Sunday, November 30, 2014

Rio day 3-: Sun's Out, Buns Out!

After our 1st full day where I fell in love with Rio, We started the day once again with a traditional breakfast of pao na chapa.
The rain had finally cleared, so we put on our bathing suits and went to Ipanema beach!
Looking towards the famous Pao de Acucar (SugarLoaf Mountain)

We went to Pedra do Arpoador to get a bird's eye view of Ipanema beach. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
We could see the beaches, The Christ statue and Pao de Acucar... It was amazing.BUT, it was also a place to be on guard. I could not keep my phone out long to take photos because it would draw attention to us and we did not want to be robbed.  I've mentioned previously how Brasil "invented crime" and how crime does not just stay in the bad areas- it finds you. I was warned (with good reason) that Rio is not a very safe place. The favelas (slums) are on the hill sides, and the beaches are easily accessible from those parts.

To get an idea of how unsafe Rio (or Brasil in general)  is, just watch any movie about Brasil- "City of God," "Captains of the Sand," or "Elite Squad" to get an idea of life for the folks who live in the favelas. (And then watch my favorite Brasilian movie,  "Bossa Nova" to counteract all the sad movies mentioned previously!)
We took our photos and moved along. When I saw large groups of teens, I did not take my phone out or speak English. You can call me paranoid, but even after living in Mexico for 2 years (in a relatively safe place), I especially knew not to tempt fate in Brasil.  L and I had extensive discussions about this before we left. Of course, I was slightly skeptical, but then I realized he was not full of shit with the warnings.

While walking along the beach I suggested we sit in an area that wasn't as crowded as a place 100 meters away- he said NO WAY. Why I asked?? He said that large groups of folks come down from the favelas and rob everyone on the beach sometimes. The reason there were some more densely packed areas on the beach was because the beach goers could see the chaos coming and leave the beach quickly.(L started to bring up Youtube videos of this to show me later on, and I was all NO NO NO dont want to see this...) THANK GOD we did not experience this. But it is just unimaginable to even think stuff like this could happen. Our other Brasilian friends confirmed that crime in Rio is the real deal and these robberies on the beach do in fact happen.
So scary stuff aside, We took turns going into the water. One of us stayed with our stuff on the beach because if you leave anything unattended, it will disappear. It is advisable to only bring your absolute essentials to the beach and nothing more.

I had really wanted to go stand up paddle boarding in Rio. BUT, while the weather was good, the ocean was still churning up 4-10' high waves. We called the SUP place I had found and had been following on instagram in the weeks before our trip, and they confirmed they were closed until the sea calmed down more. (sad face) By the time the ocean was calm, we would be back in Sao Paulo.
I was happy to wear my Brasilian bikini once during our time in Rio. Sun's out, buns out! I'll never wear an "American" cut bikini ever again. Once you see how bundas (butts) look in even a modest Brasilian cut, the American style of bikini bottom just looks like a diaper and are very unflattering. I'm not saying wear a thong, but a little cheek goes a long way LOL. Let's just say I would have stuck out like a sore thumb if I had on anything more covered than what I had on....
The people of Rio, the Cariocas, are a sexy bunch. They walk around with confidence unmatched by our American counterparts. Whether they are in a bikini, Speedo, or normal casual dress, it is very clear they take care of themselves and their outward appearance.
Post walk around the beach we walked to Venga! A Spanish Tapas bar in Ipanema. The beer was cold and refreshing, and the food was delicious. We had bacalhau with tomatoes and olives, a delicious fried thing I cannot remember the name of, cured meats and cheese, and a salted chocolate mousse for dessert,
After our amazing lunch, we walked over to the Nike Ipanema store to see if I could find a shirt I saw online. I originally discovered the Ipanema Running Club shirt accidentally when looking to see if there was a running group or running event we could potentially participate in. We walked around the store and didnt see the shirt I wanted- so I brought up a photo of it on my iphone and asked a sales guy about it- to my surprise, he went straight to the rack and showed it to us! I was over the moon excited that I was able to get this shirt.
My new Ipanema running shirt, and cool artwork in the Nike store. The Nike store was also like a shrine to Neymar, not a surprise...

