A Travellerspoint blog


Brazil: Sao Paolo: Eager Beaver Saves the Day

January 3, 2011

semi-overcast 78 °F

After a long night on busses and taxis to Sao Paolo airport we were looking forward to a little sleep before checking in. It was impossible for Tony to sleep since the janitors are completely unaware of the volume of their own voices and were practically yelling at each other even when they were standing right next to each other! Of course, Ruby can sleep during a cirque du soleil show so she had no problems with these pesky janitors. Tony is known as the “Eager Beaver” in airports because he can’t relax until he’s in and at the gate. Well, the counter opened at 5am and Tony was up moving around and saying “Ruby would you like to go get in line---Let’s get in line---Do you see the line?” Ruby would hate to admit it but we’re lucky we went over because we didn’t have any entry paperwork for Australia (we didn’t know we needed any). Luckily for us we were able to find the information, internet, and a printer at 5am in Rio. We got everything completed before it was time to board our flight thanks to Tony’s “eager beaverness”! Note to self: always check travel.state.gov in the US for visa requirements . . . which is exactly what we did for the next 6 countries we planned on visiting! You would think a flight from Rio to Buenos Aires would be uneventful but we thought it was hilarious (and odd) when the flight attendants made an announcement saying they would need to spray us with pesticides prior to entering Argentina and then promptly came down the aisles spraying cans of chemicals?!? That’s was new one for us. . .I hope that at least takes care of any bed bugs that might want to go around the world with us! Haha just kidding! We wish we had a picture of that one.

Posted by Tony.Ruby 00:35 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Brazil: Rio: A Whole Lot of Ugly

January 2, 2011

semi-overcast 80 °F

Who says Rio is full of beautiful people? It must be the people that never go to the city bus station! As you know, Rio is known for its skimpy bathing suits. . but something you may not know is that here in Rio EVERYONE wears the skimpy outfits, man or woman, big or small. Even the buses have seats saved especially for the obese who knew you’d find that in Rio? After dropping our bags at the bus station we headed to Copacabana and met up with Gerard and the gang briefly while booking some of the next legs of our trip. At the Hippie market in Ipanema we had a local dish which was some sort of potato and shrimp mixture that was pretty good but nothing compared to the delicious food at Opium where Ruby would have her last caipivodka with lychee in Brazil. We hunted for a special pair of sparkly flip flops for our friend Loz and Tony’s sister Vickie (since she has no bling on her wedding dress) but had no luck! Then, we got into a bus that takes the cake for worst bus ride in South America. This bus was crowded and the driver continued to allow more and more people on, it was hot and humid and people were smelly, we were dying to get off and practically falling out of the bus on the stairs! We must have used up all of our bad bus karma because the night bus to Sao Paolo with Expresso do Sul was the best bus ride we had in a long time! There was food, drink, blankets, pillows and friendly staff. Tony didn’t even complain when he sat down, the seats were comfortable and we slept for 6 hours until arriving in Sao Paolo at 2 in the morning. We caught a taxi to the airport and got ready to say bye-bye to South America.


Posted by Tony.Ruby 00:37 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Brazil: Rio: A New Year with Old Habits

January 1, 2011

rain 82 °F

The first day of the New Year and we’ve started this one off riding city busses around Rio looking for an open Laundromat. We also booked our first bus of the year going to Sao Paolo tomorrow night. We finally gave up on trying to wash clothes and headed to the skate park in Flamingo Park instead (Catete exit on the subway). Tony skated until the usual afternoon downpour. At the park we met a really interesting Brazilian named Yuri who told us about his hometown. While waiting for the bus to drop our laundry off to the hotel, Ruby got impatient and convinced Tony that this was not the right stop bus and wanted to walk a few blocks over. Just as we got to the other side of the street the right bus drove by and as soon as we made it back another bus went by as well—we missed both! In Brazil if you don’t wave for the buses, they don’t stop. Back at the hotel we opted for hand-washing a few important things. As we got ready to leave our hotel again we met a French couple in the hotel lobby who had been robbed just down the road from our hotel earlier that morning. This made us a bit nervous as it would anyone (even though we haven’t had any issues walking around towns all over South America) so we were being extra careful. We accidentally hopped on our bus going in the wrong direction and learned that our area is NOT the most ghetto around Rio and that if you ride a bus all the way to the end they kick you off and make you pay to get back on the same bus! The bus driver we had this time was driving like we were being timed. A few times during the ride we both caught air and had to hold on to the railing to keep from falling out of our seats. You would think that if there were lots of people standing in the bus or if it was raining the busses would slow down, but you’d be wrong. After making it all the way to Copacabana (without being killed in a bus racing accident) we arrived at Amir for some more delicious hummus and falafel and walked around looking for Gerard and Kieu’s hotel-- everyone we asked would point us in the other direction. Only after backtracking multiple times did we make it to their hotel but missed them. We did a quick hunt around the beach looking for our friends and a special pair of sparkly flip-flops but were unsuccessful. The weather was not the greatest and after a night of three million people partying, there was lots of trash on the streets so we ended up heading back to get ready for our next big travel day.


