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March 17, 2008

Back from Brazil!

I am so sorry for disappearing but I had some important business to take care of - and then I went on vacation to Brazil! Because of the important business I didn't really believe that the trip would happen until shortly before I left, and I was afraid to jinx it, so I didn't write about it beforehand.

In any case, Brazil was fantastic and I want to go back! Beautiful country, wonderful people, great food, awesome beaches... All the things I like. I haven't downloaded photos yet but will do so shortly - just need to find the cord!


March 19, 2008

Back to Blogging

It is nice to be back to blogging and I really appreciate the comments! The Slow Travel bloggers are a nice bunch! I started a new job on Monday and I have been working a lot so I haven't had time to download photos yet, so I am going to put up a couple I found online and then hopefully do the real thing tomorrow!

I spent 12 days in Brazil, half of it in Rio de Janeiro and the rest in a beautiful colonial town called Paraty, located 4 hours south of Rio. Brazil is such a large country that to see more of the country I would have had to fly, but I am glad that we kept it slow. I would love to go back and see more, though! Paraty is both a beautiful town and a great access point to islands and beaches of Brazil's green coast, Costa Verde.

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March 20, 2008

Brazil - Beleza!

View from Pao de Azucar (Sugarloaf Mountain):
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I spent almost two weeks in Brazil in the beginning of March, split between Rio de Janeiro and a small town four hours south of the samba capital. I arrived a Wednesday morning and was thrilled to step into the sunshine after a cold and flu-filled week in Baltimore and DC. We spent four days in Rio in the beginning and two more at the end, and I have to agree with all those people who told me that Rio is a very cool city! My boyfriend was there for a work meeting/confererence, and I was lucky enough to take part in the "spouse tour", two days of sightseeing in Rio for spouses (and girlfriends, boyfriends and just friends who happened to tag along!) We saw Cristo Redentor, Pao de Azucar (sugarloaf mountain), Copacabana Fort, and the Amsterdam Sauer museum (a precious stone/jewelry museum - oh yes, how appropriate for a spouse tour!)

The famous Cristo Redentor:
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We also attended a football game at Maracana Stadium, one of the most famous stadiums in the world, where Fluminense, one or the four Rio teams, played Arsenal of Argentina in an early round of the Copa Libertadores. The stadium takes 100,00 people! We sat in a skybox but sitting in the stands would probably have been very cool! Rio is also a city of fantastic food. Lots of great restaurants, and everywhere there are juice bars serving juices, fruits, shakes and other deliciousness. And the samba clubs are awesome, of course! We went to one and enjoyed the music and the ambience. I don't think I will ever be able to dance samba, though... I am going to write a trip report, so here are just another shot - more to come tomorrow!

Rio is a city of contrasts, here you can see the favela, or slum, of Santa Marta, right behind famous Copacabana Beach.
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March 21, 2008

What I liked about Brazil

Amazing nature experiences abound. We visited a very cool waterfall where there is a natural slide. Everyone else had fun - I totally panicked and didn't want to go down it, until a cute thirteen year old local kid coaxed me into doing it... The beaches are great and the wildlife wonderful. There really is SO much to explore. And, once again, awesome beaches!

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Brazilians are really, really nice. Helpful, fun, and patient with someone who is learning the language! In the little colonial town, we met four wonderful Brazilians, two couples who were vacationing together. They were easily twenty or more years older than us, but we had a blast with them! We started talking when we were in the pool in a total downpoor and then later on, they called us down to the bar to join them. My boyfriend, our friends and I ended up spending the whole evening with them, eating pizza and communicating as best we could. The next day, we ended up having lunch together at the same little island. It was so funny, we were eating our lunch of grilled fish when another small boat pulls up to the waterside restaurant. I notice it is them and go down to greet them - and they were just so excited! We had dinner together again that night.

Portuguese makes me laugh. There is something about that language. I speak Spanish, Italian, and some French, plus I took a CD course before leaving, so I understood a lot, but the intonation and pronounciation just cracks me up! I just loved saying "Where is the hotel Flamengo?" because of the sounds.

Brazilians are beautiful. Men, women, children, old, young. I had heard it and now I can attest that it is true. In addition, Brazilian men have great bodies and Brazilian women have great hair and cool clothes.

The food is GREAT! My favorite might have been the fresh seafood, but they also have great meat (churrascarias or all you can eat meat places are common), wonderful pastries and sweet, delicious fruits, and some of the tastiest rice and beans around (and I know my rice and beans after a few years in Central America - Nicaraguans for instance eat it two or three times a day.)

While I don't really drink, a good caipirinha, their national cocktail made from sugarcane alcohol, sugar, and limes, is really tasty!

