Well there is always Buenos Aires
17th Sep 2008
Confident and proud in a tattered-glory sort of way, BA has everything you might need for life off the globalization grid: outstanding food and wine, both at great prices, a gorgeous climate, an incredible social whirl, stately boulevards, leafy districts, and even a strong emerging work mix. Economic disaster or not, everyone else is just on their way to Latin America's coolest capital to hang out and soak up the good times, the good music and the good life that come easily there, whether they be laid-off bankers, distressed heiresses, or Chinese wine merchants all looking for a "a new start."
arrivalsBuenos Aires offers two airports located on opposite ends of the city, so arriving transit guests may be surprised to find a 40 minute tear through town in a dilapidated taxi is in the cards. A small airport tax not withstanding, it is a very easy hop into the main part of the city from either airport, and the jalopy feel can only add to the rustic sense of ennui encountered on arrival. Noisy boulevards, bad quasi-slums and rather dodgy traffic are an outer ring mainstay here, but its fun to watch young lovers sharing a picnic in the grassy medians as you zip along the motorway to the urban oasis at the heart of the city.
Buenos Aires was created in a series of barrios, each of which have a unique flavour and feel. Much of the action is centred in Palermo's sub districts like Palmero Soho, Hollywood and Las Canitas. The Recoleta and Puerto Madero are also popular, with a very different emphasis in each. Palermo is the Soho version of urbanity, with a clutch of great shopping, restaurants and nightlife that attract a mix of locals and visitors until the early hours. Recoleta being more residential and definitely more upscale features the city's grande dame boulevards and access to parks amid gently sloping hills.
boutique bountiesIt's easy to jump between neighbourhoods, and a growing list of boutique hotels have swamped the city in recent months making it easy to stay and pop out to anywhere in town. As such it's easy to find a good place in many of the major barrios - try Tablet Hotels for easy online bookings and other hip suggestions.
The San Telmo area is pretty cool, and we would suggest the Moreno Hotel, which offers 39 suites which they call lofts (some with jacuzzis) in an atmosphere that is pure Argentina - with local decor and a smattering of European glamour.
Down in the newly developing business district of Puerto Madero, Alan Faena's masterpiece holds court with a stunning property: Faena Hotel + Universe. Inside is an oasis of pure delight from most stunning pool scene you've ever seen DJ included to regular cabaret shows at night. There's something about the choice and use of colour here that make Faena really special. Clay red umbrellas and chaises longues contrasting with the deep blue of hte pool, dark woods and a white draped unicorns glint off 1920s mirrored bars and flash Aviator lenses worn by a fashionable crowd. This is a great place to spend the day or the night, but the pool is seriously locked and loaded for hotel guests only.
Buenos Aires Design cE Hotel, is up in Barrio Norte, another fashionable section of the city. This ultra-slick high rise is almost too modern, with beautiful design and stunning views across the city being the main attractions. Barrio Norte has some good shopping and nightlife so it is not a bad place to be based - especially if its not your first visit to the city and you're there to check out everything there is to see.
steak, sushi & quinoa
One of the great things about BA is the cuisine - nowhere will you find better cow at such value. It is carnivore heaven, with thick juicy steaks available on all street corners for as little as a $5-er,. Only in Argentina do you find menus for a selection of beef cuts that read like a Bordeaux wine list. To that end, one of the best BBQ and steakhouses is Cabana Las Lilas, located on the new docks in Puerto Madero. Las Lilas is a favourite parilla for everyone. A Churrasco Cabaña here will not soon be forgotten!For more avant-garde true Argentinian cuisine, try Lo De Pueyrredon. A parillo owed by Horacio Pueyrredon, a decendant of one of the country's most prominent political families, its incredible original tile floors, stained-glass windows red brick walls host rotating art collections. Try the empanadas or the famous locro stew. Call on +54 11 4773 7790 for their daily specialities.
Where possible, try to order quinoa as a side in a dish - this Incan grain super-food has become quite popular and is everything you could want in a surprising food: light, delicious and the type of discovery that makes you wonder why its not on every menu in the world.
Modern Japanese offers a nice counterpoint flavour to the endless meat on offer, and for that try Osaka. Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine, it is always full to bursting due to its unique combination of great fresh sushi, its fab location in Palermo, and a beautiful crowd that makes a the hour-long wait for a table seem like a trifle. Or just reserve ahead of time on +54 11 4775 6964.
When it comes to the cafe scene, its fun to wander the streets of Palermo Soho doing some shopping at the many trendy boutiques located around Plaza Serrano, then popping in for a coffee and a rest at the beautiful La Biela, which is situated in Recoleta across from the famous Recoleta cemetery. Here you can enjoy a cafe con leche or amilkshake while you watch the locals go about their business on a wide, European style terrace.
When it comes to nightlife in Buenos Aires, the only rule is this: don't stop! Things continue to the early hours here, and you're not likely to even finish dinner until at least 1am. Think Barcelona hours. From there its onward to a variety of destinations, among them Asia de Cuba, which transforms from a dinner crowd to a party crowd as the night wears on. Other hot spots include Mundo Bizzaro, Jackie O and for the Rastafarian in you, Soul Cafe.
With so much going on in Buenos Aires, its easy to forget the rest of the world even exists. The city swallows you up with a great mix of local fashion, great quality of life, and a snob appeal that has failed to diminish, even as the country's financial fortunes have recalibrated themselves. Its tempting to think of BA as the ultimate haven for today's hedonist - fresh, fun, and vibrant, its the perfect place to ride out those economic storms that seem to be drowning the feel good factor in other parts of the world.