Posted by Tony.Ruby 00:12 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

Brazil: Rio: The Sky Looks Bright for 2011

December 31, 2010

semi-overcast 82 °F

We woke up with a brilliant idea: “everyone is going to the beach for the big New Year’s party . . . so let’s go up to see Christ the Redeemer.” Little did we know that almost everyone and their mother had that same idea! It was like a bad day at Disneyland! By the way, South Americans love to wait in line for everything! If you take the bus up to Christ the Redeemer you will be in lines forever on any busy day, you have to take a total of 4 busses to go up and down the hill, one line for your entrance tickets, and then don’t forget about the one you will be in to grab a Coke or even worse go to the ATM (if there’s even any money in it). Our advice if you go is to take the Cog Train up (www.corcovado.com.br) not the busses at the bottom that only look like a smaller line. While walking around we spotted a caterpillar--which Ruby thought was kind of symbolic for all the big transformations we have gone through over this last year including her finishing intern year, matching and our big move to NYC by way of this Around the World trip. It's gorgeous up there on Corcovado and after a few hundred photos of every angle we could think of it was time to grab our bus to Copacabana Beach. The energy in the air was palpable, there was tons of excitement building and let’s just start by saying Brazilians are crazy at baseline, so when you put 2-3 million (yes, million) on the beach at one time you know it’s going to be a New Years to remember! Almost everyone dresses in white, most jump in the ocean (do this early because later people are lined up peeing into the water), and everyone (including us) throws a flower into the ocean and makes a wish. There was lots of live music (mainly Samba), drinking, and street food. We fell in love with the bacon and caramel popcorn mixed together! Mmmmm it was hard not to give today a Foodie Alert just for that snack. The fireworks show at midnight was spectacular; it ran all along the beaches for miles and well worth squeezing all the way to the beachfront for an unobstructed view. Wee would recommend reserving a balcony room at the Copacabana Hotel for the upscale version of our experience! After a long night we luckily squeezed into an overcrowded city bus and got home safe. This year is already starting out great. By the way, our New Year’s Resolution is to travel more! ;-)


Posted by Tony.Ruby 00:53 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Brazil: Rio: A-mir 24 hours Until New Years--FOODIE ALERT

December 30, 2010

semi-overcast 78 °F

Once again we woke to the sound of rain. We don’t know what is going on with us “bringing the rain” but we decided that it was time to buy an umbrella . . . because whenever you’re carrying an umbrella it doesn’t rain! Ruby really wanted to get another manicure so we found a place—which was not easy ONE day prior to New Years Eve with every woman in Brazil getting ready for the parties?! Starved we were off to find a good lunch, we wound up at Confeiteria Colombo recommended by Nancy and Phil (from Paraty) and got the most delicious fruit tart ever! It had the freshest and juiciest pineapple and mango on it! Then we argued about whether to eat lunch there since Tony didn’t want Brazilian snack/fried food. . this led to a “McDonald’s Moment” which is when we are both so frustrated/hungry/tired that we just end up eating at McDonald’s because anything else is just too much trouble. By the way, “McDonald’s Moments” usually happen every 3 weeks or so. . .and help us keep our sanity. Finally, happy with something in our stomachs, Ruby was on a mission to find a white dress for the NYE party on the beach. We went to tons of different shops until she found the perfect dress at the perfect price for our budget! Tony didn’t have any luck finding the perfect white linen outfit—he thought he looked like a painter in all white! We headed to the beaches for dinner and ended up at a place called Amir which was a hookah Mediterranean spot. We couldn’t have been happier! After two months in South America, the hummus and falafel satisfied our craving perfectly. We checked out the pre-NYE party beach set up (called Revellion in Brazil) going on and then headed back since Tony was a bit tired. On our way back to the hotel we saw a street party going on and decided to get off our bus and check it out. We ended up drinking Caipivodkas in the streets of Lapa while listening to Samba play. Tony even joined in the dancing a little bit—he’s not half bad. We then had a long, dark walk home since we ran out of cash to pay for a bus!


