Hola! I had the chance to travel on Air New Zealand's new service to South America...and as if that wasn't exciting enough, I also had the pleasure of travelling there in Premium Economy! My wee trip showed me what this delightful destination has to offer as either a stopover on the way to Europe and the UK, or a destination in its own right. Let me tell you why....
My first day of discovery was spent walking around this vibrant city where little pockets of interest made for an insightful day. It started with the Recoleta cemetery where I visited Eva Peron's tomb, and although it sounds very macabre, it was in fact rather fascinating. I also enjoyed art galleries that boasted old Masters alongside contemporary Argentinian artists, and little cobbled-stoned barrios known for its fashionistas and foodie delights at Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood. Then a serendipitous discovery, my dream cafe which included a bookshop AND an art gallery - ah, the time I could have whiled away there if only time allowed! And finally, the evening was ended off with an exuberant display of tango dancers that performed for more than an hour - an absolute MUST for all travellers!
For something completely different, I decided to spend the day visiting Uruguay by catching the fast ferry across the Rio de la Plata that only takes an hour. The historic village of Colonia is a quaint, picturesque UNESCO heritage site that's situated right by the ferry terminal and is the perfect place to walk around cobbled-stoned, tree-lined streets and paths. The blocks are lined with cafes, restaurants and craft shops that get crammed with Argentinians visiting for the weekend during the summer break. It's mostly Portuguese influenced with roughly made streets and buildings, but also very much Spanish - their saying is "Portuguese on the inside, Spanish on the out!"
Back in NZ and reflecting on my first time in South America...
Buenos Aires has a very European feel about it, with a little bit of Spanish language going a very long way! A vibrant and lively city with 3 million people in the centre of it - their love of life is visibly seen in their passionate displays of emotion, whether it be performing the Tango or discussing Maradona, Eva or the Pope! A perfect place to stop for a few days to explore the arts, history, culture and shopping down Florida St with its lovely leather handbags - either as a stopover on your way to Europe or a stand-alone trip. If you enjoy their national dish of steak and dessert of anything-with-caramel, then Buenos aires could well be the perfect place for you...
Cry for me Argentina, I have left you but one day I will return!
Some more points of interest to consider:
1. Premium Economy: my first experience and I likened it to the old-fashioned business class of the '90's. It started with the stream-lined process of checking in at business class, skipping the long queues through security, getting on and off first as well as experiencing a fabulous menu along with real crockery, glass and regular drinks. This was on a 777 where we had our own cabin, wide seats, foot rests, a good-sized pillow and blanket. A far more enjoyable experience than expected and if you are one of my clients (or wish to be!), I'll encourage you to experience Premium Economy on at least one leg of your journey just to try it. Honestly, just the time saved waiting at the airport was a huge bonus, much less the well-inclined seats for that shut-eye! And soon, Air NZ will be flying a Dreamliner there so Premium Economy will be even better!!!
2. Hotel: after a 45 minute journey into Buenos Aires, I checked into our 4* hotel called "The Brick" in a neighbourhood called Recoleta. This was a great location as I could walk to most places and enjoy the sights along the way. Lots of cafes, restaurants and eateries all around the area.
3. Lonely Planet book: this was an important reference and I was able to find some well-priced eating places, designer shops, galleries and other interests I was looking for. Put it on your shopping list for any destination - nothing like flicking through pages and maps when wi-fi doesn't or can't work...
4. Sightseeing: take a 1/2 day tour as Buenos aires is very spread out and some of the really interesting areas need to be discovered and explored more than once. The underground and bus system is very cheap and easy to navigate, and which you can use to go back to some of the places that you saw and liked. I felt safe enough walking around during the day and evening but wouldn't recommend anyone advertising they are a tourist with cameras hanging around their necks.
5. Tango show: there are so many to choose from so don't be fooled into getting the cheapest. You will most likely only do this once so choose a reputable tour. I went on the CARLOS GARDEL DINNER AND TANGO SHOW which had a live orchestra and it was spectacular. Carlos Gardel was the father of Tango - even the hotel staff said to get a good tour so it's worth making the effort here.
6. Language: very few people speak English so to learn a few words/phrases/numbers (money and time) will go along way to helping you enjoy your experience in this Spanish speaking country. This is very helpful when a taxi driver is trying to take money out of your hand!!
7. Money: get your pesos before you leave NZ so you are set to go on arrival. Tipping isn't necessary but it is much easier to pay by pesos than credit card for smaller purchases. If you take USD, make sure it is in $50's or higher. The money changers do not except lower denominations which I thought they would like. Our hotel changed my 10 x $5's into 1 x $50 but the banking system there is much more complicated, so cash and your cc will work well enough for you. Pesos are approx. 1/10th of NZD so if your coffee is 40 pesos then it is about NZ$4. (Although out of the 7 lattes that I ordered, I only received one - the others were a combination of just about everything else!)
8. For something different: take the fast ferry over to Colonia, Uruguay. This is a beautiful historic walking village well worth the day trip at approx NZ$140. It's a short taxi trip from the hotel, easy to get through customs and a pleasant way to spend the day