BUENOS AIRES: Si, Rent an Apartamento
Buenos Aires, Argentina
BUENOS AIRES: Si, Rent an Apartamento Reviews
Jan 21, 2008
It’s probably about 4 a.m. A Buenos Aires police station looks pretty much like you’d think it would: low-lit, crumbling government-issue decor, yawning rookie toughs in Kevlar, third-world justice bathed in the red glow of a first-world Coke machine. Well, it’s weird enough already, so what the heck. I turn to her, press a hand into the small of her back and pull her in close. The exaggerated flourish gets a laugh and my sanity questioned in a sweet foreign tongue. ‘Fine, fine,’ she says. ‘I’ll show you.’ You align the legs, bending them together just so. Take my hand. Arms slide out in unison -- and so I learn to tango in a South American police station. You have to pretty much call that the best part of the vacation, almost by default. However, renting an apartment runs a close second.
Buenos Aires has legions of furnished apartments of all sizes waiting to cater to short-term visitors. I had a great experience getting one with LetsGoArgentina.com. The site lets you to explore a potential pad with pictures, details and availability; and the places are just plain cool. They do have some style in Buenos Aires, perhaps rife with European envy and one too many Ikea trips, but they do have style. You can get it for less than the cost of a good hotel. I pick the place I like, a few e-mails, a small PayPal deposit, and I’m set for my South American apartment.
Getting in. At the airport I hire a car at a Remise kiosk, about $25 American will whiz you in a sturdy little putt-putt along the 30-minute graffiti-tagged stretch into the metropolis. In mine, holy cards dangle from the rearview mirror and the driver pauses at a few city corners to pass pesos to panhandlers. I hop out in the Recoleta neighborhood. It strikes me as similar to my native Philadelphia’s downtown, though mossed-up and strapped down with decorative wrought iron bars. If there was a window in this town that wasn’t fortified against attack, I couldn’t find it. A friendly sidewalk guard buzzes me in. A narrow elevatorette takes me up to an office, a small comfortable space with good client seating, though primarily for the handful of 20-something-ers at desks. Thankfully everyone speaks English, not always the case in Buenos Aires. I dig for my stashed cash -- Oh, you’ll likely be carrying cash, quite a bit of cash…
They prefer cash in Buenos Aires. The bank collapses in 2001 left the locals distrustful. They want American dollars in hand -- at least they want that ever-falling currency at the start of 2008. I’m renting a one bedroom for about $340 a week, so they want that plus a $300 cash deposit, and an agency fee, I think around $40. So I come in with seven $100 bills tucked safely on my person. In general, American visitors get a bit of a “tourist tax.” They are not Argentino, they do not get Argentino prices. Given the good dollar exchange, seems an easy pill to swallow, along with some low-cost fine wine.
The rent money settled, a spunky gal with keys jangling whirlwinds into the office, returning from a rental run. I’m next, and we spin out to catch a quick taxi to Palermo. She’s chatty on the ride through the bustling barrio. I’m thinking she’s the one in the office who knows where the good Happy Hours are. In fact, the sun is falling on this Friday, I think to ask, but don’t. This is all a bit much already. I’m a lone stranger half a world away from home being driven away from the cash I left on the promise of some Internet pictures. In Buenos Aires, seeing the apartment before money changes hands is not always an option, and don’t bet on any refunds if the bedbugs bite. But I feel like it’s going to be fine.
And it is. Our taxi stops on a pleasant tree-lined street at a smart mid-rise building with a glass and polished-steel front. A tall, slender attractive older woman invites us into the gleaming hardwood-floor foyer. It’s Patricia, the apartment owner. She extends a customary kiss on the cheek – that I don’t know is customary and imagine a stupid look on my face. Then I get to see this place I’ve paid for.
Locks are thunky brass affairs in Buenos Aires. Ours tumbles open the solid wood door to an entrance hall with soft recessed lighting. It turns to a breezy, open, one-floor run: dining area, living room extending to a balcony with outdoor seating. Hardwood floors throughout. It’s well appointed, a bit of a jungle theme with pictures and carvings from Patricia’s family safaris. I know, but cringe not, it’s tasteful. I’d be all over tiki-tacky, this gets a reprieve. And there’s a stocked bar. Yeah, looks like we’re talking the honor system. Nice touch. The place has nice touches everywhere. We chat a bit, Patricia has maps and day-trip ideas, and then I’m alone to settle, for the first time since leaving Los Angeles on the other side of the hemisphere.
Like a kid exploring the parents’ underwear drawer on a sick day, welcome to your new apartment. The bedroom is quaint, functional, one wall a closet system with a floor safe, which does remind you that robbery rates are high in this city, as do steel window shutters that roll down to block the brightest sun. The bathroom has granite and good tile all around, all the miniature lotions and potions you expect in a decent hotel are present and accounted for. Then there’s this great little back room with a desk and computer. I thought I wouldn’t much use it, and maybe I didn’t, but it’s nice to have a small office for coffee and e-mail.
The kitchen. This is why we rent an apartment. A kitchen and a little space to accommodate guests completely opens a trip’s possibilities. My kitchen sits off the entranceway, has a four-top marble table and cabinets filled with just about everything you need. There are spoons and bowls for the 1 a.m. pre-club ice cream party, with delivery via motor scooter, a staple in Buenos Aires. There are tumblers for the scotch sipped with the small gathering of fellow travelers, and yes, the honor bar is left honorably. And, it being Argentina, there are certainly all manner of glasses for a romantic evening with wine on the candle-lit balcony.
To that point, we should return to how I ended up learning to tango in a third-world jail. Well, to be clear, I was at a third-world jail, and obviously the experience wasn’t entirely unpleasant. Crime and passion seem to be part of everyday life in Buenos Aires. You’re as apt to see young couples push the public-kissing limit as you are a good pick-pocketing on a stroll through any given public park or cafe. I got a taste of both, starting at a lively tourist-friendly café in Palermo. In fairness to the partying involved, we can skip the meets-and-greets and who-liked-who, and when-and-why. We pick up with two couples, American guys and Argentine girls, getting cozy at a crowded café that has great mood lighting and music. American music, it’s everywhere down there. The pop hits just keep on coming and the representatives from both continents know them all and it’s kind of funny. A South American calls for shots – tequila! All right, we’re taking this party past beer sipping, and no I’m not a geek for knowing every single word to that Vanilla Ice song, thank you. So as our four fast friends are about to down brimming and bonding shots of tequila -- poof! A purse is gone. There’s a quick search, and a quick acceptance. This is Buenos Aires. Shots unsunk, the couples hail a taxi to go and file a police report. The rest, as they say, is tango.
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