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Krys's Travel log

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Welcome to my travel log! You will find here a lot more than in the travel reports, stripped from political correctness. Enjoy!

Log entries 141 - 150 of 1158 Page: 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Aug 29, 2011 06:00 PM Sao Luis, MA (BR) - the third day

Sao Luis, MA (BR) - the third day Any third day in Sao Luis for a non-beachgoer is a bit much. The historic centre is too small, too dilapidated, too underdeveloped for tourism with too few places just to snooze, hangout or linger.

I checked out as late as possible and then took a stroll through Rua Grande to the Public Library, which is being renovated. Rua Grande is a big shopping mall. For a mile or so, both sides of this car-free alley there is nothing but shops, boutiques, department stores. Their conditioning is working on max, as their doors are open wide, very wide. Some of their touts clap their hands (I think I saw that before in Costa Rica), some scream on the megaphones, some sing to microphones. All that just to sell washing machines, microwaves, t-shirts, flip-flops, etc. In addition to all this, petty merchants rolled in their mobile stands offering watches, mobile phones, knock-off DVDs and CDs, fruit and veg, hats, umbrellas, second hand books, you name it.

I then walked towards the water's edge and the Igreja Dos Remedios, which is the only church in town beautifully illuminated at night. The Palacio Cristo Rey ?next to it is also an interesting building. The elevated square where both stand offers a rather good view of the waterfront, the new city and parts of the old town.

Along the riverfront of Rio Anil, I hiked to the main river terminal de Praia Grande. Their ice-cold soft drinks were just BRL1.50, where sign language for those, who do not speak Portuguese, was sufficient for the patient personnel. Actually, when I called, they had an offer: a bottle of Coca-Cola and a savoury pastry snack went for BRL3. Not bad indeed.

At 13:30, it was time for a short sit-down and a beer or two. I steered myself towards my favourite piazza, the Largo de Comercio, and rested my buttocks on an orange plastic armchair at the Canto da Cultura cafe. Ordered a bottle of Nova Schin lager (one I had not had before) and typed some this log. The beverage was chilled to perfection, and watching people go by was a great early afternoon activity. A TV crew made a short appearance on the piazza and started interviewing some of the locals. I never found out what that was about.

The day was perfect, if a little too hot. There was no cloud in the sky. Not a single one.

I lingered in the old town. Snapped more detailed photos and sat down at three different cafes for drinks. Just before I had to leave for the airport (flight to Belem), the theatre at Largo do Comercio began an alternative art show. It featured a very contemporary music, funny pushbikes, and strange masks. The actors bent their bodies impossibly and it created a very dense ambiance. I wish I could see more of this.

The flight to Belem took only about 45 minutes. There was no public transport from the very modern airport to the city, so taxi seemed the only sensible option. The pre-paid cooper-taxi was BRL35 and could be paid by a card. Very convenient and safe. The hair-rising ride through empty streets at 23:00 with an occasional crazy driver entering the traffic without looking and pedestrians risking their lives by crossing whenever at whatever traffic light, took about 15 minutes to reach the centre.

Finally, I could relax at a Hilton Hotel, a familiar feat, although this hotel was very dated. I could not believe I had the courage to step into the lifts... Yet, full five star service otherwise.

Aug 28, 2011 06:00 PM Sao Luis, MA (BR) - a beach day

Sao Luis, MA (BR) - a beach day As soon as I stepped out of the hotel on Monday morning, the situation was diametrically different than the day before. The town was packed with people. Now, it definitely felt like a million people metropolis. Some attended their business at the many public institutions in the old town, some were browsing the shops, others sat down in cafes and cafeterias, yet others rushed through the streets obviously being late for something, kids and teenagers in their blue and white school uniforms wandered around between their classes or perhaps skiving off. The streets also carried homeless wanderers and beggars, which was a reality check in this pretty town, but a sad sight. For despite vast wealth that Brazil has in natural resources and its revenue growing exceptionally fast, and having lifted a staggering 30 million people out of poverty in last ten years, still very much remains to be done.

In Sao Luis, which luckily got its UNESCO status, authorities left many signals that tourists were very much welcomed. The old town was pretty well sign posted and maps of the historical district were put on small stands around the centre, helping visitors to find their bearing. The Tourist Police was in force patrolling the alleys, passages and lanes. Day and night. Yet the people also seemed to welcome travellers, many of whom greeted me in the streets.?

