WGN Anchor Lourdes Duarte Shares Her Spellbinding Trip To Argentina
Each January I pack up my carry-on bag, toss in my favorite gold-lined flip flops and head South. Those flops are going on year seven of travel. Unfortunately, they spend eight months out of the year tucked away in a closet in cold Chicago. They needed a dusting!
This year, I not only went south but way south about 5,600 miles to Buenos Aires. My first time in South America. Let me break down the journey for you. A four-hour flight to Mexico City from Chicago, followed by a five-hour lay-over. Finally, an eight-hour flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Yes, that’s 17 hours (all coach) to get to the Paris of South America. According to Chicago’s Argentinian Consulate, only 300,000 Americans travel to Argentina each year. Not to bore you with math but that’s 0.0009375 percent of Americans.
A brief disclaimer here, I’ve been longing to visit this country for two decades. Why, you ask? I’ve had a mad girl crush on Eva Peron ever since Madonna played her character in a Hollywood musical back in 1996. She’s the nation’s iconic first lady from the late 1940’s, known for helping the poor and paving the way for women to vote in Argentina. As if that’s not enough, her maiden name was Duarte. No relation but it may help you understand my loyalty.
While January in Chicago is bitterly cold, it’s not in Buenos Aires. January is their summer, that means 80’s or higher. As soon as I landed I noticed an incredible sense of patriotism and tradition. We arrived late and our cab was winding through city streets when at exactly midnight the driver turned up the radio to listen to the country’s national anthem. He said just about every radio station plays it at midnight each night. Again, tradition is key here.
Also, if you’ve never heard of Mate, you will in Argentina. The non-alcoholic drink has its own set of traditions. Think of a very caffeinated tea that you ingest using a metal straw. You have to see it to understand but it has a very social component. If you’re sharing it with a group, you share clockwise and don’t you dare do it any other way. Just think of what people would say if you put ketchup on a Chicago dawg.
In seven days, we hit the key tourist spots like Palermo, Recoleta, Mar del Plata and San Telmo. All well-known areas to the 6,000 Argentinians living in Chicago. It’s a small community but responsible for places like Tango Sur on Southport and Empanadas 5411.
Walking through the streets of Buenos Aires combines the old world with the new. Older European-like architecture paired with a hip vibe that’s palpable. Palermo and Recoleta are upper scale downtown neighborhoods, prime spots to soak in the culture while enjoying some of the fun that a vacation can offer. You can choose to walk, take the train, cab it or ride share which was very inexpensive in Buenos Aires. Sometimes and Uber was as low as $3 US, never more than $12.
I couldn’t visit Argentina without making a stop at the Recoleta Cemetery where Eva Peron and her family were laid to rest. Another must do is Palermo which caters to whatever thirst you have to shop. From outdoor markets to trendy shops that, as an American, I would consider affordable. One US dollar buys you about 16 Argentinian pesos. Make sure your math skills are up to par before you arrive.
While I could have spent all seven days in Buenos Aires, my friend Melissa and I decided to venture out to Mar del Plata. If you’re in Buenos Aires, it’s the most popular and closest beach for locals. It requires either a 45-minute flight or a five-hour train ride. We splurged and flew but missed the initial flight. Bottom line, just make sure you arrive at the airport a full hour and 45 minutes before your flight. Mar del Plata has some of the most beautiful sunsets. Walk down the pier that leads you to the statue of Christ. It was a 25-minute walk to the end of that pier but totally worth it.
It’s no wonder Chicago’s Argentinian Consulate expects travel to their country to increase in the coming years. In fact, traveling fees have been dropped. That means all you need is your passport. Many young Chicagoans are also spending months studying Spanish in Argentina, attending their local universities. Conversely, some of Argentina’s most talented are coming to Chicago and the Midwest to work in the fields of science and engineering.
Maybe I’ve convinced you to make the long trek, maybe not. But by the way, after walking what seemed like every corner of Buenos Aires, my aged flip-flops just about gave out. It was tough to leave them behind but Argentina made it worthwhile. Hoping to someday return. For now, Ciao! I know it’s Italian but that’s how they say goodbye in Argentina.
Stops Along The Way:
Walk into a flower shop and step down into a speak-easy for fancy drinks, an old-fashioned in a tea cup. $$
Palermo Steakhouse $$
Palermo shop with funky leather and silver jewelry. $
Peruvian/Japanese style cooking. $$$
Five-star Grand hotel with a rooftop bar to check out. $$$$
Founded in 1842, considered one of the ten most beautiful cafes in the world. $
Old auditorium converted into a bookstore and the second most beautiful bookshop in the world. $