Precursory Note No 1: I thought I’d published this post two weeks ago, but it turns out that it was still a draft (I’m really untechy). Sorry it’s a bit outdated, but my thoughts are still the same to be honest. Also, get excited because another BA post is in the pipeline.
Precursory Note No 2: I was planning on writing a final Paris post to neatly conclude the first part of my Year Abroad. I wanted to upload some photos from my last weekend (Jeff Koons deserves a post tbh), and write a list of all my favourite places and best experiences, but Christmas came and before I knew it I was on my way to South America. So I arrived in Buenos Aires last Monday, after over 24 hours of travelling. Despite feeling pretty exhausted, I was so excited to finally be in Argentina, and desperate to get out and see the city (and get some sun!). Asha, my lovely friend from Oxford who has been here a few months already, has been the perfect tour guide, and after 8 days I am starting to feel completely at home in Buenos Aires.
We have an incredible apartment in the Palermo district. It is right next to the Botanical Gardens, and only a few minutes walk from Las Heras park, where we had a cute picnic one afternoon, and the Bosques de Palermo. This is kind of Buenos Aires’ Hyde Park equivalent, and has immediately become my favourite place to run. The park is divided into various different gardens; following in Asha’s footsteps, I have become obsessed with the Rose Gardens, but I also love walking around the big lake in the centre, and visiting the Japanese Gardens. Because it is the summer, there are quite a few municipally-organised events going on. On Saturday night we went to watch an Argentinian film at the big open-air cinema screen in the park, and we are also keen to try out the free Zumba classes that are put on every weekend. Like in Paris in August, everyone is on holiday and so the city is unusually quiet. I really like that though, because I can start learning my way around a bit, and there are still loads of things to do! br />
As well as being conveniently located for greenery, our apartment happens to be on a road with loads of great cafés. Perhaps the biggest difference between BA and Paris is the cost of living. Obviously the Argentinian economy is in real trouble at the moment, but it does mean that a little goes a long way – and a lot further than in Paris! On my first evening we went out for dinner at this cute little restaurant in Soho called La Hormiga. We shared an enormous chorizo starter, and both had really big main courses (the salmon serving was about the size of 3 M and S fillets, if you want a comparison!) and a coke…all for £5 each! In Paris, where you can sometimes be charged €9 for a coke in touristy parts of the city, dinner at a similarly trendy bistro would probably put you back £30. So, although my heart belongs to Paris, I am being won over by BA, where I can actually afford to eat out more than once a week. Fortunately, Asha didn’t work at all during my first week so she acted the perfect guide and gave me a pretty great tour of all the cafes in our area. We went for quite a few brunches, and I already have a pretty long list of ‘Restaurants visited’ in my little orange book. br />
I am currently sitting in on of my favourite cafés so far, Ninina, where we happily passed 4 hours last week, ‘working’, people watching, and chomping on veggie burgers. Another fave, Malvón, did a great Saturday brunch – for about £7, we got a fruit compote pot, breads (with absolutely insane dulce de leche spread and strawberry flavoured butter), a main course, a coffee and a scone. My salmon cooked in black butter was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, and I suspect we may go back again next weekend.
I confess that I haven’t had a proper Argentinian steak yet, but we are going to visit Don Julio this weekend, which is one of the most famous steak houses in BA. I’m sure I’ll probably write a post about it, so don’t worry! I can’t quite get over the excitement of being able to eat out more or less whenever I fancy it. Feeling lazy last night, we spontaneously went to this little Italian restaurant rather than cook dinner; that would never have happened in Paris, where I tried to properly budget my weeks and save up for a delicious weekend meal. I’ve only been here a week, but I sense that I’ll be able to fit in more wining and dining in 2 months in BA than in my 5 months in Paris. And that’s before factoring in the fact that I am going to be a kind of ‘Food Writer’ for The Bubble, the digital media company where I will be working for the next two months. I am sure I will write about more serious things as well, but they seemed quite pleased when I said I was a foodie, so I leaped at the opportunity to eat scones for ‘work’! So hopefully I’ll get to check out a few places for them too. I’m not sure if it’s really big news in England yet, but Argentina is going crazy after the death of Alberto Nisman on Sunday evening. Yesterday was my first day at work and, although they kept telling us that life is not normally like this, I get the impression that this is going to be a very exciting time to start working as a journalist. Obviously, Nisman’s death is completely terrible, but all the talk of conspiracy theories and intelligence services does make it feel quite James Bond-like. One girl at the office kept saying she felt like she was in a George Clooney movie! I am really looking forward to being part of the proper newsroom, and actually being able to write about whatever takes my fancy. I was particularly pleased to hear that they want our individual voice to come across when we write, and that we don’t have to be funny, just because it’s an informal website. As you all know, I’m not at all funny, so that was good to hear! Another big difference between BA and Paris/home is how laid-back everyone and everything is. On my first day at work, half the team turned up over 20 minutes late for our meeting, and one of my colleagues told me to not bother doing anything on rain days. (Side note: it rains a lot here. That is definitely my least favourite thing about BA because you literally cannot do anything when it rains. You just have to sit it out). I only work from 3 until 7, which gives me plenty of time to do work/a Spanish course/visit museums in the mornings. In reality, I will spend most of my time sleeping, eating or sunbathing, but it is still nice to have a bit of time off after such a busy few months in Paris. I am a big fan of a laid-back lifestyle, but I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to the late evenings here. Dinner can be any time between 9 and 11.30, and no one even thinks about going to a club before 2.30am. My free mornings mean that I can go out in the week if I want to, something which would be completely impossible if I had to be at work at 9am the following morning. br />
I had been warned that BA is a very European city, but it isn’t really comparable to anywhere I’ve been before. There is quite an American feel about a lot of places, like healthy juice bars, cute wifi coffee shops, and the countless Speakeasy-style bars that have popped up in the last few years. We went to La Floreria Atlantica last week, a supposed flower shop with an insanely cool cocktail bar and restaurant underneath. I am also desperate to try Franks and Victoria Brown, which apparently take the Speakeasy effect to the next level, with concealed entrances and passwords to get in.
The biggest difference between Buenos Aires and Paris, however, is my complete inability to communicate. I didn’t think my French had improved that much after 5 months, but I feel completely stupid and useless here. I know that the Porteño accent doesn’t help, but I am just not used to not being able to make myself understood properly. Hopefully this will improve, but I’m working in an English office, so am feeling slightly nervous. I’ll just have to find some Argentinian friends, then! I’ve met some lovely people out here so far, but almost exclusively English year abroad students (surprise surprise!). Anyway, I am completely obsessed with the city and am really looking forward to spending the next couple of months here. br />