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Manaus – gateway to the Amazon


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The lovely ladies from Australia joined me at breakfast today. They told me they were very fascinated by our nature here in Scandinavia and that a few of them had visited Sweden among other countries. One of them even had the opportunity to see our royal Family live out on the streets in Stockholm, and was completely amazed by that. Yes well, unfortunately that will become rarer now due to change and increased terror threats in the World etc. They also said Anthony told them that the Amazon state tries to introduce diseases which the Amazon Native Indians are not immune to, just to remove them out of the Amazon Rainforest. All this because the state found Uranium out in the Amazon Jungle they want to break and sell. And all this is made with high secrecy so the rest of the world won’t find out. If this is true, it is just horrible. I mean, why? There must be other ways. The gathering was at 11am for the transfer back to Manaus again. First a canoe ride to a floating bridge in the outskirts of Manaus. Then a ride in a warm minibus on bumpy borderline whiplash provoking asphalt roads back to Manaus and the hotel I stayed at just a few days ago – Hotel Go Inn Manaus.

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I checked in and my guide Jorge Leal de Souza approached me and introduced himself. He is known from many different TV- channels as Discovery Channel, National Geographic, CNN among others, so that felt a little special knowing he would guide me at a private tour in Manaus.

The city and municipality of Manaus is located in north Brazil and is capitol city of the Amazon state, also known as the Heart of the Amazon. Manaus is located in the middle of Amazon Rainforest and easiest to access by boat or airplane. Thanks to its isolated geographic location its nature as well as culture heritage has been preserved and most certainly protected the Native Brazilian Tribes. When the city was founded in 1693 it was at first a small oasis in the rainforest where Rio Negro falls into the Amazon River. The rubber boom was blooming during late 19th century and Manaus became the richest city in South America and eventually got the nickname Paris of the Tropics. Many wealthy European families settled in Manaus and brought with them their love for sophisticated European art, architecture and culture.

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We took a taxi to Rio Negro Palace which was built by Karl Waldemar Scholz, German baron who imported most things for his palace from Europe. Furniture, clocks and other furnishings in luxury style. A tour in this magnificent palace was included in my tour with an English-speaking guide. I was pretty impressed by many of the art work hanging on the walls. Probably imported from Europe as well.

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The development bubble led to installation of street lighting, waterworks, drainage and a tram system and also wide tree-lined avenues were built. Bear in mind that these mega-rich families were overloaded with money and even sent their laundry to be done in Paris, France. The barons erected Mercado Municipal which was strongly inspired by the famous market halls Les Halles in Paris and the arts center Palácio Rio Negro located in the towns Portuguese district with fascinating facades. We walked to the Mercado Municipal and I got to try a local dish for lunch – Pirarucú – fish (Arapaima Gigas) with rice and spaghetti. Good taste, even though I’m picky when it comes to food. When walking around on the streets you couldn’t help noticing the majority of the cars had sunscreen on every window, even the front window. I just had to ask Jorge, if that wasn’t illegal. Oh, yes, he answered. But if you get pulled over by the police you just pay some money and they will let you go without fixing it.

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They even built a replica of Grand Opera de Paris – Teatro Amazonas – a luxurious opera house with room for an audience of 700 people. Extravagant gilded balconies, French glass, Italian marble and European brick made the perfect shrine for Manaus active culture elite. A visit in this magnificent theater was included in my tour. The chairs in the saloon are nowadays dressed in silk and they installed air-conditioning already in 1925, after a famous French ballet dancer refused to perform due to the heat. The stage curtain itself is one big painting that moves up towards the ceiling in one piece without being folded or pulled aside.

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In the saloon is a gigantic ceiling painting giving the visitors the impression of sitting underneath the Eifel tower. Upstairs is a debutant hall where 16-year-old girls danced to celebrate the step into adult life in becoming a woman. Huge marble pillars, Mahogany tiled floor mixed with lighter colored woods gave a luxury impression.

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Even here is a ceiling painting spectacular in its way, since the ceiling is vaulted and gives the impression that the persons in the painting are looking at you everywhere you go in the hall.

