A Travellerspoint blog

Buenos Aires

sunny 28 °C

The flight over to Buenos Aires was most enjoyable, thanks to the fact that we had control over our own TV screens. E-J was in her element watching the musical "Hairspray", while Sam loved the fact that he was beating the computer at chess.

When we arrived in Buenos Aires, the first shock was remembering to thank with “gracias” rather than the Portuguese “obrigado”.

We did the usual, of checking into a hostel and then explored the area we were staying in.

The next day, after dealing with the admin of changing hostels, we hit the shops on Calle Florida. This is where all the main high street shops are found, along with a number of shops selling leather goods. A couple of hours later and we had purchased some jeans, a Christian Dior suit, a leather handbag and some other essentials for a backpacker!

We then walked around the centre of the city, taking in all the main sights, such as the Casa Rosada (where Eva Peron said her famous speeches), some churches and other magnificently structured buildings. The place had a very European feel to it. We walked over to Puerto Madero, which is a more modern area, where you can find skyscrapers and modern architecture and we walked along the riverbank to find a bar.

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We ended our evening, by heading back into the centre and to a restaurant called Cafe Tortoni, which is well known for its Tango shows. This was now 11pm and having not eaten we were starving. Without making a booking, we were incredibly lucky to be given a seat at the tango show and sat there enjoying the amazing show with a delicious bottle of Malbec.

The show was in an incredibly small and intimate room, so that we got to see the tango dancers up close and personal, taking in the detail of their impressive moves. The performances were amazing and by the end of it we felt as exhausted as they must have been!

The next day was our day of sharing requests, so in the morning we went to the Evita museum for E-J (which Sam actually found very interesting) and in the afternoon we headed to La Boca, where we had a tour around the grounds of Boca Juniors FC, Diego Maradona's first football team.

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The stadium itself was actually pretty tiny, but it was fascinating to see all the seating area and how some of it still has a standing area, which must enhance the atmosphere so much during a game. Sadly, we were told that by next year the whole stadium would be seated.

We then walked around the inside of the stadium, to the conference room, where Sam enjoyed posing for a picture and then into the changing rooms, which turned out to be a bit of a dump! We found it most amusing that one of the most famous football teams in South America had a coffee machine in the changing room! Sam envisaged the manager, instructing the team at half time to have a double espresso to peak them up, if they were losing!

After the tour we then wandered around the Caminito district, which is where you can find all the coloured houses.

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Disappointingly, we found this place to be terribly touristy and having been spoiled by the excellent tango show the night before, we found the street tango dancers very average.

That night, in need of an incredible steak we headed to a place in San Telmo, called El Desnivel, which had been recommended to us. From the outside it looked nothing special, though it was totally packed (which was a good sign). When we had our steaks, they were simply amazing. It was almost as though the meat melted as you cut into it. After this, and feeling incredibly full, we headed to a bar near by for a drink before calling it a night.

The next day, E-J for no reason was in an absolutely foul mood, so Sam, thinking what would be best, suggested some more shopping! A few hours later, with our wallets feeling a bit lighter we headed back to the hostel before going out for a few more drinks around town. At 11am we headed over to another hostel, where we had found out our friends, Ben and Veronica were staying. Having caught up over a few beers we headed to the restaurant of Ben and Veronika's recommendation. This turned out to be “El Desnivel!”.

After another hearty steak, washed down with a few drinks we headed to La Boca in the hope of finding a recommended Jazz club. Sadly, when we got there it was closed and by the time we were back in the centre we were all practically a sleep, so decided to call it a night.

Sunday was what E-J would like to call tour day, as she literally ticked each thing off her list as she went along. First, we walked from the centre into the district of Recoleta, which had the most beautiful architecture and is known as one of the expensive areas. When we reached the church, Nuestra Senora del Pilar (which is thought to be one of the most beautiful churches in Buenos Aires), we looked around it and then walked around the Sunday market called, La Feria de Recoleta, which was just outside. After wandering around the market and purchasing a few souvenirs we headed to the Recoleta Cemetery.

The cemetery itself was breathtaking, with all the amazing mausoleums, which were decorated in the most ornate and opulent designs and sculptures.

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As we wandered through the walkways branching into smaller alleyways, it was as though we were in a city of chapels. What also added a little eeriness to the place was that it was literally swarming with cats. And, when we looked into the windows of the mausoleums we could see the tombs of the whole families buried together.

