It may please people to know that my Mother observed how lovely my spelling was in the last blog. This failure to adhere to accepted English is something I shall not fail to fail at again (be not afeared dear fans)!
Some opinionated reflections on a week in a Party Hostel. A couple of notable outcomes, the most lasting is that the week has brought about the realisation that I am officially too old to stay in a hostel. This may be too old in spirit of course! (There were a couple of forty-something Aussies who seemed to be loving life.) Why am I too old?
- I do not wish to share my room with seven strangers: Ironically, mixed dorms I find worse – with all blokes one can wander around with one’s bollocks out as one would in a leisure centre changing room – in a mixed dorm that is seen as poor form.
- I do not wish to be woken up at 3am by some German asshole who has got trollied, stumbled home by complete luck and then mistaken his top bunk, back left of the room, for my bottom bunk front right.
- Free breakfast consisting of warmed bread and browning bananas (pre-chopped for your convenience) is really only for those who are still too drunk to realise what is entering them (…cheeky).
- And finally, (I could go on for some time, but I feel they would get more specific to me and perhaps the average person will not empathise, such as my irrational hatred of luggage rooms…) the sound of reggaton blasting through all walls of the building every night until 2am is what I think God and Satan have agreed is roughly the midpoint between their two dominions – purgatory.
Upon disembarking from the flight, I had slept for 1 hour and 47 minutes, there was the small job of collecting my stuff. After thirty minutes feeling certain Iberia had lost my bag, it did arrive. Two inspections of my passport and a further bag machine and I was allowed out of the terminal. Not before I was asked where I was staying, upon them hearing the hostel’s name there was a wry smile and a small eye-roll; a missed sign of what I had in stock.
Uber seemed a good bet to expedite the hostel-arrival process that would have otherwise taken two hours and 45 mins! Of course I order it to the wrong place and am thus forced to run in order to catch said Uber: there is something about running for your pre-ordered taxi that feels wrong. Safely in Uber with nice Peruvian chap I set-off to hostel. It is immediately apparent that Buenos Aires (despite the suggestions from the rather shoddy airport) is really rather developed, and nice, and bloody huge. After trying to get a sense of the place from my Peruvian chum, I am jettisoned from the taxi and thrust into the street and the hostel.
Who is not chirpy after a 13hour flight through the night? Me. Nevertheless the lovely receptionist cheered me up somewhat, although I listened to nothing that she said. I think there were recommendations for bars, where to go and the contrary. I was far to busy contemplating whether the Beetles or the Rolling Stones were better. Shown to room at 11ish, did not like, changed room at 11.05. Second room passably nice. Several “period features” of the room: metal grate lockers that made more noise than a fighter jet taking-off; creaky wooden floorboards; ambient temperature akin to that on Mercury; comatosed semi-naked male bodies as far as the eye could see; a sink that would not drain on account of the high concentration of facial hair (I hope) blocking it.
Because I would have rather died than stay in the room for more than four minutes, I decided to “hit” the sister-hostel’s roof terrace with my book. Said book and said Charles Bennet bask in the glorious midday sunshine without a care in the world and (no fault of the book, which at page 350 has finally perked-up) I fell into a gorgeous and much needed slumber. Awoke from slumber to the observation, “hey, I think you’re burning!” from a passing German girl. “Hey – get out of the sun you idiot you are burnt!” would have been a far better call. A somewhat redder CB bummed-around and consumed a late afternoon breakfast and lunch/supper and decided that I far preferred bed to the offer of a nightclub that evening! I slept from 9pm and had a lovely night’s sleep, absenting only the idiot Dutch guy faffing with his large metal locker inches from my head at 3am.
Sunday. Met an American chap, went to a market. Watched tango – that looks hard. In between lunch and dinner I decided that I should brave Buenos Aires for a run. There is a verdant eco-reserve close to where I was staying that I ran to. On a gorgeous day, such as it was, this made a very pleasant run (even though I got lost – twice). The only beings that enjoyed the run more than I did, were the mosquitos who I think felt that they should get breakfast, lunch and dinner a-la-Bennett in the seven minutes I sat down to stretch: I knew stretching was bad for you. They feasted!
Had dinner with said American chap and a French guy in a Parrilla. “Parrilla” means grill and is very difficult to pronounce – lots of rolling “rs” and “sh” where you don’t expect them. Incidentally there are a series of these grills everywhere. They are, if one is to believe the guide books, typical of Argentina and Buenos Aires in particular. While my steak was average, I would say, the French guy for £10, had one of the nicest steaks I have savoured at a thoroughly average location; the mind boggles what money and a decent place could do.
