Well, it’s almost been 4 weeks since I got back from my trip to Brazil and Argentina and I am just now getting to update with details! I apologize, work has been so crazy, and I also got a chance to write a couple of articles for a travel blog (one of my ultimate dreams). Before you dive into the details of my trip please know that it will be very long. And this is just Part 1. I do ramble, overshare, and definitely am TMI sometimes. My synopsis is also like a teenage girls journal, complete with date outlines and stories that make me giggle, so bear with me…I do think I am a kid at heart and this is how my brain functions. HA. But I do hope you enjoy :)
WEDNESDAY JUNE 25TH, 2014
I had to get through a LONG day at work before I actually started my South American adventure. Luckily I was so busy tying up lose ends time eventually flew by and before I knew it I was in the airport shuttle that I booked. I was born in the zodiac sign of extremes - all of my feelings are extremely intense (it's a horrible Scorpio curse), so even though I had been so excited and happy throughout the week leading up to my departure, my nerves were shot and frankly I just felt sick to my stomach. Anyways, back to the airport shuttle. This shuttle did multiple stops, and fortunately I was the first to be picked up. We picked up a few others, and FINALLY were on the way to the airport. What I don't understand is - WHY DO I ATTRACT ALL THE WEIRDOS? This man, probably late 30's/early 40's, found out we were on the same flight to CA (where I was going to meet my friend), and decided he was going to ask me 50 questions...like, "Are you taking the Bart train when you land in CA?" (UM NO I'm not going to let you kidnap me), "Where are you from?" (I guess this is normal, but I don't need any stalkers). The best part was when we got to the airport (and of course he was in the same line as me) he proceeded to walk with me to the counter (UM WE ARE NOT A COUPLE), and became extremely disappointed when he found out I was able to switch my flight from Oakland to San Jose because our flight was extremely delayed. He wished me a tearful goodbye (I didn't even catch his name), and I literally RAN to my gate.
Yes, I'm friendly and yes, I will chat your ear off, but the moment I get the "creepy" vibe I will shut down and hurt you if I need to. I called my parents, who were picking me up from the airport that night, and since I was going to arrive in San Jose around 11:30pm with my flight going to Rio the next morning at 6am, we decided that it would be a waste of time for them to drive me 2 hours out of the way to my hometown in Tracy. So they would pick up my friend/travel companion, Jenny, on the way to the airport and we would have dinner/hang out in San Jose until our flight left.
I love my parents, and I am extremely grateful that they would drive the two long hours to San Jose, hang out with us, and then drive back home. I know they were worried about me...they know I'm pretty fearless, and that I don't usually take no for an answer. I was always the kid who got good grades in school, I was pretty responsible, but they knew that when I wanted something bad enough I worked harder like nothing mattered in the world. That is why I am so thankful that they came to the airport. The part that I was not excited about was that they picked me up and the only place open to eat was Denny's (I just threw up in my mouth a little bit). I ate a burger, Jenny and I got our "do not go off with strangers" lecture (if my parent's only KNEW), and soon we were right back at the heart of the Silicon Valley- the San Jose airport. Not only were we unable to check in our bags, but the airport was
literally closed. Mercury was in retrograde, but we were prepared for any travel delays, cancelled flights, and tears incurred by lost baggage. Been there, done that...a million times over. BRING IT.
What do we do? We turn into the fucking girl scouts. Give us a concrete jungle, and we will gather every comfortable chair in that airport, and make a fort of blissful serenity. We slept probably about 3 hours, until we heard the airport open and we couldn't stand people passing us by, looking at us like we were zoo animals. We were classier than that. We grabbed chocolate croissants (my stomach churned from the lack of bread I've eaten in the months prior), and we hopped on the plane to LAX. We got to LAX, and I realized I wouldn't have been able to shower for about 38 hours until I got to Rio. I have no shame taking a "bath" in the handicap bathroom with the baby wipes that my mom had given me (thank GOD I asked for some). After my luxurious "pick me up", Jenny and I decided to head to our gate. We had a 5 hour flight to Miami, and little miss Jenny wanted to get a drink to help her sleep. We had two more flights, and I was content with my juice box, but we headed to the bar.
There we met Toni from Fresno (who I'm positive is my spirit animal), and was taking tequila shots at 10am. In between shots, he revealed to us that he was renewing his vows in Hawaii, and told us that since we were going to Rio we needed to pack thongs. UM DUH. At the bar, there was also Jeff (somehow everyone thought his name was Chris) who was from DC and was traveling home from doing some extensive Aids Research. They were both questioning how we have traveled so much, because obvi we looked worldy and we had talked about our previous trips...AKA all of our near death experiences. I'm pretty sure they thought we were wealthy, until we mentioned we went to "Sac State", and they burst into laughter and Jeff called us "classy". Toni bid us adieu and was Hawaii bound, and Jeff told us that he was going to visit Toni in Fresno...we warned him and told him NEVER to go there. If he thought Sac State was "classy", he was in for shocker in Fresno. I decided to get us some Kind bars for the trip (which Jenny thanked me for later because we were ravished), and we were Miami bound!
