The art of unplanning travel is tougher than it sounds, yet unlocks many rewards for the wary adventurer…
Seven waves to sea in the New Year
I have wanted to see New Years Eve or ‘Reveillon’ in Copacabana since before my first trip to Brazil in 2005. That first time, I changed my plans at the last minute and missed out on the Carioca revelry that year, so this year nothing was going to stop me… the wait was over.
I had bought a cheap air ticket online, and made my way to the airport in São Paulo. It was an odd setup, as it appeared that everyone had the same gate as me. There werecrowds of people gathered around, all seemingly assigned the same gate. But after the computer, or clerical error was discovered, one helpful guy came down to scream out where flights were leaving from… every few minutes. It seemed like every flight had a gate change, frustrating even the locals, prompting one woman to get up and yell out, “Meu Deus, imagina A Copa” (My God, just imagine the World Cup).
This was the first, but not the last time I heard this current saying around Brazil. Anytime a system was slightly broken anywhere, the humorous Brazilians would just laugh it off and imagine the anticipated chaos of The Cup.
Then it was time for my gate to change, and I was jetting off to Rio. Choosing airports close to the city can be gold for domestic travelers. Congonhas in São Paulo, or Santos Dumont in Rio, can shave your taxi fare or travel time in half, so choose wisely, and don’t. just go with the main international airports you might have heard of. Santos Dumont is an airport pretty bang in the centre of the city, and it’s a beautiful way to get into Rio.
When I lived in Ipanema for a few months in 2005, I fell in love with the place, so there was no question of where I was going to stay this time around. I’m an Ipanema boy through and through…
Both Ipanema and Copacabana are some pretty impressive stretches of beach in Rio de Janeiro. There is always a bit of rivalry between Copacabana and Ipanema as to which beach is better… but for Reveillon, ‘Copa’ wins hands down. I headed down to the beach for the last rays of sun from 2013, before heading across to Copacabana, all within walking distance from Ipanema.
Transport shut down pretty early, so you had to give yourself time to walk to your desired location. Copacabana beach is the place to be and usually the best action happens in front of the Copacabana Palace, in terms of free shows and crowds. Usually they score some pretty big acts, and it’s worth checking who might be performing at one of the three or so stages constructed on the beach.
I like the equality of New Years in Rio. In Sydney, the fireworks are amazing, but everyone seems to be fighting for the best positions to view them. I remember sometimes starting at 10 in the morning to make a day of it in Sydney just to reserve a good spot, and slowly watch it erode throughout the day as the crowd presses closer. In Rio, anyone who makes it to the four kilometre stretch of beach has a commanding view.
I celebrated New Years at a friends place in Copacabana over a sumptuous dinner with amazing Brazilian dishes, (thanks Marcos and Felipe) and with fifteen minutes to go before 2014, we walked the 2 streets down to the beach, and made our way to the shoreline, champagne in hand. (Brazil’s lack of laws regarding alcohol in the street or anywhere are a real boon – and rampant alcoholism doesn’t seem to abound.)
Midnight struck, and the sky grew red with fire as the fireworks got underway. It was 17 minutes of sheer beauty, with a scope of view to rival any IMAX screen or tennis match, but at least the champagne dulled any neck aches.
As with any Brazilian festival there seem to be a few traditions that are worth getting into. For New Years, you wear predominantly white, with splashes of to their colours that signify what you hope for in the year ahead. Red for love. Yellow for money. Blue for peace. Green for hope. Just to name a few… And then there is the presenting of offerings to Iemanjá, an Orixa from the Candomble religion, and the goddess of the sea.
After midnight, scores of people head to the sea to offer their gifts of flowers or other presents for Iemanjá into the sea. I’ve heard that it’s good if your offerings are taken out into the sea, as if they return back to shore it’s not a great omen for the year ahead.
Then you just have to jump seven waves in a row, and your luck is all sorted for the year ahead. No one seems to know exactly where this tradition came from, but it likely relates to Iemanjá, who is the mother of all the other orixas, a spirit of water – her favourite number is seven after all.
So regardless of whether you put your luck in destiny, or your destiny with the gods, add New Years at Copa to your bucket list… it will be a worthy addition.
Clock on to party
Brazil sets it’s clock to a different beat than Australia.
In general, though each area is somewhat different, they get up a little later in the morning, have lunch around 1 or 2pm, dinner after 9pm and if you’re heading out to the clubs, well they only get underway after midnight, so best wait till 1 or 2 to arrive. 🙂
The night life in São Paulo is amazing to say the least. Throw together a group of happy people, a few cheeky beers or caipirinhas, some great music and a willingness to get up and dance till dawn, and you start to get the idea. São Paulo loves to stay up late and shake it’s booty all night long.
So it was that I found myself at Gambiarra, an awesome party on Sunday nights, hosted at two different venues around the city. It’s three floors of pumping sweaty fun, and no one gets to have a sense of personal space at this club.
