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Showing posts from September, 2008

This is why

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I had a moment today. I was in a cab and for some reason found the whole experience of being here sensational. Everything I saw out of the window delighted. Nothing unusual happened but I just love being here.

After school today (which was less stressful than normal) I went to visit Maxi, which is always pleasant. We met at Plaza San Martin which is a big square (French designed ) and intended to celebrate Argentine independence hero José de San Martin. It’s a very impressive public space mainly because it’s is elevated (very rare for what is a predominantly flat city. The famous Kavanagh Building borders the square and you have views down to Retiro Station.
While I was waiting for Maxi, I snapped this geezer, possibly the campest way to hold a pistol, but there you have it.

I also like this pic... we all need to straddle a bird now and again.


Daily Pic 17 : Taxi Meter

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Week two of Spanish

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We started week two of Spanish today... it didn’t go too well. I think not going out much in Sunday didn’t help, I seem to have forgotten a lot of what we learnt last week. I’m hoping it will come back to me before the test at the end of the week. Who knows. I’m not really sure what happens if I fail (a definite possibility), I don’t really want to repeat the bits I have done already. Problem is, I get the technicalities but it just doesn’t come easily. We’ll see. Perhaps I need to find the money for private lessons!

After school I was determined not to have another week like last were I don’t do anything unique to Argentina. Last week it felt like our time here had moved to a new phase which pretty much only consisted of Spanish and the stress related. So, Chris and I had lunch at Mott in Palermo and then I went for a stroll. I wanted to photograph the Garage Guido building I had seen last week. I didn’t have my camera at the time so I noted down the address and went there again. I ha…

Daily Pic 16 : Garage Guido, Recoleta

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Sweet little things

So I was taking a brief stroll the other day, down Abasto way... and when passing one of the low rise old houses that are so common there I heard this huge commotion. I took a peak in one of the windows and saw around 15 ladies learning to tap dance. It was such a surprise, but one the many sweet things that make this city so damn special.

Saturday

Had a VERY lazy Saturday and only made it out of the apartment for a couple hours! Woke up late and relaxed most of the day.
In the evening Chris and I fancied a quiet dinner so we popped to Bar 6, which is one of my favourite local places for a quick bite. The waiter recognised us from last time and was very friendly. That seems to be happening in quite a few places now which is nice... feels homely or something. We had steak (of course - although I hasten to add that we don't ALWAYS have steak and it's more the exception, we had pizza on Friday night!) and shared a bottle of our new favourite wine, Don David Malbec which I now understand you can buy in the UK here
So the UK government is nationalising Bradford and Bingley? What a shock! I guess we've already sold out souls to the dangers of free markets and now we must pay the price.

Daily Pic 15 : My Little Pony

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From San Telmo, not strictly antiques but close enough.

TGIF

I know that must sound absurd when I'm not working for 9 months but lessons this week were quite a jolt to the system. I enjoyed class today as it was more practical and less technical, we even played boggle. The Norwegian team won, followed by us (now known as equipo Sud Afrika - team South Africa) and then the American's came last. They are to bring us all cakes on Monday.
Although it's the weekend I am going to have to do quite a bit of Spanish revision as we have a test next Friday to determine if we can move to the next level and I am no where near ready. Hopefully I'll also have some time to go out and take some more pictures!

Dumb and Dumber

Well it had to happen at some point. I was ALMOST victim to a relatively harmless crime. After my ramblings about how great and friendly I’ve found the Argentines, some fuckers tried to steal my wallet this afternoon. It’s a common modus operandi and I was a bit slow to realise, but caught on just in time.

I was strolling down Arenales in Recoleta (as you do on a glorious Spring day) when I felt something land on my back. I thought a mischievous bird had pooped on me - it's a very spring time thing to happen. Some dude came running up and was offering to try and wipe it off. I was saying not to worry as my apartment was nearby (in Spanish)... he continued to wipe me down...then his friend came and was also “trying to help”. Then it dawned on me so I checked and noticed that my wallet was missing! I grabbed the first guys arms and pushed him away and noticed my wallet was on the floor next to his foot as he tried to kick it away. I bent down, picked it up and walked away.
These thing…

