Why Buenos Aires is the perfect holiday antidote to weeks in lockdown

Life slows down in Buenos Aires
Life slows down in Buenos Aires Credit: istock
One day Chris Moss will return to Buenos Aires and enjoy it as he used to – slowly, randomly, completely 

I’m a big fan of the Johnny Cash song 'I’ve Been Everywhere'. It’s got a great riff, and the way he reels off all those American cities is exhilarating. Travel journalists like being on the road. We like quantity and quality. Some (not me) hang up maps pinned with places they’ve visited. While in Istanbul, we’re already thinking about future trips to Shanghai, or Swansea.

2020欧洲杯网站Fast, frantic, list-ticking travel has become the norm. Carbon-heavy, suitcase-light, we’re in a perpetual hurry. Being busy is a way of not thinking too deeply.  

This is a mea culpa2020欧洲杯网站. In recent years, I’ve taken as many as 20 trips in a 12-month period. I’ve been on very long flights for very short trips: three days in China, four in Sao Paulo. Oslo for an hour.

Covid will, I believe, change this. Slow travel, long talked about as a sort of vaguely good, greenish, old-fashioned trend, will surely now gravitate to the mainstream. After all the time that lockdown has afforded us to reflect on what quieter skies and roads might mean for our planet, we’ll feel morally, and spiritually, obliged to pace ourselves, take time to dwell on the rare and beautiful, and appreciate what we see, taste, feel, smell, hear.

My changing experience of my favourite city, Buenos Aires, over almost 30 years reflects how things got out of control for me. When I lived there in the Nineties, most days I’d spend hours in a neighbourhood bar such as Los Galgos, poring over the local newspaper, scribbling in my diary, people-watching, daydreaming. I’d chat to the waiter, have another cortado, or perhaps a vermouth.

Take a day to stroll the barrios Credit: getty

Lunches at El Trapiche, a steakhouse, would last four hours or more. Whoever I went with, we took time to talk, and to order and savour the pork matambrito and the racks of beef rib. We let the heavy malbecs breathe. When we finally came out, the sun was much lower.

I was a maté 2020欧洲杯网站(green tea) drinker. Is there a ritual on earth more attuned to slowing down? You pour, sip, pour again, share, pour another, pass it around. A session could last hours. 

2020欧洲杯网站I was an avid walker, and on epic quests to distant barrios I mentally mapped the vast grid of streets. I’d catch a slow bus home, or walk back. Kerouac’s summons to go “nowhere fast” was turned, in the southern hemisphere, to going nowhere rather slowly.

I made time to see openings at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, catch a tango recital by Horacio Salgán, wander through Palermo’s parks and plazas. Or not. I might think about these things, and then have a siesta.

What my Anglo self had learned from Argentines was that life was to be lingered over, that work was never as important as play, that this evening’s meal, or that fiesta, or a weekend outing, was the only one that mattered. 

2020欧洲杯网站Fast-forward a decade or two and my recent visits to the Argentine capital seem to be just for three or four days. I have appointments, I dash from place to place like a dervish, scarf down meals so fast I can’t taste them – nor remember them afterwards. There’s no time for maté or siestas.

2020欧洲杯网站What went wrong? Well, occupation aside, I got caught up in the competitive whirl of consumerism, believing quality of life meant an ever more varied gamut of experiences. This is the behaviour of someone afflicted by anxiety. It is travel as travail, as tasks to be completed.

2020欧洲杯网站I am on the path to recovery. Of late, with passport quarantined and suitcase under the bed, I’ve been reading old diaries, flicking through scrapbooks, checking half-written stories scribbled not for publication but because ideas and emotions occurred to me over those long, slow hours in cafés. I’ve taken out photos, letters and postcards, remembered how I used to engage with Buenos Aires – and places in general.

2020欧洲杯网站Resolution comes creeping up on me, with the stealth and surety of the inevitable: when all this is over and I’m free to take the train to Heathrow and cross the Atlantic on that very fast plane to Buenos Aires, I shall, on arrival, abandon all watches and clocks, spurn all plans and programmes. I shall eat, sleep, drink, walk, observe and digest as if there were no rush at all. I shall skip new experiences to meet old friends. I may not live there any more, but when I am there I shall live to the full.

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