Friday, 14 June 2013

First day in Buenos Aires

I'm in Buenos Aires! I've been here for a day (and two nights) already and I'm thoroughly enjoying the city. Not that I'd want to stay here for an extended period - too busy and noisy for me.

When I arrived on Wednesday night I went for a walk-about. I'd been told by an Argentinian man (living in SA) at the airport before boarding that Buenos Aires was quite dangerous now - and very different from when I was last here 10 years ago. I sat next to a lovely young man from Uraguay on the plane and he too said that Buenos Aires was now dirty and dangerous. Driving in the shuttle to the hostel I kept my eyes open, checking out the place. I'm in a pretty good location - central city area not far from the obelisk, old Teatro Colon, the port...

The road that the hostel is on, Florida, is a busy walking road as is the big Avenue to the side. Loads of locals and tourists around. It's pretty stupid in any city to walk quiet roads on your own but I find it quite fine to keep to the busy roads. People out for dinner, having coffee, sight seeing, many theatres... Wonderful vibe and excellent walking. I got in a few kilometres and returned to the hostel.

Florida during the evening. It's a walking street (no cars).
Yesterday (Thursday) my first stop was the meeting point for the 11am Buenos Aires Free Tour - a walking tour. Really, really good! It took around 2.5hrs and our guide, Gaston, really gave us a lot of information about Buenos Aires' history and recent issues. Also a bit of local culture. Very informative and a nice group of people. Some of them were with me too on the 5pm walking tour, which started from a different location. Really superb and well worth doing if you're visiting the city.

After the morning tour I needed to get cash to get food. There are two economies running here. The man at the airport was going on about the exchange rate being 10 pesos to 1 US Dollar. I remember saying to him, "No, it is around 5". As it turns out, you get 5 from the bank by about 8 on the 'blue market'. I spoke to some girls in my dorm about this (they've been here for two weeks) and, like me, they don't trust the men calling "Cambiar" (to exhange) on the streets.

A dog walker. I haven't seen as many as previously but they're certainly around. I think it is crazy how there are so many dogs in this city when all the people live in apartments and open spaces are not abundant. I even saw a guy with a husky yesterday. My heart broke for this dog - I know how much Angel and Toscana just love running and being out. These two locked up in an apartment would go crazy!
Just before I left my mom started reading Tony Leon's book, "Accidental Ambassador" about his time in Argentina as an Ambassador for SA and he speaks about all the counterfeit money and this side trade. The problem is that the government has closed down on locals getting forex so there's a thriving trade on the streets. I'm really not into this - I went to the bank. Just too risky. At some places, like my Spanish .school, you get better rates if you pay in Dollars. I'll take advantage of this rather than trading with dodgey men on the streets.

Vegetables are not dime a dozen in this place. The girls from my dorm recommended an Asian supermarket nearby, which has apples and bananas and such. Later in the evening, walking to the evening tour, I found a fresh vegetable store and scored some baby spinach and broccoli. I've only been here a day and I'm already craving raw and crunchy. The streets are crawling with pizza joints and McDonalds and Burger King... Lots of bad food available in this place.

It has been very warm - mid-20s - and humid. Today is cooler, which is very pleasant for walking around.

I had a really good Spanish experience (two actually) yesterday. In the morning I completed the placement test for the Spanish school so that they know how much I know for the start of classes on Monday. I understood the questions and was able to answer then - in Spanish! This is the first time that I've tried to write in Spanish and I definitely find it easier than speaking - I can think slower and more carefully.

 Then, before going to the evening walking tour I walked down to the harbour area to check it out. A bridge was swinging over to let a sail boat through. I was leaning against a railing next to an old man. He didn't speak any English. So I got to work some of my Spanish on him. It was so much fun! I discovered that his daughter, who is thirty-two, lives in Sevilla (Spain) and that he has a two-year old grand daughter. He would like to learn English as everywhere he clicks on the internet it is just English, English, English. I told him that I was going to Bariloche to learn Spanish and that I only know a little Spanish now, but that when I return to Buenos Aires in four weeks I hope to be speaking much more. We spoke about a few other little things (plus some sign language) and I thanked from for our conversation.

This is so the way to go. In Bariloche I'm definitely going to sidle up to more older, non-English speaking, people to talk to them. Much more of a fun experience than trying to speak Spanish to locals who can speak English.

I'd forgotten about this - Dulce de Leche. It's a spread, used like a jam / honey. Tastes like that caramel topping for cakes. I brought a jar of peanut butter, which I'm eating on the rolls provided for breakfast. I like to eat the dulce de leche straight out the tub ;)
Today I'm heading off to see the Japanese Gardens and other sights in the area. The city blocks are around 100-metres long and the gardens are in a suburb about three-kilometres away. There are other things I want to see on the way so I'll meander down there. I also want to go to the Ecological Park, where I ran when I was here before. I remember it being a very peaceful spot with trees and grass and with Rio del la Plata on the far side.

1 comment:

Staci said...

The caramel looks delish'. Better stick to exchanging money at the banks, we don't want your next post from jail 😝