Recife, NE Brazil: Stay in pretty little Olinda

Olinda is a pretty colonial UNESCO Heritage town next to Recife. If you are travelling to Recife, I recommend staying in Olinda. It’s quieter, far, far, prettier than Recife, and easily accessible to the major city Recife, it’s airport and bus station.

Pretty Olinda

Pretty Olinda

Don’t worry about not being on the beach – you can’t swim in the beaches in Recife anyway, unless of course you ignore the warning signs of frequent shark attacks and don’t mind polluted water.

Warning: sharks attacks

Warning: sharks attacks

Stay

We stayed at a gorgeous place, Pousada do Amparo. They have two buildings, the main one (no.199 rue do Amparo, PE Brazil) is where the restaurant is, and the second building where the superior rooms are, is diagonally across the road. Our superior room had a private little garden, and stairs from it that go directly to Restaurant Beijuirá, one of the best-regarded restaurants in the area.PousadaDoAmparo_11

We returned to Olinda during our World Cup trip to Brazil and stayed in a standard room, which was just as lovely as the superior room, but instead of an outside courtyard, we had a loft courtyard with an outdoor bath. I’d stay in a standard room if we were to ever return just because it’s better value for money.

Our loft courtyard with a bath

Our loft courtyard with a bath

Besides a comfortable place to stay, another reason to choose Pousada do Amparo is the helpful staff. For example, Tainah helped us book bus tickets to our next destination Natal by calling the ticket agency and arranging for tickets to be delivered. A huge relief for us as the thought of travelling in Brasil, of physically getting from one place to another, fills us with dread after our previous horrendous experience.

Spa bathroom

Spa bathroom

The breakfast at the Pousada do Amparo is awesome too – a huge selection of cakes, bread, fresh pineapple, guava, mango, and cooked banana which is my personal favourite. It was only on my last morning that I noticed other guests eating regional speciality, tapioca. Tapioca is a pancake made with tapioca powder, that when cooked forms a crust on the outside while the centre congeals, almost like a jube or jelly sweet. It’s folded in half and stuffed with melted cheese, chicken, meat, or dulce de leche, which is a caramel like sweetened condensed milk.

Caipirinha

Caipirinha

We ate dinner in the Pousada restaurant on three occasions during both of our stays. The food is good – the chicken with mushrooms was particularly nice – and it’s good value for money. Be sure to have a cairiprinha – they make a delicious one!

The pool at Pousada do Amparo

The pool at Pousada do Amparo

Pousada do Amparo was official accommodation for the FIFA World Cup, and I can see why.

Check out my post on our Top three restaurants in Olinda too.

FACT FILE

Pousada do Amparo
Rue Amparo 199, Olinda
Tel: +55 81 3439-1740
www.pousadadoampara.com.br

 

 

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Top three restaurants in Olinda (Recife), NE Brazil

Olinda in North East Brazil, adjacent to Recife, is very cute and very small. You could walk along every single street in the UNESCO heritage town centre in just a few hours, if you strolled.

There are plenty of places to choose to eat, from holes in the wall, market stalls, people selling grilled chicken kebabs from their front room,  a few fancy restaurants and several more casual cheaper restaurants.

The groin that juts out to sea

The groin opposite Masiqueira that juts out to sea

Our top three restaurants:

  1. Masiqueira – a seaside restaurant full of locals enjoying a long Saturday lunch (see previous post)
  2. Restaurant Beijuirá and
  3. Oficina do Sabor.

More about the latter two below.

Restaurant Beijuirá

On our first night we didn’t venture far, just up some stairs to Restaurant Beijuirá. The large menu makes choosing something a challenge, also too because flavour combinations are so unusual: prawns with whiskey, or crab cases with chestnut sauce – the latter we shared as an entrée. It was pleasant and the chestnut sauce was delicious.Beijupira_2

For main course, I had prawns in coconut sauce with guava rice. Yes, guava rice, that is, rice with guava. A very unusual combination yet it tasted pleasant. The prawns were fine, smaller than the king prawns we are used to in Australia and nicely cooked. The dish was enjoyable but didn’t really wow me.

