This week’s dream: A sunny stay in ‘the Paris of Latin America’
Spend a week in Buenos Aires and you may feel like you’ve seen half of Europe, said Dina Mishev in The Washington Post. Home to “gorgeous architecture, a rich café culture, wide avenues to stroll, and narrow cobblestone streets to bike,” the Argentine capital is for good reason known as the Paris of Latin America, though that may be selling its cosmopolitan charms short. An acquaintance once quipped that the residents of Buenos Aires are “Italians who think they’re French and speak Spanish.” In December, a friend and I decided that visiting a Paris that was sunny and warm beat flying that month to the darker and colder original. Walking into the Alvear Palace, our Belle Époque hotel, we knew we would be treated like European aristocracy—“at least for several days.”
To get ourselves in the right frame of mind, we decide to walk to our bike-rental shop, a stroll that takes us from one of the city’s “most European-feeling” neighborhoods to San Telmo, one of its oldest. Naturally, we run behind schedule—“because I can’t stop taking pictures of the architecture.” At one cobblestoned intersection, the buildings’ styles range from Edwardian to brutalist, Beaux Arts, and art deco. Once we meet our guide, we spend the day pedaling along leafy avenues and one-way stone streets. Lezama Park, with its sculptures and large esplanade, feels “decidedly” French, though its jacaranda and rosewood trees “pull me back to South America.” In La Boca, an Italian neighborhood, “the air smells like southern Italy—anchovies and olive oil.”
Our guide tells us that to understand Argentina, we must understand mate—a bitter tea served in a hollow gourd. We’re happier sampling Argentine wine, though, whether with dinner at the upscale French restaurant in Alvear Palace’s basement or at a cheese-and-wine pairing at Palacio Duhau, where the city’s only maître fromager works. At the tasting, we sit on the patio of a Louis XVI–style palace that’s now a luxury hotel, and as we finish with herbal tea, “I’m grateful for the shade of giant rubber trees.” After all, “it’s December, and the sun is out and warm.” At Alvear Palace Hotel (alvearpalace.com), doubles start at $480.