Friday, July 10, 2015

Brazil! {Paraty}

In the middle of our Brazil trip, we decided to take a trip to a smaller town for a long weekend. We debated between Ilha Grande and Paraty. Both are great, but since Emily already went to Ilha Grande, we decided to go to Paraty - and we LOVED it! It's a small town on the coast about 4 hours from Rio (by bus). The bus ticket was about $50 (total for there and back) and we left in the morning. If we did this again, we'd leave at night. Since we were there in the winter the sun went down early, so we were bummed we missed some prime daylight on the bus. ANYWHO, the town has a cute little historical area, chalk full of cobblestone/rock streets.

Outside of the hostel - post 4 hour bus ride..woof. 
Roof deck of the hostel


We stayed at the Backpackers Hostel in an 8 room dorm - the top photo is taken from the roof deck. Overall this place was good, the good out weighed the bad. The space didn't FEEL very clean, there was a cat that hung around there (sorry people with allergies!), and there were only two bathrooms for the entire house (up to 20 people by the time we left!). BUT, it did have a pretty great hang out area (it rained 2 days we were there!) and the breakfast was LEGENDARY. So whatever, win some you lose some :)


We got in right around dinner time, so we headed to a small pizza joint around the corner -  we were too hangry to actually walk the 3 minutes into town...LOL. Then we walked through the historical area and kicked ourselves for not eating at a restaurant there. We stopped to shop a bit and settled in at a little cafe for some wine and live music.



During our walk through town we found a guy who was offering boat rides (LOL this sounds so safe) for the following day. His company is Barco Conquista and i'd HIGHLY recommend him! It was about $30/person for a DAY of boating.


This is the 'top' of the boat, there are bench seats below and a motor that looks like it shouldn't work at all.


It was SO fun. We met him at his boat the next morning (which he already had stocked with ice for our beers...bonus points bro!) at 10:30am and came back around 6 walking sideways (was it the motion of the ocean or the Caipirnhas?!) . We stopped at a little beach for lunch, went snorkeling, and visited 4 private beaches, basically it was the best day EVER

Our spot for lunch




The following 2 days it rained. So instead of booking our boat-guy again, we hung out at the hostel reading, napping, and taking various trips out exploring the town. Trying to act as the locals do...








He caught a fish! With a net!





Soccer field on the beach!!






After two days we were getting restless, so when our final day in Paratay approached and we saw sunny skies, we knew it was going to be a boat day. Initially we were to take the bus back to Rio at 11am, we moved it to 5pm and called (well, the owner of the hostel called him #languagebarrier) our boat driver for another day out on the ocean. He met us at our hostel at 9am (where we proceeded to play charades in an effort to communicate..Emily why did you leave us!) and we walked to the port to his boat. He took us to a few of the same spots as our initial ride, but this time stopping for some cliff jumping *nervous breathing*.


We docked at the small beach ahead and climbed the rock to the left, then jumped!

DOLPHINS!!!!!!!!!!! like 100 of them!


This is a Caipiboat where you basically drink Caipirinha's (popular drink in Brazil) all day and boat around. They may have dropped a few drinks our way in passing #hostelfriendsFTW



We lost track of time getting mesmerized by the dolphins, which left us about 15 minutes to get off the boat, pick up waters and snacks at the grocery store, run back to the hostel to change, grab our packs and walk (2 blocks) to the bus stop. BUT OMG WE MADE IT. It was a rough 4 hours back to Rio. We stayed in the same hostel as the beginning of our trip which made things super easy. So STAY TUNED for ANOTHER post on our last few days back in Rio! WOOOOOOOOOOOOO.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Brazil! {Rio}

OH, HEEEEEEEEEEEEEY guys! SO, remember 3ish years ago when I told you about a little trip to Spain I took? Ya know, to visit a High School friend? WELL GUESS WHAT. She's in Brazil right now being the world traveler that she is. SO, we just HAD to go visit her, right?!


The mountain in the center is called Twin Brothers...The botanical gardens are to the right of the Jockey track.

My sister, bestie and I booked a little 10 day excursion south to see Rio and a little beachy town called Paraty. I didn't mention this trip prior to leaving because, until about a week before our plane left we didn't know if we'd ACTUALLY be able to leave... YOU SEE, you need a visa to get into this country. We booked our tickets about 1.5 months out and filed for our visas about a month out. The visa website says that it takes 15 days to process. NBD because we had a 15 day buffer RIGHT? NO. First, we each had an issue when we sent it over the first time (missing documents etc. totes our fault but OMG the amount of documents and verification and special monies you need to get this! Cray!). BUT we didn't consider the MILLION holidays and surprise "out of office" Mondays that this visa office has. SO, literally one week before our flight we ALL got our visas back. PHEW.

The mountain in the center-right is Sugarloaf
ANYWAYS. We made it, and..AND! we made it home! I think this was the first trip I've taken where I was actually concerned about my safety whilst there. It's really hard to see past the "people rob you with knives!" headliners and mentally prepare yourself what it's ACTUALLY like (more on that laterz, obvi). Thankfully we went to visit a Portuguese speaking human who made the trip MUCH easier. Thanks Em!



