Mercado de las Pulgas: the non-San Telmo Antique Market

Antiques are cool. They may smell a little like moth bolls and need a little cleaning, but they make you feel unique without trying–kind of like a hipster (see “hipster fashion and furniture“).

Buenos Aires in itself, you might say, is kind of like an antique market. Traditional buildings look old, some times even decrepit, but almost always unique. I often look up and think, “that building is beautiful, but damn could it use a steam clean”. So many buildings look like they could have been an iconic hotel or restaurant that was preserved for historical purposes, the pity being they don’t seem to be as preserved here as they should. 

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Antiques themselves hold a special place in this city. The combination of European roots, European architecture, European imports and multiple major economic crisis (the most recent being in 2001) make for an astounding number of antique fur coats on the market. Although I could never know this for sure, it seems that people may have sold their belongs during these down periods, which now contribute to a rich array of antiques at the markets. If I am right, it would be a sad truth, but an interesting outcome.

Which is where the Mercado de las Pulgas comes in; translation: literally, Flea Market. Which is maybe why I know someone who has picked up a stray cat here…? Ha, bad joke.

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Located in Colegiales, at the top of what is now Palermo Hollywood, the market is an absolute gold mine for finding used furniture and other antique thangs to decorate your cheap-o digs. Its been around since 1988 (with a brief hiatus and re-opening in 2011) and although it supposedly has things from as recently as the 1970s, some of those mirrors definitely look newer. If you just moved here or just moved out of your parents’ place you might want to consider this a first stop for book cases, picture frames, wardrobes, cool hanging lamps, mirrors and beyond.

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Look at that junk! Just waiting to be re purposed. But please leave the mannequin behind.

The massive rectangular mirror my boyfriend spent AR 1600 on for a friends wedding? Yeah, we saw it for AR 800. And old wardrobes that have more character than Ikea style Easy pieces had price tags of 500ish (no disrespect here, though!). I am guessing this is where the “shabby chic” (ugh I hate myself for using that phrase) shop owners go to find their pieces. So skip the middle-man, man! Not everything is cheap, but bargaining should be used freely. As cool as it was, the old milk crate was just not worth 300 pesos.

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So I’m sure my verdict is pretty clear: this is a great place to do some cheaper decorating. Like any antique shop, flea market or yard sale, you will need to do some serious digging and bargaining. But it will make your find even sweeter.

Stop by and take a look!

Conde and Dorrego, Colegiales
Open 10 AM to 7 PM, Tuesday to Sunday
map pulgas
 

My Bookmarks: Top 10 Best/Useful Buenos Aires Websites

Top 10 Best/Useful Buenos Aires Websites

What better way to be a cheap bastard than to use free resources to do it? Over the past couple of years I have bookmarked a fair few Buenos Aires websites, but there are only a few that I really come back to again and again. When looking for suggestions, clear, honest advice suits me best and keeps me on my toes. If you have a dollar sign system I am happy; tell me the prices to expect and you’re on my most trusted, no BS list. When shopping, I just want to know how to avoid ridiculous prices. Sometimes I feel so lost without yelp or a vibrant craigslist community! You know what I mean?

Like so many here in BA, I have high expectations and a low budget. I literally can’t afford to fool around on this stuff.

So what have I done? I’ve amassed a lot of random BA info. But it’s been with the help of more than one voice. If anything were a BA bible it would be the combined wisdom of these guys.

Here are my top websites that consistently give me my dose of needed information, helping me to maintain my budget and still live BA life like I want to:

1)   Pick Up the Fork

An amazing burnch at Malvón, at PUtF's suggestion.

An amazing burnch at Malvón, at PUtF’s suggestion.

This chick Allie knows her food. Like really. If you haven’t heard of her yet, she reviews restos, cafes, bars, etc. all with that humor and no BS attitude that I crave. Her suggestions and advice are some of the first I look for (really, I should probably go to more places rather than just salivate in my desk chair) and PUtF (can I do that?) has become one of the best English language food blogs in the city—by a long shot. Allie rides the rollercoaster that is the BA food scene, maybe not gracefully, but with attitude and honesty that is way better anyway. I can’t always afford her picks, but at least its free food porn along with lower budget finds!