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The streets nearby the opera house were covered with rubber preventing noise from passing carriages outside to interrupt during performances. Today the opera house accommodates opera seasons but also theater productions and jazz festivals, and a part of the rubber street is still present outside. I just had to walk over there to experience walking on it. It was a strange feeling, but I totally understand how it reduced various noises from the traffic. The Amazonas State Government has since 2001 sponsored the Amazonas Film Festival, which annually takes place in November, to revitalize the opera house and art scene of Manaus.
When the rubber boom burst, the wealthy families abandoned the area and the city got into an economic crisis. To attract foreign enterprises during 1970-ies Manaus became a foreign trade zone. Today Manaus is the largest city in Amazonas region with its 2 million inhabitants and does export nuts, rubber, timber, crocodile skin and cacao among other things. The harbor is the most important trading center for all trading in Manaus, both regionally, nationally and internationally. Many of the world’s rubber factories are here in Manaus, which 11 produces only motorcycle tires. Many of the famous brands like GoodYear, Bridgestone etc. were founded here.

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After my private tour, which had been very giving and interesting, I could rest until dinner at the hotel restaurant. Dared to try a local white wine, but it wasn’t that good unfortunately.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Brazil Tagged cities Comments (0)

Suddenly it happens


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Woke up before the cell phone alarm sounded. The hotel staff had not called me during the night, so my bag had not arrived yet. What now? Tiptoed away to the reception and asked yet again asked about my bag. But no. The hotel staff tried their best to get in contact with TAM Airlines by phone, but without result. It was morning and also Saturday. What were the odds of get in contact with that small airport a day like this? Aaah!! Now I was ready to give up. If I didn’t receive my bag today, they could just as well send it straight back to Sweden, so I didn’t have to worry for the rest of my trip. I miserably walked back to my hotel room and packed my things. Checked out from Hotel Viale Cataratas and had a few hours now to kill before Joe came and drove me to Foz do Iguaçu/Cataratas International Airport.

Sat down on a soft and comfortable couch in the hotel lobby and had just sunk into my own little world when one of the hotel staff calls for me. Barely made it up from the couch and walked up to her. Finally, great news! Suddenly it happened! TAM Airlines themselves had called the hotel and announce that they now had my bag delivered by courier. For real? With careful optimism I returned to the couch and it felt really good now – almost too good. Time wise, it felt like 3 weeks from the great news until the man stepped into the hotel with my bag. A total happiness arose the very second I spotted my bag – like a child waiting for presents on Christmas Day.

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There it was. My bag! Weird you can be so happy about getting your bag back. But hey? No ID inspection??? Seriously? In other words, he could have delivered my bag to the very next person?! But right then I could care less.

Joe arrived at 12.45pm to drive me to Foz do Iguaçu/Cataratas International Airport. The transfer took about 20 minutes and just inside the departure terminal it hit me – I must check in my luggage again after just hours in my possession again. Walked up to the check-in counter, took a deep breath and handed over the bag. Oh well. Dear bag. See you in Rio then? As mentioned earlier, Foz do Iguaçu/Cataratas International Airport is a rather small airport – despite the international status. There weren’t many gates to choose from, even fewer restaurants to eat at. The airplane departed just before 4pm and it took about 1 ½ hours to reach Galeão International Airport in northern Rio de Janeiro. The rain pattered against the aircraft and it was a gray and overcast weather. Got pretty fast from the gate to the baggage belt to pick up my bag. Bag after bag came on out the belt, but my bag never seemed to show up. Minutes ticked away and also my pulse, that after a while most surely was at 160 bpm. What the hell! I had time for many thoughts and felt the devil’s horn started to grow out on my forehead. But eventually my bag showed up, as one of the very last bags out on the belt! Whew!

In the arrival hall, I met up with my local guide Renato. We left the rain over the airport and the slum districts (favelas) in the northern Rio de Janeiro and traveled through one of all car tunnels towards the southern and wealthier part of Rio. The weather somewhat eased up the more south we got and caught a glimpse of both Sugar Loaf and Christ the Redeemer. The vast contrast between the favelas as we passed in the north to the luxury hotels that lined up along Copacabana Beach in the south was overwhelming. Renato drove an extra turn in the neighborhood and pointed out great restaurants and local stores so I could easily orient myself before dropping me off at my hotel, Hotel Windsor Martinique Copacabana. Definitely the most elegant hotel so far during this trip. I had barely gotten out of the care before a bell boy grabbed my bags and took them inside the hotel lobby. Check-in went fast and then a bell boy followed me up to my room with my bags. Perhaps not the biggest room in the world, but I wasn’t here for the hotel.