Posted by Tony.Ruby 00:52 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Brazil: Rio: Lost on our Way to Lapa

December 29, 2010

sunny 82 °F

We were awakened by the sound of someone knocking on our hotel door at 8:30am. . . as it turns out Claude at the front desk had somehow assumed that 8:30 was the time we would like to have breakfast delivered to our room. Despite being in a “dodgy” neighborhood, we had quite a pleasant surprise when he delivered fried eggs, fresh fruit, meats, cheeses, bread, cake, coffee, tea and fresh squeezed orange juice every day of our stay! When we walked out the door to go explore we didn’t know it but this would be our only day of actual sunshine during our entire time in Rio. We wanted to find the famous staircase in Lapa made by a Chilean artist who uses tiles from all over the world but we inadvertently ended up walking up to Santa Teresa . The Santa Teresa area is a cool, eclectic, hippy sort of neighborhood with old mansions and sits up on a hill with views of the city. They have cute yellow trolley cars running around (reminded Ruby a little of SF) and some of the loudest rattling buses we have experienced yet! The Museu da Chacara do Ceu has some of the best city views around. We were considering going to Sugar Loaf mountain but it was starting to get cloudy so we decided to skip it. After this major detour we finally did orient ourselves and make it to the famous staircase. It was so fun going down the stairs and taking pictures of our favorite tiles! There are so many that we didn't post all of them. As we walked down the stairs, it was our lucky day and Selaron the artist was sitting right there! Tony really liked the “favela tile art” and purchased one that Selaron so graciously signed for us. Feeling accomplished, we then caught the subway over to Ipanema Beach to watch the sunset and then went under the cover of awnings at Opium (Asian fusion) for a yummy dinner and Ruby’s first Caipivodka with lychee! Needless to say we would be returning to Opium before long. We were pretty exhausted from all the walking so we decided to come home a little early only to find that the internet has not made it to Rio yet, okay well that’s an exaggeration but compared to other parts of South America, finding WiFi here was almost as bad as pulling teeth!


Posted by Tony.Ruby 06:47 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Brazil: Ilha Grande: Lopes Mendes is Not Just a Name

December 28, 2010

semi-overcast 80 °F

With our ferry booked going back to the mainland around 5pm we got up and moving pretty early. We booked a boat to a beach called Manguess on the east side of the island ($12pp) from there we walked about 30 min to Lopes Mendes beach just over the hills on the South side of the island. On the way we encountered the cutest little monkeys (we think? white/black tufted-ear marmosets) hanging out in the trees. They would make this little squeak noise and come down and eat bananas out of our hands. It was pretty amazing and worth the slippery and muddy hike. Lopes Mendes is rated one of the best beaches in the world so of course we had to go and see what all the hype was about. Well, it was pretty amazing, miles of the softest white sand, no buildings and clear blue water. Unfortunately, we wish we had more sun that day! Despite the debris on the sand, big waves and strong currents from the recent storms it was still worth the hike and the trip over. On our way back we stopped at the Bambu Bar which is on the water—you take a little dingy out to get there. Ruby had her first Caipivodka in Brazil and was in love! This one was a mango caipi and had a whole mango cut up into pieces in the drink-YUM! This is also when we met our new friends Gerard, Kieu and the gang from San Jose! It’s nice to see Bay Area folks and they were heading up to Rio as well! We ran back to our hotel to grab our bags---with the muddy dirt paths we actually got to use the backpack function of our rollerbags! After the ferry, Kieu and Gerard ended up offering for us to join them in their private van to Rio. We were grateful because it wouldn’t be another bus ride—yay! Two hours later we arrived in Rio and Tony and I were getting very nervous as the driver pulled up to our neighborhood. . because we had booked a hotel in the Centro area of Rio (about 20 min away from the beaches). The neighborhood seemed a bit ghetto which was probably worsened by the fact that it was dark and rainy outside. We quickly ran into our hotel with plans to meet up with the gang in the next day or so. No one at our hotel spoke English so it was back to charades for us. Our room was clean but the bed felt like a coffee table with a yoga mat on top! At least that’s good for our backs =)


