Our first decision: Where to start?

October 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

In selecting a starting point, we wanted somewhere where Joe could arm himself with Spanish instruction before we traveled for 5-6 months through South America. We also wanted somewhere that could hold our interest for a few weeks, which lead us to the great cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Kasey traveled to Buenos Aires during study abroad in Chile, and not only loved it but felt comfortable coming back to navigate the city and for more exploration.

A primer on some basic facts.

Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina, a country that is host to many of the “southern most items” in the world. The city itself is huge, with a Metro area population of 13M, making it #17 in the top metropolitan areas of the world.

Other tidbits from wikipedia:

  • People from Buenos Aires are referred to as porteños (people of the port).
  • Strongly influenced by European culture, Buenos Aires is sometimes referred to as the “Paris of South America“.

At the time of this writing, the currency is almost 4 Argentine pesos to the dollar. (3.9 ARS = 1 USD) and a bargain city for those coming from the US. The Argentine Spanish that is spoken down here is a story within its own right, and Joe will have to share insights from his class.

The time zone was initially one hour ahead of East Coast time, but after the US moved off Daylight Saving Time, Argentina time was 2 hours ahead of eastern standard time. With the flipped seasons, we have been enjoying springtime with the days getting increasingly warmer. We are looking forward to summer, although that also means high season in many of the places we will visit.

Although one song in the Evita movie sings ¨I want to BE a part of B. A. Buenos Aires!¨, I have seen BsAs used more on local signage than ¨B. A¨, and I think its more in line with how abbreviations are done here. And as for ¨Argentine¨ vs ¨Argentinian¨, I think we both started off using the latter, but have moved onto the former after hearing more locals use that one.

The allure of the local culture

I´ll summarize some of the attractive stereotypes about vacation in Buenos Aires using some M words…

Macaroni- cheap and tasty Italian food due to the large amount of settlers here

Maradona- high quality futbol (soccer) and passionate fans

Malbec- good wine that is cheaper than water

Meat- steak is king in Argentina: relatively inexpensive and good flavor, largely due to the prevalence of grass fed cattle

Midnight- late late nights, with dinnertime peaking around 10:30pm and clubs that go until 6am

Mellow- cafe culture that is conducive to a leisurely meal or a coffee sipped while people watching or reading

Other tipping factors for us

We thought Buenos Aires would also make a great hub for taking some weekend trips during our first month there, and a place with internet readily available to make successive plans, since we came to South America with no itinerary or guidebook.

It was also a huge incentive to come where we knew someone that had a connection with a local Spanish school – Joe´s high school friend Katie has lived here for 5 years and runs her own study abroad company for foreign students. She and her fiancee have been great friends to ease the transition away from people we know.

And finally, for a year where we will be trying to keep to our pre determined budget, it was a relief to start off with a free flight using our frequent flyer miles (and at a SuperSaver rate at that!).

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