2)   Agenda Cultural

Buenos Aires is incredible for the student, intern, low earner, or frugal traveler. Every night there is some event, festival, concert, or party that is free (or very cheap) to any soul that stumbles upon it. The BA City Gov’s Agenda Cultural catalogs them all. There is even a whole section for free events that welcomes tourists along with natives. If you are a twitter person, this is also a great way to get quick updates of what’s happening in the city every day.

3)   Planeta Joy            

Picada at Bar Perón Perón, from a list of Perón themed bars/restos

Picada at Bar Perón Perón, from a list of Perón themed bars/restos

This is my Spanish-language everything food-and-drink-related Bible. Not necessarily thorough reviews (although some stories do a very good job of being more specific), this is my favorite place to go for “Top…” lists. From a list of the top 10 best picadas in the city  to the best and largest food in ba (for my fellow yanquis who still can’t get over the size of “burritos” here), Planeta Joy will tell you whats up. I always type a google search, like “bares para grupos grandes planeta joy” to get directly to the page. Great selection and suggestions, with creative themed lists. PJ knows the city.

4)   Guia Oleo

Guia Oleo is the closest thing we’ve got to Yelp.com in BA for food reviews. As THE restaurant review site in the city, it’s the first and last place you should go when looking for a restaurant. Complete with tools to narrow your resto search and ample reviews, you can at least trust that if it got a very high or a very low rating that it’s probably close to right. Another amazing thing for budget eating is the Cuponera which provides between 20-50 percent off restaurants by printing out coupons from their website (see cupon star  for a more limited but equally accessible selection as well…for movie discounts too!).

5)   Daily Secret Buenos Aires   

A pretty recent edition to my repertoire, Daily Secret has become a good resource for a mixed bag of BA ideas. The scouts do a good job of reporting on places that tend to be a little more off the beaten path and in a variety of neighborhoods—not just Palermo. Although their site isn’t necessarily focused on the cheaper side of Buenos Aires, the site is really good at separating its mini-reports into categories: things to do, food, restaurants, bars, shops, services, and outside the city. Daily Secret is also available in other world capitals, like Lima, Santiago and beyond.

6)   Wifi Gratis

Map of wifi spots! Address on website.

Map of wifi spots! Address on website.

The city government website listing all the places in the city, like parks and plazas, which have free wifi. Perfect for when you need to choose a place to write your latest blog post and get your tan on next to the guy in the zunga.

7)   Baexpats

I wouldn’t really trust all the advice you get (it’s a hot bed for people at both ends of the spectrum like any online forum tends to be) but the classifieds have been pretty damn handy. Because it’s mostly travelers and expats, moving sale items are usually pretty new and cheap as owners try to shed their crap as quickly as possible. I recently helped my boyfriend purchase a king size bed for only AR 3,500.

8)   Facebook

Terrazas del Este...at 6 AM

Terrazas del Este…at 6 AM

Weird, right? You would be surprised just how many tips and tricks are on company facebook pages. A good rule of thumb, always check the fb page of a club earlier in the night before you go. Often times there is a list you can get your name on so entrance is free or cheaper. For example, I have never and will never EVER pay to get into Terrazas. And I’ve gotten free drinks for being on the list too.

9)   Mapa.buenosaires.gob.ar

Having a tool to demystify your transportation route can really help avoid paying taxi fares. You can carry around the good, old Guia T or you can consult Mapabeforehand online. If you’re more of an in the moment kind of person you can still use it on your smartphone, or download the Como Viajo app (also integrated into Mapa), which gives you transportation directions from point A to B.

10)   Craigslist Buenos Aires

The BA version may not have nearly as big of a selection as in other cities, but it has definitely worked for me. I found my (relatively well paid) job on there. And it was just about as easy as finding my boyfriend in a bar…which at least in my case means it was surprisingly easy. Also really good for moving sales finds.

Anyone have another useful site? 

