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.
    .

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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World Cup dream shattered

After three awesome nights in NYC, we were to fly to Manaus to arrive the night before the huge Italy v England game. When in transit in Panama City, Copa Airlines informed us that the flight from Panama City onto Manaus was full and we could not get on the plane. WTF? No, W-T-F? We have a ticket. We have a boarding pass – crap, there’s no seat number on it.

Me – ‘What do you mean we can’t get on the plane? We have to be in Manaus for the game tomorrow. We booked this flight in January!’

Some other person at the airport – ‘Hey, we’ve been here for two days trying to get on a flight to Manaus.’

Me – ‘What the F—? How can you over book flights when the WORLD CUP is on? It’s not okay for us to arrive in Manaus tomorrow at 8pm – we’ll miss the game. Our whole point for going to Manaus is THIS game. Our whole life savings have gone into this trip, to go to the World Cup. This is unacceptable, completely unfair, and downright outrageous. Find a solution Copa Airlines, and find it now.’

Meanwhile, several Italians were having absolute hissy fits about not getting on the plane. Arms waving, voices loud, swearing, stomping feet, thumping desks, you name it. Other travellers were crying. Zorba and I were in disbelief. Utter disbelieve. I was shaking. I mean, how can we miss THE game of the tournament?  The game we’ve been dreaming about for eight months, since we found out we had FIFA tickets?

Anger started to set in. How is it that we can miss the game through no fault of our own? Just because an airline is so greedy that it overbooks its flights? It’s just not right.

In shock, we watched the plane depart for Manaus, without us on it.

Statue disappointed

I rang our travel insurance. We had $2,000 available each in case of having to get to a special event through circumstances beyond our control, but had to travel in the same class (e.g. Business Class would not be covered). Good to know. I checked the time: In Australia it would have been 4am. I had wifi for an hour – so I sent an email to my travel agent, Richie at Motive Travel, asking, begging for urgent help.

I googled and googled. No other flights to Manaus from Panama City that would get us there on time. There was a private charter company based in Panama. I called them. Hiring a private 7-seater plan was possible, and the plane was likely to be available. Cost, US$3,500 per hour plus tax. Flight time, likely to be 7+ hours. Probably more. I gathered the other stranded passengers. As much as we all wanted, needed, to get to Manaus, hiring a charter flight seemed out of reach. Nonetheless I sent the charter company an email as requested.

We waited for Copa Airlines to come up with a solution. Another hour passed.  Nothing offered except to go to Manaus the following day, which would mean missing the game. Not the right solution. Try again, Copa. People were firing questions, demands, at Joel, the Copa staffer I felt a bit sorry for. Another hour passed. Fuck, can we sit down somewhere please? Get a drink, something to eat while you figure this out? We just flew for six hours from NYC, and we’re knackered. No. Nothing. There was a lounge Zorba and I could have paid to get into, but I wasn’t leave Copa’s sight until we had a confirmed ticket to Manaus.

My internet expired. More time passed. Starting to resign ourselves to the fact that we weren’t going to get to Manaus. Zorba had given up. I was never giving up. We were going to be at that game, no matter what.

200_s

There was a hand over from the Copa staff – a stressed out Joel was replaced by Eduardo Serrano. Someone who said all the right things — and that’s where it ends.

One by one, the stranded passengers who were causing the biggest scenes were being flown to other destinations with a promise of a connection to Manaus. The Italian was first, off to Sao Paolo on the last seat of that flight. Next was a young Aussie / Italian couple from Melbourne – flown on a later flight to Sao Paolo. Of course they had the last two seats so the rest of us couldn’t go.

It felt a bit like Copa Airlines were just getting rid of the problem passengers. I feared causing a scene – I mean, I didn’t want to end up in jail in Panama. Keeping calm was impossibly difficult.

There were seven of us left stranded in Panama – two Americans, four Australians, and a Puerto Rican.

