Sunday, April 17, 2016

Rio de Janeiro Pt. 1


I woke up at 6am and said goodbye to Lorena.  Her uncle had to drive into Sao Paulo for work so he offered to drop me off at the airport.  At the airport, they changed the gate on me at the last minute so I was a little concerned I might miss my flight but I got there in time.  First solo travel challenge in South America complete!  It is a little difficult figuring things out here because a lot of people don’t speak English at all, but everyone always tries to be as helpful as they can be.

Got to Rio (SDU airport) and opted for a taxi (75BRL) instead of the bus or a prepaid taxi.  Got to our apartment in Leblon [CASA ORELLAS] and was greeted by Gloria, who rents out the apartment.  The room wasn’t ready when I arrived, so I left my things there and went for a run down the beach (through Leblon and Ipanema).  Everything felt very safe, I even brought my iPhone out with me so I could listen to music and never felt like it was a problem to have it out.

I went to the supermarket to pick up fruit for breakfast for a few days and headed to bed early at the apartment.



In the morning I took an Uber to the Botanical Garden (9BRL) and walked around there for a few hours, really beautiful.  My first solo activity and I actually felt really content being alone.  After that, I walked to Parque Lage, where there’s a beautiful building with a mountain backdrop.  I took a taxi back to the apartment in the afternoon.


Lorena had bought tickets for us to go to Sugarloaf but I didn’t realize they were only valid for one day so I had to buy a new ticket (75BRL).  The trip was a little nerve racking – you take two gondolas up very high, but it was very safe and had awesome views from the top.  Definitely worth it to go but not as amazing as I had anticipated.  Left right before sunset to avoid the crowds.

Took a taxi back to the apartment and wanted for Thaiza (Lorena’s friend) to arrive.  We had only met twice in Santos and hadn’t really spoke, so I was a little unsure how well we’d get along of if we’d be able to communicate fluently.  She seems like she has a lot of connections in Brazil, so we ended up standing in line (for TWO HOURS) for passes to a party that night.  I was a happy participant but no party is worth that much time waiting in line for me.

After we got the tickets, we met two of Thaiza’s friends at Demonte bar for drinks.  In Brazil is it customary to buy a large beer and bring cups for the whole group – I really love this about Brazilian culture, very fun and engaging.  After a drink or two there, Thaiza and I left to get ready for the party.  We left our apartment at 1am and could not find the party on the first trip.  We drove around for an hour and had to come back to the apartment to get Thaiza’s phone.  After another very long taxi ride we finally got to the Circus party at 4am and stayed for an hour and a half.  It was okay – not worth the struggle it was to get the tickets and to get to the party.



In the morning we went to a hotel to pick up Carnaval tickets for later that day.  We went up to the hotel’s rooftop pool where I met a group of guys from New Jersey.  After almost two weeks of being surrounded by Portuguese speakers it was a welcome break to speak English without any translation problems.  We all went to Leblon beach together and drank a lot of caipirinhas.

That night we got ready at the apartment and went to the Parade of Champions.  Thaiza works for a mayor and he got her some VIP tickets so that whole experience was pretty surreal.  Open bar, free food everywhere, they even served breakfast at 6am when the festival was over.



Thaiza and I woke up around noon and went to the beach with her two other girlfriends.  After a few hours there, I decided to walk down to Ipanema to go to a craft fair (bought three earrings, a ring and necklace, plus a painting of favelas).


Went to drinks again with the girls that night but I was pretty tired so went home early to pack.  The Leblon area of Rio is very hip and very safe, I felt extremely comfortable walking around town on my own even at night.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The First Days in Brazil - Sao Paulo/Santos

Sincere apologies to my wonderful family for the tardiness of my blog posts.  Things have slowed down considerably since I arrived in Brazil over a month ago and slowly but surely I will upload memories from my travels so far.

Arrived in Sao Paulo at 11am and greeted by Lorena and Christine (Lorena’s mom).  Always so great to have someone at the airport to pick you up, especially in a city you’re unfamiliar with.  As a little background, Lorena and I met back in 2011 when we were both living in Barcelona.  We met in the gym at our residencia, got to be pretty good friends and stayed in touch for 5+ years.  I had also met Christine while she was visiting Barcelona so I think that made her more comfortable to let me stay with their family.  Christine headed back to Santos and Lorena and I went to a friend’s apartment in Sao Paulo.

She has a swimsuit line and had a small event in the city at night.  I went for a bit but after the 16+ hours of travel I headed back early and went to sleep.



Lorena, Luiza and I went to breakfast together then Lorena and I spent the day driving around SP delivering bikinis and checking out a few different neighborhoods.  Later in the day, Lorena and I headed to Santos, a beach town about 1.5 hours from SP.  Lorena’s family lives in an apartment on the beach so the view was pretty amazing.



