Me encanta Buenos Aires!

What can I say, I loooooooove this city!!!

I’ve been here for a few weeks now and am really getting into it.  I arrived after a hellishly long trip across the Pacific.  I first had an 18 hours stopover in Auckland overnight which sucked (ever wondered who “that guy” is sleeping on the lounge at the airport – that was me), although I did fill the time in by going into town to watch some international rugby on the teev at a bar along the waterfront.  A long-haul flight got me to Santiago, Chile, where I had yet another stopover.  The final flight from there to Buenos Aires was an experience as the plane had to ascend over the Andes, which rise straight up to the east of Santiago.  I had a great view of Aconcagua, the 7000m giant, out my window.

I’ve been taking a super-intensive Spanish language course the past few weeks at the Ibero Spanish School, which had been great but tiring.  After six hours of Spanish each day (four hours of small group with our fantastic teacher Julio plus two hours private lessons with the delighful Romina) I’m pretty shagged, and then have to crank out a few hours of homework once I get home in the evening.  But I’ve been amazed how much it’s possible to learn in such a short time.  I’ve completed Iberogroup_2both the beginner level courses and can now stitch together some fairly reasonable Spanish.  I’m pretty chuffed, and really fired up to learn more.  I’d like to get my Spanish to a true “conversational” level proficiency before I leave South America next year.

The “Principiante I” class (from L to R): Me, Petrus, Alex, Jake, Julio, Louise, Jessie, Will.

The school placed me in an apartment about 25 minutes walk from the school and it’s been really nice to unpack my bags and call a place “home”, even if just for a little while (Buenos Aires is going to be my “home base” for the next several months).  There are a couple of other students staying there, and the landlord Patricia has been great helping me get settled in.  I really enjoy the walk to school every morning, which takes me through a very typical part of residential inner-city Buenos Aires and gives me the chance to lap up the great atmosphere of the place.

I don’t know what it is about this city but it really has me hooked!  (If Bain had an office down here I’d be putting in my application for a transfer right now…  🙂  As it is I’m already thinking of ways I can get back to South America in the future!)  And that’s coming from me; I’m not generally a big city kinda guy!  It takes a lot for me to really love a city, and that’s even after I had my wallet pickpocketed on my first day on the crowded Subte (subway).

It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what it is, this place is just so, well, um… cool.  It has a really great vibe and is a LOT of fun.  I was told it’s the most “European” city in South America and while it does have a slightly European bent to it it’s most decidedly a Latin American city – together it’s a great mix!  One of those cities you really have to “experience” and not just see.  There’s always something going on at night or on weekends that just can’t be missed.  And when I say night I meant the whole night!  Porteños eat super late, sometimes at 10pm but more like midnight, and it’s only after about 1am or 2am that the clubs and bars really get going.  I’ve seen the sun rise far too many times in this city…

I’ve taken some tango (of course, this is the home of tango after all!) and salsa classes, and tried out my suave moves (ha ha) at a few of the clubs.  One great experience was a visit to a popular milonga, where all the locals go to dance tango.  It’s great to watch (and just a little daunting!) because most of them are outstanding dancers.  I didn’t think much of tango when I first saw it, it didn’t have the same high-energy sensuality of salsa, but after my first class I was hooked.  It’s so, so sexy…

I wouldn’t say Buenos Aires is the most attractive city I’ve ever seen, but it has its moments.  Recoleta is really pretty and its famous cemetery really interesting, La Boca’s Caminito is worth a visit, they have spruced up the old Puerto Madryn port area and it’s now a cool place to chill or eat a good meal, and strolling through San Telmo during the Sunday market was a great way to while away a few hours.  There are some grand old buildings and much of the architecture gives the streets a Parisian/European feel.  The trees lining the streets also add some much-needed green (the jacarandas were in flower when I first arrived with their purple bloom).

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My biggest gripe is that the city needs more parks.  Lots more.  A few other annoyances include the prolific dog shit, which is absolutely everywhere.  Yucko.  You really have to watch where you walk!  Then there’s the rubbish along the streets.  People put their bags out to be collected but they’re soon rummaged through by a collection of recyclers (looking for cardboard, bottle, cans etc.) and dogs.  The end result is a huge stinking pile of mess that ends up being blown up and down the street.  And finally there are the buses: old, crowded, confusing, polluting, noisy.  They run along every (and I’m not kidding) street so you can’t escape them, and it’s made worse by the wafer-thin pavements which mean you cop a big faceful of diesel fumes each time one goes by.

But, all that said, this city gets two very enthusiastic thumbs up from yours truly!!!

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With my private tutor Romina.                 The graduating “Principiante II” class.

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