No other solutions offered – but they did agree to put Zorba and I up for two nights in Panama City and re-route our flight to Rio de Janeiro, our next destination. We could watch the game at least in a bar or at the hotel in Panama. Far from satisfactory, but better than flying to Manaus, missing the game (because we would be on the flight) and arriving in Manaus for one night for no reason.

More time passed as Eduardo prepared paperwork for our flights to be re-routed, visa paperwork, etc. By this stage we had been waiting for four hours. No drinks, no food, no where to sit down.

I checked the time, 7.30am in Perth. I rang Richie, my travel agent. I was desperate and starting to worry that if we didn’t get out of Panama City, we would have no options for connecting flights to Manaus. Richie, thankfully, had received my email and was already checking options for me. I had to give him 15 mins and call him back.

Richie advised that there were no flights out of Panama into Brazil. However, we could fly to Miami and there was a flight from Miami to Manaus with TAM airlines, another carrier, that would get us there in time. The catch, there was just two business class seats available at A$2,750 each, which he had held in our names, in case we wanted that option. Yikes, almost A$6,000. Zorba and I talked it over. We considered just paying for it – but it wasn’t right that we should. Copa should cover that cost.

Right. There’s our solution. As Eduardo was trying to gather us up to get on a shuttle to the hotel, I stopped him. We have a solution, fly us to Miami and pay for us to be on that TAM Airlines flight to Manaus, in business class. Right.Now. Eduardo, again, picked up the phone, tapped into his computer, and after another 15 minutes gave us some excuse as to why that can’t happen.

Then I lost it.

I started to shake. I was pointing my finger at him. My voice was deep, measured, absolute, unwavering, and forceful.

“I am not taking ‘No’ for an answer. Make it happen, and make it happen NOW!!!” I demanded through gritted teeth.

We had 1.5 hours before the Miami flight was taking off. We needed a boarding pass or we would miss our only opportunity to make it to Manaus and to the Italy v England game.

The other passengers also wanted to go to Miami. After almost six hours in that God forsaken airport in Panama City and getting nowhere, at least in Miami the staff were likely to be more reasonable, helpful, and have English as a first language. There were heaps of seats available on the Miami flight.

I was trying to organise Eduardo to call Richie so they could speak and simultaneously re-book the business class seats so Copa Airlines could cover that cost. For 45 mins I was promised that someone in Miami was calling Richie to make that booking. They never called him. To make matters worse, Richie couldn’t get through to me by mobile or sms. I had to call him each time.

And another lie from Eduardo: an American Airlines flight has opened up from Miami to Manaus. There are heaps of seats available.

Joy! Jubilation! Eduardo quickly issued all six stranded passengers (the Puerto Rican opted to stay in Panama) boarding passes to Miami, and an printed letter asking to confirm the seats he had held for each of us from Miami to Manaus.

Hoo-fucking-ray. Let’s go!  Seven hours standing, arguing, stressing, at Panama airport and finally we were on our way. I called Richie to let him know – and we both agreed that we should keep hold of the last two seats in business class, just in case Eduardo was getting rid of us and lying. I was suspicious and Richie confirmed that the American Airlines flight was a code-share with TAM, so not a new flight as such. We knew that the TAM flight was full because we had the last two seats held in our names.

Before going, Zorba insisted on bag tags for our baggage to follow us. Where were our bags anyway? I had no faith whatsoever that we’d see our luggage again.

Boarding passes to Miami issued, baggage tags attached, and a sprint to the gate. On a plane and out of Panama. Thank fuck. I sighed and felt some relief, but it was hardly over. We had a long way to go yet to get to that game.

No sleep for 24 hours. Thankfully, I slept for two hours on the plane, missed the in-flight meal, but sleep was more important. After a 3.5 hour flight to Miami, we landed at 1.45am.  The Copa Airlines desk opened at 3.30am. No staff at the TAM airlines desk. More waiting. Nothing open at Miami airport – no shops, no cafes. When the Copa Airlines desk opened, six tired, weary, and stressed out travellers pounced. The manager was called, Juan. He genuinely felt sorry for us and could not believe how we had been treated. He said he would help us.

