Caminito versus San Telmo

I was a bit underwhelmed by two of Buenos Aires' famous places, for completely different reasons.

On Sunday morning, I took the 70 bus down to Caminito. I had my trusty map of the city, following our route so I knew when to get off and where to go from there. A few blocks into my walk, I spotted colorful buildings and a tour bus unloading nearby.

As the tour group spread out to different shops along the main drag, I browsed as well. Most of the souvenirs were cheap, mass-produced magnets and keychains, but there were a few cute handicrafts, like knitted hats and kidswear. The spaces between the shops and apartments were punctuated by comical statues of famous figures - Evita, Che Guevera, several versions of Pope Francis - and by couples in tango garb, clearly waiting for an audience.

I'm wary of putting myself in situations where I might get ripped off, especially when traveling alone. This leads to me missing out on things, usually on opportunities to buy cool souvenirs. (What can I say - I like clearly-marked price tags!) Caminito was cute, but I probably could have gotten more out of my time there had I been willing to part with a few pesos for the tango dancers, or to buy an over-priced coffee at one of the cafes, or even if I was amongst friends on one of those group tours. Overall, It's a good place to take pictures and buy cheap souvenirs, but only takes a few minutes to see.

From there, I headed toward San Telmo. I'd visited earlier in the week, on a sunny afternoon. While the neighborhood was rather cute, I didn't really get the fuss. I'd snapped some pictures of the great street art and charming buildings, but San Telmo seemed almost deserted.

However, on Sundays, San Telmo hosts a street fair. I'd heard it was really great - and it was! The antiques were interesting (most were more flea market grade than antique shop, but pretty cool), but the artists' and craftsmens' stalls really stood out.

The downside was that it was cold and rainy, and I was down to my last 50 pesos (about $7, at the official rate). I ended up buying a small box of Italian-style cookies from a bakery. My empty wallet may have been a blessing in disguise - had I had money, I might have walked away with more quirky jewelry than I could have fit in my bag. As the drizzle increased and the temperature dropped, I hurried toward the city center.

If you've been to Buenos Aires, what did you think of these two areas? If you haven't, which do you think you'd prefer?


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