We first followed the crowds to the mausoleum of the Duarte family, where Evita Peron was finally buried. There were lots of people posing for pictures next to it, but we finally got to see it and overheard that Evita is buried 6 feet under the rest of the tombs and cemented in, so that no one is able to steal her body again. We found this to be quite sad, that although she now rests with her family there is still a divide of concrete between them. We continued to wander around the cemetery and appreciated the detailed structures and sculptures around the place. A couple of times we would turn a corner to find it completely deserted, without another sole in sight and this would send a shiver down E-J's spine, particularly when she came a across a mausoleum that had been broken into; as over dramatic as always, E-J let out a little yelp at this and ran in the opposite direction.

After we had wandered around the cemetery, we made our way to the Museo de Bella Artes and spent a couple of hours appreciating all the foreign artists, including Jackson Pollock, Cezanne, Picasso, Van Gough and Monet.

By the end of this we were both pretty warn out from all the extensive walking around. After E-J's final insistence of seeing the Evita monument in the Ruben Dario Square, we headed back to the hostel for a beer and a break.

Feeling refreshed and in need of ANOTHER sumptuous steak, we went in search of a restaurant called Cabaña Las Lilas, which had been recommended to us by several different people. This was in Puerto Madero, so we walked there (again) and had a drink by the dock, before having one of the most delicious steaks to date!

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By the time we had finished, it was 11pm,so we headed over to our friends’ hostel again and proceeded to stay there drinking until 4am. As we finally dragged ourselves away, we walked back to our hostel, surprised to find the supposed party city, desolate, empty and asleep.

The next day was pretty much a right off, as we were exhausted so we spent most of the time dealing with the usual ordeals of admin. In the evening we decided that we would visit the Palermo district for some drinks and food. This place is also referred to as the Soho of Buenos Aires, full of trendy bars, restaurants and boutiques. After a drink and a pleasant meal, we headed over to our friends’ hostel to find they were still out, so resorted to a relatively early night.

When our final day arrived, we did a few chores in the morning and decided to cram in the last few things we hadn't yet done. First, we headed to the Torre de Los Ingleses as we had hoped to get a good panoramic picture of the city from the top, but sadly it was closed due to maintenance. We then headed back to Palermo, for E-J to hit the shops for one last chance to find some bargain deals. We managed to get dropped off in completely the wrong place by our taxi driver. After walking around, having had a few arguments in the middle of the streets about each other's abilities to map read, we resorted to catching another cab to the right place. We wandered around the boutiques full of beautiful clothes and E-J wished that we were here on holiday rather than as travellers...

Realising that our time in Buenos Aires was almost over, we raced back to the centre, had a quick bite to eat and with fifteen minutes until departure, raced to the bus terminal to catch our bus to Bariloche in the nick of time.

Sam's comments: A great city offering brilliant steak, good nightlife and plenty to do in the day. I do think that after a few pints I could pick up the Tango dancing very quickly!

E-J's comments: Buenos Aires is a lovely place and I love the architecture, the contrast of the old with the new, but I still felt there was something missing here. This may have been due to the contrast of the backpacker limitations compared to the previously indulgent time spent in Brazil with the Matias'. I absolutely loved the tango show and the place definitely has an air of sophistication about it.

Posted by E-J 13:25 Archived in Argentina Comments (2)

Recife, Maceio, Salvador, Sao Paulo

sunny 30 °C

Armed with a Matias food pack, which consisted of beef sandwiches, biscuits and two bottles of wine, we set off on the night bus from Salvador to the former Dutch colony, Recife, otherwise know as "the Venice of Brazil" due to its many rivers and canals.

We arrived at 7am both feeling a bit dazed and tired and quickly found a map of the city and an address of a hostel. We then set off on the city metro for the town centre. Arriving at our hostel, we were told we couldn’t check in for four hours, so we decided to find somewhere else. After a few hours of pounding the hot streets of Boa Viagem we finally found somewhere. Our dormitory was shared with a lady, who worried us slightly with the words, “I love red wine but my medication forbids me from drinking it!!"

The hostel owner armed us with another map of the city and the highlights of what to see. Sam, by this time was struggling to keep his eyes open, while E-J trying to be polite, took in as much of his information as she could. Half an hour later, having heard the entire history of Recife, we set out for the centre. Apparently, the old shopping centre had an impressive view of the whole city and when we reached the stop, we found ourselves at the post office and realised that maybe we hadn’t been listening to the kind words of the hostel owner as well as we should have!

