A long drawn out and much needed exhale is what we find ourselves within, a temporary pause in the midst of the whirlwind that has been our last six months. In the rush of this adventure we have been assailed by sights, experiences and immersions so relentlessly that a slight pause becomes more than a rest, a languid exhale brings back a passive headspace we left at Sydney airport. Buenos Aires is the home we’ve made for this short stop, a city of great history, occasional calamity, drama and eternal grace to punctuate the final fling that is our newfound love affair with Latin America.
Mornings are punctuated by walking the seven blocks to ‘Latte & Te’, some of the best coffee in South America and our barista’s who know our coffee order. Cooking at home is a luxury but eating out is an awesome option in BA. A little lunch at a restaurant nearby called Olsen typifies this separation. Through a trendy facade we enter a lawn courtyard of a large industrial building crawled over by vines in a chic urban setting of modern cool to rival the best of them. Asparagus gazpacho, fish, pate on walnut bread, salads, roast potatoes, wine and delicious pudding form a spread to salivate over, so salivate we do. Getting up to leave this most exclusive of dining experiences our wallets are $40AUD lighter, for both of us. Argentina continues it’s ‘best or worst’ philosophy with very little in between.
A trip to San Telmo fills in the space of a day that would otherwise be crammed with transfers, packing, settling bills or of course sitting on a bus on any other travel day. The exhale continues with a casual stroll on cobbled streets through the maze of fading glamour that makes up the architectural maze of history’s patchwork. Buenos Aires hangs on tightly to a history of grandeur, romance and indeed glamour that it won’t be letting go of any time soon. Buenos Aires and indeed San Telmo tell a similar story, the yoyo that has historically been the Argentinian economy leaves remnants of great wealth collecting just a few barnacles on the hull of a country now economically struggling to forge ahead on a world scale.
In the seven blocks walk to our awaiting coffee, free of the mental roulette wheel of tasks before us we are able to absorb a closer look to a life here rather than a holiday. Buenos Aires also has a wide range of quality street art for any casual observer. Street graffiti was used commonly for political promotions and in the freedom of the early 80’s after the military dictatorship an underground sprang up to piggy back on what was culturally a fairly common practice. Using the walls of the city to communicate is not only common here it’s become a publicly supported trend, fantastic art rubs shoulders with grand historical buildings, the past and present showcased for all to see in a mismatched dance that sounds like it shouldn’t work but it does.
Ignore the tourism brochures, the travel shows and dare I say it, the blogs, you heard it here first, Buenos Aires is a beautiful city. We definitely haven’t seen all of Buenos Aires but we haven’t seen the stark social gap so easily present in other latin American capital cities. In this beautiful city we are dragged temporarily out of the hubbub and fuss that accompanies travel and delivered to a sense of comfort that we dare not hope for much of the time. If we shut our eyes just for a moment we can feel a little of the relaxation we left at home, speaking Spanish on a daily basis no longer seems quite the effort it once did.
For an Australian the prospect of leaving a beautiful city to wipe away more than a whole calendar day and onward to an exciting journey feels so familiar. This time that city is not our own but the feeling remains so true, maybe home can be a broader idea than we often take it to be after all. For now we’ll wave goodbye to Buenos Aires and the Latin world, so diverse is our new adopted home. We so often spy the Opera House and the sands of the Northern Beaches through windows so ironically small for a farewell glimpse of a home so big. Those inadequate windows will be a mockery once more, the grand vista may not be home but then again we look down on the world where home is and we’ll feel a little of the same.