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Buenos Aires - Argentina

Puente de la Mujer, designed by Santiago Calatrava.

Posing for tango photographs

Cafe life is vital to residents, who call themselves porteños.

Strolling through the streets of Palermo Viejo, the trendiest neighborhood in Buenos Aires right now, one wouldn't guess that the city is emerging from an economic crisis. The jacaranda trees are in bloom, and well-dressed porteños (the nickname for residents of the city) pour out of new restaurants, where they can be seen smoking, drinking and laughing.

At some of the city's hottest restaurants, it is impossible to get a reservation, even a few days in advance, and in response to the influx of foreign visitors, new hotels are opening all over town.

While other parts of the world are becoming increasingly expensive, because of the fall of the dollar, Americans visiting Argentina can still capitalize on a very favorable 3-to-1 peso-dollar exchange rate, which Argentina's central bank seems to be committed to maintaining. Before the brutal currency devaluation in 2001, from which the country is still reeling, the Argentine peso was linked to the dollar at a one-to-one ratio.

pic The Recoleta neighborhood remains a popular destination for travelers because it is quiet, safe and central.

If nothing else, this is an Atkins-friendly country: per-capita beef consumption is the highest in the world. At a traditional parrilla (steak house), you can get a delicious cut of beef for about $3. Empanada shops abound, where little meat-filled snacks cost less than a dollar. Meanwhile, new fusion restaurants have been popping up in Palermo Viejo, featuring the work of adventurous chefs.

After you've checked out the Casa Rosada (the Argentine equivalent of the White House), in the center of town, you might feel a bit nostalgic for Argentina's Belle Époque. Go to Argentina's oldest bar, Café Tortoni and sit amid bronze busts of Jorge Luís Borges and paintings of Evita Perón. Grab a beer and a lomito (steak sandwich) for under $10.

picOne recent addition to the Palermo Viejo dining scene is Olsen where the executive chef, Germán Martitegui, creates his signature Scandinavian-Argentine fusion cuisine in a blond-wood palace of modern design. Start with a caviar appetizer paired with samplings of various vodkas and aquavits.

For dessert, try the molten chocolate cake filled with a hot dulce de leche core, and swimming in a white chocolate yogurt sauce.

What to Do During the Day *

pic When you arrive in Buenos Aires, the best way to dive headfirst into vacation bliss is to visit a day spa. At the Aqua Vita Medical Spa in Recoleta, you can get the Aqua Luna treatment, which includes an hour massage, followed by a body-exfoliation treatment for the equivalent of $60. Two and a half hours later, you'll walk out feeling like a piece of tenderized meat.

pic The newest museum in town is Malba, short for Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires. Opened in 2001, the museum's permanent collection features 20th-century works from 78 Latin American artists, among them the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and the Chilean surrealist Roberto Matta.

What to Do at Night *

picFor a big, festive night of tango, try El Querandí in San Telmo. The elaborate nightly show, featuring dramatic dancing and some of the best Argentine crooners you'll ever hear, includes a traditional three-course dinner.

pic As for clubbing, Opera Bay is the place to sweat Saturday nights away. The huge Puerto Madero dance hall is built to resemble the Sydney Opera House

If you find yourself wandering the streets of Palermo Viejo at night, try an inventive cocktail or two at the low-key watering hole Mundo Bizarro, a place to find out about the biggest parties is, a site started by an American expatriate banker turned-D.J.

Where to Shop *

picEvery weekend there's a colorful hippie-ish crafts fair at Feria de Arte, in Palermo Viejo's Plaza Julio Cortázar where more than 40 vendors will sell paintings, clothing, handmade jewelry and home furnishings.

The whole neighborhood is peppered with little boutiques selling the wares of new Argentine designers, where tourists can get fashionable clothing at reasonable prices any day of the week. Mercer sells trendy casual clothing for men; try on the jeans. Across the street, there's Fortunata Alegría where you can find delicate women's dresses and cute tops.

On Your first Visit -- or Your 10th *

pic Take an evening walk along the water in Puerto Madero. The city began a revitalization campaign for the old port in 1989, and today just about everything along the waterfront is new.

Head over to the promenade along the waterfront. The historic brick buildings that line the canal now house some of the finest restaurants in Buenos Aires, most of which have tables outside facing the canal, which gives a perfect opportunity to enjoy a crisp glass of Mendoza wine.

Cross the canal by the new modern footbridge - the Puente de la Mujer, or Bridge of the Woman - designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. (The asymmetric design was intended to evoke the image of a couple doing a tango.) On the other side, you can see the lights of the city sparkling in the distance.

And of course remember that many visitors take advantage of the fact that plastic surgery in Argentina is world renowned.

GoSculptura offers packages offering plastic surgery in Argentina competitively priced with leading board certified plastic surgeons in leading plastic surgery clinics in Argentina.

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