Monday, March 7, 2011

Buenos Aires Baby

Large tree-lined boulevards, buzzing street side cafes, endless shops, stunning architecture and plenty of greenery. Welcome to Buenos Aires, the Paris of South America! A stunning city made up of several district, each one different and enchanting in its own way.

My favourite is Palermo Viejo and that is where my story begins. A new and trendy part of the city. Similar in many ways to Soho in NYC, as it reflects youth, art and style; it reflects life and living. Unique and stylish cafes sprawl out onto the sidewalks and an endless amount of trendy boutiques are filled with beautiful people smiling and chatting away. As a visitor, this was a scene I desired to be part off but maybe one day I can find myself a cute little studio apartment here and too become a local at one of the corner cafes.

Oui Oui Cafe in Palermo Viejo
Famous Medialunas
A visitor I was and unfortunately only for one week. I can say without hesitation, however, that it took me only a few days to realise that I had fallen head over heels in love with this city. In fact, I probably already developed a deep sense of affection for this city before traveling there in the first place. Why? Because this is Buenos Aires Baby. Bs As Baby!

I spent hours, DAYS reading up about the best cafes, bookshops, restaurants, city walks, parks, hidden markets, you name it to create the perfect little itinerary that would allow me to fit the most things in, in the least amount of time. I was on a mission, a mission to meet Buenos Aires and all the beauties that come with it.

I loved every little bit of the trip. Exploring the neighborhoods, the evening dinners, speaking Spanish, morning runs in the city parks, the shopping, the eyes one gets from Argentinian men, tihi, the polo and football matches, the Gelato, the boutique hotels, the Malbec red wine…and when in Rome, we definitely adjusted to Argentinian-time. This means having a sweet breakfast, a large and proper lunch, late, afternoon tea with plenty of sweets at 5pm and a late dinner, no earlier than 10pm! For those who enjoy a good night out (pretty much 95% of the BA population), will have a nap after dinner to then head out at midnight for some pre-drinks and hit the nightclubs no earlier than 3am. The night then finished with some breakfast at one of the many, inviting cafes at 8 or 9 in the morning, and this every weekend, if not more! No doubt a fun-loving city!

San Thelmo
The week took us to all corners of the city - Recoleta, Palermo, Puerto Madero, San Thelmo, La Boca… Walking the streets of Recoleta makes you realise why Buenos Aires is referred to as the Paris of South America. Parks, cafes, majestic apartment buildings and stunning architecture. Trees-au-masse, impressive embassy buildings, high end shops and people with class and wealth going about their daily business. The neighbourhood of San Thelmo takes you back in time with its cobbled streets, handicraft markets and local, aged populations peaking out of their 1st story buildings. This is where you also find the biggest antique Sunday market I have certainly come across in my lifetime. It sprawls across a beautiful piazza and further down a narrow, long streets for at least two kilometers.  You will find anything from silverware to old telephones, stamp collections and crystal. Anything from old books and signs to antique cameras and cookie, tin jars. It is one of many must-see’s in the city and although you may read about it in every guidebook on BA, you still feel surrounded by locals who go to catch up with friends, buy their new favourite trinkets and take in the Sunday atmosphere out in town. This is one thing I loved about BA - never really did I feel or get treated like a tourist. BA locals have the right attitude, they go about their days and are happy to share them with you. They will speak Spanish to you and treat you like any other odd inhabitant of the city. Thank you Buenos Aires.

San Themo District
A short taxi ride north from there you find sophistication and business; you will find Puerto Madero. Fancy restaurants line the boardwalk of the canal, filled with people in their business attire. Enjoy a cocktail or dinner with a view of glistering lights over the water and big boats and yachts docked on the side of the canal. And afterwards, stroll down the boardwalk in the warm summer evening air with an ice cream in hand and you will ask for no better way to end the day and night. 

Puerto Madero by night
Being in Buenos Aires, the home to big names like Maradonna, Pele and Messi, it would be a crime not to get tickets to a local football match either at River-Plate of La Boca Stadium. The football fever in the city is unlike anything I had ever seen before. The whole stadium pumps like the pulse of a heartbeat. You feel the rhythm, get so excited and cannot help but jump, throw your arms in the air and chant away to popular songs with thousands of other fans doing the exact same thing.  A real experience indeed; something that cannot re replicated anywhere else – truly Argentina-style. I loved it.

In stark contrast, the Polo match in Palermo was slightly of a different nature. Collared shirts, white trousers, champagne bubbles flowing and trendy, lounge music playing in the background. This was our introduction to our first Polo match, a sport very impressive to watch. The horses are magical; so perfect, fit and elegant, I’ve never seen anything like it!

The trip didn’t only take up to all corners of the city and into the stadiums of the country’s two biggest national sports – the trip even took us further out of the city and into the ‘Pampa’, as the Argentenians call it. This is where you find large ranches with plenty of cattle, more horses and rustic ‘Asados’ – or braais and barbecues as the South Africans and Australians like to say (respectively). The older you get, the harder it is to have ‘firsts’ of something. Well, I can say that this was my first time I got to have a little baby calf lie on my lap. So docile and sweet, I would have happily taken the little thing home!

My little friend
Traditional, homemade Dulce de Leche
Speaking of home, by the end of the week, I wanted to call this city my home! I wanted to take it all home with me – the whole lot of the experiences and memories, all piled into that one week. Amazing. A wonderful week. I can only hold on to my pictures now and my memories but writing it out in this story-like manner makes it come back in yet another vivid form. Buenos Aires is a truly great city and no doubt I will return soon. It may never be as good or exciting as the first time but it will become stronger and powerful each time in different ways – the same as love.

 Hasta la proxima vez Buenos Aires, te amo 


Kristin said...

Ah, I was waiting for this post since you told me you wanted to write it!

It sounds like such a lovely place and seems to offer so much! I haven't thought about going to Argentina, but now I really have to think about it ;)

Thanks for charing your memories and experiences with us!

Carla said...

I feel really identified with what you are telling because I have been there. I loved The Bridge of Woman (or Puente de La Mujer) there, which is a white, sinewy structure resembling a plane taking flight, which was designed by Santiago Calatrava, the Spanish architect famed for his unusual approach to public architecture. It was opened in 2001 and crosses Dique 3, or Port Area 3. I decided to rent an apartment in buenos aires  while I was there, and the window of my flat shows the bridge in its perfect form. I used to look at it every morning before going to visit other attractions!

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