Published: January 9th 2012January 9th 2012
Christmas in Sao Paulo
We have been having so much fun exploring big and beautiful Brazil that we have been neglecting the blog... so, it's catch-up time! A day-by-day would be way too long so we hope you enjoy our city-by-city summary of our Brazillian adventure thus far. Sao Paulo
We arrived by air from Lima on December 21st, and as we were mainly concerned with planning our accommodations over Christmas and New Year's Eve, we spent most of our time here on the computer rather than touring around. That said, we did manage to visit Ibirapuera Park, which is one of the largest city parks in Latin America (sort of like what Central Park is to NYC). It was an extremely hot day (the beginning of summer in Brazil) so we enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the grounds trying not to exert ourselves too much! We also visited Avenida Paulista, the main promenade and business center in the area that is also known for its banks and shopping. Here, on Christmas Eve Eve, we took in the sights of the elaborate Christmas displays and enjoyed the familiar sounds of Christmas carols performed by a local string quartet. Even in warm weather without
Near Santa Tereza
a snowflake in sight, we left Sao Paulo full of Christmas cheer! Rio de Janeiro
We arrived by bus in Rio bright and early at 6:30 am on December 24th. We took a taxi into Copacabana and sipped coffee by the beach whilst locals were still enjoying drinks - all before 8 am! After meeting with an apartment rental company and touring several units we chose the one that suited us best and settled into our 'home' for the next 9 days - a small one-bedroom in a secure building just 3 blocks from the beach! We were so excited to have our own space and a real (albeit small) kitchen all to ourselves. We spent Christmas Eve listening to Christmas music on the iphone, opening some cards from home and skyping with family. On Christmas morning we made a huge breakfast and headed to the beach. Never before have we been sunning in 32 degrees celcius on Christmas day! Later we had a nice dinner of roast chicken and veggies - not quite a turkey but still our own Christmas dinner and delicious! This was definitely the most 'different' Christmas we've ever experienced, and being so far
Relaxing with drinks in hand!
from family, friends and the familiar sights, smells and sounds of the Christmases we've been used to all these years, was difficult and emotional - but it was also very special and we will remember our first 'married' Christmas for the rest of our lives.
We spent the rest of our holiday week taking in some tourist sights, including the quaint neighbourhood of Santa Tereza. The primary means of visiting this area is by tram that takes you up the winding, hilly streets, but we found out that the tram crashed and was not operating! So we arrived by taxi instead, walked around the area, and enjoyed a typical Brazilian lunch called "feijado completo" - a pork & beans stew served with rice, greens, and manioc flour - delicious and really filling! Besides enjoying some sunny afternoons on both Copacabana and Ipanema beaches (complete with cold beers and coconut water :), we also went on a favela tour. Considered dangerous to explore on your own, favelas are the 'slums' of Rio (actually, they are all over the country), and it was very interesting to see how over 20% of the city's population actually lives. The favelas (which are built
One of Rio's largest
on hillsides and have some of the best views in Rio!) were historically controlled by the drug gangs but were recently 'pacified', meaning that there is heavy police presence and the residents no longer need to abide by the strict rules set out by the drug lords. Our impression was that while we wouldn't set up shop in one, the favelas we saw were actually not too bad (especially compared to some of the poorer areas we experienced in Costa Rica). In general, Rio is making lots of changes in order to improve the city in preparation for the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. This was evident, as we felt reasonably safe everywhere we went.
Another highlight of our visit was seeing the largest floating Christmas tree in the world! The tree, located on Rio's Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, is 85 meters tall and was adorned with 3.3 million micro-lights (1.5 km of strings of lights!) this year. It doesn't look like much during the day but was an absolutely beautiful sight all lit up at night.
As we mentioned in our previous post, we visited Corcovado and Christ the Redeemer on New Year's
Arvore de Natal
Complete with presents under the tree!
Eve day, a perfect way to cap off an amazing year of 2011. We went down to Copacabana beach around 5-ish just to see what was developing, and there were already tons of people on the beach, many setting up tents and canopies to secure their spots near the concert stage. After a sumptuous roast beef dinner (Chris has not lost his cooking skills since we've been away!) we watched some other countries ring in the new year on TV, while also keeping tabs on the street party developing at the bar below our apartment and the hordes of people arriving on buses and heading to the beach. Most importantly though, we were keeping tabs on the weather and the rain was only getting heavier! We headed down to the beach around 10 pm and quickly realized that we'd better just get over it - we were going to get soaked! The beach itself was so packed, roughly 30 minutes to walk 2 blocks along the main strip, so we only explored a small portion of the main strip in front of Copacabana hotel. We finally settled on a slightly more comfortable spot on the main street, from where we
Happy New Year!
Fireworks over Copacabana beach
watched the spectacular fireworks display. There are really no words to describe how amazing it was - definitely the best fireworks either of us had ever seen. After ringing in the new year we headed back to the apartment to pop some bubbly and relax a bit before going back to the beach to see David Guetta perform into the wee hours of the morning. All in all, Reveillon 2012 definitely lived up to all the hype and was another experience that we will never forget! Florianopolis (Lagoa da Conceição)
We arrived in Florianopolis by air on January 2nd. Floripa, as it's known locally, is the main metropolis on the Island of Santa Catarina, which is connected to the continent by 3 bridges. After settling into our hostel in Lagoa da Conceição (just steps to the lagoon of the same name) we took a bus to the city centre to explore. We found the public market (built in 1898 and offering lots of fresh fish, etc.), and relaxed in a cute park nearby (with a massive, 100-year-old fig tree) where the local old men were involved in pretty serious games of cards and dominoes. This area is a
Park in Florianopolis
main tourist destination (for foreigners and Brazilians alike) and is a cute little beach town. We only had a couple of days here so we spent most of our time relaxing on some of the 42 beaches. As it was not possible to visit them all (sadly), we chose Praia Mole (home to surfing championships as well as Vegas-style beachside parties) and Barra da Lagoa (a quaint fisherman's village with a family-friendly beach, and a canal that connects Lagoa da Conceição with the open sea). We really enjoyed our time here and would highly recommend visiting this area - it's beautiful, quaint, friendly, relaxing and laid back - some of our favourite things! Manaus
We flew from Florianopolis to Manaus (via Sao Paulo) on January 5th. The flight to Manaus was great, we were on basically a brand new plane and were able to watch two movies, The Hangover 2 and Horrible Bosses - both really funny! Manaus is a base city for visiting the Amazon, so when we arrived we finalized our tour details for departure the next day. As we write this blog we are back in Manaus after exploring the Amazon, but we will save
those details for another post as there is so much to write about! We head to Salvador (the first colonial capital of Brazil) next and then Foz do Iguaçu will be our last stop in the country.
So far, Brazil is exceeding our expectations and even though we don't speak much Portuguese, we have managed to get by in all situations, thanks to the friendly people here and a little help from the google translate app!
Stay tuned for Part 2!
All our love,
Liz & Chris