Thursday we packed up our things, checked out with Karen and headed back on the Buquebus to Buenos Aires. The storm had cleared out, but it was very windy. It was looking like the crossing could be rough. One we got on the boat and got to the middle of the river, though, things quieted down and the ride was fairly smooth.
On the way over I noticed that they had a money exchange on the boat that was offering attractive rates to change dollars to Argentine pesos. If you aren’t familiar with how this works in Argentina, let me explain a little. The Argentine government has an official exchange rate of about 8.5 pesos to the dollar. If you pay for anything with your credit card, you only get the official rate. The economy is so troubled here, however, people don’t trust the currency and are willing to pay a premium for dollars, so there is what they call a “blue dollar” rate (really a black market, but “blue dollar” sounds better). The blue rate is currently almost 13 pesos to the dollar, so you can see you get quite a bit more purchasing power changing at the blue rate. The problem is that this is not really legal in Argentina (although people do it all the time), and the folks that perform the exchanges tend to work on the street and are usually a bit sketchy.
I didn’t really like the idea of following some guy down an alley with large amounts of US cash in my pocket. It is also common to get counterfeit bills from these guys. So I was really interested to see this money changing operation (Cambio) running out of a nice glassed in booth with official rates posted and everything. They were offering 12.8 which was pretty close to the current blue rate. They can do this because the Cambio is officially Uruguayan. They actually (on paper) change your dollars to Uruguayan pesos and then change those to Argentine pesos. Pretty slick! So I took advantage of this big time because if you pay with a credit card in Argentina you get the lousy rate. The only way to get the blue rate is to change your dollars and pay cash. Unfortunately, the largest bill they commonly use in Argentina is a 100 peso note. So if you change a lot of dollars, you end up with a lot of Argentine bills. Anyway, I ended up looking like a money launderer with a big wad of “A pesos”.
We got back to BA, and Tauck had a driver waiting for us at the dock who took us to our hotel, the Caesar Park. Interestingly, they had just renamed it The Brick Hotel, so it was a little confusing.
We got checked in and headed out for some walking and shopping. Stacy had heard about a place that custom makes beautiful leather jackets in 24 hours at a very reasonable price, so we went over there and ordered jackets to be picked up the next day.
Buenos Aires is a beautiful city, and Stacy and I love it here. We went to dinner at one of the best traditional Steak Houses in the city, La Brigada, in the San Telmo area, and had a fabulous steak dinner. The place is a little funky, because although it’s decorated like a sports bar honoring all things soccer (or as they say here, fútbol), but it is a fine dining steak house with linen tablecloths, fabulous service and a terrific wine list (we had the Catena Zapata Angelica vineyard Malbec). We, of course, had the steak, and it was the most tender we have had in Argentina. The waiter cut it with a spoon!