Lorena and I woke up and headed to Tijcopaea, where Lorena’s grandfather has a beach house in a very exclusive area – we’re talking the Hamptons of Brazil.  The house is this cute little yellow building with an outdoor pool and about 50 feet from the water.  Unfortunately the family was renting the house in February so we couldn’t go in, but we walked down the beach and looked at all the amazing properties.  At the far end of the property there was a small restaurant and a small waterfall to walk through.

Heading back to Santos, we stopped to get acai at D'Boa (18BRL/~5USD), a sushi restaurant that serves the most amazing fruit smoothie dish.

At night we went to Cinza, a new bar in Santos that Lorena’s friend runs.  It was pretty uncomfortable for me because most people didn’t speak much English and I felt bad making them struggle through what they do know.  Later in the night I met a few people who spoke fluently so that made things much easier.



In the morning Lorena and I went to the gym (50BRL/$14USD) and I got a pretty good workout in.  After that we went to the beach at Canal 3. Even though Lorena lives near Canal 1 she prefers to go to the beach further down because she thinks the atmosphere/people are better there.  I don’t really care either way – just happy to be by the water.  She also doesn’t go in the water because she says it’s polluted but again, I don’t really care.

At the beach they have food carts where they sell pastels and cha mate (pineapple/lemon tea) for 5BRL each.  When we got back from the beach, Lorena’s mother and housekeeper had prepared a traditional Brazilian lunch – brisket, rice, beans and farofa.

Later in the day the whole family and I went to dinner at the Ibis Hotel.  The restaurant, Mercury, had an Italian night which turned out to be pretty loud and the food wasn’t great, I felt pretty bad for Christine because everyone was being a little rude about her restaurant choice but I made sure to know I was grateful regardless.



After breakfast at Lorena’s house (which always includes scrambled eggs, toast, fruit and fresh squeezed juice), Lorena and I picked up Luisa and headed to her mother’s home in Boicucanga (Rua Hilariao Crisologo de Mattos, 113 – Boicucanga, Sao Sebastiao, SP).  The house was “simple” as Lorena put it but very cute.  Bright white with blue trim and a blue picket fence with bougainvillea hanging from the top.  The best part – a three minute walk to the beach.

We spent some time at the beach but I wasn’t feeling well so I headed back to Luisa’s.  Memories of how ill I was in Southeast Asia always get me a little concerned but so far no serious problems, I think in part because I’m pretty careful about what I eat/drink and the daily probiotic use.

We got ready for the small town’s Carnaval festivities and headed to the town square.  Men were dresses as women and women as men, and everyone was throwing confetti and spaying foam canisters everywhere.  It started to rain pretty heavily but nobody cared.  The party followed a big truck that was playing music, and we walked through the town and down to the beach where everyone jumped in the water.  The waves were pretty intense and I had been drinking so I opted out.  The party continued pretty late into the night but we turned in a little early.




After breakfast and thanking the family for letting us stay there for the night, Lorena, Luisa and I packed up and headed to Barra Do Sahy (the islands).  We took a boat to a nearby island (100 BRL for the three of us) and lounged on the beach.  We also explored some nearby rocks and a little underestimating of how strong the waves would be got us in an unfortunate situation.  Video available upon request :)

We headed to Gulero (in Juguehy) for lunch where I had filet mignon w/ farofa, squash and rice.  The drive back was a little brutal, taking over four hours because of pretty heavy traffic.  Had a great time with the girls though.


After sleeping in and getting some grad school apps done, Lorena’s family and I headed to a BBQ spot for lunch.  The restaurant is run but a friend of Lorena’s and the food was very good.  Starter was spiced onions in olive oil that you eat with French bread – so good. 

Later that night Lorena headed to Cinza to meet some friends and I went to a different, local hangout spot with Luisa for caipirinhas.  I tried bolina de bacalau, which is a pretty popular fried fish ball here.  It was not my favorite dish but I don’t like seafood so that was expected.


In the late morning Lorena and I headed to the beach to meet a few of her friends.  My gringa skin did not need any more sun so I stayed in the shade for the majority of the time.  In the afternoon Christine and Eduardo (Lorena’s brother) took me to the mall to do some shopping.  When we got back at 8pm Lorena was feeling pretty bad so she went to the doctor, turns out she had a bacterial infection and wouldn’t be able to make it to Rio.  I had a pizza dinner with Eduardo and Lorena’s dad.
It was a very interesting experience staying with Lorena's family and I am extremely grateful for their hospitality.  As I was preparing to leave, Christine said that she would miss me because I was always smiling.  Got me thinking about how differently People's perceptions of you can be - maybe need to do some reflecting as to why my friends and family back home probably wouldn't describe me as the same.