I slept almost the entire flight thanks to 3 Dramamine, and Jenny was pissed at the world (and probably at my slight snoring) staring out the window in the back row. We landed in Miami and immediately felt the World Cup love. I envisioned I would see Pitbull in the airport (I don't know why, nor can I explain why I love him), but I'm pretty sure we saw Marlon Wayans. Oh, and Jenny bought a kids Mexico shirt (I am very jealous of her "midge status"). We ate at the cutest place, and the waiter took pity on us and let us charge our dying phones. We ate more carbs - a reuben sandwich and gluten free pasta - because we had a 8 hour flight ahead of us to Rio. I got a Blue Moon (sometimes I drink like a frat boy), and Jenny got her Gin and Tonic and a Vodka Cranberry - she was DETERMINED to sleep on this leg of our flight. While walking to our gate, airport police sounded an alarm and told us, "NOBODY MOVES". In my mind it was a bomb scare, but ultimately after 2 minutes they let us walk freely leaving us extremely confused. I won't lie, my heart did palpitate. We boarded our TAM flight to Rio, and luckily the man I was sitting next to agreed to switch Jenny - either way, I was getting a shoulder to sleep on so he chose the best option. Jenny had a crush on the guy across the aisle from us, and I have no idea why...he was extremely douchy and seemed to care about nobody's comfort but his own. Ironically we saw him the day we arrived at the Maracana stadium in Rio...ticketless.
Upon arrival to Miami, this is what we see...World Cup enthusiasm!
Walking through the Miami Airport, I saw this beautiful sign...
Jenny's "man crush" on the left, and our TV monitors in the middle. Well, I guess we are going to sleep this entire flight!
SO EXCITED to see this monitor! We were Brazil bound!!!
We then looked up in horror - NO SEAT MONITORS AND NO FANS ABOVE OUR SEATS. What kind of rachet flight were we on? We got over it, calming ourselves down that we were taking a trip that most people dreamed of doing. The most adorable little girl was behind us and wouldn't stop kicking Jenny's seat. She was tempted to strangle her, but restrained because we noticed we got extra blankets. (This later became our curse because we had no room for extra blankets and we felt like we were in a padded insane asylum.) The wine was free and so was our Xanex (my source remains anonymous). We slept like babies, waking up for our occasional, disgusting meals (which foreshadowed what was to come), and later thanked the Lord for the snicker doodle cookies and crackers that we threw in our carry on's.
No ventilation above. I already cannot breathe...
Night shot on the way to Rio...
THURSDAY JUNE 26TH, 2014
We landed in Rio around 6am, fresh from our xanex induced naps. WE WERE IN BRAZIL!!!! (Again, my emotions are extremes.) By some rare act of God, our luggage made it on the three planes that took us to this exotic land. With our customs paperwork filled out to a "T" in our hand, our Brazilian Visa’s ready, and our passports stamped, we attempted to enter the customs line…except when we did, a Brazilian police officer approached us and said that we could exit. Wait, what? I’m pretty sure our girlish good looks did not help us bypass that line (8 hours of bed head and no makeup would prove that), but we took this as a sign from the universe that we were going to have an amazing trip. We anxiously got in the taxi line, and was approached by a man who resembled someone from the Jersey Shore (oh hey muscles...I will call him Tito). He gave us the silent treatment the whole time, and when I rolled down the windows to get a whiff of that fresh Brazilian air, he promptly rolled them up. OK? I wanted to say, “Um sir, your car smells like garbage and I would rather smell the humid air than be confined in this space”, but instead I smiled. Clearly he didn't believe in the scenic route and drove us through the city...which was a tad sketch, and it made me extremely nauseous. He drove like an true Italian (I kind of liked it), cut off buses and mopeds. We made it to Hotel Itajuba in record time, and Tito actually turned out to be really nice and took our heavy loads of luggage all the way to hotel lobby. Please note he knew exactly where our hotel was and did not require any GPS or directions.
Itajuba Hotel ... our home away from home in Rio
Our hotel was probably prettier on the outside, than on the inside. I’m not really picky about accommodations, as long as they are safe and clean. Heck, I’ve even stayed in a hotel in Portugal that turned into a “discotech” at around 11pm (it was really hard to sleep through the intense thumping of the bass vibrating into our room, not to mention trying to shower while people are taking shots in the bathroom). Anyways,we received our 5lb key (which could also be used as a weapon) and a TV remote?, while the room resembled the one we stayed in when we were in Ibiza, but it was only about third of the size. The shower on the other hand, was beautiful and could fit about 10 people, with fire Marshal compliance until you notice the electrical box in the shower...that could very well be the last shower if your life!
Checking in we received our room key and our remote (that we could not figure out how to use)...
