Friday, April 23, 2010

Not Nearly Stylish Enough for the Porteños

They dress well, these people of Buenos Aires. Just walking down the street I saw more pairs of designer footwear than the shoe department at Holt's. Perhaps it's not just the architecture that gives Buenos Aires its nickname of "Paris of South America"; las Porteñas (female residents of BA) could give Parisiennes a run for their haute-couture money.

If I go out here one night, I have a feelling I'll be the scruffiest person in the crowd. Pity, really, when I have all the style I could desire (in footwear at least) packed up in my closet back home. But it would've been difficult travelling with a pair of Jimmy Choos, so perhaps I`ll just arrange to go out with other backpackers who are even more scruffy than me. It`s all about who you compare yourself too.

I got to BA today about 1:30 in the afternoon, after an 18-hour bus ride from Puerto Madryn. Bus travel is another thing Argentinos do in style, and comfort: if you`re North American and reading this, forget about anything you think you know about bus travel based on your experiences there. This is a whole different ball game.

I wasn`t as comfortable the few times I`ve flown business class as I was on the bus last night. Huge, plush, comfy seat; dinner, breafast and lunch served at my seat; flat screen TV on which to watch movies (and an attendant who kindly put on the English subtitles for me); ever-changing landscape to gaze at through my window on the top deck of the bus. This beats flying any day.

And there`s no way I`d ever get behind the wheel of a car here, because Argentine drivers are a little bit -- no, make that a LOT -- nuts. Crossing streets in Buenos Aires is a little intimidating, with 8 lanes of traffic waiting for the light to change -- at which point drivers will gun their engines and leap forward, heedless of any pedestrians who haven`t quite made it to the other side. Fortunately, that hasn`t been me (I walk fast), but I`ve seen a few people leaping frantically for the curb.

But I think I might like it here, crazy drivers or not. I was a little apprehensive coming here, having heard a few horror stories about people being mugged in broad daylight, but those reports appear to have been greatly exaggerated. I went for a walk around in the afternoon after checking to my hostel, and I didn`t feel any less safe than any other big city I`ve been too, and considerably safer than I did in a few (Guatemala City, or Tegucigalpa, say).

It`s a big of a shock to the system, though, to be back in a city this size; there are about 13 million people in Buenos Aires, and the biggest place I`ve been before that was Bariloche, at about 100,000 residents. From somewhere not even as big as my little hometown of Barrie ... to a metropolitan centre the size of London. I can do this -- I`ve spent most of my adult life in big cities -- but I`ll need a bit of time to acclimatize.

I did manage to get myself from the bus station to the hostel on the subway, though -- for the grand price of 1.10 pesos (about 30 cents) you can get anywhere in the city on the subte (short for subterraneo). It was so easy that I couldn't figure out why I was the only backpacker on there -- why take a cab when this is so simple and cheap?

I don`t think I`m going to stay more than a couple of days this stop, as I`ll have to pass back through here on my way back from Montevideo in Uruguay and Iguazu Falls in northern Argentina (unless I feel like going through Paraguay, which I don`t). So I might head up to Iguazu on Sunday night or Monday, then spend more time in BA after I`ve chilled out at the falls for a few days. We`ll see -- that`s what I love about having all this time, I get to make things up as I go along and don`t have to have it all planned out ahead of time!

I`m meeting up with a friend from Toronto tomorrow, who`s in Argentina on vacation and happens to be in BA at the same time as me. So we`re probably going to Tigre for the day, a riverfront suburb of BA that`s quite affluent and is suppoed to be very beautiful. Nearly two months after I leave home to wander at will through South America, with no set plan or agenda, and I end up in the same city at the same time as someone who lives just the other side of downtown Toronto in Parkdale - small world, isn`t it?

All right, practical stuff is waiting to be done -- making dinner, washing clothes and other exciting things -- so I must dash. Anyone who invents travel clothes that do not need to be washed will make an absolute fortune -- I love travelling light (especially since I am carrying it all around on my back), but I get tired of laundry.

Maybe I`ll just change my standards of cleanliness instead ... until someone invents those self-cleaning clothes.

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