Buenos Aires: the Paris of the South, the South of the West

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Craziness or ingenuity, my ideas can waver in between. When presented with the opportunity to travel to Buenos Aires for work arose, I thought, well, why only go for two weeks… when I could stay for two months? And here I am!

I’d only dropped a few hints on my Facebook page, but other than those, I didn’t have any time to write a pre-post about this adventure… because preparing it was taking up all my free time. As our no frills Iberian airlines plane was cruising over the vast city, it finally hit me that this was happening… and that all my efforts would be worth it.

Buenos Aires is often called the “Paris of the South,” I could escaped my heart city for a little while to get to know its twin, right? The comparison of them is due to the wide avenues lined with elegant turn of the 20-century buildings, its expansive Belle Epoque cafés and relaxed joie de vie ambience. Little did I, or history, know that these twin cities would also share a love for protesting. Strolling around the center on my first day, my admiration of the gorgeous architecture was distracted by not one, not two but three lively demonstrations! Over the coming days I would stumble upon them, or hear them from my central apartment, almost daily. The French have nothing on them, with their loud bomb-like firecrackers, taking over buses and colorful banners from the provinces. I’ll have to learn more about these and report back.

Now why the South of the West, you may be wondering? In my lengthy search for the perfect apartment to rent during my stay, I realized that BA is not all Parisian old-style chic. It’s actually quite modern, with towering high-rises hugging the historic core. The city is very large with about 11 million people, ironically virtually the same population of Paris. I didn’t want to stay in a modern condo, If I did, I might as well move back home to Toronto or Vancouver. So my Parisianist side tracked down a beautiful loft, in the complex of the home of the famous engineer Madero who built the city’s historic port. Now arrived, I see why people like those new towers with their pools and modern conveniences, it’s summer down here. It’s okay, I’ll sweat it out on my plant-covered terrace.

The city’s full of these ultra-West vs Europe vs South clashes. It has the promise of the West, a land full of hope and aspiration which attracted a large influx of mostly Spanish and Italian immigrants a century ago, rivalling New York. Today, it’s also an aspiring destination for many South Americans with the same dreams as those earlier “pioneers.” I still have much to learn and discover about these aspects of its history and economy, but I couldn’t help noticing and feeling these similarities of the wild west frontier of North America.

It might look like the North at times, but there are dichotomies. Let’s say mostly positive. I love the city’s Latin flair, Tango most partly come from this. The people have been nothing but friendly, helpful and a joy to get to know. On the other side, the country’s economic troubles are apparent not only in those lively protests. I’d love to be lost in building gazing, were it not for all the potholes and missing paving stones in the sidewalks I have to constantly watch out for or the piles of garbage overflowing the dumpsters, understandably not high on the government’s spending list.

These are just some first impressions on skimming the surface during my first week. Many more exciting details and adventures will follow in the coming weeks!

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