We walked around the centre for a while, taking in the sites of the Palace of the Princesses and The Palace of Goverment. After enjoying the fine, colonial architecture we caught a taxi to the old town of Olinda, which translates as oh beautiful.

We soon discovered that our taxi driver also wished to take on the role of our enthusiastic tour guide. Humouring him, we politely looked interested as he pointed out what he considered to be the important sites of the police station and the supermarket! On arriving into the historic, downtown area, our taxi driver / tour guide insisted on waiting for us and escorting us to our next destination. Reluctantly, we agreed and enjoyed a beer looking out over one of the best-preserved colonial cities in Brazil.

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After a pleasant meal and a drink we thought we'd successfully lost the taxi driver, but then spotted him sitting two tables behind, watching us with a large bottle of beer!

After a stroll around the market stores, our over friendly driver took us back to Boa Viagem beach. On arriving back, he tried to claim the whole trip was 30 quid! Sam disputed this, gave him just less than half and we both jumped out, sharpish! The late afternoon was spent enjoying a few beers on the beach before heading back to the hostel for a well needed, early night.

We awoke early the next morning and enjoyed a brief stroll along the beach reluctant to go for a swim with so many signs warning us of shark attacks. After E-J had sat with the lady sharing our room and been made to go through all her wedding and family photos, we said goodbye to her and the friendly staff at our hostel. As we walked away they called out "have a great trip Becks and Lady Di"!!

We then took a long bus to Maceio, the capital of the state of Alagoas. We arrived just as the tourist board was closing and luckily caught the lady at the desk as she had missed her bus. She gave us some useful information and we managed to find accommodation relatively quickly, in the beach area of Jatiúca.

The next day we checked out of our room early and headed for the bus station to leave our bags in left luggage. We jumped on a local bus to a recommended, beautiful beach called Praia do Frances. After forty minutes on two buses, we finally arrived and took in the beautiful white sands and warm water, which varied from a clear green to an intense blue colour.

Taking another bus journey back, we spent a few hours, drinking Caipiroskas on a beach bar, in Jatiúca. As the sun came down and feeling quite relaxed, we headed back to the bus station to collect our luggage and begin our ten hour bus journey back to Salvador.

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The bus trip to Salvador was not as relaxing as we hoped. The sweatbox of a bus, with stiff upright seats was driven like a go-cart for the entire journey and we barely slept a wink. This possibly explained why we arrived into Salvador an hour and half early! The bus driver was probably feeling pleased to have broken the journey record! This was not good news for us as it was coming up to 5am and our hostel wasn’t answering the phone. We spent the next two hours enjoying the delights of the grotty bus station before we finally arrived at our hostel at 7am.

After a few desperately needed hours of sleep, we took in the impressive old town of Salvador. The former colonial capital of Brazil really looked stunning with its cobbled streets, glamorous churches and detailed architecture.

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We looked around the area of Pelourinho and visited the ornate San Fransisco church. Throughout the streets we could hear the constant sounds of samba bands playing, and could appreciate that this is where all the traditional Brazilian dance and music stems from. As the day rolled on, constant samba bands walked up and down the streets, with almost 100 people following, dancing away, loving the sounds with a beer in hand!

The evening was spent enjoying a typical Bahian meal along with a couple of Caips. Tired, we went to bed only to be awoken in the middle of the night by a torch flashing through our window into our room. The almost ever, calm E-J, jumped out of bed and sprinted for the door, whilst Sam stood by the lockless window. Worried that we were about to be attacked. E-J, fumbling for the key, eventually made it downstairs and alerted the owner. She raced up only to let us know it was the workman turning off the water!

In the morning, after another poor hostel breakfast, we headed back into the old town, Pelourinho and watched the Capoeira martial arts dance. Sam was quick to join in!

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We ended our time in Salvador listening to a live band before heading to the airport. Another maniac, taxi driver drove us to the airport in plenty of time. This was probably helped by the way he constantly skipped lanes or took slip roads to beat the traffic lights!

When we arrived into Sao Paulo, we were greeted with torrential rain. We headed to Sacha’s flat in town and enjoyed a boozy evening, catching up until the early hours of the morning, as it was Julia's last night. The next day we visited a local market near Cotia and said our goodbyes and farewells to Julia.

