Saturday, October 30, 2010

Watch where you step...

We met a French-Canadian couple in Mendoza that swore that Buenos Aires was just like Paris.  Other people have simply called it “European” (which I guess just means generically old, but classy?) but it’s clear that everyone who has visited it has loved it.  Naturally, we arrived enthusiastic, despite having to spend the first day searching for US$300 to use as our apartment deposit (nobody, even Amex, would give us dollars).  Our first forays into our barrio, San Telmo, were somewhat underwhelming.  Streets were plain, buildings were unremarkably modern: it felt like we were lost in a half-size version of NY, somewhere in Midtown.

Eventually stumbling across the much-lauded cobblestone roads, we spent more time with our eyes peeled to the ground to avoid the copious amount of dog poop everywhere (Tia has a bad history with this) than taking in the art deco facades and wrought-iron terraces.  People would trot by with their dogs, do their business, and the most conscientious of them picked up the remains with a paper towel and tossed both into the street.  Not to mention there was a garbage strike going on so sometimes rounding a corner we’d find a rancid-smelling pile of plastic bags that local storeowners continued to add to, unperturbed.  Yep, Paris has got nothing on this city.

Still, much like NY, it takes some time to find your rhythm in BA.  Local stores that made fresh Italian pasta daily became a quick favorite.  The wine was fantastic and we had a bottle nearly every night (as if that were an unusual circumstance).  We shopped for cheap, hipster clothes in Palermo and spent hours wandering the Sunday antique markets in San Telmo, looking yearningly at the old watches, jewelry, maps, phonographs, and other amazing junk that we could no longer afford, much less fit into our backpacks.  Cafes and stores usually left their doors locked and required shoppers to ring the bell to enter, which, once you get over the resentment of being locked out, is kind of funny—like you’re always coming over to someone’s house.  I even stopped watching men sideways whenever they leaned forward to kiss me hello (Tia’s hairstylist got a good, confident man kiss from me).  By the time I figured out how to order a decent espresso (ristretto) we were starting to feel like locals.

It may have helped that it was our first solid 10 days without hopping on a bus or plane, but we ended up, like all the other drones, loving the city, dog poop and all.

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