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March 23, 2008

Football game in Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janeiro

Video from my visit to Maracana Stadium:

For football fans across the world, the name "Maracana" is synonym with some of the best football in the world. It is Rio de Janeiro's main stadium and hosts games by the four Rio teams: Flamengo, Fluminense, Botafogo and Vasco da Gama. The stadium was built in 1950 for the World Cup and is absolutely enourmous - it currently seats 95,000, but during the 1950 World Cup final, there were 199,500 paying spectators!

Continue reading "Football game in Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janeiro" »

Samba!

Samba is one of Brazil's most important styles of music of dance. (You can read more about the origins of samba here.) Samba is intrinsically linked to Rio de Janeiro and the Carnival, and we were lucky enough to experience some of it in Rio. At the last dinner meeting of my boyfriend's conference, the samba school Mangueira gave an awesome taste of what they do during Carnival.

The King and Queen of Mangueira 2008:
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For many people in Rio, the carneval is something they work towards all year (except for the two months after carneval is over.) The samba schools (Escolas de samba) are neighbourhood associations that put on the amazing parades during Carnival. All the members participate in practicing, preparing, writing, coreographing, building, sewing and all the other things that have to be done. Each samba school (there are about 20, I think) will have a theme for their Carnival parade, for instance a historical event.

Here is a video from the same samba school, Mangueira, during Carnival 2007 - where they were the winners.

March 27, 2008

Corcovado - Cristo Redentor

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Photo by J. Yost

Christ the Redeemer is one of the most famous landmarks of Rio de Janeiro and maybe even of Brazil itself. The statue is 38 meters tall and located on top of the Corcovado (hunchback) mountain just west of the city center. Few tourists visit Rio without getting a view of the city from Corcovado. You can either take a train or drive up.

Continue reading "Corcovado - Cristo Redentor" »

April 1, 2008

Pão de Açúcar - Sugarloaf Mountain

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In my last post, I wrote about Corcovado and the Christ statue. I also wanted to write about another small mountain that tourists visit in Rio de Janeiro - Sugarloaf Mountain. Sugarloaf (Pão de Açúcar in Portuguese) is not as high as Corcovado (396 meters), but it it closer to the city center so the views are excellent. To get up, you take two cable cars - the first one takes you to a smaller mountain where there are also some beautiful sights, before you board the second one to the highest peak. The first cable car was built in 1912. The views are GREAT!

Continue reading "Pão de Açúcar - Sugarloaf Mountain" »

A Room with a View - of Copacabana

Most tourists in Rio stay in either Copacabana Beach or Ipanema Beach. With the strong real, Brazil is quite expensive and hotels in Rio are very costly! We stayed at the Excelsior Copabacana for our first few days in Rio, but went to a much cheaper hotel for the last few days. The Excelsior was nice but nothing out of the extraordinary, although the proximity to the beach was great. Ipanema is considered safer and prettier, but I liked Copacabana - it's has a nice neighbourhood feel to it.

We had a room facing the street, but I reached my camera way out of the window and got this nice shot:
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April 6, 2008

Paraíso Paraty - The Town

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Paraty is a beautiful little colonial town about 4 hours south of Rio de Janeiro, on the Costa Verde, the Green Coast. While the whole coast is full of beautiful little spots, Paraty is something special. It was founded by the Portuguese in 1667 and rose to importance after the world's richest gold mines were discovered in 1696 in the mountains of Minas Gerais. Paraty became the port of choice for the gold trade:

The ensuing gold rush led to the construction of the "Caminho do Ouro" or "Gold Trail", a 1200 kilometer road, paved in steep areas with large stones, which connected Paraty to Diamantina via Ouro Preto and Tiradentes. Not only was it was used to transport gold to Paraty, but it was also used to convey supplies, miners and African slaves by mule train over the mountains to and from the gold mining areas.

The Gold Trail fell into disuse because of attacks on the gold laden ships bound for Rio de Janeiro by pirates who frequented the islands and coves of the Bay of Angra dos Reis. Eventually a safer overland route from Minas Gerais to Rio de Janeiro was created because of these pirate raids. Finally, the gold itself began to run out in the late 1700s, and Paraty declined.

Continue reading "Paraíso Paraty - The Town" »

April 9, 2008

Smoking is bad for you - also in Brazil

I don't think the image on this cigarette pack needs translation:

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April 15, 2008

Paraíso Paraty - The Beaches

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I have been slow to finish my posts about Brazil, I apologize... Today I want to write about the beautiful beaches and coast line around Paraty. As I said in my post about the town, Paraty is on the Costa Verde south of Rio de Janeiro. The rainforest comes almost all the way down to the water, which is why the area is called the Green Coast. The coast line is dotted with islands and the water is gorgeous. Naturally, most tourists to the area will spend time on the water! We of course did, too.

Continue reading "Paraíso Paraty - The Beaches" »

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