Beijupira_3Zorba choose a codfish dish and I can’t tell you what it’s like because he gobbled it up before I had a chance to taste it. He did taste mine though and said my dish was better than his.

Beijupira_4

We were going to have wine with dinner, but when the reasonably priced wine we choose wasn’t available and a more expensive one brought the table as a substitute, we decided to have beer instead. No upselling please.

Our total bill for one starter, two mains, two local beers, and a bottle of sparkling water came to 230 Real, or A$115. Would we rush back there as far as value for money and wow-factor? I’m not sure. Plenty of others we’ve met along the way said they enjoyed it.

The views from the restaurant are lovely and look out to the twinkling lights of Olinda and beyond. The setting is lovely and it’s more up market than the average restaurant. Some staff speak English.

Verdict: An expensive and pleasant meal with good service in a nice setting. 7.5/10.

Restaurant Beijuirá,  Saldanha Marinha, s/n, Alto da Sé, Olinda, RE, Brazil.
Tel: +55 081 3439.6691 or 9734.1144
http://www.beijupiraolinda.com.br

 

Oficina do Sabor

Not only is it known as one of the best restaurants in Brazil’s north east, Oficina do Sabor in Olinda is famous for serving food in pumpkins. It attracts television celebrities and wealthy types from the region.

From the pastel-coloured building on the street, this restaurant doesn’t look like much. After walking through a short hallway to a reception area, the restaurant opens out to a large terrace with views to Recife. Clearly, this was a restaurant for special occasions as every diner was dressed well and it was easy to spot the tourists.

The menu offered a good choice of dishes. The mains were categorised into seafood, pumpkins, meat, and gratins (baked in sauce).OficinaDoSabor_1

For starters we chose a tasting plate with fish ball croquettes, eggplant, prawn cutlet, a fried cheese (like haloumi), empandas, and a cup of absolutely exquisite lobster bisque. That bisque was smooth, savoury, perfectly balanced and I wanted more.OficinaDoSabor_2

The staff didn’t speak much English, however, the waiter understood me when I gave my compliments to the chef for the lobster bisque. When the waiter was communicating with hand gestures, seemingly signalling if I wanted another one, I nodded enthusiastically. I wasn’t sure if that’s what he was asking me, but to my delight, he brought out another cup.OficinaDoSabor_3

For main course we order a pumpkin stuffed with chicken. It was about half the price of the pumpkins stuffed with shrimp – and I have to confess that shrimp on a menu reminds me of Dad’s fishing bait, so I never order it. What I loved the most, besides the juicy chicken pieces and creamy sauce, was that we could scrape the inside of the pumpkin and eat that also, making it a massive meal. It also came served with rice. Needless to say, we had absolutely no room for dessert after that.

Verdict: Expensive by Brazilian standards, but worth it for the good service and great food. 8.5/10.

Oficina do Sabor, Rua do Amparo, 335, 53020Amparo Olinda, RE Brazil
Tel: +55 018 474 810
http://www.oficinadosabor.com/contato.htmlOficinaDoSabor_4

 

Stay

We stayed in a lovely small guest house known as a pousada called Pousada do Amparo, named after the street it was on. Highly recommended. Check out my next post for more.PousadaDoAmparo_featured1

 

FACT FILE

Restaurant Beijuirá
Rua Saldanha Marinha, s/n, Alto da Sé, Olinda
Tel: +55 081 3439.6691 or 9734.1144
http://www.beijupiraolinda.com.br

Oficina do Sabor
Rua do Amparo, 335, 53020Amparo Olinda, RE, Brazil
Tel: +55 018 474 810
http://www.oficinadosabor.com/contato.html

 

 

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How no money led us to a fabulous food experience

Here we are in the historical centre of Olinda, a pretty UNESCO Heritage Site just north of Recife in north east Brazil. We were low on cash and needed a cash machine (ATM). Most of the small bars and eateries in Olinda only take cash and most are no more than someone selling beer from their lounge room window.