Honest taxista

This is place of extremes. There are tales of pick pockets and the occasional muggings, as is common for most major cities, particularly when there is widespread poverty but there are also examples of profound honesty and a sense of justice. Here are two:
(1) I was in a cab on Tuesday, I had just jumped in when the cab turned down a road that was blocked. The taxista was surprised and seemed a bit annoyed. But before going any further he turned off the meter and left it off until he was back heading in the right direction and apologised for the delay! It saved me less than a peso but it was pretty cool.
(2) Beggars and street vendors are treated with so much respect here. I think I’ve posted about this before but it’s worth revisiting. When on the Subte there are occasional beggars, mainly children and old ladies wandering about. There method is unique though. They pass through the train handing out brief notes detailing their plight and request. A few minutes later they return to colle…

Daily Pic 14 : Confiteria Ideal

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Sorry about the quality, I didn't want to disturb the dancers by using my flash!

Tango

Last night we went out with some of the people Vlad has met at school and some of their friends. Despite my reservations about dining at a big table full of expats (mainly American) it was a fun night. We ate steak – obviously.
After dinner we all went to a place called Confiteria Ideal to watch some tango. Again I wasn’t really that interested but I have to say it was amazing. The place is really old and it felt like we were stepping back in time. You pay AR$25 downstairs and head up to the dance room on the first floor. It’s a grand old building, dusty and heavy with ancient atmosphere.
Upstairs is a large room with a dance floor surrounded by tables and chairs. Dancing was a group of folk, most of whom looked like they had been there for years. It’s a difficult experience to describe but it was truly amazing to sit and watch the old folk doing their stuff.
Later in the evening (and I mean later, around 12.00) the band arrived and played music for the dancers. A great night out.
It did…

Interim

Will post more tomorrow, too tired now... A busy day... school, tango and drag queens. The tango was amazing, I felt like I was visiting in the 30's... very special indeed. Full report tomorrow.

Daily Pic 13 : Subte Station

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The local underground has very distinctive signage and branding. The stations are easy to indentify when out and about and underground the signs are clear and easy to follow.

School Day Two

Yowzer, is this the life of leisure I was promised? Two days of lessons and I’m knackerd! It’s only 4 hours a day but gosh it’s intense. At the moment we’re still recapping and any hope I had of things slowing down today were not realised... pacey pacey pacey. I’m not sure at what point she’ll bring it back to a pace that means I’ll retain anything! It’s almost funny. Still good fun though.
I’m finding I have to do quite a bit of work at home to recap what we’ve learnt before the next lesson. Although I'm finding it quite stressful, I am enjoying it. We did a lot of talking today which was cool. The "party" is def over though, no going out during the week I don't imagine!
After school we came home and had lunch. I’m heading out to meet a friend shortly, Maxi, the guy I met last week. Should be good. I might try and get him to speak Spanish to me a bit to me, or at least let me do that to him!
We’re having glorious sunny weather at the moment, I hope it stays like this.


Dinner on Saturday night

This past Saturday was my turn to choose where we dined. I did loads of research to try and find the perfect place. During my research I found loads of places I’d like to try but very few seemed to match my mood.
I eventually settled on Gran Bar Danzon, it’s the third restaurant from the folk who run Bar Uriarte and Sucré – possibly the two of the best regarded restaurants in Buenos Aires. Gran Bar Danzon got great reviews on Flyertalk and elsewhere. Also it is in Recoleta on Libertad so I thought it would be nice to get out of Palermo.

A 10 minute and AR$10 cab ride later we arrived. The entrance is quite discrete and for an instant I thought I’d got the wrong address. The polished staircase into the restaurant gives you a very clear signal about what to expect. Industrial chic seems to be all the rage in Buenos Aires and Gran Bar Danzon is no exception. The room is divided into two sections, a bar (ramped full of glamorous folk out to be seen) and the restaurant, mainly filled with fo…

Daily Pic 12 : Solo Empanadas

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Starting School

Today (Monday) I started my Spanish lessons at a place called Iberio. It’s downtown, well in Congresso. We had to be at the school by 8.30 in order to pay and to sort out all the admin before classes start. It was a shock to the system getting up so early, I can tell you. We travelled there by bus down Avenida Santa Fe. It seemed like a very civilised journey to school considering the size of the city. I suspect however that it might not be so easy tomorrow as we’ll probably be travelling slap bang in the middle of rush hour.
Walking down Billinghurst to Santa Fe we thought it had been raining but actually all the building superintendants were out frantically washing and scrubbing the little piece of sidewalk in front of their buildings. Presumably getting rid of the previous day’s dog poo too.
The school seemed really sweet, small, professional and friendly. There were actually only three classes going on although they have space for more. There are 6 students in our class, two America…