I browsed the old town a little again and went to some spots I had not visited before. Yet, I found many of the old monuments a very sad state and crumbling badly. Many o the fantastic buildings and pavilions were empty and hopefully marked for prompt renovation.

It was so hot today that it definitely justified a beach afternoon. Sao Luis had several beaches, multiple times larger than Copacabana. Literally miles and mikes of vast sandy beach. And when I walked from Ponta d'Areia to Sao Marcos to Calhau and further, for miles I was the only person on the beach. I guess I was there early. I was Monday early afternoon and people were still at work. Every now and again, approximately every 15 minutes of walking, there was a couple or a group of people taking a dip in the ocean or kicking football. Not enough crowd to represent almost a million people in the population of the city.

The ocean breeze was a bliss. There was no cloud in the sky and the equatorial sun had absolutely no mercy. The shore had two characteristics: a freshly asphalted road alongside; and several beach bars. Both an absolute must for a civilised beachlife. As the afternoon developed and the sun became less harsh, more beachgoers trickled in. Some brought surfboards, although the waves did not look big enough for any serious surfing. Uh, and occasionally a security forces' jeep would passed by.

The first beach, Ponta d'Areia was good 5kms away from the old town, across the bridge. Not a pleasant walk along a very busy road. The Sao Marcos beach was further 5kms away, and then 5-6kms more of beaches to the point of Olha d'Agua. The last 6kms are the best. On low tide it is very pleasant to walk on the water's edge, some 200 yards from the oceanfront promenade. On high tide, certain parts of the beach were impassable, yet walking along the promenade as locals jog and run (the entire promenade is marked with distances every 200 metres, indicating how far you run), passing numerous coconut booths offering fresh coconut milk, as well as bars and seafood restaurants, many of which built on stilts, like covered terraces. Perfect for sunset meals or drinks.

After sunset, there was a very long 2.5hrs hot walk back to the historic centre! It was not a very pleasant on the entire route. There was no pavement on certain parts, some were simply large construction sites of high rise luxury apartments, many busy road crossings. Fortunately, a few shops and supermarkets en route were open late, so it was easy to find a cold drink, and that included fresh coconut milk, too.

One shower later and change of clothes, and I was sitting at the O Restaurante d'Antiga Mente, at my favourite Largo Comercio, as an older guy played guitar and sang sad Brazilian songs. For which the restaurant charged cover! As many eateries and pub did. There was actually law for this.

Aug 27, 2011 06:00 PM Olinda, PE (BR) to Sao Luis, MA (BR) - two flights, great afternoon

Olinda, PE (BR) to Sao Luis, MA (BR) - two flights, great afternoon My flight to Fortaleza on the way to Sao Luis was an hour late. As it happened, the Recife airport had a VIP lounge, where I could wait sipping espresso and munching on sandwiches. There, I was also given a voucher for wifi access, which came handy as well, as a few more photos waited to be uploaded onto the online gallery of krisek. I also checked news. It turned out that in Libya the situation had improved dramatically since the revolution forces took the capital city. The dictator disappeared, and although not captured, it looked like the civil war was over. I was so happy for the Libyans!

In Fortaleza, I had just over two hours waiting time. It was a boring airport, which had no transfer/connection facility. This meant that transfer passengers connecting to other flights had to exit the airside, go through the luggage hall onto the arrivals hall and re-enter though departures and security. TAM being such a great airline, they claimed, did not provide executive lounges for their premium passengers and Star Alliance Gold members on domestic flights, with exception to the Recife airport. I found it rather poor indeed. Fortunately, the Fortaleza airport provided a few comfortable armchairs for passengers, on a fist come first basis. So, I managed to lounge for a while. Two hour wifi token at the airport cost BRL9, which was acceptable for killing time.

The flight was slightly late. Few public announcements at the airport were given in English. Which, I think, was unprofessional, unhelpful and perhaps irresponsible. Although, I could grasp the context of what was being said, that left me rather annoyed. Yet, I got really pissed off on the airplane when one of the flight attendants attempted to skip service for me because I did not speak Portuguese. She just said 'no!' and moved on. I had to stop her in Spanish and demand service. This could potentially be the rudest stewardess I have come across in my life. And I have been on over a thousand flights on over a hundred airlines. Is behaviour like that acceptable. Is English not the international language in the air (and on the sea)? Do Star Alliance quality standards not require flight attendants to speak and give announcements in English in addition to the local language on all flights!? The captains do!