SO, i'll start this little recap with the first few days we spent in Rio...



It took us 3 flights (MN > Chicago > Miami > Rio) to get there, and since the time difference is only 2 hours, it didn't feel SUPER horrible. We did have a tricked out plane for the long flight so that made everything eazy breezy. We landed, found our bags, waited in lines, found an ATM and freaked out when it took 5 times to pull out money..

Sidebar: we all called our card companies prior to leaving to make a travel note on our account. However, I guess it's quite common for banks to STILL put a fraud alert on your account when you take out money in Brazil? IDK why, the bank even said it might happen again when I take out more money (you can only take out $250-300 USD at a time), it was super convenient since we didn't have working phones and we HAD to call them (they didn't accept our e-mails). So that was annoying, especially since there's no real solution? Buy skype minutes before you leave?

then we went out side and were shuffled into a taxi. It took about 30-45 minutes to get into the city. Traffic is pretty horrible at all times of the day, so you kinda just gotta roll with that.


We couldn't check in until 1 so we dropped our bags off at the hostel and went to grab some food down the street at Bar Do Bacana. I, for whatever reason, had convinced myself that Portuguese was fairly similar to Spanish, so i'd be able to recognize enough words to get by (because, high school Spanish?). MUCH to my dismay I was COMPLETELY wrong in so many ways. So we looked at the menu (they didn't have an English version), and were about to randomly select various dishes when a few Italian gentlemen gave us the lowdown and a few key words to look for (Fish, Beans, Chicken, CHEESE...). LOL TOURISTS.



After checking in we high tailed it to the beach to loaf for a few hours before grabbing dinner with Emily.



For our first full day in Rio we decided to check a few things off the tourist list. We started the day with a little visit to Christ the Redeemer. We took a cab to the entrance, where we bought a ticket for the next train which left in 20 minutes. The train chuggs along pretty slow and goes fairly straight up, so if you have a fear of heights, make sure to sit away from the windows :)



ProTip: there are kiosks around the perimeter of the railing that offer very interesting facts on the history and construction of this bad boy. Highly suggest reading it for a bit! Like, did you know the first design had Christ holding a cross and globe?!

After we took over a million photos and got hit with about 20 selfie sticks, we stopped at one of the cafes up there for a snack before taking the train back down.


The platform on top was PACKED with people, I can't imagine what it'd be like during the busy season (it was technically their winter while we were down there...LOL 80 degree winters must be NICE.)

LOL, everyone was trying to do the Christ pose (look bottom center) and would constantly hit people with their armspan


From there we took a cab (we took more cabs in these 10 days than i've taken in my entire life...BTW cabs ran us about 20R each trip which was about $7) to the Instituteo Moreira Salles. It's a cute little art gallery with an outdoor cafe. We had lunch there (I had a Pear Penne that was DIVINE.) and then walked around the grounds for a few hours. We met up with Emily for dinner at La Mole (Chicken Risotto) and then stopped at Belmonte (a popular bar) for drinks.





Sidebar: at bars down here, they give you a sheet of paper with their menu, as you order things they check boxes on the menu. When you go to pay you hand in your card and are let out of the bar with showing a receipt. Even when you don't buy anything you need to cash out to be let out - HA!


On our third day we stopped for brekky down the street at Big Polis (where we got brekky every morning after because it's amazing). Acai is super popular down there, so we had an Acai cup, a fruit bowl, and a some breakfast sammies.



Then we headed to the Botanical Gardens. It was drizzling pretty much on and off all day, but we made the best of it! The gardens are HUUUUGE, I think we only saw like 30% of it while we were there.








There was a 'Medicinal' garden that the resident Naturopath was pretty pumped about!







We met up with Emily that afternoon to Hike Sugarloaf. It was still pretty hazy/rainy out but the hike was super forested so it was perfect.

We hiked to the top of this mountain, on the top left you'll see the cable car building that we ended at.


Pre-hike snack of corn, churros and (of course) popcorn!
You can pay to take the cable car too if you don't want to hike the first hill...it's a pretty steep hike but it only takes about 30 minutes. You have to cable to the 2nd, but since it was so foggy we decided against going all the way. Also, it looks sliiiiightly terrifying.






We had a drink at a bar at the top before making our way down. We grabbed dinner at a cute little restaurant around there called Belmonte Boteco. THEN we went to Lapa. Lapa is a not-so-safe neighborhood that is known for wooping it up on Friday nights. EVERYONE in our hostel was going to Lapa. We made the trek over there and the streets were PACKED with people. We found a little bar playing some Somba and stayed for a few drinks trying to awkwardly learn the dance. #fail.


The next day we were off to Paraty! But that's for a WHOLE other post, since this is FAR too long already!
People don't drink out of bottles/cans in this country, I guess they don't consider it clean? So they give you little glasses to drink your beers in.