Saturday, August 22, 2009
first, let this play.
So, as some of you may know, I’ve been in Buenos Aires, Argentina for a few days now. Now that I’ve been here for some time, I certainly feel validated to articulate my initial impressions on this lovely little town. Firstly, what a fabulous city! It’s impossible not to fall in love with it! As a city, Bs As excels pretty much all across the board; hitting on every cylinder that a self-proclaimed foodie, urbanite and architecture/city aficionado and lover could imagine. And that’s not even mentioning the almost brutal affordability the city offers. At a glance, and from a distance, the city seems as if it is almost tailor-made to fit and suite my needs!
For starters, imagine a city similar to New York in size and scale, but with a European-style build form and aesthetic, accentuated with a vibe and atmosphere that’s distinctly and unmistakably Latin. The ensuing result is one that is decidedly steamy, sultry, and sexy, despite being down at the heels. As one who adores urban build forms, mass transit and street life, I can’t help but sing praise for this city! It just works! Its vibrancy is incredible, and makes its presence felt in every dimension of life and corner of town. It’s almost overwhelming; non-stop, 100% city – especially since it doesn’t seem to end, instead appearing to go on forever. In light of this, its urban core, while sprawling, feels contained and is relatively easy to manage.
Best of all, no neighborhood is to be overlooked when it comes to stunning architecture, though to be honest, the cream will always rise to the top. Unfortunately, while no neighborhoods are devoid of architectural integrity and a rich history, none are spared from the massive amounts of demolitions and building tear-downs taking place at a neck breaking pace; such sites litter the city. It is practically impossible to walk more than a few blocks without hearing or seeing a demolition in progress; the ubiquitous black tarp covering a building (to protect any “debris” that my blow off and injure passing pedestrians); see-through trash bags filled with architectural ornaments, or of course the obvious, seeing a crew jack hammering away on a structure. Fortunately, the city has such an extensive stock of housing, that the number of tear downs absolutely pales in comparison to what is still intact.
That said, I especially love the convenience and how everything (literally) is no more than within a few blocks walking distance, or a short ride on the subway, locally known as the subte. In fact, in my opinion, the subway’s wild popularity is own worst enemy, it being jam-packed at all hours of the day and night. What other places have rush hour at 2:30 in the afternoon? No single place is within a cell phone’s throw away…well, I’ll take that back – no single place, with the exception of maybe Belgrano. Speaking of porteño neighborhoods…I love ‘em! So, so many are laden with charm, character and personality. Though, if I were asked to pick a favorite, I’d have to go with my current place of residence: San Telmo, with Palermo Soho faring in second.
Firstly, as one friend put it, San Telmo is an inspiration. Well, he definitely wasn’t lying. With its intimate, charming European-style blocks, faded glory and elegance, it’s kind of hard not to be such. Shortly put, this is almost no different from the old world. It joins an almost-exclusive league alongside Havana, or Alexandria; cities, that type feel, in the sense that it is, much like those places, a little slice of Europe in an all together different continent. Palermo Soho, too, is splendid..almost like a giant, neighborhood-sized and scaled Argentine version of Melrose, complete with silly thrift shops and boutiques offering the latest in cliché retro goods.
The people inhabiting these neighborhoods and city as a whole, based on my experiences anyways, are confident, sophisticated and approachable, not snobby, aloof and arrogant as they are sometimes made out to be. In addition, the people come off as quite fashionable - perhaps the of a tremendous lust for la moda, and of course the result of spending hours piling into gyms, and in some cases, going under the knife. Additionally, I have received nothing but love from them, enough for me to designate them as a kind group of people. Everyone I’ve met has went out of their way to please me; showing me around, taking me to various cafes or restaurants, or just being very friendly in general conversation.
Speaking of food, in the land of steak and empanadas, quality food is in abundance and is extremely cheap to come by. The best part, however, is that it is available at all hours of the night; there is nothing like leaving out on a whim at some odd hour of the night, to be greeted by busy restaurants with restaurants filled to the brim with hungry porteño. My main reasons though, for the raving of food here are the insane prices! A wonderful steak dinner, with bife de chorizo (sirloin cut) is $14, a small, gourmet pizza is $5 and desserts/postres, rarely fetch more than a couple of dollars. Breakfast here is short but sweet, unsurprising given dinner is usually eaten at anywhere from 9pm- ?? (seriously, lol). That said, breakfast might just be my favorite meal of the day here; the wealth of splendid breakfast pastries (facturas), no doubt having sealed that deal. A breakfast here is a simple as a medialuna (sugar-glazed, sweet baby croissant) or alfajore (general term for various cookie offerings) and a cup of café con leche (coffee with cream).
However, as with any else in life, not everything in Buenos Aires is like a café con leche; the good also comes with the bad. Luckily, in Buenos Aires’ case, the bads aren’t too visible or much of an issue and by far and large outweighs the cons. I do, however, bemoan over a few minor gripes: dog waste – it is never (!) cleaned up; cars run designated pedestrian crossing with absolutely no impunity; the sheer amount of waste and debris in the streets, even after trash pick-ups; wreckless bus drivers flying down 1-lane streets; the subte closing at 10:30pm in a city where nightlife doesn’t start until 3am. With that said, and on the record, I can finally vouch and attest that Buenos Aires is indeed a fine city – perhaps one that excels my initial expectations, and is a place I look forward to getting to know a little better in the near, not-so distant future.