Pill Poppin’: A Cheaper Pharmacy in BA

For two months I have been searching now for a way to get my meds cheaper. Argentina already has a fairly open over the counter policy which suits me just fine. However, prices tend to still be high even with my lovely dolar blue exchange rate. If you have obra social or pre-pago (i.e. health insurance that gives you discounts on medication by showing your card) you are looking at a 30% + discount. For poor little old me thats worthless.

I have a solution:
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A farmacy that offers a perpetual 20% discount !!
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I’m not exactly sure why but I assume it has something to do with a subsidy. Whatever it is, I am glad for it and for the adorable older pharmacist man behind the counter that doesn’t glower at me like the poor, over-worked Farmacity peeps. Supporting the neighborhood and saving almost 20 pesos which can be used on more important things like my eating-out-at-delicious-restaurants fund? I’m in. 
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Farmacia Avalon, Guemes 4028 (in between Scalabrini and Malabia)
UPDATE: I may have found another couple of pharmacies with a similar (and better) deal, one on the corner of Santa Fe and Darregueyra (Palermo) and the other at Santa Fe 3089 (Barrio Norte). They seem to both offer 25%+. Confirmation pending!

Country Olive Oil in the Big City

If you have ever once wondered why BA supermarket olive oil is so expensive and, uh, bad unsatisfying to the pallet, I’m with you. But when I found Quetec I knew the days of oddly perfumed food were over. Located in three different areas of Capital Federal, this shrine to all things Mendoza is so so so worth the trip. The quality of their products is wonderful, but the best part is their prices. Or maybe its the olive oil and olive tastings. You can decide for yourself when you get there.

1 liter of olive oil (really good and what I use for cooking and drizzling alike) is something like $35 pesos. A WHOLE liter! Aside from olive oil they have green and black olives, a huge wine selection, jars of jam and other preserved treats and even a cold area where they can serve you up a part of a whole leg of jamon crudo and dried chorizo. They also have massive jugs of table wine which I haven’t been brave enough to ask about (or carry) but which look like they could be a fun party additive.

If you are mesmerized by the wine selection and can’t seem to choose there was one that I thought was delicious, especially for its price: La Íride, Cabernet Savignon. At $33 pesos I felt it was just what my asado needed.

Last time I went to the store on Riobomba they had these deals:

1 bottle of wine + 1 liter of olive oil (mixed olives) = $70 pesos

1 Liter of olive oil (mixed olives) + 1/4 liter of olive oil (single olive) + 1/4 kilo of olives = $55 pesos

So next time you think about buying Cocinero olive oil for $40+ pesos in your local Carrefour, think again.

Quetec

Riobamba 448, Congreso/Balvanera area
Gallo 1640, Barrio Norte/Palermo area
Av. Cabildo 196, Palermo Hollywood/Las Canitas area

Going to the Movies for Cheaper in Buenos Aires

It’s a Sunday or its raining and you feel like a nap movie. You could browse the options on your favorite movie site, but you feel the need to leave the house. An obvious option? The movies, of course! Here are a couple of ways to see movies without using all of your entertainment budget in one go.

CouponStar

 You may have seen the signs for this in the subte. The premise is simple: send a text, recieve a coupon. The great thing is that the coupons are things you would actually spend money on anyway. Couponstar has 2×1 deals at Cinemark, Multiplex, Showcase, and even IMAX Showcase theaters. When I originally saw it I immediately wanted to know just how many spam texts would flood my box after that coupon. Three weeks later I can say that I haven’t gotten any. Each coupon costs AR$ 1.20 + minimal taxes for Movistar, Personal, Nextel and Claro, which is how they make their money. Please, do me a favor and never pay full price again.

Espacio INCAA, Congreso

 If your Spanish is on the rise, and especially if you have already achieved some gold stars in your lunfardo class (please see El Tano Pasman for examples) this is the place for you. This heavily goverment-subsidized theater boasts Argentine films at extremely low prices. A ticket rarely if never goes abouve AR$ 10 and usually floats around AR$ 8. Its also even cheaper for students, averaging a whopping $AR 2 pesos less. So if you can’t wait to see the new Darin movie, this is probably your spot.