Daily Pic(s) 11 : San Telmo

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Saturday

Considering the Friday night we’d had out Saturday was quite mellow. We all popped to Palermo Viejo for lunch. We went to a stunning little place called Quimbobó @ Costa Rica 4562. When I say little, it was actually huge but its layout is such that each space feels quite small and intimate, all on different levels. We sat on the terrace (terazza) in the glorious sunshine with a stunning view over the square. It was terribly LA, darling!
I had the “zucchini”risotto, Chris and Vlad had chicken and guacamole sandwiches. Of all the places we’ve been since we got here I think this place was the most vegetarian friendly with quite a broad range of meat free food (quite a rarity in this town). The restaurant is in a building that also houses a beauty spa offering massages and yoga.
The interior of the building is beautiful and simple, all completed with poured and polished concrete. Really stunning.
Quimbombó, Costa Rica 4562

A late night out

So we went out on Friday night, again! This time we tried to find different venues so we did a little bar crawl to places around here. We started very late and went to 4 different places. The venues ranged in “quality” considerably but had potential.
One place we went to was called Cero Consecuencia, it was very local in flavour. Quite basic but dirt cheap and very friendly. Sadly it wasn’t very busy so we didn’t stay very long. It was amusing though, I ordered two beers and a vodka 7UP. They didn’t have small beers so Vlad and I shared a litre bottle of Quilmes (local beer) drunk from plastic disposable cups - classy.
At first the waiter hadn’t heard me order the vodka for Chris and was just giving me 7UP, when I corrected him he made the adjustment to the bill –adding a whole extra Peso! The 7UP was 6 times more expensive that the Vodka!
Later in the night we went to Amerika – a huge mega club. It’s the same place we went to last time, I’m not sure why being a foreign city means we g…

Friday

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It's our last Friday before our classes start! We start on Monday. We'll be doing four hours every morning for 4 weeks. Then probably more after that too. I am quite looking forward to having a bit of structure to the day, we start at 9am so we'll still have lots of the day left over for fun.
Today Chris and I went for lunch in Palermo. We found a divine little deli-like place called a 'Manger. It was sensational, the perfect lunch spot. The front of the place is flled with all sorts of delicious treats like cured meats, tapas-ey type things, olives, cheeses etc. At the back they have a tiny dining room where you can eat. It was delicious. We both had baguettes - delicious. It was at Charcas 4001.
After dinner I went to meet Maxi for tea. We have a mutual friend and I was introduced to him via an email by Ray in New York. It turns out I'd met him before, when we were here before - the time we met Ray. It was a very pleasant meeting indeed. We drank tea and chatted. I…

Daily Pic 10 : Dogs Everywhere

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There a lots of dogs in Buenos Aires and lots of dog poo. These sweet pooches were thethered to a tree on Billinghurst this morning.

Daily Pic 10 : Medical Faculty

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There are so many HUGE buildings in BsAs. The schools, hospitals, galleries and civic buildings are massive. This was taken at the Medical school and is a hospital.

Tigre

Today Chris and I ventured out of the city to Tigre. It's a town about 35 mins out of BA and is the gateway to the river delta. We didn't know too much about it, the travel guides are hopelessly lacking in detail.
We caught a train from Retiro Station (95 centavos!) to Bartolome Mitre and then caught the recommended Tren de Costa. It's a tourist train that runs along the coast. It's a but of a rip off at AR$8 and really isn't the interesting. There are no views of the water to speak of and the little stations long the way were quite dull. I think the idea is that you hop on and off at each little stop and browse the shops. Most were closed, I suspect it would be better on the weekend. One little train station had antiques stalls all the way along, but they only open on weekends. That's a def idea for when Mrs Coombs visits.
Tigre itself isn't very interesting and if we'd thought about it we would have gone earlier and caught a boat. We spoke to one guy th…

Taxi fun

So giving directions to taxi drivers in Buenos Aires is really simple. You can give the address but the easiest way is to name the road and the cross street, the grid makes it really simple.
Only problem we have us that we live on Mansilla and Billinghurts, making ourselves understand can be a challenge. Mansilla is easy - maan-si-sha, easy. Billinghurst is not as easy.
Drivers never seem to know what we're saying - our accents get in the way. I've been paying particular attention to the way that drivers speak and they seem to say Bee-shinn-hoorst. But, when we try that they look at us blankly. I've now resorted to citing the next cross street, Coronel Diaz... easy peasy.

