Lounge Review: Buenos Aires Star Alliance Lounge, 27 July 2016

EZE Ezeiza Buenos Aires International Airport Star Alliance Lounge

The Buenos Aires Star Alliance Lounge is of a good size, in the form of one large rectangular room. As far as I could tell, it was mostly tables and chairs, and no real different areas. They have slightly more interesting food options than the AMEX Centurion Lounge.

EZE Ezeiza Buenos Aires International Airport Star Alliance Lounge

As part of my award business class ticket on Turkish Airlines, I was granted access to the Buenos Aires Star Alliance Lounge. When I was there in the evening, they were pretty busy. I was pretty lucky to score a seat, and it didn’t take long for someone to take my spot the moment I vacated it.

EZE Ezeiza Buenos Aires International Airport Star Alliance Lounge

I wouldn’t say the quality of their food was better than the AMEX Centurion Lounge, but it was more to my taste. They had a pasta dish, and they also had a fried vegetable fritter. I do have a need for one hot option during the day.

EZE Ezeiza Buenos Aires International Airport Star Alliance Lounge

Overall, it’s a solid airport lounge with decent food options. They did get pretty busy during my visit. It might be more pleasant if there wasn’t such a space crunch.

EZE Ezeiza Buenos Aires International Airport Star Alliance Lounge

EZE Ezeiza Buenos Aires International Airport Star Alliance Lounge


Chile, Santiago to Argentina, Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo, Brazil, 27 July 2016

Santiago Aerial Shot

Award travel comes with its drawbacks. Sure, I’m flying business class, and paid a grand total of 40 dollars for this itinerary, but this itinerary also involves sitting 10 hours in Buenos Aires, and arriving in Sao Paulo at 2am.

This portion of the trip will be covered in individual reviews of various business class products, airport lounges, and hotels. One observation – there’s really nothing that I’d like to eat in the Buenos Aires airport. Sigh! It does make it easy for me to decide on free (lounge) food, in that case.

This ends the narrative version of my South America trip. Thanks for sticking with me, as I added three new stamps to my passport!

AC92 SCL-EZE Air Canada Santiago to Buenos Aires Business Class

Argentina: Parting is just sorrow, Buenos Aires to Rosario, 17 July 2016

Retiro Train Station Platform 7

Parting is just sorrow. This was the specter that was hanging over our entire trip, and now, it was happening.

This morning, we hustled from our hotel to the Aeroparque Airport for P’s long, multi-stop journey back to Seattle, while I continue my journey before starting a new job in Singapore. Finding the right counter to check in, getting his tickets etc. left us with very little time. The only time we had was a teary hug before he had to go board his plane. Our future was left hanging. (P.S. The tariff for taxis from airports is what causes taxi prices from the airport to town to be insane. I paid 3x the price to go back from Aeroparque)

After dropping him off, I took a taxi to the Retiro station as my train to Rosario was leaving in five hours’ time. I settled in at a café, and we continued to communicate via Whatsapp. I’ve always been the one handling all our travel details, and I couldn’t help but be worried about how he’d handle the three-country, five-city connection that’d take him back to Seattle.

At around three thirty in the afternoon, I sauntered towards the Retiro station. I made the bad assumption that I could purchase food on the train. For future reference, please do bring food on the train, there’s no food (for purchase or otherwise) on the train. Everyone else on the train seemed to have gotten the memo, as they brought picnic bags and generous portions of mate. (there is a free water dispenser on each carriage)

Pullman Class on Train ride from Buenos Aires to Rosario

The train journey was interesting. I don’t see myself necessarily wanting to do this particular route again, although if there are more scenic routes available, I’m open to trying them. The train system is slower than the bus, and actually, cheaper. My ticket in the Pullman class was 20 pesos cheaper than standard seats on the bus, but it took about two hours longer.

Pullman Class on Train ride from Buenos Aires to Rosario

The train wound through the countryside, and ghost towns for the most part. If you really want to check out the countryside, and see the stark comparison between life in the Argentinian countryside vis-à-vis the cities, the train journey will give that.

Sunset on the Train ride from Buenos Aires to Rosario

Hunting for my hotel at close to midnight was fun. I walked a block or two from the train station and finally found a taxi. But I might have stolen someone else’s taxi. He was nice enough, and because it was a female driver, I felt rather safe, so after his drop off at the Rosario bus station, I gave her the address of my hotel, and thus ends my long travel day.

