Follow the Sun to warm, vibrant Buenos Aires and Punta del Este


No experienced adventurer can call his travel portfolio complete unless he has fully explored the Southern Hemisphere.  As the northern part of the globe retreats into winter's shadow, the southern part comes alive with the summer's energy and excitement. While Africa and Asia offer many delights that are well known, North Americans are now discovering the delights in South America in ever growing numbers.

Recently exploring dynamic, exciting Buenos Aires and fashionable, in style Punta del Este, Uruguay, the fulfillment and enjoyment of discovery was with us every day.  With warm sun and temperatures in the 90's so much was happening outside.  The side walk cafes were packed, the parks full of people and the Sunday outdoor San Telmo Market fascinating.

Buenos Aires is huge but easy to get around in with a huge fleet of roving "radio taxis".  We were there for a week exploring the distinctive and provocative areas of the city. El Centro is where we started at the Park Obelisk Hotel with a view of the famous obelisk from our 6th Floor balcony. We faced the famous 9 del Julio Avenue reputed to be the widest street in the world with at least 12 lanes of traffic. 

We discovered the commercial BA with many local eateries including Guerrin with some of the best empanadas I have ever tasted.  The pizza was not bad either. This is also the theater district so nightlife continues after dark.  Elsewhere, we dined one night at Fervor, highly recommended. La Cabrera was a bit less refined and more local, but the quality of the beef was still outstanding. In both cases, reservations are essential. The famous local beef is the specialty at both places.  

Of course BA is a city of true night life.  Dinner before 9:00 p.m. is strictly for tourists and bars and clubs get going well after midnight.  I don't know how the locals do it and still show up for work the next morning, but somehow it happens with the morning activities starting around 10:00 a.m.  

After a couple of nights, we shifted to the Deluxe Palacio Duhau - Park Hyatt. This complex seamlessly blends an historic mansion with a contemporary tower.  The different levels and outdoor terraces are perfect for summer and we dined one evening under the stars with perfect temperature and no heaters.  The rooms are well designed with all the electronics you need.  Here in Recoleta the neighborhood is more residential and definitely upscale.

Later in the trip we were back in BA with a whole new attitude at the younger and crazier Faena Hotel in the redeveloped Puerto Madero harbor area.  If you want to know where the "beautiful people" hang out when not modeling or at the clubs, they are here around the pool or in the bar.  It is indeed the place to be in BA for the energetic crowd. 

The hotel itself, designed from the inside out from an abandoned where house, is fully modern with that irreverent Phillipe Stark touch which works well in this case.  The famous Tango Rojo is based at the hotel is in a cabaret format with dinner(optional) and show. It is a small venue with only about 100 seats so book in advance.

Other local activities included another major tango show, Esquina Carlos Gardel dinner and tango show which is in a large, ornate theater. it is more traditional than Tango Rojo and satisfying on many levels.  A half day city tour is also highly recommended for those new to the city with stops as listed such as Palermo and the famous Recoleta Cemetery and the tomb of famous Eva Peron. We also left the city to visit Fiesta Gaucha in Santa Susana, a home of the famous Argentine cowboys or Gauchos as they perform tricks in a well executed show with barbeque lunch.

In between stops in BA, we took the one hour flight to famous Punta del Este, Uruguay to experience a winter retreat for the sun followers.  Indeed Punta has everything with miles of wide beaches, amazing restaurants, bars and clubs and beautiful landscapes.  Season is from Mid-December to about the end of March.  The area comes alive with energy and music. 

Punta is different in two ways.  First, the private apartments well out number the hotels and guest houses.  This is a destination that you book well in advance in high season or there is no place for you.  La Barra and surrounding areas sell out 6 months in advance. Second, you seldom see the local currency of Uruguay.  I have never seen such easy transitions between currencies. From taxis, hotels, restaurants, bars and even supermarkets, a touch of one button gives you a bill in the currency of your choice, be it Argentinian pesos, US Dollars, Euros or British Pounds.

Punta has a short shelf life.  While the weather is very good November until the end of April with all the natural beauty and comforts, only peak season will give you the pulsating energy and night life that you may be seeking.

As in any urban areas, be careful with your valuables and hunting pick pockets.  In almost two weeks, we never had an issue. Nevertheless, be cautious and aware when out and about. Take the minimum when exploring and touring. 

Rich in culture, gastronomy, history, architecture and nightlife, Buenos Aires and Punta del Este in their summer can feed the need for sun, warmth, and excitement.  You will find it fulfilling and enjoyable as you expend your travel horizons.

Hilton Smith