We walked up to the top of the hill in Olinda, a steep climb that was strenuous in the heat and high humidity.  Still, it not as hard as the walk to our apartment in Lake Como. The one cash machine there by Itau bank didn’t work with our card. Zorba refused to the use the generic cash machine located inside a small dodgy looking convenience store, so that meant a walk to the commercial area of Olinda.

Heat and humidity – two elements that don’t make a walk pleasant. The crappy broken pavement and the heavy traffic did nothing to improve the situation. We must’ve walked for 45 minutes or more before reaching a cash machine. Another Itau, and another failed attempt. Another 15 minutes walking, dodging potholes in the blaring heat, and we reached a Bank of Brasil, but being Saturday, it was closed and there were no cash machines. Sigh. I was hot and thirsty, and getting grumpy.

Ten more minutes trudging, sweating, and we reached another Itau bank that had six cash machines inside the foyer. The first cash machine displayed the same error message we’d seen before. The second cash machine did the same thing. This was not looking good. My patience was very rapidly running out. It didn’t make sense, Itau sponsor the World Cup and are Brasil’s major bank. Why wasn’t our card working?

In a huff, I snatched the card from Zorba, who up until this point had been the one trying to withdraw cash, I inserted the card in and upon the machine’s instruction I removed the card and did so with downward pressure. Hurrah! No error message. I had the magic touch. We withdrew some cash and left.

The colour of the ocean from a distance was a lovely aqua, however up close it’s evident that it’s polluted. That, and the signs warning of shark attacks quashed any thought of jumping in to cool off. There is no beach to speak of either, just some patches of hard sand in between retaining rock walls.

Shark attack warning signs

Shark attack warning signs

The thought of the long walk back was too much for me to bear, so I declared a beer stop. Zorba didn’t disagree and followed me as I lead us to a parallel main road along the coast. Along this road were several large looking Brazilian restaurants, some with outdoor tables, chairs and umbrellas set up across the road, on the ocean side, along some groins that jut out to sea.

The groin that juts out to sea

The groin that juts out to sea

After walking past the first two restaurants, we stopped at the third, a place called Masiqueira. It was packed full Brazilians enjoying a late lunch, and by the looks of things, lots to drink too. The restaurant setting was fairly basic, but that didn’t seem to hinder it’s popularity.

Marisqueira_2 It was 3.30pm, we’d not had lunch and our dinner reservation wasn’t until 8pm, so we decided to have something small to eat. The large menu was in Portuguese, but helpfully, it had some pictures. It must’ve taken fifteen minutes to try and decipher the menu and decide what to have, and in the end I just pointed at pictures – the waiters didn’t speak English.

I chose a small cup of caldinho feijouda, a blackbean soup (3.50 Real / A$1.50), some maxaceira empanada (9.50 Real / A$5), which were like polenta chips but made with manioc (like a white sweet potato), and four steamed crabs (15 Real / A$7.50). The crabs came with a board and bashing stick to crack the shell. They were very small and for me, too fiddly to be enjoyable. The small serve of bean soup contained a boiled quail egg. It was perfectly seasoned and my favourite thing on the table.

We loved this little find. Dishes were cheap, there was a view of the ocean, it was full of locals and the food was good. If we weren’t looking for a bank, we would have never have stumbled onto that place. An unexpected winner.

Verdict: Where the locals eat and worth seeking out for lunch if you look for an authentic Brazilian food experience 8/10

Have you had an unexpected and fabulous food experience on your travels?

 

FACT FILE

Masiqueira
Av Min Marcos Freire, 521, 53130 Olinda, Brazil
Tel: +55 081 3429-4432
http://www.restaurantemarisqueira.com.br
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Marisqueira/111541652264799

 

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Our World Cup dream

After a traumatic travel experience just getting to Brazil thanks to Copa Airlines overbooking flights that left us stranded in Panama City, I was on the biggest natural high to be at our first game Italy v England in Manaus.

