When Camille met Roberto: my unexpected Buenos Aires encounter

Hello from my new abode in Palermo! I am no longer a resident of the America del Sur hostel in San Telmo, but have moved to the other side of town and am now renting a sofa-bed in a small flat in Palermo Soho – sharing with the owner, a 39-year-old Argentinian lady, and her cat Ramon.

It’s not that the hostel wasn’t good. In fact, with its many facilities and activities it was pretty great (it’s been consistently voted one of the best hostels in South America for some years now) and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a clean, friendly, sociable place to stay in central BA. But after ten days there, something convinced me to pack up my things and move to a different neighbourhood.

Palermo is the leafy middle-class area of the city to the east of BA’s main artery, the Avenida 9 de Julio. If my friends and I lived in Buenos Aires, I know that this is where we would hang out. Palermo is greener, safer, trendier and to some extent more international than the centre. It’s home to most of Buenos Aires’ best gardens and museums, relaxed bars and restaurants, and hip design and vintage shops.

Even the benches are funky in Palermo!
And the motorbikes!


When I first visited last week though, my spirits were a bit low.
I was missing certain people back home (I wish I could say ‘back homes‘, because I feel I have at least two homes, if not three, really, these days…).

Besides, I was visiting BA but didn’t feel like I was truly engaging with it: I was having a good time, but I was meeting mainly Americans, Australians, Brits and Frenchies at my hostel, which wasn’t conducive to speaking much Spanish… I kept reading and hearing all these stories from other travellers about all the unexpected encounters with locals you’re bound to make when travelling solo. Where were mine?

 

And then, something happened. I met Roberto.

 

Now, before you get too excited, it wasn´t that kind of encounter. Roberto wasn´t a potential romantic partner, but a retired economics lecturer who is now working as a private Spanish teacher and who randomly started speaking to me (asking if he could borrow a pen) as I was sitting at the terrace of a cafe on Plaza Julio Cortazar.

Upon realizing I was doing my homework for my next Spanish class, Roberto proceeded to sit down with me and give me a free language class!

An hour and a half later, I left Palermo with an enriched vocabulary and useful pieces of advice. Roberto told me that if I was serious about perfecting my Spanish, I had made three mistakes:

1) Staying in a hostel rather than with an Argentinian family
2) Staying in San Telmo rather than Palermo (because the latter is nicer I guess!)
3) Taking classes with a language school rather than with him

It was too late to do anything about the third, but the first two could be remedied easily. So when I got back to the hostel, I cancelled my last three nights there and found a cheap room to rent with a local on Airbnb – and here I am!

In addition, Roberto had also exhorted me to take every opportunity to speak Spanish, and I’ve since been much more proactive in provoking, and taking advantage of, these opportunities! I went along on Saturday night to a language exchange event, Mundo Lingo, where I got to practise my Spanish and met locals and expats who passed on lots of insider info and tips.

So, muchas gracias Roberto – te lo agradezco!

 

Have you had an interesting chance encounter on your travels? Any experience using Airbnb? Let me know in the comments below!

If you would like to follow the rest of my adventures, consider subscribing to the blog to receive all updates by email, and connecting with Camille in Wonderlands on Facebook, where I regularly post snapshots and musings that haven’t made it onto the site.

 

Camille

Hey, I'm Camille! I quit my life to travel the world in 2013 – and I haven’t stopped since! I have visited 40+ countries as a location-independent travel/lifestyle writer and digital marketer. I like hammocks, scooters, eating, and scaring my mother trying adventure sports! I was chosen as a top travel influencer by Influence.co, and have co-founded Helipad Marketing to help travel & lifestyle brands soar with killer online marketing.

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7 thoughts on “When Camille met Roberto: my unexpected Buenos Aires encounter”

  1. Très intéressant. Palermo est-il le quartier le plus “européen” de Buenos Aires ? Est-ce là, par exemple, que l’on pourrait parler du Paris de l’Amérique du Sud ?
    Tu n’as pas de photo de Roberto ?

    1. Il y a plusieurs quartiers a Buenos Aires qui font penser a Paris et Palermo est l’un d’entre eux. C’est vrai que pour le coup on pourrait se croire en Europe dans cette partie de la ville!
      Non, je n’ai pas pu prendre de photo de Roberto mais a partir de maintenant, je vais essayer d’inclure plus de photos des gens que je rencontre… le probleme c’est que c’est parfois delicat de demander une photo!

  2. I don’t know if you’ve tried Couchsurfing yet, but some of my best travelling memories are related to my hosts. They introduce you to the most genuine places, people and atmosphere… I’ve met the crazy father of my Italian friend in Torino and although he only spoke Italian,we had such a good time, or later on the best friend of my host in Hiroshima…
    But then again, I would advise you to pick carefully your hosts, so that you can get the most of your experience with unusual people 😉

    1. Yes, I’m planning to try it soon – probably in New Zealand and Australia, where I’ll have to manage my budget carefully… My Airbnb experience in Buenos Aires was quite similar to couchsurfing and I really enjoyed it, but I think that when you’re travelling solo for a long time, it’s good to alternate between hostels where you meet lots of people, and the more ‘intimate’ experience of couchsurfing!

  3. Aucun rapport avec Roberto ou le quartier de Palermo mais, pour conclure ce séjour à Buenos Aires, une question.

    As-tu vu le défilé des Mères de la place de Mai qui avait lieu, je crois, chaque jeudi (ou le mardi ?) depuis le début des années 80 ? Ce défilé existe-t-il toujours ? Ce sont des femmes qui défilaient (défilent) pour obtenir des informations sur leurs proches – maris, parents, enfants, frères, soeurs, etc – disparus sous la dictature militaire.

    1. Non je n’ai pas vu le defile mais je crois qu’il a toujours lieu… par contre la place de mai est couverte de banderoles et messages revendicateurs en permanence. J’ai des photos et j’espere trouver le temps a un moment de rediger un dernier billet sur Buenos Aires, dans lequel je les incluerai.

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