Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Sleepless in Buenos Aires

In Buenos Aires noone seems to sleep, ever. The stylish portenos of this elegant but frenetic city like to shop all day and night in shops that are lit up and open for business from 9 in the morning to 9 at night, they like to drink coffee in cafes all night and day, walk their dogs at midnight, stroll with their beloved in a park at 10pm, they eat lavish lunches in beautiful cafes and restaurants that go for hours and then after drinking yet more coffee and eating some ice cream or pastries they then head out at around 10.30 at night for another lavish meal in a groovy restaurant (there are millions of them) finishing dessert at around midnight. Then it's off to a bar for a few hours (if it's a quiet night) or if they are feeling up for it head to a club to dance until 6 or 7 am. And this just ain't the young groovers of the city. I have seen tiny little old ladies in full make up and heels walking their dogs down tree lined boulevards at 11 at night, whole families including the kids sitting down to dinner at 11.30pm on a monday night. In our hostel if I wake at 3am I can smell the cigarette smoke and hear the loud chat of people down at the reception area.

At first I thought there must be a siesta lurking amongst this frantic activity but no, it seems that BA is a global city and the people that work in business here can't be offline for most of the afternoon. Most regular office folk work 9 - 6 with an hour for lunch. When we ask locals how they keep up these kind of hours they just look and say well we just don't sleep as much. Another guy who stayed with a porteno lawyer friend said they would go out until 4am then his friend would nap til 7am before going to work all day, then would squeeze in a couple of hours in the late afternoon before heading out to do it all again.

This far from statisfactory arrangement may explain the presence of a cafe on nearly every street corner in this city. Thanks to italian immigration the coffee is strong, rich and packs a wallop. Every cafe seems to be full of people day to night 7 days a week fuelling up in order fight off sleep deprivation. Oh and the coffee is so delightful, being such stylemeisters here even when you order a simple white coffee it will arrive accompanied by a tiny glass of mineral water and a dainty sweet biscuit or chocolate often wrapped in cellophane and tied up with a bow. Downing a couple of these every few hours seems to be the answer to surviving this sleepless life.

This life has infected me and Ed too. On our first few nights we were struggling to stay awake til 8pm to be able to go and eat something but now our body clocks are on porteno time and we are heading out at 10 for dinner and in true argentinian fashion I have become an insomniac, sleeping for only a few hours before waking, sitting up reading and then trying to ressurect myself everymorning on little sleep. But unlike back at home when I can't sleep and at 3am I feel like the only person in world, here at 3am I know half the city is up with me.

Grand buildings, wide boulevards - Paris? London? It's hard to tell we are still in SA at times

One thing all portenos agree on is their love for perros (doggies). These pampered indulged creatures live in apartments so their owners pay for guys like this to walk them each day. Sometimes up to 30 dogs get walked at a time - a very sweet sight as this great ball of fur and wagging tails trots past panting loudly but you have to watch your step on the pavement after they have passed by, it can get messy.

Carving a huge scar through the elegant streets of BA is Aveneida 9 de Julio, with 16 lanes of traffic it is the worlds widest street.


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