A new favourite

Moving to a new city is so much about discovery. Finding your new favourite restaurant, laundry, park, building everything. Well, I have a new favourite coffee shop. It's called Shemesh. Originally I thought it sounded a little lesbian feminist but having had a closer look (on wikipedia), Shemesh is actually a city in Isreal's Jerusalem district. Well, who would have thought.
Of course I have no way of knowing whether this little coffee spot gem is actually named after a city in Jerusalem or a lesbian feminsist sensibility. All I can confirm is that it's a great place to pass the time, people watching, drinking or surfing the free wi-fi. The staff are great and friendly and the submarinos are heaven. I had two today.
The actual venue is a little down at heal but it doesn't matter, the chilled out atmosphere and the friendly manager more than make up for it.
Shemesh.  Junin y French (Junin 1350)

Another razer sharp political commentary

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Why does Cristina Kirchner wear so much eye makeup? Yowzers. What's she hiding underneath there, couldn't be dodgy real estate investments could it?

Interesting bit from the book I’m reading

Apologies for the slight change of direction here but, a few days ago I posted that I was reading Supercapitalism by Robert Reich. It’s a fascinating read. If you're interested in anecdotes about BsAs and pictures of the city, maybe skip this post.
One point from the book that I thought I would mention seems particularly poignant right now and relates to an earlier post on this blog, on the subject of the mass deregulation that took place in the US (and elsewhere) in the 80s.
It is fashionable amongst economist to judge deregulation an unmitigated success – apart from the unfortunate isolated incidents like the savings and loan fiacsco. (No one should have been surprised that savings and loan bankers used their new freedom to invest in junk bonds and other risky ventures that would yield high returns since their deposits continued to be insured by the government – at a final cost to the taxpayer of some $600 billion. Arrangements that confer all upside benefit on private investors …

Recoleta

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Chris and I explored a bit more of Recoleta today. Swanky! We wandered the streets, looking at all the pampered pooches being walked and the pampered ladies walking (separately of course). It's hard to imagine the extreme poverty just up the street when you see scenes like today. Although of course, it's tragically not that hard to imagine... I am South African afterall.

Spanish and stuff

I’m really looking forward to my Spanish lessons starting on Monday. Although it’s been fun mooching about the place, I’ve learnt that it is very easy to fall into a pattern or being really lazy first thing in the morning and only making out of the apartment at 13.00. By then I could have done 4 hours of Spanish. Also, it will be great to meet some more people. At the moment the only people I speak to are Vlad, Chris and waiters! And those conversations are quite limited! He He, only kidding but you know what I mean.
It looks like Vlad is enjoying his classes, he started a week earlier. Not only is he enjoying “being back at school” but he’s also made some new friends... well he was out for dinner with some folk last night and has gone to birthday drinks tonight. I’ll be able to find out more when I see him later... we are going to a local parilla for dinner. Hopefully I’ll also be able to meet some new people once we start lessons.

Also, I need to get my Spanish learning going. I’ve b…

Daily Pic 9 : Street Signs

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The streets in BA are extremely well signposted. It's hard to get lost. The signage is also distinctive and will always remind me of BA. I am informed (by a surefire authority) that the font used for these particular signs is Frutiger - fancy. Look at me, I'm a font queen. I even know it was originally designed for Charles de Gaul aiport in Paris by Adrian Frutiger. Someone told me that.
I like the street name too, Riobamba!

No more plastic bags - BA gets environmental

New legislation has been approved in Buenos Aires province banning the use of non-biodegradable bags. Not a bad idea... everything comes in plastic bags here. Often more than one bag. Argentine Post

Daily Pic 8 : Retiro Station

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Architour

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Today I went strolling again, although this time I had specific destinations in mind. I had a list of buildings I wanted to check out, a subset of the full list – but a start nonetheless. Today I set out to visit the Biblioteca Nacional (National Library), the Banco Hipotecario Nacional, Retiro Station (with my camera this time) and whatever else I found along the way.
Seriously though, I have a list the length of my arm of buildings I’d like to inspect but this seemed like a manageable set for one afternoon.

