South American culture is extremely rich and fascinating. During my travels in Argentina, I noticed that there weren't very many Afro-Argentines, upholding the stereotype that Argentina is the "whitest county in South America." Depending on who you ask, Afro-Argentines either died fighting the 1865 war against Paraguay, while the remaining fled to Brazil or that President Domingo Fasustion Sameiento attempted to kill all remaining slaves and/or non-European natives. Regardless of what really happened, Afro-Argentines heavily influenced country culture and cuisine. Most unknown? Tango, originally known as Creole Tango.
Argentine culture is most pervasive in Buenos Aires. This city is known as the Paris of South America due to the European architectural influence on buildings and roads. As in most major cities, Buenos Aires has very eclectic boroughs. If you want to see live tango, La Boca is the place for you, although because this is a high crime area, I advise you take heed. If you're feelin' a nice cafe and some shopping, Palermo, Soho and Belgrano have extremely trendy vibes. Interested in seeing a traditional South American grave yard combined with the most amazing outside market? Check out Recoleta. Not the city type? Hop on a train to Le Tigre, a town on the river with a local amusement park overlooking the water. On your way back to town, stop by the Posh borough of San Isidro. Beverly Hills 2.0!
Despite Argentina's unfriendly past, you will find that the locals are quite friendly. I can still remember the man at a local bakery calling out "Nagrita," a term of endearment meaning little black girl. The people of Argentina, with their complex tapestry, appear to have moved on from past beliefs, learning to embrace difficult cultures. Go and see for yourself, you won't be disappointed.
Paris. Full glamour & romance, there is a lot more to this infamous destination then the clichés we are brought up to believe. Paris happens to be one of the most diverse cities in the world with thousands of immigrants from Asia, South America & Africa. I had always been taught to perceive Paris as an untouchable, conservative, white-only society. When I arrived, I was surprised to find a large population of African descent with an indelible sense of style and grace.
During my month long stay in Paris, I was surprised by a few thought-provoking cultural differences. Unlike America, France isn't allowed to collect information pertaining race, only information regarding an individual's birth country. As a result, there is no accurate count of African immigrants living in France. When I met other young blacks, they referred to themselves as French first, as there is no such term as Afro American or African French. When walking down the streets of Paris, I would always receive a warm smile, nod or conversation, something starkly different from where I came from. In Los Angeles, in the same scenario, eyes of African Americans I'd cross paths with would be diverted in other directions. These black Parisians never made me feel like I was alone.[gallery ids="652,663,665,653,664"]
Along with the difference in culture, I discovered some amazing things to do (other than visit the Eiffel Tower). Follow this list for an amazing way to view of the city of love!
1. Versailles. Here you will find an incredibly glamorous palace filled with art, parisian pool sized ponds and magical gardens. If you've seen the movie Marie Antoinette, you should definitely visit. For those who haven't seen the movie, watch it and then go visit (ha!). This palace is located right out of Paris and with just a hop on the metro you can get there in just under an hour.
I was in Berlin for an extended weekend recently, and the whole time I found myself agreeing again and again with what I had read about the city in Maneesh's (hackthesystem.com) post about it. It's a great post and introduction to Berlin, even if he oversells his reasons a bit. Below is his article, with some of my additional thoughts in italics.
It had been a long time since I’d stayed in one city for so long, but I’d engineered it so I could spend my final quarter of Stanford abroad…and receive financial aid at the same time. I’d heard nothing but great things about Berlin, and when Stanford offered me a paid summer internship, meaning I’d be living scot free in the city, I couldn’t say no.Within weeks of arriving, I understood why Berlin had received so much praise—the only other city I’ve ever seen as revered is Buenos Aires. Let me tell you now exactly why you should log on to kayak.com and buy a ticket to Berlin, Germany.
I was blown away when I saw the prices in Berlin. Living expenses are as cheap, or cheaper, than most cities in South America! (Buenos Aires included). I could afford dinners an the nightlife—Berlin is by FAR the cheapest capital city in Western Europe. Here are some examples of my costs (everything is converted into dollars at 1 € = $1.50)
[Side note: one time I only had 1EUR on me, and I entered a gas station to buy water. Water cost € 1.25. Beer cost € 0.60. Needless to say, my decision was made for me]