Life in Buenos Aires
As we had 7 weeks in Argentina after our cruise and before our flight back to New Zealand, we decided to spend the first 4 weeks having a home in Buenos Aires before living out of suitcases again.
Week 1: 23-29 January
Our first update is intended to provide an introduction to this vibrant city and some of its defining characteristics.
Settling into our home
We disembarked the ship soon after 9am so were at our apartment around 9:30am. Fortunately, Naty was already there, so she came down to collect us as soon as we buzzed. We were grateful for the lift to carry all our suitcases up to the 5th floor – although we did have to do it in two trips. Given Naty’s English was only marginally better than our Spanish, the briefing didn’t take long and soon we were left to our own devices to get settled.
In all honesty, there is not much that needs explanation when there is only one big room downstairs and a bedroom and bathroom on the mezzanine / loft. It’s really nice and open with big windows, letting in lots of light. Quite unusually for Buenos Aires, there are very few apartments close to ours, so there is quite a bit of privacy. This is going to change over the next few years as there is already a lot of development happening around us in this up and coming area. It is in a barrio (neighbourhood) called Palermo, more specifically Palermo Hollywood, with lots of trendy coffee shops, restaurants and nightclubs.
It’s a dog’s life
When we were staying in the Centro area – closer to the CBD – before we boarded the ship, we had noted that there didn’t appear to be the dogs in the streets – something that is increasingly prevalent in countries like Australia, Canada, Italy and France. But when we’d taken a stroll to explore where we wanted to stay, as we ventured into the more residential neighbourhoods, the dogs started appearing (together with piles of dog poo!).
Along with the dogs themselves, came the dog parlours, dog outfitters and dog walkers. The latter have been the most amazing element. Each walker has multiple dogs of varying shapes and sizes. It’s nothing to see 8-10 dogs attached to the leads held by one person. Once we even saw someone on a bicycle pulling the dogs along. Another time we spotted a collection of shackles into the wall to enable people to tether the dogs.
Life on the streets…
If we had as much traffic in Sydney or Brisbane as they have here, there’d be permanent gridlock. The saving grace is that the main streets are incredibly wide. Extremely so! It’s nothing to have 5 or 6 lanes going in one direction and the same the other way. With the other streets, they’re largely designed in a grid like true Spanish-style layout. And they’re all one way. This makes it a lot easier as a pedestrian as we only have to look in one direction when crossing. This is particularly useful as pedestrian crossings are just as valuable as they are in Italy or Kathmandu. We read somewhere that the one that had right of way is the one with momentum.
The existing infrastructure has received little maintenance over the 11 years since last we were in Buenos Aires. The pavements are atrocious – it’s impossible to convey how bad they are with all the holes and loose paving. Avoiding standing in a hole, a puddle of water or dog poo is a constant challenge. There is quite a lot of new building going on, with the area we’re living in seeming to be undergoing a “gentrification” and growth spurt. It’s a little like Newtown in Sydney would have been. This does mean a little bit of construction noise around, although it hasn’t impacted us much. It’s been interesting watching them work on a building across from our balcony – not too sure about the building codes when a tall block appears to only have a single brick exterior wall. Hopefully ours is kept up by the blocks on each side of us.
With the turbulent and political history in Argentina, it’s not surprising that graffiti has been used for people to express themselves. In many instances, it has been harnessed and there is a lot of street art around some areas.
Monuments & statues…
All the monuments and statues around town are HUGE, a large number remaining from the Spanish era. It’s interesting that they’ve kept them through history rather than feeling the need to pull things down as situations change.
There are a lot of very large parks and general green space around. This is especially useful at the moment given the heat as the streets are tree-lined too. Our first day, we took a wander down to the Rosedal de Palermo, a scenic park with sprawling rose gardens, plus statues of famous poets & a lake with a quaint bridge. As it is less than 2km away and has a running & cycling circuit, we have been running there a few times since.
Having seen reference to a zoo but no sign of it, we set out to solve the mystery. We found out that the 45-acre zoo in the Palermo area (near the Rosedal) had contained mammals, reptiles and birds, with a total of over 2,500 animals. In June 2016 there were concerns about the zoo’s cruelty and they had to close the 140-year-old institution and relocate most of the animals to nature reserves. It is supposed to have been converted into an Ecopark but that seems to be shrouded in controversy too. Gotta love Argentina!
Eating & shopping….
The good things about living in Palermo is that there is no shortage of restaurants and bars. We are also fortunate that there are a few really nice coffee shops a few minutes walk away. The old café con leche (coffee with milk) is being replaced by espressos and flat whites, so the speciality shops and roaster are popping up.
As the yogurts and cereals that would typically be our breakfast staple are less than attractive, we tend to have something to eat with our coffee.
There are lots of supermarkets around, ranging from little holes in the wall, to 7 eleven type stores to big hypermarkets that also stock white goods and kitchenware.
We have settled on one of the brands called Jumbo – a smaller one close to us for everyday or a large one about 1.5km away when we need a greater choice.
The big one is also attached to a large Bunnings-like hardware store called Easy – nice for a wander around if for not other reason than to enjoy the air-conditioning.
As is to be expected, there is plenty of meat! For sale in the supermarkets and to eat at the numerous Parrilla around town – restaurants where the huge, tender steaks are chargrilled. It’s cheap and plentiful. We will be living on red meat for a while!
Saddleback, the church started by Rick Warren, has a campus in Buenos Aires – and it just happens to be within walking distance from our apartment. They have 4 services on a Sunday, most in Spanish, but the first one at 10am is bilingual. The 3km walk to get there was pretty warm, so we were glad for the air-conditioning. They did a great job of translating all the songs and sharing – we look forward to our return next week.