Thursday, June 17, 2010

Follow Me Around

Thanks for coming by my website - if you liked it please click on the link above to see my latest project- the tube riders. I don't know if it's technically legal to be taking photos of people and publishing them without their consent but let me know what you think if you like it.



Friday, October 9, 2009

I'm Not Dead!

To everyone who has been reading this blog in my absence I can't tell you enough how much I appreciate it. I just so happened to reopen my blog out of curiosity today and was astonished to see that almost 20 people a day from Argentina and around the world have been checking in and reading my stories- clearly not an astronomical number but I was expecting something closer to 0 and definitely no Argentine readers!
It means so much to me that people in Argentina would read my blog and I sincerely hope that you enjoy reading what you're country looks like from an outsider's perspective. Even though at times I found it difficult and emotionally distressing (teaching English to a bunch of unappreciative grammar fiends for instance) I truly loved my time in your country and I grew so much from it. Additionally, I only wrote from my own experiences, and I'm the type of person who is attracted to oddities and eccentricity, so if I have offended any Argentines in my retelling of anecdotes or my personal opinions on cultural and political topics (such as the BuenosAireselections that took place last winter) I meant no disrespect. Everything I've ever said aboutBuenos Aires and Argentina has been from a good place and hopefully with a sense of humour.
So, before I bid adieu I have to let you all know what happened after we got off the bus inBariloche:

1. After getting through all the hassle of renting the clothes, the gear, the equipment and buying the passes we finally got to the top of the mountain only to discover that one of us (hint: not me) wasn't so comfortable on a pair of skis. So we edged our way back down, and set out about finding different ways to amuse ourselves.
We went to some neolithic caves (which were honestly awesome), ate lots and lots of chocolate, took a gondola ride up Cerro Otto, dined at a great vegetarian restaurant and in the end hopped a 23 hour bus to Santiago, Chile.

2. Santiago was awesome, and surprisingly hilly. Actually, much of this trip was marred by very steep hills when I think about it. The Andes seemed to be screaming their prominence at us every where we went, they were completely inescapable!
-Interesting side note: as we were passing through the Andes from Mendoza to Santiago I was completely captivated by the ruins of the old rail system. It was like driving through an old Wild West movie set, the way the rails were partially covered with corrugated iron tunnels and the switch lights hung and swung in the wind, surrounded by complete desolation. It made me deeply wish that the rail was still in use because I'm a sucker for that sort of romantic imagery- riding through snow covered mountains in a dark mahogany dining cart is right up my alley. Two days after we left Santiago my mom informed me that a family member was actually responsible for building most of the Chilean rail way system (awesome!) but that he was largely despised by the locals for using slave labour and eventually, his offspring were basically run out of the country (not awesome). Small world huh?

3. Valparaiso. Another town plagued by hills, but worth it for the views that they command. Additionally, I had one of my favourite meals at a restaurant called La Concepcion- starting with ostrich carpaccio, a lamb chop main with a risotto side and something yummy for dessert that I can't remember anymore but I remember that I loved it.

4. La Serena- not fun. If anyone ever suggests a quick pit-stop in La Serena tell them to get bent. There's a funny looking lighthouse, about a mile and a half outside of town and that's it. Honestly, that's it.

5. San Pedro de Atacama. Amazing! Yet again, we were plagued by hills, even in the desert. We rented some bikes and dune boards and using the map that the rental lady drew for us we proceeded to get horribly lost. We spent an hour biking up and down an amazingly precipitous mini-mountain on a wild goose chase looking for dunes that never appeared. However, common sense eventually prevailed and we found a very clear sign that we could've spotted from the beginning. The dune boarding was hard, but we got some great photos that made us look really cool and bad-ass, so obviously it was all worth it.

6. Arica. Sort of a let down. We were thinking it would be a town full of amazing world renowned architecture but it was really only the two buildings that we read about, the Customs House and the Church, both made by Gustav Eiffel of the Eiffel Tower fame. We did get sucked into a tour around the Customs House though, which was a little comical. The guide just seemed so sincere and eager to deliver his spiel about the history of the place, and after having seen him turned down by two other couples, I was happy to pretend I understood him. And that made him happy, so that was my good deed of the week.

7. Lima. CHIFA! I'm a big fan of the Chifa movement, mainly because I like the way it sounds, but who can say no to mounds of good, cheap Chinese food? Although I would suggest sprucing up on your Chifa lingo because out of ignorance I ended up ordering three different types of thick rice soup- all of which were probably the least tasty things off the menu, and which I found personally distasteful.

From Lima I flew back to London via Mexico City, New York City and Dublin- a thirty hour trip. I had a plan to sneak onto first class on the last major leg of my journey but I got violently ill instead and the best I could manage was to throw up in the first class bathroom before the plane took off. An unfortunate low point during my travels but memorable nonetheless.

I'm now starting a new blog about living in England and studying in London, so if you're interested you can see it here are or

Happy travels to all of you and tons of love!

-Alexandra Henson

p.s. here are a few pics from my whirlwind tour of lower South America, enjoy!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bus to Bariloche

Air travel within Argentina and the rest of South America is prohibitively expensive, it's absolute lunacy that a 2 hour plane ride can cost $500 or more. For this reason a lot of people travel by bus which is infinitely less expensive, and since most bus companies have fleets of new luxury buses, it is in most cases a more comfortable form of travel. The one draw back is that it is illegal and dangerous for these double decker buses to travel faster than 90 kilometers an hour; thus, a long distance trip can take a seriously long time. I just took a bus from Buenos Aires to Bariloche, a distance of 1,571 kilometers, and it took a little under 20 hours to complete the journey. Here's a break down of how I handled it.

