In accordance with my plan for the year, I’ve parked myself in Buenos Aires for almost the next three months. Because traveling is tiring, and I’ve been at it for a while. The theory is, I’ll have a bit more consistency, can develop some decent habits, catch up on work, and be part of a community. My AirBnb is in San Telmo, which is probably the third most popular district for expats – more of an artsy area than the typical “gringo ghetto” that pops up in these major South American cities.
As far as the consistency, habits, and work catch-up go, I’ve been reasonably successful. But, not unlike my previous similar stints in Estonia, Medellin, Porto, and Seattle, I pretty much keep to myself and am ironically less social and engaged than when I tourist around. I’ve literally had one in-person conversation in the past six weeks, which mostly bothers me ideologically, not in actuality.
While I’ve mostly been working, I’ve done some exploring, mostly wandering my neighborhood, gradually making longer circles. I live right across the street from Parque Lezama, which is a nice little green escape whenever I need it. If you ever find yourself homeless in Buenos Aires, it’s a great place to meet like-minded fellows too.
Right on the park is a McDonald’s that I haven’t even been to yet (crazy, right?), and two old-timey cafes/pubs I like to go to, and another coffee shop. My daily ritual typically includes going to one of these cafes (or one of the other ones in San Telmo) and having a coffee con leche and 2-3 tiny sweet croissants (“medialunas” – typical fair here). Price range from $65-$105 pesos ($3.25-$5.25). But most of these places don’t care if I sit around and work for a couple hours, which I really like.
The picture below is of Bar Británico, which is great, but I prefer El Hipopotamo and Restaurante Lezama on either side of it. I mean, El Hipopotamo has a Hippo statue, so how can it not be great. But I’ve just had coffee or a beer at these places, so I can’t tell you if their food is any good.
On Sundays, tourists flock to San Telmo. On other days, not so much. There are tons of antique stores around here, but on Sundays everyone hauls their shit outside and puts it on the street, which increases the appeal because people like burning in the sun while they buy old junk.
In all seriousness, some of the stuff is pretty cool, and the actual antique shops are great. Lots of old furniture, watches, jewelry, random souvenirs, clothes, and whatever else you can imagine. Well, not anything you can imagine, but lots of things. After a couple weeks, I now actively try to avoid it for the most part. I didn’t really take very good pictures, but here they are anyways.
Speaking of Starbucks, the one up in Montserrat is beautiful.
Also, in San Telmo is the San Telmo Market. It’s cool to walk through, but it’s a little touristy, so the vegetables and things are more expensive than what you’d pay down the street. But, it has a couple good cafe/bakeries in it, so that’s always a plus. There are antique stalls in this one too, including a particularly creepy doll shop.
I’m also close to Puerto Madero, which is a newer area with tall, pretty buildings, government offices, and some nice restaurants. I prefer San Telmo, but I’ll occasionally wander in this direction. I mean, they have a Starbucks here too. Plus I like water, even though it isn’t very nice water. But if I run from my apartment all around this water it’s about 4.5 miles, which is a nice distance.
Instead of turning left to run along the water, I prefer to keep going and run towards the park. The downside is that it doesn’t open super early, so I can’t really run in the morning when I want to run. And it’s closed on Mondays. And in the evenings, it’s full of people who like to walk around parks. Yuck, people. Today, I ran past a bikini shoot of a trans woman, which is fine, nothing against that, but she could really work on her tucking.
Anyways, it’s a big park, Reserva Ecologica Costanera Sur, and it leads to the ocean, which things I like. Still, it’s surprising to me how this is a city on the ocean yet it’s so difficult to access. Why not build nice things on it?
And lots of parrots! Just sitting around, eating bread with pigeons. Very level bird class system, nice to see.
I do grow a bit tired of San Telmo, as it’s rather small and the same thing every day, I do take for granted that it has some good, cheap food, and Buenos Aires is surprisingly vegetarian-friendly. Empanadas are everywhere, and I’m constantly on a quest to find good empanadas. Plus there’s this urban food / buffet place that has veggie options for like $3.50 during workdays so you can’t go wrong there.
I like to grab a happy hour beer for $50 ($2.50) at Chin Chin and work for a bit in the evening once or twice a week. Cervelar also has nice veggie burgers and serves craft beer. El Banco Rojo is another nice place with veggie burgers and beer. They really like their burgers in Argentina. And beer.
Just South of me is a famous, colorful neighborhood where lots of people get robbed, so I took a bus the 10 minutes there instead of walking like I usually would. Also, the public transit is crazy cheap here – the bus or subway is like $0.40. So while I complain about the cost of a lot of things here (I’m looking at you, $3-4 for a basic coffee at Starbucks), that is one thing I won’t. Anyways, the neighborhood is called La Boca.
La Boca is a terrible place. Everything is painted bright colors, because apparently that’s a thing tourists see and like. But other than that, it’s a dumb string of stupid tourist shops. To its credit, there are a number of “free” tango shows all over the streets here (you can pay them for a picture, or you sit and eat/drink while watching), which is better than the expensive dinner shows that are scattered all around the city.
Buenos Aires really embraces tango dancing, which they are famous for. It’s another one of those things I wouldn’t mind knowing how to do, but I’m not willing to put any time or effort into learning it. Even less so than Spanish, apparently. You can’t really see the people dancing below, but you can see the people watching the people dancing at least.
Outside the museum here was a bicycle exhibit. It’s made of lots of bicycles. Art, ya know?
So that’s my neck of the woods here in Buenos Aires that I’ve explored thus far. The classier expat areas are more north in the city, Palermo and Recoleta. It’s not too much trouble to get up there, probably an hour between walking and taking the subway, which is just enough for me to not go very often (my apartment isn’t very strategically located).
But it’s the land of modern burger shops, coffee bars, pubs with big wooden tables and craft beers, streets lined with big trees, fancy clothing shops, and other things like that. Which of course are things a big part of me are quite fond of. Here’s a coffee shop I stopped by in Palermo.
My coverage of Palermo and Recoleta aren’t very good, so I’ll probably do more of that in the next month, including the parks and museums up there. But I did go to the Recoleta Cemetery, which is very clean and rich looking and big and unique. It was a good time as far as cemetery visits go, and it contains the grave of Eva Perón, some presidents, and other famous Argentinian people.
So that’s Buenos Aires so far. Now that I’m almost caught up on work , I’ll try to explore a little more over the next couple weeks. I’ll have to, I guess. Time goes fast, but I do still have a few weeks before I switch parts of the world.