Friday, May 14, 2010

New Seven Wonders of Nature???

Well, it's not official......but we're hoping Iguacu Falls gets a spot on the New Seven Wonders of Nature list. We visited the Brazil side today and we'll visit the Argentina side tomorrow. Words really can't describe how magnificent and beautiful these falls are. Hopefully these pictures provide a glimpse of why we love it here.

Here's a glimpse of where we are going tomorrow. Only a river divides us from Argentina!!!

Hottest Spot South of Havana: Copacabana, Ipanema & Corcovado

Aside from Carnival, Rio is probably best-known for its beautiful beaches and the Christ statue towering over the city on top of Corcovado mountain. It doesn't take long to recognize the importance of the beaches in city life. In the Copacabana and Ipanema neighborhoods, residents and visitors can be seen walking along the sidewalks in swimsuits and flip-flops while carrying surfboards or bodyboards. Despite the hustle and bustle of traffic and people, the city exudes a laid back vibe that seems to be all about living the good life on the beach or at the clubs. We found a spot on Copacabana beach and sat back and people watched for hours. People swam, played volleyball, or just sunbathed in their barely there swimwear. Some attire was so skimpy that we wondered what the point was of wearing anything at all! After Copa, we decided to walk over to Ipanema to see what it was all about. The beaches are within walking distance but each have a distinct atmosphere. The water at Ipanema was beautiful and the beach was packed with people swimming and soaking up the sun.

If the beaches get too hot, you can take a trip up to see the Christ the Redeemer statue at the top of Corcovado mountain. The views from the top are amazing. Unfortunately the statue is currently being restored and it is completely covered in scaffolding, but it is still worth the trek up the mountain. Getting there is half the fun. Our journey involved a taxi, two mini-buses, and a ton of stairs. Most of the time we weren't really sure what was going on (what's's Rio!). After a long exchange in Portuguese between our taxi driver and a group of guys, we were directed to a sketchy-looking van at the base of the mountain. For a while we just sat there alone not knowing what was happening. We were relieved when two Japanese tourists joined us and they seemed at least as clueless. In the end, we got to the top and had a chance to take some pictures as the sun set on the city. It was quite a memorable experience!


Better late than never

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Buzios Pics

Thursday, May 13, 2010


We arrived in Buzios on Monday night after a three hour car ride from Rio. Since it was dark by the time we arrived, we weren't sure exactly what kind of scenery we would wake up to. When the sun came up, we quickly realized what a beautiful place we were visiting. Buzios is a resort town on the coast of Brazil just north of Rio. There are many beautiful beaches and a quaint downtown full of shops and restaurants. The town gained notoriety after Brigitte Bardot vacationed here back in the day. There are many tributes to her in town including the sculpture John is hugging below (congrats, Kim, for correctly identifying this and being the winner of our first contest). Our time here was all about relaxation. We spent an afternoon on the beach watching the surfers ride the huge waves. We ate well and at night spent time flipping through the five channels on the tv looking for anything in English (not much luck there). Speaking of English...not a whole lot of English speakers here so it would be helpful to know some Portuguese or at least some Spanish. We are still trying to figure out the proper way to say "thank you" in Portuguese so needless to say, we're getting pretty good at charades.

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Local Shout Out

We thought we´d highlight a few local friends along the meet Eduardo*.  He is a father, fisherman, swimmer, waitor, accountant, surfer,  bartender, etc.   Basically, he can do it all. We met him as we were taking a picture on the beach (see below).  He ran up to us and talked us into having a drink at his make-shift restaurant on the beach.  Not too many people speak English here so we had a great time talking to him.  He actually lived in NYC for several years back in the 90s.  If you are ever in Buzios please stop by and say hello to our good friend Eduardo.

*name changed to protect identity

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Contest #1 - Brazil

As promised, here is our first trivia question.....


1- first one to answer correctly wins a prize
2- only one guess per question
3- you must be an official follower of the blog

Who is John hugging in the picture below and what is her significance to the location?

Good luck!

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Conquering fears on top of Sugar Loaf

For those of you who are afraid of heights (i.e., John Nelson), Sugar Loaf might not be the place for you. Sugar Loaf is a major attraction in Rio and you have to take two cable cars to reach the top of the mountain. I must admit that I was even a little terrified when I saw the cable car wires from the beach at Copacabana but as we approached the first cable car station my fears subsided. Although, I´m pretty sure from the look on John´s face that his life was passing him before his eyes. We boarded the first cable car and it was almost as packed as a subway car on any given morning. All I could think about was the time the cable car from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island got stuck. Lovely. John stood in the middle of both cable cars and held onto the pole with quite the death grip.The view from the top of Sugar Loaf was amazing! Still a little scary for some. Some girls were taking pictures and one girl climbed up on the fence. John gasped and turned his head. He then muttered to me, "Don´t you even think about doing that"!

The beaches in Rio are stunning and seeing them from above made us appreciate them even more. The day was a little our pictures don´t do Rio justice. Speaking of pictures, John and I were quite the hit with a bunch of 10-12 year-olds on a school trip. They kept coming up to us and asking if they could take their pictures with us. They didn´t speak English but after several minutes of trying to communicate, some boy said "Facebook". We finally figured out that they wanted our contact information. Thank you Facebook, for bringing the world together.

PS - There are little jungle paths you can walk through at the top of Sugar Loaf. We headed down one path and became obsessed with the little monkeys (or some might mistake them as rats) that live there. For any future travelers, please note that these monkeys may jump at you and try to bite your face off if you bother them too much with taking pictures of them.

Exciting Game...Final Score 1-1...What?!

Yesterday we had the privilege of experiencing a live Brazilian futebol (aka soccer) match between Flamengo and São Paulo at Rio´s famed stadium, the Maracanã. The stadium held close to 200,000 spectators at a World Cup Final in 1950. Since then, seats have been added and the capacity has been reduced but the stadium is still quite impressive. The stadium is due to close this year for renovations in preparation for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic ceremonies.
On the bus ride over, we joined a contest to pick a team and final score. The winner would receive a prize at the conclusion of the match. Since Sara is a huge fan of pink, she naturally picked Flamengo - since flamingoes are pink...follow the logic? - to win right away (you will see Sara pointing to "her team" on the scoreboard in a picture below). Her final score was 2-1. John thought that since we were in Brazil, he should support the Brazilian team, São Paulo, and chose a score of 1-0. He didn´t realize that Flamengo was actually one of the hometown teams in Rio. Ooops, rookie mistake. We arrived at the stadium about an hour and a half before
the start of the match. After being patted down by the Policia Militar, we were free to choose any seat in the stadium. Ticket prices were 30 Reais (about $17). Can you imagine buying a ticket to see the Yankees for $17 and then picking a seat right behind home plate?!
Since it was a rainy day, attendance seemed to be down but the crowd that showed up was very passionate. We wish we could understand some of the things the crowd was shouting at the players. All nice things, we´re sure. There was one particular section in the upper deck of the stadium that bounced up and down chanting and singing the entire game. The first team to score was São Paulo shortly after the half. Flamengo quickly came back and scored and the match was tied 1-1. And that´s where it ended. We both feel that games should never end in ties, but no one in Brazil has asked for our opinions yet.
The experience was unique and we don´t feel any trip to Brazil is complete without seeing a futebol match firsthand. The game is religion in the country and on this Sunday, we both attended church.