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Mini Trip Report (Observations from a Former Local)

San Diego...
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Mini Trip Report (Observations from a Former Local)

I have been so busy during my arrival last week but I thought I'd take a few minutes to just post some quick observations. I formally lived in Buenos Aires for 8 years and moved out of Buenos Aires back in 2011. I came a few times a year for work and vacation as I have family here.

Here is what I noticed:

- I see MUCH less tourists in the restaurants and the street in general. Tourism is definitely down. Even on the plane ride down previously it was mostly full of tourists and I'd hear English all around me in the plane. Especially when I fly in First or Business class it was mostly businessmen coming down or Americans. This last trip in October 2012 I noticed that it was almost ALL Porteños speaking Spanish.

This time as well in the plane it was almost all Porteños coming back home.

- In the restaurants we go to usually we see tons of tourists but again in places like Sottovoce, Sucre, Don Julios, M, Amici Miei, and several others it's almost ALL Porteños dining out. While there is turmoil with the economy, those Porteños with US dollars are in an even better position because they seem to be exchanging for "blue dollars" and getting more of a bang for their buck.

- Before when I lived in Buenos Aires for 8 years I'd rarely see so many families buying Ralph Lauren Polo for young babies and kids. Our kids mostly wear Polo clothes as we love the quality and really wonderful that looks good and great quality. Yeah, it's more expensive but we find it worth it.

Well in the street, in the mall, on the many playgrounds we've taken our kids to it's FULL of kids wearing Ralph Lauren Polo and other name brand American expensive brands. I've never seen so many young kids wearing designer clothes before! But that just shows me just how many locals are flying to the USA and abroad on shopping sprees. EVEN with the 20% tax they are getting hit by the government, they are still coming out way ahead so they are shopping like crazy!

Speaking to many of my friends they are flying to Miami more and going shopping. Several are having kids and spending a small fortune on baby clothes and kids clothes. The quality of kids clothing absolutely is HORRIBLE in Argentina and horribly expensive. So this is VERY clear to see.

- For all the talk by my local friends of the increase in petty crime, I haven't felt it at all. In fact, never have I seen more locals using Iphones than now! I have been going to the Park with my kids and many many of the mothers are using iPhones. Most of my friends as well are using them. I've been using mine all over and no problems at all. If there is an increase in petty crime I can't see or feel it.

- Graffiti is way up all over the city, especially Palermo. So sad to see that. Some friends say their buildings don't even want to spend the money cleaning it as it will just get vandalized again. I mentioned above my friend's house. I own some properties in Palermo and they haven't been affected but they all have 24/7 security guards.

- Taxis are still all over the place but it feels like there are less available. I'm no expert on it but it feels like there are less taxis. Maybe with the inflation and the constant prices some taxistas are getting out of the business?? I'm not sure but it feels like there are less. Still MANY more than most cities around the world.

I'm still taking taxis like crazy. Taxi from Puerto Madero to Recoleta was 40 pesos. With the "informal" rates things seem affordable again. I got 8.5 to $1 US the other day. (Please don't PM me for a referral as I don't refer people that I don't know personally). It's not too difficult to get the informal rates asking around to your hotel or apartment rental company.

- Going to the grocery store is still painful. It's VERY slow full of lines and almost no efficiency.

We're having a wonderful time and the weather has been great!

San Diego...
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1. Re: Mini Trip Report (Observations from a Former Local)

Update:

Scratch that last thing about not noticing any crime! My wife just came back from the Four Seasons and on that corner she witnessed a thief robbing a tourist. I wasn't there but she just came home and told me first hand as she was walking from there. She said fortunately there was a police officer that was right nearby and he caught the thief.

She said the police officer was beating the thief! She said he was pounding and punching the thief's face. And he was bleeding. She said a tourist filmed it on his phone so you may see it coming soon to YouTube! She also said a bystander was yelling at the police officer that he can't do this kind of police brutality but the police said something to the effect of, "I'm so tired of the thieves in this area...".

She wanted to quickly get away from it as she was walking with our 4 year old daughter. But if the tourist that filmed it on his phone is reading this... I'd love to see video footage of it!

WDC
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2. Re: Mini Trip Report (Observations from a Former Local)

Nice report, Saint, Gracias for taking the time. You have such a unique perspective - as former resident and still frequent visitor as well as property owner. I agree about seeing fewer foreign (non Brazilian, non paraguqyan, non Uruguayan etc.,) tourists. I rarely turned my head to hear tourist English this year. And while there has clearly been an increase in the crimes - as noted even on this Forum - the city feels quite safe, when one takes precautions. I actually didn't feel any decrease in the number of Taxis available, but I was walking and taking collectivos often, too. I know what you mean about those supermarkets - and should you need to go beyond the smaller farmacias to Farmacity - good luck with your lunchdate ! OMG, the lines, the processes, the slowness....yikes. But, it allowed me to buy a medication I take daily and to save hundreds of dollars for this coming year; so OK, I'll wait.

