“Aaaah, BA… happy memories,” wrote a friend on Facebook.
“Aaagh, I love it. My home for four years,” wrote another friend on Facebook.
“Ahhh, Buenos Aires, love that city,” wrote Adam Seper of Bootsnall in an email.
There is something about this city. Its lovely Belle Epoque architecture, wide boulevards, quiet tree-lined streets, tango and music everywhere, colorful street art, and warm and open people draw you in and don’t want to let go. Or you don’t want them to. In either case, it was a tough place to leave.
Even though my family visited Buenos Aires for the month of June, the start of the antipodean winter, and I generally don’t enjoy being anywhere where sleeves are required, the city utterly charmed me. And it charmed my 13-year-old daughters, who both proclaim that it was their favorite stop of our round-the-world trip.
Buenos Aires hadn’t really been on my radar before this trip. I’d heard people talk about how “European” it was, and that seemed like a strange thing to say about a South American city. I mean, you’re going to South America. Don’t you want it to seem… South American? But I digress….
First, our neighborhood of Palermo Soho was really vibrant, with cobbled side streets lined with cafes and boutiques, most of which were far too expensive for us to shop in but showcased the city’s creative and fashionable streak.
But it also had fresh pasta shops that had been there for decades, small markets where we could buy vegetables for our young vegetarian – not so easy in a land of steak – and classic parillas so the rest of us could get our meat on.
Every day we went out to explore the city’s parks, museums, and customs, and every day we found something new to love.
Within a few blocks of our apartment we found a circus supply shop (think giant clown shoes, juggling pins, lots of sequins) and no fewer than three circus schools, where our young gymnast took an aerial silks class. She was nervous before the first class because her Spanish was a little rusty, and, duh, she was going to be flipping upside down on tiny little ropes. But after just a few minutes, she was laughing and stretching and, yes, flipping with her Argentinian peers.
On weekends, the nearby plaza was the site of a bustling clothing market that reached inside several bars and out into the streets. A short walk would bring us to one of the larger flea markets in the city.
You might be surprised to know that we spent a month in Buenos Aires and did not see a single tango show, only a casual outdoor milonga we happened upon one evening. But we did stand in line with a bunch of locals for free tickets to Fuerza Bruta, a spectacle of a sight and sound show that originated in BsAs and became a hit around the world.
We’re happy we chose to stay in Buenos Aires for a month, not because there’s so much to see (there is) but because it’s a very comfortable place to settle in for a while. Unlike many places we’ve been, where tourists are treated like a commodity to be consumed and forgotten, here people are genuinely friendly. In the building where we rented an apartment in the happening neighborhood of Palermo Soho, our neighbors never failed to greet us with “Hola! Qué tal?” And shopkeepers were happy to offer us local tips even when it was clear we wouldn’t be buying their $200 shoes.
We never quite got accustomed to the Spanish-style late nights, and we constantly found ourselves dining by ourselves at 8pm, finding most places really filling up closer to 10. My husband and I found a friendly neighborhood bar where we were greeted like old friends on our second visit. But it took us 3 or 4 visits to realize that what we thought was our own private beer tap at 9 or 10 pm became very crowded after midnight, and that our bartender and her guitarist would start their musical performance at 2 am. When she heard that we were too old and lame to stay up that late, she coaxed her partner to get out his guitar so they could play a few tunes before we left, like Cinderella, at midnight. And this girl could sing! We were happy to risk turning into pumpkins to linger a little longer and soak in the magic of the Buenos Aires night.
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