Sunday, January 31, 2010

Brasilia!

Brazil - guarana, samba, fashion, Cristo Redento, favela, bikinis, and meat! It was an amazing place to be sent to for work, especially after living a few months of cruel winter days in New England. It was almost 80 degrees and humid every day. The beach called my name every minute. We were in Sao Paolo for the first half of the trip; not much there really, just a big city, full of traffic. As for food, believe it or not we ate sushi almost every night as there was a sushi restaurant down the street from our hotel.

They did not have an English menu at all, so luckily we had our Brazilian counterparts ordering pretty much everything we pointed to our first night there. What else can I say about Sao Paulo? Well, the partying is pretty fun. Brazilians know how to party. We ended up at a club at 11 pm and the partying barely started at that time. Clubs are the best places to people watch. Can I just say that I had this vision that Brazilians (men and women) would be hot because of models like Adriana Lima and Ana Beatriz Barros. However, that's not quite the case. They have nice bodies, and nice booties (female booties that is), but the face area... well, not so much. I didn't mention Gisele as I personally do not think she is hot. As one Dutch guy mentioned in the plane from Sao Paulo to Rio "Out of 30 girls in a club only 10 are hot. In Argentina, Out of 30 girls, 29 are hot" - so take note single boys, Argentinian girls are smoking hot and other people I traveled with mentioned the same thing. Back to the partying, as we ordered our drinks at the bar, we were told it was open bar all night... and open bar is a huge hangover just waiting to happen. Caipirinhas flowed like Niagara Falls. I even had the bartenders make strawberry caipirinhas with sparkling wine. Oh what a massive hangover it was!



Please blame the caipirinhas for the blurry picture. This is the clearest picture I have from that night!





Four days of eating and drinking, I had enough of Sao Paulo. It was fun but not quite an adventure. I was looking forward to getting on a plane to go to Rio to really start the adventure. As I sat in the plane heading to Rio, I was daydreaming of all the adventures I wanted to experience in Rio: visiting Cristo Redentor, paragliding, surfing, shopping, favela touring, and of course, pigging out! Unfortunately, I only got to do four of the planned adventures mentioned above.

View of Rio from the airplane.



I started my day with one coco (coconut) everyday.




Nothing like drinking fresh coconut water every morning by the beach. As I mentioned, I was there for work, so we went shopping, a lot. I should explain that my job involves traveling around the world to see what the trends are in the global fashion market, so visiting boutiques and malls is a big part of our agenda. Although we worked a lot, we also took the time to eat a lot as well. Every meal was big and heavy. Nothing about Brazilian eating was light. There was always rice and meat... and seafood was never far behind. My mouth is watering while I blog this, but I miss all the traditional Brazilian foods: cheesy bread shaped like a ball, black beans with smoked meats (sausage, pigs feet, tail, beef), rice, the crab dish, flan, dolce de leite, and fresh fruits.



Words cannot describe the colorful flavors that my mouth experienced in Rio, so here are some images for you to savor:

Guarana - best way to describe it is a combination of gingerale, sprite, and bitters. I thought it would give me more enegy than Coca Cola, but they're about the same.

Alessandro E Frederico - probably one of the best Italian restaurants I have ever had. If you ever visit Rio and stay at the Intercontinental (which I do not advise!), definitely check this place out.

Appetizer - Salad with grilled shrimp and grilled bread with goat cheese. SHOW DE BOLA! (Show de Bola is a Brazilian term to describe something is awesome or amazing)

Lunch - Some sort of tender steak with a soy mushroom sauce, accompanied by brocolli rice, and fresh vegetables.

Day 2 of Rio, we wandered around Copacobana then stopped at some hotel by the beach. It was just a delight eating amazing seafood and watching the head high waves at the same time... and of course, it was entertaining to watch the men and their sungas (Brazilian word for Speedo).

Crab Dish - This dish was definitely passed around and the whole bowl was spotless after we ate. If I have to guess, they sauteed some onions, tomatoes, garlic, added the crab meat, seasoned with salt and other magical seasonings and they cracked about three eggs and mixed all of them up together and sprinkled cilantro and green onions on top. Show de bola for sure!








View from the restaurant - Sunga and waves, what more can you ask for?

Day 3 Churrascaria - of course we went to a Brazilain barbecue. I wish I had more pictures but I was too busy eating and I always had the green card up to say "Yes, please" more meat.
If you are ever in Ipanema, go to Porcao! (http://www.porcao.com.br/). Great desserts too!





Day 4

Feijoda - Traditional Brazilian dish with black beans and smoked meat that comprises of pigs feet, tail, beef, and sausages. There's always a side dish of sauteed garlic and collard greens. Holla!

Favela Favela tour - favela is the Brazilian word for slum. Rio is full of favelas. I had no idea what I was getting myself into during this tour. The tour guide (who lives in the favelas) mentioned that before he left his house the day before, he heard fifteen shots fired by his door. He said he is used to the police shooting at people. I don't quite know the history of the political problems in the favelas but you know the system is backwards when the citizens of the favelas trust the druglords (they offer protection to the residents) more than the police. We were told not to take pictures of anyone with a gun (especially not the cops). As sad as the conditions were in the favelas, there was such beauty and kindness in the eyes of the people that live there. The culture itself in that environment was breathtaking and the people were very welcoming. The tour was a combination of driving and walking. We were in the heart of the favela experiencing the every day lives of the working class Brazilians. Rocinha - the biggest favela in Rio. They build upward to get more people into their community.



In the heart of the favela



Music - During our favela tour, we were brought up into this alleyway that seemed like it would reach the heavens. When we finally got up there, the view was breathtaking and even more breathtaking were these young drummers. The beats were so loud, it tugged at my heart strings. I wanted to get up and dance, and finally, we were invited to dance with the dancers dressed like showgirls with feather headpieces. The music and the dancing made me forget the sadness of life below us.


video


Cristo Redento

Our last adventure in Rio was seeing Cristo Redento up in the mountains. Wow! I am in no way religious (but raised in a very Catholic country), this place was amazing. It took a good 45 minutes to an hour to drive up. It was a bit cloudy that day but the sight was still great. We saw some monkeys halfway up and some tropical fruit in the woods all around us; it was so tempting to get out of the van and just run in the woods to see if I could eat as many fruits as I could and challenge myself to survive in there a la Survivorman. I bet I could survive out there just eating fruits, but who knows what kind of crazy animals are out there.



Misc Photos:

The one that got away...

Kids - Young street entertainers trying to earn their living. This reminds me of the movie The City of God. I hope the best for them.



Sunday street fair in/near Leblon




Copacobana street pattern


I'm going to miss Brazil, but I know I will be back. I brought back with me souvenirs as well as vivid memories. I learned many life lessons in Brazil. The biggest lesson I learned is appreciation. Appreciate what you have as life is truly beautiful.

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