Relief, excitement, disbelief (that we made it), exhaustion, anticipation, and delight utterly and completely overwhelmed me. Once we entered the stadium and we knew we were about to watch our first FIFA World Cup game, I burst into tears. Not just a happy tear trickling down my cheek, but full on hyperventilation between sobbing. I felt almost hysterical and I had no control – the emotion just poured out. It didn’t help that it took us 36 hours to get there with very little sleep and very high stress levels.

That moment of pinching myself to check it was real happened about 15 times during the game.

Zorba and I outside the stadium in Manaus

Zorba and I outside the stadium in Manaus

The Dream

I’d been dreaming of going to a FIFA Wold Cup since I was a teenager. Four years ago, Hubba and I were planning to go to the last World Cup in South Africa, but I didn’t get tickets in the ballot. The prices of tours with tickets was so expensive that we decided that our money would last five times longer in South America. So that’s where we went in 2010. Four years before that the 2006 World Cup was in Germany and again, I didn’t get tickets in the ballot.

However, my ballot application was successful this time around and we had T5 Category 3 tickets to follow Italy. That’s five games guaranteed, no matter how Italy finishes in their group, up until and including the Quarter Final. Andrew’s application for tickets to follow Australia was declined.

 

The Games and the Stadiums

Manaus: Italy v England, Group D

In Manaus Arena da Amazonia holds just under 40,000 people. We caught an old rickety bus from the Cultural Centre directly to the Stadium. The road was as rickety as the bus and we went over a pothole so big at such speed that every passenger became airborne. Zorba was actually thrown from his seat. After forty minutes, we arrived at the Arena periphery an hour before kick off.

A new friend we made on the bus (Craig – Mr 36A) bought us a beer each from a local selling them from an eski on the side of the road. In the steamy humidity of Manaus, it was one of the best beers I’ve ever had.

Our Category 3 seats were high up, behind the goal to the side. The view was spectacular. There were thousands of fans there in Italia shirts and England shirts, and even more in yellow Brazilian shirts. We were sitting behind a group of English fans that were ever vocal leading the chants, Eng-er-lund, and my favourite, Come On England, Come On England.

The Italia chant sounds like this: It-tarl-ya, It-tarl-ya, and quite convincingly drowned out the chants of the English fans. There were a few Olè chants too by the locals that just added to the atmosphere.

Zorba and I had four pints of Brahma beer (R$10 or A$5) each at the ground. Sod’s Law, I was off buying beer and missed the first Italy goal and England goal, but managed to catch the replay on the big screen. I didn’t care. The atmosphere of being there was enough. I did see the second Italy goal and was part of the immediate eruption at the stadium. What a great feeling! Italy won 2-1. Whoo hoo!

The stadium in Manaus

The stadium in Manaus

After the game, we had no idea how to get back to our hotel. When we asked the hotel receptionist the best way to get to the stadium before we left to collect our tickets, she suggested a taxi. We started looking for a taxi after the game. I tried to flag down three or four taxis, but they were all in service. There were loads of other fans walking too, but they seemed quite content to keep walking. We were knackered and the endorphins of excitement were disappearing and extreme tiredness was setting in. A policeman who had been watching us stepped in to help and flagged down a taxi for us. How nice! Obrigada!

Back at our hotel, we were happy, dead tired, sweaty and hungry. We ate a chicken salad in the hotel restaurant, went to our room, showered and fell into bed. I think I was asleep before my head even hit the pillow.

WorldCupDream_03

Recife: Italy v Costa Rica, Group D

The 40,600-capacity Arena Pernambuco is the new stadium built not in Recife, but in the next town Saõ Lorenzo. It is miles away from Recife. We asked four or five different people, including the receptionist at our pousada (little hotel / guest house) the best way get there. We were given different advice, but a couple of people said a direct shuttle bus was leaving from the Recife Shopping centre and cost R$5 return (A$2.50).

The day before the game, two Italian journalists staying at our pousada talked about us sharing a taxi the to stadium. On game-day morning, the journalists were leaving for the stadium at 9.30am. Kick off was at 1pm. When I asked how much he thought the taxi would cost, he said R$200-300, maybe more. That’s A$100-150. And it would probably mean arriving at the stadium with hours to kill. There’s nothing around the stadium, just fields of dirt. We politely declined and said we would take the bus later on.