Graffiti is where I cannot agree with you - unless you are talking about cheesy wall messes...then yes, that is pretty awful (a compliment to the pooch puddles) BUT, there is such great folk art in some of the Graffiti; we didn't take the Graffiti tour (had to save something for next year) but to have someone explain the politics and social commentary of some of the more abstract, the more intense walls would be an excellent tour....even without that, DH and I enjoyed watching some new walls being decorated with really interesting folk paintings.

Well, welcome home, Saint. We arrived in WDC today, and I miss BsAs, and my friends, already.

San Diego...
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3. Re: Mini Trip Report (Observations from a Former Local)

Thanks Marnie!

Yes, I DO feel like I have such a unique perspective for all the reasons that you mentioned. Especially being a property owner of several rental properties and coming into contact with rental guests/tourists on an almost daily basis and getting a read on their experiences/problems/highlights/lowlights.

I'll ALWAYS love this city. As crazy as it can get here. I'll always love it with a passion and a special place as both of my kids were born here in Buenos Aires.

The inefficiency can drive you crazy. I bought a few wall clocks at Carrefour at Paseo Alcorta and one of them was broken. I spent so much money on stuff there and the lady explained they have to break up the receipts as to not charge more than 1,000 pesos on each receipt. So I had to get 3 receipts. Well, one of the clocks was broken and with just my luck I couldn't find one of the 3 receipts!

I figured I still could do an even exchange as I still had the box and the other 2 receipts. Nope. No such luck. Determined I went home to look for it and found it! The next day we went back to exchange it and told the woman that it didn't work. So she asks me if I brought a battery to prove it to her! LOL. I told her no....

Well you can't just exchange at the customer service desk. You have to go get it and wait in line at the regular check out and take a receipt that the customer service desk gives you. You can kill 1 hour or more during this process. Things like this drive me crazy about the inefficiency.

Also, one day at the supermarket I was buying one of those reusable bags. Well the lady accidentally scanned it twice so she couldn't even remove it on her own. She had to wait for a manager to come and remove it. Of course there is only one manager for many aisles. I had to tell her to just forget it. Wasn't worth spending more than 15 minutes trying to get a credit for 10 pesos. LOL.

Marnie, we can agree to disagree on the graffiti. Nothing is worse to me then having your property vandalized. Many beautiful businesses and beautiful buildings (like my friend's house) with such senseless vandalism. Nothing beautiful at all about that to me. Plus, some of the graffiti is just awful with curse words and I've even seen Nazi swastikas before here on some buildings.

Boulder, Colorado
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4. Re: Mini Trip Report (Observations from a Former Local)

Saint........Thanx for taking the time. Marnie......kudos for our chimes.

Like SO many......we shall always adore this BA,with ALL it's craziness.

The inefficiency is mind-boggling....even when one gets "used to it". You CAN read a novel on the supermarket line, you know. Just to eat your heart out, Saint: I had a small coffee maker to return at Target yesterday. All I wanted was to exchange it. Got a new one....brought both boxes to customer service counter and I was out of the store in less than 5 minutes.

Enjoy your stay and keep those mini reports coming.......they "bring back the memories".

Marnie: you were supposed to bring glorious weather to Boulder.....it has been snowing since last night. I'm tired of shoveling.

San Diego...
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5. Re: Mini Trip Report (Observations from a Former Local)

Yeah Target is great. Bed Bath and Beyond even better! My wife has been living in the USA for 2 years now and still can't believe how efficient everything is. And just how easy it is to return stuff that doesn't work or even stuff that does that you turn out not to like! Ha ha.

Ok heading to eat soon at Tarquino.

San Diego...
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6. Re: Mini Trip Report (Observations from a Former Local)

We had an AMAZING dinner at Tarquinos tonight. Wow! I totally agree with ElfDoug that it was one of the best dining experiences I've had in Buenos Aires. It blew both me and my wife away. Great setting and service and amazing food! I will post a more detailed report tomorrow in the restaurant section but it has been the best meal I've had in Buenos Aires. In fact we already made reservations to go back next week for dinner.

Connecticut
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7. Re: Mini Trip Report (Observations from a Former Local)

Two comments: I have only just returned from BA and found that taxis there plentiful and very easy to flag down. I seldom

Had to wait more than a minute.

As for exchange rates: the biggest rip-off to which most tourists are exposed is the scandalous exchange rate offered by the banks

and recommended by some in this forum. On Florida Ave., cambios are offering 7.5 pesos to the dollar (March 2013) and they wouldn't be doing that if the fair market value were not substantially higher. But Banco de la Nacion gives little more than 5. This translates to a 50% tax on everything bought with pesos.

San Diego...
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8. Re: Mini Trip Report (Observations from a Former Local)

Oh no. I certainly did NOT want to suggest that taxis were hard to find here. Quite the contrary. But previously there were even more. Still, we rarely have to wait more than a few minutes to get a taxi. But my father in law has told me that there are some that have gotten out of the business because traffic is so bad now that some have just gotten into other businesses.

There are a lot of construction projects going on right now so traffic can get bad in those areas. Also, there seems to be some Formula 1 or other race car event coming soon as I saw some roads with dividers for the upcoming race.

