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Buenos Aires, where the living is easy


A few cities in the world cry out for autonomy. Buenos Aires is one of them. This past April and May I descended upon Argentina’s capital to discover how pain free it is to immerse oneself into its vibrant culture.

Securing a place to stay was a snap. I had about a hundred apartments to choose from on Airbnb website. I narrowed down my choices to either the Palermo or the Recoleta neighborhoods. Palermo wins out for its massive parks, yoga in the park offerings, sidewalk cafes, designer boutiques, and hip dance clubs. Recoleta has grand and beautiful restored homes, close proximity to down town, and Eva Peron’s remains casting a magical spell over the world famous cemetery. Either area would prove fine, but I decided on Recoleta, mainly for the ease of reaching every other place in the city. I could not have asked for a better location. Not only was I impressed with the selections on Airbnb, but the apartment owners all answered my inquiries promptly and courteously.

It was great having an apartment. I could pick up a quiche at the pastry shop around the corner, price compare at the many grocery stores, sample dulce de leche ice-cream at Freddo’s, savor a medium rare steak, meet friends for happy hour at the 5 star Alvear Palace Hotel, laugh at the mimes and acrobats performing at the parks, or simply curl up with a good novel in my cozy apartment. The comfort made me feel like home.

Public transportation in Buenos Aires is beyond great. A typical bus fare is about 25 cents, with the subte (subway lines) now costing a bit more. Subte stations are sprinkled throughout the city; the same true with bus stops. From my apartment in Recoleta, I could reach a bus stop in less than two blocks and hop on a bus with less than a five minute wait. Taxis are also plentiful and reasonable. And if you want to explore the outskirts of the city, this is easy too. Just take a bus to the Retiro Train Station and from there catch a one-hour train ride to Tigre. There, visitors can kayak, canoe, wakeboard, or simply enjoy a guided boat tour. Definitely, Buenos Aires ranks high in the ease of getting around cheaply and conveniently.

It takes time to get to know a city, and one’s time is well spent getting to know and to love Buenos Aires. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was culturally deficient back in my California hometown. The vast cultural offerings mesmerized me in Argentina’s capital. My eyes grow ten sizes in awe with the mention of the words Teatro Colon. Guided tours are offered almost hourly, giving guests insights into the history and splendor of this landmark. The acoustics are unbelievable. I became hooked on Verdi’s opera and Orquesta Filarmonica de Buenos Aires. Inexpensive standing room tickets make the offerings available to everyone and reasonably priced seats are cushiony plush velvet. Teatro Colon is ranked as the number one opera house and the number five concert hall in the world, and easily visitors become avid fans.

Abundant cultural activities spread out throughout the city. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is a must-see. Works by Renoir, Monet, Gauguin, Cezanne and Picasso give their flair to Argentine arts such as Solar and Sivori. MALBA showcases great and often quite radical modern art pieces. Approximately once a month, a concert is held at Museo Nacional de la Decorativo, the former mansion of a Chilean aristocrat. Easily, guests feel as if they are transplanted back a hundred years to the finery of listening to Bach in the splendorous sitting rooms. First-class plays and musicals are in the theatres located a block away from the obelisk. Abba never had it so good with the production I saw of “Mamma Mia.” It earned five standing ovations as the audience joined the cast in singing and dancing to transplant a Greek island of love to Buenos Aires. The Teatro Avenida hosts concerts and dance performances, many from Europe. There, I saw Luna Maria and her dance troop from Spain rival the tango with their flamenco. And, of course, one has to experience the tango while in Argentina. The neighborhood of San Telmo caters especially to tango, offering sensationalized shows aimed for tourists to “donations in the hat” dancers on restaurant stages and at local parks and street corners. To appreciate the tango, take some classes. Studios are sprinkled throughout the city so they are easy to find. Once you feel confident with a step or two, head to La Catedral, a make-shift warehouse that packs a crowd inside to show off tango moves. Music, dance, art, theatre: Buenos Aires has it all at one’s fingertips.

Walking tours serve as a good introduction to the city. I enjoyed a few with Cultour (www.cultour.com.ar) where students from University of BA led us to different sections of the city. Especially interesting is the Myths and Legends of BA Tour, given by reservation only through www.banecdotour.com.ar In this tour, glimpses into secrets of Cervantes and Dante mingle with stories of past heroes and villains of South America.

Futbol, soccer, National Obsession, Argentina’s Religion – if at all possible, it must be experienced. For most of the year, games are scheduled, and a Boca Juniors game is a non-stop Amazement Event. Flags wave, crowds chant, firecrackers explode, confetti dribbles, and insanity reigns. Worth his weight in gold is Felix of Mix Up Exchange. He will secure great seats, take you to the stadium, and give insider’s tips about players. More information can be found at www.mixupexchange.blogspot.com.

Of course, the key to falling in love with a place is falling in love with its people. A great way to accomplish this in Buenos Aires is to volunteer. Anyone staying in BA for more than two weeks can volunteer with Lifeargentina. This organization will pick you up at central locations in the city and take you in a van to help children with after school activities. Volunteers might teach English to children from ages of 4 to 16, might learn a lot of Spanish from these children in turn, might master a few soccer moves, and might become proficient in face painting and lego building. One can locate more information about this organization at www.lifeargentina.org.

If you want to be closer into the city and attend practices in the neighborhood of Belgrano, then a great volunteer opportunity awaits with CILSA. This organization has provided more than 5,000 wheelchairs to the disabled, and their Sports Center offers top notch swimming, soccer, and basketball facilities. I helped two of its Wheelchair Basketball teams: one for children 11 to 15 and one for adults. In truth, I use the word “helped” hesitatingly. Much more, the team members helped me. They helped me realize that it takes a positive, autonomous attitude to be happy and successful, much more than it takes two legs and two arms. More information about CILSA can be found at www.cilsa.org.

Autonomy works well in Buenos Aires. Yes, there are certain sections to steer away from, especially if alone and at night. Yes, you must have coins for using the bus as the driver will not take bills. Yes, you want to remember that the Spanish accent is different than in most other countries, and the double l sounds like “sh,” though many people in BA speak English. Definitely, you want to remember to hail a “Radio Taxi” to avoid a city tour and an expensive ride to a location only a few miles away. And the litter might drive you crazy, as well as the second-hand smoke. But whenever you think you’re going crazy, just smile and succumb to a scrumptious steak dinner followed by a magnificent concert and plentiful thoughts of a Championship Basketball team who knows not only how to make baskets, but also how to reach out in love to you because you ventured autonomously to the beautiful city of Buenos Aires.

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