My time in Chile is winding down, and I’ve been back a week from five unforgettable days in Buenos Aires–time to catch up! The impetus for my trip was to meet and work with Paula Carlino at the University of Buenos Aires’ Institute of Linguistics, to renew my tourist visa in Chile, and to check out what is supposed to be the most beautiful city in Latin America. Nothing disappointed—including Fulbright, whose travel allowance subsidized about half of my costs. Before going, my friend Kerrie Kephart had connected me with her close friends, sisters Graciela and Sylvia. I was looking for a place to stay—not on someone’s couch—so Sylvia offered to rent me her apartment, which enabled her to make a deposit on a smaller place she wanted to move to. Her apartment was in the Cañitas area to the north of Buenos Aires, a small, hip neighborhood with tons of cafes and restaurants and easy access to bus lines and the subway. Grace and Sylvi were my Argentine angels. Grace picked me up at the airport on Friday night and gave me a quick tour of the city, which was impressively illuminated, and green and moist from recent rain, a contrast to dry and dusty Santiago. Silvi met us after work in her lovely one-bedroom apartment, and we headed out in Grace’s car. I don’t know what neighborhood we were in, but Grace and I first tried an old-fashioned Italian place that was suffocatingly hot and humid for two women of a certain age. So we crossed the street to a great wine bar where Silvi was meeting four friends she’s known since high school. The owner showed all of us to a long wooden table—maybe an old grape press from a vineyard—where a lone guy was eating at the far end. Loïc turned out to be from Montreal and graciously accommodated himself to sitting with 7 women, even sharing his tortilla Espanola while we waited for our food. We had some great Malbec and good conversation with him in English and Spanish—which he had perfected living in Cuzco, Peru, for a couple of years working for Bechtel.
On Saturday I enjoyed great coffee and a media luna (croissant) at a café across the street, and walked around the beautiful neighborhood in sunshine. Grace took me to check out Silvi’s new apartment which she’d been furiously cleaning with their older brother and his grown daughter. We ate sandwiches and empanadas Grace had brought, sitting on the apartment’s balcony from which we could see sailboats on the large expanse of the River Plate—I mistook it for the ocean, it’s so wide. Then we piled into the car and they showed me around the city, to La Boca, the colorful part of Buenos Aires you always see in tourist pictures–like this one:
Then to Puerto Madero, a newly developed area of the harbor and the Usine del Arte, a converted electricity utility building in Italianate style which had this installation of optical illusion that was irresistible. This is me looking like i’m hanging off this building.
We walked along a canal to the Puente del Mujer, unmistakably Santiago Calatrava. By then it was cooling down in the late afternoon. After a few hours’ rest at ‘my’ apartment, Grace and Silvi picked me up again and we went to a local parilla, or grill house—the meat mania in Argentina is not exaggerated—where I had a lovely grilled trout—and we all had more good Malbec.
On Sunday, Grace discovered her doorman had tested out his new motorcycle in her building’s garage and crashed into her car, so she spent the day sorting that out while I took a bus down to San Telmo, a historic district that has a famous Sunday flea market. Musicians were playing along La Defensa, including the Jamaicaderos—I bought their 3 CDs in support of their fight for the right to play music on the street, currently under threat. They had an awesome reggae-funk beat!
Further along I came to the promised street tango dancers and bought some copper earrings that looked Mapuche in design. I found my way back to the bus and caught it to La Recoleta Cemetery, which I’ve already written about. From there I walked all the way back to Cañitas, about an hour, past beautiful Belle Epoque buildings lining El Libertador, one of the main drags. Just as I got home, Grace and Silvi showed up and we went for a delicious pizza at Romario, a few blocks away. The two warring football/soccer teams of Buenos Aires, River and La Boca had played that afternoon—with River winning—so the streets were filled with rabid fans waving flags and honking car horns. Next post: from tourist to working academic.