What I love about San Telmo…..
I‘ve been living in San Telmo for about a year now, but I’ve been visiting since 2002. Seriously, since 2002. It’s changed a lot, of course. And while a lot of people lament the changes, I adore them. I feel that we’ve got the perfect combination of past and present in this barrio. So, here goes my shot at convincing you, too, that this is the BEST neighborhood in Buenos Aires.
I love the market. The fresh produce and the amazing butchers. I love the fact that they know my name and they know how I like my bananas (I don’t like them too green) and how I like my rib-eye cut (thicker than Argentinians like). I love that I can always find cilantro and fresh mint there and I love the havas (fava beans) when they’re in season.
I love the architecture. It feels a lot like New Orleans to me. Sometimes as you walk along the cobblestones streets of the neighborhood you’ll get the chance to peek into a conventillo (tenement). It’s like getting a glimpse of the past. You can imagine what this building was like some 100 years ago when the aristocrats abandoned their beautiful mansions and moved up north to get away from the yellow fever and cholera outbreak.
I love the variety of restaurants. There’s no doubt that San Telmo is not the area for fine dining. Palermo has more restaurants that fall in this category than San Telmo does. But I love that I can find really traditional restaurants and bars along with more modern, fancy ones. What’s more, the modern restaurants, while not as numerous as in other neighborhoods, are some of the best in the city.
I love the street fair. Street fairs and street food are right up my alley. On Sunday, the entire neighborhood becomes a massive street fair. There are Mexican guys selling burritos wrapped in aluminum foil, housewives selling their empanadas and other baked goods, people with citrus juicers selling fresh squeezed orange juice. I love to see how people invent jobs for themselves. There’s the guy who sells “tomates locos,” small rubber tomatoes filled with silicon that splatter when you throw them on a flat surface. And the guy who stands in a doorway and belts out tango tunes a cappella. There are the ladies that sell their knitted items or hand-painted aprons. And there are the antique vendors whose stands never look bare. They sit there all day sipping mate and talking to locals and foreigners as they sell some great, some cheesy, antiques.
I love the nature reserve. When you live in a city this size, you need to see green. The Reserva is phenomenal. Whether I head over there with a book or with my running shoes, the views of the river and little hidden corners are spectacular.
I love Plaza Dorrego pretty much all the time. It’s best on sunny afternoons with a cold beer in hand. But I also love to sit along the wall in the evening to watch who’s coming and going or chat with the hippie vendors. When the tango dancers begin, you hope that they’ll save their tips to buy a better sound system. Scratchy tango with blown out amplifiers is only cool for about one song.
I love that they still take siesta and regular business hours change for each place. I’ve been living here for close to a year now and each time I head out I feel like there’s some store or bar or restaurant or tailor or upholsterer that I’ve never noticed before. Part of that is because the neighborhood is changing quickly. New places are opening up weekly, and, luckily, not too many of them are chains.
Mostly, I love the authenticity of San Telmo.
If you’ve been here, what do you love about San Telmo that I forgot (or that I didn’t forget)?