Waited another hour for the TAM airlines desk to open. Juan spoke to their manager and confirmed out worst nightmare – we were not booked on the flight to Manaus, and the flight was full. The only names that showed up were Zorba’s and mine in Business Class. Thank God for Richie. But – there’s always a but – Copa Airlines said they couldn’t put us on TAM airlines in Business Class. I can’t even remember why – my body almost shut down and my brain went into shock when he said those words. I began to cry. Exhausted, drained and completely and utterly over it. But not ready to give up. We were going to be at that game.

I was texting Richie – instructing him to keep hold of the flights until we knew more.

Juan put us all on stand by. At 6.00am, passengers started checking into the Manaus flight. We all prayed that something would happen so seats for us would be available.

With 30 minutes left to go before the Manaus flight closed and we could have seats confirmed, Juan informed us there were still 29 places available, so things were looking good.

The Zorba grabbed me and said, “Follow me.”

He charged off, a man on a mission. Away from the other stranded passengers, Zorba asked Juan how much would it cost us to pay the fare difference from economy to business to guarantee the business class seats? Good question Zorbs! US$425 each.  Stuff it, let’s just pay and guarantee our place on the flight. But – another frigging but – because the TAM flight was also overbooked by six passengers (not including us, so 12 people on standby), we had to wait for the flight to close before we could take up that option.

More waiting, stressing, waiting. Counting passengers checking in. Harassing check-in staff by asking them every 10 minutes how many seats were left.

Hope. 15 minutes until the flight was to close and just six seats available.  Another flight was delayed (connection), so our chances were tight, but still alive.

Flight closed. Juan announced – the flight was full, just two business class seats were available, who wanted them? I was in his face first and said they were ours. Which they were. It was like an episode of The Amazing Race.

Bags checked in (yes, they arrived from Panama City) and then we had to sprint downstairs, across the other side of the terminal to the TAM ticket office, to pay the fare difference. With little food and water, two hours sleep in 30+ hours, that sprint almost killed me. Almost.

At the TAM ticket desk and one attendant was dealing with a question-asking German. The other attendant was tapping into his computer and not serving customers. Hurry the fuck up!!! Someone else bolted into the ticket office, a sweaty guy in an Italian shirt with an American accent.

Sweaty pushy guy – ‘Please help me, I have to get on the Manaus flight, my flight was delayed.’

Me – ‘Mate, we’ve been at the airport all night trying to get on that flight because our other flight was overbooked. This flight is full, you have no hope buddy. None.’ In other words, fuck off.

Sweaty guy goes to attendant tapping into computer – ‘Please help me, Sir. Please, my flight was delayed.’

Sir behind the counter – ‘I’m busy doing something, please wait in line.You have to be here three hours before an international flight, not (pauses to check his watch) twenty minutes.’

Sweaty guy starts crying. I don’t care. After ten excruciating minutes, the question-asking German finally leaves and we jump to the counter. Phone rings. Our lady serving us speaks in Spanish. What now? WHAT?

Lady in TAM office – ‘I’m sorry, there are no business class seats, you are in economy.’

Me – ‘Okay, so can you print our boarding passes?’

TAM Lady – ‘No, you have to go back to the check in desk.’

You’re kidding. Another sprint, another near heart attack. Juan was there with the other four stranded passengers. I tell him there’s no business seats and that we were in economy – which he already knew. He handed us our boarding passes and we sprinted with every last ounce of energy in our bodies to security, and then onto our gate.

We made it on the plane. Phew. Zorba was in seat 15L. I was in 36A. Never mind, we were on the plane. As I walked to my seat, one of the last people on the plane, I got to seat 36A and someone else was sitting in it. Oh my God, Oh my God. Oh my God. I thought about hiding in the toilet until after take off. But a steward saw me chatting to Mr 36A and asked what the problem was.