But I was happy to be finally in Sao Luis. I took a taxi from the very basic airport (BRL34, prepaid co-operative) to the old town, checked in at the hotel, and ejected myself onto the historic centre of the town. It grew on me gradually, as most of it in a scandalous state, extremely desperate for repair.

Largo de Comercio, adjacent to the municipal market, was definitely my favourite spot in the old town. It had ?nine large trees in the centre alley, flanked with a renovated theatre, handsome facade of the Defensoria Publica palace, and arched single and double storey edifices, some of which housed cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops. This sounds very glamorous, but these venues were very basic! The square was definitely an atmospheric spot with peculiar magnetism, but it was still a bi run down and the rather fabulous Le Comptor cafe had plastic tables and chairs on the untidy pavement.

What I found incredible about Sao Luis was that it seemed completely deserted like an empty film set! It felt like I was wandering about a very secret place completely undiscovered. How could this be? Sao Luis is proudly featured as one of Brazil's UNESCO Cultural World Herotage Sites. When I arrived on early Sunday afternoon, I had te entire historic centre to myself! Not a single tourist in sight. No-one around at all, full stop. Not even a local. Not a single soul. I had to venture into small alleys and backyards to find local inhabitants. I actually followed music. It soon became clear that Sao Luis was more Caribbean than it was Brazilian. It strangely reminded me of Cuba. Music was playing loud from massive speakers as the family partied in the street, with tables and chairs on the pavement. Tea and coffee was being drunk as the kids kicked ball.

The historic centre was packed with colonial palaces, mansions, haciendas, edifices, churches, and even an old train station. Some of them were: Palacio Laverdiere; Palacio dos Bispos; Palacio do Comercio; Casa do Maranhao; Defensoria Publica do Estado; Centro de Cultura Popular; Sede do Iphan; Solar da Pacotilha; Convento das Merces; Desterro; Palacete Gentil Braga; Biblioteca Publica; Casa de Cultura Josue Montello; Palacio Cristo Rei; Edificio Sao Luis; Igreja do Rosario; Capela de Santa Teresa; Igreja do Carmo; Igreja de Santo Joao; Igreja de Santo Antonio; Igreja dos Remedios; Igreja de Santo Pantaleao; Catedral da Se.

The centre was compact enough to cover all sights in one long afternoon. At a slow pace, stopping everywhere for photos and entering any open church, it would perhaps take an entire day.

The old town had a small oceanfront boulevard overlooking some of the palaces standing high on the ramparts and towards the residential part of the new town on the other direction. It was an excellent place to observe the sun disappearing below the horizon. A few stone benches in the ocean wall provided resting spots for tired feet. A couple of large open round shelters gave shade as well. Sometimes locals took naps in them in the afternoon.

I liked seating at the simple Le Comptor cafe at the Largo de Comercio, at the pavement table and watch the people go by. On Sunday evening, at about sunset, the theatre nearby gave a street show, which all over sudden pulled a small crowed. Mainly young people. It featured modern or avant-garde art, as the actors bent their bodies to various styles of music, lounge music, dance and hip-hop.

Sao Luis felt completely safe. I managed to wander off to very narrow alleys in completely deserted town, occasionally meeting a local, or a couple kissing in corners of little squares or on steps of churches hidden in backyard piazzas, and no-one gave me a dirty look as my camera wither dangled from my shoulder or was being pointed at something, sometimes even in their direction. What a great experience indeed.

Yet, as the night fell, one of the local waiters told me that I ought to be careful wandering with my camera and a bag during the hours of darkness in certain parts of the south-eastern old town, where the alleys were dark. That shattered my impression of Sao Luis, I have to say. I did wander about at night a little, but subconsciously I did not feel entirely comfortable. Yet, the security forces and tourist police did cruise the streets in their massive cars.

Aug 26, 2011 06:00 PM Olinda, Pernambuco (BR) - a day of strolling

Olinda, Pernambuco (BR) - a day of strolling The entire day today was for strolling around Olinda's colonial district. It was all up and down, up and down, as Olinda was built on several hills. Almost each hill was used as a site for a church or monastery or convent. The old town is really nice and walking about with a camera dangling down the shoulder was not a problem. Many people actually greeted me and smiled. I think they do realise that tourists bring money for their businesses or businesses of their families and friends.