Our last few days in Sao Paulo were spent relaxing with Chris and Sacha as the rest of the family were still in Bahia. As the girls sat around enjoying a few drinks, Chris and Sam found time to hit a few more golf balls and play some more tennis.

Suddenly in no time at all, it was the 16th of January and it was time for our flight to Buenos Aires.

Sams Comments: The North of Brazil was really interesting. Maceio was somewhere I wished we had stayed longer. As for the Samba, amazing, and the Capoeira dance was easy for me to master!!

E-J´s Comments: It was a real shock to return to roughing it as backpackers again. Especially, when it came to the return of the cold showers, blocked loos and sharing a room with a rather eccentric woman! In the last five weeks, I am really pleased, we got to see so much of Brazil, but I still find that we have only just scratched the surface and there is so much more to this place. I will definitely be returning, as I truly love Brazil.

Posted by E-J 07:20 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Bahia

sunny 35 °C

Having got up at 5am (Julia managing to oversleep her alarm), we made it to the airport in plenty of time.

Three and half hours later we arrived at Costa do Sauipe, and met up with the Matias family. Instantly, we were all mesmerised by the beauty of the place and the rustic look of the house we would be staying in for the next ten days. This place looked close to paradise.

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We dropped our bags, caught up with the family and then decided to take a walk on the beach, which was about 200 metres from the house. We crossed a bridge over a small lagoon and climbed the sand dune before we found a completely deserted and simply beautiful beach.

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Sam, Julia and Nick immediately ran straight into the sea, while the rest of us enjoyed the view from the beach and also the viewers decided it was best to avoid the fatal 'Portuguese Man of War' jellyfish.

After a brief stroll along the beach, we headed back to the house. We had a few delicious drinks of proseco, before heading to Praia do Forte, another beach resort twenty minutes away.

We had a few drinks and after an unfortunate situation with the lack of service from the restaurant we had planned to eat in, we ended the evening in a great bar with live singers and a couple of caipiroskas. This left us all rather over refreshed by the end of the night.

The next day we awoke to a great breakfast and relaxed by the pool. The usual indulgent 12 a clock caipiroska, made by the Caip Runner himself, was then followed by a delicious, plentiful lunch. In the evening we headed to the village of Costa do Sauipe, which situates the three main luxury five star hotels. In this area there are also a few boutiques and restaurants. We all had a bite to eat and then watched an impressive samba band perform in the street.

After this, we watched a Brazilian live band perform on a stage in the middle of the village. Julia and E-J tried to get into the swing of the Brazilian dancing, but didn't feel they had quite the right technique when it came to shaking their bundas! (bottoms)

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The next day was New Year's Eve and it continued in the same indulgent style as the previous two as we were treated by the Matias’ extreme generosity.

When it came to the evening, the traditional Brazilian style of New Year, began to happen. Firstly, we all got dressed into white, which is what all the Brazilians do to bring peace and good luck to the New Year. We then had a big meal, with lots of delicious proseco and by 11pm we headed to the small port where we caught a boat over the lagoon to a part of the beach further down from the Matias’ place. Armed with bottles of champagne, we all made our way down the beach to the waters edge and watched the waves glistering in the moonlight as we waited for midnight. All very excited, the Matias explained to us that at midnight, we would all go into the sea, ankle deep and jump seven waves, making seven wishes. Also it is traditional to throw white flowers into the sea as an offering to the sea Goddess, Iemanjá.

When it was midnight an array of firelights lit up the sky and reflected into the sea, making it look so special and we all wished each other a Happy New Year before all running into the sea, hand in hand and jumping the waves.

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We then returned to the beach (E-J, a bit more soaked than most, thanks to Sam’s over excitable leaps...)

We spent the next half hour drinking champagne and toasting the New Year. We then headed to a bar, which looked more like a palm leafed, deserted shack (the only bar found on this stretch of beach for a good 300m) on the top of the dunes and had our first (of many) of the New Year's caipiroskas.

As we headed back to the house through the condominium, we passed a house that was covered in white balloons, with blaring music, pumping from within for a load of people having a partying and celebrating the New Year. Before we knew it we were invited to join them and told to help ourselves to the open bar, overflowing with champagne and caipiroskas. Within minutes we were in the middle of the swell of people on the dance floor. E-J, Julia and Sach proceeded to spend the next three hours on the dance floor, taking over the place and letting the rest of the party know they had arrived!

