I’ve been in Buenos Aires for over 2 months now, but I’m still unsure how to explain this massive city. Much like the distinct ‘provincias’ of Argentina, Buenos Aires has unique ‘barrios’ or neighborhoods. To understand this huge labyrinth of streets, plazas and parks one must explore all of the different areas. However, with a city this big it would take pages to describe everything! Below I have outlined some of the highlights that I’ve seen so far!
You’ll be hard pressed to find a street in Buenos Aires without a cafe of some sort. From the sleek resto-bar cafes to the quaint bakery cafes, every block has somewhere to tomar un café (have a coffee). However, do not imagine the Starbucks of the United States (although they do have those down here); café does not equal coffee shop. These distinct places do not serve twenty different types of lattes, cappuccinos, mochas and frappuccinos. Instead most visitors ask for the typical ‘café con leche’ (coffee with milk) with medialunas, which are little croissants with the literal translation of ‘half moons’.
Now that the days are getting warmer, I, as well as the rest of the city, have moved from the cozy interiors of the cafes to the outdoor seating on the streets, where one can watch the life of the city go by. Out in the streets one also finds many fruterias (fruit markets) where fresh fruits and veggies are sold from gleaming piles and the owners never fail to ask, “algo mas?” (something more?). The heladerias (ice cream shops) display a rich selection of ice cream, which obviously have the Italian influence in their gelato smoothness. There are not very many big chain stores here, but rather many smaller businesses. I love exploring the streets, shops and treasures abound.
I live in the barrio of Belgrano, one of the upper class neighborhoods. My room, on the 8th floor of one of the tallest apartment buildings, has a gorgeous view of…more apartment buildings. Not many people live in houses; it’s all apartments here, packed tight together with uniform balconies and doormen in every foyer. Many of the roads in Belgrano are still cobblestone and the Avenidas (larger streets every 4-5 blocks) have huge old trees. Belgrano also holds many of the embassies, Barrio Chino (China Town) and Universidad de Belgrano, where I attend classes. The campus of the university consists of about 20 floors in another sky scraper building; there’s no green quad or sports fields but the view from the cafeteria in the 11th floor is to die for; you can see the whole city and Rio de la Plata!
Since my arrival I’ve done a good amount of exploring in the other barrios of this gorgeous city and found gems in every one. Currently my favorite area is Los Bosques de Palermo, the largest park in Buenos Aires. This expanse of green space is always full of porteños (as the residents of B.A. call themselves) running, riding bikes, roller skating, visiting the gardens and zoo or just hanging out. In this city of concrete and buildings the Bosques de Palermo offers a little bit of nature, a place to breath and space to simply just be.
Last week I also went to the Jardín Japonés (Japanese Garden) with one of my Argentinian friends. While not very large, this sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of the streets calms the visitor with its serene lake, sleek Koi fish and unique plants. At first the tall apartment buildings looming up just outside the borders of the garden clashed with my idea of true nature, but I came to appreciate the contrast of the skyscrapers with the quiet horizon of Japanese trees. Within the garden one feels isolated in a foreign paradise while still in the midst of modernity and chaos.
This is only a rapid glimpse into some of the highlights of this vast and diverse city, but I’ve only begun to explore.l There are so many more adventures to recount!