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food / travel

Tales Of An Expat: A Touch Of Paris In Buenos Aires

French hotelier Alain Auneveux moved to Buenos Aires eight years ago and is utterly enchanted by the Argentine capital, which some have called the Paris of Latin America.

It's summertime in Buenos Aires
It's summertime in Buenos Aires
Alain Auneveux

BUENOS AIRES — When I first arrived in Buenos Aires I lived like a tourist, downtown in Recoleta. I soon left that district, as elegant and full of grand residences as it is, to move to a more authentic area to mix in with the locals and meet the neighbors. My home in Buenos Aires is now Palermo, one of the city’s more Bohemian districts.

Palermo is picturesque and perfect for long walks or even just a stroll. My favorite walk is to the museums, especially to ones where there are bars with garden seating and I can take a break, meeting and chatting with friends. I like going around the city, and usually walk or take the bus, which is always a good place to meet interesting people.

Rainy days particularly fascinate me — I sit in a café by the window and gaze out at people walking past. The people of Buenos Aires exude charm without even realizing it.

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In the Palermo neighborhood of the Argentine capital (pontodeak)

When it comes to food, I had to change a few habits. Goodbye to my daily baguette with nicely aged cheese or ham and other cold meats. I also had to give up fresh fish. I did try maté though, the popular herbal tea that the people here love so much, but I couldn’t make it part of my routine. Same for asado, the famous Argentine barbecue, as I don’t like meat that much.

New city, new culture

As for going out, I've always loved French cinema, and films from other places like Iran, Russia or Africa but, generally, they’re not so easy to find here. You can watch some very interesting films in certain cinemas though, outside the commercial circuit.

I’ve also become a tango fanatic. I’m fascinated by people who dance milongas in the neighborhood and, since I can’t dance, I watch how two people are able to communicate through dancing. Once, I was sitting on a bench in a square in Beijing and a couple turned on a stereo and danced to Carlos Gardel. How marvelous, I thought, that music and dance are so universal.

Same but different

Buenos Aires has a lot of Paris in it, but it still keeps its own particular personality. You can be alone here and as soon as they realize that you’re from another country, the generosity of the Porteños, the people from this city, comes right out. They strike up conversations with every foreigner they meet and love being told how kind everyone is here — even inadvertently. This was something I found very attractive from the start, as well as the local vocabulary the residents here use, very unique and descriptive.

The city’s social life, and the women, are outstanding. They are seductive, ever-present, and elegant at all times. Their Latin blood makes them possessive, but it’s a package deal I guess.

Buenos Aires is a walking city. I move around freely on public transport and it’s one of the few cities where it’s easy to get around without a car. I feel that I’m making a concrete contribution here to the sustainable development of large cities.

Play hard, work hard

I didn’t hesitate for a minute to found Vatel here, my hotel and tourism management school, because this is the South American capital with the largest number of international hotel chains, and there must be a supply of professional staff to meet their particular standards and requirements.

Spreading French cooking is another challenge we set ourselves. With a group of French chefs who live here, together we formed Lucellus, the French cuisine society of Argentina.

I usually go back to France twice a year to retrieve some of the flavors that are difficult to find in these parts: cheese, for example, and fresh shellfish. But, I always come back for work, and for the people here who make me feel so good!

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