At 4 am it was time to go. We said our goodbyes and thank yous and headed back to the Matias’ place. When we got there, daylight was beginning to dawn. Sam and Nick had the great idea of watching the sunrise from the beach, so ran down, with beers in hand, E-J, Julia and Sach, slowly and more unsteadily followed. Young Chris, at this point had passed out on the outside bench.

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When we got to the beach we all sat together on the steps at the top, watching the sun slowly rise. We then walked down to the waters edge and sat on the sand, just by the sea. There wasn't another person in sight.

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All the colours of the morning light looked so crisp and so vibrant. It was such a magical feeling to be sitting there at 6:30 am in the morning and already feeling the heat of the morning sun on our faces.

We slowly stumbled back to the house, finding the walk along the bridge to be more of a challenge than normal. Julia and Sam also took great pleasure in repeating what they found to be a hysterical phrase of 'needing a night caip'. Sach and E-J just tried to humour them and stop them from shouting these words as we made our way back to the condominium.

When we finally reached the house, it was now 7:30 am and the sun was high in the sky. Chris was still passed out on the outside bench, with little chance of being awoken from his deep sleep. We all headed to bed, to wake up a few hours later to enjoy the day.

New Year´s day was a day of recovery and we spent most of the time on the terrace by the pool. E-J and Julia managed to go for a walk along the beach, but everyone else remained homebound. That evening, too exhausted to even talk we watched a movie before going to bed.

The following day we went to the Mango Tree for lunch, which was this wonderful restaurant underneath the most gigantic mango tree. The meal was delicious and after this, we spent the rest of the day basking in the sun.

On the 3rd of January we headed past the North of Bahia into Sergipe and to another beach resort called Mange Seco (which means dried swamp).

To actually get to the beach, took two hours to drive from Costa do Sauipe, followed by a boat over a river, which took 40 minutes and then a 10 minute sand dune buggy ride over the dunes, which was brilliant fun. We were surrounded by palm trees, which made it look very tropical and beautiful. The driver also told us, that the dunes are constantly moving due to the winds, which changes the buggy's paths each day.

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When we reached the beach, it stretched as far as the eye could see. The sand was so white and the sea, so crystal blue. We felt so spoiled to see another absolutely, beautiful beach in Brazil and spent the rest of the day enjoying the beach. To get back to our car we did the same journey as before. By the end, we were all exhausted (especially the two drivers who have to deal with all the maniacs on the road and believe us, there are a lot!!!). The evening was spent enjoying a few games of poker with an abundance of alcohol. Sam proudly won, despite being called “Chicken Shit” for never taking any risks.

The next few days followed in the same pattern as before, enjoying the beautiful house and pool. The night before Nick and his girlfriend, Jo left, the girls decided to dress up and have a few cocktails at one of the big, plush hotels in the village before the boys joined them for a meal.

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By the time the boys arrived, the girls were absolutely flying. The meal was fun, though we were the last to leave the village and the girls needed extra support as they were practically carried back.

The following day was our last day with the Matias’, so we decided to go to Praia de Forte and see the turtle sanctuary. This place helps to protect the sea turtles and rescues any that are found close to death on the beach. It was fascinating to see all the different species and sizes, in particular, the leatherback which has an average length of 2 metres. After this, we enjoyed a lovely meal in Prais de Forte before heading back. That evening, we enjoyed another game of heated poker before retiring to bed.

The final day we spent on the beach and by the pool, before Sach and Chris kindly drove us into Salvador for our night bus. As much as we were excited to see a new part of Brazil, we were also sad to leave the good company and kind comfort of our hosts.

Sam's comments: What a great place. A complete luxury, totally indebted to the Matias’. Will miss the Caips!

E-J's Comments: The last few weeks have been like paradise and we have been spoiled rotten by the generosity of the Matias family. This has definitely been a far stretch away from backpacking. It's going to be quite a shock to the system roughing it again!

Posted by E-J 11:57 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Sao Paulo

sunny 30 °C

When we arrived, we caught the metro to where we had agreed to meet our friends, Sach and her brother Nick. We headed back to their flat in Sao Paulo, tired, but relieved to be in the company of good friends who spoke the Portuguese language and understood the culture of their country. For the first time, we felt we could properly relax. After a few drinks and a bite to eat, we returned to the flat, to sleep in the most comfortable, luxurious bed we had slept in for months!

