After 38 hours of flight, a few hours of waiting and a couple of turbulence, I finally arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentinaaaaaaaaaaa!! And, my backpack had also arrived!! [sight of relief 😉 ]
Buenos Aires is the perfect city to visit by foot. I walked around San Telmo neighbourhood, where was located my hostel and a delicious empanaderia (Empanadas are tasty pastries, filled with seafood, meat, cheese or veggies). It also houses a famous antique and arts market with goods laid out for miles and miles! You can find everything here, from antique watches, to sheep wool scarfs, to handmade leather bags, to junk stuffs and nice (expensive) jewelry. It draws crowds (looking for the perfect item for their house), especially during the weekends.
The microcentro (downtown) was one of my favorite place in the city. I walked down the famous “Avenida de Mayo”, and was amazed by the activities going around the “Plaza de Mayo”. Every day there was a massive police presence to supervise events, gatherings and protests. It’s the place where business, cultural, artistic, official, and most popular events occur.
For instance, every Thursday afternoon, a group of mothers gather for a half hour walk around the plaza. Their children “disappeared” under the 1970s’ military dictatorship and these mothers and grandmothers are demanding answers from the government (i.e. where their missing children were).
…………But even without these emotional gatherings, the plaza in itself was breath-taking with the Casa Rosada and its famous balcony overlooking the square (where Evita used to address to her people), the Pyramid of May (symbol, built to commemorate the first independence year), the cathedral Metropolitana (where Argentina’s national hero, Jose de San Martis, lies in a mausoleum guarded by the Granaderos a Caballo), the impressive Banco de la Nacion Argentina (construction of the mid 1900’s), etc…
Nearby is the pedestrian street “Florida”, overcrowded from morning till night by tourists, all kinds of vendors, businessmen,… and where you can find the cheapest “helados” (ice cream!!) and sweet peanuts candy! The smell of the sugar melting is hard to resist… it’s so yummy! I loved observing the roofs, tops and original, colourful facades of this street that runs from the Plaza de Mayo to Plaza San Martin.
One day, I met up with friends of my parents, Maria and Willy, who I hadn’t seen in years! Last time, I was 12 years old and living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana!! We met up for lunch (my first home-made dish in the last 5 months! No need to say it was delicious!!), and spent a great afternoon catching up on what happened the last years! In the evening, we headed to the artsy and hip area known as Palermo where you can find the trendiest shops & nightlife (bars and restaurants).
Since my bag is pretty fulled at the moment and my motivation to carry any more weight is at level zero, I mainly did some good old-fashioned window shopping! Although I did receive a nice present from Maria and Willy, a new journal to write my thoughts about South America. It was the perfect present as my journals about Asia were completely filled up! Thank you again!!
As I was exploring Buenos Aires city, I quickly discovered that I needed to adapt to this new environment and thus, I had to learn the social customs as to not do a “faux pas”!
Firstly, I had some difficulties to understand Argentinian Spanish as it’s quite different from Castilian Spanish (from Spain): the “lle” are pronounced “che”. For example, la “llave” (the key in english) is pronounced la “chave”. So, during conversations with Argentinians, I got a lot of blank stares, confused look and raised eyebrows from them (especially at the beginning)! But lots of people from other Latin American countries have a difficult time understanding Argentinian Spanish!! So it wasn’t only ME!!!
Moreover, Argentinians had their own schedule (similar to the ones of southern European countries such as Italy & Spain, but different from the ones of the rest of the world!). Shops/businesses opened early, closed for a long break in the middle of the day, and then (hopefully) reopened for the evening (if they felt like it!). No one seemed to be stressed or in a hurry… In fact, Argentinians are usually not punctual, so I was told that it was OK to show up 30-45 minutes late (love it!).
When you order pasta in a restaurant, you better precise which sauce you want as it’s a separate side dish! Otherwise, you’ll end-up like me eating a bowl of bland spaghetti! Same goes for the “ensaladas”(salads). If you don’t tell them beforehand that you want actual lettuce in your salad, you’ll just get the veggies (tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots,…). No salad in the salad dish… strange!?! For me, it was very confusing at first!!
In Argentina, coffee is almost as sacred as in Italy! It made sense as the Argentinian people are primarily of European descent, mainly Spanish and Italian!! There are 5 different types of coffee: café con leche (only for the morning), café (espresso only), cortado (espresso with a bit of milk), jarrito (milk with a bit of espresso), submarino (hot milk with a piece of chocolate to drop in). And, as I am a true coffee addict, Argentina was heaven for me! I spent hours sitting at the terrace of a café, slowly sipping an amazing coffee and watching people pass by. Love it!
The love for coffee is not their only heritage of Italian culture. Argentinians love hitting on women (in bars, restaurants, streets,… well, basically everywhere!) as much as Italians!! And in my opinion, Argentinians have surpassed the masters of seduction, the Italians. There’s actually a Spanish word only used in Buenos Aires to describe how these men approach women –chamullo which basically means full of bullshit! 😉
Riding the subway was also quite an experience! I was told that it was risky (especially during rush hour) as I might “get pregnant through your eyes” with all the Argentinian men looking at me! Hahahaaaaaaa
But, I believe as much as Argentinians love women, they love even more their FUTBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLL! They get really passionate while watching their local teams play football (soccer in the United States). To them it’s not a simple game, it’s in their DNA, in their genes. You can’t find a single Argentinian who doesn’t football. It’s their identity.
Figuring out all the quirks and perks of Buenos Aires was fun! It’s always interesting to see how locals are living, what are their habits & social customs, what they are passionate about, … Eating meat, pasta, pizza, empanadas, tortillas, potatoes, … was even better! (I got really exited about the food… don’t judge before putting yourself in my shoes: months eating rice and noodles!). I had a great time in BA thanks to Oscar, Andrea, Jana, Paul, Anne, Ricardo and Bevan! But now, it was time to take a flight to see the world-wide famous Iguazu Falls!!