Love and Cities

June 25, 2012

I wrote this blog post about a day and a half ago in the airport, waiting to fly out of Argentina, but by the time I went to post the internet connection had gone out. I am currently sitting in the lovely kitchen of my lovely couchsurfing host in Firenze. Directly after this posting I am going to head out into the Tuscan summer sunshine and get reacquainted with my old love. (Oh, I’m talking about the city, not… a person. He’s married to an American now, I hear. 😉 )

Buenos Aires

I’m sitting in the Ezeiza International Airport outside of Buenos Aires, waiting for my flight to Italy.

I love blogging in airports. I love being in airports and eating a bunch of crap food cuz hey, I’m at an airport, what choice do I have? I even love picking friends up from the airport.

I got here really early – three hours before my flight. Synchronistically, a friend who lives in BA was flying to Europe the same night as I, a bit earlier, so we split the cab fare and a lovely chat.

Check-in and security took me about 11 minutes. I don’t remember having been in such a nice airport – friendly security, nice design, comfy chairs. Kind of funny as Argentina is a strange combination of first and third world. I would expect an airport like this in Germany, not Argentina. Of course, I was reminded I was still in Argentina by the porter guys with dark hair and blue eyes out front who asked me if I knew how beautiful I was, and the boxes and boxes of Alfajores stacked in the duty-free shop. I’m pretty sure I’ve consumed enough Dulce de Leche to last me for a long, long time.

I have about 60 pesos left that I should probably spend before I leave. Right now that converts to about $13 US dollars, but judging from what the Argentine government’s been doing lately, it seems another economic collapse is on its way. Either that or the president will be ousted. So I should probably spend my pesos before they’re worthless.

Over the past few days I’ve been wondering how I’ll feel about Firenze when I get back there. When I came down to Buenos Aires, everyone asked me: “Do you LOVE it there?!?” And the honest answer was: no. I never loved the city of Buenos Aires.

Buenos Aires did grow on me the longer I was there – mostly, I think, because of the wonderful people I met, Argentines and Expats and travelers, many whom I know will be life-long friends. That, and the desserts.

But as for the city of Buenos Aires, I didn’t love it, though I didn’t hate it either. The drawbacks of the city never bothered me much – The broken sidewalks, the piles of doggie doo-doo everywhere, the stinking fumes of exhaust, the cars that try to run over your toes, the inattentive waiters, the artless tagging on the fading elegance of old unkept French-influence buildings, the shantytown slums hidden near train stations and developments. But six months living in a city as dense as Buenos Aires was definitely not healthy for my soul.

Of course, there were certain aspects of BA that I did love: the smell of all the blooming flowers and trees during the springtime and summer, the jasmine everywhere, the haunting fragrance of Damas de la Noche, the Tilo trees; how you could hear birds singing day and night, even over the sound of traffic (at least in the barrios I spent the most time in, Colegiales, Belgrano, Saavedra, Coghlan); all the tall leafy black-barked green trees that arched over certain lovely streets, like Melian and Olleros; all the cafes that I could go park my butt in for 8 hours without being bothered with a bill or feeling like the waiter wanted me out – ever; the delicious food and pastries and cakes and helado and licuados that I discovered; the abundant public transportation; the beautiful street art (photo of my favorite artist at top); the crazy mix of adventurers and travelers that stream endlessly through the once-cheap Paris of the South; the ability of foreigners to live there endlessly and uninterruptedly without immigration or visa problems, made possible by simply popping across the river to Uruguay, getting your passport stamped, and popping back; and the Argentines who are so kind and cry when you leave, even when they’ve only known you for a few weeks.

Buenos Aires

I’m interested to see how I feel going back to Firenze. Did I not love Buenos Aires simply because I don’t fall in love with cities anymore? I really loved living in the natural beauty of Patagonia. Maybe cities just don’t hold the allure that they once did.

Or is it something that Italy holds that Argentina doesn’t for me? I fell in love with Firenze when I spent a single day there in 1997, when I was 18. I told the people I was with at the time that I would be back. And I went back, seven times in as many years. But now seven years have passed. I wonder if I’ll still be in love, or if that feeling was just a side effect of my youth, of romantic idealization, of escapism…

I suppose I’ll find out in a few hours. Have the feelings faded with time, or are they still here?

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