Saturday, April 23, 2011

Buenos Aires, Argentina - las vacaciones de marzo en Argentina

Our last guest blog of the week brings us to Buenos Aires, Argentina courtesy of a voracious traveler and my best friend from prep school, Mercedes Barletta. Thank you to Mercedes for her thoughtful writing and stunning photographic work!

A few years ago as my thirties loomed before me, I decided to make a list of all the places I would like to visit in my lifetime and began with a 30th birthday trip to Spain. Since then I have had the great fortune of crossing Turkey and Australia off my list and this fall I was presented with an opportunity to consult my list once again. My good friend from college proposed we plan a vacation during my two-week March break (which incidentally is one of the great perks of being a high school teacher). With very little arm-twisting we settled on Argentina, a trip that brought me to my sixth continent (and most likely my last - sorry, Antarctica. I just don't like the cold!).

Our sojourn to América del Sur was spent primarily in the huge metropolis of Buenos Aires. However, we also hopped a ferry to the Uruguayan town of Colonia del Sacramento for a day, a sleepy cobbled-street locale that provided a nice contrast to the city, and flew to the breathtakingly beautiful falls of Iguazú National Park for an overnight as well.
Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

A cobblestone street in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

The falls of Iguazú National Park, Argentina

While in Buenos Aires, we wanted to experience as many different parts of the city as possible and as such, we stayed in three different neighborhoods in accommodations ranging from small boutique to modern luxury hotel. My favorite was unquestionably the stunning and newly restored 1912 landmark building, the Algodon Mansion. Sophisticated and luxurious, this hotel has just ten suites, and to say I wanted to take up permanent residence in ours is an understatement. Despite its moderate size, the hotel also houses a lovely restaurant, a spa, and a rooftop pool and patio for sunning.

Algodon Mansion, Buenos Aires
Upon entering the hotel, we were greeted by our personal butler, a gentleman who would assist us with everything from our luggage to reservations during our stay. After being served a complimentary glass of champagne during registration, we were escorted to one of the Recoleta suites. Named for the fashionable and elegant neighborhood in which the mansion is located, I instantly fell in love with our room. Chic yet inviting, there was a perfect balance of old-world charm and modern amenities. Passing though the lounge area furnished with a sofa and one of the two large flat screen televisions in the suite, we entered the bedroom area where down-covered pillow-laden double beds promised dulces sueños. Already impressed, I entered the bathroom and my affections for the Algodon were sealed.

Outfitted in Italian marble and French limestone, the bathroom included an oversized steam shower with a waterfall fixture and a freestanding oval bathtub. Placed upon the twin sinks that slanted towards the center for drainage were merlot infused bath petals and a single red rose. All these elements together invited one to linger in this exquisite space.

The Recoleta Suite

Our bathroom

Rooftop pool at the Algadon Mansion

A sun deck by the pool at the Algadon Mansion

However, we didn't travel all the way to Argentina to stay indoors and the allure of good eats drove us to leave our lavish digs. Bustling with life, the sprawling city offers porteños (literally 'port people,' the name used to refer to the residents of BA) and tourists alike a myriad of options for those seeking fine dining. No neighborhood has more spots for diehard foodies than trendy Palermo SoHo. One of our best meals was served at Casa Cruz (address: Uriarte, 1656), one of two restaurants dishing out the modern Argentinean fare of chef Germán Martitegui. The décor of Casa Cruz was described by one guidebook as marked by "brooding opulence," and indeed it was. After entering through unmarked ten-foot bronze doors, warm reds accented with black and gold fill the dining room. A tower of white lilies stands in the center of the restaurant and a glassed in wine-room marks the final limit of the large open interior.

A tower of white lilies in the dining room at Casa Cruz

Since porteños typically eat after 10 o'clock, our 8:30pm reservation had us eating in an almost empty dining room. The menu, which was written in Spanish and English, presented many interesting options, but once I saw pato (duck), one of my favorite meats, I stopped looking. Served in a fig reduction with hazelnuts and truffle mashed potatoes, this was some of the most tender melt-in-my-mouth duck dishes I have ever eaten. My friend enjoyed a shrimp tamale as her main course, which also highlighted the creativity and skill of chef Martitegui. And not that this meal needed help being one of my favorites in Buenos Aires, but after we finished our meal, John Cusack (who I adore!) sat down at a table across from us. All in all, Casa Cruz served up a night to remember.

Duck in a fig reduction with hazelnuts and truffle mashed potaoes
A shrimp tamale at Casa Cruz

After an amazing ten days, Argentina certainly didn't disappoint. Whether we were eating incredible meals throughout Buenos Aires, wandering through the open-air antique market of San Telmo, seeing a fútbol game at the impressive River Plate stadium or riding horses on an estancia in the countryside, this was one adventure I will never forget.
Antique treasures at the open-air market in San Telmo
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  1. Oh buenos is my dream destination! And of course I love love live JC. Saw him once at casa de campo and stalked him all day ;)

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