What I Love in Buenos Aires, Argentina

A flowering shrub in the Buenos Aires botanical gardens.

A flowering shrub in the Buenos Aires botanical gardens.

As you may have noticed from my last post a few weeks ago, the little details of life have been getting me down lately. From not seeing my family in a very long time, to my husband disappearing for most of the day every day to agonize over his PhD thesis and return home at the end of the day utterly exhausted, to studying at home on my own every day because there are no cafes in town to go to, at least to change the scenery… well, all of it has added up and as a result I have been prone to getting a little more frustrated than usual over many small things.

Melon and strawberry Gelato at Arkakao on Santa Fe Avenue. (Don't tell Italy, but Argentina has amazing gelato and ice cream.)

Melon and strawberry Gelato at Arkakao on Santa Fe Avenue. (Don’t tell Italy, but Argentina has amazing gelato and ice cream.)

In the bigger picture, though, I know (and am grateful) that none of these problems are insurmountable, nor are they really, truly, a big deal. They are typical life problems – albeit a bit exaggerated thanks to my current living situation, cut off by 6,000 miles from family, friends, and home.

A stained glass window in a coffee shop in Recoleta

A stained glass window in a coffee shop in Recoleta

I admire some bloggers for often making posts that focus on simple little everyday things. In fact, when I think about some of my favourite blog posts that I have seen online, it’s usually the posts about tiny details and little bits of life that leave the strongest impression on me.

Shopping in Recoleta (the sun was caught at a strange angle!)

Shopping in Recoleta (the sun was caught at a strange angle!)

Last month, I visited Buenos Aires again (this was my 3rd trip to the city that I have now decided is my favourite place to visit in the world). Now, Buenos Aires isn’t exactly the city that most people would equate with “little things.” It is busy, messy, smelly, fabulous, grand, spectacular, and big in every possible way. But, when I think of the reasons I like it so well, it always comes back to the special little moments I have experienced there, often generated by its people. These little moments amongst a large, chaotic city are what make the city stand out in my mind.

Sweater from said shopping trip...

Sweater from said shopping trip…

Like any other place in the world, you can find anyone there, including rude and obnoxious and mean people, of course. But I have found most of its people to be overwhelmingly kind, welcoming, and warm to me, and they tend to have a particular talent for generating beautiful moments and special little memories that persist in my mind much more strongly than even the most spectacular architecture or parks or art or places or sights in the city.

Fresh basil from an Italian market. I cooked some Italian food from ingredients I can't find in Chile.

Fresh basil from an Italian market. I cooked some Italian food from ingredients I can’t find in Chile.

I had one moment of mini-panic one day when I took the subte (metro) to a new part of town, where I was to join up with a walking tour. I got hopelessly lost on foot on my way to the rendezvous point, and asked directions in a Starbucks, and several ladies including a customer were very kind to me, explaining to me where I should go. But unfortunately, the road they sent me along was closed, so I walked down a different one, and got lost again. I was going to be late for my walking tour, so I finally saw and waved down a taxi – nervously, because I was told that you should only take Radio taxis in Buenos Aires and this was not a Radio taxi – and as bravely as I could told the driver where I wanted to go. Well, he treated me perfectly well, we had an excellent conversation about summer in Buenos Aires – construction season, apparently – and explained that I was having a hard time getting there because of the road closure, so he detoured around and we were there in time for my tour. He actually ended up charging me less than the metered fare.

The result of shopping on Santa Fe avenue: new shoes (they were on sale!) I love the shoes made in Argentina.

The result of shopping on Santa Fe avenue: new shoes (they were on sale!) I love the shoes made in Argentina.

The best moment of the week, however, was  in fact quite simple but actually grand in its own way. I needed to visit a library for my graduate research. I ended up visiting the Eva Peron Historical Research Foundation’s library and spent some time talking with its incredibly kind and helpful librarian. Along with my husband and another scholar, I spent the better part of the afternoon there. It was helpful, interesting, and enlightening to be there, surrounded by people who are passionate about actively preserving a part of Argentinean (and world) history.

A trip to Argentina isn't complete without empanadas for dinner (we had them twice). Baked in a wood oven!

A trip to Argentina isn’t complete without empanadas for dinner (we had them twice). Baked in a wood oven!

Most of the week was surprisingly simple: taking walking tours, shopping along Santa Fe Avenue in Recoleta and in Palermo, eating steak with my husband at a parilla restaurant with an outdoor terrace, eating facturas (glorious pastries) every morning washed down with really nice coffee, buying flowers from a sidewalk vendor, meandering through the Recoleta cemetery, through parks and a museum or two. January was the month that most Porteños take off for the coast for their summer holidays, so many locals told me it was quiet and slower than usual. The weather was warm and humid, though pleasant at night. On the last morning we were there, there was a fairly powerful rainstorm which I, naturally, got caught in and my clothes were soaked, but I didn’t really mind. It was, after all, the small, unplanned moments that made the week so lovely.

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