Club La Nación

 If you are interested in staying up to date on the news and getting some discounts at the same time then this is your best option. With a subscription to La Nación (can be just the newspaper once a week and a magazine per month) you have unlimited access to the company’s discounts. Many movie theaters throughout the city (the theater in the Abasto Mall, for example) give you a 2×1 price that is rarely available without an Argentine credit card.

Village Cinema

 This is a little chip off the price and good for those who feel the need to buy movie snacks. The movie theater at the mall in Recoleta and Caballito gives students, teachers, and retirees the possibility to apply for a card that gets a bit of a discount. The card costs AR$ 5 for administrative fees but it gets you the Wednesday matinee ticket price (AR$ 32 instead of 42) throughout the week and before 4 PM on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. You also get some sort of discount in popcorn combos (hence why this one is particularly good for you pochoclo fiends). All you need is proof of your status. If you are a retiree or teacher from Argentina I can imagine you know more than I do about this. For students, I know that you can get an offical letter declaring your status at a student (I’ve used this sort of letter to get some really nice dicounts on long distance bus travel) from your Argentine University quite easily, especially the private ones. If you are up for a little bureaucracy maneuvering, try this one out!

Showcase Belgrano 2×1

If you have internet access you can do this. Fillout the form and get 2×1 everyday and 2×1 in 3D movies on Thursdays using your very own scannable code. I saved the image in my iphone, ready for when I need it. Also 2×1 in 1/4 kilos of ice cream at Chungo. Nice. 

Cuevana

 If you really don’t feel like leaving the house afterall and you just want to curl up on your couch/bed/floor with your laptop then this is your best friend. Its self explanatory and entirely free so I’ll let you browse on your own. cuevana.tv

One final tip: If you’ve really gotten into this frugal thing, pop your own instant popcorn at home and buy a box of candy at the kiosko down the street. A good backpack or an over-sized purse will cover your tracks.

Happy Movie-ing!

La Cabrera Happy Hour: The Steak you Came for at the Price you Hoped For

This is a big one. If you haven’t heard of La Cabrera you haven’t done your research.  In fact, you haven’t done ANY research because it is one of the most popular tourist steakhouses in the city. The New York Times has written about it, its all over Tripadvisor.com and I am sure there are hostel shuttles that take you directly to the door. Thats not to say that Argentines don’t fall under its charms too–in fact they seem to be fairly jealous that mostly tourists tend to know about it. And I’ll tell you why in one word:

Steak.
Yes yes the city is full of parillas with full animals roasting over coals in the window. And sure, you could probably find one cheaper. But I’m not sure why you would especially after what I am about to tell you.
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But wait let me first explain the carnal sin (heh, carne is meat in Spanish) that is a meal at La Cabrera.
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You sit,
they bring you a wonderful bread basket with three dips,
you order,
they bring you mini plates (about 6) of mashed potato and butternut squash, pearl onions, zucchini fritatta, and more that you didn’t order,
you feast,
they bring you what could only be an up-cycled antique ski carrying little plates of salad with a poached egg, mini caprese, etc. all for the taking,
the meat arrives and you wonder if they are fattening you for a similar fate because the meat is probably HUGE,
you enjoy some of the best steak you have ever had,
if you decline death dessert they bring a lollipop tree to seal the deal,
waddle home,
Scene.
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OK so now that you know how it works let me tell you the best part about this place. They have half price Happy Hour on weekdays from 7-8 PM. You say, “but you didn’t even mention the drinks so why should I care?”. And I chuckle, pat you on the hand and say, “but that includes the dinner menu too”. Yes, ladies and gents, I mean to say that you can eat at this carnival of BBQ (I am sorry but these puns are just coming so EASILY) for half of what they want to charge you at peak hours. You generally have to be in and out within the hour, but who cares? Coupled with the generosity of portions and included side dishes, one cut of meat is more than enough for two peple meaning you could get away with an amazing steak dinner for two with wine for less than 200 pesos. And I would even venture to say easily.
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And yes, I accept thank you gifts.
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La Cabrera

Cabrera 5099
4832-5754