Paradise Found!

Posted by on Mar 17, 2011 in Brazil | 3 comments

I’d like to say we spent a lot of time reading our Brazil travel guide, or maybe we asked some locals, or surfed the internet and found it, but those would all be lies. Truth is, I looked at google maps and saw a town a good distance south (about 6 hours by bus) of Rio. It was named Ubatuba! sold. With a name like that how could it not be amazing. So we booked overnight bus tickets and left Rio around 11pm. After a 6 hour bus ride in the dark, through jungles, we arrived in Ubatuba at 5am. yep 5am. We hopped on the city bus and rode it to our hostel, the sun rose behind the jungle covered mountains as we approached our new home. With the peak season of Carnaval behind us, the prices for lodging have dropped significantly… we’ve moved into the off season for travel in Brazil. Yes! =) Our hostel is nestled on a remote beach 14km out of the small town of Ubatuba. The rooms are clean, the common area is huge, internet is fast, and the beach is all ours....

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Noemia’s Guesthouse – Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro

Posted by on Mar 15, 2011 in Brazil | 3 comments

With the inflated prices for hostels due to carnival, we decided to stay in a guesthouse. A bread and breakfast of sorts. The house was in Santa Teresa: a small, hilly district just west of Lapa. Finding the house was a challenge, the streets were not on our map, nobody knew the street names, it was hot, we had our heavy backpacks on and there was a slight mist. The hills had intense slopes. Nearly vertical on cobblestone streets. It was a test of endurance and nerves, but after numerous conversations in a combination of broken Portuguese, English, and gestures we found Noemia’s Guesthouse. And our spirits were instantly lifted when we met Noemia and her family. Noemia is a single mother renting out the spare rooms in her home as her main means of living. Noemia instantly connected with Leah, and I think she warmed up to me after a little while. Noemia cooked soup, danced, and shared wine and stories with us for hours. It was an amazing experience. She showed us her prized interview video from when she hosted the band “In Living Color” at her house. At night, we walked down to the Sambadrome and watched the fireworks after each Samba school finished dancing. After each school was done, they discarded their costumes in the streets; free for the pillaging. Leah and I tried a couple costumes on for...

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The Samba Parade, Part I: The Background.

Posted by on Mar 11, 2011 in Brazil | 0 comments

The Samba Parades are the considered the highlight of Rio’s Carnaval. These Samba Parades are spectacular precessions of ornate customs and floats paired with riveting samba dancers, booming samba music, twirling flag bearers, and fireworks. Rio’s fourteen best samba schools parade on the Sunday and Monday night before Ash Wednesday, seven schools each night. Each Samba school is comprised of talented, very modest living people, many who live in Rio’s notoriously dangerous slums or Favelas.  Every year they make difficult sacrifices by pouring a year’s worth of passion, creativity and labor into the hope that their 1 hour and 20 minutes parade will be the most dazzling, making their school the Pride of Rio and Brazil.  It’s like high stakes poker; the jackpot is to be Champion for a year. The Samba Parades goes from 9 pm to 6 am. We went on Sunday night and in true Brazilian fashion it started at 11 pm. This would be like the equivalent of our Super bowl or Thanksgiving Day parade starting 2 hours late, but Brazil you soon discover is like your charming fashionably late friend. The Samba Parade takes place in the Sambodromo, which is marked by wishbone like arches on every map of Rio. It is located right off the Metro orange line’s Praca Onze stop. It sits in an enchanting neighborhood lined with food vendors and beer stands and where children as young as five can be seen running free in Disney princesses and Super Heroes customs. Parade programs written in both Portuguese and English were handed out upon entering the Sambodromo. They tell you every thing you need to know about the samba schools, their colors, themes, songs, samba wings, and floats. I found the program extremely helpful and interesting.  Pee funnels were also handed out to the ladies… also interesting and...

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Busing around Rio

Posted by on Mar 9, 2011 in Brazil | 3 comments

The public transportation system in Rio de Janeiro has been amazing. A well organized system of buses and metros has gotten everywhere we needed to go, and quickly. The Metro was very clean and punctual. I think the metro system is the only punctual thing in Rio =) During the week of Carnaval, the Metro ran 24 hours a day, with 10 minutes between trains. The Metro stations were all well marked, and there were no bums at the stations (unlike my old Garnett station in Atlanta). The bus rides were… well complete mayham. The buses went everywhere, and they were all well marked, however, the drivers were crazy. Maybe like a rollercoaster… no, rollarcoasters don’t stop fast enough. Image giving a 5 year old the wheel, jerking the wheel side to side, -beep -beep slamming on the gas, -beep beep slamming on the brake -beep beep. Either the gas pedal or brake pedal was always to the floor. There should just have two buttons on the steering wheel: full speed ahead, and immediate stop. But that made the bus rides a fun experience. At times the bus rides were challenging. (e.g. When you have 50 pounds on your back) To add to the carnage, when we entered the buses, there was a cashier sitting on a chair that collected the bus fare. Once you paid, you proceeded through a revolving gate, much like the gates at amusement parks, the problem was, you had to push the gate forward to go through it, the same time the bus was blasting off, or screeching to a halt. Which often resulted in a Gringo (me) being shot down the aisle of the bus like a torpedo, into the nearest solid object (person, seat, rail, or piece of luggage). Every moment was always exciting, and always a workout. Every bus ride was definitely worth the $1.50 (USD)...

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