A local store was situated just around the corner from the hotel where you could buy both water and snacks to a much cheaper price than from the hotel room mini bar. Close to eight o’clock in the evening I went to a Steak House that Renato had recommended. There was a buffet, just as several other restaurants I had visited here in Brazil. Take whatever you want, how much you want and pay the weight at the counter. Super smooth! Typical Brazilian food is meat, fish, chicken, rice and pasta in all cooked forms. Stews, fried, steamed, grilled – you name it.

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Then had time to visit a local market along Copacabana Beach, organized during weekends. Here you could buy typical souvenirs, clothes, snacks etcetera.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Brazil Tagged cities rio_de_janeiro traveling copacabana_beach Comments (0)

Sugar Loaf Mountain


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I got up early in the morning in time for breakfast at 7am and being in time for pick-up at 8.25am. Hasn’t had a working air-conditioner during the entire night so I made a report at the hotel reception while I was down there for breakfast anyway. They called for the janitor who came to my room within 3 minutes. The first thing he checked was if the window was closed. I had the window opened yesterday evening but I then closed it… or well, at least I thought so. But obviously I must have missed a millimeter or two, since the air-conditioner was linked to the window and apparently didn’t work if it was opened. He opened the window and closed it again and then the air-conditioner started again. Ha ha, was it that simple, really? Well then.

Continued to get ready and later on went down to the hotel lobby in time for my pick-up at 8.25am. I waited and waited and ogled the watch more and more irritated. All other hotel guests waiting in the hotel lobby had been picked-up by now except from me. During that time, I had built up anger inside at the same time I started to get nervous they had forgotten me. Then I suddenly remembered something that Peter, my first transfer driver in Manaus, had said; “it’s more of a rule that Brazilians are late to an appointment or meeting and that by 30 minutes or more”. So, I convinced myself not to worry and that they hadn’t forgotten me. Eventually a short-grown lady by the name Maria picked me up. We walked outside to a full-sized bus and she told me we would be 44 people in the group today. The bus driver drove along Copacabana’s beach towards Sugar Loaf Mountain. Most of the streets in the Copacabana district are one-ways. They can be one-way in one direction in the morning, switch to the other direction during the day and get back to the other one-way direction in the afternoon. So confusing! But it has to do with traffic and ease the traffic flow during rush-hours in Rio de Janeiro.

Copacabana Palace is a *****-star hotel built in 1923. It was the first and only hotel on Copacabana Beach until 1945. The hotel is easily recognized by its magnificent facade and distinguishes from surrounding hotels. Even Princess Isabella, who freed the slaves, has gotten a street with her name – Isabella Avenue. The bus made several stops by hotels along Copacabana’s beach and I got a nice surprise when a group of people also from Sweden embarked the bus. So nice to talk Swedish again.

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The heat hit us when we disembarked the bus at Praia Vermelha to collect our cable car tickets. After being on a comfortable bus and a well working air conditioner you almost got shocked. The sun burned and the short matter of time we had to wait outside in the sun almost became a hassle. We rode the cable car up to the first top, Morro da Urca at 220 altitude meters. Maria had clearly told us that we wouldn’t have time to stop for pictures here now during our ride up, but continuing on with the next cable car to Sugar Loaf Mountain. Said and done.

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We walked through the woods where trees with Jackfruit grew. Every fruit weight about 15-40 kg and smelled very weird. You really don’t want that kind of big fruit hitting in your head. We disembarked the cable car up at Sugar Loaf Mountain (Pão de Açúgar) at the impressive altitude of 396 meters. Sugar Loaf Mountain consists of granite and quarts like many other surrounding hills and mountains nearby.

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The view from up here was pretty impressive, partly over Copacabana beach but also the Guanabara Bay, where several water events during the Summer Olympic Games will be held in 2016. We got half an hour to walk around for photos.

