Merienda: afternoon snack
“Buen Provecho!”: Bon Apetit
It’s all sun and fun until May rolls around, right? There are less and less of those long sunny “hot-child-in-the-city” days and the girls trade in their mini-skirts for tapered jeans. The locals get back to work and the tourists run for warmer pastures. Well, don’t run so fast dear travelers- Buenos Aires has much to offer during those chilly winter months.
So maybe you believe that winter is not the best season for a first-time short visit to Buenos Aires, but for ex-pats, back-packers and those on “sabbatical” it can be quite charming; warm snacks meet off-season prices to create a delicious equation for anyone with enough courage to stay or insufficient funds to travel elsewhere.
Here is a list of local treats that are invariably better when it’s cold out:
Having coffee in Buenos Aires is a long-standing tradition that is popular among all generations. While some travelers are more beer oriented, sitting down in one of BA’s million coffee houses is a much better way to experience the local lifestyle. Order a café con leche y dos medialunas, read a book (preferably one by Borges or Cortázar) and people-watch the day away.
Slip into “La Puerto Rico” café at Adolfo Alsina 416 (Downtown) on a cold winter day and take a seat in their warm dining room. This is a historical location in Downtown's Monserrat neighborhood where the original revolutionaries met to discuss the country’s future during colonial times. The café is located by the infamous Colégio Nacional de Buenos Aires and was frequented by passionate students studying and debating politics.
TIP: Keep an eye out for people walking down the street with push-carts full of stainless steel thermoses. These saints are selling coffee (and usually facturas) for about $2 pesos or $0.50 cents. You can ask for you coffee exactly how you like it- and in my opinion, it’s the best cup around.
Who comes to buy leather in the summer? If you’re like me, you don’t think getting stuck in a pair of sweaty leather pants or arm-coverings on a hot summer day sounds like fun. Winter is the ideal season to buy leather in Buenos Aires- the prices go down due to fewer tourists (less demand) and nothing keeps your warm like a jacket made from a delicious Argentine vaca.
There are multiple trustworthy leather stores in Palermo (Villa Crespo) on Calle Murillo by the Malabia subte station. Las Pepas is a high-end girly leather shop that also has excellent quality in clothes and accessories. For a less trendy spot, visit the Feria de Mataderos where local and provincial artisans sell leather goods and other regional arts and crafts.
3. Chocolate con churros!
What’s better than a cafe on a chilly winter day? A traditional merienda option known as chocolate con churros. Pronounced, cha-co-la-tay, this hot chocolate is best taken with two or three (or 10) crunchy golden brown dulce-de-leche-filled tubes of pastry goodness pronounced “choo-RRos.” Practice the rolling R and then you will have earned this high calorie snack.
The best place for this warm treat is Confiteria Ideal on Suipacha 380 downtown. This beautiful old tearoom dates back to 1912 and takes you back in time with antique (original) stained glass, marble staircases and waiters in formalwear. Check out the schedule on their website to find out about their tango shows, classes and live music events.
4. Very cool festivals!
Four super important, educational and exciting festivals take place during winter in Buenos Aires: ArteBa, the International Human Rights Film Festival, Ciudad Emergente and the Festival Buenos Aires Tango and Mundial de Tango.
ArteBa 2009 takes place in late May at La Rural. La Sociedad Rural Argentina, or La Rural for short, is both a society and an exhibition center. The society was founded in 1866 under the motto, ‘To cultivate the soil is to serve the country.’ The original members were wealthy landowners who started the tradition of holding agricultural exhibitions in La Rural’s belle époque stadium.
This year will be ArteBa’s 18th annual contemporary art fair and is a great way to spend time indoors learning about Argentina’s hot art scene. Check out this video for a sneak peek, http://www.arteba.org/in/01-feria.htm.
The 10th annual Festival Internacional de Cine de Derechos Humanos, is a very important film festival focused on human rights. Taking place in June at the Centro Cultural Recoleta, this event aims to show social realities that allow for personal reflection on human rights issues.
Ciudad Emergente is a high-energy music festival, ideal for lovers of rock, indie pop and local beats. It may be cold in June, but there’s no better place to warm up during a wild week of concerts.
The best Tango shows of the year take place during this festival which in 2009 falls between the 14th and 31st of August. During the BA Tango Festival, followed by the World Tango Championship, visitors can take part in various classes, shows, fairs and finally an open-air milonga as a closing ceremony.
5. Guiso, locro, puchero! Oh my!
First, lets set the scene; the weather outside is frightful but inside you, your housemates and friends have congregated around a large witches brew. Looking inside the giant olla you spot veggies, meat, pork, beans, rice and pretty much anything that hadn’t already spoiled in the fridge. Guiso, locro and puchero are all names of traditional Argentine stews. Each differs slightly, for example guiso often has rice and lentils while locro generally has beans, which are not common in the Argentine diet. These delicious dishes are steaming hot and unimaginable during sweltering summer months. Dig in with a fresh baguette, have a glass of malbec on the side and don’t forget your manners, “Buen Provecho!”