Dan and I had a great skype chat with listeners Elizabeth and Chris Lovelace, a couple from the US who live in the city of Mar del Plata, 400 kilometers south of BA. Continuing with the topic of discussing expat life in Argentina, but outside Buenos Aires, that we touched with Katie Metz de Martínez on Episode 14, here are some highlights about living in “La Feliz” (nickname for Mar del Plata city, the most traditional vacation spot for Argentines). Pictures are courtesy of Elizabeth, who’s a professional freelance photographer. Chris is a freelance translator.
Elizabeth: First of all, I really don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything by NOT living in BA. MdP has almost every kind of entertainment available, and it’s year round. I think perhaps the rest of the country thinks that after the summer, MdP turns into a ghost town. It doesn’t; it just returns to normal. We have the Culinary Festival in the summer, Jazz Festival in April, the International Film Festival and book fair in November, and the Iberoamerican (if that’s even a word in English) Cultural event in the winter (I forget the month). León Gieco had an outdoor concert for that event; MdP does draw some big names. The municipal theater has events/shows year round at a decent price. (There are probably more fairs/festivals but I can’t think of any more.)
Chris: I always wanted to live in a place that makes a good vacation spot. All of Argentina (and people from several other countries) come here regularly to relax because this is a nice place to do it. Rather than deal with the hassle of having to drive here for a vacation, why not just live here? That way, any time there’s a nice day, I can go to the beach if I feel like it.
Elizabeth: It’s not just music and theater, there are sporting events year round. Since the sports complex was built for the Panamerican Games in 1995, MdP has hosted some major events (there was some major basketball competition going on not too long ago but I’m not sure what it was…preliminaries for the world cup perhaps?) We don’t have any club teams in the A division, but neither is River, so who needs that? 🙂
Sure, if you want to see U2 or Aerosmith, you have to to BA/La Plata, but so does the rest of the country. And those groups don’t come to Argentina that often anyway.
Chris: The fact is that there is more than enough to do here every week. No one person could attend every event in MdP, which is pretty impressive considering how small the city is in population and area. Of course, the events that Liz mentions are just some of the big, general events. There are also thriving Pan-Arabic, Russian, Italian, Jewish and other communities here that have events at least once a month (and usually several times a week).
Eli: there might be things I can’t buy here, but we’re more than ok with what we do find. (We are more than happy to NOT have a Starbucks here!) Chris: Why do you need a Starbucks when so many cafes serve Cabrales coffee? If you want “foo-foo coffee drinks” filled with sugar and whipped cream, go to Havana. You have your pick of a Havana cafe overlooking the ocean, or Havana on the Peatonal.
Chris: It’s also generally cheaper to live here, though prices are climbing steadily. The fact is that, if we lived in BA, we probably would not be able to afford to live in Capital; so, we’d have to live in one of the less desirable neighborhoods. Again, why do that when we can live by the ocean instead?
Elizabeth: We have more than just cheap seafood restaurants here. The cuisine might not be as international as in BA, but there are some very fine restaurants in the city and we’re still finding them all.
Chris: Since our plan right now is to be here for the rest of our lives, it’s important to be part of the community – not just the party scene. MdP is big enough to not be out in the “Sticks” (El campo), but it is still small enough that we (or our family) know a lot of people in the community. We get the chance to participate in civic life here (if we want to); that’s doesn’t really seem possible in BA. For example, Liz has had photography gigs at some of the main venues here; why compete in BA when you can be more successful in MdP with less headache?
Elizabeth: What I love about MdP is that it’s big enough to offer a lot but small enough that these places are easy to get to. We live on the northern side of town in a residential neighborhood, but I can get downtown in 15 min. by car (about 30 min. on the bus.) It’s easy to get around. You can’t get lost because there’s always an ocean to navigate the city by, and it’s laid out on a grid. It doesn’t get any easier. 🙂 Of course, then there’s the ocean view year round. It never gets old. If you’re here in the winter you can watch the sunrise without getting up at 5am. 🙂 And if you’re looking for some country side weekend, Sierra de los Padres is only 30 min. outside of town.
Chris: MdP also has a decent golf course, as does Sierra de los Padres (from what golfers tell me). I’m sure it’s not St. Andrew’s; but if you’re looking for St. Andrew’s… I suggest going to St. Andrews.
Finally, a lot of musical groups and other performers come to MdP. So, we can still see Les Luthiers or Ricardo Arjona, and we don’t have to go to BA to do it. Of course, if we really want to do something in BA, we can get there and back in a day (even if it IS a long day of driving). So, why live in the pollution, crime, and congestion Buenos Aires when you can live in MdP and drink mate on the beach with friends any time you feel like it? 🙂
Furthermore, why endure the sweltering summers in BA, when the summer days in MdP are almost always blessed with an ocean breeze keeping the temperature livable?