Monday, March 17, 2014

Brazil Gettaway

It's been a long time coming, but I'm finally back to blog posting! (Hopefully I can keep this up.  I started this post over 6 months ago!!!!!)

After our precious boy was born, finding time to write and document our travels became nearly impossible. Add to it a cross country move, doctor's orders to stop straining my eyes on the computer, getting pregnant again, and you get 14 months without a single post! Pathetic!

But I'm back and hopefully can get caught least until the next baby arrives :)

May 19th was Nick and my 6 year anniversary. We were in the middle of our move back to America and therefore busy busy with last minute preparations that go with leaving a foreign country which we'd called home for 3 years. 
As a gift to each other we bought plane tickets to Brazil! 
At the Embassy getting our visas....that is a story in itself...lets just say, we are lucky LA has a Consulate, otherwise the trip wouldn't have happened!

July 1st we finally got to celebrate our anniversary properly as we toasted glasses and boarded a plane for São Paulo, Brazil!

One of our best friends, Kenneth Pope, one of Nick's fraternity brothers from college, works and lives in Brazil. We'd promised him since he visited us in Japan almost 3 years ago, that we would visit him when we got the chance. 2.5 years later we were excited to make that promise a reality.

(The above picture was taken in Pope's apartment in São Paulo of his bar.  Above his bar is the framed Chinese traditional, vintage garb he got while we were vacationing together in China just two years prior.  Below is his bookshelf adorned with many photos, one of which is of us and our other best friend Randy taken in college at one of our campus's local bars. - We have the same photo framed at our house :)

We left Vander with my mom and dad, getting to take a true anniversary trip, sans baby! The first time without him actually, since his birth exactly 8 months prior! This momma was a little sad and nervous about it, but it was a much needed break!
Nick and I were able to sleep in!!! Ha! (But seriously) Touring São Paulo and Rio De Janeiro with our friend, going to the beach, the city, the countryside, late night cocktails on rooftop bars, mid-day cappuccinos in cute bistros, and eating to our hearts was a wonderful trip to remember

Day 1-brunch at Santo Grao-cheese bread balls=pao de quejo, tostex=ham and cheese grilled sandwich, cappuccino 

Dinner at The Fifties = burgers, onion rings, shakes, and Chopp beers.  (Chopp is a Brazilian beer. I'm not a beer drinker myself, but as they say, "When in Brazil...")

The 50's is an American-style burger chain in Brazil that Pope single-handedly started.  From one restaurant, he revamped the image and opened several more.  Five years later, there is now almost 30 of them, in many cities all over Brazil!  

Big, mouthwatering, burgers!  They seriously give most American burgers a run for their money!!

Gorgeous view of the city of São Paulo at night.  A great first day to our vaca!!
Hotel Unique for cocktails on the roof and to try caipirinha's for the first time. (Caipirinha is Brazil's "national cocktail", consisting of sugar, alcohol and mashed fruit.  We tried all different kinds while there, but the most popular is with lime.)

After that, it was a cab ride over to another high rise, the terrace - Itália, for drinks with a view at a piano bar.

And after all that...a 1am dinner at Paris 6

Day 2-slept through breakfast :)
Lunch at Empório Santa Maria for sushi

Ironically enough, Brazil is home to the largest population of Japanese outside of Japan.  So, needless to say, the sushi in Brazil was delicious! 

After lunch, Pope took us to his favorite local market to do some grocery shopping market  for the beach.

While there, we picked up some gelato popsicles for dessert!!  (Sadly enough I never got to eat another one of these tasty treats.  But they were so good that I didn't stop looking for them for the rest of our trip.)

Kenneth gave us a true scenic tour of São Paulo as we drove to the beach.  It was a hour + drive, but worth it once we arrived at the gorgeous rainforest where his family has a beach condo.

The poverty in brazil is abundant. The houses are surrounded by heavy concrete walls, the apartment, or complexes have gates around them and heavy security!

We stopped to take pics of the boats on the water and two little boys around the age of 9 immediately ran up to our car. Pope informed us that they were wanting us to pay them to "watch" our car...or really pay them to "not mess with it" as Pope stated. Crazy! He said he'd stay in the car (with the doors locked) while we got out...he said if he didn't, they would key it - or worse!  While we took photos, the boys continued to stand next to us, in hopes that we would ask them to take a photo of us for money (or so they could run off with our camera!! No thanks!) 

