Buenos Aires, by Noelia Diaco. Photo is not visible, used only for sharing on social networks.

Argentina 5-year reunion, day 1

November 22, 2017
It has been five years since we left Argentina, after living in Buenos Aires for a year. We're finally back! So far, with one day here, it has been a wonderful walk down memory lane.

We arrived this morning, after an overnight flight on which we got very little sleep. We chuckled at the old charade of declaring nothing of value as bags full of laptops and phones go through the x-ray machine. We took a taxi into town, driving through some neighborhoods we barely knew and some we remembered very well. We bought prepaid SIM cards at the same shop where we used to pay our cellphone bill in cash each month. We had a mediocre coffee and pizza at the old place around the corner from our former apartment, got some groceries for breakfast, checked in, took a much-needed nap, and then left to stroll around the neighborhood.

We're staying in an apartment one block from where we used to live. Everything looks familiar, yet a little different. Christina Kirchner is gone, Mauricio Macri is now the president (he was mayor of Buenos Aires when we lived here). The peso is no longer artificially overvalued against other currencies: Five years ago, the official rate was around 4.6:1 ARP:USD, with the more market-based "blue rate" around 7:1; now it's traded on a real market, around 17:1. Food in particular is not cheap anymore: The most expensive bottle of wine that we ever bought in a restaurant cost 92 pesos (=$13 at the unofficial rate); last night, the cheaper bottle on the menu cost 300 pesos (=$18 at the current rate). Restaurants seem almost as expensive as San Francisco. (And yet, the streets are bustling and we spotted dozens of new shops in the neighborhood.) There used to be a big problem of trash bags left on streets; now there are bins with Vamos Buenos Aires slogans all around. We used to ride our bicycles on the bike lanes of the major thoroughfares; now there are yellow public bike stations and bike lanes even on narrow side streets. The wonderful verduleria on our corner is still there. There even seems to be, from one day's anecdotal observation, far less dog poop on the sidewalks than there used to be.

In 2012, if you wanted a beer, there was basically just Quilmes. Now, amazingly, there's a huge craft beer scene! I remember when a single tiny craft beer shop opened on Thames St, a few blocks from our apartment, and we thought it was so quaint. Now Lonely Planet credits that shop with starting a craft beer revolution. There are signs for cerveza artesenal everywhere, and we stopped at one bar in Plaza Serrano for a flight. We tasted five beers from a menu of twenty, by twelve Argentine craft breweries which all apparently popped on the scene in the last 3-4 years. One, the "Belgian Strong" by Gante, was quite good, the rest were decent – but our point of reference is places like Fieldwork in Berkeley, so we're spoiled, and for such a young scene, we were quite impressed. (My Spanish has mostly come back as I've started using it again, and my new word of the day is l├║pulo, for hops.)

Another item that hardly existed in BA in 2012 was a good, juicy, American-style hamburger. One good expat-owned place had opened but didn't stay open for long, and the other local attempts were pitiful. Now there are apparently dozens of excellent burger joints. Stay tuned!

BA had some great ice cream in 2012, and has even more now. We shared a mediano at Tufic's, which a friend recommended, of kinbueno (hazelnut) and lemon-mint-ginger  – the serving was surprisingly large for the small cup it was piled in, and it was delicious.

For dinner, we ate at Las Pizarras, an upscale restaurant around the block from our old place. We weren't that hungry after the ice cream, so we shared three appetizers. It wasn't as good as we remembered, so we left without getting another dessert, and are now in for a good night's sleep.

Also new since 2012: Legal [medical] marijuana
Hauling furniture down from an apartment... watch out below!
- Ben

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