Buenos Aires: Barrio Chino and La Recoleta

After drinking during dinner and then spending three hours drinking during a blackout with the hostel manager needless to say I was mildly hungover the next morning. And by mildly I mean all I wanted was a bowl of egg drop soup and a gingerale. Unfortunately I’d seen about as many Chinese restaurants in Buenos Aires as you would see anorectics in McDonalds, so I was pretty sure I was shit out of luck. On the other hand, congratulations to me on my first hangover of the trip. What the hell took so long?

Lacking the soup and gingerale I require post drinking I did my next favorite hungover activity – got on my computer to peruse facebook, and once again the hostel manager came to my rescue. The day before he had saved me from the boredom of being stuck in in a hostel while in a new city, and when I got onto FB the first thing he said to me was “Barrio Chino.”

“Oh frabjous day! Calloo! Callay!” I chortled in my joy. I had forgotten that the night before after I had told my new friend about our disappointing sushi and my slanty eyed cravings for Asian cuisine he had told me that there was a “Chinatown” in Buenos Aires known as Barrio Chino. He also messaged me the best way to get there by subway. Leave it to the Jews to be able to tell me where to get Chinese food. Chu’s and Jews, we get along.

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Bs As has awesome graffiti’d trains

With a new found vigor we headed to Barrio Chino in the excruciatingly ridiculous heat. It was the kind of dry heat that if you so much as sat for too long you’d get up with a thorough case of swamp ass. Thank god Barrio Chino was nice and close at the other end of the city. -_- (see …I’m trying to be Asian)

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When we got downtown to Chinatown we walked the two block stretch stopping to read all the menus. All I really wanted was good noodle soup, and while beef noodle with a pile of hom choy would’ve been perfect, I would settle for Chinese take out grade lo mein noodles in wonton broth with a few thin slices of charsiu and a sprinkle of scallions. Towards the end of the block we saw a restaurant next to the Taiwanese center with a giant plastic bowl of noodles over the entrance. That’ll do pig, that’ll do.

Once inside we found out we had pretty much arrived at closing so we quickly ordered random stuff off their prix fixe menu which for me was “special soup” followed by something like “Meat in broth with vegetables.” Sounded appetizing, but I knew from my very limited Chinese that at least the meat was beef. Aracely had selected another mystery meat soup with a vegetable that the waitress couldn’t even explain to us in Spanish. Good start.

When the first courses came I was in heaven. My “special” soup was in fact egg drop soup with thin sliced chicken. It tasted exactly like the take out places in New York and it was exaclty what I wanted. Even if my mystery meat soup was shite I was going to be happy. Then came our entrees.

I swear the spirits of my ancestors appeared to give me an early Chinese New Year gift.  It was beef noodle soup with a side of hom choy! (For those of you that don’t know me, beef noodle soup is my #1 comfort food and something my entire family is obsessed with. I need to eat it at least once a week when I’m in New York or else I start getting the shakes from withdrawal) I was unfortunately too damn hungover to finish it, but it did cure my hangover and make my day. Ecstatic Kineza.

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After that breakfast I was ready to take on anything the day had to offer me – including the record high temperatures for the summer.  The next stop on our agenda was La Recoleta, the cemetery famous for housing Eva Peron’s grave and the beauty of its mausoleums in general. We didn’t check the schedule before we got there and arrived 5 minutes before closing, but they thankfully still let us in. And while we didn’t see Evita’s grave, we were able to stroll the cemetery for a while. The whole place is eerily beautiful with hundreds upon hundreds of mausoleums arranged neatly in rows giving it the appearance of a city of tombs. Because it was closing time it was virtually empty except for the cats slinking around the buildings trying to catch birds. The whole experience was really indescribably unique, both calming and creepy at the same damn time.  It’s also not every day you can say “Hey I spent the day in a cemetery and really enjoyed it,” without your friends questioning your necrophiliac tendencies for the rest of your life.

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Post cemetery the heat was slowly creeping up on us like a guy with a wispy mustache in a club. Before long we were sweating profusely in a cute cafe where we were waiting to meet Rummage for pre-dinner drinks. When he arrived we headed outside where was at least there was a light breeze – which was all well and good until a bug crawled up my leg, I flipped the fuck out and flipped the table, fell out of my chair into the middle of the street and worst of all spilled my delicious cucumber-gin drink. Total fail.

For our first meal together in Buenos Aires we felt that there was nothing better we could do than use the opportunity to indulge in some delicious “vuelta y vuelta” steak (a seared on the outside, bloody as hell on the inside preparation recommended by my vegetarian friend). Fortunately we had gotten a recommendation from Rummage’s friend who was a local so this time the restaurant was actually open.  Unfortunately, by this time I had eaten steak for dinner 6 out of the last 7 days so I was barely able to put a dent in my delicious steak.  On the otherhand Rummage demolished a platter that I saw three women sharing and struggling to finish at a nearby table.  And he calls us “Fat Americans” Pshhhh.

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Steak vuelta y vuelta and undressed caesar salad

After that we went to get a few post dinner drinks during a thunderstorm which was wonderfully refreshing and finally broke the heat wave (which I later learned from the hostel manager was the hottest week they had all summer).

The next morning our only concrete plans were to meet up with Rummage and his friend CIA to check out the PM Open Air Music Festival.  Which is one of the many benefits of having a local friend – you actually know functional shit going on in a city.  The show ended up being outside and opened with a band followed by 2 electronic djs.  Holy shit I did not realize how much I missed dance music.  While when people ask me what kind of music I like I’m never able to answer or sometimes even go as for as to say “I don’t like music that much,” getting to a place with loud music where I could dance (also uncharacteristic of me) and listen to beats (thanks Jess) for four hours put me in a noticeably better mood.  And then despite wanting to eat dinner and go back out with Rummage and CIA to finally experience Buenos Aires nightlife, I passed out promptly after dinner.  Dommage.

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Street Art in Palermo

The next day before heading out for the bus to Iguazu Falls we decided to check out San Telmo Market on a Sunday which came highly recommended by everyone we met.  The market was pretty cool, there were blocks and blocks of street vendors selling trinkets, local art (wish I had a bigger suitcase) and fresh squeezed orange juice.  But while shopping can be awesome, I was on a budget so alas I couldn’t buy much and also quickly got frustrated by walking on the cobblestone streets, twisting my ankle and breaking my shoe.  As we were heading home from the fair we were all looking for a quick bite and as we peeked in a window of an ancient looking empanada joint an American couple from San Francisco stopped us and told us that this was THE place to get empanadas as they had gone to it a few days earlier on a food tour.  Sold.

The place looked like it hadn’t been changed since it opened in the 60’s and the staff looked like it hadn’t changed either.  No literally, because there were pictures of the staff on the walls from the 60s.  The waitress was probably older than my grandparents and one of the sweetest old ladies I’ve met despite the fact that I only understood every 10th word she said.  Which also made Mark & Aracely feel bad when they ordered orange juice and she pulled out a manual twist style orange juicer and juiced a few oranges for them.  Also, the empanadas were delicious and the perfect send off before our 17 hour bus ride to Iguazu falls.

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Outside La Recoleta

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PM Open Air Music Festival

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view from the PM festival

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Street Art outside the festival

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Plaza de Mayo

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Pedro de Telmo AKA THE empanada place

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Agua con gas!

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