The beach house that we stayed at was private. Very secluded and set back in a green jungle! Amazing! It's the Hamptons of São Paulo, as Pope stated. 

Once at the beach house we had wine, guac and cherries while in the hot tub, then warmed up in the sauna when the night chill got too cold.  After that, we made an amazing dinner of steak salads, fruit, cheese, bruschetta, bread and a delicious cream spread. Once we were stuffed from dinner, we played a long 4 hour game of monopoly while drinking white, rose, red wine and then sake.  (Yes, this was definitely our vacay away :)

Day 3-brunch overlooking the ocean, relaxing on the deck, then a few hours at the beach.

We left the beach house about 4:30 to head back to the city. About 45 min later we were driving in heavy traffic and a police officer waved us over to the side. He'd been checking each cars tags and didn't like something on Pope's car. Though Pope knew the native language he played dumb so the officer would let us go! Good thing too cause it worked! Because of his quick thinking we didn't get the car impounded on the side of the road!! (As Pope later informed us, it is something they most definitely don't hesitate doing in Brazil.  We were incredibly lucky!!)

Thank goodness... that wouldn't have been a very good 4th of July! Happy Birthday America!!

Got back to the city and did a little quick souvineer shopping at the flagship Havianna store before getting ready to go out.

Met up with Lauren Pralle a friend from college who coincidentally is also living and working in Brazil. We had dinner and drinks with her and Lucas, another one of their friends at a yummy place called, Chez Lorena.

The best watermelon martinis!

I had a delicious bowl of risotto with broccoli, mushrooms, goat cheese, nuts and I don't remember what else, but I took a picture because I really want to try and replicate it.  It was so incredibly tasty!!

After dinner we want to a Samba bar to listen to some Brazil music from one of the local bands.
The Samba singer, Ana Rosa, was awesome! We danced along to the music with the natives.

Day 4- we got up early and got ready for our flight to Rio. Another quick cappuccino at Kenneth's fav coffee bistro and it was off to the airport. 

Chão São Paulo!  Until we meet again....

Hello Rio!

We flew into Rio around noon, perfect visibility for seeing all the sights from the air! What a view!

We never pack light :)

We got in a taxi and headed to our hotel....Pope had told us none of our plans prior to the trip, it was all one surprise after the other...

...So when we pulled up to the famous hotel right on the beach, the Copacabana Palace Hotel, we were shocked.  The hotel was stunning.  We felt truly spoiled.  
"...the most famous and luxurious hotel in Rio de JaneiroBrazil. It's considered South America's premier hotel, having received the rich and famous for the past 80 years. It faces the Copacabana Beach."


The rooms were some of the nicest Nick and I have ever stayed in.  The best part though, was the location.  Right in front of the water for easy access and great views of paradise.  

For dinner that night = cappuccinos, mango caipirinhas, cheese puffs, an appetizer of hearts of palm, salad, fish and rice.

That night we decided to retire early (midnight).  We went back to the hotel for a good nights rest before our hike the next day. (Side note...we'd been eating 9 pm dinners and staying out till after 2 every night without a second thought. Brazil truly is a city that never sleeps! We would go to dinner and it would be dead! The real crowds didn't show up till about 10pm!!! And night life didn't begin till hours later!) 

Day 5- 8am hike up what the tourists call, "Sugar Loaf" (or pão de açúcar). The hike was a great way to see the city. Amazing view. 
Just a bit steep!

But we got about halfway up and the guide started getting out the harnesses to rock climb! I have never rock climbed before and was therefore a bit taken aback. (read = minor panic attack)  Pope hadn't told us anything about rock climbing...only that we were going to do an "easy hike" up the mountain. It wasn't bad but definitely new terrain for me and therefore I got myself a little paranoid of falling. 

Once we got to the top, and I'd calmed down enough to look out, I was glad that we came up the way we had. 

It was sooooo worth it for the view!!! Absolutely gorgeous!!
Rock climbing - Check! Best view of Rio - Check!  

