After the better part of a month in Buenos Aires, I had mixed emotions about leaving. One the one hand, Mark and I had our entire trip ahead of us with so many experiences to look forward to. One the other, I had come to love so many things about the city. I couldn’t help but think that our other destinations might pale in comparison. That it might all be downhill from here.
But was it Buenos Aires that I came to love, or was it my new lifestyle?
I purposely allocated a large chunk of time to this first leg of our trip. I wanted to ease into life abroad; as Mark likes to say, our trip is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. So instead of hitting the ground running and seeing attraction after attraction, we did the opposite, we slept for three straight days. We needed that sleep. The month leading up to our departure was chaotic — I broke my arm and underwent surgery, we packed all of our belongings up and moved them to storage, we scrambled to find a renter for our apartment and we worked up until a few days before our departure. Any spare time we had was spent visiting friends and loved ones we’d miss during our time away.
When I awoke after that three day slumber I felt like a new person. It was a little scary not to have any obligations. At no point since I was 16 have I not had a job, a purpose, a schedule. Now, I rarely know what day of the week it is. Some days I wake up early, make a healthy breakfast and go out running, and others I wake up hungover, having spent the prior day on a mission to find Argentina’s best bottle of red.
Besides my new lifestyle, there was plenty to love about Buenos Aires. Tango, which I thought would be a touristy gimmick at best, was a true highlight. On Sunday’s, Mark and I would head to San Telmo’s Plaza Dorrego where we sipped wine and watched flashy couples strut their stuff for tips. As day turned to night, the square came alive with friends and neighbors who danced all evening long. On our last night we saw a phenomenal tango show. Again I assumed this would be a tourist trap, but locals, who were celebrating birthdays, attended the show. When the host belted out traditional folk songs everyone but us knew the words and sang along.
Of course the food was great. Everyone knows about Argentina’s famed beef but no one talks about how great the sausage, empanadas or even ice cream are. I couldn’t get enough café con leches made with steamed milk and Mark fell hard for the limonadas – homemade, slushy lemonades made with whole lemons, mint and ginger.
Then there’s the convenience. Buenos Aires is one hour ahead of New York (read: NO JET LAG and easy communication home). It’s also cheap — now more than ever with Argentina’s failed currency controls and the black market for US Dollars. Yes, we exchanged our dollars in this market at 12.5 pesos rather than the official bank rate of 8.8. The city’s infrastructure is great; the buses and metro run often and are easy to use. Finally, the WIFI is dependable and can be found at any café or restaurant. See why I didn’t want to leave?
I did have a few small pet peeves about this city. There was a whole lot of making out in public. Is a crowded, rush-hour subway car really the ideal place to suck face with your partner? Come on get a telo! (Telos, which are rooms you rent by the hour, are popular with both twenty-somethings still living with their parents and businessmen who frequent them at lunchtime.) Also, there’s dog shit everywhere because people hire dog walkers that walk a dozen dogs at once. I’m not kidding see my pictures below.
I knew that dinners would be on the late side. That wasn’t a shock to me as much as the realization that Mark and I are officially old. We were more likely to fall asleep without dinner than to make it to an 11pm reservation. Finally, I wish there were more public parks here. From what I could tell the city has one 1-mile loop for runners. It’s no Central Park.
In retrospect, writing this post weeks after my departure, I can happily say that our trip hasn’t gone downhill from Buenos Aires. My hesitations were about leaving the slow-paced, relaxing lifestyle I came to enjoy more than anything else. This city was, however, a fantastic introduction to our time abroad. Buenos Aires is well worth a visit — go for the tango, stay for the food & wine.