There’s too many cars and not enough public transport, the metro’s rammed in the morning and the local authority has, in many people’s opinions, just spent way too much money on the new cycle lanes that have sprung up all over the centre of the city in the past year. I could be talking about London, but actually I’m just recounting some of the Porteños (as people from BA are called) moans and groans about the great city they live in.
There are an amazing amount of similarities between Buenos Aires and London, from some fine architecture to the homeless people sleeping on the streets – and everything in-between. Porteños also have a reputation or being unfriendly and arrogant among their fellow Argentines; to be honest that’s a label they seemed to deserve far less than we do in London.
Aside from being a city full of fabulous food, beautiful buildings and some of the best museums in South America, it’s also a great place to get out and explore on foot – something Will and I did a lot of last week while we were in BA for five days of Spanish school. You can walk for miles between the key tourist areas like Boca (one for football fans), San Telmo (go for the tango, go again for the markets) Puerto Madero (revamped docks area, way better than Docklands) and Palermo (the best place to stay, eat and drink. We didn’t stay there – we will next time), and it’s easy to navigate because much of the city operates on an American style grid system. My favourite walk was the one around the Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur, a vast green area of ponds, reeds and grassy areas that jut up against the huge river that separates Argentina from Uruguay. Inexplicably, Lonely Planet fails to mention it in any detail, but it’s a really tranquil place, perfect for getting away from the heat and traffic noise of the rest of the city on a hot day.
So, the walking in BA is good. But it’s the cycling that’s fun. As long as you’re a super confident cyclist that is – I wouldn’t recommend it to the faint of heart.
We took a bike tour with Daniel from La Bicicleta Naranja – http://www.labicicletanaranja.com.ar – around the northern part of BA. The tour was excellent and Daniel’s knowledge and love of his city shone through in everything he told us. Want to find out what happened to Evita after she died? He’s the man to speak to – it was really fascinating stuff and well worth the £20 each it cost us for the afternoon.
Past and recent history aside though, what made the bike tour particularly exciting stuff was the mad riding through the streets of central BA. If you think London’s roads are busy, try cycling across an eight lane road. During rush hour. In a city where everyone, including the cyclists, treat red lights as if they are there for decorative, rather than traffic management, purposes. I’d love to see what the road safety stats are like. Pot holes the sizes of small towns and cycle lanes that would hands down win the ‘crap cycling facility of the week’ award. You’ll be unsurprised to hear that I had a good chat with Daniel about cycling in our respective cities. He reckons that cycling is the best way to get around BA, but that most people are too scared to try it. Hmmm, now where have I heard THAT before? And does the city transport authority need someone with experience of promoting cycling to come and do their PR for them? I reckon a year long secondment to BA could help their own cycling revolution on a tad…
And yes, the beef was amazing!