Argentina: Where’s the Tango in Buenos Aires?, 16 July 2016

Puente de la Mujer Bridge, Buenos Aires

I’ve always loved watching people dance. There’s something mesmerizing about two people moving in unison. And listening to my friend talk passionately about tango, I was determined to find some tango in the tango mecca of the world. But, I also hate being bussed around like a tourist. This turned out to be quite an adventure.

This morning, we went back to the train station to get my ticket from Buenos Aires to Rosario. The Pullman class (slightly more premium than the primera class) is 255 pesos, and the train leaves Retiro every day (with additional trips two days a week) at 4 pm, arriving at Rosario North at 11 pm. It’s a rather slow way to travel, but cheaper than the bus. You may check the train schedule and prices here.

After this errand, we had another errand – moving to another hotel. This was part mattress running, and also part cost-saving – a boutique hotel costs less than the Park Hyatt at Cash + Points rate.

After checking in at our new hotel in San Telmo, we were famished. So we decided to just find a place nearby. We kinda took a wrong turn, and ended up at a dive bar. The food was ok, it was cheap as hell, but not quite the best. But when you’re hungry, as long as it’s edible, it’s all good. It turns out we did take a bad turn, because when we walked back to the hotel for more cash (I try not to carry too much cash), we saw way nicer places in the other direction. Lesson learnt: walk from Plaza Dorrego towards San Telmo market – the options there are better!

Went to a dive bar in San Telmo, Buenos Aires

Next stop, I wanted to stop by at Confiteria Ideal to see if people are doing a matinee tango. Well, I probably should have done better research. They closed in March for much needed renovations. After striking out again, I simply left plans in the +1’s hands. He decided that we should start our rather slow walk to Puerto Madero for dinner at a sushi restaurant that he wanted to try.

Tango steps outside Confitería Ideal, Buenos Aires

It was a 40+ min slow stroll. With some happenstance, as we were slowly making our way down Lavelle, there were a number of dancers doing street tango. I think they were advertising something (either a show, or just asking for donations). Regardless, watching that seemed infinitely better than watching a tango dinner show.

#Tango on Lavelle in Centro, #BuenosAires. I liked how a heart formed in the shadow of the two dancers #argentina

We ended our day with some sushi. After two weeks in S. America, we still aren’t getting the food timing right. We got there at around 7.30, and were the only people in the restaurant. 😛

Argentina: Hangry and Lost in Buenos Aires, 15 July 2016

Centro, Buenos Aires

I generally don’t have the best sense of direction, and most of the time, this is not an issue, because I usually travel alone, and getting lost means making random explorations and discoveries. However, for this trip, I was traveling with my +1, and he’s a little more destination oriented than I am. This is the tale of hangry (hungry –> angry = hangry) and lost in Buenos Aires. It was a vicious cycle.

Today, we had a few things on the agenda:

  1. Go check out the train station and find out information about my train trip from Buenos Aires to Rosario. I checked this information online previously, but needed to go to the train station to confirm it and get a ticket.
  2. Try out the Buenos Aires metro system. I like exploring public transport. Also, it does save us money.
  3. Explore Centro, which is more the business/tourist/shopping district of Buenos Aires. My friend recommended I check out ABC restaurant, a former Nazi hangout.
  4. Eat parrilla.

Retiro Train Station, Buenos Aires

The train station is pretty close to our hotel, and there’s also a metro station there, so we made the 15 min walk there. Two birds, one stone. The +1 was very helpful in this situation, as he managed to confirm the timing and the fare of the train from Buenos Aires to Rosario. As I didn’t bring that much cash with me, we decided to come back the next day to get tickets. The Retiro train station is an elegant building. Do check it out if you happen to be there.

Next stop, metro station, which is also at the train station (Retiro, blue line). Buying a Subte card was rather interesting. I tried the ticket counter, and as it turns out, the ticket counter doesn’t sell the Subte card – they do reloads. We were directed to a lottery selling stand to get our Subte cards, which are 35 pesos (~$2.30) a piece. We loaded it up with 15 pesos. Rides cost 4.50 pesos (~$0.30), and are charged per trip. We took the Subte from Retiro to Lavalle.