The next day we did some last minute Christmas shopping in one of the Sao Paulo’s impressive shopping malls and then headed back to the Matias’ house in Cotia, just outside Sao Paulo.

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We spent the rest of the day relaxing around the pool, followed by drinks on the patio and a lovely meal with all the family. We gratefully realised that our backpacking days were on hold until we left the generous Matias’ family after New Year.

The next day, we went to a drinks party of family friends, celebrating in the traditional Christmas spirit, but also in the boiling heat. It was so strange to be almost back to normality, having normal conversations about anything other than where we were heading next and without any other backpackers around.

The run up to Christmas was spent relaxing by the pool in the morning and the afternoon usually started with a Caipiroska around Midday. The youngest son, Chris (or Capi Runner as he became known) always ensured that we had the finest Brazilian Caipiroska's. For anyone who is unfamiliar with this drink, it is made from the fresh fruit of your choice, crushed into a juice and then cocktail shaken with vodka and ice and with a spoonful of sugar. It is simply delicious!

Fantastic, late afternoon lunches with the family were always enjoyed with plenty of laughter. Between these and the evenings, the day was spent either returning to relax by the pool or enjoying a lazy siesta.

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By the evening the ever generous chief barman, Paulo (or The Caip Father, as he became know) would open bottles of Proseco, beer or wine for us to enjoy before a lovely evening meal, which on occasion was a massive, sumptuous barbeque, cooked by the creative head chef, Nick. Then, after a long and always entertaining evening meal, we would relax into a film or roll into bed. We felt as though we were in heaven!

On Christmas Eve we both thought of are family and friends, but the hospitality of Paulo, Jackie, Diane, Sacha, Nick and Chris kept are spirits high. This could have easily been changed when Sam offered to reverse Sacha’s car out of the drive, managing to scrape the paint off one car and indenting another. This was not his finest hour!

In the evening the Matias’ neighbours and family friends, the Pallins, kindly invited us around for drinks. We enjoyed champagne with them, looking out of their garden onto the magnificent golf course of the condominium. Sam felt pleased and relieved not to see any of the divots he had left on the course earlier that day!

After another lovely evening meal and a few drinks we all played the traditional Matias' Christmas Eve game of charades, which had us all in hysterics and ensured that we were all in the spirit of Christmas, looking forward to the next day.

We awoke early and met the rest of the family to open our overflowing stockings, which were laden with beautiful gifts and chocolate! After this, we all passed gifts to each other from around the tree. Sam then had time for a quick Christmas day swim before getting ready for Christmas lunch. As we carried our many presents up to our room, we both felt completely indebted to the Matias’ for providing us with so many lovely and amazing gifts.

Dressed in red, to ensure that we kept with the tradition of the Matias household, we sat down for a fantastic treat of traditional, English Christmas lunch. Our plates, full of turkey, potatoes and vegetables, washed down with fine, red wine ensured the day felt like Christmas at home.

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The remaining part of the day was spent indulging in more drinks and chatting, long into the evening. After a light supper, we took part in the Matias´ family poker game. Trying our best at bluffing and imitating each other with cries of chicken or as Paulo put it “Chicken Shit”, Sam finally took the title of champion. This completed an amazing Christmas day, which will never be forgotten!

As Boxing Day passed with the same incredible hospitality, we said our goodbyes to Paulo, Jackie, Nick and Chris, who headed up to Bahia before we would join them a few days later.

On the 27th December, our great friends, Julia and Paul joined us and we had a lovely evening catching up and exchanging even more gifts!

The 28th saw Sam reach the grand old age of 27. He again felt completely spoiled by the wonderful gifts he received, his only worry being, how he would now fit them all in his rucksack!

Lunch was another memorable moment, Sacha’s, lovely Granna Diana, took us all to one of Sao Paulo’s finest restaurants, Fogo De Chao. Once sat down, we quickly realised that by turning our small, round table mats from red to green, a throng of waiters would surround us with skewers of different cuts of the most delicious meat! We all ate like kings. After a coffee, Sam was beginning to feel a little tired and then a surprise birthday cake arrived.

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After the meal, we enjoyed a tour of the restaurant and saw how they cooked the meat before heading home, all feeling incredibly fat! The afternoon was spent relaxing by the pool and in the evening we enjoyed a few drinks, before packing and getting ready for our early flight to Bahia the next day.