I left the apartment and wandered down Aguero, discovering that once you cross Avenida Santa Fe there are tons of rather lovely looking coffee shops. I have been struggling to find one that I feel comfortable in near the apartment. I’ve been in some amazingly friendly ones but have found that most of the very local places tend to be restaurants. Anyway, I digress... down towards the bottom of Aguero is the Biblioteca Nacional.

Now, I’ve been reading and although his building was des…

Lunch of lentils - Gastronomia Argentina

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Another slow day today. Wandered about the place, forgot to take a map out with me so I stuck to the main roads only - although I am beginning to familiarise myself with the local neighbourhood at least. This city is remarkably easy to navigate, with the grid structure and a few key main roads (Avenida Santa Fe, Coronel Diaz, Cordoba, 9 de Julio and Pueyyredon) it’s always quite easy to figure out where you are.
I met Chris later for a quick lunch. We met at a place called 1810 (the year independence from Spain was declared, originally two nations: The United Provinces of South America and Liga Federal).
It’s full name was actually 1810 Cocina Regional (Regional Cooking), so the dishes were all Argentine and certainly very interesting. There were loads of delightful sounding empanadas (tiny pie) and even more exciting sounding main dishes (mainly stews and more stews). We passed on the little empandas and we went straight to the main dishes. I had lentejas (curiously lentils!! He He) an…

Obelisco from Puerto Madero

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More Graffiti

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We saw quite a bit of graffiti on our walk from Congreso to Plaza de Mayo today. It has a far more political edge to it compared to the shi-shi pavements of Palermo Hollywood (obviously). The skeleton baby Che was particularly striking.

Daily Pic 7 : Bus Drivers

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In London, bus drivers are protected behind barriers and thick plexi-glass. Presumably your average London bus driver is subject to more abuse in an average working day. In Buenos Aires, there is no such protection. Drivers sit with the passengers. Somehow I don’t imagine there is as great a need to protect them from the passengers.

Puerto Madero

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Lazy Sunday today. I slept late... last night was another very late one so I enjoyed the opportunity to sleep in. In the afternoon Chris and I took a stroll around Puerto Madero. We got a bus to Plaza del Congreso and took a look at the impressive Congress Nacional. The Plaza is also very impressive but does provide access to some of the more poverty-based aesthetic element s to the city. Homeless families galore. We browsed a kind of flee market and bought some incense from one or the stalls.

Then a short stroll down Avenida de Mayo, which is a very impressive street, quite swanky and full of old hotels. It was very quiet, it being Sunday so it was relaxing. Past the Plaza de Mayo and the Casa Rosada and on to Puerto Madero.
Puerto Madero is a generic dockside regeneration project boasting sleek modern offices, hotels and restaurants. It was interesting to see but really (for me at least) doesn’t say Buenos Aires. It’s clinical and cold and it felt like we could be in any city that has…

Lobby

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This is the lobby of our block of apartments. Note that the lift seldom aligns exactly with the floor it has stopped at. It's old, quaint and delightful.

Daily Pic 6 : Building Numbers

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These little number signs are everywhere in BA. They really are charming.

Flea Market

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We went to Palermo Viejo today. We had planned to find a nice quiet café to have a drink and use the WiFi. It was packed. It's a sleepy part of town during the week but today (Saturday) it was heaving. There was a flea market on and around Serrano Square. Quite a good one, if you're into that sort of thing. Quite craft based.
I bought a Mate. Which is a little pot used to serve Mate Tea. I'd bought some Yerba Mate at the supermarket and am keen to try it. The pot is "curing" at the moment, tomorrow I'll be able to have a brew and will let you know.
We had a VERY late lunch (last night was late) at a restaurant called Cluny. It looked like a fab place for dinner so we'll have to head back some time and see what it's like. There is certainly no shortage of fabulous restaurants in this town.
One the way back we stopped at a little bakery. Argentines are famous for their sweet tooth. Or is that their sweet teeth? Anyway, they like things sweet. Their little …

Friday Night

Vlad, Chris and I went out on Friday night. We ate at home (Chris and I had our aforementioned steaks ) and we headed out at 11.30. It’s madness. I had a nap before going out and asked Chris to wake me at 11. 11! To go out! Seems insane, but I’m getting used to it and have learnt to appreciate the total darkness provided but the shutters in the bedroom.
Anyway, we went to the bar Sitges again, it’s a fairly relaxed and familiar place. We got to the door and the doorman said it was an “open bar” where we pay an admission charge and then drinks are free thereafter. We braced ourselves for the cost of entry. AR$15! That’s less than THREE English Pounds! We couldn’t believe it. There was quite an extensive range of drinks offering beer, spirits and cocktails. What a cheap night out! People seemed to drink more last night, when it’s that’s cheap seems almost rude not too.

