I have loved Buenos Aires since I first went on a backpacking trip through South America. Argentina was my favorite country because of the interactions I had with the locals and the sheer beauty of the setting. I had long dreamed of living there, and when I heard Frommer's needed an author for this new book, I immediately answered yes. The book is in essence my love song to the city.
What is unique about the book?
- I delve deeply into the history of the country and the city, and how that is reflected back in the gorgeous architecture you see on the city's streets, and the warmth of the people.
- Buenos Aires was built to be a capital of a country hoping to be one of the world's strongest powers, and this guidebook is the only one I know of that really discusses that.
- There is a lot on real tango in this book. Tango dancers have emailed me from Buenos Aires complimenting me on the quality of the research for that part of the book.
- I also delve into the various ethnic groups in the city and how a tourist can access that. Natives of Buenos Aires told me they never knew Buenos Aires had a Chinatown until reading my book.
- Also, women's history beyond Evita is discussed here. Again, natives of Buenos Aires told me that until reading this book, they never knew that a woman, Ana Diaz, was the co-founder of the city in 1580. So there is a unique mood and unique catalog of facts in this book.
Why do you call Argentina one of your "five favorite places in the entire world?"
So many reasons, but first and foremost has to be the warmth of the people. On the surface, Argentines like to present an aura of austere glamour and might seem hard to approach. But it's all façade. Ask anyone on the street where to go for a coffee, or to help with a map because you're lost, and you'll have a new friend. Also, there is so much culturally here that is easily accessible: live theater and music especially. That's just the cities…. Patagonia is a whole other beautiful story.
What makes Buenos Aires special as a honeymoon destination?
Nightlife and restaurant choices are superb, one of the best for that in the world, all at a great price. Imagine steak dinners for $5 to $7 USD, the best seats in the house for $15, and entry fees to a club, $2. The city also has a sensuality, a character all its own, especially in neighborhoods like San Telmo.
Is Buenos Aires safe?
Safe is relative. Buenos Aires is a large city and you must take the usual precautions. You have to be careful with taxis, using radio taxis your hotel or restaurant calls, or hailing taxis which are clearly radio taxis [ones with light boxes with advertising on the roof]. I also recommend taking precautions at night if you're going someplace flashy or wearing provocative clothing. Some neighborhoods are more dangerous than others in the evening, like La Boca, Monserrat or San Telmo, though that is changing as they gentrify.
What are the best hotels for couples on a honeymoon?
I think honeymooners want hotels where they can cuddle in luxury and yet be close to the things like restaurants and nightlife. For that, I recommend the Alvear Palace , an elegant gilded confection of a hotel that feels like Paris; the Four Seasons Buenos Aires , which is more reserved and offers a lot of privacy as well as a garden pool; and the fashionable Faena . It's a little over-the-top, but fun and set in Puerto Madero, away from the hustle and bustle. These are expensive hotels.
Less well known to Americans is the Emperador , a Spanish-owned hotel located in Recoleta, a few blocks from the luxury shopping gallery Patio Bullrich. It's about $200 a night. Their special wedding room is $1,000.
For a cozy bargain choice, the boutique Art Hotel is a great low-key option. It's iin an elegant townhouse in Recoleta, a 10 minute walk from where Evita is buried.
Describe a memorable night in Buenos Aires.
A wonderful night involves a romantic restaurant in the Palermo Viejo neighborhood, something like De Olivas I Lustres, Novecento, Casa Cruz. Then, walk hand-in-hand on quiet cobblestone sidestreets under enormous 100-year-old oak trees.
Follow all that in a dimly lit milonga, where locals dance the tango. Whether you can dance it or not, there's no harm in watching from a 1940's style club table.
In the daytime, head to the museums in elegant Palermo and Recoleta and stroll the beautiful parks that surround them.