Bahia Blanca, Argentina.
Don't ask me who Fitz Roy is, but Brown is Almirante, the man from County Mayo who led the Argentine navy into battle against the Spanish (a number of times, I believe), and won. He is much admired and so honoured in the placenames of Maritime Argentina. I have just arrived in Bahia Blanca east from my last destination, and as the name suggests, it is white here, the streets, the buildings of a more personal scale from a bygone colonial era, the light is white. It is a bright place on the sea, I can only imagine the sand of the beaches is blinding, but I have yet to feel the Atlantic winter wind cut my cheeks here.
The Bus windows were frozen as we pulled in at 7:30am this morning - welcome relief from the knock onthe forehead from the seat in front as I bent down to pick up my satchel. It is considerably warmer now; temperatures rose as I found my way along Brown to Espana, to the Hostel where I now write. Architectural gems litter the urban fabric, the place is replete with fine edifices such as this one, into which I ventured; I noticed an enticing alleyway, which I am never one to pass without exploration.
The corridor led away from the street and branched off into steps rising away into adjacent courtyards and buildings, where do they go, who walked them once - the boots of colonial military officers can be heard approaching, the finery of the craftsmanship and antique technological methods still evident in the decorations.
Just like at home, these buildings were designed and built to stand the test of time, but not without our help, falling into decay and ruin, they represent a reminder of the lavish tastes and indulgences of the spanish crown on this side of the Atlantic, and how well they displayed the fruits of their spoils.
Once again, the call to patroitism is all around, the bills plastered on every square inch of vacant wall space, urging us, the people, to put the incumbents back where they have grown accustomed to their own methods, to consider the new guy, and a fresh face - and if you'll allow my a minor cynical political indulgence, I'd rather vote for the three eyed fish, than sponsor those other lads with my hard earned freedom as a citizen of Earth, Planet Earth.
The evidence is there however, of a country that is poised for capitalist greatness, so far I have seen no beggars, no homeless. This town is only as run down as the poorer of the urban cousins back in Ireland, and yet seems to have more of the potential required to ressurect, sustain and imnplement it's own economic recovery, when I look at the businesses on the street, when I see the infratructure, when I watch the streams of traffic at 8:30am, when I look at the buildings supplanted from the great European capitals, when I see the scale of the place, the nobility of the blood, the manners of the people, the positivity and the aspiration in their spirits, their attitudes, any politician should get down and beg for the vote of these hard working dedicated patriots (no condescension, or bad spelling intended).
I am sharing a room with Arial Salazar, his father from Galicia, his mother from Andalucia, Spain. He reinforces the general national reticence to see the relevance of the Chilean contribution to Argentine national progress, and in fact highlghts it as what is in my mind becoming the corrosive burden, but naturally balancing element that the Argegntines shoulder on behalf of their apparently ungrateful neighbours. My Spanish improves.
I could be in Paris.
There are many carpenters shops here, particularly along Soler. Furniture hand crafted, and renewed is still made with quality materials, and workmanship, automation and IKEA are sure to put an end to that as things go further down the road to economic growth, the merits of which I will not even begin to debate.
However positive all the signals, however well placed the nation is to be self-sustainable, not to even begin talking about it's international trade relations, something tells me, (and I have heard it said in a round-about way) that this has happened before, and there is a niggling feeling that there is a 'glass ceiling' above which the electorate's efforts will not empower their country's rise, as a consequence of its particular attitude, or 'position' in the league of nations, where Argentina does not sing as sweetly as say for instance, Ireland might - it's more of a defiant and contrary Tango perhaps, but a determined and bullish one nonetheless. I would love to be proved wrong, sincerely, and I hope that I have my finger on the pulse. I always trust myself and my observations far more than the talking heads that dole out the centrist international agenda(s).
I am staying here, at the Bahia Blance Hostel. Another cracking spot for the adventure seeking traveller, an old hispanic building inside the walls of which the internal spaces and external courts provide an expansive experience, atmospheric, cultured, romantic. The Lonely Planet guide book does not do it justice, and describes it as 'rudimentary' or something; it is a pleasure to be here, to live in these old rooms, to share these spaces, to see and feel the energy of an establishment supply what exactly is demanded. http://hostelbahiablanca.com/
The main courtyard is creatively decorated with Arachnid sculptures, around which the rooms open. There are trusty and relaibale old gas heater stoves in each room embedded into the solid stone walls, rough luxury, the staff are sound, sound as a pound, as we say at home.
It's time to see more of this, yet another intriguing place on the Argentinian Itinerary.
Night falls on the town and we eat together in the Hostel; Nixon, Arial and I, sharing wine salad and a piquante pasta dish I prepared. We have some laughs about the state of dating in Argentina, and Nixon shares a ribald tale of an apparently understandable mistaken gender identity inflicted on one of his close friends in a 'hot' club in Puerto Madryn. The wine is consistently good here...... another bottle from Mendoza.
I made my way to the Teatro Municipal de Bahia Blanca downtown to a blues and rock gig, which I noticed advertised as I ran around the place earlier today to get my groceries for dinner, and purchased a ticket for the handsome price of AR$80 (€8).
The theatre auditorium is one of the nicest I have ever seen in this regional port town, made relatively insignificant by nearby Mar Del Plata, and Buenos Aires, looming unspeakably large on the cultural horizon, and yet it is plush comfortable and opulent, with the wine red curtains (yes, more wine) deep stage, decorative proscenium archway, and elegant rake to the seating arrangement. It is an outstandingly atmospheric space with a vaulted ceiling that reaches for th heavens. The colonial forefathers had the right idea in terms of entertainment. This guy on the mouth organ is Adrian Jimenez; his buddy and he were the highlight of the evening for me. Blues numbers from Ray Charles, Lead Belly, and Jimmy Rogers I made out in the castellan song introductions.
It is with the greatest pleasure that I present an album link to his work.
Had a brief word with him afterwards, and he is a gentleman artist.
A good day's travel, tomorrow it's off to Mar Del Plata for some more adventures.
And there I was, thinking to myself that I was a big boy, jumping on and off of buses, trains and aeroplanes, with my bag of technology and sparse supplies, until I met Jimmy., and add be has reliably informed me that is his legal name. Jimmy, Jimmy Ung. And why do I speak of this legend among men with such distinction? Well it's not just that Jimmy reminds me that though it's easy to like people you've known for only 20 minutes in total, you know that they are someone you will always warm to. Or that he's a nice bloke and speaks a few languages well, But because this gentle fellow had driven from Montreal to Ushuaia, in Tierra Del Fuego, (that's the southern tip of the South American continent) on this. He had seen some mud....
Here's Jimmy's project:
He is currently selling his bike for parts in Buenos Aires (a suzuki 650, I think), as Argentine law prohibits the sale, and discourages the purchase of imported goods, under the Kirchner economic revival regime.