Our guide told us the whole way up that at the top we were going to drink the, "best beer we've ever tasted".  It was our incentive to keep climbing. Though I am not a beer drinker and though there was only one option for beer at the small food and beverage vendor at the top, it really did taste amazing! :)  We were parched after the hot climb!

We like to take pictures when we are together...if it isn't obvious!

After our long morning of hiking we were starving. We headed to one of Kenneth's newest burger restaurants for another 50's burger! (He's now got 28 locations in Brazil)

After burgers we went to the beach for a nice nap while the sun went down.

For dinner we had Thai food in Leblon (another area of the beach in Rio).

Then drinks at Jobi, where the boys ordered 13 beers total!  (The waiters keep tabs by writing the total of beers every time another round is ordered, on top of a coaster)

We tried to go to the "hottest club" on the beach but the line was out the door about 200 people deep! So we had cocktails at the bar next door instead.
This martini was the absolute best drink I had while in Brazil, maybe ever.  It was my kind of concoction, a martini with SPICE!  I don't remember all the ingredients, but as shown in the picture, it had pepper juice in it!  It had the perfect amount of fire and ice.

Day 6- Nick and I ventured out on our own to find brunch.  We stumbled upon a small stand called, Fruti Vita.  

It was there that we discovered our obsession with ACAI smoothies!!!  My sister had told us prior to the trip that we had to try one, but we had yet to do so.  Once we did, we were mad that we hadn't been eating them every day!  (Thankfully we have found a few places in America that make them almost as good as in Brazil....but not exactly the same.) 

We loved this place so much, we found Pope at the hotel and took him back for round two of the yummy acai!
We also picked up some "Brigadeiro" and took it to-go.  (It's a Brazilian chocolate truffle...yum yum)

Then it was off to the beach for a bit of laying out. Of course we pick the hottest day to do our sun bathing! About a half hour in we were setting up umbrellas to hide under.

My other favorite thing....drinks out of a coconut :)

That night we ate dinner at Porção, a Brazilian BBQ place. It was our, "Happy porked out night," as Pope called it! 
The meat keeps coming until you tell them to "stop", this is done by placing the circle card up to the red sided "Não" (No).
When you are ready for more, simply flip that card back over to the green, "SIM" (yes) side.

For dessert Pope suggested we order the, creme de papaya.  His food suggestions were never a disappointment.  :)
Despite being stuffed, we tried to get gelato for the 2nd night in a row at Kenneth's favorite place.  Unfortunately, it was closed again! :(
So we went back to the hotel for a drink by the pool.

Day 7-last day...we got up early so as to maximize our time on our last day in Brazil. We ate the breakfast buffet by the pool which we'd yet to enjoy (the first morning we skipped breakfast for our hike and the second morning we slept in and missed breakfast by a few min) It was a plethora of fresh, pinapple, dragon fruit, mango, passion fruit, etc etc! Yummo! Plus the usual breakfast foods as well as a wide spread of about 20 different kinds of pastries. A great spread that we were sad we'd missed the two other days :( 

Topped off with a foaming cup of cappuccino and we were ready to set out for the famed Christ Redeemer.

We hailed a cab and were on our way, but from the back seat Nick and I heard Pope speaking swift Portuguese to the cab driver. All of a sudden he unbuckled his seat belt and hopped out, we had no other option but to follow suit...which we did. Once back on the sidewalk he informed us that the cabbie wasn't going to comply with our request and price for the ride to and from the Christ Redeemer. (Pope's known for his negotiating skills :)  He doesn't back down easily).

Saving the best for last....seeing the Christ Redeemer in person as our last adventure before we departed Brazil.

On our last day, we finally got try the famed Venchi gelato!  It too, was worth the wait :)
With our bellies full of gelato and our suitcases stuffed with Havaianas for everyone, we said goodbye to Pope and boarded a plane.  Leaving Brazil and ending our amazing trip was not easy, but knowing we were to see our little "Van Man" in a few short hours, made it a little easier to bare.
Such a great trip full of once in a lifetime memories.  Nick and I were glad to have been able to take one last foreign trip before settling down in our new home in San Diego.

"Chão Brasil"...hopefully one day we can return :)