Notes from a traveller: part two (continued)

Continued from yesterday

But it’s not just BA’s balmy temperatures that I am loving: I’m also enjoying eating my way around the city. I must be consuming an extra thousand calories a day thanks to my mandatory morning Cafe con leche y medialunas (a creamy white coffee accompanied by a sweet croissant) and afternoon helado (heavenly ice cream - the dulche de leche flavour is to die for). However I've consoled myself with the thought that while eating here maybe bad for my waistline, it’s good for my soul. 

On the subject of food, I had been worried - as a lifelong vegetarian - that I wouldn’t find anything any ‘proper’ to eat (a girl can’t live on medialunas and helado alone) as Argentina is, after all, famous for its carnivorous pleasures.

Yet while meat eaters will be in seventh heaven here (parrillas - aka steak houses - abound), veggies are far from neglected and I’ve seen more dedicated vegetarian eateries in BA than I have at home. Their presence is partly down to the Porteñas (BA’s gorgeous women) who go to great lengths to retain their svelte, supermodel-worthy physiques.

Designated herbivore spots aside, there’s a cornucopia of pasta and ‘pizza by the slice’ places (Argentina is largely a country of immigrants and a sizeable number of Italians swapped their boot shaped country for BA at the beginning of the 20th century, when Italy was facing social and economic disturbances). Pay-by-the-kilo restaurants - where customers get to, in effect, create their own plate - are also hugely popular.

As are coffee houses: life happens here in Buenos Aires. The Porteños love to hang out in historic cafes (which, with their unique, elegant stained glass windows, are a million miles from the identikit Costa coffee shops that plague the high street at home) eating, drinking, posing, people watching, fighting, kissing and laughing until late into the night.

Coffee shops aside, the Porteños are passionate about pooches (I've come across more pups here than I have in any other city), tango ("How do you fill your time if you don’t tango?", is a question I have been asked on more than one occasion by a perplexed Porteño) and finally, football. The latter isn’t just a game in this city - it’s a religion (I’d go so far as to say that soccer has replaced the church).

BA (and Argentina’s) favourite team is Boca Juniors who owe their mythical status to the country’s most famous son: Diego Maradona (a man who made a helluva lot of noise both on and off the pitch) . As a huge football fan, Boca has always been on my radar but I am not so clued up on BA’s other clubs so, one evening, I decided to ask Matias and Cande - the lovely local couple with whom I am staying - for the skinny on BA’s remaining sides.

My mistake: Matias - a devout Boca fan - gave me a long look before replying: “There are no other teams…” Such is the fervour and passion of the Boca fans. But while Matias might not like to admit it, River Plate, Racing Club, San Lorenzo (Pope Francis is a fan) and Independiente are all a big footballing deal in Buenos Aires.

 

The more time I spend with Matias and Cande in this amazing metropolis, the more I begin to let go. I have cut back on checking emails in the evening and at weekends and stopped being such a slave to my inbox. Yes I do still worry about the deadlines and commissions I might miss out on, but I am trying to convince myself that my career won’t be over if I fail to answer an email instantly. It’s not been easy but I am making a real effort to achieve a better work-life balance in Buenos Aires 

However even paradise has its problems…. At the time of typing, my block in Buenos Aires has been without power for an incredible four days. The workmen have been digging in the street since Sunday (it’s now Thursday) but every-time I enquire in pigeon Spanish (sure, I am ashamed of being a monoglot, but learning a new language in your thirties ain’t easy) as to when electricity will be back, I’m told: "mañana"…

The ID scheme also infuriates. It’s a ‘cash only’ world here which has taken some getting used to - I can’t remember the last time I carried cash. Back home in London, my generation uses plastic to pay for absolutely everything from tube fares to food shopping. But in BA if you want to pay with a card - be it credit or debit - you need to present your passport, making it much less stressful (and safer) to simply carry cash.

Speaking of which if you’re smart, you’ll arrive bearing dollars (highly sought after in Argentina) and exchange them not at a bureau de change but the unofficial way: over the counter, where you’ll get 13 pesos for every dollar rather than the official eight.

All of which means that there is never a dull moment in Buenos Aires.  Forget the Big Apple: this is the real city that never sleeps. Dinner is rarely eaten before 10pm - at the earliest - and milongas (tango clubs) don’t open much before midnight. Last night, as I sat outside enjoying an asado (Argentine barbecue) with new friends at 2am on a school night, it dawned on me that I am definitely not in HA1 anymore and I don’t miss it. I’m relishing the fact that you can get tickets to the Argentina Tennis Open the same week and that dinner reservations don’t need to be made a month in advance. In Buenos Aires, you can just be.


Subsequently I am still here… initially I thought I would stay for seven days but one week slipped into two which turned into three, without me even noticing it. I’ve had emails from certain friends and family  at home (for which, if you’re reading this and one of them, I thank you - going away always helps me see who my real friends are) asking when I am moving on.

But in my mind - given that I am still working full time, meaning Monday to Friday is off limits  - it’s early days. And the truth is I’m not ready to pull the plug on my Buenos Aires adventure just yet. The lyrics to the eponymous song from Evita (the hit musical about Argentina's former first lady, Eva Peron) perhaps express it best: "Buenos Aires […] I'm  just a little stuck on you."

Bottom line? Everyone knows that BA stands for Buenos Aires but ‘b****y amazing’ would be equally apt….

Talk soon,

Kaye

x

To read part one of Kaye’s ‘Notes from a traveller’ series, please click here

To find out how Kaye’s getting on in Buenos Aires, don’t forget to log onto Just About Travel in a fortnight (30 March)