three weeks in Brazil

We’ve been away for just over 3 weeks and we’ve seen so much, but it has just flown by. Brazil is huge and people come to visit only Brazil for months on end. At home our trip seemed exotic and unusual. As soon as you arrive in a hostel you realise everybody had the same idea as you and they have either come from your next destination or are going there next too. We’ve all taken an entire country and reduced it to Rio Ilha Grande ParatySao PauloIguazu Falls. It’s enough to make anybody feel like a total cliché.

Nobody we’ve met since Salvador seems too bothered to go there though. An idea we’ve encouraged. No offence Salvador, you aren’t bad, you just aren’t Rio. Try not being full of armed police. Just a thought.

And clichés we may be, but much better a cliché reducing Brazil to a list of cities than a cliché working a job they hate for 2 years and constantly whining about it. Ugh.

It’s lovely to meet all the other clichés too. From England and Scotland, Germany, Australia, Denmark and the US, among others. You find yourself in little troupes of nice people who you barely know, except that they’re from Sheffield and they don’t know what to do with themselves so they’re in South America for 6 weeks, as well as a list of places they’ve visited and will visit. And in our troupes we’ve visited Christ the Redeemer, Ipanema beach, Lopes Mendes beach on Ilha Grande (supposedly one of the best in the world, yeah, it was pretty good) and a huge selection of waterfalls and lagoons in Paraty.

There are also people you can’t stand. But that’s fairly everyday for Oliver and I. Mostly pairs of obnoxious Brits (I know, pot and kettle). But you’re polite, or you avoid them, or you change hostel as we did in Ilha Grande for a bunch of boring reasons. Obnoxious Brit couple, leaking shower, everywhere smells of wee.

I already feel like a hostel connoisseur, as does anybody that stays in a few. I’m after aircon, plentiful toilets and showers, somewhere other than a bed to sit and do nothing, halfway decent internet, a kitchen, a washing machine, a pleasant owner and a smashing free breakfast. A hostel pet cat, a reading light and good wifi is like hostel paradise. All for under R$38 a night please (about a tenner).

Soon Brazil will turn into Uruguay, a place with even less recommendations than Salvador, and then Buenos Aires, which I am so very excited for. But from Brazil I’ll miss cups of icy acai, lethal caipirinhas and warm and chewy pao de queijo. Brazilians put sugar in everything it seems, so I’m sure to experience a crash when I leave. Sugar in fruit juice, sugar in bread, sugar made into alcohol.

Before we leave though we’ll head to Sao Paulo, not especially popular (except for the 19 million people who live there) and Iguazu Falls, recommend and adored by everybody I meet. That people dismiss Sao Paulo encourages me and I can’t wait to see the busy streets filled with Oscar Niemeyer designs, visit Liberdade for sushi half the price of Rio’s and hang out with two of those previously mentioned troupe members. This little quote makes it sound especially appealing, probably because I usually live in Manchester: “The city, which is also colloquially known as “Sampa” or “Cidade da Garoa” (city of drizzle), is also known for its unreliable weather, the size of its helicopter fleet, its architecture, gastronomy, severe traffic congestion and multitude of skyscrapers”.

Looking forward to the city of drizzle.

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trams and tiles, Santa Teresa, Rio

In Rio we stayed in Lapa, but first in beautiful Sante Hostel in Santa Teresa. I was totally smitten. The streets are hills and the trams must be vertical, though we didn’t see any. It was hot as hell and we wandered for a few days in the relatively quiet neighbourhood.

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before we left

We spent a week with family and friends in Corby before leaving the country. We spent Bonfire Night in the garden, with a good view of the incredible Corby fireworks. If you miss the Corby fireworks, you essentially miss out on any public money that you are going to benefit from. Corby may have drug and drink issues, high rates of teen pregnancy and famous incidents of violence, but my word does it have the best fireworks display I’ve ever seen. Don’t forget the newest train station in the country (probably).

Regardless, I had a lovely week. My Mum and Dad organised a lovely dinner so we could see my family before we left and Max and Aurelia came to visit too.

