Buenos Aires Calling

Saturday, May 23, 2009

With my graduation nearing, my mother decided to honor the occasion firming up and purchasing tickets for a 2-week stay in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires. Yeah, lucky me. With its vibrant energy, sexy culture, timeless beauty, classical architecture and glorious past, Buenos Aires, the so-called “Paris of South America” had been hovering around the top of my travel list for some time now; but only now I am actually going.

Since finding out about the place sometime early last fall, I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Upon hearing about how great and alive the culture is, and at the absurdly low price it can be experienced for, I was absolutely shocked and smitten. To no surprise, it was only a matter of time before it became a “must-visit” place. While it’s rich, distinct culture, vibe and ambiance were what took the cake, sealing the deal - its architecture, history and distinct culture solidified the deal.

With its stellar urban setting and form, there is no doubt that I’ll have a photography field day. Simply put, the architecture is strikingly wicked; out of this world. Block upon block of Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Baroque, French, Italianate & Neo-Classical masterpieces dot the cityscape. Without doubt, these are definitely relics of its stained, once-glorious past. It isn’t uncommon to find these buildings staggered and juxtaposed beside the current en-vogue architecture; soaring towers comprised of steel, metal and glass.

Did I mention the neighborhoods? One word: crazy. The sheer variety; almost an urban tapestry of sorts, if you will, is dizzying - something exciting for an urban enthusiast such as me. From the decadent barrio of San Telmo, basking in its honest colonial glory and elegance, with a rich tango culture and antique shops; to the barrio of Palermo, home to swanky high-rises and an endless supply of cutting edge, trendy boutiques, replete with the fashionistas you’d expect to accompany such. Or the ritzy barrios of Belgrano and Recoleta; leafy places where the old-time shot callers and power-brokers of Buenos Aires’ artistic, corporate and political élite call home. What about Puerto Madero? The formerly neglected port, where rotting factories, grain silos, mills were duped and converted into glimmering skyscrapers, upscale restaurants and residences for the élite.

In addition to all of the aforementioned, perhaps is the one I’m looking forward to the most – the food! Buenos Aires and Argentina in general, is a meat-lover’s paradises, with porteños, as the attractive locals there are called, consuming more meat than any other country (on a per-capita basis). The River Plate region has to be the beef capital of the world, and rightfully so, Lonely Planet dubbed it a “blissful paradise” for beef lovers. To my knowledge, no other place has a near-religious following to the consumption of beef – it’s kind of hard not to when you have the best steaks in the world. If the ubiquitous parillas (steakhouses) weren’t enough, then the myriad of Italian restaurants doling out pizza, pasta, lasagna and other old-world, Italian specialties, will definitely satiate one’s tastes. And of course, for more contemporary tastes, try one of the many exotic restaurants in Buenos Aires’ food mecca, Palermo Viejo. With restaurants and cafés catering to every palate out there, Palermo has emerged as the sort of ground-zero for Argentine culinary innovation; with hardly a shortage of Armenian, American, Brazilian, French, Indian, and Japanese, SE Asian or Middle Eastern cuisines – heck, there’s even fusions of these. Based on my interactions with porteños, I think it’s safe to say that these people are, bar none, one of the most proud, vibrant, welcoming, and hospitable people around – all while living in one of the most food crazy destinations.

The only thing I’m not looking forward to is the supposed blunt, vain, conceited attitude of porteños. Also purported to be xenophobic, this definitely remains to be seen. I guess such attitudes are relics of living in a homogeneous city, being brainwashed and spoon-fed the obligatory euro-centric ideal and agendas? For decades, Argentines made their pride and love for the home team painfully obvious; often through an arrogant, euro-centric attitude that lambasted and looked down upon Hispanics from neighboring countries, as they were seen as inferior and “missing out” on the wonders of being European-descended. Thankfully, on the heels of its recent (well, early 2000’s) financial crisis, porteños and Argentina as a whole, is beginning to realize Europe isn’t the land of milk and honey it’s made out to be, and have begun to broaden their horizons. Though, if I were to speak on porteños as a whole, based on my extensive interactions with them, I can safely vouch that these accusations seem a bit far fetched – definitely not something that comes to mind when I think of them. Now that I think about it, maybe I've been so warmly received because I'm seen as a wonder or animal or something? Haha, no..I kid, I kid.

Also, I wouldn’t mind visiting Montevideo, Uruguay, a hop and a skip across the 100-mile wide River Plate. A cultural happening spot, Montevideo is the vibrant, eclectic and historically-rich capital of neighboring Uruguay. Dare I say that Montevideo is more human-scaled, humbled-down and down to earth version of the bustling metropolis across the river? Anthony Bourdain said “Uruguay makes Argentina look like a vegan suburb of Berkeley”. If that doesn’t speak volumes about the hardcore meat-eating culture there; one that puts even Argentina to shame – then I don’t know what will. Again, much like its big sister, and true to their shared porteño nature & heritage, Montevideo shares a people of predominately Italian/Spanish extraction, ridiculously attractive buildings, a common love for the imperdible mate, football & rigid diets defined by copious amounts of beef.

Man. I still can’t believe how affordable the place is. $4.00 for a generous steak dinner at one of the city’s finer restaurant – the same price as a taxi cab ride; trendy, innovative, fashionable clothes (BA’s fashion scene is ridiculous – look up Palermo SoHo/Viejo) that go for ½ of what they command stateside; $10.00/night for a room at a hostel, I mean it’s so cheap, feel it is probably akin to spending greenbacks in 1960’s Europe. I still can’t believe a city this nice is so cheap. No doubt, Buenos Aires, with its affordability, fusion of authentic, elegant European splendor and charm with contemporary sleekness, will be a future hub for me.

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4 comments: to “ Buenos Aires Calling so far...

  •  

    Podés escribir en castellano, y de paso practicás ;)
    Sé que este espacio se va a llenar de fotos y las espero ansiosa... va a resultar interesantísimo mirar através de tus ojos la hermosa Buenos Aires.

    Clau Gibson

  •  

    Devan!!! It was a beautiful description from ourselves and our city!!! I hope you enjoy your stay here in BA and have a great time. I hope to see ya soon!

    CHAU!!! NOS VEMOS!

    Cecilia

  •  

    Y como me dejaste escribir en castellano...: GRACIAS! Espero que la pases genial!!! Ojala te diviertas mucho y que te lleves una linda impresión, mas ninguna decepción! :P
    Besos!

    Esperando tu llegada...

    Cecilia

  •  

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