Art Factory Hostel Blog

Tip: Free Pizza in Palermo Soho

On Thursday nights, or jueves, Post Bar, on Thames Street in Palermo, offers free individual cheese pizzas. With purchase of at least a liter of cerveza in a cold, frosty pitcher. Extra toppings cost just 2 pesos.

It’s a great little place whose walls are covered in graffiti and ribald stencils, many of which would make great tats. There’s also some sort of t-shirt shop on the back terrace. Alterna-types abound, and the blues plays on the speakers. To feel almost like a Chicago dive, all it would need is a jukebox.

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Language Lessons

Although I had four years of Spanish in high school — and was considered by my teacher the finest student he’d ever had — that was a long time ago. I’ve forgotten a lot. My little brass-plated medal doesn’t mean that much so many years later.

Still, I have had no trouble ordering basic food in restaurants and understanding how much I’m being charged in shops. (The tendency for some porteños to drop the final “s” on some words has thrown me a few times, however; not to mention the regional preference for pronouncing the double l as “zh” instead of “yh.”)

It’s a basic terror of travel: Not understanding or not being able to make oneself understood. Given my own peculiar strain of social avoidance anxiety, I suffer from that terror, probably, more than most. But, I think I turned a corner today, and the brief Spanish lesson that Art Factory provided yesterday increased my confidence. I understood about 80% of what the instructor spoke.

So when I went to buy replacement shoelaces for my big black boots (There were several knots in the left boot’s, attempting to keep the laces together or one more day) I spoke entirely in Spanish, except for not knowing how to say “holes.”

“Quisiera comprar los cardones,” I said confidently.

“Que color?” he asked.

“Negro, por favor.”

Then I added, “Doce, uh,” then lifted up one foot and pointed to my big black boots to show him how many holes, what length I wanted.

The genial older man behind the shoe counter, which was tucked in the back of a typical kiosco in San Telmo and not visible from the street, smiled and gave me what I wanted. Probably amused as much at my attempt at commercial Spanish as at anything else.

Nevertheless, I felt good about it, and then went to a supermercado to buy my first sack of groceries to cook my first meal in the hostel.

Argentines make it much easier to speak Spanish than Czechs ever made to speak Czech. They’re pleased. In general, Czech were contemptuous, as they are about so many things regarding foreigners.

I’ve been saying it to myself a lot lately, but I felt it again as I sat in the sun on the terrace outside my dorm room, drank a beer and slurped up fettucine and salsa:

I think I could really live here.

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Tip: Watch your step

Tips:

Buenos Aires is unfortunately famous for its dog crap. It’s everywhere, even in nice neighborhoods like Palermo.
So keep your head down and your eyes peeled else you pick up some unwanted souvenirs from the local hounds.

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Tip: Save all your centavos for the next bus ride

Money transportation tips:

If you spend any time at all in Buenos Aires, you’ll want to use the extensive bus system. It only takes coins and the driver has no change.

A typical bus ride will cost between .8 and 1 peso. A chart will be posted on the window just to the right of the machine where you buy your ticket. You won’t have to say anything to the driver unless you’re going a long way. Not likely.

Drop the coins into the receptacle on the top right of the clicking, clucking machine. Once you reach the ticket price, the machine will stop clicking and clucking and issue a little paper strip with your fare printed on it. It’s basically just a receipt since I have yet to see any officials checking tickets.

Hoard those coins. You’ll need them.


[Update: Since I published this, I've been told, and have in fact noticed, that BA has a shortage of coins. It's not as hard to get change here as it is in Czech Republic, for which you'll require a kidney or your first-born, but it can sometimes be an issue].

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Recommended Restaurant: Las Pencas in San Telmo

I’ve eaten three times at this small, quaint (I hate using that word, but with the lovely naïf folk-art on the walls, it applies.) restaurant on the corner of Estados Unidos and Bolivar in San Telmo. Every time has felt like a good deal, satisfying in terms of portion-size and flavor, as well as being attractively presented. That’s an academic way of saying I enjoyed my meals here quite a bit. My companions have enjoyed theirs as well, bringing the total meals enjoyed to 7. All great.

The first meal I had was probably the best. I  tweeted about it a bit: Huge chicken breast stuffed with  quinoa, spinach and cheese, accompanied by fried , cubed, sweet potatoes, and glazed carrots. Although the chicken breast was a bit dry, it was more flavorful, a bit gamey even, than what I’ve been used to in the U.S. or the Czech Republic. The vegetables were tasty and artfully presented, like every meal I’ve had there.

Las Pencas also offers artesnal beers, or what an American might recognize as microbrews. All are worth trying, and reasonably priced for Buenos Aires. Avoid the cheaper Quilmes; you can get that anywhere.

I would also avoid the crème brûlée, which, although properly crystallized on top, ended up being rather tasteless. You might want to reconsider all the desserts. They’re pricey, at 20 pesos +, which is two-thirds of the price of most meals themselves. (In America, the premium is worth it. So far, in BA, not so much.) The espresso, on the other hand, was thick, rich, and pleasantly redolent of sweet, ever-so slightly bitter caramel. I like my espresso that way! It’s included with most brunch and lunch menus.

Last Saturday, my friend had a Middle-Eastern influenced, cool, lamb and quinoa salad. Not authentic  -no mint and not a bit-spicy- but subtly complex and refreshing. Also, we have been charmed by the wait staff on every visit. They didn’t speak particularly good English, but they were helpful, self-deprecating, and, broadly, quite lovely.

(Across the street from Las Pencas is the equally adventurous Territorio, which also serves a unique menu, as well as Staropramen, a typically crisp lager from the Czech Republic, in bottles. Avoid the 12° Koala amber. It starts out wonderfully with a full, hoppy mouth-full but finishes with a far-too alcoholic, harsh bitterness. I couldn’t finish my pint, probably some sort of record for this serious beer drinker. It’s too bad Territorio doesn’t carry Pilsner Urquell, also from Czech: A supreme 12° pils. The original, as it were.)

Mains at Las Pencas range from $24 to $44. No cheap pasta but inexpensive, tasty empanadas plus small, but filling bowls of stew, in 5 different varieties. Put the two together and you’ve got a great, sub-10 bucks, and very Argentinian, meal.

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