At breakfast, we got chatting to another young couple wearing Italia shirts. They were actually Brazilians and said that they had a car and were driving to the stadium, picking up friends along the way. But they were picking up their friends from where the shuttle buses were leaving from and offered to drop us off at the bus stop. Perfect! It was so kind of them.

At the bus stop, there was a pop up ticket desk where we purchased our R$5 bus wristband and joined the queue for the bus. One bus came, filled up and left, and we found ourselves at the start of the line for the next bus. And that meant we could get a seat. We expected the bus trip to take an hour but we reached the stadium in forty minutes. The bus had a dedicated lane and police managed the traffic to the stadium. Easy.

 

Zorba and I outside the stadium in Recife

Zorba and I outside the stadium in Recife

The stadium itself rose out of the ground with nothing but vast dirt around it. We were excited to be there, but I didn’t cry this time.   Our Category 3 seats were in a similar spot, high up behind the goal, slightly to the side.

 

We sat in front of an Italian (living in France) who held a banner that said (in Italian):

“Hi mamma, I’m here, but don’t worry, I’ll be home for our Sunday pasta dinner.”

Brahma souvenir cup Italy v Costa Rica

Brahma souvenir cup Italy v Costa Rica

The game against Costa Rica was completely different to the game against England. Firstly, Italia were getting beaten, which was completely unexpected. Secondly, there were hardly any Italian fans at the game. Felt like there were 200 Italians and 40,400 Costa Ricans who all chanted Tico, Tico at deafening decibels.

Thirdly, the Costa Ricans booed all through the game. To me, it felt like they were being bad sports. I didn’t like the booing, particularly when they did it for no apparent reason. Fair enough if the ref gives a rough decision, but they just booed at the start of the game, when Italian players played back to the goalie and other random times during the game.

To make matters worse, there were a few gobby Costa Rican supporters who waved their flags in our faces when Costa Rica scored. Grr. I felt like telling them where to go and how to get there. Cheer for your country, sure. Rub our faces in it, no. I can now understand why fans are separated at club games. FIFA didn’t separate fans in any of the matches we went to.

 

Italia lost to Costa Rica 1-0.

 

We learned the next morning that the Italian journalist was stuck in traffic in a taxi for over three hours, and in the end had to get out of the taxi and run to the stadium. Loads of people arrived to the game late. They obviously didn’t take the bus.

We also bumped into the young Australian / Italian guy Chris at the ground – he was stranded with us in Panama.

After the game we got back on the bus, this time the journey took closer to an hour, and got a taxi back to our pousada in Olinda – a pretty UNESCO heritage colonial town next to Recife.

 

Natal: Italia v Uruguay, Group D

The Arena das Dunas, capacity of 39,400, was just 7.2km from our hotel at Ponte Negra beach. Great, that means we could walk if need be.

There was a lot of pressure on this game. Italia had to win or draw to guarantee them a place in the Round of 16. If Italia won and if England beat Costa Rica, then England could go through too.

If Italia came second in the group by beating Uruguay, it would mean we would have to go to Rio to watch the next match, then onto Fortaleza for the Quarter Final. If Italia got knocked out, then we would have to go back to Recife, then onto Salvador for the Quarter Final. I wanted to go back to Rio and desperately wanted to see Italia win and go through to at least the Quarter Final stage.

The day before the game, we bumped into Ricardo and his wife (Italian and Ecuadorian living in New Jersey) whom we’d met in Olinda (Recife). He asked us how we were getting to the stadium. We shrugged and said either a local bus or taxi probably. We weren’t sure. Our hotel had put on specific shuttle buses that were leaving at 9am (1pm kick off) and the cost was R$60 per person. Zorba and I thought that was a bit rich given the short distance to the stadium, and a bit early. We made a plan with Ricardo to share a taxi.

On game day, Ricardo picked us up from the meeting point in a taxi and within 20 minutes, we were at the stadium, for a fare of R$30. Easy.