Monday – Friday: language school. I opted for morning lessons because that would provide an incentive to get-up and give a bit of structure to the day. The lessons were exactly the right level, but filled with (bar one French girl who was great) people who were veritably not. Shout-out goes to a retired American lawyer whose voice, slow speech, general failure at Spanish and irritating demeanour were enough to turn even a patient person to brutal homocide; I am not a patient person. She insisted on speaking in Spanish to everyone, but would then ask you to repeat it in English after she did not understand. She also always sat in the same seat. Since life is about little victories, the last day day, when I arrived on time, I stole her seat. For all those reading who think that at my age I should rise above that – I am not yet there!
I made it my week’s activity to ignore the fellow (ubiquitous) English travellers and speak to those that work at the hostel. These few, these happy few these… I liked a great deal. Among their numbers were a series of attractive Argentine girls who delighted in messing-around in the subjective with me (the mood of the unknown): I will be considering applications for those wishing to continue the Bennett linage shortly.
Monday evening boasts one of Buenos Aires’ most popular attractions “La Bomba”. La Bomba is a drum show. While I did not see much trace of Argentine nor Latin American rhythms (maybe Caribbean), it was a huge amount of fun. The narrow entrance to what appears a deserted factory, then opens-out to an open-air area. At one end of this 100m long expanse there is a bar and at the other, the Bombaderos (no idea if that is really what they are called – just sounds cool!). Something occurred that made me feel like one of the Hobbits from Lord of the Rings (I also have the hairy feet to further embody this image): they sell beers in pints and in double pints. A double pint cannot fit in a hand, the circumference of the cup means that actually drinking without spilling this drink involves a dunk impersonation with one’s lips around the rim. All of this I observed before I confidently and assertively strolled to the counter and declared that I “shall have a pint of the double my man” (not in plummy english – no fears). While my shirt is now dry, it did take a while for it change from its sodden state.
Because La Bomba starts at 8pm, it also finishes early: 10pm. As a direct consequence, I returned to the hostel to the early-swing of the nightly party. A couple of fun Dutch guys did their best to encourage me that an 80s disco was the way to spend my evening. They were not wrong in the general…
<Somewhat strange, but memorable night>
Tuesday passed with less extremity. Its highlight was the realisation that I don’t understand past tense, prepositions nor the difference between direct & indirect objects in Spanish. One might argue that these be the foundation of effective communication. A recurring theme: the Amercian woman annoyed me. To counter this irritation, I started using Vosotros (that they only use in Spain) to confuse her more.
I ought to note a rare moment of brilliance from a hostel-based Australian that Michael McIntyre ought to pinch. While loudly regaining the story of a previous night, he pointed out that he could, “sleep through anything…” the four horsemen of the apocalypse could enter his room – much like Mel Gibson does in Braveheart – and there would be no consciousness gained. However, one person snoring, even quietly, is enough to bore a hole in one’s brain and produce an anger so acute that sleep is rendered impossible. Needless to say, the hypocritical prick was was snoring so hard that night that I’m surprised he still possess tonsils!
I was very aware of this because I managed to get some sort of food poisoning / heat exhaustion that evening. It reached its pinnacle after the tango lesson (a sight for sore eyes) and four or so beers with a couple of (nice) Dutch guys from the hostel. I spent the night hugging the lavatory basin as if it were the last point of refuge in a sinking ship. While the feeling of unwellness was fleeting, it did for my trip to a local farm the following day: more subjunctive and slow American Spanish for me!
It was around Wednesday, while consuming one of my several daily Empanadas, that it dawned on me: Palermo, the “nicer” part of Buenos Aires, reminds me a lot of Bristol! Two things particularly contribute to this (other than the architecture and the parks). The first – many artisan beer places (I’d love to say cheaper, but that would be a lie, the only thing here cheaper are small pasties 😉 and steak), the second – a high concentration of Fixie bikes. There are also a number of what I like to refer to as “dick-head haircuts” that one encounters so often in Bristol (very short at the sides and back, but ostensibly normal atop! Check out Danny Care for reference). Dickhead is an appropriate adjective as the Argentines use “boludo” – dickhead – for almost everything: “Hey dickhead”; “that’s wrong dickhead!”; “you okay dickhead?”; “had a great time tonight dickhead”.