I was told to wait in the crew area in the back of the plane while it was sorted out. After six or seven minutes and a lot so nerves, I was told to go back to seat 36A. The other guy got bumped up to Business Class. At that moment, I really didn’t care. I had a seat. We were on our way to Manaus.

Thank God.  And thank Richie. And thank Zorba. Seat belt on, plane takes off – we are on our WAY!!!

Two sleeping tablets and a three hour sleep later, we land in Manaus.

We had four hours before kick off – we had to get to the hotel, have a shower (for the benefit of everyone around us), pick up our tickets from across the other side of Manaus from the FIFA ticket collection office, and get to the Arena. We had no time to waste.

And that’s exactly what we did. One minute showers, Italian shirts on, a taxi, and a complete rush. Rapido, rapido! Thankfully, there were no queues at the ticket collection office and a very helpful volunteer walked us through every step of the automatic ticket machine. Tickets in hand. One more step – get to the stadium.

There were dedicated shuttle buses to the stadium that cost just A$5 each. Which was awesome because I paid the other taxi driver in US dollars instead of Brazilian Real, effectively doubling his earnings. Oh well. A small mistake.

On the shuttle bus, sitting next to some very loud talking Americans in the back seat, they ask us questions because they heard us speak English, but we were wearing Italian shirts.

Then one says – ‘We just landed from Miami too. Hey, I think I was in your seat.’

Me – ‘Oh my God. 36A!?’

Him – ‘Yes! Thanks so much, I was moved up to first class!’ He, Craig, bought us a beer when we got off the bus.

What a spin out!! What are the chances of that happening?

We were at the Arena, entered the ground, and another spin out, we bumped into the young Australian / Italian couple also stranded in Panama City that were put on a flight to Sao Paolo. They didn’t have a connection to Manaus either and their luggage was lost. But they too made it, were at the game and their smiles were as wide as ours.

We found our stadium seats. I looked around, breathed, and broke out in tears. Crying in disbelief, joy, exhaustion.  Our World Cup dream was almost shattered – it took everything we had to make it happen – not that it was our fault – but we had made it. We were there. I was elated and overwhelmed. And I cried about six times during the game. It was every bit as awesome as I’d expected. And Italia won, 2-1.

WorldCup Manaus_2

 Lesson learned: Never EVER fly Copa Airlines again – or go to Panama City.

 

 

 

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Calling for travel tips: first leg, France and Italy

Hello readers!

We are madly racing around to get ourselves, our work, and our little fur baby, our Westie pup Bella, organised before we fly out. And I need your help.  We are looking for travel tips, insider knowledge, restaurant recommendations or little unknown places for great experiences and of course unforgettable meals, in:

  • Nice and South of France (we are going to the Monaco F1 Grand Prix on Sunday)
  • Northern Italy – I’m thinking we might head to Lake Como, still deciding
  • Islands near Italy / France – we have about a week to go where we please
  • Milano

After about three weeks in Europe, our next stop is NYC. I have loads of tips on where to eat in New York – but what about where to shop? Bargains of quality gear is what we’re after. And jeans.

Then we fly to Brazil for the FIFA World Cup. It’s super exciting and a massive bucket list item for me – one I’ve been dreaming about for..for..now I think about it I’m too embarrassed to say it’s been so long – so let’s just say, forever!

Have you been to Brazil and do you have any travel tips in these places?

  • Manuas in Brazil (Italy v England is our first World Cup game! Epic!)
  • Rio de Janeiro
  • Recife (Italy v Costa Rica)
  • Natal (Italy v Uruguay)
  • (we have another 8-9 days in Brazil following the Italia team – not sure where their next two games will be played)

After the madness of the World Cup, we head to Buenos Aires for six days. We’re staying in Palermo Soho. I’m so looking forward being back in Argentina.  I feel at home there, which isn’t surprising given forty per cent of the population has Italian heritage. Forty per cent!  It has many similarities to Italy, without the European price tags. Such great leather shopping. I’ll be buying another suitcase there for sure.