Busker on the subway train, Buenos Aires

I actually wanted to go check out the ABC restaurant, before going to a parrilla place for lunch. Well, with my very crappy navigation, we ended up walking AWAY from the ABC restaurant. It wasn’t that bad, we did end up checking out the Obelisco and Teatro Colon. Eventually, the +1 decided to take charge, and navigated us towards the ABC restaurant. The ABC restaurant is a German beer hall, and it’s quite hard to miss, because it sticks out like an odd thumb on the street, with a wooden facade painted in the colors of the German flag. Its claim to notoriety is that, it was the lunch spot for prominent Nazi leaders who fled from Nazi Germany and sought refuge in Buenos Aires after the end of the Third Reich.

ABC Restaurant in Centro, Buenos Aires

Next stop, the parrilla that didn’t happen. The previous night, I settled on a place that hit the sweet spot of price and decent ratings on yelp, and wanted to dine there for lunch. I tried navigating us towards it, but once again, I navigated us AWAY from it. Sigh, and that’s why I hate the GPS and prefer a physical map. After getting lost a number of times, we were nearing the magical end of lunch hour – 3 pm. By this point, I was so hangry, I stopped caring where we ate, as long as we could find a place that was still open. We ended up going to a pizza place, because Argentina is supposed to be famous for pizza as well. I got the house special … it was odd… They put some root veggie that I couldn’t identify, and the +1 said that the Spanish here is somewhat different, so we had no idea what we ate.

After satisfying the gnawing pain in my stomach, we decided to walk some more around Centro, just to take in some of the beautiful architecture in Centro. It was a pretty nice walk, and a novelty for the +1, because he hasn’t been to Europe, so to date, this is the closest he’s gotten to European architecture.

Cathedral in Centro, Buenos Aires

By around 4 pm or so, we were done with Centro, so I left it up to the +1. He wanted to check out the Japanese gardens, so we hopped onto the green line on the subte, which took us from Catedral to Plaza Italia. It was a longish walk from Plaza Italia to the Japanese Gardens. We walked past the zoo, which was closed. They did try to fence off the zoo, so that pedestrians can’t get a free peep into the zoo. However, it’s kinda hard to hide giraffes from the public, ya know! We also stopped by Freddo’s for some ice cream. If you want to make bank as an ice cream stand, set it up beside a zoo. Jackpot!

When we got to the Japanese Gardens, we realized we had to pay an entrance fee for it. Well … we didn’t have enough cash on us. It wasn’t the end of the world. At this point, we were probably about 20-30 min walk from our hotel, so we decided to simply walk back and check out what’s on the way back to the hotel. The walk on Avenida del Libertador was very pleasant. We got to check out some parks, and there were also several embassies along the way. My favorite was when we got on a bridge, and could see the majestic sunset slowly developing. The graffiti on the bridge was pretty cool, too (don’t remember the name of the bridge, but you can see the mechanical flower from there).

Sunset from bridge over Av del Libertador, Buenos Aires

After the rather long walk, we went back to the hotel to rest up for a bit before dinner. Dinner was at Parrilla Aires Criolles, which was excellent. I had a full portion of ribeye with sausage, while the +1 had salmon and shrimp. The excellent dinner with drinks set us back by $50 for the two of us.

#Argentina has amazing beef #food #buenosaires

Uruguay: Colonia to Argentina: Buenos Aires, 14 July 2016

Winter in Buenos Aires, Recoleta Neighborhood

Another day, another journey. I was very last minute in planning this trip, so we were forced to take a rather early ferry (10.30) from Colonia to Buenos Aires. Consequently, we left the hotel at 9 am and got to the ferry terminal around 9.15, only to realize we were still too early once again for our ferry ride back.

Unfortunately, booking with a cut rate ferry (Colonia Express) meant that we got a way less glamorous ferry than the one we took from Buenos Aires to Montevideo. It also docked a lot further away from our hotel. Consequently, after disembarking, we had a fun task – how in the world were we going to get back to our hotel? (we walked from our hotel to the ferry terminal a couple of days ago)

We were fairly low on Argentinian pesos at this point, and based on the maps, we were also rather far from all kinds of civilization. That’s when we decided to give Uber another shot. After walking some ways from all the cabs, the +1 turned on his phone, and we both kept our fingers crossed that there would be an Uber (it’s not very popular in Buenos Aires yet). In any case, we did luck out. There was an Uber that was just within range. After a 10-15 min wait, we were on an Uber, and on our way back to the hotel.

Five Stacker from Burger King, Buenos Aires

After checking in and a short rest, it was time to get some food. The +1 saw an advertisement for Burger King’s 5 stacker, so we decided to try it. We walked some 15 min to the Burger King opposite Burger 54, and decided to challenge the 5 stacker. I was admonished for trying to deconstruct the 5 stacker instead of trying to stuff the whole thing in my face. 😛 We then adjourned to the restaurant at El Ateneo Grand Splendid, where I got some coffee and got in some reading.