 

Uruguay fans in Natal (v Italy)

Uruguay fans in Natal (v Italy)

The grounds of the stadium were buzzing with only a few Italians, but thousands of Uruguayans. The funny thing is that loads of them wanted photos with us – we were all wearing Italian shirts. We enjoyed a couple of beers outside the stadium, bopping away to the music pumping out of the Budweiser two-story stand (complete with promo chicas wearing tight lycra, dancing and blowing kisses to the boys below).   The pre game atmosphere was the best we’d experienced. It was so much fun!

 

Italian fans in Natal (v Uruguay)

Italian fans in Natal (v Uruguay)

Our seats were again up high behind the goal, to the side. This time though, the Italian living in France with the ‘Mamma I’m here’ banner was sitting next to us. It was so funny listening to him swear in French, Italian and Spanish during the game.

Italy v Uruguay

Italy v Uruguay

The game itself – well – it has already received it has fair share of media attention thanks to Suarez and that bite. Again, Italian fans were completely outnumbered and our chants were barely audible over those from Uruguay. Early in the second half and Italian player was sent off after getting a red card for no reason (‘merda di Mexicano’ was what the guy next me to me was saying about the ref), and it was only a matter of time before Uruguay scored.

Italia tried hard to come back and had a few chances striking at goal but just couldn’t covert their attempts.

 

Italia lost to Uruguay 1-0, and were out of the World Cup.

 

I cried when the game was over. The second time I cried at a match. I couldn’t believe it. Italia were out, beaten, by two small nations that really shouldn’t have been able to beat them. Italia were the 2006 champions. Italia was a football nation that consistently produced star players.

Italy out of the World Cup

Italy out of the World Cup

 

Uruguay played a dirty game, but at least their fans were not the harsh, booing, rub it in your face kind. They actually showed some humility by either giving us sympathetic looks or avoiding eye contact altogether.

Costa Rica drew with England 0-0. That meant Costa Rica finished at the top of the group and that’s the team our tickets would be following from here on. Ugh. Costa Rica and their booing fans.

The silver lining?

The next game was Costa Rica v Greece.

Yes, Greece had made it through the next stage.

At least Zorba could see his country play.

 

 

Recife: Costa Rica v Greece, Round of 16

Once we knew Italia’s World Cup fate, we called Pousada do Amparo in Olinda where we previously stayed and booked three nights accommodation. As we’d been to Recife before, we knew how to get to the stadium.

Zorba refused to wear his Italia shirt to the Greece game, which I suppose is fair enough.

Zorba and I outside the stadium in Recife, Greece v Costa Rica

Zorba and I outside the stadium in Recife, Greece v Costa Rica

As the Greek team entered the pitch, the Costa Rican fans started booing. Ugh, not this again. There were hardly any Greek supporters at the game and tens of thousands supporting Costa Rica. The local Brazilians at the ground seemed to be supporting Costa Rica.

Greece drew with Costa Rica and the game went into extra time. After 30 minutes, the score was level 1-1 and went to a penalty shoot out, that unfortunately Costa Rica won. Sigh. I was getting a little tired of watching Costa Rica win.

The view of our seats at the R16 game in Recife

The view of our seats at the R16 game in Recife

Salvador: Netherlands v Costa Rica, Quarter Final

Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador has a capacity of 49,280. It’s situated right in the heart of the old town of the city, Pelourinho.

From the Mar Brasil Hotel at Itapau Beach, we caught a local bus to Pelourinho. We were on that rickety old bus for 1.5 hours. We met an English guy Peter who lives in Brisbane and chatted to him most of the way. Usefully, he’d been to a game in Salvador before and gave us tips on how to get back afterwards.

WorldCupDream_12

The main square of Pelourinho was a sea of orange. The Netherlands fans were out in force. Their double decker bus was there and there was a stage and DJ pumping out music. It was the best atmosphere we’d experienced besides being around Brazilian fans.

