Sunday, April 8, 2012

buenos aires first impressions

the argentinian flag, buenos aires.
the jet-lag has started to lift. after a 28 hour travel time across 12 time zones from kuala lumpur, malaysia to buenos aires, argentina we were slammed. we're happy to report that we're now falling asleep and waking up at normal hours, like normal human beings.

it's autumn in south america but the sun is shining in buenos aires. yesterday it reached 80 degrees. that's some autumn.

first impressions: this city is HUGE! there's a ton of people, a lot of cars, a lot of meat, a whole lot of red wine, lots of statues, very long streets and the spanish spoken here is fast, quirky and almost italian sounding. we like a lot of those things.

luckily, we have an apartment ten floors above the traffic and the streets with big windows and lots of light.

recoleta cemetary, buenos aires.
our first morning, after arriving the night before at 11pm with no food in the house, we wandered the streets near our apartment in the lower palermo district in search of breakfast. a few cafes around the neighborhood seemed promising and every one of them offered "media lunas y cafe con leche." we're thinking "medium moons?" well yes, yes indeed. medium sized, moon-shaped croissants. AH! a light of understanding rises up as if we just solved the most difficult cultural riddle in nearly nine months of travel. we were really tired.

here's our biggest shock. buenos aires is EXPENSIVE for food. things like coffee, vegetables, drinks... stuff you need to survive, really, are twice what they would cost in the u.s. right now. don't even get me started on the beer situation, that's a whole other post!

back to breakfast... after stumbling through spanish with our waiter and actually receiving what we ordered, yogurt with fruit and cereal and that blessed cup of coffee, we tried to interpret the bill. holy freaking cow, it's $20!

can you tell we're in buenos aires? an academy? seriously?
we just arrived from southeast asia where, for the last 4.5 months, we were used to paying no more than $5 or $6 for any given meal. "what the hell is this?" we moved through the countries of southeast asia so lazily, not considering expenses to any great degree and, truth be told, that laziness carried over to our research regarding buenos aires. there, we said it, a traveler's confession.

perhaps arrogance said "come on, it's south america, how expensive could it be?" well, buenos aires is suffering from an inflation spike. a little research, now that our wallet actually has a say in the matter, shows that buenos aires has seen nearly a 30% rate of inflation over the last three years. however, the government's "official" number is 9% but no one's buying it. we found this little geeky gem of an article about it all.

we've only been in town for four days but we've seen how strangely these increases affect daily life. the most expensive stuff we pay for is food. you know, the stuff you need every day? yet government subsidized things such as transportation are ridiculously low. it cost us .50 to take the metro all the way across town where, when we got hungry, it cost us $15 to share a tarta (quiche) and a mixed salad.

we did, however, find some grilled sausage goodness called "choripan" at the market. here's a tour around the grill.

two constants of buenos aires, evita and
a bronze dude on a horse.
but enough about the money shock, let's face it, we're in buenos aires! we can't even tell you why buenos aires has been so high on our list for so long. it just sounded cool. and the stuff we'd heard about it like food, wine, music, art, culture and an opportunity to speak a language that we kinda-sorta know, really piqued our interest. also, we kept hearing people say things like "it feels like europe, but in south america." the contrast is intriguing, and they're right. it does! back to those statues everywhere. we keep coming across public spaces with some sort of bronze-cast guy on a horse, or some sort of fountain (with or without guy on a horse), or a parisian stretch of apartments... it takes a few seconds to keep reminding ourselves where we are.

we immediately took advantage of a free tour around town organized by "bafreetour" which gave us a two and a half hour insight in to the history and governmental workings of buenos aires. a highly recommended tour for anyone interested in coming here. we were joined by people from england, australia, the u.s., switzerland, south africa, brazil and uruguay. sure, the cultural and history information was fascinating but most useful was probably the moment the guide pointed across the busy boulevard and said "go there, el rey, for very good, and very cheap empenadas." having suffered from the breakfast cost we made a beeline.

bestest and cheapest meal yet. empanadas! buenos aires.
we were joined by the swiss couple who were also on the tour. we're used to being the most impressive in a group when we say "we've been traveling now for nearly nine months," and when we asked them how long they've been on the road they calmly said "well, it's been about three years." WOW! and they've been cycling across the world, mostly. they started in switzerland and "headed kind of south, southeast from there..." my mental map started gearing up and when i realized where that would take them i asked "what happened when you got to pakistan and that area?" to which they replied "we cycled through them," like that was the simplest question they've ever answered.

mothers of plaza de mayo, the protest group during the
military regime of the 70s and 80s fighting
for recognition of their "disappeared" sons.
now a powerful political group.

and that's travel, right there in a nutshell. you meet some amazing people who do amazing things who break down your notion of the world all while you're devouring cheap empanadas in a european-influenced city in the southern hemisphere.

we're still a little dizzy but we're gearing up for a day in the san telmo area of the city, home of one of the oldest public markets with food and dance and music. we'll report back.

line "a" of the buenos aires subway system. the first subway in the southern hemisphere with the original stations and cars. we didn't know it when we got on, either. we thought "did we just enter a time warp?"

1 comment:

  1. I was also amazed on how HUGE the city is! You have so many places to go and so many things to do!
    You were lucky to rent apartments in Buenos Aires with no traffic noise, but it's no so hard to find one anyways.
    "Empanadas" was one of my favorite kind of food there, but "asado" and "milanesas" win!