Arrived on November 4 – it was an overnight flight from Africa, so we arrived in South America in the daylight hours. Our entire traveling group was in one apartment complex this month, in the Palermo neighborhood. It was exciting driving through this beautiful city in the bright, spring sunshine. The abundance of trees and greenery was an immediate contrast to Morocco.
We were here three years ago and loved it, so we had high expectations. We weren’t disappointed! It’s a fun, vibrant city with lots going on.
The native language is Spanish, but English is widely spoken. We only had to rely on our rudimentary Spanish a few times a day, usually with cab drivers or store clerks.
Buenos Aires is a very green city, with lots of parks and open spaces. Many of the street trees in our Palermo neighborhood were huge, dating back to a city beautification program over 100 years ago. The jacaranda trees were in bloom!
Dinner starts no earlier than 8 here for most, so it tends to be a late lifestyle. The night life is crazy. Barbara and I weren’t big participants, but nightclubs many times aren’t even open until midnight and the fashionable crowds don’t show up until at least 1:00 am. It isn’t unusual for people to be out until 5 or 6 in the morning – not sure when they sleep or work. One morning I went up to do some work poolside at our apartment complex at about 7:30 am and there was a guy sitting by the pool who’d just arrived home from a nightclub.
Grilled meat is the big thing here, and it is good. Beef is most common, but pork, chicken and various sausages are widely available, and all good! It’s similar to Texas – but the local barbeque is called asado and the grill a parrilla.
There’s also significant Italian influence in town and that cuisine is common. But with a city population of nearly 3 million and an overall MSA of over 14 million, just about any type of food can be found.
The Rio de la Plata
Buenos Aires is a port city. The Rio de la Plata is the primary waterway that separates Argentina from Uruguay. The Rio is very wide and carries heavy sediments, as well as pollutants, from upriver, so there are no real beaches near Buenos Aires. Even though it has vast waterfront, it has not been developed as a public amenity. In fact, the domestic airport is located right along the water. One of the largest delta systems in the world is located an hour or so upriver from the city.
Argentina has had a turbulent past since becoming independent from Spain in the early 1800s, and it is very evident, with statues, monuments and park dedications all around the city. The years between WW II and the most recent democratic elections in 1983 were particularly hard. Juan and Eva Peron are still remembered as an advocate of the working class. Eva Peron’s tomb in Recoleta Cemetery still attracts many visitors. The low point was a military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983, which implemented 8,500 confirmed “disappearances” to suppress communist sentiment. Some believe the true total to be 30,000.
There’s an interesting mix of architectural styles. We were told that around
the time of the Paris World’s Fair when the Eiffel Tower debuted, Buenos Aires became infatuated with all Paris, so many of the buildings built around that time have a French influence, as do the wrought iron entrances to the subway. However, the actual subway system follows the English model – we got confused a few times because the trains (but not cars!) run on the left instead of the right and we mistakenly waited on the wrong side. There’s also Italian architectural influence but, surprisingly, there didn’t seem to be much Spanish.
Buenos Aires is the capital city of Argentina, so is the seat of government with all of the associated buildings and other features.
Argentina has undergone several financial crises over the past 30 years. This has resulted in a variety of new taxes, especially on imported goods, that have taken a toll on the local population. Inflation has been in the range of 20% per year. Even measured against the US dollar, things are much more expensive than when we were here 3 years ago – a bottle of wine in a restaurant is double 3 years ago (in US dollars – more in pesos!). Although, based on the number of people eating and drinking out at night, everyone seems to have figured out a way to deal with it. And restaurant price for a bottle of good domestic Malbec is still a bargain at around $20 USD!
There is a good, affordable transit system, with both buses and several metro lines. Taxis are plentiful and affordable. Uber is not officially sanctioned, but does have a significant presence. We found that for short trips the taxis were less wait and not significantly more expensive. Uber did seem a cheaper option for longer trips.
November is spring in Buenos Aires. We had nearly perfect temperatures the whole month and only a few days of rain. Typically, highs ranged from the mid-70’s to mid-80’s and lows around 60. We often needed jackets at night and early mornings. We’re told summers are generally hot and humid, and winters have no snow or freezing temperatures, although can get damp and chilly.
Costs for food and beverages have gone up significantly since our last stay here 3 years ago, but are still affordable by Austin standards. A glass of wine usually ran $5-6 USD, and we could usually find a bottle of Malbec for around $20 USD in a restaurant. Our best dinner out, which included one huge steak, one huge pork chop, an appetizer, a bottle of wine and sparking water was about $70 USD with tip. Tipping was 10-12% for waiters, but cab drivers and others generally weren’t tipped. Anything imported, which generally includes electronic goods and clothing, is very expensive – probably double what we’d pay in Austin. We couldn’t get a handle on rents – they seem to vary widely based on location and terms.
Other Stuff We Did!
We took the opportunity to hop on a two-hour flight and visit Iguazu Falls, which is located at the junction of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. The falls and the associated park on the Argentina side are huge and amazing. We weren’t able to get to the Brazil side due to visa restrictions and costs.
We took a day trip to “The Delta” where we relaxed, kayaked and ate asado. We had a great day at a polo grounds a few hours outside of Buenos Aires, where we learned a little about polo, watched a match, tried our hand at playing and then went on a trail ride. We ate out more than our budget allowed and drank a lot of good Argentinian Malbec.
We also celebrated a fantastic Thanksgiving with our traveling family and some local guests, thanks to our Remote Year city lead, Santiago, who managed to find us an affordable place with an oven big enough for 2-25 pound turkeys and space for 50+people, and Barbara who led the kitchen crew.
Because of national financial issues, the amount of cash you can withdraw per day is limited. Consequently, people visit ATMs so often the machines tend to run out of cash. In addition, a lot of places don’t accept credit cards. We felt like we were continually in a cash crisis ourselves – one day I had to try seven ATMs to get the cash I needed. There are a lot of dogs in Buenos Aires, and a lot of irresponsible dog owners. We really had to watch where we stepped!