We arrived in Buenos Aires late on Wednesday night and our first introduction to the city was through a taxi driver from the highly recommended Tienda Leon taxi company. We discovered that lane lines are just a suggestion. If there are only two lanes, why not make three? Turn signals are definitely only for turning – why waste a good signal on a lane change? Our taxi driver pulled out a magnifying glass to read the address of our apartment, and then definitely went through a red light before stopping at a handful more. There are some places where stopping at red lights is unsafe late at night, but this didn’t appear to be the explanation here. Apparently some red lights are optional.
Having been warned that Buenos Aires was very dangerous, we should not walk around at night, and we should do something to look less like Americans (we’re still unclear as to what exactly that would have been), Jess would have stayed in the apartment that night, eaten an apple and gone to bed. However, Sol was hungry (as was everyone else if they were being honest) and nothing gets between Sol and an empanada if she wants one. So here we were, the four of us, wandering around the block looking for something to eat at 1am. Pretty much everything was closed, but we did find a place that sold empanadas, and boy were they delicious!
Buenos Aires isn’t as scary as we were led to believe. It pays to be careful as you would in all cities, but we didn’t see anything to suggest this one was inherently more dangerous than New York City. The first few days we stayed in the Palermo neighborhood, which the coordinator of our Spanish school described as the “American section, where the Americans go to feel safe and speak English.” Our apartment was great and we quickly found a butcher and a green grocer we liked. We took the subway, which is easy, clean, and runs regularly, and walked a ton. On Sunday, after Sol and Travis left, we moved to the Retiro neighborhood which was much closer to the Spanish school and also nice, although it does have a totally different feel. Having lived in two apartments in Buenos Aires, it feels like we’ve been here much longer than ten days and we love it.
We have had some funny challenges in our Airbnb kitchen. Our second apartment is very small, and not as well laid out as the tiny apartment we were subletting in Boston in the fall. However, it mostly works for our purposes which are primarily sleeping, blogging, and trying to cook. The kitchen is decently outfitted with a mini-fridge, stove, hot water kettle, Nespresso machine and toaster; however, the only stirring utensil is a ladle and the only other spoons would best be considered teaspoons you might use to put sugar in your tea. We are getting very good at scrambling eggs with a ladle. There is no cutting board, so even though the knives appear to be decent now, we doubt they will be much longer. When we arrived there was no lighter or matches and the stove doesn’t have an automatic ignition, so we’re feeling a small bit of deja vu from our Quito apartment experience a few years ago. In Quito, we bought a bunch of vegetables and chicken and chopped them before discovering, at 8pm, there was no lighter or matches to light the stove. The difference here is we’ve already spent four days in Buenos Aires, so we’re not afraid to go out; and it’s not night time, so the grocery store is open. We have learned our lesson though and will now carry a lighter with us.
We are also proud to have finally mastered the Argentine stove. Somehow this wasn’t a problem in the first apartment, but this stove requires that you turn the knob to the red flame icon, light it with a lighter, and then hold the knob in for an undetermined number of seconds until it decides to stay lit. If you let go too soon, the flame goes out, and you have to repeat the process. Apparently it’s a safety feature, and we can see it would be very hard to accidentally light the stove, but it also seems to be a little bit of an anti-cooking device.
We don’t think we can blame it on the stove because we’ve actually done a lot of cooking, but half way through our Spanish lesson week, we realized we aren’t eating enough food. When we were with Sol and Travis, we had a few days where we walked more than 10 miles followed by a number of days where we walked 6 miles a day. We think all this walking is burning a lot more calories than we realized, so we’re making a concerted effort to eat more. We’re very excited for more steak in Uruguay!
Living in Retiro has meant we do even more walking where we might otherwise have taken the subway. There are some destinations that don’t have great subway connections or would require multiple line changes, so we’ve been walking there and back. On Wednesday evening, we went to DNI Tango for a free tango lesson and decided to try out the bus. Eric had read that the bus was tricky because you had to wave it down to get it to stop. When we saw the bus, Eric waved aggressively at the bus driver who indicated the bus stop was actually a block and a half away. We caught up to the bus thanks to some well-timed lights and found a rather obvious bus stop with a line of people boarding. We gave the driver our destination – it impacts the fare – and we were off.
One challenge with walking almost everywhere is the weather in Buenos Aires is pretty variable. It was sunny and hot for most of Sol and Travis’s stay, but poured with rain as soon as they left as though it was sad to see them go. We had intended to use the subway to move apartments on Sunday, but we would have gotten very wet, so we used Uber instead. Although Monday was sunny and hot, the coordinator at the Spanish school suggested we make an alternative rain plan as though he knew the rain was coming. It didn’t rain Monday, but it poured on Tuesday when we were on our way back from a failed attempt to visit the Museum of Humor. (It was unexpectedly closed). We stood in the entryway of an office building to hide from the rain, and thought we’d pass the time drinking maté like the locals. Eric had, just that morning, purchased a thermos and was eager to test it out. Unfortunately, the rain showed no signs of letting up, and after about 30 minutes of waiting there practicing the grammar Eric learned that day: “we are drinking mate, we are watching the rain, we are practicing Spanish”; we decided it was time to brave the rain again. Despite our umbrella, we were absolutely soaked when we got home.
See our next post for all the things we did and saw in Buenos Aires in between Spanish classes.