Sunday, October 12, 2008

San Telmo

The triumph of newly installed WiFi in our apartment lasted less than as a day, as we woke up this morning to a dysfunctional router that has evidently given up on serving us wireless Internet. Luckily, we’ve been able to pick up a nearby signal, which is not as fast as ours (can I even call it ours? We had it for so little time, almost as if we were borrowing it), but a signal nonetheless. Even though there is a locutorio (internet café) just across the street from our apartment, it is always nice to write from the comfort of your own home.

And as pictures have shown (I spent nearly 2 hours trying to get a video of the apartment to load, without any success), we do in fact have a home here in Buenos Aires. It’s been fun and exciting getting accustomed to actually having our own place. We have a ton of space here (*wink wink nudge nudge* to all potential visitors). We are in piso 3A, but those of you familiar with European floor ordering know that that puts us on the 4th floor, as the ground floor is 0. The only neighbors that we’ve seen so far are the small colony of abandoned cats that inhabit the roof of the building across the street. I can’t decide whether to call their loose establishment Catmandu or Buenos Gatos, but they look quite grizzled and hardened by the street lives they live. In addition, our building has a terrace on the top floor. We ventured up there for the first time this afternoon, and it gave us a decent view our neighborhood, San Telmo.

Without a doubt, one of the best aspects of our apartment is its location in San Telmo. My guidebook put it this way: “If you think of tango, romance, and a certain unexpressed sensual sadness when you think of Buenos Aires, then you’re thinking of San Telmo”. While I would not use those exact words (a certain unexpressed sensual sadness? What does that even mean?), I do agree with my guidebook in one respect: it is my favorite neighborhood in Buenos Aires.
In fairness, I haven’t been to every neighborhood in BsAs, where as I’ve been in San Telmo every single day, since not only is our flat in San Telmo, our hostel was, as well. It may not be as chic or have the night life of Recoleta, Barrio Norte, or Palermo, which are all a good distance away, but nearby busses can bring you there in 35 minutes for just as many American cents and taxis there are also very cheap. We took a taxi to Palermo Friday night for $6.50, when it would have cost 3 times that in the states.

Still, San Telmo has an undeniable and immediate charm. The neighborhood is a maze of cobblestone streets lined with cafés, restaurants, galleries, clothing boutiques, leather stores, and antique shops. The nineteenth century architecture helps San Telmo establish and retain its identity as a traditional barrio porteño (Buenos Aires neighborhood). Besides the larger supermarkets where we get lots of our basic supplies, the neighborhood possesses numerous panderias (bakeries), the previously mentioned fresh pasta shop, and the San Telmo market which provides us with the bulk of our produce, meat, cheese, and other foods best bought fresh.
To top it all off, every Sunday the San Telmo Antique Fair (Feria de Antigüedades) descends upon Plaza Dorrego and the surrounding area, primarily Calle Defensa, which is shut down for antique stands and street performers. While the weekly event does draw its fair share of tourists – a category that I’m tentative to extricate us from, even though we are living here – it is a huge draw for porteños, too. Just as many natives as tourists crowd around the street performers, purchase items from the vendors, and recline at the outdoor cafés in and around the plaza, which is the epicenter of the fair, and according to many, all of San Telmo. My personal favorite was a guy who painted portraits of famous musicians (most notably Amy Winehouse and Axel Rose – a strange fixation with self-destructive artists) with his hands while their music blared in the background. He’s not nearly as good as Dan Dunn, who he may or may not have been copying, but very admirable indeed.
Unfortunately, I forgot my camera at the apartment so I couldn’t digitally catch any of these sites and sounds, so pictures will be forthcoming from Julia or from a future visit. And goodness knows we will be frequenting the Feria de Antigüedades many times during our stay. After all, it is in the neighborhood.


danya said...

i want to visit, i do! perhaps spring break...

Ann Behar said...

Josh, you are a naturally gifted writer!

Josh said...

only if i wrote young adult fiction...

Deborah said...

San Telmo is amazing!!!
It's one the the places I liked the most of the Buenos Aires tours I did the last time I visited Argentina.
Hope I can go back there soon :)