25 Apr Buenos Aires – idiosyncrasies
So as the days count down to journey’s end, a few reflections on some of the charms, quirks and oddities of this intriguing city. Forgive the silliness of alliteration but a string of B-words was just too tempting: bumpers, bicycles, bulldogs and beef. I tried to find F-words but alas, F-ing alternatives for bicycle defeated me!
So, walk the streets of Buenos Aires and you will find an army of workshops bashing out the bumpers of cars that have seen combat on the city’s teeming streets. Attentive blogees will remember my bone-shaking bus journey to Mataderos back at the beginning of the trip. Well, car drivers, and especially the taxistas amongst them, have a penchant for bumper-grazing, brake-jamming, side-scratching, kamikaze driving that has you on the edge of your seat. It’s thus no surprise that the side streets abound with car mechanics bending over a battered bonnet or recumbent under a rattling radiator. Enough of that darned alliteration! This seems to me to be a perfect expression of a healthy market – supply and demand in endless symbiosis.
On the subject of transport, the other feature of BA (apart from the buses) is the number of bicycles that brave the traffic – and bravery is a minimum requirement here. Cyclists occasionally draw up alongside buses or dart in between them; this is seriously bad for the emotional wellbeing of the passengers on the bus, let alone for the life expectancy of the cyclist. In amongst the cars and they are barely safer. This outpouring of two-wheels is a relatively new phenomenon. Given that the word is that most of the thirty-something bourgeoisie in this city have regular psychotherapy, I think I’ve found the link – cycling is a form of collective madness and is perhaps keeping the shrinks in business. Another example of a perfect market perhaps?
I like dogs but some of them make me nervous. Bulldogs or some similarly squat and ferocious four-legged canine sporting a set of gleaming gnashers, a chain-link collar and sometimes a muzzle are becoming, it seems, the conspicuous accessory of the beautiful people of BA. At the end of the lead there is very often a leggy, long-haired human female with glowing skin and perfect teeth, dressed in a casually expensive way as only the moneyed can. As a statement of urban style this is a little unsettling. No longer a perfectly coiffed poodle, no, the doggy of choice today is something much more weighty and muscular, something beefier.
On which subject, where is the beef? I’m sure you can still dine on the world-famous Argentinian variety (second only to Aberdeen Angus, of course) but beef is no longer an inescapable fact of the city’s eateries. Was a time when your options were pizza or pasta if you eschewed meat. But things have moved on and you can now eat really well in this city with not a hint of flesh near your plate. We had some glorious lunches with richly roasted vegetables, salads, soft goats cheese, seeds, nuts and dressings of sublime subtlety. We had terrific dinners including my first ever ceviche – Peruvian raw fish ‘cooked’ in lemon juice. And a memorable meal at the Gran Dabbang, a simple, stylish, unassuming place with the most incredible flavours packed into small plates. Fusion of fusions – Asian, Italian, Greek? The charred aubergine with burrata, hummus and an unbelievable concoction of spices was so good we had to order another portion just to make sure we hadn’t imagined it.
Buenos Aires – what a great place. It has class, charm, quirkiness a bit of chaos; it’s crammed full of personality. I’ll definitely be back again next year. Now it’s time to pack.