  • Buenos Aires

Then we make our way home. We’re breaking up the long haul flight back to Perth by spending a few nights in Dubai. I like stopping in Dubai – it’s clean, safe, lovely hotels, and good shopping.

  • Dubai

I love getting travel tips – equally as much as I love giving them.  Right now, it’s all about the South of France and where to go next. Can you help?

Italian fans standing for the national anthem at the start of the Euro 2012 final, Monterosso, Italia

Italian fans standing for the national anthem at the start of the Euro 2012 final, Monterosso, Italia

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Iguazu Falls – incredible

I saw the Iguazu Falls from Brasil first and was totally impressed.  I was travelling by myself (Hubs was meeting me on the Argentinean side of the falls).  I made friends with a guy called Richard from England and Scott from USA (knob).  Richard was from Surrey, so we had a bit to talk about since I know that part of England reasonably well.

The three of us marvelled at the falls, took photos of each other in front of various parts of the falls, and walked everywhere we could.  We grabbed some mediocre lunch from a cafe, then Rich and I went across to Argentina.  We took the bus to what we thought was going to be the border, but it wasn’t.  It was just another bus stop, flanked by waiting taxis.

We decided to catch a taxi over the border to Argentina and the taxi driver said it would be easy to do.  And he was right.  It was easy.  I didn’t even have to get out of the cab!  How’s that for crossing into another country!  I arranged to meet Rich for a steak dinner and we went off to our respective hotels.

Hubs chose a good hotel in Iguazu – it had a pool and the day I arrived it was hot! After checking in, I got changed straight away into my swimmers and headed to the pool – and that’s where I bumped into Hubs who had just arrived after her overnight bus.

We hung out by the pool. I met Rich and we went for a steak in a recommended restaurant – my first Argentinean steak!  We shared a bottle of wine and I have to say, I have really missed drinking good wine this trip.  Hubs doesn’t drink, so I often don’t drink o either r will just a beer or glass of wine.  It was lovely to have dinner with someone new and chatty.  Hubs and I sometimes have nothing to say to each other – or she tells me to shut up and stop talking.  She is not the chatty type, more the broody type.

The next day we went to the falls on the Argentinean side and they were no less impressive.  We did the crazy-ass boat ride where the boat goes right up to the fall, to tons and tons of cascading crashing water.  The sheer force of the falls is something to behold – it took me by surprise how powerful they are.  We got soaking bloody wet on the boat ride – my eyes were hurting / stinging from the water getting in them – it was impossible to see anything because it was impossible to keep your eyes open!!

Next stop:  Cordoba

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I’m going to Rio – de Janiero..!

Rio!  Oh Rio!  It is a fantastic city – one I wouldn’t mind living in for a while.  We stayed right along Copacabana Beach.  Hub’s hotel was a 15 minute walk from min, along the esplanade.

Av Atlantica is a big busy road that runs along the coast, following the beach. It was so nice to wake up in the morning and join the hoards of joggers and walkers along the esplanade.

My hotel, the Tulip Copacobana Inn was quite reasonably priced at $100 per night. I had a bigger room than Hubs who was paying more, a balcony with ocean views, and a great restaurant.  We ate there one night and both had beautiful meals – Hubs’ had prawns with mango and rice – and it was gorgeous!

My favourite afternoon was a Saturday afternoon in Rio.  Hubs and I caught a bus down town to check out the centre.  Downtown is not a place to go at night time, so we were told.  Downtown was quite nice – some lovely old impressive French colonial and Spanish architecture.  We wandered through the antique market, and then decided to grab a bite to eat.  We went back to some closed off streets that had cafe and pub table and chairs spilling onto the pavement.  It looked cute, so we chose a place and took a seat.  Within an hour, all pubs and cafes were packed.