WorldCupDream_13

First things first, we had to find a bar to watch the day’s earlier Quarter Final game, Argentina v Belgium that was kicking off in 30 minutes. All the bars around the main square were full, and many bars in the old town were either full or closed. I noticed a restaurant upstairs above a shop and went up to check it out. We grabbed a table, ordered some food and settled in ready to watch the game. Argentina won and the game was, yawn, really quite boring.

We walked to the stadium after the game, following the crowd up and down hilly cobbled streets.

I was cheering for Netherlands. I wanted to see Costa Rica out and wave bye-bye to their booing fans.

WorldCupDream_11

Our seats for this game were up in the Gods, just three rows from the very top back row. Zorba, who isn’t a fan of heights, wasn’t thrilled with our nosebleed seats. Neither was I, despite the decent view of the pitch.

Before half time, we went to the bar to replenish our beer cups and on the way back, Zorba suggested we sit in some vacant seats about 12 rows further down – perfect! We sat next to some Aussies (they were following Australia, who were knocked out of the Netherlands group, and thus were now following Netherlands).

It was fantastic to have the Costa Rican fans outnumbered by Dutch fans. Again, there was lots of booing from the Ticos.

The scores were level 0-0 after 90 minutes and the game went into extra time. Still at level scores 0-0, the game went to a penalty shoot out. Netherlands won and were through to the semi finals! Brilliant!

Elvis x5 in Rio

Elvis x5 in Rio

 

UPDATE:

Netherlands lost the semi final against Argentina in a penalty shoot out. We watched that game in Argentina, in a bar in Palermo Soho in Buenos Aires. Brazil were humiliated by Germany who smashed them 7-1 in the other semi final. The final will be Argentina v Germany tomorrow.

As I finish this post, I’m sitting in a lovely hotel in Buenos Aires, where it’s raining and freezing cold outside, watching Brazil v Netherlands play off for third place. Brazil have lost, 3-0.

If Germany play like they did against Brazil, it would be hard for anyone to beat them. Argentina has immense passion though, so you just never know.

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12 surprises of our FIFA World Cup Brazil experience

The FIFA World Cup served us a few surprises, and I’m not talking about the results of the games. Here’s some snippets of our experience in Brazil.

12 surprises of our World Cup experience

 

  1. Fans who wanted to take photos with fans of opposing teams – we’ve never experienced anything like this before. The fans from Uruguay were the most enthusiastic of all the games we went to.

 

The Dutch fans were so much fun! Salvador QF Netherlands v Costa Rica

The Dutch fans were so much fun! Salvador QF Netherlands v Costa Rica

  1. The quality of the stadiums and the awesome viewing from our Category 3 seats.

 

  1. How the FIFA World Cup has captured Zorba and how much he has got into it. Coming on this trip was my idea – and he just went along with it, initially. Now he loves it and is completely hooked.

    The FIFA ticket collection machine

    The FIFA ticket collection machine

 

  1. The incredible atmosphere at each game – it exceeded my expectations.

 

  1. Collecting tickets from the FIFA Ticket Collection Centres was a breeze. Took just a couple of minutes at the automatic machines if you had the Visa card your tickets were purchased with. Insert Visa card into machine, enter your date of birth, select which tickets you wanted to collect, stand still in front of the built-in camera while your photo is taken, and voilà, tickets are printed.

 

  1. The number of people who go to games wearing the shirts of their country / team, even if they aren’t playing.

 

Mexican fan at the Uruguay v Italy game

Mexican fan at the Uruguay v Italy game

  1. The number of people wearing Brazilian shirts that weren’t from Brasil, and the number of people wearing shirts from countries they are not from. We met an Australian from Sydney who had five shirts with him: Italia, Holland, Australia, Brasil, and Argentina.

 

  1. Full strength beer is sold at the stadiums for A$5 a pint that came in a Brahma plastic cup with the game printed on the side – a collectors’ item.