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moqueca and beaches in Diogo

After leaving the rain behind in Ilha Grande, we have a cute hostel in Paraty with internet and a puppy. Today is for doing nothing at all so expect dozens of posts and dozens of pictures. These are from Diogo, in Bahia, Brazil. Thank you Mum and Dad for this lovely little hideaway treat.

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around Rio this week

I’ve had a moment to upload some pictures from the fancy camera. Though every post is an experiment in presentation, so sorry about that. Here are a few pictures from our week in Rio, now coming to an end. We leave tomorrow for Ilha Grande and I’ll be sad to leave Rio behind. 

Some of the pictures below are from our touristy trip to Christ the Reedemer, a trip more about the view than the huge Jesus. Some from our second hostel, Books. We stayed first in peaceful Santa Teresa and then in noisy, bold Lapa. They were totally different, I loved them both. Lapa is a good point to see the rest of the city from, buses every 30 seconds to Copacabana, Botofogo, blah blah blah. We wandered around Central, taking pictures of Rio’s finest modern buildings, many simultaneously ugly and beautiful. We didn’t make it to the Ministry of Education (the first modern building in Rio, designed by Oscar Niemeyer, Brazilian architect) but I saw it from a bus and it was almost more to casually view it, as if my everyday is sprinkled with Google Image worthy architecture, than to make the pilgrimage.

We went to Copacabana beach on Tuesday and Ipanema beach today and Ipanema won. The waves, the water, the cheese on a stick. And I’ve picked up a copy of Gone Girl from this hostel and I’m enjoying it so much. I look forward to many more days on the beach, reading, eating herbed halloumi.

What else? Good and bad food, delicious caipirinhas creating unexpected bar tabs to be settled upon checkout, terrible hangovers as a result, atmosphere, heat, lots of assorted and interesting acquaintances acquired, mediocre crumbs of Portuguese learned. An amazing, hot, busy city. I’d come back and stay for a long time.

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quick pictures of Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro

A few days ago in Diogo we were desperately searching for a hostel in Rio for this weekend. I probably could have booked that in May but somehow (through laziness) I didn’t. We found one hostel in beautiful Santa Teresa that wasn’t booked because it just opened on Thursday. It’s called Sante Hostel and it’s at the top of the highest hill. Our taxi driver was less than happy manoeuvring up dozens of steep, cobbled streets only to find half of them blocked off. He resorted to calling our hostel and we found our way eventually. Oliver was cringing, feeling guilty and I was stifling laughter.

Sante Hostel is a beautiful, very old house that belongs to Isabella’s family. The family still live on the top floor and Isabella and her brother run the other two floors as a hostel. Every detail has been thought through so thoroughly, the place is perfect. It’s nice that by chance we happened to find ourselves in a newly opened, incredibly designed house at the top of Rio de Janeiro. I’ve attached a few pictures, but the decent ones are on my fancy camera.

Last night the hostel had an opening party. We drank gingery cachaca with various accompaniments and chatted in English (embarrassingly) with people from all over the world. We stayed up late playing silly party games, all in English. I really hope I can learn Spanish to order dinner some day soon. Most people we meet in Brazil know enough English to discuss music and films, play games and make jokes. It’s overwhelmingly impressive.

Last night, at different times, I was told I look like Cate Blanchett and Gwyneth Paltrow. I love Rio and it’s selection of beautiful, English speaking liars.

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quick pictures of Diogo, Bahia

Moving on from Salvador, we took a taxi to a huge bus station where we found a Brazilian McDonalds, a guy from Leeds and the only English speaking Brazilian in the place. She helped us get the right coach to Diogo, where Sophie picked us up and took us to the pousada that my parents had booked for us months earlier.

It’s idyllic, with twin hammocks on the porch and lovely fresh breakfast.The beach is beyond words, pictures soon. The walk to the beach is something else; a rickety old walkway and a river to wade through which is half paradise, half endurance test. We’re already budget conscious but we had 2 tasty caipirinhas when we arrived yesterday! Splurge.

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