Week two back in Buenos Aires and we’re well and truly settled in our routine, a pleasant balance of morning exercise, cooling pool dips, a good 5 hours of work, lunch by the pool and, if we’re honest, an afternoon siesta with a good book. I’m the one usually mooching around the San Telmo mercado late morning, finding something to rustle up for lunch or dinner and engaging in my daily Spanglish encounters and challenges, but I am getting there, promise. There are excellent and incredibly abundant (heaving) fruit and veg stands, speciality butchers that don’t leave anything to the imagination, deli’s galore, fish mongers and bakeries (excellent pan integral, empanadas, medialunas), and everything in between. And, if that weren’t enough, there are European chain supermarkets (Carrefour) on every corner and 24-7 Korean minimarts every two-hundred metres or so (what is it with that?) There’s one amusing linguistic peculiarity. When a local porteño says that they’re looking for the local ‘disco’, they’re not searching for a nightclub but the local Disco (brand) supermarket and, ‘something from the chino’ (algo del chino) means, can you pick up something from the Chinese minimart (now Korean – Ant). Talking of which, it’s Chinese New Year this weekend ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai’ (to our Chinese Australian friends). We travelled across town by Subte to Barrio Chino, adjacent to the oh-so-smart barrio of Belgrano. It’s nothing like the Chinatowns we have in say London or Sydney – far from it, a two-block street – but there’s one thing that’s worth travelling across town for, and that’s the Casa China. Wow, its two outlets are packed with everything Asian but more, foods imported from around the world. I had hoped, but failed to see, whether Vegemite or even Marmite made the cut, but I think that’ll require a separate and dedicated shopping trip. But seriously, they have an amazing stock of global foods not to be found in any other supermarket we’ve visited. After the delights of Barrio Chino, we hopped it across town in a cab to our favourite Palermo restaurant, the appropriately named La Hormiga (The Ant) – the cab cost just £4 (A$7) with a two-course lunch with wine (lots) costing just £26 ($48) including tip. And a cab home right across town back to San Telmo cost just 300 pesos (A$10).
After our UK budget blowout (it was always going to be that way), we’re glad financially to be back in Argentina and actively, and easily I have to say, getting things back down to, and hopefully below, our AUD 100 a day budget. It’s not hard here I have to say, despite the rampant inflation with day-to-day living incredibly cheap – as long as you have foreign cash mind you, particularly USD or GDP, but AUD is also good. Prices go up pretty much on a weekly basis – we’ve noticed that in some local cafes the menu doesn’t have any prices, they’ve been taped over and the price of groceries changes (for us) incrementally, but for locals it’s getting harder each day.
Last night on the way back from a local restaurant, the streets were filled with a neighbourhood protest despite it being after 10pm – much banging of pots and pans with whistles, with people standing in the middle of a busy street defying the traffic. The signs mostly read ‘Abajo con Macri’. Down with the current president. The next election is in October this year.
Otherwise, first up, it’s an early morning walk which typically takes us down to Puerto Madera and, if particularly adventurous, Parque Ecologica and over to the shores of the wide brown Rio Plata. This morning we walked down Calle Defensa to the Casa Rosada, through Microcentro and across to Puerto Madera and the Calatrava bridge. There’s hardly anyone on the streets of San Telmo at 7am, but it’s a different story in Microcentro where office workers start the day early. Forget about taking a Subte anywhere in the city of an early morning, all lines are sardine packed until well into mid-morning and, as we have discovered, the aircon (fans not actual aircon) struggles to keep up.
It’s incredibly hot and steamy here – it’s typically above 30 degrees every day, with the odd uncomfortable burst of 37 (which feels like mid 40’s) or so, but it’s the nights that are so intense – it’s been 28 degrees as an overnight low for well over a week now, and not a breeze to be had.
We said farewell (Auf Wiedersehen) to our Austrian housemates, the charming Oskar and Helga and their friends Willy and Felicita, who when we came home from dinner, plied us by the pool with Kiefernnadelschnapps (Pine Needle Schnapps self-fermented back in Wien) until the wee small hours. They left Casa San Telmo this morning, leaving us pretty much alone to enjoy the courtyard oasis. There are some occasional 2-5 night bookings for the other apartments over the coming months, but nothing of any length. Oh, and the other thing is (sign of possession perhaps?) I’ve become the designated pool boy… wrangling the Creepy Crawly, fishing out the leaves and topping up the water level.
Mi casa Mi casa.