Posted by Tony.Ruby 01:04 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

Brazil: Ilha Grande: The Blue Lagoon

December 27, 2010

semi-overcast 85 °F

There are two ways to get around this large island: your own two feet and boat. It was a clear day in the morning so we were able to see the Pico de Papgaio (Parrot's Beak formation and tallest point on the island). We decided on a boat tour (approx $18 pp) since it had been raining throughout the night and we were worried that the trails would be very slippery and muddy. Our first stop was Lagoa Azul (Blue Lagoon) for some snorkeling. The water was nice but we have been very spoiled by the beaches in some of the other parts of the world. There were lots of fish but not that many species (see told you we’ve been spoiled). The next beach we stopped at was one of the first settlements on the island called Japariz. Not much there just a few old building and an old church called Igreja Da Freguesia De Santana built back in 1843. We stayed there for a little over an hour, took some photos and off we went to our next beach, Saco Do Ceu. This is a small cove with a few beachfront restaurants on the sand. The lunch consisting of chicken strips, fries and the standard rice and black beans was nothing to write home about and our Caipirinhas (Brazil's national cocktail, made with cachaça, sugar and lime) were like drinking gasoline. But, with these amazing views who could complain? We made it back just in time to avoid getting drenched in the late afternoon downpour. We were told by the locals that there are two types of weather in Brazil, hot with rain in the summer and cool with rain in the winter. They don’t call it the Green Coast for nothing! That was ok because it gave us a little time to book our ferry back to the mainland and take a nap with movie time. We ended up eating our leftover shrimp risotto (Yum!) from the night before as we wrote some updates that night :)


Posted by Tony.Ruby 05:20 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Ilha Grande: Charades--Your Phrase: Karate-Chop Pineapple

December 26, 2010

semi-overcast 83 °F

Add another two city busses to our list because we’re off to Brazil’s 3rd largest island called Ilha Grande (pronounced Il-ha Gran-gee). Near the ferry entrance Tony spotted an alley where locals were eating and since Brazil is not very budget-friendly we decided to eat there while waiting for our 1pm ferry to Ilha Grande. Lunch was cheap (around $3 USD), we were surrounded by sailors drinking beer, watching futbol and yelling at each other in Portuguese. After a shared cheeseburger we tried one of the local foods that was like a corndog without the stick. For dessert, we went to the market for fresh fruit. . . I think the guy at the market thought we wanted to karate-chop some pineapples., but after a few minutes of looking at us like we were crazy, he finally did cut the pineapple into slices! An hour catamaran ride to the island dropped us at Abraao Village. There are no cars, buses or paved roads on the island and we were so thankful for the heavy-duty wheels on our bags which worked great over the dirt paths to Overnativa Hostel. where we were staying. We grabbed our bathing suits and explored some nearby beaches. We stopped at a beachfront shack for some sangria and a snack—we highly recommend the pastel de camarao which is basically a Brazilian version of a hot pocket filled with seasoned shrimp—yum! We left just as the standard 5pm downpour began and finally had a chance to watch an episode or two of “United States of Tara” which Tony’s sister Vicki had so thoughtfully given us before we left on the trip. Later that night we put on our trusty raincoats (thanks again REI) and walked down to one of the local beachfront restaurants called Lua y Mar which came highly recommended highly by Christina our awesome hostel manager. We ate on the sand under candlelight as the thunder and lightning continued overhead. The shrimp risotto was delicious and the staple rice and beans on Tony’s plate were better than the fried fish he ordered. Upon arrival to our room Ruby immediately passed out in a carb coma. Tony felt like he was trying to wake up the dead, practically drag her out of bed to take out her contacts.


Posted by Tony.Ruby 05:18 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Brazil: Paraty: I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas!

December 25, 2010

sunny 82 °F

Even though we are on the Costa Verde (Green Coast) of Brazil, it is just like any other Christmas day. . . Tony is up and running around at 8am, he almost always has breakfast alone since Ruby prefers to sleep in. We made a few Skype calls to family (Hi Mom, Hi Pop) before we crossed the street to the beach. Our Christmas meal consisted of beachside grilled garlic shrimp and a chilled glass of white wine. We decided to go sea kayaking and succeeded in making it out to a small island. After that workout, it was unfortunate that the water quality was better at the beach by our hostel so back we went. It always seems so much further on the way back! Another call to the family (Tony is a mama’s boy). A short walk led us into the old town where the cobblestone streets are so uneven that it hurts to walk on them. In one of the main plazas Tony spotted a guy rolling a cart with tons of fresh fruit . . . when he saw the vodka he knew that it was time for a drink! The drink had so many fresh fruits in it that the vendor ended up giving us a whole extra glass at no charge. While searching for a dinner spot we met Nancy and Phil, a couple from Upland, CA whose twin sons just started a new restaurant in Soho called Hudson Clearwater. Nancy is a Spanish teacher and Phil a retired engineer. Our great conversation with these two avid travelers led us back to the fruit stand and we ended up getting several more cocktails there (most of which were purchased courtesy of them!). Obrigado! Nancy also gave Ruby a few tips on speaking Portuguese including that despite being spelled R-E-A-L-S, Brazilians pronounce their currency “hey-ays” because they don’t use the “R” sound so it’s not Rio de Janeiro it’s actually “Hio de Janeiho”!?! Tony and I decided to splurge and eat at one of the nicer restaurants in town, the food was not very good and a 24 Reals ($14 usd) charge for bread put us over the amount of cash we brought . . . Tony had to sweet talk the manager into letting us short pay the bill, it was either that or Dine and Dash! I hope this isn’t a common thing in Brazil since Nancy and Phil had to do the same thing at a restaurant in Rio the night before?!