Having a tea break in the restaurant in El Ateneo Bookshop, Buenos Aires

The day was still young after our tea break, so we headed over to a tourist attraction near our hotel – Recoleta cemetery. Most people visiting the Recoleta cemetery go straight for Evita’s tomb. But we mostly just wandered around and checked out how people envisioned their afterlife. I thought it was rather interesting that even in the afterlife, it was a pissing contest, as some families built taller graves than their neighbors, to get in the last word in the afterlife.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

We had a lazy stay in night in our beautiful suite to recover from our day of travels.

Watching sunset from Palacio Duhau deluxe suite balcony, Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires, Argentina to Montevideo, Uruguay: Please put on the shoe condoms, 11 July 2016

Buquebus Terminal, Buenos Aires

Yet another travel day. It does seem that this trip involves a lot of moving around. We’re heading over to Montevideo, Uruguay, so I can check off another country. There are several options of going to Uruguay from Buenos Aires and they all involve a ferry (well, flight if you feel fancy, but it doesn’t take less time). You can either do the cheaper ferry + bus option (which takes longer), or go the more expensive, direct option.

It’s low season for ferry travel so the direct ferry tickets weren’t too expensive. However, I also sat on my ass for a while, so we wound up paying $100 per person for the direct, 2+hr ferry from Buenos Aires to Montevideo with the Buquebus company. Ferry prices vary based on demand and supply, and buying it earlier might lead to cheaper tickets. We purchased our tickets online two days before travel.

Buquebus Ferry from Buenos Aires to Montevideo

Some things to note about ferry travel:

  1. It’s suggested that you arrive 2 hours before departure to clear immigration and board the ferry. If you believe the suggestion, you’re a sucker, as we were. We were there about 1h 45 min before departure. We were the only people there. Most passengers probably appeared about 1 hr before departure.
  2. Immigration on both sides are done on the side you board the ferry. It’s an elegant system and minimizes the immigration pain where you have to stand in line twice.
  3. There are various classes of travel on the Buquebus: first class, business class, tourist class, economy class. Based on your fare class, you have different (free) seating areas. We bought an economy class ticket, but we self-upgraded to the tourist class seating with no problems. There seemed to be a ticket checker on the business class and first class side. We mostly wanted to be on the upper deck of the boat.

Buquebus is the most expensive ferry company of the three (Seacat, Colonia Express) and the only one that offers a direct ferry from Buenos Aires to Montevideo (the other two companies go to Colonia del Sacramento). While it’s the most expensive, they also do have the nicest ferries. The Buenos Aires – Montevideo ferry was like being on a cruise ship, without all the free food and slots machines. They made us put on shoe protectors because they just washed the carpets. It was wild.

Buquebus Ferry from Buenos Aires to Montevideo

The ferry also had a cambio on board. For the sake of convenience, we changed some USD to Uruguayan pesos here. The rates here weren’t great – they are about 10% less than elsewhere, e.g. banks, regular cambios.

Arriving in Montevideo, the ferry terminal is actually in the heart of Montevideo’s old town, across the street from the Mercado del Puerto. However, we were staying at the upscale Pocitos neighborhood, which is about 20 min drive from the ferry terminal. We did get a hotel pick-up, so we whizzed out of that rather quickly.

By the time we were settled in, it was 7ish pm, so it was time to hunt for food. The +1 used his google-ful skills, and we wound up at a sushi place, Moshi Moshi, which is less than 10 min walk from our hotel. The sushi was excellent and cheap. It ended up costing $30 for the two of us.

Sushi at Moshi Moshi, Montevideo

Some random notes from today:

    1. I have a Singapore passport. Singapore has a population of 4 million people, and not everyone has a passport. Even fewer venture outside of Asia, so the Singapore passport is rather rare in these parts of the world. Today, it happened again. The immigration officer actually had to take out a booklet, to see what are the visa requirements for Singaporeans (none). It’s always amusing when that happens. I also have quite a number of unique stamps on my passport. The whole crew (it’s a slow news day at immigration) basically gathered round to flip through my passport.
    2. For some reason or other, you get a discount (10-20%) when you pay for dining using a credit card. This was pretty extensive, from small cafes to bigger restaurants. Use plastic. It saves you money.

Buquebus Ferry from Buenos Aires to Montevideo