Actually, I could not pick a favourite place in Olinda. I liked Praca de Se with its large and very simple cathedral perched on the highest hill in town and rather special view of the old town and the unbelievable skyline of Recifie with its shimmering skyscrapers. There was also a craft market geared for visitors and tourists, offering handmade table cloths (some very intricate and beautiful), woodcarvings representing the little houses of Olinda, t-shirts, sarongs, scarves, etc. Inside a tiny passage full of shops, there was a terrace offering great views of Olinda, Receife and the beaches. At the of the terrace was a minute cafe selling simple snacks and refreshments. It had no tables on the terrace, but it definitely had a charm and the best view in town!

Although on a UNESCO World Heritage List since 1982, Olinda was not overflowing with tourists at all, when I visited at the end of August 2011. It had so much potential. Countless mansions, haciendas and houses were on sale, and they screamed to be converted into hotels, cafes, restaurants, lounges, clubs, whose tables could take some room on the piazzas and squares. This would create more living atmosphere rather than the sleepy, and sometimes creepy, one. Fortunately, vast majority of the houses and their facades seemed well looked after, all painted in vivid colours. The only drawback was traffic. Cars of all sorts cruised the cobble stone alleys freely in all directions (not indicating where they were turning!) and many were parked along the pretty lanes. OK, I would not perhaps rule out all traffic, but I might prohibit parking. This would create a more authentic ambiance of this wonderful little town, for in the 17th century, there were no Fords, Fiats, Citroens, Suzukis, etc.

I also visited the town's small beach and the concrete waterfront of the Olinda Novo, the 300,000 inhabitant city that attached itself to the colonial sister. It is weekend, so I hope to mingle with a lot of people at one of the many bars with tables under the stars that dot the old town and the seafront.

Aug 25, 2011 06:00 PM Salvador de Bahia (BR) to Olinda-Pernambuco (BR)

Salvador de Bahia (BR) to Olinda-Pernambuco (BR) I slept in, of course. Angelo from CouchSurfing came by to see how I was doing. I did not immediately respond to his kind offer for a stroll in one of Salvador's districts as I did not go online to see the message in time. But he did come to check on me at about 10am, an hour before my taxi booking to leave for the airport. we had a quick chat and then the taxi driver, almost exclusively riding for CouchSurfers, took me for a ride around the city and then to a couple of beaches on the way to the airport. They were rather great, complete with all the necessary amenities and facilities, including deck chairs, sunbeds, parasols, and (what most important) drink and snack bars.

The JJ8001 flight from Salvador to Recife was arriving from Buenos Aires, and since certain passengers from Argentina continued to Recife, it was treated as an international flight, or a domestic leg of an international flight. Very confusing and a little messy. They did not open the international departures until some 15 minutes before boarding time. Fair enough, there was nothing there - just a gate with a fee seats. No shops, no lounges (despite signs indicating otherwise), no coffee bars. Therefore much worse than for passengers on purely domestic flights. I was shocked when they would not allow me to proceed through the domestic departures, and the security guy mumbled something about Recife in Argentina. Definitely not the place I wanted to travel to!

The arrival in Recife was also confusing. The aircraft obviously docked at the international section and all passengers mixed. Not a good idea, I would have thought. Airport personnel attempted to vent who has arrived on the domestic leg of the international flight and who boarded in Argentina. They did not check boarding passes, though. Anyone therefore could just say that they arrived from Salvador and bypass the passport control.

Something in my gut told me not to take the two buses from the airport to Olinda via Boa Vista of Recife which would have taken at least 90 minutes. I took the ore-paid unmetered taxi, which set me back by BRL60. And that took only about half an hour.

there was that much of the daylight left when I checked in at the Pousada Baoba. And since at this altitude there is never much twilight, it was minutes after the sunset when it got completely dark. It was only time for a short stroll and nighttime snapping and that day was over. The tourist information office told me that at 10pm, at the Praca Joao Alfredo, there was supposed to be a night show with local music and performances. I was not sure that I was going to last that long.