Sam’s Comments: The hospitality of the whole family was unbelievable. I will never forget the experience, although I am glad that not too many people were on the golf course the day I played!

E-J’s Comments: Staying with the Matias’ has made our Christmas so special and we feel totally overindulged by their amazing hospitality.

Posted by E-J 13:55 Archived in Brazil Comments (2)

Ilha Grande

sunny 30 °C

The ride to the port took no time at all, partly because we both passed out from our early and exuberant start. We were both really looking forward to seeing this beautiful island, which was once a former prison.

We shared a cab with a couple of dutch travellers to the harbour and jumped on the first available boat to Ilha Grande. On arriving, we realised that our hostel was at the other end of the beach and as there are no cars on this island, the only way to get there was on foot across the beach.

With our rucksacks pulling us down, we stumbled across the beach, which seemed to change from tiny pebbles to soft, fine sand about every five paces.

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We arrived at our hostel with no booking in place, despite the fact that we had paid a deposit, but were luckily still given a room. Sam then slept for a few hours while E-J spent some time on the net.

In the evening, we explored the little town with it's stone and sandy pathways to various shops and restaurants, while looking for a place to eat. We found somewhere, which looked pleasant and looked out to the sea near the port. Although E-J was slighlty unsure of the menu, Sam persuaded her into having the appealing "house special".

We returned to the hostel for a drink at the bar, but then headed to our room as we could see the place was full of young, single travellers, hungry for some partying. Something we couldn`t face after being worn out by Rio!

In the early hours, E-J suddenly awoke feeling dreadful and spent the rest of the night in the bathroom with bad food poisioning.

The next morning, with E-J still unable to eat anything and Sam disappointed by the average breakfast, we boarded a boat, which would take us to the well known beautiful beach, Lopes Mendes. After the one and half hour boat journey we then had a twenty minute walk over a hill to the other side and to the beach. E-J, still struggling, took forever, slowly climbing up and over the hill.

When we finally reached the beach, it was a mesmerising view of clear, white sand, crystal blue water and luscious green trees. We found a quiet spot to rest and enjoyed the rest of the day on this beautiful beach.

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We then caught the boat back to Ilha Grande and treated ourselves to another one of those "help yourself to as much as you like' icecream stores. The cost was then calculated by the weight and Sam seriously over did it when his came to 4 pounds!

That night, we ate at the hostel and after a drink or two we headed to our room tired of the usual small talk with all other backpackers; the usual three questions: How long are you travelling for? Where are you travelling to? Where have you been?

The next day the sky was overcast but we decided we would return to Lopes Mendes and see if we could do a bit of body boarding. Before we ventured into the sea we also got to see a few monkeys playing in the trees, which E-J took great delight in, especially by how tame they were and how close they would come to us.

Our body boarding experience was particularly amusing as the waves were incredibly strong, so the first challenge was trying to get out deep enough to catch them without being thrown over and dragged back to shore. E-J, also had the problem of not only trying to hold onto her board for dear life, but each time a wave hit her, it would literally rip off her bikini leaving her rather more exposed than she would like, this was much to Sam's amusement!

The hour of body boarding was great fun and we managed to catch the first wave together ,which we found hysterical, bobbing along simultaneously.

As it began to rain we headed back to the boat and back to Ilha Grande. That night we decided to eat out in town again and took the safe option of going for pizza. By the time we had finished the rain was now torrential and we had the challenge of getting back to the hostel via the beach. In the pitch black, flip flops in hand, we ran all the way back along the beach, with Sam pulling E-J along to make her run faster. By the time we reached the hostel, we looked as though we had jumped in the sea as we were utterly soaked, dripping from head to toe.

The next day we woke early and headed for the first boat back to the mainland at 8:30 am. Then a few hours later we were on the bus to Sao Paulo were we would be staying with E-J's great family friends, the Matias' for the next few weeks.

Sam's Comments: A stunning place, with incredible vegetation and wildlife,

E-J's Comments: Ilha Grande is beautiful and I would love to return here again, although next time I think Sam and I should choose somewhere a little quieter, away from all those backpackers game for a party. This place is so romantic and the beaches are out of this world. I am also pleased to say I'm a better body boarder than Sam!

Posted by E-J 13:17 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

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