Buenos Aires!

Trip Start Jun 09, 2010
Trip End Jun 10, 2011

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Flag of Argentina  , Capital Federal District,
Sunday, March 27, 2011

We are on our way out of BsAs tomorrow after nearly 3 weeks in this place.  In that time we have managed to eat and drink our way around town and even pick up a little Spanish (we even have diplomas to prove it).  
Buenos Aires is like a little Italian Paris.  Very European with lots of medialunas (croissants), coffee (most popular one here is called a Cortado and is the same as a real Italian macchiato as far as I can tell), and large wide boulevards with people everywhere.  The Portenos (there should be a squiggle on the n, and is what people from BA are called) are very European and are not similar to the people in Chile at all.  In fact they say "ciao" and "finito", many have very fair skin and US$300+ handbags.  We heard that nearly 10 million people are in BA depending on where you draw the city boundary, but if that is an exaggeration, we certainly don't think it is too far off

Rather than bore you with the details of 18 days or whatever, I'll recount a "typical day" and let that stand for our time here.

8:30 am - 1:30pm: Spanish School.  

  • This was a bit of a new thing for us.  Having to get up at some predetermined time everyday in order to meet some commitment.  It was like having a job again.  

  • We were in a very small class (4 people in week 1, just the two of us in week 2).

  • We had numerous different teachers, some of which subscribed to the "immersion school" of thought where they only speak Spanish. Try and learn Spanish when your teacher only speaks Spanish and all you can say is yes, no and beer.  

  • We learned a lot over the course of two weeks (and got our Level 1 diplomas I'll have you know).  If we could actually remember and put to use everything we learned we'd be completely functional travelers down here.  We certainly will not able to discuss major topics of the day or say anything in the past tense - but we should be able to answer just about any reasonable question we could be faced with in a travel situation.

  • We are also able to read pretty well. Understanding people on the street however is going to take a bunch more practice.  On average, we need people to repeat what themselves 4x and slow down to 30% of normal speed.  But usually they just give up and start speaking English.
 1:30 pm - 7:00pm: Pick a Neighborhood 

  • After school we would generally make our way either on foot or via the Subte to one of BsAs many distinct neighborhoods.  San Telmo, Palermo, La Boca, Recoleta amongst others. 

  • We'd generally find some restaurant and eat in silence trying to let our brains absorb the lessons of the day.  

  • The food down here is really quite good, and for the most part extremely affordable.

  • After lunch we'd generally explore the neighborhood on foot.  These places are all pretty cool in their own way.  Some are of the fancy Park Avenue, Four Seasons type complete with old mansions and women walking their prada wearing chihuahuas (but not picking up after them).  Others are really quite beat down, with garbage on the corners, homeless folks sleeping in the park and stray dogs everywhere (sadly there is no one to pick up after them either - and as such flip-flops are not a great footwear choice!).  
8:00pm or later: Dinner 

  • We had no problems walking into restaurants at 8 or 9pm and getting a table because Portenos don't eat until 10 at the earliest it seems.  As best we can tell they really like going to bed on a full stomach and the thought of not eating for ~3 hours before bed seems crazy to them.  It was a perfect co-existence for us - no need for reservations, and we could enjoy the lively atmosphere after we'd eaten.

  • There is no shortage of great eats down here.  They make as good a steak as anywhere and you can have Hy's quality food for C$15 - no joke. The nouveau cuisine could easily slot in to Yaletown or equivalent, but it costs just about as much as it would in Yaletown which is to say in relation to everything else in BA, it is muy, muy caro (very expensive).

  • Wine: pretty darn great if you like Malbec.  The fact that you can get a C$10 bottle of wine at a restaurant is great.  The fact that C$25 bottles are amazing is even better.  If you want world class, it is here, but again it'll cost you world class prices.  
We have seriously enjoyed our time here in the big smoke (the highlight may have been an open air - and free - Placido Domingo concert in front of the Obelisk the other night) but are looking forward to getting back out to the more rural parts of the country.  Next update soon...hopefully.    
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