I stopped for dinner at the Creperia and had a great pizza, washed down with two small bottles of Bohemia lager. All was good, and the beverage was extra cold! The restaurant was located on the corner of the piazza so I was not going to miss any action, I thought. Nothing started though before I finished. I went on the second circuit exploring Olinda at night. After discovering a few new squares and alleys, I descended back to the square and saw only a small group drumming and pulling strings. Nothing I had not seen before. My feet therefore took a direction back to the hotel. suddenly, a rather nicely played guitar strung my ears. It was a young guy playing and singing at the former Maxambomba Steet Railway Station, which now served as a cafe and, as it turned out, one of the main nightlife kicking spots of Olinda. I could not resist a couple of drinks there. The guy was really good!

Aug 24, 2011 06:00 PM Salvador de Bahia (BR) - pretty

Salvador de Bahia (BR) - pretty Weather improved. The morning brought sunshine, which stayed until the afternoon. It felt safer during the day, and after a while, I simply took out my camera, which swayed from my shoulder for the most of the day. I was lucky to see a practice of capoeira in the street, which was very dynamic. It was super to see young kids practicing it, too. I must have stood there for an hour snapping pictures. It was a great morning. I was hoping to see capoeira in action in Salvador.

Now, there was word around town about this party in the Barra district. A guy told me about it the night before, and a couple of German guys all over sudden asked me if I knew about this party in Barra. I said that I did, but I could not remember the name of the place. I had a business card for it, but not on me when asked. Later, it turned out that this was the same party. So, we joined forces and went together. In Barra, which has a nice beach and an incredible lighthouse, we met with two other German guys and went for a couple of beers before the party. The party was actually happening at a hostel's terrace overlooking the beach. Very nice and breezy place. Although it was supposed to kick off at 8pm, it never actually commenced before 10pm. But as it did, it was great and many people came, mainly travellers. I met Colombians (trying to convince everyone that Colombia is now safer than Brazil and Mexico), Argentinians, Spaniards, Swedes, a few travelling Brazilians, too. It turned out to be not a bad party, where caipirinhas, although not great, were going for BRL5, and bottled lager for BRL3.30.

Later, one of the guys, who played in the band there (yet the same, who had told me about this party in the first place), told me about this after party venue. And a very nice Colombian dancer, who was travelling in Brazil, convinced me that we should go as well. Actually, it did not take her long to twist mine and the two German lads' arms to go there. It was a short taxi ride around the peninsula further down from Barra. Not necessarily ideal for us, as we actually increased the distance to our hostel, and it was already 1am. Considering the facts that Salvador is reported to be Brazil's most criminal city, and that the historic district where we stayed was a bit sketchy at night, this was almost a bold move. But it was a good decision. The nightclub was busy, had two bars (one of them made brilliant passion fruit drinks), and a terrace overlooking a few historical buildings and the beach, which at that time was battered with monster waves,

The way back to the hostel in Pelourinho was not that hard, though. I managed to negotiate a taxi fare from BRL40 for BRL25, and the ride was quick. The old town, deserted at 4:30am, did not feel unsafe. Not as much as on the first night. There were still armed security forces around, but no longer on every corner. Yet, one should be in their sight almost all the time. Perhaps I was a bit paranoid the first time, or perhaps it was already so late at night (or early in the morning) that even trouble makers were already in bed.

Aug 23, 2011 06:00 PM Rio (BR) and Salvador de Bahia (BR)

Rio (BR) and Salvador de Bahia (BR) The third day in the capital of carnival and samba was again cloudy. It was hard to decide what to do. I had until 4pm to do something before I had to head for the airport to catch my plane to Salvador de Bahia.

I opted for the Botanic Gardens and the former residence of the King and Queen of Brazil, and a quick stroll along Ipanema and Copacabana beaches.

Te flight to Salvador was on time, and took almost 2 hours. A guy from CouchSurfing kindly waited for me to take me to the city and to the weekly CouchSurfing meeting. He brought a couple of ladies with him, whom he was taking care of that day, I think. It was a very good job that he did. When I arrived at the old town Salvador, called Pelourinho, it was crystal clear that my hotel was not in a sae area. The ladies suggested that I looked for a different place, and each of them took me to their hostels to see if there were spaces. One of them did not, the other did. I got a dorm with four beds (two bunk beds) for myself for BRL25 a night. Not too bad.

The meeting was taking place at a bar in Barra district near the famous lighthouse. It was a great party, and I met a few very interesting people, whom I can further net along my route in the rest of Brazil.