Hour 1: Just got going- the novelty of staring out the window hasn't worn off yet. So far so good. Graham is feeling a little hungover so he ate a bag of chips and shut his eyes for a nap. I want to listen to my iPod but I've got to conserve the battery, I wonder how long I can hold out for?

Hour 2: My butt is getting numb. There's a movie on right now that I've been wanting to see but it's dubbed in Castellano and subtitled in Spanish! What's the point of that? I took my iPod out to play Scrabble with Graham because the scenery got old quite quickly. The pampas are completely flat, sparsely populated and kind of uninteresting to look at for any length of time. But, if the scenery changes before nightfall I will gladly return to it.

Hour 4: Only 16 left! They've finally put on a movie that isn't dubbed but I've already seen it, typical.
Graham scolded me for talking to the bus attendant in English, however, I only asked for coffee or tea, which isn't that difficult to figure out considering the Spanish is cafe o te. He's clearly a bit dense and I'm not to blame.
*I wonder if bus attendants ever dream of becoming flight attendants?

Hour 7: Just finished with dinner- even on long bus journeys Argentines insist on eating late, now there's a line for the bathroom. I'm hoping to get another little bottle of wine to help me go to sleep but I'm not sure if they've got a one/customer policy going on here. I'll bribe that dense bus attendant if I have to, I need something to put me to bed so I can escape this misery- the dubbed version of Australia just came on and the only thing more annoying than Nicole Kidman's voice is her voice dubbed in Spanish.

Hour 13: Graham just woke me up because that's what he does when he can't sleep. He sees me sleeping peacefully and somehow it gets into his head that if he wakes me up he'll be able to go to sleep, as if sleep is a physical thing that he has to steal from me so he can get some. It's so hot in here, my arm is right next to the radiator and it's en fuego, and my mouth is dry, I'm so thirsty. I hate Graham for waking me up. I'll smother him later for this.

Hour 19: After a fitful night of sleep, being jolted awake by the swaying and stopping of the bus and bad dreams I actually feel quite well rested. We're pretty far south now and the sun is only just rising right now. We're definitely in Patagonia as we've reached some mountains and we're driving through a string of lakes. It's really beautiful scenery now, a pleasure to stare at, and it's somewhat ghostly. We must be at a high altitude because every now and then a wisp of cloud flies by my window. The fog is heavy in some places but it only sits on the water, you can see it so clearly defined that it looks like a glob of white, impenetrable, fluffy cotton, plopped down by some unseen hand.
And Graham doesn't remember ever waking me up, how nice.

I didn't bother to write down what I did at Hour 20 because it was more of the same, but my legs weren't as stiff as I thought they'd be and six hours later I'm still feeling good. But sleeping in a bed tonight will definitely be very nice.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


It's hard to find a really good cafe latte in this city. Even though the ingredients are the same, the cafe con leche just doesn't hold up in comparison. In fact, cafe lattes aren't the only things I've been craving; bagels and bagel sandwiches, salad wraps, carrot cake, cup cakes and muligatawny soup have all been the objects of my desires at one point or another over the past six months. Never in my wildest cravings did I ever imagine I'd find a place that has it all, but I did and my only regret is not having found it sooner.
Matilda's is a tiny cafe, about the size of a walk-in closet that always seems to be full of people. The seating is limited to a banquette and a couple of stools but that doesn't dissuade people from standing around and soaking up the atmosphere. It's hard to put a finger on Matilda's style, the walls are papered in red, white and blue florals and stripes that give the impression of 4th of July Americana, but the presence of muligitawny soup... its got to be English.
The proprietors set out a new batch of cup cakes, cookies, muffins and cakes every day, as well as make fresh sandwiches, wraps and soups to order. Their coffee is divine and anyone feeling a little homesick, whether home is America or England, would feel well satisfied after a visit to Matilda's.

Chile 673
San Telmo, Buenos Aires

Sunday, July 26, 2009

San Telmo

A few pics from around the neighborhood.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Virtual Walk-Through

We just moved into a great new apartment in San Telmo for our final weeks here in Argentina. A new area, a new attitude. Here's a walk-through:
Through the front door into the inner atrium

Nice tiles

Through the next door
Through a courtyard
Under a couple arches
Past the stairs and the elevator shaft
Past the old bathtub full of rocks and some plants
Under a couple more arches and past the garbage cans
Up a few stairs
To the left through the garden
Down the path
Up the stairs
More plants!

This is our high-tech security system
Through the front door
And there it is!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

10 Things That Would've Been Good to Know Before Moving to Buenos Aires

Here's a little list of some things that would've been good to know prior to moving here. If you've ever lived here you'll know what I'm talking about, and if you're ever planning on coming here this list will probably help you out too.

1. As a non-citizen it is technically illegal to rent an apartment without an Argentine, land owning cosigner, so you are forced to rent "vacation" apartments which are priced in US dollars.

2. When you buy a cheap cell phone on a pay-as-you-go contract, the money you put on the phone expires within a month. So don't keep putting 100 pesos on it and think that you're just talking a lot.

3. If you eat red meat multiple times a week it's going to change your body.

4. Coins are special. When your grocer asks you if you've got 20 centavos, say no, always.

5. Instead of spending hours trying to decipher the Guia T, use the website

6. The summer is hotter than hot and the winter is not that cold, despite what the Argentines say. Unless you plan on traveling far south it's not necessary to pack for two opposite seasons.

7. Always kiss on the cheek- even if it's your first time meeting and there's a swine flu pandemic running rampant. Otherwise you risk the chance of probably seriously offending someone.

8. When you're earning pesos and paying your rent in US dollars, you're probably going to lose some money

9. Maradonna is the best footballer ever. Period.

10. Don't call them the Falklands!