I'm just a few days from returning back to Britain now, so I figured I'd try and write the last blog of this series... I've been thinking about the time I've spent over here, of things I did that I liked, of how my attitude to the city has changed over the past 23 weeks... 23 weeks is almost 6 months: the original plan was to come here for just over 3. What do I have to show for this extended stay?!
Today I decided to go back to where I started: Congreso. My first impressions of the city weren't good: I found myself right in the heart of the city, it was busy and noisy and dirty and I seemed to be surrounded by poverty. It was unsettling. After leaving that part of the town, first to stay for a week in a hostel in San Telmo, and then to spend three months living in posh Palermo, I never returned: there was nothing to return for, really. But I returned today, to see how that part of town seemed to me these days. The answer? Completely normal, of course! A bit busy, yes, but not overly dirty, and I didn't feel worried about anything (mind you, when I arrived in town, I was walking around with a couple of thousand pesos, a passport, a camera and two iPods, so maybe I had cause to be more paranoid back then...). This was half-expected: I'm now very much used to the city. True, there's not much reason to visit the Congreso area (apart from to see the very pretty Congreso building itself), but it's really no worse than many other parts of town.
This wasn't the first time I'd changed my mind about a part of the town, and this is why I prefer to live in a place for a prolonged spell rather than passing through like a regular tourist. A few weeks ago, I also revisited Puerto Madero. The first time I went there, I was magnificently unimpressed, dismissing it as a soulless business district. In many ways, it does lack soul, and it is for business folk to have expensive lunches during the week. But when I went there one Friday night to visit the beautiful art gallery they've got there (the Colección de Arte Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat), and stopped off for a posh salad afterwards, I changed my opinion. Sure, the food's pricey as hell over there - by Buenos Aires standards. If you convert the pesos to pounds and compare it with London, then it's really not too bad (as in: it's probably cheap compared to a lot of places in London). I chose to go there for my birthday lunch too: I figured I could treat myself, and I fancied giving the business folk a shock when they saw some young scallywag turning up at their restaurant and splashing just as many pesos as they could. By all means, if you're a tourist in Buenos Aires, then it's worth going for dinner in Puerto Madero.
Palermo is the part of town I return to most often, as it's within walking distance (it's a good walk). As I noted when I moved there, Palermo is a posh part of town. But when I lived there, it never struck me as being anything special. However, after living in Almagro for a few weeks, the difference between Palermo and other parts of town became very clear. The women are the biggest giveaway as to the income differentials: they dress very posh in Palermo, and they like to do themselves up as well. There are tall, thin girls with nice dresses and immaculate make-up who clearly have the time, money and incentive to worry a lot about their appearance. Where I live these days, they dress a bit more normally.
I raved about San Telmo when I first went there, but these days I have little love for the area. It can be a little intimidating, as it's both a tourist hotspot and a squatter's paradise. So it's a busy area, where you have to be on the lookout for cheeky chaps trying to pick your pockets. I don't like it at all any more, because I find it unnerving to be surrounded by bums who drink for a living. At night, you just get weirdos wandering around trying to talk to you at times. And it's not like you're going to understand them. I don't like it when people start talking to me and I can't understand what they're saying, especially if they're drunk and dirty. They may have innocent intentions, but they'll always come across as being slightly threatening. At best, they'll always be just plain annoying.