mural-1280About a decade ago, our friend and former colleague Reb told us last week over a drink, you heard a lot more British accents in Buenos Aires. In the mid-2000s, many young Britons came to the city – some for extended stays, including two friends of ours – in order to explore and experience a vital, exotic capital that carried with it the irresistible combination of a cosmopolitan cultural life and rock-bottom living costs.

These days, Reb continued, there are fewer Britons and Europeans shipping out here. (Reb himself has been living in Buenos Aires for 15 years.) Stories about the city no longer fill the travel supplements, and the prices of almost everything are far higher than they were a decade ago. However, although the financial climate isn’t as helpful to visiting Britons as it once was, the other attractions remain. We spent a month here, more or less, and could easily have hung around for much longer. It’s a tremendous town.

 


 

study-1280That said, we may not have stayed as long as we did had we not found an excellent school at which to learn Spanish. We’d always planned to sit down somewhere for a few weeks in order to bring our spoken Spanish up to something approaching an acceptable level, but hadn’t settled on a location. The possibility of following the same intensive course at twin schools in Montevideo and Buenos Aires – we chose a week in the former and three weeks in the latter, taking a boat between the two cities on the intervening weekend – made our decision for us.

For four weeks, we sat in class every day from 9.30am until 1.30pm, usually taking homework away with us and sometimes adding a private lesson in the afternoon. ‘Intensive’, it turned out, wasn’t an exaggeration: new concepts and structures arrived apace, and we struggled at times to keep up. For a pair of brains that hadn’t done much more for the preceding three months than decide whether to turn left or right, all this activity came as something as a jolt.

We enjoyed it immensely, and only the approaching threat of a fierce summer on the road stopped us from carrying on a little longer. More experienced with languages, not to say more diligent at learning them afresh, Ruth is now able to converse with relative confidence. Will’s Spanish is considerably worse, but at least locals no longer give up on the conversation within five seconds. Neither of us will be writing our future entries in Spanish, but give us a few weeks…

 


 

cake-1280The six-week spell that started with our arrival in Montevideo and encompassed our time in Buenos Aires and Patagonia felt like a full-stop. Save for a few gentle spins across Buenos Aires, plus one hair-raising late night ride around the town’s nether regions that Will took with a group of reprobate local riders, we’ve hardly been on our bikes, and it goes without saying that we haven’t extended the line we’re drawing on a map to track our progress. Finally, though, we packed up and left the city on Saturday.

The farming areas west and north-west of Buenos Aires are fairly plain, arrow-straight roads across pancake-flat land that together remind us a little of northern France. Still, such easy riding is just what we need to coax our legs back into life after six weeks of inactivity, especially given the heat; as summer approaches, afternoon temperatures are consistently rising into the thirties, and there’s little shade on the exposed roads. After a brief diversion to Rosario, Argentina’s third-largest city and a very agreeable place to spend a few days, we’re heading west this morning towards wine country. December should arrive in Mendoza just before us, but it’ll be close.

from Rosario, SF, Argentina