Although many visitors make a beeline for Argentina because of the peso’s good value compared with the pound or dollar, why not spend some of that saved cash on some luxury activities in Buenos Aires? From spa sessions to polo lessons, Buenos Aires serves up these days out, and more, on a spoon so silver it could have been dipped in the River Plate circa 1810.
For some old-school glamour, let’s step back in time to the 1930s. This was an era when the Argentine lady who lunched spent the day being prepared, so la señora arrived bedecked in finery, not a hair out of place, to the Palacio Duhau, in time for tea with her high-society chums.
The magnificent Palacio Duhau – Photo by David
Designed by architect León Dourge for brothers Luis and Alberto Duhau, this neoclassical French building, now a national historical monument, morphed into the Park Hyatt hotel five years ago. Here you can take a tea steeped in history, exactly where the Duhau ladies used to sit of an afternoon – a truly luxury activity in Buenos Aires.
With a terrace overlooking impeccable green lawns, the Salón Piano Nobile escorts you back to the days when a hot, wet one only came in the finest silverware, a selection of delicate savoury sandwiches and delectable bite-size cakes were served up across several tiers, and the only concern was what to wear down to dinner.
For a respectable AR$185 (£27) – and with a harpist included – one should savour the menu bearing the same name as the elegant dining room. Whether you’re into delicate nibbling or swallowing pastries in a single gulp, two people will be pushed to finish off scones, macaroons, smoked salmon sarnies, lemon pie and various dulce de leche-slathered treats – naturally accompanied by the Palacio Duhau’s eponymous blend, with a bergamot base similar to Earl Grey. Teatime doesn’t get much more classic than this.
Room with a View
If it’s good enough for the Prince of Wales, then it’s good enough for Madonna, who allegedly conceived her eldest child while staying there. That’s right, lodging at the Four Seasons is as swanky as it gets. The Real Argentina searched high and low for the finest room in Buenos Aires and settled on the Presidential Suite. Located in the hotel’s original building, La Mansión houses seven glamorous suites, complete with original fittings from the belle époque as well as English-, French- and Italian-inspired drawing and dining rooms. Built by Félix de Álzaga Unzué as a wedding gift to his wife Elena Peña Unzué, the couple remained childless and so this piece of absolutely prime real estate was eventually sold on.
The famous Four Seasons hotel – Photo by Kyle Lease
If you’re going to fork out US$8,000 (£4,968) for a night in the first-floor Presidential Suite, which is where Rod Stewart stayed on a recent visit, frankly you’re unlikely to want to leave the chandeliered living room, Italian marbled bathroom, vast super king-size bed, and a balcony looking at over the lush garden for love nor money. You might, however, venture to the spacious gym for a workout overlooking the only outdoor hotel swimming pool in Recoleta, then scurry back to not just the president of suites but the king of suites for some room service action.
Play the Game
Why not up polo sticks and head off to the countryside for a lesson in the sport of kings, then follow that up watching the professionals demonstrate how it’s really done at the world’s most exciting championship? At the drop of a polo helmet, BA Cultural Concierge can sort out budding horsemen and women with some morning schooling at a ranch in Cañuelas, 70km outside of Buenos Aires, as well as tickets for the 2011 Palermo Open. November hosts seven tournament matches, with the spectacular final held on December 10. A class in stick-and-balling, a feast fit for said king and the tickets to the sport’s hottest final will set you back US$500 (£310) – a right royal day out.
Polo Championship Match – Photo by Beatrice Murch
Spas in BA
For a totally zen day, to bring down your heart rate after watching hunks in jodhpurs, it’s time to pass out at Home Hotel’s spa. The Palermo Hollywood sanctuary’s Spring Spa day kicks off at 10am, with a healthy breakfast and a sauna to get sleepy cells circulating. Including exfoliation, a detox bath, a 60-minute full-body massage, a Californian-style massage using jojoba and essential oils, plus two facials, one using purely organic products, broken birds will be repaired by the kind hands of masseuse Elida. Costing AR$900 (£132), Home’s Spring Spa day also includes a natural lunch and use of the cute outdoor swimming pool in the luscious garden, and is set to leave weary souls so revitalised that the next step might be pulling up a stool at the bar.
Those in a hurry will appreciate the Spring Day Express – the same treatments squeezed into five hours for AR$680 (£100) – while jet-lagged passengers who have made it through Ezeiza international airport might fancy the Stepping On Clouds Experience.
Sights from Great Heights
For a real (if slightly unnatural) high, where laughing at porteño traffic jams is par for the course, the sky is your limit with some professional chopper action. Patagonia Chopper fastens you firmly inside a Bell 206 Jet Ranger, good for you, three friends and the pilot, before you vertically take off for the ultimate luxury sight seeing tour of Buenos Aires.
Starting in Puerto Madero, spot all the classic Buenos Aires landmarks from above – San Telmo and La Boca, Retiro and the Villa 31, the Japanese Garden, Recoleta cemetery, the aliens-just-landed Planetarium, the Palermo Rosedal, as well as River Plate football stadium. The mechanical bird also soars over the breathtaking Tigre and the delta – and en route, flying that close to Tierra Santa’s religious depictions is as close as many of us are getting to heaven. More of a luxury 60 minutes than a whole day out (so make every second of the US$345 [£214] flight cost) – just don’t forget your camera.