The colourful streets of La Boca are home to some of Argentina’s finest steakhouses and vibrant nightlife, writes Alvin Thomas.
Argentina is the home of splendid steak and seafood, vintage architecture, spine-twisting dance moves and legendary football players. Clichéd traveller-talk out of the way, this South American country is splendid. No wait! It’s fan-bleeding-tastic.
To truly experience Argentina, you’d need to move there – and for the two weeks I was there, I thought I wanted to. Call it tourist-goggles or whatever but there’s a certain sense of aura that pins you down. It’s almost like you – the prodigal son – went back home to your parents after decades away. The country welcomes tourists like no one else.
It’s a feeling that deludes you, at which point, you’ll inevitably have someone come over and, in an almost programmed tone, ask you: “Hola, que tal?” That’s when you realise that being in Argentina poses a few challenges too – language being the primary one.
If you’re fluent in Spanish, you’re gold. Otherwise, it’s best you carry an ‘English-Spanish’ book on you to scramble with awkwardly for a few seconds, before finally answering with a nod. And trust me, a nod and basic knowledge on the locales will suffice to get you around places in most Argentinian cities.
Speaking of which, Buenos Aires – a wonderful city nestled in the heart of South America – is where you’d want to start your Argentinian adventure.
It’s quite populous, which, depending on how you look at things, can be a boon or bane. How, you ask? Well, its multi-cultural roots mean there’ll be several English-speaking residents lingering around the city centre at peak hours.
If they’re kind enough, they’ll even show you around the myriad tourist spots within an arm’s reach (figuratively, of course) for free.
The first spot you’d want to stop by would be the Plaza de Mayo – a city square that was formed after the great ‘May Revolution’ that led to the nation’s independence from Spanish royalty. Emotions run deep there, so don’t go around prophesising your love for Spain.
Other spots you’d want to visit include La Boca, an area famed for its street artists and some of the best steakhouses in town; the Teatro Colon, a grand theatre from the early 20th Century; the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral from the 17th Century; and MALBA, a modern museum showcasing artworks, cultural events, and films.
It would ideally take you a week to complete a tour of Buenos Aires, so it’s best to plan your trip accordingly. Also, the key to blending into Buenos Aires – and effectively most parts of Argentina – is to pretend like you belong. A bit of confidence is exactly what you’d require to fend off greedy taxi drivers and shopkeepers.
If you’re flying there, though, don’t restrict yourself to the capital city. Make sure you hire a car and drive down to the beautiful alps of Patagonia. Trust me, it’s well worth your time.
My favourite place- It’s hard to put my finger down on one particular spot in the city that caught my eye – everything comes with its own charm. However, Tierra Santa – the world’s first religious theme park – is definitely in a league of its own. At the park, you can walk the streets of Jerusalem, for a solemn experience of cultural references that highlight the early days of the Abrahamic faiths.
Highlights- The buzzing streets of Buenos Aires can come across as a shock for those born and raised in Oman. If New York is indeed considered the ‘city that never sleeps’ this Argentinian city would follow suit too – so prepare yourself beforehand. All this dynamism comes from the multi-cultural populace that comprise 17 million people who live here. And why would they move elsewhere? With tourism booming more so than ever before, Buenos Aires is only etching itself further on
Lowlights- As is the case with most countries, it’s always best if you travel to Buenos Aires with someone who knows the city inside out. Temperate climates and a low crime rate mean the city is brimming with tourists all year round – but that also means goods are marked up and taxis overcharge you for short trips.
Souvenirs- Leather goods and football items – these are the two items you must shop for while in Buenos Aires. Even though the goods are relatively expensive, it’s still three times cheaper than what you can buy here in Oman or in the UAE.
Getting there- If your name doesn’t begin with ‘Bill’ and end with ‘Gates’, then you’d want to begin saving up. The average cost of a round trip to the city from Oman is RO850.
Where to stay- This is where things get interesting – Hotels in the city are priced well. So, for about RO25 per night, you can opt to stay in a decent 5-star property. Also, if you’re on a tight budget, you can make use of the strong Airbnb network.
Top 5 things to do
1. Head into La Boca for a shopping spree
2. Meditate at the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral
3. Glance at the vintage artworks in the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
4. Spend time relaxing or interact with the crowds at the Buenos Aires Botanical Garden
5. Try to watch a game of football at the iconic La Bombonera stadium