Pelourinho looked great at night, but it was obvious that it was not entirely safe there. Fully armed police was standing on every corner and warned me to take care when taking pictures with my super sexy camera. The atmosphere was nevertheless incredible, mystic and outing with magnetism. Truly a spectacular place indeed.

Aug 22, 2011 06:00 PM Rio de Janeiro (BR) - the second day, full on visit

Rio de Janeiro (BR) - the second day, full on visit On the second day in Rio weather was much better. In the morning there was plenty of sunshine and only a few scattered clouds. I acted on advice of a Carioca to start my day with a visit to the Corcovado Hill to visit the giant statue of Jesus Christ. For later in the day day, clouds normally form and block the views. The line to the Corcovado train was not very long, but I had to wait over 30 minutes for the first train. The views from the top were perfect. Almost an entire Ro de Janeiro could be seen, from the largest and most dangerous favela behind Leblon, to the Ipanema, Copacabana, the Sugar Loaf, the Centro, Niteroi, Lapa, Santa Teresa, Maracana Stadium, and many more. I had a cold drink at one of the terraced cafes at the feet of Jesus, and descended to Centro.

The 'business district' was a mix of fabulous historical/colonial buildings to the modern and downright bizarre office buildings and a church, which definitely featured in architecture study books. One of the ugliest and also most interesting buildings was the head quarters of Petrobras, Brazil's largest oil & gas company. From there, I took the delightful, old, open tram (BRL0.60) half way to the Santa Teresa district to admire a few examples of renovated colonial villas, mansions and palaces. I also had a glimpse at a few nearby favelas.

Then, I took a bus (BRL2.50) to Lapa, Rio's bohemian district full of colourful art work, bars, cafes and clubs and walked back to the Centro to check the old colonial architecture, such as the incredible National Theatre. Then, I hopped on metro (BRL3.20) to Ipanema for late lunch.

After lunch, it was time for caipirinhas at the beach. Weather by then declined but the waves the breeze created were monstrous. All well for surfing, and there were a few exceptionally skilled guys, who rode the waves beautifully. The caipirinhas (BRL6) at the simple beach bars were strong but not the best cachaca was poured in them. well, for the third of the normal price, who would complain having beach in front of them, full of toned bodies wearing dental floss instead of bikini, surfers spectacle, sunset...

After a couple of more caipirinhas at Ipanema's nightlife quarter it was time to go to bed.

Aug 21, 2011 06:00 PM Rio de Janeiro (BR) - day one, overcast & rain

Rio de Janeiro (BR) - day one, overcast & rain It started raining early in the night. And it never stopped until I had to leave for the airport. For it was winter time at these parts of the country, and some sort of brief rainy season, I was told. Apparently, it always rains on Brazil's Independence Day of 6th September.

I had plans to go to the airport by public transport, but it was raining so badly that I eventually took a taxi. It set me back by BRL42. At the airport, I had a cappuccino for BRL5 and sat patiently waiting for the flight, which came late. It did reduce its delay en route to Rio at little.

At the airport, I think I got 'robbed'. As instructed by guidebooks not to take metered taxis from outside the terminal, I prepaid one from the several booths in the arrival hall. And this was a mistake! Those booths immediately outside the baggage reclaim sliding doors were a rip-off. I got a 'good deal' from all, and paid BRL99, as some asked well over a BRL100! And yet, there was a yellow taxi booth inside the arrivals terminal, a few yards from the baggage reclaim sliding doors and immediately before the exit to the taxi ramp, which advertised BRL58 to Copacabana! I later confirmed the charge at the Tourist Info office at Copacabana Beach. Eh, I'm getting old, methinks.

Anyway, the ride from the airport was quick. It took only about 25 minutes. At that point, I was dying for a shower. Although it was only 12:15 p.m., the Hotel DeBret allowed me to check in. I took a ride in a small, claustrophobic lift to the tenth floor, found my quarters and jumped inside the bathroom, straight under the shower!

Freshly fragrant I went up two floors to the terrace restaurant to see the view of the world famous beach, and had a soda. I lingered there for about an hour, snapped a few photos, and got impatient with weather - low hanging grey clouds. Then, I decided to come down and brace myself for a hike along the city's infamous streets and the fantastic beachfront mosaic walkway. I did check from the safety of the 12th floor what people wore, what they carried with them, what sort of jewellery they had (any wrist watches), to make sure I could easily blend in. A good number of pedestrians carried bags with them, so I thought that I should all right with my inconspicuously looking shoulder bag hiding my camera.

