From the moment Matt and I arrived in Buenos Aires, we were smitten. Ten days later our passion hasn’t faded – despite the heat and dog poop, this place is great and has made the list of places we would like to live some day. Here are my current top 5 reasons this city is fantastic.
1. Green. Buenos Aires does parks right. There are green spaces everywhere, ranging from the large parks and gardens in Palermo to small squares in every neighborhood. Old, lofty trees line many streets, adding shade and beauty to an urban environment. There are also numerous plazas that incorporate green spaces as opposed to being just a fountain or statue on a slab of concrete.
2. Vibe. Buenos Aires is laid back with coffee shops and bars galore. While many guide books talk about the congestion and fast pace, we haven’t felt it, possibly because we arrived during a heat wave that forced life to slow down. People here dress casually – it is the first time I have been to a major city outside of the US and could wear shorts without looking like a tourist. People linger over lunch and hang out at the bars until the wee hours of the morning. The fact that Matt and I can both pass as locals (due to Italian genes), until we talk, also makes us feel very comfortable here as we are not immediately spotted as tourists.
3. Food. With a strong Italian influence and wonderful beef, the food here is amazing. Items not to be missed include carne asada (grilled meats) , milanese (thin cutlets of beef, chicken or soy [is there a such thing as a soy cutlet?], breaded and pan fried), alfajores (shortbread cookies with dulce de leche filling, sometimes covered in chocolate), empanadas (savory, filled turnovers), pizza and helado (ice cream). And bread. I will be writing an entire post devoted to the bread here; it is that good. The cuisine is not only local – there are plenty of Japanese, Peruvian, Chinese, Indian and other restaurants to choose from. We went to an Armenian place in the neighborhood that was delicious.
4. Wine. What is great food without great wine? Malbecs rule the roost, but excellent Cabernet Sauvignons, Syrahs, and red blends abound as do several delicious Argentine white wines. The proximity of the Mendoza region and an apparent lack of sin tax makes wine as affordable as a soda (or at least that is my excuse for drinking at lunch).
5. The weak peso. I feel a bit guilty writing that as the Argentines’ misfortune is to our benefit, but for once Matt and I are on the right side of the exchange rate. Despite this being the second largest city in South America, we have been able to enjoy ourselves without breaking the bank, with wonderful dinners with excellent wines costing around $70, far less than similar meals would cost in Milwaukee. We have offset those dinners by going to more modest restaurants and eating at home – today we bought two servings of a torta (these were similar in look to a quiche, with a pastry crust but a filling that wasn’t eggs – one was ham and cheese and one a minced chicken filling) and some cookies for dinner for less than $8. The tortas are huge and we have plenty of cookies, so we will get two meals out of our purchase.
While we enjoy living in Cajamarca, the two experiences couldn’t be more different so we plan to make the most of our last two weeks in Buenos Aires. Or maybe that is just another excuse for drinking a lot of great, inexpensive wines and eating to my heart’s content!