Getting Settled in Buenos Aires

26th January 2015
In: Travel
It's been a week since my wife and I arrived in this vibrant city of Buenos Aires, and yet we feel that we have not even scratched the surface of what you can see and do in this city. It's a good thing that we planned to stay here for a month.

We have a high level plan of what we want to see in Buenos Aires, and we're always open to the joy of being "lost" in the city. We're always mindful, of course, of the dangerous areas to avoid and we take the usual precaution we would take in any other large city, but exploring areas that are a little off the beaten tracks can bring unexpected surprises, especially for photographers. There is an advantage to not completely planning your itinerary for each day and each hour ahead of time. For us, not planning everything and allowing ourselves to wander allows for spontaneity as well as the opportunity to follow recommendations by locals and other travellers. It makes for a more exciting vacation. Of course, it is easier to have a loose agenda as we plan to be here for a longer period of time.

We like to settle in one area for an extended period to really understand and experience the culture of the place we are visiting. The If-it's-Tuesday-this-must-be-Belgium kind of vacation is something that does not appeal to us. To authentically experience the everyday life of the people - the good and the bad - can be very rewarding. We like to settle into an apartment in an area where locals would live, and then we try to live as a local. We can learn a lot about the culture by going about and doing everyday mundane things that locals do.
One thing that we do to experience what it's like to be a local or in this case, Porteños (Spanish for someone who lives in the port city of Buenos Aires), is to take the local buses around the city. Buenos Aires has an amazing network of buses and subways that can quickly get you around the city. Taking the local buses exposes you to the public that no rented car, organized tour, or taxi can do. There are many similarities between commuters here and North American cities; many of them have their earphones on listening to music , as well as either texting or browsing social media. Not to mention talking on their cell phone loud enough for others to hear. But one thing I noticed is that some makes the sign of the cross when we pass in front of a church. This gave me a flashback of my childhood in Manila where almost everyone does this.

Having coffee with the locals at one of the many cafes is always a great experience. We have not been disappointed by the Italian-style coffee served everywhere here. Although mate is the official national drink (prepared by steeping dried leaves of yerba mate), most of the people I've seen in here drink coffee - probably true to Argentina's celebrated Italian heritage. As in many Latin American countries, flan (my favourite) is available in most cafes and restaurants and goes well with cafe con leche. It is usually serve with dulce de leche or whipped cream. A close second is Budin de Pan, or bread pudding. The Argentine version is a smooth dessert (no chunks of bread) and is also served with dulce de leche or whipped cream on the side. Other pastries we also tried and really liked are medialuna (croissants but sweeter than we're used to) and Alfajores de Maicena, which is basically a two cookie sandwich with dulce de leche in the middle. Really loving dulce de leche!

Here are some images of the places we've been to this week. A couple of surprises we've encountered while wandering the streets: as an antique bookstore in a beautiful art deco building, and a commercial gallery called Galería Güemes.

La Calesita

Galería Güemes

La librería El Ateneo

Cafe Tortoni

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