Brazil - Porto Alegre

Published: May 20th 2017
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David here...

As Suzanne has mentioned, the airport at Foz was awful. Once you were through the security there were no amenities or shops, just one big, crowded area where the gates are. We passed the time reading, I'm currently working my way through the Jack Reacher novels. The plane was a small, propeller plane and we'd been allocated seats 1A and 1B but had to move as it was an emergency exit and we don't speak Portuguese, no real hassle. The flight was uneventful, though we did get soft drinks and a generous pile of snacks, which was a surprise as we were on Azul Airlines, the Ryanair of Brazilian air travel.

We arrived in Porto Alegre at 20:30 and promptly got our bags and walked the short distance between Terminal 2 and Terminal 1 (there is a shuttle bus, but it only took a few minutes to walk). From T1 there is a 'People Mover' to the nearby metro station. We paid the R$1.70 fare each and the monorail turned up after a few minutes. This is linked up to the metro so is the same ticket. From the monorail station it was downstairs to the metro, which we just missed but another arrived after about 10 minutes or so.

We were staying just a few minutes outside the historic centre, and were soon at the Mercado metro stop. We had read that you should not walk around POA late at night, so we thought about getting a taxi for the 15 minute walk as it was now 21:15. We stepped out onto the street and found it still quite busy and bustling, so we did end up walking again. There was only one part where the road went through an underpass area where homeless people were sleeping which was uncomfortable, but again, we had no issues. In fact, once through that section, the area was quite Bohemian, with bars, music and people on the streets with drinks... on a Tuesday.

Our hotel was the Eko Residence and was brilliant! We had a huge room with a microwave and fridge. The hotel also sold cakes, frozen foods, drinks and snacks. After settling into the room I was hungry so bought a pasta ready meal and used the microwave in the room. I have to say, it was delicious. Not dissimilar to what I would make myself at home... maybe even slightly better. We were quite comfortable in our hotel room.

The next day started with a lovely breakfast, not disimilar to the ones we had at the Bogari in Foz. There were eggs, cereals, cakes, hot foods, cold meats, tons of bread, fruit, juices and coffee. We left feeling full and not requiring lunch. The hotel was a bargain for the price. After showers we finally headed out into Porto Alegre.

We decided to wander round the Centro Historico to get our bearings and see some of the architecture. We went to the Prefeitura Municipal de Porto Alegre, Praca da Alfandega which has the Santander Cultural centre, the Museu de Arte and a couple of statues on it, the Theatro Sao Pedro, Solar dos Camara and the Cathedral Metropolitana. All of which are stunning buildings with some amazing features to them, though it was sad to see them covered in needless graffiti. As the sun was shining we spent some time just sitting in the main square watching the world passby, which was really nice. We did eventually go to a set of galleries called the Casa de Cultura Mario Quintana, supposedly a warren of galleries, installations and studios. There wasn't much there really, the main highlight being the building itself, which used to be the Majestic hotel and was very grand.

We got back to the room to do some more planning and to listen to Southampton draw 0-0 with Man Utd before heading out for food. Porto Alegre is supposed to be the home of churrasco, so we hit Churrascaria Giovanaz, a highly rated place 12 minutes walk from our hotel. Unlike the last place, there was not a buffet. The waiters brought a selection of sides to the table and other waiters served the meat. The sides were lettuce, pickled onions, a pickle selection, rice, potato salad and really, really crispy chips. Within 2 minutes of sitting down, we had meat on our plates, sides all over the table and beer in our glasses...and that was how it remained until we could eat no more. The sides were replenished quickly, the meat came round much quicker than you could clear your plate and was not as salty as the previous place in Foz. I even tried the traditional chicken heart, which was lovely. This suited us much better than the place in Foz, where having a massive buffet just meant we wanted to try everything and filled up on stuff other than meat. In this place, the sides were there to complement the meat. We thoroughly enjoyed it, and at R$90 (£22) for both of us, including beers, it was a bargain. Highly recommended.

After another lazy start to the day, we spent the afternoon wandering round the Moinhos de Vento area of Porto Alegre, the richer, more upmarket side of town. We spent some time in a couple of parks just people watching before heading back to the hotel, after stumbling across a Body Shop where Suzanne bought some perfume. Not the most action packed or rammed full day but as the sun was shining it was nice to be outside.

The evening meal was at a local place near out hotel called Cia da Picanha. We had steak in breadcrumbs and chicken in breadcrumbs, both smothered in cheese and tomato sauce and with chips and rice. Tasty enough and cheap. We ended up back in the room with a bottle of Brazilian red wine (very sweet) and a couple of beers, listening to music, playing cards.

Our final day in POA started with us checking out at 12:00 and heading to the nearby Park Ramiro Souto. Again, the sun was out so we stayed there for about an hour before jumping on the 149 local bus to the Iberê Camargo Foundation gallery. It is supposed to be the jewel in the crown of galleries in POA. It was alright, some OK bits of art housed in a nice building but I felt they could do more with the space.

We then popped to a nearby shopping centre for a rather odd and not very tasty coffee before deciding to walk back to the hotel area, about an hour away. We had the time as our bus out of Brazil did not leave until 22:00. We passed the very impressive Beira Rio Stadium stadium on the way back, where SP Internacional play their home games. Once back in town, we went to a Football bar near the hotel where we got pints of Kolsch and Stout before going to Margille Pizzeria for food. Friendly, but again another somewhat disappointing South American pizza.

Then it was back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and a 20 minute walk to the Rodoviaria bus station where our overnight EGA bus left from. We checked in, had to pay the R$7 departure fee on credit card as we'd used up our money already and boarded the bus 30 minutes later, leaving our passports with the attendants who sort out all the departure and immigration for you while you sleep on the bus. And then it was bye bye Porto Alegre and bye bye Brazil.

As I mentioned in the first blog from Brazil, it was not a place we were that fussed about visiting really. Like Australia on our last trip, it has surprised us in many ways; the cheap beer and cocktails (once out of Sao Paulo), the lack of licencing laws, the beautiful beaches, the amazing local food and of course, Iguassu Falls. Morro de Sao Paulo has shot Brazil up to near the top of the list of our favourite places we've ever been. I would be more than happy to go back to Brazil if the opportunity ever arose.

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