At the bar we seemed to attract all the other English speaking people. Like moths to a flame they slowly but surely start…

Wi Fi and Capitalism

This city is Wi-Fi-licious. Everywhere we go there seems to be free Wi Fi. It’s not like London where there’s Wi Fi but you have to pay BT or The Cloud or T-mobile. Here, free hotspots are the norm and they are everywhere.
At the same time, the restaurants and cafés are very relaxed places. You can almost always get a table and there’s no rushing you out the door to make way for the next customer. You are expected to linger and enjoy, even if you have only ordered one Submarino. Unlike central London where even getting a table can be a challenge and then you’re made to feel guilty that other people are waiting. It’s the same in bars and clubs, waiter service and access to the bar that isn’t already 5 people deep.
I guess wages and rents are cheaper here so establishments are able to provide bigger (emptier) environments and added extras (like the dignified no rushing). In London I imagine rent, wages etc are so high that profit margins are tighter forcing owners to optimise every square…

Steak

We had the most delicious steaks on Wednesday night. I already posted about our trip to San Telmo for dinner. There were about AR$37 each in quite a shi shi restaurant but delicious. Today we tried to buy some steaks in a supermarket. We went to a huge COTO behind the Children's Hospital (one of our local landmarks).

Pre-packaged meat in a supermarket is quite challenging. The Argentines do very little to make it look pretty. Huge slabs of flesh, bloody, fatty and unidentifiable all mixed with trays of offal - intestines, tripe and brain. We were struggling to find pieces of meat we (in our London M&S spoilt sensibility) could buy.

Then we saw a lady at the butcher counter. The butcher was slicing thick juicy steaks from what I think was a sirloin. The guy didn't speak English, and we don't speak Spanish (yet) - so I wasn't able to ask what cut it was, but did manage to get him to slice us two extraordinary looking pieces of meat. AR$6 later (that's ONE POUND) we…

Learning Spanish

I’ll be honest, the language isn’t coming on too well! Admittedly we haven’t started lessons yet but I’m beginning to wonder what we learnt in London. Nothing (and I mean nothing) is coming back to me. Okay, so it’s not that disasterous but it is pretty bad.
When out and about, it’s often easier to rely on hand gestures and the English spoken by the locals rather than try to speak Spanish myself. Vlad is much more advanced and I often find myself relying on him in communication “emergencies” too. I need to break out of that habit - I’m not going to learn if I don’t force myself to give it a go. I’m also hoping that when we start lessons the more formal learning environment will help bring back what I’ve learnt already and it won’t all have been in vain. It is fairly depressing at the moment.

Dodgy Doorman

I’m sure he’s not dodgy but our building porter looks nasty. But he is thawing. Our first few days he ignored us and didn’t even make eye contact. Now he mumbles a “Buenos Dias” when we walk past. I wonder what he’ll be like in a month.

Flat hunting

We’ve spent the past few days trying to decide where to live next. We’ve rented our current place for one month and need to find somewhere from the beginning of October. From all reports, it’s virtually impossible for a foreigner to rent an apartment in Argentina other than short term holiday lets. So that is what we are going to do. At least the service providers have fantastic websites and they speak excellent English. Problem is that because it’s short term you don’t have the option of seeing anywhere before you book it. So, we’ve been sussing out areas... checking the cross-streets and on when we know the number, checking out the buildings.
We had originally planned to book one place for the rest of our time here but I think now we might just book a few months at a time. That way we won’t be stuck with something hideous for too long – you have to pay all your rent up front!
I think we’ve narrowed it down to 3 options, the basic question is about what sort of experience would we like…

Submarinos

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Submarinos are kind of like hot chocolate flat-pack. You get the in coffee shops and cafés and they’re delicious. Basically you get a glass of steaming hot milk and a tiny chocolate bar that you drop into the milk, it melts, you stir. Delicious hot chocolate. Now I’ve seen everything.