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Up here were also a souvenir shop, an exclusive glass figure shop with soaring prizes (even though the figures were very well done it was pure rubbery) and minor snack bar with hotdogs, candy and of course bottled water for sale. When we were about to gather again Maria had a busy time gathering us all 44 people but managed to get us all down back to Morro de Urca again. Now we got some time for photos. Here they displayed the very first cable car.

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Right next to it was another cable car that had been used by Roger Moore in one of the Bond movies. When Maria gathered us all again 2 people in the group wanted to stay longer. But since Maria had a time schedule to follow the rest of us had to leave Morro de Urca without these two people.

How Rio de Janeiro did have its name? In year 1500 the first Portuguese arrived in Brazil and started to conquer. Rio de Janeiro was founded in 1502 and its name came up due to heavy fog so they thought they had arrived at a river (Rio), and not an ocean. That was in January (Janeiro) 1502, as the name of Rio de Janeiro occurred. One of the first things you think about when hearing Rio de Janeiro, is the annual carnival that is always being held 40 days prior to Easter Sunday. To participate you need to be older than 8 years old and the original purpose was for the Samba schools to compete against each other. The parade has been held since 1984 at the Sambodrome to gather audience and to sell tickets. Some Samba schools take their carnival train out to Rio’s street festivals to spread their message in the whole town.

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On the way back the bus stopped at the Sambodrome, but we weren’t allowed to disembark the bus due to the troubled neighborhood. But we managed to take some photos from inside the bus.

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The bus continued to drive back towards Copacabana and made a quick stop at a catholic cathedral, Metropolitan Cathedral, which is shaped like a pyramid. It was beautiful inside with big colored glass windows that literarily reached from the floor all the way up to the top of the pyramid. The cathedral is dedicated to Sankt Sebastian, the patron saint of Rio de Janeiro and the seat of the Archbishop.

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Each Sunday a Hippie Market is being held at Praça General Osório and has been so since 1968. Over 700 market stalls are set up and people sell souvenirs, food, jewelries, handy craft and clothes among other things. A fun element in a vibrant city, which attracts many tourists. I can tell you that it wasn’t just regular cigarettes that were smoked there.

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Back in Copacabana and its beach later that afternoon. At 5pm a joyful carnival-dressed-up crowd of people gathered and formed a small parade. They danced to the grand and loud music along the entire Copacabana Beach. Nice finish for the day.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Brazil Tagged cities rio_de_janeiro sugar_loaf_mountain copacabana_beach Comments (0)

A foggy Corcovado and Evening Samba Show


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I had woken up during the night due to thunderstorm that hit Rio de Janeiro with rainstorm and lightning which lighted up the entire hotel room, even though the curtain covered the whole window. When it was time to get out of bed and eat breakfast the thunderstorm had passed. When I stepped outside the hotel, I could feel the air was cooler now and that drizzle was still in the air. I ogled up towards Corcovado and noticed the entire peak was embedded in fog. Damn. I’m having a trip up there to see Christ the Redeemer in the afternoon. Well, the fog has all morning to ease up so it should be a problem. Walked via Copacabana Beach towards Ipanema Beach. The sun made a few brave attempts to pierce through the heavy clouds but in vain. The clouds were so heavy and low today. Not many souls were swimming today, only a few surfers looking for the perfect wave.

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There is a small foreland between Ipanema and Copacabana, Pedra do Arpoador, with cliffs breaking the ocean waves. Apparently, that place was ideal for cactuses since a lot of cactuses were growing there and I think it was some kind of Prickly Pear.
Then I walked back to Copacabana and found a lunch buffet place. So practically and smart that you take how much you want and then pay in weight.