Our cafe had a nice young 3-peice band start playing and it was just lovely – sitting on the street, sun beaming down, beers ice cold, music playing – and the cherry on the cake was a shisha pipe place next door that let us smoke a shisha at the cafe!  Hubs said the shisha made her feel like she was high – shame that didn’t happen to me – I just felt happy!  It was one of my favourite afternoons in South America.

Along Copacobana beach are night markets every night (except Sunday) selling all manner of things – jewellery, t-shirts, sarongs, souveniers, hats, and hammocks.  We got a good deal and bought a hammock each for about A$40.  Mine is a double hammock for two people and I can’t wait to put it up at home!  Hubs and I decided to buy one because after Rio there’s only two stops then Buenos Aires (we have an apartment there for one month).

We went out on the Saturday night we were there to the happening area where we were told there was a samba festival. No, no samba festival, but thousands of Brasilians drinking on the streets – street vendors selling pina coladas and caprioscas, food, etc.  Despite all the streets being shut down and people everywhere, I was surprised that there wasn’t more music playing outside.  Neither of us really fancied a night club, so we soaked up the festive atmosphere and went back to our hotels about 2am.

In Rio we went to the best seafood restaurant, Marius, that was a bit like the meat restaurant we went to in Salavador.  Endless offerings of seafood – with waiters coming around every few minutes with platters of lobster, crab, bugs, prawns, langostines, everything!  It was too much for us – which was a shame since we did want to eat it all!  Not possible.

We walked along Impenema Beach – saw the Gay Beach, the Mussel Gym (on the beach).  The beach is Rio is a hive of activity. Fit guys playing beach volleyball or beach soccerball, girls in bikinis everywhere, dog walkers, joggers, artists, children – the beach in Rio is used by everyone – young, old, fat and skinny.  I think that’s awesome!

We asked Hub’s hotel for a recommendation for a nice seafood lunch and headed to Siri Moles near Impenema beach.  It was ridiculously expensive and stuffy like an old gentlemen’s club.  We were not given any bread or any friendly service.   It was strange as there were only three other tables occupied, yet we were treated without regard.  The food was ok, but only ok. Not special, not memorable.  We were so disappointed that I wrote a negative review on trip advisor.

I really really like Rio. The weather was awesome while we were there, although the forecast was for rain rain and more rain.  We didn’t end up booking an island boat trip because we thought it would suck to do that in the rain – and it never rained!

On our last morning in Rio, we went to the Christo mountain to see the famous statue that looks over the city.  I didn’t have much time as I was flying from Rio to Foz di Iguassu (Iguazu Falls on the Brasilian side) in the afternoon and Hubs was taking an overnight bus direct to Iguazu on the Argentinian side.

Christo is impressive – it’s just huge!  From up high there you could see the whole of Rio and it is impressive.

I was out of time and had to rush back to my hotel to check out, and get to the airport.

I bid Hubs farewell and rushed out to find a taxi. Do you think I could find a taxi anywhere? I was starting to feel the stress build – so I rant to bus stop and was told that this was not the bus for Copacabana beach.  Oh shit!

A kind gentlemen who was travelling with is 25-something year old son, must’ve noticed my panicked look and asked me if I was going to Copacobana and offered to share his taxi.  Oh yes! Thank you!  He was well dressed, tanned, (old), and spoke perfect Portuguese and perfect English.  He was from Portugal – that would help I suppose!  When we got to my hotel, he would not let me pay and told me to rush so I wouldn’t miss my flight.

Then he said that they would get out there and walk by the beach – and he arranged for the taxi driver to wait for me to check out and then take me to the airport. So nice!  He was a really nice man and that little encounter renewed my faith that people are generally good.

I made my flight – all good. Next stop – Iguazu Falls.

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