They say to truly understand Argentina you must know its capital, Buenos Aires. I arrived yesterday and will be here for the month of May. I’m renting an apartment in the Recoleta barrio near transportation, restaurants, galleries, museums, and shops. The art nouveau building has a cage elevator and heavy skeleton keys – certainly can’t tuck them away!
My apartment is a block from Avenida Santa Fe, a main street in Buenos Aires. Interesting, diverse Recoleta is a big change from the wilderness and isolation I experienced in Patagonia.
What a treat to be in a city with so many wonderful cultural activities! The name Buenos Aires means “fair winds” in Spanish. The population is about three million, and the city is described as a “singular, open, and integrating destination that allows visitors to have an exceptional urban adventure” – fantastic!
Buenos Aires has forty-eight barrios (neighborhoods). Brief descriptions of some of the better known are listed below.
Microcenter – downtown central financial district and historical area with the presidential palace (known as Casa Rosado or pink house), Teatro Colón’s fantastic opera and symphony performances, famous political hub Plaza de Mayo, and Florida Street shopper’s paradise.
San Telmo – oldest barrio in Buenos Aires, bohemian atmosphere, narrow cobblestone lanes, colonial-style houses, wrought iron lanterns, tango parlors, antique shops, and a Sunday street fair and flea market with dancers
La Boca – rich history, arts and crafts, bright vibrant colors, La Bombonera soccer stadium, and popular tango houses
Palermo – hip residential neighborhood packed with restaurants, bars, boutiques, clubs, Japanese gardens, and a beautiful lakeside promenade
Recoleta – French style buildings, large green spaces, first class restaurants, and the Recoleta Cemetery with the tomb of Eva Perón
Belgrano – large peaceful residential barrio in northern Buenos Aires
Almagro – commercial center of town with greengrocers, parillas, high-rise apartments, and public Parque Centenario
Boedo – working class neighborhood named after Mariano Boedo, a leading figure in the Argentine independence movement, Tango festivals, cafés, cultural centers, theaters, pubs, street art, and restaurants
Congreso – dense downtown area, Theatro Liceol, Confiteria El Molino art nouveau café, Plaza de la Republica housing the legislative branch of government and the Obelisk, a historical monument and national icon.
Buenos Aires is described as a “singular, open, and integrating destination that allows visitors to have an exceptional urban adventure”.
I’ve learned many new things about Buenos Aires in just one day. As in Chile and Peru, locals speak rapidly and pronounce Spanish words differently from elsewhere in South America.
Porteño Spanish is the caste-sha-no (Castellano) dialect which includes colorful slang called Lunfardo. The difference in pronunciation supposedly reflects Italian influence and sounds like the Italian word for the same thing. This isn’t great for my sketchy Spanish, but it adds to the adventure!
Buenos Aires is known as Latin America’s most European city. The population includes descendants of Spanish and Italian immigrants, sometimes called Porteños. Porteños see themselves as distinctly different from other Argentinians and all Latin Americans in general. It’s a complicated subject. Not sure I understand it yet,but I’m trying.
Restaurants and Markets
Don’t even think about having dinner before 8 or 8:30 p.m. in Buenos Aires. Many restaurants won’t start setting up until after 7. The smaller markets actually put your purchases in bags. There are two different lines – one for groceries and another for fresh fruit and vegetables, where they weigh and price your food. Seems a slow way to do things, but I’ve learned as a traveler not to question local practices in a foreign country.
Many people associate the tango with Buenos Aires, and there will be opportunities to see tango, visit Milongas, and maybe take a tango lesson!? Lessons are given during the day and at night and many capable teachers are available. Tango houses usually don’t get started until after midnight and dancing continues until dawn. During this trip I’ve met people from all over the world who were traveling to Buenos Aires specifically for Tango dancing, a real passion in Buenos Aires.
The weather in Buenos Aires is pleasantly warm – 60s and 70s during the day and 40s to 50s at night. It rained earlier today, but the sun is shining now, and the forecast looks clear and sunny for the foreseeable future – time to explore!