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At 2.20pm I had the pick-up for my afternoon tour to Corcovado and Tijuca Forest. The guide Jaolber “Joe” picked me up in the hotel lobby and we embarked a full-sized buss, even though we weren’t that many people, I would say totally 25 people. Unfortunately, the fog had decided to stay and Joe informed us during the bus ride that we probably wouldn’t be able to see that much of the statue itself, nevertheless the amazing view. Such shame! The bus parked down at the train station wherefrom the mountain train departed from every 20 minutes. Alternatively, you can drive up on a narrow lingering road. We embarked the train and thanks to non-existing queues we all rode in the same train. During high season the queues are long and the waiting time could be several hours due to the limited number of passengers (540) transported each hour. The train steeply ascended the almost 4 kilometers up to the top station. The first locomotive was steam-powered and started operating in 1884, but today they are electrically driven and it’s not unusual that the trains are out of service. Joe had told us that the trains had been out of service just yesterday and that his tourist group had to cancel the tour since the bus cannot drive the narrow road up the end station for the trains.
From the end station you had to make a choice. Either walk the 223 stair steps up to the observation deck or ride the elevator combined with escalators. Since it wasn’t too many people up here today the obvious choice fell on the elevator + escalator. When up there on the absolute height of 710 meters above sea level the fog was so dens, you couldn’t even see the foot of Christ the Redeemer. A huge disappointment since I had paid for the tour and wanted to see the statue or at least the magnificent view. But no! The weather God’s wanted neither of that for me.

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Occasionally you could imagine a silhouette of a statue through the fog, I never got to see more than that before we had to gather again for the downhill ride to the bus again. Even though we had gotten small notes to attach to our clothes with Joes name on it, 2 people actually managed to get lost and never rode the train down with us. Joe just shrugged and said they had themselves to blame. He had been very clear about when and where we would meet again. Down by the bus we embarked and started our ride back to our hotels. On the way back we passed through some of Rio de Janeiro’s over 30 car tunnels that had been built due to the mountainous area.

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We passed Guanabara Palace where Princess Isabell once lived and nowadays houses the town’s governor. Along the way we passed many street arts/tags on houses, buildings and walls. Some were just scrawls, while others were like true art. Eventually, we arrived in Copacabana, which by the way means “Shiny Horizon” in Bolivian. The Bolivians brought that name when visiting Brazil, a long time ago. One after another disembarked the bus and so even I, when the bus finally stopped outside my hotel.

Next pick-up was at 7.20pm for BBQ dinner and later Samba Show. I was well in time in the hotel lobby and waited. I waited and waited and remembered Peter’s words: “It’s common that people are late, sometimes up to 30 minutes”. But when time was close to 8pm I contacted my local guide Renato and asked if they had forgotten me. It didn’t take him long to reach back to me and told me that a misunderstanding had occurred and I needed to take a taxi to Shenanigan where the BBQ dinner was held. It took about 15 minutes with taxi and when I stepped inside through the doors into the restaurant it was practically crowded. I got a seat with people from America that was also going to the Samba Show later. Very nice people! It was a little tricky to understand how it worked there, but my friends at the table told me. I had to get vegetables, potatoes, rice and pasta at the pre-heated tables further away and then the staff came at the table serving newly grilled beef, meat, chicken or whatever and cut it up on your plate. If you didn’t pay attention and said no if you didn’t want any, you got a slice. A lot of great meat and chicken were served in all its shapes and tastes. When the dinner ended with ice cream you were full. But you can always make room for some ice cream ;)

Then we walked out to the bus and got driven to Plataformas Samba Show. We were entertained with a spectacular show with live music, rhythms and dances with lurid colors and glitz and glamour. Totally amazing! The show went on for about 1 ½ hour and arrived back at the hotel just before midnight.

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Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Brazil Tagged cities rio_de_janeiro corcovado samba christ_the_redeemer samba_show Comments (0)

Shopping and history


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I could afford another sleep-in today since I didn’t have any day tour but a tour in the evening with dinner and entertainment in Lapa. The clouds were really low and it was grey and cloudy but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. During the bus ride back to my hotel yesterday I had scouted a few places worth paying a visit. Partly a shopping center called Shopping Leblon and had by a coincident I spotted a street with my name. I knew there was a street out in the World with my name – and now I had found it! :)

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The clouds were lifting during the walk over to Ipanema Beach and the intense sunshine warmed up Rio de Janeiro. I crossed the street to, wherever it was possible, walk in the shadow and not overheat. It felt like forever before I got to “my” street. Then walked a few streets towards the city center to get to Shopping Leblon - a large shopping center with multiple floors with clothes, shoes, stuff, perfume among other things. They had really embraced the tradition of Christmas.