I agree on the exchange rates manipulated by the Argentina Central Bank. No way many people are going to accept the false and manipulated rate of 5 to $1US when the informal market is closer to 8.50 to $1 US. At 5 to $1 US things are expensive. At 8.50 to $1 US things start getting reasonable/affordable again.

They really do need to make a higher note. 100 pesos feels like almost nothing now. I'll leave the house with a few thousands of pesos each day and it will be gone like nothing. With inflation things are priced higher but fortunately at the informal rate it's beating inflation by a long shot!

San Diego...
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9. Re: Mini Trip Report (Observations from a Former Local)

ElfDoug,

Yep. You and I have the same taste in food. This place was GREAT! Probably the best meal I've ever had in Buenos Aires and I've had hundreds of meals here over the past decade.

I just posted a review of Tarquino but I'll cut and paste below for your benefit.

I will preface this review by saying that my wife and I dine out a LOT. We previously lived in Buenos Aires for 8 years and I was always out and about dining out with my wife but also client dinners which I'd have several each and every week.

The last time I've been in this building where Tarquino was a few years ago when it was La Cabana (a steakhouse) that was very nice. The restaurant is dramatically different now! They changed into a VERY intimate almost "boutique" restaurant that is VERY cozy. There are only about 10 or 11 tables (probably no more than 35 or so seats) there so it's not a high volume type of place.

You walk down a marble corridor which the men at the front door will point you down and you come to the restaurant. There is another hallway which leads to the hotel upstairs. They put in a new boutique hotel with only 10 rooms. The restaurant is very small with a small wood paneled bar area to the restaurant which is in a greenhouse-like room. There were even two trees growing up to the top of the glass on top of the roof.

Just a unique place. The service was SUPERB! Better than any restaurant I've been to in Buenos Aires. Our waitress was constantly checking in on us.

The menu wasn't too big but the things they had were plenty to choose from. Their menu is on their website so I suggest a visit. www.tarquinorestaurante.com.ar/menu_eng.php

They start you out with this amazing "drink" which was totally unique. It was a cheese mousse that had bread scrums sprinkled in it mixed with bits of tomato and onions. And they gave you an olive on a spoon. She said it would taste like a pizza! And it sure did! You eat the olive which explodes in your mouth and you then drink/eat the drink and sure enough it tasted exactly like a pizza.

We got 2 appetizers to start. We got the tomato confit stuffed with pork (the pork was the most tender I've ever eaten...) Just amazing flavors mixing everything with the cheese sauce. My wife got the marinated whitefish. I tasted it and the flavors were GREAT but be warned it's raw fish. The fish isn't cooked so if you're not into cold raw fish probably best to skip this. My wife LOVED it.

Also, the homemade bread they bring out is amazing. Totally fresh and comes out piping hot. One was a sour dough loaf and the other was olive bread that was amazing. The only thing that would improve it is if they brought out some homemade butter with it. That would make it totally amazing as the breads were so yummy.

My wife got the Salmon and she absolutely LOVED it. Just be forewarned the portions are a bit on the small side here. The salmon was very small but my wife said it was some of the best salmon she has had and keep in mind we dine out quite a bit in our travels around the world.

I got the Escalopes de Lomo with the pumpkin foam. It was GREAT! Very tasty and the flavor combinations on the plate were amazing. The coating around the beef was perfect and it sealed in flavor and was very moist.

We shared the Chocolate Puff pastry with coffee ice cream and it was good. The pastry was a bit overcooked so it was a bit harder than I would have liked but we finished the plate so it couldn't have been that bad.. right? LOL.

The meal was fantastic! And honestly the prices aren't bad at all for this quality food. I don't think the prices are on the website so to give you an idea the Tomato appetizer is 100 pesos; Fish appetizer was 100 pesos (as were most of the appetizers around 100 - 130 pesos each). My wife's salmon was 180 pesos. My dish was 160 pesos. Cokes and bottled water were 40 pesos @. Desserts were around 100 pesos. The service was so good we left a 20%+ tip as our waitress certainly deserved it.

It was so great we booked to come back for dinner next week. This is an AMAZING restaurant and should be ranked much higher. Food quality is superb!

The only thing I'd suggest to the restaurant is to clean the top of the glass on the roof. I believe it just rained so probably they couldn't do it so soon but being about to see out would be amazing. Instead it was all dirty with dirt and debris. But that didn't take away from the dining experience. It was excellent and I highly recommend this place!

Also, I should note that booking was a BREEZE! They utilize an online reservations system with updated calendar so you can instantly book a reservation and you will get an immediate email confirmation. It's so wonderful. Booking some places like M Buenos Aires was a total pain. We emailed with no answer there as well as calling in 3 days never getting anyone to answer. More restaurants should utilize this service. Truly amazing!

WDC
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10. Re: Mini Trip Report (Observations from a Former Local)

True enough about the money exchange - and the $100 feeling like change....but then, in Farmacity, they couldn't cambio $100....and I am talking about pesos ! Imagine, a large pharmacy chain, and they then refused the purchase because they couldn't change what amounts to ~ U$S 15.00 !

Thanks for the update on Torquino - can't wait to get back to try it.

Edited: 24 March 2013, 13:16