Sunday, 28 August 2011

The city

The city's a struggle as ever, but I notice how it's being improved. There are new buses on the streets, new 'bendy buses' too. The 'subte' (underground) is being extended. Cycle lanes are being marked, and there's a bright yellow cycle hire system: maybe I just didn't notice this last time. I notice more vegetarian restaurants and take-aways too: apparently meat has got very expensive. Smartphones aren't as common here, but you do see them. The Teatro Colon, the huge opera house, has been renovated and is now back in use. & there seem to be more milongas than ever, and more people dancing.

When I first came here more than three years ago my impression was of a very run-down city, but it looks better now - or perhaps I'm just used to it. The pavements still need work, although I did see a pavement under repair. My impression is that there's a very extensive and reasonably well-off area of society that could be called 'middle class', perhaps not wealthy by European standards, but confident and self-assured. Shops are full of good-looking consumer goods. I've heard it said that Latin America in general has weathered the 'global' downturn much better than Europe and the US. I've heard that there's less personal debt here, and maybe the banks couldn't afford to scoop up 'toxic assets', or were just smart. It looks like a stable and reasonably prosperous capital city.

This trip was planned and carried out very fast. I wanted to return this year and it had to be summer or late October, then I found a good deal on a Lufthansa return flight which I couldn't resist, and six days later I was flying. Getting an apartment at such short notice wasn't so easy, but there was availability, and I took this one in Barrio Norte, a 12-minute walk into El Beso and the centre, and on the way out to Canning. The agency (Buenos Aires Travel Rent) were very helpful and got the deal sorted out fast. There's a good supermarket round the corner, with fresh vegetables and fruit too. The apartment is above an arcade and row of shops catering to the local goth/skateboard/tattoo community so there are usually some curiously-dressed kids around. The apartment is a bit more expensive than I'd like, but what the hell: I'm off to El Beso again tonight...

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