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The entire shopping center was wrapped with big gift strings with a big bow over the entrance. And just aside from the entrance was a gigantic teddy bear in fabric, which was about 10 meters high while seated. Inside the center was 2-meter-high peppermint canes, Christmas trees (plastic) that reached 10 meters high for sure and in the middle by the escalators were 3- to 4-meter-high teddy bears hanging down from the ceiling. It was glitz and Christmas tree orbs and the Christmas music were played everywhere. Really cozy though a bit exaggerated. Even though the large contrast between the +30 °C heat outside and the extreme Christmas spirit inside, Brazilians know how to celebrate Christmas – no doubt. And there were a whole lot of branded clothes too.

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Among other stores… Calvin Klein! My favorite! There is a heaven in Rio de Janeiro after all ;) Unfortunately I was anything but fit for shopping after that warm and long sweaty walk. So, I really had to get back here later today, after a shower and change of clothes.

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Walked back to Ipanema Beach and found a bench and sat down. The sun had come to stay now and really broiled.

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Since it was Tuesday the Forte de Copacabana was open, which is a military base at the south end of Copacabana and opened for public and display a Museum of Army History and the coastguard’s actual fort.

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The fortress was an important part of Rio de Janeiro’s history and defense against enemies at sea due to its location.

During the way back to my hotel I bought a warm Chicken sandwich. It tasted really good with that warm sandwich even though it was really warm outside. Back at the hotel for a well-needed shower. Changed into new fresh clothes and went down to the hotel lobby and asked for a cab. A bellboy walked straight away out to the busy street behind the hotel and waved in a taxi for me. I asked the driver to get me to Shopping Leblon, which took about 10 minutes and cost R$15. Now finally time for shopping! Calvin Klein of course ;) Later on when it was time to go back to my hotel, there was a taxi place just outside the entrance where the taxi cars waited to pick up costumers. Perfect! You just took the very first taxi back to your hotel. I must say it felt totally safe to use taxi in Rio. You will have an advantage knowing Portuguese since the taxi drivers most certainly doesn’t speak any English. But you will get to your destination by having the address written down on a piece of paper as well.

In the evening it was time for my Private Tour in Lapa. Met Renato down by the hotel reception at 7.30pm. I received the money I had spent on that taxi ride to the BBQ dinner yesterday, when they forgot to pick me up. Renato apologized once again for the inconvenience and he was sure that his information was right, while the organizer claimed I had the BBQ dinner and Samba Show tonight. Oh well. Then Renato drove towards Lapa and made a short tour in the neighborhood.

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Lapa is a financial district and a wealthier neighborhood with very popular pubs and bars. The house facades have been restored and are from 19th Century with much influence from the Portuguese conquering. Renato parked the car and we went to Rio Scenarium – Pavilhão Cultural. It was a nice building and the interior had been kept in an elderly style.

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The staff dressed like they did 200 years ago and a live band – Edu Krieger e Convidados – performed on stage and was great. A professional dance couple danced around in the room and they were the best of the best and danced perfectly together. If you only had a scrap of what they showed off, you would be happy. They were awesome! We had a reserved table close to the stage, which Renato had booked in advance. If you want a table here you must reserve in advance due to its popularity – but so well worth it! During the evening I ordered the national drink of Brazil – Caipirinha, it was pretty strong, but okay.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Brazil Tagged cities rio_de_janeiro lapa copacabana_beach Comments (0)

North to Fortaleza


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Woke up to my last day here in Rio de Janeiro. Thanks to the low season I was able to keep my room until 2pm before I needed to check out. In other words, I got enough time to pack my bag without stress. Renato came and picked me up at 2.30pm. It was heavy traffic and we got stuck in long queues. And that so even though Renato drove on roads with the least amount of traffic, it took almost an hour to get from Copacabana in southern Rio de Janeiro to Galeão International Airport in the northern part of town. We passed yet again the poor parts of Rio and several favelas along the way and you couldn’t help yourself thinking about whether it’s healthy to live like that. When at the airport I received clear instructions from Renato how to find the TAM Airlines check-in desks since he needed to meet up his next guest’s arrival. “No problems”, said I and found pretty easily to TAM Airlines. Unfortunately, the queues were long and there weren’t many people behind the desks serving us costumers. I had to wait almost 30 minutes before it was my turn to check in but when it finally was my turn it went fast and smooth. The big baggage weighted 18 kg and they didn’t even care about my backpack. Weird! In Foz do Iguaçu they were super strictly about the carry-on, which had a 5 kg limit, but now they didn’t even check. And before anyone asks, yes it was TAM Airlines. However, I got a little surprised when they asked me about my closest relatives in case of emergency… uuuuhmm, okay!? So, you do expect something to happen, or??? That was at least the first thought that popped up in my head. Because that’s the first time I ever got that question asked while traveling. And during this trip it’s my 5th domestic flight with TAM Airlines, and I get that question just now?!

