Monday, April 26, 2010


Gualeguaychu! or, Argentina's answer to Carnival.

If you don't want to be stampeded to death, or you don't want to pay lavish amounts of money just to sit at the back of a football stadium to watch the carnival parade then go to Gualeguaychu instead. One girl who had gone to carnival in Rio that year as well said this one was better because you could actually see what was going on.

Gualeguay is about a two hour bus ride north of Buenos Aires on the rio de la plata, close to one of the border crossings with Uruguay. Carnival there consists of massive beach parties, by far the highlight for our group, and then later every night the carnival parade at the fair grounds.

I have never been to the real deal in Brazil, but I don't really see how anything could be more lavish. All of the floats were at least 20 feet high and resembled floating palaces. Our close proximity to them increased the experience because we were able to appreciate the detail, and not just the overall shape as we would have been able to if we were much farther away.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Adventure Begins!!

I feel like that is the title of a movie?

After four months of LSAT and personal statement hell I finally emerged on the other side, cowed, but not broken. To reward myself I decided to do absolutely nothing for about three weeks, which kind of fun but I found myself subconsciously dissecting paragraphs to find flaws so it really wasn't that fun. I decided that instead of languishing in agony until March when the decisions start rolling in I would get out of the country with all due haste and go somewhere warm.

I arrived in BA tired, disoriented and feeling a bit freeze dried, all the usual from a 10 hour flight. I somehow, looking back I have no idea, managed to go look at apartments that first day and found one that I think its going to be quite awesome. It is in Las Canitas, a relatively new and posh barrio beyond Palermo. A quick overview of the main different barrios in ten words or less:

Palermo - Young, trendy, bars, nightlife, parks
Racoleta - old women in fur coats, posh, classy nightlife, expensive shopping
San Telmo - Old/historic, antiques, tango
La Boca - Football, bright colors, tourists, dangerous
Downtown - Downtown...
Las Canitas - upscale, green
Others - too far from downtown for me to get to class and wake up at reasonable hour


This apartment is in a nice, safe area, close to the main subte line and within walking distance of Palermo Soho, where many of the bars and restaurants are. It is in an old two story house, with four bedrooms, one of which is shared by a couple, bringing the occupants up to five. The floors are all red spanish tile, and the interior design is indigenous. There are two cats, one black and one tabby, both of which are already sleeping on my bed, but the best feature of the place: a roof deck!! Its actually quite big, with potted plants everywhere. There is a huge jacaranda tree that covers half of it a nice Parilla (grill).

My plan for the next four months are as follows - take lots of spanish classes and probably fail miserably, then go to Torres del Paine for a week and hopefully Chile for a week. My padres are coming to Salta in the middle of march and staying until June, so I will hopefully be able to spend time up there as well.

So far most of my adventures have been with cabbies - one taught me how to identify fake bills and the other one told me I was going to marry an argentine.

Monday, November 2, 2009



The town of Budva from a beach outside the city
  • Budva is a beautiful but overcrowded beach town, the old town in beautiful, but I really wouldn't recommend staying in the city of Budva for more than a night or two, or if you could, try and stay inside oldtown even if it is a bit more expensive.   The water is crystal clear like in Croatia, but there is an overcrowding of Serbian and Russian tourists and they like to throw food and stuff in the water so there are lots of orange peels floating around.   This may have changed in the past three years of course. 
  • Sveti Stefan: a really beautiful walled city built on a tiny little island with an isthmus connecting it to the land.   This is only about a 10 minute bus ride from Budva and you should go. 

  • The coast north of Budva has amazing fiord-like sides (they actually are fiords, the farthest south in Europe).  Kotor is the town that is easiest to stay at around there, and there is a very cool monastery on an island in the middle of the inlet that its on which you can take a boat to. 

Mountains near Kotor

Books and whatnot

War and Peace, Pevear translation (Tolstoy)
Best new translation, supposedly very close to the original flow / wording of the Tolstoy text.  I thought it was much better than the old translation I read a few years ago, but I'm sure that was published before people really regarded translating an art form and not just an attempt to get the plot across.   If you haven't read War and Peace, its about the way war affects a few different families and russian society during the Napoleonic wars.    It is incredibly long, but is really not bad to read since it keeps you interested the entire time.  My only complaint is the intense amount of military strategy that he goes off about, but this is all necessary to show how people act under pressure and how history moves forward as a force that cannot really be shaped by individual actions or people.

The Moon is Down - Stienbeck
About the reactions to the Nazi invasion in a small town in Norway.  Very short but good book I thought.  Its very typically Stienbeck, and I love his writing style so I kind of knew I would enjoy the book before I started.  It is kind of a Cannery Row in another country, just a tiny snapshot of a town by briefly following tiny bits of the town peoples' lives.

The Once and Future King - T. H. White
Retelling of the Arthurian saga.  I knew nothing really about this legend other than that Guinevere had somehow managed to screw everyone over, so I really enjoyed reading this.   It was very well written, and despite being a long book it was never a struggle to get through it.  All the characters are very well developed for a book about a legend, I feel like a lesser author would have made them very one dimensional because they are not completely invented from imagination.

Outliers - Tipping point guy
A short read a la Freakenomics, Hidden Order, etc.  Tries to disprove the "naturally gifted" idea by analyzing the circumstances surrounding the rise to prominence of many "outliers".  For clarification, an outlier is not just someone who is good at something, it is people like Bill Gates and the Beatles.  Good fast read.  Probably not completely accurate all the time, but gives you a few good things to think about.

