This is an illustrated list of my some of my favorite things about my Buenos Aires experience.
THE OUTER BARRIOS
Colegiales, Chacarita, and Belgrano were my main destinations for food tourism and wandering. Each of these neighborhoods have great vegetarian and parrilla options, with ZERO tourists, good prices, and great architecture. I highly recommend jumping on the bus and cruising around in these neighborhoods, hopping off when you notice something cool, walk for awhile, rinse, repeat.
EL COLECTIVO, the Bus.
When I leave my apartment in New York I chant “wallet…keys…phone” to ensure I am not forgetting anything vital to the going out process. Here in Buenos Aires, my usual mantra is followed by …”MULTIGUíA.” Not unlike London A- Z, this street guide is essential to finding your way around a city shaped like a fan, with long, long calles and avenidas stretching for miles. More importantly, this is also one way to figure out the bus system. While many tourists and expats avoid the “colectivo” like the plague, I personally love the challenge of it.
First you have to get enough change, ideally the endangered un peso coin, which most vendors are loathe to give up from their cash registers. Proper loose change procured, you then engage in a bunch of bingo with the map grids of the MULTIGUíA in order to figure out your route between pages in this thing (first you figure your destination in one square and compare the bus numbers to the ones in your present location’s square, and figure out which numeros are common). Then, there is also a route description in the back of the multiguía, which helps to locate where in the square the bus does its pickup, but its never very clear precisely where to find your bus… I can often be found wandering the streets of Buenos Aires, multiguía in hand, muttering “Where’s the fuckin’ bus?” but the longer you stay here the more attention you pay to which buses are on which streets so I guess it gets easier.
My personal favorite of the buses is Route 168. Often festooned with black lights, skull&crossbone-engraved mirrors, wild drivers, and thumping bass music, this bus takes me from my home-base in Colegiales through outlet shopping land (which shares turf with the hipster milongas), past Salon Canning, to Ariel’s house for dance lessons, to Plaza Once for cheap shopping, to San Telmo, finally arriving in La Boca. Good bus.
Private lessons, disturbingly known as “privates” are expensive here, but still less expensive than with teachers in the US and more authentic of course. I think its worth it to take a few with your favorite teacher because things you’ve learned in classes will gel, and you get an opportunity to work through some new things on a personalized level. I took mine with Ariel Yanovsky, gee, I wonder why? No, really– I like his style of dancing and he’s funny. Yeah, and handsome.
TANGO SHOES, AND OTHER SHOPPING
I wasn’t really blown away by Comme il Faut when I arrived. Everyone in the milongas wears the shoes which have a signature ankle strap that wraps around the heel. They are nice, but not nice enough to purchase the same silly dancing shoes that everyone else has… So I thought. I wandered into the shop, which is nothing more than an unmarked apartment, flopped onto the couch and fielded questions about my haircut while the women disappeared and returned with boxes and boxes of shoes in size 37. These shoes… they feel amazing. Hand-made here with soft leather and great colors, they make your feet look good and the rest of you feel amazing. Approx. $100 if you pay cash. Here are mine, please do not buy the same ones:
In terms of shopping for clothes and such, I felt things were pretty hit or miss. I was astonished to find that despite rips, tears, or stains, many stores keeps their merchandise on the rack AND don’t discount them much for the damage. Many upmarket boutiques I visited in San Telmo and Palermo had nice designs but the dresses and things had a really cheap H&M feel to them so surprisingly, I didn’t buy anything expensive here.
Elastic waistband genie pants, however, are really fun. Yeah, they are a little camel-toey, but along with tank-tops and other “American Apparel” style crap, these are comfortable, colorful, and cheap– like $3USD when purchased in the Once market stalls. Especially great if you’re like me and have a a “pants-too-tight” problem after eating parrilla food.
HAIRCUT at AND.YES (F.Alcuña de Figueroa 1471 1C).
Sofia gave me a cute red business card reading “And.Yes” as a place to try for a hip Argentine haircut. I arrived and it is just an apartment in a big Palermo building with a really cute guy with a faux-hawk and a telephone ringing off the hook. And, NO, despite its English name, no English is spoken. Try describing a haircut in Spanish. See? Its hard! The guy is just sortof “let me do what I want” and the next thing I knew, all my hairs were on the floor. The slanted bob I walked away with is great for the summer heat and in general this was a good, if daring experience.
LEARNING TO HABLO EN ESPAÑOL
Despite my struggle at the hair salon, my Spanish tutor, Talí has been wonderful, caring, kind, and patient teaching me to speak a little Spanish. She writes everything out for me since I can’t understand a word out of her mouth ( I can read Spanish, I just don’t hear it.) We met twice a week for about 4 weeks and I feel really fortunate to have gotten to know her! Here she is:
RANDOM ODDITIES TO NOTICE AND ADMIRE
Be on the lookout for Argentine colloquial sign language, which closely resembles the gestures you’d imagine mobsters using. I don’t have pictures, but whenever someone doesn’t know or understand, they sweep the underside of their chins with the back of one hand. Its cool! There are a few others like placing your index finger under your eye to connote “beware” or “pay attention/check this out.” Check it out!
Black houses! People in general are very bold with their color choices here but black is very handsome:
I’ve forgotten to ask someone about this. Why do many of the parking garages read “Play Privada” We all know a parking lot is not a private beach, so what’s up? The thing I like though is that many mechanic shops, gas stations, and other things having to do with cars are thoughtfully adorned with potted plants or little gardens.
WILD CATS AND WILD DOGS
… are everywhere, and the dogs especially are so well behaved. Michele explained that she thinks its because they are mostly mutts and pretty calm in contrast to hyper-bred American dogs, so it was nice to be able to encounter big monsters in the neighborhood and have them trot along besides you, panting, for a few blocks before finding a nice-smelling pole to pee on and leaving you alone. Here are some in Tigre that just live in the delta, eating scraps and swimming across the canals.
Itteh bitteh kittehs, all over the place.