is now Pope Francis.
We left Plaza de Mayo and drove about 10 minutes to another plaza in San Telmo. This area is the birthplace of Tango and the most famous market in Buenos Aires, a sprawling indoor and outdoor market. We meandered through several aisles of the market taking in the smell of fresh vegetables and fruits along with cooking dishes that were being prepared in the various bars and cafes. We stopped at tiny cafe called El Hornero that had a stand up bar in front of a brick oven. Valeria told us this was the best place to try an empanada. The place was fairly busy and after ordering we waited about 10 minutes for ours to be freshly prepared and baked. It was well worth the wait. The empanada crust was hot and flaky. The beef filling was steaming and full of rich, tangy flavour.
After our visit to the market, we continued on our city tour and drove into La Boca neighbourhood which was originally settled by Italians. One of the major venues in La Boca is the football (soccer) stadium - Bombonera. It is unique because the stadium, and the area surrounding it is all blue and yellow, the team colours. La Boca is a lively area. The Italian influence is evident everywhere with colourful buildings, shops and restaurants, many decorated with artistic graffiti and murals. People are chatting and walking and even dancing tango in the streets.
After finishing our tour with Valeria, she dropped us off in a popular area with restaurants. We stopped at a restaurant called La Abuela, an outdoor cafe where we had a meat and cheese lunch (and some wine). After lunch we visited the Generica Artisnal market in Plaza Francia before taking a cab ride back to the ship where we relaxed for a bit before our last night on the ship.
We went to our usual dinner seating for our final dinner and enjoyed succulent Prime Rib of Beef. We were somewhat sad when we bade farewell to our attentive servers Marino and Pinto who had kept us fed and amused for last 13 nights. Returning to our stateroom we packed our bags and spent the rest of the evening relaxing on balcony.
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Sharing Our Travel Dreams
Sharing our personal experiences onboard and on the road, along with tips and insight for creating memorable vacations.