For our last night in Rio we met our friend and went to the famous Bar Urca to watch the sunset.
This bar has an upstairs dining area, but the floor level is solely for takeout- tasty fried things, and ICE COLD BEER. Once you get your foods/drinks you go find a spot on the sea wall and enjoy the company of your friends in a beautiful location.
The sea wall was packed with people enjoying the Sunday evening sunset!
I don't think there's a better place to drink a beer than on a seawall in Rio, with the Christ statue looking on, while the sun sets. Nope.
We wanted to go see the Christ statue up close and personal, but ran out of time. You have to book a tour in advance and with the weather being crappy, it was closed for a portion of the time. So, between this and not being able to SUP, and having amazing friends who live in Rio, we have plenty of reasons to make a return trip. Asides, we are not into touristy shit anyways. Going to bars and having a chill time is our jam.  For this Sunday night, our last night in Rio, seeing the sun set behind the Christ was more than enough.
After Bar Urca, we went to Cobal for drinks and more food. We also got a closer view of the Christ!
Cobal used to be an indoor market- now all the stalls are small restaurants selling a variety of foods. We went to a restaurant which served traditional Brasilian foods and only served Brasilian craft beer. It is safe to say the craft beer scene in Brasil is alive and kicking- i tried so many interesting delicious beers on this trip it was mind blowing.
Post Cobal, L and I got a taxi back to Ipanema. Another safety PSA: don't flag a taxi on the street in Rio. Kidnappings are quite lucrative in Rio (unlike Sao Paulo) so we looked for a taxi stand because those will be a bit more legit than a random cab on the street. I did not speak until we were out of the cab in Ipanema- you can never be too safe. L spoke to the cab driver with a Carioca accent to not draw attention to us. Again, you can never be too safe. I cannot reiterate that enough. By now, you must be thinking i'm overreacting... Well unfortunately all of our Brasilian friends who still live there (and in the USA) have plenty of stories to back up everything I am saying. The main difference between Chicago (a fairly crime ridden city) vs Rio or SP is that the crime stays in the "bad parts" of Chicago. If you dont go to the bad areas, you generally will not have a problem with safety in Chicago. Crime finds you in Brasil. You don't need to be in the bad part of town to get robbed.
We finished our night with a couple of drinks at the Delirium bar in Rio. It was a short walk from our place and had good foods and a great beer selection.

On Monday, we woke up early and headed to the lagoon for a quick run.
I made several new "friends" including the fake capybara above, and the gorgeous parrots below.
It was warm, and sunny and our sunburns from the previous day were super angry, but we enjoyed our lap around the Lagoa. Plus it was nice to burn off a few of those delicious fried pesticos (appetizer type things)
An outtake from making L take photos of me running

We had breakfast once again at the local cafe, pao na chapa and got ready to go to the airport.
We saw Pao de Acucar (Sugar loaf) on our way. Next time we are in Rio, we will take the tram to the top. 3 days just wasn't enough time.
We flew through security and took a short bus ride to get on our plane. There seems to be not enough gates, so some planes park on the pavement.
Sad our Rio adventure was over, but excited for Sao Paulo.
During the short 40 minute flight we were offered ham sandwiches.
Rio was amazing, and I cannot wait to return again to see the Christ, the Sugarloaf and to go SUP. Or just chill on the beach with a cold beer or caiprinha in hand...
Tchau, Rio!

Next up: Sao Paulo

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Rio: day 2, I freaking love this place!

So after an extremely long day of travel which brought us to Rio, we woke up and had a traditional Brasilian breakfast- fresh juice, coffee, and pao na chapa. (buttered, grilled french bread.) Since the weather was rainy, we decided to go for a walk around Lagoa (lagoon) Rodrigo de Freitas.
Our Air BnB was pretty much between the Lagoon and the beach- a short 3 bock walk to either. Post breakfast we walked to the Lagoon.
I Love this neighborhood in Ipanema!
On our short walk we passed some spectacular graffiti- one depicting the Christ the Redeemer Statue. Little did we know that the lagoon had amazing views of the Christ.
We got to the Lagoon and I was amazed at the beauty of the location. The Christ Statue was on top of the mountain, the lagoon was so calm and reflecting the scenery behind it, I was speechless.
Ever since I was little, I wanted to visit Rio. My daad visited Rio 30 years ago and even though he almost got robbed, I was in love with the place and had to visit. I'm naturally a sucker for mountains and water, but to add SugarLoaf (Pao de Acucar) and the Christ statue, I was so stoked to visit Rio. To be in Rio, and actually see these iconic landmarks was overwhelming in the best possible way. During our walk around the lagoon, I could barely take my eyes off of the Christ.
The Lagoon has a paved 6500m path around it. On the day we went it was overcast and looking like imminent rain- as a result there weren't many folks out there running, walking or cycling.
We had a good time walking a portion of the trail and taking photos. It was just beautiful.
After the lagoon, we walked over to Ipanema beach.
Again, I was just overcome with emotions of I"M  REALLY FREAKING HERE. To see the places i've only seen in photos and to be there with my husband was amazing.
One of the things I was looking forward to was going stand up paddle boarding. I had found several places to rent boards from, and was so excited to cruise Ipanema beach and get a different perspective. Unfortunately on Saturday the weather was too poor for SUP. The waves were insanely large so we just walked the beach.
We bought the famous Globo biscoitos from a street vendor. They are seriously 99% air, 1% flour and an interesting light crunchy snack to eat on the beach,
After walking the lagoon, and walking on the beach we were thirsty so we got fresh coconut water.
And snapped more photos, because you can never have enough photos...
I loved the sidewalk design of Ipanema- the black and white tiles.This is from when Brasil was a Portuguese colony. There are different patterns for Copacabana, and other neighborhoods. These sidewalk patters can also be found in Portugal and Macau (former Portuguese colony). This design must have taken a lot of work since each tile must be hand placed.
For dinner we met our friends and went to Bar Astor. We enjoyed the cold Chopp- both light and dark and icy cold.
We split scrambled eggs with cheese (delicious), Picadinho (steak, rice, farofa, pastel, with an egg) bolinhos de bacalhau, and I had a spicy passion fruit martini.
We randomly met our friend's parents who happened to be dining there and in the area. We moved out side and I had a delicious caipirinha with red fruits.
After a filling dinner like that, we decided to take another walk on Ipanema beach and catch the sunset. Photos just cannot do this experience justice. It was one of my favorite moments of all time. The beauty of the sun reflecting on the water with the mountains surrounding us was magical.
Once the sun set I noticed the storm clouds were getting closer and closer so we decided to walk back to our place. Pretty much as soon as we got inside, it began to rain very hard. We were both so happy to make it inside in just the nick of time.
I freaking love this place.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Brasil: An extremely long day of travel which ended in Rio de Janeiro

