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balance (2): buenos aires

Thursday, November 29, 2007

buenos aires

i am sooo happy to be in buenos aires.

first impression of buenos aires

i couldn't take another night in la paz watching "girls of the playboy mansion" (did you know hugh hefner had 3 live-in girlfriends?), entertaining though it might be. after spending 4 hours online in a crappy internet cafe in bolivia tearing my hair out trying to convince my travel agent that yes taca airlines does too have a flight leaving nov 27th to BA, she finally admitted defeat and got me on it. i also finally managed to find a room last minute which was an amazing feat! apparently BA is completely packed and i had just resigned myself to sharing a room with 7 other people in a crappy hostel (can't move into the apartment i reserved til saturday) when someone forwarded me a link to bernarda guest house in trendy, tree-filled palermo. it is an amazing house, 3 stories with lots of nooks and crannies, exposed brick, paintings all over the place, and best of all, a lovely garden and pool. breakfasts there have been the highlight of my 2 days here so far.

basically BA is very like NY, except calmer and prettier, not as much action. NY will always be #1, but (especially since it is cheap!) this could easily be one of my top 5 world cities. impressions so far:

-there are so many dogs everywhere! and not sickly, starving dogs like in thailand, but big, macho dogs who drag their patient owners down the streets, and leave huge glops all over the sidewalks. i am ok with that. i like to see dogs being treated well.


-the taxi drivers are even worse than in bangkok. they drive like absolute maniacs! all of the drivers i have had so far ride peoples' backs at 150k/hr., running them nearly off the road, fail to stay in their lanes, and continuously watch me in the mirror while they talk to me and nearly slam into stationary vehicles. my cab from the airport was reading a map while he was driving 160k, i kid you not! i couldn't even breathe let alone ask him to slow down, and there were no seatbelts. i have learned i just can't look at what's going on. i have to just watch out the side windows, don't even glance to the front, because if i do i will have a panic attack.

- the boys in argentina are not that hot. they are "cute", rather. they dress very nicely. they have light hair and european profiles! very few look spanish. they are also extremely aggressive! they will stop and stare you down, yell, whistle, even follow you down the street to get attention. it is pretty offputting but kind of funny.

-i don't think they have siesta here, but it seems like every food place is closed from about 2pm to 8pm. i learned this when i walked all the way to the other side of palermo yesterday at 5 to get a good steak, only to find dinner wasn't until 9pm! yes, 9pm is the dinner hour, and bars/clubs get going at about 12. it is going to be hard to not make excuses and just go to bed!

the first day i got here i decided to walk to the parque 3 de febrero (which is named after my birthday). i found the street it was on but a security guard gave me totally wrong directions that threw me completely off track. so i gave up on walking through the japanese gardens and the zoo and got a cab to calle florida. it is a pedestrian street full of normal argentinians shopping. i could have found hundreds of similar places in the US, of course, but it was still nice to be in a modern place after the past month in peru and bolivia. there were lots of kitschy street performers, kiosks of newspapers and candy, and loads of sidewalk cafes (this city seems to be one big sidewalk cafe). later on i tried to stay up until 12 to go out, but gave up at about 10p and bought a bottle of norton champagne (wholeheartedly recommended by x who has become an alcoh-oops- a connoisseur of champagne). i passed out soon after in my nice bed.

calle florida

today i decided to forego the cabs and try the subway (easy peasy and 5 rides for a dollar!), and i headed to plaza de mayo (in the same area i was in yesterday). i had a delicious cappucino at cafe tortoni, which is famous in tango circles. the cafe was ok, covered in paintings of famous people i didn't know, with nice jacketed waiters, but i was more interested in my coffee, which came with little chocolate petit-fours to drop in. it was very yummy. then i did a quick run down calle florida again to pick up some havaianas (yes the shoes, only $10 here), and then hopped in a cab to la boca. my guidebook went on and on about how la boca was overrated and contrived for tourists and whatever, but i loved it! it used to be the main port in buenos aires (according to my very loquacious driver), until the italian immigrants moved in and took over. it has a notorious reputation for having been an area of mafia action and brothels for years. it is still rather dilapidated around the edges, but it's a very photogenic place full of brightly colored buildings with a particular style of signpainting unique to this area. there are loads of touristy shops of course, but there are also really nice cafes lining the streets. i sat in one for a couple of hours drinking wine, and was so smashed by about 2pm that i almost gave in to dance the tango with the guy working there. luckily i didn't though, as he was a professional, but i did get a big fat crush on him and his girlfriend when they danced. tango is quite possibly the sexiest thing on earth. the musicians backing them up were brilliant as well. afterwards i staggered towards the public bus to the subway, and back to my room.

la boca, corner of caminito

tango dancers


la boca sidestreet

tonight i plan to go find a steak for real this time! the steaks here are world famous and cheap too! after that, if i don't get too drunk again on the ubiquitous good wine, i will try and go and check out the excellent nightlife i keep hearing about.


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