Sweet Potato Jam

We've been seeing this stuff all over the place. It's kind of brown jelly and it's served with cheese and comes (in the supermarket at least) wrapped in cling film. Reading the label - patata (sweet potato). Seemed a bit odd to me. I had a look in my Culture Shock book and yes indeed it is sweet potato jam (dolce de patata), usually served with gooey cheese. The Argentines seem to hack off big chunks at a time. It doesn't get "spread" but kind of layered on the cheese. I'm tempted to try it now.

Thursday

Today Chris and I wandered around the city, still looking at potential areas to live. We had a list of about 8 locations. I’m beginning to think that finding somewhere quieter than our current flat might be an impossibility in this city – it’s very loud.
We stopped for lunch at Mott in Palermo. We like it there.

This evening we went to the cinema, a huge grotesque multiplex right across the road from the famous Recoleta cemetery.

Daily Pic 5 : Graffiti

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There is a lot of graffiti in Buenos Aires of all types. Downtown it tends to be political slogans scribbled across monuments and on the walls of banks and other big ol’ buildings. In the more chi chi areas like Palermo and San Telmo they are more designed and more visually creative. Cartoon like characters with bold colours and think black outlines are common too. Rather stunning at times.

Old Subway Cars

Yesterday I caught the subway, line A for the first time. It was great. The cars were really old, wood panelled with wooden benches and you could look out the front of first car and see the track. The diver’s cabin only occupied a portion of the carriage. It was superb. I need to go again and take my camera this time.

D D D Drag queens

Last night we went out. We went down to San Telmo for dinner, we wanted to check it out at night. Vlad has booked an apartment for the rest of his time here in San Telmo. I think Chris and I are going to stay this end of the city. It’s more us I think.
We went to a restaurant called Nacional and had the most divine steaks ever. You know, the kind that melt in the mouth... delicious. We also had some fierce cocktails. I had a Margarita, Chris and Vlad had Mojitos. People hardly seem to drink here, but when they pour drinks they are strong.

After dinner we decided to try out a few bars. Back in a taxi (20 pesos) and into Recoleta. The first bar we went to was totally empty, but we had a drink (out of guilt). The bartended then told us that we had to go elsewhere as their bar was never going to get busy. It’s not a Wednesday venue apparently. Not sure why they were open. So we headed to Codiga Search.

There was a drag queen on at 12.30, although they only came on at about 1.30. The show was…

Avenida Santa Fe

Chris and I popped out this evening to Avenida Santa Fe to try and get my local SIM card working. Ridiculously I’m having trouble with it! I thought I’d left my mobile jinxing behind me in the UK. We popped to the Claro store but it was too busy so we left (why queue when you have all the time in the world?) and strolled up to Alto Palermo Mall for a quick look. It seems fairly nice, standard mall I guess.
Avenida Santa Fe is a huge shopping street and it was packed. This was about 19.00 so everyone was hurrying about the place, shopping and making their way home. It was very energetic and very exciting, felt like a real urban scene.

Daily Pic 4 : Across Mansilla from the apartment

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Itseemsthatalmostmostoftheapartmentsin Buenos Aires havebalconies. Wellaroundherethey do anyway. But, weneverseepeopleonthem. Theytendto be fullofoutdoorfurniture, bicycles, plantsand things youwouldn't keepindoorsinanapartmentbutthey don't seemto be used. Perhaps when the weather warms up we'll see more people out on their balconies. Thisevening I spottedthesetwokidsplayingontheirs.

Las Canitas and Palermo Viejo

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Today we explored some more. We wanted to go up to Las Canitas, another candidate area for our next apartment. We also decided to stroll through Palermo Viejo (Soho and Hollywood). It was a great walk. The sun was shining and everything looked lovely and fresh. I'm going to enjoy the summer I think.

I was reminded how much I like Palermo Viejo, it's much quieter and peaceful then the bit of Palermo that we are staying it... very shi-shi and fashionable indeed. Reminds me a lot of Parkhurst in Johannesburg, has that sort of feel.

We’ve seen quite a few dog walkers already. They are a Buenos Aires staple. Mu understanding is that legally they are only allowed to walk 8 dogs at a time but most of the guys we’ve seen have many more. All the dogs seem very well behaved and socialised.

