After almost 24 hours of travelling – through Seattle, Huston and then finally arriving in Buenos Aires, the airport ground crew decided to go on strike. Luckily, it only lasted an hour and then our bags were coming on the carousel . A taxi from from the airport was ridiculously expensive, but after some debate we decided that public transit was near impossible (they only accept exact change, which is like gold in BsAs and the line up for the bank at the airport was around an hour.
We struggled to stay up once we got to our hostel. Deciding it would be a good idea to get some food, we stopped at a local pizza and empanada joint our hostel recommended. After eating and getting the bill (‘la cuenta’) we attempted to pay with credit or US cash – AIL. Dan had to sit at the restaurant while I went to an ATM (seems like a simple task…) The first ATM was “under construction” a local told me – I saw no constriction; the following two ATM’s did not accept any form of card I had on me; all the banks were closed and supposedly don’t change US dollars. I then found another ATM which was supposedly open but no one could get past the door. At this point I almost gave up. I asked a man at a convenient store and he informed me I could get “cambio” (change) at a place up the road. After another set of directions, I made my way upstairs to a Turismo store with a cambio counter in the back. They happily took my US dollars for over one and a half times the government rate. This was my first dealing with “The Blue Market” – more to come later.
Dec 31 – New Years Eve
Exhausted, we slept most of the day away. We decided to check out the grocery store for lunch. OMG – the wine selection! and prices! An average priced decent bottle cost us 3 CAD$! We decided to try a bottle of Syrah instead of the famous Argentina Malbec we get so much of back home (for quadruple the price). It was much smoother and quite easy to drink.
We had heard that if we went out for New Year’s Eve celebrations, it would be unlikely to get a taxi back to our hostel until well after 5AM – and we had no idea where to go. That said, the roof-top party our hostel, The Chillhouse, was throwing seemed like a great plan. Wine and beers started at around 9PM with dinner a couple hours later (typical dinner time for Argentinians). We had bbq’d chorizo sausage, lomo (fillet) and veggies all served with appys and bread. As it got later the frequency of fire crackers and fire works increased to the point where it was almost constant. We got a decent view of many of the fireworks. It was as if every building in BsAs was lighting off fireworks. Champagne at midnight. Following that, the party actually started – music, drinks and dancing. We lasted until about 3AM, although, many people were still on the roof at 7AM (long after the sun came up…).
January 1, 2015.
It felt like a ghost town walking down the streets in the late morning on Jan 1. Nothing was open and nobody was out. We decided to head to Recoleta, a touristy area about a 40 min walk away. We assumed this would be one of the only areas of the city open (and we were correct). One of the things I love about walking through BsAs is all the parks and plazas dotting the city. The green space, with trees and benches is beautiful and a great place to rest. Our first stop in Recoleta was the famous Cementerio de la Recoleta. This cemetery contains very elaborate graves/tombs of wealthy and notable Argentinians, including past presidents, Nobel Prize winners and a granddaughter of Napoleon.
The Blue Market
We were running low on Argentine pesos and needed to change more money. Unfortunately, the first Cambio we used was closed until next week. Known to be littered with locals calling “Cambio” at potential tourists is Florida Street in the heart of downtown. The current “official” blue market rate is 14.05 to 1. We decided that we would change for anything over 13.3 to 1 accepting that you will never get the official rate. On the street the first guy to call Cambio offered us 13.4 for our crisp 100$ bills. He lead us down the street, around the corner, into a building and upstairs when he then knocked on a secret door covered by an advertisement poster and called out a password. The door was then opened from the inside and we walked into a small room full of people waiting for cambio. Everyone spoke Spanish so it was difficult to understand who was who and what was going on. After almost an hour of waiting, the “mules” finally arrived and everyone cheered. They unloaded satchels full of $100ARS notes (the largest note they print which is roughly equivalent to our $10 bill) to the head guy that was locked into a smaller gated room. Shortly after the exchange was made and we were off! The whole ordeal was a little nerve-racking, however, was successful and well worth it.