The old-world architecture is touted as representing their French ancestry, leaving me with what I hope (again) is the unrealistic impression that people everywhere are suffering from the anywhere-but-here mentality. Maybe our ancestors were nomadic for more reasons than cold and drought? All I know for sure is that one of the few ways to really experience the uniqueness of any place is to pay attention to the pace. I was in Argentina for school—two week summer residency abroad, so my schedule was rigorous. However, waiting two hours for restaurants to re-open (after siesta) for dinner, made it clear that priorities are a wee bit different there—in a good way. A way I wish our class schedule would have embraced by giving us more time to explore on our own because there is nothing more valuable and enriching than real world education. Nevertheless, I still had some unique experiences—forced and rushed as they were, they often included unique, delicious foods and wine, which buffered the brevity of our stay.
Despite the impression conveyed by armed men policing most street corners in bulletproof vests, locals are extremely kind, even stopping to translate menus on their way out the door. One man even came back (from who knows where) near the end of our meal to make sure we had a good time and to see if we needed more help, all the while refusing to accept a tip. We were also never overcharged, and wearing my wedding ring was certainly not a problem, as some paranoid travel sites might have you believe. BUT rolling down the window in the cab and almost losing the driver's football flag will get you cursed at—understandably.
But Argentina truly sparkled after we left the crowded city and ventured out into the open grasslands of the Pampas where we could see the stars.
The last couple of days—nowhere near enough time to absorb it all—we stayed two hours NW of Buenos Aires, in San Antonia de Areco: a quaint little town with antique shops, old churches, peaceful cafes, a heavenly chocolatier, and a salmon-pink bridge over the Areco River. We ate open-pit BBQ, drank more headache-free wine, met the descendants of famous Gauchos (South American cowboys) and saw the modern performance version do some very impressive tricks on horseback. Touristy, but not something you see every day. If given the opportunity, I would go back and spend more time in San Antonia de Areco relaxing and sketching the cottages that are nowhere near a strip-mall. And despite the language barrier, somehow find out scooter man’s story... still wondering what's in that box?
On the sleep scale of 5 for plenty and 0 for none, I rate this trip a 1, but very worth the experience, especially since it has already inspired one new short story. And special thanks to the cabby missing his ring finger who only knew how to say, “All women are crazy” in English.
To read more about Argentina, check out the linked article by my brilliant friend Eleanor Baker who also wrote about her unique experiences from this same trip.