Then we stopped for a spot of lunch - very cheesy pizzas. I'm not kidding, these were loaded with cheese... we had stopped at a very local little establishment. Everyone else was eating chicken and r…

Daily Pic 3 : Casa Rosada y Plaza de Mayo

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The Peronist gatherings in the Plaza de Mayo followed the tradition began in May 1810 when people crowded the plaza to support Argentine independence. The English poet and critic G. S. Fraser saw Evita in 1947 from this plaza: “It was pretty full, bit not jam-packed. A loudspeaker kept announcing that the president and his wife would appear soon, a brass band occasionally struck up martial airs. Groups of young men and women moved through the crowd in single file, bearing aloft placards on which there were gigantic smiling portraits of Perón and Evita.” Finally Evita, “a slim figure, with near fair hair, in a light beige costume”, appeared on the balcony of the Casa Rosada and read from a typescript in a high “strident” voice; “she was fierce and emphatic” and attacked the newspaper La Prensa. Later mobs smashed windows in the La Prensa building nearby in Avenida de Mayo. Later on 15 April 1953, as Perón was speaking from the balcony, two bombs went off and killed six people. Perón …

First Monday in the City

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Today is the first proper working day of our adventure in BA! The city is totally different. Very *alive* and energetic. Also, the sun came out and shone all day so that helped. It’s been a lovely day.
This morning after breakfast we headed across to the laundry and then to the mobile phone shop (Claro) to get SIM cards and to the small supermercado to get a few more supplies.

This afternoon we decided to go do a bit more exploring, Vlad came with us. We caught the Subte to 9 de Julio to go and by tickets for the BA Madonna concert on Corrientes. The queue was unreal so we decided not to wait. We then strolled down Florida (main shopping drag – very busy indeed) and down to Plaza de Mayo and the Casa Rosada. There was some protest underway, as there always seems to be. Leaving the Plaza we walked past some quite intense crowd control vehicles, water cannons and the like. Nice.

Our main objective was to make it to San Telmo, an area that has been suggested as a possible place to move to w…

Lavadero

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We got our laundry done today. There is a lavadero right across the road. It was terribly convenient. We dropped all our dirty clothes off at 12.00 and picked it up at 18.00. AR$30 (6GBP) later we have lovely laundered clothes. Not bad considering the amount of stuff we had. The lady in the shop was very friendly indeed, she spoke just enough English and we spoke just enough Spanish to get through the transaction. Seems like such a luxury to have someone else do your washing. Our apartment doesn’t have a washer (I don’t think it’s very common here actually) so we’ll need to use the lavadora... not that I’m complaining.

Out and About

Sunday night is a big “going out” night in BA. On Sunday we went to Sitges again, we wanted to see the drag queen. We went for dinner first at a little restaurant in Palermo. We were aiming for a restaurant that Chris and I enjoyed last time we were here, Bar 6 on Armenia. It’s closed down for what appears to be some major fumigation and rodent management! I’m not sure we’d still go there for dinner, even if it did open again. A shame though, it was lovely.
The restaurant we chose was just down the road and we all had noodles. I had tofu, Vlad had beef and Chris had chicken. All good. We had a bottle of Malbec that we didn’t really care for. I need to find out more about Argentine wine.

After dinner we went to Sitges again. We wanted to see the drag queens. This time we might actually have been a little late... all the tables were taken and the “show” (karaoke) had started already. We stayed there for a few hours before heading to the club Amerika, which was loads of fun. We seldom went…

Daily Pic 2 : Advertising in Breach

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The local government of Buenos Aires is getting tough on advertising and we saw evidence of that today. Near the Polo Club we saw huge billboard adverts obscured by the sign “publicidad en infracción” or “Advertising in Breach”! The head of the local government, Mauricio Macri has declared a war on visual pollution. I posted about the move a while back and was delighted to see evidence of it here. It was oddly satisfying seeing huge grotesque multinational brands’ exquisite billboards defaced.
Sadly, the new laws are limited to certain parts of the city and the main drags are still dense with huge Burger King and other global brands.


Exploring

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Today Chris and I went exploring. We walked up Avenida Santa Fe (a very large shopping street near our apartment) to Plaza Italia. Then across past the Zoo and to the Monumento de los Espanoles, past the US embassy (and some very fancy apartment buildings near it).


We got the Subte back to Bulnes (our local) and stopped for salads for lunch at a local and very charming place called Virago Caffé. All terribly civilised. We were going to head to San Telmo but have decided to keep that for next week.

Here is a short video out the window of the café we enjoyed for lunch.