The music is amazing when you’re there and ready to dance… Some of the latest hits to get the Brazilians pumped up include Naldo, who asks you to just choose either coconut water or vodka, and then get your ass on the dance-floor; or Anitta, who’s all about the power. If that doesn’t get you going then you can try some of these tunes which I came across…. This older one translates roughly to ‘Slut‘ and features the weediest gangster I’ve ever seen…, or ‘Kisses for the Trannies‘, a diverse bunch of future earworms to say the least.
Make sure you check out if you’re going to a party, or just a standard club night, as they have quite a different atmosphere. And take your ID, usually a photocopy of your passport is fine, and some cash and perhaps a credit card to pay your way.
The line-ups are killers at the parties and bigger clubs, so be prepared for a bit of a wait. There’s the line to get in, the line to pay the entry fee, the line to swap some cash for drink tickets (best to know how much you’re likely to drink upfront), then the line for the bar itself… Doubling up on drinks can be a good idea. The good news is that everyone in the lines are probably friendly, so say hi and the time should fly.
For something a bit lighter but just as fun, try Teta Jazz bar in Pinheiros. I loved seeing the locals jam live to Miles Davis tunes. They also serve some mean bruschettas and caipirinhas. A small sampler is here. Thanks to Conrado for showing me this place 🙂
So go out in Sampa and have some fun. Don’t be dance shy either, only Brazilians seem to be able to dance samba, so just give it a go, and don’t care what you look like.
There’s something so wrong about this…
Meet Brahma Zero… Just like Coke Zero, Brahma Zero has all the flavour of the original, just without any alcohol. I’m not sure this will have quite the same impact as Coke Zero did… Here’s the ad that might convince you otherwise. >> http://youtu.be/-KcshJpr3P8
Impatiently Waiting – Acabando Pra Chegar no Brasil…
And so, after a mad rush to finish the year, I was setting off again for another trip to Brazil, eventually – I changed the ticket about 5 times and wasn’t sure it was ever going to happen. It was an intense 2013, and I was really beginning to feel it towards the end – with back pain problems throughout the first half and the ensuing surgery, then a new opportunity to work in Indonesia with my company in February 2014 meant lots of changes were happening in my life. (It was just like puberty all over again… everything changes). There was a job to finish up, a house to move, and meanwhile, bags to pack for Brazil.
People often ask me why I keep going back… and there’s no one answer to give them. It’s a little bit of everything all bound together. It’s all about the food, the music, the people, the vibe and the awesome places to visit in such a diverse, friendly country.
Over the next few weeks I hope to share a little of each aspect with you, and maybe one day you might head over to Brazil too. It can be difficult to get around at times, and sometimes you just feel like banging your head against a wall when it comes to processes here, but for those that push through, the rewards are most definitely worth it.
If you get frustrated by slow walkers, or find yourself wanting to slap the back of the head of that person in the line at the store who can’t make up their mind, or generally get frumpy if you have to wait more than two minutes… then you’re going to probably have a love-hate relationship with Brazil.
Everything has a ‘fila’ or a line… and why have one line, when you can have three, one after the other… you just need to have a game plan for your down time. Socialising, flirting or public displays of affection while waiting in line are completely expected and acceptable. I remember reading once that a great way for two people to meet in Rio, was to crash their cars together, and get a number… There is always a way, or ‘jeito’.
I’ll elaborate a little on the lines in a bit, but for now… it’s just good to know that I’m back in Brazil again – I really do miss this place.
Somewhere between Sydney and São Paulo, my bags got left behind, which was a first for me. There was a connecting flight in Santiago, and with a few delays early on we had 30 minutes to get off the plane and on to the next. If you have connecting flights and if traveling with your bags the whole way is important to you, allow enough time at each stopover so they can connect the dots, and perhaps budget a bit of time for delays. Otherwise you might find yourself down at the shopping mall picking up some new undies, socks and anything else that comes in your size… Or perhaps pack at least one change of clothes in your hand luggage, I know I will from now on. #traveltipsFTW
Back to Brazil…
Ok… It’s been a long time coming, but I’m FINALLY getting back to Brazil. I fly out on Tuesday morning… so it’s great to see that the Tales of The Brazilianaire Vol 3 are getting underway at last.
It’s been a tumultuous year, with first the back injury in Jan that delayed my original trip date, then the subsequent surgery in August and recovery. Following what were 9 of the worst months of my life so far, things really turned around in a big way.
Aside from the additional mobility that the surgery has allowed, I’m also about to go through a bit of life and sea change. When I’m back from Brazil, I’ll be moving to Jakarta, Indonesia to tackle a new role with work.
Any suggestions for a blog name for the Indonesian travels and work adventures are gratefully welcome. Add your suggestion below… But I digress…
Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Morro de Sao Paulo and an as yet undetermined destination in Brazil await…
So sit back, strap in and prepare for round 3 of the Tales of The Brazilianaire. – Adam
Brazil ate my toe! [Not for the squeamish]
So I arrived back home and thought, wow – great trip! Nothing bad happened.
That’s about the moment when I should have touched some wood or something, as little did I know, but I’d brought back a little something extra special with me from Brazil, and yes, as the title of this post suggests, it was in my foot.
