South America Tour – Rio de Janeiro, Brasil – Day 33

Day 33 – Rio de Janeiro – Hot Hot Stuff!

Tuesday (March 13) was another stinking hot humid day in Rio. We awoke to cloud cover, and it started to rain just as Mike and I headed to the beach for a morning walk, although it never amounted to anything. Liana & Luisa headed for their pilates class with Silvie, and we headed off by taxi to Christina’s. They have a lovely apartment on the border between Botafogo and Flamenco. Luis Paulo and his wife are 2 floors up, and Christina certainly lets them take advantage of her cooking.

Christina took us for a tour of the new clinic Clinica Iosa where Luis Paulo and his wife will be practicing. The building has been very impressively renovated and spec’d out with 3 ultrasound rooms, 1 for mammogram and 1 for bone density along with offices and other associated rooms. Upstairs, using the beautiful original staircase, are additional doctor offices available for rent as well as the data centre and and office for L.P. Behind the building is another building with 3 pediatric rooms along with reception area. Above there is MORE space for administration including an office for Miguel. A very large and impressive setup – so wishing them all the very best in attaining new clients. It takes time, especially given the strict regulations regarding new doctors setting up their own practice and for health plans to accept them.

Then back to Christina’s for a wonderful salmon, salad, and potatoes lunch with an amazing passion fruit mousse dessert (maracuja, whipping cream, sweetened condensed milk in a blender and then freeze). All followed by cheese with mangada jam – very nice and soft (from a jar, not block).

Christina pulled out the old photo albums from her year in Canada, along with young photos of L.P., Carol and the rest of the family. We also learned of Miguel’s viral encephalitis in 1999/2000 when he was in a coma for 2 weeks. He made a miraculous recovery which is almost unheard of; it took several months but he fully recovered with no long term effects.

Christina dropped us off at the base of Pao de Azucar where the 4 of us (Derek & Marketa, Mike & Audrey) hiked up the first mountain (220m), but we sadly did not see any monkeys, probably because it was dusk by then. The weather started to clear, but it clouded again as we climbed. It was a good hike up – but not as rustic as 2 years ago when Mike and Derek last climbed it – they have now installed steps on the steepest parts! We joined the ‘normal folks’ and took the funicular to the top (climbing not an option). The views were spectacular from every perspective. The Rio bay with it’s the volcanic mountains rising from the ocean, and sandy beaches on endless coves all around protected by the bay.

When we arrived the cloud cover was quite dense, so the Christo was not visible. For just a couple of instances, the clouds cleared and the Christ appeared hovering in the clouds – awe inspiring.

Then back down all the way via funicular and a taxi home with more food and baccita’s and another shower before packing it in after another fun filled day spent drenched in sweat.

South America Tour – Rio de Janeiro, Brasil – Day 32

Day 32 – Rio de Janeiro – Lazy dayz!

Monday morning after the party we were a bit slower to get going and with no preset plans we planned on the fly. We headed to Leblon for some shopping in the morning. We managed to finally get the beach paddle sets that Michael has wanted for years. I also found a nice pair of sandals from a company out of Rio who make all their own shoes.

Toniko again treated us to lunch – this time Brasilian jerk beef. It is marinated dried beef with onion, fennel, salt, pepper, balsamic, olive oil and parsley. Liana made fried cassava to have with it along with the standard rice and beans (feijao).

After lunch we headed off to the beach to catch the sunset over the 2 brothers from the end of Copa Cabana beach near Ipanema beach. It is obviously a favourite spot with many people out to watch the sunset on a beautiful evening. Mike even ventured with his camera and we survived quite well.

After sunset we taxied to the Universidade de Cachaca where we had many delicacies – cachaca of course but also feijao with bacon and parsley, cassava con queso, a layered dish with beans and beef and more cachaca… We bought a bottle to take home also.

I see caipirinha’s in our future…..

South America Tour – Rio de Janeiro, Brasil – Day 31

Day 31 – Rio de Janeiro – Time to party!

On Sunday Mike rose early to go shopping with Liana. Carolina had stayed over at Philipe and Derek and Marketa headed to the beach – so I slept in! Luisa and I had a leisurely breakfast and when everyone returned, we were joined by Miguel. The 4 of us non-Brasilians headed for a bike ride around the Lagoa with Miguel – we rented from a real person rather than the lock-up ones, and started off with our mandatory coco-water with the toucan and parrot accompaniment.

We all had a good appetite ready for another round of bacalao, which seemed even better the second day! Then off for a siesta prior to the final party prep. By 6 pm the Samba band were arriving and the guests quickly followed. It was the best party in true Brasilian fashion – with 8-10 musicians performing classic samba songs. Everyone singing along, and everyone danced. The tambourine player kept the party moving with samba lines and lots of circle dances.

Lots of new faces in addition to the familiar – Solanje and her daughters Taissa and Tatiana along with their young daughters joined us, Luisa’s whole family line including Louis Paulo and his wife, friends from the building, friends from the ‘tree saving’ committee and many from the theatre groups that Silvie is part of. We were treated to some impromptu dance recitals by Tatia and some of the band members (all amazing dancers!) I think the band were very impressed with Tatia and were perhaps even keen on her being their ‘flag bearer’ for next carnival!

So we had great music and dance and Toniko made sure we had great drinks! In addition to lots of cerveza, coke, water and guarana, Toniko made about 90 caipirinhas. Considering there were about 30 of us, and many didn’t drink them, that’s a pretty high per capita count! And of course there was food! Liana and Christina had gone all out with lots of sandwiches, salads and small foods – so snacking was constant.

