Back for More Buenos Aires
Aaaaah, it’s great to be back in the city…!
I’m in my apartment again and straight back into the swing of things here. I’m also taking another dose of Spanish classes (private this time), but damn if it didn’t get really bloody hard all of a sudden!!! Looks like I’ve moved past the easy peasy bits (although I’d swear the pronouns will be the death of me…) and I’m neck deep in the tricky stuff now. There are some things that really have me bamboozled, like the subjunctive form for example. It’s a throw-back to Spanish’s Latin roots, could easily be made redundant (many people don’t even use it), and it has the most illogical and unintuitive grammar you could ever imagine. I’m starting to doubt I’ll ever get my head around it – I’ve been at it for four solid days already now and I’m left with a cracking headache each time the class ends!
Of course I’ve been lapping up some more of this fantastic city as well. In an earlier post I had a few descriptions of some different areas of the city, so here are a few more:
San Telmo: One of my fave neighbourhoods nearby where I live with cobbled streets, some beautiful old buildings, antique and grunge clothing stores, a delightful old square surrounded by restaurants and bars, and loads of style and old-school class. On Sunday the streets fill with arty market stalls and buskers and it’s a great place to chill out and wander.
Congreso: The gritty part of the city where I live. Close to the language school and convenient to many parts of the city.
Recoleta: One of the classier residential neighbourhoods in the city with some pretty tree-lined streets. There are a few good museums there but the highlight is the somewhat quirky and very eerie Recoleta Cemetery, where Argentina’s “royalty” (i.e. the rich) are buried in chapel-sized mausoleums. Famous “residents” include Eva “Evita” Perón.
Plaza de Mayo: This square in the centre of the city is surrounded by a ring of stoic buildings, and at its eastern end is the pink-hued Presidential Palace, La Casa Rosada (which is currently shrouded in scaffolding). This palace is the location of Evita’s “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” balcony. Interestingly enough, people are quite divided about Evita’s legacy (conversely, Madonna playing Evita in the film is reviled by everyone!). While she was known for her social programs, at the end of the day she was still a part of her husband’s aggressive and quite brutal political regime.
El Retiro & Plaza San Martín: At the end of Calle Florida, up on the hill above Retiro train station, is one of my favourite parks in the city. It’s a great place to chill out and people-watch.
Palermo: Choc-full of great bars, restaurants and clubs (it’s usually where you end up at 2am in the morning), Palermo also has some lovely parks and open spaces. Some of its streets, with their cobbles and plane trees, really remind me of parts of Melbourne.
La Boca & Caminito: La Boca (The Mouth) is located down at the docks at the river entrance and is one of the poorer barrios in the city. It’s generally unsafe and not noteworthy, however there’s one cute little part down near the water called Caminito. In days gone by the dockworkers painted their corrugated iron shacks in all manner of bright colours. These days it’s been taken over by tourist shops, uber-cheesy restaurants and tango couples busking on the streets.
While I’m at it, here are a few great memories of life in the city (I’ll add to the list as I think of more):
- Empanadas! An Argentine classic and yummo.
- ESPN+, a sports channel that finally caters to the rugby connoisseur – you can’t even find that in the US! Or Europe. Even the local club games get coverage.
- Parrillas: cheap, good food and a cosy atmosphere on every street corner.
- Sharing a yerba maté (traditional Argentinian tea) with a couple of porteños.
- Tango classes! Another cheapie at just a couple of dollars for a two hour lesson, and heaps of fun! (I wish I’d taken dancing classes at school now…) And the tango milongas are a really fantastic local experience.
- Buenos Aires’s Italian heritage has left it with a great legacy of yummy pastries. One of my faves is a soft biscuit called an alfajor with a filling of dulce de leche, Argentina’s answer to caramel.
- I love the fact I can travel half way around the world and find a thriving rugby community here (FYI Argentina is ranked a very respectable #6 in the world right now).
- Some of the old Victorian (19th Century) architecture reminds me of Melbourne (especially with the plane trees), other parts of Paris.
- The taxis are super cheap here and readily abundant, and you use them to get all over the city. I’ve had some great chatty conversations with some of the old timers, including one that used to be the Aussie Ambassador’s driver (and was extemely proud of the fact, even down to the kangaroo pin he still wore), and it’s been a fab way to practice my Spanish!
- Seven peso ($2) cinemas – you gotta love it!
- This city is a night owl’s dream, going out to dinner around 11pm-midnight and off clubbing from 3am until the sun comes up.
- Choripan (fat, meaty sausages in rolls) lunches in the park with friends.
- Lots of protests and strikes. There’s something being protested every day on Avenida de Mayo, and gee those Subte workers are a sympathetic bunch…!