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Sunday, September 23, 2007

San Telmo #1: bliss in Buenos Aires

Remembering my days of journal writing at cafés and bars such as El Hipopotamo started a string of reveries about the bewitching Buenos Aires barrio of San Telmo. We rented an apartment in Buenos Aires for a few months earlier this year, using it as a base to research the city for a book. San Telmo was our home for the first two months. We lived like locals, getting our groceries at the little almacen, or general store, downstairs. We trod the same streets every day on our way back and forth to the Microcentro, Retiro, Monserrat, Congreso and other areas we needed to explore for our book. Every night we frequented our neighbourhood restaurants, cafés and bars, eating late like Porteños, as Buenos Aires' residents are called. And when we had to stay in to write we'd buy a bottle of Malbec downstairs and piping hot empanadas from the nearby empanaderia, watching football on television with the locals while we waited for our order. Faces became familiar and hanging out in the 'hood was something to look forward to. Why is it that we fly half way around the world to try and live as we would at 'home'? And why is it that living as much like a local as we can is so much more enjoyable than experiencing the place as a tourist?


Anonymous said...

Since I sponsor I should have a good answer.
If you travel as a tourist, you spend your days with tourist at tourist places and never really learn what living in the city is like. When I borrowed a friend´s apartment in NYC, I did not feel like there was a big T for tourist painted on my forehead when I left the bldg. and walked onto the street.
Whereas when I walk onto the strret from a hotel, I feel like everyone else knows that I am not a local, and that I will somehow be treated differently.
It is like an animal in the forest looking for camouflage--you feel safer or better when you blend in.

Bill said...

I could not agree more. When we went to Italy for the first time my goal was to try to live like the locals. I did not want to look like a tourist. I even made my children wear brown hush puppy shoes instead of their white tennies. We ended up buying an old apartment in the village of Casperia Italy and restored it. Now we truly live like the locals. They know our names and we when we arrive in town it's like coming home. It's an amazing feeling.