I walked the entire stretch of Copacabana and back, and sat down at one of many tiny beach bars/cafeterias for a draft beer. I had three small ones (0.4l), which reduced my budget for the day by BRL15. I have to say though, that their Brahma lager from tap was delicious and its head was as smooth as on a Guinness. Wonderful! I could easily imagine how marvellous this could taste on a hot sunny day at the beach.

When it started raining badly and the wind penetrated the inside of my short sleeves, my chilled body told me to pick myself up, go to the hotel, grab a jacket, uh and change my shirt! By the time I was back on Copacabana Beach, it was dark. I grabbed an average pizza (BRL22) at the Transa Restaurant & Bar (along Avenida Atlantica) and a caipirinha at the very pleasant Boteca do Garrafa on Bolivar street (BRL8.50). That was it for today. I am hoping for better weather tomorrow.

Aug 20, 2011 06:00 PM Iguassu Falls (BR) - day two

Iguassu Falls (BR) - day two Ten times more water than normal? It was impossible at times to see anything if wind blew in one's face. The spray and mist created by millions of cubic meters of falling water blocked visibility. This was the case at sunrise. It was practically raining and the was no cloud in the sky! I was completely drenched and I walked on the main road, not on the falls' path. I was supposed to be shielded by the 30-50 meters wide buffer of giant trees and bushes. No! The mist flew way above the trees and fell on everything below; the pizotes, me, my camera and the hotel.

The Hotel das Cataratas was pretty fabulous. Breakfast buffet included fry-ups (eggs, bacon, sausages), cereals, pancakes, plenty of ham and cheese of different kind, loads of fruit and juices, assortment of breads, rolls, croissants, pastries, limitless coffee and tea, and ... Champagne! Now, this is what I call visiting one of the Earth's most wonderful spots in style! The beds were very comfortable, bath products very stylish and beautifully fragrant, and all was spotless and shiny. At the piano bar (next to the lounge with a fireplace), waiters offered sampling of some of Brazil's finest cacha?as. Superb!

The wind later changed, and the mist dispersed a little allowing for better sighting. I heard that the Argentine side of the falls, which allows closer approach to the falls, was partially closed due to the excessive volume of water. Many paths were actually totally submerged and some seemed destroyed. I therefore opted for a helicopter flight to see this natural wonder from above. The ten minutes flight set me back by BRL180, but it was worth it. Only from the air, one can fully appreciate the size of the waterfalls. The flight was smooth and the pilot navigated cleverly, so everyone could take pictures. Yet, I have to say that the person sitting in the middle back seat would have to stretch a little to get the camera's right angle. Not the same as sitting right at the window, or beside the pilot. To sit in the front, next to the pilot, one has to stand first in the line and move quickly and assertively towards the copter.

Weather declined a little later on, as more clouds covered the sky creating an overcast. I relaxed back at the hotel a little, uploaded a few shots on the web, warmed up (it was a chilling 10C only), and made a departure to the town of Foz do Igua?u. Wow, that was one boring town. On a day off, like Sunday, there was no-one around. Not a single soul. Few cars cruised the streets and everything everywhere was shut down. I got lucky to find an open eatery. It was the chain churrascaria grill restaurant the Buffalo Branco. They were not cheap, but the food was plentiful, very plentiful. I got stuffed with various types of meats and salads. I lost count how many beef steaks, pork ribs, chicken drumsticks, lamb chops, sausages, sirloins and fillets, and other yummy grilled cuts I had after the visit of the seventh waiter. All that, two bottles of Coke and one espresso and I was BRL61 down. Not the cheapest meal around, but fair value for money for all that load. Plus the service was swift and bottled beer was served in ice buckets to make sure it remained well chilled throughout the meal.

I was thinking of maybe going out in Foz. So, I enquired at the pousada about some bars. The friendly receptionist, who spoke some Spanish and extremely basic English (enough for me, though), she did not immediately know what to recommend, actually. A few places could apparently be found along Avenida Jorge Schimmelpfeng. One of them was O Capit?o, which also featured in one of my guidebooks. I will go out, if I am in the mood.

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