About a few weeks after being back in Oz, I noticed my foot was damn itchy, and there was this crazy red anger happening in between my big toe and its neighbour – you know, where the flip flop connector bit sits. I decided I must have had tinea or something, so I grabbed the treatments and sat back peacefully to get rid of the itch.
A month later, no change. So I went to the doctor, and he thought some kind of bacterial infection or irritation, so started treatments for that…
Another month later I was back at the doctor, and I said to him that it felt like little tiny things inside me eating their way through my toe. Literally the red lines on my toe would move… albeit very slowly. He said that he’d heard stranger things before! Anyway, it was like painfully itchy, and the lines of redness were slowly traversing my toe. It was like a new vein popping up on my toe, with the line moving every few weeks.
He didn’t have any suggestions at that stage, but gave me a call the next day to say that he thought he knew what it might be. Later that night, he was reading a medical journal and came across a story of a guy who’d been travelling in South Amercia and had symptoms very similar to mine.
So what was this mystery beastie? Cutaneous larva migrans… (Wiki them later…) Basically they are parasitic larvae that eat flesh, but can only hang around the outer layer, just under the skin.
Anyway, it turns out the medication for treatment is kind of hard to find in Australia. I was going crazy from the itchiness. It was intense – I mean, these little fellas are literally eating away at my toe – about 0.5 mm each day.
Anyway, over the course of a few months, they had made there way from between my two toes, to the far side of my big toe, then finally they came to rest, and by rest I mean die, under my toenail at the base near the cuticle.
The result? One ugly toe… heheh but the good news is that it will be growing out and it looks like there is a fresh nail underneath. Woohoo!
So a warning when travelling… Wear appropriate footwear and cover any cuts you may have even if they are small. Take that extra little bit of care, because there are some crazy ass things out there in the world.
I don’t regret any of my travels for a second. And people sometimes go, Brazil? Why would you? My answer – it’s my favourite place on earth. It comes with its own problems, just as anywhere has, but the people, culture, music, spirit and natural beauty of the place far outweighs any reason not to go.
See you for the next adventures of the Brazilianaire! 2012? 2013? Who knows yet…
On the plane to Buenos Aires, the tinge of sadness and iminent imact of reality started to overwhelm me. After a short flight to BA, it was some downtime for me and the other Aussies waiting for teh return flight to Sydney. Mike Munro (This is your Life, 60 Minutes) was hanging around waiting as well…
All the Aussies banded together, as they do, and helped each other order something palatable from the cafe using broken Spanglish…
The Qantas 747 was the one that was painted red, with aboriginal artwork all over it, and I must say it filled me with a sense of pride to see.
On the plane I sat next to a young Japanese guy who was heading home to be with his family. While they lived nearby the Tsunami affected areas, his entire family was luckily all safe from the devastation.
The most amazing moment on the way home, was opening the windows halfway through to see parts of Antarctica out the window… awesome!
On landing, and after a quick trip through the Smartgate and quarantine, I was greeted by a rather enthusiastic 3-year old nephew, Morrison. He ran over screaming “Uncle Abby!” 🙂 It was the best welcome home!
Final Farewells in Sampa
As I was only going to be staying in Sao Paulo a few days, I wanted to be right in the epicentre of all the action, Avenida Paulista.
I found an awesome pousada in Jardims that had a really charming feel to it, all while a stonesthrow (with a slingshot perhaps) away from my favourite places.
Livararia Cultura – a bookshop to beat the pants off any I’ve seen… (see picture above for just one of the many areas within this megaplex of literacy) I love the giant dragon in the middle!
Frans Cafe – even with the irregular table service, you come back to have the great coffees, cakes and of course, to be seen.
MASP & Parque Triannon – both opposite each other on Avenida Paulista, these places are both great spots for the eyes to take a deserving break from the monotony of Sao Paulo’s endless cement buildings. It’s a big city after all, with more than 22 million in wider Sao Paulo.
Conjunto Nacional, Rua Augusta, Shopping Frei Caneca – all fantastic spaces to meet, eat and feel a part of it all…
All too soon it was teary farewells and I was once again on a plane, headed for Buenos Aires, then home…
(Thanks Brazil! Another awesome trip!)
Sao Paulo – Restaurant Week!
Last time I was in town, it was Fashion Week – this time it was Restaurant Week, and I have to say, it is the BEST IDEA EVER!
Sydney, are you listening? Feel free to steal it… and soon!
All the top, and I do mean top restaurants in Sao Paulo create a special one-week only set menu for around 30-40 Reais ($25 AUD more or less) which includes an entree, main and dessert.
It’s a busy week, and the hip, social scene of Sao Paulo taketo the streets every night to take advantage of the bargains and experience some of the finest food the country has to offer for a fraction of the usual cost.
We trundled our way along to the already packed ‘Capim Santo’, where I was so tempted by the other normal menu, I ended up ordering from the usual menu for the normal price. I was not disappointed! A flavoursome Baiano dos Dois, fantastic entrees with flavours from the north of Brazil all tantalizing my tastebuds. It was a great way to say farewell to friends Ricardo and Carol. Saudades!