Our Big Adventure has begun! After a miserable experience in getting to Miami, our flight to Buenos Aires on Aerolineas Argentinas departed on time last Thursday, and arrived a few minutes early in Buenos Aires. We somehow lucked out and the two other seats in our row were empty, so we were able to stretch out and sleep for a few hours. That sleep was much needed because we’d gotten all of two hours of it at our hotel in Miami before having to get up again to get back to the airport on time. The flight was nearly nine hours long but very smooth and more comfortable than we imagined (and we were fed twice); clearing immigration was quick and easy as we had nothing to declare; and our taxi driver was waiting for us at the airport to take us to our lovely apartment in the Recoleta neighborhood. The weather had changed a bit when we arrived: it was raining and just 45°F – brrr! We were very glad we had gotten our coats out back in Miami! Once we checked into our apartment we promptly climbed into bed and slept for 15 hours.
Our first task upon getting up on Friday was to get to an ATM for some local currency, and to find a grocery store for some food. Finding a grocery store was the easy part – there’s a lovely supermarket just a couple of blocks from our apartment. We used our debit card to buy some beautiful produce (butternut squash, broccoli, kiwi fruit, bananas, and mandarin oranges), two different cheeses, some sausages, pasta and sauce, a package of crackers, a couple of containers of yogurt, a stick of butter, a bag of coffee, a small bottle of laundry detergent and two bottles of Argentine wine (a Chardonnay and a Malbec). All this stuffed our shopping bag to the max, but cost just $27US – quite a change from Kaua’i prices!
After getting all our food unpacked and put away we headed out again to find an ATM, but every one of them around us seemed to be closed or with a sign saying the machine was closed. Here in Buenos Aires ATMs are located in a secure, locked room – you swipe your debit or credit card to get access to the machine – but at some places we couldn’t get into the room, at others we could get in only to be informed the machine was closed. After a few unsuccessful tries, we stopped in a Starbucks (we knew we could use our debit card again) to rest and plot what we were going to do if we could not find a working ATM in the neighborhood. While we were having our coffee, a lovely woman sat next to us who spoke flawless English (and she had never been out of Argentina!) and explained that the Argentine peso had dropped significantly against the American dollar the day before and many Argentinean had panicked and taken money out of their accounts which had drained the ATMs. She told us a few more places to try and we were finally able to get some cash. The maximum allowable withdrawal here is 2000 pesos, about $60US. That was three days ago though and we still have LOTS of money left over, even with a dinner out, stops for coffee in the afternoon, and a visit to a local bakery. The peso’s devaluation has been good for us, but difficult for Argentinians, and although the peso’s value has climbed a little bit in the last couple of days it is still not back to where it was.
Our small Airbnb apartment (Super Studio in Recoleta II) is lovely, and very comfortable – just the right size for the two of us. Our host, Florencia, had wine and snacks waiting for us when we arrived, which were greatly appreciated. The apartment is in a great location for visiting sites in the Recoleta neighborhood – the famous Cementario de La Recoleta is just a couple of blocks away, for example. As the days pass we’re getting better oriented to where we are and how to get places, and whether it makes more sense to walk or use the subway. The streets are clean (for the most part) and easy to navigate, and Argentinians have been very friendly and helpful, and very patient with our extremely limited Spanish (I can read way more than I can speak or understand). Our challenge today has been to try to do laundry – there is a coin-operated washer and dryer in the basement, but we have no coins and everything is closed today because it’s Sunday and Brett hasn’t been able to get change anywhere. I guess we’ll be doing laundry tomorrow evening. We’re using our time off today though to rest some more and plan the next couple of days’ outings to the nearby Palermo neighborhood. We want to visit two museums and a garden tomorrow, and we’ve booked an affordable photography tour on Tuesday (via Airbnb) through Palermo’s Soho district, famous for its street art.
Both Brett and I are thoroughly enjoying the cooler temperatures here in Buenos Aires (less than 60°F today) and being able to get out and walk through the city. We’re both happy to be eating better again, and so affordably too. I’m still fighting jet lag, even with a significant drop in my caffeine intake. It gets a little better every day though and I hope to be fully adjusted just in time to leave for France (lol).