Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Another two weeks in paradise

Buenos Aires, once again, is marvelous. The longer we stay, the more we are in love with it. There are occasional bursts of overwhelming fumes from buses and poorly maintained taxis, one has to dodge dog crap on the sidewalk (like in Paris), the tiles on the sidewalks are sometimes broken and missing, and there is a litter everywhere. It's a large, noisy city, like Chicago, with aspects of Paris, Manhattan, Barcelona and Mexico City that are melded to form a unique and wonderful city. There are cafes and restaurants with outdoor tables everywhere and the people are friendly, warm and charming. There is a quaint ambiance that reminds me of old sections of Lisbon, yet there is a great deal of modernity. Contemporary design, in architecture and furniture, and art are found in abundance.

We arrived on Saturday, September 24th to find about ten people working at our house, Casa Palermo. Soon our architect, Fernando, arrived, accompanied by his assistants, Pablo and Judy. We had plans to stay, but found there was no electricity, no heat and no working bathroom. Fernando assured us that they were working furiously to get it ready for us to stay by the end of the day. We were dubious and I had as strong urge to get a hotel room. Our neighbor, Jose, recognizing the situation handed me the keys to his house and invited us to use his place as we might need. A few days later, Jose and his wife, Mara, invited us to a home cooked dinner. These are some nice neighbors! We left the noise and dust of the construction to have lunch with Camila, the young woman we previously hired to manage the place for us, followed by an afternoon of shopping.

To our delight, by early evening we had heat in the bedroom, as well as power and lights. One of the two bathrooms was now functioning, so we were able to stay. The contractors continued to work on the place throughout our two week stay. It worked out well because we slept in and they started late. Mostly we weren’t there during the day, being out shopping for furniture, light fixtures, etc. Fernando, sometimes with Judy or Pablo, took us to all the best stores to compare furniture. At lunch we would talk about details and design. When Fernando wasn’t around, we would hunt for yet other furniture stores. Our shopping spree was a success, although we still have more to buy when we return in December.

In all, the house is about 90% completed and it’s really shaping up. We are striving to strike just the right balance between the antiquity of the house and modern design. The answer, we agree with Fernando, it in the color white and in a minimalist approach. Fernando advises us against having “too much information.” We have white plaster walls everywhere, except in the kitchen and bathrooms where the floor and walls are tile. White tile, of course. The sofa we ordered is white, as are the two arm chairs, and as is the dining room table and accompanying six chairs. If we let Fernando have his way, he would have painted all the door and windows white as well, but we like the old wood. It reeks of character.

We were so busy it took us nearly a week before we called Charles, a neighbor down the block and around the corner, who we met during our March trip. Charles invited us to dinner at his home and we gladly accepted. Although the restaurants in BsAs are plentiful and almost all excellent, a home cooked meal is a treasure. On Sunday, October 2nd, we broke bread with Charles. Actually, he baked three different breads to accompany the meal!

Nearly every morning we have a breakfast of six medialunas (glazed croissants) and two cafe dobles at a small cafe called Kewen, at the corner Paraguay & Guatemala, just off Plaza Guemes. Our waiter, Ernesto, always in a uniform of red shirt and black pants, quickly learns our regular order. He is attentive and friendly, with an easy smile. He tries to make small talk, as best he can, although our Spanish is lousy and his English is even worse. Still, we are able to get along. In no time at all he is a fixture in our lives. We count on seeing him, even if merely walking by. On our last day it was a bittersweet moment as we all kiss goodbye.


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