City of contrasts – 2

Being Thursday, the day Raquel our cleaner spends all day in the apartment, we headed out and, since we’ve been here in BA, that means taking the packed SUBTE up and across to Palermo. We normally take the D line and get out a Scalabrini Ortiz, walking south into Palermo Viejo and wandering the tree-lined streets until we find some place for lunch and, despite every intention to try someplace new, we almost always end up back at our fav, La Hormiga (that’s Ant in Spanish…of course), a stylish and very affordable parrilla if ever there was.

The Guardian this week wrote about the 10 great-value restaurants on Latin America’s 50 best list, and at #6 is Parrilla Don Julio also over in Palermo. We’d seen this place a few times on our wanders, but yesterday, having read the review, we rocked up to check it out. It was about to get really busy, despite it being barely 1pm – a queue had even formed outside! It looks very posh I have to say and the expansive list of steaks quite mouth-watering. But here’s the rub. It’s super expensive by BA standards – nothing compared with the UK of course, but a rib-eye costs ARS650 pesos, or just £14 (AUD$24) each, plus wine of course. But our entire lunch with wine at La Hormiga cost 650 pesos for the two of us!

It’s a very different life-style in Palermo, compared with say San Telmo. Palermo is stylish for sure, fast paced, fashionable, youthful and, often easily compared with say SoHo in New York. The restaurants and bars spill onto the streets – opening late of course but then staying open until the wee small hours – then, if the mood would take you, you’d head to one of the many late-night bars, cavernous drinking halls and night clubs that emerge after dark and pop up everywhere.

Yet every now and again something surprises you – a glimpse of old BA, such as the saddle-makers we stumbled upon – quiet, dark and packed with horse gear, either for city enthusiasts or for the more authentic Gaucho who’s found himself alone in town. Or, the ubiquitous cartoneros, pushing impossibly loaded carts down even the smartest of streets, occasionally disappearing into one of the large recycling bins to retrieve his cardboard treasure – I say his as I haven’t seen a female cartonera… as yet.

Whilst San Telmo is much older than other parts of town, with its narrow streets and shabby chic air about it, It feels more authentic in an old Buenos Aires / Tango way and locals (and cartoneros) go about their business oblivious it seems to the hordes of tourists that descend here on the weekend.

Not sure which I like better but it’s nice to have the two halves so readily accessible. It’s as if there are two different cities – actually, make that four or even five different cities in one, with the ‘ladies-who-lunch’ barrios of Recoleta, Retiro and Belgrano that are equally distinctive.

Our particular hood lies on the very edge of San Telmo, officially, by half a block, in Barracas. We’re around the corner from a particularly beautiful street, Caseros. Once a street for the rich Porteños, then, when they’d moved over to Recoleta and Retiro, it became down-at-heel with more recent immigrants taking over. When we were last here around 8 years ago Caseros was still rather down-at-heel, so much so that we didn’t even notice it (it was pretty much a no-go zone, Ant). Now though, it’s one of San Telmo’s prettiest streets. The elegant Parisan-style buildings have been restored to their former glory and the rich once again have moved in. The street is lined with wonderful restaurants – our favourite, Caseros, simple, straightforward bistro food; the always busy, dark and cavernous Naploles, plus the delightful Hierbabuena (restaurant and bakery in one) to name just a few here.

We’ve been sniffing out real estate – not remotely interested in buying of course, just checking out what a nice apartment, say on Caseros, would cost. It’s incredibly affordable by any standards. For those of you interested, check out these incredible homes and then do the currency conversion… btw, this website is a goldmine.

441m2 over three floors w/private street entrance and underground garage, private elevator, 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 2 kitchens, cinema and expansive roof terrace for US$595,000 – but they’d take much less – in CASH MIND YOU….

142m2 three bedrooms, two bathrooms, grand Parisian-style features on Caseros for US$312,000

You get the picture….

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