Wayward Travels

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Notes on Buenos Aires

Really I´ve only been here a short while, but below I will make a few notes about this capital city.
It is large, but highly navigable. Similar to San Francisco, it has several different barrios, each with its own character. That having been said, I´ve only really explored Palermo (a NW barrio) thus far. Recoleta, San Telmo, La Boca, and more will have to wait. It is a walker-friendly city with (mostly) orderly blocks and streets. There´s a system of numbering that I haven´t quite figured out yet, but I am sure that once I do, I won´t be nearly as lost as I have been. A wild mess of bus lines offers cheap transport within the city, but the underground "Subte" is far easier to understand. The subte is quite similar to the Boston T with colored lines and mural-walled stops and the occasional underground musician. Unlike the T, performers sometimes ride the train (my car was graced by an accordian player), who are met by the Argentine subway riders with a mix of indifference and generosity.
Although the street system is great for pedestrians, we walkers must yield the right of way to cars and dogs. Cars do a decent job of stopping at red lights (during the daytime), and coordinated walk signals make crossing easy. However, if you dare jaywalk by crossing a street at an improper location or time, do not expect any motorized vehicle to give one little hoot about slowing down for you. Cars are dueños of the roads (and even between them, they seem to jockey for position in a traffic system with clear rules but few discernable patterns). Stray dogs (and in the parks, feral cats) roam the streets as well. They appear far less mangy than stray dogs in US cities, and are typically rather tame and simply mind their own business much of the time. However, they leave their droppings as and where they please, aiming in particular for well-travelled sidewalks. This makes navigating the city extra tricky, for as one is trying to get one´s bearings, it is also necessary to keep your eyes on the ground ahead to sidestep one friendly doggie deposit after the next.
Palermo is a wonderful neighborhood. Emily and Sarah lived here when they had their apartment. It is strewn with beautiful and generally well-maintained sprawling parks, which boast rose gardens, ponds, and quite a few statues and busts. Argentines seem to love to build monuments. In nearly every plaza you will find a looming bronze statue of a war hero on horse or busts of poets or obelisks or fountains etc. Palermo also has a very fancy shopping mall, which rivals even the most upscale New Jersey mall. And New Jersey knows malls. Also in this area is a small but vibrant Armenian community, and thanks to them we enjoyed a fine lunch of babaganoush, falafel, tabouleh, and baklavah (also an allergy to sésamo prevented me from enjoying the first and last dishes). Italian immigration has also been a very big part of Argentine history. For instance, have a look at the last names of the fútbol team in the world cup... As many Italian names as Spanish. By the way, the next World Cup game for Argentina is Friday, against Germany. So you know what I´ll be doing then... Also in Palermo are the Japanese Garden and MALBA (the musuem for modern/contemporary Latin American art). I enjoyed both of these yesterday and was particularly impressed with the museum, which I found to be very well-curated and not overwhelming (http://www.malba.org.ar/web/en/collection/index.php). I can take museums in doses, and the exhibits there were just right. I enjoyed a number of the artists, and would like to see more of their work. The Museo de Bella Arte might be on my to-do list for BA.
Emily and Sarah leave this evening (they are packing their bags as I type) and this makes me a bit sad. I have enjoyed our week together and I´ll miss travelling with them. I have a feeling that I might feel a bit lonely and homesick tonight. As it is, I have secured a spot in a hostel in the center of town. My bed is one of ten in a room, so I will not be alone even if I am lonely. I hope that I will not be kept awake too badly by those enjoying the nightlife of Buenos Aires. As for the rest of the trip from here on out, I don´t really know what I´m going to do or where I´m going to go. I´ll spend another day in BA at the very least and of course several days more at the end of the trip. Beyond that, all I know is that I want to go to Mendoza, Córdoba, and Iguazú. These places are all rather far away (though not as far as Ushuaia!) so I´ll be passing many hours on a bus. Many hours.
My fingers are casi congelados (just about frozen) and there is a cat that has been dancing all around me, making strange googley-eyes at me, and that has asconded the chair for this computer.... I think it is time to go.

3 Comments:

Anonymous KR said...

Hope the cat left you alone!! Good luck as you venture off on your own.. I'm sure you will be great and make lots of friends along the way. Be safe, be careful, and be sure to look both ways two or three times before crossing the streets!

10:17 AM  
Blogger Jay and Anu Shah said...

Dear Meera:
Well, what do you expect the cat to do? You had taken up its throne!

Your walking adventure reminded me of streets in some parts of India unfortunately (we..ll, may be fortunately) they are disappearing fast.

The museum trip sounds very interesting. Reminds me of a show Mom and I watched recentlt about a new Art Hotel-21C in Louisville that has $10 million worth of modern art - some you can even peel of the wall of your room and put in a tube to take with you for a price. Let us plan on visiting that together for next year's Derby race. Of course, we need to catch the weekend rate!

http://tinyurl.com/kgaj8

6:51 PM  
Blogger Jay and Anu Shah said...

Dear Meera:
Well, what do you expect the cat to do? You had taken up its throne!

Your walking adventure reminded me of streets in some parts of India unfortunately (we..ll, may be fortunately) they are disappearing fast.

The museum trip sounds very interesting. Reminds me of a show Mom and I watched recentlt about a new Art Hotel-21C in Louisville that has $10 million worth of modern art - some you can even peel of the wall of your room and put in a tube to take with you for a price. Let us plan on visiting that together for next year's Derby race. Of course, we need to catch the weekend rate!

http://tinyurl.com/kgaj8

6:52 PM  

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