Boarding took time due to some passengers who took the liberty to it on other seats than they were supposed to according to their flight tickets. When these persons finally got in their right seat the flight was 25 minutes delayed. Sigh! When the airplane had been pushed out and taxed to the runway it took off at 5.30pm. After 3 hours of flight with a lot of turbulence in the air I landed at Pinto Martins – Fortaleza International Airport. Time was only 7.30pm here though, since I had changed time zone again. So chaotic and complicated with several time zones in one country and when some of them apply summer time and others don’t. I got my checked-in bag and quickly found my local guide Rodriguez and our driver.

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It was already dark here in Fortaleza and during my transfer to my hotel I wasn’t able to see much of the city. But I could feel how bad constructed the roads were, and if you never have been in the risk zone of whiplash injuries you definitely were that now! Eventually we arrived at my hotel Sonata de Iracema. Rodriguez helped me to check in and I got my room key. I took the elevator up and walked up to my door and unlocked. I was shocked to find a guy inside painting the ceiling. He looked as surprised as I was. He didn’t speak any English and I only some Portuguese. But I think he understood and phoned the reception. The hotel staff immediately came with a new card and apologized. So, I grabbed my bags and took the elevator even higher up to my “new” room. The room wasn’t well cleaned and had low standard. Since time had run late it felt most convenient to eat dinner in the hotel restaurant.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Brazil Tagged cities traveling Comments (0)

Fortaleza – a vacation paradise?


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Now when it was daylight outside the hotel window, I had a look and saw Iracema Beach, a 4,5 km long sand beach named after a female Indian chief. Even though the hotel had low standard it had the best view so far. Fortaleza’s main income is tourism why the beach plays in important role and during New Years a New Year Festival is being held here at Iracema Beach. The people of Fortaleza enjoy another beach though – Praia de Futuro (Futuro Beach). But as a tourist you should avoid that beach, especially at nighttime when the beach is deserted.

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Rodriguez came and picked me up at 8am for that City Tour I had in the morning. He showed up with a private driver who drove us around to different parts of Fortaleza. Fortaleza is located along the coast in northeast Brazil and known to be the best of two world’s – an exciting city right on the beach. The sunny sandy beaches combine with city tours among well-known landmarks as the cathedral or the Palacio da Luz. Metropolitan Cathedral of Fortaleza took about 40 years to complete and consecrated in 1978. Even though it is newly built they made sure to make it look old and about 500 years old, with cracks and other signs of old. It is built in Roman-gothic style and counts as the third largest cathedral in Brazil. The city history begins during 16th Century when Spanish entered Mucuripes Cove. Though the colonizing itself started in 1603 when the Portuguese Pero Coelho de Souza constructed his Fort of São Tiago and founded the settlement Nova Lisboa – New Lisbon. During 17th Century Northeast Brazil was invaded by the Dutch who constructed their own fortress. After intense wars the Dutch surrendered and gave the fortress to the Portuguese, who renamed it Fortaleza de Nossa Senhora da Assunção (Fort of our Lady of the Rising), after which the city Fortaleza got its name. Fortaleza was founded as a village in 1726 and on the same location as the fortress once was standing.

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A huge different between Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza is that the favelas in Fortaleza is very close to the wealthier areas. Maybe that’s why the central parts of Fortaleza are full of junk blowing in the wind? Rodriguez explained that the people here in Fortaleza are happy but poor. We stopped by a big market. The market was spread out on several floors and it was escalators and elevators to get from floor to floor. Lots of clothes and local products like Cashew nuts, alcohol, souvenirs and food was for sale here. I’m lucky I had Rodriguez with me because none of the people here spoke English. Before we left the market, we bought fruit drinks that tasted great. But after watching how the drinks were made, I understood why. Apart from fruit and ice crushed together, they scoped cups of sugar. Rodriguez recommended Soursop that is a fruit supposedly preventing cancer. But I felt for pine apple/orange drink instead.