Posted by Tony.Ruby 04:28 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Brazil: Paraty: Uba-Too Many Buses!

December 24, 2010

sunny 85 °F

Thank god the “Cell Phone Disco” bus ride finally came to an end at 11am dropping us at the hectic bus station in Sao Paolo. . . we will just consider it an early Christmas present that we got a few hours sleep and the karaoke party stopped :) Neither of us speaks Portuguese and this was the first indication that we were going to have a tough time trying to get around like a local---initially we had to resort to pointing and charades. Our plan was to make our way up the Costa Verde (Green Coast) up to an old colonial town calledParaty. . . after figuring out that Paraty is pronounced Para-che we found out that to our dismay the 4 hour DIRECT bus to Paraty was fully booked so we grabbed a burger and hopped on bus #10 to Caraguatatuba which will allow us to connect to #11 in Ubatuba. . This would allow us to connect to #12 to Paraty arriving at 11pm. The Costa Verde reminded us a bit of inner Jamaica--near our friend Makeda's grandma in Mandeville. By the way, the busses in Brazil drive fast, really fast! If you come to this area and get on a city bus hold on for dear life! The first corner we took sent our bags flying across the aisle just about killing some old lady. The driver looked at us with a look as if to say “Ha, rookie tourists”. As we sit here traveling on Christmas Eve (and pondering how strong the guardrails are), we wish we could be with family enjoying a delicious dinner and making cookies for Santa! After a long day of travel we finally arrived at Sereia Do Mar. It’s an adorable, small beachfront hostel on the north side of town. When we arrived there was a party in the street and a Christmas celebration going on inside. It was a warm night, the Gypsy Kings were playing on the stereo, the wine and beer was cold and it was the perfect way to end a long day of travel. We can’t help but think of all our friends and family tonight and hope you all have a Merry Christmas! Love and miss you all! :)


Posted by Tony.Ruby 04:34 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

Brazil: Iguazu Falls: The Toucan Says Our Itinerary is Crazy

December 23, 2010

sunny 86 °F

We started the day off checking out of our room and hauling our bags to the bus station yet again. . this time we are aiming for a new record of 10+ bus rides, one border crossing, a national park and a zoo all in the next 24 hours! Our first bus got us to the Argentinean border, #2 to the Brazilian border where we got dropped off in the middle of nowhere to get our passports checked and #3 to the Urban Bus Terminal, #4 local bus to Iguazu Falls, if you take this one—be sure to hold on tight, especially around the corners! We had a terrific day at the Brazilian side of Iguazu ($23 p/p admission). This view compliments the view we had yesterday in Argentina. This is also the better side if you prefer less walking and more #5 bus rides and elevators through the park! The views are just breathtaking and we definitely got soaked but you don’t get the full effect of La Garganta del Diablo from this side. They have a glass elevator which takes your breath away and an amazing walkway to the edge of the falls. We went for a short hike along the falls and encountered a tapir—unfortunately we weren’t quick enough to catch it on film (sorry Jeffy), the camera was tucked away to stay dry! We then took a #6 bus to the park entrance and walked out to the Parque de Aves (bird park) (admission $18 p/p). As you’ll see from all our pictures, we HIGHLY recommend visiting the birds for more than a few hours. We started off joking about being amateur orinthologists in Ecuador but are now really starting to enjoy bird-watching! It is really rare to see some of these species and we were like little kids running from cage to cage saying “oooooh look at this one!”. There are over 800 species of birds, most specific to South America, including toucans, macaws, emus etc... . It is really amazing to walk through the aviaries (giant walk-through bird cages). Tony had to end Ruby’s conversation with a toucan when he realized it was time to go and catch bus #7 back to the urban bus terminal and from there we picked up our luggage and headed to the international bus terminal on bus #8. At 7:30pm we boarded our bus #9 which we would like to call the “Cell Phone Disco” bus and it was going to be a 15hr trip. We started to regret this bus almost the second we boarded; the passengers were loud and obnoxious speaking only Portuguese. At least four of the passengers spent the night in a “karaoke contest” using their cell phones for music?!? It was going to be a long night. . . Sao Paolo here we come. PS: There are more pictures in our gallery (we try to limit the number we post in our blogs)!


Posted by Tony.Ruby 00:43 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

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