My first morning in Buenos Aires was spent on a free walking tour of the city, with another Australian girl and a Belgian guy. These tours are usually a great way to get your bearings around the city, see some of the main sights and, as a bonus, you only pay (as a tip at the end) for what you think it’s worth. Having been a tour guide on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I know how difficult guiding can be, and how much energy and effort is put into a good tour. Unfortunately the guide we had was listless and lacklustre, and as much as I tried to concentrate on the information he provided, I found my thoughts wandering elsewhere for most of the tour.
Afterwards, I was on a mission to change my US Dollars into Argentinian Pesos. There is what’s called ‘blue dollars’ in Argentina, which is the exchange rate you receive on the street when you change money, versus the pathetic official exchange rate you receive at an ATM. From the banks you receive about eight Pesos to the US Dollar, where on the street you can get up to 12.8 Pesos for the exact same dollar.
I was nervous as to where and how to get this blue money, mostly because I don’t speak enough Spanish and I didn’t want to get taken for a fool and receive fake notes, but of course I still preferred it over the official rate I’d get if I went to an ATM. Luckily the Belgian guy spoke numerous languages, including fluent Spanish (it impresses me that every Belgian I’ve met is fluent in so many languages!), and he was happy to haggle a good rate for me. I ended up getting an exchange of 12.6 per dollar, which, when converted from Aussie dollars, meant I got about 50% more than I would have at an ATM! Bonus!!
The following day one of the girls my dorm room was leaving, and wanted to get some souvenirs to take back to Chile. I asked if she wanted me to come as I thought she was going alone – and I ended up wandering the city and Puerto Madero with a group of Brazilians all day instead! They were all lovely people, although we had a slight language hurdle with only some Spanish but no Portuguese on my part, and some English but no Spanish on their part. I love how they all looked out for me, even though we couldn’t communicate with any fluency.
Everyone had only recently met each other, yet we all were conscious of including everyone and watching out for each other. We were included just because, not for any specific reason, and certainly not because I’d done anything for anyone. It was really nice, although at times I had to stop myself thinking I was a burden by not speaking Portuguese. As it turned out, the girls really want to learn English and one of the guys lives in Salvador in Brazil and has invited me to stay when I’m there!
As someone with shapely legs that do not have a window of light between them when standing still, mine whisper to each other while I walk. Combine them with a skirt, and hot, humid weather, and you have the equivalent of sandpaper between your thighs. Consequently, I chose to wear leggings for the next few days, which are not the most fashionable, but my legs are not yet ready for the mini shorts that are the popular thing to wear it seems.
As customary on each of my trips, I got bitten by something, this time on left leg and foot. The bites made themselves known as angry, red welts that caused my foot to swell up and become less dainty than ever. I was highly embarrassed by the ugly sight of my leper leg, so I took an anti-histamine or two, and spent the day typing on my computer, with my feet up, before I had dinner with my beautiful Argentinian friends Carla and Nacho. I hid my leg with long pants, and we went to a nice restaurant and ate more than we needed, just because we could. It’s rare that I’ll eat at a restaurant when I travel, so I felt very spoilt, loved and looked after.
I met and made friends with a German girl who has been in Argentina on a study exchange for her Medicine degree, and she spoke German (obviously!), English and Spanish. It was nice to give my head a rest and speak English for a while, and we went to the markets in San Telmo before she left to go home. Along the way I found an amazing little art gallery, and spent an hour or so talking with the very talented artist Patricia Lopez Gomez. I love her work, and although I wanted to buy everything in the gallery, I explained I can’t start collecting souvenirs this early in my trip. I promised to visit again when I return to Buenos Aires, and she kindly gave me permission take a photo of her work to keep with me and show everyone.
I eventually made my way to the very touristy, colourful houses in Caminito, although I found the surrounding streets in the neighbourhood of Boca to be more fascinating, and have more character, than the Caminito itself. I wished again that I had someone travelling with me, to share all the things I found quirky, amusing, and entertaining, however, since I don’t, I’ll continue to document them and share them with you instead.