    Brahma souvenir cup Italy v Costa Rica

    Brahma souvenir cup Italy v Costa Rica

  2. AC/DC Thunderstruck was played before the teams came onto the pitch at every game. Awesome to hear Australian music featured. The same sound track was played at every game.
  3. The same sponsor stands / stalls / experiences were set up around each of the four different stadiums we went to, making them a bit boring. In Salvador we did notice that traditionally dressed women were selling aracajé (basically a deep fried bread like ball that’s made with beans).
  4. The Fan Fests in host cities had (almost) the exact same set up in every city. They were crowded and offered little or no shade. Fan Fests were not good places to go if you really wanted to watch the game – and were rife with pickpockets (Rio in particular).

    FIFA Fan Fest, Copacabana Beach, Rio

    FIFA Fan Fest, Copacabana Beach, Rio

  5. Not once did we feel threatened, frightened or in danger. Brazil rolled out the army and the police and their presence was felt in each city we visited. We were also careful and I haven’t carried a handbag with me for four weeks now (getting used to it actually).

 

The best football chant award has to go to the Chileans: Chi-Chi-Chi, le-le-le, Chile, Chile. Olé!

 

Other observations in Brazil

 

  1. Brazil is a complete football mad country. Watching Brazil play in bars around the country, often the women were the ones getting vocal and hysterical at the television, a lot more so than the men.

    Happy Brazilians in Olinda (Recife)

    Happy Brazilians in Olinda (Recife)

  2. Casual attire in Brazil is the norm. Due to everything I had with me being washed, I spent a day in my gym gear – leggings, tank top, and thongs, and did not feel out of place.

    Zorba and I with our capirinhas watching Brazil qualify for the R16 game

    Zorba and I with our capirinhas watching Brazil qualify for the R16 game

  3. The food was better than I expected, and cheaper than I expected. Some of the best things we at were from the street. Anything with prawns or shrimp was about double the price of the same dish with chicken. My favourite things included fresh mango juice, pastels (deep fried pastry stuffed with chicken, meat, cheese, and / or puree of manioc), barbecued meat, bean soups, bean stew, any kind of black-eyed bean dish actually. Serving sizes in restaurants are usually enormous.
  4. Besides beans and manioc (like a white sweet potato), Brazilians don’t seem to eat a lot of vegetables, and the vegetables sold at supermarkets probably explains why.
  5. Brazilians love to drink and have a massive drinking culture. Capirinhas are delicious – just vodka, mint, sugar and ice. Beer is cheap too, a long neck (600ml) cost between A$2.50 – $5 in bars, and about A$1 in supermarkets.
    WorldCupBrazil_23
  6. Transport to the stadiums was on the whole fairly easy and taxis were cheap.
  7. Local buses are cheap, old, rickety and travel at warp-nine speeds.
  8. Besides the stadiums and tourist areas, Brazil really does feel like a third world country and the economic difficulties of the mass population are evident.
  9. Seeing the street dogs in Brazil broke my heart, time and time again.
  10. No one is in a hurry in Brazil, ever.

    Coconuts A$2.50

    Coconuts A$2.50

  11. Everywhere we went there was a street peddler selling something – Brazilian shirts, flags, sarrongs, hats, bags, hammocks, swimwear, jewellery, food, drinks, trinkets, belts, toys, coconuts – you name it.  The good thing is that they weren’t in your face like they are in Bali. For example, on the beach they’ll look your way, offer you a sarong and unless you call them over, they’ll keep on walking.
  12. Australia’s beaches are as beautiful if not more beautiful in some places than Brazil’s.

    The beach at Stella Maris, Salvador

    The beach at Stella Maris, Salvador

  13. Havianas cost just A$10 in Brazil.
  14. No matter what your shape, size or age, in Brazil it is completely acceptable to wear a g-string on the beach. Lumps and all.
  15. Never ever take anything to the beach but your towel – we knew of several people that had bags / things stolen at the beach.
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The best thing about Brazil is the Brazilian people. We were always welcomed warmly and every Brazilian we met was friendly and helpful. They seemed genuinely happy to have so many visitors in their country. The people made visiting Brazil for the World Cup extra special.

Have you been to Brazil? Were you there for the FiFA World Cup? What surprised you about Brazil? I’d love to hear your comments.

Copacabana Beach

Copacabana Beach

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