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Then we went to a leafy park where the shadow gave well-needed coolness. The sun showed off with its best shine and broiled heavily, most certainly more than +30 °C. We walked towards the most central parts of the town and stopped by a square with a complete nutcase of a man who split coconuts in half with almost every body part he had. If it wasn’t the head, elbows or hands he used his butt, feet or mouth. He was insane. I wonder what he was high on? Rodriguez explained that the man actually earned much money from the audience watching and that the crazy man earned even more money in one day than Rodriguez did as a guide.

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Back at the hotel for lunch and then the afternoon free. I didn’t feel to do anything so I went down to the beach and chilled. The sun was still high up in the sky which it is when so close to the equator. So, a lot of sun block, cool clothing and a cap was necessarily. Just next to my hotel is a pier that stretches far out in the sea. Took the opportunity to walk out on that pier just in time for the sunset.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Brazil Tagged cities Comments (0)

Leaving Brazil


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Last day in Fortaleza during this trip and definitely last day in Brazil this time. It felt great yet sad to leave such nice but big country. The Brazilians are very nice people and even though they know English that well, I was never treated like an idiot for not knowing Portuguese. Before this trip I had studied a few good-to-know phrases and words, which made a different.

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At breakfast I asked at the hotel reception if it was okay for me to have the room a few hours more since Rodriguez was picking me up at 5pm for my transfer to the airport. It was not a problem. The climate here in Fortaleza was hot and humid and I knew that back home in Sweden there would be dark and cold upon arrival. So now I had to take advantage of the very last sunshine before my journey home. Today it was +33 °C in the shadow and you didn’t have to make an effort to feel exhausted.

After lunch I rested by the hotel pool, a mini siesta before time for shower and packing down the very last things before traveling home. And in the middle of all this the cleaning lady knocked on the door and wanted to clean. But what now? How was I supposed to explain to her that I was checking out later? I think she understood me eventually and moved on to the next door. Later during check-out, I received a hotel bill for R$700! I.e. €180 for the lunches and dinners I had ate in the hotel restaurant during two days. Felt very expensive! But the girl in the reception quickly realized that it was the wrong bill (maybe because I looked the very picture of bewilderment). She printed a new bill for R$170 (about €40) and that was more reasonable.

When Rodriguez with driver came to pick me up, he explained that we needed to drive on minor roads to avoid long car queues. As a tourist you trust whatever the locals say, they do know the city best. Rodriguez said it would take about 50 minutes to get to the airport, but I ogled the watch when we arrived at Pinto Martins – Fortaleza International Airport and it had only taken about 35 minutes. Anyway, got in line to the Business Class and could check in fast. Since Condor and SAS belongs to the same airline alliance, I could easily check in my bags all the way to Stockholm-Arlanda, which always is the smoothest thing to do and not re-check your bag everywhere. Even though it is an international airport it is small. And from what I’ve learned about airports here in Brazil you should really buy something to eat before you pass through security check, because after that there won’t be any food to buy or just easier meals like sandwiches or candy. This time I didn’t have to worry though since I was flying Business Class and over-fed with food, snacks and beverages.

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Boarding was supposed to start at 6pm according to the boarding card, i.e. 2 hours before departure. Well, wouldn’t think so! Since the aircraft hadn’t even landed at the airport at that time. We were able to board at 7.30pm and boarding was barely completed in time for departure at 8.06pm. But when the cabin crew had announced “boarding completed” the aircraft was still at the gate. After a while the pilot announced that we weren’t able to take off due to radar problems at the Airport. The pilot said it could take up to 2 hours. Ha, ha! So funny – not! Now all I wanted was to get home, not be stuck in an aircraft on the ground. But eventually, after half an hour the airplane was pushed out from the gate and taxed to the runway. Finally!

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Brazil Tagged cities traveling Comments (0)

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