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Monday, May 4, 2009

Shopping (and eating!) your way through Buenos Aires

Today is our second and final post recapping last week's trip to Buenos Aires. If you like shopping and eating, BA is the city for you...and if you like shopping for leather and eating red meat, then get thee to Expedia and buy your ticket right now!
In terms of shopping, like any major city, BA's options run the gamut from your standard fancy schmancy designer stores to small boutiques to bargain-friendly outdoor markets. BA is known for its leather products, and you'll find leather stores in every neighborhood that offer not only leather clothes and purses, but also the most amazing selection of leather home products. If you like the look of cowhide you'll be hard pressed to make up your mind- there are huge cowhide rugs in every pattern and color, small throw-size cowhide rugs, cowhide coasters, cowhide picture, cowhide placemats. We generally avoided the more touristy Florida Avenue and hit up the leather stores in San Telmo and Palermo Viejo.
Flokati anyone? I just loved this sofa draped in every color flokati rug you can imagine! Truly a feast for the eyes! I just wanted to curl up on it and take a nap.
I also loved the cowhide pillows. They're everywhere!
While in Palermo Viejo one afternoon, we stumbled across a market on Plazoleta Cortezar. It was a very local event- not touristy at all. There were probably 50 or so stalls offering an eclectic mix of items- from jewelry to knit scarves, hair accessories to belts, mate sets (mate is a type of local tea, pronounced "mah-tay"), t-shirts- you name it, it was there. Some of it was pretty standard market fare that was a little to homemade/crunchy for me, but while there we made a big score in terms of original artwork and picked up two paintings by a local artist (that I unfortunately don't have a picture of!).
I couldn't resist snagging a flower headband from this stall.
We also stumbled upon a wonderful store in Palermo Viejo on Thames called Santos Bazaar. I wish I could have taken everything home! They had the most incredible silver trays, bowls, and pitchers, all with deer horn handles. I splurged on a tray that cost about $100, which seemed a little steep to me. Of course, when I got home, I saw the same thing on the Bergdorf website for $575!
I also picked up a few horn and silver mate cups (like the light colored one on the left). Not that I'll be steeping some mate anytime, but I can't wait to fill them with pencils and pens on my desk! They're even more luxurious-looking in person.
Next time, I'd love to get one of these dramatic pitchers.
I just love this cowhide picture frame- the green and orange accents really make it pop- can you believe it only cost $35??? Ignore the creepy postcard that came inside it!
And this is not for the squeamish, but I saw this mate cup made out of an actual hoof, and had to scoop it up as a gift to my little brother. I love it so much, I just may commandeer it for myself!
I didn't purchase any leather accessories such as purses and belts, but I did love what I saw in Qara. Sometimes the purses at the leather stores could look a little bit Brighton-esque, but Qara's stuff was totally modern. Great jackets too. They had this amazing Duffle Q in light pink with white straps, and I was awfully tempted!
One thing I noticed is that BA has the most incredible lighting stores. No fussy, baroque brass lamps there! Everything is sleek and chrome, yet big on style. Here's a peek!
I saw this coffee table at two different shops in BA. I love it! It reminds me a lot of the pieces by House Eclectic.
There were a lot of stores selling kitchy gifts and furnishings that were distinctly 60's. We noticed a definite fascination with American pop culture- like t-shirts with the Godfather movie logo on them. Case in point:
I passed by a furniture store (that unfortunately was closed) and immediately noticed that West Elm is clearly not the only one to do overlapping squares!
Another highlight was shopping at the San Telmo market on Sunday. I found it to be a little bit touristy, but it was still a blast to browse all of the different vendors. If you like silver then this is the place to be, but I found that the prices were a little higher on silver than I would have expected. But still, it is something you should not miss if you go to BA! After about an hour of browsing we stopped into a nearby cafe to avoid the crowds and have some cold Quilmes!
(no, that is definitely not me with the scrunchie in the foreground, don't worry!)
In contrast, I stopped by Mercado de las Pulgas in Palermo Viejo one day. It's supposedly the real "local" flea market where there are bargains to be had. Unfortunately, it was closed when I got there (on a Monday)....but in peeping through the gates, I think perhaps it might have been a little too "junky", even for this dedicated bargain hunter! A lot of the furniture was just left out in the elements overnight, as you can see. Still, I'm intrigued!
On our next trip, I want to make sure to hit up Buenos Aires design in Recoleta. It's supposed to be fabulous!
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't give a quick runthrough of the culinary highlights of the trip. There were many! We stuck mostly to the traditional Argentine restaurants. At every meal, we'd look with glee at the bill as it arrived. Even to go "all out" in terms of a big meal - such as a fresh caprese salad, a decadent chorizo appetizer, the most melt-in-your-mouth cuts of beef, a bottle (or two!) of great wine, flan for dessert- the bill would be no more than about $60. Most of the time it was even less than that. You truly can eat a king there (though when I hopped on the scale after I got home, I was glad that my eating like a king only lasted for 6 days!). Also, the dinner hour there really doesn't start until 9:30pm, and even that is early bird special territory! It was an adjustment at first!
One of our favorite restaurants was La Cabrera, in Palermo Viejo, where we ordered the most divine lunch of all time. It came with 12 little side dishes, each of which was amazing. This is really all we could finish eating! No one can ever call the portions in BA restaurants small.
Followed, as a close second, with Don Julio (also in Palermo Viejo). At the end of the night after you finish your wine, the waiter brings you a sharpie and you decorate the bottle. There are hundreds of bottles on display in the restaurant.
We also loved El Establo, an old-school restaurant in El Centro, and the only restaurant we actually went to twice! Our first time we ordered magnificent flank steak sandwiches....
And the second time it was straight up beef with papas espanolas (but with sweet potatoes). Yum! At the end of lunch there they bring you lemoncello. Make sure to order your beef jugoso, which means juicy/rare. As much as Argentines love their beef, they tend to cook the heck out of it, which is blasphemy in the United States! Rare in Argentina is like medium well here.
Our only disappointment in terms of dinner was Gran Bar Danzon in Recoleta. Though recommended to us by a couple of people and by our Time Out Book, we feel like food wise, it just wasn't all that. The menu has sort of an identity crisis- one half of is sushi, and the other side a mixture of more traditional fare like steak, duck, and pasta. I ordered linguini with rabbit with broccolini, only to find it doused in soy sauce with frozen broccoli florets! Oh well. The wine and the flan were delicious, and it was a good chance to see the young, hip side of BA! Next time maybe we'll just go for drinks.
BA is actually a city where you could get along just fine with minimal Spanish skills. As long as you know basics- like how to tell a cab driver where to go, how to order in a restaurant, and of course the all important "cuanto cuesta esta?" then you'll get along just fine! Most waiters and shopkeepers are actually quite proud to show off their English.
Next time, we'd love to split our time between BA and an estancia to get a more rural experience. Argentina is a huge country and there's plenty to see!


Paloma {La Dolce Vita} said...

Oh, I am dying to visit BA! It looks incredible. I want to go shopping there NOW! Your pictures are insane! Thank you for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Great post! I love BA. I was a little worried about being able to understand the Spanish down there but I found the Portenos were much easier to understand than Spaniards and most did speak English. Can't wait to get back down there!

Anonymous said...

What a FANTASTIC blog, girls!! Wish I could hop on the next plane to BA. Pics and narratives are absolutely enticing. Already looking forward to tomorrow's post. Must spread the word so others can enjoy. WOW!

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