Upon arriving in a strange place, you are challenged with transit from airport to hotel. Wisely, we read our Buenos Aires guidebooks. We waved aside the scoundrels and freelancing drivers, and got into a chocolate and yellow radiocab with a pre-negotiated fee.
The first glimpse of a city is rarely that which becomes the heart’s souvenir. Grim streets. Multi-storied poured concrete. (Bunkers in anticipation of an attack that ended up being internally generated?) Narrow acned buckled sidewalks. Heaps of trash everywhere. Most of the plastic ripped apart by bands of men who day and night sort from it the recyclables and leave the rest an exploded obstacle course. Dramatic statuary depicting the defiant. And, like baby teeth falling out in the natural course of things, gracious and faded old buildings with their soaring art nouveau wooden and wrought iron doors and their beaux arts windows and their crumbling shuttered terraces.
To be a day-one visitor in Buenos Aires is to walk about and take note of what is accessible to a foreigner. Those buildings, those sidewalks, that trash. As is always the case, the obvious first rank of details that rushes the visitor is like the barfly who pounces the fresh meat. This includes the graffiti, the strange tree, the intriguing alley and sidestreet, the poster and the pedestrian. Here then are those first images from the Micro Centro, the subway and the alluring Palermo Viejo neighborhood.
(The Hotel Axel is a counterpoint that I will describe later, along with our first steak dinner at the famous La Cabrera and a visit to a subterranean sex palace called Tom’s.)