Eventually when everyone left and the place put back in order, it was off to bed, with ‘Bali bali bali bali BALI …..bali bali bali bali…’ still playing in my head.

South America Tour – Rio de Janeiro, Brasil – Days 29 & 30

Days 29 & 30 – Rio de Janeiro – Family reunion time – the gangs all here!

So here we are at the culminating location of our trip. Liana and Silvinia picked us up at the airport with a driver (doorman from Silvies apartment) with no complications. It was dark and rainy when we arrived – which apparently was a good thing as the trip from the airport is less than desirable. We of course spoke right off about the violence – and as per Liana “I can NEVER relax” which became our catch phrase for the visit – for 2 weeks I need to stay constantly alert!

At the apartment we met Luisa and Carolina as well as Lola (Michaels pal) and Dodinia (the 15 year old almost blind adopted dog) and we all stayed up till 1 am chatting and catching up.
We were all up and breakfasted at 8 am and Liana was out shopping for the big party on Sunday. Since it is so unsafe, the family here decided that rather than going out to Samba, it would be safer to hire the group to come and perform for us here. We are being spoiled! There are 5 bottles of cachaca lined up for caipirinhas – should help with the dancing…

Silvie came over after breakfast and we went with her and Liana and the dogs for a quick walk, then brought the dogs back and went for a longer walk along Copa Cabana. We even managed to carefully sneak in some photos despite their nervousness of having a camera or cell phone out and visible. Mike joined Liana to drop Carolina off at school. Solange and Christina along with Cookie and Zelda joined us for lunch, and even Toniko (Silvie’s husband) was able to come. We had an impressive meal with shrimp casserole, several salads, dessert by Liana – a sweet milk custard with caramel sauce – excellent, and mango ice cream which Solange brought.

As is usual with the Brasilians, we chattered away all afternoon and eventually Miguel (Christina’s husband) joined us after his work. We packed it in a bit earlier today as Derek & Marketa arrive early in the morning.

Saturday (March 10) we rose early early to join Liana and Silvie to walk the dogs at the lagoa. We bought our coconut water from ‘moustache’ man and Mike & I took a bit longer walk before we all headed back to meet up with Derek & Marketa arriving with Miguel and Christina from the airport.

Derek & Marketa wanted to head to the beach right away, so back we came and this time I had some maracuja (passion fruit) juice – so wonderful! While the rest stayed at the beach, Mike & I headed to buy some shoes. I found a couple of real deals, one fun pair and one nicer pair. Nothing of exceptional quality, so still hoping to find more for both Mike & I. Solanje and Carolina will be able to direct us for shopping!

We met up with Carolina on our walk back, and Solanje joined us for lunch with a selection of fancy Batidas. Our afternoon was spent sampling coconut and peanut batidas along with slivovitz from Marketa, a selection of beers and portuguese wine – Dao from Michel. Another exceptional lunch – this time Toniko treated us to bacalao. It was unlike any other I have tried. He double soaks and boils the dried cod if it salted – otherwise he boils/drains it once. He uses parmigiana reggiano in his bechamel sauce. It was served with rice and toasted almonds, and again several salads and for dessert another Liana specialty – this time a chocolate pudding with mango ice cream.

And another evening of chatting while looking at old photos. We managed to skype with George and Marucia which was fun with us all here. But to bed now – Derek & Marketa need to time shift, and tomorrow will be busy with the party!!!

South America Tour – Iguacu Falls, Brasil – Day 28

Day 28 – Iguazu, Brasil side – the Centrepiece Highlight of our trip!

We had some time to kill poolside awaiting our tour – one last chance to tour the gardens and admire the butterflies and enormous bees. I image it would be phenomenal during orchid season! Our pick up wasn’t until about 1:30pm, and we were both feeling less than 100% – the heat is exhausting.

We had been told that the Brasilian side of Iguacu Falls was less impressive – but we did not find that to be true! Manuel picked us up and transported us across the border in to Brasil – he is just starting English speaking tours and we were the only ones on the tour which was fantastic. Our only complaint about the tour has been the extra baggage charges – today was about $40 for our bags to get from Iguacu to Rio.

Today we saw the ’88’ butterfly (see photo and it’s clear where it’s name comes from), ants that live in trees which actually helps the tree; the ants benefit from the extreme acidic fruit that burns even concrete as well as the soil around the tree. The fruit will kill any bird that eats it, so the ants are safe from predators.

The falls on the Brasilian side were a great surprise. As we were alone on the tour, Manuel let us go at our own pace so Monty could take photos at his leisure – our only restriction our evening flight to Rio. All along the trek were more spectacular views of the falls – this time they were mostly across the river rather than walking over and among them as on the Argentinian side. We got very wet at the base of Devils Throat where you walk out on a boardwalk into the base of the falls. Again the human construction efforts are extremely impressive.

While transporting we had lots of conversation with Manuel about the culture around Iguacu where the 3 countries of Brasil, Argentina and Paraguay meet. There are villages on every bank where the 2 rivers merge where the Spanish, Portuguese and original native languages have merged into unique languages in each village. The result is over 10 unique languages in this small area. People around here cross borders regularly – they buy wine and beef in Argentina; groceries, car parts and some clothing in Brasil; and electronics and some brand name clothing in Paraguay. There are no restrictions on travel or the amount of import per person – and they don’t even need a passport if just going for the day.

And our trip to Iguacu wrapped up as we sat in the airport awaiting our flight to Rio – the next round of excitement about to begin!