I didn’t have too many things on the to see/do list besides from what others had recommended: Eat steak, drink wine, eat steak, drink wine and repeat. Despite being quite the lazy planner by now and not having an extensive list of things to, I was discovering on a daily basis new events and cool things to discover and explore each day. From the hole in the wall eateries where make daily visits, to a converted theatre that is now the grand El Ateneo bookstore. There’s so much to see and do here.
If you don’t want to do anything then there are plenty of cafes to observe the numerous beautiful men and women going about their daily business on by as well as enjoying the tango dancers that perform in restaurants for tips. After a couple of weeks of people watching in Argentina now, I’ve noticed that a lot of the men have longer hair and a permanent 5 o’clock shadow and the women have this sexy and confident attitude about them. Also after a couple of weeks here I’ve noticed that the Spanish language here is miles apart from the language that I learned from Guatemala and Colombia. It’s a lot quicker and abbreviated as well as differences in the pronunciation and not many make an effort to slow down. So coming here I feel like I’m back in kindergarten learning the ABC’s.
It’s not all rainbows, beautiful women and unicorns here though. I stayed in an area called San Telmo which had a great grungy feel to it during the day, however in the evenings there a certain eariness to it where you needed to be aware of your surroundings and possessions, especially when the locals do the same even in the daytime. I could have stayed somewhere nicer like Palermo or Recoleta but for some reason, I was content with walking around and avoiding the dog droppings on the foot path rather than the dog walkers employed by the locals in the fancier areas.
There’s also something endearing about a city that has up to ten protests a day. It’s the main why there’s a permanent barricade around the pink palace where the president resides. Whether change ever comes about from it? I’m not sure. It feels like everything moves at a snail’s pace and that there’s no sense of urgency or planning for the long-term future. With a pretty shady dictatorship past, the city has moved on and live with the fact that the country is continuously on the edge of an economic meltdown. However, what remains is an energy, attitude and a creative spirit that thrives well into the late hours of every evening.
Speaking of late nights, by now I’m getting used to the late night dining. Although it’s not quite a 10pm session, I’m not falling asleep by 11pm like I would at home. However, one thing that I haven’t become accustomed to is the Argentinian method of cooking steaks. Everybody has spoken about the melt in your mouth steaks but I’m yet to experience it. I’m aware that on the parrilla they will cook numerous cuts of meat, but for the tender cuts like sirloin or rib eye, they still over cook the crap out of it. If I ask for it rare then it still comes well done. The reality is that there’s probably about twenty orders of meat on the grill so the last thing the chef wants is to care whether or not one cut is medium and the other medium rare.
Wine is also cheaper than water here. Well not really but a drinkable bottle of Malbec costs about $2 (black market rate). Back home in Oz the equivalent sized bottle of Evian water would cost more. As a result, I pretty much drank a bottle every night. It’s like permission to do so because it would be a waste not to right?
You’ve probably noticed in my previous posts about quoting costs in “official rates”. Well the concept of shady practices probably isn’t new in Argentina, but the main reason is that there’s no faith left in the Argentinian currency and that US dollars are seen as a safer bet. So begins an insatiable appetite for the greenback and a huge market for the trading of Argentinian pesos for US Dollars from tourists. As a result, you can get up to 10 vs 5.6 peso to the dollar on the black market. However….this practice is deemed illegal and in no way do I condone this practice of walking down Florida St to see the men who yell out “cambio” to exchange money in this fashion…. …. …. ….
I originally planned nearly two weeks in Buenos Aires but I was pretty fired up for Patagonia so I ended up leaving after 7 days. I’ll definitely be back soon as there were more and more things that popped up that I simply didn’t have enough time for. By the end of the week it felt like a place that can only be appreciated more by spending a significant amount of time there and getting to know the locals better. The last point even more important than any other country in South America that I’ve experienced. Oh yeah… and I WILL make sure that my steak comes out juicy rare…oh yes.
Have you been to Buenos Aires? How did you find it?