Week 2: 30 January – 5 February
The second week of our stay sped by, with us spending our time reading, walking, running, eating and drinking.
Our local neighbourhood
Palermo is a neighbourhood, or barrio of Buenos Aires. It is located in the northeast of the city, bordering the barrios of Belgrano to the north, Recoleta (home of the famous cemetery) to the south, and the Río de la Plata river to the east. With a total area of 17.4 km2, Palermo is the largest neighbourhood in Buenos Aires.
The name of the district is derived from the still-existing Franciscan abbey of “Saint Benedict of Palermo”, an alternative name for Saint Benedict the Moor. Saint Benedict the Moor lived from 1526 to 1589 and is a complementary patron saint of Palermo, the capital city of Sicily.
During the 20th century, the Buenos Aires Botanical Gardens (1902), Jorge Newbery Airport (1948), the water purification plant, several sport clubs, the Galileo Galilei planetarium (1966), and the Buenos Aires Japanese Gardens (1967) were developed in Palermo.
Although appearing as one big blob on the official map, Palermo can be subdivided into several contrasting and acutely individual parts, which may be considered further de facto neighbourhoods. We live in a de factor neighbourhood called Palermo Hollywood. In the mid-nineties a number of TV and Radio producers installed themselves in the area, hence the name. Presently, it’s best known for the concentration of restaurants, clubs, cafés, and an active nightlife.
What we like about it
With an increase in the coffee culture in Buenos Aires in recent years, a number of coffee roasters and speciality coffee shops have opened up. Being the trendy neighbourhood that it is, Palermo houses many of these, which has definitely been to our advantage.
Serendipity Cafe & Bar, 300m up the road has just pipped Vive Café, (a further 50m and around the corner) as our fave coffee and breakfast spot. At AUD10 for 2 coffees and 4 jamon & queso medialunas (ham & cheese croissants), who can complain?
We even splashed out AUD20 one day and treated ourselves to pancakes. Walter had his with eggs & bacon, whilst Glenda had them with dulce de leche, her new favourite food. Dulce de leche, Spanish for candy made of milk, is made by slowly heating sweetened milk. It looks and tastes similar to caramel but oh so much better. How many tubs can fit in a suitcase?
A little further afield, but still in Palermo, is Salvaje Bakery (directly translated as Wild Bakery). One of the bonuses is that they are open early on a Saturday morning, where a lot of other places open later (Vive at 10:30am), or don’t open at all (Serendipity). So, after what has become our habitual Saturday morning longer run, we can stroll up there for one (or more) of their pastries of other delights. Their coffee isn’t too bad either. The fresh breads keep on coming out on to the racks, so it’s hard not to be tempted by a fresh loaf to take home for lunch.
In addition to the standard Parilla (Grills), we have a pizza restaurant within 1km. The pizzas are cooked in a wood fire oven and done in a Napoli style.
Whilst it was really nice to have a break from red meat and the service was very good, it’s difficult not to compare with the amazing ones we lived on at our Florence local, Farina!
Portenos, directly translated as those from the port city and the name of the inhabitants of Buenos Aires, are definite night owls. What this means is that restaurants tend to open at 8pm or later. Nightclubs open at 10:30pm or later. There are even adverts for shows starting after midnight.
During the week, we went off to a restaurant in an older residential part of Palermo and the clientele were very much more local than tourist. We arrived at 8:30pm to a relatively empty establishment and when we left after 11pm is was totally full and buzzing. Our visit was for an experience that we’d booked via Airbnb, organised by a Porteno named Diego, an expert in local food & wine. There were two other couples there, one from Peru and they didn’t speak a word of English and another from Buenos Aires, and thankfully she spoke English. We had a lovely night eating wonderful food (lots of meat) and drinking wines that are not typically readily available.
We left the restaurant well after 11pm and as we walked the 2km back to our apartment we passed by ice-creams shops full of adults, children and little ones in strollers out for an evening treat.
One of the downsides of living in a trendy area with lots of restaurants and nightclubs is the lack of sleep it brings, particularly on Saturday nights.
A quiet Saturday night suddenly turns into a rather more vibrant one just as us old people are thinking of going to bed. We have learned than an airconditioner makes good “white noise” to dull the sound of the music.
Other characteristics of Portenos
The local couple that were at the dinner were a couple of tattoo artists, with ink art covering a very large part of their bodies. We have noticed that many of the locals sport tattoos, and in the main they are pretty large and very colourful. The men in particular seem very body conscious and a large number have well developed physiques. Not sure whether to put this down to time spent at the Milongas (tango dance halls) or the huge gyms and body building facilities. Their uniform of choice seems to be fitting black TShirts to show off the buff muscles. The women are often well toned too and like showing it off with very short, tight skirts, or what appears to be the most popular outfit being tiny denim shorts.
Trying to keep up with the locals….a little bit at least…
In our quest to fit in with the locals and not be intimidated by their toned bodies, we are managing to get a few runs in a week, one slightly longer than the rest. Palermo has a large area of parks, our favourite being the Rosedale. It’s good for running around in the morning – amongst the other walkers, runners, rollerbladers and cyclists.
Whilst there is a reasonable metro and bus system, we tend to walk when we need to go further afield – a trip to the supermarket is about 4km return and to go and convert money a measly 10km – so that helps burn up the calories obtained from the amazing steaks and off course the dulce de leche.
We also had our first tango lesson this week! We managed to find a local school less than 500m away, so headed off to meet Pepe and learn the basic 8 steps. It was such fun and we both did pretty well. Now we’ll have an even greater appreciation for what the professionals do during our upcoming tango show.