I worked all day Thursday because my flight wasn't until 11pm. I got everything done at work before I left- 2 weeks of work completed in 3 days because I didn't want anything hanging over my head when I returned. Mainly because I knew I'd be useless due to fatigue.

I got to O'hare, and flew through security thanks to Global Entry.

I went to the duty free and bought my father in law (Pai) a bottle of Koval Whiskey. Koval is a distillery in Chicago- and thought it would be the perfect gift since he cannot find it in Brasil.

While waiting at the gate, I heard many folks speaking Portuguese. The lady next to me was on her phone speaking to her mother in Portuguese and then the next call she made, she was speaking Japanese. The diversity of São Paulo is astonishing.
Finally it came time to board the plane.

I was fortunate that L got me a seat in business class. The "perks" of having a husband who travels extensively for work.  This was my first time flying business class internationally. It will be difficult to fly with the herd next time. lol.
The seats laid out flat, and were spacious.
We also had large monitors with a huge selection of movies, music and TV shows.
All ready to be cozy for 11 hours...

The food was surprisingly good. I had Malbec wine and Osso Buco style chicken. Delicious.

The flight was uneventful and long. I drifted in and out of consciousness every 30 minutes. I took a Zquil, but it didn't knock me out like the folks around me who must have taken something stronger. I enjoyed listening to Karrin Allyson on my iPhone for a while-she sings in Portuguese and English- including many traditional Brasilian songs which I find very comforting.
The control for the seat was pretty spiffy.
11 hours later I was on the other side of the world, in the Southern Hemisphere again for the 2nd time.
São Paulo from above!

It's the world's 12th largest city with over 11.3 million people in the city and 19 million people in the metro area. This city goes on and on and on.

When I landed, L and Pai were there to meet me and we went back to Pai and Mae's house for a quick lunch before heading to the regional airport for our flight to Rio.
We almost missed our flight. Traffic in São Paulo is no joke- it took us over an hour and a half to go across the city and we got to the airport with about 30 minutes to go until takeoff. Luckily going through security was quick (no taking out liquids, laptops or shoes) and our flight was delayed 20 minutes.

The regional airport Congonhas, is a shit show. The gates are not confirmed until the plane is ready to board and may change several times before that. It's a busy airport that only has domestic flights.

We flew TAM which is one of the best Brasilian airlines. The flight was around 40 minutes from São Paulo to Rio.

Our first view of the famous Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf mountain)

We landed at Santos Dumont airport in Rio (also a regional airport) and were met by our friends who took us to the Air BnB we rented for the weekend.

After getting settled, our friends came to pick us up and we started the night driving around Ipanema and Leblon- the nicest areas of Rio.

We finally settled on dinner at Bar Bracarense.
I started with a Caldo do Feijao. Basically feijoada broth with pork rinds and parsley and a cold chopp beer. Heaven.

We had all sorts of Brasilian foods- including this plate of pork and onions. I cannot express enough how ridiculously delicious everything was.
Caipirinha number one. Traditional with cachaca and lime.

Next we went to Bar Jobi.

More beers were had and more foods consumed- like pastel de Belem. The chopp (Stupidly cold light beer) flows freely in these parts and the waiters will continue to bring you beers until you tell them to stop.
I love these open air botecos. Great food and atmosphere.
After a realllllly long day for me, (and L) it was time to call it a night and go back to Ipanema for some sleep.
Our first night in Rio was amazing. Getting to spend quality time with friends while eating delicious foods at some of the top bars in Rio was the perfect way to end my first day in Brasil.