Cousin Bette - Balzac
About mean people and the revenge that a marginalized old spinster has on her rich relatives.   I liked the book, but thought that the ending was not the best it could have been.   One of the most interesting/shocking features of the book is that it treats as completely normal 50 year old men offering patronage for girls as young as 13, which other books of the time period also mention but they never throw out specific ages like this one did, which make it sooooo much more wrong and shocking.



  • Dubrovnic is touristy but definitely and unquestionably worth it.  Despite the fact that you will probably be elbowing tourists out of the way on the main street, it is one of the most beautiful places I have seen.  All the streets are marble and after centuries they have been worn completely smooth and shiny by the foot traffic.  The alleyways are tiny and exciting and the outer wall is impressive to say the least. There are also little islands you can take an hour or so ferry to and explore is the "big" city gets to frenetic for you (it wont).

Above: main street, below: one of the alleys

  • Mela Culpa is still the best pizza I have had pretty much ever in my life.  Right off the main street and just ask people, its well known
  • There is a REALLY cool bar outside the walls on the cliff side facing the sea, I don't really even know how it stays there, its a bit hard to find, but there is a tiny door in the outside wall leading out to it.
  • Lopud is a very "picturesque" island you can take a 1 hour ferry to.  It has an amazing sand beach that is about a half mile walk from the dock. 

  • Dubrovnic Backpackers hostel was where I stayed, a very nice clean safe hostel where the mother of the family cooks everyone dinner and the son sometimes takes people out on the town with him. I thought it was an exceptionally good hostel but it is a bit out of town so you need to take the bus or a cab, both of which are doable but kind of a pain. 

Below is a picture of the sunset at the Montenegrin / Croatian border


  • Split is kind of the jumping off point for many of the islands, and so many times people do not spend enough time in this verrry beautiful and cool city.  Islands you can get to: Hvar and Brac, which are both most definitely going to!  I got stranded on Brac and had to stay at this old lady's house and she fed me boulibase and tried to talk to me in hand gestures since she spoke no english.

Above: crystal clear water on Brac at sunrise
  • The main promenade is a palm tree-lined marble bit of amazingness, dotted with with coffee shops  backed by the original walls of the fortress.  

  • Wandering around the insides of the fortress is good for quite a few hours of entertainment, and sometimes there are even plays etc that go on in the main section (below).  I was lucky enough to come while they were putting on a show of Romeo and Juliet

Oslo and Bergen

We didn't spend much time out and about in Oslo and Bergen due to our lack of funds but below are some pictures and a few of the things we did which we thought were fun/worth it.


  • Everything is EXPENSIVE.  We ended up becoming best friends with 7-11, which actually had pretty good food, not just the shitty sandwiches you can get elsewhere, the ones in Norge actually have many different options of hot food.  Doing that, a container of pasta is only 7 dollars instead of 20.  I would also stick to supermarkets, deli's and eat tons for lunch, when you can usually get lunch specials at restaurants. 
  • The sculpture park is amazing, I can't remember what part of town it was but as long as it is not pouring or snowing its probably worth a visit. 
  • Walking down by the harbor to look at all the fish boats etc is also entertaining, we went down there one night.
  • There's really good shopping on the walking streets (I think there are two or three?), and contrary to what you would expect from the price of food in restaurants its actually not prohibitively pricey. 

Below are a picture of the Palace? at the end of a main street, and of a park near the palace


We took the train from Oslo to Bergen, (I think about 8 hours but I can't precisely remember) and it goes through some really beautiful scenery, especially if there is snow on the ground!  We went in late October, which I'm not too sure about because it was a bit cold, but I'm sure there were less tourists then and I bet you can get better deals if you actually plan things out a bit.

Bergen is a very cute old fishing town on the west coast (I guess there isn't another coast..oops), that is the "gateway to the fiords".  Unfortunately Jess and I never got to make use of this gateway since we didn't wake up early enough and were too cheap to pay for the cruise, one of the main reasons why I must go back at some point in my life.    Below is the most typical touristy picture of Bergen.

Another attraction is to go walking in the hills above the town, which you can take a cable car to.  You get a good photo opportunity, and also there are some really pretty walk/hikes you can do.  Jess and I didn't see another person the whole time we were walking around up there; I think most people just ride the cable car up, take a few pictures and then turn around and ride it back down.  Below is a picture of one of the lakes and the view of Bergen.

Sidenote: When we were in Bergen I saw these rain boots that I LOVED. They were solid colors with white laces all the way up, and they came in pretty much any color you could possibly imagine.  Three years later, I am kicking myself that I did not buy a pair especially since I live in Seattle.   If anyone knows where I can get them, please, please, tell me, I will love you forever and then my feet will be warm and dry this winter.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Helsinki.. the land of blonds and coffee

    Helsinki, Finland

If you read the last few posts, I feel that I should clarify that I am not in europe, but I realized that I have a decent quantity of information from quite a few different places in the area and would like to share everything I've got, in the hope that through my suggestions maybe I can improve someone's trip.  

Moving on.

Finland is known for its.....COFFEE!!  They drink more cups per day per capita than we do in Seattle! (and also more than anywhere else in the world).   They are also known for the Moomintroll books, which I loved when I was a kid.   From Abby and my short weekend visit I came away with a few conclusions: Everyone in Finland is blond, everyone is part of a couple, and everyone drinks coffee and looks happy all the time (this isn't to say they are, but they looked it).  Below is a picture of a coffeehouse in downtown helsinki, most are very beautiful and have outdoor areas.  

Below are some pictures from the park along the harbor, a very tranquil place to spend you afternoon walking and sipping coffee.

Church thats the centerpiece of town

You can take ferries out to an old fortress in the mouth of the harbor, Abby and I did this and though it was a great way to get out and see something other than the city for the day.