Thursday spent planing Hostel exit-strategy! Nice studio planned, I just had to make it through the proceeding two days… While sitting in rainy – yes rainy – Buenos Aires, the most peculiar spectacle occurred. Somewhere in the region of, I would say, three thousand bicycles rode bast the hostel through a narrow street – purposefully backfiring for about fifteen minutes. I presumed I was about to take part in a coups at first. This was a protest (and indeed a day of protest in Buenos Aires). The Bikers’ objection was against legislation just passed that helmets should have to have the same license number as those on the bikes. Quite clearly this is to fight the theft of bicycles and their use to carry-out crimes. What then do we conclude? There are three thousand bike criminals in Buenos Aires alone? Or just that they value security below license? (Thank you for observing the well-balanced pun!)
Friday ~ Paddy’s day! What can one say. I am not quite perverse enough not to not partake (unpick that!). If there is one time that one would wish to be around English and Irish, it is for an occasion that expressly celebrated drinking excessive amounts of beer in a short period of time. Night’s highlights include winding-up a Scottish girl (who I had insulted on Tango night as being Scottish and thus a bad dancer, and who had a tattoo on the inside of her lip – with her name; what else?!). She had just got another tattoo that said “siempre viajando” – always travelling – on the inside of her bicep. I managed to convince her, with the help of a passing Venezuelan to whom I explained the wind-up in Spanish so she had no idea I was seeking his assistance, that they had spelt it wrong. I am actually not sure of the outcome of this as I left to speak to some other people before I clarified that it was correct after all.
Among the pissed-up rabble, there were a couple of French guys, one of whom the best looking person I reckon I have ever met! French uno, when asked how long he was travelling for replied, “only a year”… only? It transpired that his buddy was travelling for a further year! TWO YEARS! If you don’t find yourself after that long it must be serious existential crisis time: after two years of not having found what you’re looking for (I invoke the great U2) you would be forced to conclude you don’t exist! One-Year-Frenchie had done an erasmus 6 months in the north of Spain. He and I thus discussed the difficulty of understanding people here. He countered my confusion with a lovely sentence: “It is not that I don’t understand, its just that I find the constant “sh sh sh” here very disturbing.” Got to love the French. French uno+dos are going next to the wine-tasting region; I was astonished to hear this.
While I had the intention of attending the night for its duration and actually met some English with a similar antipathy to the others in the hostel, the party bus (bus to the party rather than being an all-purpose vehicle) left at 2.30am. That is 30mins from me crashing. I am okay with the very late/early partying here, but I am not arriving when I would ordinarily leave a place for bed! Remember adoring fans – Charles Bennett is old and not the young partier he once was (ripples of sniggering around the crowd – I have always disliked clubbing).
Saturday: Get up; get packed; check-out (with glee); walk up street; get metro/ tube/ subway/ underground train; walk down street; meet friend of apartment’s owner – who stays with me for a bit longer than was probably imperative.
I had only one very very non-immersive activity to attend while here: watch England break the All-Black record of the longest winning streak and win the grand-slam. Tried to watch the first half in the new apartment to enjoy both rugby and view, but the wifi here is just so so bad. Thus at half time I am sprinting around Palermo (the new area I have moved to) asking locals for an Irish pub (everything I did not want to be). Got there in time for second half and to see my dreams shattered among drunken, smug Lepricorns.
Go for a cheeky run around Palermo to try and overcome the pain, which I envisaged to resemble Clifton in both aesthetics and size. It is more like the borough of Wansworth, i.e. Clapham + Battersea + Clapham + Tooting… HUGE.
Met nice Dutch guy (from hostel) for a delicious steak that evening. This again is an average cut at an average place with some “average” wine. It was FAR from that. Delicious wine, delicious steak and just too cheap for what it was. Dutch and I decide to go out out out (too many? No – here there is an additional “out” to account for how long it lasts). There is a loose plan to meet my American friend at a local popular Discoteca. Dutch is wearing shorts – like hell are we being let in and so it was. In place of this, I followed the recommendation of a French girl in the language class to a dingy bar where her friend was playing some very average house music (I know it was average because, while it offended my ears, what people call “good house” deeply offends my ears: its a very accurate barometer). Leave after 10 mins; run back to house; give him trousers; run back; skip queue because the bouncer recognises me – I really do look different to people here – hair too long, too blonde & wearing un-ironed shirt and jeans that were fashionable thirty years ago all mounted on deck shoes.
<A relentless night>