Our massive shower...with an electrical box in it...yes, I checked.
We decided we needed to take a quick nap (anticipating we would be out all hours of the night), so we woke up around noon and found out that they had a metro! It's really weird to admit, but I love the smell of the underground metro and I would honestly choose to try and master a metro system (and fail), over taking a taxi. After dropping Brazilian Real's on the ground while trying to pay, trying to figure out which way our card went into the turnstyles, we were on our way to the Fan Fest on the Copacabana Beach. First of all, Winter does not exist in Rio because we were sweating balls. This beach though, is everything that you envision it to be. Beautiful people, the glistening ocean, and upbeat street vendors selling Caipirinhas (we were tempted, but hadn't become reckless yet-give us at least a couple of hours).
Here is a video clip of the Copacabana Beach:
Some sights at the Fan Fest on the Copacabana Beach...
Getting to Fan Fest was a pilgramage...a very, hot and sweaty pilgramage. USA and Germany were playing, and just getting through the sandy walkways to get to the TV screens was an uncomfortable task. Sweat was literally dripping down our backs. So sexy. There were a TON of drunk, obnoxious Americans. I cringed as I heard a couple of them slurring their words, while they insulted other nationalities and spilled their beer on everyone around them. The atmosphere and scene on the beach was absolutely breathtaking: people were playing futbol, vendors were selling country flags (I kind of liked the flag capes), and everyone was partying with reckless abandon. The sand was indescribably soft, and reminded me of memory foam. At that very moment my heart was full, and my wanderlust was at a standstill.
Here are some video clips from Fan Fest...
We suddenly became ravenous and in need of a caipirinha so we decided to have a taste of Brazil's culinary delights. We found a restaurant close to the beach, and although you could see the trepidation in our eyes at the sight of an all Portuguese menu, we ordered our filet mignon with confidence and
passion. Our confidence in our ability to decipher that menu failed when Jenny received scrambled eggs and crunchy circular fries, while I had some sort of brown gravy sauce. After our Brazilian dinner, we were not ready to leave the peaceful rippling waves of the beach so we headed to one of the bars
on the Copacabana. The last caipirinha that we had had together was on a crystal clear beach in Ibiza, tirelessly trying to overcome the sickness of exhaustion that we had fallen ill to on that trip.
The first caipirinhas of the trip...
We watched the Russia vs. Algeria game at a quaint beach bar, had our fare share of Caipirinhas, and then out of no where we were cut off. Really Brazil?! Brazilians practically have Cachaca flowing in their veins, so we were unsure how it was possible that the server was telling us they were out of ice?! Sometimes you have to realize that life is not fair, but it is good because we picked up and moved to the next fabulous beach establishment.
At the point of getting cut off....
After a couple of momentous hours (and many caipirinhas later) we decided to head home, but not
before ejoying some corn from a street vendor. When we got back to the hotel we decided to head out to Lapa (an old co-worker from Brazil told us to go here if we were brave), because it wasn't actually
too far from where we were staying. We got lost a few times, wandering through some sketchy neighborhoods with graffiti simply stating, "FIFA GO HOME". My stomach dropped a little bit, and we both were a little nervous being in this foreign territory, but we decided to continue on. We approached the vibrant nightlife of the Lapa neighborhood, and suddenly sheer excitement came across our faces.
We walked through the never ending crowds of people from all over the world, and ended up stopping a bar/restaurant called Antonios. Immediately upon our arrival, we became friends of the servers, and thanks to our outgoing free spirits, we met some amazing and intriguing people.
Theresa was our favorite, as we willingly tried her vodka caipirinha.
We also met some Swedes (if you knew me, you would know how obsessed I am with them and their culture.) Below is Robbie, and I directly told him that he was not Swedish because he was too "brown"...bwhahah
We definitely had our fair share of spirits. Unsure of the exact location of our hotel, we walked in the direction that we believed we lived. As we approached the Carioca Aqueduct on our walk home, we heard faint sounds of brass instruments and drums. We both turned to each other with an evil smile and walked towards the music.What we saw next was so amazing – a live street band had begun to practice. We must have danced for hours.Suddenly we were a part of the group, getting offered water (which I don’t think we deserved) and suddenly dancing in their inner circle. Tourists were reaching their arms trying to take pictures of the inner circle (where we were), as well as videos of the trombones, trumpets, and drums that filled the streets of Lapa that night. There was a man on stilts playing the drums, people with instruments strapped to their body, and smiles on every person’s face.
Here are some video's from the band that night...
At the end of the night we were really unsure where we lived, and ended up taking a taxi back to the hotel around 4am. It was an AMAZING first night in Rio (Dom and Jenny style), complete with a make out session with a Brazilian (no names shall be mentioned...) :)
In the next post you'll read about my Cristo induced panic attack, the FIFA riot I experienced, and World Cup madness.
Bellisima = "Extremely Beautiful" in Italian, and how i would describe the world, and how I view it through travel.